The following piece was written in 1999, when the African National Congress had been in power in South Africa for five years.  It traces the evolution of South African capitalism and the ANC and shows how, while apartheid had originally been essential to the process of capital accumulation, this was no longer the case by the 1980s.  Thus struggling against apartheid no longer automatically meant struggling against capitalism there.  Quite the contrary: if the struggle focused exclusively or even primarily on apartheid, capitalism would be left intact and the mass of black South Africans would remain impoverished.  This analysis has been long since borne out, and is also relevant to New Zealand.  Without a conscious struggle against capitalism, struggles against various other forms of oppression leave the mass of the people behind, when the formal reform is made.  This article was originally published in the short-lived theoretical journal Revolutionary Marxist

Apartheid is dead; long live capitalism!

by Philip Ferguson and Sharon Jones

It is now five years since the first non-racial elections in South Africa. How have the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), which plays a key role in the ANC, measured up to their claims to stand for social justice and racial equality?  What are conditions like for the majority of people in South Africa today?  What has happened to the liberation movement, including the militant trade unions?

An indication of the current situation can be seen in the 1999-2000 budget, delivered on February 17.  As Donna Block, the finance writer of the Guardian and Weekly Mail noted, “The overall net result will be a significant improvement in company profits.”  Not only have taxes been cut for top earners, but company taxes have been cut by about 16 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum are those township residents whose service charges arrears amounted to US$555-780m or R2.5-3.5bn by 1997.[1]  In a series of protests that year, about 75 percent of Soweto residents and around 90 percent in the Johannesburg township of Alexandra were among those refusing to pay the charges, a campaign which had originally begun as a protest against apartheid as well as being a reflection of the economic incapacity of many blacks and coloureds to pay.  The ANC regime’s Masakhane (“Let’s Build Together”) campaign, aimed at establishing a new culture of obedience to the state and payment for basic services, has found little to recommend it to the millions of people who continue to languish at the bottom of the heap in the ‘new’ South Africa.[2]

The 1997/98 budget, announced in March 1997, was, as the Economist Intelligence Unit noted happily, “welcomed by business and industry as market-friendly and growth-oriented”.[3]  Finance Minister Trevor Manuel told the South African parliament, “This budget is a tough budget.  It demands substantially more austerity from government than many of its forerunners have.”[4]  Of course, it is not the government members themselves, but the masses of South African people, especially black workers, who would feel the effects of this tough and austere budget.

While the regime attempted to extort service payments out of poverty-stricken shanty-town dwellers, it has been rather more magnanimous with the torturers and murderers of the old apartheid regime.  Not only has the Truth and Reconciliation Commission been a vehicle for allowing the barbarian employees of the apartheid state and, much more importantly, their political masters, to escape justice, but the Commission showed its ‘even-handedness’ by looking at ANC ‘human rights violations’ during the struggle against apartheid.  Thus the very limited violence of an oppressed people is being put on the same plane as the mass violence and terror used daily by the apartheid state power.

The main ‘reconciliation’ that the Commission is involved in is getting people to reconcile themselves to the fact that the socio-economic system will not change.  Tears and apologies all around are supposed to compensate for this.  At the same time, the ANC-SACP government continues to get on with the more serious business of privatisation, deregulation and ‘restructuring’ of the economy in the interests of capital.  The 1997-98 budget contained, for example, “pro-business measures expected to cost the state about R275m.”[5]

But more serious than these subsidies for business have been the attacks on trade union rights and the privatisation programme – “generally referred to in government policy documents as ‘restructuring’”[6] – through which significant amounts of state assets are being sold off to private business.  This privatisation programme is partly to retire government debt and offset drains on foreign reserves, partly to shed labour costs and turn unproductive labour into productive labour,[7] and partly to give a big leg-up to black business.

In April 1997 the regime sold a 30 percent shareholding in the state-owned Telkom telecommunications utility to a US-Malaysian consortium.[8]  Next in line were the full ownership of Sun Air, the Autonet road carrier and the PX parcel service, and equity partnerships in South African Airways, the Airports Company, the state forestry corporation, and sections of Trasnet, a state-owned transportation group.  In 1998 the state’s resorts group, Aventura, and diamond firm, Alexkor, are to be sold off.

As these privatisations were to take place, soon to be followed by rationalisation (especially of jobs), the regime committed itself to eliminating a further 100,000 jobs in the civil service.  In the private sector, a spate of mergers and ‘rationalisations’ have also taken place as the business elite attempts to overcome its problems through further concentrating and centralising capital[9] in an economy in which, for example, five corporations already control over 80 percent of the shares on the Johannesburg stock exchange.[10]  This process also involves laying off workers; tens of thousands of jobs in the gold mining industry have been shed in the last several years.[11]

Deregulation in the farming sector has also proceeded relatively quickly.  The Marketing of Agricultural Products bill of 1996 set about winding up all statutory control boards and the maize, meat and milk boards quickly embraced the market.  In November 1997 they were joined by the Wheat Board.  Agriculture Minister Derek Hanekom of the ANC, is “a strong free-marketeer”.[12]

The convergence between the big corporations, the prime beneficiaries of apartheid, and the ANC-SACP regime has been widely noted.  As Jonathan Michie has argued:

“The employers’ 1996 economic strategy document (South Africa Foundation, 1996) was an explicitly ‘market-friendly reform programme’.  While written to fit in with the post-apartheid agenda, paying lip-service to the need for reconstruction and development, its policy prescriptions were old-style orthodoxy.  The poor were to be helped by having wages forced down; employment was to be created by cutting public sector employment and by making it easier for workers to be sacked; and the legacy of apartheid was to be overcome by instituting a two-tier labour market. where those who currently have employment rights and reasonable levels of pay would by and large keep them, while new employees would do without such things.  Such market-oriented reform programmes were claimed to work by pointing to the examples of Chile since the military coup in 1973 and Britain since the election of Thatcher in 1979. . . some of this orthodox policy agenda appears to have been accepted by the present government.”[13]

Tips from the ‘Rogernomes’

In carrying out its ‘reform’ programme the ANC, including its SACP element, have been interested in the reforms in New Zealand over the past 15 years.

During his trip to New Zealand in 1995, Thabo Mbeki – South African deputy-president and heir-apparent to Mandela[14] – visited the Reserve Bank to meet Don Brash and other leading right-wing economists.  Interviewed on television afterwards, Mbeki declared his interest in NZ’s free market reforms of the 1980s and said that he was looking at which aspects could be carried out in the new South Africa.

Mbeki’s enthusiasm for ‘free market’ theory may come as a shock to those of the liberal and radical left who typically decided to delude themselves that the ANC was going to transform South Africa for the benefit of the dispossessed black masses.  In fact, Mbeki’s interest in Don Brash’s economic views reflect the long-time commitment of the ANC to capitalism.  The fact that the ANC is now embracing elements of ‘new right’ economics reflects the depth of the problems facing South African capital and the fact that the Keynesian road, once embraced in the ANC’s idea of a mixed economy, is no longer feasible.  Additionally the collapse of the Soviet bloc, with which the ANC was closely linked, has left the ANC and SACP without any alternative model to the market.

Before looking in more detail at what has happened in South Africa since 1994, and at the attacks on the working class over the past several years, it is necessary to analyse the development of capitalism there and the problems it eventually confronted in the 1980s which made it impossible to continue in the old way.

Development of South African capitalism

Racial oppression has been key to the development of South African capitalism. As Bernard Magubane argues in his historical study,

“What the British settlers required in South Africa was that the African subsistence producers become the hirelings of capital and that their means of subsistence be transformed into capital. Race intruded and gave the class structure in the colonies a special justification and cruelty, but it did not constitute the essence of that structure.”[15]

The essence of the racial structure of South African society was dictated by the labour requirements of South African capitalism.  Removal of Africans from the land took part in much the same way as in other British colonies but what was different in South Africa was the discovery of gold in 1884.  From the 1890s until World War II the gold-mining industry would dominate the development of South African capitalism.

Gold mining would become in South Africa what Marx and Engels had described as “a particular branch of production which determines the position and importance of all others, and the relations of all other branches as well. It is as though light of a particular hue were cast upon everything, tinging all other colours and modifying their specific features; or as if ether determined the specific gravity of everything found in it.”[16]  The history and development of gold mining is inseparable from the history and development of both South African capitalism and the apartheid system.

Huge amounts of capital were needed to develop deep-level mining, yet the price of gold was fixed in financial centres such as London without reference to the cost of its production in South Africa.  The only cost which the mining companies had any real power over was the cost of labour.  The prosperity of gold mining depended on holding down the wages of African miners.  And, as R.W. Johnson has noted:

“The world gold market and thus, in part, the world’s monetary system rest on the African miners, for it is they who dig the gold, as also the coal to provide electricity for the gold mines. They are the unsung (and poorly paid) heroes of every Anglo-American report, every De Beer balance sheet; it is the fruit of their labours which have, over the years, filled the vaults of Fort Knox, brought horses for the Oppenheimer family, endowed Rhodes scholarships, and provided Elizabeth Taylor with her jewellery.”[17]

In order to keep workers’ wages as low as possible, control was required over all aspects of their lives.  It was this necessity that drove the construction and maintenance of the apartheid regime.  Firstly, South African capitalism needed to create the conditions so that African labour was available for exploitation and secondly that the labour available was as degraded as possible in order to make gold-mining profitable.  The key role in creating these two conditions, necessary for capital accumulation to begin on any serious scale, was played by the South African state.

The process of ‘primitive accumulation of capital’ in South Africa, as everywhere else, meant separating people from the means by which they could make or otherwise secure the basics of life.[18]  Thus a series of laws removed blacks from the land – the 1894 Glen Grey Act, and the 1913 and 1936 Land Acts, for instance.  As Alf Stadler has noted, “political structures (were) established to coerce an industrial labour force into existence.”[19]  The African peasantry was destroyed and forced into wage labour.  Not only were blacks brutally oppressed, but between 1903-1920, around 5000 a year died on the Transvaal mines.

Moreover, through separating black women and children from their men, the cost of labour-power could be reduced to a bare minimum.  Black male workers’ wages did not have to cover the costs of their families as men’s labour-power did in countries like New Zealand – covering mortgages, food, clothing and education for family members, cars, outings and other basic necessities for people’s well-being.  In the West certain levels of existence are necessary to maintain labour-power in a healthy state for exploitation and in order to provide social stability.[20]

In South Africa, however, stability increasingly depended on the repressive power of the state, rather than the inclusion of the working class in an overall political consensus across society.[21]  Since black labour was plentiful, the capitalists and their friends in government also did not need to  be overly concerned about the physical well-being of black men.  They were crowded together in ‘hostels’, living off scraps and working in conditions unfit for animals much of the time.  The survival of black families, meanwhile, depended on the women and children eking out a miserable existence in the ‘homelands’.  And, in the case of black women employed in white homes, their ‘masters’ and ‘mistresses’ often did not wish them to have families.

As well as ensuring the dispossession of blacks and the creation of wage labour, the state took on the task of regulating and helping structure and finance economic development for capital and rigorously maintaining control of labour.  Financed by gold profits, the state was the key force in steel, electrical power, petrol-from-coal, and armaments.  It also organised the allocation of labour between different sectors of the economy.

World War 2 provided a substantial stimulus to manufacturing and in the following years it developed rapidly, outstripping gold mining as the leading sector of the economy.  Mining companies set up finance companies and invested heavily in manufacturing.  The state moved to control the new urban black working class and to keep its levels of consumption as low as possible.  The apartheid system was formalised after the Nationalist Party came to power in 1948, with the ‘homeland’ being set up both as a form of social control over blacks and as a way of keeping down consumption levels.  The families of black workers, plus the workers themselves to a certain extent, were forced to provide food and other basic necessities for themselves through production in the homelands.[22]  This is a good example of how capitalism can preserve aspects of a former agricultural mode of production in order to increase the exploitation of certain sectors of society.  Thus they could be paid wages below the actual value of their labour-power, thereby creating more than the ‘normal’ level of surplus-value.

The super-exploitation of the black working class and the tie-up between capital, the state and the NP gave South Africa the second highest economic growth rates in the world in the 1950s and 1960s.  In the 1960s the economy grew at an average rate of five percent.

But South Africa was hit heavily by the return of international slump conditions in the 1970s, growth rates falling to 3 percent.  Falling profitability in key economic sectors[23] coincided with the upsurge of black discontent and a long period of political and socio-economic upheaval from Soweto in 1976 onwards.  Although the regime managed to beat down resistance they could not re-establish the pre-Soweto status quo.

The massive growth and burgeoning militancy of the industrial black working class, created by apartheid capitalism, continuously destabilised the country.  The way in which the state and capital, apartheid and capitalism, were so closely bound up together also meant that economic struggles tended to take on a political character and political struggles tended to take on an economic aspect.  Thus the whole system tended to be threatened much more than in western capitalist democracies where the economic and political spheres are more formally separated.

The profitability crisis was worsened by sanctions and South Africa’s international pariah status.  Additionally, the cost of maintaining the military and constantly attacking neighbouring countries was a substantial drain on surplus-value.  By the 1980s growth rates were down to only 2 percent and would have been lower apart from the gold boom windfall of 1981-82.  By the end of the decade South Africa was in the longest recession in its recorded history, with gross domestic product (GDP, the money value of all the goods and services produced in the economy in a year) falling by 0.5 percent in 1990, 0.4 percent in 1991 and 2.1 percent in 1992.  Measured at constant 1990 prices, GDP in 1993 was slightly below 1986 and about the same as 1981.[24]

Falling profitability, social unrest and sanctions contributed to substantial outflows of capital.  Between 1985-March 1994, the cumulative net outflow of capital was around 49 billion rand.[25]  Additionally, the external debt was also rising, a process which has continued following the ANC ascension to power.[26]

Gross domestic fixed investment – capital invested in the machinery and technology essential for economic expansion – was also falling in the early 1990s.  In fact, measured at 1990 prices, the total gross domestic fixed investment – covering government, private business and public corporations – had fallen from 68.95 billion rand in 1981 to 45.56 billion rand in 1993, a decline of about 35 percent![27]

Private investment, in real terms, dropped absolutely each year from 1989-1992 and fell as a percentage of GDP from 13.3 in 1988 to 11.4 in 1992.[28]  The country’s Central Statistical Services’ measure for capacity utilisation in manufacturing showed a fall of 7.9 percent from 1989-1992.[29]  The World Bank noted in its 1994 discussion paper on South Africa that, “private sector confidence as estimated by the South African Chamber of Business (SACOB) and the Bureau of Economic Research was severely eroded over recent years.”[30]

By 1992/93, the budget deficit had reached 26.1 percent as a proportion of the budget – ie the government was spending more than a quarter more than it had budgeted for – and 8.3 percent as a proportion of GDP.[31]  While the government’s ‘rationalisation’ programmes limited particularly sharp increases in government expenditure, the realities of maintaining apartheid capitalism – including a substantial military burden made no easier by the inability of the South African Defence Forces to make headway against the combined Angolan government/Cuban defence of that country –  meant that the growth in real government expenditure continued to exceed that of real total output.  As a proportion of GDP, government expenditure increased dramatically – from 13.5 percent in 1980, to 20.5 percent in 1993.  The South African Reserve Bank warned that this could not continue.[32]

The upshot of these combined circumstances was that the more far-sighted sections of capital saw the need for sweeping structural reforms and modernisation of the economy and society.  As Hein Marais has put it:

“The political restructuring of South African society served as a formative aspect of broader attempts to revise an economic growth strategy that had become steadily derailed since the 1970s – a dimension overlooked in overly politicized analyses of the transition.”

He points to the goal of the ruling class in this situation:

“South African capitalists hope that political democratization will serve as a grounding for structural adjustments that could inaugurate a new cycle of sustained accumulation, a process that would include efforts to cultivate and incorporate a black economic elite as junior partners within the white-run economy.”[33]

In fact one of the more far-sighted business figures, Harry Oppenheimer of the country’s largest corporation, Anglo American, had noted back in 1971 the fact that the old political  framework for capital accumulation had reached its limit.  According to Oppenheimer:

“(W)e are approaching the stage where the full potential of the economy, as it is at present organized, will have been realized, so that if structural changes are not made, we will have to content ourselves with a much lower rate of growth.”

He argued that in order for capital accumulation to proceed further education and technical training would have to be given to blacks and that this would mean lifting the prohibitions which prevented them from playing a full part in society.[34]  By the late 1980s/early 1990s this was clear to most of the ruling class.

The South Africans had pulled back from their Angolan intervention, and seen that Namibia could be granted political independence, without the area – and South Africa itself – being destabilised.  Additionally, some elements of South African capital had been doing business with the post-colonial black governments in Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe and knew that business could be done with the ANC.

Business leaders also knew from, among other things, private discussions they held with ANC leaders in the 1980s and early 1990s, that the liberation movement had little desire to upset capitalist social relations.  Indeed, this was obvious to anyone with any knowledge of the ANC’s own evolution.

ANC politics

The ANC began as a lobby group organised by a chiefly elite in 1912.  They stressed Christian values and relied on petitions to the British government to seek justice. After WWI, ANC leaders were used by mining houses and financiers to attack communism and get black workers to halt strikes.  In the late 1940s and early 1950s it took up organising on a more mass scale as the implementation of formal apartheid, with the ascension of the National Party to power, had rendered lobbying obsolete.  This period coincided with the large-scale proletarianisation of blacks, a process which threw up a new generation of militant activists.

Around this time the ardently Stalinist SACP began to get heavily involved in establishing a number of Congress groups, such as the Congress of Democrats, organising white and Indian opponents of apartheid and building up connections with the ANC.  When the SACP was banned in the early 1950s it found a method of organising in and through the ANC.  Meanwhile, the SACP’s leadership of a number of small trade unions allowed the ANC a route into some sections of the working class.

When the ANC itself was driven underground in the early 1960s, it adopted a more left-wing rhetoric.

The absorption of militant youth after Soweto (1976) increased both its prestige and militant rhetoric.  At the same time, the leading role played in the ANC by the pro-Soviet SACP ensured both the movement’s moderation and Soviet backing.

Yet in his famous statement to the court during his trial in 1964, Nelson Mandela made it absolutely clear that neither he nor the ANC was socialist. Marxists, he rightly pointed out, “sought to emphasise class distinctions. . . the ANC seeks to harmonise them.”[35]  The institutions of British capitalism were his model.  “I have great respect for British political institutions, and for the country’s system of justice,” he declared.  “I regard the British Parliament as the most democratic institution in the world, and the independence and impartiality of its judiciary never fail to arouse my admiration.”[36]

That British imperialist institutions which helped organise the robbery and plunder of people in every corner of the globe, and the oppression and exploitation of workers in Britain itself, should be so admired by Mandela is a sign of the limited horizons of the ANC leadership.  Of the Freedom Charter, Mandela rightly noted, “It is by no means a blueprint for a socialist state.”[37]  These limited horizons were not an attempt to beat the charges Mandela and his co-accused faced, but a truthful presentation of ANC policies.


The calls in the Freedom Charter “for nationalisation of mines, banks and monopoly industry” were not viewed as part of an anti-capitalist programme but were

“because big monopolies are owned by one race only. . . in this respect the ANC’s policy corresponds with the old policy of the present Nationalist Party which, for many years, had as part of its programme the nationalisation of the gold mines which, at that time, were controlled by foreign capital.”[38]

In 1964 Mandela supported economic policies originally advanced by the Nationalist Party architects of apartheid in relation to nationalisation; thirty years later, when he became president, the old NP programme was too radical and he adopted the new Nationalist Party programme, a sort of Rogernomics for South Africa. These policies have nothing to do with the emancipation of the majority of blacks in South Africa but instead are implemented to preserve capitalism.

In power the ANC has abandoned even the limited radicalism of the Freedom Charter.  In fact, the sheer repressiveness of the apartheid regime made what was always a very moderate reform movement seem more radical than it ever was.

The move to reform

The Western powers backed apartheid South Africa as it was a source of great profits for Western corporations and because it acted as a bulwark against radical national liberation movements throughout southern Africa.

The collapse of Stalinism in the Soviet bloc, the demise of the old ideology of the SACP and the beginning of the shift of ANC and SACP philosophy towards acceptance of market economics made it possible for the internal opposition, primarily the ANC and SACP, to be brought in from the cold.  They were now the instruments for carrying out the necessary political changes while ensuring that the whole edifice of South African capitalism was not shattered.

In fact, the ANC, with its new market politics and its mass support among the working masses, was the best option for implementing capitalist restructuring. Everyone agreed the interests of capital could best be served by a moderate black regime.  Such a government could contain and co-opt working class discontent far more effectively than the increasingly shaky and internationally discredited apartheid regime.  Not surprisingly, a December 1993 survey of 100 top business leaders in the Johannesburg Weekly Mail and Guardian showed that 68 of them backed Mandela as their first choice for president.

Establishing a new framework for capital

After the high growth rates of the 1950s and 1960s, South Africa had fallen to where, in the mid-1990s, it was ranked only forty-second out of 48 countries in the influential World Competitiveness Report.[39]  As the 1994 World Bank discussion paper put it:

“Growth in total factor productivity (TPF) in the economy as a whole declined markedly in the early 1970s, and became negative during the 1970s and early 1980s. . .  Productivity growth has been unimpressive.  Over the past three decades, total factor productivity has grown on average at only 0.4 percent per year.  Although TFP growth was reasonably rapid during the 1960s, it declined during the 1970s and early 1980s, and recovered only modestly during 1986-91.  Overall, there has been no improvement in TFP since 1970; this picture becomes even grimmer if government services are excluded.”[40]

The capital-intensive nature of white agriculture and, increasingly, of mining and manufacturing meant that growth was giving way to decay as falling profit rates set in.  While the growth of capital stock in mining in the 1960s boosted productivity by the 1970s this trend was slowing.  Capital stock continued to grow rapidly – at around 6.6 percent a year between 1970-1980, but output declined one percent a year.  The output-capital ratio declined 7.6 percent a year, while the TFP declined by 5.8 percent annually.[41]

In manufacturing capital stock growth in the 1960s produced a rapid increase in labour productivity.  From 1971-1991, however, growth of capital stock by four percent per year combined with much lower employment and output growth.[42]  Even an apparent rise in ‘capital productivity’ in the early 1990s was, as a paper presented to a 1993 high-powered international conference on the South African economy noted, “due to a fall in the absolute value of capital stock rather than to a rise in the productivity of new investments.”[43]

In fact, because less labour-power (the source of surplus value) was being exploited by a growing amount of capital, profitability fell, although this insight is well beyond the World Bank.  The Bank’s discussion paper did realise, however, that “(t)he increasing obstacles to growth in South Africa will have to be removed if growth is to be renewed.”[44]

In the aftermath of the end of formal apartheid and the extension of elementary rights such as the vote, the South African ruling class has to ensure that the working class is reined in and does not start getting ideas about economic rights and further political advance.  The volatile situation which preceded the democratic reforms had to be brought to an end and measures taken to boost profitability.  This is particularly so, given the rather parlous state of South African capitalism.  The government is virtually broke, medium-sized capitalists are finding it difficult to keep afloat and even the big companies know that they can be thrown into crisis by volatile international financial markets.

The ruling class needs to minimise government spending and other deductions from surplus-value and maximise exploitation to increase the rate of profit.  The ANC and SACP regime has to lower workers’ expectations and reconcile them to the realities of the capitalist market.  The ANC and SACP are still looked to for leadership by the mass of blacks and therefore are far more useful in reconciling them to continuing exploitation and oppression than the old party of apartheid, the Nationalist Party.

Austerity programmes are generally easier to carry through when implemented by parties which workers support – as was demonstratively shown in New Zealand during the ‘Rogernomics’ era.  Thus the ANC and SACP are instrumental in developing the policies needed by South African capital today.  Nelson Mandela has got his mansion and huge presidential salary, and other ANC leaders are busy getting their hands on the goodies as well, but life for the black masses will remain based on mass unemployment, subsistence wages, appalling housing and social conditions, and the full force of the state if they attempt to organise for something better.

The ANC leaders have taken to running South African capitalism like ducks to water.  The September 18, 1994 International Herald Tribune, one of the capitalist papers which appreciates the ANC, enthused about Mandela’s speech to parliament at that time, saying he “lashed out. . . at anarchy, corruption, crime, rent boycotts, illegal squatting and illegal strikes. . . (he) made just one fleeting reference to building homes for the 25 percent of the black population that lacks formal housing. . .  gave equally short shrift to education, health care and clean water. . .  He spent much more time. . . lecturing blacks who have not given up behaviour that often won them glory during the anti apartheid struggle. . .  The speech brought into sharp relief the extent to which Mr Mandela’s government. . . has accepted the prescriptions of bond markets and international lending agencies.”

As the South African masses sought to press their demands for a better life, after decades of the horrors of the most extreme racial and class oppression, the ANC leaders committed themselves ever more fully to the interests of capital.  “New, No Nonsense Mandela a Boost for Business” declared a front-page headline in Cape Town’s Weekend Star of March 11-12, 1995.   The paper noted:

“After ten months in power, President Mandela is showing a steely side that analysts believe will reinforce the country’s post-apartheid economy. . . His tough new line is long overdue and very correct. . . Trade unionists, policemen, soldiers, protesting schoolchildren and striking civil servants have felt the lash of his tongue in stern warnings against anarchy and vandalism. . .   On Thursday Mandela told businessmen in Johannesburg that his patience was being seen as a weakness by workers and students trying to press unreasonable demands.  “I have closed that chapter.  I have begged them.  Now they must beg me,” he said.  On Wednesday, Mandela warned during a whipcracking tour of unruly black schools around Cape Town that he would no longer tolerate classroom strikes and demonstrations. “I just want to warn you that my patience is getting exhausted.  I am prepared to come down on anybody who takes advantage to drag this country into anarchy.”

The new anti-labour laws, for instance, are the creation of the ANC and SACP in conjunction with big business and the new labour bureaucracy.  Passed in September 1995, the new Labour Relations Act came into operation in 1996. In May that year Mandela declared after a state visit to Germany, “privatisation is the fundamental policy of the ANC and it is going to be implemented” and that the government had “(t)he responsibility for creating an investor and trade-friendly environment.”  Deputy Finance Minister Gill Marcus of the ANC told the National Assembly the same month that class conflict was bad, since it got in the way of “the critical economic imperatives of the moment, including the creation of an investor-friendly environment.”  The labour laws are designed to create just such an environment.

As South African labour law expert Carole Cooper has noted in the South African Labour Bulletin, the procedural requirements to conduct a strike legally now are actually similar to those under apartheid.[45]  The dispute must go before an industry council or the state’s arbitration body and no strike can take place for at least 30 days.  This is also quite similar to the compulsory arbitration system which came into force in New Zealand a century ago and which the Red Feds described as ‘labour’s leg-iron’.  Moreover, even a voluntary overtime ban is deemed to be a strike.

The situation is worse again for ‘non-legal’ strikes.  If workers even apply an overtime ban without following the procedures laid down in the LRA they will not legally be protected from dismissal.  Workers also cannot strike where the issue in dispute is regulated by an arbitration award, collective agreement, Wage Act determination in its first year of operation or a binding rule by a statutory bargaining council agreement.  In ‘unprotected’ strikes workers can be ordered back to work, or fined, by the courts.  Strikes in support of ‘unprotected’ strikes are unlawful.  Workers engaged in ‘essential’ and maintenance services are banned from striking and participation in socio-economic protests.  Employers can legally use scab labour during strikes.

It is no wonder that, as the Economist Intelligence Unit put it, Labour Minister Tito Mboweni has won “the respect of the business community for his handling of the labour portfolio, and for his commitment to sound fiscal management.”[46]  In fact this is true of the whole regime.  As the Unit has also noted, before the 1994  election, “the ANC shifted its economic policy towards a more open conservatism, and its leaders have gone to great lengths to reassure international financial institutions and businesses of the party’s commitment to capitalist economic policies.”[47]

In November 1997, the government passed the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, partly to offset alienation caused by the new labour relations laws.  The BCEA was designed to mollify the trade unions.  But it offers very little to workers.  For instance, it bans children under fifteen from working.  But what use is this when many black households simply cannot survive on the earnings of adults?  It also involves some small changes in work conditions, such as reducing the workweek by one hour – from 46 to 45! – in some sectors and extending maternity leave from three months to four.  But the prime role of the Act, as the SALB notes, is to “create an environment for greater labour market efficiency.”[48]

The South African ruling class and Western imperialist governments have good reason to be pleased with Mandela and the ANC.  The social and economic system guaranteeing the exploitation and oppression of the vast majority of South Africans has been preserved.  A revolution has been averted.  The black masses, who were becoming the major political force in South African politics, have been driven out of the political arena altogether.  The black struggle for liberation has been destroyed and buried.

At the same time, as John Davies noted in a 1993 article, an important part of capital’s reform strategy has involved formal de-racialising initiatives.  These included proposals to remove statutory restrictions on labour mobility, to legally recognise black trade unions and, above all, to accentuate social differentiations within the black population.  Especially important as a policy aim was the creation of a black middle class “which would hopefully be supportive of free enterprise and a testament to its inherent promise.”[49]  This is the layer whose interests are most directly represented by the ANC.  It is to their advancement, rather than the liberation of the great mass of the population, that the ANC is committed.

The key to ANC policy is that it opens up the way for people in this layer to gain access to capital of sufficient scope to convert themselves into large-scale capitalists.  Attracting foreign capital – from North America, Europe and Japan – is an important part of this project, as sections of white South African capitalists are still slow to open up their cashboxes to black entrepreneurs.  Joint ventures between foreign capital and black entrepreneurs also hold out the vista of gaining substantial access to raw materials in other parts of Africa.  The state, in the hands of the ANC, is the main medium used to put these ventures together and to organise the access of black businesspeople to domestic as well as foreign capital.

This course requires defeating and demoralising any remaining militant sections of the former liberation movement.  The government has abandoned even the modest (and pro-capitalist) Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) which was announced at the end of 1994.  The RDP contained some commitments to improving black housing and job-creation.  But in March 1996 the special government office supervising the RDP, headed by former COSATU leader and subsequently minister without portfolio Jay Naidoo, was shut down.[50]  In June 1996 a new programme called Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) was launched.  It rejected even the introduction of a national minimum wage and sees growth and employment as the natural follow-on of more market-oriented policies.

The extent to which the South African ruling class and their new friends in the ANC-SACP leadership have succeeding in driving the masses out of politics is quite impressive.  A good indication of it is to be found in the pages of the South African Labour Bulletin, a formerly oppositionist publication of anti-capitalist trade union militants and radical academics. The Bulletin now markets itself as being read by industrial relations managers and business leaders as well as the newly-spawned trade union bureaucracy.  It carries articles sponsored by the National Productivity Institute, a quango set up by the apartheid regime’s old Productivity Advisory Council.

A product of corporatism, the NPI aims “to create productivity awareness among all participants in the economy”[51] and has all the language for the job in the context of the ‘new’ South Africa.  For instance, it sees its drive for greater productivity – in effect, greater rates of exploitation – as requiring the support of the major ‘stake-holders’ – employers, unions, the government and academia.  Thus, as in the rhetoric of Tony Blair’s new model Labour Party in Britain, antagonistic social classes whose interests are mutually exclusive are now referred to as ‘stake-holders’ with common interests.

A prominent ideologist of this line is Brendan Martin, a leading figure with the National Labour and Economic Development Institute which, amongst other things, advises the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) on how to integrate itself into the ‘restructuring’ of state enterprises.  Martin argues, “Fighting for a more democratic and integrative approach to corporate governance, so that employees and other stakeholders are fully and fairly involved at all levels, may be as significant in securing the public interest in the globalised economy as fighting for state provision was when the nation was a more significant economic territory.”[52]

So now globalisation, which is really an attempt to overcome the barriers to capital accumulation thrown up by capitalist production itself,[53] is said to be replacing the national economy and state provision of basic services which is held to be outmoded.  This line is then used to tell workers and the poverty-stricken generally that they should not be so old-fashioned as to expect decent and free health, education and other services necessary to any real quality of life. Globalisation is touted as the new reality that workers now have to get used to.

‘Concertation’ makes you go blind

As the Bulletin notes, apparently oblivious to its own role in the process, “South Africa has one of the most institutionalised forms of concertation (or corporatism) in the world.”[54]  And the effect of all this ‘concertation’?  In an increasingly rare lucid moment, the Bulletin informs us, “a substantial amount of workplace restructuring has taken place, mainly of the ‘downsizing’ and ‘re-engineering’ varieties.”[55]  In fact, ‘concertation’ has been necessitated by the high level of militancy and political awareness which characterised the black working class through the 1980s and early 1990s.  In this context you can’t simply lay workers off or make them work harder; you have to draw them into workplace arrangements in which they take part in organising their own exploitation and oppression.  ‘Concertation’ is a crucial method for blinding the workers to their own, separate class interests and tying them into structures which serve the interests of capital.

Above all it is crucial for reviving the dynamism of capital accumulation in South Africa.  This was summed up well, by Joffe et al,  at the 1993 economic conference referred to earlier:

“Unless the key actors are involved in the identification of this strategy and are committed to its implementation, little can be expected. . .  This process of strategic formulation and implementation is clearly highly contextual. . .

“However critical the participation of organised labour may be in this process, it is clearly essential that the managers of capital should also be involved in this common challenge of confronting South Africa’s economic crisis.

“The lesson of international experience in this regard is that management and labour clearly have to develop a common agenda focussed on industrial restructuring and improvement.  To a considerable extent this collaboration can take place autonomously, sometimes at the plant level, sometimes at the firm level, and sometimes at the industry level.  But it is also important that the state play a key role in defining an appropriate incentive structure, in facilitating the growth of national, sectoral, regional and firm-level capabilities, and in promoting the development of an effective institutional infrastructure. . .

“What is required is to identify a structured forum in which these strategic discussions can be pursued across the spectrum of industrial activity without at the same time becoming swamped in a wider agenda of class conflict.”[56]

At the same time these processes have become a virtual gold-mine for liberals, Stalinists and social democrats who have taken up places as counsellors, mediators, arbitrators, consultants and members of the panoply of quangos through which the interests of capital are being ‘concertated’ upon the working class.

National Framework Agreement

As well as taking place at the workplace level, ‘concertation’ of ‘stakeholders’ is institutionalised at the national level in the new labour laws and the National Framework Agreement (NFA) on the ‘restructuring’ of state assets.

Although the NFA contains the standard prattle of restructuring being geared to meet the needs of all, the most important aspect of it is that the trade unions are tied into a programme dominated by business and the state.  The very fact that the unions have become enmeshed in this process, let alone signed up to the Agreement, means that they are ceasing to act as independent working class organisations and becoming conveyer belts for government and business austerity programmes.  Once the unions are caught in the web, the government and business leaders can afford to make some empty rhetorical gestures to mollify any qualms the union leaders have.  The union bureaucracy can then use this rhetoric to sell the deal to the rank and file.

As the asset sales proceed and thousands of jobs are shed, the NFA clause that restructuring “should not occur at the expense of workers in state enterprises” will be shown to be worthless.  By then, of course, it will be too late.  As in New Zealand, a confused and misled working class will be in no position to successfully resist.

Meanwhile, large numbers of union organisers from the earlier militant period have moved into management or political careers. Former militant black union leader and ANC secretary-general Cyril Ramaphosa, for instance, now heads New Africa Investments Ltd.  The experience of such people as former trade union militants makes them especially valuable business material when it comes to thwarting black workers’ aspirations today.

On the political level, twenty ANC candidates in the 1994 election, for instance, were official nominees of COSATU.  Chunks of the once-militant trade union leadership have thus moved into the state apparatus.   

The role of these figures has been made clear by one of the most prominent, Alec Erwin, a top SACP figure and COSATU’s leading economist who was chosen by the union federation for the ANC ticket.  Now Minister of Trade and Industry, he told the South African Labour Bulletin in a lengthy interview in mid-1996: “I think if there were no MPs or ministers with a labour perspective. . . (w)e would have had quite a lot more clashes- they could have been quite serious. . .”[57]

Given the hegemony exercised over the black working class organisational structures by the SACP and ANC, Erwin’s fears are somewhat overdetermined; but they are understandable given the sweeping nature of the ANC-SACP assault on the working class.  It might also be noted that COSATU, whatever qualms about detail its leaders may have with the regime, is just as committed as the ANC to capitalist social relations.  In the early 1990s, for instance, it, along with the Economic Trends Research Group, initiated the Industrial Strategy Project.  The project spent several years investigating and documenting the competitive status of thirteen of South Africa’s industrial sectors – not in order to assess the possibilities for taking them over, but to look at their competitiveness and their ability to remain competitive whilst providing for “basic needs”.

Since the ANC and SACP leaders are thoroughly committed to the interests of South African capital, it is impossible for them to follow any other course than to attack the interests of the working class.  As well as the corporatist mechanisms for doing this which we have already looked at, two other methods are crucial.

Firstly, dividing the working class.

An ‘aristocracy’ of employed workers?

ANC and SACP leaders and ideologists are concentrating their efforts in the sphere of division by attempting to split employed and unemployed workers.  A prime example of this approach is provided by Nicoli Nattrass and Jeremy Seekings in the South African Labour Bulletin, where they argue that those in work constitute a ‘labour aristocracy’ and that union struggles for higher pay are at the expense of creating jobs for the unemployed.[58]  Of course, the average pay rates for employed black workers are a small fraction of the inflated salaries ANC and SACP chiefs are receiving in the government ministries, not to mention the massive levels of corruption; and they are absolutely minuscule compared to the profits of the companies for which these workers toil.

In reality, this ideological offensive against workers in jobs is simply a way to justify both continuing mass unemployment and the holding down of the wages of the employed, while pitting the two sections of the working class against each other.  The richest 10 percent of South African households earn almost fifty percent of income, while the poorest forty percent of the population earn under ten percent of income.[59]  Additionally, 1993 figures showed over 77 percent of white households had incomes of over 2500 rand per month; 81.5 percent of black households had incomes under 1400 rand per month.[60]  And, more importantly, the big corporations which enriched themselves during the apartheid era and continue to do so, remain unchallenged by the new regime. Indeed, the personnel of the new regime appear to want to join the South African economic elite, rather than abolish it.

Thus they have no answers to the chronic levels of unemployment which afflict the whole working class, but especially black and coloured workers – in 1993, 31.6 percent of black males and 43.9 percent of black women were unemployed, compared with 5.3 percent of white men and 12.9 percent of white women.  Coloured unemployment was 21 percent for men and 26.4 percent for women; among Indians it was 12.5 and 23 percent respectively.[61]  (We might note here that there is much talk in South African government and black business circles of ‘affirmative action’.  This is not at all conceived as a way of overcoming black joblessness but of building up black entrepreneurs through opening up the availability of loans and credit, and getting more blacks into management positions.[62])  In late 1997, overall unemployment was 29.3 percent.[63]

From September 1996 to September 1997, according to Central Statistical Service figures, 40,000 jobs were shed in the public service alone.  In 1997, some 50,000 workers in the mining industry had their jobs taken away.  Thousands more were lost in manufacturing.  Even excluding the large-scale retrenchment of farm labour, 116,000 jobs are currently being shed from the economy each year.[64]  Between 1990-96, 9.1 percent of jobs in manufacturing were wiped out, 21.3 percent of jobs in construction and 27.5 of jobs in mining.  By the end of 1997, employment was at its lowest level in sixteen years.[65]  As ANC supporter and SALB managing editor Deanne Collins noted in early 1998, “A sober assessment must conclude that, for the majority, things are getting worse rather than better.”[66]

The second method for attacking the working class is repression.

Repressive apparatus of the state

In ensuring that black labour remains cheap and obedient, the ANC-SACP regime has at its disposal the apparatus of the old apartheid state.  This apparatus has been preserved almost entirely intact.  The very forces which gunned down blacks at Sharpeville, Soweto and any other time they stepped out of line under apartheid, are now deployed against black workers on strike, occupying buildings, fighting for land reform and other improvements in their conditions.  And Mandela is threatening more repression to come.

The ANC-SACP leaders have been central to the preservation of the repressive apparatus of the apartheid state.  In March 1994, on the 34th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre, Mandela declared, “The majority of the police force is composed of honest and devoted men and women, black and white.  We need them, they need us.”[67]  The ANC-SACP leaders have also been working with the imperialist powers in upgrading the police and ‘security’ forces of post-apartheid South Africa.  Leading British cops have been there to show the new black elite how to apply the sort of “effective policing” they have learned putting down black youth in British inner cities and Irish youth in Derry and Belfast.

At Sunningdale in England, a special South African Police Policy Training Programme was set up.  Among those teaching the South African repressive forces how to pass themselves off as democrats have been Barbara Mills of the Crown Prosecution Service, Sir John Smith (president  of the Association of Chief Police Officers), Commander John Grieve of the (London) Metropolitan Police, Ian Burns of the Home Office and Chris Boothman of the British government quango known as the Commission for Racial Equality.

The course included visits to Scotland Yard, the courts and the Home Office.  Among the visitors to Sunningdale were key members of the initial ANC-NP coalition regime such as then ANC secretary-general Cyril Ramaphosa and Umkhonto we Sizwe chief of staff Siphiwe Nyanda.  Other students of British policing included Jesse Duarte (special assistant to Nelson Mandela) and top South African cops such as Brigadier Sharma Maharaj, one of the most senior non-whites in the force.

The preservation of the old state apparatus – the armed forces, cops, courts, judges, prison system and so on – is a clear sign that no revolution of any sort has taken place in South Africa.  What has happened is a readjustment of the political forms which guarantee the exploitation of black workers.

It might also be noted that one of the few dynamic sections of the South African export sector remains the arms industry.  In fact this is the country’s largest manufacturing exporter, contributing about US$700m to GDP.  As the Economist Intelligence Unit put it:

The industry, which has a world reputation for technological innovation, grew up under apartheid in the face of the international arms embargo, and has been implicated in some dubious deals with unpopular regimes.  It has nevertheless received the blessing of the president, Nelson Mandela, as a source of employment and industrial development.[68]

Was more possible?

In South Africa, the working class is a massive social force, and has revealed its power and potential many times.  The capitalist economy is highly developed and the country has massive wealth and huge developmental potential.  The objective conditions exist in South Africa for a far- reaching social revolution.  Much more was possible than the changing of the prison guards which has taken place as governmental power has shifted from the NP to the ANC and CP.

What has been lacking however is the subjective factor – conscious human agency.  There has been no revolutionary party prepared to lead the struggle against the apartheid regime in the direction of the complete emancipation of the vast majority.

Without such a revolutionary party, committed to the overthrow of the system which requires racism, it is not possible to win even significant reform of socio-economic conditions.  In fact, the way the ANC-SACP have demoralised and demobilised the black masses, and forced them to the margins of political life, ensures that things for the majority of South Africans will get worse rather than better.  The level of despondency which has resulted can be seen at one level in the decline of industrial militancy.  In 1995 the number of working days lost in strikes fell to their lowest level in eight years.[69]  Even the ANC’s radical rival, the Pan Africanist Congress, elected a bishop as leader, as part of shedding its own past image of militancy.  More recently the ANC has been looking at fusing with its old right-wing rival, Inkatha.

Today not even racial equality is really on the agenda for, as John Davies has noted:

“The dismantling of the crude statutory framework of apartheid does not herald the end of racial discrimination because formal political equality for blacks does not guarantee equal treatment.  Since blacks lack property, skills and educational qualifications equity requires redistribution.  Given the pre-eminence of neo-liberal policies which reduce considerations of economic democracy and social justice to a question of equality of opportunity and leaves it to ‘colour-blind’ market forces to determine, then, clearly, the majority of whites will retain their privileged positions. . . the group destined for the greatest advancement under the transition is that collection of notables associated with the ANC government-in-waiting.  This political elite/bureaucratic bourgeoisie will be founded on position rather than property in the first instance but will nonetheless be incorporated into a reconstituted ruling power bloc.”[70]

Excluded bourgeois and would-be bourgeois sectors have continuously used control of the state to shift economic power into their own hands.  This is the story of capitalist classes throughout Asia, Latin America and Africa. Political power was also the means by which the Afrikaner bourgeoisie got hold of capital which had previously been dominated by the English section of the South African ruling class.[71]  Today the ANC leaders and their friends are using the state in a similar way.

The destruction of the militant and inspiring struggle for liberation in South Africa reinforces the lesson for anyone serious about fighting racism: it is an endemic part of modern capitalism and cannot be fought on any consistent and thorough-going basis without anti-capitalist politics.  These politics do not – and cannot – develop spontaneously out of struggle, however militant.  Anti-capitalist politics can only be forged through the application of Marxist theory – this alone can penetrate the surface forms in and through which capitalist social relations appear, and thereby challenge those relations themselves.

Appendix 1: How international finance capital’s analysts see the main players in South African economic policy
The following is taken from the Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile: South Africa, 1997-98, p19.

Trevor Manuel: The first ANC finance minister, following the resignation of Christo Liebenberg in March 1996, he is fairly conservative on economic policy for all his fearsome rhetoric. He stresses pragmatism and has campaigned hard to attract foreign investment.

Chris Stals: The governor of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has been a key figure of continuity from the pre-election period, having stayed in his post under the new government. Known as a monetary conservative, he has fought to retain a high degree of independence for the SARB. He is to retire in August 1999.

Alec Erwin: The trade and industry minister was a COSATU economist and deputy finance minister under Mr Liebenberg; he has not taken any particularly radical stance so far in spite of his communist roots.

Jay Naidoo: The posts, telecommunications and broadcasting minister had been the minister in charge of the RDP; he successfully handled the first major privatisation project, the partial sale of state telecommunications giant, Telkom, to Telekom Malaysia and US-based SBC Communications.

Gill Marcus: The deputy finance minister had been chair of parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Finance; she has a formidable reputation as a financial disciplinarian and is one of the main powers behind Mr Manuel.

Stella Sigcau: The public enterprises minister is a Xhosa princess and former prime minister of Transkei homeland; she has the sensitive job of implementing much of the government’s privatisation strategy. Not an ANC insider, she is widely seen as a government sop to black traditionalists.

Tito Mboweni: The labour minister is responsible for securing consensus on, and successful passage of, the basic conditions of the employment bill. He has been firm in confrontations with COSATU.  (Mboweni shortly afterwards became governor of the Reserve Bank.)

Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU): The most powerful labour grouping, with a membership of 1.9m, had some of its sting drawn when a number of key leaders went into government on the ANC ticket, but there have been clashes over a variety of issues. Now led by Sam Shilowa.

South African Chamber of Business (SACOB): The main employers’ group has pushed for policy changes to encourage economic growth. Certain leading business figures held secret meetings outside South Africa with the ANC before it was unbanned.

Major mining and industrial companies: Given the enormous concentration of economic power in the mining, energy and industrial sectors, leading figures in major companies such as Anglo American Corporation have significant influence over policy decisions. They recently testified at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on business’s lack of blame for apartheid crimes.


[1] The rand has been depreciating rapidly in recent years.  In 1992 one US dollar equalled R2.85, by 1996 it was R4.3.  By the end of 1997 the rand had fallen to R4.87 to the US dollar.  The fall in the rand adds considerably to the country’s balance of payments problems.
See, for example, Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: South Africa, 1st Quarter 1997, p6.
Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: South Africa, 2nd Quarter, 1997, p14.
Ibid, p15.
For a discussion on productive and unproductive labour, see Grant Cronin, “Productive and unproductive labour”, revolution 6, May/June 1998, pp10-11.  For Marx’s work on the subject see, for example, Theories of Surplus Value.
Of the money the government received (about $US1.26bn), it ploughed about 80 percent back into Telkom development, effectively providing a massive handout to the consortium.
The most significant is the late 1997 merging of the South African and West African gold assets of Gold Fields of South Africa and Gencor into a new R12bn (US$2.47bn) gold company, Gold Fields.  Around the same time Anglo, the world’s biggest gold producer, combined all its gold operations into a massive new R17bn entity, Anglogold.
Jonathan Michie, “Developing the Institutional Framework: Employment and Labour Market Policies”, in Jonathan Michie and Vishnu Padayachee, The Political Economy of South Africa’s Transition, London, The Dryden Press, 1997, p156.
Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: South Africa, 1st Quarter, 1998, p21.
Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: South Africa, 4th Quarter, 1997, p21.  These boards were actually part of an earlier attempt by South African capital, via the state, to modernise and improve agriculture as cheaply as possible after the 1930s Depression.
Michie, op cit, p159.  In fact much more than “some” of it has been accepted.
Mbeki took over as ANC leader from Mandela at the organisation’s December 1997 conference.  Mandela will retire as South African president in 1999.
Bernard Magubane, The Political Economy of Race and Class in South Africa, New York, Monthly Review Press, c1990, p35.  It was not so much “British settlers”, however, as emerging South African capital itself which required this.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology, p146.
R.W. Johnson, How Long Will South Africa Survive?, London, Macmillan, 1983, p183.
For a general discussion of ‘primitive accumulation’ see Karl Marx, Capital vol 1, especially part 8 (chapters 26-33).
Alf Stadler, The Political Economy of Modern South Africa, New York, St Martin’s Press, 1987, p34.
These levels are mediated, of course, by the class struggle.
In countries like New Zealand this consensus is achieved through the state and the electoral system.  Organisations which ‘represent’ the working class negotiate on their behalf with capital within the framework of capitalist social relations.  Since capital itself required the welfare state – a fact we have pointed to before – it was relatively easy to incorporate the working class within this framework.  More recently the post-WW2 consensus has broken down – see for instance RM1.
When black labour was first deployed in mining, mine workers’ contracts covered a year, which included nine months work in the mines themselves and three months of ‘rest’ during which they returned to the land to provide their own subsistence.  In the Witwatersrand mines, black wages actually fell between 1910-1942 and did not increase in real terms from 1910-1973.  See Stadler, op cit, p
For a basic account of the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, see Philip Ferguson, “Falling Profitability” in the restatement section of revolution 6, March/April 1998.  For Marx’s work on the subject see Capital vol 3, part 3 (chapters 13-15).
South African Reserve Bank (SARB), South Africa’s National Accounts 1946-1993, Supplement to the South African Reserve Bank Quarterly Bulletin, June 1994.
SARB, Quarterly Bulletin, March 1994.
Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: South Africa, 1st Quarter 1997,
SARB, Supplement to the South African Reserve Bank Quarterly Bulletin, June 1994.
Peter Fallon and Luiz A. Pereira de Silva, South Africa, Economic Performance and Policies, World Bank South Africa Department Discussion Paper 7, Washington DC, World Bank, 1994, p34.
Department of Finance, Budget Review, June 1994.
SARB, annual economic report, 1994.
Hein Marais, South Africa, Limits to Change: the political economy of transition, Rondebosch (South Africa), UCT Press and London, Zed Books, 1998, p5.  Emphasis added.  Unfortunately, Marais goes on to see sections of employed workers as beneficiaries of neo-liberal reform, succumbing to the increasingly common idiocy that anyone with a half-decent job is a labour aristocrat.  Such a view reflects the low horizons of our times, rather than an historical materialist analysis of the ‘labour aristocracy’.
Cited in Stephen Gelb (ed) South Africa’s Economic Crisis, Cape Town, David Philip and London, Zed Books, 1991, pp19-20.
See his autobiography, The Struggle is my Life, International Defence and Aid Fund edition, London, 1978, p168.
Ibid, p170.
Ibid, p167.
Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: South Africa, 1st Quarter, 1996, p16.
Fallon and Pereira de Silva, op cit, p35.
Ibid, p36.
Avril Joffe, David Kaplan, Raphael Kaplinksy and David Lewis, “Meeting the Global Challenge: A framework for Industrial Revival in South Africa”, in Pauline E. Baker, Alex Boraine and Warren Krafchik (eds), South Africa and the World Economy in the 1990s, Claremont, South Africa, David Philip Publishers and Washington DC, The Brookings Institution in association with The Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (Idasa) and The Aspen Institute, 1993, p91.  The conference was organised by  Idasa and the Aspen Institute and took place in South Africa in 1993.  “The foreign participants included academics, policy advisers, business people and former government officials with knowledge and experience of African, Asian and Latin American countries.  South African participants were drawn from academia, the private sector, trade unions, political parties, the civil service and the Reserve Bank.  The observers comprised ambassadors and other embassy officials, local and foreign journalists, and overseas representatives of the private sector and academic institutions” (Preface, pix).  Like the last Labour government in New Zealand, the ANC now draws on these kinds of ‘experts’ for economic guidance and policy-making.
Fallon and Pereira de Silva, op cit, p35.
See Carole Cooper, “Strikes and Lockout in the new LRA”, SALB 20:1, February 1996, pp81-85.
Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: South Africa, 1st Quarter 1997, p10.  Mboweni has since departed his Labour portfolio and become governor of the Reserve Bank.
Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile: South Africa, 1997-98, p10.
SALB 22:2, April 1998, p70.
John Davies, “Conflict and Change in South Africa, part one”, NZ Monthly Review 339, May/June 1993, p17.
Naidoo is now minister of posts, tele-communications and broadcasting.
SALB 20:1, February 1996, p52.
See Brendan Martin, “Privatisation: rethinking union strategy”, SALB 20:2, April 1996, pp10-17.
See, for example, Philip Ferguson, “Globalisation Demythstified”, revolution 5, March/April 1998.
SALB 20:1, February 1996, p14.
Joffe et al, op cit, pp124-5.  Of course it is not that the managers of capital “should also be involved”, but that the interests of capital are leading the process, and that for it to succeed the trade unions “should also be involved”.  The role of the trade unions is to manage the working class and deliver quiescent labour-power to the employers in exchange for which the trade union officialdom gets a place as dinner guests at the top-table of South African society.
See “Engaging with the global economy: interview with Alec Erwin”, SALB 20:3, June 1996, pp18-27.
See Nicoli Nattrass and Jeremy Seekings, “The Challenge Ahead: unemployment and inequality in South Africa”, SALB 20:1, February 1996, pp66-72.
See World Bank, World Development Report, 1997.
All Media and Products Survey, AMPS 1993, September 1994.
Central Statistical Service, October Household Survey, Statistical release PO317, May 23, 1994.
Of course, this is what affirmative action on race and gender is all about anyway; but in South Africa it is perhaps even more obvious than elsewhere that affirmative action is not directed at providing work for blacks and women at the bottom of the socio-economic system but creating a middle tier of blacks and women as a buffer zone.
Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: South Africa, 4th Quarter, 1997, p17.
SALB 22:2, April 1998, p14.
Ibid, p18.
Ibid, p3 (editorial).
Cited from John Pearson, “Dixon of Soweto”, Living Marxism 67, May 1994, pp13-15.
Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile: South Africa 1997-98, p34.
Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: South Africa, 1st Quarter 1996, p15.  The days lost increased dramatically the following year, but remained well below 1994 and 1992.  See South African Reserve Bank, Quarterly Bulletin for respective years.
John Davies, “Conflict and Change in South Africa, part two”, NZ Monthly Review 340, September/October 1993, p14.
For a discussion of Afrikaner capital’s development, and also its merging with ‘English’ South African capital, see, for instance, Ben Fine and Zavareh Rustomjee, The Political Economy of South Africa, London, C. Hurst and Co, 1996, especially chapter 7.

  1. […] for years but just never got round to it until a few days ago.  It’s up on the Redline blog, here.  It looks at the evolution of the ANC in the context of the requirements of South African capital […]