The Socialist Alternative

To sum up: the government’s “socialism” exists in words only. Its real policy –promoting capitalism–has failed miserably to bring growth. Instead it has left the economy at the mercy of the multinational exploiters. The “socialism” of the Eastern European states–Stalinism–clearly offers no alternative. Bureaucratic misrule has brought their economies to the verge of collapse.

To find a way forward we must start by looking at the problems we face in Zimbabwe and carefully consider what steps are necessary to overcome them.

Democratic control of production remains essential to achieve the goals of the national liberation struggle. After the 1985 elections Zanu(PF) recognised that the task was to take “‘both political and economic power from the hands of the bourgeoisie and to place it in the hands of the working people”.

Generations of black working people fought heroically during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s to break the power of the settler regime and the capitalist class it defended. This would have made it possible to give land to the peasantry. It would have enabled the working class to change the nature of the economy — to invest resources where they are needed and create new wealth to raise the living standards of the masses.

State power in the hands of the workers and peasants is essential to carry out these tasks.

The state established in Zimbabwe as a result of white conquest was a capitalist state. Its laws and structures were imported ready-made from South Africa and Britain. Representatives of the white landowners and the ruling class in Britain and South Africa controlled the state apparatus — the armed forces, police, courts and bureaucracy — while blacks filled the lower ranks.

As in many other former colonial countries, our parents and grandparents can still remember how this state was imposed.

Since independence it is true that the capitalists no longer control the state directly through their own party (the CAZ). The flag has changed, many Zanu and Zapu members have been given jobs in the public service or armed forces and President Mugabe’s picture now hangs everywhere.

But has the nature of the state machinery itself changed in any fundamental way? The ZRP, the CIO, the courts and other state institutions still operate much as before. The State of Emergency proclaimed under white rule is still being renewed every year. The legal system is the same. The Department of Labour, in particular, continues to enforce the employers’ demands and anti-working class laws on workers who defend their interests.

Often the people who were in charge before independence are still in charge, with or without new black colleagues. Thus, years after independence, Smith’s security chief Ken Flower and a string of highly-paid whites were still running the CIO!

These people were trained to look after the interests of the capitalist class, to despise black workers, to enforce laws designed to repress the masses. Several senior CIO officers, for example, have even been exposed as South African agents!

Top officials enjoy the same luxurious lifestyle as the capitalists, and their children go to the same schools. Blacks appointed to senior positions have, in general, not represented the black masses — they have followed in the footsteps of the whites. “Get rich quick” has been adopted as their unofficial slogan.

Without the inherited wealth of the whites they have resorted to even more blatant theft and speculation to amass their fortunes in a hurry — as Willowgate and other scandals have shown.

Through nepotism, intrigue and corruption they loot the capitalist state. Without it they would be nothing. They can see society only from a capitalist standpoint; they can only act as defenders of capitalist property.

This leadership is rejected by the workers and peasants.

They welcomed the Sandura Commission which ex-posed corruption. But they see that the Leadership Code has not been implemented.

They are not prepared to leave the government in corrupt hands.

A crucial task for the workers now is to rebuild the workers’ committees to fight for their interests and establish democratic control of the trade unions.

This will form a basis for struggling to transform Zanu(PF) from the party of privileged leaders to an instrument of democratic rule by workers and peasants.

But could a Zanu(PF) government controlled by the workers and peasants use the existing state apparatus to carry the social transformation demanded by the masses?

A workers’ state

Marxists explain that a completely new state is needed — a state based on the workers and peasants.

The working class is the only class with the industrial and political power to defeat the capitalist state, to replace the capitalist class in running the economy and complete the tasks of the national liberation struggle. The workers’ movement, fighting for these aims, can attract and unify all the oppressed.

In Zimbabwe the peasants in particular form a large part of the population. They would massively support the working class in carrying out a programme of land redistribution (as outlined below in the box A socialist policy on the land).

Also the vast majority of rank-and-file state employees — including soldiers and many police, who are really workers or peasants in uniform — could be won to the side of the masses. They have no fundamental interest in defending the capitalist system. Harsh discipline, combined with bribes and indoctrination, is needed to enforce their obedience to their superiors.

By mobilising the mass of society, the workers’ movement can isolate the bureaucrats and officers who command the state and dismantle the whole oppressive machinery of capitalist rule. Only then will the stage be cleared for establishing a new state created by, and accountable to, the working class and peasantry.

Lenin, preparing for the seizure of power by the working class led by the Bolsheviks in 1917, explained the general features of the state that they needed to establish in order to implement their programme.

In place of the separate armed forces of the capitalist state the people themselves would carry arms. Military and police duties would be performed by the workers and peasants as part of their working hours.

Every officer and leading official would be directly elected. They would receive no higher wages than a skilled worker and no special privileges. If they lost the confidence of those who elected them, they could immediately be replaced.

Many tasks of administration (for example, the allocation of housing) would be performed by the workers themselves — either part-time (like workers committees in the factories) or being released from other duties for temporary periods.

After the experience of Stalinist one-party dictatorships, Marxists would add to Lenin’s points today: no one-party state; freedom for political parties except fascists; freedom of the press, speech and assembly. Against the totalitarian methods of the Stalinists, Marxists also insist on the workers’ right to organise independent trade unions and to strike.

Only by measures such as these will the working people be able to select men and women dedicated to the interests of the masses to carry out the tasks of government and defence.

Within such a state, however, the working class, controlling the urban centres of production and administration, would be the leading force. This is why we call it a workers’ state.

Because it is directly controlled by the masses, it will offer the best guarantee of independence from imperialist manipulation.

A socialist policy on the land

The land would be taken out of the hands of the big companies and capitalist farmers, and out of the control of bureaucrats and chiefs, in order to place it at the disposal of the working people. Joint committees of agricultural workers and their unions, peasants and government representatives could then be established to work out and implement a programme of land reform (including irrigation and other vital questions).

The former capitalist farms would provide the basis for a sector of large-scale mechanised farming, democratically run by the workers as in other industries. This could be organised to meet the basic requirements of the country in terms of food and exports.

Wages, hours, working conditions and social facilities (for example, schools and clinics) equal to those in the towns could be secured by these workers.

Every peasant family that wishes to cultivate its own plot would receive enough land and assistance to make a living. The benefits already extended to the peasantry since independence would be increased to meet their needs.

Nationalisation under workers control and management

The first task of a workers’ and peasants’ government would be to take over the commanding heights of the economy. Imperialism has simplified this task for us by concentrating most of Zimbabwe’s productive resources into the hands of a few big corporations (see picture below).

Effective control over industry, mining, finance and the land would be obtained by nationalising the Anglo-American and Lonrho groups of companies together with TA Holdings, the banks and a few other key companies.

As an argument against nationalisation, the capitalists like to point at Mozambique where, despite state ownership, the economy is on the verge of collapse.

They claim that Mozambique’s suffering is a result of “socialism”. This is a lie. It is a direct result of South African destabilisation, economic sabotage and military intervention.

They also take pleasure in the economic collapse of the deformed workers’ states of Eastern Europe. They argue that it proves the “failure” of socialism and the superiority of the “free market” (capitalism).

Again this is a lie. The crisis in Eastern Europe and the USSR demonstrates the failure of one-party bureaucratic dictatorships. It shows the need for democratic working-class control and management to organise production.

In reality, nationalisation of the key industries on the basis of workers’ democracy would offer fundamental advantages over capitalism. Production could then be planned, not left to the mercy of big business.

In every workplace the conditions could be transformed. The corruption, incompetence and dictatorial capitalist methods of management that we see in the state-owned sector today could be stamped out. Strong, democratically-elected workers’ committees would be established in every workplace to supervise the day-to-day running of affairs.

No longer would administrators and managers be a law unto themselves; like other skilled workers the way they perform their duties will be under the scrutiny of the workforce as a whole.

Workplaces and industries would be run by joint bodies representing the people working there, the trade unions and the workers’ government. For the first time the mass of the people would be involved in running the economy and the state. This would release enormous reserves of energy and initiative which are kept bottled up under capitalism and Stalinism.

Those elected to leading positions (“managers”) would have the task of organising production on behalf of all the workers. If they fail to win the confidence of their fellow-workers, they could be replaced.

A democratically planned economy

The aim of workers’ rule and state ownership is to abolish the waste of producing for profit only and, instead, to harness the country’s resources on the basis of a plan of production. Such a plan would be determined by the needs of the masses, and drawn up by the organisations of the people themselves.

How many homes are needed, and where? Which products are in short supply and which are too many? Which spare parts are needed in each workplace? How many nurses, bricklayers, physiotherapists, mechanics, teachers, welders, social workers or computer operators are needed in each area? Are there enough facilities for training the necessary skilled workers?

These and many other questions would be answered by elected committees representing every section of the working people — women, youth, peasants, etc. — in every town, neighbourhood or village. These facts and figures, combined with the requirements of export trade and the state, would form a basis for working out a national plan of production.

Targets could then be agreed for each branch of industry, mining, agriculture and transport to help meet the needs of the country as a whole.

Work would be allocated to individual workplaces and divided among the available workseekers. Education and training would be boosted to meet to the requirements of the national plan. There would be far greater scope for the development of individual initiative than the capitalist system can permit.

Advances in technology and productivity would benefit the whole working population in the form of shorter hours, better conditions, a cleaner environment and better consumer goods.

The workers’ organisations would organise production in each workplace jointly with elected state officials. They would ensure that wages are sufficient to cover workers’ needs in accordance with the provisions of the plan.

On this basis many thousands of jobs would become available for schoolleavers. There would also be the option of further education — not to produce a more educated class of unemployed, as at present, but to create the skills that are needed and allow a flowering of creative talent.


But this gigantic economic and social transformation could not be achieved within the boundaries of Zimbabwe alone.

In the first place, a democratic workers’ state anywhere in the world would present a deadly threat to the interests of the capitalist class as well as the Stalinist bureaucracies in the East.

South Africa could certainly not live in peace with a revolutionary workers’ state on its doorstep, whose very existence would galvanise the black workers to fight for power. (Because of the close ties between South Africa and Zimbabwe, however, it is most likely that a movement capable of overthrowing capitalism in Zimbabwe would develop in the context of a general upsurge of the working class in South Africa and, from there, the sub-continent as a whole.)

The imperialists would counter-attack with every means at their disposal. If military invasion is impossible, an economic blockade would be attempted to starve Zimbabwe to death. But with the active, direct support of the working class internationally, imperialist pressures could be defeated and the workers’ state could survive.

This means, first and foremost, building links of common struggle with the mighty black working class of South Africa.

Bare survival, however, is not the aim of our struggle. We must transform the economy, raise living standards and create a life of freedom and security — good homes, well-paid jobs, education, land — for everyone.

With the limited resources of an under-developed country like Zimbabwe, this is impossible. To achieve it, the working class needs to lay hold of the highest achievements of capitalism in the developed countries: the most advanced technology, machinery and culture — and then, harnessing the full capacities of the masses by means of workers’ democracy and planning, advance production to new levels where the needs of everyone could be satisfied.

With the working class in command of society and living standards dramatically increasing, other sections of the people will be drawn towards the working class. Class differences in society, and the need for state power itself, would eventually disappear.

This, generally, is the meaning of socialist transformation.

Clearly Zimbabwe on its own cannot accomplish this. The struggle for workers’ rule and socialism in Zimbabwe can only succeed as part of an international struggle by the working class for control of the “commanding heights” of the world economy and socialist transformation world-wide.

This does not mean that we must wait for the workers in other countries to take power “first”. We must wage the struggle in Zimbabwe with all our strength, while linking up with the workers’ movement of other countries — especially South Africa.

Our aim should be the achievement of workers’ rule in Zimbabwe as part of a chain of victories for the working class internationally. That would seal the doom of capitalism in the whole world.

Explain the tasks!

These tasks will become increasingly clear to broader sections of workers, youth and peasants in the countless struggles that will take place in the workplaces, schools and universities, in the townships and on the land — for wage increases; against dismissals; against oppressive working conditions; against rent rises; for land; for the replacement of corrupt officials; for democratic rights.

These struggles will educate tens of thousands of men, women and youth in the need to organise and to control the leadership of their organisations. They will eagerly search for a programme and strategy that can take the struggle forward. Socialists who are able to explain the solutions of Marxism to their fellow-strugglers will gain increasing support.

Youth and workers unite!

The youth have played a key role in the liberation of Zimbabwe. Students have been in the frontline of the movement against corruption. These youth, joined by the hundreds of thousands of school students, can become the front line troops of the struggle for workers’ democracy if they study the ideas of Marxism and link themselves to the movement of the industrial workers.

On their own the youth don’t have the power to change society. By linking up with the workers in their own areas, in local factories, townships or farms, their energy can he combined with the power of the working class to create an unstoppable force.

Build direct links!

Workers employed by Anglo, Lonrho and other multinationals have a special role in the struggle.

They are working for the bosses who dominate the country; they are in the forefront of the struggle to bring the key sectors of the economy into public ownership.

At the same time they are linked to the workers employed by the same multinationals in other countries. This gives them special opportunities to develop the international ties which the workers’ movement of Zimbabwe requires.

So important is international solidarity to the oppressed of the world that even middle-class politicians and Stalinist bureaucrats praise it in their efforts to win mass support. To such people, however, “international solidarity” means “summit conferences” and bureaucratic get-togethers in luxury hotels.

To us, international solidarity is an extension of the support we give each other in the struggle in Zimbabwe itself.

For example, representatives of workers’ committees within the same municipality can get together to plan a campaign.

In the same way representatives of workers at Anglo mines in different Southern African countries might need to plan a common campaign in order to win a key battle against Anglo management and extend the benefits to Anglo workers everywhere.

Workers will expect this task to be carried out by their trade union officials. In fact, union officials in many countries are controlled by the state and do not represent the workers in any way. Even where genuine unions have been built (as in South Africa) the workers, held back by state repression, are not always able to control union leaders.

That is why socialists explain that workers themselves must build international links with each other, even while campaigning for their leaders to do so.

In Zimbabwe a first step would be the establishment of “combine committees” within the major companies — for example, an Anglo-American combine committee with representatives from the workers’ committees in every Anglo company in Zimbabwe.

Such a combine committee could harness the strength and coordinate the demands of workers throughout the Anglo group, from Bindura to Hippo Valley. It could have major influence within the trade unions representing the workers in the different sectors, and serve as an example to workers in other multinationals. It could play a big part in the struggle for democratic workers’ control over the trade unions.

It could also take up contact with Anglo workers in South Africa and other countries with a view to establishing an international combine committee. The same could be done by the workers of Lonrho companies and other multinationals.

The youth in particular can play a pioneering role in linking up workers in the different countries, even as far afield as Europe and the USA — the energy and initiative of the youth have no limits!

Take the excellent example of comrade Tokozani who visited Soweto in 1989 and met supporters of the Marxist Workers’ Tendency of the African National Congress. He spoke to several ANC branches built by these comrades and had many fruitful discussions with them.

“In the meetings where I spoke,” he says, “the comrades wanted to know what lessons should be drawn from the experience of Zimbabwe.” In return he learned from the South African comrades how they organise themselves and how they analyse the perspectives and tasks ahead of them.

His report, printed in Izwi/Ilizwi in November 1989, was reprinted in Inqaba ya Basebenzi, the journal of the Marxist Workers’ Tendency of the ANC (February 1990), and will be studied by activists in both countries.

Now the whole of Southern Africa faces a period of turmoil as a new chapter opens in the South African revolution.

There are big hopes in South Africa, following the unbanning of the ANC and the release of Nelson Mandela, of a negotiated settlement to end apartheid and establish majority rule. For a period, many will see negotiations as a peaceful way forward. But the existing state and white reaction will deny power to the black majority and launch repeated attacks on the movement. Again and again the black masses will be confronted with the need to overthrow and replace capitalist state power in order to achieve democracy.

Workers and youth in Zimbabwe will want to support them all the way, even as we step up the struggle against capitalist domination in our own country.

Every retreat of the SA regime before the black working-class movement is cause for joyful celebration in the rest of Southern Africa. But more than celebration is needed for victory. By establishing links, as comrade Tokozani has done, and building on these links to develop the means of common struggle, we can greatly increase our strength against the monster of South African imperialism.

We can clarify our common demands, strategies and tactics. Workers in Zimbabwe can learn many lessons from the South African workers’ struggle against the Labour Relations Act (LRA), which is similar to the LRA which oppresses us. We can organise active support for those in struggle in South Africa, Zambia and all the other countries of the region.

The strength of the South African working class will strengthen us in every other country. Linked together, we would be in the best position to follow it up with victories of our own — over South African multinationals and other sections of the capitalist class.

The overthrow of the regime in South Africa by the organised black masses would bring most of the means of production in the sub-continent under the control of the working class. It would ensure the defeat of capitalism throughout the region. It would lay the foundation for a Southern African federation of workers’ states, co-operating in the economic development of the sub-continent.

In addition, it would have a mighty impact on the consciousness of workers and youth around the world, and give an enormous push forward to the workers’ revolution internationally.

These are the perspectives we must fix our eyes on even in the midst of the day-to-day struggles — in the workplace; in the townships; against the oppression of the bosses; against the government’s capitalist policies; for a Zanu(PF) government that is truly of the workers and peasants.

Thousands of workers and youth are crying out for ideas that can show a way forward — out of poverty and landlessness, towards democracy and socialism. We must share these ideas with our comrades. We must mobilise and educate. This will help to build a force, in Zimbabwe and internationally, that can defeat imperialism and change the world.

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