David van Wyk
The Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) is a petite bourgeois
nationalist organisation that came to power in Zimbabwe in 1980, after
elections following the Lancaster House Agreement that was signed with
Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party Government in Britain. This
agreement was signed at the height of Ronald Reagan’s mission to roll
The petite bourgeois leaders of ZANU mobilised the peasantry in remote
rural areas during the second Chimurenga (liberation war). The working
class was effectively ignored during the struggle. After 1980, the
nationalist petite bourgeoisie easily dismissed the peasantry, and
avoided dealing with the land question for the first fifteen years. The
petite bourgeoisie was satisfied with replacing the white settlers,
stepping into their shoes and continuing to exploit and oppress both
the Zimbabwean working class and the peasantry on behalf of
international capital. The nationalist petite bourgeoisie, in the
prophetic words of Franz Fanon, “discovered its historic mission: that
of intermediary” for international capitalism.
Whereas Hitler was the hammer with which international capitalism
crushed the working class in Europe, Ronald Reagan was the steamroller
that global capitalism employed to destroy working class organisations
globally. Robert Mugabe was a key figure in Reagan’s mission in the
Southern African context. In the first instance Mugabe ruthlessly
destroyed his Soviet Union supported opposition in Joshua Nkomo’s
Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) by unleashing the notorious
Fifth Brigade on Matabeleland in 1984 during operation Gukurahundi.
Once he destroyed any potential nationalist threat to his dominance he
proceeded to destroy the left – including attacking the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).
At the height of these repressive actions, Mugabe was the darling of
the Commonwealth, The United Nations and the World Bank and the IMF. So
much so that Mugabe’s Finance Minister Bernard Chidzero chaired the
IMF/World Bank Development Committee. Naturally the West and global
institutions and organisations kept silent about Mugabe’s brutality
then, Interestingly he favoured the Pan Africanist Congress over the
African National Congress at the time, because of the latter’s historic
ties with ZAPU, after all Chris Hani was involved in the famous
Wankie/Whange battle between ZAPUs armed wing ZIPRA and the Rhodesian
army in the 1960s.
In the 1980s several MK cadres found themselves at the wrong end of
Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). Their historical
association with Zipra, ZAPU’s liberation army earned them spells in
detention and torture particularly in Bulawayo during 1984. Although
the ANC had a branch and offices Avondale in Harare, MK had to operate
from clandestine safe houses.
Mugabe introduced one of the most stringent economic structural
adjustment programmes (ESAP) under direction of the IMF and the World
Bank. This Economic Suffering for African People as locals jokingly
called ESAP destroyed the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA),
most other parastatals and Zimbabwe’s food security. Zimbabwe borrowed
massively at the outset, figuring that repayments -- which required 16%
of export earnings in 1983 -- would “decline sharply until we estimate
it will be about 4% within the next few years”.
The first loan ironically was to completely reconstruct Zimbabwe’s
power facility at Whange, the Power I loan was the first Bank energy
loan to Zimbabwe after Independence in 1980. The loan was to the
Electricity Supply Commission (ESC), which was later incorporated into
a national power utility, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority
The main lender, the World Bank, concurred: “The debt service ratios
should begin to decline after 1984 even with large amounts of
additional external borrowing”. This was the economic equivalent of a
sucker-punch, for in reality, Zimbabwe's debt servicing spiraled up to
an untenable 37% of export earnings by 1987.
Loan conditions quickly emerged. By 1985, the IMF was pressuring Mugabe
to cut education spending and, in 1986, food subsidies fell to
two-thirds of 1981 levels.
The two global agencies advised Zimbabwe to switch from food crops to
cash crops in order to pay off astronomical IMF and World Bank loans.
Suddenly Zimbabwe experienced food shortages for the first time, and
electricity power cuts became a daily occurrence. This happened soon
after the World Bank and IMF became responsible for the micro
management of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority. One wonders if
the ANC leadership in South Africa knew of this historical fiasco north
of Limpopo before they entered into the recent loan with the World Bank
to construct the Medupe Power Plant in Limpopo. Interestingly, then in
Zimbabwe, as now in South Africa, the World Bank advised that
“Electricity to ZESAs consumers was “far too cheap.”
The IMF and the World Bank effectively led Zimbabwe into bankruptcy and
economic self destruction through the agency of the ZANUPF petite
Ever since Mugabe’s unholy alliance with global capital the people of
Zimbabwe has had to suffer the impositions of the IMF and the World
Bank, including the dismantling of Zimbabwe’s nascent manufacturing
sector – the collapse of David Whitehead textiles, the destruction of
Supersonic, the end of Bata shoes, reversing gains in local content of
Land Rover which had 75% local content in 1980 and the general collapse
of the motor vehicle industry, particularly Peugot, Citroen and Ford,
with tens of thousands of workers becoming unemployed in working class
areas such as Willovale and Chitungwiza. The World Bank and IMF advised
that Zimbabwe should concentrate on its competitive advantage – cash
The peasantry was ‘advised’ to switch from food crop production to cash
crop production – droughts in the late 1980s left even the usually
resilient Zimbabwean peasantry starving. Land reform in the form of
land invasions was but a system of reward for military generals, so as
to minimize the risk of military coups, and ZANUPF cronies. Most
recently Mugabe punished the working class in Harare for daring to vote
against him by launching Operation Murambatsvina, “driving out the
trash” by demolishing tens of thousands of houses in Harare’s working
It is against this background that workers and peasants should read
Mugabe’s ‘land reform’ and his calls for economic indigenisation. Fanon
noted that the nationalist petite bourgeoisie ‘constantly demands the
nationalisation of the economy and of the trading sectors. This is
because, from their point of view, nationalisation does not mean
placing the whole economy at the service of the nation and deciding to
satisfy the needs of the nation. For them nationalisation does not mean
governing the state with regard to the new social relations whose growth
it has been decided to encourage. To them, nationalisation quite simply
means the transfer into native (petite bourgeois) hands those unfair
advantages which are the legacy of the colonial period.” In other words
the nationalist petite bourgeoisie models themselves on colonial
settlers and when in power behaves as colonial settlers would towards
the working class and the peasantry.
The nationalist middleclass is too weak to address the questions of the
national revolution and fears that the working class will drive the
revolution in an uninterrupted way (Lenin) towards a permanent
revolution (Trotsky) that will take matters to the logical conclusion
of socialism. The national petite bourgeoisie and the weak national
bourgeoisie therefore sell their souls to global capitalism, while
mouthing the most radical slogans – they don red T-Shirts in township
rallies on weekend and three piece suites during office hours, during
‘global conferences and at evening functions reassuring global capital
of their loyalty while negotiating a piece of the cake for themselves.
Quoted reference: Fanon, F. 2001. The Wretched of the Earth. London: Penguin.
conflict cannot be mediated. Nedlac is an attempt by the bourgeois
state to blunt the class struggle in South Africa by creating the facade
of cooperation between classes in an intensely unequal society. South
Africa has the biggest gap between rich and poor people in the world.
When the economy went into crisis the then denialist Minister of Finance
Trevor Manuel denied the crisis for as long as he could so as to avoid
remedial action, as a reult the country lost more than a million jobs in
a short space of time. In the recovery that followed these jobs were
never recovered and the economy reverted to jobless growth which means
it reverted to the same situation that it was in before the crisis,
minus the jobs.
swelling of the ranks of the reserve army of labour (the
lumpen-proletariat) has increased the pressure on those with jobs as it
has increased the levels of economic dependency on the working
population. It has also weakened the bargaining power of the working
class as the threat of increased unemployment, and the very existence of
this huge reserve army of unemployed is used to blackmail and
'discipline the employed. Worse, the bourgeois media is blaming the
employed and unionised workers for the unemployment in the country. This
is an attempt to ratchet up the tension between organised workers and
the unorganised unemployed and to divert attention from the super
profits the capitalist class is making in South Africa. Angloplat for
example boasts that 'headline earnings per share rose more than sixfold
to 1935c in the year to end-December, from 289c a year earlier.'
wonder the CEO of Anglo can boldly proclaim against nationalisation and
in favour of expanding operations. They know, and Zuma's address
confirms this, that the old guard in the ANC will never kill the 'goose
that lays the golden egg' in the words of a former Minister of Mining.
The old Guard in the ANC are all wealthy shareholders in a booming
industry. The same industry which is chasing communities off their land
as quickly as the land is restored to them by the Department of Land
Affairs. No care that this industry is killing South Africa's rivers and
ground water. No care that this industry is poisoning our agricultural
land and threatening our future water and food security. No care that
this industry due to its peculiar history is keeping the country locked
into a low wage, high unemployment trap. No care that this industry is
preventing economic diversification and is the main reason why Asian
countries who were far behind South Africa in terms of industrial
development in the 1950s are today light years ahead of us.
Zuma speaks of allocating R40 billion towards job creation. Will this
R40 billion land in the pockets of the tenderpreneurs, in the pockets of
cousins, grandsons and nephews instead of in the pockets of workers
nows proudly employed.
in Mr Zuma's speech addresses the expansion of the productive capacity
of the economy. We only have to drive through the industrial areas of
our major cities to see the empty buildings the inoperational factories,
the underutilised capacity. We only have to enter any township, or
Yeoville or Hillbrow to see the wasted human resource capacity of this
country - the millions of unemployed workers to realise that any claim
of real economic growth is false. Economic growth only occurs when all
unutilised economic capacity is fully utilised, and then new capacity,
new factories, new farms, new economic activity is added. However when a
former Bophuthatswana statistician is heading Stats SA any miracle is
Zuma boldly states that betwen 2010 and 2014 there will be hundreds of
conferences and meetings in South Africa including that of the
International Olympics committee and that this will translate into jobs
in the tourism sector. Again this is adding nothing to the productive
capacity of the country. No doubt the tourism sector growth will see a
rapid increase in sex work, the drugs trade and alcohol and substance
abuse. Fanon correctly refers to this neo-colonial obsession with
prestige events and tourism as the prostitution of the national economy.
of speaking about solving the housing crisis by means of state
intervention on behalf of the homeless Mr Zuma takes the bankrupt
banking based housing policies of Joe Slovo a step further. Where Joe
Slovo handed RDP housing over to the banking sector, thereby
emasculating the working class from class actions such as strikes
because they would lose their RDP matchboxes if the missed bond
repayments, Mr Zuma proposes rental accommodation for the transient
semirural working class. Large parts of the working class is trapped
into migrant labour, thanks to the mining industry which now gives its
migrants a living out allowance and pretends that it no longer employs
migrants. Having migrant workers rent accomodation makes it easier to
evict them when they are retrenched during economic downturns. It also
creates the possibility of growing a rentier capitalist class among the
black elite. Thus strengthening the National Party ANC programme of
building a black middle class as a buffer against socialist revolution!
Capitalism in Africa
David van Wyk
What sustains the imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? What sustains the occupation of Palestine? According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (http://www.cbs.gov.il/hodaot2010n/16_10_232t6.htm) almost 30% of its exports were diamond related (polished diamonds, jewellery, and unpolished diamonds). Since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 the prices of copper and uranium have boomed. Copper is the base component of most munitions from bullets to shell casings, not to speak of electronics wiring. Coltan and tantalum are essential components of electronics and communications systems in use by NATO and the US army.
Uranium prices spiked between March 2006 when George Bush announced his intention of realising a “complete victory” in Iraq and August 2007, when the US conventional military solution in Iraq petered out in the face of concerted guerrilla resistance to the occupation. The invading US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan use plutonium tipped artillery shells and a variety of munitions containing depleted uranium. Depleted uranium munitions were first used by NATO forces in Kosovo, where according to Hari Sharma, “NATO is trying to save Kosovars, but if they leave Kosovo filled with
depleted uranium, it's not a happy situation. They [would be] poisoning them. If you are going to use depleted uranium in warfare, it's better to drop an atom bomb and kill 30,000 people instantaneously rather than killing them over 20 or 30 years.” The same and even more advanced munitions are being deployed in Iraq where Robert Fisk after the first invasion found, “In Iraq in 1997, I discovered monstrous births of deformed babies and old men who, amid the wreckage which the Allies had blasted with our uranium shells, told me of daughters with breast and liver cancer.”
Table 1. Known and Suspected Uses of DU Munitions in Warfare
Source: Dan Fahey: SCIENCE OR SCIENCE FICTION? Facts, Myths and Propaganda In the Debate Over Depleted Uranium Weapons.
I have just spent three months zipping in and out of the mining provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zambia and Zimbabwe, where I interviewed mine workers, trade union leaders and peasants.
There is a literal scramble for mining rights by global capitalist companies in these three countries. The most sought after minerals being copper, cobalt, uranium and coltan.
In the north eastern parts of the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda, both under the control of US proxy governments have carved out portions of the DRC using “rebel” armies (bands of armed terrorists) to lay their hands on DRC coltan. In the south eastern Katanga Province multinational corporations are raping the environment and the population in an effort to extract as much copper and uranium as they are able to in as short as possible a time and at as low a cost as they possibly could. Here they are in competition with Chinese companies feeding the booming Chinese economy.
It is interesting to note that the uranium that produced the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 came from Katanga province in the DRC.
On the Copperbelt in Northern Zambia and Katanga in South Eastern DRC; Marx’s labour theory of value, his theory of exploitation and of primitive accumulation and Trotsky’s theory of combined and uneven development is finding expression daily in the miserable conditions to which the working class and peasantry are being subjected. In this first article I will investigate the application of the labour theory of value and
exploitation in the context of Zambian mine workers.
I was told by a representative of the Zambian Chamber of Mines that the productivity of Zambian mine workers can be measured from the fact that a Zambian mine worker produces 16 tons of copper per worker per month. The most productive mine produces 22 tons per worker per month.
Underground mine workers in Zambia earn around US$357 per month. The current price of copper US$ 7500 per ton. This means that each worker produces US$120 000 per month (calculated at the average of 16 tons per worker per month), or a surplus of US$ 119 643 per month. Mine bosses claim that the costs of producing a ton of copper equals as much as US $ 5000 per ton. They grossly exaggerate the costs of production so as to evade taxes. But even if we accept these costs and note that the costs of production
is invested in labour power and means of production (technology), the ratio of surplus production over necessary labour is still excessive and exploitative if the net income of mining companies are US$2500 per ton after costs while wages are only US$357 per worker per month, because at 22 tons per worker each worker still produces US$40 000 per worker, which represents a surplus of US$39 643 per worker.
In Katanga there are also tens of thousands of artisanal miners, the lumpen proletariat, who unable to secure work in the mines, illegally occupy the concessions of major western mining corporations scratching in toxic mine waste and dumps for copper, uranium or cobalt. Kabwe in Zambia is considered to be the most toxic polluted town on the planet. The artisanal miners are tolerated because the multinational corporations can
exploit them even more than formal mine workers. The corporations deploy armies of negotiators and traders to vacuum up the concentrate from artisanal miners. Artisanal miners exploit family labour, do not require pensions or medical aid. Typically negotiators act like pimps for the artisanal miners, they take 70% of the price per ton, leaving the artisanal miner with a meager 30%. The negotiators then sell forward to traders who are usually the agents of multinational corporations. I was offered copper concentrate (unprocessed ore) at US$800 a ton by a trader. Imagine the pittance receive by the artisanal miner! This impacts particularly badly on women in Katanga and Zambia. I was told by a prostitute in Kolwezi that a woman in Kolwezi has the following choices in life, to break rock, to carry rock like a pack mule, to wash rock or to become a sex worker.
According to her thousands of young women die between the ages of 15 and 17 because of HIV/Aids, condoms are unheard of in Kolwezi.
Much of the copper, uranium, cobalt and coltan is sold forward to the military industrial complex in the West, and the miserable and poor conditions of Zambian and Congolese mine workers and their families translate into the misery of bombed Iraqi and Afghani civilians (collateral damage) and long term prospects of cancer and birth defects for decades to come, while European and US capitalists/shareholders laugh all the way to the
David van Wyk
Yes indeed it was great
being with the crowds, blowing vuvuzelas, waving flags and watching
every match on TV, at the stadiums or in bohemian restaurants. I also
allowed myself to be swept along the torrent of jubilation and festivities.
Yes it was great that South Africa could pull it off without incident.
We said so after the Rugby World Cup (1995), after the World Conference
on Racism in Durban (2001), after the World Summit on Sustainable Development
in Sandton (2002), not to talk of all the global cricket events. There
was never any doubt that South Africa could pull this off, and earn
browny points from the global neo-liberal ruling class. FIFA is after
all a global transnational corporation which has commodified football
and sells the privilege of hosting the event to the highest most malleable
However, my cynicism
remains about the comprador ruling class in South Africa, and about
the event itself - we cannot run this country as an events and tourism,
carnival destination. While sport and culture is no doubt important
key questions that confront our society have to do with poverty, unemployment,
housing, health, education, water, electricity, etc. rather than building
sport and conference infrastructure.
As an internationalist
and a communist I am also critical of nationalism and of nation building.
I left this country in 1983 because I could not support the exclusive
nationalism propagated by the white population. I am also not comfortable
with the current nationalism parading as democracy. I remind myself
of the German petite bourgeoisie who with the audacity of Hitler managed
to grab power and set about settling historic scores with the working
class and its organizations, the German Communist Party, the German
Social Democratic Party, the Unions and their newspapers - this settling
of scores had the full support of global capital at the time - and Hitler
was praised for creating jobs, for restoring German pride, for rebuilding
the German nation. His reward was of course the Berlin Olympics of 1936.
Hitler rallied the nation with much flag waving, marches and political
theatre on a grand scale, but it was all a bankrupt façade. When he
ran out of ideas he found a scapegoat for his own shortcomings - the
Jewish population of Germany.
With that awful era
in human history in mind, I am not surprised that the poor in South
Africa are resorting to xenophobia. They are told that they are part
of the "Nation" that they must bury their class awareness,
and assume a national consciousness instead, there are no exploiters
or exploited now we are all part of the rainbow nation. So if a worker's
poverty, miserable living and working conditions are not the result
of exploitation, then what is the cause of his or her condition? If
the unemployed squatter camp dweller is not the victim of an economic
structure that immiserates him and assigns him to the lumpen proletariat,
the reserve army of labour, then what is the cause of his or her condition?
If it is not the uneven distribution of wealth and resources, if it
is not that the priorities of the ruling class is with carnivalesque
events rather than the revolutionary transformation of the economic
base of the country, then what is the cause? Well the worker, the unemployed
and the poor come to a simple conclusion - it is the presence of other
workers, poor and unemployed who are not part of the nation - "they,
the makwerekwere (foreigners), are stealing our jobs, our housing, our
women, our opportunities." The class struggle is neatly averted
and the poor are set in violent confrontation with other poor.
This is not really
xenophobia in the true sense of the word, it is really a limited form
of “Afrophobia”, because those targeted are Africans from other
African countries, but not all Africans, only those who are poor, Somalis,
Zimbabweans and Mozambicans who share the squatter camps. Then our Minister
of Police and our President have the nerve to say that it is the rumours
of xenophobia that is causing xenophobia. I have heard that one before
- the minister of police in 1976 saying that the kids in Soweto are
generally peaceful but they are acting up for the media - so let’s
ban the media from Soweto.
I visited Freedom Park
squatter camp in Phokeng, in the shadow of some of the richest platinum
mines in the world the day the World Cup started and noticeable was
the absence of World Cup accessories such as flags, T-shirts and vuvuzelas.
I interviewed members of the community, who do not have access to electricity,
water or proper housing about their view of the World Cup. There was
no FIFA fan park in Freedom Park. They felt extremely alienated/excluded
from the event. I watched the Bafana/France match in a restaurant in
Yeoville, a trendy middleclass suburb in the city centre. At half time
everyone stormed out of the restaurant to go and blow their vuvuzelas
in the Street. It was early evening. The street was packed with revelers
of all races and creeds - and through this carnival of energy and colour
walked three elderly domestic workers, humbly looking down, not wearing
any cup paraphernalia, after a long day in the homes of their middle
class madams, on their way to flag a taxi, probably back to Diepsloot
or some other urban slum. The contrast stuck in my mind, I wish I had
a camera with me.
Throughout the World
Cup electricity supply commission (ESKOM) workers, and civil service
workers threatened to strike for better wages. The bourgeois media accused
the unions of being unpatriotic, business and political leaders begged
the unions to be responsible and not te embarrass the “nation.”
Two days after the
event the poor resumed their struggle. 12 schools in the North West
Province closed over delivery protests, poor people taking to the streets
of their villages and townships knowing that the only way to get the
attention of the government they elected was to become violent. Solly
Petwe, Provincial Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions)
COSATU publicly announced concerns about World Cup tender irregularities
in the North West Province. We still await the outcome of investigations
into tender assassinations in Mpumalanga. Delivery protests also resumed
in Mpumalanga. Immediately after the event Somalis and Zimbaweans started
fleeing poor communities in the Western Cape, and Paul Verryn was threatened
in the streets of Johannesburg, and Mozambican mine workers in Rhamaphosa
squatter camp were threatened by locals.
Xenophobia is the product
of national consciousness, which in itself is a false consciousness
designed to weaken workers and poor communities in their struggle with
In making these remarks
I will be accused of being racist, because the capitalist ruling class
has now created some space for a small number of black South Africans
to join the ranks of capital. However, the vast majority of black South
African class still make out the working class, the poor and down trodden,
and the fact that our country has the dubious distinction of having
the greatest gap between rich and poor in the world cannot and will
not escape them forever. And when the poor rise up, how will our nationalist
leaders deal with it? Will they follow the example of the prime nationalist
figure in history, Hitler? Will there be a historic crushing of the
working class and its organizations and leaders? The recent spat between
Vavi, the General Secretary of COSATU and senior leaders of the (African
National Congress) ANC, whom he is accusing of corruption, would suggest
to me that there are those in the leadership of the ANC who would find
such an historic reckoning to their liking.
David van Wyk
The ruling class in
underdeveloped countries do not own significant means of production.
In South Africa after 16 years of “democratic” transition and
a variety of black economic empowerment, affirmative action and affirmative
procurement programmes, the major means of production in mining, manufacturing,
agriculture, wholesale and retail and finance are still mostly either
foreign owned or in white settler hands. Thus more than 70% of land
is still white owned, the Department of Mineral Resources which sought
to achieve a shift in the ownership of mines through the mechanism of
the Mining Charter bewails the fact that it failed dismally to achieve
even its limited objectives of transferring ownership in mining into
This demonstrates the
incapacity of the national bourgeoisie to effect meaningful transformation
in the context of underdevelopment. The historic compromise reached
in 1993 that led to the first democratic elections in 1994 tied the
petite bourgeoisie to a parliamentary game based on the Westminster
model with a heavy dose of federalism. The “property clause,” binding
the leaders of the new governing party to negotiating land redistribution
and restitution based on “market-value” effectively rendered the
petite bourgeois leaders of the tripartite alliance powerless and the
economic base of the country untouched. Powerless economically, the
political ruling class lacks any foundation from which to effectively
transform the racially poisoned social relations and geographic spatial
arrangements of Apartheid. The black and working class are still trapped
in urban ghettoes called townships and informal settlements (squatter
camps). The white petite bourgeoisie long fled the inner-cities
at a speed which only marginally surpassed that of their black class
compatriots for the gated leafy northern suburbs and the heavily walled,
electrified and security dominated golf estates in close proximity to
sprawling malls. Earlier this year the President gave voice to his development
model – a mall for every deeply impoverished rural village, to bring
shopping convenience to the poorest of the poor.
The country was divided
into nine largely ethnic “provinces” giving room to the aspirations
of emergent Tswana petite bourgeois aspirations in the North West Province,
Zulu petite bourgeois aspirations in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Sotho petite bourgeois
aspirations in the Free State, Xhosa petite bourgeois aspirations in
the Eastern Cape, etc. Instead of overthrowing the racial, ethnic and
tribal divisions which constituted the social relations that emanated
from the Apartheid division and exploitation of the working class, the
post 1994 historic compromise simply refined Apartheid capitalism.
Since the national
bourgeoisie lacks the economic means to secure its rule and throw a
few crumbs to the poorest of the poor, it has instead become preoccupied
with self-enrichment – not by expanding the economic base of
the country, but through seeking to partner global capital in the exploitation
of the resources of the country, through becoming the national facilitators
for foreign capital, corrupting the term “nationalism” in the process
and raising the phrase “foreign-investment” to the level of incontestable
holy scripture. Forced to create “conditions favourable for foreign
investment” the national bourgeoisie does not dare to impose taxes,
decent and safe working conditions, or demand a meaningful stake of
the profits generated by the mineral wealth of the country.
In the process of prostrating
the country before global capital, so as to become partners in the plunder
and pillage of South Africa and Africa’s national resources the national
bourgeoisie through the agency of the state imposed a severe structural
adjustment programme in the form of the Growth with Equity and Redistribution
(GEAR) strategy, privatising hospitals, forcing the poor to pay for
education and health allowing electricity, roads, transport (particularly
the railways) and communication infrastructure to deteriorate – causing
general stagnation, in pursuit of inflation and interest rate targeting.
In its first term of office the African National Congress, this (democratic)
dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in an underdeveloped country such as
South Africa drew its strength from a charismatic figure – the great
leader. In developed capitalist countries the bourgeois dictatorship
is founded on the economic power of the ruling class. In South Africa
after 1994 the national bourgeoisie basked in the glory of Nelson Mandela.
Mandela stood for moral power, and it was in his shadow that the weak
South African national bourgeoisie decided to get rich.
The masses of the people
of all classes were entranced by aura created around the person of Mandela,
he came to be seen as a saviour and they spontaneously put their trust
in this patriot. He embodied their aspirations for freedom, equality,
justice and national dignity in the struggle against Apartheid. Once
in power, Mandela seemed to be the symbolic leader, while Thabo Mbeki
appeared to pull the strings – far from embodying in concrete form
the needs of the people with regard to housing, health, education, employment,
land restitution and redistribution, the ANC quickly revealed its true
purpose: to be the board of executives of that company of profiteers
who were impatient for their rewards for having led the liberation struggle
– the national bourgeoisie – and the phrase “I did not struggle
to be poor!” has become commonplace as government tenders, mining
and prospecting licences harvested from the geological reports of the
Department of Minerals were appropriated in a corrupt orgy of feeding
out of the state trough.
Thabo Mbeki came to
be seen as the fierce defender of the interests of this new class who
have hijacked the state for the promotion of self-interest. His contact
with the masses became completely unreal, he came to be seen as aloof
and arrogant as he resolutely joined the side of the exploiters –
out went the left of centre Reconstruction and Development Programme,
in came GEAR and a panel of international economic advisors that included
the who-is- who of global capitalism. Roads and infrastructure deteriorated,
health facilities crumbled, health services collapsed, education went
into a crisis, the inner cities where the poor are concentrated crumbled
into ruins, squatter camps mushroomed, crime spiralled out of control
and the gap between the rich and poor rapidly escalated. Human right
and dignity became commodities available only to those who could afford
to pay for such luxuries.
Since the national
bourgeoisie became preoccupied with filling its pockets as quickly as
possible, the country sank into stagnation. In order to hide this regression
the national middle class has become obsessed with the carnavalesque,
much like Marie Antoinette in France, or the Tsarina before the 1917
revolution in Russia, the South African bourgeoisie can find nothing
better to do than to engage in grandiose projects and glittering conferences
and events such as the cricket, rugby and soccer world cups, environmental
conferences, conferences against racism, conferences about poverty and
unemployment, HIV/Aids conferences.... all talk and little substance,
plenty of colourful t-shirts, caps, conference bags and sumptuous meals.
To host all this requires the erection of grandiose conference centrums,
prestigious stadiums, glamorous hotels, expensive railway lines and
speedy trains from the airports to such facilities. Massive investments
in prestige by a middleclass not founded on any productive economic
base – a perpetuity of tenders to the construction and event management
companies of families and friends. No new factories, no substantial
economic growth, such complex tasks is the preserve of “foreign investors.”
Thabo Mbeki was shown
the door by the angry working class members of the ANC at the last ANC
conference at Polokwane. To be replaced by another “great leader”,
Jacob Zuma who captured the imagination of the masses by his humble
working origins, his grassroots charisma and ability to engage with
ordinary folks on the ground. Unfortunately Jacob Zuma is a man for
all seasons and all classes, and what he promised the workers ranged
in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), seems to be
very different from the commitments and reassurances he is constantly
making to global capital in Washington, London, Paris and Tokyo.
The FIFA world cup
should be seen against the background of a meagre impotent national
bourgeoisie prostrating itself at the altar of global capital. The national
bourgeoisie is boasting of its own organisational capacity in pulling
of the first African World Cup, predicating its right to rule on this
performance, coaxing the working class and the poor to join the celebrations
in expectation of great things to result from it; harshly disciplining
the working class for escalating service delivery protests and strikes
in the run up to the event. The secretary of the Congress of South African
Trade Unions (COSATU) Zwelenzima Vavi has committed the most treacherous
of sins by suggesting corruption in high places, for this he has earned
himself a threat of disciplinary hearing by the very individuals he
is accusing, and a death threat letter. No doubt the national
middle class will expect the hungry, the poor, the exploited and downtrodden
to feed of fond memories of the event once it is past. They are hoping
that sport will become the opium of the masses. FIFA seems to have extracted
a heavy price for this momentary shot in the arm for the national bourgeoisie.
FIFA has already realised
R25 billion in marketing and media revenue and has increased its income
by 50% since the 2006 World Cup in Germany. It squeezed the following
concessions from its national managers – the South African ruling
- FIFA and FIFA designated
sites, its subsidiaries and foreign football associations would be exempted
from paying income tax, customs duties and value added tax. The country
will lose tens of millions of rand in potential revenue.
- FIFA employees, delegates,
their commercial affiliates, licensees, host broadcasters and merchandise
partners are exempt from work permit requirements.
- FIFA commercial affiliates,
licensees, host broadcasters, broadcast rights agencies, merchandise
partners and service providers will not be taxed on profits made during
the World Cup.
- FIFA commercial affiliates,
licensees, host broadcasters, broadcast rights agencies, merchandise
partners and service providers will have unconditional visas and relaxed
customs and check inn procedures.
- Hospital beds, intensive
care units and ambulances have been reserved for FFA and its foreign
visitors, with R 700 million being spent on preparing health and emergency
medical services for the event. These facilities are kept under lock
and key and will only be activated once the event commences. This in
a country where infants die in alarming numbers in poorly equipped and
staffed maternity awards, and where HIV/Aids infection is among the
highest in the world.
- The South African Football
association has had to provide FIFA with two limousines, 300 cars, numerous
busses and two private jets.
- FIFA will have full intellectual
property rights emanating from the World Cup and the South African parliament
was forced to pass legislation that would severely restrict local “entrepreneurs”
from benefitting from the event at all – and a brand policing unit
has been set up to enforce this.
- All restaurants, bars or
entertainment facilities within a 1km radius of any hosting stadium
will not be allowed to trade for one hour before any match, during any
match, or for an hour after the match has finished. If foreign visitors
thought that they were going to enjoy a South African experience in
terms of food and drink they are sadly mistaken.
South Africa has
reportedly already spent R63billion on the event, and most commentators
agree that the country will benefit very little from it, if at all,
save for fond memories which will become the stock for self congratulatory
speeches by the leaders of the national bourgeoisie for decades to come.
The working class and the poor will wonder how come the once revered
leaders of the liberation struggle allowed the country to be screwed
over – and when the peer past the fortified gates of the golf estates,
patrolled by private security companies whose forces outnumber the South
African police by three to one, they might grasp the answer – a bankrupt
middleclass unable and unwilling to take the country into a meaningful
and revolutionary transformation that will answer all the key questions
that confronts this society.
Fanon, F. (2001)
The Wretched of the Earth, London: Penguin Classics
Farber, T. (2010)
“Hooked on Sport” in Sunday Independent, Johannesburg p. 25
Rademeyer, J. Prince,
C. Lombaard, A.(2010) “Fifa’s great SA rip-off,” and “How
SA sold out’”Johannesburg, p.1 and p.2.
David van Wyk
It is important to utilise the tool of historical materialism in the analysis of the position of Africa in the global context. To this end we must understand the role that Africa has played, and continues to play in the global capitalist economy. Where Marx’s analysis differs from that of neo-liberals and Stalinists is in his insistence on perceiving the development of capitalism beyond the limits of the nation state and pre-empting the formation of a global capitalist ruling class – hence his missive that workers know no country, and that workers of the world should unite, that they have nothing to lose but their chains.
The earliest forms of global corporations had their focus as mercantile firms on global expansion. Thus mercantile firms such as the Dutch East India Company, The British East Africa Company, the British South Africa Company, Cadbury etc. realised early on that control of the global sources of raw materials, minerals, spices and agricultural produce was essential to their national status in a period of intense competition in Europe. These sources of raw materials were in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Where the great mercantile empires of Spain and Portugal lost their advantage in this global competition was the dominance of their parasitic nobility and the catholic church, and the relative weakness of their emergent bourgeoisie. Holland, France and England on the other hand benefited from rapidly emerging and revolutionary middle classes that could move the economic foundations of their countries beyond mercantilism towards capitalist production. Take the manufacturing of cloth for example instead of importing it from Asia, the English manufacturing classes copied the production methods of the cloth industry in India and then revolutionized production in places like Manchester, thus destroying more archaic methods of cloth production in India turning that country into a supplier of raw materials and cotton plantations while creating conditions of mass production in England itself. These processes are described in detail by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto and in Capital Volume 1.
Similar processes were at play in Africa. Walter Rodney describes how the coastal African populations were turned into commodity traders dealing in exotic goods from the African interior including gold and ivory, but most importantly in the commodity trade of human beings. Tens of millions of the economically most able Africans were traded from both e African West and East Coasts to supply plantation labour in the Caribbean, and in North And South America. A central analytical concept in the Marxist armoury is that of primitive accumulation. In describing how the capitalist class originated Marx coined the concept of primitive accumulation, of which vestiges still remain with us to this day – the drug dealer and the pimp being primary examples. The Kennedy clan in the United States accumulated their initial capital through bootlegging, during the prohibition period – a good example of primitive accumulation. In more developed capitalist countries primitive accumulation is less pronounced occurring on the seedy edges of the economy. In the African context primitive accumulation played a major part of the accumulation process from the early mercantile period in which the slave trade was the dominant trade, throughout the colonial period when the plunder of Africa’s raw materials and minerals fuelled the industrial revolution in Europe, to the present when embarrassed by accusations of racism and oppression.
In understanding the complex realities of Africa the concept of primitive accumulation needs to be explained in further detail, and it is important to involve Leon Trotsky’s concept of combined and uneven development in this explanation because it captures the way in which primitive accumulation in Africa happened in ways that are different from the trajectory followed in Europe.
Primitive accumulation, involves the transformation of pre-capitalist (‘communal’ and/or feudal) agrarian relations of production to capitalist ones, and the formation of a capitalist class. As Marx is often quoted, capitalism emerges from its preceding modes of production with ‘blood dripping from every pore.’ None the less capitalism is perceived by Marx as a revolutionary development in these early stages as it sweeps away any fetters that might obstruct the revolutionary development of the forces of production and the creation of conditions suitable for socialist revolution, in this sense it becomes its own grave digger.
Some have referred to this process as an articulation between capitalism and pre-capitalist modes of production. The process of primitive accumulation is by no means ‘natural’ or spontaneous: state force and many other ‘non-market’ modalities are necessary. Once the bourgeoisie gains control of the state and converts it into an instrument for its own class power, it ruthlessly applies the various apparatus of the state towards attaining its class objectives.
At the Berlin Conference of 1884 competition between the national ruling classes of Europe for African resources became so intense that it was realised that the only way to avoid open warfare between European powers over this matter a gentlemanly conference could settle the biggest land grab in human history. Thus the second step in the process of primitive accumulation was initiated, alienating the African population from the primary means of production, the land.
It is important to note that in Europe the process of primitive accumulation was driven by the national bourgeoisie of each country, and it was intended to drive the serfs and peasants off the land, into urban areas and capitalist factories, leaving the land open for the reorganisation of agriculture, and turning the population of Europe in proletarians, people with no means of production other than their ability to work, their labour power which would hence forth be sold on the labour market.
In Africa the process of primitive accumulation was not driven by a local emerging capitalist class, instead it was driven by the capitalist ruling class in the colonial power itself, hence the relevance of Trotsky’s concept of combined and uneven development. Thus the African colonies became locked into the economic structure of the colonial power, with no room for development of an indigenous African capitalist class. In most African countries the indigenous African population was allowed to become clerks and messengers in the colonial administrative structures, those who were effectively proletarianised were driven into mines and plantations producing raw materials and minerals for the European economies of the colonial powers. Countries like Great Britain developed a corps of professional “foreign service” administrators in the form of “native commissioners” and colonial “governors” to administer those countries where conditions were not suitable for large scale European settlement, mainly because of tropical diseases such as malaria. In areas where large scale white settlement could take place such as South Africa, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and British East Africa (Kenya) the British government encouraged emigration so as to relieve pressure “at home” caused by the contradictions of Capitalist development such as unemployment, labour militancy etc. In these countries (South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya) a small settler capitalist class did begin to emerge much along the lines of Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand).
In the rest of Africa capitalist class formation was weak and the emergence of ‘war-torn Africa’ suggests a permanently stalemated process of violence in some regions. At other moments, the process of primitive accumulation speeds up in a very uneven and contradictory way (Trotsky) – also probably with violence. The process is always quite unique in spite of its structural base. Many of its variations can be attributed to the historically specific ways in which a combination of externally ‘imposed’ and internally developing capitalist social formations ‘articulated’ with pre-existing modes of production. One may say that primitive accumulation always has ‘twists in its tail’ and the ideological perspectives accompanying and contesting it will add many twists to its tale.
In African settler-colonial societies (South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya), primitive accumulation has identifiable and comparable characteristics—race and the agrarian question. Capitalist agriculture has been dominated by white settlers who carried out their process of primitive accumulation by forcibly taking ‘native’ land and denying African farmers not merely commercial opportunities, but also a chance to become capitalist land owners. Much of the land alienation also has to do with the presence of ‘strategic’ minerals (strategic to global capitalism). Give the current minerals commodities boom with the price of platinum exceeding US$ 2000 an ounce, and gold coming close to US$ 2000 a second wave of primitive accumulation is taking place with global mining corporations such as Barricks, Angloplatinum, BHP Billiton and a host of “new entrants’ from Canada, Australia, Russia and China scramble for mineral rich land and pushing indigenous communities off in often very violent manner, buying off the comprador bourgeoisie with shareholding and board positions to partake in the rape and pillage of their own countries.
The Berlin Conference of 1884 ignored the complex ethnic, cultural, and language realities of Africa and arbitrarily divided the continent between the European powers. This created optimal conditions for capital accumulation as the indigenous populations could be divided and ruled within a geographically defined area, privileging some ethnic or language groups over others, thus obstructing the development of class consciousness amongst workers. This also prevented the emergence of national bourgeoisies who could effectively challenge the capitalist ruling class of the colonial power, and therefore obstructed effective state formation.
In many instances those who were privileged by the colonial power along ethnic or language lines during the colonial period and had better access to educational opportunities and were utilized to administer the colonies emerged as the natural inheritors of the position of managers of the economy and the state rudimentary state apparatus that was left behind at the end of colonialism. The economy was of course locked into the global division of labour constructed during colonialism so much so that people still speak of Francophone Africa, Lusophone and Anglophone Africa referring to those economies and countries that historically fell under the British Empire, the Portuguese empire and the French Empire. The state managers involved are intricately related to and often part of the bourgeoisie emerging in the process of primitive accumulation. They have complicated alliances with myriad international classes, groups, and agencies. They often condemn their objective allies: hence the many contradictions of ‘anti-imperialist’ rhetoric from those on the periphery of global capitalism who, on close analysis, collude with their ostensible enemies.
The historical development of powerful working classes (such as in South and Southern Africa) often has a strong relationship with indigenous bourgeois democracy, and vice versa. The strongest democratic countries thus also have high levels of social democracy, thus confirming Marx’s insistence on the introduction of universal suffrage (see the Communist Manifesto).
Democratization trajectories often lead to violence as opposition is repressed and fights back. Opposition forces also make counterintuitive class alliances with international forces and ideologies seeking to play of fractions of international capital against each other. Thus Frederick Chiluba in Zambia was a trade union leader leading a working class based opposition movement against the regime of Kenneth Kaunda, yet Chiluba was quick to adopt stringent structural adjustment and neo-liberal policies for Zambia. In Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC had its roots in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, yet the party seems to be espousing a neo-liberal ideology. Such developments indicate the continuing legacy of colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism as well as the combined and uneven nature of a capitalist development that was imposed rather than home-grown.
Trotsky developed his theory of permanent revolution, as a response to the Menshevik/ Kautsky stagist theory of revolution which portrayed Marx’s theory of social development as a simplistic and unilinear/evolutionary process from simple to complex. Trotsky shows that through the imposition of colonial rule as a result of imperialism colonised countries experience a complex combination of different stages of historical development. Trotsky’s intervention reinserted the dialectic into the debate on development showing that because of the impact of colonialism through imperialist expansion history develops through sudden leaps and contradictory fusions, thus some societies are able to jump certain stages, or in other instances to be held back due to the fusion of earlier and later developmental stages. Thus the articulation of modern industry with pre-capitalist modes of production creates objective conditions for the proletariat rather than the national bourgeoisie leading both national democratic tasks and the socialist revolution simultaneously. This is particularly true where the national bourgeoisie is weak/ poorly formed, or relatively powerless vis-a-vis global capitalism.
It is against the background of these contradictions and realities that any Marxist revolutionary development must take place in Africa, noting the intricate manner in which the African political and economic realities are interwoven with global capitalism, and noting the need for international working class solidarity South Africa with its well developed and organised working class , combined with its sub-imperial role on the continent represents the bridgehead for socialist revolution in Africa.