The load-shedding scam 2023- analysis and plan of action
The central problem with electricity generation worldwide and in South Africa is the system of commodity production. This means that production is for exchange to gain profit and not centrally for social use.
From the beginning of Eskom it was set up to provide electricity for the mines which were, and up to now, controlled by international capital (imperialism). In the beginning it suited imperialism to have Eskom under state control so that the state could subsidize the production of electricity so as to reduce input costs for mining. This meant that from the beginning of Eskom it was the working class and the middle class that were subsidizing cheap electricity in South Africa. Eskom was nationalised under capitalist state control but not under workers’ control. This was not a uniquely South African phenomenon but a world strategy of imperialism capitalism.
However as the crisis of falling profits and stagnating development deepened in the 1970’s imperialism changed their strategy to begin to privatize state assets. [We argue that as soon as imperialism controlled the world since about 1900, there was a permanent decline of capitalism] Nationalised state assets were a trade-off by monopoly capitalism to grant concessions due to working class resistance. So certain democratic gains were won by the working class but the trade-off was that the capitalists would remain in control. In other words the commodity system would continue if certain democratic gains were conceded to the working class and middle class. The pace of privatization varied in each country depending on the strength of the working class and various factors needed by imperialism to remain in control.
In South Africa, electricity was first rolled out to the mines and formal housing that was necessary for mining and agricultural extraction. The essence of Eskom remains the production of electricity to support the mines and the imperialist plunder of South Africa. The form of control was slave capitalism which meant that the vast majority of the working class was excluded from formal housing and thus also excluded from electricity.
One of the concessions of the 1994 transition to ‘free capitalist relations’ was that there would be free mass housing. However the agreement between the ANC, the NP (now the DA) and imperialism was that existing property relations would remain intact. It followed from this that the mass housing was to be in the apartheid ghettoes to the extent that a pool of reserve, cheap labour was required. Inherent in this was that mass shack dwellings would be a feature of post 1994 capitalist relations. Electricity would only be rolled out to the little that capitalism could get away with- until the revolutionary wave post-1985 had died down. The free water and electricity units to the masses after 1994 was a temporary gain necessary to calm the masses at the time. By 1996 the Mandela-unity government placed GEAR on the table. This was a structural adjustment programme of imperialism that continued the privatization process that the NP govt had started.
The 2007 world economic crisis and the consequences for the working class
Public (State) debt internationally rose from 70% of world GDP in 2007 to 124% in 2020. Over the same period, private debt, while quite high, only rose from 164% of GDP in 2007 to 178% by 2020. This shows that essentially the state coffers were used to bail out the banks from their crisis.
The Brazilian public debt rose from $306bn in 2002 to $1,5 trillion by 2018. This is an increase of 500% (5 times). From 2007 the debt of China rose from 150% of GDP to 300% by 2020. The debt of China doubled in this period while the debt of the Euro area and the USA rose from 220% to 300% of their GDP. Meanwhile the public debt of South Africa rose from 23% in 2008 to 71% by 2020, an increase of 300% or by three times.