Joe Slovo Discusses ANC/SACP Economic Policy

Edited extract from a talk delivered by SACP General Secretary Joe Slovo to the Woolworth's board. "Times for Business to Realise Confidence Is a Two-Way Street", 5 December 1990.

How do we begin to build a truly post-apartheid SA in which we are able to overcome the massive, accumulated effects of apartheid- the history of white empowerment on the one side, and disempowerment of blacks on the other.

In SA's economic debate the impression usually given is that there are two options - a free market or a centralised, heavily nationalised, bureaucratically planned economy. They debate is clouded with rhetoric and slogans. To begin a more open and creative approach we need to dispel two common illusions.

Firstly, socialism and the market are not, as is commonly supposed, opposed to each other in principle. The market is a mechanism for the realisation of value; there is nothing inherently capitalistic about it. One of the reasons for the present crisis in existing socialist countries lies in the elimination of the market.

The second illusion, which needs to be dispelled, is that the ANC and the SACP will nationalise everything that moves or grows. Across - the broad nationalisation would be extremely costly. It would be met by a flight of capital and skilled manpower and probably by sabotage and destabilisation. Compensation for nationalisation would place limits on the redistribute impact of major nationalisation. Buying the major monopolies even at half price would tie up the state budget and balance of payments accounts decades. The experience of much of Africa shows that economic collapse seldom produces popular enthusiasm for people's power or socialism.

This is not to say that nationalisation is an option that should not be considered. In sectors where direct state involvement is considered necessary for effective social planning, such as involvement can take a multitude of forms, including joint projects, majority shareholding, or even minority shareholding with "golden share" attributes.

But while a democratic state will certainly play a very important part in developing public property, what essentially characterises democratisation of the economy is a growing participation by the people as a whole (in their capacity as producers, consumers and owners) in economic life. That is not statism. That is not a naive belief in nationalisation as a panacea. That is not consigning the heights of our economy to a commandist bureaucracy.


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