The following article by the International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe first appeared in the July issue of Socialist Worker, newspaper of the ISOZ. Visit http://iso.zim.googlepages.com.
On June 29, Robert Mugabe was announced the winner of the presidential run-off "election" with a vote of 2.1 million, as opposed to 233,000 votes for Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai and 131,481 spoilt ballots. The regime claimed a sweeping victory, "winning" in all constituencies, even in areas where it had not won a single seat in the March parliamentary elections.
As the ISOZ had warned, these elections were not going to bring real democratic change. Rather, the regime of Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) would ensure its victory by hook or crook and then seek a government of national unity with the MDC as a junior partner to deal with the imploding economic crisis.
The decision by the MDC to pull out of the run-off was therefore correct. Participating in such a sham election would have been disastrous. Activists desperately needed breathing space to reorganise and begin the fightback. This would have been much more difficult after a sure defeat on June 27. The pull-out exposed the elections for the sham they were, even for Mugabe's buddies. Observer teams from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) have declared the election undemocratic.
Which way forward?
The issue now is what is the way forward? The crisis of legitimacy for the regime and the escalating economic crisis with inflation over 2 million per cent creates three main possibilities: an elitist negotiated settlement; the removal of the illegitimate regime by people's power and the holding of proper elections under a new democratic people-driven constitution; or on failure of these an all-out ZANU-PF military dictatorship.
The negotiated option is being pushed by elites locally, regionally and internationally. With its structures decimated and its supporters traumatised, brutalised and killed, the elites in the MDC leadership will use this, arguing that there is no other way.
Yet the paralysis of the MDC results not only from the repression but also critically from the massive blunders of strategy by the MDC leaders. They and their followers in civic society naively believed in a central strategy of elections without a new constitution as the main way to achieve change. They steadfastly downplayed the need for people's power or mass action-based alternatives, including critically the need to establish a democratic united front of the opposition and civic society.
They rejected advice that the central strategy in dealing with a dictatorship like ZANU-PF must be mass action, with elections — if used — only taken as a secondary tactic to mobilise for the mass action strategy. Instead working-class and left militants were marginalised and substituted by cowardly and opportunistic middle-class and capitalist elites. Even after the rigged March elections, Tsvangirai was imploring civic society not to do anything to provoke the regime and thereafter fled the country for a month on a futile "diplomatic offensive" that left a fatal leadership vacuum locally. As we warned, a boycott not backed by mass action is a dangerous strategy that only gives the regime time to consolidate and an upper hand in any negotiations.
Today, the government of national unity (GNU) option will be vigorously pushed by South African President Thabo Mbeki, the SADC, the AU and the United Nations, under the guise of a transitional authority. The Western imperialists will pile further economic and political pressure, including more sanctions, to ensure the Mugabe regime plays ball.
In his inaugural speech, Mugabe indicated a willingness to negotiate such a powersharing deal. We have long forewarned of the likelihood of a negotiated elitist settlement. But we do not believe a GNU with the regime is the way forward. The experience of the Zimbabwe African People's Union [ZAPU, the second main Zimbabwean liberation movement led by Joshua Nkomo] in 1987 should teach us that there should be no marriage with a regime that murders, maims, rapes and destroys to remain in power — it belongs to the dustbin of history.
The GNU is a project for the dictatorship to perpetuate itself and for the capitalist and the imperialist elites to ensure that the poverty that the ZANU-PF state started with its ESAP [structural adjustment program] is perpetuated forever but now buttressed by elites in the MDC leadership and their equally neoliberal RESTART program.
There is need for an urgent regroupment of civic society and the opposition to launch a serious and determined program of civil disobedience and mass action, supported by regional and international solidarity from working peoples and progressive movements.
Some question whether it is realistic to expect a people's power-based solution given the massive attacks that the people and activists have suffered under the Mugabe regime. We acknowledge that it will not be easy, both because of this and because of the disastrous strategic blunders of the opposition leaders. But the massive boycott of elections, the spoilt papers and the various acts of resistance by individual opposition activists show that the willingness to fight is there. The refusal by the regime's buddies to endorse the fake election will help, while the masses will grow angrier with the sharpening economic crisis. With leadership, this can be channelled into a serious fight-back against an increasingly isolated regime.
The key though is united action. No single organisation can carry out the massive tasks required. What is needed is to urgently set up a united front of resistance, at two levels. First, among the civic groups themselves, and second with the opposition. The need for a radical and autonomous united front of civic groups arises from the domination of the MDC leadership by elites, its pro-neoliberal ideology and its propensity to enter into compromise deals with the dictatorship.
We need a united body capable of initiating united front-based mass actions without necessarily being subordinated to the MDC; able to continue with the struggle against the dictatorship should the MDC leaders sell out and go into a deal with the dictatorship as happened in Kenya; and one based on a pro-working people and anti-neoliberal, anti-capitalist ideology. Any struggle that fails to do this will be outflanked on its left by this crafty regime, which has shown, most powerfully around the land question, a strong capacity to cynically manipulate the poor's concerns in order to remain in power and demonise the opposition as a stooge of the West and business class.
The People's Charter of the People's Convention (held in February) offers a powerful starting point. We nearly established the basis of such a united front at the People's Convention but we unfortunately allowed our tactical differences on whether to support or boycott the March parliamentary elections divide us and stop us from achieving the bigger project of building such a united front. Today we all are paying a heavy price for that.
But it is not too late to regroup, reorganise and offer leadership in action along with the MDC. To kick start the campaign of civil disobedience we propose the urgent holding of a massive national "Rally for Democracy" in Harare, convened by a united front of the opposition, civic groups, trade unions and churches. The rally must be supported by a full-scale general strike by workers and traders, and student class boycotts as well as regional and international solidarity actions from organisations of working people, socialists, anti-capitalist movements and democrats. These are our true allies and not the Western imperialists or their regional state lackeys who pursue an anti-people solution to the Zimbabwean crisis.
The purpose of the rally is first to fight the veil of fear and second to send a message to the dictatorship that we will not be cowered and that we reject the illegitimate June 27 election.
Our demands must include fresh, free and fair elections under a new democratic constitution and consistent with the AU Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections. We further demand the immediate cessation of the reign of terror; compensation of all victims; immediate release of all political prisoners; and the confinement of soldiers to the barracks.
No exclusive MDC-ZANU-PF talks!
Regroupment of civic groups and the establishment of the united front of resistance of civic society and the opposition to spearhead mass action is therefore the way forward. And whatever negotiations for a transitional arrangement there are must be carried out by such a united front, and not just the ZANU-PF and the MDC. We hope the MDC has truly learnt from the abortive Mbeki talks that tsvara chimwe hachitswanye inda — divided we fall and united we conquer. Even the SADC and AU observers have noted the need to involve all stakeholders.
In any case if negotiations fail, Mugabe's likely plan B to counter Western pressure will be to massively escalate repression against the democratic movement, supported by a command economy with "People's Shops" to quieten the masses. Eventually he will give power to a chosen successor, possibly acceptable to big business and the West. Only united mass action can stop this. Thus negotiations can only bring real results if supported by people's power, which is why we must urgently proceed with the civil disobedience campaign.
It's time we allow the ordinary people to take charge of the struggle that is rightfully theirs and ensure an outcome that achieves real democracy, economically and politically, for the majority and not just for political and capitalist elites as we have witnessed so many times in recent history in Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Eastern Europe.
Following the working people in Latin America, we say no to capitalism and yes to international socialism as the way forward for humanity.
Real struggles are only just about to begin.