NKENKE KEKANA: The real policy orientation of the liberation movement
A response to the vulgar Marxism and the distortions of ANC economic policy used by ‘RET forces’ in public discourse
It is not a new phenomenon in the ANC for individuals to work within party structures while seeking to undermine policies of the organisation for narrow political interests. Like the Marxist Workers Tendency (MWT) before it, radical economic transformation (RET) is an opportunistic tendency that seeks to distort ANC economic policy. While members of the MWT were Trotskyists, it is not clear what the RET faction stands for apart from its members preaching revolutionary-sounding words that often lack ideological clarity.
It is not just semantics – there is a difference between radical socioeconomic transformation and radical economic transformation.
Economic transformation without factoring in socioeconomic issues like culture, education, unemployment, corruption and discrimination is reactionary and seeks to narrow transformation to a simple question of economics.
The ANC is not only concerned about changing the structure of the SA economy; it is not just about production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, without considering the socioeconomic factors and the impact of that change on society.
The ANC is not about replacing white capitalists with black capitalists. The ANC is a disciplined force of the Left, with a bias towards the poor and the working class. The alliance with the SACP and labour federation Cosatu is based on a shared vision of attaining a united, nonracial, nonsexist and prosperous SA.
The radical transformation of the SA economy must benefit the people as a whole and specifically address the triple challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment. Political emancipation must be translated into the economic wellbeing of our people as a whole.
The following are extracts from the 2017 ANC conference resolution on economic transformation:
- “Current factors such as persistent low levels of economic growth, rising national debt, some weaknesses of state-owned companies, low levels of business and consumer confidence, low investment levels, credit rating downgrades, policy inconsistencies and public and private sector corruption have limited the ANC-led government’s ability to drive socioeconomic transformation and address SA’s triple challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment.”
- “[Reaffirming] the ANC’s adoption in Mangaung of the National Development Plan (NDP) as our guiding programme for accelerated and radical socioeconomic transformation in SA, with the aim of achieving shared prosperity for all the people.”
- “Within the context of radical socioeconomic transformation, the ANC’s strategic relationship with private capital is one of co-operation and contestation. This requires, among others, that the state must actively seek partnerships with the private sector and provide leadership to guide the country towards its developmental goals.”
The key objective of ANC economic policy is better captured in the 1994 RDP document: “No political democracy can survive and flourish if the majority of its people remains in poverty, without land, without their basic needs being met and without tangible prospects for a better life. Attacking poverty and deprivation is the first priority of the democratic government.”
Furthermore, the NDP states that the SA economy has been characterised by failures to deal with poverty, inequality and unemployment, and continued racial imbalances during the past two decades. Debate on economic policy should therefore focus on this.
The use of the word “socioeconomic” is not just cognitive semantics and the discipline of language – it has a deeper historic meaning in ANC policy thinking. Radical socioeconomic transformation, not radical economic transformation, is the policy orientation of the liberation movement.
The RET faction also seeks to hijack ANC leaders to further its narrow, distorted views, using contentious personality differences within the movement. The following extract from a speech by former president Jacob Zuma sums up the ANC elaboration of economic transformation: “The programme of radical socioeconomic transformation will thus be the main focus of government in the year 2018, and it will inform the delivery of our programmes.” The RET forces must not be given space to use ANC leaders to create confusion within members’ ranks.
As President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We should be focusing more on what unites. And as we focus on what unites us, yes, when mistakes are made, we must not just sit back and say: ‘Well, ke comrade wa rona [it’s our comrade], we are not going to say anything.’ There must be constructive criticism. We must be able to put our comrades around the table and say: ‘Here and here you are making mistakes.’”
Like the MWT before it, the RET faction is making mistakes in seeking to narrow our focus on economism and not radical transformation of the economy. The RET faction’s attack on white business personalities and dragging the ANC and its leaders into the mix is a deliberate and well-orchestrated campaign of deception and diversion. The faction’s members use fake news and misleading media stories exploiting contradictions in society to further their aims. They use “the people” and “the enemy” without recognising, as Mao Zedong said, that the concepts “vary in content” and “in different periods of history in a given country”.
The RET forces undermine the strategic objectives of building a united, nonracial, non sexist and prosperous SA society. RET is a dangerous reformist tendency sugar-coated in revolutionary jargon seeking to destroy the ANC from within. These wedge drivers must be uprooted and defeated without any hesitation.
* Kekana is a member of the ANC’s national executive committee
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