Manuel is singing for his sup­per

CityPress - - Voices - Ndu­miso Mokako voices@city­

Dear Mr Manuel, nonex­ec­u­tive chair of Old Mu­tual Group

Please par­don me, firstly, for bom­bard­ing you with an ex­po­si­tion of this na­ture when you have the cum­ber­some task of lead­ing a huge com­pany like Old Mu­tual, whose busi­ness suc­cess you have a fidu­ciary duty to en­sure and which you rely on for your next pay cheque.

You fall flat in your ar­gu­ment and start rais­ing your voice in your song for your sup­per, wherein you wit­tingly ex­ag­ger­ate the pres­ence of an in­vis­i­ble hand in mat­ters of the state, and de­lib­er­ately place an im­moral and dis­hon­est en­tity called “busi­ness” in a sa­cred space. You con­cisely ex­press the re­spect that you think busi­ness de­serves when in­ter­act­ing with it, when you say: “The pic­ture I am sketch­ing for you is that the saga of dis­miss­ing a com­pe­tent min­is­ter and re­plac­ing him with­out warn­ing or ex­pla­na­tion led to a com­plete break­down in trust.”

You fur­ther say: “If this view holds, the trust is not bro­ken only with Cabi­net, of course. It is also bro­ken with the ANC, with the broader South African elec­torate, with the mar­kets and with that en­tity you call ‘busi­ness’.”

Among the many things we learn in the sem­i­nal in­ter­ven­tion of Karl Marx and Friedrich En­gels through The Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo is that, in a cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety such as South Africa, “the ex­ec­u­tive of the mod­ern state is but a com­mit­tee for man­ag­ing the com­mon af­fairs of the whole bour­geoisie”. So, any gov­ern­ment in a cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety rules in the in­ter­ests of the rul­ing class and is not im­mune from ma­nip­u­la­tion from that class, just that the de­gree of in­flu­ence of the cap­i­tal­ist class varies from gov­ern­ment to gov­ern­ment, de­pend­ing on gov­ern­ment’s ca­pac­ity to dis­ci­pline cap­i­tal. The im­plicit ar­gu­ment of an out­side hand be­yond the rul­ing party bites the dust be­cause it is in­her­ent in cap­i­tal­ist gov­ern­ments that there are those with vested in­ter­ests be­yond the politi­cians and they are, in many in­stances, re­spon­si­ble for the politi­cian’s rise to of­fice.

I am cer­tain many will con­cur with my as­sess­ment when I say that the Des van Rooyen saga is a sharp re­minder and fur­ther proof of the les­son by Marx and En­gels. In this in­stance, we have two con­tend­ing fac­tions within the bour­geoisie as a whole who are fight­ing to cap­ture the state for the sole pur­pose of profit max­imi­sa­tion.

Ad­vo­cates of the emerg­ing cap­i­tal­ists, who are hop­ing to pocket bil­lions from the pro­posed SAA ac­qui­si­tion of as­sets and the pro­posed nu­clear deal, saw for­mer min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene as a stum­bling block. Th­ese new en­trants to the cap­i­tal­ist’s jun­gle see the “com­pe­tently un­known” Van Rooyen as a can­dle of hope who will not only pro­vide light, but burn the red tapes that pro­hibit them from in­creas­ing their prof­its and al­low­ing them to com­pete favourably with the al­ready es­tab­lished cap­i­tal­ist.

On the other hand, the al­ready es­tab­lished bour­geoisie see Van Rooyen as a threat to their hege­mony and mo­nop­oly, and would pre­fer some­one like Nene or Pravin Gord­han, who you want us to be­lieve are neu­tral, com­pe­tent and in­cor­rupt­ible. The es­tab­lished bour­geoisie prefers these “heavy­weights”, so that there is cer­tainty and sta­bil­ity in the mar­kets for their profit ac­cu­mu­la­tion path to con­tinue undis­rupted.

Con­trary to what ar­dent de­fend­ers of white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal would like us to be­lieve – that mar­ket sta­bil­ity is a sym­bol of de­vel­op­ment and a panacea to the prob­lems of the South African work­ing class – our peo­ple are now acutely aware that this is just a sin­gle mi­croe­co­nomic in­di­ca­tor that has very lit­tle to do with the well­be­ing of the ma­jor­ity, but ev­ery­thing to do with a con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment for the cap­i­tal­ist class to max­imise their profit.

In fact, the South African work­ing class is start­ing to ask the im­por­tant ques­tion: “What does mar­ket sta­bil­ity mean, if any­thing?”

Nei­ther the ap­point­ment nor the re­moval have any­thing to do with the work­ing class, but the two con­tend­ing fac­tions of the bour­geoisie.

I think you are aware that many ar­gue that you also re­mained min­is­ter of fi­nance for a very long time, against the wishes of the South African work­ing class and, I sus­pect, even those of our move­ment, be­cause you were pre­ferred and liked by the dom­i­nant fac­tion of the rul­ing class.

To use the word ‘trust’ to char­ac­terise the premise of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween busi­ness and the gov­ern­ment, or im­ply that busi­ness re­quires cred­i­ble fi­nance min­is­ters, is bor­der­ing on sub­jec­tivism, be­cause you know very well that busi­ness is only loyal to profit. They only trust those who will en­sure that prof­its ac­crue to them and those are the only cred­i­ble peo­ple in their light – that is why they did busi­ness with apartheid South Africa and con­tinue to do busi­ness with il­le­git­i­mate regimes with­out one iota of guilt.

I find it very in­ter­est­ing that in your let­ter you chose not to com­ment on the power dy­nam­ics that were at play in re­vers­ing Van Rooyen’s de­ploy­ment and what this means for our con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy.

Van Rooyen’s re­de­ploy­ment is tes­ti­mony to what Marx and En­gels taught us, and re­in­forces that we live un­der the dic­ta­tor­ship of the bour­geoisie.

The re­ac­tion of busi­ness or mar­kets, es­pe­cially the de­cline of the rand, when com­pared with other cur­ren­cies, was a sign that the dom­i­nant fac­tion of the bour­geoisie is fight­ing back in de­fence of the space and the hege­mony they en­joy in it.

Like all fac­tions in any sphere of life, they fought back with what is at their dis­posal, through threat­en­ing to dis­in­vest, with­hold­ing planned in­vest­ments and all other tricks that will en­sure that the demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment re­treats and fi­nally does what will sus­tain their profit max­imi­sa­tion with­out any dis­rup­tion.

By all mea­sures, this is a recipe for dis­as­ter, be­cause we have seen it in many in­stances un­der­min­ing the will of South Africa in the in­ter­ests of a few pow­er­ful play­ers of the cap­i­tal­ist class. I am hop­ing that you will also help us find so­lu­tions to this con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis the rul­ing class is push­ing us into.

Your ar­gu­ment is clumsy be­cause it over­looks all lessons his­tory has taught us about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween busi­ness and the gov­ern­ment. It de­lib­er­ately wants to place cap­i­tal as an im­por­tant site of power be­yond re­proach so that so­ci­ety leaves it unat­tended and it con­tin­ues to max­imise prof­its for a few, un­abated. Your ar­gu­ment is based on an un­help­ful lib­eral mantra that busi­ness is about trust, hon­esty and in­tegrity, yet his­tory is lit­tered with many ex­am­ples of cor­rupt busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties. The lyrics of the song you chose do not cre­ate the re­quired am­biance. Sorry, Mr Manuel.

Yours in strug­gle

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