Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Dec. 8, 2017.
This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.
There have been varied musings on radical subreddits, like /r/communism on the Zimbabwean Communist Party (ZCP), in recent days. Some have said that the party is “not significant and had no role in the land reform and subsequent turn against imperialism” and that the “reactionary nature of this event [the coup, an intra-party struggle within the Zanu-PF] is clear.” Others have said that “the ZCP ally themselves with the ANC” and some added that “our Zimbabwean comrades are not well versed in the National situation of SA, and by extension the correct or incorrectness of their communist party.” Some have also noted that “this party has only been functioning for 6 months.” This article aims to summarize what we now know about the ZCP.
The Secretary of the party was part of the MDC?
An article on Bulawayo 24 notes that “Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena based in South Africa has resigned from the MDC…after the formation of their new political party Zimbabwe Communist Party in which he is now the secretary general.” It quotes a Facebook post, this past May, where he explained himself:
As l sat on the bus from Bulawayo to Johannesburg, l wrote my resignation letter to the MDC Secretary General informing her of my decision to resign my membership of the MDC. I had joined the MDC in September 1999 when it was officially launched at Rufaro stadium. Before then, we worked hard with the likes of Cde Austin Moyo, Dr Morgan Sebele, Cde Danisa Zulu , Cde Linda Mthimkhulu , Dr Lawrence Mbobo (who then decided not to join the MDC) towards the formation of the MDC. I had joined the MDC , a year after l was recruited into Communism by the then SACP [South African Communist Party] spokesman Cde Mazibuko K Jaha and Cde Molly Dlamini (a trade unionist and a Communist). During my years in the MDC, l worked closely with comrades from the Keep Left, the likes of Cde Trevor Ngwane, Prof Patrick Bond, Cde Claire and others. We used to invite Prof Welshman Ncube in our Keep Left meetings but over the years, l was drawn closer to the SACP, attending its political study groups , Communist University. When we went to the MDC congress in 2006, we had to reclaim our movement as Pan Africanist in character, when the congress was held under the theme, ‘My Zimbabwe, My Pride , Our Heritage’. Unfortunately, our then President Prof Arthur Mutambara failed to articulate our political message to an extent that, we were not understood and were labeled stooges of Zanu (PF). This misunderstanding cost us the support from the working class who had to stick with MDC-T. After the 2013 elections, it became clear to me that, for us to win both the urban and rural electorate and expose Zanu (PF) for what it is, was to challenge it ideologically. This would have required us to transform the MDC into a socialist movement or a political movement biased to the left. Given that the MDC is home to various class interests and it had to stick to Social Democracy, some of us started to work towards the formation of the vanguard of the working class in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Communist Party was officially launched on the 3rd May 2017 and l was left with no option but to resign my membership of the MDC. I have no hard feelings towards the leadership and the entire membership of the MDC. In fact, l respect the political leadership of Prof Welshman Ncube, an organic intellectual in his own right. Normally, when people resign from parties, they tend to trade insults and make all manner of accusations. With me, it is different. If the MDC allowed dual membership like the ANC/SACP, l would have resigned from my position in the MDC and remained a card carrying member.”
This is already worrisome. I say this because the MDC is clearly the Western puppet opposition which anyone with half a brain would realize. He is almost acting like the MDC is a leftist force instead of just being a force of Western imperialism! This is not good. He is acting like there are “good” people in the MDC which is laughable.
Not much can be found on the people he mentions other than that one works for the revenue authority in Zimbabwe, another as a medical doctor, one as a civil engineer, one at the Health Wellness Institute, two who are is a spokespeople for SACP, a self-declared socialist in South Africa, a current President of one of the MDC factions, the horrible anti-Mugabe “scholar,” and more. This further seems to indicate that this party, which seems to have its main roots in South Africa, has some fundamental issues, especially with its conversations with those who hate Mugabe or are part of the puppet opposition in Zimbabwe! This does not portend well at all.
The ZCP, Mugabe, and the Zanu-PF
It is already clear that the ZCP endorsed the “military takeover in the country” of Zimbabwe. They argued that
the politico-military action taken by the Zimbabwe National Army is the result of the chaotic state of Zimbabwe as a whole and the ruling party, Zanu (PF), in particular. The extravagant lifestyles of the ruling elite contrast sharply with the extreme poverty of the majority of the Zimbabwean people.
The Party also called for a “transitional arrangement that would ensure a peaceful, free and fair election” within a “reasonable time frame” and indicated they would be “willing to engage with a new government once it’s in place to establish areas of mutual concern and possible agreement in the interest of taking the country forward.”
These views already seem to be in line with the imperialist faction of the Zanu-PF and their Western sycophants who have been blabbing about “Mugabe the dictator” (or “Mugabe the homophobe”) for years. Why would anyone endorse this coup which has led to, basically a “counter-revolution” in Zimbabwe?
In this past year, the ZCP has called Mugabe and Jacob Zuma dictators, saying the former sold off the country while also declaring that there is “economic damage caused by Zanu PF’s warring factions.” This aligns with their view that Mugabe lost the chance to help Zimbabwe’s economy. They even said that Grace Mugabe has a problem with managing her anger. Even with this, the party has said they will not “even want to contest this year’s elections” but instead want more public engagement in the country apparently.
This already makes me a bit nervous from a radical standpoint. The party says they are a “class movement, a case of a three pronged struggle against imperialism, dictatorship and national bourgeoisie” making them a “Marxist -Leninist political organization whose ideology will run on scientific socialism,” adding that “we seek to embark on an exercise of genuine nation building since our people have been divided into ethnic enclaves since attaining independence. The regime has failed to resolve ethnic divisions in our society.” Other articles quote them as saying that they are “going to encourage productive capitalism and take the economy to the people” and aimed to form “a vanguard party that will see the working people of Zimbabwe, especially the poor, having their share in the country’s wealth,” influencing policy decisions “that would be beneficial to the working poor,” while criticizing “opposition” parties. It has also been noted that the party is basically a “group of committed people who are politically active in other organisation that also include the so called opposition parties.” One document, earlier this year, outlines their views to an extent:
…We are encouraging others to join our ranks. This will help in strengthening the Africa Left. Our main aim is to promote democratic principles in our region guided by Marxist-Leninist philosophy…The economic crisis in Zimbabwe is worsening…We must then comrades, find a solution to the economic crisis in Zimbabwe and the region. It cannot be correct that the South African economy can develop when surrounded by poor nations…As the ZCP, we are calling for a National Economic Dialogue to find a solution to our economic challenges…This National Economic Dialogue must be attended by the ruling party, the opposition parties, liberation movements from the SADC region, trade unions, informal sector organisations, progressive civil society organisations, faith based organisations, rural based formations, youth and women formations…As Communists, we want an economy that is free both from imperialist influence and from looting by parasites…The alternative to the capitalist system is socialism. Socialism will never be achieved unless we build peoples power in our communities and at the work place.
While you could say this rhetoric is encouraging, their lack of understanding of the power relations with the United States as the head honcho of world imperialism, working with European imperialisms, especially that of the British, shows that their viewpoints have fundamental problems to say the least. Could it be said that they are just an organization to distract the Zimbabwean proletariat? Perhaps it can. Having revolutionary forces work together is a good idea but I’m not sure they are a revolutionary force, especially when they endorse the idea of “productive capitalism” at the present! The Zanu-PF are socially democratic, as it currently stands, and support a bourgeoisie in Zimbabwe, but how the ZCP any better? They seem to be woefully misinformed with fundamental falsehoods.
Looking at the ZCP’s Facebook page and a conclusion
Their page tells a bit about their positions. They declare that “Prof Jonathan Moyo…should be clasified as a terrorist,” say that they are “extremely overwhelmed with great joy upon learning that Mr Mugabe has tendered his resignation letter today” even as they “appreciate his contribution and achievements for his 37 years of reign,” and argue that “Mugabe must step down with immediate effect,” adding that they need to show their “anger over Mugabe’s four decades of gross misrule. No to Mugabeism of our state.” Other posts said that “the ZCP party,its ex[ec]utive council,the membership and its affiliate organisation are proud and satisfied by the conduct of the country’s military at a time Zimbabwe was sliding into chaos.” One final post said that the “ZCP’s Executive council has yesterday taken off from the Airport to [revisionist] China” in order to “attend the Congress of the CPC where the interim leadership will engage their CPC counterparts to take some notes on how we can hold our own elective Congress back home.”
Using this and what is currently known, it is hard to trust the ZCP, especially since they think the Chinese revisionists are “socialist” or “communist.” Perhaps they can pull off something and change their reputation but this seems unlikely at the present.
Update on Jan 14, 2019
Looking at their page today I find that they urge the Zimbabwean people to join nationwide protests, calling police and soldiers “our sons and daughters. They are fellow workers, not the enemy. Shops and vendors are not there to be looted. If you drink alcohol, do no drink when attending serious demonstrations. A better Zimbabwe starts with us,” which seems like a weird (and conservative) position. In a statement only a few days ago, they write that “when Mnangagwa was inaugurated, there was some hope [among whom?] that there would be some opening-up of the economy ― even if on a highly exploitative, neo-liberal basis,” adding that “we DID expect factories and other workplaces to open even if they were to pay starvation wages. BUT the ZCP warned that the habits of the past within ZANU(PF) might not allow this to happen,” saying that under the current circumstances, “Mnangagwa had little choice other than to raise fuel prices,” criticizing the existence of the bond note, asking “Why is Trafigura allowed to maintain a monopoly over Zimbabwe’s fuel importation?,” saying they had concluded in the past that “highly placed officials in the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and probably elsewhere in government had a vested interest in preserving the black market which is a natural consequence of officially maintaining the 1:1 parity of the Bond Note and the US Dollar.” As such they have three demands: the need for abolishing the bond note, ending the Trafigura Fuel Monopoly and calling for a National Economic Dialogue. Such a confusing statement is not all. They have allied themselves with a teachers trade union called the Amalgamated Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, even getting arrested with them. Apart from sharing articles from time to time, they also paid tribute to the late Fidel Castro. At the end of 2018 they also released a message wishing comrades a “revolutionary new year.” In this message they wrote with an optimistic tone (bolding is my emphasis):
We end 2018 on a militant note with working people taking to the streets and demanding pay increases. Doctors, teachers and security guards are all demanding wages which can sustain them and their families.
There seems to be an opinion among our rulers that Zimbabwe can get over all its economic problems ─ if only workers can accept wages that are at least 50% below the poverty datum line! The ruling élite seems very perturbed by the demands by workers for incomes sufficient to feed and clothe them and their families, pay rent and pay school fees. To the wealthy, this seems very unreasonable.
The militarised capitalist approach since the 2017 coup is noticeable with the firing of any workers who demand (plus the firing of assault rifles in our streets) better working conditions and living wage.
We welcome the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry , our view as dialectical materialists, as followers of Leninist strategy and tactics is to recognise the importance of small victories, small steps forward while not losing sight of more important objectives and at every stage supporting the workers just call for a living wage.
The findings of the Dumbutshena Commission of inquiry into the Entumbane disturbances between ZIPRA and ZANLA skirmishes in 1981 and the Chihambakwe Commission of 1983-1984 which was concerned with the question of armed dissidents and the killing of unarmed villagers by state security forces were never released. In contrast the recent Motlanthe Commission investigating the Harare riots of August 2018, interviewed a substantial number of witnesses of all categories. These included relatives of the deceased, eye-witnesses, police, doctors, senior members of the ruling party, the opposition and other parties.
The Commission visited Gweru, Bulawayo and Mutare as well as Harare and produced a report highly critical of both those in the opposition who instigated and directed the violence and the police and army which used live ammunition against demonstrators, killing bystanders as well as some of those demonstrating. Although diplomatic language is used, the report makes it clear that senior members of the government and ruling party on the one side and the main opposition on the other, lied under oath
We must regard the successful conclusion of the Motlanthe Commission, with its published witness testimony and Final Report as a small victory for the democratic forces and demand the release of the reports of the Dumbutshena and Chihambawe Commissions.
As we go into 2019 we do so at the height of the doctor’s strike. At the time of writing, striking junior doctors have all been dismissed but they are now being supported by both their senior colleagues and newly qualified graduates who government had hoped to use as scab labour. Nurses who were so badly treated earlier this year, also seem prepared to join in. Through the intransigence and incompetence of our government we are now facing a total shut-down of our health service.
But what does it matter to them?
Mnangagwa and both his Vice-Presidents come to South Africa for treatment, while former president Mugabe goes to Singapore.
Both the actions and the bizarre and embarrassing television presentation by Vice-President Chiwenga when announcing the dismissal of striking doctors , has demonstrated that the ZANU (PF) government is the enemy not only of the working class but of the peasants and the poor people of Zimbabwe.
Towards the end of December, teachers under the banner of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) spent days on the road from Mutare to Harare demanding salaries in US dollars while other teachers under the banner of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe are demanding to be paid a minimum of $3000.
On the 7th January 2019, members of the Amalgamated Teachers Union of Zimbabwe will camp at the offices of the Minister of Finance, this should extend to the Reserve Bank which is fraught with corruption. As reported in our theoretical journal Vanguard Issue 6 (17th November 2018), the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has been captured by dubious characters.
Members of the Zimbabwe Security Guards Union, ZISEGU are also demanding better wages. Very recently, members of the ZISEGU in both Harare and Gweru have been demonstrating not only for higher wages but for employers to honour existing agreements.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is calling for a day of action in February next year. We must ensure full mobilisation on that day. It is imperative that we build a workers’ movement independent of the two neo-liberal parties, ZANU(PF) and MDC Alliance. We must not let this movement be captured by pro-capitalist and, in particular, pro-imperialist elements. We must also remember that most of the NGOs from which many of our political activists receive funding have their own agendas which are ultimately against both our national and our class interests.
With the change of farming season due to climate change, workers who have travelled to their rural communities over the holidays to till their land are experiencing low rainfall. Urban workers now depend on the food harvested from their small family rural land holding to feed their families in cities, with low rainfall. The first part of 2019 will be disastrous to most families. Peasants are struggling with their livestock which are dying due to drought and high prices of stock feed and animal medicine which is now out of reach to many families in rural communities.
Climate change is upon us. We risk Zimbabwe becoming a desert. In fact, some scientists have warned that if the problem is not tackled timeously, the whole of humanity can perish. Fortunately, a number of governments, notably that of China, previously the world’s worst polluter, have taken measures to reduce pollution. In Europe, Germany, Sweden and Portugal have been at the forefront of battling climate change. Obviously, most of the decisions to reverse this trend must come at government level. But there are things that ordinary people can do.
So what can we do in Zimbabwe?
The answer is simple. Use solar panels ―and plant trees.
Trees immediately reduce temperatures at ground level. If ground temperatures are lower, rain clouds are more likely to release their rain rather than passing overhead and releasing their water into the sea. More importantly in the long term, the trees extract carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their tree-trunks. Trees may be fruit trees, gum trees, wood lots for fuel or simply shade trees. But our people must be taught that tree planting has now become a necessity for survival. We must campaign on this in the coming year, especially in rural areas.
As the Zimbabwe Communist Party, we share the pain of the working people in cities, towns and with the peasants in rural communities.
The Zimbabwe Communist Party, maintains its call for the National Economic Dialogue. Our view as Communists is that if we are to resolve our immediate economic challenges, we must dialogue amongst ourselves. We can not outsource the rebuilding of our economy to anyone other than us Zimbabweans. There are those calling for a Government of National Unity, if the National Economic Dialogue will produce such, we are likely to support it. Currently there is no single party that can claim to hold keys to persuade the international community to come to our aide as was the case in 2009 [and how did that work out?].
The international balance of forces has changed from 2008 when parties represented in parliament signed the Global Political Agreement. In 2008, the opposition held the keys in engaging the Western countries on behalf of Zimbabwe. Since the military coup of November 2017, ZANU(PF) has gone through reformation. They have abandoned the populist policies fronted by Robert Mugabe used for simple plunder by a section of the élite in favour of a neo- liberal agenda which has brought them closer to the West.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has correctly characterised the ZANU(PF) economic policy as Economic Structural Adjustment Programme Part 2. This is a stark reminder to the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme which was adopted in 1991 by the ZANU(PF) régime. During the first decade of our independence, ZANU(PF) was guided by social democratic philosophy in implementing its economic policy. During that time, we saw improvement in infrastructural development (schools, clinics). When funds ran out, to continue with the social agenda initiative, the ZANU(PF) government adopted the neo-liberal ESAP programme of 1991 which intensified the suffering of the workers, peasants and poor and was the beginning of our economic collapse. The adoption of the neo-liberal agenda in 1991 coincided with the counter-revolution and destruction of the USSR.
The adoption of ESAP in 1991 was a catalyst in mobilising the working people and social movements in working towards the formation of the broad mass movement known as the Movement for Democratic Change in 1999. The convening of the National Working Peoples’ Convention in 1999 was aimed at building an alternative political formation that would advance, defend and deepen the struggle of the working-class and peasants.
Unfortunately, the MDC as we have come to know it was hi-jacked at its formation by white commercial farmers and British and American imperialism alarmed over Zimbabwe’s intervention in their proxy war of conquest against the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.
The current economic challenges are once again forcing the mobilisation of the workers and peasants. In 1999, when the working-class formed the MDC, there was no vanguard party to give theoretical guidance and practical leadership based on the scientific socialist theory of Marxism-Leninism.
In this period of the intensification of class struggle our Party, the Zimbabwe Communist Party has the massive task of politically educating a dedicated cadre force to lead the masses. We cannot allow our movement to be once again usurped by selfish demagogues.
The ZCP is alive to the fact that, under the current conditions, we cannot immediately transition to socialism. Creating a national democratic economy, in our view, is an important stage in the building of socialism. It will require an alliance with sections of the petit-bourgeoisie and even of big capital including controlled foreign investment, but we can never again allow an amorphous “multi-class” régime in which the workers are co-opted to serve the interests of the capitalists to dominate. Even in a multi-class alliance, the working-class must be the dominant class.
It is clear ZANU(PF) and the main opposition parties, even if they form a Government of National Unity, will never build a democratic economy that will respond to the needs of the people of Zimbabwe as a whole. The unity talks said to be taking place behind the scenes will have at the top of its agenda the taming of the working-class.
Once the MDC is in Government of National Unity with ZANU(PF), its leader will call on the labour unions to return to work and give the President Emmerson Mnangagwa a breathing space to rebuild the economy. We saw this in 1980. After Independence, when workers took to the streets demanding better working conditions and a living wage, the Mugabe administration responded by establishing the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union with his brother Albert Mugabe becoming its first Secretary-General. This must be avoided at all costs.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
1. We must pressure the ZANU(PF) government to resolve the Currency Question. This can enable some of the demands of the workers, fighting for a living wage, and the rural people, who need to purchase stock feed, to be met. Without resolving the Currency Question, there will be no economic recovery in Zimbabwe, even in the short term, even on a neo-liberal basis. We must here recognise the differences within the political élite between those seeking to normalise capitalist production and accumulation and those accustomed to plunder who see no need to change what is benefitting them. If we do not do this, the régime will continue printing more Bond notes and continue raiding the real money from the people of Zimbabwe. As the ZCP we see this as a major area of struggle in 2019. ZANU(PF) will not just resolve the Currency Question unless the working-class and the urban poor stage a real fight. We must take this fight to the door steps of the Reserve Bank.
2. End Corruption ― the ruling party is corrupt to the core but we must mobilise society and declare war on corruption. The Report of the Motlanthe Commission has shown that we now have a small democratic space within which we can criticise government and its functionaries. We must enlarge that space and use it to bring down at least some of the most corrupt.
3. Build the Unity of the Working-Class and Peasants― unless we unite the unions, the informal sector organisations, residents associations, faith based organisations, youth organisations, women organisations, rural organisations, black farmers organisations, the progressive section of the war veterans, we will not end the suffering of the people. Attacking the peasantry for voting ZANU(PF) as we have often seen the MDC youth do, is counter-productive.
4. In the rural areas we must begin by having a tree-planting campaign. As this gains traction, we must also advise on other ways in which our rural population can improve its living standards.
5. Intensify Political Education ― our struggle must be led by cadres schooled in Marxist- Leninist philosophy, strategy and tactics. Marx, Engels and Lenin all talked about the British dislike of theory. It is painfully obvious that Zimbabweans have inherited this characteristic from the British and as much as we can criticise both our current rulers and our wannabee rulers clustered around the opposition. We must also criticise our own working-class movement for the disastrous consequences of ignoring theory. If wrong people with wrong policies have destroyed Zimbabwe, it is at least partly because we have let them.
We must establish study groups, use social media, face to face meetings and most of all encourage people to read in order to develop cadres for the socialist revolution.
Issued by the National Steering Committee.
There is some positive thinking here (and elsewhere), and while I am optimistic, I am also very wary of their specific moves as they want capitalism to come in a positive in the short term, which I’m not sure is good. After all, these are the people who think Nkomo (the person backed by the Soviet social-imperialists) is good instead of Mugabe. Really? This makes me think they are a revisionist party, while they also call for nationalization of state enterprises rather than privatization. Even so, I will continue to watch the ZCP (which is having, according to its Facebook page, its 1st Party Congress in December 2019) closely in the days to come, as Zimbabwe continues to be engulfed by crisis as evidenced by recent articles in bourgeois media with titles like: “Zimbabwe army deploys to disperse fuel protests, 13 injured” (AP), “Zimbabwe fuel protests grow violent; gas prices now highest in the world” (LA Times), “Zimbabwe protests after petrol and diesel price hike” (BBC), “Zimbabwe Unions to Strike as Fuel Prices More Than Double” (Bloomberg), “Zimbabwe plans new currency as dollar shortage bites: Finance Minister” (Reuters), “Zimbabwe’s Farmers Urge Cloud Seeding as Drought Withers Crops” (Bloomberg), “Fuel protests turn deadly in Zimbabwe” (AFP), “Zimbabwe deploys police in Harare to control fuel price protests” (Reuters), “Zimbabwe Just Doubled Gasoline and Diesel Prices. Overnight” (Bloomberg), “Zimbabwe president doubles price of gas as fuel crisis bites” (Washington Post), “Zimbabwe fuel hike sparks national shutdown” (Al Jazeera), and “Fuel price protests in Zimbabwe turn deadly” (Reuters), to name a few.