Response to Malikane

(We respond to Christopher Malikane’s “Our chance to complete the revolution” April 16th 2017, Sunday Times).


One hundred years after the February and October revolutions in Russia, it is appropriate to explore parallels between the struggle for Socialism, here in South Africa, and the Russian experience.


What was the essence of the February revolution and why was it necessary to have an October revolution?

The February 1917 revolution overthrew the czar, set up a provisional government comprised of all the democratic forces, both Socialist and capitalist, except for the Bolsheviks (and the Anarchists). This was the most democratic regime in the world. There was freedom of movement, freedom of expression and association; there were councils of workers’ delegates from working class areas as well as the industrial areas; even soldiers and peasants had their own councils and elected their own delegates.


Yet it was necessary to advance from the February revolution to have an October revolution where the working class seized power, supported by the poorer sections of the middle classes, establishing a working class dictatorship. It was necessary to overthrow the democratic regime. One of the central demands that led to the February revolution was the land question. The non-fulfilment of this demand was one of the key factors that led to the October revolution. It was only the working class in power that could nationalise the land. The multiclass democratic govt was incapable of carrying out this basic task.


In general, what led to the October revolution was the inability of the democratic regime to fulfil even one of the democratic demands. The October revolution grew out of this. The 1917 Russian revolution and its lessons provide the central basis for the refutation of the arguments of Malikane.


The decisive change in world capitalist relations since 1900 and its implications

By about 1900, the entire world was mostly divided up among all the imperialist powers; this meant that for any further capitalist expansion that one imperialist power had to encroach on the terrain of another. Thus opened up a period of capitalist decline; a period of war, revolution and counter-revolution. The development of capitalism within the colonies and semi-colonies was subject to suppression by imperialism.  The main feature of imperialism capitalism today is the domination by finance capital, the rule of the banks and their cross ownership and control of all industry around the world, something ignored by Malikane. On the other hand, within the liberation movements, the indigenous capitalist and middle class elements that formed part of the democratic governments that came to power, had some of their individual demands met, namely a stake within the system. Without exception those capitalist and middle class elements associated with political power turned their backs on the broader aspirations of the masses. The new political ruling class formed an obstacle in the path of the masses from their achieving the most basic democratic demands. The development of local capital in any neo-colony leads to a clash with the imperialist powers that are still in control. To the extent that there is any local capitalist development, it is with the permission of imperialism. This means the maintenance of the super-exploitative relations that imperialism is based on in the neo-colonies. Thus the development of local capitalist relations rests on the suppression of the democratic aspirations of the masses.


The October revolution in 1917 shows that it is only the working class in power, on its own, that can complete the democratic programme, such as nationalisation of the land, etc.  


What is the theoretical origin of the ideas of Malikane?

Malikane, in the 2002 work on the NDR (National Democratic Revolution), explains the Stalinist notion of the SACP of ‘internal colonization’ by the local ‘white monopoly capital’. The tasks of the NDR is explained as follows: the main content of the NDR is the liberation of blacks in general, Africans in particular’. (Malikane, 2002).


To achieve this central democratic demand, Malikane explains that:


The movement characterised the principal contradiction in SA as between apartheid colonialism led by white monopoly capital on one side, and national liberation led by the black working class on the other side. The class aspect is determinant, and the national aspect dominant.


This means that the contradictions between the black petit-bourgeoisie and the black working class are secondary not only because the relations between these two social categories do not define the mode of production, but also because the colonial situation defines the national character of the revolution.


The contradictions between the black bourgeoisie and the black working class are also secondary. The dominant contradiction, within the framework of the national liberation struggle, is between the black working class and white monopoly capital.


If the main content of the NDR is the liberation of blacks in general, Africans in particular, there is no basis for equating the black and white bourgeoisies. The two are on opposite sides of the national democratic fence.’ (Malikane, 2002)


Thus Malikane argues that the alliance of the Black working class, the black middle class and the black capitalist class is necessary for the liberation of the black masses in general. This is expressed in the ANC government in terms of a mix of former worker leaders, some of the black middle class and some of the black capitalist class. He presents the argument that the black middle class and black capitalists are closer to the black working class than the broader monopoly capitalist class and that this alliance is necessary for the liberation of the black masses in general and the African masses in particular. Revolutions and class struggle, including the Russian revolution contradict his central argument.


In Russia in 1917 the February democratic regime proved incapable of nationalising the land, incapable of ending the participation in the war nor could they provide bread (ending starvation).


The ANC regime from 1994 onwards proved incapable of nationalising the land nor did they succeed in ending poverty nor were they able to fully liberate the black masses nor the African masses in particular.  The question is why.


In his magnificent economic work, Profitability and Crisis in the South African Economy (January 2017), Malikane proves that any any capitalist plan means going on the attack against the working class, ie against the black working class in the main.


‘It therefore appears that for the economy to resolve the current crisis on the capitalist basis, measures that raise the profit share and a slowdown in the accumulation process would be necessary to decrease the crisis rates of profit and to support the recovery of the rate of profit. Such measures would entail an attack on the working class. The slowdown in the rate of capital accumulation would increase the unemployment rate, which would suppress the growth rate of real wages below the value of labour power.’ (Malikane, Jan, 2017)


Yet Malikane insists that a key feature of the struggle against monopoly capital is the broadening of the black capitalist class. Thus it follows that he argues that liberation of the black capitalist class takes priority over the liberation of the black working class. This is because the expansion of the black capitalist class means attacking the working class, a continued, if not expanded path of super-exploitation of the black working class.  [the notes in square brackets are our comments, not those of Malikane]


Among these classes is an aspirant bourgeoisie, which stands to gain by the subsequent dismantling of white monopoly of the economy. It is thus the basic, fundamental premise of the theory of the NDR that the national factor dominates and the class factor is determinant. [enrich the black capitalist first- the Mandela conception of breaking up monopolies and creation of a black capitalist class].


For example, in the light of the fact that there is a neo-liberal attack on the black working class, it would be a mistake for this class not to engage in issues such as the merger between black and white businesses because the structure of the private sector is also important even in the context of a nationalising democratic state. [in other words, nationalisation does not mean state ownership of monopolies but black capitalist ownership]


Even the notion of private-public partnerships makes no sense if the private sector is led by white monopoly capital on the one hand, and the public sector is led by the black working class led movement. Such a partnership notion denies the very NDR that we seek to advance because now the dominant aspects are thought of as possibly becoming partners in social transformation. [this means he argued for support for the tender capitalist here already]


Rather the issue here is the working class should also equally question the ownership patterns in the private sector, march against white monopoly of the economy with the same if not more vigour as it would against privatisation and the "neo-liberal" restructuring of state assets.’ [ie the working class must march for privatization to the tender capitalist more strongly than the workers’ fight against privatization!]  (Malikane, 2002)


The central problem that Trotsky and Lenin identified in the fight for democracy was that the middle class, once they had their needs/hunger for land satisfied, would turn their backs on the revolution.  This points to the central error of Malikane and the forces of stalinism, namely that they place the attainment of the full democratic programme in the hands of the black middle class and black capitalist class. The working class is used as cannon fodder for the aims of the black middle class. The fight to liberate the black middle class is regarded as more important than the fight against privatization. In the context of a stagnating SA and world economy, Malikane argues for outsourcing and the suppressing of real wage rates below the value of labour power. Thus the super-exploitation of the black working class, that was a feature of apartheid/slave capitalism, is to be continued and deepened and forms the main plank of the NDR.


On the 16th April 2017, (Our chance to complete the revolution, Sunday Times) Mailkane argues

‘It is not possible to advocate political abstention……..The fight against white monopoly capital and its black allies is an integral part of the struggle to consummate the national democratic revolution. The tender-based black capitalist class is not likely to win this battle without the support of the mass of the black working class.’


Here we have the absurdity that Malikane wants us to support that class of capitalists (the tender gang) that owes its existence to the privatization of state assets. He even says workers must support this privatization more strongly than the fight against privatization!


The Sassa scam, where the tender capitalists handed over the pension distribution to an imperialist thug (Net 1) who is fleecing the poorest of the poor through illegal deductions and entrapment through loans and airtime scams that no one asked for, shows the reactionary nature of this group. The same group of tender capitalists wanted to enslave the entire nation in a trillion Rand nuclear deal that will cripple generations to come;the same tender gang took shares in the Medupi and Kusile coal power, that was supposed to cost R190 bn but now the cost has ballooned to over R340 bn and the project. The projects were supposed to be completed by 2011 but it is yet to be completed- there is no end in sight.


Fake categories

Malikane also sets up fake categories. He claims that those who took shares in monopoly capitalist companies are corrupt while those who base themselves on tenders are somehow progressive and interested in advancing the interest of the black working class and their liberation.


In 2002 Malikane argues that the difference between the black petit bourgeois and working class is secondary; he also argues that the difference between the black capitalist and the black working class is secondary; Now, in 2017, he argues that it is only the tender capitalist that has secondary differences with the black working class. What makes the ‘tender capitalist’ progressive, he does not say. Even the category of ‘tender capitalist’ is a fake and artificial description. All the ‘tender capitalists’ are linked to monopoly capital. Eg, tender capitalist Khulubuse Zuma, the co-owner of Aurora mine, was a Director of imperialist company Labat Africa. Gibela, which won the R50bn rail tender, where tender capitalists from New Africa Rail and Umbambano Rail had shares, has a majority stake of 61% owned by imperialist firm Alstom. Even though Khulubuse Zuma has a R100bn oil tender in the DRC, he ran down the Aurora mine, plundered its resources and abandoned workers without pay for years. Even the DRC oil tender, which had been facilitated by President Zuma is on land where there has been large scale genocide- over 6 million people were killed in the DRC in wars instigated by imperialism to clear the land. Duduzane Zuma, director of Mabengela Investments, which owns Tegeta Coal, signed a R7bn tender with Eskom to supply coal for Komati power station. Within 2 months of signing, Eskom decided to mothball Komati power station. Eskom still has to pay Tegeta despite it not having done anything. How is this progressive? Was this not a bribe too? How does mass retrenchment of workers benefit the black working class? Duduzane Zuma and the Guptas control JIC Mining, which has labour broking tenders with several mines. They sell mineworkers into slavery on the mines and undercut the gains that have been won by unions through many years of struggle. There are many such examples which show that the tender capitalist is as bad as the share capitalist. We also show that the tender capitalist has no independent existence from monopoly capital. In fact, the tender and share capitalist are, in essence, identical.


The opportunist policy of Malikane

In 2002 Malikane claimed that the working class was dominating the ANC govt. This is questionable. He also stated his support for the ANC by stating that he is not discussing the GEAR economic policy. How could the working class voice have been dominant then, when GEAR was the policy of international capital against the working class, being implemented by the ANC govt?


In 2017, he tells us ‘ what cannot be explained is why “our government” is failing to resolve our centuries-old problem of white monopoly of social power’. This is dishonest of Malikane. He claims that is it only the share capitalist that has thrown its lot in with monopoly capital. The facts show that the share and tender capitalist are in the pockets of imperialism. He is afraid to acknowledge that the very NDR is an opportunist policy that has subjugated the aspirations of the masses and the African masses in particular, to the profits and continued plunder by imperialism. In fact the alliance of the black middle class and the working class as expressed in the ANC-SACP-Cosatu alliance is the main reason why ‘white monopoly social power’ still exists and that the democratic aspirations of the masses, including the black middle class, have not been fulfilled.


What Malkane argued in 2002 is that the support of the black working class is needed to support the ANC govt, due to its strategic position in the economy. From 2002 a tiny section of the black middle class from the ANC ranks, have become millionaires and billionaires while the apartheid group areas remain entrenched, while monopoly capital remains in control, while millions live a precarious existence, millions are outsourced and casualised. Thus while a fraction of the black middle class have achieved liberation, the black working class has remained in chains. This is what Malikane’s NDR resulted in. It was the chief obstacle in the liberation of the black working class. It is not true, as Malikane asserts, that the class structure as existed pre 1994 is identical to what is existing now. Now we have an increased size of the black middle class and capitalist class. They have not been neutral but have taken the side of imperialism, guns in hand, as Marikana, the farm workers strike and the #feesmustfall struggles have shown. The same political elite that jailed and shot students and workers, Malikane wants us to beg to give free, decolonised (yes, really) education. The very ones who maintain colonisation are going to usher in decolonisation, according to red professor Malikane!


In 2017, Malikane comes with the same NDR formula, calling on all unions to unite to pressure the black capitalists in the ANC for ‘nationalisation’ of the commanding heights. What Malikane really means is that the monopolies should be broken up and handed over to be run by the black capitalist class. Thus he is arguing for continued capitalist rule and thus for continued enslavement and even worse conditions for the working class. He is asking the working class to help the capitalist class to enrich themselves and to aid in attacks on the lives of the working class itself. Mandela, in 1955, in the Liberator newspaper, had the same conception of nationalisation, namely that the monopolies must be broken up to create a black capitalist class.


Malikane ignores the results of his own economic research, namely that even since 1994 there has been a steady decline in the rate of profits; industry is in decline. Thus the space for the development of a black capitalist class is limited, despite the billions spent from state budgets to Black Empowerment, aka creation of a black capitalist class. Monopoly capital controls all industries. The only way a black capitalist class can develop, under these conditions has been through shares, shelf companies, labour broking and state tenders. All of this is totally dependent on the crumbs that imperialism is prepared to share from their table. Malkane is wanting to use the black working class as a battering ram to increase the share of the black capitalist over the monopolies, ie further liberation of a tiny section of the black middle class, once again, at the expense of continued enslavement of the black working class. For Malikane, tenders/privatization are the path to Socialism.


That Malikane has a nationalist conception of monopoly capital is also reflected in the following: ‘The strength of white monopoly capital is that it owns and controls the resources and has strong international backers.’ Thus his conception is not that imperialism controls everything but that the Ruperts and co are the ones in control and they have international backers, ie imperialism supports them. What Malikane is signalling is that the black capitalist should displace the Ruperts and become the new Ruperts to exploit the masses on behalf of imperialism. In fact Malikane is not even so brave that the Ruperts must be done away with, he calls for the merger of black and white capitalists as the cornerstone of ‘transformation’. We have seen the merger of black and white capital at Marikana. It is not so appealing. Malikane also calls for working with the progressive international forces- does he mean imperialism too?  A thoroughly capitalist notion that leads to the partial liberation of the black middle class and the continued enslavement of the black working class. The truth is that imperialism knows no colour, no religion. Their only god is the god of profits.


Malikane is dishonest when he blames the Treasury and Reserve bank for the continued control by monopoly capital. The President appoints the Cabinet. How can one blame the Treasury and not blame the Presidency? The budget is approved by Cabinet. Another case of amnesia by Malikane. The ANC NEC appoints the President. Parliament endorses the laws and conduct of Cabinet. Thus the entire ANC leadership and parliament is to be blamed for the antiworker policies as well as the continued domination by imperialism.


Malikane has no problem with the removal of the President’s opponents in the middle of the night, nor with the fact that even the top leadership of the ANC was not consulted. In other words, Malikane has no problem with the abandoning of even the modest democratic gains that the masses had won. He is using his position as advisor, now highly paid and no longer so overworked, we may add, to cover for the anti-democratic and dictatorial behaviour of Zuma.


It escapes this red advisor that the state is the instrument of class rule; it is the instrument of monopoly capital to suppress the working class. Malikane shows himself to be a reformist, thinking that by reforms within the capitalist state that the conditions of the masses will be improved or that it can be the instrument of liberation of the black masses. The entire history since 1994 has escaped him, as has the history of class struggle of the past 100 years.


Unity of the white and black working class is central

In 2010 Satawu and Utatu went on a national strike at Transnet. Besides wage increases, they were demanding that 5000 casual workers be made permanent. These were mostly, if not all black workers who were casualised. Here we had the unity of black and white workers fighting for the liberation of black workers. The state, dominated by the black middle class, opposed the liberation of the black working class. Within 3 days of the white workers joining the strike, the state was forced to compromise. There had been a national strike on the railways before this, which also forced the state to give in to the demands of the workers.


Malikane forgets that it is not only black workers that are central to the economy but white workers too. For us, the workers produce the wealth therefore they should have a decisive say in what the wealth is used for. Thus we call for nationalisation under workers control. This is the path to Socialism. Malikane calls for nationalisation under the control of a section of the black middle class. This means, for him, that control of the monopolies passes to the hands of a section of the black middle class and the working class and the black working class in particular, remain enslaved. The NDR and Malikane splits the working class. Malikane regards the base of Afrikaner capital to be the white working class; so he wants to use the black working class as the base of the tiny black capitalist class. In class struggle, the NDR, has over decades pushed the white working class into the arms of reaction instead of actively winning them to support the class struggle against the state. Malikane wants to maintain this permanent division which strengthens imperialism. In class struggle since 1994, the white working class has been a more reliable ally than the black capitalist class and the aspirant capitalists. The path to the liberation of the black masses and the African masses in particular, lies in the unity of the black and white working class.


From February to October

For the Bolsheviks it was necessary to overcome the February democratic regime as it proved incapable of achieving any of the democratic demands. Malikane puts his faith in the democratic regime that is dominated by a section of the black middle class. The Bolsheviks never had any conception of a ‘national democratic revolution’. Their conception was to support national liberation while building up an independent organization of the working class. It was only the working class that could complete the democratic programme by taking power on its own, not in alliance with the middle class. The lower middle class would support the revolution but not be an equal partner nor leading partner. The conception of the Bolsheviks was always of international Socialist revolution, ie with the working class seizing power in the imperialist centres. The concept of NDR was a stalinist formulation that left the struggle for democracy in the hands of the middle class and meant postponing the struggle for Socialism to the indefinite future- in reality they never planned to get to the next phase.


It is quite telling that Malikane nowhere spells out when the struggle for Socialism starts. Rather, his main concern is: ‘within sections of the middle class, African professionals are the worst paid and most overworked.’ Here is his concern, not the brutal enslavement of the outsourced black worker, but his own desire as a ‘suffering’ member of the black middle class. He also wants to enjoy the riches from the master’s table, at the expense of the continued enslavement of the black working class. Rather, unsurprising, that the stalinist leadership of Cosatu supports and defends Malikane; they too, want to feed from the trough of the crumbs of the imperialist table.


The past 23 years shows the fraud of the NDR and the Freedom Charter. The very notion of the ‘people shall govern’ means that both the capitalist and the worker shall govern. The worker and capitalist have opposing and irreconcilable interests. The worker wants to end exploitation. The capitalist wants to increase and extend exploitation. In all such cases of governments of worker and capitalist, the capitalist have always dominated. The past 23 years as well as the entire history of South America, Africa, Asia, shows that. How come company tax on profits were reduced from 43% in 1994 to 28% now? Monopolies have carried off trillions through transfer pricing and other mechanisms since and before 1994. The role of Mandela, Mbeki and Zuma have been instrumental in this. Malikane wants to blame the Treasury! Amateurish falsification from a bourgeois academic, parading as an advisor for ‘radical economic transformation’.


Gigaba had to remind Malikane, when they both went to visit the real bosses of SA in the USA, that nationalisation is not ANC policy. Their mission was to tell the imperialists not to worry, their assets are safe in their hands; they want to prove that they can be the new boss boys for imperialism.


Malikane refutes himself despite arguing that the working class must support the millionaires in govt:


‘The first question is whether the black bourgeoisie as it currently evolves is capable of being subjected to the policies of a working class led movement. Experience shows that the policies by which the private sector is deracialised have been characterised by little or no influence of the working class ….The second question is whether the black bourgeoisie as it evolves is capable of being subjected to working class power, thus enhancing the working class in the struggle against white monopoly capital.

Experience shows that this is not the case.’ (Malikane, 2002)


It is true that the black capitalist class is not the same as the Afrikaner capitalist nor the imperialist. The imperialist are the most corrupt. That does not mean that we place in the hands of the black capitalist the aims of completing the democratic tasks of the revolution. The past 23 years have shown that the black middle and capitalist class is an obstacle in the liberation of the black masses and the African masses in particular.


In State and Revolution, Lenin stated:


‘A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell (through the Palchinskys, Chernovs, Tseretelis and Co.), it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.’


The major emphasis of Malikane is the enrichment of the tender capitalist. The integration of the masses and the abolition of the separate Apartheid group areas, the overcoming of the massive poverty in the rural areas, and many of the basic democratic demands of the masses, escape him.


It is time for an independent working class party that mobilises the entire working class in support of demands for the total liberation of the masses, not only in SA, but the entire Africa and indeed the entire world. Let us take our place among the world battalions of the international proletariat.


Down with the reactionary NDR!

Forward to a workers’ government!

Forward to Socialism!


1st May 2017

Workers International Vanguard Party


References: [Trotsky on Socialism in a separate country?] [Lenin’s State and Revolution] [Malikane, 2002, on the NDR] [updated note by Malikane] [Satawu- Utatu strike 2010] [mass dismissal, refusal to make workers permanent]. [Hitachi bribed ANC govt for Medupi tender]. 2013 finished, but now scheduled for 2019. [Chair of Eskom was NEC member of ANC and on the Board of Chancellor House Trust- Valli Moosa- 2005-2008]. [Aurora Director Khulubuse Zuma] R100bn oil tender facilitated by President Zuma for his nephew. DRC oil and troops deal, Inga Hydropower $80 bn project Mpinda Zuma deal Deawoo [tender capitalists also sit on the capitalist boards [tender capitalists cash in on sale of shares in New Africa Rail.

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Without exception,ALL the parties taking part in the elections,despite their promises, will deliver a future of more unemployment, lower wages, more hardship, more evictions, more homelessness, more exclusion from education, death and destruction through starvation and Aids.

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