Bonn Village, Tzaneen, 2 October 2022,
Inspired by the Great October Socialist Revolution that occurred in Russia in 1917, the SACP annually uses the month of October to launch a campaign to intensify the struggle to meet the needs of the people, of whom the majority are the workers and poor. The Red October Campaign 2022–2023 focuses on Land, Food and Work. This campaign takes place in the context of a deepening crisis of the capitalist system and imperialism.
The hostile international situation underpinned by imperialist insecurity of a hegemony in a crisis
The cost-of-living is escalating globally, in a world characterised by a deepening threat to the emergence of a multi-polar system based on co-operation for peace and human development equality. The threat is driven by the insecurities of a hegemony in a crisis, the United States influence, backed by its Western European and North American imperialist allies, but which the United States also dominates.
The imperialist axis seeks to impose its worldview, using the institutions they control, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and their military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), to force other states to follow their neoliberal policy prescriptions. The imperialist regimes use neoliberalism to subordinate, exploit, and dominate other countries.
The United States-dominated NATO’s eastwards expansion in Europe, aimed at Russia, with China as another key target, provoked and started the war in Ukraine. The United States has also directly been provoking China, among others in the Taiwan Strait and on various platforms, including multilateral bodies.
We live in an era of war and indeed shall only know peace once war is permanently abolished. As the renowned leader of the Great October Socialist Revolution, V.I. Lenin observed, war cannot be abolished unless humanity overcomes the capitalist system, to replace it with a socialist system towards ultimately abolishing classes and their structures and relations of inequality, exploitation and other forms of oppression.
The provocations against Russia and China by the United States directly or through NATO have inevitably caused serious problems, including the global cost-of-living crisis characterised by rapid price increases, affecting the goods and services that the workers and poor need. The workers and poor in South Africa are affected. This will worsen should the United States and its allies continue with their imperialist aggression.
WHY LAND, FOOD AND WORK?
Millions of our people do not have land to grow food, to build sustainable livelihoods for their families in their townships and villages. Access to land for farm workers and labour tenants on farms is precarious, with evictions from farms being phenomenally high.
The working-class in our country is in the middle of high levels of inequality, poverty, unemployment and hunger.
We live in a society where capitalists are chasing maximum profits. They make their profits by keeping wages low, restructuring the workplace to produce more output with fewer workers, and retrenching the affected workers, saying they have become “redundant”. This is a major contributor to unemployment creation.
The Imperialist regimes controlled by the capitalists as their ruling class engage in acts of aggression to conquer the world-economy, subordinate and rule everybody. This drives up prices, as we said, affecting the goods and services that the workers and poor need.
All this makes it difficult for the working-class to have food, or to have equipment for farming, or to make products that the workers and poor can sell to make a living.
The capitalist greed for profit means they will not spend on technology that can protect our environment and the people from the damage of pollution, caused by their factories. This drive to maximise profit shapes how the capitalists deploy land, money and equipment.
The capitalists do not deploy land, capital, and technology to serve humanity. It is this that we must change through the broader struggle to replace the capitalist system with a socialist society in which we put people before profit and use the resources of our country for the benefit of humanity.
In the second quarter of this year, for example, approximately 12,3 million people were unemployed. These are our sisters, brothers, cousins and heads of families, mothers and fathers, with children to look after. While others are still actively looking for work, others have given up. The overwhelming majority of the unemployed are black women and men. Most of them are the youth in terms of age and women in terms of gender.
The discouraged work-seekers looked for work for a long time without success. This is what demoralised them. Almost every factory gate you visit has a notice: “THERE IS NO JOB”. Therefore, those who are still actively looking for work include the masses who daily flock to the streets, looking for someone who can give them work to make ends meet.
In every 100 people, 45 people are unemployed. Among the black people, this is as high as 50 unemployed people in every 100 people.
The employed population numbers approximately 15 million, in a total population of approximately 61 million people. In the absence of a comprehensive social security system, it is these employed workers who support their unemployed counterparts. On average, one wage supports over four to five people in South Africa.
South Africa has a vast tract of land, is a mineral rich country, and has a massive endowment of other natural resources, yet millions of our people are unemployed and live in poverty, ravaged by the capitalist system inequality.
Land and other natural resources
Our country is five times as big as the United Kingdom, for example. South Africa has many natural resources, including coal, and has the world’s largest reserves of platinum group metals. Yet we have a crisis of electricity shortage and load shedding.
When we consider the South African land, we include the minerals and other resources beneath the soil, and on the surface, the water running in the rivers, fauna and flora, biodiversity, and the surrounding atmosphere. There are many countries that do not have the massive land and natural resources that South Africa has, including the surrounding oceans and marine resources.
Yet our people are poverty-stricken, ravaged by unemployment, devastated by a world record of inequality.
Colonial-type exploitation of our resources
Mining companies mine and export our minerals to other countries. In the export destinations, manufacturing companies process and use our minerals as raw material inputs in finished products. The manufacturing of the finished products creates employment in the countries where it is taking place.
South Africa imports many of the finished products produced abroad, which South Africans cough up more to buy than the prices of the country’s minerals exported as raw materials to support manufacturing and employment abroad. As this happened, the South African economy continued to de-industrialise after the transition to our democratic dispensation in April 1994. The de-industrialisation started in the 1980s.
Why is the colonial-type exploitation of our resources, de-industrialisation and high unemployment continuing while we are in a democratic dispensation? Why are the high levels of mass poverty, inequality and hunger persistent in a country that has vast swathes of land, is rich in natural resources, produces and exports lots of food?
The legacy of successive colonial and apartheid regimes persists. This is combined with neoliberal economic policy failures and the impact of the global capitalist system crises.
In the 1970s, the apartheid regime started domesticating neoliberal policy prescriptions. Imperialist dominated institutions, such as the IMF and the World Bank, have played a key role in driving the neoliberal paradigm worldwide.
Instead of rolling back the neoliberal paradigm, post-1994 the government intransigently maintained and widened its scope. Notably, the government started this in 1996. The government adopted the neoliberal economic policy called Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR). Instead of consulting democratically, the government unveiled GEAR as “non-negotiable”, “cast in stone”, as a “fundamental policy of the ANC”. By adopting GEAR, the government sparked tensions within the Tripartite Alliance, as the SACP strongly opposed the neoliberal policy.
By the end of 1996 after the government imposed GEAR, unemployment rose from its lowest level in our democratic dispensation, but which was a whopping 16,5 per cent in 1995, to crisis-high levels fluctuating and worsening above 20 per cent.
Like unemployment, high levels of racialised and gendered mass poverty and inequality also continue as part of the lasting legacy of the colonial and apartheid era, GEAR class project and global capitalist system crises.
The role of the Reserve Bank and the banking sector
Through a neoliberal monetary policy dating back to the 1996 GEAR class project, the South African Reserve Bank is both sustaining and worsening the high rate of unemployment. The Reserve Bank has built and is following a high interest rates regime. It is increasing interest rates, regardless of where the factors that cause price increases come from.
In July, the Reserve Bank raised the repurchase lending rate by 75 basis points. It raised it again by another 75 basis points last month, taking the repurchase lending rate to a high of 6,25 per cent. This has increased the lowest lending rate by the commercial banks, called the prime rate, to an exorbitant 9,75 per cent.
However, the commercial banks demand higher interest rates than the prime lending rate. As part of the problem, racial discrimination against black people continues in the financial sector. The commercial banks either marginalise black people in certain categories of loans or charge them higher interest rates than their white counterparts.
Insurance service providers use physical addresses as a determinant in deciding monthly premiums. Likewise, this sustains discrimination against black people in the context of the legacy of apartheid racial segregation.
On home loans, the commercial banks follow the extortionate compound interest rates regime. They lock people into 20 to 30 years’ repayment periods. This is like a life sentence.
The banks have repossessed houses from people who repaid home loans for 10 years or more when they were unable to continue making repayments because they were retrenched. The banks auctioned off the repossessed houses. In many situations, the auctions were nothing but a giveaway to the beneficiaries of the injustice.
Meanwhile, the repayment periods of a loan on a car of the same price or more expensive than a house is shorter. Interest rates for cars, while still high, are lower than interest rates for houses.
The Reserve Bank has produced no scientific evidence that its high interest rates regime and increases will go to the source of the global cost-of-living crisis, rapidly turn the tide of stagnation, produce balanced and sustainable growth, and create employment.
Factors behind the cost-of-living crisis
The global cost-of-living crisis, characterised by rapidly rising prices, is driven not by the millions of the unemployed and working poor in South Africa, but by factors with external origin. The factors include the imperialist sanctions imposed by the United States and its NATO allies on a number of countries. The sanctions have far-reaching extraterritorial implications, beyond the targeted countries.
The manipulation of key product markets by the imperialist regimes through the sanctions affects the world-economy negatively. Key products, such as oil and financial transactions, are among the targets of the sanctions. For example, the imperialist sanctions affect Venezuela, which has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, and the SWIFT system of worldwide interbank financial telecommunication transactions.
Countries like South Africa depend on imported oil and are affected by oil price increases associated with the imperialist sanctions, related hostilities and other factors. Because of this, and given that oil is a key ingredient in the fuel we use, the average cost of a litre of unleaded petrol has soared by 21 per cent. The cost of fuel makes the price of anything that is produced and transported with oil or fuel as an input go up, including the prices of food, clothing, and other essentials in life.
Imperialist-provoked wars, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated disruption of global value chains, are also among the drivers of the rising cost-of-living.
Furthermore, through its negative impact on food production, climate change is another driver of the rising cost-of-living. The profit-driven capitalist production and its consumption patterns are the single biggest drivers of climate change.
This is a summary of the context in which food prices surged by an average of approximately 24 per cent from 2020 to 2022 in sub-Saharan Africa. March 2022 saw the highest increase in food prices globally. Prices were up over 30 per cent from March 2021.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
All is not lost, however. The working-class and its organisations are alive and kicking. This is our starting point. It is the source of our inspiration and the foundation of our hope. What the working-class needs to do is to build maximum unity and advance a radical programme to reduce unemployment, poverty and inequality radically and to end hunger.
The SACP will continue to strengthen its programme to forge popular left fronts and build a powerful, socialist movement of the workers and poor. This is important to defend the gains and advance the aims and interests of the working-class.
Building wider working-class unity should include deepening trade union unity in action. The SACP called for trade unions and their federations to engage in joint campaigns. For this reason, we encouraged and took part in the August National Day of Action against the rising cost-of-living and load shedding.
In the same vein, we call on the trade union movement to engage and convene a joint consultative conference to adopt a joint programme of action, in pursuit of the common demands of the workers. This should include intensifying the struggle against neoliberalism and its austerity agenda.
Roll back neoliberalism.
Together, let us:
1. Intensify the campaign to roll back neoliberalism in our domestic policy space, not to mention macroeconomic policy, to build a new economy and solve the problems affecting the workers and poor.
2. Deepen our campaign to reduce interest rates to support domestic productive capacity development, employment creation and poverty reduction.
3. Press on with the campaign to make the mandate of the Reserve Bank include and account for employment creation.
4. Drive the Financial Sector Campaign to achieve overhaul transformation of the financial sector to serve the people, and to eliminate racial and gender discrimination.
4.1. Financial sector transformation must include building a developmental state banking sector and co-operative banks, as part of the wider effort to transform ownership and management control, and to move towards the goals of the Freedom Charter.
4.2. Financial sector laws and regulations must be changed to distinguish state banks and co-operative banks from commercial banks, and to build an enabling environment for the developmental public banking sector and co-operative banks to thrive.
1. Under the current conditions, it is necessary to advance effective job creation strategies based on the notion of decent work.
2. However, South Africa will not overcome the unemployment phenomenon and crisis through the capital relation, meaning the inherently unequal and exploitative social relation of production between the capitalist employer on the one hand and the wage labourer on the other hand. As we said already, every capitalist boss seeks to produce more output with fewer workers. In the process, the capitalist bosses retrench workers, contributing to unemployment creation. As we all know, the aim of the capitalist bosses is NOT to meet the needs of the people—it is to make and maximise profits for themselves to get rich and richer privately every quarter, year and decade. Therefore, we need to pursue measures to de-commodify work by expanding production outside the capital relation simultaneously.
2.1. Building worker- and community-owned co-operatives and assisting those who have self-employment initiatives to thrive will go a long way to reduce unemployment, poverty, hunger and inequality in working-class households and communities. It must be a key part of our Land, Food and Work Campaign to build sustainable livelihoods.
2.2. Let us press on with the campaign for the government to rollout public employment programmes at scale based on decent work.
3. Deepen the campaign for the government to solve the energy crisis as a matter of urgency.
3.1. The government must drive state investment in new power generation capacity, instead of leaving it to profit-driven interests. In the first place, how can we forget that the government fast-tracked the conditions for load-shedding the entire country by prioritising investment by profit-driven interests (See, for example, the White Paper on Energy Policy adopted by the government in December 1998). State capture arrived by worsening the situation, as did the design problems, poor work and successive failures to meet completion deadlines in the Medupi and Kusile Power Station projects.
3.2. Building new power generation capacity must include increased state-led clean coal technology research and development. Western Europe governments have increased their imports of South African coal to look after the energy needs of their people, yet the imperialists have been pressurising South Africa staunchly to abandon coal as a source of energy. This is unfair.
3.3. The newly appointed Eskom board must turn Eskom around and secure its future in the world of new energy generation. This is both an advice and a stern warning. The newly appointed Eskom board members must NOT serve private interests but must serve the interests of the people as a whole, the majority of whom being the workers and poor.
3.4. The government must not privatise Eskom or its assets. Instead, it must adequately recapitalise Eskom to maintain its power stations and transmission grid, and to ramp up investment in new power generation capacity.
4. The government must adopt strategies to drive industrialisation through manufacturing, expand agriculture and food manufacturing, using primary agricultural products, develop and maintain economic and social infrastructure, to name but a few strategies.
5. At the moment, mining companies mine and export our minerals, which are used as raw materials in other countries as inputs in manufacturing finished products. The government cannot leave this colonial-type paradigm to continue unchallenged.
5.1. South Africa must bring the colonial-type paradigm to an end, by insisting on localising minerals beneficiation to create employment and reduce unemployment and poverty radically.
5.2. Therefore, the government must adopt significant export tariffs on unprocessed minerals.
5.3. The export tariffs must be at sufficient rates to discourage exports of unprocessed minerals to encourage local beneficiation.
6. Without water, like without electricity, our economy will continue to falter. The government must solve the water problems that affect the economy and households.
Accelerate land redistribution and advance food security for all.
1. Parliament has passed the Expropriation Bill to give effect to legislative measures for land expropriation without compensation in the public interest. We expect the President to sign it into law soon. Once the Bill has been signed into law, we will monitor new developments around it and its implementation to identify areas for improvement.
2. Together, let us campaign for stronger efforts to achieve food security for all and empower black communities to increase food production.
3. The state at all levels and community leaders should allocate land for communal food gardens and food banks to enhance nutrition intake and to eradicate hunger. Every province, and later every district, should have a Public Fresh Produce Market.
4. South Africa needs a radical land redistribution programme for both urban transformation, where 70 per cent of our people now live, and rural development and transformation.
5. Besides rural areas, and mainly the former bantustans, the working-class and poor remain largely confined to peripheral townships and informal settlements that serve as dormitory locations for the reproduction of cheap migrant black labour. Apartheid legislation has been removed, but now the financialised property market acts with more brutality in forcing the affected workers and poor to live on the margins, in poverty traps far away from resources, amenities, and recreational facilities.
5.1. While we seek to transform the reality within these settlements, we must equally strive to transform the overall spatial design of our towns and cities, as with rural areas, and advance integrated human settlement development.
5.2. We must end the brutality of finance capital in the real estate sector through democratic control of land and ending speculative activities.
6. Land redistribution in our rural areas must be guided by the Freedom Charter’s clarion call, for land to be shared among those who work it. Rural land redistribution, development, and transformation must be directed to the population still living in the underdeveloped rural areas as a priority.
7. The land redistribution programme must include a focus on providing infrastructure, water rights, agricultural extension officers and veterinary services to the most marginalised.
8. Security of tenure for small and subsistence farmers is essential. It must give full recognition to a variety of tenure, including communal land tenure rights.
9. Stop evictions and address the plight of farm workers.
9.1. Stop the unscrupulous evictions of farmworkers and their families from farms.
9.2. Stop the evictions of labour tenants and their families from farms on which they have lived and worked.
9.3. Strengthen focus on farm dwellers to address their plight, social and economic rights, and security of tenure.
10. Together, let us deepen the campaign for adequate allocation of resources to underdeveloped rural areas to undo underdevelopment and advance rural development and economic transformation.
ISSUED BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN COMMUNIST PARTY | SACP
EST. 1921 AS THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF SOUTH AFRICA | CPSA
1921–2022: 101 YEARS OF UNBROKEN STRUGGLE
TOGETHER LET’S BUILD A POWERFUL, SOCIALIST MOVEMENT OF THE WORKERS AND POOR: SOCIALISM IS THE FUTURE—BUILD IT NOW!
Solly Mapaila, the SACP General Secretary
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