Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



Suffering continues for the Zimbabwean poor

By Kola Ibrahim

Events postdating the political stalemate that followed the unilateral elections in Zimbabwe where Robert Mugabe was the sole contestant could hardly be described as respite for the poor working masses of Zimbabwe. Before reaching deadlock the news had it that Mugabe and the leader of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai had concluded agreement for negotiation with possibility of forming a unity government (as witnessed in Kenya and as advocated by Nigeria’s Umar Yar’Adua).

This is coming at a time when inflation in the country has skyrocketed to over 2 million percent – a sign of unprecedented plummeting of living standard while over 80 percent are officially poor. The increase in living wage is linear while the inflation (which was 200,000 per cent about three months ago) is increasing geometrically. The situation is so terrible that food has become a luxury to the masses. It is under this condition that the opposition that should serve as the beacon of hope and platform of struggle for better living was forging an alliance with the rotten, anti-poor and dictatorial Mugabe government. This clearly reveals the real quagmire to which the poor masses of Zimbabwe are – a choice between a rotten government and feeble opposition with no character of hope and change.

Tsvangirai had predicated his withdrawal from run off election on widespread violence against the opposition members, which he rightly claimed could snowball into serious crisis if the contest should continue. While Mugabe’s brazen violence was a fact, the retreat of Tsvangirai and his party in the election is a reflection of their political incapacity to mobilize working masses. How else could one describe a situation where the masses who voted out the Mugabe dictatorship, (despite unprecedented campaign of violence) would back off from defending their choice at the run off, even if it included taking arms against the regime? The main reason is that Tsvangirai and his MDC party do not represent any beckon of hope for the masses. No clear-cut economic programme to take the country’s economy out of the woods neither was there any programme to challenge imperialism.

A glance through MDC’s website clearly reveals its pro-rich, pro-imperialism neo-liberal economic orientation that will further economically disenfranchise the working but poor Zimbabweans. Despite its normal messianic nature, the opposition does not reveal how it intends to resolve the land problem (which in the real sense affects the poor Zimbabwean farmers than the much-touted white farmers).

Unfortunately, the MDC actually emerged in 1999 from the titanic struggles of workers, organized under Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) with Tsvangiria as the main labour leader, who had held four general strikes between 1996 and 1998 against autocracy and IMF’s inspired anti-poor, neo-liberal programme of Mugabe. But the party has since become pro-capitalist with support for, and of, big businesses, white commercial farmers and imperialism.

The fact that Tsvangirai and the opposition do not pose any genuine alternative to the masses is clearly manifested in the manner in which Tsvangirai reacted to the violence initiated by the Mugabe’s storm troopers. Rather than appeal to the working masses and youth to organize and resist the violence, he is fond of calling on “international” community (note international community means the imperialist nations of US and Europe) to use military actions and sanctions against Mugabe. This is because he does not have faith in the power of the working masses which he claimed to be ‘fighting’ for. Any action by any imperialist country will not be in the interest of the poor working masses of Zimbabwe but will either boost Mugabe’s status as an anti-imperialist – which he never was – or help imperialism establish military and economic base in the country (and turn the country to another Iraq – where “liberation” war by US/Europe has turned to war to oil war and occupation). This has further made the poor masses of Zimbabwe to develop a skeptical attitude towards him which unfortunately has given the Mugabe regime another lease of life.

The possible calculation of Tsvangirai is that reliance on the working masses could inspire a mass movement that could push the masses to the centre stage and, may be, push him to the left. This will definitely undermine his capitalist neo-liberal economic programme and diminish his status to govern on behalf of big business, which is sponsoring him. Having realized that imperialism had more in its hands than the problems facing Zimbabwe, and fearful of the consequence of mass movement to dislodge Mugabe on his political interest, Tsvangirai resorted to negotiation with a regime it has decried as dictatorial. He was even reported to have renounced all his critical statements on Mugabe’s dictatorship. This treachery of Tsvangirai is not unexpected because as a pro-capitalist politician, he is bound to limit his struggle for power within the precinct of capitalism and not raise the masses to their feet.

It is noteworthy to state that Mugabe that claims to be fighting white rule did not take white big farms during the anti-apartheid victory, when the movement was raging, but rather negotiated with British imperialism then. Of course, like every other nationalist petty bourgeois and in the spirit of the mass anger against imperialism then, he was against apartheid, but he was also used by British imperialism to maintain its presence in Zimbabwe. But, having lost control of the economy through subjugation of the nation to the poisonous neo-liberal pills of commercialization of social services, privatization of public corporations and trade liberalization (which led to over 25, 000 job loss in 1996 alone and slashing of wages by 25 percent in 1995 among other terrible results) and looking for a shortcut, resorted to anti-imperialism slogans. Ridiculously, the land distribution could only benefit just a thousand of rich black farmers (out of millions of poor and landless farmers) most of whom have stakes in his ruling ZANU-PF party.

Therefore, it is a miscarriage of logic to present Mugabe as fighting imperialism. The economic woes witnessed in Zimbabwe are a product of the anti-poor neo-liberal policies of imperialism intensified by Mugabe in the 1990’s and not as a result of economic sabotage of western imperialism as some people claim. While of course the role of western imperialism, which in actual fact benefited from the neo-liberal policies implemented by Mugabe (and subsequently left the economy in ruins), could not be underemphasized, this should not be done to bestow credibility on the Mugabe regime.

This also brings to focus the role and hypocrisy of imperialism in the crisis facing Zimbabwe. Aside the fact that imperialism contributed to the country’s economic woes, the western imperialism’s reactions again reflect the imperialist hypocrisy. It will be recalled that while these nations (especially US and Britain) were condemning the Mugabe regime, they did not mention their roles in the economic crisis. No relief package was given to the poor people of Zimbabwe who are groaning under economic woes that had provided unprecedented wealth to capitalist corporations. Rather, imperialist nations in the UN Security Council prefer to place sanctions – including economic and military – which will further the sufferings of the Zimbabwean poor, who are up to 80 percents of the population. Though the sanction was vetoed by China and Russia, but this does not portray any section of imperialism in any good light. The fact is that it is sheer selfish capitalist interests that drive foreign policy and international politics.

More horrible is the reaction of most African countries to what amount to political barbarism in Zimbabwe. Aside most African leaders that maintained criminal silence, those that claim to have spoken out – like Angola’s Dos Santos and Nigeria’s Umar Yar’Adua – are little different from Mugabe in their manner of emergence, repressive activities and economic policies therefore their comments have been evasive – mostly to boost their image but not to confront Mugabe. In fact, to show the level of Africa’s political doom, Mugabe even threatened to expose any African leader who criticizes his government.

However, Thabo Mbeki went a mile further by not only giving surreptitious support to Mugabe but also organizing a power deal between Mugabe and the opposition MDC to stabilize Mugabe’s government and give him international recognition. Aside the moral burden of most African rulers, the fear of a mass revolt in Zimbabwe, which can set the masses of other lands in motion, is a dangerous sore that made many African leaders to maintain the notorious deafening silence. It is this same silence that was maintained during Kenya election standoff. Most African leaders are lapdogs of capitalist imperialism, who fear losing their status as apron string of imperialism through mass movement. Gone is the old era of petty bourgeois nationalism of many African leaders.

A deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai may be initially popular as a way of ending conflict. But it cannot midwife improvement in the living conditions of workers, peasants and poor masses. Even, the glimpse of what a solely Tsvangirai led government would become has been seen from pro-capitalist neo-liberal programme of the MDC. It is obvious that Tsvangirai will follow the footstep of Zambia’s Fredric Chiluba, also a former trade union leader, who emerged in 1991 with hope and aspirations of workers and poor on his shoulders. He did not only disappoint the workers and poor with neo-liberal attacks, but was also later discovered to be massive corrupt.

Although the working class has been weakened by the economic crisis and the exodus of many young people to South Africa, the opposition is strong in the cities, the major reason the poor masses had not returned to the centre stage of struggle to chase away Mugabe is the fact that they see no alternative to the rotten Mugabe regime. It should be noted that the simple majority gained by Tsvangirai in the first round is a sign that the masses are in need of change and not an endorsement of anti-poor capitalist economic policy of MDC and Tsvangirai.

The labour movement in Zimbabwe has to be resurrected to take a lead in the political and economic struggle of the working masses for change. The labour movement and Together with working class activists, must start to build a fighting, mass-based working class political alternative that will genuinely defend the interest of the poor working masses of the country, wrest political power from Mugabe or his clones and form a workers and poor peasant government. Such movement must incorporate the working class with other oppressed strata including the peasants and youth by linking their demands together. The party must be built on the democratic control of workers, poor peasants and masses, and on the basis of socialist programme to avoid another disaster of MDC.

It is unfortunate that the ZTUC which had in past played significant roles in struggle against Mugabe’s autocratic rules and neo-liberal attacks has now taken the back seat since the emergence of the derailed MDC. Genuine pro-working class organizations in both Zimbabwe and the whole African continent must start the process of building a working masses movement in Zimbabwe and a pan-African working class movement that will bring back the fighting spirit of the African poor for genuine socialism where the vast but mismanaged and plundered resources of the continent (human, material, natural and monetary) will be nationalized and democratically run by the working and poor people themselves.

This will mean that the huge agricultural and mineral resources of Zimbabwe (and other African countries), rather than being struggled over by the both imperialism and local moneybags, will be used to develop a vast, environmentally friendly agro-based economy that will employ the majority of the country while providing the resources to develop the country – provide basic social infrastructures – free, quality education, healthcare, cheap, efficient and environment-friendly transport, agriculture and communication system; and a developed industrialized economy – all of which cannot be achieved within the framework of neo-colonial, neo-liberal capitalism. This transformation cannot be achieved without the working class solidarity; and elimination of the decadent capitalism in Africa.