4 March 2011

National Plan

Development, Part 8

National Plan

The 40-page Green Paper on National Strategic Planning (download linked below) is a discussion document, but its release in September 2009 was followed by complaints. COSATU’s General Secretary lambasted it. NEHAWU lambasted it because it was drafted and issued by the South African government, not the National Democratic Revolutionary Alliance. NEHAWU wrote:

“It is a known fact that the need for a high level planning and the planning commission and other modalities towards the establishment of the developmental state were agreed upon at the Alliance summit in October 2008.

“NEHAWU therefore believes that it is only proper that the Green Paper should be considered in the impending Alliance summit and that this should take place prior to further processes in parliament and government.”

One of this Green Paper’s merits was that it made a strong case for regular central planning on three “time horizons”: 1-year Programmes of Action, 5-year Medium Term “Frameworks” corresponding to a maximum term of office between elections; and Long-Term, plus/minus 15-year, “Visions”.

It makes this case in common-sense or bourgeois-bureaucratic terms but it does not compromise with neo-liberal laissez-faire (French for “leave alone”). With this Green Paper, the necessity for planning (dirigisme or “steering” in French) became orthodoxy in South Africa.

The first National Strategic Planning Green Paper

This first Planning Green Paper was not itself a plan. It committed the Minister to produce the first national plan within a year (a deadline now long past). It laid down the process by which the planning would be done – centrally, of course, but transparently, and not secretly or pre-emptively. So far there is no transparency. There is nothing.

The major de-merit of the Green Paper from a communist point of view is shown by its frequent mention of something resembling an imaginary table of weaknesses and problems. In this list you find women, children, the disabled and the old, and those with low “social status”- meaning the working class. Race, gender and lack of education are mentioned, but never “class”, or the “working class”. Instead, where race is mentioned you get more (balancing?) remarks about low “social status”, as if being working class and/or black is a disability or a disease that needs to be palliated, treated or cured.

The class struggle may be the engine of history, the Green Paper seems to imply, but it can’t be considered in plans. The plans imagined in the Green Paper will be curative courses of treatment for ills. If this remains unchanged, then the strategic plans produced by the process described are bound to fall far short of what is necessary.

Class formation

The historical measure of change and of progress is the rate of class formation. The basis of Chinese revolutionary planning success in the last sixty years, for example, has been their constant attention to class formation. Even their few, now-long-past failures were a consequence of the same, correct, focus.

None of the goods, whether public or private, that the planning process is designed to maximise will be secure unless there is a steady and eventually overwhelming growth of the working class. By treating the working class as a “social status” problem, the Green Paper has the whole matter upside down, and will fail, if it does not get corrected.

Without any positive class orientation, the planning process as outlined in the Green Paper will default back to conservative bourgeois utilitarianism. The determination towards planning that the Green Paper represents is a great leap forward, but it will come to nothing if the planning process is not infused with revolutionary class-consciousness. This is a job for the communists.

There is a great deal inside the Green Paper about protocol and government etiquette. Whether these things are really crucial will become apparent. We now have the “IPAP2” and the “New Growth Path” (NGP). How these other two planning exercises will correspond with the eventual National Plan is something we will have to wait to see.

Our graphic, above, representing communist planning, is the symbol of the former German Democratic Republic, which was in its time a good friend to South Africa.

In the next post we will contrast and compare the revised and much shorter Green Paper that arrived in January, 2010 and was executed.  The commissioners were appointed nearly a year ago, on 30 April 2010. Up to now they have not pronounced, but in an interview published on 5 September 2010, President Zuma said:

“It has started working; I think it has had about four major meetings already and it has started to work. It has identified areas of work, it has established sub-committees that are now busy doing research looking at very specific issues. It is a very busy commission and it is incorrect to say it could meet overnight and say it has come with a plan, otherwise it would not have applied its mind appropriately. I am satisfied that it is working very well: there have been progress reports to me. I am very happy that it is working and at the right time it is going to emerge with either the outline or the plan itself.”

Please download and read this document:

Further reading:


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