Hattingh, “The South African state’s 2012 budget” (2012)

From ZCommunications here

The South African state’s 2012 budget

By

Hattingh, ” Class war and imperialism in Greece” (2012)

From ZCommunications here

Class war and imperialism in Greece

Hattingh, “Venezuela and the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’: Beacon of hope or smoke and mirrors?” (2012)

From ZCommunications here 

Venezuela and the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’: Beacon of Hope or Smoke and Mirrors?

by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)

April 23, 2012

Introduction

For many people on the left, within and outside of Southern Africa, the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ is seen as a beacon of socialist hope in a sea of capitalist despair [1]. The reason why many leftists feel so strongly attached to this project, and promote it as an alternative, is because they have come to view it as a move by the Venezuelan state towards creating a genuine, free form of socialism [2] or at the very least an experiment that profoundly breaks with the tenets of neo-liberalism [3] [4]. Many articles have, therefore, been written lauding the state’s nationalisation of some industries [5], its land distribution programmes [6], and its attempts to supposedly create participatory democracy in workplaces (through co-management and co-operatives) [7] and in communities (through community councils) [8]. Linked to this, a great deal has also been made of the state using some of revenue generated by the Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) to roll out social services such as education, subsidised foodstuffs and healthcare [9]. Much ink has, consequently, been spilt arguing that all of these are socialist inspired moves and passionate calls have been made for other states, like the South African state, to adopt Venezuelan style ‘Socialism for the Twenty First Century’ [10].

This article, however, questions the assumption that the Venezuelan state is embarking upon a path to create a truly egalitarian and free socialist society. It will, therefore, be argued that Venezuela is not in a transitional phase to socialism; rather it is a capitalist country where the private sector and important state-owned companies seek to maximise profits. Indeed, it will be argued that while some welfare is handed out by the state, this often sits side by side with other policies that are outright neo-liberal. In order to make the argument that Venezuela cannot be considered as heading in a socialist direction, this article will engage and examine issues around the state’s nationalisation programme, its relations to multinational corporations, its community councils project and its social service programmes. Coupled to this, the nature of the economy will be looked at, including ownership patterns, and it will be critically considered whether or not the relations of production that define capitalism are being transformed into more socialist relations based on direct democracy, mutual aid and self-management in workplaces and communities. In fact, it will be argued, from an anarchist perspective, that unfortunately relations that define class rule and capitalism are not being eroded away by the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’: instead of an egalitarian society arising, it will be considered how and why an elite still exploit and oppress the working class. It will, therefore, be critically considered how and why class rule and capitalism, and even elements of neo-liberal capitalism, in Venezuelan society are not in the process of being eroded away. Far from being a beacon of hope the ‘Bolivarian process’ may be more correctly identified as a case of smoke and mirrors.

The Quagmire of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’s’ Rhetoric

There is no doubt that both the supporters and opponents of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ feel passionately about the figure of Hugo Chavez and place him firmly at the centre of the ‘revolution’. Continue reading

Hattingh, ” South Africa’s rulers have blood on their hands, again” (2013)

From ZCommunications here

South Africa’s rulers have blood on their hands, again

 

Philip Mzamani Nyalungu: “Motsoaledi Concerned Residents”

Found here and dated 9 March 2010

“Motsoaledi Concerned Residents” by Philip Nyalungu

This structure was formed sometimes around 2005 amid overwhelming support from the community. After the local South African National Civil Organization (SANCO) has consistently suppressed anyone to question the government and ruling party. The people have realized that “they need an alternative”. Because the politicians and through their political parties consistently exploit people’s emotions. By making empty promises to win the votes. The meaning to life is nothing else but basic services. In our community there’s nothing like basic services. They take decisions in our expenses without our consent. Instead of building us houses. They are busy with malls while we are dying. It is as if we don’t belong in this planet and they are doing us a great favour. To at least allow us just stay. We are like refugees in our own country.

Undoubtedly this angry came after the present government failed to deliver basic services. With no electricity, sanitation and infrastructures. Our children have no recreational-resource facilities. It is 15 years since the ANC democratic government came in power. This has resulted in much destruction: Such as teenage pregnancy, violence, crime, illiteracy, diseases, unemployment and subsequently deaths.We all know that “the future is determined by the availability of resources”. That is why we voted in 1994/1999 and 2004 because we were promised all this things.

Where are we today? We are children, parents, grandparents and dead! All cramped in pain and dark! We all know and told the Apartheid government was the cause of our problems. We are staying in the squatter camps. It is out of question to compromise our lives for so long. After the highest law of the country (constitution) stated clear that “everyone has right to life”. The right to have a house of your own built where you are.Under this global economy, globalisation and global power. It is very important to have independent community structures like MCR. Which are within and controlled by the people. Making sure every need to the community is attended. Since the government only protects and advance the interest of the rich in our expenses. Giving a go-ahead to anyone who is thirsty for our blood. Equalling our lives to that of a life stock and poultry. As results many of our people are dying unnecessarily and no action is taken to prevent such.

Through these structures we can have an impartial understanding about our immediate environment. This will bring confidence within us to protect ourselves and advance our culture. Then we can come closer to challenge the enemy of our lives. Our enemy is not the Zulu, Xhosa, Shangani or Zimbabweans. It is the multi-national corporations and structures that protect and advance their interests. These corporations are responsible for civil wars across the continent and the world.

Lately the ANC leaders have decided to recall president Mbeki. With an impression that, “it is in the interest of the poor and majority of South Africa”. To a big surprise they keep on reminding the world that “the policies implemented under Mandela-Mbeki’s orders will never change”.This is a daily light brutal attack on the poor and majority of this country!! We are here suffering today because of the very same policies. It is very clear the ANC leadership is in this mess. Because they never had interest saving the people and they will never have. Always it’s only to their personal benefit.

Apartheid debt, Gear, Privatisation, Egoli 2002, Gautrain, 2010 and Asgisa. These are policies causing all problems in our country. They are implemented by the people who manage structures that protects and advance the interest of the rich and few. The political parties in the government have said nothing about the effects on the poor and majority of the country. Instead they send the police to arrest, shoot, and beat and kill us when we demonstrate. Within the 14 years the ANC in power. The ANC in parliament and their families and friends became very-very rich. While we on the ground who voted them into power have to suffer at all cost. In this regard the ANC under Mandela/ Mbeki/ Monthlante/Zuma/Malema is always the same ANC.

This battle is for all of us in the community. Until we come together and face this common goal. Nothing is going to happen without confronting and exposing the enemy. Our lives have been destroyed for so long. It was apartheid today is the government we voted in power. MCR is the community structure. Willing to work together with various community structures in the immediate community, across the country and globally.These structures must not compromise the lives of poor people to the rich. Since the global economy is destroying every poor people in the world. Through corrupt government officials and leaders from political parties. Every day has a meaning: To wait it simply means many death before our last breathe. It is even worse because they are going to relocate and divide people. So they can build more shopping malls and divisive residential and apartment to attract the middle class and rich people.

Hattingh, “Nkandla: Is It Just Zuma’s Greed?”, 2014 [The South African Civil Society Information Service]

Nkandla: Is It Just Zuma’s Greed?

By Shawn Hattingh · 11 Apr 2014

The Public Protector’s report on Nkandla has unleashed a storm of anger. Radio shows and newspaper columns have been filled with people complaining about the state spending vast sums on upgrading the President’s private residence. Rightfully, they have pointed out that it is wrong that the state spent R248 million on the project – money, which could have been spent on housing, healthcare and service delivery for the public.

However, when it comes to analysing how Nkandla could happen and what it represents, most of the analysis has been shallow. In fact, the analysis of why the Nkandla scandal happened and what it symbolises has often taken on racist undertones or has merely been put down to the personal greed of President Jacob Zuma. While Zuma has been mired in endless corruption scandals, Nkandla points to bigger problems beyond the character of the President or his propensity for corruption. In fact, it points towards problems associated with neoliberalism, class rule, and even how the state under capitalism is a site of accumulation for the ruling class

How Politicians Get Rich through the State

In society, the state plays a central role in protecting the interests of the ruling class. In capitalist societies this has seen states protecting and furthering the interests of elites. As such, state resources are often skewed disproportionately towards meeting the needs of the rich.

But the state can also be used as a site by an elite to accumulate wealth. In recent history this was evident in countries that were emerging from colonialism. In such countries, indigenous business people often did not exist – due to colonialism and the positioning of these countries in the international capitalist order – and for an emerging elite the state offered one of the few paths to accumulate wealth. As such, many Third World elites used newly independent states and their links to elites in the First World to amass private wealth – sometimes on a very large scale.

However, even in North America and Europe, being positioned high in the state offered and offers opportunities to amass wealth. Along with the perks that holding high office within the state brings – including large salaries – this has often also taken the form of corruption, including bribery by private capital. For example, in 1961 the West German Minister of Defence was paid a bribe of over R100 million in order to ensure that the West German state bought fighter jets from Lockheed. Thus class rule, states, capitalism and accumulating wealth have always gone hand in hand and have often involved outright corruption.

Accumulation through the State in South Africa

By the time apartheid fell, South Africa had developed a local capitalist class. However, due to apartheid, this class was almost exclusively white. Aspiring capitalists linked to the ANC, who wanted to own large private companies, were frustrated by these capitalists. In fact, ownership of large corporations still remains largely in the hands of white businesspersons.

This has meant that for an aspiring elite around the ANC, like in many other former colonial countries, the state has offered the most viable way to accumulate wealth. This is why an ANC-linked elite has used the state to open up business opportunities for themselves. The ANC and the state’s relations with businesspeople like the Guptas is an example of this. It is also why managers within state-owned companies have been rewarded huge salaries.

Meanwhile, there have been on-going scandals linked to this phenomenon of using the state to accumulate private wealth. One need only think back to the arms deal. Nkandla is a continuation of this and arises because the state is being used as a site of accumulation. Zuma’s lavish homestead is an outcome of and symbol of accumulation via the state. In fact, President Zuma is not alone in using the state to upgrade his own property. Recently the state spent millions refurbishing ministers’ houses. Tens of millions were also spent on the properties of former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela.

But using the state to get rich goes beyond simply improving private houses. The upgrade of properties is simply part of a larger drive to make money out of the state and open business opportunities through it. In some ways this echoes how an Afrikaner elite used the state to accumulate wealth and business opportunities in the face of the dominance of white English-speaking capitalists under apartheid.

Neo-liberalism Has Made Things Worse

Under neoliberalism, however, the practice of officials using the state to secure private wealth has become even worse. Privatisation and tendering via public-private partnerships offers state officials, their family members and people that are politically connected the opportunity to become extremely rich. Since South Africa embraced neoliberal policies, outright corruption associated with privatisation and tendering across the world has also grown – and like all countries ours has not been immune.

One need only think of the state tenders to build the World Cup stadiums. These were awarded to the largest construction companies in South Africa, like Murray and Roberts. It has become clear that such companies colluded with one another to inflate their prices and accumulate wealth fraudulently through this. Nkandla is another example. Zuma’s desire for a private palace is not the only reason behind Nkandla’s hefty price tag. Its construction also became expensive because contractors inflated their prices. The architect’s fees alone were R18.6 million.

Nkandla, therefore, arises out of and represents how the drive to maximise profits has intensified state corruption, and how both businesspeople and state officials are using the state as a site to accumulate private wealth.

People should, therefore, rightfully be angry about Nkandla. They should fight against this and other forms of corruption. But this fight should not get sidetracked into just the personal flaws of Zuma because it represents far more than this. It demonstrates how the ruling class uses the state, as a site of accumulation – and also that it is a systemic problem. To fight corruption we should be fighting the state as an instrument of the ruling class, and perhaps more importantly, we should be challenging the neo-liberal model of capitalism.

Hattingh is a Researcher and Educator for the International Labour Research Information Group in South Africa.