Wednesday, May 23, 2007

SA Developmental State?

The myth of a South African Developmental State
Nyiko Floyd Shivambu

Acknowledging the massive setbacks and crisis of unemployment and poverty that characterise the 13 years of democratic dispensation in South Africa, the new mantra in the African National Congress and government is that of building of a Developmental State. The ANC Policy Conference discussion document on economic transformation and its Draft Strategy and Tactics stand by the ultimate objective of building a development state, which supposedly requires an efficient a market as possible.

Despite an array of conceptualisations on what a developmental state is or should be; there are consistent elements that reappear in its definition. The consistent elements include the reality that firstly, a developmental state should have the necessary structural capacity to drive change, secondly, it should have the ideology of development backed by a mass movement and thirdly, the capacity to navigate through and direct contradicting class forces in society. A developmental state should in character have relative autonomy from capital and labour in order to suppress sectoral and narrow class interests in favour of national development objectives.

A developmental state should be able to manage and direct capital as well as labour in the interests of national development. The ANC economic transformation discussion document observes the reality that “in many international cases, the developmental state’s strategic capacity has been fostered in the context of a high degree of integration between business and government… [and] a powerful and dominating state apparatus, where democratic rights are often sacrificed at the altar of developmental priorities”. (ANC, 2007: 9).

Suppression of democratic rights of both capitalists and labour constituted the most vital elementary key to success of the archetypical developmental states in East Asia (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan). The historical examples that the South Korean State imprisoned all capitalists in order to foster and coerce them towards national development objectives and priorities illustrates that the liberal democratic rights and freedom were not priority over development objectives. Attached to a massive industrialisation process, the East Asian tigers came to realise high levels of economic growth and development and capital accumulation never seen in the 20th century.

Imperatively, it is vital to note that in East Asia before the developmental state, there was no strong presence of multinational monopoly capital and society was almost completely homogenous, with a relative political stability brought forth by the post World War II stability. The patterns of exploitation did not give rise to strong labour movement, capable of questioning the actions of the State. The national bourgeoisie in those countries was then subjected to national developmental objectives through consensus and repression, where consensus could not work.

The East Asian Developmental States succeeded in a bi-polar global environment and guaranteed support of the capitalist polar led by the World War II triumphant United States. The influence of institutionalised imperialism in the form of World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation was at configuration, and therefore virtually non-existent. Neo-liberalism was not a global compulsive reality in the formation of developmental states in East Asia.

Now, the primary tenets of ANC economic transformation discussion document and the Draft Strategy and Tactics seem to suggest that the South African developmental state should be constructed within, consistent with and integrated into the current neo-liberal global economy. Part of what is envisioned in the South African developmental state is “an economy that is connected to the world, benefiting from the vibrant trade with North and South, in a fair and equitable global trade regime…” (ANC, 2007: 3). Besides, this envisaged State, “requires a market that is as efficient as possible, a market that is shorn of the racial and gender exclusions that characterised apartheid colonialism and freed from the barriers of entry and competition that the economy endured under colonial capitalism” (ANC, 2007: 9).

With a strong multinational monopoly capital, lack of social cohesion due to apartheid capitalism, institutionalised imperialism, and a strong labour movement, the dream to build a developmental state in South Africa shall remain a dream. The dream will permanently be such, unless social relations are fundamentally altered through discontinuation of private ownership of the key means of production, logistics, transport infrastructure, and energy production. The Freedom Charter envisaged such sort of a developmental state by asserting that “the mineral wealth beneath the soil, banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; and all other industry controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people”.

When discussing a developmental state in the coming policy conference, ANC members should be reminded that in South Africa, there is a very strong white monopoly, multinational and unpatriotic capital with interests wider than creation of jobs and poverty reduction. Members of the ANC should remember that the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) exists as a revolutionary labour movement, with an unforeseeable possibility of capitulation to brutal exploitation, whatsoever is the justification. A South African developmental state, which will not be in control of the key means of production, logistics, transport infrastructure, and energy production, is a myth.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

YL Leftwards

The ANC Youth League indicating Left

The recent statements and pronouncements by the African National Congress Youth League (ANC YL) should be given the consideration they deserve in the youth movement. At formation, the Youth League was the first to accept Colonialism of a Special Type characterisation of South African colonial oppression, and essentially recognised the reality that in South Africa, national oppression, patriarchy and class exploitation are inseparable. This was characteristic of the Youth League, which influenced and played a central role in the Defiance Campaign, which indisputably invigorated the ANC into a revolutionary National Liberation Movement.

Post Defiance Campaign, the ANC Youth League was characterised by robust and concerted mass campaigns and ideological dispositions, which were predominantly Left orientated. With the emergence of democracy, the ANC Youth League militancy was somewhat shelved, whilst its outlook was associated with the emergent, yet predominant bourgeois philosophising of poverty, inequality and poverty in South Africa, clad in the seize the opportunities of democracy rhetoric. The Youth League was silent on critical policy and ideological issues in the ANC and the broader Mass Democratic Movement, and lamentably rushed in defence of the neo-liberal Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) adopted by government in 1996, as workers raised fists against privatisation.

Notable however, are recent pronouncements of the ANC Youth League on vital ideological questions, which the ANC had somewhat abandoned or rhetorically flashed to hide the strategic shift characteristic of the ANC post the democratic breakthrough. The ANC Youth 2007 May Day statement correctly characterised the alliance and emphasised inter alia, “the evolution of apartheid capitalism dialectically unified the struggling masses of our people, hence the alliance amongst the ANC, the South African Communist Party and the workers movement, the latter now represented by COSATU. The alliance was therefore not a marriage of idealism but was born out of the realities that faced our people, that they were oppressed as a race and as a class”.

Post 1994, the class perspective had in the ANC been submerged under the rhetoric of national unity, deracialisation, building a modern economy, resolving the national grievance. Largely, this was placed in contradiction to the resolution of the class contradiction, which is historically understood as the primary contradiction to be resolved by realisation of the Freedom Charter assertions. This historical assessment was made quite buoyantly in the ANC Strategy & Tactics, adopted by the first National Consultative Conference in Tanzania, 1969, “In our country - more than in any other part of the oppressed world - it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy”.

Summarising its observations on the 2007 ANC Draft Strategy and Tactics, due for adoption /rejection in the 52nd National Congress, the Youth League notes “The present draft does not make a clear analysis of the evolution of the strategy and tactics with regards to the role of the ANC, and as such it makes fundamental distortions, through omission, on the ideological disposition of the ANC. The document is very quiet about the role of monopoly capital which has always been characterized as the enemy of the revolution”. The very correct assertion by the Youth League that monopoly capital should still be viewed as the liberation movements’ strategic enemy is not very far from the observation in COSATU House (SACP, COSATU and the YCL) that a new class consensus of the elite had emerged, seeking to restore capitalist profitability and consolidation of the capitalist system, whilst in the first ten years of democracy, the biggest beneficiary of our democracy has been white monopoly capital—our strategic enemy.

With certain levels of ideological inconsistencies, the overtures and observations of the ANC Youth League should really be appreciated and consolidated by all revolutionary movements in the alliance and the ANC in particular in ensuring that the strategic vision and role of the ANC is not permanently bourgeoisified and governmentalised. Possibilities of ossifying the bourgeoisification and governmentalisation of the ANC are very high, and this is reflected, amongst others, in the propositions made in the 2005 National General Council and some of the Policy discussions documents for the 52nd National Congress. Progressive forces should unite to recapture the ANC from elements, which seek to distort its historical mission, that of liberation of Africans in particular and blacks in general through resolution of the class, national and gender contradictions.

Floyd Shivambu