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By Leonard Chiwoniso Mhute – CWI Zimbabwe
Yesterday, supporters and African leaders attended the funeral of Zimbabwe’s long standing dictator Robert Mugabe who has died at the age of 95. He leaves behind his family and cronies filthy rich and a trail of miseries under the brutal authoritarian Zanu-PF regime for the masses of Zimbabwe. His legacy, while perceived as controversial by some, is widely regarded as that of ruin, as he leaves behind his ZANU-PF regime still in power despite its rejection by the masses of Zimbabwe. This legacy was further evidenced by the images of a half-empty stadium at the leader’s funeral.
While in power for 37 years Mugabe never broke with the framework of capitalism and even introduced neoliberal economic policies. Despite having introduced some popular radical reforms to education and healthcare immediately after independence in 1980, these reforms could not be upheld without confronting the power of capitalism and imperialism.
Mugabe’s regime rapidly became a brutal dictatorship, using the command structure of ZANU-PF. Under Mugabe, Zimbabwe gradually adopted a cocktail of neoliberal economic policies known as ESAP which would obliterate almost overnight the gains of the country’s independence from British colonial rule.
Mugabe would spend the rest of his tenure quelling worker’s protests and strikes as well as any rebellion against the devastating effects of his policies on the lives of workers and poor. Mugabe once widely touted as a fighter for liberation after independence would become a ruthless dictator of the masses of Zimbabwe. But even before Mugabe set Zimbabwe on the course to neoliberal ruin a decade after independence, the masses in Matebeleland already knew Mugabe as a mass murderer when he unleashed any army unit to massacre 20 000 people in the early 1980s.
Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe with more than an iron fist. Around him, he built a cult of personality which would sustain his reign beyond the physical disability imposed by his old age.
It was the student movement and organised labour that led opposition to Mugabe’s rule from the 1990s onwards. A series of strikes against austerity cuts to basic services arising from ESAP became the order of the day in the 1990s. Mugabe of course would resort to force instead of responding to the demands and questions raised by these strikes. The use of detention, torture, kidnapping, murder and rape would become a trade mark of Mugabe’s response to mass resistance and general strikes.
When Zimbabwe’s economy inevitably collapsed in the late 1990s, the resistance to his reign had begun to take new forms, as its imperialist military ventures in the DRC and demands for colonial reparations plagued the near bankrupt state.
The demand for land by the rural poor in Zimbabwe also began to take root after the failure of the state’s redistributive policies, to nationalise the land after independence. Mugabe’s treacherous opportunism came full circle as he quickly adopted populist measures to quell the demand for land but even these proved ineffective as evidenced by the disastrous land reform program which left out thousands of farm workers and deindustrialized much of the entire country.
Mugabe remains widely praised for the land reform program and it is seen as a hallmark of his reign but this ignores the fact that it was in reality merely a knee jerk reaction to the demands against his regime’s total failure to fairly redistribute the land after independence. Mugabe and his cronies would also take full advantage of this chaotic programme to amass swathes of productive land amongst themselves.
Mugabe and his cronies also looted and plundered Zimbabwe’s state owned entities and decimated Zimbabwe’s working class through rampant mismanagement of the economy. Mugabe and his regime’s scapegoat has always been that the imperialist imposition of economic sanctions by the west but the fact remains that the looting and plunder began with the inception of neoliberal and pro-capitalist policies by the very same regime. While those “reforms” were given the stamp of approval by the international monetary fund and imperialism, with the “war veteran” land invasions Mugabe crossed a line – the capitalist sanctity of private property.
While western sanctions in response to the land reform programme accelerated the economic decline, Zimbabwe’s fate had already been sealed by the regime’s unadulterated pursuit of capitalist development which had led the economy into a dead end, with destructive manoeuvring the only option for his regime.
Mugabe’s regime had already taken a monstrous turn into the abyss. Mugabe’ s propaganda took advantage of the misguided call for external economic sanction by the opposition the MDC. Mugabe was to be depicted as a defender of Zimbabwe’s sovereignty .
As Zimbabwe’s crises deepened Mugabe increasingly played the role of power broker between the contending factions within his ZANU-PF party and regime.
Mugabe’s monopoly of power was sometimes challenged successfully, in particular by the MDC under Morgan Tsvangirai which handed him electoral defeats. Of course Mugabe would use the full might of the state’s machinery to steal elections and cling to power.
In the end it was a military coup in november 2017 which cut short his ambitions of ruling for life. The military acted in order to save the regime from a growing mass uprising.a
Mugabe’s legacy like large grey clouds looms large over Zimbabwe, its trail of destruction evident for all to see. Mugabe’s successor Emmerson Mnangagwa has often been described as worse than Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s crisis has intensified since ousting his former mentor.
Each day Mnangagwa appears seemingly hopeless and clueless on resolving the crises born of Mugabe’s regime 3 decades ago. Mugabe’s successors have proven to be attentive students during his reign. They have continued on the path of repression left by Mugabe almost without interruption. The neoliberal policies of the Mugabe era have only been given another name but have not changed materially. The regime’s ‘’Zimbabwe is open for business”-mantra cunningly resembles ESAP with austerity being the order of the day. The opposition MDC offers no real alternative, only aiming for a coalition with the present regime.
It is up to the workers, poor and youth to solve the crisis. There is an urgent need for mass organising to overthrow the regime and the capitalist system
– to struggle for a socialist Zimbabwe, socialist Africa and a socialist World.
South Africa is once again ravaged by horrific xenophobic attacks on migrants from across Africa – ten have been killed in mob violence in the past week. At the same time, the rape and murder of Uyinene Mretywana has been a call to struggle against gender-based violence (GBV) – the violence inflicted on women, LGBTQI+ communities, and children. The list of victims from hate crimes grows every day. Communities are looking for answers while the government dines with the rich at the World Economic Forum and tweets: women should “speak out and not allow themselves to become victims by keeping quiet”.
Was the government not listening the past few years as a mighty movement led by women rages against GBV? We have been in the streets and in the courts demanding to be heard! Across the world, women have been protesting under the banners of #MeToo, #NotOneMore, #TheTotalShutdown. Rape Crisis, Sweat, Powa, and others campaign tirelessly against GBV. Ramaphosa has called conventions on GBV. Yet we are told that the silence of women is allowing their victimization. This victim blaming is a key part of the problem and is echoed in the government response to the xenophobic killing and looting: Bheki Cele said police “will not apologise” for the xenophobic raids on small businesses.
Government also says prevention is key to turning this tide of GBV. It promises harsher sentences, which will not end the systemic violence. They also plan a 10% cut across the board in public sector salaries, on top of other budget cuts. Their capitalist policies undermine women and fuel violence and oppression.
Eradication, not prevention!
Eradication of GBV would include a huge expansion of public services, creation of decent jobs, housing. Without an income, access to essential services, a home to feel safe in, how do women even begin to “speak out”? And when society keeps confirming the myth that women are second class humans through second class pay, unpaid labour, commodification and control of our bodies and sexuality – is it any wonder that many men buy into their entitlement to our bodies and our very lives?
When government treats migrants as criminals by refusing asylum to refugees, through police harassment and apartheid-style passport controls; when it blocks migrants from accessing housing, jobs, services; when “leaders” from Mashaba (DA) to Ramaphosa (ANC) and king Zwelithini point out “foreigners” as the cause of unemployment and poverty; when the bosses exploit all this by offering low-paying insecure jobs, and corrupt officials by selling “free” services and housing – is it not clear that the ruling elites are consciously fueling the divisions that have resulted in open street violence?
We should all be angry
Many are angry – about the war on women, the massive unemployment, lack of housing, dysfunctional schools, under-resourced healthcare, the hunger and desperation, drug epidemics, ongoing racism, and corrupt officials destroying our planet and gambling with our future. We should all be angry that South Africa is the most unequal society on Earth, that we’re not yet free from this failing capitalist system. We need a general strike, against the roots of these failures – not violence against African brothers and sisters who have been forced to run from war and hunger through the failures of the very same global system. No SA-born worker will win from killing or chasing away migrant workers. Every worker, resident, street trader and student needs to unite and fight for living wages, jobs, housing and education for all. To replace this system with a society where the wealth is owned by all of us, democratically controlled and used to meet the needs of the majority.
Violence is a symptom, Capitalism is the problem
Today’s violence is a direct consequence of a decaying capitalist system. It promotes a system of dominance between sections of the working class, masking the centuries of violence perpetrated by those in power. It is the legacy of colonialisation, imperialism, neo-colonialism. Still today the divisive fabric upholds the extraction of profit for the 1% through the exploitation of the labour power of the 99%. The apartheid state attempted to divide the working class by tribe, homeland and tradition. Today, the capitalist politicians try to survive the crisis of their system through dividing us. They stoke the flames of xenophobia and sexism, leading many of us to live in fear. We must refuse to be divided and conquered. We must fight together to stop the rapes and murder, to end sexism, racism and capitalism.
The bosses will not save us
This government will not deliver. Jobs exist: houses, schools, clinics, roads, transport need to be built; food needs to be produced. However, the resources for these human necessities are locked up with the big banks and private business. Nobody has to be unemployed or hungry here. We have to fight to take control of the economy. Not of the spazas or RDP houses, but the mines, the banks, the big farms and corporations. Nationalised under the democratic control of workers and communities, these resources would make a true expanded public works programme possible, with living wages and without tenderpreneurs. It’s time for all working class women and men to unite around a programme which takes on the root of the crisis. We must fight to make sure this moment in the global movement against women’s oppression and gender-based violence, strikes at the foundations of the system which perpetuates it.
It is up to us to forge the fighting unity of the working class in a party of mass struggle – uniting the struggles of workplaces, communities and the youth on a socialist programme. A socialist SA, a socialist Africa and a socialist world must be our aim. Only that will allow us to do away with all oppression and violence.
On our way there, through mass struggle we can push back both xenophobia and GBV, by making clear that unity and solidarity are our only strength in really changing this sick society and by forcing concessions from the 1%.
WASP fights for:
- Mass protests to unite workers, communities and students in the struggles against hate crimes like xenophobia and GBV.
- Expand public services to ensure free and safe shelter and health care for people fleeing abuse, invest in specialised health care for survivors of GBV and for perpetrators.
- Zero-tolerance against gender based violence, sexual harassment and xenophobic violence – create street committees/community watch committees to call out, condemn and stop it.
- Training on GBV for all law enforcement and court officials, invest in special courts and cleanse SAPS of perpetrators of secondary victimisation.
- Equal pay for equal work, stop the 10% wage cut and the race to the bottom – unions must organise women and migrant workers, act against bosses who abuse vulnerable migrant workers. For a real expanded public works programme, and a R12 500 minimum wage.
- Stop the police harassment of street traders and immigrants, amnesty for “illegals”.
- Implement the right to asylum, overhaul the Home Affairs immigration systems under democatic control of workers and communities including refugees and migrants, root out corrupt officials.
- Free, high quality education for all from pre-school to tertiary. Paid parental leave and free quality childcare for everyone.
- Nationalise the commanding heights of the economy under democratic control and management by workers and communities – use the resources to end unemployment, homelessness, poverty, sexism, racism and xenophobia.
- A socialist world without division by gender, nationality, “race” or tribe, war, persecution or poverty.
On 7 September 2019 members of an international faction that emerged at the 2018 International Executive Committee (the highest leadership structure of the international party) announced their split from WASP after having resolved to effectively leave the Committee for a Workers International in weeks prior. The faction’s failure to win over the majority of sections resulted in the formation of a new party before the debate was even exhausted. As WASP, we fight for principled unity of the working class but the methods of the minority faction contradict these aims and thus the aims of a revolutionary Marxist party.
In the upcoming days, an account will be produced detailing the events that have led up to the split. Alongside the majority of CWI members who have chosen not to leave the organisation, we have adopted the declaration below. It explains the trajectory of the debates at the international and we fully support its conclusions.
CWI Majority Declaration
Between August 12 and 16, the majority of the International Executive Committee (IEC), elected at the last World Congress of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) in 2016, met to discuss the split of the CWI, initiated by the international minority faction (IDWCTCWI) in the period after the November 2018 IEC. It discussed the tasks that stem from the split for the majority and how to continue, politically and organizationally, to build the forces of Marxism. We aim to build a mass revolutionary international party, which is the absolutely required for the working class to successfully rid society of the capitalist system and building a new, socialist society.
Between July 22 and July 25, a small minority of the IEC held an international meeting in London at which it decided to “reconstitute the CWI”, keeping the name, the website and the resources of the international organization. In other words, the minority “expelled” the majority! This is an unprecedented development in any political formation that claims to abide by basic democratic procedures, never mind a revolutionary socialist formation that is supposed to accept democratic centralism as one of its founding premises.
The international faction, arrogantly calling itself “In Defence of a Working Class and Trotskyist CWI” (IDWCTCWI) had, before splitting, support of the majority of leaderships in only 9 sections/groups of the CWI (England & Wales, Scotland, Germany, France, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Chile). However, the majority of the membership of the sections in Germany and South Africa support the IEC Majority. Thus, the international minority has the support of the majority of the members in only 7 sections of the entire CWI. The IEC Majority has the full or majority support of sections or groups of the CWI in the following 25 countries: US, Ireland, Belgium, Sweden, Greece, Brazil, Austria, Israel-Palestine, Russia, Australia, Cyprus, Norway, Turkey, Poland, Czechland, Rumania, Italy, Canada, Quebec, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Tunisia, Sudan. Also, the IEC Majority has the support of the majority of the membership in Germany and South Africa, has significant support in Britain and, also, a presence in Mexico, Spain, Portugal and Finland. In some sections, e.g. Nigeria, the picture is yet undefined. The total number of countries in which the CWI Majority is present is around 35. The only country in which the international faction has sizeable forces is Britain.
The faction was launched by the majority of the International Secretarial itself (with two alternate IS members in opposition) and this is unprecedented in the context of a democratic centralist organization. The faction was formed by the majority of the IS against the majority of the IEC, which elects the IS and to which the IS is accountable. This, in itself, is an indication of their intention to cause a split in the International from the very beginning – from the moment they met strong opposition in the IEC.
The fact that the outcome of the faction fight has been the devastation of support for the IS-faction in the ranks of the CWI is a clear indication that they had no real contact or understanding of the organization that they were supposed to provide leadership to on a day to day basis. This goes hand in hand with their insufficient understanding of developments and processes in the objective situation and the realities of present-day class struggle and consciousness, which lie at the root of the split of the CWI.
The other side of the fact that the majority of both the IEC and the CWI opposed the IS majority (which represented the historical leadership of the organization) and is advancing forward, is that this is indicative of the high political level of the vast majority of the cadre and membership of the international organization.
Political roots of the crisis
The crisis started with the hostile approach by the IS majority to differences with the leadership of the Irish section. This was a serious violation of our principles. However, the roots of the crisis are, as always, much deeper and political. Fundamentally, the crisis reflects the contradictions in the objective situation and the political limitations of the IS majority (and the leadership of the England and Wales section) and its inability to understand these processes in depth. Two of the political issues which dominated the debate were the movements around women’s liberation and the environment. The emphasis given by the sections supporting the Majority to these and similar kinds of movements were used by the minority faction to accuse the Majority of abandoning the working class and therefore Trotskyism, capitulating to petit bourgeois pressures and opportunism. Nothing is further from the truth. In reality the old leadership of the CWI had a low theoretical understanding of women’s’ oppression – and the same holds true for the issue of the environment.
One of the central characteristics of the present period is that the working class and the toiling masses face the onslaught of the capitalist class on a global scale but have not been able to put a brake on the attacks and go on the counteroffensive. Despite mass and determined resistance by the working class in many countries (eg Southern Europe and particularly Greece in the first half of the 2010s); mass social movements (like the Occupy movement globally, the Umbrella movement in Hong Kong, women’s movements, youth mobilizations against climate change, etc); revolutions (eg in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011 and again in the first half of 2019 in Sudan and Algeria as well as the recent social explosion in Hong Kong); and the partial development of class, anticapitalist and to a certain extend socialist consciousness in parts of the world (eg in the US where the majority of the youth support socialism against capitalism in all the polls in the last few years) there is a feeling of retreat and defeat in large sections of the mass of the population in countries around the globe.
This is reflected on the political level with the retreat of the appeal of many parties of the Left (old and new) and the increase of support for the far right and right wing populism, as was seen in the Euro-elections in May of this year and the rise of Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban, Modi, etc in the past few years.
The capitulation of SYRIZA in Greece reflects the limits of the mild reformism of the New Left Formations (NLF) in the present epoch. In turn, this retreat effected other NLF and on big sections of the toiling masses. Most of the NLF that came into being in the previous period have either capitulated or are in crisis and retreat. Some have disappeared altogether or play an insignificant role – e.g. the Italian Rifondazione, the SSP in Scotland, the NPA in France, etc. Similar contradictions hold for new left “phenomena” like Corbyn in Britain. Developments in the US, around Sanders and the DSA are on a different trajectory, in the present conjuncture, essentially because they have not yet been tested. The general picture is that for millions of working-class people and youth globally there is no Left political alternative to turn to.
The crisis of the capitalist system also drastically reduces the room for maneuver available to the leaders of the Trade Unions who refuse to challenge capitalism. Therefore, generally they sabotage and betray the working class and its struggles. This factor, which of course is not new (as Trotsky describes in many articles, and in particular his “Trade Unions in the epoch of imperialist decay” of 1940), pushes large sections of the working class to take initiatives ”from below” i.e. outside the control and against the will of the traditional leaderships. Having said this, there are of course important differences from country to country, in the role of TU leaders, the way the TUs are organized and structured, and the consciousness of the working class towards them, which should be taken into consideration. It goes without saying that understanding the role of the TU leaderships in no way means or implies that we should ignore or abandon work in the TUs. But it does mean that the way we approach the work, and the slogans and demands we use, must take this factor into consideration, as has been shown in the material produced by the IEC majority and the sections supporting it in the previous period.
The development, form and character of the movements against women’s oppression and against climate change, particularly by the youth, in the recent years, which became central in the debate with the minority, reflect the abovementioned processes. They reflect a process of radicalization on a massive scale, particularly of the new generation, which largely takes place outside the traditional and mass organizations.
These movements are an extremely important and fertile ground for the forces of revolutionary socialism to intervene and build. This intervention goes hand in hand with learning to “listen” to the needs and to understand the level of consciousness of those people that are on the move. The transitional program that is necessary to build a bridge between our socialist program and the greater audiences in the working class is always, as Trotsky emphatically stressed, a dialogue with the masses.
The orientation of the Irish and other sections to the women’s and environmental movements was used by the minority to accuse the Majority of abandoning the Trade Unions and through them the working class as a whole in order to turn to petit bourgeois layers! This allegation was entirely unfounded. It also led the level of the political debate to an all-time low. The minority entered on an “irrational” course, selecting this word here and that phrase there, to create artificial differences and blow them out of all proportion. It resorted to personal attacks on individual comrades, poisoning the political atmosphere. As a result of all these and despite the initial high respect that the IS majority enjoyed, it ended up convincing only a small minority of the sections of the International.
Without underestimating the importance of the differences that exist, the fact remains that a split in the CWI was neither necessary nor unavoidable. What led to the split was the refusal of the IS to seriously take into consideration the criticisms made by the majority of the IEC and make the necessary corrections; their belief that only they could understand and analyze correctly the period and the tasks; and that only they represented present day Marxism. The objective factor that contributed to this idea was that the leading comrades in the IS had played a historical role in helping the CWI develop from a small force in the 1960s and ‘70s to the largest Trotskyist international in the 2010s. They however failed to understand that strong sections and strong political leaderships had developed in a number of countries, who could and did make significant new contributions to the development of the International both on a theoretical political and a tactical-organizational level. Their inflexibility was most clearly expressed in their attitude to the women’s movements in the last few years and most glaringly in their opposition to the work of the Irish section through “Rosa”.
The problems due to the IS’s weaknesses and limitations have existed over the previous period. However, it seemed that these failings could be overcome through the collective effort of the International leadership, i.e. with the contribution of the leaders from the national sections in the IEC, which had developed into a body with “independent” thinking and critical perceptions. Seeing that the CWI was able to develop and grow, despite the relative limitations of the IS, no members of the IEC had raised the issue of changes in the IS membership. What nobody expected is that the IS majority would not stop at anything – not even at destroying the work of decades – rather than accept they made a serious mistake when they found themselves in a minority in the IEC.
The IDWCTCWI faction elevated every real or imaginary difference into a difference of “crucial” and “fundamental” character, accusing the Majority of having abandoned revolutionary socialism and Trotskyism. Their main allegation against the Majority was that it had capitulated to opportunism and petit bourgeois ideas and pressures. It remains a “mystery” which they never tried to explain, of course, how did opportunism suddenly capture the vast majority of the CWI without the members of the IS, responsible for following the work of these same sections, having realized anything in all the past years!
The unmistakable truth is that the IS majority and its supporters in the leadership of the minority faction entered on a course of bureaucratic degeneration. They not only provocatively ignored the statutes of the CWI and the IEC, elected by the World Congress, they also trampled over every sense of party democracy. They refused to provide a statement on the finances or to allow a financial inspection, officially demanded by many sections and required by the statues of the CWI. They did not have the honesty to accept their minority position and leave the CWI once they decided on the split. Instead they chose to hijack the name, the website, the funds and the reserves of the International (investing in new premises worth more than £1 million in England). They ended up “expelling” the majority, ridiculously justifying this by their pretention to be the only true representatives of Marxism in our days! This attitude, these methods and practices by the Minority will inevitably lead them against a brick wall in the future.
Tasks of the CWI Majority
The global capitalist system is in the grip of one of the deepest economic crises in its history. The crisis which was set off by the housing crisis in the US in 2007 and developed into an international banking and sovereign debt crisis was the worse since the 1929 Wall Street crash. Despite the heavy intervention through the mass injection of cash by the ruling classes globally to contain the crisis, none of the fundamental problems of the capitalist economy have been solved. The contradictions remain and they are extremely intense. The global economy is on the verge of another very serious downturn after the last one of 2008-9. At the same time the tools in the hands of the ruling class to tackle the effects of the new downturn are much more limited than in 2007-8, with sovereign debt at historically high levels, high budget deficits in many “developed” countries, powerful economies like that of Italy on the verge of the cliff, and interest rates at extremely low levels, often around zero and even negative in some cases (eg Europe and Japan). The blind alley in which the capitalist system finds itself globally, is also manifested in the rise of nationalist protectionist governments and sharp inter-imperialist conflicts particularly the trade war between the US and China.
Marxism is the only analytical tool that can explain the crisis and the contradictions of the system, that can provide a way forward and help prepare for the future. The working class is the only force that can change society, not through the road of “parliamentary cretinism”, to site Marx’s expression, but by means of a social revolution to capture power and build a socialist society on a continental and global basis. The victory of the social revolution, under the leadership of the working class, can only be successful if it is led by a mass revolutionary party, on the lines and method of the Bolsheviks who led the Russian revolution in October 1917.
Despite limitations and weaknesses of the CWI over the past years and decades, the methods used by the CWI to build the forces of Marxism are fundamentally correct and this has been proven over time. Starting from a small force in the 1960s it was able to develop, over a period of about half a century, into the biggest revolutionary international. The split initiated by the Minority is a serious setback. But the fact that the big majority of the CWI brushed aside its historical leadership, once that leadership showed that it had lost its ability to provide able leadership, proves that the struggle to build the forces of revolution can continue successfully.
The forces of the Majority of have fought consistently against the split of the CWI but the split is today a fact, after the decisions of the IDWCTCWI July conference. The Majority therefore has the duty to constitute itself as a separate international force, and proceed to the World Congress, which was decided unanimously at the November 2018 IEC (only to be ignored by the Minority). We will provisionally organize the renewed international organization with the name “CWI – Majority”. The issue of the name will be discussed extensively in the period leading to the congress and final decisions will be taken at the congress itself.
The best traditions of the CWI will be saved, they will not disappear together with the blindfolded Minority. These traditions will be preserved by the Majority which will continue to base itself on the Marxist analysis of our epoch and on the ideas and methods of Lenin and Trotsky. The Majority will maintain and deepen its organic relationship to the working class, not as an outside force orientating to it but as an integral part of it. It will struggle to build the TU movement and to transform the TUs into democratic and fighting organizations and will assist attempts to build new mass left formations, armed with a socialist program. At the same time, it will orientate to new movements and phenomena, closely follow developments in mass consciousness, and aim to link them to the working class and the struggle for the socialist revolution.
For the Majority, theory and perspectives are crucial and will be developed in depth and be used as a guide to action, i.e. as a guide among other things to orient to new movements, currents and phenomena, in order to build the forces of revolution.
The transitional program and transitional method will remain indispensable tools in this struggle.
Democratic centralism is a fundamental principle in building our forces both on a national and an international level. Open, free, democratic discussion, with the freedom to question the correctness of the party’s program, tactics and actions and the leadership, is the completely necessary other side of centralism – the need to act in unity to achieve our aim. The Majority stands firm on the conviction that there are no “messiahs” and that correct ideas and method are always the result of collective effort. The international center can be effective as an international leadership only through a collective and comradely effort between the elected bodies of the international organization (the IS and the IEC) and between them and the leaderships of the national sections. The leadership should always be accountable and criticism should be made easy and free on all levels. The Majority will discuss, in the immediate period ahead, initiatives aiming to create an atmosphere of greater openness and freedom of criticism in the international organization. It will also discuss practical measures to enable greater control and check of the elected leadership and measures to enhance the accountability of the elected leading bodies.
But, of course, even the best democratic structures, traditions and statutes cannot prevent the organization entering crisis under specific circumstances. Internal differences and debates are inevitable in the period we live through – actually, in any period. An international organization that has a fully democratic and open approach concerning these debates, without ceasing to be an organization for action in the class struggle, is best equipped to make advances and fulfil its role in the next period. But what the crisis of the CWI confirms once again, is that once a section of the leadership loses its ability to further develop, provide able leadership, listen to criticism and accept different ideas with an open mind, then it can degenerate with extremely fast speed. The membership of the International must be aware that no leadership is immune to these dangers. No statutes or agreed procedures can, in themselves, protect an organization against these dangers, however necessary they are. The existence of a high political level in the membership of the organization is the only possible real defense, the absolutely indispensable tool, not to entirely avoid a crisis, but to minimize its repercussions.
In a certain sense, one of the most important outcomes of the faction fight has been that the big majority of the CWI has stood up to the historical leadership, opposed its wrong ideas and methods, and forced it into the position of a small minority. This reflects the high political level and the strong democratic traditions conquered by the membership and cadre of the CWI. The forces of the Majority have also proven in the past period their ability to innovate, to be flexible, to take bold initiatives, to make sacrifices, to conquer new grounds and to build. The CWI Majority will build in the working-class masses but it will also restore the traditions of the CWI of building in the youth. Based on these strengths, the CWI Majority is here to stay, to look to the future with confidence and optimism, and make decisive steps in the direction of a revolutionary alternative on a global scale.
By Leonard Chiwoniso Mhute and Sodindwa Malandelilanga – CWI Zimbabwe
On 16 August, the regime in Zimbabwe brutally attacked street demonstrations against the country’s seemingly endless economic and political crisis. The ruling elite fears a protest revolt such as in Sudan, having clearly seen the strength of the masses in action in the three day general strike in January.
After the toppling of long-time dictator Robert Mugabe through a military coup in November 2017, there was some anticipation that the ZANU-PF regime, now under Emmerson Mnangagwa, would adopt a different path and turn away from the repression and barbarism which characterised Mugabe’s rule. The coup was an elite response to the groundbreaking protest movements which began in 2016 and the masses largely welcomed Mugabe’s demise but had few illusions as to whether that signalled the collapse of his regime.
In 2019 Mugabe’s regime remains in power, with one of his lieutenants having succeeded him and having successfully managed to glue together a coalition of factions within the regime itself. Since his installation, Mugabe’s former right hand man Mnangagwa has intensified the already dire crisis. A third of the 16 million population is now estimated to be starving, according to the UN. The crises has been worsened by years of drought and the Cyclone Idai which ravaged parts of the country early in the year, for which the regime has been ill-fated to prepare and provide relief.
The regime has introduced what it calls the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, an austerity riddled policy, as its main economic blueprint. It has imposed a two percent tax on electronic transactions that previously cushioned the shortages of hard cash money for the masses. The regime has recently touted this tax of having resulted in a budget surplus of US$500 million. In January this year Mnangagwa announced a fuel price hike of 150 percent. This has deepened the shortages of food and basic living necessities such as water and electricity for the masses. In June. the rate of inflation took an exponential turn, rising from 98 percent to a staggering 176 percent.
These reactionary measures have only served to intensify the starvation and abject poverty of the masses. All of this is not new, as the regime has always sought to make the working class and impoverished masses pay for its own induced crises. Since the early 1990s neoliberal austerity measures that in practice exempt political cronies and bureaucrats have become permanent features. In the midst of shortages of basic needs such as food, fuel and basic medication in public hospitals and clinics, ZANU-PF elites are seen lavishly spending millions of dollars on luxury goods such as exotic supercars. Recently it was exposed that officials and cronies had embezzled a total of US$16 million from the NSSA, the country’s central pension agency.
As the crisis deepens, Zimbabwe has seen frequent and spontaneous episodes of mass rebellion from the Tajamuka/Sesijikile protests in 2016 to the more recent insurrection against electoral fraud which was brutally thwarted by the regime in August 2018.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions responded to the fuel price increase in January with a three-day general strike that shook the regime and demonstrated the yearning of the masses to move beyond spontaneity into more organised and concerted forms of resistance. The effectiveness of the ZCTU general strike was remarkable by a trade union federation that operates against the backdrop of a staggering 90 percent rate of unemployment and two decades of deindustrialisation.
The success can in large part be attributed to the struggles of public sector workers which comprise of school teachers and healthcare workers. Teachers and nurses receive slave wages equivalent to US$80 a month or US$2.50 a day. The total withdrawal of labour over the course of three days in January unmasked the redundancy of the regime. The general strike had a far reaching impact, to the extent that riot police could not report to work (either out of solidarity or because the sheer impossibility of quelling the incredible rebellion that simultaneously hit the townships in both Harare and Bulawayo). The turnout by unemployed youth, students and working class and poor communities was massive – an insurrection sparked and made possible by the ZCTU general strike.
What followed the strike was the expected brutality typical of the regime. After the three day strike had ended the regime unleashed soldiers into the townships to beat, torture, maim, kill, rape and commit all types of atrocities.
The leaders of ZCTU, its president and general secretary, continue to be in and out of jail over the January strike, and continuously face death threats. Since this flexing of muscles by the masses in January, the regime has continued to abduct, torture, assault and detain activists who are vocal against the regime, from trade union leaders to those in civil society. Opposition party MDC members have also not been spared by the regime’s barrage.
For the masses, the turn to increasingly violent methods by the regime serve as a barometer of the increasing precariousness of the regime’s grasp on power.
We agree with Alex Magaisa of the Big Saturday Read Blog where he observes that the regime is currently at a ‘cul–de-sac,’ unable to negotiate its way out from bankruptcy and insurmountable debt, unable to convince even some of its traditional backers in both Beijing and Pretoria to provide debt relief.
The regime has incorporated the structural adjustment policies of the International Monetary Fund such as reducing the public service wage bill, which was swiftly carried and resulted in the retrenchment and unemployment of thousands of public workers as well as the erosion of working conditions. In the face of protests, teacher strikes, the general strike and the possible all-out rebellion these could spark, however, the fearful regime has backtracked and on three occasions raised the wages to allow for some (wholly inadequate) compensation for rampant inflation. Part of the austerity policies is the reimposition, in June, of the Zimbabwe dollar that was abandoned in 2009.
The regional ruling classes solidarity with the regime in Harare has remained unshaken however, with Mnangagwa having been recently appointed the Chairperson of the SADC Troika on Politics, Peace and Security (Southern African Development Community has 15 member countries). The EU, despite its repeated condemnation of the human rights abuses, has remained open to ‘re-engagement’ with the regime.
While the MDC willingly participated in the fraudulent elections hosted by the regime in July 2018, outside of the elections it has for long called for dialogue with the regime as a way out of the crisis. After the crisis deepened in 2009 the MDC entered into a coalition government which in so many ways rescued the regime from being cast into the dustbin of history.
The call for the present mass protests by the MDC should be seen as being part of realising its programme which is to force the regime into a negotiated settlement. The MDC seeks to reform a capitalist crisis by negotiating with its creators and getting into the same government with it. Their programme consists of phrases such as “good governance”, but lack any real alternative, ultimately only expressing hope for foreign loans.
The increasing frequency of public demonstrations against the ZANU-PF regime indicates that the fear tactics used by the government while still effective enough to discourage most, are not as effective as before.
The period since 2017 underlines that a change in the country’s president was not in and of itself sufficient for the country’s condition to improve. Removing ZANU-PF from power is critical. However, removing ZANU-PF from power will be a futile endeavour if there is no clear programme. There is still a large vacuum that the MDC, ZCTU and the social protest group Tajamuka are not able to fill.
The demonstrations on 16 August were prevented from going ahead as planned and the MDC was forced to call off the demonstrations after a failed court appeal. Nevertheless, some protestors took to the streets. The violent reaction from the police is a clear example of the state’s armed thugs in action! Zimbabwe exemplifies the role of the state in maintaining the power of the elite and protecting their interests.
The task to overthrow ZANU-PF as well as the capitalist system in Zimbabwe remains. A concerted effort to unite the employed sections of the population, the urban as well as the rural populations must be made. Nearly forty years of “freedom” in Zimbabwe shows that true freedom must mean socialism and it is a socialist programme – a programme for the organised workers, youth and poor communities taking over all key economic resources such as the mines, the big farms, factories and banks and running them democratically for the needs of the majority, not the looting of an elite – that can unite the brewing struggles and at last lead them to victory. Removing ZANU-PF and placing another party in power would not be worthwhile if capitalism, with its inherent exploitation and plunder of human and natural resources, remains. In such a case, we would find ourselves having to demonstrate against that regime in the near future.