Patrick Bond and Horman Chitonge
With the 2004-05 South African protest rate at 16 per day, of which
13 percent were illegal, it is evident that activists have returned to
an earlier militancy which some worried would be forgotten or completely
repressed in the post-apartheid era. This mirrors processes across the
region, in the wake of post-independence betrayals of promised progress.
If we take merely one case from the region, Zimbabwe, Simba
Manyanya and Patrick Bond documented five stages over a twenty-year
1. a liberation movement which won repeated elections against a
terribly weak opposition, but under circumstances of worsening
abstentionism by, and depoliticisation of, the masses;
2. concomitantly, that movement’s undeniable failure to deliver a better
life for most of the country’s low-income people, while material
3. rising popular alienation from, and cynicism about, nationalist
politicians, as the gulf between rulers and the ruled widened
inexorably and as more numerous cases of corruption and
malgovernance were brought to public attention;
4. growing economic misery as neoliberal policies were tried and failed;
5. the sudden rise of an opposition movement based in the trade unions,
quickly backed by most of civil society, the liberal petit‑bourgeoisie
and the independent media - potentially leading to the election of a
new, post-nationalist government.
. Madlala, B. (2005), ‘Frustration boils over in protests: Community angered at snail pace service
delivery’, Daily News, 14 October; Cape Argus (2005), ‘66 cops injured in illegal service delivery
protests’, 13 October.
. Bond, P. and S.Manyanya (2003), Zimbabwe’s Plunge: Exhausted Nationalism, Neoliberalism and
That trajectory appears inexorable for South Africa, as well, even if not
on the same timescale, given the stronger ties between trade unions and
the ruling party (especially in the wake of the rise and fall and rise and fall
and rise… of Jacob Zuma). It is in this respect that we will continually have
our ears tuned to regional dimensions, to learn as much as possible from
prior episodes of exhausted nationalist capitalism, and from temporarily
unsuccessful reactions by progressive forces in civil society.
After all, for more than three centuries, this region has hosted some of
the world’s most intense contests between capitalism and non‑capitalist
social and natural life, with capital – in mining, agriculture, industry and
services – taking full advantage of slavery, colonialism, neocolonialism,
apartheid and neoliberalism. The result has been a continual ‘primitive
accumulation’ in which capital’s reach superexploits women, indigenous
people, natural environments, workers and now consumers.
To learn more about these regional, historical, theoretical and
contemporary processes, the Centre for Civil Society opened thematic
research projects on ‘Economic Justice’ in March 2006. We launched
this theme by reviewing some of the finest traditions of South African,
regional and international political-economic theory and contemporary
analysis. Our focus was on market-nonmarket interactions and new
forms of primitive accumulation.
In addition to Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, we were supported in this
effort by funding and intellectual partners also committed to these issues,
including the SA-Netherlands Programme for Alternative Research in
Development, Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust, Open Society Initiative of
Southern Africa, Research Council of Norway, SA National Research
Foundation and two leading journals, Capitalism Nature Socialism and
Review of African Political Economy.
By way of context, ideas about a supposed ‘dual economy’ in South
Africa (and indeed the region and world) are now being debated at the
highest political/policy levels. Early 2006 presented an opportune time
to discuss whether formal markets and the informal economy plus other
aspects of society and nature are really as divorced as is often assumed.
the Search for Social Justice, London, Merlin Press; Harare, Weaver Press; and Pietermaritzburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.
Before their deaths, several scholar-activists - Harold Wolpe
in South Africa (1996), Guy Mhone (2005) and Jose Negrao (2005) in
Southern Africa and Rosa Luxemburg in Europe (1919) - developed
consistent arguments about the way markets systematically exploit
‘nonmarket’ opportunities, in other modes of production, in society
(especially women’s unpaid labour ) and in the natural environment. At
three scales of analysis, we assessed their stories, reviewed past and
contemporary contributions on their legacies, and considered whether
current and future political-economic scenarios require new insights.
Interdisciplinary social scientists debated intellectual problems
associated with market exploitation of nonmarket spheres (society and
nature) from 28 February through 2 March, and from 2-4 March, activists
from across KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and the region helped move
from analysis to praxis, with open discussions and strategy debates
in the framework of the Rosa Luxemburg Political Education Seminar.
While the Review of African Political Economy (March 2007) carries
papers from days devoted to Wolpe, Mhone and Negrao, the main
papers presented in honour of Luxemburg’s ideas, and some of the key
strategic insights, are found in this volume.
We start with Luxemburg’s own analysis of South and Southern
Africa, in several revealing excerpts from The Accumulation of Capital.
But by discussing Accumulation in historical perspective, Arndt
Hopfmann maintains that not only do we encounter conceptual errors,
but we can also acknowledge the brilliance of Luxemburg’s insights for
application to contemporary problems. By situating her work historically
in KwaZulu-Natal, Jeff Guy reintroduces us to the ‘pre-capitalist mode
of production’ and its interface with capitalist expansion at the turn of
the 20th century. And to update the theoretical argument, Ahmed Veriava
considers primitive accumulation by examining two directions in which
we can pursue Luxemburg’s main theme, that of David Harvey and
Massimo De Angelis. With his notion of ‘our outsides’ (i.e., those terrains
of social struggle that counteract commodification), De Angelis adds an
important reminder about the power of agency.
But when we evaluate the contemporary nature of imperialism,
sobering evidence is to be found. In Luxemburg’s spirit, Elmar Altvater
surveys the many ways that a new petro-grounded imperialism has emerged, along with a variety of other new commodity forms that
Luxemburg might have anticipated. Some such aspects of imperialism pit
countries against each other, a prospect Patrick Bond argues is already
in play with South Africa’s accumulation model extending into the region.
That accumulation model is currently being disguised by state rhetoric
about how a ‘second economy’ can be drawn into the first, as if they are
separate. The interconnections and systemic underdevelopment of the
mass of informal workers are unveiled by Caroline Skinner and Imraan
Valodia. Likewise, the deepening of the commodity form with respect to
state services is disguised by a new rhetoric of serving ‘customers’, as
Greg Ruiters shows. Part of the disguise is also the deracialisation of the
commanding heights, an uneven, stop-start-stop process criticised by
What of resistance to these aspects of regional capital accumulation?
In part by reminding us of the prophetic, radical, pro-poor
voice of religious tradition, Ulrich Duchrow launches an overdue attack
on the very foundations of accumulation, the property form. Ntwala
Mwilima poses challenges for regional labour with respect to ideological
challenges posed by foreign direct investment. The need for unity
amongst oppressed people, especially the very poorest, is emphasised
by S’Bu Zikode. In the specific case of fighting the commodification
of education, Salim Vally sketches strategic arguments and reveals
anti-capitalist practices. Finally, the more general relationship between
locales, identities, protests and class struggles are dissected by Trevor
Ngwane, as he ultimately counterposes one word as antidote to the
accumulation of capital: socialism.
This collection of texts, presented at our Colloquium on Economy,
Society and Nature, is the first of many attempts to revive the political
economic traditions that made South and Southern Africa amongst
the most important laboratories for anti-capitalist analysis and praxis.
But if academic comprehensions are typically six months or more
behind the curve on so many such struggles, we will continue to offer
interesting material only if we at the Centre for Civil Society and Rosa
Luxemburg Foundation listen, quite explicitly, as intently as possible to
the organic intelligentsia in the new movements for socio-economic and