By Carl Niehaus
Words come easy to us South Africans. We like to talk, debate and argue. Similarly we like to formulate policies and plans. Our political and economic landscape is scattered with policy documents – some of which are actually rather good and inspiring. But do we walk the talk, or are we a nation of talkers rather than doers?
My space is limited and this is a complex issue, so let me concentrate on one example to address the question I am posing: In 2012 at the ANC’s 53rd National Conference in Mangaung it was resolved to advance economic transformation in order to promote growth and development and eradicate the triple scourge of unemployment, poverty and inequality. In order to achieve this the National Development Plan (NDP) and the New Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Action Plan featured prominently with the aim of stimulating growth, employment and the re-industrialisation of the South African economy.
The lofty intention was to build a developmental state with the technical and political capacity to lead development and transform the economy. This was to be done while simultaneously mounting a supportive macroeconomic policy framework, which should be oriented towards reconstruction, growth and development, and informed by the imperatives of sustainability and long-run macroeconomic stability.
In the Economic Discussion Document for the forthcoming ANC’s National Policy Conference entitled: Employment Creation, Economic Growth and Structural Change: Strengthening the Programme of Radical Economic Transformation, it is stated that the ANC ‘remains unwavering in its objective to fundamentally change the racialised and unequal structure of the South African economy and of society’.
To my mind the Discussion Document quiet correctly traces this commitment back to the Freedom Charter, adopted in 1955, which states that all people in South Africa should enjoy “equal rights and opportunities”, including that:
– “the people shall share in the country’s wealth”;
– “the land shall be shared among those who work it”;
– “there shall be work and security”;
– “the doors of learning and culture shall be opened”; and
– “there shall be houses, security and comfort”.
It follows that for this to be achieved our economy will have to become truly inclusive, rather than the current economic reality where the majority of (especially African) South Africans are at best on the margins of the economy, or often totally excluded.
In order to achieve this a strong state, capable to intervene and transform this unacceptable situation, is required. Failure to do so will only continue to perpetuate the current unjust and exploitative situation, because the current reality is that, (and I quote again from the same ANC Discussion Document): ‘South African society is underpinned by a colonially-structured economy and racial capitalism. Without effective structural interventions, the system will continue to reproduce race based poverty and inequality.’
Referring to the National Development Plan (NDP) and the government’s Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP), which articulate a range of interventions in order to bring about Radical Economic Transformation, considerable attention is given to the ANC’s vision of a Developmental State that will promote inclusive growth and job creation. The ideals of the NDP are quoted as follows: ‘In 2030, the economy should be close to full employment, equip people with the skills that they need, ensure that ownership is less concentrated and more diverse (where black people and women own a significant share of productive assets [my emphasis]); and be able to grow rapidly, providing the resources to pay for investment in human and physical capital‘.
These are truly laudable, revolutionary objectives, and if we can achieve them we will be well on our way to achieve Radical Economic Transformation that will bring economic power and justice to the majority of South Africans. But how do we even begin to get from the horrible exploitative situation that we find ourselves now in, to this ideal? That is exactly where ‘walking the talk’ comes into play…
So while we actually do get up to walk, let’s start by disabusing ourselves from a couple of myths: Economic growth on its own, is not always inclusive, not does it necessarily create jobs. From the late 1990’s into the mid 2000’s the South African economy experienced significant growth, but it was jobless growth of the kind that actually worsened inequality and strengthened the grip of White Monopoly Capital. Truly inclusive growth must combine growing GDP per capita, with increasing levels of employment, expansion of productive activities and massively increased opportunities, particularly for black South Africans.
The reality is that this is just not going to happen until the structure of the South African economy is so fundamentally changed that the black (African) majority are in control of the economy and have become the definitive decision makers, determining policy and the direction in which the economy should develop.
In a document that I recently presented on behalf of the KwaZulu-Natal Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF) at a stakeholder engagement meeting with Mr. Sihle Zikalala, KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, I described Radical Economic Transformation as follows: ‘…specific and well-planned interventions to bring about a fundamental realignment of the balance of forces in our economy… [with the intention] to once and for all bring an end to the control of our economy by the white minority who have ceded democratic power at the ballot box, but continue to hold onto to their control of the economy of our country.’
In his seminal Prison Notebooks, Antonio Gramsci pointed out that the bourgeoisie (for our purposes read White Monopoly Capital) develops a hegemonic culture using ideology through their control of the economy. This hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the ‘common sense‘ values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure.
In order to break this hegemony of the capitalist class the poor and oppressed classes have to build their own hegemony. These classes must gain control over the land and the means of production so that a new hegemony of the majority can become dominant and can gain control of the superstructure, so that the values of the White Monopoly Capital status quo – as they are also promoted by the main stream media – will no longer be embraced as ‘normal’ or ‘common sense’ values, but become exposed as the tools of exploitation that they are.
To achieve this is a hard battle that cannot simply be won by formulating good policy documents and passing resolutions at conferences. This will only be achieved through the terrain that is already gained on the ground. In reality one can only secure a radical change in the balance of power at the negotiating table when the power in the real world has already shifted.
Through acknowledging this reality, the analysis of Professor Chris Malikane, recently appointed economic advisor to the Minister of Finance, Mr. Malusi Gigaba, in his paper, Concerning the Current Situation, is very relevant. Professor Malikane states that the strength of White Monopoly Capital is that it owns and controls South Africa’s resources and has strong international backers. Thus, South Africa is a practical example of Gramsci’s description of bourgeois hegemony. Professor Malikane writes: “The dominance of white monopoly capital in the economy determines the nature of the state and the society as a whole… [in fact] the existence of the state itself is supported by the resources that have been monopolised by white capital…. Therefore not only is the state objectively owned and controlled by white monopoly capital, in fact largely the whole of society is under white monopoly capitalist control.”
While we debate all over the place about who have captured whom, or who is trying to capture the state, the state is already well and truly captured by White Monopoly Capital!
That was the reality that the ANC inherited when we took over the government in 1994, and up to now we have not managed to escape from this White Monopoly Capital imprisonment. It explains why despite some of our successes to bring a better life to all South Africans – we have overall failed to change the harsh realities of black poverty and white privilege.
Of course White Monopoly Capital would not want us to realise this, they would like us to believe this situation is just ‘common sense’ and ‘normal’ (as Gramsci warned us they would). Thus, ideologically white monopoly capitalists have even started a campaign – using their control of the mainstream media – in which their very existence and relevance is denied!
Having exposed this fallacy that White Monopoly Capital and their mainstream media propagandists are trying to sell to us, like smooth sweet white ice cream, Professor Malikane cuts to the chase in his paper, pointing out that the cornerstone of the ownership and control of the state has always been the National Treasury, its associated agencies and the Reserve Bank, which constitutes the financial cluster of the state. He points out that the ruling party has never exercised political autonomy in relation to appointments to strategic positions in the financial cluster of the state.
However, this has for the first time changed with the removal of the Finance Minister, without the approval of White Monopoly Capital. It seems that finally we have reached the end of unfettered White Monopoly Capitalist domination – at least with regards to the state and the ruling party.
This is a red flag to White Monopoly Capital, they are now facing the very real danger that the ground that have been gained from them at Treasury can eventually shift the economic power dynamics to such and extent that they can actually loose control of ‘their’ captured state.
As I have written in a previous article this explains why White Monopoly Capital responded with such venom against the ANC government’s plan for Radical Economic Transformation: ‘Let us not fool ourselves the massive amounts of money that they have ploughed into the so-called Save South Africa campaign and mainstream media attacks on President Zuma, and more specifically Radical Economic Transformation is an all out effort to sustain their grip on the South African economy. Their main aim is to avoid any significant change in the status quo (of the ‘normal’) oppressive and exploitative economic power dynamics of South Africa.’
Whether White Monopoly Capital will succeed or whether Radical Economic Transformation will proceed and emerge victoriously, will be determined by how we now utilise the beachhead that the cabinet reshuffle had gained at National Treasury in the interest of the majority of black oppressed South Africans.
As I have said this will not be done through the writing of position papers and passing of resolutions, it will be determined by hard work and gains on the ground at the real economic coalface of South Africa:
- The overarching task will be to complete the National Democratic Revolution, and to bring once and for all an end to the domination of black people (particularly the African population) by White Monopoly Capital.
- To the extent that it is not yet in existence we should establish a broad anti-White Monopoly Capitalist united front, forging unity among all the classes and strata that suffer from White Monopoly Capitalist domination.
- In bringing together this broad-based anti-White Monopoly Capitalist Front we should isolate those who are the enemies of the people (and who in the last few weeks have again showed themselves up to be such determined enemies in the manner in which they have made common cause to resist Radical Economic Transformation). These are the White Monopoly Capitalists (who own and control the means of production and major financial institutions as well as a disproportionate share of the land); and the credit-based black capitalists, who like parasites rely on their accumulation of wealth on the White Monopoly Capitalist establishments.
This broad anti-White Monopoly Capital united front should mobilise on the ground (yes, literally in the streets) for the expropriation of white monopoly capitalist establishments, and the establishment of a state bank, which should consolidate all the state-owned financial institutions in order to facilitate affordable credit. Serious consideration should be given to the nationalisation of the South African Reserve Bank, and the expropriation of land without compensation.
The ANC government should with determination pursue the provision of free quality social services regarding education, health care, housing and reliable basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity. Furthermore employment equity should be enforced with the state ensuring that there is 100% compliance, and that the violation of labour laws are criminalised.
To be successful in gaining solid ground on all these fronts we will have to forge the broadest possible united front among all of those who are the victims of the controlling grip and exploitation of White Monopoly Capital. Forging unity among ourselves, and forming alliances with all who suffer under the joke of White Monopoly Capital exploration, is absolutely critical.
As we can see White Monopoly Capital and all its hangers-on and agents (especially the propaganda and false news generated by the mainstream media) are trying every trick in the book to divide us. We have to acknowledge that they have unfortunately registered considerable success in doing so.
The time has come for those of us who want to truly shake off the shackles of injustice and oppression to see the divisive actions of White Monopoly Capital for what they are: Divide and Rule Tactics. As long as we allow these tactics to succeed our state will remained captured, and the people of South Africa will remain no more than slaves in our land.
There can now be no bigger task than to forge unity among all of us who want the second phase of our National Democratic Revolution and thus Radical Economic Transformation to succeed.
*Carl Niehaus is a former member of the NEC of the ANC and MK veteran.
All Carl’s articles can also be found on his blog, Carl’s Corner: www.carlniehaus.co.za