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Legassick, Martin  (2006) South African political economy. Centre for Civil Society  Colloquium on the Economy, Society and Nature: 1-54.

Why is the country not embarking on a large-scale socialist programme to mobilize young people, in order to build roads and schools and plant fields? “Forget it’ says the media manager. ‘The government dare not be seen as socialists, or the West will crap in its pants.’ ‘I am actually sick of being held to ransom by the West,’ grumbles the mfundisi. ‘Do this, do that. What has all this free-market stuff brought us? They don’t give up a thing, not tariffs, not lifestyle, yet we have to be more capitalist than Wall Street.’
Antjie Krog in the Transkei, A change of tongue

There has been an enormous transformation of the South African state from a white-controlled and staffed apartheid repressive monster to a state with a democratic parliament and an extremely democratic constitution (at least on paper) which guarantees basic freedoms. The ANC was elected to govern with a majority of more than 60% in 1994 and has increased its apparent share of the vote at two subsequent elections (1999, 2004) to some 70% – though the percentage of the population voting in the elections has consistently diminished so that in 2004 only 38% voted for the ANC.2 But the mass of people elected the ANC into government not for the sake of having members of parliament, but in order to improve their lives. ANC election propaganda has recognized this, promising (1994 onwards) “a better life for all”, and (in 2004) to “create jobs and fight poverty”. But does the ANC have a policy and programme which is adequate to the task?

The bosses’ guru Raymond Parsons reasserted recently that “rapid growth and transformation in SA are possible only with a market-related economy” – that is, a capitalist economy.3 The negotiated settlement drew the ANC, in government, into compromise with capitalism.

Since 1994, the ANC government has promoted the capitalist economy. ‘There is no other way’ the ideologists of the ANC proclaimed when they introduced GEAR in 1996, echoing right-wing Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Britain in the 1980s. But GEAR has been a vicious neo-liberal economic programme equivalent to the SAP’s of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, attacking the living standards of the working class.

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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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