Over the past decade the mighty struggles in Southern Africa—in Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa itself—have been a flame of inspiration for the whole of the African continent, and for oppressed people everywhere.
Like the war of liberation in Vietnam, and like the struggles in Central America today, the unfolding revolution in Southern Africa rivets the attention of the world because of the entrenched and murderous forces of imperialism which the people confront. Every advance shows the weakening of those forces internationally, and confirms that the tide of the colonial revolution cannot be reversed.
Within Southern Africa, despite the diversity of circumstances, all the national revolutions interlink. The guerilla wars in Zimbabwe and Namibia drew strength from the victories in Mozambique and Angola. Within South Africa, the political conditions for the outbreak of mass revolt in 1976 were to an important extent prepared by the collapse of Portuguese colonial rule, the coming to power of Frelimo in Mozambique, the victory of the MPLA in the Angolan civil war, and the rolling back of the South African invasion of Angola.
In turn, the advancing movement of the black workers and youth in South Africa has helped to deter the regime from full-scale invasions against the revolutions to the north. It has helped to weaken the forces of reaction within each country, and to raise the confidence and consciousness of the working people throughout the region.
Nevertheless the South African capitalist regime continues to menace the entire sub-continent with its military forces; with bombings, cross-border raids, and limited invasions; with military and economic sabotage, blackmail and manipulation. Only the victory of the revolution in South Africa itself will free Southern Africa from these evils.
All the countries of the region are bound together by economic ties which have arisen from the whole development of capitalism, and which are strengthened year by year. Especially the rise of South Africa as an industrial power has fused Southern Africa together in a single economic entity within the framework of the world economy.
South African capitalism is the colossus of the sub-continent. It dominates production, employment, trade, finance and transport in the region as a whole. The value of a year’s production in South Africa is more than three times that of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana put together.
The tentacles of the South African monopolies, led by the Anglo-American Corporation, have spread across the region, sucking profit from the workers’ labour. The Witwatersrand is not only the industrial and financial capital of the whole of Southern Africa—it is also the centre of the migrant labour system which links the working class of almost all the Southern African countries together in a single web of exploitation and oppression.
Thus South Africa is able to exert its continued economic domination over the region, even while its political grip is weakened. While immense strides forward have been taken in Southern Africa in the struggle against colonial and white minority regimes, even the greatest victories have demonstrated that only partial and limited advances can be made within the confines of one country.
To solve the problems of poverty and under-development—to ensure real self-determination and freedom from domination—means to go beyond the national boundaries. The solution to these problems can be found only on a regional and, ultimately, an international basis.
The formation of the Southern African Development and Coordination Conference by nine independent states in the region is conceived of as a means of drawing their economies more closely together for mutual protection against the pressures of South African capitalist power. They hope in this way to be able to develop industry and an infrastructure of roads, railways and ports, sufficient to free them from dependence on the white-ruled south.
But these states lack the means of financing the necessary investment. Nor, with the crisis of the economies of the industrialised world, is there any prospect of obtaining sufficient aid. (The bulk of the money “allocated” to SADCC consists of existing aid promised to the participating governments, and merely re-allocated on paper to SADCC.)
However genuine the intentions of its proponents, SADCC cannot overcome the barriers of under-development and the nation-state. It does not provide a real means of escape from the predatory clutches of international and South African monopoly capital, seeking to expand their own markets and preserve their established spheres of influence and exploitation.
There is therefore no alternative but a struggle to smash the power of the bourgeoisie and overthrow capitalism in South Africa itself. This is the central task facing the working people of the whole sub-continent.
Releasing the grip of imperialism and neo-colonial domination on Southern Africa, it would open the way to the social transformation of the whole region. Together with the progress of the world revolution, it would complete the liberation of Southern Africa.
It is within the framework of this understanding that the advances in the revolution in Southern Africa thus far can best be judged. In articles in Inqaba ya Basebenzi we will cover in more detail the situation in each of the countries of the region. Here we outline the processes in some of the key countries, before passing on to South Africa itself.
Angola and Mozambique
No people in Africa suffered more from colonial enslavement than the peasants and workers of Angola and Mozambique. The character of the Portuguese colonial regime was the main factor determining the course of the revolution in these countries, which resulted in both cases in the overthrow of capitalism itself.
Portugal had been the first of the colonial powers, having possessions in Africa as early as the 15th century. But later, with the rise of the great capitalist powers of Europe and the transition to imperialism, Portugal fell further and further behind. It became the weakest capitalist country in Europe.
The weakness of the Portuguese bourgeoisie—their inability to afford reforms—gave rise to the ruthless dictatorship of Salazar and Caetano which, by the time of its overthrow in 1974, had lasted more than forty years.
It was on account of this weakness also that the Portuguese ruling class clung to its colonial possessions to the bitter end against the revolt of the masses, even while, in the period after the Second World War, the greater imperialist powers were obliged to retreat. Portuguese colonialism could not have maintained neo-colonial domination, and could only rule through direct occupation.
Within its colonies, its weakness was expressed in its inability to develop a market. Its policy was plunder by the most direct and brutal methods.
We have shown how imperialism in general has been able to impose super-exploitation on the colonial peoples by means of unequal terms of trade. But even this could not suffice for the Portuguese ruling class. Their own weak competitive position in world capitalism meant that they needed their colonies to supply raw materials at less than world prices.
Settlers were used to carry out the plunder of the colonies. Agricultural concessions were granted largely to European colonial companies to establish vast plantations producing coffee, sisal, cotton, etc.
The indigenous people were driven off their land by armed force to clear it for the settlers and the plantations. Subsistence agriculture, was systematically broken down in order to produce a labour force.
The colonial administration imposed savage taxes on the people; required the men to work on the plantations for half of every year virtually without pay; extracted fixed quotas of crops from the villages, and enforced all this by beatings, executions and other savage penalties.
This atrocious system, in many ways worse than slavery, had a terrible destructive effect on the African population. Huge areas became depopulated of able-bodied people. By the 1940s, about two million Africans were absent from Mozambique and Angola at any one time, trying to find a living across the border in other countries. The infant mortality rate rose to 60%.
In both Mozambique and Angola, medical care was practically non-existent in rural areas. Educational facilities were so lacking that, by the end of Portuguese colonial rule, 90% of the population in both countries still could not read or write.
In such conditions there was scarcely any room for the emergence of an African middle class. Even the tiny intellectual elite was oppressed and degraded by the whole colonial machinery. The salaries of black public officials, clerks and office-workers fell constantly behind the cost of living. There was a suffocating lack of educational, economic and cultural opportunities.
After the Second World War renewed struggles of resistance against Portuguese colonialism began to mount. In both Angola and Mozambique these were spearheaded by the small, but highly combative working class. Struggles also broke out in the rural areas.
The regime countered resistance with torture by the security police and outright slaughter.
Thus in Angola in 1961 uprisings by plantation workers and peasants, and mass assaults on the Luanda jail, were defeated in a frenzy of bloody massacre by the regime and settler mobs. As villages were napalm-bombed, and Africans torn limb from limb even in the streets of Luanda, the death-toll mounted to well over 20 000.
The barbarism of the regime, and the sheer impossibility of an advance to independence by constitutional means, had driven many of the oppressed middle class to support and involve themselves actively in the struggles of the worker and peasant masses.
Militant intellectuals played the leading role in the formation of both the MPLA and Frelimo, in both cases closely linked to the working class. Their aims were the national liberation of their countries from Portuguese colonial rule, and the economic development and upliftment of the people.
The crippling backwardness inflicted on these colonies by Portugal, the low level of education, the scattered population struggling to subsist, the lingering divisions of languages and tribes, the lack of a developed internal market and domestic trade—all these meant that a sense of national cohesion and national consciousness among the people was relatively little developed. The cement of national unity of the oppressed could come into existence only as the people began to join together in common struggle against the foreign oppressor.
As the Frelimo and MPLA leaders realised, the small working class could not alone overthrow the colonial regime. The mobilisation of the peasant masses would be essential for victory.
At the same time, as repeated repressions had shown, an unarmed movement of the workers and peasants would be insufficient. To overthrow the regime in both countries, a war of national liberation would have to be fought.
However, in taking up these tasks, the Frelimo and MPLA leaders abandoned the working class. Lacking a clear internationalist perspective and class standpoint, they did not try to organise the workers as the conscious leading force in the struggle. Instead they centred their policies exclusively on building guerilla forces based among the peasantry, not as an auxiliary to the revolutionary organisation of the working class, but as a substitute for it. The leaders took as their model the guerilla wars in China and Cuba.
Linked to a movement of the powerful black working class in South Africa, the struggle of the workers and peasants of Angola and Mozambique could have become part of a concerted offensive against national oppression and capitalist exploitation throughout the region—against the “Unholy Alliance” of the South African, Portuguese, and Rhodesian regimes.
But, given the weakness of the forces of Marxism internationally and the lag of the proletarian revolution both in South Africa and the industrialised West, the Mozambican and Angolan working class, isolated and crushingly oppressed, were unable to develop and sustain independent political organisation and leadership of the emerging national liberation movement. With the focus of the struggle shifting increasingly to the war in the countryside, the working-class movement passed into a period of relative inactivity.
The guerilla fighters in the countryside stood at the head of the struggling masses with selfless sacrifice and heroism for more than ten years, without a conscious Marxist leadership or programme. The role of the working class was less and less referred to by the guerilla leaders. Appeals to the idea of the ‘nation’ without class distinction, the lauding of ‘patriotism’, etc., became more prominent in their speeches and writings.
At the same time the social issues inevitably stood at the centre of the struggle. The peasants themselves demanded liberation from the monstrous exploitation and oppression of the colonial capitalist state.
The success of the guerilla war depended upon the ability of Frelimo and the MPLA to introduce into the ‘liberated’ rural areas basic medical services, elementary education, technical assistance in agriculture, improvements in production through communal methods, and defence of the population against the tax collections and other pillages of the Portuguese military-police regime.
The guerilla forces were themselves drawn increasingly from the poor peasant youth, and lived close to the most downtrodden and deprived of the rural population.
In literacy and political education classes, the youth were awakened to developments in the outside world. Armed and equipped by the Soviet and Chinese regimes, they looked naturally to these countries as models of ‘socialism’, grasping at once the immense advances achieved by the peoples in the ex-colonial countries where capitalism had been overthrown. Their understanding was reinforced by the hostility of the imperialist powers to their struggle.
Under the pressures of the struggle, Frelimo moved to a position of denouncing all “exploitation of man by man”. Nevertheless it developed no explicit programme for the overthrow of capitalism in the event of the movement achieving power in the towns. The question central to the revolution was thus left open.
In the case of Angola, with a greater development of the economy, there was a more developed class stratification of the population. While the MPLA leadership also denounced “exploitation”, there was a far greater stress on maintaining the “unity of all classes” of the nation.
Thus, in neither Angola nor Mozambique did the revolutionary leadership base itself either on the working class or on a programme for the overthrow of capitalism. The fact that once in power both proceeded to the overthrow of capitalism must therefore be explained not by their subjective intentions, but by the objective forces and circumstances which they encountered once in power.
The Portuguese ruling class, in order to hold on to its African colonies, was forced to pour in huge contingents of troops which drained away its already feeble resources. Thus the liberation wars in Angola and Mozambique, as well as Guinea-Bissau, led to a rotting of the strength of the regime in Portugal itself.
In April 1974 the Portuguese revolution broke out, sparked off by a military coup which overthrew the Caetano dictatorship.
On the basis of guerilla war alone it would have required many more years of struggle and sacrifice before the colonial regimes in Angola and Mozambique could have been defeated. In Mozambique, for example (where the war in the countryside was furthest advanced), the Portuguese had been planning to introduce a million white settlers into the area round Cabora Bassa to provide a social bastion for their regime.
However, the Portuguese revolution instantly transformed the situation in the colonies. With capitalist rule in Portugal near to collapse under the pressure of the masses, the colonial state machinery disintegrated. This opened the way to power for both Frelimo and the MPLA.
There could hardly be a more vivid example of the interaction of the forces and processes of the world revolution—African liberation wars precipitate revolution in a European country; the movement of the proletariat there rebounds on Africa, shattering the colonial regimes, and the path is cleared for revolutionary governments to come to power.
In Mozambique, with the collapse of the colonial administration there was no force in existence which could inherit power except Frelimo. The very backwardness and rottenness of Portuguese capitalism—shown in its inability to develop Mozambique and its brutal, parasitic methods—meant that there was no social basis in the country on which to secure a neo-colonial, capitalist regime.
Nor could other imperialist powers step in. The possibility of a South African invasion was ruled out by the sudden disintegration of the forces of reaction within Mozambique itself, on which South Africa would have had to rely in order to sustain and consolidate a capitalist puppet regime.
They would have faced the impossible task of policing a vast country and holding down a population already in revolt. At the same time, an occupation of Mozambique would almost certainly have sparked off furious struggles among the black people in South Africa itself.
Afraid of reaping a whirlwind, the SA regime was forced to look on in helpless rage as the balance of class forces in Mozambique shifted rapidly in favour of Frelimo.
Finding itself unexpectedly in command of state power, without any real rival or challenge, the Frelimo leadership nevertheless moved cautiously to consolidate its position and feel out the direction which its economic and social policies should take.
On the one hand, there were the aroused expectations of the workers, peasants and youth for a complete transformation of society. On the other hand, with independence looming, the Portuguese settler-exploiters took to flight.
By 1975, the 250 000 Portuguese in Mozambique had been reduced to 20 000. The 7 000 Portuguese running cash-crop agriculture were all gone. Together, these had represented the sum total of landlordism-capitalism and of centuries-old Portuguese rule—the administration of the state, hospitals, education, agriculture and industry.
Thus, as in China and Cuba, the disintegration of the old state and the capitalist class in Mozambique, and the surging pressure of the masses, thrust Frelimo in the direction of nationalising production and enabled it to build a new state machine on the basis of the guerilla army.
In Angola, there was a similar outcome, although by a somewhat different route. With the collapse of the Portuguese colonial administration, there were three armed contenders to fill the vacuum—MPLA, FNLA and UNITA.
At first, under pressure from both East and West, there was an attempt at a coalition government of all three.
The MPLA programme in 1975 clearly showed the readiness of the leadership to compromise on the social issues, in the interests of maintaining a coalition. Thus the MPLA’s “minimum programme”, while calling for the “defence of the interests of the peasants and workers”, proclaimed a “broad union” of all political parties, “all social strata, and all Angolans irrespective of political tendencies, economic circumstances”, etc. MPLA’s “main programme” proposed a “republican-democratic system” in which sovereignty of the people would be “irrespective of class.” There was no programme to overthrow capitalism—merely a call for a “socially just system.”
In the economic field, the MPLA proposed “a policy which takes the interests of both employed and employers into consideration.” At the same time the state would control foreign trade while expanding its undertakings, particularly in the exploitation of energy resources. While there would be an end to “privileges” for foreign undertakings, private industry and commerce was to be protected.
On agrarian reform, the programme proclaimed limits on private holdings and the distribution of land to peasants. Nationalisation of the land would be limited to those landowners “opposed to the People’s Movement”, the traitors and enemies of independence and democracy for Angola.
Had matters depended only on programme and the subjective intentions of leaders, the Angolan revolution would not have broken the chains of capitalism. At this time there was an intense struggle within the MPLA between the majority of the leadership, who insisted that the class struggle must be de-emphasised in the interests of an “anti-imperialist united front”, and those who echoed the desire of the working people for pressing forward with the struggle against exploitation.
Nevertheless, as in Mozambique, any remaining social base for capitalism evaporated quickly once the Portuguese colonial system was shattered. Here too there was a mass exodus of the Portuguese settlers, landowners, merchants, professionals and businessmen.
Reflecting the lack of a social base for capitalism, the unstable coalition of the rival guerilla armies quickly fell apart. It was quickly shown that the leadership of FNLA and UNITA were operating as direct agents of imperialism. At the same time, the imperialists sought to hamstring the MPLA and obstruct its exercise of power, fearing the established links of the MPLA with the Soviet bureaucracy, and the fact that it had a strong, independent popular base in both town and country.
The breakdown of the coalition government opened up civil war, in which the tide turned increasingly in favour of the MPLA, which enjoyed the support of the proletariat, and had a powerful base in Luanda and other vital towns. It was in these circumstances that US imperialism organised with the South African government a military invasion to install the FNLA and UNITA in power.
It was clearly the plan for the SA army to advance swiftly and capture Luanda—whereupon US forces would be sent in to sustain and consolidate a pro-imperialist puppet government. This in turn would allow the SA army to withdraw. But the whole plan went hopelessly off course.
On the one hand, as the SA generals soon realised, they were fighting a revolution and thus faced the danger of becoming bogged down against the furious resistance of the population. On the other hand, for the Soviet bureaucracy to have allowed the MPLA to be defeated by such an invasion would have meant a humiliating blow to its international standing and affected all its alliances in the colonial world. Under these circumstances Cuban troops were sent to the assistance of the MPLA and the Angolan people.
US imperialism was at this time still licking its wounds from its defeat in Vietnam. The fear of becoming embroiled in another unwinnable colonial war, coupled with the risk of a serious rupture of relations with the Russians, persuaded Nixon and Kissinger at the last minute to hold back.
Thus the South African invasion of Angola turned into a debacle for the SA regime. With the whole conspiracy shipwrecked, and with its forces under heavy pressure from Cuban and FAPLA (MPLA) troops, it was forced to roll back hastily to the Namibian border.
The now unchallenged power of the MPLA thus became consolidated through the processes of revolution and civil war. The impossibility of reconstructing the country on a capitalist basis impelled the regime to essentially the same policies as were being followed in Mozambique by Frelimo.
The exodus of nearly half a million Portuguese—leaving only some 30 000 in Angola—had resulted in the complete collapse of the country’s commercial network and distribution system. There was now a vacuum of skills, commercial agriculture broke down, and the transport network was paralysed. Whereas there were 28 000 heavy lorries in Angola in 1974, only 4 000 were left after independence.
As in Mozambique, the peasants, now freed from the merciless compulsion of forced labour, reverted as far as possible to subsistence agriculture. What little domestic market there had been was now dead, and supplies to the towns dried up.
Without any social basis for capitalism, the task of reconstructing the country and developing the economy fell to the state. A sequence of nationalisations, essentially similar to those in Mozambique, followed.
Thus the revolutionary transformation of both the economy and the state in Mozambique and Angola came about. Both countries have emerged, in the last analysis, as workers’ states—but states unavoidably deformed on proletarian bonapartist lines.
Problems of Bureaucracy and Under-development
Every revolutionary enthusiastically supports—and would work to defend and consolidate—the gains of the Angolan and Mozambican revolutions. But it is at the same time essential to make a sober assessment of the processes taking place in these countries in order to understand the perspectives for their future.
Even the basically healthy workers’ state in Russia in 1917 to 1923 was described by Lenin as “a workers’ state with bureaucratic deformations”. There the working class itself had directly taken power and established its own democratic organs of rule.
Nevertheless, the crippling burdens of backwardness, inherited from Tsarism, the low level of education of the working population, the small size of the working class and the weight of the peasantry in society, the exhaustion of the workers in war and civil war—all these circumstances made it more and more difficult for the working people to directly command the state. From the outset there was a tendency for a permanent layer of officials to form. There was a heavy dependence on skilled administrators inherited from the old state.
Even where officials are elected, there is always a tendency for an established state administration to entrench itself and seek ways of escaping the democratic control of the working people.
We outlined in previous chapters the measures and methods of workers’ democracy worked out by Lenin in order to prevent the process of bureaucratisation, and enable the working class to constantly cleanse the state machinery and subordinate it to democratic control.
Lenin pointed out that the state itself—even a workers’ state—is a legacy from class society. Under workers’ democracy, the state (as Lenin put it) should be no more than a “semi-state” which is made to dissolve into society and wither away in the process of the transition to socialism.
To maintain workers’ democracy and strengthen it, to move towards the dissolution of class divisions and the ending of all inequalities and privileges, requires a high level of the productive forces and conditions of material abundance. Workers’ democracy cannot be sustained if a revolution remains isolated indefinitely in a backward country. It requires the spreading of the revolution to the advanced centres of industrial production in order to create a basis for the transition to socialist society.
In conditions of backwardness, shortages and generalised poverty, not only does workers’ democracy weaken and give way to bureaucratic rule—at the same time the elite stratum gaining command of the state uses its control of the economic surplus to systematically entrench its privileges and self-enrichment.
Such a development became inevitable in Russia for the reasons explained in Chapter 2.
If a workers’ state in which the working class had itself directly taken and held power underwent, in such conditions, a deformation and degeneration, then what is the prospect in a country where, not the working class, but a guerilla army based on the peasantry takes over state power?
The popularity of the regime is not the issue. Nor is the selfless dedication, especially in the first period, of the cadres of the army and the new state machine in working to develop the national economy and uplift the condition of the masses. There may also be, for an extended period, a significant degree of mass participation in decision-making at local levels.
But the key question is the direct, collective and democratic control of the apparatus of the state by the working masses.
For reasons explained previously, the peasantry as a class is incapable of exercising such control. Nor, in the conditions of Mozambique and Angola, has the working class been sufficiently developed to control and manage all aspects of the economy and society. If we consider the matter within the framework of these countries in isolation, then it is clear that no basis for regimes of workers’ democracy exists.
Economic under-development submerges the toilers in illiteracy and preoccupies them with the desperate day-to-day struggle for survival. It deprives them of the possibility of taking in their own hands the general management of the economy and the state.
Thus the educated layer of society develops for itself the monopoly of these functions. At the same time generalised poverty and a low level of production makes it impossible to satisfy the pressing needs of everybody, and impels the ruling elite towards establishing authoritarian control over the masses.
This in turn lays the foundation for the consolidation of the state bureaucracy as a permanent caste, for the growing contradiction between its interests and those of the masses, and for its ultimate transformation from a relatively progressive force into a reactionary barrier to the advancement of society.
By understanding these general processes and their material foundation, it is easier to understand the developments taking place in the state in Angola and Mozambique.
While working to reorganise and reconstruct the devastated economy, Frelimo and the MPLA have at the same time both moved to reconstruct the state apparatus under their own absolute control. On the one hand, this has involved clearing out of official positions many of the unreliable opportunists and middle-class careerists who had stepped into the bureaus and organisations of the state during the turmoil of transition. On the other hand, however, it has also involved subordinating all organisations of the masses to strict control by the ruling party apparatus.
Thus, for example, in October 1977 the MPLA “Restructuring Committee” ordered the suspension of all existing trade union committees in workplaces. They were to be replaced by two trade union delegates, one of whom had to be a member of the MPLA structure in the enterprise, while the other also had to enjoy the confidence of the MPLA.
Both Frelimo and the MPLA, in changing from guerilla organisations into the core of the new state apparatus, have announced their own transformation into “vanguard parties” on supposedly “Marxist-Leninist” lines. This however has nothing in common with the idea of a revolutionary party developed by Lenin, as an instrument in leading the struggle for workers’ democracy.
Instead, both Frelimo and the MPLA have taken upon themselves the role of exercising power on behalf of the masses. The “Party” therefore becomes in fact the central apparatus of the new bureaucracy of state.
The 1977 programme of Frelimo bears out the analysis we have made. The task of “strengthening and consolidating” the power of the state is proclaimed to be central. The Party is defined as supreme in directing and guiding “all state activities”. The state itself merely “reflects” the “interests of the broad labouring masses.” The “Democratic Mass Organisations” support the State in “its” work.
Thus state power is expressly declared to be separate from and elevated above the power of the working people—as having the semi-autonomy characteristic of bonapartism. That is the opposite of the approach of Lenin, and is completely opposed to workers’ democracy.
It indicates that power is not directly in the hands of the “broad labouring masses” but in the hands of a bonapartist elite which rests on the support of the workers and peasants in exercising power. Even the involvement of many workers in the party structure and leadership does not alter the underlying process, which is towards the inevitable entrenchment of an elite.
Nevertheless these regimes represent an immense stride forward, economically and politically, compared with the horrors of the past, and represent a severe defeat and setback for the forces of imperialism internationally.
However, even with the advantages of state ownership and economic planning, Mozambique and Angola come up against severe obstacles to development.
The economic and other related problems facing Mozambique were outlined in Inqaba No. 4 (October 1981).
In Angola, despite having rich mineral resources and agricultural potential, the initial problems have been even more serious—and are aggravated by South African incursions and the SA-backed activities of UNITA in the south.
The exodus of the Portuguese brought not only a collapse of the economic infrastructure, but has left the country with a paralysing shortage of skills. This has been only partially overcome with the assistance of thousands of trainers and technicians from Cuba, East Germany and the Soviet Union.
Agricultural production nose-dived with the departure of the Portuguese. Cotton production, which was approximately 80 000 tons in 1973, was only 1 000 tons in 1978. Coffee fell from 110 000 tons to 26 000 tons; sisal from 60 000 tons to 15 000 tons; rice from 30 000 tons to 3 000 tons; and sugar from 80 000 tons to 40 000 tons.
In the production of maize and potatoes there were also dramatic falls. In 1981 a disastrous drought added to the general problems of dislocation, and virtually all maize growing was destroyed in the main producing areas. Only an estimated 18 000 tonnes were produced, compared with 700 000 in 1973.
In manufacturing, although the state was able to move in and take over enterprises, much machinery and equipment had been removed, sabotaged, or left to rust. Angola is heavily dependent on the import of Western technology and equipment in order to revive and develop industry.
90% of the country’s foreign exchange is provided by diamonds and oil. These resources have enabled Angola, by way of exception in Africa, to maintain a small surplus in its foreign trade. But to maintain the production and export of oil, the government still relies on the multi-national oil companies of the West, which thus continue to exploit the country’s resources.
In the case of diamonds, the Diamang company is 77% state-owned but is run by the Diamond Trading Company, a part of the South African Anglo American-De Beers empire. While maintaining essential control of the economy in state hands, the MPLA government has found no alternative but to encourage foreign capitalists to invest in the country, and to call for more private initiative in the economic field. This is the result of the disabilities, lack of education and shortage of skills inherited from Portuguese colonialism.
Even in an industrialised country, a workers’ state would have to allow and encourage a certain amount of private enterprise on a small scale in subsidiary areas of production and distribution which, for an extended period of transition, could not easily be controlled and managed collectively by the working class. This would not represent any significant counter-revolutionary threat.
However, in a country as economically weak and under-developed as Angola, the degree of reliance on capitalist enterprise and investment—unavoidable as it may be—obviously involves substantial dangers of reactionary pressures on the domestic and foreign policies of a regime which itself is not controlled by the workers.
The military threat from South Africa, and from South Africa’s agent, Savimbi, and his UNITA forces in southern Angola, obliges the government in Luanda to devote a huge slice of the country’s economic resources to spending on defence. This now consumes more than 50% of the state budget.
The cost of arms, and of maintaining the estimated 18 000 Cuban soldiers and other technicians to train and maintain the armed forces, is believed to consume more than half of Angola’s total foreign exchange.
Because of the collapse of agriculture, it has also become necessary to import food—absorbing roughly half of the foreign exchange left over after paying for defence. Thus the amount available to buy industrial goods is very limited.
Without the advantages of oil and diamonds the economy would be in a state of collapse. As it is, the world price of diamonds dropped sharply last year, while there is also now a decline in the world oil price.
Plaguing the whole economy has been the breakdown of the transport and distribution system, and the clogging up of the port of Luanda, mainly as a result of lack of expertise and managerial skills. According to recent reports, some fifty ships lie at anchor off Luanda at any one time, waiting to load or unload. These can take up to two months to turn round. The cost of this is astronomical. The Angolan government is paying up to $10 000 a day in demurrage charges (penalties) on each ship lying idle—which has meant up to $500 000 a day in total.
This amounts to more than Angola’s entire income from aid donors.
Shortages of supplies in the towns mean that the shops frequently have empty shelves, and long queues for basic supplies are an everyday part of life. These conditions have also produced a flourishing ‘black market’. Prices here have rocketed, so that a fish can cost a month’s wages, and a kilo of potatoes the equivalent of about R20.
Nevertheless, there has been slow but steady improvement in literacy, health and the organisation of public transport and electricity supplies. Improvements in agricultural production have taken place, but they have been uneven and they have not approached pre-independence levels.
As in Mozambique, the development of agriculture is bound up with whether or not the government can supply the peasants with implements and various manufactured goods, which in turn depends on the revival of industry. In the case of Angola, the continuing war situation in the south is the most serious drain and obstacle to development.
While Angola has greater resources and economic potential than Mozambique within the framework of one country, in neither case will it be possible to develop at more than a snail’s pace without the extension of the revolution against capitalism throughout the whole of Southern Africa. The centre of this revolution is obviously South Africa itself.
For the workers and peasants of Angola and Mozambique, for the rank and file of the MPLA and Frelimo, it is the South African and international revolution which ultimately provides the only way out of economic isolation, poverty, bureaucratic deformation and the unending expenditure of precious resources on military defence.
Thus the way forward is to link up with the working class of South Africa and the whole of Southern Africa in the struggle to carry through to completion a social revolution in the entire subcontinent.
In Zimbabwe, the Southern African revolution has taken a huge stride forward with the downfall of the old regime of Smith and of the puppet Muzorewa. The attainment of political independence under the popularly elected government of ZANU(PF) and ZAPU has roused the confidence of the oppressed throughout Southern Africa and represents a reversal both for imperialism and for the white-minority capitalist regime in South Africa.
Nevertheless, what is increasingly striking to the workers and peasants of Zimbabwe is the limited character of the changes which the new government has been able to bring about. While the face of government has changed, the black workers still suffer under the yoke of bosses in the factory and on the farms, and the vast majority of peasants remain starved of land. Black working people still endure the indignity and oppression of white privilege, and still bear the burdens of capitalist and imperialist exploitation.
This is despite the fact that the country is now governed by leaders who previously described themselves as ‘Marxists’ and were carried to power on the expectations of the masses that a revolutionary transformation of society would take place.
How is this to be explained? How did it come about that the enormous heroism and persistence of the guerilla struggle in Zimbabwe gave way eventually to compromise—to a ‘settlement’ with imperialism and with the white Rhodesian and South African ruling class?
This is a question confronted daily by the workers and peasants; by the 15 000 maimed and disabled former guerillas, and by all the surviving fighters of the revolutionary war in which 30 000 sacrificed their lives.
It is a question of great importance also for our movement in South Africa.
We have shown in the analysis of the colonial revolutions how, for example in China, Cuba, Mozambique and Angola, peasant-based guerilla wars have led to the overthrow of capitalism in circumstances where the basis of bourgeois rule has been extremely weak.
With the collapse of the old state apparatus and the creation of new states founded on the guerilla army, there has been an irresistible pressure towards the elimination of private ownership of production and towards the organisation of a state-owned and planned economy. This happened regardless of the intentions, programme and political labels of the leadership.
In all these cases the overthrow of capitalism has been possible without the working class leading the struggle or even playing any decisive role.
The liberation struggle in Zimbabwe was fought with essentially the same strategy, method, and programme as in Mozambique and Angola. Yet, in Zimbabwe, far from capitalism being overthrown, it has been able to survive and, at least temporarily, consolidate its grip.
Here, because the old state was not shattered by the force of the guerilla war, and because the power of the capitalist class, backed by South Africa, remained relatively entrenched, the lack of mass action by the working class became the decisive factor in determining the outcome.
In every country where the capitalist class is relatively strong and the obstacles to the social revolution are formidable, the power of the working class—its class-conscious organisation, mobilisation and ability to lead all the oppressed against the class enemy—remains the decisive question.
Zimbabwe is the most industrialised country in Africa after South. Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. It is second only to South Africa in the amount of industry per head of population.
Under colonial rule, Rhodesian capitalism developed as an offshoot and extension of South African capitalism. Though the bulk of the African population has lived by small peasant production, there was a substantial development of capitalist agriculture together with the growth of a black agricultural proletariat on the land seized by white settlers.
While the working class in the towns remained—and still remains—a minority of the black population, its numerical weight became at least as great, in relative terms, as the Russian proletariat of 1917. There was a growth of African trade unions on a small, yet significant scale.
The small African middle class, itself oppressed under the colonial white-minority regime, was drawn towards the working-class movement, which provided a seed-bed for the emergence of ZAPU and later ZANU. Nevertheless, because of the weakness of Marxism and the passivity of the working class in the industrialised world in the 1950s and 1960s, the liberation movement in Zimbabwe—and throughout the colonial world—developed under the influence of nationalist ideas, without a revolutionary class programme or perspective.
Remaining under middle-class political leadership, the black working class in Rhodesia did not assert its full social and political weight, or establish itself as the leading force of the struggle for national liberation at the head of the peasant masses. The trade unions remained under cautious, conservative leadership, heavily influenced by right-wing reformist bureaucrats of the trade unions in the West, who pressurised them to submit to the state’s controls.
In the repeated outbursts of mass struggle in town and country against the white racist regime, it was middle-class nationalist leaders who continued to ride at the head of the movement. As long as it seemed possible to secure their own interests through concessions from the whites, these leaders clung essentially to policies of compromise.
British imperialism in the early 1960s, forced to retreat in West and East Africa and faced with the collapse of the Central African Federation, would have preferred a transition to some form of black government in Rhodesia. This view was shared by the big capitalists and financiers in Rhodesia, who would have been prepared to sacrifice the elite of white workers and farmers if they could get a Kenyan-type outcome, i.e. a black pro-imperialist regime.
In this way they hoped to prevent a revolutionary movement of the masses from developing, while securing their own economic domination in a new way.
However, the existing superstructure of white rule in Rhodesia imposed its own influence on the course of events.
The state, while defending the economic basis and interests of the ruling class, at the same time rests on wider social layers and can develop a degree of autonomy.
The white Rhodesians, having a privileged position, were not prepared to sacrifice it. Even though flying in the face of history, they could not reconcile themselves to the idea of a black government. The resistance to change of the white farmers, small capitalists and workers provided the basis for the rapid rise of the Rhodesian Front, which gained control of the government and declared UDI in 1965.
The Rhodesian bourgeoisie, although mostly opposed to this turn of events, would not and could not take any decisive action against it. Nor was the British ruling class prepared (as it could have done) to bring the UDI government to its knees. That would have precipitated a revolutionary situation, and posed a threat to the continued rule of capitalism itself.
Scandalously, it was a Labour government, of Harold Wilson, that carried out the capitalists’ policy and permitted Smith’s regime to stabilise itself.
Thus the sanctions imposed with the ‘consent’ of imperialism were used to throw dust in people’s eyes, while an underhand conspiracy was mounted to ensure that oil and other essential supplies got through to Rhodesia.
The bulk of Rhodesian exports went to South Africa, or were re-exported through it in disguise.
When, from the mid 1960s, it became clear to the masses that the Smith government would not give way, there was a turn to armed struggle. The upheavals and splits in the nationalist movement at this time were a reflection of the uncertainties and division, especially among the middle-class leaders, over what course to take. Bound up in the process and confusing it superficially were personal rivalries, tussles for position, intrigues and the manipulation of ‘tribal’ issues among the nationalist leaders.
Initially, the ZAPU leadership organised only a token guerilla force. However, the advance of the guerilla wars in Mozambique and Angola encouraged the most radical section of the nationalists in ZANU (which had earlier split from ZAPU), to embark upon an all-out strategy of guerilla warfare. By 1975 Mugabe, having been released from prison, had established his authority over the fighting forces of ZANU, which was rebuilt under his leadership.
The main influence on the radical nationalists were the models of China, Cuba and, on their immediate border, Mozambique. Their political outlook was a blend of the radical reformism of ‘Nkrumahism’, Christian idealism, and (in a distorted way) some of the ideas of Marx.
However, contrary to the fundamental teachings of Marxism, they turned their backs on the working class and sought what seemed a shorter route to revolution.
Thousands of the youth—especially the unemployed and high-school youth from the towns and villages—crossed the borders for guerilla training, and returned to organise and fight with the peasants in the countryside. To win recruits and maintain morale in the fighting forces, it was obvious that the leadership had to put forward a programme of both national and social liberation.
Although lagging behind ZANU, the ZAPU leadership was also obliged to mount guerilla offensives from Zambia in order to maintain its traditional basis of support in the western part of the country.
The ZANU and ZAPU guerillas fought with tremendous determination. Peasants willingly sustained huge sacrifices, and endured appalling atrocities at the hands of the Rhodesian state, in order to support the war.
To prevent them from assisting the guerillas, the regime herded one-third of the population into concentration camps (‘protected villages’). Peasant agriculture was devastated, and the national herd dropped by one-third. In the last five to ten years of the war, the standards of living of the black population fell by about 50%.
Although the effect of sanctions as such was limited, the situation changed when the world recession of the mid-1970s set in. Coupled with the downswing of the South African economy, the combined effect on Rhodesia was severe.
Gross National Product (measured in constant 1965 prices) fell from R$1,36 billion in 1974 to R$1,18 billion in 1978. Manufacturing dropped by over 14% during the same period. By the end of the war there were as many Zimbabweans unemployed as the total number in employment.
The longer the war continued, the more the ZANU and ZAPU leaders adopted a ‘Marxist’ stand. After the collapse of capitalism in Angola and Mozambique, even Nkomo (a millionaire) began to manoeuvre more openly between the Western powers and the Soviet bureaucracy. The ZANU, leadership on the other hand leaned towards China.
Meanwhile the Rhodesian army was forced to rely on black troops, to the point where eventually half its forces were black.
After the debacle for imperialism in Angola, and with the developing mass revolt in South Africa, Kissinger and Nixon reappraised US policy towards Rhodesia. They decided that the Smith government could not be sustained in the long term. Its defeat, they feared, could lead to the overthrow of capitalism in this strategically important country.
Thus Kissinger travelled to South Africa in 1976 and, with Smith on the carpet in Vorster’s office, read him the ‘riot act’. Within hours, Smith and his cabinet had agreed to a change of course, which led to Muzorewa becoming Prime Minister.
The election of Muzorewa under the guns of the regime was a farce. The whole structure of the state, of land and industry remained in the hands of the whites.
The white regime wore Muzorewa like a mask, but the people could see through it. They got nothing significant from the ‘change’. The war continued and intensified.
The imperialist powers were in a quandary. In Britain, the Labour government could not recognise the ‘Muzorewa’ regime. After the election of the Tories, however, Thatcher prepared to recognise it, as did the Carter administration in the USA. The inevitable consequence would have been to protract the guerilla war.
Had the war continued for an extended period of years it would almost certainly have led to the overthrow of capitalism on lines similar to Angola and Mozambique. The difference would have been that the conflict, instead of being limited to Zimbabwe, would have embroiled the whole of Southern Africa, as it was already beginning to do.
The state in Rhodesia was relatively firmly based. This was a result of the development of industry and infrastructure; of the local bourgeois, petty bourgeois, white farmers and white workers; and the powerful backing of South Africa.
Botha’s renewed commitment of SA troops to Rhodesia during 1979, and crippling bombing raids on the economic infrastructure of Mozambique and Zambia, showed that the South African regime was unwilling to accept the military defeat of capitalism in Zimbabwe.
Nevertheless, much as in Vietnam, in the longer run it would have been impossible by these means to prevent the disintegration and collapse of the Rhodesian state. The rising revolt of the oppressed in South Africa itself, combined with the steady exodus of whites from Rhodesia and the undermining of the social base of the regime, meant that, with appalling bloodshed and sacrifice, a proletarian bonapartist regime would eventually have arisen in Zimbabwe.
A development of the revolution on these lines would have been the most likely perspective had the imperialist powers recognised, and continued to prop up, the Muzorewa puppet government. What finally deterred them, however, was the backlash from black Africa and the rest of the ex-colonial world.
Nigeria—Britain’s biggest trading partner apart from the EEC and the USA—seized the assets of British Petroleum as a warning.
Both British and US imperialism changed tack, and accepted that the guerilla leaders could not be excluded from government. This provided the setting for the Lancaster House negotiations.
The negotiations were conducted directly between British imperialism and the guerilla commanders, with the US and South African imperialists hovering in the background. Smith and Muzorewa were entirely secondary figures at the conference table.
The aim of the imperialists in these negotiations was to secure a bourgeois coalition, in which the power of ZANU and ZAPU in government could be checked by the continued inclusion of Muzorewa and the whites.
The ‘front-line states’ (both capitalist and deformed workers’ states), fearing the repercussions of a protracted war, pressurised the ZAPU and ZANU leadership into the settlement.
The main sticking point at Lancaster House was the question of land. With their support depending on the peasants, the ZANU and ZAPU leadership could not abandon their promise of a redistribution of land. Therefore Britain would have to agree to provide some money to enable land reform to take place by means of purchases from white farmers.
On almost every other demand of the people the ZANU and ZAPU leaders made big concessions to the capitalists. They agreed to a clause in the constitution guaranteeing the property of the capitalist class. They even agreed to give the tiny white minority one-fifth of the seats in Parliament—and with it the power to veto any constitutional change.
Thus the national-democratic, as well as the social, aims of the struggle were frustrated.
Many of the revolutionary youth and guerillas, shocked by the unexpected turnabout by the leadership at Lancaster House, debated the idea of defying the ‘settlement’ and continuing the guerilla war. But that was quite unrealistic.
All the rear bases in Zambia and Mozambique would immediately have been closed down. The peasants, wearying of a protracted war, would have been divided and would soon have withdrawn support from the guerillas. As a result their forces would have been speedily mopped up and annihilated.
The only revolutionary alternative to the Lancaster House agreement was a strategy moving beyond guerilla warfare. The capitalists could have been defeated only through the mobilisation and arming of the working class to seize power in Salisbury and Bulawayo, to rally the peasant masses behind them, and to call on their South African brothers and sisters to help stop a military invasion by the apartheid regime.
This would have required systematic organisation and political training of leadership in the working class, using also the links and channels of the migrant labour system to prepare the united action of the South African workers. But the ZANU and ZAPU leaders were completely opposed to such a course (as were their ‘socialist’ backers in Moscow and Peking).
Thus the 35 000 dedicated young fighters of ZANU and ZAPU found themselves trapped politically by the Lancaster House settlement—as a prelude to being physically bottled-up in the ‘assembly points’ and finally disarmed.
The election which followed was ‘fair’ only in its result—an outright majority for ZANU(PF). In all other respects it was completely unfair.
At least R25 million was poured by SA, British, and world imperialism into the hands of their candidate, Muzorewa. Enormous propaganda resources were put at his disposal.
ZANU(PF) and ZAPU, coming out of illegality, had little time to organise in the urban areas. Their offices were even denied telephones.
20-30 000 ‘auxiliary’ thugs of Muzorewa were financed and organised by the capitalists and the state to intimidate the voters. There was a heavy pressure of employers upon the urban and agricultural workers.
But all these measures boomeranged against the ruling class. All the more because of these efforts, the masses could see clearly who their real enemies were. There was overwhelming support for the guerillas, and particularly for ZANU(PF) who, in the eyes of the workers and peasants, had borne the brunt of the fighting and had no history of compromise with the whites.
The imperialists had calculated on tying Mugabe down in an unfavourable coalition, in which Muzorewa would have the upper hand, and in which there would be endless opportunities to manoeuvre and manipulate the rival forces. But the landslide vote for ZANU(PF) dashed these plans.
Meanwhile the strategy of Nkomo and the ZAPU leadership had also boomeranged.
Previously, when it had seemed likely that the guerilla war would continue as a fight to the finish, ZAPU’s Soviet and East European advisers had encouraged a strategy which they thought would give ZAPU the eventual victory. While most of the guerilla fighting was left to ZANU forces, ZAPU was being reorganised as a conventional army, equipped with aircraft, tanks and artillery. The intention was to advance rapidly on the towns once the old state apparatus was at the point of collapse.
This, they calculated, would have put them in control of the vital centres of the country. They could then have distributed land to the peasants and thus undercut ZANU’s rural support.
But the whole strategy was confounded by the retreat of imperialism and the Lancaster House settlement. The election left Nkomo and the other ZAPU leaders as junior partners in a coalition controlled by Mugabe. (The consequences of this upset are still felt in the diplomatic field by the Soviet bureaucracy in its relations with the Mugabe government.)
Despite the Lancaster House agreement, the imperialists and the Rhodesian capitalist class thus found themselves in a precarious position. Even before the election, when it became plain that Mugabe would gain a landslide, the bourgeois camp began seething with counter-revolutionary conspiracies. Contingency plans and ‘pretexts’ were assembled for cancelling the election and tearing up the Lancaster House agreement, if this course appeared to be in the imperialist interest. At the same time, reactionary military measures were prepared.
The teaching of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky that the state is fundamentally armed bodies of men organised to defend the property and power of the ruling class, was amply illustrated in Zimbabwe during this period. Only the smashing of the bourgeois state machinery could have ensured a shift of power from the capitalists to the workers and removed the threat of counter-revolution.
General Walls, professional butcher of the Zimbabwean people under Smith and Muzorewa, later publicly admitted making detailed preparations at the time of the election for a counter-revolutionary coup.
His attempt to get the British Tory Prime Minister, Thatcher, to ‘invalidate’ the election result was part of a plan to provide the political smokescreen for a military takeover. It was not simply Thatcher’s refusal which deterred him. Rather, the whole imperialist camp—including Thatcher—were held back by the fear that the whip of counter-revolution, if prematurely used, would drive the revolution forward.
The intensity of mass revolutionary fervour at the time of ZANU(PF)’s election victory, combined with the disarray in the bourgeois camp, created a favourable objective situation for the smashing of the capitalist state and the transfer of power to the hands of the working people. But this opportunity could only have been seized had there been a revolutionary leadership rooted in the working class to organise in town and country a decisive movement against the oppressors.
Any resulting South African invasion—if indeed the SA generals considered it feasible in such circumstances—would then have faced an armed and conscious people, millions strong, defending their revolution and their country every inch, and calling upon the working class of South Africa to paralyse the enemy with a general strike.
But such a course was in no way entertained by the leadership of ZANU(PF) and ZAPU. As was clearly demonstrated throughout the election campaign, they saw no role for the working class but to provide them with electoral support.
Thus, again, the workers’ lack of independent organisation, revolutionary leadership, and Marxist programme paralysed the working class politically. This proved decisive in the outcome of events.
Just before the election, Mugabe went to Mozambique to meet the South African Foreign Minister and generals of the SA army. In return for assurances that South Africa would not invade, he undertook to defend capitalist property, agreed not to provide bases for the ANC, and even promised to pay the debts of the Smith regime to South Africa (although subsequently he repudiated the arms debt).
Thus the ‘Marxist’ leadership of the guerilla war, who had proclaimed the task of ‘socialism’, showed their willingness to abide by the class compromise which they had entered into at Lancaster House. If anything summed this up, it was the initial appointment of General Walls to head all the armed forces under the new government of Mugabe.
For genuine Marxism, the course of events was not difficult to explain. Marxism has always pointed out that a guerilla army is entirely different from a movement of the proletariat. The leadership which arises on that basis is bonapartist, and not under mass democratic control. Thus always latent in a guerilla war is the possibility of sudden and bewildering zig-zags and about-turns by the leadership.
A revolution fought on that basis can result only in a bonapartist regime—either bourgeois or proletarian in character. In Zimbabwe, unlike Mozambique and Angola, because the state machine remained largely intact, the leadership of the guerillas came to terms with it and entered into compromise with the capitalist class.
Compromise with capitalism develops a logic of its own. Once it is accepted that private ownership and production for profit is to remain the basis of the economy and the foundation of the state, then it follows that the government is obliged to make the defence and promotion of capitalism a paramount concern.
Because of the key role of the whites in commercial agriculture, industry, trade and administration, Mugabe’s government was obliged to provide copious assurances to the white minority, in order to avoid a massive exodus which would have brought the capitalist economy to the point of collapse.
Had that occurred, the Mugabe regime would have had no alternative but to launch on a course of wholesale nationalisations and expropriations of capitalist property, mobilise and arm the workers against reaction, reconstitute power on proletarian bonapartist lines, and re-organise production on the basis of state ownership and planning.
Instead, setting out to secure capitalism, the government found it impossible to move decisively even to carry out a land reform. To satisfy the needs of the poor peasants for land, up to three-quarters of the white-owned land would have had to be taken over for redistribution. Not only were the aid provisions agreed at Lancaster House totally inadequate for this. Even more important was the fear of the regime that expropriation of the white farmers would precipitate the departure in droves of white skilled workers and businessmen also.
At first the capitalist class, in Zimbabwe and internationally, could not believe that the ‘Marxist’ Mugabe and his government could really become the defender of their interests. Perhaps he was really preparing some diabolically cunning revolutionary plot? But in time, when they saw the success of the government in restraining the movement of the masses, they came to regard Mugabe as the “best Prime Minister” that Zimbabwe could possibly have.
Nevertheless it would be false to conclude that the Mugabe government has become merely a willing agent of the capitalist class. This is a bonapartist government, which leans on the support of the masses. While defending capitalism, it balances and manoeuvres unsteadily between the conflicting class forces.
Its first aim has been to consolidate power by reorganising the capitalist state, Africanising the civil service as rapidly as possible, and restructuring the army by integrating the bulk of the former guerillas into it.
It is because the Zimbabwean government is not the tame servant of imperialism, and is still capable of striking blows against the interests of the capitalists, that the SA government has continued to seek to destabilise it—a really crazy policy as far as the long-term interests of SA capitalism are concerned.
Because the new regime in Zimbabwe was able to consolidate its position without damaging capitalism, there was a very rapid growth of the economy during the first year of independence. In 1980 the growth rate reached 13,9% in real terms. With the ending of sanctions, there was a big increase of production and trade affecting every sector, with the exception of mining.
However, even after this dramatic rate of growth, the Gross National Product was still lower in real terms than in 1974. Essentially what has taken place is the healing of the economic war-wounds, rather than any substantial further advance.
In moving beyond this, as we pointed out in Inqaba No. 2 (April 1981), the government has found itself increasingly against a wall of limitations, both political and economic. The impossibility of reconciling the interests of the workers and peasants with those of the capitalists has become more and more obvious.
To sustain the development of the economy requires massively increased investment; hence increased imports of machinery, etc.; hence increasing foreign exchange earnings derived from expanding exports, and so on. Zimbabwe is the prisoner of the same general constraints of capitalism in the under-developed countries explained in previous chapters.
To secure private investment, the government must provide conditions for the profitability of that investment, as well as guarantees against its future nationalisation. But profitability for capitalism in Zimbabwe remains absolutely dependent on cheap labour. The demand of the working class for a living wage—the least they could expect from the revolution—comes into immediate conflict with the needs of capitalism.
Since independence there has been the biggest wave of strikes and wage struggles in Zimbabwe since the Second World War. Under this intense pressure the government has moved in stages to implement and increase minimum wages. Recently the minimum wage for industry and commerce has been set at Z$125 (R151) per month—itself an abysmally low level. Minimum wages for miners are substantially lower, while agricultural and domestic workers receive only Z$50 per month.
But even these increases have begun to drive growing numbers of capitalists to the conclusion that their enterprises will be unable to survive. Employers have begun to dismiss workers (31 000 in just the second half of 1980), saying they cannot afford to continue employing them. Total employment in the country remains almost static, while the problem of unemployment rises month by month.
Depressed world prices of metals constrain the growth of exports, while the railway system has proved unable to move larger tonnages of minerals to the ports. (In the first ten months of 1981 there was a 7% fall in the total value of mineral production.)
Even the bumper maize crop in 1981 could not keep Zimbabwe’s trade balance in surplus. Maize exports were similarly restricted by transport bottlenecks, made critical by the SA government’s deliberate sabotage in withdrawing loaned locomotives and restricting access through the rail network to the ports.
75-80% of Zimbabwe’s imports and exports pass through South Africa. There is also still a heavy dependence on the SA capitalist economy, which buys 18% of Zimbabwe’s exports (40% of its manufactured exports) and supplies 32% of its imports.
Although the economy grew by 8% in 1981, it is expected to fall well below that in this and subsequent years. Production growth, according to the September 1981 Economic Review of the Zimbabwe Bank, “is already being inhibited by inadequate foreign exchange allocations and skilled labour and transport bottlenecks”. Thus it is accepted that the recent rates of growth of industrial production cannot long be maintained.
The effect is similarly felt in agriculture, where the foreign exchange allocation for the import of tractors has been cut by four-fifths, while the allocation for large tractors and combines has been scrapped altogether.
Even limited reforms in education and welfare—for example, free universal primary education, and free medical treatment for those earning less than Z$150 per month—contributed to a 37% increase in planned government spending in the 1981/82 budget. International aid financed less than 6% of total spending. Taxation had to be increased sharply (itself a deterrent to capitalist investment), while the budget deficit increased to almost 11% of estimated GDP.
The result of all this has been steeply rising prices—officially 12% to 15% in 1981. But rents, for example, rose much faster than this, while the cost of traditional beer and tobacco has gone up more than 50%.
The government’s price ‘freeze’ can only temporarily offset inflationary pressures. Even that measure has perturbed the capitalists—while the workers are now expected to put up with an indefinite wage freeze. Particularly in the urban areas, the working people complain that they are finding themselves worse off in reality than two or three years ago.
This is confirmed by the recent report of the Riddell Commission, which said that its dominant impression was “the degree of dissatisfaction, the depth of bitterness … and the frustration expressed by the work force in Zimbabwe”.
While balancing and manoeuvring between the contending pressures, the government has more and more come into conflict with the demands and struggles of the working class.
Strikes now lead to ever harsher measures of repression. In October 1981 more than 1 000 black teachers and nurses were arrested during ‘unofficial’ disputes.
Exploiting the frustration of the former guerillas, the government has tried to play them off against the urban workers who did not take part in the war. Thus Mugabe threatened to throw the nurses ‘into the bush’ to give them a taste of what it was like to sacrifice during the war.
When a delegation representing striking teachers went to see the ZANU Minister of Education, he sacked them on the spot. In January 1982, 243 railway firemen who had gone on strike were arrested.
In March, 553 Salisbury bus drivers were convicted under the Industrial Conciliation Act inherited from the days of white rule, and were given fines and suspended jail sentences for striking.
In addition to workers in government and local authority services, there have been repeated outbreaks of strike action by workers in mining, industry, commerce and even agriculture—against tyrannical employers and for improved wages and conditions.
ZANU officials, particularly, are regularly called in by management to pacify the workers and direct them to return to work. At the same time, the government has been obliged to act to stop dismissals of workers taking place without its permission.
The working class overwhelmingly supports and wishes to strengthen the new government and the ruling parties against the white racists, against the threat from South Africa and against all dangers of reaction. But, simultaneously, the working class is realising the need to organise itself to defend its own interests against the state, the capitalist class, and the power of the ZANU and ZAPU hierarchies themselves.
Thus there is a re-awakening of trade union organisation and activity involving wider and wider layers of black workers in every sector.
In an attempt to control this development, the Mugabe government has maintained the old Industrial Conciliation laws while preparing a new law on similar lines. Efforts are also being made to bring trade union organisation under the control of the ruling party machine.
At the same time, the black middle-class elite has begun to merge with the bourgeoisie. Black company directors now abound in Zimbabwe. There is a rapacious scramble for self-enrichment, for positions and perks, and for luxury homes with the aid of building society loans.
One former ZAPU leader, for example, who became a company director in a big concern, is also the holder of the ‘Order of Lenin’ awarded in Moscow! Nor can many ZANU leaders resist the temptations of personal greed. Recently Mugabe was obliged to publicly denounce the “capitalists” in his party hierarchy and cabinet who were busy acquiring farms.
Bonapartist zig-zagging, striking blows to left and right, will increasingly characterise Mugabe’s government. The attempt to develop towards a one-party state is inevitable for this regime, in its efforts to curb and contain the growing contradictions.
One of the major factors threatening the stability of the regime is the unresolved national division between the Ndebele-speaking minority and the Shona-speaking majority.
Fundamentally, all sections of the oppressed are united in wanting to gain the land, jobs and an end to the twin evils of black poverty and white privilege. A policy of mass mobilisation in carrying the revolution through would have consolidated this unity in action.
But with the revolution stalling within the limits of capitalism, landlessness, unemployment, deprivation and discrimination of all kinds have continued to burden the masses. This has left fertile ground for the re-opening of old divisions, which are played upon by rival middle-class politicians, through the rival party machines, in their struggle for status and position.
Mugabe has been obliged to be cautious in his moves towards one-party rule. To avoid an explosive rupture he needs to maintain ZAPU’s participation in the government, and eventually to incorporate it into his own party. One of the problems he faced has been the frustrated ambition of Nkomo.
Through his intelligence service, Mugabe had probably been aware for months of the build-up of arms on farms purchased by Nkomo and other ZAPU leaders, in preparation for a possible future coup. No doubt he had also long been aware of their communications with South African capitalists, etc.
Nevertheless, Mugabe initially hoped to persuade Nkomo to abandon his independent ambitions and enter into a merger of the two parties. It was only when this proposal was firmly rebuffed that he moved to raid the farms, expose Nkomo, and expel him and his closest aides from the government.
The result has been the disarray of the ZAPU leadership, with an important section favouring a merger.
At the same time Smith’s RF has begun to disintegrate, with a number of white MPs deciding to side with the ZANU government. For more than a year, even white capitalists and former Special Branch policemen under Smith have been taking out ZANU party cards, in the hope of guaranteeing their futures.
Although there will be new twists and turns in the situation, Mugabe will probably succeed eventually in establishing a one-party system. But instead of ending the contradictions, this will merely compress them into a single vessel. In the long run this will lead to increased tensions, class conflicts and ultimate splits within ZANU itself.
Side by side with the national, class, and inter-party divisions and tensions, there has been the acute frustration among the peasantry over their unsatisfied need for land.
675 000 African families live on the former ‘Tribal Trust Land’—which is able to support only an estimated 200 000 families. At the same time, some 60% of the white-owned land is either lying fallow or under-utilised.
In the past few months, some 50 000 peasants, refusing to tolerate any longer the procrastination of the government, have taken matters into their own hands and occupied vacant white-owned lands.
The initial response of the government was to treat them as squatters and threaten them with stern police measures. But it was politically impossible for the government to face a confrontation with the peasants when it was simultaneously entering more and more into conflict with the working class.
Fearing for its long-term survival, the government has been obliged to threaten expropriation of white-owned land, even without compensation if increased aid from the West is not forthcoming.
The alternative, as the new Minister of Lands put it, was to face the danger of a “second revolution”.
At first only vacant land, and then land of the smaller white farmers, is likely to be taken over. In this way a flight of the bigger commercial farmers from the country will initially be avoided. Likewise in finance, industry and trade the government has so far followed an extremely cautious policy of limited or partial nationalisations, leaving the essential framework of capitalism untouched.
But, as the contradictions in society intensify, the government could be placed under intolerable pressures. On the one hand it would be confronted with the mounting demands of the people for radical reforms. On the other hand it would be faced with the stubborn resistance to change by the capitalists, provoking still more furious struggles by the working masses. Its only way out would be to try and gain control of the key resources of the economy in order to meet some of the demands.
Further and more extensive nationalisations within the framework of capitalism—not only of land, but also in finance, industry and mining—will thus become unavoidable.
It is likely that a slow but steady departure of the whites will continue. Already their number is down from a peak of 275 000 in 1975, to below 190 000 at the beginning of 1982. The first to go are, in the main, the unskilled workers, clerks, and small farmers. The managers and many skilled technicians stay on, together with the owners of large farms and industry.
While the government consolidates its position in the short term, the impasse of capitalism will increasingly undermine its stability. Though this may take a number of years to reach crisis proportions, the regime will be obliged to develop more and more oppressive powers in order to control the developing struggles of the working class, and, eventually, of the peasants as well.
The building and defence of independent unions in Zimbabwe will form a major focus of the working-class movement in the coming period. This could combine with a struggle of rank-and-file youth of ZANU and ZAPU to carry forward the demands for complete national liberation, democracy, and socialism.
The revolution in Zimbabwe is not finished; in a sense it has only begun.
It is possible that, in the longer term, severe economic crisis, combining with mass discontent against the capitalists and their supporters in the regime, could provoke splits in the ruling apparatus. This could leave Mugabe (or his successors) with no alternative but to move towards the overthrow of capitalism and the constitution of a proletarian bonapartist state.
The most likely context for such a process would be the development of a revolutionary situation in South Africa itself, with upheavals throughout Southern Africa. But this would open the way also to the achievement of power by the working class and the carrying through of the socialist revolution in the entire sub-continent.
To this end the task of revolutionaries in Zimbabwe is to bring into being links of common organisation between the Zimbabwean working class and the workers of South Africa and the region as a whole. On that road alone can all the unresolved problems of the people finally be overcome.
The fight to free Namibia from South African colonial rule is of the greatest importance to the oppressed and exploited people of South Africa itself. It will lead to a further weakening of the SA regime and ruling class, and bring forward the day when the whole of Southern Africa will be freed from imperialist domination.
At the same time, the struggle in Namibia highlights very clearly how the revolution in Southern Africa is bound together as a single process, and how each national struggle is forcefully influenced—and at times even determined—by international forces and circumstances.
In Namibia, a country the size of France, West Germany and Belgium put together, but with a population of only one million, the economic and military stranglehold of South Africa is enormous. The SA economy produces 40 times the total production of Namibia. The turnover of just the top ten SA companies is seven times Namibia’s Gross Domestic Product!
Both under German colonial rule in the past, and under direct South African rule subsequently, the economy of Namibia has been grossly under-developed, while its rich resources have been plundered.
Diamond and uranium mining alone account for about 50% of the GDP.
Commercial agriculture, which makes up the second most important part of the economy, is in the hands of a mere 5 000 (mainly white) farmers. The overwhelming, majority of the indigenous population are forced to survive by subsistence production and by the abysmal wages of migrant labour on the mines and the white-owned farms.
Under the ruthless state machine directed and financed by Pretoria, and the baasskap of a white settler population of 100 000, black Namibians have been subjected to a system of oppression essentially similar to that in South Africa. SA colonisation of Namibia has drawn the working class of both countries particularly close together.
As in South Africa, Namibian workers have a militant tradition of industrial and political struggles against exploitation and oppression. The political consciousness of the workers was shown as early as 1938 in the refusal by dock-workers at Walvis Bay to offload an Italian ship in protest against Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia.
There were big strikes by contract workers in the 1950s and 1960s. The 1971-72 strike by Namibian workers—the biggest in their history—played an important part in the re-awakening of the SA workers’ movement as well.
The workers were in the forefront of the national liberation struggle. SWAPO itself was originally founded as an organisation of migrant workers. One of its first aims was to fight against the migrant labour system.
However, with the delay of the workers’ revolution internationally and the weakness of the forces of Marxism, SWAPO developed under the influence of nationalist ideas, while its leadership passed increasingly into the hands of the tiny educated black elite.
From the outset, the liberation struggle in Namibia has confronted a very difficult strategic problem: the disparity between (on the one hand) the power of the repressive colonial state, founded on the might of South Africa, and (on the other hand) the small population, forces, and resources of the oppressed Namibian people.
Without a revolution imminent in South Africa, how could the colonial regime in Windhoek be successfully fought and overthrown?
In South Africa, after the tide of mass resistance of the 1950s and early 1960s was suppressed, there was a lengthy period in which the hold of reaction tightened. The decision to launch guerilla struggle was taken in this period.
As already pointed out, in the colonial world generally the peasants, workers and youth, facing unbearable conditions, could not wait for the proletarian revolution in the West to overthrow imperialism. Similarly the Namibian masses could not wait for the South African revolution to smash their oppressor.
But while seeking every means of direct resistance to SA rule, they have at the same time been hampered by the lack of the clear internationalist leadership and perspective necessary to forge the vital links of organisation and common struggle with the rising South Africa working class.
The ideas of guerillaism gained enormous popularity among the youth, particularly with the advances in the guerilla wars in Angola, Mozambique, and later Zimbabwe. The victory of the MPLA, opening up the possibility of rear bases in Angola, increased the scope for SWAPO to wage guerilla war.
Retaining its traditional mass following in the working class and in the rural areas of the north, SWAPO has won the support of the great majority of oppressed Namibians through the heroism, commitment and sacrifice of its fighters. Its own popularity has risen precisely as other, rival organisations have exposed before the people the readiness of their leaders to compromise.
However, as the war in Namibia has shown, guerilla struggle itself provides no sure route to a revolutionary victory against a powerfully entrenched enemy.
We have explained why, in Zimbabwe, the guerilla war—while it advanced the country towards political independence—proved incapable of carrying through the national and democratic, let alone the social, emancipation of the people. The obstacles to a guerilla victory are multiplied ten-fold in the conditions of Namibia.
The South African state, with its massive economic resources, air-power and heavy weaponry, has been able to confine the guerilla conflict largely to the northern border area of Namibia, the Caprivi strip, and southern Angola. Using at least 50 000 and up to a 100 000 troops at times, the SA forces have been able to maintain a firm grip on the towns, the transport and communications network, the commercial farming areas, and the bulk of the countryside where the small indigenous population is widely scattered.
About 30% of black Namibians are concentrated in an area within 40-50 km of the Angolan border. Here, the South African occupying forces rule by vicious intimidation and bloody reprisals against the people, who suffer appallingly in their efforts to support and sustain the guerilla war.
By repeatedly bombing, raiding and carrying out massacres in southern Angola—including the invasion of the region by heavy ground and air forces in September 1981—the South African regime has been able to impede the progress of the SWAPO forces and repeatedly disrupt their lines of reinforcement and supply.
In its military policy against SWAPO, SA enjoys the scarcely veiled support of the imperialist powers, particularly the USA.
Partly, this is for the obvious reason that the imperialists want to defend their economic interests in Namibia, and preserve the access of the multi-national corporations to the country’s mineral wealth. Nevertheless, they have seen in Angola that continuing economic dependence on the West, with increasing trade and aid, has allowed their continued exploitation of Angolan oil.
Now that the MPLA government has consolidated itself, and imperialism has failed to dislodge it by supporting UNITA, the US administration has quietly swung over towards accepting the need to recognise and have diplomatic relations with the Angolan regime.
This pragmatism was well expressed by Rockefeller, the American banker, who said recently during an African tour that he did not think “African Marxism” threatened American interests.
But while imperialism may, with reluctance, be able to come to terms with the collapse of capitalism in subordinate countries of Southern Africa, it must strive ruthlessly to bolster the power of capitalism over the region as a whole.
The developing revolutionary crisis in South Africa is a spectre haunting imperialism, because the South African capitalist state is the key to imperialist domination of the entire region.
Because of South Africa’s industrial strength, and the strength of its working class, a victorious revolution there, leading to the overthrow of capitalism, would reverberate throughout Africa and dramatically change the world balance of forces against imperialism.
Neither the South African state nor the main imperialist powers are prepared to accept a military victory by the guerilla forces of SWAPO in Namibia. This is because of the effect that would have in driving forward the movement of the masses in South Africa, weakening the state and hastening the development of a revolutionary situation.
If only the contending forces within Namibia itself were involved, the military predominance of South Africa would enable it to hold power, sustain the colonial state apparatus, and contain the guerilla war for many years. Even so, it would not be able to defeat the guerillas decisively or halt the resistance of the masses.
Over the past 40 years, struggle after struggle of the colonial people has proved that the colonial revolution is irreversible. South African imperialism cannot crush the Namibians, any more than American imperialism could crush the Vietnamese. The claim by the South African military commanders that they would “win the hearts and minds” of the Namibian people has been shown to be a hollow boast. The cost of the war (R400 million in 1981) mounts year by year, while their military presence is more and more detested by the population.
Nevertheless, if it was a question of Namibia alone, the South African regime would undoubtedly attempt to hold on indefinitely against SWAPO. But the main element in the calculations of both South African and Western imperialism is the developing crisis within South Africa itself. Their fear is that the South African and Namibian revolutions may combine.
If the war in Namibia drags on for a further five or ten years, there is an increasing likelihood that the South African regime will have to face massive confrontation with the black people at home while the bulk of its army is tied down in Namibia—with the danger of each situation inflaming the other and drawing the working masses of both countries together into a combined insurrectionary movement.
It is above all this frightening perspective for the ruling class which has induced the South African regime to move cautiously towards accepting the proposals of the Western ‘contact group’ (USA, Britain, France, West Germany and Canada) for a Namibian settlement.
Although the settlement proposals have changed in detail, in essence they are an attempt to bring SWAPO leaders into government while tying them down with economic, constitutional and other guarantees intended to keep Namibia within the framework of capitalism. The outcome of the Lancaster House conference, and the survival of capitalism in Zimbabwe, has given the ruling class confidence that a regime on a similar basis can be sustained in Namibia.
The SWAPO leadership, for its part, has found itself under severe pressures to accept in principle a settlement of the Namibian conflict on such lines.
On the basis of the guerilla strategy, the alternative to a settlement would be the continuation of a difficult and bloody war, with no end in sight. As happened with Zimbabwe, the governments of the ‘front-line’ states—not least Angola—are anxious to bring the fighting to an end as soon as possible. The weight of the Soviet bureaucracy is added to theirs.
Ever since Zimbabwe’s independence, the conditions for a settlement in Namibia have been falling into place. Nevertheless, there are differences over important details which have drawn out, and repeatedly interrupt, the conclusion of an agreement.
During 1975-76, when the belief in the possibility of an outright guerilla victory was at its height, SWAPO had declared itself a “vanguard party” and committed itself to the aim of a “classless non-exploitative society”. The programme adopted in August 1976 said that SWAPO would “ensure that all the major means of production and exchange of the country are owned by the people”.
In 1977 the SWAPO leader, Sam Nujoma, said: “We are fighting for the mass of the workers to have direct control over the means of production”.
Such statements reflected the pressure of the Namibian masses upon their leaders, at a time when the latter did not feel acutely the countervailing class pressures exerted on them through international diplomacy.
Subsequently the leadership, faced with the pressures towards settlement, have abandoned all elements of their programme which imply the overthrow of capitalism, and are now prepared to guarantee the preservation of private ownership in Namibia.
In January 1981, during the period leading up to the Geneva conference on Namibia, the Economist disclosed details of negotiations taking place between SWAPO and the owners of the Namibian mines:
A SWAPO government would want a stake in new ventures, as does Botswana…but it would not bring about immediate changes in the rules covering existing mines…
SWAPO has told De Beers it would look for an increase in the taxation rate (currently a total of 60% lower than in Botswana) and a say in the marketing of rough diamonds overseas.17/1/81
In return, it was reported, the De Beers management agreed to allow SWAPO to operate freely among the 6 000 migrant workers at Oranjemund, and also agreed to finance a country-wide mineral survey to show its commitment to future national development. At the same time, Nujoma told the Financial Mail that SWAPO only wanted “state participation” in industry.
An essential component of the settlement proposals at Geneva, which SWAPO was prepared to accept, was a guarantee against the expropriation of property.
Thus, as in Zimbabwe, the absence of working-class control over the guerilla leadership, the inability of the working class to maintain its own leadership of the struggle, and the weakness of the forces of Marxism have led to the essential basis of a revolutionary transformation in Namibia being abandoned by the SWAPO leadership.
Nonetheless, as events in Mozambique and Angola showed, the question of programme is not in itself decisive.
One of the looming problems for capitalism in Namibia is its own failure in the past to develop the country, and the extreme weakness of its social base among the indigenous people. Thus, if SWAPO had unrestrained power in a Namibian government, the leadership could be impelled by the pressure of the masses towards the takeover of the economy and the carrying through of the revolution on the lines of Angola and Mozambique.
Realising this, the South African and other imperialist governments seek to impose, in any settlement, a series of conditions and restraints designed to ham-string SWAPO in its exercise of power and freedom of manoeuvre.
The crux of the matter is disclosed in a secret memorandum of talks between the South African government and the US State Department’s Crocker in April 1981 (which was leaked some months later).
General Malan “flatly declared…that ‘South Africa does not rule out an internationally accepted settlement but could not live with a SWAPO victory that left SWAPO unchecked.’ “
The SA Foreign Minister, Pik Botha, said that in that event “we will have to invade Namibia and other countries as well. It would be better to have a low-level conflict there indefinitely than to escalate it to a general conflagration.” (Star 17/10/81).
Thus, any settlement acceptable to South Africa would be designed to check, not just SWAPO, but the democratic exercise of power and self-determination by the Namibian people.
While willing to maintain capitalism in Namibia, the SWAPO leadership cannot accept a settlement which makes it the mere puppet either of a white minority in Namibia or of South African imperialism. Therefore, while the general conditions for a ‘settlement’ of the war exist, there is still a wide gulf to be bridged before an agreement could be reached or implemented.
Hence the protracted negotiations, interruptions, the continuation of the war, the renewed negotiations, etc. At present the sticking point between the parties is a complicated voting system designed to prevent SWAPO from gaining an outright majority in the constituent assembly, and so oblige it to enter into a coalition.
The collapse of the DTA has plainly exposed that, in any genuinely democratic election, SWAPO would gain an overwhelming majority. To prevent the rout of all the other parties (of which there are apparently between 37 and 42) and to maintain the division of the country into 11 ‘ethnic’ groups (long a basis of manipulation by the oppressor) is one of the main objects of imperialism’s settlement proposals.
As the ruling class knows, at the core of the question of power, is the question of the state.
Thus in Zimbabwe, a key component of the settlement with imperialism was the maintenance of the old state machinery largely intact, combined with the confinement of the guerillas in “assembly points”. This allowed the new government to be constituted on the basis of the old state.
In Namibia, the approach of the imperialists is similar—but the conditions are different. The existing state machinery rests on the armed power of South African forces. Were they to be withdrawn and the vaccuum filled by SWAPO guerilla forces, there could be a rapid disintegration of any coalition government and a development towards a (deformed) workers’ state.
Thus South Africa is hastily trying to ‘Namibianise’ the existing armed forces and the administration of the state. But, having left it so late, it could provide at best a precarious basis for capitalist rule.
In the settlement talks so far, it is still far from clear to what extent the guerilla forces would be integrated into the post-independence state.
An important part of the settlement proposals is the exclusion of all SWAPO guerillas from the country during the transition, and, as South African forces are withdrawn, the use of UN troops to ‘keep the peace’ and curb the class struggle.
A major headache for South Africa, however, is the prospect of a massive flight of the white population in the event of a settlement, which would remove the linch-pin of capitalism in Namibia.
Thus the process of negotiations is complicated. Although there are strong pressures towards a settlement, this can easily falter. Meanwhile, South Africa continues its aggressive invasions of southern Angola, designed to reinforce Savimbi, and maintain pressure on the Angolan government and the SWAPO leadership to submit to South African demands.
A SWAPO government arising on the basis of such a settlement and adhering to its terms, while it would bring the war to an end and allow the formal independence of Namibia, would be unable to solve any of the material problems of the Namibian masses. It would inherit a bankrupt capitalist economy without the possibility of providing jobs or a decent living for the working people.
Development will be possible only with massive injections of aid, and then only within severe limits. There is already a crisis in agriculture as a result of years of drought. Over the past year the number of cattle in Namibia dropped from 2,5 million to 1,7 million while the number of sheep declined from 6 million to 435 million. Between 1976 and 1980, Namibia’s farm output slumped by 32% in real terms, and probably dropped further in 1981.
The international recession in diamonds has begun to have a grave effect on exports. Added to that is the plunge in the overseas market for karakul skins.
The under-development of industry is shown by the fact that nearly half of government revenue comes from taxes on mining. In 1981-82, out of budgeted expenditure of R888 million, the revenue account could only find R514 million. While South Africa presently pays Namibia’s deficits, an independent Namibia would have to finance them from aid or go to the international bankers for loans.
Thus the country will be trapped in continuing dependence on the capitalist West, while also dominated economically and threatened militarily by South Africa.
All these circumstances combine to prove how closely the future of the Namibian people is bound together with the progress of the revolution in South Africa itself. The struggle of the Namibian working class, at the head of the mass movement, will be the key factor in the coming period.
Whether or not the SWAPO leadership enters into a compromise with imperialism, the outcome of the struggle will depend above all on the working class. Organising and mobilising their forces, in SWAPO and in the trade union struggle, and fighting for the demands of all the oppressed, the workers can drive the revolution forward. That is the only way to defend every gain against counter-revolution, and weaken the power of imperialism over the people’s lives.
In all the capitalist countries of Southern Africa, the struggles of the oppressed are rising, and the conflict in society is increasingly being drawn on class lines. In every country of the region the bedrock of our understanding is the same—that the destinies of all the peoples of Southern Africa are inextricably bound together.
In all the developing local and national struggles it will increasingly be seen that the pivotal point of all the problems of the people is the capitalist system and the power of the bourgeoisie in South Africa itself. To over-throw that monster, the working class of all Southern Africa must unite!