ABOUT THE FORMULATION OF A REVOLUTIONARY THEORY FOR SOUTH AFRICA
1. Economic structural change since the 60’s
As we have seen, the South African Republic had its origin in a British colony. For the economy, this meant an extreme foreign dependency, because as a colony, an area is of high interest to its motherland due to a few but important raw materials to be exchanged for manufactured goods.
Now, the Republic of South Africa has been a sovereign country for several decades, but its economy is still stuck to the old structures from the colonial period. This is all the more important than it has to pay high freight rates for the trade with the developed countries because of its geographical location.
For the conversion of the economy from the export of raw products to industrially manufactured goods, the Republic of South Africa requires a high degree of imports of capital goods, which it covered during a long period with gold exports. But meanwhile, the South African gold mining is decreasing, and the trade deficit has seen a growing trend. (1)
For the Republic of South Africa, which is more a police state than a republic, apart from the gold and diamond mines, there is a second source of wealth: the Apartheid. Originally intended as a support of the white workers in competition with their African colleagues, the various 'race' laws or proclamations, such as the "Industrial Conciliation Act” (1924), the "Bantu Labor (Settlement of Disputes) Act. No. 53" of 1953, the “Industrial Conciliation Act No. 28" of 1956, etc., finally were a good chance to employ about 80% of the population at wages that do not even cover the minimum subsistence. In the early 60’s the white rulers finally transformed South Africa in a "democratic police state" (Heribert Adam), in a huge prison for African slave laborers, temporarily even undercutting the minimal cost of reproduction of cheap labor, that is, 60% of the black wage-workers vegetated on the bare physical (not civilized) subsistence level and partially even below it. The generation of an identity between economic super-exploitation and political discrimination (Apartheid) has enabled the "crisis-free” and continuous expansion of economic growth.
The apartheid laws not only cause the extremely low wage level, but also guarantee, in relation with the contract worker system and the "Bantustans", a labor market, which the industrial nations have not seen for a long time. Especially countries with long-lasting shortage of manpower, as the Federal Republic of Germany - now No. 1 trading partner of the South African Herrenvolk (master race) State - are keen to exploit this favorable situation in South Africa through the outsourcing of production sites.
Thus, for example "the direct investments of the Federal Republic of Germany in South Africa are currently the largest, and they also have the highest growth rates.” The West German investments rose from “60 million DM in 1956, to 630 million DM in 1968. So they showed an increase of about 950 percent." (2)
The Federal Republic of Germany, which as one of the strongest industrial nations does not possess own colonies since the First World War, due to its traditional relations with Southern Africa, is especially committed there. Meanwhile, over 100 West German companies have branches in the apartheid State. (3)
Much closer than in the field of direct investments are the economic ties between the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and South Africa in the field of trade relations: only in the last eight years, the FRG-exports to South Africa tripled - it increased by a total of 1.2 billion DM in 1967 to 3.6 billion DM in 1974 (in the crisis year of 1975 there was a slight decline to 3.4 billion DM). (3a)
On the other hand, of course also the United Kingdom , the United States of America and France have strong ties with the Republic of South Africa. (4)
One could assume that by the investment boom during the 60’s, the differentiation in salary levels in South Africa would be repealed. Just the opposite is the case, because the large reserves of labor have not been exhausted at all. The direct consequences for the African population are well known, malnutrition, disease and an infant mortality, which is up to ten times higher than that of the 'whites' in South Africa. (5)
In this way, Africans are increasingly relegated to a "lumpen-proletariat", which has no more opportunities to determine their own destiny through political activities. This makes the social-revolutionary work of emancipation movements very difficult. The "master race" however is enabled by the racist laws to hold, expand and consolidate its own position.
2. "Consultation" and "dialogue policy”
In the early 70’s, the Republic of South Africa called the politically independent African states to a "dialogue" about a possible collaboration, and offered them the opportunity to establish diplomatic relations. This seemed inconsistent with the threats of the "Unholy Alliance" (South Africa, Rhodesia and Portugal) raised in 1970 against members of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). This "alliance" was born out of common economic and political interests of the 'white' minority governments.
In order to prevent the spread of the influence of these liberation movements and to stabilize the "inner peace" that foreign investors appreciate so much, the military cooperation of the "alliance" and a military expansion seemed necessary.
The objective of a "dialogue" between South Africa and "Black Africa", which found acceptance in some African countries (Ivory Coast, Ghana, Malawi, Madagascar, Central African Republic and Uganda), but was rejected by the OAU, had then (as now) concrete economic reasons.
With an increasing level of accumulation, the capital of the Republic of South Africa meets the borders of the internal market. The rapid "development" contrasts with the purchasing power of African wage earners. The establishment of always newer production capacities leads to an ever-increasing mass of use values, which at some point in the national context can only realize its exchange value, if the effective, that is, the solvent demand is increased.
If the current unjust distribution of the total product of the country between labor (wage earners) and capital (companies) does not want to be changed, there is only one solution: increasing the size of the market and thus of the demand by regional expansion.
South Africa’s need for such an expansion was reflected in the efforts to establish a "Common Market of Southern Africa". The "new" policy of President J. B. Vorster (1974/75) towards countries like Liberia, has to be seen under this aspect, too. It is clear that the South African economy (and thus the one of Rhodesia) permanently finds itself in crisis, which it overcomes only with the help of a larger African market.
At the end of the 60’s South Africa found itself in the following position: on one hand, the long-term decline in export prices led to an ever-increasing trade deficit. From 1965 till 1969, it expanded to an annual average of 312 pounds sterling. (6)
This deficit could be covered during some time by gold exports. In 1960, gold worth of 309 million pounds sterling was exported, in 1969 it was for 473 million pounds sterling. But the goldmines are exhausted: "The gold production in 1969 was only 0.5% higher than 1968. It is expected that production will begin to fall from mid-1970."
Exactly this was the case since then. Far more threatening than the production decline, now even live threatening for the South African economy is the current price decline. The gold price boom at the beginning of the world economical recession and as a result of the global currency crisis, where the price increased to over $ 200 per ounce and where the then South African Minister of Finance loudly announced a future price of 250-300 dollars, was followed by an incredibly sharp price decline to $ 100 per troy ounce Gold in the middle of 1976; a further decline to $ 80 is expected. This threatens the existence of the current gold production in South Africa - the productivity of the often obsolete equipment is low, which means in some cases at current prices: they no longer work profitable; as a result, in 1976 there was a rapid drop in prices of mining shares (in the first half of 1976 the rates were halved). (6b)
This current crisis in the gold production, which is the lifeblood of the South African economy has a contrary effect on the "reasonable" positions of industrial circles to loosen the policy of apartheid and to increase the consumption capacity of the masses through higher wages: the low wages in the gold mines are urgently required if profitability is not to be further limited.
The very low incomes of the Africans thus restrict the demand and with it the market of the South African industry, which in turn did not allow a cost-reducing mass production. As a South African study showed, only a common market in southern Africa could help the Republic of South Africa with its trade balance dilemma, that was not solved until today.
But what would be the implications for African countries with economic relations to the Republic of South Africa?
The history of Western Europe and North America shows that industrialization in a capitalist country always means the economic exploitation of other countries. It is always the economically and militarily stronger state, which first absorbs his "partner’s” food and raw materials (whether by theft or by trade), then appropriates the production factor of labor through outsourcing of industries or migrant workers and, finally, acquires the monopoly for the distribution of its own manufactured goods in the exploited country.
Thus, Rhodesia’s industry was not able to develop because of the close connection with South Africa. Only the Central African Federation made it possible for Rhodesia to protect itself against this economic pressure. With the decline of the Federation and the binding to the "Alliance" Rhodesia fell again in the wake of the South African economy. (7)
The 60-year-long commitment of Namibia to the Republic of South Africa has as a result that the economy of this country is based solely on mining, agriculture, fisheries - i.e. primary production - and a little tourism.
Similarly, the consequences are catastrophic for the "Bantustans" Transkei, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland. Migrant workers from these "independent" African countries but also from countries such as Mozambique and Malawi, are an inherent part of the South African strategy to create an economic metropolitan area in southern Africa. Because of its economic dependence the new FRELIMO government in Mozambique is forced to surrender the already traditional 200,000 migrant workers to the apartheid system of economic exploitation in the mines of South Africa, in spite of its revolutionary victory, otherwise threatens a very dire economic crisis in the country; also the internationally very controversial Cabora Bassa Barrage project is (still) running at full speed with the approval of FRELIMO and will supply electrical power to South Africa as it had been agreed with the Portuguese colonialists. A very expensively won political-military emancipation from Portuguese colonialism by a bloody 15-year guerrilla struggle appears at first to fail due to the international economic system and to end in an economic dependence on the Republic of South Africa.
One can summarize the general situation as follows: "relaxation" and "Bantustan policy” are two sides of the same counter-revolutionary strategy. Looking at the "relaxation" as a ‘purely’ political step, then it’s clear that it represents nothing else than an attempt by the Boer National Party to break out of the international isolation, that various international organizations had been imposed on South Africa after its withdrawal from the Commonwealth.
As shown above, the motive for this policy results from economic and domestic political constraints. The Republic of South Africa is a sub-imperialist metropolis and forms the center of an economically integrated and / or associated association of countries of Southern Africa (from Zaire, Zambia, Mozambique to Zimbabwe and other countries). Some of these countries, for example Zambia, for political reasons have previously opposed themselves to the entry of goods and capital from South Africa. However, as was made clear, the capitalist South African economy depends on the search for new export markets for products, mining technology, mining capital, etc.. Global inflation has enabled some of the South African products to compete in African markets, so that the sub-Saharan countries see themselves obliged to trade with the apartheid regime. Social problems (e.g. monocultures) or social unrest have forced countries such as Zambia and Zaire to trade with South Africa.
The problems of the national liberation movements in southern Africa, but also the obvious failure of some of them (such as the ANC or the UNITA) made it necessary and possible for countries like Zambia, to find means and ways with which to test the theories of the Lusaka Manifesto. Certainly the timely isolation from the "white South" carried out for political reasons by the ruling elite of Zambia, brought about many “victims".
The drive to find markets in Africa, required an expansion of the internal market, which simply means the full integration of the African consumers into the "Western" consumer pattern of the "white" South Africa. Shortage of skilled workers, irregular and decreasing immigration of whites, rising economic expectations and the evolving political consciousness of the urban black workers have forced the Vorster government to allow them former inaccessible professions and raise their wages so that they can buy the products launched from the conveyor belts of the consumer goods industry.
Apart from the fact that this questioned seriously the heart of apartheid – namely job reservation (the reservation of qualified professions for whites) - and threatened the electoral base of the ruling Nationalist Party, it is of great importance for the revolutionary theory: millions of African workers reach thus the same socio-economic development stage, which the Boer and British workers had acquired immediately before and after the Second World War, which will result in comparable political consequences.
3. Bantustan policy and "anti-Communist alliance" in Southern Africa
The Bantustan policy has maintained basically the function of the reserve system, that is, keeping ready cheap African labor for the purpose of increased exploitation, while satisfying at the same time the growing political demands of an urbanized black working class (e.g. in Soweto) without undermining the white capitalist hegemony.
Converting the urban blacks to strangers in the "white" South Africa and giving them "civil rights" in pseudo-"States", the Bantustans, is a magnificent trick.
These "states" will forever remain mere vassals and slums of the South African metropolis - as seen on the development of Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana. The total economic and political-military power will remain in the hands of the white ruling class in South Africa.
In the coming decades of "peaceful" development and stability - if this will ever be the case; the events in the summer of 1976 speak another language - the Africans in South Africa will be regarded as foreigners, they themselves indeed will feel and be treated as such. Therefore, the structure of social apartheid can gradually be eliminated and the world will be rid of the stinking smell of apartheid. But whatsoever, only a very thin layer of the black middle-class had access to the troughs of the "white and Western civilization" in South Africa; the overwhelming majority of Africans has vegetated on the edge of subsistence. For these millions, it is irrelevant whether there is social apartheid or not, the class barriers show them their place. As long as the whites are not set under pressure by a looming expansion of a militant black working class, apparently they need not mourn the softening apartheid. A focal point of this whole strategy of the South African government is the creation of a submissive black bourgeoisie among the various African "nations". These elite classes are used to broaden the base of the South African capitalist state. They will all try to conquer and preserve "their own" “national" market in their rural (and partially urban) ghettos. They will represent the economic base and the last resort for the ideology of "nationalism" of the Xhosa, Zulu, etc.. To create such a class requires prudence, time and stability. Even parts of the liberation movement and some of its charismatic leaders will be used in this process, even when they have to repatriate them from exile or release them from concentration camp Robben Island.
But here arise the problems for the strategy of the ruling class. The events in Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique offered the white rulers a brilliant opportunity to show their counter-revolutionary tactics as a broad pan-African anti-communist alliance of South African countries, that are allegedly threatened by the "Russian-Cuban imperialism”.
Economic necessity, ideological pressure and the challenge of working class and student unrest in their countries have led the governments of countries such as Zambia, Malawi and Botswana, to join in fact this alliance.
This development has a dialectical effect on the domestic policies of the government in Pretoria. Because Kaunda & Co. must be considered anti-communist in their own countries, without giving up their "anti-apartheid" attitude. This means that increased pressure is exerted on the domestic junta to throw over board the offensive aspects of apartheid in the eyes of the West (so as the liberal circles in the "first world" understand it), so that for the agents of neo-colonialism in South Africa it is possible, as blacks to maintain some credibility with their people.
Another factor of great importance in the near future is the urgent need of Vorster to keep the armed struggle away from South Africa. Therefore it is urgent to defuse the situation in Namibia, even if this means that the territory is handed over to any 'Africanist', pro-capitalist black government. A similar situation is developing in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia). What is happening actually in Namibia, is a main rehearsal for what is planned in the Republic of South Africa. The ideologues of the Nationalist Party know that if they abolish the appearance form and certain obvious aspects of apartheid, they sooner or later have to do the same in South Africa. This is an additional means by which the white ruling class tries to prepare the white electorate for the acceptance of an arrangement of black pro-capitalist elements in the various liberation movements of this region and with their "homeland puppets” Matanzima, Buthelezi and Co. This overall strategy has adopted concrete forms only since the early seventies, and it has to be dealt with carefully at the level of revolutionary theory.
So we can summarize:
Vorster's detente policy, which now also controls Zambia, more and more seems to aim at chaining economically the whole of Africa south of Sahara to the "sub-metropolis" of South Africa and to turn politically independent countries into "Bantustans"; the late capitalist super-colonialism, which operates by means of imperialist sub-centers in the former colonial world, shows its "new" face: it is the same old, only with cosmetic changes. This sub-metropolis of the western world in Africa has the historic task of protecting the international capital militarily and economically. The international conflict in Angola, 1975/76, which once more is reflecting precisely the various world movements: Western capital interests, the division of international communism, the nationalist liberation movements that have got into the political and strategic calculations of the superpowers, and the total disagreement and hopelessness of the formal politically independent African states. This conflict was only the revolutionary prologue to the all-decisive drama in the Republic of South Africa itself in the coming years.
Written in Summer, 1976.
(1) Entwicklungspolitik, Frankfurt/Main, Nr. 11/12, 1971, p. 51
(2) Informationszentrum Dritte Welt: Die Unterstuetzung des suedafrikanischen Nazismus durch Westdeutschland, eine Studie ueber Wirtschaftsbeziehungen BRD-Suedafrika, Dokument des Konsulats der Republik von Zambia, Freiburg/Br. 1970. See also: United States Corporate Investments and Social Change in South Africa, unpublished study, 1972; Morrison: Westdeutschlands wirtschafliche Verkettung mit der Apartheid, in: Pan African Journal (aus: Africa and the World, London), Jan/Feb. 1972
(3) See: Dritte Welt Information, Frankfurt/Main July 1972, "Apartheid und neokoloniale Expansion garantieren Gewinne", by Franz J.T. Lee, p.2
(3a) Commerzbank, Aussenhandelsblaetter. See also: Die Wochenzeitung, Was tun, Nr. 118/120, 26.8.1976
(4) Ueberblick ueber Aussmass und Bedeutung nordamerikanischer Investitionen in dem unter weisser Herrschaft stehenden suedlichen Afrika, ORK Unit II, Dokument Nr. 3, Cunene Dam Symposium, 1972.
(5) See: Franz J.T. Lee, Anatomy of Apartheid in Southern Africa, New York 1966, pp. 13f.
(6) See the extensive study: Robert Molteno, Africa y South Africa - Economic Background of South Africa's Outward Looking Policy, London 1971, p.19f. Also: Franz J.T. Lee, Hintergruende des Dialogs Suedafrika - Schwarzafrika, in: Afrika im Westdeutschen Fernsehen, Hannover 1972, p. 46-50.
(6b) See: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 24.8.1976, Kurssturz der suedafrikanischen Goldminen-Aktien.
(7) See: Financial Mail, 29.5.1970