Introduction – 2016
2016 saw the emergence of the most important mass movement in Zimbabwe for more than 15 years. With the youth at the forefront, but also involving traders, unemployed graduates, seasoned activists, and even military veterans, the Mugabe dictatorship was challenged, the movement driven by the grinding poverty and misery that his rule means for Zimbabwean society. The movement was heroic, but ultimately pushed back. Mugabe clung on to power.
In 1986, co-thinkers of the Marxist Workers Tendency (a forerunner of WASP) in Zimbabwe wrote an extensive analysis of the foundations of Mugabe’s capitalist regime. We are republishing that analysis thirty years later to assist in arming the new generation of Zimbabwean activists with a deeper understanding of the character of their enemy.
Written shortly after the first post-independence elections in 1985, many of the perspectives stand the test of time, not least of all the analysis of the class contradictions of Zimbabwean society that would push Mugabe towards ever more dictatorial methods of rule.
In 1986, we argued for an orientation toward the workers committees that had emerged from the post-independence strikes of 1980-81 to build a base from which to set about the transformation of the official trade unions. We also argued for an orientation toward ZANU(PF) to the extent that in 1986 it retained local structures that could be used as forums to reach the working class with Marxist ideas. Thirty years later the ‘official’ workers movement is an extension of the state and ZANU(PF) a gangster outfit. The tasks today are to build independent organisations of the working class, the unemployed, the poor, small farmers and the youth to wage a struggle for decent living standards and the overthrow of the Mugabe regime.
But in the intervening thirty years it is the international situation which has changed the most. In 1986, the Cold War between the imperialist powers of the West, especially the United States, and the Stalinist states of the USSR and Eastern Europe (and China) was still being fought; the apartheid regime was still entrenched in Pretoria though it was increasingly being challenged by the mass movement of the black working class; in Mozambique (bordering Zimbabwe and South Africa) capitalism had collapsed in the wake of the 1974 Portuguese revolution, replaced by the so-called ‘socialist’ regime of FRELIMO formed around the nucleus of the former guerilla army.
This history nevertheless remains vital to understand Zimbabwe today. The destabilization wrought by the apartheid regime, including a proxy war fought on the soil of Mozambique, and the Mugabe regime’s response, played an important role in shaping the future of Zimbabwe.
What the document did not anticipate was that the Cold War would end in a ‘victory’ for imperialism. This in turn prepared the ground for the South African negotiated settlement that defended and preserved apartheid’s capitalist economic foundations – within two years of coming to power the ANC was implementing the openly neo-liberal GEAR programme guaranteeing the continuation of inequality and the poverty of the black majority. Across the neo-colonial world, regimes that looked towards the USSR as an alternative model to capitalism, such as FRELIMO in Mozambique, already in crisis due to the limited national horizons of their ‘socialism’, saw their neo-colonial status in the world order restored and many social gains rolled back.
In other words, the developing socialist revolution in the Southern African region was cut across by enormous world events. If the details of world events were not anticipated in our 1986 analysis, their decisiveness in shaping the future of Zimbabwe was clearly put forward. This new world situation compounded all of the contradictions in Zimbabwean society and cut across the surest way out of the impasse that was already evident by the mid-1980s – the unity of the Southern African working class in the struggle for socialism.
The closing lines of our 1986 analysis remain fully valid today:
“The Zimbabwean revolution has opened and can be carried forward on Zimbabwean soil, but will only be completed with the revolution being carried out throughout Southern Africa.
In this setting alone, with Zimbabwean workers linking up with their South African comrades, can the Zimbabwean revolution be successful in completing the democratic tasks and starting on the road to a Socialist Federation of Southern African States.”
WASP remains fully committed to support the struggles of Zimbabwean workers, poor people and youth and looks forward to collaborating and working closely with all those genuine forces in struggle against Mugabe. Together we will build the unity of the working class across the region, the continent, and the world for the creation of a democratic socialist society free from poverty and unemployment.
- Mugabe Must Fall! For the immediate resignation of the Mugabe regime.
- Support mass border protests. Fight to end all import restrictions now! Build a mass movement of transport workers and small traders to blockade Beit Bridge and other border crossings until restrictions are lifted.
- Fight for the payment of all salaries and back-pay now! Build a rolling programme of strikes and mass demonstrations until wages are paid under the leadership of democratic workers’ committees.
- Demand the immediate release of all political prisoners. Free political prisoners in the same way Pastor Marawire was freed – build mass demonstrations outside of police stations and prisons until they are released.
- Build action committees of workers, youth, the unemployed, small traders and small farmers in every area to co-ordinate mass protests. Mass democratic committees of the Zimbabwean people to take decisions on the movement of goods, the running of services and other key decisions about the running of society.
- Action committees to organise accountable and democratically controlled self-defence units to protect protests and activists from regime intimidation and violence; seize the assets of Mugabe, Zanu-PF and other regime leaders, placing them under the control of the action committees; enforce a travel ban on Mugabe, Zanu-PF and all regime leaders.
- Leave the Mugabe regime paralysed and defenceless! Build action committees of rank-and-file police officers, soldiers and air personnel. Elect rank-and-file leaders and spokespeople and take no orders from regime-linked officers! Build links with the action committees of the people for a united struggle. Stamp-out the practice of roadblocks and bribes!
- Link-up all committees of the Zimbabwean people across districts, provinces and nationally to form a transitional authority to lay the foundation for a future government of workers and small farmers. Organise a trial of Mugabe and his cronies.
- No trust in the imperialist dominated anti-working class UN, AU or SADC. Build links with the working class across Southern Africa. Outside of Zimbabwe organise action committees in all Zimbabwean communities building strong links with local communities and working class and youth organisations. United struggle against xenophobia. Fight for migrants rights. Organise migrant workers in the trade union movement.
- Workers and young people to take the lead in building a mass revolutionary party to struggle for a socialist Zimbabwe drawing together all the leading activists of the mass movement against Mugabe.