Fwd from GLW: ZIMBABWE: Uninformed `solidarity'
alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sun May 7 08:20:39 MDT 2000
>From the current issue of Green Left Weekly (http://www.greenleft.org.au)
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
COMMENT BY DALE MCKINLEY
[Dale McKinley is chairperson of the South African Communist Party's
Johannesburg Central branch. This article reflects his personal views.]
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