Towards the Fall of Capitalism
Anthony De Villiers | 13 June, 2019
Our revolution needs a new and decisive direction. It is widely recognised among the left that capitalism is the cause of our oppression, but too much revolutionary time is spent fighting the attributes of capitalism (unemployment and poverty etc.) instead of capitalism itself. Instead of applying excess focus on cutting down branches of the capitalism tree, decisive, resolute, collective revolutionary effort must be placed into chopping down the whole capitalism tree.
We as a society need to think beyond fear of global stigmatisation and boldly cross the line, entering into ‘forbidden territory’. It’s been too long that our progress has been hampered by global norms not conducive to the end of suffering of South African masses.
As a society we are well-placed to observe and learn from errors socialist societies have made in the past. Our quest for freedom can no longer be compromised, it’s time to take the gap and say goodbye to neo-liberal policies.
As claimed in Rising poverty levels threaten food security and children’s futures, between 13 and 14 million South Africans suffer from hunger. A situation of poverty and unemployment still being prevalent after 25 years of democracy, calls for the recognition of the implications concerned. Tensions between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ – this is obviously racialised tension – destruction of property during the #feesmustfall protestation, violent service delivery protests and other forms of violence clearly show that a sore that should be becoming a scar still bleeds profusely. This poses the question, although we are a relatively peaceful society, for how much longer will we be? Especially as the oppression of workers via corporation share-holders runs rampant.
It’s time to face facts, as our free-market economic system has proved a failure in liberating our people, a modern-day Congress for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) is needed. This would be reminiscent of the CODESA of the early 1990s, only with an economic agenda rather than a political one. This forum would need to recognise that as CODESA was supposed to result in bringing power to the people, it failed, as the masses have no say regarding the huge bulk of the country’s wealth. It would comprise government and civil society in meaningful consultation with the South African masses.
There are many calls for socialism in South Africa, but limited specification of definitions concerned. This forum would need to engage in robust debate for the national adoption of a sensible, practical and just socialist model. Rhodes University sociology Professor Lucien van der Walt says, “we as a society in search of progressive solutions need to realise that the throwing around of terms I.e. socialism is not enough. We need to unpack definitions and explore concrete ways to redistribute wealth and power to the impoverished masses. We need to find a practical way forward”.
The placing of corporations in state ownership is an example of a socialist model, one with considerable popularity. It is argued by people opposed to socialism, that history has demonstrated this to be a dismal failure. It is counter-argued by pro-socialists that the pattern of history is mass nationalisation without democracy, which has resulted in exploitation of citizens. However, contrary to that, a democratic socialist order would prove to work in the interest of the national citizens concerned. It is also argued that politicians in government tend to lack business management skills, and counter-argued that people with skills can be appointed by government to make a non free-market system competent and effective.
Another argument against this model is that if corporations responsible for mass production are not run by individuals seeking the benefits of significant profits, motivation will be compromised, resulting in lack of necessary competitive mass production. Once again, the argument against this is that the appointment of skilled people will ensure the necessary scale of mass production by the corporations concerned.
Another socialist model is placing corporations responsible for mass production in the collective ownership of communities. What makes this fitting is that it is consistent with a call among the South African left to decentralise political power, taking decision-making to the South African masses. The same arguments regarding skills necessity apply to this model.
A lack of involvement in political decision-making on the part of our individual citizens, has proven to be suppressive. This model has great potential to ensure that the interests of our masses are looked after, as the nature of its operations would be determined by them. For this reason, it would be run on the basis of a sense of urgency; mismanagement would after all be directly detrimental to the South African masses. This makes for great potential for the necessary mass production on the part of our means of production for the benefit of the masses of our people. Collective community involvement in our wealth production would indeed be an enhancement of our democracy. Lucien van der Walt says: “we need to see meaningful decentralisation of decision-making, as well as dramatic expansion of collective ownership and democratic economic participation at grass-roots level”.
Another form of socialism would be government attaining a significant degree of corporation ownership through legislation. Legislation would give government the control it seeks, although in principal, corporation shareholders would retain full ownership of the corporations concerned. The taxation for share-holders would be significantly higher than it is currently. This system would be advantageous for preventing illicit flows of capital off shore and other means of tax evasion. The exploitation of workers would be prevented, jobs within the corporations created and share-holders and their chief executive officers would remain motivated to use their skills for competitive mass production. This competitive mass production would benefit the impoverished.
The argument against this model is that it is another form of capitalism and that it would not make for a satisfactory move away from our neo-liberal system of markets. This would be perceived by those who oppose this model to perpetuate poverty and oppression, as the means of production would in principal remain in the hands of individuals.
For socialism to be viable, strong anti-corruption measures would be needed. More specifically, an anti-corruption cabinet ministry and full access to information regarding national expenditure. If an anti-corruption ministry is to be introduced, our cabinet must be reduced in size for the sake of reduced expenditure.
An argument against socialism is that a social welfare orientated society would cause mass non-productivity among South Africans as there would be less need to work. Additionally, that the confiscation of people’s property/shares (the means of production) is unjust. The argument would include the confiscation of shares bought by people who played the stock exchange – many of whom were victims of oppression seeking a way out of poverty. Moreover, an anti-socialism argument would say that the international community would be reluctant to invest in socialist countries and that investments would be withdrawn.
In counter argument, motivation to work will prevail due to the desire for prosperity and the need to restore people’s dignity takes full priority. Additionally, a desperate society cannot allow itself to be held to ransom by the threats of the global community. Regarding confiscation of property/shares, a pro-socialism argument is that the need to return what was stolen from South Africans is a priority, and full just compensation for all shareholders would render a socialist system fair. Furthermore, the willing buyer willing seller principle regarding nationalisation of corporations, is an option and holds potential for economic benefit.
South Africa does indeed have an abundance of business management skills that could be harnessed for the success of a socialist market system. Ultimately, markets for our socialist system would include and extend beyond our mining and finance industries. This would obviously make for a mixed economy with some markets remaining free. Results would take the form of three inter-connected benefits. These would manifest in the form of job creation, service delivery and poverty alleviation. Suitable social grants and the addition and extension of services provided by the Department of Social Development (services for poverty alleviation) would be included in these benefits. A just and viable socialist order must and can indeed be collectively established in South Africa. Van der Walt says “South Africa’s current growth path is socially and economically unjust. We need to see a move away from our toxic mix of neo-liberalism, corruption and cheap black labour”. Just as CODESA and the dawn of our democracy gave our people so much hope and high morale as they faced a new political dawn, a new economic dawn would provide a great deal of hope and anticipation of genuine liberation. One looks forward with hope to a new revolution for a new economic order and a new era, more specifically the demise of our mass free-market system. Forward with a liberated society forward! Forward with a viable, just, responsible socialist order forward! AMANDLA!
Anthony de Villiers passionately seeks to promote the revolution through commentary. He is opposed to neo-liberalism. His email address is Anthony de Villiers@gmail.com