RDP Policy Must Be Revisited in Battle for Economic Reform
BYLINE: Bennie Bunsee
I was political adviser to the Pan-Africanist Congress when the chair of the small group of PAC MPs came running to me to tell me to put out a statement that the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) needed to be scrapped and that a new economic policy document had been presented to Parliament by Thabo Mbeki. It later came to be known as the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (Gear) strategy.
"What!" I exclaimed to Richard Sizani.
"The RDP is a good thing. It's about delivery to the poor on a number of socio-economic issues that will deal with poverty and social deprivation in several fields."
My knowledge of the importance of the RDP came from my work in the Greater London Council (GLC) headed then by Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London until last year, who initiated economic policies similar to the objectives of the RDP.
I had worked in the Industrial Unit of the GLC together with many capable radicals from different left groups.
The left in the Labour Party had then decided on a strategy to get into local councils and bring changes. It was a very successful strategy.
Margaret Thatcher would later, in a conservative pique for which she became notorious as she tried to roll back the gains of the British working class following World War 2, abolish the good work of the GLC that concentrated changes on behalf of the working class, black people, women, disabled, the aged who were all regarded as the underdogs of London society.
The GLC had a social-democratic approach within the confines and restrictions of capitalism.
My initial tussle then about the relative merits of the RDP and Gear takes on new importance today as economic policies are being debated within the ANC.
While conflicting statements are being put out by the new leadership of the ANC on continuity and change, there is also a new emphasis on changes in a more developmental direction through state intervention. Ultimately state intervention is all that the poor have to act on their behalf.
A government by the people, of the people, for the people is about that.
This debate has a broader global horizon today in the light of the global financial crisis and recession in several European countries with bankruptcies of huge enterprises and massive job layoffs of thousands of workers with no end in sight.
Trevor Manuel is warning, already, against left-wing policies that will result in greater social expenditure at the cost to the fiscal.
And this appears to reverberate in neo-liberal sections of our media, and business-oriented conservative economic circles.
Clearly a minor war is in progress world wide about the economic policies to pursue in the light of the financial crisis.
What we tend to forget in all this is that the economy really centres around the financial sectors, the banks in the US and other Western countries which are refusing to lend as they are saddled with "toxic assets" that cannot be offloaded without massive assistance from the state and governments - that is using the taxpayers' money for their grave economic adventures and unrestricted speculation.
This is fuelling the financial crisis around the world.
Lenin accurately described the role of financial imperialism in the global economy and it is now playing itself out as Lenin described it.
It is nothing more than speculative capital, and one of the things that Lenin intended was to do away with stock exchanges and the private banking system.
Already some banks in Western countries have actually been taken over by the state in what is termed a bailout.
Will they later be released to their original owners in an effort to save the capitalist system?
Today there is a cry for some kind of public intervention in the banking and financial system - even conservative economic journals are talking of nationalisation - and increasingly the need for state regulation of the financial and banking system. …