The ongoing discussion of white monopoly capital was a proxy war for factions in the lead-up to the 54th National Conference of the ANC in December 2017. Those associated with the Gupta-led faction of the ANC opportunistically proclaim white monopoly capital as the enemy of their clumsily conceptualised Radical Economic Transformation. Those associated with Cyril Ramaphosa deny the existence of white monopoly capital as the enemy in the official lexicon of the ANC-led National Liberation Movement. The latter group attribute the term of white monopoly capital to the failed Bell Pottinger propaganda campaign to salvage the correctly damaged public image of the Gupta-controlled and -centred criminal syndicate. Instead, the group argue strongly that “inclusive growth” is central to Radical Economic Transformation instead of misguided focus on white monopoly capital.
When summarising the core of what the majority of commissions resolved, Joel Netshitenzhe said that the majority of commissions resolved that white monopoly capital is not the enemy, rather monopoly capital in all its expressions should be contested and complemented on the balance of probabilities. Whether this is the true reflection of the National Policy Conference, the reality is that both factions are not opposed to white monopoly capitalism.
The reflections in this perspective will cogently illustrate that both factions are not opposed to white monopoly capitalism. They are using the debate as a jostle for factional ideological dominance, which is not ahistorical, yet certainly defined by mediocrity of both memory and thought. We present here a cogent illustration that, like the previous discussions on the developmental state, second phase of transition, white monopoly capital, the current discussion is tantamount to the Shakespearean characterisation of life. The debate on white monopoly capital, like the majority of the policy discussions therein are…
… a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5)
Capitalism and fractions of capital
The unending nature of the debate on who constitutes their strategic enemy or friend is due to the ANC’s lack of understanding of the simple fact that capitalism manifests itself through different and sometimes rival fractions. This debate of fractions of capitalism or manifestation of capitalism has been going on in South Africa for a long time, and the only time the ANC mentioned it in its official documents post 1994 was at the 2007 Policy Conference. The official recommendations of the ANC Policy Conference, among other things, said, “the balance between unity and struggle would be dictated by the needs of the moment; and it would be influenced by the practical conduct of the various fractions of monopoly capital” (ANC, 2007).
What this means is that in one country or one capitalist system or any given moment, you can have the co-existence of a comprador capitalist fraction, parasitic capitalist fraction, foreign capitalist fraction, monopoly capitalist fraction, neo-colonial capitalist fraction. As Morris argued about fractions of capital in the South African apartheid state in 1975, “the fraction that is economically dominant may very well not be politically dominant. In the case of South Africa this is very clear from Kaplan’s work on the earlier period of capitalist development, where he essentially argued that while gold mining was economically dominant it was the national bourgeoisie that was politically dominant” (Morris, 1975). This is an acknowledgement that in various political developments, there exist fractions of capital, which are dominant and influence the content and character of the political sphere.
In the book, Class struggles and the Periodisation of the South African state, Davies et al argued that;
“Within capitalist social formations, classes are not reproduced as a unity, but are fractured and divided. Several dominant classes co-exist (dependent on the articulation with other modes) and, more critically, the dominant capitalist class is itself divided into several fractions (resting on their differing roles in the expanded reproduction of capital). The dominant classes and fractions share a common interest in the maintenance of the relations of exploitation in general, but simultaneously have contradictory interests corresponding to their particular place in the relations of exploitation.” (Davies et al, 1978: 5).
When we gave the closing address to the EFF Students’ Command, we highlighted this phenomenon, and said that, “as the 21st century generation of anti-capitalists, we should not be trapped into a trend of neoliberal anti-racists, whose antithesis to racialised capitalism is black capitalism, or even worse family patronage capitalism that thrives through bribery and attempts to manipulate socio-political discourse. The enemy of the revolution is capitalism in its racialised form and all the other fractions of capitalism such as the parasitic and comprador bourgeoisie. We should not fight for a whiteless society because such is out rightly reactionary, but we should fervently fight for a classless society”. (Closing Address to the EFFSC 2nd National Students’ Assembly, 2017).
Political Factions and Fractions of Capital
Factional wars are always defined by half-truths because they are about individuals who seek to lead the organisation often for individual, and not collective, benefit. They then concoct narratives that suit their candidates and leadership preferences. Factions hide truths and ignore facts and only repeat what suits their agenda, even when such does not make ideological and political sense.
The Gupta-led faction of the ANC, the supporters of Dlamini-Zuma, use the concept of white monopoly capital as a justification for their looting activities, which is thus far defined by callous siphoning off billions of rand from State-Owned Companies. When caught stealing, this faction cries foul by driving a narrative that they are not stealing alone, they are stealing alongside a fraction of capital called white monopoly capital or their ill-gotten and corruption proceeds are not as significant as that of white monopoly capital.
Closer attention to the Gupta-led faction reveals the fact that the looting group is opposed to white monopoly capitalists, and not opposed to monopoly capitalism. Their opposition to white monopoly capitalists is premised on the view that instead of the white capitalist looters, they or their close friends should be the looters. If they were opposed to white monopoly capitalism, they would provide cogent alternatives, which could be full implementation of anti-capitalist policies, or the Freedom Charter, which is the only policy perspective mentioned in the ANC constitution, and one which members are enjoined to defend and protect.
To understand this properly, perhaps an example of gangsters should be employed. The Gupta gangsters’ opposition to white monopoly capitalism is like drug dealers who are opposed to other rival drug dealers, while not opposed to drug dealing. Nowhere in their narratives do the Gupta groups propose substantial anti-white monopoly capitalism. Whenever their thieving is exposed, the parasitic capitalists choose to point to the fact that other capitalists are stealing too. Even their propaganda news channel’s attempts to depict other capitalists and call for radical economic transformation is poorly articulated and lack any sophistication.
Like gangsters, the parasitic capitalists drive a narrative that anyone who is opposed to their form of capitalist theft is on the side of white monopoly capitalists. That is how all gangsters all over the world operate. They are quick to group those who are opposed to their illegal activities with the gangster rivals. The jostling in and around this phenomenon therefore added to the confusion of the ANC’s Policy Conference.
Not all forces are opposed to capitalism; they are opposed to different and rival fractions of capital. Those who associate with and are in the control of the parasitic capitalists view the defeat of the notion of white monopoly capitalist fraction as a factional victory. Those who are associated with the white monopoly capitalist fraction believe isolating and banishing only the parasitic capitalists will be a panacea for their internal organisational and political crises.
Not an enemy of the revolution! The ANC’s historical posture on white monopoly capital
There is certainly substantial historical account on how sections and individuals in the liberation movement thought of white monopoly capital as the enemy of the National Democratic Revolution. Different perspectives and opinion pieces of leaders of the ANC highlighted the existence of the white monopoly capitalist fraction, which holds monopolistic power over the economy. However, the official documents of the ANC, including the Morogoro Strategy & Tactics (1st Policy Conference in 1969), Kabwe Conference resolutions (2nd Policy Conference in 1985), and the Gallagher Convention Centre resolutions (3rd Policy Conference in 2007) did not characterise white monopoly capital as enemy of the National Democratic Revolution.
Emphatically, the ANC’s 3rd Policy Conference resolution on the position of white monopoly capital is that “to characterise monopoly capital as an enemy of the NDR would be too simplistic”. To avoid the historicism that has been bandied by the Gupta quasi-Left ideologues, who embrace neo-liberalism, speak Left and walk Right, it is important to quote the omitted ANC’s latest resolution on white monopoly capital. The ANC’s 2007 3rd Policy Conference resolved elaborately on white monopoly capital as follows;
“There was agreement in all Commissions that there were fundamental areas of divergence between the objectives and value systems of the ANC and those of monopoly capital. In particular, there are many things in the behaviour of private monopolies that have the effect of constraining higher rates of growth and skewing social development. These include monopoly pricing and other forms of rent-seeking, placing barriers to entry in some industries and a value system based on greed and crass materialism.
However to characterise monopoly capital as an enemy of the NDR would be too simplistic. Rather our approach, as elaborated in the draft S&T document, should be to build a strong developmental state, with the strategic capacity and the instruments to deal with these negative tendencies, while at the same time mobilising private capital in general to partner the state in increasing rates of investment and job-creation. Further, the centrality of finance capital in the structure of the South African economy, and its capacity to hinder economic development should be underlined.
Virtually all the Commissions agreed with the approach of ‘unity and struggle’ – carrot and stick – in relation to all private capital, proceeding from the understanding, as one commission put it, that ‘unity and struggle’ existed among opposites that may have to co-exist. The balance between unity and struggle would be dictated by the needs of the moment; and it would be influenced by the practical conduct of the various fractions of monopoly capital. The draft will need to be sharpened taking into account many other detailed comments from the Commissions on this issue”.
Those who partook in this Conference will remember that all commissions that were convened to discuss various organisational, political and economic issues were mandated to first respond to the question of whether white monopoly capital is enemy of the NDR. This 3rd ANC Policy Conference was an important platform in the life of the liberation movement because it was the first policy conference post 1994, and was preceded by the Morogoro Conference in 1969 and Kabwe in 1985. So a policy conference with a status of Kabwe and Morogoro unanimously states, “all the Commissions agreed with the approach of ‘unity and struggle’ – carrot and stick – in relation to all private capital, proceeding from the understanding, as one Commission put it, that ‘unity and struggle’ existed among opposites that may have to co-exist”.
What this means is that, in the ANC, white monopoly capital is not the enemy of the revolution, it is instead a convenient opponent who should not be made an enemy in pursuit of a social democratic developmental state. Worse still, white monopoly capitalism and capitalism in its entirety are not the enemy of the ANC-led national liberation struggle. The overall principle and concrete standing resolution of the ANC is that “to characterise monopoly capital as an enemy of the NDR would be too simplistic” (ANC, 2007).
White monopoly capitalism has historically been understood as constituting three mutually reinforcing phenomena:
Opposition to white monopoly capitalism means that any political movement that defines itself as the enemy of such should set goals to destroy capitalism. Destroying capitalism means discontinuation of private ownership of capital, the means of production and that is not in the agenda of the ANC. While there are attempts to deconstruct corporate monopolies, there is no clear ideological compass on how such should be achieved. What the ANC fails to comprehend is that creation of a social democratic developmental state will not happen without destruction of the capitalist property relations that were shaped by colonial-cum-apartheid and harnessed by the post-1994 ideological confusion and economic leadership incapacity.
An ideological amoeba: Why the ANC cannot be radical
The unending problem of the ANC and possibly all liberation movements is that they somehow believe that they can adapt capitalism to achieve their economic liberation goals. That is not the case and has never been the case anywhere in the world. When analysing the National Question, Lenin detected this reality far much earlier, and said, “a certain understanding has emerged between the bourgeoisie of the exploiting countries and that of the colonies, so that very often, even perhaps in most cases, the bourgeoisie of the oppressed countries, although they also support national movements, nevertheless act against all revolutionary movements and revolutionary classes with a certain degree of understanding and agreement with the imperialist bourgeoisie, that is to say together with it” (Lenin, 1921).
The draft strategy and tactics admits to the sell-out position adopted by the ANC in the transition period from apartheid to an inclusive political system. It says, “During the negotiations process, compromises were struck around modalities of the transition. The liberation movement agreed to ‘sunset clauses’ operational in the first few years of the democratic dispensation. This pertained to a government of national unity and the easing of apartheid apparatchiks out of the state system. There would be no arbitrary appropriation of the wealth illegitimately and illegally accumulated by the white community over the centuries. At the same time, the white community was expected to contribute to the reparations that the process of reconciliation demanded.” (ANC, 2017).
Of course, this strategic retreat during negotiation was informed by the objective military incapacity to defeat the apartheid establishment and most importantly, the ANC’s ideological indeterminateness. Historical and current evidence illustrates the point that there is completely nothing the ANC cannot subject to compromise. This includes its principles, values, constitution and policies. This therefore turns the ANC into an ideological amoeba, with no capacity whatsoever to provide sound and decisive economic leadership to South Africa and the African continent.
For a sustained period now, the ANC’s consistent approach to capital has been underpinned by its non-antagonistic approach, and at best as an ally in the construction of the loosely conceptualised National Democratic Society. The contestation now is which fraction of capital does the ANC associate with, and the political factional battles reflect that. Both are opposed to either the white monopoly capitalist fraction or the parasitic capitalist fraction, not because they oppose capitalism, but because they want to be substitutes of the same phenomenon in order to continue with the exploitation of labour and natural resources.
While attempts are made on both sides to achieve a degree of ideological coherence in the justification of factional narratives, both factions are not anti-capitalism, meaning that neither is against white monopoly capitalism and neither is against parasitic capitalism. They both seek to be appendages of the capitalist system that defines South Africa. They somehow believe that they will create a social democratic developmental state without a clear ideological posture towards capitalism in South Africa.
Now, the ANC Policy Conference will for factional purposes characterise white monopoly capital as enemy or complement of the NDR, but might take a resolution of expropriation of land without compensation. Like all previous policy conference resolutions, these will mean nothing, as they will not be turned into coherent policy positions of the ANC in government. The ANC is accustomed to taking radical sounding resolutions, and yet lacks the courage to implement them.
I present here a quick survey of what the ANC previously resolved and failed to implement;
a) The 2006 signed agreement to switchover to digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcasting on 17 June 2015.
b) The 2007 Policy Conference resolved to establish a State-owned pharmaceutical company.
c) The 2011 NGC resolved that “there was greater consensus on nationalisation of mines and other strategic sectors of the economy”
d) The 2012 conference resolved to introduce fee free quality higher education.
e) The 2012 conference resolved and reaffirmed on the implementation of the national health insurance (NHI) system by further strengthening the public healthcare system and ensuring adequate provision of funding.
f) The 2013 conference resolved to expropriate without compensation on land acquired through unlawful means.
There are so many resolutions which the ANC has taken in previous conferences and these do not find expression in practical governance of the state and the economy. The reason why the ANC is incapable of implementing its own resolutions was long provided by Frantz Fanon. In his seminal characterisation of the post-colonial state, Fanon makes the following observations,
“The national bourgeoisie, which takes over power at the end of the colonial regime, is an underdeveloped bourgeoisie. Its economic clout is practically zero, and in any case, no way commensurate with that of its metropolitan counterpart which it intends replacing.
This national bourgeoisie possesses neither industrialists nor financiers.
The national bourgeoisie in the underdeveloped countries is not geared to production, invention, creation, or work. All its energy is channelled into intermediary activities. Networking and scheming seem to be its underlying vocation. The national bourgeoisie has the psychology of a businessman, not that of a captain of industry. And it should go without saying that the rapacity of the colonists and the embargo system installed by colonialism hardly left it any choice. (Fanon, Frantz 1961)
The ANC’s failure to attain a clear ideological compass is a major contributor to its ideological lack of direction. Factions recurrently shift destinations and articulate inconsistent and at times contradictory missions. As a liberation movement, it was easier to determine the direction which was the ending of racist rule and replacing it with an inclusive political system. However, in post-colonial-cum-apartheid rule, it is almost impossible to clearly define the direction because their various irreconcilable inter-class and intra-class interests.
For a political movement, lack of an ideological compass means that the frustrations would literally confront a group of people who have crossed a river and have to determine the destination after crossing the river. The most difficult part is as a group, who do you define as enemies in the next journey, because during the river-crossing, there was relative consensus that crocodiles (white racist minority political control) are the common enemy, and now there is no clarity as to whether all animals across the river are the enemy.
The only organisation that has a clear perspective on and against capitalism in South Africa is the Economic Freedom Fighters, because it carries a clear intention and mission to discontinue private ownership of the means of production and institute a democratic socialist ownership and control of the commanding heights of the economy. The EFF is the only economic emancipation movement in South Africa that stands against all fractions and manifestations of capitalism, whether it be white monopoly capitalist fraction, foreign capitalist fraction or parasitic capitalist fraction. DM
"We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings." ~ Ursula Le Guin