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Zimbabwe: After the elections

At this momentous stage in the history of Zimbabwe, as the conflicts amongst the elites open a window, it is paramount that the democratic, opposition, progressive and revolutionary forces urgently come together around a programme of mass action from below, the only real way to defeat the dictatorship and stop a neoliberal elitist deal.

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Publisert: 23.06.2008

The massive performance of MDC (T) partly vindicates those who were arguing that something was happening in the electorate and therefore necessary to participate in the elections.

However, our central positions remain intact. If MDC (T) is correct that it won the presidential elections by an absolute majority, yet Zanu PF is insisting that there will be a run-off, this confirms our basic argument that the regime would remain in power by hook or crook, unless otherwise compelled by mass mobilization. Further our other basic position of the likelihood of an elitist and neoliberal deal around a government of national unity remains most likely. Despite the massive vote for change and removal of the Zanu PF dictatorship by the masses, the elites who now dominate MDC (T) are likely to cut a deal with the regime.

The number of elites such as business people, bankers and top professionals and lawyers amongst the newly elected MDC parliament representatives is staggering, with no less than fourteen senior lawyers! At the same time the elections have produced a hung parliament which gives disproportionate power to the similarly elitist dominated MDC (Mutambara) / Makoni factions whose 7 – 10% vote will be necessary for both the presidential run-off and to pass laws and budgets in parliament. In Zanu PF itself the best performing areas where in the Mashonaland provinces dominated by the pro-business Mujuru faction. These factors point to the strong likelihood of an elitist deal, under pressure from business and the imperialists, especially with the sword of Mugabe’s black indigenization law hanging over their heads. As Minister Chinamasa points out, there is immense pressure of a government of national unity in international and regional circles, with threats of escalation of the sanctions if this fails to materialize.

This is why one cannot dismiss off-hand the claim by Zanu PF that MDC (T) has already made proposals for cancellation of the run-off and for a government of national unity. As we earlier warned the MDC elites were desperate to get into government at any cost. The MDC officials that Zanu PF claims have approached them are the same in Tsvangirai’s infamous kitchen cabinet. We should also not forget that this is the same MDC that went into secret talks with Zanu PF and signed Amendment 18. In any case Tsvangirai has made no secret his intention of creating a government of national unity "with elements from Zanu PF."

Thus MDC (T)’s new position of boycotting the run-off, after initially stating it would contest "under protest", would be commendable and consistent with our earlier argument of rejecting the fake elections, but is suspect in the circumstances. Instead of mobilizing the masses who have overwhelmingly voted for it, as did its counterpart in Kenya, MDC (T) has focused on calling for so-called "international community" intervention – code words for the western countries; sending its leaders on futile regional – international "diplomatic offensives"; and most damning pacifying its members and civic groups by calling for restraint and not doing anything to provoke the regime and the party again going to Mugabe’s courts for relief, giving the regime cover to draw out the dispute and consolidate its positions.

The behavior of the regime in refusing to announce the results has more than vindicated the position of those who said that without a democratic constitution and mass mobilization, the March elections would not deliver change and that Mugabe was not joking when he warned Bulawayo residents – "You can vote for them (MDC), but that will be a wasted vote. You will be cheating yourself as there is no way we can allow them to rule this country… The MDC will not rule this country. It will never, ever happen. Asisoze sivume."

Now emboldened by the cowardice and opportunism of the elites who now dominate the opposition, Zanu PF is arrogantly insisting on a run-off that on every count it should lose, given that the combined opposition vote in the parliamentary elections was around 53% to Zanu PF’s 43%. Zanu PF is likely to launch a vicious and brutal scotched earth campaign in the rural areas for the run off, but even this is unlikely to surpass the significant numerical advantage the opposition enjoys, unless Zanu PF fiddles with the figures.

Although one can’t discount the possibility of a deal being struck off before the run-off, the more likely possibility is that of Zanu PF still pushing for the run-off, "winning" it and establish the legitimacy it yearns for and thereafter after softening of MDC, still entering into an elitist western-backed neo-liberal deal with the opposition to deal with the economic crisis. What should revolutionaries and radicals in civic society and organized labour do in the circumstances?

In the first place we welcome the route that MDC (T) has now taken, under pressure from its radicals and the masses, namely that MDC (T) will not participate in the fake run-off or re-count and calling for mass action. This stops the confusion and inconsistency that they have been showing. If MDC (T) is genuine in saying it won the elections and has been rigged why participate in a second round, where you are likely to be rigged again, as we had earlier on warned? However, it is not enough to merely boycott and do nothing or try and rely on useless methods like regional or international talks etc, for the regime will only use the space to consolidate itself or the international community, with the support of the cowardly and opportunistic elites in the party, will force MDC (T) into a sell out government of national unity with the regime.

A boycott to be effective, must be followed by mass mobilization and a campaign for civil disobedience – jambanja! MDC (T) had already lost valuable momentum immediately after the elections, when it could have initiated mass action together with civic society in the full glare of the regional and international media. But the current situation, where the elites have become entangled in the elections results issue, re-opens new possibilities for mobilization of mass action. The real way forward then is to immediately plan and mobilize for mass resistance to the electoral fraud, as the brave women of WOZA have shown.

This can be multifaceted starting with less confrontational methods that build confidence such as pressure on ZEC to resign, especially those seconded by the opposition, regular mass prayer meetings, cascading into stayaways and general strikes and demonstrations, if the regime refuses our deadlines, especially ahead of Independence Day on 18 April. On the day of the general strike and demonstration regional and international solidarity marches should be called for. The key demands remain rejection of the fake elections and demand for free and fair election under a new democratic and people driven constitution together with the demand for a tax-free living wage for workers and other demands in the Peoples Charter. This action cannot be left to the MDC (T) leadership alone, as the elites who now dominate such party do not have the capacity nor courage to do such action. The way forward is action led by a democratic united front of the opposition parties, civic society and labour, with every party agreeing not to make individual and separate deals with the regime.

At all times radical civic society must keep its autonomy from the opposition parties. The groups around the Peoples Convention must urgently re-group and - like their Kenyan counter-parts - start this process. For as we earlier warned – "unlike previous alliances like the Broad Alliance and Save Zimbabwe, such united front must be autonomous of MDC … The experiences from 2000 teach us that ‘any strategy of fighting the dictatorship based on a movement dominated or controlled by the MDC will remain prisoner to the glaring ideological and strategic confusion it has shown since 2000 and is bound to fail …

Even if it should engage in some action, its primary pre-occupation is towards reaching a sell out settlement with the Zanu PF dictatorship …" However, given the obvious chicanery around the current results, the isolation of the regime, the massive and still escalating economic crisis, and the massive courage and confidence shown by the working people in the March elections and the confusion around the elections, the ground is more than fertile for mass resistance and action that can defeat the regime.

However, the dominance of business elites in MDC (T), points out to the fact that the party may still eventually enter the run off, despite current contrary proclaimations. If that happens then the radical forces will have to decide the advantages of an unconditional but critical vote for Tsvangirai as opposed to a boycott of the elections in order not to legitimize them as we had earlier called for. Contrary to our earlier position we now believe that given the failure to build an autonomous united front of labour, radical civic groups and the revolutionary left, after most such groups went into bed with MDC (T) in the harmonized elections an din the absence of left radicalization in Zanu PF itself, the possibility of the people power scenario, is highly reduced. Unless there is an elitist deal, and in the context of an escalating economic crisis, the greater likelihood becomes of a full scale Zanu PF – military dictatorship or a failed state, both eventualities that would crush the democratic , opposition and left forces given their current weaknesses.

In such circumstances, and in view of the massive support for MDC (T) in the March elections from working people, the way to go is to call for a vote for Tsvangirai without illusions about the regime going peacefully, but for the masses to use the period around the vote to remobilize for mass action, if as is likely the regime again steals, rigs or kills its way to victory. Further even in the eventuality of an MDC victory for the masses not to have illusions as to the nature of an MDC government but to be open and clear of what it would stand for – full restoration of a brazenly corrupt neoliberal dictatorship over the poor including privatization and significant reversal of the land reforms.

However, the call for its victory is premised on the basis that such a regime would still offer greater democratic space for the working classes, anti-capitalist movements and the left than under a military dictatorship or failed state. It is also likely to stabilize the economic crisis in the short to medium term, as the sanctions are lifted, increased tourist inflows. It is highly likely that there will be a fairly significant degree of imperialist aid and investment and balance of payment support, as they try and stabilize the new regime, to avoid the earlier fate of a similar regime in Palestine. Already the British government has promised a package of around $US billion as part of an overall package seen as one of the highest in recent years. Thus economic recovery albeit on an elitist basis and premised on resumption of a full-neoliberal programme is likely. Yet this would still arrest the hemorrhage the masses are now suffering, including of activists and cadres. As of now the masses are roasting on a fire, with a Mugabe victory sending them to hell, whereas an MDC government, like in Zambia and Kenya after Kaunda and Moi, likely to remove them from the fire into a pan next to the fire! Again as in those countries, the effects of the MDC neoliberal programme are likely to be felt towards the end of the first term of the regime. The key being that the left, organized labour and the anti-capitalist movement must continue their struggles right at the inception of an MDC government or government of national unity centred around anti-neoliberal bread and butter demands contained in the People Charters and promised by MDC (T) in the elections, as well as a new democratic constitution. They must use the intervening period to build their forces and cadreship and establish an effective united front to lead the masses when they start revolting against the neoliberal regime that succeeds the Mugabe dictatorship. This is what did not happen in Zambia and Kenya and allowed elements of the same regimes to again hijack the people’s movements.

Finally it is clear that the hold that Tsvangirai and MDC have on the urban poor and increasingly the generality of the working people can only be broken if the Mugabe dictatorship is broken and Tsvangirai ascends into power for his true characters to be fully exposed. Without that the illusions the masses have in him, derived from the leadership role he played in the initial round of revolt against neoliberalism and the dictatorship in 1997 – 99 and in the absence of a significant left united front alternative, will persist to the detriment of building a true mass anti-capitalist and revolutionary movement, especially in the context of the economic meltdown and unprecedented poverty we now face in Zimbabwe. He therefore must be given the long rope… the sooner the better. But at this momentous stage in the history of Zimbabwe, as the conflicts amongst the elites open a window, it is paramount that the democratic, opposition, progressive and revolutionary forces urgently come together around a programme of mass action from below, the only real way to defeat the dictatorship and stop a neoliberal elitist deal.

ISO Zimbabwe (11 – 04 – 2008)


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