Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

ANCYL misunderstand Cronin

Posted by Simon Halliday | Wednesday, February 24, 2010 | Category: , |

Oh gosh, it looks like I'm going to have to comment on South African politics again. Floyd Shivambu waxes incoherent about Jeremy Cronin's recent public letter about transparent debate about nationalisation. Shivambu said, "Why a communist cadre in the form of Jeremy Cronin refuses to constructively input into the nationalisation of mines perspective even when humbly requested to is worrying. But as they say, blood is thicker than water." What does that mean? Let me get this straight, Cronin writes constructively about the debate (having been asked to do so), but Shivambu thinks Cronin is incoherent and destructive? Well let's look at why.

Let me state outright that I'm not a communist, but I think Cronin is one of the most coherent, if occasionally wrong, members of the communisty party and of the tripartite alliance. Otherwise, I am a big fan of his poetry and have substantial respect for him as a white man who stood his ground during apartheid. We needed more like him.

Anyway, back to the article. Cronin says, "Behind the headline stories of high-life parties and the flaunting of ill-gained wealth, lies the sordid reality of manipulative sponsorships, wheeling and dealing, organisational factionalism, arm-twisting and the general subversion of our democratic order.” Ahhh.... so that's what annoyed Shivambu. Cronin was criticising Shivambu's, Malema's and many other fair-weather socialists' proclivities to parties and spending. Oh well, poor Floyd.

Next thing, Cronin says that “Our socialism is fundamentally about waging a struggle, here and now, with and in defence of the workers and poor.” How can Shivambu have a problem with that? The workers and the poor? I must have misunderstood the position of ANCYL to not see this as a problem.

Cronin goes on to say, “[SACP policy] is certainly NOT about "capturing" the ANC by infiltrating communists onto ANC electoral lists! If communists enjoy popular support and endorsement from within ANC structures that's great. But they serve in ANC positions as ANC members. We want to have capable, honest and hard-working ANC cadres as ANC leaders - some will be communists, many will not be. Rather a capable non-communist ANC comrade in a leadership position, we say, than a less capable ANC member who happens to be a communist.” Oh gosh! There's another potentially veiled insult. Cronin would prefere efficient and effective capitalists in the ANC than ineffective communists. Again, how can that be a problem? Oh wait, maybe Shivambu realises that Malema is basically an incapable and ineffective croney capitalist. Oh well...

Cronin makes several other coherent comments:

  1. Recent bank bailouts could be considered 'socialism for capitalists'

  2. Better to quote it, “public sector ownership, on its own, is no guarantee that this public property will not be plundered by senior management for their own private accumulation purposes.” And also, “It would be the height of hypocrisy, by the way, to be calling for "nationalisation" on the one hand, while being intimately involved in the private plundering of public resources on the other.” Ahah! I can see why Shivambu might dislike that - no lining the pockets. Poor Floyd.

  3. “In advancing our perspective on socialisation, including progressive nationalisation, the SACP fully intends to locate this advocacy, and any other discussion on nationalisation/ socialisation, within the context of our shared alliance strategic priorities - jobs and sustainable livelihoods; health-care; education; rural development; and fighting crime and corruption. We must all guard against the opportunistic appropriation of "nationalisation", treating it as a stand-alone issue and using it as a rhetorical badge of "radicalism". Any progressive call for nationalisation needs be a coherent and do-able part of an overall democratic programme.” Wait, you mean Cronin actually wants to have democratic processes? You mean he doesn't want to be populist. Floyd, Floyd, Floyd how is this not constructive?

  4. “Grand-standing doesn't help. Threatening comrades that you won't vote for them in future elective conference unless they support your position is infantile and unhelpful.” Ahah, there it is again, not-so-veiled criticism of grandstanders like Malema and Floyd. Understably, Floyd doesn't like it. Floyd labels all people who disagrees with him 'reactionaries' or 'counter-revolutionaries'. Evidently Floyd doesn't understand Democracy or Freedom of Speech. Poor Floyd.

  5. “The current crisis around governance, golden hand-shakes, exorbitant tariffs, and failures to actually effectively deliver in many SOEs provides us with an opportunity to advance (not the cause of privatisation, as the DA will do) but rather their effective and increasing socialisation - i.e. subordination to the logic of meeting social needs not private profits.” Ahah! Something else constructive that Floyd doesn't think is constructive: a clearly articulated position on nationalisation. But Floyd doesn't seem to like being articulate. Poor Floyd.

So, I would kindly request that Floyd actually take a look at Cronin's letter and respond to each of the problems that he articulates, look at the positions he takes, and then evaluate his own position reflectively. I assume this won't happen. I hope that Floyd keeps a job somewhere because he obviously doesn't understand political theory, democratic theory, the South African constitution and numerous other aspects of our fledgling democracy. He seems to understand several other things though: populism, croneyism, corruption, spending other peoples' money, benefiting from others work, and preying on others who are doing their best to articulate constructive positions in politics.

Currently have 3 comments:

  1. Hi Simon, a very interesting post. Readers might like to view this interview with Cronin. On the question of nationalization he suggests that public ownership for its own sake is a panacea, and that it is no use nationalizing the mines if it only for the benefit of one small set of interests.

    Cronin also makes an interesting point about how the shape of the macroeconomy has dominated the agenda, and that these arguments, while important, need to be supplemented with a coherent discussion of industrial policy.


  2. I also really enjoyed this post. Jeremy Cronin is my favorite communist by miles. I think the crux of the whole problem with nationalism is raised by Cronin when he says (as you quote) “public sector ownership, on its own, is no guarantee that this public property will not be plundered by senior management for their own private accumulation purposes.”

    The MPRDA has already created a fantastic framework for government officials to create conditions on mining that can ensure the mines play an important distributive role (I posted on this at For Voet's Sake). However, its so much more easy for people to moan about a lack of nationalization than to take the time ensuring mines comply with their mining licenses.

    I am involved in a forum discussion next week Tuesday where I am speaking with Hanri Mostert (one of the three top mineral law experts in SA). I have chatted briefly with her about the subject and she has some very interesting ideas so I'll hopefully put up another post when that is done.

  3. @Dave A: I assume you mean public ownership for its own sake a panacea,' which I agree with. Also, part of me might consider nationalisation if it was nationalisation of the South Korea type that produced benefits for the populace. But, they simultaneously experienced hardship, restrictions on liberties, massive capital controls, and more. Moreover, it's highly regulated and people are (I've been told) more swiftly punished for corruption than they are in SA. They rank better than us on corruption stats, for sure. It's difficult to know what the exact recipe is that works in such a situation situation, the recipe for 'infant industry protection' if you will. On which, the IMF has now backtracked
    on capital controls and permits them, I'm not sure of its thoughts on nationalisation, or the thoughts of other IFIs or investors. That said, I'm not convinced that FDI drives growth either, so it might be nonsense to worry about them. Anyway, thanks for the link to the videos. I think that considered and intelligent debate on nationalisation is worthwhile.

    What I'd really appreciate, separate to nationalisation, is a discussion of cooperatives as an alternative form of socialisation of the means of production. I won't advance my position on them here, but I almost never hear anything about cooperatives in the SA media, which I find odd. Natioanlisation isn't the only form of socialisation of capital.

    @Dave W: Read your post, found it informative. Look forward to the post about the forum discussion, which I hope is productive.