[Marxism] ZCommunications » South Africa’s “Very Good Story” Of Social Democracy

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Apr 26 09:01:17 MDT 2014

South Africa’s “Very Good Story” Of Social Democracy
By Patrick Bond

April 26, 2014

Two decades ago, liberation was won in South Africa. In two weeks, the 
May 7 election will confirm the popularity of the African National 
Congress (ANC) with a landslide victory. But times are changing: a 
serious leftist party – the Economic Freedom Fighters founded by ousted 
ANC youth leader Julius Malema – has appeared on the landscape and the 
largest union, the 340,000-strong metalworkers, has refused the to 
support the ANC on grounds it has sold out, especially in the wake of 
the August 2012 Marikana massacre of mineworkers by police on behalf of 
the platinum mining corporation Lonmin.

What kind of patronage system now exists, to help explain why the ANC 
gets votes in spite of disastrous pro-business economic policies that 
worsened already world-leading inequality and unemployment after 1994? 
Post-apartheid social policy – especially 15 million new grants, mainly 
for the mothers of poor children – is the main plot within what 
president Jacob Zuma calls the ANC’s “very good story.” In reality, it’s 
a tall tale of tokenism, once we get to know the devil in the details.

But hyperbole rules in this election year. Government has adopted “a 
northern European approach to social development”, according to Alan 
Hirsch in Season of Hope, the main insider survey of post-apartheid 
policy to date. Aside from welfare grants, the provision of Free Basic 
Water and roll-out of essential services are also the stuff of wild 
claims by the government and its backers, including the SA Institute of 
Race Relations.

The claim we have an operative social democracy is contradicted by the 
relatively small amount spent on grants: R118 billion (US$10.9bn) in 
2013/14 against an expected R2.1 trillion (US$194bn) GDP. If we were 
really Northern European in approach, that spending would rise by a 
factor of nearly five.


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