Date: Tue, 02 May 1995 04:55:31 -0400
From: THAMI MADINANE <MADINANE@newschool.edu>
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
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
A LESSON FOR COSATU FROM KARL MARX
"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;
1869. [Emphasis mine].