On behalf of the people (some divergence between Patrick and

Patrick Bond pbond at SPAMwn.apc.org
Tue Jan 23 21:50:05 MST 2001

> From:          "Mark Jones" <jones.mark at btconnect.com>
> > Damn Mark, I used to get this kind of cynicism from Louis, prior to
> > Seattle. Then he got smart and now leaves me alone when I talk about
> > radical social movements.
> Pat, 50 years after a gigantic wave of national liberation and anticolonial
> struggles, what is left?

A desire for post-nationalism, hopefully conjoined with
post-neoliberalism. Check the movement in Zimbabwe as one indicative

On the other hand, there was a lot of liberation sentiment in early
nationalism, before corruption and compradorism. Those memories are
still important. The true patriots in a place like Zim are not the
reborn nationalists of Zanu PF (sorry to keep harping on this Nestor,
but it is true); it is the left social forces who are lined up to
keep the MDC honest after it beats Mugabe in the 2002 elections.

> Now you are putting forward the 'new social movements' as an alternative: this is
> just a cruel joke.

No, they are a real phenomenon: indeed, the only vehicles for
post-nationalism, post-neoliberalism, at least in Zimbabwe...

(A few lines from a reworked paper follow:)

Radical Rhetoric and the Working Class during
Zimbabwean Nationalism's Dying Days

by Patrick Bond
forthcoming in Journal of World Systems Research,
March 2001

1. Introduction:
African Nationalism in Decline

Startling arguments have been made by radical
scholars that the nation-state is no longer an
appropriate site for contestation of formal power, on
behalf of social progress, by the `multitudes.'
Perhaps most extreme is the stance of Michael Hardt
and Antonio Negri, in Empire:

      As the concept of national sovereignty is losing its
      effectiveness, so too is the so-called autonomy of the
      political. Today a notion of politics as an independent
      sphere of the determination of consensus and a sphere of
      mediation among conflicting social forces has very little
      room to exist. Consensus is determined more significantly
      by economic factors, such as the equilibria of the trade
      balances and speculation on the value of currencies.
      Control over these movements is not in the hands of the
      political forces that are traditionally conceived as
      holding sovereignty, and consensus is determined not
      through the traditional political mechanisms but by other
      means. Government and politics come to be completely
      integrated into the system of transnational command.
      Controls are articulated through a series of
      international bodies and functions. This is equally true
      for the mechanisms of political mediation, which really
      function through the categories of bureaucratic mediation
      and managerial sociology rather than through the
      traditional political categories of the mediation of
      conflicts and the reconciliation of class conflict.
      Politics does not disappear; what disappears is any
      notion of the autonomy of the political.
            The decline of any autonomous political sphere
      signals the decline, too, of any independent space where
      revolution could emerge in the national political regime,
      or where social space could be transformed using the
      instruments of the state.

This deduction will be controversial, at least in the
African semi-periphery and periphery. The approach
taken in this essay is an investigation into
political prospects within a single case, Zimbabwe,
which embodies various discursive currents associated
with African nationalism and class politics.
(Elsewhere I discuss the material conditions required
for Zimbabwe's `national' economic revival, drawing
upon a modified, partial `delinking' scenario
advocated by even the United Nations Development

Contrary to Hardt and Negri, I will conclude that the
appropriate normative formula is not the dismissal of
state-sovereignty as a short-medium term objective of
Third World progressive social forces, but instead,
aligned simultaneously with international popular
struggles against the forces of Empire (both in
Washington and transnational corporate headquarters),
the rekindling of nation-state sovereignty but under
fundamentally different assumptions about power
relations and development objectives than during the
nationalist epoch. Such power relations can probably
only be changed sufficiently if the multitudes
contest those comprador forces who run virtually all
their nation-states. To do so, I submit, will require
the articulation of a multifaceted post-nationalist
political programme, grounded in post-neoliberal
economic formulations.

Zimbabwe is obviously not the only situation in which
to consider the challenge associated with this
strategy, though it is certainly one of the crucial
test-cases in coming months and years. If it is
possible to generalise, the most exciting social
struggles in contemporary Africa tend to be between
advocates of progressive politics and basic-needs
development within formal and informal organisations-
-based in workforces, communities, women's and youth
groups, environmental clubs and churches--on the one
hand, and on the other, nationalist political parties
that still rule most states, often pursuing
neoliberal policies yet still capable of deploying
radical rhetoric.

Representing the most advanced analytical and
activist currents in the former camp, an `African
People's Consensus' backed by dozens of major
grassroots advocacy/activist groups from Anglophone,
Francophone and Lusophone Africa gathered momentum at
a major conference in Dakar, Senegal in December
2000. Catalysed by traditional critiques of
neoliberalism by African political-economists like
Samir Amin (who gave the main plenary talk in Dakar),
this perspective is encouragingly similar to the
kinds of international anti-capitalist, `people-
centred-development' discourses offered by the
popular movements across the world, that have
generated such upsurges of protest in many sites over
the past few years, including Africa, on matters such
as debt and trade.

Africa's crises--encompassing socio-economy,
geopolitics, ethnicity, public health, ecology,
gender relations, youth and many other sites of
conflict--have generated widespread despair about the
continent's condition, especially from paternalistic
Northern critics. The period of Afropessimism, which
continues, requires the fading from memory of the
accomplishments of 1950s-90s struggles for
national/racial justice. Only in newly liberated
sites (South Africa, Namibia, Eritrea) and in last-
gasp resurrections (Zimbabwe, as this essay dwells
upon) does `nationalism' retain substantial purchase.


In virtually no cases, in Africa or elsewhere, were
power relations optimal to develop an economy from
the standpoint of meeting the basic needs of all in
society, even though this kind of strategy would have
provided far greater `multipliers' (economic spin-
offs) than multinational corporate investments or
African post-colonial rulers' own prestige projects.
But aside from Cold War military and political
interference, there were, moreover, two main external
factors associated with Africa's economic crisis:
falling international commodity prices since the mid-
1970s (the drop for non-oil commodities was more than
80% from 1973 to 1993), and rising real interest
rates since 1979 applied to massive, growing external
debt (the real dollar-denominated effect was from -4
to 4%). The treadmill ran ever-faster, leaving
virtually all of Africa with a reduced capacity to
raise foreign exchange simultaneous to a rise in
annual debt servicing obligations to levels typically
above 25% of forex income.

Even taking this macroeconomic bind as given, a
material link to the African crisis must also be
identified at lower levels, in the rural settings in
which African nationalism has proven most durable.
Indeed, Mahmood Mamdani argues that much of Africa's
local-level rural state administration amounted--
thanks to nationalist appropriation of colonial
mechanisms--to `decentralised despotism,' even prior
to the 1980s-90s crisis. Virtually all attempts to
reform colonial-era Native Authority (and equivalent
ethnic-based) systems in Africa failed. Even under
the best case, Museveni's Uganda, where local-level
power relations inherited from centralised-despotic
rule had to be thoroughly broken, there remained a
`bifurcated' duality of power: between a centrally-
located modern state (sometimes directly responsible
for urban order in primate capital cities) and a
`tribal authority which dispensed customary law to
those living within the territory of the tribe.'

With this observation, Mamdani sets the stage for the
problem of global-national-local processes:

      In the absence of democratisation, development became a
      top-down agenda enforced on the peasantry. Without
      thorough-going democratisation, there could be no
      development of a home market. The latter failure opened
      wide what was a crevice at Independence. With every
      downturn in the international economy, the crevice turned
      into an opportunity for an externally defined structural
      adjustment that combined a narrowly defined programme of
      privatisation with a broadly defined programme of

The implications of this combined failure of the
African state--in overlaying neoliberalism upon
often-despotic rural social control--can be
understood in Zimbabwe. There, not only has the
existing urban-rural divide opened extremely wide in
recent years. In addition, as we see, a broader
(urban-based) challenge to political order has, since
the late 1990s, generated more acute responses than
in most countries. And here arises the question posed
by Hardt and Negri, namely whether ...

Thus, in a seeming reversal of the 1960s `winds of
change' remarked upon by British premier Macmillan
while liquidating the formal British empire, the
surface-level appearance of the Zimbabwe's 2000
parliamentary campaign had all the hallmarks of a
young, fresh, democratic, and pro-Western wind
sweeping out Zimbabwe's old-fashioned, proto-
Stalinist `socialist' rulers. President Robert
Mugabe's reaction to a new opposition party's
dramatic rise in popularity, after all, occasioned a
renewed round of bashing a few thousand white farmers
and the International Monetary Fund. As portrayed by
the mainstream media to most of the world, Zimbabwean
nationalism was in its dying days, as new, popular,
democratic and ostensibly market-oriented
politicians--led by two modern trade unionists--
prepared to sort out the mismanagement, end the
corruption and reverse the ruling party's incompetent
left-wing economic policies.

But matters are certainly not that clear, and to
understand why Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National
Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) isn't by any means
the `Left' or even `progressive' social force in
Zimbabwe, requires looking first at the post-
independence socio-economic record, and then the
contestation between leftwing and rightwing
tendencies within the trade union movement and
opposition party. The logic of the argument should be
clear: the rhetoric of nationalism in disguising the
exhaustion of a capital accumulation cycle itself
becomes delegitimised; yet in this context, as a new
working-class ideology struggles to emerge, the
residual power of left-sounding discourses within
nationalist rhetoric retains great currency. This is
the source of Zimbabwe's terrible contemporary
confusion. While resolving the confusion through
intensified class struggle remains vitally important,
that struggle is more likely in the short term to be
prosecuted by the international, regional and
domestic capitalist classes, via IMF policy dictates,
accommodated by Zanu PF (with the support of some
influential `left-nationalist' intellectuals) even if
Mugabe implements the `necessary' stabilisation
measures apparently kicking and screaming. Radicals
in Zimbabwe's growing social movements have an
enormously difficult period immediately ahead.


7. Conclusion

This article has laid bare some of the core
contradictions associated with diverse forms of
political rhetoric in Zimbabwe, including radical
arguments by presumed `left nationalists' and
presumed pragmatic arguments by MDC economic
conservatives, and has found them both wanting. The
resolution to this confusion can only be found at a
deeper, structural level.


It is here that the coming period of hot contestation
over macroeconomic policy becomes crucial. Zanu PF
leaders will be more accommodating to neoliberalism,
out of desperation for an IMF/World Bank fix. The
MDC's more pro-business faction (centred around
Cross) will, with Tsvangirai's permission, will
probably continue to outmaneuvre leftwing influences
within the opposition party. But that is not the end
of the Left's influence. A variety of `civil society'
groups--think-tanks and non-governmental
organisations with sophisticated, progressive
leaders, including church agencies, a resurgent
movement of residents' associations, and the more
progressive currents within the ZCTU itself--have
established a broadly anti-neoliberal perspective.

The post-election launch of the Campaign Against
Neoliberalism in Zimbabwe--led by young church-based
activists well connected in the international social-
justice movement--was one hopeful premonition of this
current. Another example was the joint budget
statement (`Civil Society Position on Minimum
Standards of a Democratic Budget Process') issued in
November 2000, by the Combined Harare Residents
Association, Community Working Group on Health,
National Association of Non Government Organisations,
National Council for Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe,
Public Services Association, Zimbabwe Coalition on
Debt and Development, Zimbabwe Council of Churches,
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Zimbabwe National
Chamber of Commerce, Zimbabwe Teachers Association,
Zimbabwe United Residents Association, and Womens
Action Group. This is the core group of social forces
that will attempt to keep the MDC honest.

What will these and various other more local
organisations be debating in the period prior to the
2002 election? No doubt, ongoing conflict can be
expected on major constitutional, racial and health-
related issues (as AIDS continues to worsen). But
what might also transpire, to be welcomed by
progressive campaigners, is an increased public
consciousness over the merits of Washington-approved
economic policy.

Elite opinion-makers seemed to sense this coming
conflict as well, and by early 2001, two columnists
of the influential Zimbabwe Independent argued the
merits of neoliberalism with rhetorical antagonism
designed, it seemed, to nip any dissent from
orthodoxy in the bud. Wilbert Mukori scornfully
recalled `Tsvangirai's ZCTU days' when `the trade
union movement's economic policies were at best a
confused rehash of Zanu PF's socialist trash... The
MDC would best be advised to adopt whatever revision
of the Esap the IMF/World Bank has to offer.' And the
country's main business commentator (an accountant,
Eric Bloch), defended that failed strategy on
(transparently faulty) grounds that

      Esap was, to a very great degree, implemented only as a
      matter of lip-service. Esap Government had no substantive
      commitment to, or conviction in, Esap and therefore only
      implemented the programme partially. Patients who take
      prescribed medication erratically, inadequately and in
      disregard for the prescription directions, rarely
      recover... It is government which alienated IMF support,
      and also that of most international monetary
      organisations, the support of donor nations, and the
      support of aid agencies.

But elite consensus is not capable of submerging more
profound socio-economic contradictions. At least ten
arenas of strife have emerged--or soon will--between
the IMF/World Bank agenda and the Zimbabwean society
(in a rough order of importance): the enormous budget
deficit; land redistribution; price controls; wage
restraint; financial and monetary management; the
value (and technique of formal pegging) of the
Zimbabwe currency; the ability of the state to
maintain foreign currency controls (through
restricting corporate forex accounts); luxury goods
import taxes; pressure on the state to privatise; and
the emerging regional free-trade regime propelled by
South Africa. These arenas, as well as others still
to emerge, will require of any political force in
Zimbabwe a coherent programme; the IMF and its local
ally Cross (with the CZI), have such a programme.

We might conclude with the observation that in
Zimbabwe, like so many other sites of struggle on the
semi-periphery and periphery of the world economy
today, the challenge is to pull together both social
and political movements that forthrightly contest
neoliberalism. Any review of merely the year-long
period following the Seattle protest of December 1999
reflects this global upsurge. The sabotage of a new
Seattle Millennium Round of the World Trade
Organisation was caused not only by diverse activists
on the street, but also, inside the summit, by
African governments (led, interestingly, by
Zimbabwe's then trade and industry minister, Nathan
Shamuyarira, who subsequently retired from government
while continuing to serve Zanu PF as information
officer). Seattle bolstered radical social and labour
movements across the world, and was soon echoed in
more than a hundred other sites of struggle both
North and South.

Is there any connection to the confused politics of
radical rhetoric and dying nationalism in Zimbabwe?
For many alienated Northern youth who represented the
majority of protesters at Seattle, Washington,
London, Melbourne, Prague and Nice during 2000, the
anti-neoliberal protests were a logical outgrowth of
discrete, anti-corporate campaigning. But for
Southern social and labour movements, the opportunity
had arisen for transcending the mere IMF Riot as
knee-jerk protest, and increasingly bringing out mass
activist responses with programmatic demands. In some
instances, particularly in Latin America (Bolivia and
Ecuador), the anti-neoliberal activism reached a
near-insurgent stage; in other sites (South Africa,
Nigeria and India), many millions of workers became
involved in mass strikes against neoliberalism; in
yet other protests (South Korea, Argentina, Turkey),
tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets
in waves of militancy.

Are enough Zimbabweans aligned with these more
radical challenges to orthodox economic policies, to
make a difference to their own country's future? Or
are radical rhetoric and ideological confusion
associated with the exhaustion of both African
nationalism and Zimbabwe's capital accumulation cycle
going to close the current window of opportunity for
progressive social change?

One scenario worth posing for Zimbabwe's Left is the
(risky) possibility associated with taking advantage
of the country's coming misfortunes. As the worsening
crisis unfolds, macroeconomic management will be
increasingly remote-controlled (or at least strongly
influenced) from Washington; enormous strife will
continue over shortages and rising inflation on basic
needs goods, ranging from bread to transport to
paraffin; debt relief will not be forthcoming;
attempts to forge a social contract in this
environment will be fruitless; the Mugabe regime will
desperately hand out patronage to maintain some
semblance of unity within Zanu PF; more
confrontations will occur between security forces and
MDC supporters (as witnessed in a tragic July 2000
soccer match stampede and in the army's use of force
to quell October 2000 urban protests over price
increases); and further `mass action' calls will be
made by the left-leaning elements in the MDC.

But this likely period of conflict can only be turned
to advantage by the Zimbabwe Left if the surface-
level confrontations above are linked to the near-
impossible conditions for managing semi-peripheral
neoliberalism more generally, and if a `People's
Development Charter' strongly advocated for by the
working-class movement can sway society in general
and the middle-class leadership of the MDC in
particular. Key points will have to be contested,
such as the struggle over price controls (a short-
term palliative to be sure, but a popular bandaid to
some of the inflationary problems); foreign exchange
controls; repudiating Mugabe-era debt mainly on
grounds that IMF/Bank programmes were incompetently
designed; massive expansion and redirection of basic-
needs state subsidies (e.g. of water and electricity
prices) to low-income households; growing state
ownership and worker control of important--and
potentially viable--bankrupt private firms (and mines
and farms); and a reorientation of budgetary spending
and imports towards working-class and poor people's
needs. As it stands, virtually all of these logical
social demands are likely to be rejected by
Washington's Zimbabwe managers; in turn, they would
gain a certain degree of resonance amongst left-
nationalists in Zanu PF, and unequivocal hostility
within the MDC's neoliberal flank. (A complicating
factor is the likelihood of US sanctions against
Mugabe--via a resurrected Zimbabwe Democracy Act in
the US Congress--which some militants in the MDC
support, to the consternation of the bourgeoisie and
petit-bourgeoisie, who will most feel its effects.)

On the one hand, such a programmatic challenge risks
yet more confusion ahead. Zanu PF may try even harder
to turn populist rhetoric into mass support; however,
popular disgust with the Mugabe government amongst
urbanites and more sophisticated rural residents (led
by teachers) is not likely to wane, not even if
Makoni is made heir apparent. On the other hand, by
returning to more confrontational programmatic
struggles--in parliament, in various other venues of
advocacy, in street protests--the progressive forces
in and around the MDC will very likely pull the 2002
presidential campaign debate to the left. That, in
turn, will clarify to the masses which politician--
Tsvangirai or whomever Mugabe anoints--is best placed
to address the more profound conflict over Zimbabwe's
economic future. And forceful advocacy of a left-
programmatic strategy will more rapidly weaken not
only the power of the neoliberal elements within the
MDC, but within Zimbabwean society more generally, as
well as in relation to the financial-technical hold
of Washington over Harare. (Prospects for this course
dimmed markedly in late 2000, when the MDC executive
rejected the militants' call for a holiday-season
mass-action campaign, on grounds that it was too
dangerous given Mugabe's monopoly on violence.)

What would happen if the MDC took this kind of
political turn--away from a post-nationalist
neoliberalism, to post-neoliberalism? If the organic
Left won sufficient hearts and minds of society and
leading politicians, and in doing so overwhelmed the
residual elites of Zanu PF and the bourgeois alliance
between Harare big business and Washington, what
options might then emerge? If power were decisively
transferred in 2002, could Zimbabwe indeed embark
upon a more inward-oriented, basic-needs strategy, as
mandated in the February 1999 Working People's

No, argues Eddie Cross forcefully, There Is No
Alternative to Esap, Zimprest and their structural
adjustment successors. In early 2000, in order to get
roughly US$2 million worth of campaign resources from
wealthy donors (in Zimbabwe and abroad), Morgan
Tsvangirai seemed to agree. But this is by no means
his permanent perspective (witness Tsvangirai during
the late 1980s-early 1990s). Robert Mugabe,
meanwhile, contests the moral and political
acceptability of such power relations, but still
offers nothing to change power relations or even the
technical management of the economy. The reign of
Simba Makoni as finance minister will not change
matters. Social movements will observe such disarray,
once their programme is popularised, and understand
better the hopelessness of proceeding along any of
the trajectories suggested by the orthodox political
and economic leaders.

Does this pessimistic account of Zimbabwean politics
partially justify the conclusion of Hardt and Negri,
that sovereignty `is losing effectiveness,' and with
it, so too fades `the autonomy of the political'--and
likewise, so evaporates any hope that left-wing
social forces can one day take and reorient their
nation-states? While Cross and Makoni might answer in
the affirmative, Mugabe has himself refused to accept
this conclusion. But to the detriment of his
constituents, Mugabe's manipulation of state
sovereignty has, for two decades, engendered
corruption, mismanagement, authoritarianism and a
venal politics that reduces to hysterical nationalism
that, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu commented prior to
the June 2000 election, leaves the president looking
like a `caricature of an African leader.'

At the level of political fundamentals, there must be
an alternative approach. Optimistically, Boris
Kagarlitsky posits that since 1998, capitalist crisis

      forced even the neoliberal mainstream to change its
      attitude towards the role of the state. Experts of the
      IMF suddenly declared that `certain types of capital
      controls may be justified in some circumstances.'
      American businessmen agreed: `Maybe some sort of
      protectionism makes sense for Russia.' The state must use
      its strength to overcome the crisis of the market. `If
      that means instituting wage and price controls, or
      renationalizing basic industries to ensure supplies and
      employment, so be it.

To be sure, Kagarlitsky also advocates international
regulation but correctly concludes that

      no international regulation will work unless it is based
      on national and regional bodies. If it is not, the rules
      and decisions made by international bodies simply will
      not be implemented. And no democratisation of
      international relations is possible without democracy at
      the level of a nation state.

I agree with that sense of priority--i.e., capturing,
democratising and retooling the nation-state, which
in turn entails rejection of international neoliberal
policy pressure. What is advocated is no return to
nationalism (even if it is apparently important for
Sibanda to debunk Zanu PF's deformed, exhausted
nationalism with a class-oriented `chimurenga'
discourse), but instead, a firm restatement of the
need to rebuild national sovereignty (and later,
regional coordination). If this is an appropriate way
forward, Zimbabwe's social movements can also take
confidence from previous episodes of tough
macroeconomic management throughout the country's
history. Concrete strategies included imposition of
watertight exchange controls; careful reflation of
the economy through strategic state spending;
prescribed assets on financial institutions;
increasing nationalisation of strategic sites of the
economy; directed investment requirements; creative
juggling of import/export requirements; default on
outstanding foreign debt; and a more general
commitment to `get the prices wrong,' if need be, to
assure maximum local backward/forward linkages. The
last two times such policies were adopted, during the
1930s and just after the Unilateral Declaration of
Independence was declared in 1965, the Zimbabwean
(then Rhodesian) economy grew at nearly double-digit
rates each year for a decade.

On those occasions, growth through partial-delinking
occurred in a way that amplified racial, gender and
class divisions. Assuming the political balance of
forces can be changed in coming years, it should be
even more feasible, technically, to impose the same
mechanisms but this time, to reorient production to
meet basic needs, particularly of rural women, and
particularly in areas that should be easy to expand--
rural water/sanitation and small-scale irrigation
systems, electricity, public works--without
debilitating import requirements.

These are probably the minimal policy arrangements in
the sphere of national political-economy required for
Zimbabwe to prosper as a society. At the
international scale, reduced pressure from neoliberal
actors and markets will also be vital (as
demonstrated repeatedly by visiting IMF missions).
Fortunately, this is being achieved increasingly
through initiatives ranging from mass protests in
Seattle, Washington and Prague, to more surgical
activist campaigns (such as that which forced the IMF
and World Bank to cease imposing user-fees in health
and education programmes in October 2000).

In Zimbabwe, there appears only one set of social
forces capable of moving in this direction: the
radical component of the MDC and its civil society
allies. Time will soon tell if they have begun this
march, or remain in the cul-de-sac in which most
radical rhetoric has left the beleaguered Zimbabwean
working class.

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