“WMC (white monopoly capital) sought an elite past between the ANC and NP that would guarantee minority rights and achieve power-sharing between the blacks and whites….
Paying lip service to the role of WMC helps them to evade scrutiny not merely in relation to their role in propping up apartheid capitalism, but above all in relation to their class interests and how these were secured during negotiations as well as during democracy… It is both unthinkable and irrational to expect that WMC, that class which was the principal driving force of racial supremacy, could suddenly disappear simply because there was now democratic rule in South Africa.”
(ANC NEC Member)
The unfolding process of struggle in our country has raised serious questions about the ability of the national liberation movement to complete the NDR (National Democratic Revolution).
If the understanding still prevails that victory had to embrace more than formal political democracy, therefore the historical task of the NDR would not merely be to content itself with tinkering with the colonial framework of racialised economic ownership. What Slovo referred to as “de-raced capitalism”, where the working class would not insist on the inclusion of radical social measures as part of the immediate agenda. It is to fundamentally alter the existing colonial social and economic relations.
- The colonial state
Mbeki reminds us that all societies, of necessity, bear the birth-marks of their own past. Accordingly, it stands to reason that the colonial state laid its imprint on the post-independence state.
Guy Martin argues that in indigenous societies, “the process towards the development of ‘national’ capitalism was arrested when these countries came into contact with advanced capitalism. Hence the ‘underdeveloped’ nature of the contemporary African bourgeoisie.”
The colonising forces “broke up the natural economy and social systems of the indigenous people”, and expropriated their lands and natural resources, as well as their labour power. They superimposed on an underdeveloped indigenous political and social system the advanced state and social system of the colonising country. They would thus only allow the bourgeois class to be comprised of the colonising peoples.
Ultimately, white supremacy was not merely a racist political system. It was a socio-economic programme – a racialised bourgeois system – spawned by the urgency to extend capitalist mode of production to shores beyond Europe. This would be achieved through conquering foreign lands, subjecting their peoples to foreign rule, seizing their natural resources and labour and imposing by brutal force, the social system of the motherland on the primitive systems of the newly-conquered colonies.
In the colonies, black people were not regarded as humans. But rather as repositories “of the commodity labour power, which can and must be quantified in a profit and loss account to the point of the very ‘negation of life itself.’” Their dehumanisation thus became the modus operandi of the colonial system through which capital was accumulated and profits maximised. Here, both capital and labour assumed a racial profile, with white labour offered material incentives in order to buy their allegiance to white capital.
The existence of white capital has its origins in the colonial system, and they have linked their economic interests and political influence to the perpetuation of the racial policy, overtly or covertly, which ensures the dominance of the white group. Owing to how it came about, this class did not owe its origins in and allegiance to the indigenous political and economic system. This is evidenced by the ease with which it can delist in the countries of existence to list in foreign stock exchanges and its lack of desire to support a genuine socio-economic programme that empowers the indigenous populations and creates a native middle-class. Its approach to the independent country remains that of a colonising foreign force. Tentative and hell-bent on economic plunder and exploitation of the labour of the indigenous populations.
In light of the above, Alavi observes that the bourgeois revolution in the colony accomplishes two tasks. Firstly, to impose colonial rule by the metropolitan bourgeoisie. And secondly, to create a state apparatus through which it could exercise dominion over all indigenous classes in the colony.
It was in pursuing this task of creating a state apparatus through which it could exercise dominion over all indigenous classes in the colony that the colonial system showed its real and raw cruelty. According to Mbeki, the methods of primitive accumulation which represented a transitional phase in the development of capital in Europe acquired a fixity characteristic of feudal society, legitimised by the use of force and sanctified by a supposedly Calvinistic Christianity. The capitalist system in the colony put on a racial character, with race constituting a “justification, an attempt to rationalise, to make acceptable the enslavement and expropriation of the black people by the white.”
By sticking to the methods of primitive accumulation, the colonial system retards the progressive development of the capitalist system prevalent in colonial mother-countries. It makes it inevitable that the struggle against racial discrimination and political repression must be linked with the working class struggle against economic exploitation, as well as against the gender discrimination of black women.
- The limits of post-independence states
The limits of the post-independence state are well articulated by Debray in his argument, in relation to the Latin American petty-bourgeoisie. Debray argues that because “it does not possess an infrastructure of economic power before it wins political power”, it therefore “transforms the state not only into an instrument of political domination, but also into a source of economic power. The state, culmination of social relations of exploitation in capitalist Europe, becomes in a certain sense the instrument of their installation in these countries.”
This is important to fully comprehend because the general trend in Europe, as correctly observed in the 2017 ANC Strategy and Tactics, had been that change in social relations had developed within the womb of the old system, where the political revolution thus came about as a culmination of economic processes that had been under way and hence under new political managers, a new socio-economic system would evolve with time.
But, Africa and Latin America generally were exceptions to this where the political revolution preceded the economic revolution. This has led to Uncle Jack Simons arguing that the transfer of power in many African countries does not mean they have carried out a social revolution, and the “tendency in many African countries has been to maintain the old economic as well as political system. There has been continuity but not revolution.” Accordingly, power has effectively remained in the hands of the minority that, with their international allies and collusion from certain elements drawn from the ranks of the indigenous peoples, ensured that they maintained the status quo in terms of property and production relations.
As the wave of political independence commenced, imperialist countries contrived of new schemes to maintain their economic stranglehold over the newly-independent countries, using international institutions – Brettonwoods Institutions and multinational companies – to spearhead and impose neo-liberal policies on these states. Newly-independent states found themselves encircled within an inextricable web of policies, institutions and agencies that ensured their continued subjugation.
This period of neo-colonialism witnessed a severe attack on the state in developing countries through privatisation, liberalisation and other policies which affirmed the supremacy of the market. Developing countries were told to privatise public sector-driven programmes as well as their state-owned enterprises, in order to generate revenues and boost business confidence about their commitment to efficiency, transparency and good governance.
Accordingly, Bayliss and Fine argue that private ownership became the default position; the public sector was held responsible for all that was wrong in developing countries and “public enterprises were considered to be at the heart of the region’s economic problems.”
Brettonwoods Institutions have thus played a major role. Not only in weakening the post-independence African State, but above all else in buttressing the neo-colonial agenda in Africa. This attack on the post-independence African State precluded it from accomplishing the revolutionary tasks for which it had in the first instance been established. Which is fundamentally to transform colonial social and economic relations and structures of production.
Besides the state, the national middle-class finds itself without access to capital and requisite advanced industrial technology and thus having to turn to the metropolitan or neo-colonial bourgeoisie for collaboration on terms which hamstring their own independent future development and political outlook. This collaboration is “unequal and hierarchical, because the native bourgeoisie of a post-colonial society assumes a subordinate, client status in the structure of its relationship with the metropolitan bourgeoisie”, and even with the neo-colonial bourgeoisie. In the South African context, the domestic variant of the neo-colonial bourgeois class is white monopoly capital which has tentacles and allies in international capital represented by multinational companies and multilateral development banks.
The major achievement of the post-colonial Asian State was to free their native bourgeoisie from this dependence, or clientelism, and thus to give it free reign and access to requisite advanced industrial technology and other economic sectors.
The attack on the post-independence state was not an accident, but by design. Ultimately, neoliberalism was not merely an economic policy but was, at the same time, a political ploy to keep developing countries as junior partners in global affairs. This was to ensure they do not ever regain control of their natural and economic resources and assets and permanently remain in colonial status. This, they achieved by promoting in developing countries policies which they had themselves not followed during the early stages of their own development.
Actually, Alavi says additionally that,
“The essential problem about the state in post-colonial societies stems from the fact that it is not established by the ascendant bourgeoisie but instead by a foreign imperialist bourgeoisie. At independence, however, direct command of the latter over the colonial state is ended. But, by the same token, its influence over it is by no means brought to an end. The metropolitan bourgeoisie, now joined by other neo-colonialist bourgeoisies, is present in the colonial society. Together they constitute a powerful element in its class structure.”
It is precisely this condition in the post-independence society that undermines the pursuit of genuine national liberation, which is described by Cabral as a negation of the historical process which resulted in the violent usurpation of the freedom of development of the national development forces.
- The weakness of the national middle-class
It stands to reason that post-independence, the national democratic revolution must not forget its historical mission and conduct itself as the mere overseer of the status quo.
An essential part of this requires that it must consciously seek to create a vast property-owning national middle-class rooted in the anti-colonial struggle that will owe its allegiance to and have the political outlook consistent with the goal of total emancipation. This national middle-class must meaningfully be empowered in relation to the means of production and state apparatus, and in relation to their white counterparts. It must develop the capacity of the post-independence state to be compatible with the development of indigenous classes and their independent political agenda.
As argued above, the colonial powers destroyed the indigenous productive system existing in the colonised countries and imposed on them the superior systems of the colonising countries, but within a colonial framework. They allowed the bourgeois class to be composed exclusively of the colonising peoples. They entrenched and protected the material interests of this colonial bourgeoisie even post-independence, ensuring that the post-independence dispensation did not threaten to expropriate them of their ill-gotten gains.
Therefore, the post-independence national middle-class literally had no power, could not develop independently on their own in a manner that would enable them to forge an independent political and economic agenda. Their emergence depends either on the state, in which case they emerged as a bureaucratic class. Alternatively on the neo-colonial bourgeoisie, in which case they became a compradore class described by Amilcar Cabral as a pseudo-bourgeoisie controlled by the ruling class of the dominating country. This split the national middle-class into different factions, both of which are powerless and dependent.
Turok argues that,
“Without firm, independent roots in economic and even political processes, [the Third World bourgeoisie] is unable to wield its political power to its own and the country’s advantage effectively. Its interventions in the economy are tentative, often ambiguous and vacillating.”
That is why Fanon was scathing of this emerging class, saying that its mission “has nothing to do with transforming the nation; it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the masque of neo-colonialism.” He says that, because of its severe incapacities, its ambitions which are unrelated to the national vision and interest, and because of its ties to the neo-colonial and international bourgeoisie, “the national middle class will have nothing better to do than to take on the role of manager of Western enterprise, and it will in practice set up its country as the brothel of Europe.”
Its compradore nature renders it incapable of being consistently progressive and of developing and possessing independent views. Whilst given birth to, coincidentally, by the success of the struggle led by the NLM (National Liberation Movement), out of immediate self-interest, it finds it cannot consistently align itself with this movement and always attaches their interests and views with those of the neo-colonial bourgeoisie to which it depends for access to business. In a way, given its origins, its ties and ambitions, it takes a reactionary posture and, through it, the neo-colonial bourgeoisie – WMC – seeks to penetrate the ranks of the NLM and crack its unity, as well as that of the nation as a whole.
Evidence of the above argument lies strewn in recent events in our country. Driven by self-interest, the national middle-class has been blindly following the agenda of white monopoly capital, scared to break ranks with it in pursuit of their own selfish agenda.
During the early years of our democracy, they were conspicuous by their silence during major debates about issues affecting the life and destiny of the nation post-independence. In contemporary times, buoyed by the co-option of some among them, including many prominent cadres of the NLM, into the ranks of big business, they have become emboldened to support right wing, conservative economic policies and political ideas which detract from the historical perspectives of the NDR.
Those among them who are more independent-thinking and dissenting have been marginalised both in business and within business organisations, and their opinions are ridiculed and trivialised. The confidence boldly to articulate their own views depends on the support they will get from the democratic government for their economic aspirations.
The post-independence national middle-class literally has no power, cannot develop on their own independent from the neo-colonial bourgeoisie. This is a major limitation for the post-independence social system which prohibits it from evolving into total emancipation.
- The agenda of white monopoly capital in South Africa to derail the NDR
In the mid-eighties, WMC (White Monopoly Capital) concluded once and for all that they had no future under PW Botha and Nationalist Party leadership. They knew they could make no more profits under that system to which he was so stubbornly committed, against all contrary evidence.
They resolved to dispose of him and initiate a reform process. They hatched a plan that involved replacing him with FW De Klerk and initiated direct negotiations with the ANC. They sought an elite pact between the ANC and NP that would guarantee minority rights and grant minimal political reforms that would involve some concessions to the black majority without completely surrendering political and economic power to the latter.
Paying lip service to the role of WMC helps them to evade scrutiny not merely in relation to their role in propping up apartheid capitalism, but above all in relation to their class interests and how these were secured during negotiations as well as during democracy.
It is both unthinkable and irrational to expect that WMC, that class which was the principal driving force of racial supremacy, could suddenly disappear simply because there was now democratic rule in South Africa. It is untheoretical and downright naïve to argue that WMC has become “non-racial” merely because a trifle of black people have recently joined the ranks of business. Meanwhile, the white minority continues to have exclusive monopoly of power and control over all productive sectors and even to decide whom among black people are they comfortable to invite onto the table of privilege.
To start with, the concept, “white monopoly capital” is not insulting. It is merely in reference to that racialised and patriarchal portion of capital in our country that is monopolistic or even oligopolistic. That is most connected to the transnational and imperialistic economy and that dominates, both economically and even politically, our country. Through their exclusive control of the undiversified media, including marketing and advertising, they assert their agenda and views as the views and agenda of the nation.
As part of the settlement, concessions would be made, to some acceptable extent, not only to then existing black entrepreneurs, but in the main from the new political elite drawn from the NLM who enjoyed broad legitimacy among the masses of the oppressed. And who would be enticed (and compromised) with material incentives to find common cause with the erstwhile racial and patriarchal ruling group. In this way, the [capitalist] system would find resonance and its chief defenders among the leading cadres of the NLM.
This has largely been the stratagem of the colonial ruling class in the colonised world. How it has derailed every revolution and blunted revolutionary movements by co-opting some among its senior leaders into its ranks as its ‘legitimisers’, and thus divided these movements that had once advocated for revolutionary change to existing conditions.
What further made this possible was the fact that the NLM was constituted of a broad alliance of social forces who all shared a common objective to defeat colonial rule, broadly speaking, as a minimum programme whilst differing among themselves on the extent of the post-independence social agenda. This is what has been referred to as the broad church.
The NLM’s multiclass character, whilst useful during the struggle’s political phase, has not been a very helpful condition for the development of a radical post-independence programme that would result in the attainment of total emancipation. Whilst some would be content with what Simons referred to as continuity, others would continue to advocate for a revolutionary change to existing socio-economic relations.
Neither the transition nor post-transition processes threatened the class interests of WMC; the political settlement would retain their class interests intact. The post-apartheid settlement has maintained and perpetuated the old economic system.
When WMC initiated political reforms, they were self-serving. Retaining control over the commanding heights of the economy gave them leverage over the new government and ruling party, and handed to them power to influence the post-apartheid settlement. They would even influence appointments into key positions, the main of which were the economic positions, particularly in the Treasury. This way, they knew they had (and still have) the power to derail transformation and ensure they embed their views on government policies.
Capital leaves nothing to chance and to it, everything has a prize. To ensure their interests remain secured, they have thus sought to influence leadership contestations and succession in the ANC, as they had done with the National Party. They would court both the ANC and DA, and thus would do their all to ensure those they do not support or who do not meet their favour are either destroyed or never allowed to emerge in any way.
This situation has created a number of dilemmas for the ANC and the post-apartheid government which were downright dangerous to the transformation project. How to confront the neo-colonial offensive. Our ideological differences and interventions of multilateral development banks and WMC, ensured that our approach to the post-independence settlement was tentative. The notion of total emancipation, which informed the ANC’s strategic position gradually receded into the background.
We have compromised too much, at our own people’s expense, on matters of principle, and often fixed tactical compromises into dogmatic positions as if they were our principled stances from the onset. Furthermore, we voluntarily embraced orthodox economic principles, both in response to the economic malaise we had inherited from apartheid and in order to attract foreign investors that, like elsewhere, simply have not come in droves as we expected.
WMC and their international allies in the citadels of imperialism were patently aware of the advantaged position they occupied in relation to the rest of the black classes in terms of production and social relations. They knew that to retain their privileged position they had to,
- first, fight tooth and nail to achieve as the outcome of the negotiated settlement the maintenance of their property ownership and all their material advantages,
- secondly, use this privileged position of accumulated wealth as a counter-weight with which to bargain with the new government both for the retention of their material privileges as well as implementation of minimal reforms such as would not dare threaten their privileged material position,
- thirdly, use their wealth to select who amongst the newly aspirant black middle class, political elite and bureaucratic class would be welcome to join them – the white bourgeoisie – at the table of privilege on the basis that they brought alongside with them their political influence and legitimacy that would both entrench and / or advance white material privileges, and
- fourthly, use their control of the economy to influence the ruling party, both directly or indirectly, so that it implements socio-economic policies that favour their narrow class interests. In this regard, it strives on dividing and co-opting sections of the emerging black middle class, and deploys its massive resources to ensure it achieves influence within the ruling party.
Because the state assumes, as Debray has argued, the role of a source of economic power, its control therefore becomes important to the new ruling political elite and a new struggle ensues for such control and factions are forged around it. The national middle class and neo-colonial bourgeoisie do not watch idly as these struggles take place. They also dirty their hands in the battle for its control in pursuit of their material interests.
The neo-colonial bourgeoisie, which is conservative and counter-revolutionary, will ultimately forge common cause with the compradore faction of the national middle-class, which seeks access to wealth without pursuing the fundamental and radical restructuring of the structures, relations and patterns of production and ownership of the economy.
Generally, they take advantage of the dependence of the emerging national middle class on them for access to business opportunities, management and board positions, capital, technology and value-chains, in an environment where BEE equity schemes have compelled black business to serve as junior partners in the economy. Mere conduits between government and white business seeking to gain more business from government.
Together, the reactionary factions of the bourgeoisie (white monopoly and compradore capital) will seek to capture both the ruling party – the NLM – and state, as well as to alienate the more radical component of the middle class that seeks genuine transformation. Forged in the crucible of a corrupt system, they turn around to utilise their resources accumulated in that system to reinforce and ensconce themselves in power through corruption and patronage.
The 2017 NASREC votes-buying spree, accompanied by the call to change the ANC’s nominations and elections procedures and tradition, are aimed precisely at ensuring that the ANC’s character is turned from an anti-colonial revolutionary movement into an appendage of WMC and enforcer of their ideas and material interests. It seeks to convert ours into a bourgeois-democratic state that will become an instrument of racialised class rule.
It can be argued with no fear of contradiction that the current divisions within the national movement are sponsored externally by social forces opposed to a far-reaching national democratic revolution, that seek to maintain the status quo of racialised capitalism. The movement is divided along the interests of WMC.
- Way forward
The only way forward for the ANC is to reclaim its position as a revolutionary movement as we attempted to do during the 2017 National Conference. To focus the movement on the agenda of radical change. The Conference set the tone in terms of what needs to be done to elaborate the radical socio-economic transformation agenda. The duty of this leadership of the ANC is not to evade these questions.
The ANC’s historic duty, as well as that of the democratic state, is not to oversee the status quo, but to hoist it at its own petard. Ultimately, the ANC is a revolutionary movement and not a nicer, blacker, more tasteful and acceptable version of the Democratic Alliance. We must hasten to carry out a social revolution, using all the levers of radical economic transformation at our disposal, in order to accomplish the goal of total emancipation.
The ANC, and the progressive movement in the country, both in order to deepen national liberation and combat the imperialist / neo-colonial offensive, must intensify its efforts to mobilise, conscientise and unite the working class as the primary motive force – the most consistently revolutionary and progressive class of the NDR. It must wage an intensive ideological warfare against right-wing deviation and petty-bourgeois revisionism.
Furthermore, the NLM must deliberately cultivate a progressive national middle class free from foreign domination and dependence.
Finally, the NLM must consciously pursue the unity of the social motive forces of the NDR behind itself, that is, the ANC and the Tripartite Alliance.
 Slovo, J. 1988. The South African Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution
 Mbeki, T. 1978. The Historical Injustice. Paper presented at a seminar in Ottawa, Canada and published in Sechaba, March 1979
 Martin, G. 1976. Class Analysis and Politics in Africa: Some Observations on the Role of the Bourgeoisie in the Political Process in West Africa. Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies. P. 48
 Mbeki, T. ibid.
 Alavi, H. 1972. The State in Post-Colonial Societies – Pakistan and Bangladesh. In New Left Review, 74 (July – August 1972) p.60
 Mbeki, T. ibid.
 Debray, R.“Problems of Revolutionary Strategy in Latin America”, New Left Review, 45 (September – October 1967), p.35
 ANC. 2017. Strategy and Tactics.
 Sparg, M. Schreiner, J. and Ansell, G. (Eds) 2001: “Comrade Jack: The Political Lectures and Diary of Jack Simons, Novo Catengue.” STE Publishers and ANC
 Bayliss, K. and Fine, B. (Ed.) 2008. “Privatisation and Alternative Public Sector Reform in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Palgrave MacMillan. USA. P.62
 Ibid. p.63
 Ibid. p.75
 Reinert, E. 2007: “How Rich Countries Got Rich … And Why Poor Countries Stay Poor”. Constable, London
 Alavi, H. Ibid. p.61
 Cabral, A. 1966. The Weapon of Theory. Address delivered to the First Tricontinental Conference of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Havana, Cuba. Marxist Writers’ Archive. Marxism and Anti-Imperialism in Africa.
 Cabral, A. Ibid.
 Turok, B. 1989: Mixed Economy in Focus: Zambia. Institute for African Alternatives, London, p.2
 Fanon, F. 1963: “The Pitfalls of National Consciousness”. The Wretched of the Earth. Penguin Books, England, pp. 122-123
 Ibid. p.128
 Debray, R. Ibid.