The demands of the South African people and working class which led to the defeat of the oppressive apartheid regime include, from this point of view, not only the abolition of institutionalized racism but also a real redistribution of wealth. The redistribution of wealth was sought both to empower people and communities in order to have their basic needs met, and address the historical imbalances created by racial capitalism. These were demands for revolutionary change by millions of people so that they could take control over their own lives after being deprived of the most fundamental social rights by a conjunction of institutionalised racism and monopoly capitalism. This demand was expressed in very concrete and material terms as demands for: proper housing, water and electrical services; the recognition of an adequate education to the tertiary level as a social right; a meaningful land reform; the end of oppressive and discriminatory practices in the workplaces; and the implementation of world-recognized labor standards.
The ANC-led cabinet which came out of the 1994 elections adopted a developmentalist approach to these demands. This approach was manifested as combining an active role for the state in the redistribution of domestic resources with a policy aimed at encouraging competitiveness in the promotion of manufactured exports and at defining South Africa as an attractive site for foreign investments.
The inherently contradictory nature of these two goals has become increasingly evident in the last two decades of neoliberal hegemony on economic policies worldwide, particularly in the so-called „developing countries¾. In fact, a dependent insertion into the world economy and plummeting revenues from the sale of raw materials were at the root of the debt crises in these countries, and of the intervention of the international financial institutions which came to their „rescue¾. The first casualty of these interventions was the interventionalist role of the state in these economies which characterized the first generation of development experiments in the post-colonial period.
The conditionalities and the fiscal austerity imposed on these countries by the IMF and the World Bank resulted in privatization, cuts in public spending reductions of public employment, the promotion of exports with low levels of manufactoured added value, and the definition of extreme forms of labor market flexibility. These structural changes, in turn, devastated social security networks, put in crisis employment relationships, and increased unemployment levels. The role of the state as a regulator of foreign investment flows and as a force capable of bargaining, to some degree, with multinational corporations for terms favorable to the re-investment of profits, for social and environmental responsibility, and for fiscal measures conducive to redistribution of wealth, were decisively curtailed by these structural shifts.
Consequently, the priorities of the state in these countries have tended to become increasingly conditioned by global corporate powers. National developmental projects in neoliberal contexts have lost any pretension to regulate global movements of capital and have instead become increasingly dependent on foreign investment or „aid¾ schemes.
The generalized decline in the living standards brought on by these neoliberal conditionalities and fiscal austerity have made the control of the class in these countries very problematic. Resistance to neoliberalism has increasingly come from a diverse and articulated class composition responding through a proliferation of channels of both formal and informal resistance. This resistance has in turn often been met by a deepening crisis of the state - resulting in the exhibiting of the other side of neoliberalism: repression.
The impending decline of state sovereignity inside developmentalist projects in the „South¾ (southern part of world) - apart from residual attributions in the sphere of social control, repression, and technical implementation of IMF and World Bank¼s recommendations - is now confirmed and strengthened by new measures sponsored by the World Trade Organization (WTO) such as the Multilateral Agreement on Investments, and the agreements on public contracts. This decline parallels a shift in many countries in the North away form various attempts to enforce welfare state provisions. The transition in the North has been away from diverse forms of social citizenship, full employment and the provision of services as deferred income, to the reconfiguration of these states. Their main role has been redefined in the direction of supporting the competiveness of territories and/or privatized corporations in world markets, and of a social and economic policy totally subordinated to the imperatives of monetary stability imposed by transnational institutions.
As John Holloway has argued, nation states are being reduced to working at attracting and retaining, within their territories, a share of the global surplus value. States have become increasingly reactive as they attempt to attract foreign capital. In the process, their power to foster and make productive investments is immobilized. They are additionally weakened by the fact that capital-as-money attaches to no group of people and no particular activity. Although, it has not excluded a very high level of government intervention, for example, in the area of management of monetary policy, it has decisively diminished the role of the state in process of social mediation and equalization. In short, the crisis of the welfare state in the North and the crisis of develomentalism in the South are part of a broader exhaustion of policy options exclusively based on the state as the guarantor of social and economic justice. For the class, this emphasizes the need for strategies of resistance and contestation capable of questioning the state as the only arena of political representation and progressive change.
Moreover, the mechanism of indebtment works in a perverse spiral. In fact, the South African public debt is mostly owned by large corporate investors (eg. pension funds) which use the government's transfers and interest payments to buy government bonds. In this way, the taxpayers' money is used by big business to enrich itself through the expansion of the public debt, to the detriment of programmes for the poor and the marginalised. As a result, the power of big business continues to decisively influence the direction of the South African transition. However, the government has not merely been a passive hostage of this power. It supplemented the neoliberal orientations of big business by choosing to open to international financial institutions while at the same time dismantling the barriers to international competition. This process started with an IMF-sponsored drought-relief loan of US$ 850 millions. That loan was, actually, not necessary; its rationale was to commit South Africa to work with the IMF in order to facilitate a smooth transition in the 1994 elections. Since then, new interventions by the IMF and the WB have taken place. At this time the WB's director is now going to travel to South Africa to elicit the engagement of unions and "civil society" organisations in neoliberal policies, by coopting them in loosely- defined structures of "consultation".
In conclusion, the IMF and the WB did not act in South Africa as all-powerful and invincible forces simply subjugating the national state to their will. Their influence in South Africa was made possible by the continuing domination of a domestic monopoly capital which grew under apartheid, and by the cooperation of the new democratic state. It appears that the rationale for this state cooperation has been to provide stable social control and the demobilization of the most critical and militant expressions in the South African society (at the level of townships, workplaces, campuses and rural areas) which, in fact, can jeopardize the transition to a neoliberal form of democracy.
In other words, neoliberalism is the response by the political and economic elites to higher and more sophisticated levels of articulation of the class composition in a society, and to the struggles that follow. Neoliberalism does not encompass a set of global standards. It is a political-ideological discourse which is the outcome of responses to the imperatives of particular social forces and interests. There is nothing inevitable about it. The claim by some commentators that the ANC government had no choice other than the adoption of "stringent market-related policies" is spurious, the kind of historical determinism which is ridiculed and dismissed when mouthed by leftists of the Jurassic variety.
We initially mentioned the developmentalist orientation of the ANC- led government in the context of the transition. Now, what is left of that option given the scenario of the "homegrown structural adjustment"? The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), as the socio-economic program of the ANC for its election campaign of 1994, contained some elements of an anti-neoliberal thrust, shaped by consultations with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). As a whole, the RDP was a piece of social-democratic welfarism devised to redress the inequities of the past through the provision of education, health care and social services. However, RDP's greatest ambiguity remained its inability to provide the productivity deals and social citizenship arrangements (e.g., full employment policies, comprehensive land redistribution, nationalisations) which could support the fiscal structures required by the "historic" social democratic welfare states. Moreover, when the RDP was written, the new gospels of fiscal restraint and macroeconomic discipline terminated similar social democratic experiments all over the world. Finally, the RDP contained strong neoliberal elements, such as an increased outward orientation of the economy and the promotion of foreign direct investment.
The ANC government used these ambiguities and weaknesses to accentuate the neoliberal contents of its economic policies. The July 1996 "Growth, Employment and Redistribution" (GEAR) strategy, drafted by the Ministry of Finance, is the most perfected formal elaboration thus far of this shift. GEAR reinforced the government's emphasis on fiscal discipline, containment of inflation, and export promotion as ways to enhance competitiveness. It would arguably enable public spending to rise again, but only if the, by now highly unlikely, growth rate of 6.1% is reached in the year 2000. GEAR gives a decisive roleto the liberalization of foreign exchange transactions, export promotion, privatization of state enterprises and the creation of a conducive and enabling environment for foreign investment. However, no specific measures were proposed to ensure business meets this duty to invest.
GEAR additionally recommended greater labor market flexibility, possibly via a two-tier system involving the deregulation of certain categories of semi- and unskilled work and the exemption of small business from provisions of the new labor legislation. Also envisaged was a "social accord" whereby wage restraint from organized workers would be rewarded with a commitment to price restraint from organized business. All this in a labor market that the International Labor Organisation itself has recognized as being extremely "flexible," characterised by wide wage fluctuations, and where large-scale firms resort to subcontracting, outsourcing and the use of casual labor. Finally, the demand-driven characteristics of economic growth were substantially emasculated by GEAR. Conversely, the RDP's residual focus on redistribution and job-creation as an independent and priority field of government intervention was entirely lost. GEAR's focus instead is South African business' international competitiveness and the performance of domestic and foreign corporate investors.
These shifts were already noticeable in the first post-RDP economic policy documents. These documents redefined the RDP's emphasis on "meeting basic needs" as a strategy played at a rhetorical level to generate consent and an attempt to contain some social consequences of poverty without eliminating the structural causes of poverty. GEAR was not a rejection of the RDP, but the confirmation of the neoliberal orientation already present, inside the RDP, albeit in a more nuanced way.
As the ANC's Rob Davies, former chair of the parliamentary Finance Committee, recognized, there was no guarantee that the implementation of all the prescriptions of GEAR would lead to the desired macroeconomic outcomes. It all apparently depended on the capacity of GEAR's measures to generate "confidence" among domestic and foreign private investors. In other words, private corporate profitability was recognized as the main vehicle through which some sort of general social improvement would take place, sooner or later, but without indicating how this was expected to happen. The results are telling: more than 100.000 jobs were lost during GEAR's first year (GEAR promised 126.000 jobs gained), Gross Domestic Product dipped to -0.8 percent in the first quarter of 1997, inflation teetered at 9.9 percent, and old and new inequalities were enlarged with the enrichment of a tiny layer of black corporate business.
The only visible "social" dimension of GEAR, and one of its main legitimizing motifs, was job creation. However, the director-general of the Ministry of Finance recently come out with the astonishing remark that more research is required to the link between economic growth and job creation. It is worth stressing that GEAR is not an aberration: it is rather a distillation of ideological predispositions that gradually took hold within the ANC during the 1990s. If GEAR's strategy is not be contested, the lesson business will learn from GEAR's failure is that more fiscal discipline, more privatizations, more cuts of public spending are required. A real danger exists that this lesson will find increasingly receptive ears in the government.
All social indicators have been adversely affected by the performance of neoliberalism South African-style. Consider the following:
*Provision of housing remains dependent on the competitive advantages required by corporate developers. State subsidies for the purchase of housing are available only for the most marginal sectors of the market which remain largely inadequate. Notably absent are schemes for public housing construction, or for subsidized rent, while the government does not oppose the developers' "redlining" policies in many areas. Conversely, the issue was addressed through very superficial forms of upliftment of urban areas ("pit latrines policies"), and through efforts to stop long-lasting rent and tariff boycotts which subordinated urban redistribution to largely ideological and rhetorical patriotic devices (the "Masakhane campaign").
*Processes of restitution and redistribution of state-owned land have not affected the fundamentally "willing seller-willing buyer" basis of the agrarian reform. Moreover, the existing processes through which rural communities arbitrarily dispossessed during apartheid can claim their land back do not provide for any real empowering mechanism at the local, grassroots level. As a result, the clientelist power of "chiefs" and traditional authorities in claiming the land for their communities has often increased.
*Struggles for the transformation of tertiary education have also clashed with inadequate funding and the impending cuts in public subsidies due to the reduction of state involvement in the sector. This "austerity" situation is used by old-style university administrations to resist change in the composition of the student body in order to make it more representative of the South African population, and to redress the plight of the formerly excluded. Workers and students' demands for a real change in working conditions and study curricula are blocked while the position of the privatizers of the university is reinforced. Moreover, struggles against privatization, downsizing and retrenchments have been matched by high degrees of repression as in the recent case of the COMSA trade union at the University of Durban-Westville.
*Women have also been dramatically affected. From one side, neoliberalism and globalization encourage their access to the labor market on the basis of their cheapness - given their continuing links with the household - and their adaptability, due to their desire to emancipate themselves from the oppressive structures of patriarchy. They are thus confined to the jobs with worst wages and working conditions, which are proliferating as a result of market-led processes of casualization, decentralization, homework. Moreover, neoliberal policies which cut public spending and basic services shift most of the burden of reproduction on women, thus reinforcing their subordinate position and forcing them to work even harder if they enter the wage labor market.
*Recent changes to industrial relations legislation explicitly posit a direct link between the end of conflict and adversarialism at the workplace level and the strenghtening of South African competitiveness in world markets and in the global scramble for foreign investment. To this end, flexibility, co-determination and worker participation are encouraged. However, this policy is pursued through separating collective bargaining over wages and working conditions, which is limited to the centralized level, from issues of productivity and restructuring, delegated to supposedly "conflict-free" forums at the workplace level. While no statutory duty to bargain exists in South Africa, this separation fundamentally disarticulates the bargaining power of workers on the shop floor, and it weakens the union leadership vis-a-vis business and government. The structural weakening of union power was clearly demonstrated in the union-management-government discussions aimed at amending basic employment standards legislation. Capital, using the the government's support, rejected union demands for a 40-hours working week and six months maternity leave. This sparked a massive wave of protest culminated in the 2 June general strike, and it led COSATU to question the viability of tripartite centralized bargaining, without, however, an alternative strategy clearly emerging.
Pressures on organized labor have recently intensified. A 1996 ANC discussion document on "The State and Social Transformation", produced by inside circles close to the vice-President and likely future President, Thabo Mbeki, warns the labor movement activists to give up their "economistic" demands, reminding them of relatively "privileged" status of the waged workers and their obligations to the developmental effort. Even though average manufacturing wages in South Africa are already at the level of the low-income Asian economies and the allegedly "privileged" position of the formal working class is pure fiction, since waged workers support a huge pool of unemployed relatives condemned to marginalization or the precariousness of the informal economy.At the same time, no similar obligations are imposed upon capital; instead foreign investment is recognized as a priority leverage for the development effort itself.
The promotion of centralized bargaining and corporatist policy-making between capital, labor and government ultimately does not restore at the central level the power the workers lose at the grassroots. In fact, capital and the ANC are rather prone to bargain bilaterally the forms of restructuring which might be more unpopular for the workers. This often places the unions in front of the "fait accompli". Moreover, the power of capital in these deals is enormously increased by the government self-imposed constraints in the name of fiscal discipline (e.g.. a 3% deficit-to-GNP ratio by the year 2000). This, by preventing prospects for a demand-driven growth along Keynesian lines, annihilates the welfarist ambitions of South African corporatist decision-making. Moreover, even an expansionary policy based on purely monetarist devices and the reduction of the interest rate is questioned, given that this can lead to a further crisis for the unstable Rand and for a Balance of Payments already under strain.
In this scenario, the only chances left for macroeconomic growth are confined to foreign investment; to this end the government is currently engaged in a massive wave of privatization of basic services (transport, telecommunications, water). This completes a general framework which makes a mockery of the South African ambitions for a corporatist welfare state. The convergence between local oligopolies and foreign corporate investors, even if not without contradictions is, as we mentioned, an integral component of the homegrown structural adjustment. Furthermore, this same framework is elaborated and refined in the form of "macroeconomic constraints for the process of change" by a whole legion of academics, technocrats, consultants and research units. These people, mostly coming from a radical and militant past in the anti-apartheid struggle are now engaged in reminding the public during the day of the same "objective" limitations to radical change that they themselves help create at night for Anglo-American Corporation or the Department of Finance. These "experts" advise the workers to moderate their wage demands, and to link them to productivity, flexibility and company performance in the name of these limitations. And it is in the name of these limitations that they endorse the repression of students and workers protesting on campuses, and their newspapers and publications ignore the enduring struggles of the rural poor and the township squatters. The state, rather then being a passive victim of this mechanism, is a structure that must be controlled by forces reproducing the neoliberal paradigm through measures of deregulation, liberalization and privatization. But this hegemony would have been impossible without the crisis of welfare-developmental state options in the face of the globalization of capitalist command. The South African post-apartheid situation, therefore, ultimately questions the nature of the state itself as the primary focus of progressive struggles for change. For if state power achieved on the basis of one of the most powerful mass movements in the twentieth century cannot provide even elementrary social reforms, what good is state power in this period?
A solution to this dilemma requires an end to the current alternative between INVISIBILITY and neoliberal-social democratic INSTITUTIONALIZATION. The symbolic power that the RDP still holds for the South African working class may still indicate the existence of an intermediate space between those two opposites. In fact, it shows the persistence of a vision of change based on reappropriation of basic needs and the refusal to subordinate social solidarity to the "demands of the market."
This vision seems able to sustain at the level of workplaces and communities the tradition of self-empowerment and self-organization that was crucial in the defeat of apartheid. It also creates contradictions for capitalist restructuring which diminish its prospects for stability. The promotion of flexibility and worker participation often has the unintended effect of making workers autonomously realize the importance of their social cooperation and communication and gives them space to clashes with a management stylecharacterized by a permanent racism and authoritarian innovation, as well as the unregulated resort to downsizing, outsourcing and retrenchments. Such a management style, far from disappearing, is reinforced by the search for new competitive positions for South African manufacturing in world markets.
Land struggles and occupations in areas such as Mpumalanga and the Northern Province have at the same time demonstrated the extent of the popular demand for a genuine land redistribution, of a widespread dissatisfaction with market-driven approaches and of the contestation of the role of "traditional" authorities. Struggles over land are affecting a whole range of issues linked to capitalist depletion of resources. People in Kyalami (Thembisa) massively rejected "development" in the form of a R 10 million construction of toxic waste dump, which eventually closed down. The Difateng community resisted pre-paid meter electricity installation, to which the electric company Eskom retaliated with a switch-off punishment. These kinds of struggles are, however, the most likely to fall into invisibility and oblivion given the silence of those whom SACP's Tebogo Phadu calls "deprofessionalized intellectuals".
The tradition of mass formations of struggle embodied in the "civics" at the level of black working-class townships entrenched a deep popular support for grassroots direct democracy, expressed in the 1980s in the forms of widespread anti-institutionality, boycotts of rent payments and campaigns against undemocratic local authorities. However, this democratic ethos was partially countered by authoritarian and personalized styles of local leadership. From the second half of the 1980s, the articulation of civil society was increasingly overtaken by an ANC hegemony over the movement that did not deepen practices of grassroots democracy, while preparing the ground for demobilization and institutionalization in the 1990s. In the post-apartheid era, the ANC-led government's response to broad social demands has not provided for an increase in welfare and services expenditure and the rejection of the debt inherited from apartheid.
The ANC reduced democratization to mere electoral and procedural politics, with no ambition to interfere with capital's prerogatives in the economic domain and no response to the process of demobilization and institutionalization of grassroots struggles. In the long run, the choice for the government was either empowering mass organizations and their individual members or relying on the expertise of the bureaucrats who had run the apartheid machine for decades. Clearly an alternative to neoliberalism would have necessitated opting for the empowerment of mass organization. Nationally organized in SANCO (South African National Civic Organization), the civic movement has recently pushed for redistribution and community control of resources. This effort requires the remobilization of the grassroots, and it confirms the continuing relevance for South Africa of a history of resistance characterized by mass-based organizations that have successfully posited alternatives to neoliberalismand which are still relevant to overcome the alternative between invisibility and subaltern institutionalization.
The current success of neoliberalism in South Africa does not necessarily imply the mass rejection of alternatives. The struggle to overthrow apartheid involved millions of ordinary people in structures that were organized along the principle of participatory democracy. Today, the mass movements and mass organization are still starting point for thinking again about alternatives. However, the reality is that existing mass organizations have been significantly demobilized and disoriented after the institutionalization of the labor movement and the civil society, particularly after 1994. The major leaders of nearly all unions and civics have gone into government. Moreover, political pressure from the ANC and financial carrots from business have led to generalized shifts from previous anti-capitalist positions.
Important short-term steps must be taken as well. First, a broad area of the left must break with the self-reassuring developmental rhetoric of the present government. This will be more likely to emerge if COSATU as a federation severs its formal political allegiance to the ANC and focuses on working class issues. Challenging neoliberalism will ultimately require creativity and inventiveness in the redefinition self-organized forms of resistance capable to link the struggle of the factory working class with the multiplicity of demands at the level of communities. The terrain of basic needs can provide one foundation for this political and organizational synthesis. Those same needs that are now denied by neoliberal commodification and marketization of life are nonetheless the material bases for ordinary people's distance from and resistance to neoliberalism.
The social cooperation and knowledge that people have to articulate in response to the capitalist colonization of their whole lifetime - be it in the form of worker response to flexibility, or as informal circuits of income generation and distribution outside the reach of capital and the state at the level of communities - represent an opportunity and a challenge for any form of organization engaged against neoliberalism. As an opportunity, it stresses the existence of a whole social world not reconciled with capitalist global imperatives. As a challenge, it requires rethinking the whole issue of organization. We must do away with easy slogans and shortcuts and recognize the inner diversity and reciprocal autonomy of struggles.
Moreover, if new networks of struggle question the viability of strategies focused on influencing or the conquering state power, they cannot be read as neoliberal sentiments of an undifferentiated "civil society" simply demanding the absence of the state from its midst. For the revolutionary past cannot be brushed aside; the social rights and progressive social policies the working class and the popular movements conquered through struggle, will find a place in networks of resistance against liberalization and privatization.
As this Encounter indicates, our analysis must be able to read how the different progressive formations, however structured, "organize, struggle and resist against neo-liberalism and for humanity". Our approach to current South African struggles against neoliberalism need to be understood in the broader, worldwide struggle for anti-neoliberal resistance. Contesting neoliberalism on a planetary scale will require a major reconstruction of the art and science of resistance. But given the tradition of grassroots democracy and popular mobilization in South Africa, the neoliberal paradigm can encounter here a degree of resistance that will have a significant impact on globalized processes of opposition. Neo-liberalism, like its apartheid predecessors, can only be swept away by mass organizations and movements; Hopefully, the movement will be prepared to make sure its own agendas rule the day neoliberalism dies.
This participation to the Encounter is supported by the Editorial Collectives of "DEBATE - Voices from the South African Left". P.O. Box 483, Wits 2050, South Africa. Tel: (011)716-2908. Fax: (011) 487-1348. EMail: email@example.com
Given that this document is mainly intended as a discussion paper, a bibliography has been omitted. However, invaluable, albeit indirect and even unintended, inputs to this document in the form of writings or speeches have been given by the following comrades: Brian Ashley, Heinrich Bohmke, Ashwin Desai, Oupa Lehulere, Andile Mngxitama, Melanie Samson.