This edition of the Khanya Journal comes against a backdrop of on-going uncertainty whether the global capitalist crisis has indeed passed. With general rises in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), including in South Africa, the more optimistic bourgeois commentators have been very willing to proclaim the crisis over. Companies such as Goldman Sachs and Barclays, at one point directly in the line of the storm of the financial crisis in particular, have not only returned to profitability but have done so in record style. Goldman Sachs Profits in 2009 were the highest in that company’s 140-year history. Barclays too declared record profits in 2009, up by more than 50% on the previous highest record. Other general indicators, such as rises in production and increases in sales of expensive commodities such as motor vehicles, appear to support this view.
Yet, clouds of uncertainty continue to hover, the latest being the indebtedness of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, or PIGS, as the commercial media have dubbed them. A default by any one of these would throw the whole world financial system back into tumult and raise afresh questions whether the underlying causes of the crisis have indeed been resolved. The more cautious bourgeois analysts fret that the seeming move out of global recession may be no more than yet another bubble, and that the recession will take a more protracted form, in the shape of a ‘W’ rather than the usual ‘V’. In other words, that another plunge in production, profits and share values may be lurking around the corner. It was against the backdrop of global economic crisis that Khanya College hosted its 11th annual Winter School in 2009. The theme of the School was ‘Crisis and Resistance’, the intention being for the various activities of the School to reflect on the sources of the crisis, its impact on the different social classes, and how these classes were responding to the crisis. These reflections and reports of various activities of the School make up the bulk of this edition of the Journal. The 2009 School marked a radical change in format. In the first of 6 articles related to the School Ighsaan Schroeder spells out the changed format, its rationale and gives an overall assessment of the School.
Thereafter follows 3 articles related to the Conference on Radical Political Economy that preceded the School. That the global capitalist crisis dominated the context for the Conference was pure coincidence. The College has long intended to launch an annual conference of this nature, not least because political economy, as with much else, has become virtually uncontested terrain for the ruling class. In his introductory article Ighsaan Schroeder explains why a conference and deals with the seeming conference consensus on characterizing the crisis and the response of the various classes. The two following articles by Angela Conway and Lali Naidoo are based on their presentations at the conference. Neither article is directly informed by the current global crisis. Instead, each deals with a particular aspect of capital accumulation in the countryside under a neo-liberal ANC government. Conway looks at the process of land reform while Naidoo looks at the impact on capital accumulation of neo-liberal restructuring of Agriculture.
The 2009 School hosted 9 networks of resistance. In her article Nerisha Baldevu provides a summary of what was discussed in the different networks. In his article, Fouad Asfour looks specifically at the meeting of the network of small and independent publishers and the various challenges facing them. The Open Mic section of the journal contains 5 articles, at least one of them directly related to the global capitalist crisis. The article by Molefe Pilane reports on the key discussions that emerged out of a series of ‘Financialisation & Gender’ workshops Khanya delivered for Jubilee South Africa towards the end of 2009. One of the foci of the workshops was to look at organizational responses of women to the crisis. The focus on women organizing ties in with the article by Bongani Bunyonyo on home-based care workers, the vast majority of whom are women. The article looks at how the state has shifted the task of healthcare onto working class women and concludes with a look at organizing initiatives on the East Rand and in Soweto. The two articles also connect with an organizing thread in the article by Conway, who comments on organizing initiatives among farm workers in the Southern and Eastern Cape. The third article, by Mthetho Xhali, surveys the record number of service delivery struggles in 2009, identifying clear trends and tendencies within these. The remaining 2 articles in the Open Mic section deal with organized labour. The article by Eddie Cottle is an assessment of the first-ever national construction workers strike in 2009. Cottle is scathing of the leadership of the trade unions for settling for a ‘no strike’ agreement at a time when the workers held a significant advantage over the construction bosses due to the deadline pressures of the World Cup. In his assessment of the 2009 Cosatu National Congress Martin Jansen concludes that the federation is now thoroughly reformist and no longer the fighting force it once was. This contrasts with, on the one hand, Xhali’s article on the high number of community struggles and, on the other, supports Cottle’s evidence of the destructive role of the union leadership in worker struggles. The documents section of the edition is given up to a reproduction of the daily newspaper produced at the Winter School, Imbila Yesu. It is followed by a Barometer of Resistance for the period June to December 2009.