Reclaiming the revolutionary initiative

ANC NEC member Malusi Gigaba. IOL.

ANC NEC member Malusi Gigaba. IOL.

Published Sep 28, 2022



Johannesburg - The unfolding process of struggle in our country has raised serious questions about the ANC’s ability to continue leading the processes of social change. Of concern are the ideological cohesion, organisational strength as well as quality of leadership and membership of the movement.

These factors, or at least most of them, must be in sync for the movement to best exercise and fulfil its mission of total emancipation. We execute the struggle in a context of imperialist and Neo-liberal hegemony. Ours is still a unipolar world, dominated by the most reactionary alliance of right-wing imperialist governments, multilateral development banks, ratings agencies and multinational corporations.

However, Russia’s Ukraine campaign is challenging the West’s unbridled power and bringing about much-needed global balance. This has rallied those forces seeking an alternative to US hegemony and Nato aggression.

There is a global search for an alternative economic and financial architecture. And there are continuing counter-shifts to the left in the South, particularly in Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and others.

Certainly, it would be in South Africa’s objective interests to be an active participant in these global shifts. We must harness Africa’s collective strength as part of this emerging alternative global bloc. This means we must strengthen South Africa’s participation in BRICS. In part, this requires the strengthening of the ideological cohesion of Africa’s progressive forces. Likewise, the ANC’s international standing, especially among the forces of the global left, must be revitalised.

In the recent past, there have been concerns regarding the ANC’s shift to the right by embracing Neo-liberal policies. This has been evidenced by the escalation of the downsizing of the state as well as rolling back its role in the economy by privatising SOEs and infrastructure capacity, deregulation and liberalisation.

The financialisation and internationalisation of the South African economy have been major obstacles to fundamental socio-economic change. Since 1990, major SA corporates have shifted away from building sustainable employment and economic growth towards pursuing short-term returns and speculative investments. They have embarked on an investment strike for over three decades.

Financialisation has weakened the country’s industrial base and retained the economy’s dependence on the minerals-energy complex (MEC) and primary production. There has been increased outsourcing of manufacturing jobs and casualisation of labour. This left many workers trapped in precarious employment, with few benefits and low wages.

Corporations also moved their capital and assets out of the country and placed them under the control of global financial institutions to keep them far away from the influence of the new democratic government. This would expose the new democratic government to the dictates of global institutions.

Internationalisation ensured the integration of domestic white capital into the international capitalist system with all its racial ramifications. This class alliance has informed the form, pace, depth and structure of transformation in SA. International capital has been available to deploy all its weight behind its local allies to curtail transformation.

Whilst the new democratic government did implement some economic transformation programmes, it has by and large continued with the apartheid regime’s privatisation and liberalisation programme. The apartheid regime sought to remove productive assets that could be used to drive meaningful economic transformation as far away from the new government as possible. This would preserve the exclusive control of the economy by the white ruling clique.

Following the democratic transition of 1994, the private sector has been given far greater leverage in the economy. They have extended their economic dominance to the sphere of politics and policy development. This has weakened the country’s ability to establish a democratic and labour–biased developmental state. These policies have been nothing short of an attack on democratic transformation to retain the economic and political power of the white ruling class.

Economic transformation has therefore been our most intractable challenge. Though much has been achieved in social transformation, it is by far eclipsed by inadequate achievements in terms of economic transformation. The absence of an economic base through which to alter and de-racialise property relations and the existence of the balance of power favouring the white monopoly capital is the reason for this underachievement.

Exclusive monopoly ownership of the economy lends white capital overwhelming power over all other political and social aspects of society, including governance and policy development. The only countervailing power is that of labour, civil society formations and structures of the mass democratic movement.

Central to white rule has been the morbid and mortal fear for black unity. Black unity across social classes and strata posed a mortal danger to white supremacy. Black unity depends on the maximum unity of the ANC. Thus the white ruling class has always sought to divide black people to mitigate the threat posed by their unity, particularly by black workers. They have thus been the primary sponsor of divisions within the ANC. The past five years have provided them with their most potent opportunity to achieve this goal.

They have deployed all their ideological arsenal towards this end, elevating some as ‘saints’ whilst condemning those who threaten their interests the most as the very epitome of evil. In this regard, the ANC’s allies have not been spared.

There have been strenuous efforts to divide the black majority by sponsoring the creation of a plethora of black political parties, as well as amendments to electoral laws. In addition, there have been extensive efforts to discourage the ANC support base from voting. This has split the black vote among many differing political groupings to render it meaningless. It also significantly reduced the ANC’s voting base so that it cannot effectively govern the country and implement meaningful change without seeking support and concurrence from the opposition.

Malusi Gigaba is an ANC NEC member.