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Bond, Patrick & Desai, Ashwin (2006) Explaining uneven and combined development in South Africa. Centre for Civil Society Colloquium on the Economy, Society and Nature: 1-29.

In Results and Prospects, Leon Trotsky’s notion of ‘permanent revolution’ provided a profound critique of the Russian bourgeoisie, based on skepticism that genuine democracy and the land question could be solved through their leadership. How well does the argument travel to South Africa a century later, at a time of a marked void in political-economic reasoning by socialists?

We argue below that the theory underlying the permanent revolution, namely uneven and combined development, is entirely appropriate for South Africa.

Here, a mix of market and non-market coercion permitted a permanent system of racialised, gendered ‘primitive accumulation’ to emerge at the very moment Trotsky was analysing Russian social relations. Does a revival of his broader theory, and a comparison with a half-century of flawed neo-Marxist intellectual approaches, assist in clarifying the character of accumulation and class formation in South Africa? Does it help vanquish both the ‘two economies’ argument advanced in the African National Congress and the stageist theory – with its aspirational ‘developmental state’ - so popular in the official centre-left? The arguments below provide a preliminary case in the affirmative, without yet attempting to do more than flag the logical political conclusions.

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 Relevant Publications
 The Accumulation of Capital. Chapter 27: THE STRUGGLE AGAINST NATURAL ECONOMY: Rosa Luxemburg 
 Capitalism & cheap labour power in South Africa: Harold Wolpe 
 Labour Market Discrimination and its Aftermath in Southern Africa Guy Mhone 

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