ZIMBABWE: Uninformed 'solidarity'



ZIMBABWE: Uninformed 'solidarity'

It is difficult to imagine why the Communist Party of Australia's Guardian published an article about the events in Zimbabwe (“Demonising Mugabe to protect white farmers”, April 19) that lacks the most basic radical understanding of the character of the Zimbabwe liberation struggle and of the class character of the political situation there.


It is well known among liberationists in Southern Africa that in late 1978-early 1979, Robert Mugabe physically eliminated almost the entire “socialist left” within the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) at base camps in Mozambique to ensure that his coming to power would not be challenged from the left.

This pre-independence purge was a precursor to (by the mid-1980s) a war of vengeance against Zimbabweans, in this case those from the minority Ndebele people who had fought with the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) during the liberation war. Mugabe's 5th Brigade killed close to 20,000 rural people in Matabeleland and ZANU assisted Mugabe and his clique of newly formed comprador bourgeoisie to gain political and economic hegemony.

By the late 1980s, all pretense to progressive (not to mention socialist) policies had been thrown out and Mugabe and his cronies gleefully embraced the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank structural adjustment programs that were dangled in front of them as another means to consolidate their class rule.

Indigenous capitalism

Since independence, Mugabe has shown little interest in land redistribution for the rural poor, although there were ample opportunities to make use of fallow land already owned by the state, to back the regular nascent land occupations by peasants and genuine war veterans and to make proper use of land acquired through available funds.

Instead, much of the “redistributed” land went to Mugabe's cronies (these are not simply “rumours”, as the Guardian claims, but historical facts known by all Zimbabweans). The ZANU-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), after ZAPU merged, then set about maintaining rural class oppression and championing “indigenous capitalism” (i.e., the creation and sustenance of a new black bourgeoisie, wholly symbiotic with the interests of international capital).

Throughout the 1990s, ordinary Zimbabweans experienced the seriously negative effects of the mutually reinforcing structural adjustment programs (about which not a negative word was heard from Mugabe and ZANU-PF for years) and increasing class oppression imposed by Mugabe's bureaucratic, indigenous bourgeoisie, who took all the goodies for themselves and intimidated and harassed political opponents.

Mugabe and his cronies ran the economy into the ground, rendering every social service almost inoperable (to the extent that there are no basic medicines in state hospitals and the unemployment rate is close to 60%) while spending vast amounts of public money on luxury consumption and paying off corrupt politicians and capitalists. In one case, Z$5 billion in public money was lost on Roger Boka, a close confidant of Mugabe, a champion of “indigenous capitalism” and a virulent reactionary who vilified all — black and white — who stood in his way.

In contrast to the picture created by the Guardian article, for most of the 1980s and 1990s Mugabe and his clique have acted as the willing agents of imperialism. They have cynically manipulated popular discontent when it was deemed necessary for their class preservation but always showed their true colours by striking deals when beneficial to their capitalist class interests.


In the late 1990s, when the people of Zimbabwe began to organise against class oppression and the horrendous decline in living standards, Mugabe turned to the oldest trick in the book to deflect the brewing challenge to his personal political power. He used the land issue, knowing its emotive, economic and historical significance to Zimbabwe's rural majority.

He has paid millions of dollars to so-called war veterans to form gangs of thugs and pretend to be the vanguard of a popular offensive to reclaim land stolen by British colonialists, a large part of which is still “owned” by a small group of predominately white farmers.

It has been the workers, in both urban and rural areas, who have been the first to see through Mugabe's opportunism and have rallied around the labour-based political opposition — a fact which seems to have escaped parts of the Western left in its rush to proclaim internationalist “solidarity” with Mugabe and his gang of thieves.

The workers have been calling for radical land redistribution for years and understand that it cannot be sustainable or empowering for the landless as long as it is being used as an opportunist political instrument to ensure continued capitalist relations of production and distribution.

Zimbabwe's workers sense the need for fundamental political change (even if the leaders of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change are caught up in the short-term considerations of gaining political office and are disregarding class politics) if there is going to be any “people's” land redistribution and economic self-sufficiency and political independence from imperialism.

It is obvious that the Guardian writer has no idea of what is really going on in Zimbabwe and has little contact with the socialists, other progressives and mass organisations that are part of the struggle in Zimbabwe against both the Mugabe regime and imperialism. To argue, as the Guardian does, that Mugabe is some kind of victim of imperialism and that he and his comprador bourgeoisie are fighting for the interests of the Zimbabwean poor and oppressed is not only absurd, it is akin to saying that the poor and oppressed of Zimbabwe are both ignorant and misdirected in their consistent and sustained opposition to capitalist oppression.

People's power

Those presently occupying white-owned farms are not representative of the majority of the poor and oppressed, any more than Mugabe and his clique are representative of the interests of most Zimbabweans. It is clear that the occupations are taking place to serve the political machinations of a man who cannot imagine losing power.

To argue that socialists and progressive internationalists must defend Mugabe and his cronies, on the pretext that imperialists call them names and try to take advantage of the situation to intervene (since when has this not been the case when bureaucrats in the developing world have outlived their usefulness to imperialism?) is to abandon the anti-capitalist struggle being waged by the Zimbabwean masses and, even worse, to make the fundamental mistake of confusing a reactionary, comprador bourgeois nationalism with genuine people's power and anti-imperialism.

Yes, there is a “serious, dangerous situation developing in southern Africa” as the Guardian says, and it is one that the masses of Zimbabweans (and peoples of other countries in the region) are struggling to turn into a fight against all class oppression. Socialists everywhere must side with the majority of the poor and workers of Zimbabwe, whose courageous struggles will be further hampered by ill-considered and uninformed “solidarity”.


[Dale McKinley is chairperson of the South African Communist Party's Johannesburg Central branch. This article reflects his personal views.] 

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