The Young Communist League of South Africa is a Marxist-Leninist youth wing of the SACP.

The YCL stands for:

Non Racism
Freedom
Equality
The socialisation of the ownership and control of the means of production
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South Africa

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Communist University - Political School Material

Issue 2, Vol 14: 2 February 2016

In this issue:

 

Viewpoint by Molaodi Wa SekakeThe Living Conditions Survey [2017]: A Story that Leaves much to be desired

By Molaodi Wa Sekake

Over and above the programmes that the Young Communist League of South AFrica [YCLSA] has always been been undertaking, we have at pains in dispelling many of the deeply held myths about the economy, especially as far as the neoliberal capitalist economy`s capacity to ameliorate social and economic ills is concerned. In actual fact, many of our campaigns such as Jobs for Youth, the Right to Learn, the Read to Lead, or our Ten Youth Demands yearly contextualized, which mainstream media does not sufficiently cover, have sought to bring forth -theoretically and programmatically so - progressive and alternative paradigms through which we can best understand our situation and respond adequately. One of our proposition has been: decommodify social services because a neoliberal wage-determinant consumption capacity of society is unfavourable to the majority of the people - the working class.

Last year`s National Income Dynamic Survey [2016] by the University of Capetown (on behalf of government) launched by the Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, and this week`s release of the Living Conditions Survey [2017] by Statistics South Africa, confirm many of the things that the SACP and the YCLSA have been saying.

What has always been the subject of our critique is a semi-colonial growth path that constantly reproduces the structural and systemic features of an economy that in no way can overcome poverty, inequality and unemployment. And some of the things that we have put forth to deal with such a situation have been - a need for a comprehensive social security scheme linked with creating labour-absorptive industries; control of financial capital flows to encourage investment in the national economy; taking charge of the commanding heights of the economy - land, steel industry, Sasol, mines, banks [creation of a state bank] etc., and the introduction of the minimum wage that will cushion workers from penal poverty.

As things stand, South Africa does not have a national minimum wage. Instead wages are set on a sectoral basis through collective agreements negotiated at the level of the firm or bargaining council, or through sectoral determinations published by the government. What this simply means is that, there is no cross-cutting legislative stipulation on at least how much an average industrial or farm or domestic worker must earn. With the country that still reels from the legacies of apartheid and colonialism such a reality has, with no doubt in mind, increased class, racial and gender income inequalities instead of ameliorating them. This is taking place offcourse on the basis of an entrenched social and economic reality upon which there is a palpable gulf between the owning class and the slaving or working class. On average, men earn far more than women - and in terms of racial demographics, whites earned far more than blacks.

The Living Conditions Survey observes that many black households "work to eat" in the main. This therefore says, the average annual household food consumption expenditure of poor black households takes place at the expense of household consumption expenditure on things such education, hence the #FeesMustFall protests, as well as on things such as health, electricity, water etc.

While the ANC-led government has made it possible for many poor people to access water, electricity, houses etc., - achievements of the RDP social and economic policy and programme rationale - the logic of neo-liberal capitalist commodification of social and economic services however constantly and ruthlessly reverses these gains, as people are expected to pay to access these services . And in order for them to pay they must have money, and to have money they must be employed and paid sufficiently. But given the levels of unemployment in South Africa, and therefore lack of disposable income or adequate money in the hands of the poor, it goes without saying that many people cannot access these services which must be bought in the capitalist market of commodities, however important they are to people`s lives. This the failure of a GEAR [1996] social and econommic policy and programme rationale. Under a socially and economically responsive RDP people were citizens, under neoliberal GEAR people became customers, and the NDP is unlikely to undermine this neoliberal logic, and so the anti-working class social and economic crusade goes on unabated.

While social grants might have dampened poverty by putting money in the hands of households to afford goods and services in the economy, that does not in any way challenge the logic of neoliberal capitalist commodification of social and economic services. The counter-cyclical fiscal policy measures adopted by government at different times which simply means "reducing spending and raising taxes during a boom period, and increasing spending/cutting taxes during a recession" have also not gone far to tilt the balance of forces in favour of the poor and workers.

If the Living Conditions Survey observes that many people - especially majority of black people - work to eat, it simply means, for the black poor there are no assets or funds available to their households (from income, past savings and borrowing) and in no way can they commit to a range of non-consumption items, including various forms of savings.

How and what are they going to save when what they earn cannot even afford them sufficient basic commodities or amenities to see the next day? If the powers-that-be - those who have been given power by the electorate - are not willing to change the situation, they must brace themselves for a mass-based or popular-driven programme that goes beyond their parochial political and intellectual inclinations in pursuit of a just society. We will always be on the side of the socially and economically marginalized people in general and young people in particular, against the interests of the self-serving political and economic elite, this is the bottom line because the YCLSA says so.

Molaodi Wa Sekake
YCLSA National Spokesperson
078 164 3668

 

Viewpoint by Muhamad TaliaThe Cycle of privilege, why transformation in higher education and the economy is incompatible with Capitalism and private education

By Muhamad Talia

Fellow Comrades,

On Monday the 30th of January 2017 I arrived at WITS University as a first year student in the faculty of health sciences. I arrived a few minutes late and walked into a lecture room for the first time. As I sat down I was overcome with confusion, where are all the black students I thought. I knew this was a public institution and also that almost 80 % of South Africans are black. Why then did my class not reflect this? The answer is capitalism but more specifically the cycle of privilege which is a symptom of capitalism.

The cycle of privilege is a very simple system, it works often undetected and uninterrupted however it exists stealing the futures of competent black young people. The cycle begins in primary school when learners enter 2 very different worlds. A learner from a wealthy home will often go to a private school, a learner from a disadvantaged home will enter a public school. The public school is 1 of thousands and the department of education cannot afford to allocate recourses to the school that could be of a comparable level as the recourses which a private school can afford. The result of this is frightening, the wealthy private school learner will receive an excellent education. His/her marks will in all likelihood result in him/her entering a university or college. The financially disadvantaged learner will stand a much lower chance of ever passing matric or making it to university. The difference is not in aptitude or attitude, it is simply in circumstance. The wealthy student has access to the best teachers, the best textbooks and very importantly the internet. This enables her/him to do research and study content in depth and provides sufficient resources for him/her to pass matric and attend an institution like a university or a college. The disadvantaged student however will not have these privileges, he/she will struggle to find good quality resources. Sadly without these recourses even the most capable and studious disadvantaged students will be excluded from institutions of higher education. This is not my opinion it is fact. In 2016 the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) that sets and marks the matric exams for private schools recorded a pass rate of 98.67%, 87.61% of IEB students obtained bachelors passes to study at a university and 9.83% of IEB students received Diploma passes to study towards a diploma. The Department of Basic Education that sets and marks matric exams from public schools however recorded a pass rate of 72.5%. Only 151830 students achieved bachelors passes (considering over a million students from government schools wrote matric last year this leaves the bachelors pass rate at under 20%). These figures show that a learner from a private school is far more likely to be eligible for admission to university than a disadvantaged learner at a public school.

This is the mechanism through which the cycle of privilege operates. The wealthy learners because of their money are able to enter university, their privilege bought them the recourses which allowed them to outcompete disadvantaged learners. This is a capitalist system and it prevents transformation. This is because economic power still lies firmly in the clutches of the predominantly white middle class. Their money enables their children to go to a private school, based on the figures above it is likely that the child of a wealthy person will be able to go to university. What happens next ensures that the privilege of the middle class is sustained and the transformation of the economy is prevented.

Of the students that enter university, those from private schools will in all likelihood afford the fees. Disadvantaged students may drop out because they cannot afford the fees, alternatively they will need to take out a loan. These loans will be paid back with interest while the students are working and whilst the privileged student can save and invest, the disadvantaged student is repaying loans sometimes to the same bank the wealthy student is saving at. The jobs that these degrees will allow students to pursue will enable them to still live a life of privilege. The disadvantaged student who made it through may still have less of a privileged life because he/she needs to pay back loans but will nonetheless eventually earn a good salary. The point however that this one student who managed to complete his degree is just one student and thousands of disadvantaged students were unable to either get into or complete a degree.

The wealthy student conversely is one of many wealthy students that competed a degree and the likelihood of a wealthy student (beginning in primary school) completing a degree is significantly higher than the probability of a disadvantaged student achieving the same thing. Historically it is the white middle class who have occupied the jobs which have ensured their privilege. Through private schooling and access to funds they`ve ensure that their children get to university and maintain the jobs that ensure their privilege. The cycle of white South Africans in middle class jobs can hence be attributed to the system of private schooling and more broadly the system of capitalism. By the same logic it is clear that the system of capitalism is one which perpetuates inequality and prevents transformation and wealth redistribution. The crisis of education coupled with the crisis of transformation and inequality must be viewed as symptoms of the capitalist system. As long as private institutions exist, inequality and poverty will exist and as long as poverty and unemployment exists there will be a case for socialism.

My dear comrades I benefited from this system, like many white students I attended a private school and had the resources to achieve excellent results. I recognise the injustices of this system. The day I set foot in that lecture hall for the first time I faced the painful realisation that the very system I benefited from has excluded the majority of black students from achieving a university education and has excluded them from access to many high paying jobs. It has also prevented them from being able to start companies and build their own businesses as it is very rare that someone without tertiary education will have access to loans to start companies. However this is a sad reality of capitalism, it was designed to serve those with capital, the exploitation of the poor is central to the idea of capitalism. Comrades, let us fight against inequality and ensure that students who did not have access to resources at school are not excluded from university. Furthermore let us fight for free tertiary education for those disadvantaged students who, against all odds, made it to the universities that the capitalist system was designed to exclude them from. The road to socialism is riddled with obstacles but let us all walk that path together for it is through unity not division that anything can be accomplished.