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Johannesburg - In his column in The Star Africa of April 29, Eusebius McKaiser rehashes some of the usual old and worn-out attacks on the SACP in particular and communists in general. This is his attempt to criticise our intervention in the National Development Plan.
He speaks about “there (being) no real communists” and that the SACP relies on “socialist crumbs being thrown from the ANC’s neo-liberal, capitalism-accepting, economic table”.
But I take issue with McKaiser’s academic application of lipstick to (his) pseudo-communists so as to make them look like the communists he teaches about in his sociology classroom. The problem in McKaiser’s piece is his attempt to pass serious ideological and classroom academic arguments as part of diss-rap, and his perpetuating of a logic the readers of The Star were consistently subjected to, that of a rooi gevaar (with a human face in this case).
McKaiser’s dissing of SACP leaders and declaration of the death of communism is couched in that “rally-like” tone that the recently disbanded ANC Youth League leaders used to shout, but this time intended to achieve a different effect (“they are not as bad as their relic Eastern Europe Stalinists” type of effect).
This time, The Star became Gallagher Estate, its readers became the masses and his pen, the microphone firmly in hand all in concert to praise the “yellow-communists” for abandoning communist ideology and donning the mask of the Free Market Foundation.
He subtly suggests that the secretariat of the SACP (ala Nzimande and Cronin) have abandoned communism because it is (in any event) “bad for allocating resources in society, optimally determine price levels and deliver freedom, openness and opportunities for citizens to flourish”.
For the readers’ information, except for the “primitive communal society”, there was never a communist society in the Marxist sense. A commonly committed mistake by McKaiser and his ideological buddies is to refer to, for instance, Beijing or Moscow as communist states and societies.
Communism differs from socialism because communists advocate for the total abolition of the state and its apparatus and for its replacement with self-governance by the people. Socialism is a state in transition towards communist rule. The Soviet Union is a failed socialist state. China is a prospering socialist (debatable) state.
Matter-of-factly, the failure of socialism in Moscow was not a failure of ideology, allocation of resources or lack of opportunities to flourish but was a failure of democracy.
The successes of both China and Cuba are not on the basis of wealthy individuals but of the collective human development of those societies.
The inequalities and poverty levels in the world, and the global economic crises currently persisting in Greece and other euro-economies are a result of the failures of the capitalist economy that McKaiser says are only peculiar to socialism.
In this capitalist nightmare that we live in, individuals’ ability to flourish are inhibited by the written and unwritten capitalist laws of greed, competition and the concentration of resources in the pockets of what McKaiser may quickly dismiss as bad capitalists.
The argument for a State Planning Commission arose as a result of how markets, introduced through the neo-liberal paradigm of Gear in 1996, failed to address the social and economic injustices of colonialism and apartheid.
The trickle-down effect just did not respond to the illusion of gravity envisaged by the crafters of Gear.
McKaiser picks out a line from the SACP document which is critical of the focus on growth and counter-poses this with a wealthier society. These are not two sides of the same coin.
South Africa is a wealthy society, comparatively speaking. But this wealth exposes the failure of market economies to allocate resources equitably and address the historical inequalities of our country.
In fact, it was the focus on growth, and the success thereof, that resulted in these triple challenges 20 years after 1994, because of the illogical ideological conclusion that growth will have a trickle-down effect and present opportunities for all.
This became a disaster of capitalism where government celebrated a budget surplus that was not counterposed with the human development of its population, as this was left to “the invisible hand” of the market.
This is why the current administration has adopted counter-cyclical budgetary measures to ensure that the state plays a significant stimulus role in the economy to yield desperately needed jobs, and thus, the need for a state planning commission.
State planning was in the past associated with socialist regimes of Moscow, and now Beijing, Havana and Caracas because of their successes in redistributing resources to households, and thus ensuring the common prosperity of their people.
In the midst of the current global recession, neo-liberal fundis and advocates who believed in the democracy of the markets, started calling for state intervention to address market failures and save financial institutions from drowning.
This plea, and its implementation, was not for the sake of millions of people who were duped into credit facilities which they could not honour.
It was a plea to save capitalism from (bad) capitalists, and to nationalise and redistribute the debt that was accrued by private banks into the national bank (and fiscus).
McKaiser’s self-styled and street-bashing of the SACP and communism is not a condemnation of a system he holds in less regard, but a celebration of a failed economic system of capitalism.
The economic policy alternative between a growth-oriented trickle-down approach and job-led growth is not an option between capitalism and neo-liberalism, but one against capitalism with neo-liberalism versus socialism.
The SACP advocates, in its intervention, for a greater role by the state in the planning of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.
Our communism is, in Chris Hani’s words, “decent shelter for those who are homeless, water for those who have no safe drinking water, health care, a life of dignity for the old (and) about overcoming the huge divide between urban and rural areas. It is about a decent education for all our people (and more importantly) about rolling back the tyranny of the market.”
Since the SACP is part of the alliance with Cosatu and the ANC, various policy compromises would inevitably be made for the best policy that will result in improving the quality of the lives of our people.
There is no disjuncture in advocating for socialism, and ultimately communism, and the current policy choices and intervention that the SACP makes.
After all, socialism is the future, and the role of the SACP (and Cosatu) is to build it now.
* Buti Manamela is national secretary of the YCLSA, member of the SACP central committee and ANC member of Parliament.