31 May 2013

Green Paper Revised

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Development, Part 8a


Green Paper Revised

The Revised Green Paper on the National Planning Commission of January 2010 (attached) resolves the question of authority as follows:

Cabinet would be ultimately responsible for adopting a national vision and strategic plan. A clear understanding of how government works as well as independent input that clearly articulates the aspirations of ordinary South Africans are two essential ingredients of this national vision and strategic plan.”

The document is brief and concerns itself with some definitions. In conclusion it says:

“The Revised Green Paper: National Planning Commission is thus now published in the Gazette, proclaiming the establishment of the Commission and inviting nominations.

The nominations from the public were many and rumoured to be in the thousands, but the names of neither the nominees nor any intermediate shortlist were published, but only (on 30 April 2010) the list of 24 appointed Commissioners, who are:


Bobby Godsell
Mariam Altman
Joel Netshitenzhe
Jerry Coovadia
Elias Masilela
Chris Malikane
Anton Eberhard
Karl von Holdt
Jerry Vilakazi
Vivienne Taylor
Bridgette Gasa
Mohammed Karaan
Noluthando Gosa
Marcus Balintulo
Thandabantu Goba
Tasneem Essop
Jennifer Molwantwa
Vuyokazi Mahlati
Phillip Harrison
Pascal Moloi
Mike Muller
Malekgapuru Makgoba
Ihron Rensburg
Vincent Maphai


Next, we will look at the IPAP2 document.

Image: GOELRO Plan (Electrification of the Soviet Union) as imagined by artist Pavel Filonov, (1883-1941). The GOELRO Plan was published in 1920 and completed by 1931.

What Lenin wrote:  Communism = Soviet power + electrification



30 May 2013

National Plan

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Development, Part 8


National Plan

The 40-page Green Paper on National Strategic Planning (attached) is a discussion document, but its release in September 2009 was followed by complaints. COSATU’s General Secretary lambasted it. NEHAWU lambasted it because it was drafted and issued by the South African government, not the National Democratic Revolutionary Alliance. NEHAWU wrote:

“It is a known fact that the need for a high level planning and the planning commission and other modalities towards the establishment of the developmental state were agreed upon at the Alliance summit in October 2008.

“NEHAWU therefore believes that it is only proper that the Green Paper should be considered in the impending Alliance summit and that this should take place prior to further processes in parliament and government.”

One of this Green Paper’s merits was that it made a strong case for regular central planning on three “time horizons”: 1-year Programmes of Action, 5-year Medium Term “Frameworks” corresponding to a maximum term of office between elections; and Long-Term, plus/minus 15-year, “Visions”.

It makes this case in common-sense or bourgeois-bureaucratic terms but it does not compromise with neo-liberal laissez-faire (French for “leave alone”). With this Green Paper, the necessity for planning (dirigisme or “steering” in French) became orthodoxy in South Africa.

The first National Strategic Planning Green Paper

This first Planning Green Paper was not itself a plan. It committed the Minister to produce the first national plan within a year (which took longer). It laid down the process by which the planning would be done – centrally, of course, but transparently, and not secretly or pre-emptively.

The major de-merit of the Green Paper from a communist point of view is shown by its frequent mention of something resembling an imaginary table of weaknesses and problems. In this list you find women, children, the disabled and the old, and those with low “social status”- meaning the working class. Race, gender and lack of education are mentioned, but never “class”, or the “working class”. Instead, where race is mentioned you get more (balancing?) remarks about low “social status”, as if being working class and/or black is a disability or a disease that needs to be palliated, treated or cured.

The class struggle may be the engine of history, the Green Paper seems to imply, but it can’t be considered in plans. The plans imagined in the Green Paper will be curative courses of treatment for ills. If this remains unchanged, then the strategic plans produced by the process described are bound to fall far short of what is necessary.

Class formation

The historical measure of change and of progress is the rate of class formation. The basis of Chinese revolutionary planning success in the last sixty years, for example, has been their constant attention to class formation. Even their few, now-long-past failures were a consequence of the same, correct, focus.

None of the goods, whether public or private, that the planning process is designed to maximise will be secure unless there is a steady and eventually overwhelming growth of the working class. By treating the working class as a “social status” problem, the Green Paper has the whole matter upside down, and will fail, if it does not get corrected.

Without any positive class orientation, the planning process as outlined in the Green Paper will default back to conservative bourgeois utilitarianism. The determination towards planning that the Green Paper represents is a great leap forward, but it will come to nothing if the planning process is not infused with revolutionary class-consciousness. This is a job for the communists.

There is a great deal inside the Green Paper about protocol and government etiquette. Whether these things are really crucial will become apparent. We now have the “IPAP2” and the “New Growth Path” (NGP). How these other two planning exercises will correspond with the eventual National Plan is something we will have to wait to see.

Our graphic, above, representing communist planning, is the symbol of the former German Democratic Republic, which was in its time a good friend to South Africa.

In the next post we will contrast and compare the revised and much shorter Green Paper that arrived in January, 2010 and was executed.  The commissioners were appointed on 30 April 2010. Their first effort was the “Diagnostic”, in June 2012, which as foreseen (in 2010) by the Communist University, proceeded to list various ills that were to be cured. The National Development Plan was published on the 11th of November, 2011 and was endorsed by the ANC just over a year later, at its 53rd National Conference in December, 2012.


  • The above is to introduce the original reading-texts: SA Government Green Paper on National Strategic Planning, Part 1 and Part 2.

27 May 2013

The Rise and Fall of Neo-Colonialism

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Development, Part 7b


The Rise and Fall of Neo-Colonialism

Today’s main item is Chapter 8 of Colin Leys’ 1975 book “Underdevelopment in Kenya” (attached, and downloadable from the link below).

This book was researched in Kenya and published 2-3 years after Rodney’s Dar-es-Salaam-written “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”.

“Underdevelopment in Kenya” is remarkable (like Engels’ “Condition of the Working Class In England”, for example) for being written in the right place at the right time, by a man who was able to see what he was looking at, know that it was something new and important, and describe it properly.

What Leys saw was not only post-colonial class formation, but also the beginnings, in 1975, of the “neo-liberal” and “Washington Consensus” policies that have cursed us ever since, but which now, at last, appear to be on their way out.


The fourth linked item of the week  is a more deliberately scholarly essay by David Moore, as compared to the short newspaper article of his that we used two days ago written in the same year, 2004.

Moore’s essay rehearses parts of the factual background of capitalist colonialism and reviews some of the works of the then-fashionable theorists, who now, nine years later, seem out-of-date (which Walter Rodney, for example, or Lenin, will never be).

No doubt David Moore contributed to the demise of the theories that he described and criticised, thereby doing a good service to us all.

The two documents introduced above are together bigger than a normal post in this series. But both are valuable and both contribute substantially to this collection of material on development. Therefore they go out together, today, for the sake of maintaining a well-rounded archive, and for those who may wish to read them.

Images:
Top: Photo of the then President of the Republic of Kenya Jomo Kenyatta posing in pseudo-traditional regalia prepared by former colonialists (Disclosure: I, your VC, was working for a different department in the company that made this regalia at the time);
Middle: photo of a bronze public statue of Kenyatta wearing the same phony theatrical robes, providing a long-term image of the neo-colonial mummeries for posterity.



24 May 2013

Europe Underdeveloped Africa

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Development, Part 7a


Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“Colonialism had only one hand - it was a one-armed bandit.”

So as not to forget that the National Democratic Revolution, as well as the contested concept of “Development”, arose from the anti-colonial and then anti-neo-colonial struggles, it is worth reading some of the late Walter Rodney’s words. Linked below is Chapter 6 from Rodney’s 1973 book “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, written while Rodney was a lecturer at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The first paragraph corresponds nicely with Moore’s article (used yesterday), denying

“...that ‘after all there must be two sides to a thing'. The argument suggests that, on the one hand, there was exploitation and oppression, but, on the other hand, colonial governments did much for the benefit of Africans and they developed Africa. It is our contention that this is completely false. Colonialism had only one hand - it was a one-armed bandit.”

On a personal note, this VC of yours is one who attended, with my parents, aged 12, the opening of Embakasi Airport in Nairobi, mentioned on page 4 of this Walter Rodney text as “the world's first handmade international airport”. I can tell you that Embakasi on the face of it appeared at that moment to be a perfect, and dazzling, advertisement for modernity. This contrast of reality and appearance was typical of colonialism.

There is too much reading here for a normal CU study group (but Moore’s newspaper article is suitably short and pointed). Part of the reason for including it is that this series, together with the material from the NDR series, and the State and Revolution series, were conceived of all together in 2009 as a virtual “SACP Special Congress Reader”. We hope to include some of the SACP’s documents in the concluding parts of this course.

Rodney divided this crucial chapter of his book into four parts, which are:

6.1 The Supposed Benefits of Colonialism to Africa
6.2 Negative character of the social, political and economic consequences
6.3 Education for Underdevelopment
6.4 Development by Contradiction.

Reading this document again reminds one of many things about the recent colonial past that are already being forgotten, even while they are being reproduced in new ways. Rodney is especially valuable because he wrote from the other side of the apartheid “front line” but was very well aware of the inter-dependence of all colonialism, whether of a “special type” or not, and also of neo-colonialism.

Walter Rodney belongs in the company of the greats like Frantz Fanon and Amilcar Cabral, whose work he knew and quoted.

Image: The late, immortal Walter Rodney, assassinated by a bomb in 1980.



22 May 2013

Development is Class Struggle

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Development, Part 7

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Development is Class Struggle

David Moore’s article (attached; download linked below) “The Brutal Side of Capitalist Development” appeared in the now-defunct Johannesburg newspaper “ThisDay” in 2004, as an “op-ed” feature.

At the time, at the height of the Mbeki Presidency, the article was remarkable in the mainstream South African media for being frank about the class struggle. Most of such material one would read at that time, in the depths of the 1996 Class Project years, was of the one-eyed “Development Studies” variety.

Moore only had to say how dull and derivative all this other material had been, to win the case unarguably.

The dispute between “neo-liberal GEARs and social-welfarist RDPs” is a sterile one, he says. Like a new broom, Moore swept away all the “happy synergistic tales”, while reminding people of “capitalism’s brutal genesis” and also its saving grace, the “vibrantly emerging working classes.”

The document is a nice, short read, though packed with hints and pointers. Now in 2013, eight years later, there is continuing talk of a “developmental state” and perhaps an implied assumption that what we already have is that very “developmental state”. Yet the diverse origins of “developmentalism” have hardly been re-examined. Hence the other, longer documents that will be introduced this week, for the sake of completeness. But this article of David Moore’s will be more than adequate as a discussion text.

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” wrote Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the Communist Manifesto of 1848, meaning that the entire historical development of humanity had been driven by the dynamic of class struggle. It still is being driven by class struggle.



17 May 2013

Trade Unions in a NEP-like country

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Development, Part 6b


Trade Unions in a NEP-like country

Today’s attached text by V I Lenin on the “Role and Function of Trade Unions under the NEP” speaks unequivocally of “the duty of the trade unions to protect the interests of the working people”, in both private and public enterprises.

We have seen that Lenin was ill from the start of the NEP, then progressively more ill, and finally bedridden and unable to speak for months until his death in January, 1924. If we read the documents we would also have noticed that the Civil War was also continuing until 1922.

Later, the richer, capitalising peasants or “kulaks”, who employed others as proletarian workers, were demonised, correctly or not, and the NEP came to an end around 1928. The NEP therefore had a short and constrained life, and consequently, a limited literature. But ours is not to examine the NEP in great detail. We just want to note that in Lenin’s view, this was the correct transitional arrangement, and to see why Lenin thought so.

Large-scale industry was mostly in state hands but small businesses were capitalist. This was not merely expedient. It was necessary. It was the right way, and not a liberal way.

Here in South Africa we do not yet have proletarian state power in the way that the Russian workers obviously had it at the time of Lenin’s writing of this text (1922). But in other respects we have a similar set of circumstances. Big-scale industry is either in the hands of monopoly capital or of the state, leaving a very large portion of the population having to fend for itself, as survivalists, entrepreneurs, SMMEs and all the rest of conceptual divisions of the petty-bourgeoisie. These are mostly poor people, and they have to be helped to survive.

But above all in South Africa, just as under the NEP in Russia in the 1920s, the class struggle continues. Lenin is very frank about this. In the end there is not going to be a win-win situation, and there is no win-win along the way, either, but only class struggle with both winners and losers. Here is an example of what Lenin had to say on this score, in this work:

“As long as classes exist, the class struggle is inevitable. In the period of transition from capitalism to socialism the existence of classes is inevitable; and the Programme of the Russian Communist Party definitely states that we are taking only the first steps in the transition from capitalism to socialism. Hence, the Communist Party, the Soviet government and the trade unions must frankly admit the existence of an economic struggle and its inevitability until the electrification of industry and agriculture is completed—at least in the main—and until small production and the supremacy of the market are thereby cut off at the roots.”

Trade unions are all about “contact with the masses” and therefore cannot be sectarian:

“Under no circumstances must trade union members be required to subscribe to any specific political views; in this respect, as well as in respect of religion, the trade unions must be non-partisan.”

The interest of the working class is “developmental” in a material sense, namely an “enormous increase in the productive forces”. Lenin puts it like this:

”Following its seizure of political power, the principal and fundamental interest of the proletariat lies in securing an enormous increase in the productive forces of society and in the output of manufactured goods.”

Lenin concludes:

“The Communist Party, the Soviet bodies that conduct cultural and educational activities and all Communist members of trade unions must therefore devote far more attention to the ideological struggle against petty-bourgeois influences, trends and deviations among the trade unions, especially because the New Economic Policy is bound to lead to a certain strengthening of capitalism. It is urgently necessary to counteract this by intensifying the struggle against petty-bourgeois influences upon the working class.”

A NEP-like situation, or developmental state, which South Africa now has, involves a deliberate transitional expansion of the petty-bourgeoisie, and therefore also requires a constant struggle to maintain a “superstructure” over this petty-bourgeoisie. Such is the lesson of Lenin in this case.

The formation and the growth of the proletariat will in due course become determinant, because class struggle is the motor of history, and because the proletariat is the gravedigger of capitalism. But in the mean time, the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie must continue with their historical role of creating employment and by doing so, creating the bigger, and finally overwhelmingly massive and politicised proletariat.



16 May 2013

From the NEP Russia will come the Socialist Russia!

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Development, Part 6a


From the NEP Russia will come the Socialist Russia!

The short speech to the Moscow Soviet in November 1922 gives more of the background and history of the NEP. 

There is so much that is strong from Lenin, and it ranges so widely, that it is difficult to keep in mind that after the October 1917 revolution he only had four years of relatively good health, and that was interrupted by the assassination attempt of August 1918. During 1922 and 1923 he was mostly ill and he died in January 1924.

Therefore Lenin’s direct leadership of the policy that he, more than any other, is associated with - namely the New Economic Policy or NEP - only went for about a year from its beginning, which was in March, 1921.

The NEP was abandoned in favour of collectivisation and full central planning in 1928, under the leadership of J V Stalin.


As can be seen in the last paragraph of this speech of Lenin’s, he intended “that NEP Russia will become socialist Russia.” This phrase is echoed in the translation given on the Internet for the slogan in Russian on the NEP poster (above). The other image is of a peasant produce market held during the NEP.

How the transition to socialism was to take place or exactly what it meant in Lenin’s mind is a matter of study. We will continue this study with the next of these three items on the NEP.



15 May 2013

New Economic Policy

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Development, Part 6


New Economic Policy

To read Lenin’s writings and speeches on the “New Economic Policy” (NEP) is to discover a process of comprehensive unpacking and assessment, of factors and variables that are quite similar to those in play in South Africa at the present time.

The NEP followed after the “War Communism” that had been in effect during the Civil War in Russia, after the Great October Revolution of 1917. [Picture: Lenin in Red Square, Moscow, 25 May 1919]. The NEP followed on from “the struggle”, as it were.

The NEP was not a substitute for big-scale, planned industrial development. Early in today’s main document, “The Tax in Kind” (1921) (attached), Lenin emphasises:

“Socialism is inconceivable without large-scale capitalist engineering based on the latest discoveries of modern science. It is inconceivable without planned state organisation which keeps tens of millions of people to the strictest observance of a unified standard in production and distribution... At the same time socialism is inconceivable unless the proletariat is the ruler of the state.”

Later, he sums up:

“The tax in kind is a transition from War Communism to a regular socialist exchange of products. The extreme ruin rendered more acute by the crop failure in 1920 has made this transition urgently necessary owing to the fact that it was impossible to restore large-scale industry rapidly. Hence, the first thing to do is to improve the condition of the peasants. The means are the tax in kind, the development of exchange between agriculture and industry, and the development of small industry. Exchange is freedom of trade; it is capitalism.”

The whole document is worth reading and re-reading. Note that the actual “tax in kind” is not particularly prominent in the text. The sub-title, “The Significance of the New Policy and its Conditions” is more apt.

The actual “tax in kind” policy meant that peasants in particular had the option to pay tax in the form of produce, not cash, after which they were free to sell any additional produce they had on the open market. The tax in kind was a component within the overall scheme of the NEP, which in total amounted to a revival of small-scale market-capitalist production.

It is clear that what Lenin is doing is ordering priorities and synthesising all of the factors that were in play. There is no crude dichotomy here that would cancel out the small-scale producers in favour of the larger ones. On the contrary, the “development of exchange” between small and large is seen by Lenin as the “means”, both to improve the condition of the peasants, and to restore large-scale industry rapidly.

In the Soviet Union, a false dichotomy did subsequently develop between the small and the large, and it may have weakened that country and helped to set it up for the collapse that occurred.

In China, on the contrary, the most scrupulous attention was paid to those peasants and petty-bourgeois who formed the (once-overwhelming and still-existing) majority of the population; but not at the expense of large-scale industrial planning and development. China has survived, and prospered.

Are these things separate? Are they contradictory? Or are they one?

There is in fact no choice. We must have it all: both large and small. We must also recognise the inter-relationship between the small-scale enterprises, that can activate large masses of our people, and the large-scale enterprises, that need the same people as providers of goods and services, and as a market.

Industrial Strategy and Rural Development must be a unity.


  • The above is to introduce the original reading-texts: The Tax in Kind, Lenin, 1921, Part 1 and Part 2.

10 May 2013

Entrepreneurship

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Development, Part 5b


Entrepreneurship

In the Umsebenzi Online of 30 June 2010, SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande wrote that we must “Fight Tenderpreneurs to defend entrepreneurship!!”

The GS wrote: “Entrepreneurs, found in co-operatives, small and medium sized businesses, are all those who genuinely and honestly go about doing business, including tendering for government work.”

The attached item today is a short article of Professor Michael Morris’s, published in 1996 in the Business Day, which debunked a number of misconceptions about so-called “entrepreneurship”.

Morris wrote, among other things, that: “The entrepreneurial individual recognises a trend, a possibility, an unmet demand. He or she comes up with a concept for capitalising on the trend or demand and does so while the window of opportunity is open.”

This is the same point as Lenin is making. Lenin knew that the setting up of producer co-operatives without attention to their markets would be a disastrous waste.

Morris also says: “Entrepreneurial individuals are opportunity-driven, not resource-driven.” This may be the truest of the many true things that Morris noticed about entrepreneurs.

Business is driven by the customer. It is not true, as Jean-Baptiste Say used to believe, that supply creates its own demand. The entrepreneur’s job is to identify demand, where demand means people wanting goods or services, and ready and willing to pay for them promptly and at a price that will ensure a profit to the entrepreneur.

Most co-ops in South Africa are set up in what Lenin referred to as the “Asiatic manner”, expecting to produce first and sell later. Whereas, as Lenin pointed out, to be a good co-operator one must be what he called a “cultured trader”. Above all, this means securing the demand before you make (or buy) and supply. The entrepreneur is a trader, and a cultured trader.

A great deal follows from that, and these are the considerations that define the world around the co-operatives, small and medium sized businesses that Dr Blade Nzimande referred to. Most of these considerations are obscured or downright lied-about in capitalist literature. Morris’s short article is a rare example of relative candour in the business press, which makes it very well worth reading.

The market is crucial, but contrary to what the bourgeois ideologues keep on saying, the market is not free or open. It is we, the opponents of monopoly capitalism, who are the true “free-marketeers”. Small businesses, including co-ops, to survive, must have access to markets that are not dominated by predatory monopolistic market manipulators; and if they are selling to the state, they must be paid on time and in full. These conditions hardly exist in South Africa, which has historically been monopolistic in the extreme, and whose government, on the other hand, is a notoriously slow payer.

The Chinese delegation that visited South Africa in 2009 told us that the Chinese peasants are guaranteed a market by the state, at the same price that private buyers are prepared to pay.

South Africa will also have to pay attention to the question of the market for peasant, petty-bourgeois, and co-operative production, as well as to the subjective, exhortative, educational contribution, which is so clear in Lenin’s approach and which he explicitly recommends.

Even if it may not always be a matter of the state setting up co-ops, yet the mass social development of peasants and petty-bourgeois is always going to be a matter of educating, organising, and mobilising. Paradoxically, and for this reason, the petty-bourgeoisie needs the communists.

Illustration: “Entrepreneur” means one who “holds together”, as the ring in the picture holds together the chains. Most especially the business entrepreneur holds together demand and supply.



09 May 2013

Co-ops work under the working class

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Development, Part 5a


Lenin: Co-ops work under the working class

The main item today is Lenin’s “On Co-operation”, a short but very rich and extraordinary document written in January 1923. Lenin suffered his third and last stroke in March of that year, from which he did not recover, dying in January, 1924. This short text is therefore among his last works.

Writing in post-revolutionary conditions, Lenin briefly acknowledges the criticism that had been heaped upon co-ops under the bourgeois dictatorship: “There is a lot of fantasy in the dreams of the old co-operators. Often they are ridiculously fantastic,” he says.

Following which he proceeds to place an extremely high value on co-operatives, in the new conditions, as being almost the most important component of the advance to full socialism, saying: “since political power is in the hands of the working-class, since this political power owns all the means of production, the only task, indeed, that remains for us is to organize the population in co-operative societies.”

We can note that in this article Lenin anticipates at least one or two decades of further life of the New Economic Policy (NEP), which allowed bourgeois activity under proletarian state power.

What actually happened was that within about four years after Lenin’s death the NEP had been reversed and the policy of the Soviet Union had become one of large-scale five-year plans, only. The centralisation of the economy, started under Lenin as complementary to the NEP, had in effect become treated as an either/or mutually exclusive alternative to it.

Is this a necessary dichotomy? In South Africa, we will at some stage have to decide. So far, since the democratic breakthrough of 1994 South African governments have encouraged all kinds of employment, and small business development, including encouragement of co-operatives that has been rather nominal. In that context, note what Lenin says about the NEP: that it made the mistake of neglecting co-operatives.

This short article of Lenin’s on co-operation ranges more widely than simply on co-ops as such. Particularly interesting are the concluding paragraphs of Part 2 of the document, where Lenin refers to a “cultural revolution”.

In the penultimate paragraph of Part 1, Lenin had written:

“By ability to be a trader I mean the ability to be a cultured trader. Let those Russians, or peasants, who imagine that since they trade they are good traders, get that well into their heads. This does not follow that all. They do trade, but that is far from being cultured traders. They now trade in an Asiatic manner, but to be a good trader one must trade in the European manner. They are a whole epoch behind in that.”

The difference that Lenin refers to as between “Asiatic” and “European” trading is the difference between production for sale without having secured a market, and on the other hand, production for a known market, or for a previously-identified demand. We will pursue this question in relation to the next item, on “entrepreneurship”.

In Part 2, Lenin re-states the difference between pre- and post-revolutionary co-ops, saying: “…we are right in regarding as entirely fantastic this ‘co-operative’ socialism, and as romantic, and even banal, the dream of transforming class enemies into class collaborators and class war into class peace (so-called class truce) by merely organizing the population in cooperative societies.

“…But see how things have changed now that the political power is in the hands of the working-class, now that the political power of the exploiters is overthrown…”

Illustration: Selling Surplus Grain Crops at the Office of the People's Co-operative, Wang Qi, People’s Republic of China, 1953



08 May 2013

Co-Operatives or Protégés?

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Development, Part 5


Co-Operatives or Protégés?

The classic literature on co-operatives divides into two parts, characterised first by Marx’s, Engels’ and Lenin’s disdain for co-ops under the bourgeois dictatorship, and second by Lenin’s embracing of co-ops as the sufficient and necessary means, under proletarian rule, of uniting the town and the country and of effecting a transition, for the proletarian and non-proletarian masses together, into socialism.

For South Africans this poses theoretical problems.

We cannot just ignore what the classics say about co-ops under capitalism, not because they are “classics”, but also because the arguments are strong, and because ours is still a bourgeois state. Therefore the arguments that Marx makes in “The Critique of the Gotha Programme”, for example, still apply to us.

Yet we appear to need the opportunity, that co-ops seem to provide, of socialising fragmented and incomplete individual efforts, or in other words of organising the unorganised peasantry, petty-bourgeoisie, and more generally, those whom capitalism has failed to employ.

In the light of these considerations, let us look at some of what Karl Marx said about co-operatives on pages 4, 5, 6 and 9 of “The Critique of the Gotha Programme”. Most of it is scathing. The best that Marx can manage to say for co-ops is:

“That the workers desire to establish the conditions for co-operative production on a social scale, and first of all on a national scale, in their own country, only means that they are working to revolutionize the present conditions of production, and it has nothing in common with the foundation of co-operative societies with state aid. But as far as the present co-operative societies are concerned, they are of value only insofar as they are the independent creations of the workers and not protégés either of the governments or of the bourgeois.”

Prior to the above he remarks (about the Gotha Programme):

“Vulgar socialism (and from it in turn a section of the democrats) has taken over from the bourgeois economists the consideration and treatment of distribution as independent of the mode of production and hence the presentation of socialism as turning principally on distribution.”

The co-operation that is patronised by the state, and also state distribution (i.e. what we now call “delivery”) is only “vulgar socialism”, says Marx.

The Critique of the Gotha Programme is not a long document (though it is very rich). Please try to read it. It is invaluable for many purposes, and not just for this question of co-ops.

Illustration: Sewing Co-operative, Rwanda, 2009


  • The above is to introduce the original reading-texts: Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx , Part 1 and Part 2.

03 May 2013

China 2013

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Development, Part 4c


China 2013

Samir Amin is an African revolutionary writer who has recently written comparatively as between the development path of post-revolutionary China, and that of the Soviet Union.

On page 2 of our 20-page bookletised version of his article (“China 2013”, attached), Samir Amin writes that the success of China (and Vietnam) “is the product of an intelligent and exceptional political line implemented by the Communist Parties of these two countries.”

South Africa’s problems are far from being identical to those of China’s at any stage of its development, or to those of the Soviet Union.

It would seem to follow, therefore, that South Africa will also require its own, and different, “intelligent and exceptional political line”.

This does not mean that South Africa can ignore the experience of others such as the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam. On the contrary, it means that South Africans need to study as widely as possible the paths of development that others have followed. Not to copy them, but to get behind them to the general principles of planning and development.

In particular, we may note that China, the Soviet Union, and India, have all used the practice of five-year planning as well as longer-term strategic orientation.

South Africa, at last, has begun to plan. We have our first, imperfect but nevertheless actually-existing, plan, called the NDP (National Development Plan).

This very extraordinary article of Samir Amin’s can help us to reflect on planning and on the results it can have in a person’s lifetime.



Education, key to development

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Development, Part 4b

Poster, “Do you help to liquidate illiteracy?” (USSR, 1925)

Education, key to development

Lenin’s short 1920 speech to adult educators (attached) starts with some paragraphs about the war situation. This was a little more than two years after the Great October 1917 Russian Revolution, and in the mean time there had been counter-revolutionary uprisings and military interventions from the capitalist powers, including Great Britain. These can serve to remind us what an enormous effort had to be made just to obtain sufficient peace to start building the USSR.

In the remaining page or so of this typically powerful summing up by Lenin can be read his view of the relationship between education, development of industrial productive forces (including electrification), and the emancipation of the peasants from poverty and backward material conditions.

Says Lenin:

[We] “…will go to the peasants with a practical, businesslike and clear-cut plan for the reconstruction of all industry and will demonstrate that with education at its present level the peasant and the worker will not be able to carry out this task and will not escape from filth, poverty, typhus and disease.

“This practical task is clearly connected with cultural and educational improvements and must serve as the central point around which we must group all our Party propaganda and activities, all our school and extra-mural teaching.

“This will help to get a sound grasp of the most urgent interests of the peasant masses and will link up the general improvement in culture and knowledge with burning economic requirements to such an extent that we shall increase a hundredfold the demand of the working-class masses for education.”

We, too, must link up the general improvement in culture and knowledge with burning economic requirements. This is the reason for our studies.



02 May 2013

The Nationalisation of Land

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Development, Part 4a



The Nationalisation of Land

If “Land to the tiller” is a revolutionary slogan that will motivate our allies the peasantry and the petty-bourgeoisie, then what about: “Nationalise the land”?

These things are not the same. The petty-bourgeois republic is not the same as Karl Marx’s dream (see the main linked text, below) of “National centralization of the means of production”, which Marx here associates with the ultimate moves in the transition to communism (i.e. the “withering away of the state”).

In the attached short, 2-page letter to Mr Applegarth, Marx writes:

"The future will decide that the land cannot be owned but nationally. To give up the soil to the hands of associated rural laborers would be to surrender all society to one exclusive class of producers. The nationalization of land will work a complete change in the relations between labor and capital and finally do away altogether with capitalist production, whether industrial or rural. Only then the class distinctions and privileges will disappear together with the economical basis from which they originate and society will be transformed into an association of 'producers'. To live upon other people’s labor will become a thing of the past. There will no longer exist a government nor a state distinct from society itself."

In the alliance of worker and peasant that must be made for the purposes of overthrowing the rule of the big bourgeoisie, the demand of the peasants is for ownership of land.

Yet Marx, already, in 1869, is clear in his mind that the distribution of land to the peasants makes a situation that “is farther off the nationalization of land than… landlordism” and “converts the tiller himself into the most decided enemy of all social progress, and above all, of the nationalization of the land”.

Such problems arose in the Soviet Union after the revolution, following which “collectivisation” took place by force.

In China things were done differently. There, the peasant class was given land and nursed for generations, and it is still the majority class in China, although hundreds of millions have been drawn off the land and into the cities to create what is now by far the largest national working proletariat that the world has ever seen, in the hundreds of millions.



What Marx calls in this letter “appliance of modern agricultural improvements”, and which he thought were excluded from use by peasant farmers, were redesigned and manufactured in China at a suitable scale for peasant use (e.g. the Chinese walking tractor). Even with such mechanical implements, peasant progress was slow, as it can only be slow. Yet the transformation of China has been as relentless as it has been systematic.

Illustration (Poster): “As a result of state-farm and collective-farm construction the USSR became the country of the most powerful agriculture in the world.” (1931)

Second Illustration: Chinese walking tractor, designed for peasant family farming.