29 September 2009

Urban, Rural, Local, Provincial

[CU for Wednesday, 30 September 2009]

The titles of the discussion documents related to the SACP Special National Congress scheduled to take place in Polokwane in December 2009, of which the first has already been published, have been announced as follows:

  • Building working class hegemony on the terrain of a national democratic struggle
  • The State and the Future of Local and Provincial Government
  • Industrial Strategy and Rural Development

The Communist University has already created a set of studies on the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) culminating with the SACP discussion document “Building working class hegemony on the terrain of a national democratic struggle”.

The first of our several planned CU public pre-Congress discussions will take place at 10h00 on 4 October 2009 at the UJ Campus, 37 Nind Street, Doornfontein, Lecture Hall G07 or G05.

Politically, the NDR is a class alliance (i.e. a unity-in-action) for the extension of democracy to the outer limits of the nation, and to all conceivable mass constituencies, as a pre-requisite for any further political progress thereafter.

“Seek ye first the political kingdom and all else shall be added unto you”

The above words of Kwame Nkrumah’s may well be true. Nevertheless, the substance of people’s political concerns is of a material kind, and the consideration of Industrial Strategy, and Rural Development, as well as Local and Provincial Government, are also part of the political kingdom.

The CU’s immediate difficulties in dealing with these matters are that:

  • Two of the promised discussion documents are not yet published
  • Urban (industrial) and rural development theory are not separable
  • Local and Provincial Government are not separable from “development”
  • Much of the recent literature on these matters has been of a utilitarian or even of a Malthusian nature, and not of a revolutionary nature.

Therefore, and taking advantage of the blog format as a “sandbox” or a “laboratory”, which can be revised before the series is published on web sites as a “Generic Course”, we will proceed is as follows:

We will begin with two parts based on writings of Frederick Engels (see the link below for the first one, from Engels “Condition of the Working Class in England”). We will then take some modern writings on urban/rural problems, after which we will return to some of Lenin’s writings, including some from the period of the NEP (New Economic Policy). Then we will return to the question of Industrial Development and large-scale planning. Finally, we will consider (in the combined context of the NDR and of urban and rural development as we will by then have conceived it) what is the appropriate and functional form of Local, Provincial and National democracy, taxation, and what is the intention and the locus of executive government action.

Concerning Engels’ work on the condition of the English working class, it would be difficult to exaggerate its historical importance. It is the founding work of town-planning, yet it was written by an office clerk in his 20s, who had no university education. Not only did the work objectify the industrial towns in literature systematically for the first time. It also laid an empirical and intuitive basis, before Engels had fully teamed up with Karl Marx (which happened after September 1844), of the conception of the working class as the gravedigger of capitalism and as the leading class in all of humanity and in all of human history. This was at a time when the proletariat was in the most miserable circumstances, as Engels describes. Yet he somehow saw their potential.

Therefore, please page through this linked chapter, comrades, and read as much of it as is comfortable for you. Also bear in mind that Johannesburg was established in Engels’ lifetime, and not so many years after he wrote this description of the then-new “Great Towns” of Britain. There are people still alive in Johannesburg today whose grandparents were among the founding inhabitants of this city.

It would not be outrageous to claim, in relation to this work of Engels, that this is where modernity begins. In this literature modern urbanism takes shape as an idea in the world. [Picture: McConnel & Company Mills, Manchester, about 1820]

Also linked is the new Green Paper on National Strategic Planning, just out.

Click on this link:

Condition of the Working Class in England, Chapter 2, Great Towns, 1845, Engels (20411 words)

Green Paper on National Strategic Planning, 2009 (580 KB PDF download)


Post a Comment

Post a Comment