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From The Socialist newspaper, 30 June 2000

Mugabe's iron grip weakened

THE FINAL results of the Zimbabwe election were coming in as The Socialist went to press. It looked most likely that Mugabe's ZANU-PF would cling to power on the basis of 'radical' rhetoric and widespread use of intimidation and terror tactics.

Keith Pattenden

Despite this, the huge turnout and the massive vote for the MDC opposition shows that that Mugabe's terror tactics haven't fully paid off.

This close-run electoral 'victory' for Mugabe is a culmination of mass opposition that has grown in recent years, most significantly among the organised working class, led by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). Mass resistance to wage cuts, privatisation and economic decline has seen big strike movements both official and unofficial.

The decision of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to mount an electoral challenge to ZANU-PF had mass support despite Mugabe's increasingly desperate tactics.

If anything Mugabe's tactics increased the mass determination to be rid of this hated regime. Western imperialism is desperately trying to stabilise the situation but also protested that the elections were unfair.

Further instability and violence is likely to follow the election results. The need for a mass working-class party offering fundamental socialist change in Zimbabwe and throughout Africa is urgently posed.

Zimbabwe's political crisis

DESPITE MASSIVE intimidation orchestrated by the ruling ZANU-PF, many people refused to be cowed and turned out en masse, particularly in the urban areas, to try and turf Mugabe's government out of office.

ZANU-PF, in power since independence, failed to satisfy the aspirations awakened by its "Marxist" rhetoric during the liberation struggle, are seen as little better than any other post-independence government: making the country safe for capitalism and attracting inward investment from multinational corporations. The working class, poor peasantry and landless have suffered years of desperate poverty and many are materially worse off than under white rule.

Mugabe has used Bonapartist methods to combine repression and returning to his old 'radical' demagogy to try to smash the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The occupations of white-owned farms, brutal attacks on opposition activists and condemnations of Britain as the former colonial power were all aimed at undercutting the MDC.

Initially formed by ZCTU as part of its campaign against anti-working class measures, MDC rapidly moved to the right when it won support from sections of the business elite and farm-owners. To placate Western political and business opinion, it promised to continue with a neo-liberal agenda even before it was elected.

This is what happened in Zambia after Chiluba, also a trade union leader, was elected president in 1991.

This then allowed Mugabe to adopt a radical pose and play on popular fears about the MDC being a stooge of imperialism.

The Socialist Party has consistently opposed Mugabe maintenance of capitalism and landlordism in Zimbabwe. But equally we reject the hypocritical attitude of Cook, Hain and Blair who condemn Mugabe's despotism and use of violence as though they have only just realised the character of his regime.

Mugabe has always ruthlessly suppressed his opponents, including the mass-murder of thousands of ZAPU supporters in Matebeleland in 1983, and has used prime farming land to reward his political cronies and army officers. Yet not a word of criticism was heard from Western capitalist politicians.

As long as he defended international big business interests, Mugabe was given a free hand. The West's sudden change is because of Mugabe's incitement of land occupations and threats to redistribute white farming land without compensation.

This could have repercussions beyond Zimbabwe's borders, possibly igniting a process beyond imperialism's control and destabilising the whole region. This concern, recently exacerbated by Mugabe's comments, since retracted, about seizing British-owned assets, explains the switch of Western imperialism's support to the MDC.

Mugabe said in advance he would not recognise an MDC victory and would govern through presidential decree. If he continues to try and ignore the MDC it will provoke widespread unrest on the streets and in the workplaces.

Mugabe's answer could then be to fall back on the army and police, or rekindle the ethnic conflict between Shona and Ndebele, so desperate is he to maintain power.

However, in the short term there could be imperialist intervention to finance land reform, or broker an interim power-sharing deal. Since there are few fundamental differences between Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, this could suit all the main players. The MDC has already said it would not ask Mugabe to quit office before 2002.

Whatever the final outcome, the underlying problems facing the masses will remain unresolved and they will be left politically unarmed.

Any new administration will inherit a crisis-ridden economy, worsened by the political crisis. Attempts to resolve this on a capitalist basis can only be at the workers' and peasants' expense.

Real change will only come when there is a powerful socialist opposition committed to fundamental change. Only the working class can provide this.

The trade unions must break from the influence of pro-capitalist elements within MDC and build a genuine working-class party. Armed with a socialist programme of democratic nationalisation of land and all the assets of the capitalist class, combined with appeals for solidarity action from the working classes throughout Africa and worldwide, this could end the super-exploitation of the African people for good.

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In The Socialist 30 June 2000:

Labour Pampers Its Fat Cats

Pride Not Profit

Not so 'gay friendly' New Labour

The TUC's 'Straight Up!' Campaign

Uniting against fascist threats

Mugabe's iron grip weakened

Angry Ford workers demand action

Signal workers vote for strike

RMT conference: delegates defy leaders

Left win in Tipperary

Keeping it out of the family

Cuba: Socialism and democracy


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