DEBATE: (Fwd) Mckinley v Mugabe

Azwell Banda azwell at
Wed May 10 09:12:04 MDT 2000

Comrades, Dale seems to be enjoying using his piece below as a "standard"
response to those who would have Mugabe recieve some "critical" support.

Dale writes:

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.

I find the piece refered to above in very good taste. In particular, Dale
and others with similar views do not deny the fact that the current
political and socio-economic crisis in Zim has its origins in British
imperialism and colonial white racist capiltalism.

>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 is a loud statement which would be better stated with some facts. This
would help comrades to fully appreciate Mugabe's bloody thirtiness for
power, don't you think, Com Dale?
Perhaps a list of Mugabe's political "sins"  may do.

>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
>people who had fought with the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU)
>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.

That these massacres occured, there is no doubt about it. Justice, surely,
will one day be demanded openly by the victims. However, to proceed, as
Dale does, to create the impression that Mugabe had a "grand plan" to kill
all his oponents as suggested above is to distort history  for very
unscientific reasons. Very vicious and deadly power struggles within the
liberation movement in Zim leading up to, and beyond the 1980 Lancaster
Agreement. To conflate the causes for all of the killings into one reason;
Mugabe's appetite for power, is not only to do injustice to the history of
Zimbabwe, but is revealing of motives other than the desire to defend
working class and peasant interests in Zim.

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

Experience has taught us that the national democratic revolutions in Africa
in general and Southern Africa in particular could never have delivered
anything beyond the birth of neoliberal states. External and internal
capitalist class interests quickly combine and snuff out any fires for a
genuine socialist course.

>Since independence, Mugabe has shown little interest in land
>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.

This is largely true. But then, this is a very simplistic interpretation of
the value of land and the complex set of economic and other forces which
militate against genuine popular redistribution of wealth in post colonial
states in general and Zim in particular. I am suprised Dale advances this

>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

We are now very wise on this score. Primitive accumulation, by whatever
means available, clearly becomes the only way an "indeginous" capitalist
class can be created, in the immediate post colonial era. This is true to
the nature of capitalism. The forms of this accumulation are, however
conditioned by the specifics of each "nation - in -the making." Zim has
been no exception to this rule.

>Throughout the 1990s, ordinary Zimbabweans experienced the seriously
>negative effects of the mutually reinforcing structural adjustment
>(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.

This is not the whole truth. Serious efforts were made to increase social
capital by building schools, hospitals, water provision, etc,etc. Rural
peasant agriculture got state support. The trouble, the real trouble, is
that this social capital could never be sustained on the colonial economic
base which remained largely intact. It took only 10 years for Zim to begin
to suffer the consequences of attempting to sqeeze social capital out of an
un transformed colonial economy.

>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
>public money was lost on Roger Boka, a close confidant of Mugabe, a
>champion of "indigenous capitalism" and a virulent reactionary who
>all -- black and white -- who stood in his way.

Even with the most prudent management, the Zim economy was bound to burst.
It is too unmarxist to attribute, largely, the failure by a colonial
econmic base to keep up with social reforms to "plunder" by the new ruring
elite. The truth is, we now know, given the huge experience of
decolonisation we have ammassed, that the post colonial state cannot
sustain any reasonable social transformation on the foundation of an
untransformed colonial economy.
Attempts to create a national, local capitalist class are perfectly to be
expected - it was, after all, a national democratic revolutio!!!

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

Almost true, serve for the word "willing."

>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.

The economy of Zimbabwe is dependent on agriculture and land ownership. The
failure to resolve the land issue at Lancaster provided the emerging elite
in Zim with permanent ammunition against "imperialism" and "white racists."
 This is central to understanding the centrality of the land question in
the politics of Zim. It is true that "land is the economy and the economy
is land" in Zim, no matter how populist this may be used for.

>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
>stolen by British colonialists, a large part of which is still "owned" by
>small group of predominately white farmers.

This is a very dangerous way of sanitising the continued white, racist
dominationof the economy in Zim. War veterans in Zim have demonstrated some
degree of inependence as shown when they cowed Mugabe over their
"allowances" in 1997/8. To assume that they are simply"thugs" finito, is to
revert to the "terrorist" labelling we know so well about.

>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.

Mugabe and his Zanu - PF do have similar support too. Which untill now, is
largely what has sustained him in office any way. The truth of the matter
is that the post colonial bubble has burst in Zim. It is no longer possible
for Mugabe to govern inthe old ways. Those who can more openly manage
capitalism must take over.

>The workers have been calling for radical land redistribution for years
>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.

This is very true. But it is also true for the MDC. The MDC cannot only be
recieving the white farmer support it is currently enjoying because it is
seen to be the only one capable of defending white farmers against black
hunger for land. No amount of poetry can hide this fact. Witness the speed
with which the MDC is ditched the moment Mugabe and the veterans appear to
be the best custodians of white propety rights.

>Zimbabwe's workers sense the need for fundamental political change (even
>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.

Coming form Dale, this is the not good enough. This is sophistry, simple,
Dale. Dale, read your own book on the ANC. The MDC are not unclear about
their pro imperialist policy.

>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
>the poor and oppressed of Zimbabwe are both ignorant and misdirected in
>their consistent and sustained opposition to capitalist oppression.

This is to argue using "creditials" dear Com Dale. Mugabe is not "some kind
of victim of imperialism." He is a creation of imperialism!!! The wisdom of
Zim workers and peasants cannot be measured by whom they support in a
capitalist Zimabwe. Their wisdom, their true revolutionary wisdom, will be
measured by how they will struggle against class oppression from any

>Those presently occupying white-owned farms are not representative of the
>majority of the poor and oppressed, any more than Mugabe and his clique
>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.

This is neither herenor there Dale, and you know that.

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

There is wisdom in giving Mugabe some critical support, if the entire
imperialst establishment decide to "demonise him."

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

How should this be done, Com Dale? We do not want to be presented with two
vying managers of imperialist interests in Zim.

Sorry I have run out of time................


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