The latest twists in our long-running political soap opera are the revelations that Mcebisi Jonas and Vytjie Mentor were offered cabinet positions by the Gupta family, and a call on 7 March 2016 by SA Communist Party (SACP) second deputy general secretary (DGS) Solly Mapaila for “a judicial commission to probe issues relating to the Guptas and the ‘corporate capture’ of government by businesses”.
“State capture” has become the latest buzz-phrase but what does it mean? Numsa’s view on the state is based on Lenin’s categorisation of the state as “an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another; it is the creation of ‘order’, which legalises and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the conflict between classes.”
Lenin quotes Frederick Engels: “In a democratic republic, wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely, first, by means of the ‘direct corruption of officials’ (America); secondly, by means of an ‘alliance of the government and the Stock Exchange’. (France and America).”
In South Africa today we can see “wealth” – the capitalists – using both these routes to “capture” the state. It was not however the corrupt Guptas who initially captured the state but those in the “Stock Exchange” faction of “wealth” – white monopoly capitalism – who have been and remain the dominant power behind and within the government.
The Guptas, who have highly successfully taken the other path – “the direct corruption of officials”, notably the President and his family – are fundamentally no different from the long-established “Stock Exchange” capitalists, whose main gripe is that these new kids on the block have bribed and bullied their way into getting business with government and SOEs,
This has disrupted their own cosy relationship with the ANC and government which began with the “negotiated settlement” in 1994, the neoliberal GEAR in 1996 and the National Development Plan in 2013, all of which entrenched the power of monopoly capital and global imperialism.
Their main conduit to such power was their “capture” of the Treasury, led by Trevor Manuel, Pravin Gordhan and Nhlanhla Nene, whose budgets have all done everything possible to ensure that there is business as usual, and that white monopoly capitalism remains in power. They were able to use the state to butcher the Marikana strikers.
Yet, in an attempt to define “state capture” Cosatu and the SACP, in a joint statement on 20 February 2016, see the problem of “state capture” as exclusively “the emergence of a parasitic bourgeoisie that seeks to entrench itself within key sectors of the state and particularly within strategic state-owned corporations”, which poses “an imminent threat to our democracy, our broader movement, and indeed to the ability of our democratic state to drive forward an inclusive and sustainable growth path. Our two formations are committed to exposing and fearlessly dealing with those associated with state capture through parasitism in public sector formations and indeed within any of our own movement structures”.
This statement however raises two questions. Firstly, why the SACP and Cosatu have only now discovered this threat, since neither can claim to have been unaware of the problem, at least since 2013 after the notorious Gupta wedding landing at Waterkloof, when Solly Mapaila said: “The aircraft has compromised our national security… This is a serious abuse and misuse of government resources.” And the party itself noted, “there is no reason in our view that such should have been allowed as it can possibly compromise the security of our country and its sovereignty”.
So why only now has the SACP expressed concern over something that was already happening in 2013 and before and since? The only answer can be that until very recently, they have been silent about anything that might embarrass President Zuma, particularly his links with a family which, as the SACP said “can possibly compromise the security of our country and its sovereignty.”
Now however the Cosatu/SACP axis have moved into opposition to their former ally, and at local level SACP and ANC members have been involved in violent battles around the selection of candidates for the upcoming municipal elections, confrontations not based on principled political differences but over factional struggles for elected positions in municipalities.
The second, more fundamental question to a party which claims to be Marxist-Leninist is: what is their understanding of the relationship between capital and the state, which they suddenly see as being under threat of “capture”?
Why have the SACP and Cosatu said nothing about the ruthless capture of the state by big business, the class for which Gordhan has become the facilitator and spokesperson, but focused instead only on the Guptas who they categorise as a “parasitic bourgeoisie”.
They are right of course to condemn bribery, corruption and attempts to hijack the state by anyone, including the Guptas, but not to overlook the “Stock Exchange” capitalists who are the real capturers of the state, especially the monopolised financial sector which is the most “parasitic” of all.
It is important to acknowledge Mcebisi Jonas’ courage and applaud him for taking a stand against the Guptas and we should be bold as society and tell the ANCYL to say: Hands off Mcebisi Jonas!
But as in any fight against any form of corruption and abuse of power it must be defeated, not in a single battle on a single front. We must also reject the capturing of the state by white monopoly capital for years, which Numsa has fought against for years. We reject the current macro-economic framework and the new GEAR called the National Development Plan that seeks to maintain the status quo that is directly responsible for mass poverty, mass unemployment and seriously deep levels of de-industrialization.
The real issue we must confront is that the SACP was willing to join the forces that dismissed Numsa, the voice of the working class, and who fragmented Cosatu, when we raised sharply this “state capture” by neoliberal forces. The SACP leaders presented us as being anti-Jacob Zuma and his government, something they regarded as criminal then.
Many comrades in public sector unions who supported our consistent fight for fundamental transformation of our economy by nationalising strategic minerals and all the commanding heights of the economy were purged by the leadership of Cosatu unions and by the SACP, with their core leadership in the ANC led by Gwede Mantashe.
But now that their faction has fallen out of favour and is losing its hegemony in the ANC to what they have today coined as the Premier League they are ready to call on the working class to come forward to say “No to state capture”, but only in respect of the Guptas.
The SACP must appreciate that the real reason why President Jacob Zuma was ordered by finance capital to have three ministers of finance in one week, one of whom became a ‘weekend special’ minister, was that this was a clear demonstration that not just the state but the ANC itself has been captured by capital, the ANC, in alliance with the SACP and Cosatu, who refused nationalisation, refused full implementation of the Freedom Charter and are pursuing right-wing policies.
All this has been done in the interest of white monopoly capital, so to want to define only the actions of the Guptas, who Jonas correctly rejected, as a “state capture” is to cause ideological confusion. Numsa views this as reckless opportunism and taking workers for a ride. The lesson to be learned is that in a revolution truth is truth and there is absolutely no replacement for consistency.
Why do the SACP and Cosatu fear only the Guptas who “threaten the ability of our democratic state to drive forward an inclusive and sustainable growth path” when the government, under the pressure of the big monopolies, have already totally failed to achieve “an inclusive and sustainable growth path” and have plunged us into the massive quadruple crisis of unemployment, poverty, inequality and corruption?
Why are the SACP and Cosatu, along with the white liberal mainstream media, now suddenly lining up those dominant capitalists who long ago not only fashioned but also simultaneously captured the post-1994 state and the ANC leadership, in a purely factional battle against their new foe – Zuma and his “parasitical” cronies?
The SACP make the fundamental error of seeing the deep crisis we are in today as caused just by corrupt individuals, families or companies, rather than a structural crisis of a bankrupt and equally corrupt capitalist system led by white monopoly capitalism and its allies in the Treasury.
This shows how far they have slid from any remotely principled Leninist position on the state and monopoly capitalism and are aligning themselves with the most dominant faction of the enemy – white monopoly capitalism. That is why we so urgently need a genuine, democratic, worker-controlled, revolutionary Marxist-Leninist socialist party. DM