On behalf of the people (some divergence between Patrick and

Patrick Bond pbond at SPAMwn.apc.org
Wed Jan 24 05:35:13 MST 2001

Ok comrade Mark, this is getting more serious and mutually
respectful, so sorry for Proyectist sarcasm in my last two posts.
(When in Rome...)

> From:          "Mark Jones" <jones.mark at btconnect.com>
> Date:          Wed, 24 Jan 2001 10:43:55 -0000
> Patrick, one of the discussions I was hoping to have with you and have not (no doubt
> the fault is mine--altho we did agree to have this discussion) was about our perhaps
> differing, perhaps not, conceptions of the world-historical conjuncture, by which I
> mean how we understand the phasing of the world accumulation process, the
> intercalation of different spatio-temporal cycles of accumulation and
> devalorisation, of social growth and decline both globally and locally, and what
> general conclusions (if any) we might agree on. I think we are inside a deepening
> spiral of global decline and that it will be punctuated by stepchanges of an
> existentially catastrophic character. I am not sure what you think,

I'm with you.

> because behind
> your seeming-pessimism about neoliberalism is still a high degree of geenral
> optimism (what I think is the 'obligatory optimism' of social-democratic
> progressivism, and I admit to not defining the term here, but am not intending to
> use it is a label, coded insult etc, just shorthand).

The optimism is that what had been a series of often self-destructive
responses to the int'l crisis, especially in Third World cities ("IMF
Riots") is now beginning to take on more coherent form as a
broad-based rejection of neoliberalism. (That's the basis of another
long paper, which I'll send along offlist tomorrow.)

> But if I am right, then I do
> not see how you can hope for the kind of gradualist social-meliorism which you
> hanker for,

No, that's unfair. We are ALWAYS, in our circuits (just check
e-debate list) trying to distinguish between reformist reforms and
non-reformist reforms. Granted, social struggles to decommodify,
destratify, degender, and resolve society/nature contradictions can
be either; we're always looking to the latter. Do you reject ALL
reforms as reformISM? That's a serious error on your part; the
Kagarlitsky trilogy from Pluto (1999-2000) offers better rebuttals
than me, but I guess K doesn't impress you.

> So you will be left with
> a terrible mishmash, a hopeless porridge of theoretical confusion and political lack
> of direction. And lo and behold, so it is.

Ok, this is probably worth my spending lots of time rebutting, time I
don't have.

> Without knowing where you are now at in terms of the global conjuncture (no doubt
> your new book addresses it)

(Will send my rap to you about global overaccumulation crisis and the
limits to its spatio-temporal and environmental displacement.)

> one can assume nothing about your other writings, such
> as this truncated article. One can only take your words at face value, and you have
> only yourself to blame if that results in a very critical kind of commentary.

The intro and conclusion aren't enough to make the case. So offlist
I'll send the whole JWSR article to you. I think it demonstrates that
probably no one else discussing Zim politics is taking this problem
as seriously as I am.

> Briefly summarising (and no doubt you will say, tendentiously, maliciously) etc, in
> this article you call for support for the right-wing, pro-IMF parties in Zimbabwe in

Not support for right-wing, pro-IMF parties, no. Support for leftwing
grassroots activists in unions and other mass-democratic
organisations (and even some NGOs) who still think the MDC can be
won. I'm extremely doubtful, but these comrades are on the ground
fighting in Harare, and I'm in a Jo'burg armchair, and so I take
their optimism seriously. Because it's actually the only hope left
for that country.

> a social/electoral alliance with popular forces, *against* the 'corrupt, rotten,
> exhausted' etc Zanu-PF/Mugabe leadership.

Do you think I'm wrong about Zanu PF? What's your evidence?

> You call for an alliance of progressive and popular forces ( however defined, and
> your definitions shift around)

> with the fractions of the political elite whose
> programme is open support for IMF-sponsored structural adjustment programmes, for
> deregulation,

The MDC programme is, by some accounts, still sufficiently fluid so
as to roll back those fractions. As you can imagine, this resembles a
bourgeois `revolution' in which there are pro-`democratic' forces in
the white Rhodesian business community, and in order to fleece those
guys for some money, the MDC trade union leaders have let them come
in and have lots of discursive influence. (The cost was in the
region of US$1.7 mn, which was what MDC spent on the 2000
electoral campaign; not a lot to buy a political party's economic
programme, eh.) Does that mean that the neoliberal fraction will win
the debate over the 2002 programme? I'd guess as much, yes, but it's
not over yet, say my lefty sources inside.

> an end to 'Zanu-PF socialist trash',

No, if you read closely, I was ridiculing the guy who said that. I
have an op-ed in the main Zim paper on Friday making this point more
clearly (it's below).

> and the full embrace of
> neoliberal prescriptions and remedies. But you also call for the exact opposite!
> Wow.
> Characteristically, you thus heroically muddy the waters by ALSO calling for a
> return to what you coyly call " policies ... 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."

Comrade, this is getting silly. If I said "policies adopted during
the early 1960s by Che Guevarra in the Cuban central bank," or
"in the late 1910s by Lenin," you'd like that, wouldn't you, and get
off my back?

But some of the economic policies that Ian Smith instituted from
1965, I'd bet you, Che would have admired on merely technical
grounds. A chapter of my PhD on Zim (Uneven Zimbabwe, 1998, available
in the Africa Book Centre in Covent Garden) reviews why it's ok to
express technical admiration for the Rhodesian civil service
(especially the central bankers), against Barclays, Standard and the
rest of the Salisbury financial establishment. Why? Just to take
one appropriate example, as part of the UDI declaration Smith
defaulted on World Bank loans (for the Kariba Dam) and installed the
best exchange controls in the capitalist world (they were partially
in place already, of course--that murderous dunce couldn't do
anything himself).

Do you think Che wouldn't have been impressed by that? What would you
do if you were asked for advice in running a post-revolutionary Third
World finance ministry: eschew capital controls because Ian Smith put
them on the Salisbury bank branches to prevent massive flight to
their London headquarters?

> "" policies ... adopted, during the> 1930s " ??? -- that would be the system of
> so-called Imperial Preference, would it not, when the British Empire adopted a
> system of empire-wide protectionism as a defence against the ravages of world
> depression? Hmmm. Not well-known as a progressive era in British politics, not to
> speak of colonial administration.

No, on the contrary, "empire-wide" protectionism made nary a
difference (that's all in Chapter 2 of Uneven Zimbabwe). More
important was forced-delinking from the trading and financial
circuits within which Southern Rhodesia was being sucked dry,
especially from Britain (source of most imports during the 1920s).

> And UDI, was of course, the illegal seizure of power by the white colonial minority
> opposed to the black franchise, led by Ian Smith. (I'm tempted to ask you if he also
> is one of your policy advisers, when you are aimiably sharing g-and-t's with
> colonial old buffers-- but of course I know that is absurd.) Still, one is entitled
> to ask some searching questions about how you theorise Samir Amin's famous "partial
> delinking", and why you don't go the whole hog and argue for full autarky, Soviet
> style (or Rhodesia Front or apartheid or imperial preference style, hey?).

Hey, I would, if the balance of forces were different and technical
solutions to production problems (e.g., petroleum dependence) were
different. `Viva Enver Hoxha, viva, long live the spirit of
Albanian socialism!' (that's a joke). Agreed, you can't have
`socialism in one country'...

... but consider a scenario: you're advising a post-revolutionary
Third World regime, in the short-medium term, Mark. What do you say,
let's just retain all the inherited trade, finance and
foreign-direct-investment links to imperialism? Or what, we'll do
barter trade with China? Or what else do you have in mind? Recall
that you've got an absolutely massive backlog of local basic needs
(water systems, housing, basic clothing, clinics, primary schools,
stuff like that), none of which really require any foreign currency
or foreign imports to get up and running. So why eschew lessons of
running a self-reliant national economy, no matter they came from a
fascist regime? Do you not build autobahns because Hitler did? Hey,
there were 119 countries that had exchange controls at peak (during
the 1970s). When discussing this issue in papers like the Zimbabwe
one, or even here in South Africa, I do use the UDI period for
historical case material: because it is a local example, within
living memory. And I always point out, too, that it's technically
feasible to `repress' financial capital without repressing the masses
(or am I wrong?)...

> Well  you
> can't be 1% pregnant, old lad, and you can't have 1% or 5% or 50% 'partial
> delinking' in this world of TINA to globalism, SAP's etc. No, you ain't solved the
> conundrum yet, nowhere near. And I know why, and so do you, in your heart of hearts.

So what, then, did Mahathir (ok, another Ian Smith, agreed) do when
he delinked from international currency speculators in 1998-99?

> What is interesting is that these 2 moments of Zimbabwean history (the 1930s, the
> 1960s) which you laud as having "nearly double-digit
> rates" of growth, were among the *least* auspicious from the point of view of the
> black majority.

Yes, I think I document that pretty well in Uneven Zimbabwe, but you

> They were also periods when policies were dictated by a drive for
> autarky, as you rightly observe.

Oh, may I remind you about where we started this discussion? I think
you were describing a situation which closely resembled the 1930s. So
why should I neglect to look back, historically, at the last great
payments freeze (thanks to Northern banking crashes) and collapse of
trade circuits? Aren't you interested in why Southern Rhodesia
suddenly blossomed its manufacturing base? (SA too -- known then as
"the prosperous undertaker in the plague.")

> This is why I think there is a heart of darkness in your theoretical work: within
> the space of adjacent paragraphs you seem to argue for wildly contradictory things:
> for tacit or open alliance with neoliberalism; for outright opposition to
> neoliberalism;

Yes, outright. No compromise here, agreed.

> for outright opposition to the 'corrupt, exhausted' etc Zanu-PF,

Right again. Mark, come on down to Zimbabwe and our comrades there
will prove it beyond a doubt. Nestor wants to see too. Let's do a
marxism field trip.

> and
> then, switching from reverse gear to forwards without pausing for breath, you
> contradict yourself completely and call for alliance with the same Zanu-PF, which
> same degenrate organism you point out lay behind the "New Social Movement's"
> "successes" at Seattle etc!!! ---

Yes, that's an embarrassing fluke. It only happened once,
largely because Nathan Shamuyarira was appalled by the Green
Room shenanigans of Alec Erwin (the ex-syndicalist trade
unionist who as SA trade minister has been pushing trade
liberalisation across the continent, most self-destructively at
home). But in June this year, Shamu quit, and his replacement has
rolled over and played dead to Erwin's new regional free trade pact.
(If you don't believe me I'll try to dig up the evidence written up
by Shamu's advisors in the NGO called Seatini, including by the
Ugandan marxist, Yash Tandon.)

But that ("interestingly") was a fluke, really. No prospects
for alliance with Mugabe on anything, it seems to me.

(However, I will admit that I have been impressed with a couple of
his techie partial-solutions to Zim's ongoing forex crisis, including
a huge tariff on luxury imports and confiscation of forex accounts
held by corporates... but of course the IMF said, in March 1999,
`drop 'em now, Mugabe,' and he did.)

> 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.
> So let's get this right: the whole success at Seattle came about thru an alliance
> between the "New Social Movements" and that wily old rascal Robert Mugabe, yes?
> Hmmm.

Not Mugabe: Shamu and the Kenyans, according to Tandon. The story
isn't well known. But I trust my sources. It was really because Moore
turned off the sound system and withdrew the interpreters when the
Organisation of African Unity caucus was trying to meet, which pissed
them off and allowed some of the more militant of these ministers
(everything's relative) to huff and puff. Then, apparently Alec Erwin
wandered in from the Green Room and announced something like, "fellow
African trade ministers, relax, it's all under control, and I'm just
tidying up some details so you'll all feel comfortable signing this
excellent new Seattle Round." (It was something to this effect.) To
which some of the Kenyans and Shamu said, in effect, hey honky, are
you from Africa? Fuck off, we're not signing.

> You finally seem to come down for an alliance with the *pro-IMF*, *pro-neoliberal*
> party, which you then expect to carry out policies of *NATIONAL AUTARKY* a la Ian
> Smith!!! ---

Yes, the hope is that the pro-neoliberal wing in the MDC can be
counted on one hand (not much of an exaggeration, even if that hand
is brimming with dollars) and be defeated in programmatic debates
over the coming year or so. Optimistic? Yes. Naive? Maybe. But to a)
get venal Mugabe out and b) restore any prospects for meeting the
basic needs of the masses (whose standards of living have fallen at
least 70% these past 11 years), this is the route that organic
leftist activists/intellectuals in Zimbabwe are taking. (By the
way, though I'm no big fan, the Zim branch of the International
Socialists have an MDC MP, a young charismatic militant whom I've not
met, but who runs this kind of line.) My guess is that they'll lose
their internal MDC battles (even if they win some rhetorical
concessions), and get disgusted with the leadership not long after
the 2002 election (which the MDC will win, I'll wager, 55-45%, in
part because there'll be a bit of populist campaign platform rhetoric
around meeting basic needs).

But that's a stage they feel they've got to go through. Who am I to
tell them not to? In following their line of political argument,
I'm probably their most insistent correspondent when it comes to
predicting how the neoliberal faction is going to screw them (my
JWSR article has at least 5,000 words with the gory details,
including a faux-psychological analysis of the key MDC
proponent of neoliberalism, a failed white businessman who was a
leader of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries).

> >growth through partial-delinking
> > occurred in a way that amplified racial, gender and
> > class divisions.

Ah, good, there's some proof I'm not a Smithite.

> > 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.
> It's a horrible mess, Patrick.
> Mark

Not as much as we've got now, Mark.

And that being the case, I'm back to work, ok? I'd like to learn more
from you about the logical strategic implications of catastrophic
eco-socio-economic processes. But let's just drop Zim now, ok?
One reason is that I certainly came back last week depressed about
prospects. (Unless you want to read the whole paper and get the kind
of nuance I'm trying to contribute...)

Another is that we're trying to track the epicentre of cholera, pin
it to the World Bank and neoliberal SA civil servants, and stick them
with a constitutional court case for violating citizens' rights to
water, amongst other strategies to decommodify, destrat...etc etc

(25 January, Zimbabwe Independent)

                       Indefensible Esap

by Patrick Bond

What ails Zimbabwe's economy? Many
things, of course. But is there any point, at
this late date, to blaming the 1991-95
Economic Structural Adjustment
Programme (Esap), given the multitude of
subsequent cockups?

Apparently this is now, six years on, one
of Zanu PF's favoured means of passing
the buck. On his retirement from
government, Nathan Shamuyarira said
Esap was Zanu PF's worst mistake. More
recently, Simon Muzenda also condemned
Esap, a programme written under the
supervision of then finance minister
Bernard Chidzero (but in American
English, the way all World Bank
documents are produced).

In defense of Esap, Zimbabwe Independent
columnist Eric Bloch (12/1/01) rebuts that
the Vice-President "saw fit to disregard
four key factors."

The first two of these factors are indeed
crucial for public debate. After all, the
official opposition party's economic
policies waver between commitments to
meeting basic needs (consistent with the
Working People's Convention resolutions
of February 1999) on the one hand, and on
the other, to following an orthodox, Esap-
style strategy (the MDC's economic
recovery plan was devised with a
Bank/IMF seal of approval in February

Moreover, Wilbert Mukori scornfully
recalls in his column (12/1/01) Morgan
"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

According to Bloch, the first factor that
exonerates Esap was "that Zimbabwe's
economy was in an appalling state and a
horrific mess before Esap was embarked
upon. It was the devastatingly shattered
state of the economy which motivated
government to consider Esap in the first

In reality, the period from 1980-90
witnessed real Gross Domestic Product
increase by 3,7% on average each year,
while from 1991-95 GDP growth averaged
0,7% per year. Inflation averaged 13,4%
from 1980-90, and 27,6% from 1991-95.
Average annual earnings (after inflation)
rose a half-percent each year from 1980-
90, but fell by more than 10% annually
from 1991-95.

Back to Bloch: "Second, Esap was, to a
very great degree, implemented only as a
matter of lip-service. 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."

How well, in fact, was Esap implemented?
In the Financial Gazette six years ago
(5/1/95), one weekly commentator (guess
who--the length of the sentence may give
the author away) celebrated policy
implementation as follows:

"The extent that inflation has declined, the
significant reductions in direct taxation, the
liberalisation of trade and virtual
elimination of import controls with a
consequential elimination of most
shortages, the immense relaxations of
exchange controls, a somewhat more stable
currency exchange rate environment, and
the extent of new investment in the last
two years are but a few indicators of the
achievements of Esap to date."

Bloch's current attempt to vindicate Esap
thus quickly falls apart. The other two
factors are less compelling to learn from:
drought, and policy reversals beginning in
1997 which may plausibly have reflected
the futility of Esap and the need for
revision (e.g., luxury import taxes, and
exchange controls to ward off speculation
of the sort that wiped out nearly three-
quarters of the Zimbabwe currency's value
in four hours of manic trading on
14/11/97). Last week, after all, IMF head
Horst Koehler even admitted that exchange
controls were acceptable under certain
circumstances (although the IMF team now
pressuring finance minister Simba Makoni
to drop controls doesn't seem to agree).

Perhaps it is also helpful to remind Bloch
of the Washington doctor's own diagnosis
of the patient's performance. The World
Bank's 1995 "Project Completion Report"
assessment of Esap rated government's
preparation as "highly satisfactory" and its
implementation and operation as
"satisfactory." Overall, Esap was rated
"highly satisfactory," the very best grade
the Bank gives in such evaluations.

Where does that leave the debate, then?
First, the economy was in much better
shape before Esap than after. Second, Esap
was implemented fairly well, judging by
accounts of the time. Third, the
Washington authors also judged the
programme's outputs favourably,
notwithstanding all evidence of economic

What does this then say about orthodox
economic policy, the ongoing advisory role
of the IMF/Bank, and the memory of
commentators like Mukori and Bloch?

It seems, at the least, that the latter two
aren't really paying attention. Across the
world, attempts are being made to
transcend a Washington orthodoxy that has
done so much damage over the past two
decades, not just in Zimbabwe but across
the world:

     * the income gap between the poorest
     fifth of the world's people and the
     richest fifth increased from 32:1 in
     1970 to 90:1 in 2000;

     * the net worth of the world's three
     richest people grew greater, by
     2000, than the national income of
     the 48 poorest countries combined,
     and the world's 225 richest
     individuals enjoyed a combined
     wealth (over $1 trillion) equal to the
     annual income of the poorest 47%
     of the world's population; and

     * approximately 1.3 billion people
     survive--or not--on $1/day and 3
     billion people survive on $2/day.

Even South Africa's conservative finance
minister, Trevor Manuel, recognised this
in a 1998 Commonwealth finance ministers
meeting in which he conceded that "the
standard prescription for macroeconomic
stability and growth has not worked for
everyone," hence "the need to shift away
from the `Washington Consensus'."

Given its own experiences, Zimbabwe--and
especially a voice of reason like the
Independent--should be at the cutting edge
of that effort, not slipping backwards to a
rose-coloured vision of structural
adjustment which, all the evidence
suggests, worsened inflation,
unemployment, deindustrialisation, and the
country's vulnerability to international
financial shocks.


(Patrick Bond is the author of Uneven
Zimbabwe: A Study of Finance,
Development and Underdevelopment,
published in 1998 by Africa World Press.)

More information about the Marxism mailing list