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