In doing so Mashatile declared: “There is nothing like white monopoly capital in our vocabulary.
“It smacks of populism that will bring confusion within our ranks.”
Similar statements have been made by Trevor Manuel, the former minister of finance and probably most surprisingly by comrade Blade Nzimande, the general secretary of the SACP. These statements cannot be taken lightly.
The argument about whether white monopoly capital actually exists is not simply a harmless academic debate about the formulation of a concept.
In reality it cuts to the very root of how we interpret our history, and understand the society that we live in.
The critical question must always be: how did this society that we live in come about?
Surely it is not a coincidence of some undefined historical factors/forces that we live in a society where the vast majority of black people (especially Africans) are without any land, in fact without any property or ownership of the means of production and languish in abject poverty?
Surely it is also not a historical coincidence that more than 80% of the shares on the JSE are in the hands of monopoly companies that are owned and controlled by whites, and that overwhelmingly the ownership of land is similarly dominated by whites?
Surely we cannot accept the arrogant arguments of these whites claiming that they have achieved this in a just manner through their own hard work and industriousness, which by implication also contains the fundamentally racist supposition that black people are in their current position of demeaning poverty and subjugation because they have been outworked and outperformed by more capable whites.
Any person with the experience of living in South Africa and knowing the bare basics of our history of colonial subjugation and deliberate apartheid under-development and exploitation of the black majority should know that these are self-serving and flagrantly racist lies!
The history of the liberation Struggle and specifically the history of the ANC since it was formed in 1912 is characterised by the ability of those who took the lead i to have been able to analyse our history and objective socio-economic reality in a manner that identified unambiguously the reason (cause) of the plight of the racist and economic oppression of the black majority (especially Africans).
These leaders of our liberation struggle understood that white colonialists stole the land from the indigenous African people and with this theft of the land as the underpinning foundation built an economy where whites are the owners of almost everything and black people are the labourers working for pitiful wages in service of the white bosses.
Our historical liberation leaders were crystal clear in their analysis that through colonialism of a special type, white colonialism had morphed into white monopoly capital.
Thus, they were not confused about who the enemy was and they had no doubt whatsoever that to bring an end to the enslavement of the African people white ownership of the land and white overall control of the economy had to come to an end.
They were also clear that white monopoly capital having amassed the wealth and power that it had through racist thievery was not going to give it up voluntarily.
As time proceeded the ANC with the assistance of the class struggle analysis of the SACP became sharper and sharper in its analysis that well defined, deliberate and unapologetic measures had to be taken to take ownership of the land and the economy away from the white monopoly capitalists and return it to the majority of African people.
There was no confusion that the root-cause of poverty, unemployment, poor health and lack of education is the systemic exploitation of the African people by white monopoly capital. The logic is inescapable: White colonialism and its latter-day incarnation of white monopoly capital is the cause of the current plight of the majority of blacks.
One simply cannot address the effect of black poverty without getting rid of the main systemic cause of it, which is the continuing exploitative control of our economy by white monopoly capital.
Once this is understood our situation is no longer murky and unclear: white monopoly capital is the enemy and it has to go.
For decades the ANC was not unclear or confused about this. There is a huge body of writing by the ANC and the SACP that underpins this understanding and in which white monopoly capital is without hesitation identified and called by its very name.
Professor Chris Malikane, associate professor of economics at the University of the Witwatersrand and special adviser to Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba has done us a huge favour by having done an exhaustive compilation of the numerous references to white monopoly capital in the documents of the ANC and the SACP under the title, “Some notes on White Monopoly Capital: definition, use and denial”.
In contextualising his paper Malikane does not beat about the bush: “In these notes, we show that the claim that the concept, ‘white monopoly capital’ cannot be found in the literature of the national liberation movement is not true (my emphasis).
This narrative which seeks to deny the existence of white monopoly capital or the white monopolisation of South Africa is aimed at ideologically confusing black people in general, and Africans in particular.”Malikane shows, by extensively quoting them, that several leaders of the ANC and SACP have over decades emphasised the dominance of white monopoly capital in the economy.
Among these are Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo, Blade Nzimande, Jeremy Cronin, S’dumo Dlamini, Zwelinzima Vavi and several others.
Strangely Blade Nzimande, Trevor Manuel, Jeremy Cronin and Paul Mashatile seem to have undergone a change of heart and now no longer – despite their comments in the past – believe that white monopoly capital exists.
It has now suddenly become a problem for them to continue to acknowledge their own lived experiences.
What they can see every day with their very own eyes about who is responsible for the poverty, starvation and marginalisation of blacks, they no longer want to acknowledge and speak out about.
We cannot escape the critical question: Why is there now the sudden desire by some in the ANC to co-operate with the counter-revolution? I believe that comrade Sihle Zikalala, the chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, pin-pointed the reason in his closing speech at the ANC Provincial General Council over the past weekend, when he asked the very same question.
I quote the disturbing, but seminal, answer that he provided: “As revolution teaches, the consciousness of a person is not determined by a function of the mind, but by his/her surrounding objective conditions.”
Zikalala then proceeded to put his finger on the festering wound: “ because of the success of our revolution, there are some in the movement who have recorded rapid growth in life rather as a result of policies of the democratic government or were deliberately and purposely co-opted by the white monopoly capital so that it appears to be concerned with African people, while the intention is to serve its agenda. It is these comrades who today have sponsored bravery to tell us that there is no white monopoly capital and that the agenda for radical economic transformation is a reckless agenda that will upset private capital The crippling danger of conformism needs to be confronted.”
It is exactly because of this reality that I have started by saying that the revisionist statements by the denialists of white monopoly capital should not be taken lightly.
It is indeed about the essence of our struggle.
It is about continuing the struggle for true liberation, which must also include economic liberation and justice for the majority of blacks and being true to the Freedom Charter; or being sold out by people whose own interests have now totally converged with the interests and objectives of white monopoly capital.
Understanding this reality helps us understand that it is in fact the Mashatiles, Manuels and Nzimandes who, with their opportunistic and self-serving denial of the existence of white monopoly capital, are trying to bring confusion into our ranks.
We have to be absolutely unequivocal in our rejection of this kind of counter-revolutionary revisionism.
For them to have joined the ranks of the enemy does not mean the enemy has stopped existing! It is with this realisation that we have to approach our understanding of working for unity in the ANC.
It can never be unity for its own sake, our quest for unity must always have a purpose in itself. It must be unity in the service and liberation of the people from white monopoly capital which is without any shadow of a doubt the main reason for the continuing exploitation and suffering of the people.
Our engagements in the run-up to the national policy conference and also the months that follow-up to the national elective conference in December will demand great clarity of purpose from us and selfless principled leadership of the highest order.
People of the ilk of Mashatile, Makhura, Manuel and Nzimande et al, who continue to do the bidding of the white monopoly capitalist enemies of our people have to be put on notice and reined in.
To work for principled and truly liberation orientated unity in the ANC is a battle for the very heart of the ANC.
Without returning to the very policy roots as set out in the Freedom Charter that “the people shall govern” and that “the people shall share in the wealth of the country” there can be no hope of success.
* Carl Niehaus is a former member of the NEC of the ANC and an NEC member of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association.
This opinion piece was first published in the Sunday Independent.