[Documents menu] Documents menu

Message-ID: <sfa5bb5b.093@newschool.edu>
Date: Tue, 02 May 1995 04:55:31 -0400
From: THAMI MADINANE <MADINANE@newschool.edu>
Reply-To: AFRLABOR@acuvax.acu.edu
To: afrlabor@acuvax.acu.edu
CC: nyembe1@law.und.ac.za
Subject: The Wealth of Promises and Poverty of Content...

The Wealth of Promises and Poverty of Content: An Occasion to Celebrate May Day?

By Thami Madinane, New School of Social Research
2 May 1995

The official Reconstruction Development Programme (so-called RDP) in South Africa has emerged as an important mechanism to reproduce and maintain capitalist relations--a system in which exploitation of workers, especially given the fact that direct wage-cuts are almost impossible under the new conditions in South Africa without the support of the ANC and its few friends in the trade union movement. Hence the GNU government and its capitalist supporters have resolved themselves to accept the role of the deficit government --as a major provider of public facilities, i.e.,housing, education, health, etc. While this to many mindless believers in the RDP might be enough, even intelligent people have been fooled by the RDP'#s portrayal of the aspirations of the South African masses.

This massive deception has been achieved primarily through the cynical act of manipulating the justifiable needs, plight of the masses and other realistic social concerns. But in essence the RDP remains essentially a capitalistic tool whose functions is to control the massive pressures from the poor and workers while giving breathing space to capitalists in South Africa and abroad, as they struggle to cope with economic recessions and crises in the post-apartheid capitalism and to do so in ways that would not undermine the power of Anglo-American and the Oppenheimer's or the dominance of capitalist profits (= class) on the rest of the South African masses.

At the core of this capitalist alliance with the RDP is the exploitation of labor, despite the efforts to skillfully hide under meaningless pseudo-economic phrases such as fiscal discipline, market efficiency, economic growth, etc. In fact, these themes can be found littered in every piece of paper (white Paper or Red Paper) generated by the apologists of the RDP. This despite the fact that the persistent problem of massive unemployment and poverty (17 million!) has rendered meaningless their theories of marginal factor productivity, whereby the latter is seen as determining employment and income distribution.

According to this nonsense, the process of production correspondence to a certain theory of price formation which determines the relative proportions of labor and capital, that is, the functional distribution of income between these two factors. Thus within the present reality of the RDP economy, workers will receive their marginal worth, i.e., wages, the capitalist will receive their income (profits and wealth), and the unemployed will receive zero wages--or welfare benefits, in which case the latter must be set very low enough, in order to become an effective deterrent to the "employed"# from seeking to "voluntarily"#join the#leisure# class. It is de ja vu! Once again in the RDP world the cycle of poverty and wage-exploitation has been reproduced in their complete form.

In conclusion, the RDP has entirely missed the qualitative aspect of its mandate of social transformation and economic democracy--jobs with high wages and wealth distribution, shorter-working hours, etc.,--also, the social relations that links these aspects--exploitation and profits, which are concealed behind surface appearances--inflation, sectoral unemployment, output stagnation, balance of payment crisis, etc,. Instead, the RDP proponents have contended themselves with echoing empty promises.

The challenge to all progressives in South Africa is that they must fearlessly subject the contents of the RDP to a systematic and ruthless critique, not merely to establish quantitative support for it among the dispossessed masses, this in order to recite as evidence of its legitimacy. The essence of the RDP must be revealed of its bankruptcy, even if it means running the risk of absenting some of the new complacent petit-bourgeois class and elite in power.

Viva ! Winnie Mandela

New School for Social Research
Department of Economics
New York.


"Trade Unions ought never be attached to a political association or place themselves under its tutelage; to do so would be to deal themselves a mortal blow. Trade unions are the schools of Socialism. It is in the trade union that workers educate themselves and become socialists, because under their eyes and every day the struggle with capital is taking place. Any political party, whatever its measure and without exception, can only hold the enthusiasm of the masses for a short time, momentarily; unions, on the other hand, lay hold on the masses in a more enduring way; they alone are capable of representing a true working-party and a bulwark to the power of capital#34;

--Marx 1869. [Emphasis mine].

[World History Archives]    [Gateway to World History]    [Images from World History]    [Hartford Web Publishing]