What our 13th National Congress is concerned with - SACP

Party journal says there has been minimal press coverage of discussion documents issued earlier

Editors Note

The SACP released its discussion documents for the 13th National Congress on the 21st May 2012. It has been a major issue of concern that since the release of the discussion document there has been minimal coverage, if none at all, of the critical policy issues contained in SARS.

Our 13th National congress, like many other critical conferences of our movements, is only interpreted through a lens of elections. George Matlala, the Chief Gossiper who recently left Sunday Independent to join Sunday Times has been leading, unsurprisingly, the gossip pack in the media. As we issue this edition Matlala is busy rounding up our structures asking them whom do they support for elections.

No wonder since he joined the Sunday Times they have for two weekends carried terrible front page stories based on what Matlala does best, gathering stories not based on facts but gossip. Two weeks back the Sunday Times carried a front age story about war at the ANC policy conference by two of the biggest provinces, the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal. To justify that in the case of KwaZulu Natal they quote the Provincial secretary articulating outcomes of the PGC. When it comes to the Eastern Cape The Sunday Times forgot to speak to the Provincial Secretary. They spoke to an unknown regional leader - thus declare war of provinces, not backed up in quotes! Journalism lite!!

We reproduce below a statement we issues in May which is a detailed summary of what is contained in the main Discussion Document before congress. We hope this will refresh the public mind and of course the media as most have been consumed in misinforming us about the happenings at Gallagher last week. Before they mislead you to come to a conclusion that all the 2500 delegates will be doing next week is fight over elections, see below our proposals and engage us constructively on them.

Matlala and ilk will continue to write articles that have no factual basis. Don't let them deter you from an engagement with us on the basis of our policy proposals.


Red Alert

The Task of the 13th National Congress!!

The Draft Programme of the SACP (The South African Road to Socialism - SARS) is being circulated for discussion within SACP structures. It will be presented to the SACP's 13th National Congress in July 2012 for discussion, amendments and adoption. We also hope to encourage a broader debate within our Alliance movement and beyond.

Many of the perspectives in this Draft are based on the programme adopted at our 12th National Congress five years ago. This current version has been updated to reflect developments both internationally and within our own country since 2007. We believe that the overall analysis and strategic perspectives outlined in SARS 2007, based on the SACP's Medium Term Vision, remain fundamentally correct and have proved themselves many times in practice over the past five years.

Since 2007 there has been important if contested progress within our broad liberation movement, and in the evolution of government policy. These positive developments, we believe, have been in no small part due to the principled interventions made by the SACP. In the immediate months following our 12th congress, the Party's interventions played an important role in the displacement of the "1996 class project" within our movement and subsequently within leading state circles. The displacement of this revisionist tendency has brought new ideological and political challenges, and these are analysed in this new draft Programme.

Here we highlight some of the key theses advanced in the Draft Programme.

The global capitalist crisis

In the first half of 2007, before the advent of the financial crisis in the US which quickly spread to other developed centres of capitalism, the SACP had predicted a gathering systemic crisis in the global economy. We noted that it was a looming crisis that had several interacting dimensions - the progressive loss of ecological sustainability, the destruction of rural livelihoods, mass urbanisation without effective job creation, and, above all, the dangerous ballooning of a globalised financial system - a gravity-defying casino economy that was bound, sooner or later, to result in a dramatic bubble-burst. We were not wrong in this analysis. Through 2009 to the present, many mainstream economists, internationally and locally, have repeatedly deluded themselves into believing that the crisis would be of short duration. We stated clearly in 2007, and we continue to insist in the present, that the crisis is systemic, there will be no quick-fixes. 

What is more, there are no sustainable solutions to this multi-dimensional crisis within the logic of capitalism itself. Faced with its current systemic economic crisis, globalised monopoly-finance has no coherent strategy for surpassing the crisis. It is torn between two contradictory capitalist imperatives - saving the banks on the one hand, and stimulating capitalist growth on the other. It seeks to rescue its hegemonic financial institutions through various publicly financed rescue packages and soft-landings for banks by imposing, for instance, tough austerity measures on national governments - even suspending elected governments (recently in Italy and Greece) and replacing them with unelected, budget-cutting "technocratic" cabinets drawn from the finance sector. On the other hand, these austerity measures and other rescue packages for the banks stifle demand and undermine the prospects for capitalist growth. Moreover, the austerity measures are meeting with stiff rejection from the electorates of the developed capitalist societies, resulting in many cases in the shake-up of a previously cosy electoral alternance between centre-left and centre-right political parties. However, the simple rejection of the austerity packages WITHOUT advancing a post-capitalist alternative - in short, a SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE - will not enable the current global economy to surpass its current turbulent and threatening dead-end.

Other key features of our 2007 prognosis, whose validity has been amply underlined in the last five years, included:

  • Notwithstanding its multi-dimensional crisis, it would be naïve to assume that capitalism will simply collapse, or that the crisis will spontaneously give birth to a better world;
  • The relative decline of US economic supremacy (which has been slipping since the mid-1970s) has now been greatly accelerated, but the US will remain the hegemonic capitalist power for some time. However, the world is becoming significantly more multi-polar.
  • While multi-polarity offers possibilities, potentially more breathing space and alternatives, for the global South, it is the people of the South who will bear the burden of the crisis.
  • It is possible that dynamic developing economies like Brazil, India and China may be partially de-linked (de-coupled) from the recession, but none will escape its impact. China, with its US oriented, export-led growth strategy will face very serious challenges.

The economic crisis in South Africa

The global capitalist economic crisis is impacting upon and reinforcing the key socio-economic challenges we face in SA - racialised inequality, poverty, and, above all, crisis-levels of structural unemployment. All of these features of our society are deeply related to the way in which SA was incorporated into the global capitalist economy with the mining revolution in the late 19th century. Over a hundred years of skewed development have left us with a hugely challenging and deeply embedded legacy. 

Among the key economic policy measures that the SACP supports to overcome our structural challenges are:

Ensuring a more balanced growth and development strategy through rolling back the domination of the mineral-energy-finance monopoly capitalist complex. The strategic importance of overcoming this private monopoly domination, which lies at the heart of many distortions in our economy and society, underlines the wisdom of the Freedom Charter's call to ensure that the wealth of our country is shared, and particularly that "the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole". In the spirit of the Freedom Charter, the SACP supports a multi-pronged strategy that ensures that we increasingly socialise these commanding heights of our economy through a wide range of interventions.

In particular, we need to leverage off our abundant mineral resources to ensure local beneficiation, job creation, and skills development. A key instrument for achieving these objectives needs to be through the establishment of a State Mining house and through an amended Mineral Resources and Petroleum Development Act, in which licensing of prospecting and mining rights is more forcefully used to leverage industrial policy and job-creation objectives. The proposed mining rents regime including a windfall tax (orsuper-profits tax) and the establishment of a sovereign wealth fund must also be firmly supported. The SACP has consistently called for such measures to ensure that as a country we recoup some of the benefits of commodity booms. We need to remove the distortions related to, for instance, SASOL's import parity pricing on its petrol, currently costing it some four times less to produce than the pump price.

Developing an effective, state-led industrial policy that focuses, in particular, on ensuring that the labour-intensive manufacturing sector is built into a much more vibrant and dynamic sector of the economy, including through an effective trade policy and macro-economic policies that are appropriate to supporting these objectives.

The increasing socialization of the finance sector, through, amongst other things, achieving a much greater developmental, working-class biased, strategic control over key public and social financial institutions and funds. Efforts to transform existing public Developmental Finance Institutions (DFIs) - like the IDC, the DBSA, the Land Bank, the Postbank, etc. must be supported and strengthened. Progressive forces also need to ensure a greater strategic control over worker pension and provident funds (including the GEPF through the PIC). There must be continued efforts to build a cooperative banking sector. Popular pressure must also be sustained to impact upon the private banking oligopolies and financial institutions - particularly through community reinvestment requirements. In this respect we need to use the state's very significant purchasing power, as well as popular pressure, to ensure that such developmental objectives are realized.

A major state-led infrastructure programme that unlocks untapped resources; helps to develop neglected rural regions of our country; links actively with an industrial policy; addresses the economic dysfunctionality and social injustices associated with the apartheid spatial form of our urban spaces; prioritises energy efficient infrastructure (eg. rail over road); and helps to drive effective links with our region and continent.

A major and critical review of so-called "Black Economic Empowerment" - has it contributed to any serious transformation of the embedded colonial features of our economy? Or has it often perversely strengthened them? Monopoly capital (and not the supposed "colour" of monopoly capital) is the principle structural blockage in our attempts to transform our economy and society. To what extent has BEE, too often narrowly focused on ownership quotas, acted as a serious and costly diversion from real transformation?

Well-resourced and strategically directed education and training to overcome the massive skills distortions in our society;

A much more strategic and sustainable approach to natural resources. The depletion of natural resources and the damage to our environment need to be actively factored into our growth and developmental statistics. Energy, water, fishery and agricultural land-use policies need to be sustainable and developmental. Short-term, export-led competitiveness led by monopoly capital cannot be allowed to trump development and sustainability.

The SACP's campaigns around building sustainable livelihoods, households, and communities have especial relevance in a global and national setting in which the formal, capitalist economy is now never likely to provide for anything approaching full employment. Expanded public works programmes, including the community works programme, a broad network of cooperatives supported by government and especially local government, and a developmental social security net are also all important components of ensuring sustainability for the majority of our people.

The strengthening of the capacity of key parts of the state to once more play an active productive role, for instance rebuilding the capacity of the Department of Public Works and of Municipalities to construct houses and other social infrastructure.

The balanced development and effective industrial policy integration of our entire Southern African region is also critical.

In the SACP's 2007 programme we called for most of these key economic measures. Since 2007 and particularly since 2009 many if not all of these elements have been endorsed in government policy and some are being actively pursued. In particular we single out the New Growth Path, the Industrial Policy Action Programme, the National Development Plan, and the formation of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission and the launch of 17 major strategic integrated infrastructure projects.

Of course, none of these policy programmes and strategic interventions are uncontested and none are guaranteed not to be blocked or diverted from their transformational objectives. None of these measures can be achieved without an active democratic developmental state buttressed by a mobilised national democratic movement in which the working class increasingly plays a hegemonic role.

The state apparatus - challenges of the present and the legacy of the past

We believe that insufficient analysis, both within our movement and in the broader public debate, has been devoted to understanding the systemic challenges we have confronted in the state bureaucracy since the democratic breakthrough. In 1994 the state apparatus that the liberation movement inherited and sought to transform was thoroughly distorted by its internal colonial features.

On the one hand, there was a relatively well-functioning but authoritarian and rigidly hierarchical state bureaucracy that had serviced a white minority welfarist system. From the 1930s the white minority state also developed major parastatals in key strategic areas like Eskom, Iscor, Telkom, SASOL, Spoornet, and Armscor. From the late 1970s, the financial crisis and growing class differences within the ruling white minority bloc led to the privatization of key strategic parastatals (SASOL, Iscor), and to the radical cutting back on public expenditure on others (for example, Spoornet). In 1994 the new democratic state found itself deprived both of key strategic apparatuses that had been privatized, and with a seriously under-capitalised passenger and freight rail and ports system.

In the latter years of apartheid, as its own crisis developed, hegemony within the white-minority state increasingly shifted towards the military and security apparatus, with a vast increase in security budgets and personnel. International sanctions directed against the apartheid regime in its last decades, also saw the development of an extensive shadow-state network. An array of dirty-tricks front organisations and sanctions-busting networks emerged, involving state employees, spies, mercenaries, lumpen-business people, and criminal syndicates of all kinds.

After 1994 many of these networks mutated into supposedly legitimate businesses, consultancies, and private security operations and many succeeded in infiltrating the new state and partnering in so-called BEE deals with some leading cadres in the movement. This legacy, whose effects persist into the present, has contributed to many of the challenges of corruption and factionalism, including within sensitive parts of the state security apparatus, that we still confront.

On the other hand, what was also inherited in 1994 was an extensive, ethnically fragmented set of former Bantustan, township, "Coloured" and "Indian" bureaucracies. In 1994 the new state inherited almost 650,000 former Bantustan bureaucrats. While there were obviously dedicated professionals among them, the dominant ethos in the Bantustan and tricameral   bureaucracies was one of patronage and rent-seeking.  Again this legacy continues to leave a powerful and perverse imprint on our contemporary reality. Provinces that incorporated former Bantustan bureaucracies are often those with the most serious administrative challenges in the present.

The neo-liberal "new public management"

These various perverse legacies and their impact on the present have, unfortunately, not always been sufficiently analysed. More problematically, after 1994 the hegemony of neo-liberalism also negatively impacted upon the remedies that were sought in order to transform the state and its administrative apparatus. Essentially, the "remedy" applied was the neo-liberal aligned "new public management" approach.

The "new public management" approach is basically about applying (mis-applying) a private, for-profit, corporate management approach to the public sector. It includes:

  • Replacing a public sector ethics of service to citizens with a managerialist ethics of "delivery" to "customers";
  • Replacing professional leadership of the public sector with generic corporate managers - as if auditing and financial skills were all that was required to run a hospital or a school, for instance;
  • Replacing professional and vocational incentives in the public sector with  monetary incentives that are, in turn, typically based on fulfillment of "performance agreements" that are often meaningless, and that frequently result in tick-box pseudo-compliance;
  • Fragmenting line departments into dozens of stand-alone "agencies", each with its own "corporate" structure - a board, a CEO, and an expensive head-office (what the SACP has referred to as the "agentification" of the state);
  • Further transforming the public administration from a "doing" apparatus into a "purchaser" of services from the private sector. Professionals in the state apparatus, those that have remained, have been increasingly reduced to compilers and adjudicators of "tenders" with all of the moral hazard implicit in this (the SACP has described this as the "tenderization" of the state).

In developed economies, like the UK, Australia, Canada or New Zealand, the "new public management" approach was implemented variously with considerable zeal from the late 1970s through the 1980s and early 1990s. It was seen as a means to "right-size" welfare states that were deemed by conservative governments to be "bloated" and "inefficient". Increasingly through the 1990s in these very countries that had pioneered the approach, the many problems associated with it were beginning to be evident - in particular the serious fragmentation of the state apparatus. Since the 1990s various attempts have been made in these countries to rebuild "joined-up" government.

Unfortunately, at the very time that there were these growing criticisms of the "new public management" approach, in the post-1994 South Africa we tended to uncritically adopt it as the silver bullet that would help us to transform our inherited public sector legacy. It was bad medicine to begin with, but it was bad medicine developed for an entirely different set of challenges in any case. It was not as if South Africa in 1994 was inheriting a unitary, professional, relatively efficient, rule-governed, and comprehensive welfare state. That was not remotely our situation at all. 

To this toxic mix of a bad legacy and a poor remedy was added the (in principle progressive and necessary) implementation of affirmative action measures to ensure equitable race, gender and disability representation in the public sector. However, since these affirmative action measures were introduced into a poorly conceived neo-liberal restructuring of the public sector, over-laid sometimes with factional ruling party appointments, they have often resulted in poor outcomes which then get blamed on affirmative action itself.

Based on the above analysis, in the relevant sections of the Draft Programme, we propose a variety of alternative approaches to building a much more effective, strategically disciplined, democratic developmental state.

The Draft Programme also engages with the critical theme of the battle of ideas - noting that in an epoch dominated by global media oligopolies the ruling ideas are typically the ideas of the ruling global monopoly-finance corporates.

Nothing could demonstrate this better than the simple question:

What do we mean by "growth"?

Neo-liberalism has as its cornerstone belief the argument that "growth" is the principal driver of all things positive. But "growth", in the logic of capitalism, is NOT measured in terms of an increase in the production and availability of socially useful goods - but in terms of the production of commodities that can be traded for a profit. "Growth", therefore, excludes socially useful (often socially critical) production of food for household self-subsistence, for instance.

A voluntary service like caring for the children of working neighbours in South African townships is socially necessary, but it does not feature in the "economic" calculations of "economic output", and therefore it is not part of "growth". However, if the SAME service is provided for a fee - then, in the warped logic of capitalism, it is part of the GDP "growth" calculation.

Moreover, in the logic of capitalism, the exhaustion of our natural resources (for instance the depletion of our minerals, fishing stocks, or forests) does NOT get DEDUCTED from the "growth" calculation. Profits are made and we are told our economy has "grown", but at the end of the day most of us are collectively left with less!

The same applies to the often irreparable damage done to our natural environment (the pollution of our underground water resources through acid mine drainage, for instance). Again the costs to society and to future generations of this profit-driven destruction are NOT part of a negative growth calculation. In addition to all of this, socially useless activities are counted as part of "growth" - for instance, the vastly expanding, multi-trillion dollar global advertising and "branding" industry.

The claim of capitalist ideology is that job creation, greater equality, and the reduction of poverty are all dependent upon "growth", and without "growth" they cannot be addressed. The "unless-we-grow-the-cake" argument is so often repeated that it comes to seem like a self-evident truth. However, our own history teaches us that there is no necessary link between "growth" and key social objectives. At the height of the apartheid period, from the mid-1960s to 1973, the economy achieved sustained 6% "growth" - but inequality and poverty worsened. It is for this reason that the SACP insists on a completely different understanding of "growth", which should be measured in terms of the sustainable transformation of our society to meet the developmental needs of our people.

Another key ideological theme touched upon in the Draft Programme is what the SACP has called:

"Anti-majoritarian liberalism"

What was once called in colonial circles the thorny "native question" (that is the "dilemma" for a white minority of a surviving overwhelming indigenous majority) has now been dusted off, updated and botoxed into an inflated "threat of one party political dominance".

The DA, ably supported by the media oligopolies, constantly harps on the "dangers" of "a two-thirds majority", of "confusing party and state", of "cadre deployment", of the "anachronism" of the ANC still being both an electoral party and a liberation movement, of the "tail wagging the dog" (referring to the SACP and COSATU). All of these concerns amount to a single fundamental concern - SA's post-1994 democratic dispensation has not (at least not yet) degenerated into a typical liberal democratic, two-party dispensation in which a centre-right and a centre-left political party, barely distinguishable from each other, rotate through office.

This kind of "democracy" has reached its low-point in the US, where to stand as a candidate, even for a relatively modest office, requires millions of dollars of campaign funding. Typically, the major corporations in the US will support both major parties. What we have in most of the developed capitalist societies is a political version of the contemporary oligopolistic market in which the commodities of the major corporates (whether soap powder, petrol, or cars) are distinguished not by price or quality, but by "branding".

Happily for SA, there are powerful obstacles to this kind of corporate capture and political degeneration - notably the ANC's persisting movement character, its branch-level organization and mobilizing traditions (however impaired they might have become during the 1996 class project period), and its continued commitment to an alliance with two avowedly radical socialist formations, the SACP and COSATU. This means that the ruling party and therefore the state are accessible to the direct influence of class forces other than monopoly capital. 

Building a strong vanguard SACP

In order to advance the many programme perspectives in the Draft Programme particular attention will have to be paid to the completion of the restructuring of the Party structures. All our branches must be based on voting districts, whilst the districts ensure effective SACP presence, influence and co-ordination at ward level.

This Draft Programme envisages an effective communist presence in all key sites of power, and to this end the SACP must have Deployment and Accountability Committees at national, provincial and district levels whose role is to ensure maximum possible deployment and accountability of our cadres in various responsibilities in both the state and outside the state. These structures must aim to also strengthen the capacity of SACP cadres to perform well in the widest range of their deployments, while at the same time ensuring accountability and answerability to the Party.

This article first appeared in Umsebenzi Online, the online newsletter of the SACP.

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