International Socialist Organisation - Zimbabwe


Resources for Struggle
  On the whole it is not safe for us to do street sales with our paper any more, though we can still hold public meetings if we are careful about security. The new press laws pushed through by Mugabe are going to make a lot of what we say very difficult to publish, because of course it is critical of the government.

The state is protecting the thugs of the ruling party, ZANU-PF. It is encouraging them. The top brass and those who run the state day-to-day are personal appointees of Robert Mugabe himself.

Since the beginning of January, we have had four attacks on us. Two comrades have each been attacked twice. They were attacks on individuals, not attacks on our offices or our meetings. Three of the attacks seem to have been random. There was one instance in which a comrade was known to be a member of the ISO and was targeted for selling our paper in a neighbourhood near the city centre. When passers-by came to his aid, the attackers made false accusations against him. They took him to a police station, and now that case is before the courts.

There is also some danger for us from the MDC [the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party]. We live in the urban areas where the MDC has most of its support, so, with ZANU-PF and the MDC, we are between a rock and a hard place. Most of the people in the top positions in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions are toeing the MDC line. A few toe the ZANU-PF line. But on the whole the ZCTU has fallen hook, line and sinker for the MDC line, which is that we must have peace before the election; the MDC will win the election, but there should be no action before the election.

The MDC's economic policy - "The Bridge" - is neo-liberal, pro-privatisation, but it has not been publicised or debated much. The great tragedy is that most workers are not aware of the MDC's policies. They do not have an understanding of the MDC's policies. They just see the MDC as representing the hope of more jobs. The line is that ZANU-PF has failed to open up the economy properly; because of that we have inflation and unemployment; and neo-liberal economic policies will solve the problem.

Advanced sections of the working class have become disillusioned with the MDC. We're working with those advanced sections of the working class in campaigns in some unions where we have influence, the printing, engineering and construction unions. We have been involved in the MDC on a united front basis. Because of the rightward shift of the MDC leadership, we have realised that there is no future in the MDC for any worker activists. We have shifted more to working with unions where we have an influence, and with rank and file trade unionists.

Is there a chance of some unions breaking publicly with the MDC? Not in the short term, but in the medium to long term. We are working in unions affiliated to the ZCTU to put pressure on the ZCTU leadership, but the aim is to build an independent rank and file trade union movement, independent of both ZANU-PF and MDC. The idea of a mass independent workers' party has no hearing at the moment. There is a high level of disillusion among the more advanced workers with what they have gone through with the MDC. We have to take a few steps back.

We are saying "No to dictatorship" - meaning ZANU-PF - and "no to neo-liberalism" - meaning MDC. Both those parties represent one section or another of capital, of the bosses. We have to be prepared to fight whichever of the two comes into power. We must have no illusions in either. We haven't been advising people which way to vote. The advanced workers have been so disillusioned with the MDC that to advocate voting for the MDC would be political suicide for us. I think the presidential election will take place. All the authorities have done is to question Morgan Tsvangirai about his supposed plot to assassinate Robert Mugabe. If they decide to press charges, it will be after the election. I don't think they will want to risk at backlash from the MDC at this time. While there is disillusionment, the MDC has a lot of young members it can call on to take to the streets. The activists of the MDC are still mainly working-class based, and it is also recruiting a lot of young unemployed people. The MDC has never really had any middle-class activists in it.

The whole economic situation appears to have worsened steadily with the neo-liberal policies of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme, since 1990. Zimbabwe's acute economic crisis started, essentially, in about 1995. There was de-industrialisation. Capital moved its investments out of the manufacturing sector and into the financial sector where it could get quicker returns. Manufacturing's share of the economy fell from 32% to well below 20%. And then what led to a rapid worsening of the crisis was when the government announced its plans to compensate war veterans, in 1997. Not long after that, the Zimbabwe dollar suffered the first of a series of crashes against foreign currencies. Inflation is now at 120%.

The MDC recommends a Marshall Plan type of recovery. But look at Argentina! Argentina has collapsed, and neither the World Bank nor the IMF has poured in money to help it recover. To expect that sort of assistance for a country the size of Zimbabwe is day-dreaming. The government has been threatening to take over companies which have been artificially creating food shortages, and turn them over to be run by the workers. But nothing like that has happened. Inscor, a major company, has been exposed for hoarding, but nothing has happened.

What Zimbabwe is going through is a manifestation of an entire global economy in recession. There is no way out of this crisis using capitalist means. The state can revive the economy a bit by pumping out money, but then inflation will rise even further. There is only one way out of this crisis, not only in Zimbabwe but world-wide, and that is dismantling the whole system of capitalism.

Despite all the hatred there is for him, Mugabe has built up a base of support in the rural areas through the land redistribution programme. In the process he has rejuvenated ZANU-PF. If you walk around the rural areas without a ZANU-PF party card which is at least nine months old, you risk getting beaten up.

Mugabe got his first layer of support through the war veterans, by giving them monthly payments. He then moved to the peasantry. The peasantry in Zimbabwe constitutes at least 60% of the population, and most of them have received land through the land redistribution programme. That is another layer of support for Mugabe. He has also has support in the army. The level of support for him in the police does not seem to be so strong.

We supported the land redistribution, but in a critical manner. The government has not been distributing the tools needed to work on the land - the ploughs, the seeds, and so forth. But in the short term we are not able to cut against ZANU-PF's base of support in the rural areas. The government has been providing drought relief in the rural areas, essentially free handouts of food. After the election it will be interesting to see how long those free handouts last.

The farm workers displaced by the land redistribution have been demanding a section of the land that is being handed out. Munyaradzi Gwisai, our MP [an ISO member elected to the Zimbabwean parliament on an MDC ticket], made a scathing attack in parliament on the government's intention to compensate the white farmers for their land, their infrastructure, and so on, but to give nothing to the farm workers. But some land has been handed out to the former farm workers, too.

What about the argument that the commercial farms should not be divided up, but maintained as larger units, with a higher productivity, and run as cooperatives under workers' control? That argument never got much hearing. The large commercial farms producing for export, and the large estates owned by multinational companies like Anglo-American, have not been touched. The farms which have been taken over are the smaller ones. 45 to 50% of the farms have not seen any redistribution at all. We say that the larger estates should be targeted - to be taken over and run collectively, not broken up.

One other argument we have been making is that the peasants should be allowed to use the land without title deeds. If you start dishing out title deeds, it plays into the hands of market forces. A peasant who is desperate for money will sell the land back to the commercial farmer. Title deeds should not be given out. The land should be made available to whoever chooses to use it.

Our paper is distributed only in the five urban areas where we have branches. It is too dangerous to try to distribute it in the countryside. With the crisis and the struggles that are bound to be erupting, and our very low level of resources, we have launched an international fund appeal so that we can get equipment for the reproduction of material for our own comrades, and for our paper. That is being done through the Socialist Alliance. We also ask socialists in other countries to forward the updates we email out, and to publicise them, so that workers internationally can get the real story of what is happening in Zimbabwe.

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