Will Radical Economic Transformation Abort or Succeeds
By Cde Mluleki Dlelanga is the YCLSA National Secretary
Exactitude of thought is necessary everywhere, and in questions of revolutionary strategy more than anywhere else. But as revolutions do not occur so very often, revolutionary conceptions and thought processes become slip-shod, their outlines become vague, the questions are raised and solved somehow. As a Marxist-Leninist scholar, amongst the classes one attended, I was thought as a young revolutionary to always consider time, space and condition. As a young revolutionary I asked myself two critical questions, first, will the radical economic transformation abort or succeeds? Second, is it possible to fix a date for a counter-revolution or revolution? My immediate response without a deeper reflection and analysis is that the success or failure of the radical economic transformation rest upon the congress movement family i.e. it depend on what we do , whether we allow it to be hijacked or we fight for its objective implementation. My response on the second question, I responded from the Marxist-Leninist perspective on the timetable for the revolution .A quick response from the Marxist-Leninist perspective is that of course it is not possible. It's only trains which start at certain times, and even the trains they don't always.
Let me briefly outline the evolution of discussions and debates on radical economic transformation. In the discussions and debates leading towards the national policy conference and the 53rd national conference of the ANC in Mangaung, a discussion started in the ANC-led Tripartite Alliance and the broader Mass Democratic Movement about how to characterize the next phase of our revolution. The robust debates centered on what should be the main character and content of our next phase of National Democratic Revolution. In the debates, there was a collective appreciation that our society continues to be characterized by three dominant contradictions of race, class and gender.
The entire national liberation movement felt a sense of growing restlessness and impatience amongst the masses of our people who after two decades of democracy and freedom, are still ravaged by poverty, inequality and unemployment. A consensus emerged in the debates that something urgent and radical had to be done to deepen and consolidate the thorough-going national democratic revolution. All components of the Alliance, independently and collectively, agreed that our revolution is entering a second phase of radical socio-economic transformation.
The ANC 53rd National Conference, specifically the Organizational Renewal Commission, thus resolved that, "…the second phase in our transition from apartheid colonialism to a national democratic society will be characterized by more radical policies and decisive action to effect thorough-going socio-economic and continued democratic transformation."
How does the ANC define Radical Economic Transformation?
The ANC NEC Meeting and NEC Lekgotla held from the 25th to the 27th January 2017 identified the following key priorities of the ANC for the year 2017: Economic growth, accelerated radical socio-economic transformation, Land reform and redistribution, the funding of higher education, fighting crime and corruption as well as building the capacity of the state.
The NEC went further to outline what constitutes radical socio-economic transformation, which it said, "refers to a fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female. Our main objective remains the liberation of Blacks in general and Africans in particular. Its components include the creation of jobs, accelerating shared and inclusive growth, transforming the structure of production and ownership of means of production and enabling the talents and productive potential of our people to flourish. At the heart of radical socio-economic transformation is an effective state that is decisive in its pursuit of structural change."
What constitutes "thorough-going socio-economic and continued democratic transformation"?
The 53rd National Conference resolutions and resolutions of the 2017 ANC NEC meeting and the Lekgotla are very instructive in what constitutes radical economic transformation. The 53rd National Conference resolution defines it more expansively as "thorough-going socio-economic and continued democratic transformation".
The key elements of this programme as outlined above from the ANC NEC statement can be enlisted as follows for elucidation:
- Fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female;
- Creation of jobs,
- Accelerating shared and inclusive growth,
- Transforming the structure of production and ownership of means of production,
- Enabling the talents and productive potential of our people to flourish,
- An effective state that is decisive in its pursuit of structural change.
These six elements are noble objectives of radical economic transformation. They represent in effect, the historic mission of the struggle for freedom and liberation in South Africa. They are also in broad alignment with the socialist programme that the SACP has put forward to deepen the NDR as a direct route to Socialism, as well as COSATU programme. There can therefore be no dispute that these six elements are an imperative for the second phase of NDR.
How then should we characterize and articulate radical economic transformation?
The brief historical exposition above clearly show that the coining of radical economic transformation does not happen in ideological and historical vacuum. It is not new in its intents, but is an expression of the urgency of the tasks of national struggle in current phase of NDR. The strategic objective of that struggle remains the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. Also, the main motive forces of this struggle continue to be Blacks in general and Africans in particular.
When understood, and articulated from this historic perspective, the agenda of radical economic transformation therefore is a practical articulation of the current phase of our thorough-going National Democratic Revolution. That NDR has historically been articulated by the national liberation movement as comprising of the following three major components:
N = National
Our struggle for liberation and emancipation is national in character. It seeks to mobilize a broad range of progressive forces behind the banner of the ANC-led national liberation movement. It is non-racial and non-sexist in outlook, with the main motive forces being the blacks in general and Africans in particular,
D = Democratic
Our struggle seeks a replacement and transformation of repressive institutions and laws of apartheid colonialism with institutions and laws that espouse and promote democratic values and the respect of human rights. Our struggle seeks to give effect to the Freedom Charter maxim, "The people shall govern!"
R = Revolution
Ours is a struggle for radical and fundamental social change. It is not a reformist agenda, nor it is a social democratic programme that seeks to tinker with the margins but retain the fundamental structure of social relations. It is rather a complete rupture of the old, replacing it with new egalitarian social relations.
Karl Marx (1852) once said, "Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past."
The timing for radical economic transformation is not questionable if one understand the conditions facing the workers and the poor in our country, hence there was discussion which was triggered by a concrete analysis of concrete conditions that the entire national liberation movement felt a sense of growing restlessness and impatience amongst the masses of our people who after two decades of democracy and freedom, are still ravaged by poverty, inequality and unemployment.
But also as we know that nothing is automatic in a revolution, we fully aware that it depends on the forces at play whether revolution get aborted or succeeds. Therefore, we must never by any illusion think that the radical economic transformation is immune not to abort or succeed. If the radical economic transformation is just a mere slogan for coming conferences or a lobby tool chances for it to abort are huge but if there is shared perspective, understanding and approach by progressive forces in our country chances for it to succeed are also huge. For radical economic transformation to succeeds it need a strong and united COSATU, a strong and united SANCO, a strong and united SACP, a strong and united PYA, a strong a united ANC and a strong and united majority of the people of our country.
Truth need to be told , with the current fluidity of the political situation in our country where ANC is not united , COSATU not at their strong point, with SANCO also not at their strong state , with visibly tensions in the Alliance , with the factionalisation of the debate in particular where patronage politics supersede our consciousness and disunity of the majority of the people in our country chances are huge that the radical economic transformation which is used as the current yard stick that measure how revolutionary a revolutionary is likely to be hijacked and ultimately abort.
As we know that there is nothing automatic in the revolution, progressive forces should rise up in defense of radical economic transformation to bring fundamental change to the majority of the people. This historical materialist conception of the notion of radical economic transformation gives it proper context and meaning. There is an urgent need to ensure that the concept is rescued from potential misappropriation by reactionary parasitic elements. These reactionary elements seek to use the noble objective of radical economic transformation to justify a continuation of looting of state resources and patronage that has beset the national liberation movement.
The ideology of a revolutionary organization is an asset of the revolution. If it can be corrupted, the whole revolution will be corrupted and finally aborted; history is replete with such failed revolutions. We must therefore act decisively in the defense of our historic values, our political ideology and the programme for "thorough-going socio-economic and continued democratic transformation". We dare not fail!
Yes to radical economic transformation and no to radical looting, that's the bottom line coz YCLSA says so!