Lately Zimbabwe has been much in the news. The bourgeois media and the British government have portrayed a picture of lawless black mobs, egged on by the Zimbabwean government, attacking the farms of poor, innocent, law-abiding white farmers. The truth is that a hundred years ago, Cecil Rhodes’ colonialist marauders stole, at gun point, the land belonging to the original inhabitants. This process of expropriation continued right up to and under the racist Smith minority regime – with scant regard for the rights of blacks and with not a murmur of protest from either the British government or the bourgeois media. Even today, 20 years after independence, a mere 7,000 white farmers occupy 35 million acres of the best land of Zimbabwe, while half a million black farmers eke out a miserable existence on the 40 million acres comprising the worst soil in the country. If President Mugabe’s government is to be criticised at all, then it must be reproached for not having expropriated the expropriators of Zimbabwe’s land earlier.
Ever since direct imperialist rule was roundly defeated in Zimbabwe in 1979, the anti-imperialist leadership of ZANU-PF has been the frequent target of hate-propaganda aimed at destabilizing that country’s independent progress. Now, under the pressure of deepening imperialist crisis, that campaign of lies and hatred is reaching a crescendo.
But the bigger the lies, the deeper the pit imperialism is digging for itself. The 1979 overthrow of the vile apatheid regime of Ian Smith, amply funded throughout its fourteen year span by sanctions-busting multinationals, was made possible by the dedication and sacrifice of a whole generation of liberation fighters, and sent shock waves through imperialists everywhere. Subsequent attempts to sow division within the liberation forces were decisively rebuffed, and thereafter the united front leadership of ZANU-PF has continued undaunted in its resistance to economic blackmail and hostile propaganda alike. Efforts by the IMF and World Bank to sacrifice Zimbabwe’s social aspirations on the altar of economic neo-liberalism have been resisted; the policy of gradual expropriation of the huge white-owned estates has been steadfastly pursued; and this struggle for Zimbabwe’s right to independent existence has been connected with the international anti-imperialist movement through the armed defence of the Congo against imperialist meddling.
All of this has proved more than the West can willingly bear, which is why there is every sign of a concerted campaign to douse this beacon of African anti-imperialism, once and for all. The present round of Goebbels-level propaganda kicked off with New Labour Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain (one-time single-issue anti-apartheid campaigner) taking time off from baiting asylum seekers to throw a tantrum over the behaviour of Harare’s customs officers. Their “sin” was to ask for a description of the cargo inside some diplomatic baggage destined for the British embassy. Flouting diplomatic protocol, this request was flatly refused, obliging the Harare authorities to see for themselves what lay within. Hain’s radio interview on the matter was revealing. In between racist splutter about Zimbabwe putting itself beyond the pale of civilized nations etc., Hain let slip that the cargo about which the British Embassy was so bashful consisted of
“some simple scanning equipment”
. Two explanations suggest themselves. Either Hain’s subsequent nervous blether about this being entirely non-sinister equipment, just standard issue in embassies throughout the world, was true – in which case the whole incident had been concocted in the first place solely to give imperialism an opportunity to traduce Zimbabwe. Or this “
simple scanning equipment”
was indeed standard issue to British embassies throughout the world – as part of the arsenal of espionage and subversion which imperialism routinely requires to keep tabs on its imperialist rivals and its anti-imperialist opponents alike. Readers must judge which explanation is the likelier, but the end result is much the same: this ugly provocation by British imperialism was an opening shot in a new phase of the propaganda war against Robert Mugabe and the ZANU-PF leadership.
The clear aim of this unfolding propaganda war is to undermine the success of that leadership at the elections, which are coming soon. The unity of liberation forces, which has long weathered all attempts to divide it, has resulted in a situation where the vast majority of representatives to Harare’s legislature are ZANU-PF. Choices are made between different representatives of this common revolutionary tradition, rather than between parties, and only a handful of representatives are non-party. Bourgeois journalists naturally point to this as evidence of lack of democracy, but are unable to explain how the imposition of formal multiparty democracy would strengthen by one jot the Zimbabwean people’s efforts to resist IMF diktat, return land to the landless, prevent their country from becoming a proxy in the competition between imperialists for influence in the African continent, or defend their Congolese brothers and sisters against imperialist meddling.
Remember how Washington’s aggressive campaign to prop up an electoral opposition to the revolutionary Sandinista leadership in Nicaragua, conducted throughout under the smokescreen of “multiparty democracy”, was all along aimed at stopping the Nicaraguan revolution in its tracks. Once this was achieved, the
democratic gains made by the poor and oppressed in Nicaragua (thanks to the Sandinista-led campaign of armed struggle, first against the fascist Somoza regime and then against the US-funded Contras) have been systematically stolen back from the people. But of course, this has been done in the most “civilised” and “multiparty democratic” way the likes of Hain could wish for.
In answer to reactionary prayers at home and abroad, a Zimbabwean opposition party has now been spirited into existence, just months before the elections are due, the grandiosely styled Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The opposition MDC was formed towards the end of 1999. The man they chose as figurehead for this counterrevolutionary lash-up was Morgan Tsvangirai.
A brief look at his “services” to Zimbabwe in the last few years makes it clear why he was chosen as “our man in Harare”. He came to public prominence in January 1998. When the World Bank publicly accused Zimbabwe of having failed to implement enough of the neo-liberal “reforms” it was demanding, the value of the currency halved and prices shot through the roof. The private millers tried to shift the economic burden onto the poor, raising the price of the staple maize meal by a total of 45% in the course of January. Riots in townships south of Harare spilt into the centre. Struggling to control the situation, the ZANU-PF government ordered the private millers to scrap part of the price increase, whilst insisting that they share the national economic burden by continu
ng to buy grain from the state marketing board at the usual price. At the same time ZANU-PF ran a political education campaign to raise awareness of the way in which some (predominantly white) businessmen were trying to make the country ungovernable by raising prices. Meanwhile the European Union piled on the pressure, warning that a £14m loan to Zimbabwe would be contingent upon ZANU slowing down the planned expropriation of over 1,400 farms owned by wealthy white landlords. Right at the height of this crisis, with class struggle raging within the
ountry and imperialist inter
erence ever more arrogant, who should pop up but – Morgan Tsvangirai, in his capacity as head of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), an organization which the
(24/1/98) reported to have
“recently reinvented itself as Blairite”
. The report went on:
Mr Tsvangirai was reluctant to admit to a game plan. The ZCTU, which organized a strike against price rises last month, has been accused of having a role in this week’s riots.
“You have to be very discreet when you are dealing with a government which has fascist tendencies,”
What kind of “independent” political leadership was Tsvangirai and his friends offering as these strikes and riots were breaking out? One which joined ZANU-PF in working to educate the masses about the true nature of imperialism abroad and reaction at home, and striving to maintain unity of the progressive forces in the struggle to complete the national democratic revolution? Clearly not, since this kind of political leadership is vilely slandered as
. Rather, by using his trade union position as a pulpit from which to denounce ZANU-PF as
, Tsvangirai walks in the sacred footsteps of “Saint” Lech Walesa, who led Poland on its disastrous retreat from socialism.
Undeterred, ZANU-PF continued to give a political lead to the class struggle unfolding in the countryside. By the following winter, the
was reporting (21/11/98) that, in the teeth of hostility from the IMF and the World Bank, Mugabe’s government
“seized 841 white-owned farms”
in one week, and large groups of squatters were camped out on the farms, dividing their energies between planting out maize and singing revolutionary songs. One squatter leader is quoted as saying,
“This land used to belong to our forefathers. We need this land. Our government will not tell us to move from here. Even if the police tell us to move, we will stay.”
Once again, Mr Tsvangirai raises his head, saying that both the expropriations and the military assistance to the Congo
“are creating a lot of trouble for our country -
but they are bringing us ever closer to the final solution
” (emphasis added). What was intended by this ominous phrase? Speaking in 1998, with elections no elections due before 2000, it could hardly be a parliamentary democratic
that this demagogue had in mind.
Now that imperialist meddling is reaching a climax, hoping to use the MDC as a Trojan Horse in the upcoming elections, Tsvangirai is the natural choice as imperialist puppet-in-chief. But in reporting his elevation from trade union leader to political superstar, the
sounds a note of caution. “
It remains to be seen whether the party’s calls for political reform…will impress the 10 million rural voters”
, they note anxiously, adding that this clown’s lack of
“track record in the…struggle for independence”
makes him dubious presidential material (
As before in the case of the grain-mill owners, the tobacco farmers are now being egged on by imperialism to hold Zimbabwe’s economy to ransom. These barons are threatening not to being their tobacco to auction at the end of April unless prices are jacked up by another punishing devaluation, like the one endured by the poor in 1998. At time of writing the result of this blackmail is not yet known, but ZANU-PF’s popular opposition to devaluation is strengthened by two considerations. Firstly, two of the banks who must be consulted are themselves owned by the state. Secondly, there are signs of divisions breaking out between rival banking interests. For example, Barclays has decided its best exploitation-option is to go ahead with its US$30m loan for fuel procurement, rather than follow the
“starve them into submission”
, 28/3/00). Such splits within imperialism can only deepen the uncertainty and nervousness of reactionaries everywhere.
Imperialism indeed has cause to be nervous when confronted both with the reality of the class struggle in Zimbabwe’s countryside and with the abiding prestige the revolutionary armed-struggle tradition continues to enjoy – as the MDC discovered to their cost when on Saturday April 1st they staged a provocative march through Harare for the benefit of Western journalists. The firm rebuff these April fools received from patriotic Zimbabweans brought predictable howls of rage and floods of crocodile tears from the capitalist press, and dire warnings of Zimbabwe being led into “anarchy” and “mob rule”. The reality, however, is that imperialist meddling is the real threat to stability and progress in Zimbabwe, and not the anti-imperialism of ZANU-PF.
For imperialism, Zimbabwe’s fierce independence sets a most uncomfortable example for oppressed peoples everywhere. With bated breath, the
(3/3/00) notes that the
“number of farms taken over by groups backed by veterans of the country’s guerrilla war for independence reached 70″
. Worse still, the ZANU-PF leadership has the temerity to give political backing to this drive for self-emancipation by the landless, with the announcement of a constitutional amendment permitting the expropriation of land without compensation. Three weeks later, the
is still counting, reporting the Commercial Farmers Union as lamenting that there are now more than 700 farm occupations. And these class upheavals are playing out through all levels of Zimbabwean society, it seems:
Zimbabwe’s high court instructed the commissioner of police to evict the war veterans and their political supporters…but both the police and the government have gone back to the courts, appealing against the judgement.
The class struggle unfolding in Zimbabwe is not just about handing over a few symbolic farms to make an electoral point, nor is it about “anti-white” scaremongering, as the
racists of the capitalist press pretend. What is being fought for is the very future of Zimbabwe. There are over a third of a million farm workers in Zimbabwe, the largest single group of workers. Along with their families, they are more than two million strong. Often forced to live in appalling conditions, they sweat their lives away on vast privately owned estates, producing tobacco, tea, coffee and maize, for sometimes as little as £18 a month. In 1997, the
told how these workers, demanding to be paid £42 a month,
“launched a wave of strikes that has brought the country’s commercial farming sector to its knees”.
“Thousands of singing, chanting workers … blocked highways for days,”
they reported, quoting one striker as saying:
“We have been downtrodden too long. Zimbabwe is independent. We can stand up for our rights. We want better pay so our families can live better”
, 11/10/97). It is this revolutionary spirit which knows how to fight imperialism, and in particular how to fight
imperialism, so vilely championed by the hypocrites of New Labour, “anti-apartheid” Hain and “ethical” Cook, or by the no less vile opportunists of the Labour government who took office in 1946, the year in which British Colonial police, exercising authority invested by Whitehall, uprooted one peasant family amongst many. Ephraim Nyakujura, aged 83 when he told his story in 1997, explained:
We grew lots of maize, soya beans, sorghum and millet. We could even grow rice in some wet spots. It was very fertile…The Rhodesian police gathered us at a meeting and told us we would be forced off the land…We were shocked. We didn’t believe it was possible. But a year later they came back and they forced us away. They had guns and trucks. What could we do?…We carried things on our heads and packed belongings in a cart. We had six cattle then. The Rhodesians destroyed our huts as we left. Anyone who resisted was arrested and their belongings destroyed. We tried to come back to see our ancestors’ graves, but they wouldn’t let us. (Guardian, 14/12/97)
Down with imperialist meddling in Zimbabwe!