Zimbabwe: ISO and popular frontism

Philip Ferguson plf13 at SPAMit.canterbury.ac.nz
Fri Mar 9 19:23:41 MST 2001

>> It's interesting that Norm calls the MDC a "fledgling labour party" and yet
>> in the next paragraph notes that rich white farmers occupy influential
>> positions in the party.
>> This must indeed be a peculiar form of "fledging labour party".

Nrom Dixon:
>Dear Philip,
>No, it is not a ``peculiar'' form of Labour Party. All the Labor Parties I am
>familiar with -- the ALP, the NZLP, the British Labour Party and the European
>Social Democrats, and the ANC in South Africa -- are capitalist parties. The
>difference between Zimbabwe (and South Africa -- but to an ever decreasing
>degree) of course is that in Australia, New Zealand and Britain, a significant
>number of advanced workers have experienced the reality of the capitalist
>nature of the social democrats and are prepared to consider a more radical
>alternative (although the revolutionary left is considerably weaker).

>Whether revolutionaries participate in such trade union-based capitalist
>parties is determined by the level of illusions that workers hold in those
>parties and the relative strength of the revolutionary forces. Participation
>within these parties is a purely tactical question that must be determined by
>revolutionaries on the ground. The goal is to boost the revolutionary forces,
>whether by building radical alternatives outside the labour parties and/or,
>when large numbers of radical workers have illusions in them, like in Zim,
>building a militant pole of attraction within that can form the nucleas of --
>or join forces with revolutionaries outside-- that alternative later.
>In general, revolutionaries give critical ``support'' to such parties because
>their rule helps expose the Laborites' fundamentally capitalist nature (it
>breaks illusions and encourages advanced workers to seek alternatives), not
>because they are workers parties (Phil, as you now the links that these
>often maintain with the trade union bureaucracy often allow them to impose
>greater attacks on the working class than their blue-blooded rivals).
>That has always been the Leninist approach to what Lenin called the Bourgeois
>Labour parties --  Support them ``like the rope that supports the hanging
>and all that. That ``support'' can take external or internal forms -- again
>depending on the conciousness of the most militant workers and their levels of
>illusions with the social democratic leaderships.

The problem with all this is that you are equating the MDC with "bourgoeis
labour parties".  One of the key things about bourgeois labour parties,
however, is that they did not include the bourgeoisie.  You won't find rich
capitalist farmers, or any other leading capitlalists, in influential
positons right from the start in the British, Australian, NZ Labour
parties.  And you won't find those parties originally being backed strongly
by imperialist institutions, the way the MDC is.

The bourgeois labour parties were bourgeois in programme and labour in
social composition.

The point about the MDC is that it is *not* a labour party of any type.
Indeed, it is not really a party but a bloc of cross-class forces,
including a very strong capitalist element, ie a popular front.  it is
also, as Jared Israel noted, the political force in Zimbabwe that has the
closest direct ties with the imperialist institutions and which the
imperialists wanted to win the last elections.  I don't recall reading
anywhere that world imperialism backed the bourgeois labour parties in
their early electoral contests with Tory and Liberal capitalist parties.

I note that Norm does not try to explian why the MDC is not a popular
front.  Nor does he say what a popular front is.  He knows that as soon as
he defines a popular front, it would be apparent that the MDC fits the bill.

In the case of Zimbabwe, this particular popular front is especially
dangerous.  This is because usually most capitalists - and certainly world
imperialism - don't support popfronts (they're usually confined to a
minority of the bourgeoisie), but in the case of the MDC it is supported by
key elements of the Zimbabwe bourgeoisie and by world imperialism.  So it
is far more dangerous than the usual popfronts.

Philip Ferguson

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