[Marxism] Comrade Bob's latest blow against imperialism ... not

glparramatta glparramatta at greenleft.org.au
Fri Jun 20 15:05:29 MDT 2008

>From the latest Weekly Worker:

Forced underground
The Zanu-PF regime of Robert Mugabe has stepped up its repression in the lead-up to the June 27 presidential election run-off against Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change. The offices of the International Socialist Organisation have been closed down as part of the regime's crackdown against all opposition groups. Peter Manson spoke to ISO leader Munyaradzi Gwisai

PM: What happened when your office was raided by the authorities?

MG: Initially they came two weeks ago. They confiscated some material and raised an issue about our latest Socialist Worker, claiming it was inciting violence. This was because we had argued in the paper that the crisis was not going to be resolved through elections, but through mass action. We said that the way forward for the Movement for Democratic Change and civil society was to create a united front and mobilise against the regime. They said what we had written was very similar to what Wellington Chibebe, general secretary of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, had been saying when they arrested him last month.

Then on June 12 they came over and ordered the closure of all the civic organisations in Zimrights House - Zimrights is the NGO that owns the complex where we rent our office. Also affected were the National Constitutional Assembly and the Zimbabwe National Students Union. That very same day the offices of a variety of civic groups, including the Zimbabwe Social Forum, were also ordered to close. But nobody was arrested in our complex, as far as I know, and we were able to rescue our materials and computer, but our operations are now virtually underground.

Mugabe has said that most of the money coming from the imperialists is being channelled via the NGOs. Of course, many do get funds from the west and the intervention by the west in this election is significant. But the stepping up of the repression is now unambiguous.

PM: There are reports in the western press about Zanu-PF denying food to MDC supporters unless they hand in their identification papers, which would prevent them voting. Are these reports true and do you think the repression will succeed in delivering a Mugabe victory?

MG: Some of these stories are a load of trash. There might be one or two incidents in the countryside of people being told to hand over their identification papers and it is true the regime has started issuing new identification documents - informally we hear that in Zanu-PF's rural strongholds people are being wrongly registered. But these stories serve to disguise the regime's real preparations to rig the elections nationally.

The regime will close off key rural areas and the MDC will be lucky to have polling access there. Mugabe has openly declared that, whatever the result of the election, he will not hand over power to Tsvangirai. He will only hand over power to a leadership that he believes is consistent with the 'ideals of the liberation struggle'.

There is a fear that these methods might work. I would say at this stage it's a 50-50 election. The difference really is only around 130,000 votes, so the strategy of the regime is to displace a significant number of MDC voters in the rural areas they control. Combined with the disarray that the MDC and its allies are now in, this is giving Mugabe a good chance of victory.

The MDC banked everything on change through elections and had no plan B. Their strategy for taking on the dictatorship was one based exclusively on elections. The ISO has been arguing against this from the left for over a year. We have said that a resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis is not going to come through elections or similar means. A resolution will only come through the mass mobilisation of the opposition, organised labour and civic society through a united front.

Initially we argued for a boycott of the election. We said that elections should only be viewed as a mobilising tactic to take on the regime in the cities, in our factories, in our campuses, rather than a general strategy. Unfortunately many people got excited and fell into election mode.

The movement is now paying a heavy price for its failure to appreciate the true character of the Mugabe dictatorship and its naive illusions in the possibility of a peaceful transformation. The MDC - and the movement in general - is also paying a heavy price for the marginalisation of the MDC's working class and left activists in favour of a bourgeois and middle class elite who have no experience of struggle and who thought that the regime was about to fall and they would reap the reward.

PM: But what else can we expect of the bourgeoisie? Surely they have to rely on either constitutional means or top-down non-constitutional means with the support of imperialism?

MG: That is too sweeping. Historically we do know that bourgeois and middle class elements can take the road of mass mobilisation - look at the movement in Iran in the late 70s. Or look at the movements in eastern Europe directed by western involvement. Even more recently is the example of Kenya. There was a bourgeois opposition that was able to organise on the streets.

But in Zimbabwe, immediately after the March 29 elections, instead of leading the movement forward the MDC elite were calling for restraint. And then Tsvangirai ran away to South Africa, leaving a complete vacuum of leadership on the ground.

There is no doubt about it - the regime is rooted among the population with a solid social base. Despite the catastrophic economic collapse, Zanu-PF still won more popular votes in parliament than the MDC in the March 29 parliamentary elections. Mugabe might have lost on the streets, but if you count the actual votes, his party won more than the MDC in elections to the House of Assembly and Senate.

Zanu-PF won an absolute majority of votes in five of the country's 10 provinces, plus a simple majority in another province. By contrast the MDC won two provinces with an absolute majority and two with a simple majority. But because we use first past the post, not proportional representation, Zanu-PF's votes were not translated into a majority in parliament. It was only Mugabe himself, in the presidential election, who did worse in terms of the popular vote.

But it is also true that in the key sections of society - that is, in the industrial and economic centres - the MDC had a total whitewash in virtually all towns big and small. It is clear that the working class is solidly behind the MDC, while Zanu-PF's support comes from the rural provinces. And for the first time the MDC was able to make inroads in two major rural provinces - two drought-hit regions, where there had been a disaster in terms of food and where the international aid organisations had been very active in giving food relief.

There has also been the dislocation of many working class people from the cities into the rural areas two years ago, which has escalated with the economic collapse. So there is now a core of working class people in the rural areas who can form a powerful base around which to organise for the opposition. In the rural areas MDC supporters have started organising themselves and hitting back, which is sending the regime into a frenzy. But they are not getting proper leadership. The MDC is completely cowardly. You don't see people putting on MDC T-shirts or putting up MDC posters.

PM: So what do you expect to happen after June 27?

MG: Zanu-PF are finalising their strategy and there are two scenarios after the election. First, a quick announcement that Mugabe has won - all potential centres of opposition are being or have been hit to ensure that they will not be able to rise up the way the opposition was able to rise up in Kenya. After making sure of that, they will then offer a government of national unity to the MDC.

The second option is, if Tsvangirai wins, Mugabe will refuse to accept the result, as he did after March 29. That would escalate the pressure massively, aimed at making the result irrelevant. In those circumstances they would still aim for a government of national unity.

A scenario that is most unlikely is that of the regime accepting defeat. If they were really ready to hand over power, the kind of moves they are now making against the opposition would put them in big trouble if they lost.

But the working class and the radical opposition must not sit back. They must urgently regroup to mobilise not only for the vote, but, more importantly, for the bigger strategy of defending that vote and fighting back against the regime through united front activity.

We must base our strategy on self-activity, not on an ideology that sees the west and its programme of neoliberalism as the way forward. That is why we are appealing for international solidarity. They have closed our offices, but they have not closed our movement.

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