Notes on

South Africa’s econ­omy is dom­i­nated by giant mo­nop­o­lies in the gold min­ing in­dus­try linked with big fi­nan­cial and farm­ing in­ter­ests

Afro Voice (KwaZulu Natal) - - Opinion & Analysis - Christo­pher Ma­likane is as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of eco­nom­ics at the Univer­sity of Wit­wa­ter­srand


A NAR­RA­TIVE is now gain­ing mo­men­tum that the con­cept, “white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal”, is an in­ven­tion of some pub­lic re­la­tions firm called Bell Pottinger, which was founded in 1987 and that it does not ex­ist in the lit­er­a­ture of the na­tional lib­er­a­tion move­ment.

Some have con­tin­ued to main­tain that white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal does not ex­ist, while oth­ers ac­knowl­edge that it ex­ists but fear­ing for their po­si­tions in white mo­nop­oly estab­lish­ments, their deals and ca­reers, they say it is harm­ful to in­vest­ment to keep on re­fer­ring to white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal.

But, is it really true that the con­cept, white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal, does not ex­ist in the an­nals of the South African rev­o­lu­tion?

In his re­cent open let­ter, Jus­tice Pi­itso said some­thing pro­found: “Where the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of our sci­en­tific rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­ory of Marx­ism-Lenin­ism are con­cerned, the ques­tion of, who is right or wrong, can­not be judged nec­es­sar­ily on the ba­sis of the view of the ma­jor­ity.”

In th­ese notes, we show that the claim that the con­cept, white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal, can­not be found in the lit­er­a­ture of the na­tional lib­er­a­tion move­ment is not true. This nar­ra­tive, which seeks to deny the ex­is­tence of white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal, or white mo­nop­o­li­sa­tion of South Africa, is aimed at ide­o­log­i­cally con­fus­ing black peo­ple in gen­eral.

This is done so as to hide the real class force that wields power in South African so­ci­ety.

All of a sud­den, mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal has turned colour­less as pure wa­ter. This is re­vi­sion­ism.

Writ­ing in The New Age, Nel­son Man­dela had this to say: “The sys­tem of white supremacy has its roots in the cheap labour need of the ma­jor eco­nomic groups in the coun­try. South Africa’s econ­omy is dom­i­nated by giant mo­nop­o­lies in the gold min­ing in­dus­try linked with big fi­nan­cial and farm­ing in­ter­ests, whose ten­ta­cles reach also into sec­ondary in­dus­try. Th­ese groups have been re­spon­si­ble for the re­serve sys­tem, mi­gra­tory labour, the low wage pol­icy. Th­ese groups own and con­trol the na­tional wealth of our coun­try and de­ter­mine the ba­sic struc­ture of the South African state.”

Need­less to say, the con­cept, white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal, is an in­ven­tion of the South African Com­mu­nist Party (SACP). It emerged in rev­o­lu­tion­ary lit­er­a­ture for the first time in the SACP 1962 pro­gramme, The Road to South African Free­dom.

Ne­olib­er­als, worked hard to empty the ANC of its rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­ory. When the ques­tion, “who is the en­emy of the NDR?” kept on be­ing asked by ANC ac­tivists, we were con­stantly told that “the en­emy of the NDR is poverty, un­em­ploy­ment and in­equal­ity”.

When we re­sponded by say­ing that the ANC has de­fined the en­emy to be “white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal”, we were told, “that was in the past”, now we have to “fight poverty, un­em­ploy­ment and in­equal­ity”. This was ob­vi­ously un­sat­is­fac­tory.

One of the most dis­turb­ing ten­den­cies to emerge from the de­bate about white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal is that some con­tenders claim that white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal has not been de­fined. Th­ese con­tenders ex­press their ig­no­rance.

The South African Com­mu­nist Party in ex­tracts from The Road to South African Free­dom, 1962 says: “The 3 mil­lion Whites hold a mo­nop­oly of po­lit­i­cal rights and eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. They alone can vote for and be elected to Par­lia­ment and other gov­ern­ing bod­ies.

“They are for­ti­fied be­hind a wall of priv­i­lege in the civil ser­vice, in jobs and pro­fes­sions, in ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties and a hun­dred other fields. Some 87% of the land is re­served for white own­er­ship and white cap­i­tal­ists own and con­trol the mines, fac­to­ries and banks and most of com­merce. Their gov­ern­ment in­cul­cates a ly­ing and in­sult­ing doc­trine of race su­pe­ri­or­ity.

“Ef­fec­tive eco­nomic dom­i­na­tion in South Africa is thus ex­er­cised by an al­liance of lo­cal White mo­nop­oly in­ter­ests in min­ing, in­dus­try and agri­cul­ture, to­gether with for­eign im­pe­ri­al­ists and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of state mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal­ism.

“Thus, in min­ing, in­dus­try, com­merce and farm­ing, mo­nop­o­lists dom­i­nate the coun­try’s econ­omy. They are also closely linked with state mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal ven­tures, such as Is­cor (iron and steel), Es­com (elec­tric­ity) and Sa­sol (petrol).

“Th­ese mo­nop­o­lists are the real power in South Africa. The spe­cial type of colo­nial­ism in South Africa serves, in the first place, their in­ter­ests”.

Ex­tracts from the ANC Green Book, 1979: “The prin­ci­pal en­emy of our rev­o­lu­tion is the South African ruling class, which is distin­guished by a com­bi­na­tion of sev­eral key char­ac­ter­is­tics. Like its coun­ter­parts in other cap­i­tal­ist coun­tries, its power is rooted, in the first in­stance, in its own­er­ship and con­trol of the ba­sic means of pro­duc­tion.

“But in South Africa, the sys­tem of eco­nomic ex­ploita­tion is re­in­forced and deep­ened by the na­tional op­pres­sion of the black ma­jor­ity. Thus, cap­i­tal­ist ex­ploita­tion and racial op­pres­sion op­er­ate to­gether and re­in­force one an­other”.

The Road to South African Free­dom, 1962: “The form of dom­i­na­tion de­vel­oped by the Union of South Africa also per­pet­u­ated the racialised eco­nomic struc­tures of the preUnion pe­riod. There was a white mo­nop­oly of cap­i­tal­ist means of min­ing, in­dus­trial and agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion and of dis­tri­bu­tion. There was also a vir­tual white mo­nop­oly of skilled and su­per­vi­sory jobs in the di­vi­sion of labour”

Path to Power, 1989: “The strug­gle for na­tional democ­racy is also an ex­pres­sion of the class con­tra­dic­tion between the black and demo­cratic forces on the one hand and the mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal­ists on the other. The stran­gle­hold of a small num­ber of white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal­ists over the great bulk of our coun­try’s wealth and re­sources is based on colo­nial dis- pos­ses­sion and pro­motes racial op­pres­sion.

“This con­cen­tra­tion of wealth and power per­pet­u­ates the su­per-ex­ploita­tion of mil­lions of black work­ers. It per­pet­u­ates the des­per­ate plight of mil­lions of the land­less ru­ral poor. And it blocks the ad­vance of black busi­ness and other sec­tors of the op­pressed. This re­al­ity, there­fore, forms the ba­sis of the an­timonopoly con­tent of the na­tional demo­cratic pro­gramme”

Path to Power, 1989: “Sev­eral lead­ers of the na­tional lib­er­a­tion move­ment em­pha­sised white mo­nop­o­li­sa­tion and the dom­i­nance of white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal in the South African econ­omy.”

Nel­son Man­dela 1990: “Our dis­cus­sion on strat­egy and tac­tics be­gan by recog­nis­ing that the ANC and the De Klerk gov­ern­ment ap­proach the is­sue of ne­go­ti­a­tions with op­posed agen­das. The gov­ern­ment’s aim is to re­form the apartheid sys­tem out of ex­is­tence while car­ry­ing over into the fu­ture the ac­cu­mu­lated priv­i­leges and ad­van­tages the white mo­nop­oly on power.” (speech by Nel­son Man­dela at an ANC rally af­ter the close of the na­tional con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence De­cem­ber 16, 1990)

Joe Slovo 1988: “The im­me­di­ate pri­macy of the strug­gle against race tyranny flows from the con­crete re­al­i­ties of our ex­ist­ing sit­u­a­tion. The con­cept of na­tional dom­i­na­tion is not a mys­ti­fi­ca­tion to di­vert us from class ap­proaches, it in­fects ev­ery level of class ex­ploita­tion.

“In­deed, it di­vides our work­ing class into colour com­part­ments. There­fore, un­usual cat­e­gories such as ‘white work­ing class’ and ‘black work­ing class’ are not ‘un­sci­en­tific’ but sim­ply de­scribe the facts.”

Blade Nz­i­mande: “The call for only or­gan­ised work­ers to make sac­ri­fices, with­out call­ing for the same from white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal, is es­sen­tially a re­ac­tionary call for the main­te­nance of the su­per-ex­ploita­tion of the black work­ing class. (Blade Nz­i­mande, ad­dressed to Cosatu congress, Septem­ber 18, 1997)

As Pitso cor­rectly men­tions in his open let­ter, it was Lenin who first elab­o­rated in de­tail the idea of mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal­ism as a stage in the de­vel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ism.

How­ever, Lenin’s ap­proach was con­crete and his­tor­i­cal in that he un­der­stood the im­por­tance of iden­ti­fy­ing who owns the means of pro­duc­tion at this stage be­cause he was not just in­ter­ested in in­ter­pret­ing the world, he wanted to change it.


STRUG­GLE: Joe Slovo spoke at length about racial in­equal­ity and white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal­ism and the need to com­bat them.

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