31 May 2014

Europe Underdeveloped Africa

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Development, Part 7a


Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“Colonialism had only one hand - it was a one-armed bandit.”

So as not to forget that the National Democratic Revolution, as well as the contested concept of “Development”, arose from the anti-colonial and then anti-neo-colonial struggles, it is worth reading some of the late Walter Rodney’s words. Linked below is Chapter 6 from Rodney’s 1973 book “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, written while Rodney was a lecturer at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The first paragraph corresponds nicely with Moore’s article (used yesterday), denying

“...that ‘after all there must be two sides to a thing'. The argument suggests that, on the one hand, there was exploitation and oppression, but, on the other hand, colonial governments did much for the benefit of Africans and they developed Africa. It is our contention that this is completely false. Colonialism had only one hand - it was a one-armed bandit.”

On a personal note, this VC of yours is one who attended, with my parents, aged 12, the opening of Embakasi Airport in Nairobi, mentioned on page 4 of this Walter Rodney text as “the world's first handmade international airport”. I can tell you that Embakasi on the face of it appeared at that moment to be a perfect, and dazzling, advertisement for modernity. This contrast of reality and appearance was typical of colonialism.

There is too much reading here for a normal CU study group (but Moore’s newspaper article is suitably short and pointed). Part of the reason for including it is that this series, together with the material from the NDR series, and the State and Revolution series, were conceived of all together in 2009 as a virtual “SACP Special Congress Reader”. We hope to include some of the SACP’s documents in the concluding parts of this course.

Rodney divided this crucial chapter of his book into four parts, which are:

6.1 The Supposed Benefits of Colonialism to Africa
6.2 Negative character of the social, political and economic consequences
6.3 Education for Underdevelopment
6.4 Development by Contradiction.

Reading this document again reminds one of many things about the recent colonial past that are already being forgotten, even while they are being reproduced in new ways. Rodney is especially valuable because he wrote from the other side of the apartheid “front line” but was very well aware of the inter-dependence of all colonialism, whether of a “special type” or not, and also of neo-colonialism.

Walter Rodney belongs in the company of the greats like Frantz Fanon and Amilcar Cabral, whose work he knew and quoted.

Image: The late, immortal Walter Rodney, assassinated by a bomb, in 1980.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-texts: Colonialism as a System for Underdeveloping Africa, Walter Rodney.

30 May 2014

Development is Class Struggle

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Development, Part 7

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Development is Class Struggle

David Moore’s article (attached; download linked below) “The Brutal Side of Capitalist Development” appeared in the now-defunct Johannesburg newspaper “ThisDay” in 2004, as an “op-ed” feature.

At the time, at the height of the Mbeki Presidency, the article was remarkable in the mainstream South African media for being frank about the class struggle. Most of such material one would read at that time, in the depths of the 1996 Class Project years, was of the one-eyed “Development Studies” variety.

Moore only had to say how dull and derivative all this other material had been, to win the case unarguably.

The dispute between “neo-liberal GEARs and social-welfarist RDPs” is a sterile one, he says. Like a new broom, Moore swept away all the “happy synergistic tales”, while reminding people of “capitalism’s brutal genesis” and also its saving grace, the “vibrantly emerging working classes.”

The document is a nice, short read, though packed with hints and pointers. Now in 2013, eight years later, there is continuing talk of a “developmental state” and perhaps an implied assumption that what we already have is that very “developmental state”. Yet the diverse origins of “developmentalism” have hardly been re-examined. Hence the other, longer documents that will be introduced this week, for the sake of completeness. But this article of David Moore’s will be more than adequate as a discussion text.

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” wrote Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the Communist Manifesto of 1848, meaning that the entire historical development of humanity had been driven by the dynamic of class struggle. It still is being driven by class struggle.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: The Brutal Side of Capitalist Development, Moore.

28 May 2014

Trade Unions in a NEP-like country

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Development, Part 6b


Trade Unions in a NEP-like country

Today’s attached text by V I Lenin on the “Role and Function of Trade Unions under the NEP” speaks unequivocally of “the duty of the trade unions to protect the interests of the working people”, in both private and public enterprises.

We have seen that Lenin was ill from the start of the NEP, then progressively more ill, and finally bedridden and unable to speak for months until his death in January, 1924. If we read the documents we would also have noticed that the Civil War was also continuing until 1922.

Later, the richer, capitalising peasants or “kulaks”, who employed others as proletarian workers, were demonised, correctly or not, and the NEP came to an end around 1928. The NEP therefore had a short and constrained life, and consequently, a limited literature. But ours is not to examine the NEP in great detail. We just want to note that in Lenin’s view, this was the correct transitional arrangement, and to see why Lenin thought so.

Large-scale industry was mostly in state hands but small businesses were capitalist. This was not merely expedient. It was necessary. It was the right way, and not a liberal way.

Here in South Africa we do not yet have proletarian state power in the way that the Russian workers obviously had it at the time of Lenin’s writing of this text (1922). But in other respects we have a similar set of circumstances. Big-scale industry is either in the hands of monopoly capital or of the state, leaving a very large portion of the population having to fend for itself, as survivalists, entrepreneurs, SMMEs and all the rest of conceptual divisions of the petty-bourgeoisie. These are mostly poor people, and they have to be helped to survive.

But above all in South Africa, just as under the NEP in Russia in the 1920s, the class struggle continues. Lenin is very frank about this. In the end there is not going to be a win-win situation, and there is no win-win along the way, either, but only class struggle with both winners and losers. Here is an example of what Lenin had to say on this score, in this work:

“As long as classes exist, the class struggle is inevitable. In the period of transition from capitalism to socialism the existence of classes is inevitable; and the Programme of the Russian Communist Party definitely states that we are taking only the first steps in the transition from capitalism to socialism. Hence, the Communist Party, the Soviet government and the trade unions must frankly admit the existence of an economic struggle and its inevitability until the electrification of industry and agriculture is completed—at least in the main—and until small production and the supremacy of the market are thereby cut off at the roots.”

Trade unions are all about “contact with the masses” and therefore cannot be sectarian:

“Under no circumstances must trade union members be required to subscribe to any specific political views; in this respect, as well as in respect of religion, the trade unions must be non-partisan.”

The interest of the working class is “developmental” in a material sense, namely an “enormous increase in the productive forces”. Lenin puts it like this:

”Following its seizure of political power, the principal and fundamental interest of the proletariat lies in securing an enormous increase in the productive forces of society and in the output of manufactured goods.”

Lenin concludes:

“The Communist Party, the Soviet bodies that conduct cultural and educational activities and all Communist members of trade unions must therefore devote far more attention to the ideological struggle against petty-bourgeois influences, trends and deviations among the trade unions, especially because the New Economic Policy is bound to lead to a certain strengthening of capitalism. It is urgently necessary to counteract this by intensifying the struggle against petty-bourgeois influences upon the working class.”

A NEP-like situation, or developmental state, which South Africa now has, involves a deliberate transitional expansion of the petty-bourgeoisie, and therefore also requires a constant struggle to maintain a “superstructure” over this petty-bourgeoisie. Such is the lesson of Lenin in this case.

The formation and the growth of the proletariat will in due course become determinant, because class struggle is the motor of history, and because the proletariat is the gravedigger of capitalism. But in the mean time, the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie must continue with their historical role of creating employment and by doing so, creating the bigger, and finally overwhelmingly massive and politicised proletariat.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-texts: Role and Functions of the TUs under NEP, Lenin, 1921.

23 May 2014

From the NEP Russia will come the Socialist Russia!

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Development, Part 6a


From the NEP Russia will come the Socialist Russia!

The attached short speech to the Moscow Soviet in November 1922 gives more of the background and history of the NEP. 

There is so much that is strong from Lenin, and it ranges so widely, that it is difficult to keep in mind that after the October 1917 revolution he only had four years of relatively good health, and that was interrupted by the assassination attempt of August 1918. During 1922 and 1923 he was mostly ill, and he died in January 1924.

Therefore Lenin’s direct leadership of the policy that he, more than any other, is associated with - namely the New Economic Policy or NEP - only went for about a year from its beginning, which was in March, 1921.

The NEP was abandoned in favour of collectivisation and full central planning in 1928, under the leadership of J V Stalin.


As can be seen in the last paragraph of this speech of Lenin’s, he intended “that NEP Russia will become socialist Russia.” This phrase is echoed in the translation given on the Internet for the slogan in Russian on the NEP poster (above). The other image is of a peasant produce market held during the NEP.

How the transition to socialism was to take place, or exactly what it meant in Lenin’s mind, is a matter of study. We will continue this study with the next of these three items on the NEP.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-texts: Plenary Session of Moscow Soviet, Speech re NEP, Lenin.

22 May 2014

New Economic Policy

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Development, Part 6


New Economic Policy

To read Lenin’s writings and speeches on the “New Economic Policy” (NEP) is to discover a process of comprehensive unpacking and assessment, of factors and variables that are quite similar to those in play in South Africa at the present time.

The NEP followed after the “War Communism” that had been in effect during the Civil War in Russia, after the Great October Revolution of 1917. [Picture: Lenin in Red Square, Moscow, 25 May 1919]. The NEP followed on from “the struggle”, as it were.

The NEP was not a substitute for big-scale, planned industrial development. Early in today’s main document, “The Tax in Kind” (1921) (attached), Lenin emphasises:

“Socialism is inconceivable without large-scale capitalist engineering based on the latest discoveries of modern science. It is inconceivable without planned state organisation which keeps tens of millions of people to the strictest observance of a unified standard in production and distribution... At the same time socialism is inconceivable unless the proletariat is the ruler of the state.”

Later, he sums up:

“The tax in kind is a transition from War Communism to a regular socialist exchange of products. The extreme ruin rendered more acute by the crop failure in 1920 has made this transition urgently necessary owing to the fact that it was impossible to restore large-scale industry rapidly. Hence, the first thing to do is to improve the condition of the peasants. The means are the tax in kind, the development of exchange between agriculture and industry, and the development of small industry. Exchange is freedom of trade; it is capitalism.”

The whole document is worth reading and re-reading. Note that the actual “tax in kind” is not particularly prominent in the text. The sub-title, “The Significance of the New Policy and its Conditions” is more apt.

The actual “tax in kind” policy meant that peasants in particular had the option to pay tax in the form of produce, not cash, after which they were free to sell any additional produce they had on the open market. The tax in kind was a component within the overall scheme of the NEP, which in total amounted to a revival of small-scale market-capitalist production.

It is clear that what Lenin is doing is ordering priorities and synthesising all of the factors that were in play. There is no crude dichotomy here that would cancel out the small-scale producers in favour of the larger ones. On the contrary, the “development of exchange” between small and large is seen by Lenin as the “means”, both to improve the condition of the peasants, and to restore large-scale industry rapidly.

In the Soviet Union, a false dichotomy did subsequently develop between the small and the large, and it may have weakened that country and helped to set it up for the collapse that occurred in the 1990s.

In China, on the contrary, the most scrupulous attention was paid to those peasants and petty-bourgeois who formed the (once-overwhelming and still-existing) majority of the population; but not at the expense of large-scale industrial planning and development. China has survived, and prospered.

Are these things separate? Are they contradictory? Or are they one?

There is in fact no choice. We must have it all: both large and small. We must also recognise the inter-relationship between the small-scale enterprises, that can activate large masses of our people, and the large-scale enterprises, that need the same people as providers of goods and services, and as a market.

Industrial Strategy and Rural Development must be a unity.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-texts: The Tax in Kind, Lenin, 1921, Part 1 and Part 2.



16 May 2014

Entrepreneurship

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Development, Part 5b


Entrepreneurship

In the Umsebenzi Online of 30 June 2010, SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande wrote that we must “Fight Tenderpreneurs to defend entrepreneurship!!”

The GS wrote: “Entrepreneurs, found in co-operatives, small and medium sized businesses, are all those who genuinely and honestly go about doing business, including tendering for government work.”

The attached item today is a short article of Professor Michael Morris’s, published in 1996 in the Business Day, which debunked a number of misconceptions about so-called “entrepreneurship”.

Morris wrote, among other things, that: “The entrepreneurial individual recognises a trend, a possibility, an unmet demand. He or she comes up with a concept for capitalising on the trend or demand and does so while the window of opportunity is open.”

This is the same point as Lenin is making. Lenin knew that the setting up of producer co-operatives without attention to their markets would be a disastrous waste.

Morris also says: “Entrepreneurial individuals are opportunity-driven, not resource-driven.” This may be the truest of the many true things that Morris noticed about entrepreneurs.

Business is driven by the customer. It is not true, as Jean-Baptiste Say used to believe, that supply creates its own demand. The entrepreneur’s job is to identify demand, where demand means people wanting goods or services, and ready and willing to pay for them promptly and at a price that will ensure a profit to the entrepreneur.

Most co-ops in South Africa are set up in what Lenin referred to as the “Asiatic manner”, expecting to produce first and sell later. Whereas, as Lenin pointed out, to be a good co-operator one must be what he called a “cultured trader”. Above all, this means securing the demand before you make (or buy) and supply. The entrepreneur is a trader, and a cultured trader.

A great deal follows from that, and these are the considerations that define the world around the co-operatives, small and medium sized businesses that Dr Blade Nzimande referred to. Most of these considerations are obscured or downright lied-about in capitalist literature. Morris’s short article is a rare example of relative candour in the business press, which makes it very well worth reading.

The market is crucial, but contrary to what the bourgeois ideologues keep on saying, the market is not free or open. It is we, the opponents of monopoly capitalism, who are the true “free-marketeers”. Small businesses, including co-ops, to survive, must have access to markets that are not dominated by predatory monopolistic market manipulators; and if they are selling to the state, they must be paid on time and in full. These conditions hardly exist in South Africa, which has historically been monopolistic in the extreme, and whose government, on the other hand, is a notoriously slow payer.

The Chinese delegation that visited South Africa in 2009 told us that the Chinese peasants are guaranteed a market by the state, at the same price that private buyers are prepared to pay.

South Africa will also have to pay attention to the question of the market for peasant, petty-bourgeois, and co-operative production, which is so clear in Lenin’s approach and which he explicitly recommends.

Even if it may not always be a matter of the state setting up co-ops, yet the mass social development of peasants and petty-bourgeois is always going to be a matter of educating, organising, and mobilising. Paradoxically, and for this reason, the petty-bourgeoisie needs the communists.

Illustration: “Entrepreneur” means one who “holds together”, as the ring in the picture holds together the chains. Most especially the business entrepreneur holds together demand and supply.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-texts: Dismissing Myths and Misunderstandings of Entrepreneurship, Morris.

15 May 2014

Lenin: Co-ops work under the working class

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Development, Part 5a


Lenin: Co-ops work under the working class

The main item today is Lenin’s “On Co-operation”, a short but very rich and extraordinary document written in January 1923. Lenin suffered his third and last stroke in March of that year, from which he did not recover, dying in January, 1924. This short text is therefore among his last works.

Writing in post-revolutionary conditions, Lenin briefly acknowledges the criticism that had been heaped upon co-ops under the bourgeois dictatorship: “There is a lot of fantasy in the dreams of the old co-operators. Often they are ridiculously fantastic,” he says.

Following which he proceeds to place an extremely high value on co-operatives, in the new conditions, as being almost the most important component of the advance to full socialism, saying:

“since political power is in the hands of the working-class, since this political power owns all the means of production, the only task, indeed, that remains for us is to organize the population in co-operative societies.”

We can note that in this article Lenin anticipates at least one or two decades of further life of the New Economic Policy (NEP), which allowed bourgeois activity under proletarian state power.

What actually happened was that within about four years after Lenin’s death the NEP had been reversed and the policy of the Soviet Union had become one of large-scale five-year plans, only. The centralisation of the economy, started under Lenin as complementary to the NEP, had in effect become treated as an either/or mutually exclusive alternative to it.

Is this a necessary dichotomy? In South Africa, we will at some stage have to decide. So far, since the democratic breakthrough of 1994, South African governments have encouraged all kinds of employment, and small business development, including encouragement of co-operatives that has been rather nominal. In that context, note what Lenin says about the NEP: that it made the mistake of neglecting co-operatives.

This short article of Lenin’s on co-operation ranges more widely than simply on co-ops as such. Particularly interesting are the concluding paragraphs of Part 2 of the document, where Lenin refers to a “cultural revolution”.

In the penultimate paragraph of Part 1, Lenin had written:

“By ability to be a trader I mean the ability to be a cultured trader. Let those Russians, or peasants, who imagine that since they trade they are good traders, get that well into their heads. This does not follow that all. They do trade, but that is far from being cultured traders. They now trade in an Asiatic manner, but to be a good trader one must trade in the European manner. They are a whole epoch behind in that.”

The difference that Lenin refers to as between “Asiatic” and “European” trading is the difference between production for sale without having secured a market, and on the other hand, production for a known market, or for a previously-identified demand. We will pursue this question in relation to the next item, on “entrepreneurship”.

In Part 2, Lenin re-states the difference between pre- and post-revolutionary co-ops, saying:

“…we are right in regarding as entirely fantastic this ‘co-operative’ socialism, and as romantic, and even banal, the dream of transforming class enemies into class collaborators and class war into class peace (so-called class truce) by merely organizing the population in cooperative societies.

“…But see how things have changed now that the political power is in the hands of the working-class, now that the political power of the exploiters is overthrown…”

Illustration: Selling Surplus Grain Crops at the Office of the People's Co-operative, Wang Qi, People’s Republic of China, 1953

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-texts: On Co-operation, Lenin.

14 May 2014

Co-Operatives or Protégés?

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Development, Part 5


Co-Operatives or Protégés?

The classic revolutionary literature on co-operatives divides into two parts, characterised first by Marx’s, Engels’ and Lenin’s disdain for co-ops under the bourgeois dictatorship, and second by Lenin’s embracing of co-ops as the sufficient and necessary means, under proletarian rule, of uniting the town and the country and of effecting a transition, for the proletarian and non-proletarian masses together, into socialism.

For South Africans this poses theoretical problems.

We cannot just ignore what the classics say about co-ops under capitalism, not because they are “classics”, but also because the arguments are strong, and because ours is still a bourgeois state. Therefore the arguments that Marx makes in “The Critique of the Gotha Programme” (attached, and downloadable via the link below), for example, still apply to us.

Yet we appear to need the opportunity, that co-ops seem to provide, of socialising fragmented and incomplete individual efforts, or in other words of organising the unorganised peasantry, petty-bourgeoisie, and more generally, those whom capitalism has failed to employ.

In the light of these considerations, let us look at some of what Karl Marx said about co-operatives on pages 4, 5, 6 and 9 of “The Critique of the Gotha Programme”. Most of it is scathing. The best that Marx can manage to say for co-ops is:

“That the workers desire to establish the conditions for co-operative production on a social scale, and first of all on a national scale, in their own country, only means that they are working to revolutionize the present conditions of production, and it has nothing in common with the foundation of co-operative societies with state aid. But as far as the present co-operative societies are concerned, they are of value only insofar as they are the independent creations of the workers and not protégés either of the governments or of the bourgeois.”

Prior to the above he remarks (about the Gotha Programme):

“Vulgar socialism (and from it in turn a section of the democrats) has taken over from the bourgeois economists the consideration and treatment of distribution as independent of the mode of production and hence the presentation of socialism as turning principally on distribution.”

The co-operation that is patronised by the state, and also state distribution (i.e. what we now call “delivery”) is only “vulgar socialism”, says Marx.

The Critique of the Gotha Programme is not a long document (though it is very rich). Please try to read it, and re-read it from time to time. It is invaluable for many purposes, and not just for this question of co-ops.

Illustration: Sewing Co-operative, Rwanda, 2009

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-texts: Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx , Part 1 and Part 2.

9 May 2014

China 2013

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Development, Part 4c


China 2013

Samir Amin is an African revolutionary writer who has recently written comparatively as between the development path of post-revolutionary China, and that of the Soviet Union.

On page 2 of our 20-page bookletised version of his article (“China 2013”, attached), Samir Amin writes that the success of China (and Vietnam) “is the product of an intelligent and exceptional political line implemented by the Communist Parties of these two countries.”

South Africa’s problems are far from being identical to those of China’s at any stage of its development, or to those of the Soviet Union.

It would seem to follow, therefore, that South Africa will also require its own, and different, “intelligent and exceptional political line”.

This does not mean that South Africa can ignore the experience of others such as the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam. On the contrary, it means that South Africans need to study as widely as possible the paths of development that others have followed. Not so as to copy them, but so as to get behind them to the general principles of planning and development.

In particular, we may note that China, the Soviet Union, and India, have all used the practice of five-year planning as well as longer-term strategic orientation.

South Africa, at last, has begun to plan. We have our first, imperfect but nevertheless actually-existing, plan, called the NDP (National Development Plan).

This very extraordinary article of Samir Amin’s can help us to reflect on planning and on the results that it can have, even in so short a historical period as one person’s lifetime.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: China 2013, Samir Amin.

8 May 2014

Education, key to development

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Development, Part 4b

Poster, “Do you help to liquidate illiteracy?” (USSR, 1925)

Education, key to development

Lenin’s short, 1920 speech to adult educators (attached) starts with some paragraphs about the war situation. This was a little more than two years after the Great October 1917 Russian Revolution, and in the mean time there had been counter-revolutionary uprisings and military interventions from the capitalist powers, including Great Britain. These can serve to remind us what an enormous effort had to be made just to obtain sufficient peace to start building the USSR.

In the remaining page or so of this typically powerful summing-up by Lenin can be read his view of the relationship between education, development of industrial productive forces (including electrification), and the emancipation of the peasants from poverty and backward material conditions.

Says Lenin:

[We] “…will go to the peasants with a practical, businesslike and clear-cut plan for the reconstruction of all industry and will demonstrate that with education at its present level the peasant and the worker will not be able to carry out this task and will not escape from filth, poverty, typhus and disease.

“This practical task is clearly connected with cultural and educational improvements and must serve as the central point around which we must group all our Party propaganda and activities, all our school and extra-mural teaching.

“This will help to get a sound grasp of the most urgent interests of the peasant masses and will link up the general improvement in culture and knowledge with burning economic requirements to such an extent that we shall increase a hundredfold the demand of the working-class masses for education.”

We, too, must link up the general improvement in culture and knowledge with burning economic requirements. This is the reason for our studies.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Speech to Adult Educationalists at 3rd All-Russian Conference, 1920, Lenin.

7 May 2014

The Nationalisation of Land

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Development, Part 4a


The Nationalisation of Land

If “Land to the tiller” is a revolutionary slogan that will motivate our allies the peasantry and the petty-bourgeoisie, then what about: “Nationalise the land”?

These things are not the same. The petty-bourgeois republic is not the same as Karl Marx’s dream (see the main linked text, below) of “National centralization of the means of production”, which Marx here associates with the ultimate moves in the transition to communism (i.e. the “withering away of the state”).

In the attached short, 2-page letter to Mr Applegarth, Marx writes:

"The future will decide that the land cannot be owned but nationally. To give up the soil to the hands of associated rural laborers would be to surrender all society to one exclusive class of producers. The nationalization of land will work a complete change in the relations between labor and capital and finally do away altogether with capitalist production, whether industrial or rural. Only then the class distinctions and privileges will disappear together with the economical basis from which they originate and society will be transformed into an association of 'producers'. To live upon other people’s labor will become a thing of the past. There will no longer exist a government nor a state distinct from society itself."

In the alliance of worker and peasant that must be made for the purposes of overthrowing the rule of the big bourgeoisie, the demand of the peasants is for ownership of land.

Yet Marx, already, in 1869, is clear in his mind that the distribution of land to the peasants makes a situation that “is farther off the nationalization of land than… landlordism” and “converts the tiller himself into the most decided enemy of all social progress, and above all, of the nationalization of the land”.

Such problems arose in the Soviet Union after the revolution, following which “collectivisation” took place by force.

In China things were done differently. There, the peasant class was given land and nursed for generations, and the peasant class is still the majority class in China, although hundreds of millions have been drawn off the land and into the cities to create what is now by far the largest national working proletariat that the world has ever seen.


What Marx calls in this letter “appliance of modern agricultural improvements”, and which he thought were excluded from use by peasant farmers, were redesigned and manufactured in China at a suitable scale for peasant use (e.g. the Chinese walking tractor). Even with such mechanical implements, peasant progress was slow, as it can only be slow. Yet the transformation of China has been as relentless as it has been systematic.

Illustration (Poster): “As a result of state-farm and collective-farm construction the USSR became the country of the most powerful agriculture in the world.” (1931)

Second Illustration: Chinese walking tractor, designed for peasant family farming.


6 May 2014

La Via Campesina

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Development, Part 4


La Via Campesina

The main attached documents (and linked downloads below), are from a farmer called Rob Sacco. Together they comprise 2005 letter from the bundu in reply to an e-mail that was printed by a friend and carried up to Sacco in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe.

Sacco is a defender of the people’s history of Zimbabwe as he sees it. He seems suspicious of nearly everyone else, but he is articulate and serious, and obviously a practical person. He writes of “development by marginal adjustment”, which sounds right, for peasants.

La Via Campesina means “the way of the peasant”.

While taking a swipe at the SACP for being “workerist” (which is certainly a bad mistake, but how would he know?) Sacco lays out his assessment:

“…the transfer of 10 million hectares plus of the best land from a post-colonial class perpetually externalizing wealth, to the mass of an African peasant class, and to an African petty bourgeoisie, generating indigenous wealth from the ground up, constitutes a genuine revolution.”

Sacco is not shy to defend the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie. This is an example the Communist University needs for our current purposes. We need an advocate for the interests of the other masses, the ones that the working class needs as allies, so as to form an overwhelming popular majority, together.

If we are to be allies, we must be capable of understanding peasants and petty bourgeois in their own terms, and we must be able to learn from them.

Sacco has a sense of place and a pride in his ability to bring forth nourishment for people from the land, by work and by skill and by knowledge and experience.

There is a lot of personal history in this piece, and a lot of political history of structures and institutions, and even a cat that breaks a bottle of whisky. This is all quite typical of the peasant approach to life, which is always as much of a narrative as it is a collective.

The picture is of farmers in Mozambique.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Peasant Revolution in Zimbabwe, Rob Sacco, 2005, reply to Bond, Part 1 and Part 2.

2 May 2014

Design is Politics

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Development, Part 3c


Design is Politics

Glen Mills’ excellent, short, 2006 Business Day article “Thinking out of the matchbox” (attached, and linked below) briefly summarised the general situation in South African housing at that time.

There is still no public discussion of design, except at the “Top Billing” level of snobbery and eclecticism, or otherwise at the level of the most banal and hopeless utilitarianism.

Mills’ article brings out this vital question of design. His argument is true, and tragic.

Design is the politics and the propaganda of the eye, and the enabler of freedom. It is the politics that is lived in, as opposed to being merely read or spoken.

Design is terribly impoverished in South Africa. This part of our politics has been neglected.

On 30 January 2012, Glen Mills published another article in Business Day, under the headline “Informal settlements could be our cities of the future”. It has been added to our discussion document.

In the next part, we look at the rural side of things.

Image: “Plug-In City

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Thinking out of the matchbox, Glen Mills, Business Day.

1 May 2014

A bridge for the poor?

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Development, Part 3b


A bridge for the poor?

“Barking dogs and building bridges” (attached, and linked below) is Lauren Royston’s subtle and patient demolition of the simplistic bourgeois platitudes of Hernando de Soto.

De Soto is a Peruvian and the author of a book called “The Mystery of Capital” published in 2000. He subsequently visited South Africa. De Soto advocates globalised capitalism, and claims to have found a way of incorporating the poorest of the poor within a regulated, universal framework of property and economic practice.

Royston does not take a heavy axe to de Soto but recognises that he had achieved a remarkable propaganda success (quickly forgotten, but occasionally, as in the 2014 general elections in Soputh Africa, revived) in a field where academics like herself and the advocacy groups “Leap” and “Afra”, among many others, had found themselves being ignored for years, and even decades. Though they may have disliked de Soto’s ideology, yet they were in some measure happy that de Soto had secured wide publicity for the “extra-legal” (i.e. outside the law) arrangements by which poor people are in practice obliged to manage their lives.

Royston’s scholarship takes us from Grahamstown, 1850, via the Glen Grey Act and parts of KZN to Cosmo City, Phola Park and Thokoza, and to a firm understanding of the enduring empirical condition of South Africa’s petty-bourgeois and peasant poor (who happen to be allies of the working class in the National Democratic Revolution).

Who are our allies?

In terms of this course on Development, this part’s several texts (and there is a fourth one to come) are intended to open us to a much more detailed, and a much less vague, understanding of our class allies.

The petty-bourgeoisie and the peasants are not “progressive”. Unlike the proletariat, they do not have a glorious future ahead of them. On the other hand, they are not simply “Trojan horses” for the big bourgeoisie, but are severely oppressed in the present system. The big bourgeoisie feeds off the small bourgeoisie in many ways, as Rosa Luxemburg could see. Even so, the petty-bourgeoisie and the peasantry share one great characteristic with the big bourgeoisie: they seek private wealth and property. The picture contains contradictions, and therefore it requires careful study.

The petty-bourgeoisie and the peasantry are the soil from which the big bourgeoisie (the large-scale proprietors, the bankers, and the capitalist employers of thousands) have sprung. They are also the soil from which the proletariat has sprung, but in the case of the latter, only because of utter dispossession – complete absence of productive property – enforced by the actions of the predatory big bourgeoisie.

Looking at these classes very specifically, and with evidence of their nature in front of us, it becomes clear why, within the National Democratic Revolution, the proletariat is allied with the peasantry and/or the petty-bourgeoisie. They must be with us, and not with our opponents, against us.

Once again it becomes clear that development is class struggle. What can happen, and what does or does not happen, is determined by the competing class interests within the overall political economy of the country, as Lauren Royston points out in the attached text.

PostscriptIn the 2014 national elections in South Africa, Hernando de Soto’s quack remedies were once more rolled out, this time by the DA, and criticised in turn by the SACP’s 1st Deputy General Secretary, Cde Jeremy Cronin, in Umsebenzi Online, Volume 13, Number 16 (click here to read the article).

Image: Cadastral overlay on a satellite image from an Internet site describing a recent first-time property survey of Bhutan, the world’s last remaining feudal state. Presumably this survey was done so as to assist the encroachment of banking and capitalistic property relations in that country.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Barking dogs, building bridges, Lauren Royston.