Zimbabwe: Capitalism only offers hunger and violence

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It took the authorities 5 weeks before the results of the Zimbabwean presidential election were officially revealed. ZANU-PF had lost control of parliament for the first time in the 28 years since ‘independence' and Robert Mugabe had already been told he'd lost the presidency outright. A run-off between Mugabe and the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai is due on 27 June.

In a report from the International Crisis Group, (they have lots of inside sources in Zimbabwe and South Africa), it is claimed that the Zimbabwean military have told Mugabe they can guarantee electoral victory. Certainly banning any MDC rallies for reasons of ‘security' shows the way the state is thinking. There has also been the suggestion that there might be either a pre-emptive military coup before the run-off, or after, if Tsvangirai wins.

Across Zimbabwe there has been a campaign of state intimidation and violence with arrests, beatings, torture and murder. The MDC claims more than 50 of its members have been killed and more than 25,000 driven out of their homes. The government has banned all aid agencies from helping the 4 million people who are dependent on them for food. Soldiers have been told that they must vote for Mugabe or leave the army.

Imperialist interest in Zimbabwe

All this is happening against a background of the Zimbabwean economy going through the floor. Whether inflation is running at 100,000% or 1,000,000%, it's a disaster, like the 80% unemployment rate. The once productive grain and tobacco farms have either been wrecked or neglected. Zimbabwe's involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 1998 and 2002 was ruinous. It's true that Zimbabwe has many natural resources, such as platinum, copper, nickel, coal, tin, gold and diamonds, but mines have been closing as costs have risen and operations have become more difficult with an infrastructure that is falling apart and with the sheer scale of the economic crisis.

Mugabe always says that the MDC is a tool of US and British imperialism, who he blames for ruining the Zimbabwean economy and causing instability. Of course Mugabe is trying to divert attention from the extraordinarily irrational, corrupt and economically devastating policies of the ZANU regime. And Mugabe's recent suspension of the activities of aid agencies in Zimbabwe - accused of campaigning on behalf of the MDC - will no doubt result in further starvation and neglect for the mass of the population. But he's not inventing the fact that the US and Britain have been backing the opposition. Indeed Tsvangirai has been praised throughout the west so enthusiastically that he's had to start playing it down, and has been trying to build up support in the region with meetings with the leaders of nearby countries. As for British and American capitalism, it should go without saying that they want to protect and expand their interests throughout Africa, and that specifically includes Zimbabwe. But they're not the only forces interested in gaining an influence in the country.

For a start, South African President Thabo Mbeki apparently has a strong personal dislike for Tsvangirai and has only ever considered a reformed ZANU-PF government with just a token opposition representation. But the South African ruling class is not united, as ANC leader Jacob Zuma has not only been critical of Mugabe but ensured ANC support for the MDC. As another example, Tsvangirai accused the South African government of playing a role in facilitating the delivery of weapons to land-locked Zimbabwe from a Chinese ship, the COSATU unions (part of the SA government and with connections with MDC-linked unions in Zimbabwe) ensured that when it docked in Durban workers refused to unload it.

Apart from the interests of Britain, the US, China and South Africa in Zimbabwe, leaders of neighbouring countries seem at present to be opting for the status quo, although it's clear they all know that South African imperialism will have a major say in anything that happens. Mbeki has already, according to the Washington Post, told Bush to "butt out" of Zimbabwe.

No national liberation

Although there has been much praise for Tsvangirai, the forces of the opposition are very divided, as would be expected in the face of such a catastrophic economic situation where no ‘solution' is credible.

In 2005 the MDC went through a bitter split, and although the factions got back together in time for the elections they are not the force they were. Of those who voted for them a great number must have been for just ‘anything but Mugabe'. In terms of being able to mobilise strikes and demonstrations the MDC has a long history of calling for actions that turn out to be damp squibs. It is significant that the MDC was formed as a political party in 1999, the year after the last major wave of riots and strikes against the effects of the economic crisis.

An estimated 3 million Zimbabweans have not stuck around to see if the MDC can bring in a better future and have escaped to South Africa. The recent wave of anti-foreigner violence there has presented them with an impossible choice (see front page article in this issue). They ran away from poverty and violence, to be greeted with violence and poverty. Post-apartheid South Africa still means exploitation and oppression for the majority of the population.

In Zimbabwe ZANU-PF's original coming to power was no liberation either. The Justice Minister accused Tsvangirai of endangering the gains of the revolution. This is a country where, in 2005, 700,000 people lost their homes when Mugabe had tens of thousands of shanty dwellings and illegal street stalls destroyed because he thought they were an embarrassment.

Yet the myth of ‘liberation' still has a hold on people. The Zim­babwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, which has recorded hundreds of incidents of violence and torture following the elections, said"the vicious and cowardly attacks by so-called war veterans on women, children and the elderly shames the memory of all true heroes of the liberation struggle". These war veterans fought for ZANU-PF to take over the Rhodesian capitalist state. The name of the country changed, but its capitalist and imperialist nature did not. Whether Mugabe is replaced or not, the conflict between his supporters and his opponents will continue. As elsewhere in Africa, capitalism only offers war, poverty, hunger and disease. The only real form of liberation that can be fought for is in the international struggle of the working class, which will have to destroy every capitalist state in the world. Car 6/6/8