The Second Inquisition.

June 29, 2012

The ANC discussion document, “Building a National Democratic Society and the Balance of Forces in 2012” has, pretty obviously, been written by the SACP. They were always the big bugs for National Democratic Revolution — it was, essentially, the first stage of the socialist revolution, the second being the one which would bring them to power — and if there were any doubts, the document talks enthusiastically about “Colonialism of a Special Type” on page 5 as the foundations of our democracy. Nobody outside the SACP has mentioned CST for many years, because that analysis of South African society, interesting as it might be to revisit these days, was wholly overtaken by events in the late 1980s.

The text suggests that “the ANC has . . . opted for a limited NDR, which accommodates (and even promotes) existing economic power relations”. This seems fair. (However, this is also extensively qualified, probably because the SACP is now more comfortably in government than it was in the 1990s. For instance, there is an extensive defense of GEAR which the Creator would not substantially challenge, but which reverses the stance taken by the SACP before 2007.) There are also fairly sensible remarks about the social grants system and the education budget (which, it is argued, is better managed than is usually acknowledged).

The goals are outlined thus:

 

The bedrock of our political system is therefore highlighted as:

• A legitimate state that derives its authority from the people through regular elections and popular participation.

• The mobilisation of the nation around a common vision of the kind of society and world we are building, acting in partnership with each sector for the realisation of the common good.

• The means for citizens to exercise their human rights, and for checks and balances in a law-governed society.

• Building the South African nation inclusive of the multiple identities based on class, gender, age, language, geographic location, and religion, as a united African nation, adding to the diversity and identity of the continent and humanity at large.

 

Nice set of mission statements, which no liberal could contend with. There is also a set of economic goals:

 

• Macro economic balances that support sustainable growth and development, not to be treated as things-in-themselves, but as requirements that ensure higher rates of growth, labour-absorption and poverty reduction.

• An industrial strategy to build an economy with high levels of manufacturing activity, modern services, expanding trade, cutting edge technology and a vibrant small business and cooperative sector.

• The mobilisation of investment towards these ends, including state, private and community investment.

• The achievement of shared growth by focusing on the creation of decent jobs and ensuring an improving quality of life for workers.

• The implementation of programmes to eliminate economic dualism and exclusion, including specific attention to industries in marginalised communities, rural and agrarian development, access to micro-credit, small business development, public works projects and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods at community and household level. This also requires the intensification of broad-based black economic empowerment programmes, and balanced and sustainable spatial development.

 

At once we see a few problems. How do we define the contents of the first point? Is the second point even possible (if “industrial strategy” is as narrowly defined as it usually is)? The third point is potentially valid, as is the fourth,. but the fifth point bogs itself down in failed current policies which suggests that the authors are not necessarily as wedded to change as the earlier points suggested.

However, obviously the big question is, why hasn’t this all already happened? What’s gone wrong with the ANC that it isn’t mobilising the nation, uniting the country, and building the economy? It’s no wonder that many delegates to the conference currently going on are pissed off, because this all looks rather like a slap in the face, or at least on the wrist, from Party to Congress.

Then, there follows this useful table (p.18), which should drive any assessment of what’s going on:

 

Table 1. Per capita personal income by race group

 

Year White Indian Coloured African Average  
Per capita income in constant 2000 Rands:
1993  46 486 19 537 8 990 5 073 11 177  
1995   48 387 23 424 9 668 6 525 12 572  
2000 56 179 23 025 12 911 8 926 16 220  
2008  75 297 51 457 16 567 9 790 17 475  
Relative per capita personal incomes (% of White level):
1993 100 42.0 19.3 10.9 24.0  
1995 100 48.4 20.0 13.5 26.0  
2000 100 41.0 23.0 15.9 28.9  
2008 100 60.0 22.0 13.0 23.2  

 

Wow. So, according to this, Indians are the main beneficiaries of the first economic transition. Maybe that explains the Guptas. The figures look rather dodgy (why did Indian income fall in 2000?) but they confirm what everyone knows — that coloureds and indians are doing well in post-apartheid South Africa (indian income increasing by 264%, coloured by 184%), that whites are doing all right (income increasing by 162%) and that africans have benefited less than is usually claimed (income increasing by 193%, a little better than coloureds, but starting from a base that’s only half the coloureds’, a quarter the indians’ and a ninth the whites’). Racialising the inequality helps to explain why indians are so unpopular in working-class KwaZulu-Natal, and perhaps also why coloureds and africans don’t get on — they’re fighting over a shrinking share of the bones tossed to them by the whites and indians.

But racialising the situation is too easy — what we would need is a class analysis, a breakdown of the division of South African income according to how many are earning at particular levels. In the United States, for instance, we know (from Saez and Piketty, if you Google it) that the top 0.01% of the population earned an average of nearly $20 million last year, compared with the bottom 90% earning an average of $30 000. (That’s still three times the white South African average but twelve times the overall South African average.) We know that the US top 0.01% earnings rose by just over 20% on the previous year (which helps explain why they were earning 656 times as many as the bottom 90%, whose incomes fell slightly).

All this raises the puzzling question as to why American rich people’s heads are not impaled on pikes at the city gate, but at least the data is there. But it is absent from this South African document altogether.. It’s almost as if the SACP has given up on class conflict — perhaps because of the class to which its members predominantly belong.

Indeed, the document talks about a “patriotic bourgeoisie”, which would make Frantz Fanon pick up his machine-gun; it’s the absence of such a bourgeoisie which drives most of South Africa’s problems. It warns that their goals “may not be in the interests of economic transformation”. Duh. What’s recommended, therefore, is more broad-based black economic empowerment. Jesus fucking Christ, there aren’t enough swearwords in the world to express how stupid and evil this is, how complete a repudiation of almost everything thus far. This is, therefore, a document which is intended to cement the corrupt class relations of globalised capitalism in South Africa while paying lip-service to a desire to do some modest thing to ameliorate the horror which globalised capitalism has inflicted upon us.

Just to make that point clearer, “The ANC must therefore continue to engage with various strata and interests within the white community on our national vision”. Yeah, right. In the old days, people who talked like this were correctly called impimpis. And the capitalists, Well, the plan here involves “challenging and engaging monopoly capital to the extent that they are an obstacle to our national vision (by, for example, blocking new entrants into various sectors of the economy) as well as with regards our quest to build social justice and reduce inequality”. How do you “engage” someone who is an obstacle to the national vision? And why should the problem be “blocking new entrants” — what’s that got to do with social justice? The indications are that this is simply a desire to be given a slice of the capitalist cake without actually changing anything fundamental.

In fact, when the document identifies “obstacles to transformation”, every one of these obstacles is within the ANC or the government. While it is perfectly true that things like corruption, incompetence and bad policies make the provision of socio-economic justice more difficult, this has nothing to do with a “second transition”. All of the actual obstacles to social justice lie in special interest groups who do not want to share their wealth or reduce their prospects of getting even richer in future. The document airily dismisses this, and therefore ought to have been printed on toilet paper.

This helps to clarify the gigantic intellectual divide between what the ANC/SACP say, and what they actually intend to do.

The document then talks about the “global context”, starting with talking vaguely about globalisation and neoliberalism. They say that there is a global financial crisis. Fuck, how did they find that one out? They must have used Jacob Zuma’s intelligence network, or something. But then they say, and this is interesting, “The disarray in the [Western] left is a result of the intellectual and moral vacuum created by the absence of a robust and compelling alternative to neo-liberalism”. Yeah, they’ve obviously been reading this blog because they couldn’t have figured that one out by themselves. And yet . . . doesn’t that mean that they need to provide such an alternative themselves? No, of course not, because that’s the Western left and it doesn’t apply to us, does it? The South African Left, having sold out to capital long ago, obviously isn’t going to acknowledge this.

On Africa, without blushing, they quote Pixley ka Seme, Frantz Fanon and Kwame Nkrumah. Their fingers should have withered up as they downloaded those quotes, because they follow this up by saying that Africa is going to do great because it is an “investment frontier”. Viva neo-colonialism, viva! Forward to a people’s sweatshop! They do say that we need to “position ourselves strategically” — they say it twice, but never say what it means, and of course they don’t mention AFRICOM, because . . . well, don’t mention zer war, jah!

Those of you who are astute will have noted the absence of anything about the second transition thus far (and we’re four-fifths of the way through). They make up for this in Part E, where they say: “we must heed the call in our 2012 January 8th Statement for the ANC to pay single-minded and undivided attention towards overcoming poverty, unemployment and inequality. This is what our second transition must be about.” (p.36). Ah, so some vapid bullshit is going to guide us by making us pay attention to something. What does paying attention mean? Does it mean fulfilling the programme of action set out in this document? No, all they say is that we must have a “trajectory” over the next fifty years. Is that trajectory to resemble the trajectory of a hippo falling off a skyscraper? They don’t say.

They do say that we should get more money and better distribution. Yay! This can be done by, er, making the economy bigger. Wha? You want to know more? Here it is (p.38, if you think it’s a joke):

 

• strengthening innovation policy, the sector and linkages with companies;

• improving functioning of the labour market through reforms and specific proposals concerning dispute resolution and discipline, to help the economy absorb more labour;

• supporting small business through better coordination in the different agencies, the development finance institutions, and SME incubators;

• improving the skills base through improved education and training;

• increasing investment in social and economic infrastructure to lower costs, raise productivity and bring more people into the mainstream;

• reducing the regulatory burden in sectors where the private sector is a main investor;

• a comprehensive ICT policy as an input to economic and social development and as a driving sector of innovation;

• improving state capacity to effectively implement economic policy.

 

That is, more public-private partnerships, weaker labour legislation, more deregulation and above all, make it easier to download porn off the Internet. Oh, they also say we need better education, better healthcare, better social services and better policing. No lie, of course, but don’t they say that every year? Do we need a policy conference to generate things which Jacob Zuma emits whenever he exhales (from whichever orifice)? They also say that the people must be involved in all this, though they don’t say how this is to be done, or what the people would get out of being involved. However, they say that there must be an ideological struggle against neoliberalism and global capitalism — well, they don’t quite say that, but they mention neoliberalism and global capitalism and then say that there must be an unspecified ideological struggle. Perhaps the ideological struggle ought to be over the correct status of Comrade Bernstein in the pantheon of deceased Marxists? Difficult to say.

What they do say, in addition to arguing that it would help if the ANC continues to win elections, is that the ANC must have a “revolutionary and disciplined cadreship”. What “revolutionary” means in the context of this reactionary plutocratic apologia is hard to comprehend, but one sees what “disciplined” means — it means, don’t ask questions if you want to keep your lucrative sinecure. This body is to guide and dominate society’s “motive forces” — presumably what the Party, in the bad old days, called the proletariat, but now it seems to be mostly the bourgeoisie, and especially the 1% at the top.

So now you know what they’re talking about at Midrand. Well, actually they aren’t, they’re talking about which dudes are going to be making money out of all this shit, after Mangaung. But at least you know that there isn’t going to be any Second Transition, and that Saint Julius was crucified in vain.

 

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