Dialectical materialism: the foundation of Marxism

The cover of Josef Stalin’s book, Dialectical and Historical Materialism, which is quoted in this article. This is honestly the only semi-decent photo I could find when looking up “dialectical materialism” through a search engine (not Google)

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on June 26, 2018.

The concept of “dialectical materialism” is important for understanding the world as it currently stands. While commonly used websites express some of the meaning, a general idea can be more accurately garnered from the Marxists Internet Archive, defining the concept as a “way of understanding reality; whether thoughts, emotions, or the material world…[a] methodology [that] is the combination of Dialectics and Materialism…[serving as] the theoretical foundation of Marxism.” This article aims to explain this important concept, which Curry Malott of the PSL’s Liberation School calls a “theory that grasps how many of the competing social forces driving the movement of society are often hidden or mystified, and that gives us a way of uncovering them.”

Defining the concept of dialectical materialism

In order to define the concept, it is best to look at the text itself. The concept was implied in Frederich Engels’s 1883 book, Dialectics of Nature, in which he writes about the eternal cycle, through which matter moves, and dialectics, while also saying that “it is, therefore, from the history of nature and human society that the laws of dialectics are abstracted. For they are nothing but the most general laws of these two aspects of historical development, as well as of thought itself.” It was also expressed by Engels in his 1886 book Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, in which he wrote that “with each epoch-making discovery even in the sphere of natural science, it has to change its form; and after history was also subjected to materialistic treatment, a new avenue of development has opened here, too.” He added in later chapter that the “dialectic of concepts itself became merely the conscious reflex of the dialectical motion of the real world…[a] materialist dialectic…[has been] for years has been our best working tool and our sharpest weapon.” Others say the concept came from Anti-Dühring or German Ideology. Regardless, the fact is that dialectical materialsm was not fully defined as a concept until later. In 1895 it was mentioned by G.V. Plekhanov whom defines the concept:

…Modern dialectical materialism does not ignore…the influence of geographical environment on the development of society. It only ascertains better in what way geographical factors influence “social man.” It shows that the geographical environment provides men with a greater or lesser possibility of developing their productive forces, and thereby pushes them, more or less energetically, along the path of historical progress…Dialectical materialism reveals that such an argument is unsatisfactory, and that the influence of geographical environment shows itself first of all, and in the strongest degree, in the character of social relations, which in their turn influence the views of men, their customs and even their physical development infinitely more strongly than, for example, climate. Modern geographical science… fully agrees in this respect with dialectical materialism. This materialism is, of course, a particular case of the materialist view of history. But it explains it more fully, more universally, than could those other “particular cases.” Dialectical materialism is the highest development of the materialist conception of history…Modern dialectical materialism is incomparably more fruitful in this respect. It is of course a particular case of the materialist view of history but precisely that particular case which alone corresponds to the modern condition of science…Modern dialectical materialism cannot discover the mechanical explanation of history [an editorial note says that “Plekhanov’s statement is radically at variance with the basic principles of Marxist-Leninist dialectics. Dialectical materialism has never aimed at reducing all natural and social phenomena to mechanics, at giving mechanical explanations of the origin and development of species and of the historic process. Mechanical motion is by no means the only form of motion”]…Dialectical materialism says that it is not the consciousness of men which determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness; that it is not in the philosophy but in the economics of a particular society that one must seek the key to understanding its particular condition.

Basically, he is saying that dialectical materialism ascertains how the geographical environment influences humans by providing them with a possibility of “developing their productive forces” and that it influences social relations which influence people’s views, customs, and physical development even more than the climate. He is also saying that this concept posits that the “social being” of humans determines their consciousness and that in economics of a society, rather  than philosophy, one must “must seek the key to understanding its [society’s] particular condition.”

Two years earlier, G.V. Plekhanov used the term “dialectical materialism” but only said that this concept works to “overcome idealism” and that its task  was “determined in advance.” More than Plekhanov, Vladimir Lenin defined the term, which is important since he was able to put it in action as a successful Russian revolutionary who led the Soviet Union for many years.

In 1908, Lenin became aware of dialectical materialism, apart from his writing about “the conceptions of many modern scientists and of their metaphysical (in the Marxist sense of the term, i.e., anti-dialectical) views” the same year, remarking on A. Deborin’s book, Dialectual Materialism. Reprinted below are the comments on dialectical materialism from Deborin himself:

As a world outlook, dialectical materialism provides an answer—not an absolute one, of course—to the question of the structure of matter, of the world; it serves as the basis of a most brilliant historical theory; on the basis of dialectical materialism, politics and morality become in a certain sense exact sciences. Being foreign to all dogmatism, dialectical materialism—correctly understood, of course—introduces everywhere a fresh stream of theoretico—cognitive criticism. In this article we intend to call the reader’s attention only to the theoretico-cognitive aspect of dialectical materialism, which in this case does not, as a method, as a guiding principle of investigation, provide absolute solutions to problems, but primarily assists in their proper framing. As a theory of knowledge, dialectical materialism falls into a formal, or logical, part and a real, or material, one…Categories, i.e., pure universal concepts, such as time, space, or causality, are, from the point of view of dialectical materialism, logical definitions, on the one hand, and real forms of things, on the other….Dialectical materialism attains the “absoluteness” and universality of cognition by declaring the forms to be universal, objectively realperceptions.” On this rests the possibility of mathematical, or “geometrical” if you will, i.e., exact, cognition of reality. “Geometrical” space and “pure time” are universally real perceptions, and constitute the premise for the “mathematical” cognition of the sensuous world….But at the same time dialectical consciousness shows an ability to rise to the “conception” of nature as a “whole,” to the conception of the necessity, of the inherency, of the universal order of nature….Man cognises to the extent that he acts on, and he himself is subject to the action of, the external world. Dialectical materialism teaches that man is impelled to reflect chiefly by the sensations he experiences as he acts on the external world….Proceeding from the consideration that it is possible to dominate nature only by submitting to her, dialectical materialism calls upon us to coordinate our activity with the universal laws of nature, with the necessary order of things, with the universal laws of development of the world….Dialectical materialism puts material substance, the real substratum, at the basis of being. It has looked upon the world “as a process, as a substance, which is developing continuously” (Engels). The metaphysicists’ immutable and absolute being becomes mutable being. Substantial reality is recognised to be mutable, and changes and movements are recognised to be real forms of being. Dialectical materialism overcomes the dualism of “being” and “not-being,” the metaphysically absolute antithesis of the “immanent” to the“transcendental,” of the properties of things to the things themselves. On the basis of dialectical materialism, it becomes possible scientifically to connect the thing-in-itself with phenomena, and the immanent with the transcendental, and to surmount the incognisability of things-in-themselves, on the one hand, and the “subjectivism”of qualities, on the other, for “the nature of the thing,” as Plekhanov observes with very good reason, manifests itself precisely in its properties.”…From the point of view of dialectical materialism, the thing-in-itself is an object such as it exists in itself, and “for itself.”…Only on the basis of dialectical materialism, with its recognition of the external world, is the possibility presented of building a purely scientific theory of knowledge. He who rejects the external world also rejects the cause of our sensations and arrives at idealism. But the external world is also the ||principle|| of uniformity…Dialectical materialism by no means predetermines the question of the structure of matter in the sense of an obligatory recognition of the atomistic or corpuscular theory, or of any… And if the new theories of the structure of atoms are triumphant, dialectical materialism will not only not be confuted but, on the contrary, will be most brilliantly confirmed…hence, together with matter, also dialectical materialism, which considers matter as the sole  reality and the only suitable ||tool|| for systematising experience….To sum up. From the formal aspect, dialectical materialism, as we have seen, makes universally obligatory and objective cognition possible thanks to the fact that, from its point of view, the forms of being are also forms of thinking, that to every change in the objective  world there corresponds a change in the sphere of perceptions. As for the material aspect, dialectical materialism proceeds from the recognition of things-in-themselves or the external world or mailer. “Things-in-themselves” are cognisable. The unconditional and absolute is rejected by dialectical materialism. Everything in nature is in the process of change and motion, which are based on definite combinations of matter. According to dialectics, one “form” of being changes into another through leaps. Modern theories of physics, far from disproving, fully confirm the correctness of dialectical materialism.

In summary, Deborin says that dialectical materialism provides an answer to the structure of matter (what all material things are made of, occupying space and perceptible to the senses in some way) of the world and the basis of the “most brilliant historical theory,” being Marxism of course, assisting by properly framing problems. Categories like time (indefinite or unlimited duration in which things are considered to be happening in the past, present, or future; the entire period of existence of the known universe), space (three-dimensional, continuous expanse which extends in all directions and contains all matter), and causality (interrelation of cause and effect, connected with the principle that nothing happens or exists without a cause) are defined using “correct reasoning”  with “valid induction or deduction,” while the “real forms” of these things (distinguishable entities) take on universal forms (shape, outline, or configuration of something). [2] As such, this rests on possibility of an exact perception (mental grasp of objects, qualities, and other aspects, by the main senses; comprehension; awareness) of reality with space and time being real (existing or happening as in fact, being actual or true), which contributes to one’s perception, in the broadest sense, of the “sensuous world.” Dialectical materialism, as he puts it, also shows the ability to conceive nature as a whole which has a universal (present, occurring everywhere or in all things) order, with humans subject to the action of the external world, and can only “dominate nature only by submitting to her” meaning that humans must “coordinate our activity with the universal laws of nature, with the necessary order of things, with the universal laws of development of the world.” Furthermore, it puts “material substance…at the basis of being,” looking upon the world as a developing process, with changes and movements all the time. There is further a dualism (theory that the world is composed of two basic entities: mind and matter) of being or not being, meaning it becomes possible to scientifically “connect the thing-in-itself with phenomena,” with the “thing-in-itself” existing as “an object such as it exists in itself, and “for itself”” [3] With this, it is possible to build “a purely scientific theory of knowledge,” recognize the “cause of our sensations,” and reject idealism, while not predetermining “the question of the structure of matter.” He writes that this concept considers matter as “the sole reality and the only suitable” way  for “systematising experience” on Earth for humans and nature. As such it makes “universally obligatory and objective cognition possible” since it means that “forms of being are also forms of thinking” since “every change in the objective  world…corresponds [to] a change in the sphere of perceptions.” In terms of the material aspect, it “proceeds from the recognition of things-in-themselves,” rejecting the “unconditional and absolute” since everything in “nature is in the process of change and motion, which are based on definite combinations of matter,” with one form of being changing into another “through leaps.”

We then get back to Lenin. In 1908, he wrote about the “spirit of dialectical materialism” and Engels’s meaning of the term. In the same publication, Materialism and Empirio-criticism, he wrote that

…dialectical materialism insists on the approximate, relative character of every scientific theory of the structure of matter and its properties; it insists on the absence of absolute boundaries in nature, on the transformation of moving matter from one state into another, which is to us apparently irreconcilable with it, and so forth. However bizarre from the standpoint of “common sense” the transformation of imponderable ether into ponderable matter and vice versa may appear, however “strange” may seem the absence of any other kind of mass in the electron save electromagnetic mass, however extraordinary may be the fact that the mechanical laws of motion are confined only to a single sphere of natural phenomena and are subordinated to the more profound laws of electromagnetic phenomena, and so forth—all this is but another corroboration of dialectical materialism… The “essence” of things, or “substance,” is also relative; it expresses only the degree of profundity of man’s knowledge of objects; and while yesterday the profundity of this knowledge did not go beyond the atom, and today does not go beyond the electron and ether, dialectical materialism insists on the temporary, relative, approximate character of all these milestones in the knowledge of nature gained by the progressing science of man. The electron is as inexhaustible as the atom, nature is infinite, but it infinitely exists. And it is this sole categorical, this sole unconditional recognition of nature’s existence outside the mind and perception of man that distinguishes dialectical materialism from relativist agnosticism and idealism.

Bascially, Lenin is saying that dialectical materialism insists on no absolute boundaries in nature, with matter moving from one state to another, transforming, with the laws of motion and “electromagnetic phenomena” corroborating this concept. He is also saying that the essence of things, or its substance, is “relative” in that it expresses “only the degree of profundity of man’s knowledge of objects.” He also says  that dialectical materialism insists on the “temporary, relative, approximate character of all these milestones in the knowledge of nature” which has been gained so far, with this concept distinguished from “relativist agnosticism and idealism.”

In 1914 he broached this subject once more. He wrote that the elements of dialectics are firstly, “determination of the concept out of itself,” secondly “the contradictory nature of the thing itself…[and] the contradictory forces and tendencies in each phenomenon,” later expanded by Mao Tse-Tung, and thirdly “union of analysis and synthesis.” More specifically, he defines the elements of dialectics to be:

  1. objectivity of consideration”
  2. “entire totality of the manifold relations of this thing to others.”
  3. development of this thing [or]…phenomenon…[with] its own movement, its own life”
  4. “internally contradictory tendencies (and sides) in this thing”
  5. “the thing (phenomenon, etc.) as the sum and unity of opposites
  6. “the struggle, respectively unfolding, of these opposites, contradictory strivings, etc.”
  7. “the union of analysis and synthesis—the break-down of the separate parts and the totality, the summation of these parts.”
  8. “the relations of each thing (phenomenon, etc.) are not only manifold, but general, universal. Each thing (phenomenon, process, etc.) is connected with  every other
  9. “the unity of opposites [and]…the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other”
  10. “endless process of the discovery of new sides, relations, etc.”
  11. “endless process of the deepening of man’s knowledge of the thing, of phenomena, processes, etc., from appearance to essence and from less profound to more profound essence”
  12. “from co-existence to causality and from one form of connection and reciprocal
    dependence to another, deeper, more general form.”
  13. “the repetition at a higher stage of certain features, properties, etc., of the lower and the apparent return to the old (negation of the negation)”
  14. “the struggle of content with form and conversely. The throwing off of the form, the transformation of the content”
  15. “transition of quantity into quality and vice versa

Lenin mentioned the term “dialectical materialism” in another work the same year, but only talked about it in terms of dialectics and materialism, not the concept itself.

The following year, 1915, Lenin wrote about this topic again, saying that:

the splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts…is the essence (one of the “essentials,” one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or features) of dialectics…the correctness of this aspect of the content of dialectics must be tested by the history of science. This aspect of dialectics…usually receives inadequate attention: the identity of opposites is taken as the sum-total of examples…and not as a law of cognition (and as a law of the objective world)…The identity of opposites…is the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society). The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their “self-movement,” in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites… The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute…Every universal only approximately embraces all the individual objects…Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes) etc…Thus in any proposition we can (and must) disclose as in a “nucleus” (“cell”) the germs of all the elements of dialectics, and thereby show that dialectics is a property of all human knowledge in general. And natural science shows us (and here again it must be demonstrated in any simple instance) objective nature with the same qualities, the transformation of the individual into the universal, of the contingent into the necessary, transitions, modulations, and the reciprocal connection of opposites. Dialectics is the theory of knowledge of (Hegel and) Marxism…Dialectics as living, many-sided knowledge (with the number of sides eternally increasing), with an infinite number of shades of every approach and approximation to reality (with a philosophical system growing into a whole out of each shade)—here we have an immeasurably rich content as compared with “metaphysical” materialism…From
the standpoint of dialectical materialism, on the other hand, philosophical idealism is a one-sided, exaggerated…development (inflation, distension) of one of the features, aspects, facets of knowledge, into an absolute, divorced from matter, from nature…Human knowledge is not (or does not follow) a straight line, but a curve, which endlessly  approximates a series of circles, a spiral. Any fragment, segment, section of this curve can be transformed…into an independent, complete, straight line, which then…leads into the quagmire, into clerical obscurantism (where it is anchored by the class interests of the ruling classes). Rectilinearity and one-sidedness, woodenness and petrification, subjectivism and subjective blindness—voilà the epistemological roots of idealism. And clerical obscrutantism (= philosophical idealism), of course, has epistemological roots, it is not groundless; it is a sterile flower undoubtedly, but a sterile flower that grows on the living tree of living, fertile, genuine, powerful, omnipotent, objective, absolute human knowledge.

Six years later, in 1921, Nikolai Bukharin, wrote on this topic. He sided with Josef Stalin and Soviet power from 1923 to 1928, while also serving as an editor of Pravda from 1918 to 1929, expelled from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1929 for his anti-Soviet thoughts, and tried in 1938 in one of the Moscow trials. Even so, he is considered a person who had a tireless dedication to “theoretical economics…and he was…one of the principal theoreticians of the Bolshevik Party.” He devoted chapter 3 of his 1921 book, Historical Materialism: A System of Sociology, to dialectical materialism, writing that:

In our consideration of the question of the human will, the question whether it is free, or determined by certain causes, like everything else in the world, we arrived at the conclusion that we must adopt the point of view of determinism. We found that the will of man is not divine in character, that it depends on external causes and on the conditions of the human organism. This brought us face to face with the most important question that has troubled the human mind for thousands of years – the question as to the relation between matter and mind…Let us try to consider it from as many standpoints as possible. First of all, we must bear in mind that man is a part of nature. We cannot know for certain whether other more highly organized creatures exist on other planets, although it is probable that such do exist, for the number of planets seems endless. But it is clearly apparent to us that the being called “man” is not a divine creature, standing outside of the world, projected from some other, unknown, mysterious universe, but, as we know from the natural sciences, he is a product and a portion of nature, subject to its general laws…we know that man has sprung from other animals, and that, after all, “living creatures” have been in existence on earth only for a time. When the earth was still a flaming sphere, resembling the sun today, long before it had cooled, there was no life on its surface, nor thinking creatures of any kind. Organic nature grew out of dead nature; living nature produced a form capable of thought. First, we had matter, incapable of thought; out of which developed thinking matter, man. If this is the case – and we know it is, from natural science – it is plain that matter is the mother of mind; mind is not the mother of matter…”mind” does not appear until we already have matter organized in a certain manner…Man’s brain, a part of man’s organism, thinks. And man’s organism is matter organized in a highly intricate form…it is quite clear from the above why matter may exist without mind, while “mind” may not exist without matter. Matter existed before the appearance of a thinking human; the earth existed long before the appearance of any kind of “mind” on its surface. In other words, matter exists objectively, independently of “mind”. But the psychic phenomena, the so called “mind”, never and nowhere existed without matter, were never independent of matter. Thought does not exist without a brain; desires are impossible unless there is a desiring organism…[as such] psychic phenomena, the phenomena of consciousness, are simply a property of matter organized in a certain manner, a “function” of such master…Now man is a very delicately organized creature…the state of “mind” of the consciousness, depends on the state of the organism…[there is] the dependence of consciousness on matter, or in other words, “of thought on life”…We have seen that psychical phenomena are a property of matter organized in a certain manner. We may therefore have various fluctuations, various forms of material organization, and also various forms of mental life. Man, with his brain, is organized in one manner…a true consciousness…On earth, this consciousness appears only when matter has been organized, as in the case of man, with his most complicated instrument, the brain in his head. Thus, mind cannot exist without matter, while matter may very well exist without mind; matter existed before mind; mind is a special property of matter organized in a special manner...It is not difficult to discern that idealism…is simply a diluted form of the religious conception according to which a divine mysterious power is placed above nature, the human consciousness being considered a little spark emanating from this divine power, and man himself a creature chosen by God. The idealistic point of view, if pursued to its conclusion, leads to a number of absurdities, which are often defined with a serious face by the philosophers of the ruling classes…Of course, the senile bourgeoisie, now drooling about God like a soft-brained old man, regards materialism with hatred. It is easy to understand that materialism necessarily will be the revolutionary theory of the young revolutionary class, the proletariat…But we have seen above that idealism involves an admission of the independence of ideas from the material, and of the dependence of these ideas on divine and mysterious springs. It is therefore obvious that the idealist point of view involves a downright mysticism, or other tomfoolery, in the social sciences, and consequently leads to a destruction of these sciences, to their substitution by faith in the acts of God or in some other such conception…Human society is a product of nature. Like the human race itself, it depends on nature and may exist only by obtaining its necessities from nature. This it does by the process of production. It may not always do so consciously; a conscious process is possible only in an organized society, in which everything proceeds according to a plan. In unorganized society, the process goes on unconsciously…the spiritual life of society must necessarily depend on the conditions of material production, on the stage that has been attained in the growth of the productive forces in human society. The mental life of society is a function of the forces of production… Materialism is therefore in a position to explain the phenomena of “mental life” in society, which idealism cannot, for idealism imagines “ideas” developing out of themselves, independently of the base earth…Even a hasty glance at nature will at once convince us that there is nothing immutable about it…The race and appearance of men are subject to change with everything else in the world…Evidently, that there is nothing immutable and rigid in the universe…Matter in motion: such is the stuff of this world…The world being in constant motion, we must consider phenomena in their mutual relations, and not as isolated cases. All portions of the universe are actually related to each other and exert an influence on each other. The slightest motion, the slightest alteration in one place, simultaneously changes everything else. The change may be great or small – that is another matter – at any rate, there is a change…All things in the universe are connected with an indissoluble bond nothing exists as an isolated object, independent of its surroundingsIn the first place, therefore, the dialectic method of interpretation demands that all phenomena be considered in their indissoluble relations; in the second place, that they be considered in their state of motion…everything in the world is in a state of change, and indissolubly connected with everything elsewhile we may not always observe growth, there is always motion and alteration, though it may end in destruction or dissolution...It follows, in the first place, that we must consider and investigate each form of society in its own peculiar terms. We cannot throw into a single pot all epochs, periods, social forms…In the second place, each form must be studied in its internal process of change...In the third place, each form of society must be considered in its growth and in its necessary disappearance, i.e., in its relation with other forms...The basis of all things is therefore the law of change, the law of constant motion…The transformation of quantity into quality is one of the fundamental laws in the motion of matter; it may be traced literally at every step both in nature and society…Revolutions in society are of the same character as the violent changes in nature….They are prepared by the entire preceding course of development

In 1931, Bukharin, whom had  fallen out of favor in the Soviet Union, again wrote on the topic of dialectical materialism, saying that “the crisis of present-day capitalist economy has produced a most profound crisis in the whole of capitalist culture; a crisis in individual branches of science, a crisis in epistemology, a crisis in world outlook, a crisis in world feeling.” To this, he added that

…both theory and practice are the activity of social man. If we examine theory not as petrified “systems,” and practice not as finished products–i.e., not as “dead” labour petrified in things, but in action, we shall have before us two forms of labour activity, the bifurcation of labour into intellectual and physical labour, “mental and material,” theoretical cognition and practical action…In actual fact we have in every class society divided labour and, consequently, a contradiction between intellectual and physical labour–i.e.. a contradiction between theory and practice. But, like every division of labour, here too it is a living unity of opposites. Action passes into cognition. Cognition passes into action. Practice drives forward cognition. Cognition fertilises practice…Practically–and, consequently, epistemologically–the external world is “given” as the object of active influence on the part of social, historically developing man. The external world has its history. The relations growing up between subject and object are historical…For, if the objective world is changed through practice and according to practice, which includes theory, this means, that practice verifies the truth of theory; and this means that we know to a certain extent (and come to know more and more) objective reality, its qualities, its attributes, its regularities…Cognition, considered historically, is the more and more adequate reflection of objective reality. The fundamental criterion of the correctness of cognition is therefore the criterion of its adequateness, its degree of correspondence to objective reality…Production is the real starting point of social development…just as development in natural history changes the forms of biological species, the historical development of society, with the movement of productive forces at its foundation, changes the socio-historic forms of labour, “social structures,” “modes of production,” together with which there changes the whole ideological superstructure, up to and including the “highest” forms of theoretical cognition and reflective illusions… In complete opposition to this comprehensible development, young Socialism is arising–its economic principle the maximum of technical economic power, planfulness, development of all human capacities and requirements its cultural-historical approach determined by the Marxist outlook: against religious metaphysics advancing dialectical materialism: against enfeebled intuitive contemplation, cognitive and practical activism: against flight into non-existent metempirical heavens, the sociological self-cognition of all ideologies: against the ideology of pessimism, despair, “fate,” fatum, the revolutionary optimism which overturns the whole world: against the complete disruption of theory and practice, their greatest synthesis: against the crystallisation of an “elite,” the uniting of the millions. It is not only a new economic system which has been born. A new culture has been born. A new science has been born. A new style of life has been born. This is the greatest antithesis in human history, which both theoretically and practically will be overcome by the forces of the proletariat–the last class aspirins to power, in order in the long run to put an end to all power whatsoever.

In 1937, Mao Tse-Tung (called this using the Wade–Giles romanticization system for Mandarin Chinese, often called “Mao Zedong” in the West) wrote on this topic in his well-known essay, “On Contradiction“:

The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics…Lenin often called this law the essence of dialectics; he also called it the kernel of dialectics… Throughout the history of human knowledge, there have been two conceptions concerning the law of development of the universe, the metaphysical conception and the dialectical conception, which form two opposing world outlooks…the world outlook of materialist dialectics holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it internally and in its relations with other things; in other words, the development of things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement, while each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it…As a matter of fact, even mechanical motion under external force occurs through the internal contradictoriness of things. Simple growth in plants and animals, their quantitative development, is likewise chiefly the result of their internal contradictions. Similarly, social development is due chiefly not to external but to internal causes. Countries with almost the same geographical and climatic conditions display great diversity and unevenness in their development. Moreover, great social changes may take place in one and the same country although its geography and climate remain unchanged…Changes in society are due chiefly to the development of the internal contradictions in society, that is, the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production, the contradiction between classes and the contradiction between the old and the new; it is the development of these contradictions that pushes society forward and gives the impetus for the supersession of the old society by the new…materialist dialectics…holds that external causes are the condition of change and internal causes are the basis of change, and that external causes become operative through internal causes… The universality or absoluteness of contradiction has a twofold meaning. One is that contradiction exists in the process of development of all things, and the other is that in the process of development of each thing a movement of opposites exists from beginning to end…The interdependence of the contradictory aspects present in all things and the struggle between these aspects determine the life of all things and push their development forward. There is nothing that does not contain contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist. Contradiction is the basis of the simple forms of motion (for instance, mechanical motion) and still more so of the complex forms of motion…the universality of contradiction [manifests itself]…on mechanics [as] action and reaction…in physics [as] positive and negative electricity…in chemistry [as] the combination and dissociation of atoms…[and] in social science [as] the class struggle…In war, offence and defence, advance and retreat, victory and defeat are all mutually contradictory phenomena. One cannot exist without the other. The two aspects are at once in conflict and in interdependence, and this constitutes the totality of a war, pushes its development forward and solves its problems…Contradiction is present in the process of development of all things; it permeates the process of development of each thing from beginning to end. This is the universality and absoluteness of contradiction… the contradiction in each form of motion of matter has its particularity…Every form of society, every form of ideology, has its own particular contradiction and particular essence…Qualitatively different contradictions can only be resolved by qualitatively different methods…There are many contradictions in the course of development of any major thing…In studying a problem, we must shun subjectivity, one-sidedness and superficiality… In studying the particularities of the contradictions at each stage in the process of development of a thing, we must not only observe them in their interconnections or their totality, we must also examine the two aspects of each contradiction… It can thus be seen that in studying the particularity of any kind of contradiction–the contradiction in each form of motion of matter, the contradiction in each of its processes of development, the two aspects of the contradiction in each process, the contradiction at each stage of a process, and the two aspects of the contradiction at each stage–in studying the particularity of all these contradictions, we must not be subjective and arbitrary but must analyse it concretely. Without concrete analysis there can be no knowledge of the particularity of any contradiction…contradiction exists in and runs through all processes from beginning to end; motion, things, processes, thinking–all are contradictions. To deny contradiction is to deny everything. This is a universal truth for all times and all countries, which admits of no exception…in capitalist society the two forces in contradiction, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, form the principal contradiction…But in another situation, the contradictions change position…Hence, if in any process there are a number of contradictions, one of them must be the principal contradiction playing the leading and decisive role, while the rest occupy a secondary and subordinate position. Therefore, in studying any complex process in which there are two or more contradictions, we must devote every effort to funding [finding?] its principal contradiction…while we recognize that in the general development of history the material determines the mental and social being determines social consciousness, we also–and indeed must–recognize the reaction of mental on material things, of social consciousness on social being and of the superstructure on the economic base…Nothing in this world develops absolutely evenly; we must oppose the theory of even development or the theory of equilibrium…no contradictory aspect can exist in isolation…There are two states of motion in all things, that of relative rest and that of conspicuous change. Both are caused by the struggle between the two contradictory elements contained in a thing…In identity there is struggle, in particularity there is universality, and in individuality there is generality…We may now say a few words to sum up. The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the fundamental law of nature and of society and therefore also the fundamental law of thought. It stands opposed to the metaphysical world outlook. It represents a great revolution in the history of human knowledge… In studying the particularity and relativity of contradiction, we must give attention to the distinction between the principal contradiction and the non-principal contradictions and to the distinction between the principal aspect and the non-principal aspect of a contradiction; in studying the universality of contradiction and the struggle of opposites in contradiction, we must give attention to the distinction between the different forms of struggle.

With that, we can move onto what Mao wrote the following year in an essay titled “Dialectical Materialism.” Within it, he said that

All philosophical theories have been created by men belonging to a definite social class. The ideas of these men have moreover been historically determined by a definite social existence. All philosophical doctrines express the needs of a definite social class and reflect the level of development of the productive forces of society and the historical stage in men’s comprehension of nature…The distinguishing characteristic of Marxist philosophy — i.e., dialectical materialism — is its effort to explain clearly the class nature of all social consciousness (including philosophy). It publicly declares a resolute struggle between its own proletarian nature and the idealist philosophy of the propertied class. Moreover, it subordinates its own special and independent tasks to such general tasks as overthrowing capitalism, organizing and building a proletarian dictatorship, and edifying a socialist society… Idealism considers spirit (consciousness, concepts, the subject) as the source of all that exists on earth, and matter (nature and society, the object) as secondary and subordinate, Materialism recognizes the independent existence of matter as detached from spirit and considers spirit as secondary and subordinate…The recognition that matter exists independently and apart from consciousness in the external world is the foundation of materialism… Marx, Engels and Lenin all explained materialist dialectics as the theory of development… Materialist dialectics is the only scientific epistemology, and it is also the only scientific logic. Materialist dialectics studies the origin and development of our knowledge of the outside world. It studies the transition from not knowing to knowing and from incomplete knowledge to more complete knowledge; it studies how the laws of the development of nature and society are daily reflected more profoundly and more extensively in the mind of humanity. This is precisely the unity of materialist dialectics with epistemology… The very first condition for belonging to the materialist camp consists in recognizing the independent existence of the material world, separate from human consciousness — the fact that it existed before the appearance of humanity, and continues to exist since the appearance of humanity, independently and outside of human consciousness. To recognize this point is a fundamental premise of all scientific research… The first fundamental principle of dialectical materialism lies in its view of matter…principle of the unity of the world…Dialectical materialism…considers that rest or equilibrium are merely one element of movement, that they are merely one particular circumstance of movement…The causes of the transformation of matter is to be found not without, but within. It is not because of the impulsion of external mechanical forces, but because of the existence within the matter in question of two components different in their nature and mutually contradictory which struggle with one another, thus giving an impetus to the movement and development of the matter. Dialectical materialism investigate the development of the world as a progressive movement from the inorganic to the organic, and from thence to the highest form of the movement of matter (society). What we have just discussed is the theory of the movement of the world, or the principle of the development of the world in accordance with dialectical materialism. This doctrine is the essence of Marxist philosophy. If the proletariat and all revolutionaries take up this consistently scientific arm, they will then be able to understand this world, and transform the world.

Finally there is Josef Stalin, writing an essay in 1938 titled “Dialectical and Historical Materialism.” Since he covered similar ground to Mao, this makes him effectively his ideological contemporary, as you could call it. In this essay, Stalin writes that

Dialectical materialism is the world outlook of the Marxist-Leninist party. It is called dialectical materialism because its approach to the phenomena of nature, its method of studying and apprehending them, is dialectical, while its interpretation of the phenomena of nature, its conception of these phenomena, its theory, is materialistic. Historical materialism is the extension of the principles of dialectical materialism to the study of social life, an application of the principles of dialectical materialism to the phenomena of the life of society, to the study of society and of its history…Dialectics comes from the Greek dialego, to discourse, to debate….This dialectical method of thought, later extended to the phenomena of nature, developed into the dialectical method of apprehending nature, which regards the phenomena of nature as being in constant movement and undergoing constant change, and the development of nature as the result of the development of the contradictions in nature, as the result of the interaction of opposed forces in nature. In its essence, dialectics is the direct opposite of metaphysics…Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics does not regard nature as an accidental agglomeration of things, of phenomena, unconnected with, isolated from, and independent of, each other, but as a connected and integral whole, in which things, phenomena are organically connected with, dependent on, and determined by, each other…Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that nature is not a state of rest and immobility, stagnation and immutability, but a state of continuous movement and change, of continuous renewal and development, where something is always arising and developing, and something always disintegrating and dying away…dialectics does not regard the process of development as a simple process of growth, where quantitative changes do not lead to qualitative changes, but as a development which passes from insignificant and imperceptible quantitative changes to open’ fundamental changes’ to qualitative changes; a development in which the qualitative changes occur not gradually, but rapidly and abruptly, taking the form of a leap from one state to another; they occur not accidentally but as the natural result of an accumulation of imperceptible and gradual quantitative changes. The dialectical method therefore holds that the process of development should be understood not as movement in a circle, not as a simple repetition of what has already occurred, but as an onward and upward movement, as a transition from an old qualitative state to a new qualitative state, as a development from the simple to the complex, from the lower to the higher…Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that internal contradictions are inherent in all things and phenomena of nature, for they all have their negative and positive sides, a past and a future, something dying away and something developing; and that the struggle between these opposites, the struggle between the old and the new, between that which is dying away and that which is being born, between that which is disappearing and that which is developing, constitutes the internal content of the process of development, the internal content of the transformation of quantitative changes into qualitative changes. The dialectical method therefore holds that the process of development from the lower to the higher takes place not as a harmonious unfolding of phenomena, but as a disclosure of the contradictions inherent in things and phenomena, as a “struggle” of opposite tendencies which operate on the basis of these contradictions…If there are no isolated phenomena in the world, if all phenomena are interconnected and interdependent, then it is clear that every social system and every social movement in history must be evaluated not from the standpoint of “eternal justice” or some other preconceived idea, as is not infrequently done by historians, but from the standpoint of the conditions which gave rise to that system or that social movement and with which they are connected…Marx’s philosophical materialism holds that the world is by its very nature material, that the multifold phenomena of the world constitute different forms of matter in motion, that interconnection and interdependence of phenomena as established by the dialectical method, are a law of the development of moving matter, and that the world develops in accordance with the laws of movement of matter and stands in no need of a “universal spirit”…Marxist philosophical materialism holds that matter, nature, being, is an objective reality existing outside and independent of our consciousness; that matter is primary, since it is the source of sensations, ideas, consciousness, and that consciousness is secondary, derivative, since it is a reflection of matter, a reflection of being; that thought is a product of matter which in its development has reached a high degree of perfection, namely, of the brain, and the brain is the organ of thought; and that therefore one cannot separate thought from matter without committing a grave error…Marxist philosophical materialism holds that the world and its laws are fully knowable, that our knowledge of the laws of nature, tested by experiment and practice, is authentic knowledge having the validity of objective truth, and that there are no things in the world which are unknowable, but only things which are as yet not known, but which will be disclosed and made known by the efforts of science and practice…whatever the character of the relations of production may be, always and in every system they constitute just as essential an element of production as the productive forces of society…the productive forces are not only the most mobile and revolutionary element in production, but are also the determining element in the development of production…Five main types of relations of production are known to history: primitive communal, slave, feudal, capitalist and socialist.

A rough definition of dialectical materialism

Combining the ideas of Engels, Plekhanov, A. Deborin, Lenin, Bukharin, Mao, and Stalin, we can come to a rough definition of dialectical materialism, serving as a distinguishing characteristic of Marxist philosophy by attempting to explain the class nature of all social consciousness, which is a sharp weapon for the proletariat. Before giving a definition, it is worth saying that it overcomes idealism and stands opposed to the ideas of metaphysics. Mao adds that one should recognize the recognizing the reaction of mental on material things, social consciousness on one’s “social being” and the superstructure on the economic base in society, and that one must have a strong concrete analysis since, if the proletariat and all revolutionaries can take up this concept, they can understand and transform the world. [4] The definition I have come up with, from combining the thoughts of each of these theorists, to give a general idea of the term itself, due to its importance in class struggle against the bourgeoisie, as as follows:

This concept frames problems by defining of time, space, and causality (interrelation of cause and effect), using valid deduction or induction and correct reasoning. The real forms (shape, outline, or configuration of something) these things, or distinguishable entities, take on, are universal in that they exist or happen in reality. This concept also posits that these things, and others have internal contradictions (things are contrary/opposition to each other), one of which has a major role, like tensions between the bourgeoisie and proletariat, and are dualistic, with a temporary/ transitory/conditional unity of opposites and inter-relation of things to each other. Furthermore, matter (what all material things are made of, which occupy space and are perceptible to the senses), which objectively exists apart from consciousness, has organized itself in a certain way with perfection and intricacy, as manifested in the “mind” of beings such as humans. As such, while the mind cannot exist without matter, matter can exist without a mind. While, this mind-matter distinction is present, the world is always changing and developing, with matter moving through an eternal cycle, with no absolutes, with forms changing from one into another since nothing is rigid or immutable. In such a universe, all matter and the Earth, for example, are in constant motion or movement, with all portions of the universe inter-related, exerting an influence on each other. As a result, no one object or thing is independent from its surroundings, with everything connected to everything else, with all phenomena are interconnected and interdependent. As for humans, they have the ability to conceive nature as a universal, in that it occurs everywhere or in all things, with humans as part and products of nature. For example, a geographical environment influences humans and social relations, a person’s will depends on external factors and internal conditions within a human, while appearance and race of humans can change over time. Additionally, human society, the highest form of matter’s movement, is a product of nature, with a conscious process occurring in societies which are organized, and nothing in the world developing absolutely evenly. As a result, every social system and every social movement in history must be evaluated from the standpoint of the conditions which gave rise to that system or that social movement and with which they are connected. At the same time, this concept means that the world and its laws are fully knowable, since we know objective reality to a certain extent, and that there are no things in the world which are unknowable, but only things which are as yet not known, disclosed by efforts of science and practice. This means that we need to understand development of a thing, by studying it internally and in its relations with other things, with each thing interrelated with and interacting with the things around it. In sum, human knowledge follows a curve or a spiral which can be transformed into an independent, complete, and straight line.

This is much more simple than what Sandino Morazan wrote in Anti-Conquesta, which defines itself as the “Communist Party of the Latin American and Caribbean Diaspora…[which is] dedicated to exposing and fighting the capitalist-imperialist system…[providing] analysis of the region’s current events and history from a communist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist, Third Worldist and pan-Latin American perspective.” Morazan wrote that the biggest error, of too many, is failing to “properly study Marx’s writings and those of his ideological successors,” instead relying on “solely on watered-down interpretations by bourgeois “scholars” who misread Marx and have never done anything tangible for the world.” He continue by summing up dialectical materialism as “an approach to understanding and changing objective reality, both in nature and society.” He then defined the concept itself. [5]

Proof of dialectical materialism

After defining this concept, it is important to provide proof in the world (and universe) as a whole, when it comes to human and animal actions. It is because, as Stalin pointed out in 1938 (as quoted earlier in this article), the application of the principles of dialectical materialism to social life, to a study of society and its history, is historical materialism, basically a subset of dialectical materialism. That will be covered in a later article in detail. With this, we begin the proof!

In humans, the inner ends of the eyebrows are raised, a “thing” which is part of the human body, and corners of the mouth are depressed when a person is suffering from anxiety or grief. [6] The same is the case for different muscles which come into action due to other emotions. This shows the inter-relation of things to each other. This is especially the case since muscles are connected in intimate ways, with “sympathy between ears and eyes,” which can be said to constitute the “unity of opposites,” as ears and eyes have different (but related) functions, which is part of dialectical materialism. At the same time, the closest relatives of humans, apes, have similar facial muscles, this means that it is “very improbable” that these muscles, for humans, serve exclusively for expression. Not only does this show interconnection of beings, apes and humans in this instance, but it means that nothing is rigid, immutable, or has an absolute. As Charles Darwin put it, “as long as man and all other animals are viewed as independent creations, an effectual stop is put on our natural desire to investigate as far as possible the causes of Expression.” As such, humans and other animals (and all animal life on Earth, along with in the universe as a whole) are not “independent creations” but are part of nature, inter-dependent and interconnected with each other. Furthermore, movement of body features of humans to express emotions are the same across races, while “conventional expressions or gestures” may be different. With this, it is clear that humans, and their social relations, are influenced of their geographical environments. Darwin further writes, in his 1872 book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals that

Certain complex actions are of direct and indirect service under certain states of mind, in order to relieve or gratify certain sensations, desires, etc…certain states of the mind lead to certain habitual actions…when the sensorium [parts of the brain that receive, process and interpret sensory stimuli] is strongly excited, nerve-force is generated in excess and in transmitted in certain definite directions, depending on the connection of the nerve-cells, and partly on habit. [7]

This shows the inter-related nature of the parts of the body, with nothing independent of its surroundings. As for other animals, they have similar strong behaviors. When a dog approaches another strange dog or human in a hostile frame of mind, he walks stiffly and upright, with a slightly raised head, a tail which is erect and rigid, with hairs along the neck and back bristling, and pricked airs directed forward, with a fixed stare toward his enemy, with the intention to attack. In preparation of such a move, a dog puts out a growl, with uncovered canine teeth. [8] This shows the awareness of other beings by the dog, the connection of the realities of different beings. Similar to the dog, a cat, when it is threatened by a dog, arches its back, erects its hair, opens its mouth and spits, intending to attack its enemy. As Darwin adds elsewhere, the “power of intercommunication is…of high service to many animals,” between their own species, and evidently with other species.

There are other instances of inter-relation between parts of the human body. Secretions of the alimentary canal and certain glands, like the liver and kidneys, are “effects by strong emotions.” [9] At the same time, the vaso-motor system, regulating the diameter of small arteries, is acted upon by the sensorium, including when a human blushes from shame.

That’s enough summarizing of Darwin’s work. We can move onto Riane Ensler’s The Chalice and the Blade in which she describes the uniqueness of humans and their power over the little blue planet (Earth):

Of all the life-forms on this planet, only we can plant and harvest fields, compose poetry and music, seek truth and justice, teach a child to read and write—or even laugh and cry. Because of our unique ability to imagine new realities and realize these through ever more advanced technologies, we are literally partners in our own evolution…yet [our]…species…seems bent on putting an end…to its own evolution…[and] that of most life on our globe, threatening our planet with ecological catastrophe or nuclear annihilation. [10] Clearly, there is a conscious process occurring here, as in all organized societies, as posited as part of dialectical materialism.

In terms of human knowledge following a curve or a spiral, this relates to what Eisler talks about: a cultural shift from ancient societies when there were societies which were not “male dominant, violent, and hierachic” to those which were the opposition, worshiping the power to “take rather and give life,” establishing and enforcing domination. She also writes that the way “we structure the most fundamental human relations…has a profound effect on every one of our institutions…our values, and…the direction of our cultural evolution, particularly whether it will be peaceful or warlike.” As such, this connects to the concept of dialectical materialism.

On a related note, is the difference of language among humans, as noted by David Crystal. Indigenous peoples are not disabled by their language when they use it within their own community, even though some thought, in racist terms, that such peoples only spoke “simply” and Europeans spoke more complexly. [11] At the same time, for all humans, language is used for emotional expression, social interaction, controlling reality, recording facts, instrument of thought, or expression of identity, showing that language is not static, which is important as its formal properties, such as “word order and sentence sequencing” constitute the medium through which our “connected thoughts can be presented and organized.” Such a reality fits with dialectical materialism completely.

What about the claim that human society is part and product of nature? Well, in the long perspective of world history, humans are newcomers to the historical scene, since life on Earth reaches back 3 billion years, with birds and mammals appearing about 130 million years ago, with modern humans (homo sapiens) not appearing until 250,000 years ago, at most. [12] Furthermore, humans descended from ape-like species, with the home of early hominids being equatorial Africa and quickly spreading across the world, with the ability of humans to adopt themselves to environmental changes of the ice ages of the Pleistocene era serving as a “crucial factor” in their survival and in their ability to dominate other species in the years to come. It would not be until 8,000 BCE that humans would begin to “select, breed, domesticate and cultivate various species of plant and animal.”

This brings us to another claim about humans, as posited by dialectical materialism: that appearance and race of humans can change over time. The former is undeniably the case. This is because, as the Smithsonian Institution put it, on their page about human origins:

For millions of years all humans, early and modern alike, had to find their own food. They spent a large part of each day gathering plants and hunting or scavenging animals.  Then, within just the past 12,000 years, our species, Homo sapiens, made the transition to producing food and changing our surroundings. We have been so successful that we have inadvertently created a turning point in the history of life on Earth.

Apart from that, scientists discovered that just in the last hundred years, humans have become taller, but also fatter and live longer than any time in human history, with these changes due to differences in “nutrition, food distribution, health care and hygiene practices.” With this, it is no surprise to say, with certainty, that human evolution is not over. Apart from these changes over the past 100 years, the human brain has changed over time, as noted by John Hawks, University of Wisconsin–Madison anthropology professor, in Scientific American:

…Across nearly seven million years, the human brain has tripled in size, with most of this growth occurring in the past two million years…For the first two thirds of our history, the size of our ancestors’ brains was within the range of those of other apes living today…The final third of our evolution saw nearly all the action in brain size…From here the species embarked on a slow upward march, reaching more than 1,000 ml by 500,000 years ago. Early Homo sapiens had brains within the range of people today, averaging 1,200 ml or more. As our cultural and linguistic complexity, dietary needs and technological prowess took a significant leap forward at this stage, our brains grew to accommodate the changes. The shape changes we see accentuate the regions related to depth of planning, communication, problem solving and other more advanced cognitive functions. With some evolutionary irony, the past 10,000 years of human existence actually shrank our brains. Limited nutrition in agricultural populations may have been an important driver of this trend. Industrial societies in the past 100 years, however, have seen brain size rebound, as childhood nutrition increased and disease declined. Although the past does not predict future evolution, a greater integration with technology and genetic engineering may catapult the human brain into the unknown.

What about the change in race of humans over time? It is already clear that a human’s melanin is responsible for a person’s skin color or pigment. At the same time, the skin color given to a person, through their melanin, is “primarily determined by genetic inheritance” but can also be altered by sunlight. As Dennis O’Neil of the Behavioral Sciences Department of Palomar College in San Marcos, California notes:

Human skin color is quite variable around the world.  It ranges from a very dark brown among some Africans, Australian Aborigines, and Melanesians to a near yellowish pink among some Northern Europeans. There are no people who actually have true black, white, red, or yellow skin.  These are commonly used color terms that do not reflect biological reality. Skin color is due primarily to the presence of a pigment called melanin, which is controlled by at least 6 genes. Both light and dark complexioned people have melanin. However, two forms are produced–pheomelanin, which is red to yellow in color, and eumelanin, which is dark brown to black.  People with light complexioned skin mostly produce pheomelanin, while those with dark colored skin mostly produce eumelanin.  In addition, individuals differ in the number and size of melanin particles….Hair color is also due to the presence of melanin. Melanin is normally located in the epidermis, or outer skin layer.  It is produced at the base of the epidermis by specialized cells called melanocytes. These cells have photosensitive receptors, similar to those in the eye, that detect ultraviolet radiation from the sun and other sources.  In response, they produce melanin within a few hours of exposure…Before the mass global migrations of people during the last 500 years, dark skin color was mostly concentrated in the southern hemisphere near the equator and light color progressively increased farther away, as illustrated in the map below.  In fact, the majority of dark pigmented people lived within 20º of the equator.  Most of the lighter pigmented people lived in the northern hemisphere north of 20º latitude, where ultraviolet radiation is much less intense on average.

As for race, the dominant position in scholarship is that the concept of race is a “modern phenomenon, at least in Europe and the Americas” while some scholars think that racism, “even absent a developed race concept, may have existed in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds.”

This brings us to a number of other claims about humans, which are posited by dialectical materialism. Within the Aristotelian traditions, for one to “act in accordance with nature means to take into account the real definition of each thing when dealing with it,” which connects with the idea of nature as universal conceived by humans. As for a person’s will depending on external factors and internal conditions within a human, I turn to German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. [13] This is because he coined the term “will,” saying the closest we will ever come to having a direct experience of a manifestation of cosmic energy is our own act(s) of will, which we experience from within the “otherwise inexplicable go, drive, force, energy” which is “instantiated in physical movements.” It is something, as he puts it, with no personality, mind or intelligence, no aims or goals.

And what about the claim that the mind cannot exist without matter? For one, it is clear that everything humans experience are made of molecules, with humans made up of 7 octillion atoms which are “mostly empty space” but never touch each other. Secondly, every atom in in a human body is billions of years old, meaning that humans are basically stardust as some have been saying for years, and are carbon-based lifeforms. [14] At the same time, much of the control of a person’s action comes from the unconscious part of the brain. With this being the case, since stardust, or even carbon, is a form of matter, it means that matter forms the mind.

A related claim is that matter can exist without a mind. This is undeniably the case since water is needed for the human body to function properly, constituting a form of matter, apart from the mind:

…Water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. …the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%…Water’s “stickiness”…plays a part in our body’s ability to transport these materials all through ourselves. The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream. No less important is the ability of water to transport waste material out of our bodies.

What about the claims that no one object or thing is independent from its surroundings, with everything interconnected and interdependent, interacting with the things around it? For humans, this is clear. Just look at the 1993 book, The World’s Best Anatomical Charts. The first page, on the muscular system, shows muscles working together. The same is clear on the next page, on the skeletal system. This is similarly the nervous system, the lymphatic system, and the digestive system, with other systems, like the respiratory system, concentrated in specific parts of the body, not the body as a whole. This relates to what Carl Sagan wrote in Dragons of Eden about organisms, mammals, and humans on Earth and gives a warning, talking about an ever-changing world:

Most organisms on Earth depend on their genetic information, which is “prewired” into their nervous systems, to a much greater extent than their extragenetic information…for humans, and indeed for all mammals, it is the other way around. While our [human] behavior is still significantly controlled by our genetic inheritance, we have, through our brains, a much richer opportunity to blaze new behavioral and cultural pathways on short time scales…human beings have, in the most recent tenth of a percent of our existence, invented not only extragenetic but extrasomatic knowledge: information stored outside our bodies, of which writing is the most notable example…we live in a time when our world is changing at an unprecedented rate. While the changes are largely of our own making, they cannot be ignored. We must adjust or adapt and control, or parish. [15]

He also writes, later on, that the workings of the brain, which is sometimes called the mind, is the consequence of the action “of the components of the brain, severally or collectively,” with some processes being the function of the brain as a whole.

With these claims of dialectical materialism proven, it brings us to a number of other claims: that the world is always changing and developing, forms changing from one into another, with all matter, across the universe, and on Earth, in constant movement or motion. Sagan addresses this in his first chapter, writing about how the Earth is “very old” and humans “very young,” proceeded by an “awesome vista of time,” adding that

…we are able to date events in the remote past. Geological stratification and radioactive dating provide information on archaeological, paleontological and geological events; and astro-physical theory provides data on the ages of planetary surfaces, stars, and the Milky Way Galaxy, as well as an estimate of the time that has elapsed since that extraordinary event called the Big Bang—an explosion that involved all the matter and energy in the present universe. The Big Bang may be the beginning of the universe, it it may be a discontinuity in which information about the earlier history of the universe was destroyed. But it is certainly the earliest event about which we have any record. The most instructive way to express this cosmic chronology is to imagine the fifteen-billion-year lifetime of the universe…since the Big Bang…compressed into the span of a single year. Then every billion years of Earth history would correspond to about twenty-four years of our cosmic year, and one second of that year to 475 real revolutions of the Earth about the sun…[under this model] the Earth does not condense out of interstellar matter until early September; dinosaurs emerge on Christmas Eve; flowers arise on December 28th; and men and women originate at 10:30 P.M. on New Year’s Eve. All of recorded history occupies the last ten seconds of December 31; and the time from the waning of the Middle Ages to the present occupies a little more than one second…it is clear that what happens on and near Earth at the beginning of the second cosmic year will depend very much on the scientific wisdom and the distinctly human sensitivity of mankind. [16]

This shows that the concepts inherent to dialectical materialism saying that all portions of the universe inter-related, exerting an influence on each other, and that time is universal since it exists or happens in reality are accurate. This also relates to what he writes later: that the contention that half or more of the brain is unused is false, with the reality, being, instead, that there is “localization of brain function,” with brain sites concerned with balance, thermal regulation, appetite, blood circulation, breathing, and precision movements, with certain parts of the brain more important than others. [17] In terms of fish, sharks are the smartest of all, consistent with “their ecological niche,” Sagan writes. He also writes about possible civilizations on other planets, if they even exist. He says, on page 230, that the number of advanced civilizations in the Milky Way depends on many factors, but that their evolutionary path would be different from that which is taken on Earth. Hence, the universe does not have a static nature.

This brings us to a number of other claims, of dialectical materialism: that nothing in the world develops absolutely evenly, and that things have internal contradictions (and are dualistic). On the first claim, this should be profoundly evident. As The 21st Century Atlas notes, just by looking at its world maps, on page after page, there are different geographical environments across the world, including different bodies of water and mountain ranges, plateaus, and other natural features. [18] There are also over 190 countries, numerous different time zones, varied overseas territories/dependencies of certain countries (Australia, New Zealand, UK, U$, France, Denmark, Portugal, Netherlands, and Norway), differing international organizations, broad language and religious distribution. Clearly, nothing in the world can develop evenly with these factors! In terms of things having internal contradictions and being dualistic, consider an atom. It has electrons, negatively charged, protons with a negative charge, and neutrons in the nucleus of the atom itself. As such, protons and electrons repel each other, serving as a contradiction, while neutrons are “electrically neutral” meaning they do not have a charge, with protons and neutrons much larger than electrons. In terms of one contradiction taking precedence over others, this would be the case in the atom’s nucleus, which consists of much of the atom’s mass, since it “carries a positive electrical charge” and electrons move around outside the nucleus.

That brings us to a number of other claims. The first of these is that forms of time, space, and causality become universal when they exist or happen in reality. Carl Sagan tackles this straight on another of his books, writing that

We live in an expanding Universe, vast and ancient beyond ordinary human understanding. The galaxies it contains are rushing away from one another, the remnants of an immense explosion, the Big Bang…our own Universe is about 15 billion years past its origin, or at least since its present incarnation, the Big Bang…Our Universe is composed of some hundred billion galaxies, one of which is the Milky Way. “Our Galaxy,” we like to call it, although we certainly do not have possession of it. It is composed of gas and dust and about 400 billion suns…the Universe is expanding; all the galaxies are running away from each other…if it [the Universe] contains a great deal of matter, the gravity exercised by all this matter will slow down and stop the expansion. An expanding Universe will be converted into a collapsing Universe…if there is not enough matter, the expansion will continue forever. [19]

This connects us to another other claims of dialectical materialism: that the world and its laws are fully knowable, since we know objective reality to a certain extent. These scientific “laws,” which some don’t like to call laws, including, but not limited to: Isaac Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation (called Law of Gravity for short), Law of Conservation of Mass, Law of Constant Composition (also called the Law of Definite Proportions), Newton’s Laws of Motion, Hubble’s Law of Cosmic Expansion, Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion, Laws of Thermodynamics, and have a basis in the universe. Related to this is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Archimedes’ Buoyancy Principle, the Big Bang Theory, Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, since none of these are scientific laws.

Stephen Hawking mentioned this in a Brief History of Time, saying that there are laws telling us how the universe changes with time and it is “equally reasonable to supposed there are also laws governing the initial state.” [20] Even without a unified theory for the entire universe, laws still govern the universe as a whole, with the universe having a beginning and an end as implied by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, with Einstein never believing the universe was “governed by chance.” With this, one can see that no things in the world (or universe) are unknowable, only that there are things which are as yet not known, disclosed by efforts of science and practice.

Concluding words

While none of those mentioned so far is Marxist, their ideas prove the reality of dialectical materialism in the world today! In sum, dialectical materialism can clearly be applied to human society. What comes next is a discussion of historical materialism, inter-related and connected to dialectical materialism, as noted earlier.


Notes

[1] It is more than how dictionary.com and Wikipedia/New World Encyclopedia define it: as a Marxist theory or expression of Marxism, saying that Marxism is a “materialist worldview with a dialectical method” which maintains “the material basis of a reality constantly changing in a dialectical process and the priority of matter over mind.” Others, particularly the thefreedictionary.com, encyclopedia.com, infoplease, and culturalstudiesnow declare it is the “Marxian interpretation of reality that views matter as the sole subject of change and all change as the product of a constant conflict between opposites” which arise from internal contradictions, that it is inter-related to historical materialism (Marxist theory holding that social institutions and ideas develop as the “superstructure of a material economic base” as dictionary.com says), that the term was coined by “G. V. Plekhanov, the Russian Marxist…in an article published in 1891,” that it is “meant to provide both a general world view and a specific method for the investigation of scientific problems” since it  believes that “everything is material and that change takes place through the struggle of opposites” or that it “drives social change through the reciprocal relations between contradicting social factors, factors which have to do first and foremost with material considerations of economy and class, with ideology is a product of these considerations.”

[2] Page 284 of Webster’s New World College Dictionary (fourth edition), defines cognition as “the process of knowing in the broadest possible sense, including perception, memory, and judgment” and  the “result of a process; perception, conception.” I have combined both definitions above. The phrase “defined using “correct reasoning”  with “valid induction or deduction,” used above derives from page 844, of the same book, for “logical,” but in the text Deborin used the term “logically.” The phrase “what all material things are made of, occupying space and perceptible to the senses in some way” derives from page 888 of the same book, which defines matter, also saying that “in modern physics, matter and energy are regarded as equivalents.” The phrase “interrelation of cause and effect, connected with the principle that nothing happens or exists without a cause” derives from page 233 of the same book in a definition for the word, causality. The phrase “three-dimensional, continuous expanse which extends in all directions and contains all matter” derives from page 1372 of the same book in a definition for the word, space. The phrase “indefinite or unlimited duration in which things are considered to be happening in the past, present, or future; the entire period of existence of the known universe” derives from page 1499 of the same book in a definition for the word, time. The phrase “existing or happening as in fact, being actual or true” derives from page 1193 of the same book in a definition for the word, real. The phrase “distinguishable entities” derives from page 1488 of the same book in a definition of the word, thing. The phrase “shape, outline, or configuration of something” derives from page 555 of the same book in a definition of the word, form. The phrase “present, occurring everywhere or in all things” derives from page 1563 of the same book in a definition of the word, universal. The phrase “mental grasp of objects, qualities, and other aspects, by the mans of senses; comprehension; awareness” derives from page 168 of the same book in a definition of the word, perception.

[3] The phrase “theory that the world is composed of two basic entities: mind and matter” derives from page 439 of Webster’s New World College Dictionary (fourth edition), in the definition of the word, dualism.

[4] This connects to Stalin’s contention, deriving from other Marxist theorists, that there are five main types of relations of production are known to history: primitive communal, slave, feudal, capitalist and socialist. The latter is hopefully on the way! Also Bukrarin, as quoted above, says that “we must consider and investigate each form of society in its own peculiar terms. We cannot throw into a single pot all epochs, periods, social forms…each form must be studied in its internal process of change…each form of society must be considered in its growth and in its necessary disappearance…in its relation with other forms…Revolutions in society are of the same character as the violent changes in nature….They are prepared by the entire preceding course of development.” Stalin, as quoted above, says that “historical materialism is the extension of the principles of dialectical materialism to the study of social life, an application of the principles of dialectical materialism to the phenomena of the life of society, to the study of society and of its history.”

[5] For this approach, in his view, materialism means a “philosophical view where matter is the primary and determinant substance in the natural world” with all “things, including ideas and consciousness, are a result of interactions between matter,” maintaining that “interactions between material substances in reality determine ideas and consciousness,” guided by “science and objective reality.” As for dialectic, it is a “philosophical method of understanding the way things are and how they change” which was for Marx and Engels, adopted from “their ideological predecessor, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel” and updated with a “materialist understanding of reality.” The dialectic is basically grounded in “scientific principles applied in quantum mechanics and astronomy,” maintaining that “all things that exist in the universe are interconnected processes in constant motion,” meaning we live in a universe of processes, not “things.” Furthermore, he adds that a “dialectical approach to studying human development recognizes that humans are extensions of nature and are constantly evolving and changing based on their material conditions,” meaning it is “ideologically bankrupt to create universal value judgements about humans while different standards of living exist.” Connected to this are “three central laws of the dialectic” which are “unity of opposites…passage of quantitative changes into qualitative changes…[and] the negation of the negation.” The first of these means that “all processes that exist in the universe contain two contradictory elements that form a larger totality…[which] are diametrically opposed to one another, they are also co-dependent on each other” which in a “dialectical relationship between polar opposites, one element is dominant over another.” The second of these means that “when one component of a particular process increases in quantity and becomes the dominant component, a qualitative shift occurs in the totality of the process.” The last of these “explains the cycle of development that all processes undergo,” maintaining that when “all processes come into being, wither away and later come back in a new, higher and evolved form.” He then adds  the importance of the combination of dialectics  and materialism into a concept called dialectical materialism, which “Marx and his ideological successors” applied to society specifically, developing the idea of historical materialism. As such, he divided the “entirety of human history into six eras: primitive communism, slave society, feudalism, capitalism and socialism,” with a “change in material conditions gives rise to increased conflict between two opposing classes,” within each era, with the last era the one to come. He ends by writing that: “Materialism demonstrates that changes in material conditions lead to social revolutions, forcing society into new eras of struggle between two contending classes. This has been the case in all preceding eras of society…the dialectic explains the nature of these societal changes, especially as it relates to their composition and motion…The dialectical law of the unity of opposites also explains how within each era of society, two diametrically opposed classes are dependent on each other…the dialectical law of the negation of the negation explains how humans are and have been transitioning from communalism to class society (slavery, feudalism, capitalism) to socialism and communism…In summation, dialectical materialism is the science of Marxism that produced the theory of historical materialism, which serves as a guide to what’s possible for humanity. Ultimately, it is a guide for carrying out global revolution and liberating the workers and oppressed peoples of the world, especially in the Third World.”

[6] Charles Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965, originally published in 1872), pp 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17.

[7] Ibid, pp 28-29.

[8] Ibid, pp 51, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61, 63, 64. Pages 52 and 54 show a dog in this state, with 58 being the same for the cat.

[9] Ibid, pp 68, 69.

[10] Raine Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (New York: HarperCollins, 1988, paperpack edition), pp xiii-xiv, xvi, xvii, xviii, xix.

[11] David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1987), pp 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.

[12] The Times Concise Atlas of World History (ed. Geoffrey Barraclough, Maplewood, NJ: Hammond Incorporated, 1982), pp 2, 4, 6.

[13] Bryan Magee, The Story of Thought: The Essential Guide to the History of Western Philosophy (New York: Quality Paperback Bookclub,1998), pp 140-141.

[14] Brian Clegg, “20 amazing facts about the human body,” The Guardian, Jan 26, 2013; S.E. Gould, “Why Are Humans Made Of Carbon? Chemist Points To Electrons, Molecular Bonds,” HuffPost, Nov 13, 2012.

[15] Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (New York: Random House, 1977), pp 3-4, 7.

[16] Ibid, pp 13, 17. The whole chapter is pages 13-17, with a number of graphics, including one of the “cosmic calendar” on page 15.

[17] Ibid, pp 30-31, 33, 38.

[18] The 21st Century Atlas (Italy: Trident Press International, 2000), pp 22-47.

[19] Carl Sagan, Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millenium (New York: Random House, 1997), pp 45-46, 51.

[20] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (New York: Bantam Books,1988), pp 9-10, 12-13, 29, 34, 56, 115, 144, 175.

“It is homeland or death”: Final days of Zimbabwe’s liberation war and post-independence

A photograph on page 6 of this Zanu pamphlet, accompanying a speech by Mugabe in a recent collection of his speeches I compiled.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Feb 25, 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.

While the liberation war was just beginning in the 1960s, it became more intense in the 1970s. The revolutionaries were fighting against, as Zapu, backed by the Soviet social imperialists, put it, the “brutal and neo-fascist nature of the gangster British settler minority regime,” specifically against “minority oppressive rule and terror-racism in Zimbabwe.” [1] By 1972, the British colony of Zimbabwe, lying on the great Limpopo and Zambrezi rivers, was bordered by the apartheid South African government “hostile to genuine African independence” along with the “understanding” state of Botswana, the Portuguese colony of Mozambique, and “brotherly republic” of Zambia. In the latter country, Zapu had their provisional headquarters. Within the area of Zimbabwe itself, there were 4.8 million Black Africans, 228,000 White European settlers, 7,700 Asian traders, and 11,000 people of mixed race, with the Africans divided into ethnic groups such as the Tonga, Nanzwa, Shangani, Venda, Ndebele, Shona, Suthu, and Kalanga, which the White settlers tried to divide and rule, but this backfired with intermarriages across ethnic lines, leading to “the formation of a Zimbabwe Nation.”

However, not everything was “peaceful” in Zimbabwe. As the White settler government worked hard to maintain a favorable image, cooperating with numerous Western media outlets (print and radio) to manage where they went and control the press, the British press had a “consistently hostile” image of Mugabe (as they do today), many of the columns in their papers respecting the views of White settlers rather than militants. [2] Internationally, the Sino-Soviet split continued to manifest itself. As Zapu and the ANC were close to the Soviet social-imperialists, while Zanu was rightly supported by the Chinese Maoists, allowing the revolutionary group to prosecute a war of liberation, with Chinese aid as a contributing factor to victory.  Still, the relationship between Zanu and the Chinese was sometimes fraught, at times. Even so, the involvement of  China had a positive effect on Zanu, with this involvement during the liberation struggle and after independence, used by the Chinese revisionists as another justification to be active in Zimbabwe to this day. The Chinese tactics also rubbed off on other liberation groups. FRELIMO adopted the Maoist ideas of self-criticism and guerrilla warfare used by the Chinese, allowing these revolutionaries to “pursue an effective hit-and-run campaign against the Portuguese military, well-suited to Mozambican conditions” for which Samora Michel, the leader of FRELIMO, later thanked the Chinese for. As for Zapu, which described itself inaccurately as the “authentic representative and spokesperson of the Zimbabwe people engaged in a liberation war,” since it was backed by Soviet social imperialists, they had roles in many international organizations. These organizations included the AASPO, World Council for Peace, Pan-African Youth Movement, and World Federation of Democratic Youth, along with saying they had a relationship with the OAU (Organization of African Unity, the precursor to the African Union) and attended the UN Committee of 24, also called the Special Committee on Decolonization. Zapu also claimed to have liaisons in Egypt, Tanzania, Zambia, Cuba, Europe, and North America.

As the years past, the liberation struggle advanced. Zapu, with an executive committee comprised of 14 individuals, appealed to “freedom-loving and peace-loving peoples” of the world, asking for assistance to Zapu and the Zimbabwean people, despite the fact they were still backed by the Soviet social imperialists, especially for release of prisoners and if not release, demanding that they treated according to the Geneva Conventions. [3] This statement showed their desperation and pathetic nature. As for Zanu, it dictated something more powerful: a statement on culture. It declared, in 1972, that a new culture should be formed in an independent Zimbabwe:

“..eighty years of decolonization have warped the minds of our people…our rich national heritage has been lost…in a free, independent and socialist Zimbabwe the people will be encouraged and assisted in building a new Zimbabwe culture, derived from the best in what our heritage and history has given, and developed to meet the needs of the new socialist society of the twentieth century…out culture must stem from our own creativeness and so remain African and indigenous.” [4]

Once again, the freedom fighters were up against a powerful enemy. Adding to the existing military equipment, the White settler-apartheid state received, from 1971-1979, 47 armored cars, ten armored personnel carriers, 46 light helicopters, 52 light aircraft (18 of which were illegally transferred there), 11 helicopters, and 17 trainer aircraft, mostly from South Africa and France, along with other material from Israel, West Germany, and Belgium. [5] Still, they kept fighting on.

As the 1970s trudged on, there were a number of changes, especially in Zanu. In 1974, Sithole was pushed out of the leadership, with Mugabe put in his place, and fully taking control of Zanu after the death of Herbert Chitepo in 1975. While Mozambique may have seemed as a “safe haven” for revolutionaries, Michel of Mozambique put him under house arrest for several months, and later released him, showing the weird politics of the Mozambician government, allowing him to wage a propaganda war against the regime as Josiah Tongogara, who died in 1979, to lead the forces, as Mugabe presented himself as a Marxist-Leninist. This meant that Mugabe, unlike Nkomo, was a radical nationalist and he opposed settlement with the White settler government and that he remained suspicious of numerous commanders of the armed military wing, ZANLA, having them removed from time to time. In 1975, the internationalist support of the Zimbabwean liberation movement was still clear. The White settler-apartheid government described how Zapu guerrillas had been trained in Moscow (and across the Soviet Union), Pyongyang, Peking, Nanking, and Ghana, and said that Zapu courses, sometimes also given in the DPRK, Bulgaria, and Egypt, showing the faulty policy of the two “socialist” countries first named, were focused on “para-military training, military engineering, radio…and intelligence,” while Zanu courses focuses on “influencing the minds and attitudes of the terrorists through political indoctrination and the ‘ideology’ of guerrilla warfare.” Their report went on to say that that “weapons, ammunition, explosives, uniforms, finance and food” is either given to the OAU’s Liberation Committee based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which distributes it to Zanu and Zapu, or directly to the groups themselves, sometimes through other countries such as “East Germany” (which printed a Zapu newsletter called The Zimbabwe Review), the DPRK, Bulgaria, Poland, and Hungary. It also mentioned that the Chinese had supplied radio stations in Tanzania and Zambia the ability to broadcast what the White apartheid government considered “terrorist propaganda against the White-governed countries of Southern Africa” which was actually propaganda for liberation. Still, they make a point to say that there is “no lack of evidence of communist support of Zanu and Zapu” but couch it in their colonialist, anti-communist mindset.

On September 9, 1976, the equation changed in the fight for Zimbabwean liberation. On that day, Mao Zedong died. At that point, the nationalist movement was divided, but the military and political rebirth of Zanu/ZANILA brought in more nationalist military strength to the table. Mugabe tried to approach the Soviets and their allies to ask for aid, since the aid went to a trickle after Deng Xiaoping took power in 1978,beginning the march of Chinese social imperialism, leaving the “Third World” in the dust. [7] Again and again, he was rebuffed, with “East Germany” calling them a “splinter group,” showing they did not understand the liberation movement, leading to an anti-Soviet attitude among Zanu, with open clashes with Zapu cadres, and Mugabe accusing the Soviets of giving aid as to make others their puppets. Not only was Mugabe was not wrong in this belief but the fact that the East Germans and Soviets rebuffed him showed their moral corruption. One could say that the situation in Angola was different than Zimbabwe. However, the Soviets, in their social imperialist manner, said that they would support him if he separated from China and stopped calling himself a Maoist, an absurdist claim. At the same time, the Soviet social imperialists continued to support Nkomo who was a leader that the Western business community and White Zimbabweans wanted to win the liberation struggle because he was more moderate! In 1976, the Patriotic Front formed as a political alliance of Zapu and Zanu, due to end of Chinese aid to Zanu, unfortunately. As a result, the following year they were able to form a 10-member coordinating committee agreeing on a joint program but military unity did not happen as Nkomo and Mugabe were “strange bedfellows” as Zanu and Zapu still clashed on occasion.

By the later 1970s, Zapu continued to receive Soviet support. [8] Even as the Soviet social imperialists began to “warm up” to Mugabe, who visited the Soviet Union in 1978, they remained loyal to Nkomo. They sent Zapu heavy weapons, fearing that helping Mugabe would ultimately assist “Chinese interests” (even though the Chinese had entered their revisionist stage) as they worked to undermine Western and Chinese influence in the region by supporting the bourgeois nationalist Nkomo instead of Mugabe, who was more radical. On the international stage, Zapu had more ability to spread their propaganda, thanks to the Soviet social imperialists giving them support. They had observer status as the UN as a recognized liberation movement where they lobbied UN member states to not recognize the UDI government, and also depended on the international community for successes. Zanu was more wary of such involvement. Seeing the CIA involvement in play in places like Zimbabwe and acutely aware of the decline in Chinese support, they published lectures in 1978 on political education for Zanu cadres in Zimbabwe News declaring that the capitalist state needs to be smashed and that Zanu was trying to build a “Marxist-Leninist vanguard party,” a position which Zapu did not hold. They further called for socialist revolution in Zimbabwe which rubbed off on some Zapu members, but they did not call for socialist revolution. Still, in Southern Africa, the Soviets had gained an advantage with a favorable government in Angola controlled by the MPLA, while the main Chinese involvement was in Zimbabwe had basically stopped for the time being.

In 1979, the liberation war, militarily at least, seemed to be coming to an end. Zapu, led by Nkomo, and Zanu, led by Mugabe, continued to have a tenuous alliance called the Patriotic Front but Zanu had double the amount of troops in Zimbabwe (8,000) than Zapu, by the later 1970s, meaning they were clearly placed to be the victors. [9] Josiah Tongogora, a Chinese trained guerrilla, led Zanu’s military wing, only one of the 40-50,000 able-bodied personnel, and 15,000 people with guns which were part of Zanu, a formidable force to say the least. Zanu, led by “very educated,” by Zimbabwean standards, educated by Christian missionaries, members, tried to teach villagers socialist cooperation within the agricultural settings, a justified strategy. Actions like this were why people said that the guerrillas didn’t live up to their “terroristic image” which White settlers tried to conjure by posing as guerrillas and killing people.

Mugabe was very open to the changes to come in the future. While he defiantly said he didn’t care what the Western media said about it, with his wife, Sally Heyfron (later known as “amal” or mother of the nation) who he met in Ghana in 1961, saying that those who knew Mugabe would not call him evil, he also said that he was “not a trained soldier, I’m a revolutionary nonetheless.” He also said that Black Africans who had suffered from over ninety years of colonialism (1889-1979 at minimum) should have an “honorable peace” which allows Black Africans to have sovereignty over the country. He further said that he was “prepared to be whatever the people want me to be…in a democratic system you have to accept the verdict of the people…British government is bias toward the settler regime” even as he argued that

“…we [Zimbabwean freedom fighters] are fighting a war which is a difficult one…we take care to not make people unnecessarily suffer…we are waging a struggle to overthrow the settler system…we are fighting a just war, that we overthrow the settler government which is currently oppressing out people…no one is fighting an individual war, all our fighters are fighting collectively under a command that derives its authority from the central committee of the party.”

In 1979, when military victory seemed in view, two new African leaders betrayed the Zimbabwean liberation struggle, showing their opportunism and the fact they were no friends of African liberation. Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Samora Machel of Mozambique, the latter of whom would be killed in a 1986 plane crash “accidentally,” demanded that Mugabe’s Zanu’s guerrillas forces, fighting for “one-man-one-vote and return of land confiscated by British settlers” could not use their countries as bases to launch attacks on the UDI government. [10] This forced Mugabe to the negotiating table. If these liberation forces had been allowed to win militarily, there is no doubt that Zimbabwe would have been a different country. In the negotiating process to give the country (and the black masses) independence, Mugabe took positions that made him an opponent of the White settler-apartheid government, but the British tried to accelerate the conference and rejected more nationalist demands. In April 1979, as the scorned government tried to “help” make the process “peaceful,” Ian Smith abdicated his position to a moderate Black leader named Abel Muzorewa, who offered amnesty to Zanu and Zapu forces. But, this was rejected, leading to an intensified war, with Nkomo having thousands of men armed with armored vehicles and MiG fighters in Zambia, disregarding the advice of his Soviet, Cuban, and East German advisers by continuing the war. Ultimately, he, like Mugabe, was forced to accept negotiated terms of the Lancaster Agreement.

The Lancaster House Agreement, signed on December 17, 1979, was a moderate agreement which officially ended British colonialism only in name. Not only did it include phased British withdrawal, but the nation was reverted to colonial status before it was declared independent in April 1980. There was a draft constitution, power-sharing, 20 seats in Parliament were reserved for White settlers, a ten-year moratorium was put on constitutional amendments, and the White minority retained many of its political and economic privileges. As Mugabe was rightly angry and disappointed, Ian Smith, British tycoon “Tiny” Rowland of Nigeria still preferred Nkomo over Mugabe as leader of an “independent Zimbabwe” since Mugabe was clearly more radical with his Marxist and Black nationalist pronouncements over the years. [11]

In April 1980, in elections allowed under the Lancaster Agreement, Mugabe became the Prime Minister of the free nation, the Republic of Zimbabwe, named after the ancient ruined city of Great Zimbabwe, edging out Nkomo of Zapu-PF (Zimbabwe African People’s Union – Patriotic Front). [12] With the war at an end, the refugees caused by the violence could return since there was no White settler army to attack their refugee camps, an army which engaged in “genocide and massacres” against the people of Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Additionally, there could be no more deaths of freedom fighters who had fought for liberation, with the settler-apartheid government claiming it had killed 10,000, and education, which was limited to a small minority might have an opportunity to change. Reportedly, over 1,300 Rhodesian security forces were killed, over 7,700 Black Zimbabweans were killed, and only about 468 were killed during the liberation war. With the thirteen year war of liberation, roughly from July 1965 to December 1979 at an end, also called the Rhodesian Bush War, the influence of Portugal, South Africa, and the Zionists who supported the settler-apartheid government, could be limited, while those were on the side of the guerrillas (Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, and Tanzania), Zanu (China, Tanzania, and Libya) and Zapu (Cuba, Zambia, East Germany, and the USSR) would be praised. To those who think that this could have been all solved with nonviolent respectfulness, you are sorely wrong, as Mugabe said himself in 1979:

“No, no no…there was a whole history of having tried nonviolent methods, they had failed completely and neither the settler regime or Britain heeded our cries, they just wouldn’t move… [we realized that] armed struggle would be the right thing.” [13]

As the Zanu-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front) first competed in 1980 elections and was socialist in ideology, this would quickly change. Surviving two assassination attempts by White Zimbabweans during the campaign, since he seemed “terrifying” due to his comments during the war and Marxist outlook, he took more a conciliatory approach once in office. This was arguably a betrayal of the liberation struggle itself. In the election for the lower assembly, the House of Assembly the Zanu-PF gained 57 seats with 63% of the national vote, Zapu-PF gained 20 seats with 24.1% of the national vote, and the racist Republican Front (previously called the Rhodesian Front) party retained 20 seats, with 83% of the White vote nationwide, Mugabe attempted to calm panic and White flight. After being advised by Machel of Mozambique (the same person who pushed him to the negotiating table) to not alienate the White minority since it could lead to “White capital flight,” resulting in him avoiding revolutionary and Marxist rhetoric in the campaign, and declaring that private property (code for White property) would be respected, while the country would remain stable. This was a disgusting statement to say the least. Additionally, 20 percent of the seats, like in the House of Assembly, in the Senate, specifically eight of the 40 seats, were reserved for Whites.

Such maneuvers were the beginning of the neo-colonial era in post-independence Zimbabwe, lasting arguably from 1980 until 1996. Generally, neo-colonialism manifests itself when essentials of Western economic domination are maintained indirectly with imperialists partially satisfying the aspirations of a national liberation movement while they still protect imperialist economic interests, co-opt power of such a movement, in an attempt to move the populace away from socialism. [14] This exploitative arrangement, with political, ideological, military, and ideological elements, is reinforced by sections of the local and petty bourgeoisie, appearing in the new independent African nation, which allies with external imperialism while there are conditions of “acute competition and rivalry” among imperialist powers. Add to this that countries that agree to these conditions allow themselves to transform from formerly colonized territories into economically dependent countries where colonial marketing channels are maintained, along with other Western interests, while native African bourgeoisie just go along.

In Zimbabwe, such neocolonialism was put in place in a manner which hurt the well-being of the populace. During Mugabe’s time as prime minister of Zimbabwe, he lived in highly fortified residences, Zimbabwe received Western aid in hopes of pacifying the government, and the UK funded a land redistribution program. Even as Mugabe spoke of socialism, it was just talk: the government maintained a conservative framework, operating within a capitalist framework, and he tried to build state institutions, working to limit corruption among a new leadership elite formed, leading to resentment as many remained in poverty, even as the Zanu-PF took more control of government assets post-independence. Basically, they were becoming a new neo-colonial bourgeoisie, thanks to the West and their renunciation of radicalism! Most importantly, the land reform of willing seller, willing buyer lasted from 1980 to 1990, with the British government allowing land to be sold if it was bought and sold on a willing basis. This meant that a tiny group of White settlers still continued to own, as revisionist Stephen Gowans admits, much of the country’s mineral wealth and “productive farmland” while access to development aid and credit from international donors dependent on “economic policies that favored the economic elite of donor countries. This led to the indigenous population continuing life as landless peasants or employees of foreign companies, which was sadly, the same condition many of these people lived under, during colonial rule. Mugabe, in 2009, inadvertently described what Zimbabwe’s government did in the 1980s and 1990s:

“I think over the recent few years gone by there has been a development…determined by the economic situations of our countries and a situation that greater reliance on Western funding would assist our economies in transforming, and because of that naturally if you are a beggar, you cannot at the same time prescribe, you see, the rules of how you should be given whether it’s food or any items at all. So we were subjected to certain conditionalities as a basis on which whatever was paid, be it food, be it humanitarian aid in other directions, was sent to us…once you are inadequate in terms of funding yourselves monetarily and you have got to look outside for someone to assist you, and that someone outside naturally dictates conditions on you, and the moment that happens you have lost a bit of your own sovereign right to determine how you run your affairs. Those who give you money will naturally determine how you should run your country, and through that we tended to subject ourselves to the will of outsiders, to the will, even, of our erstwhile colonisers. It was neo-colonialism back again, what Nkrumah called neo-colonialism. There it was, it was crammed into our system, they were deciding how we should run our elections; who should be in government, who should not, regime changes, that nonsense. So our Pan-Africanism was lost because Pan-Africanism was based on the right of Africa determining its own future, the right of Africa standing on its own, and being the master of its own destiny, master of its own resources that had been lost…the Chinese fund does not come in that way. It has been targeted rightly, it’s a fund coming to Government not NGOs, to Government, an inclusive Government, towards development and will assist us in turning around the economy, and that is the kind of help we would want to get, and not the Western dictates.”

One can say that Mugabe and the Zanu-PF did not do this willingly. After all, 100,000 White settlers remained in the country, they commanded the “commerce, finance, industry, mining, and large-scale agriculture” industries, and Mugabe tried to create a socially democratic state, helping the Chinese gain markets for their companies, making the Chinese social imperialists smile with glee. [15] This policy resulted in the USSR established an embassy in Zimbabwe in 1981. Such policies to accommodate Whites were encouraged by the Chinese revisionists, who told Mugabe to not follow Mao’s model of Chinese socialism, and instead engage in more market measures again, with the Chinese becoming more and more of an economic benefactor. This did not mean that the country was a Chinese colony, but rather that it within the sphere of influence of the Chinese social imperialists. Even with these market measures by Zimbabwe, it is worth acknowledging that Zimbabwe was, at the time of independence, a “poor, underdeveloped third world country” and that there was a “real threat of a right-wing military coup by the White minority still in Zimbabwe, backed by South Africa,” even as the fight against western imperialism, and its allies, seemed to fade away.

This cozying up to the West, forced on them by the Lancaster Agreement and British imperial dominance, led to military material from Europeans going to the new “independent” government, as noted by the SIPRI trade register. From 1980 to 1987, the country received two bomber aircraft, eight trainer/combat aircraft, and nine fighter aircraft from the UK, six light helicopters and two ground surveillance radar from France, six trainer aircraft and six transport aircraft from Spain, and 12 helicopters from Italy. China continued to give the most military equipment of any country, transferring to Zimbabwe 30 armored personnel carriers, four towed guns, 22 tanks, 12 fighter aircraft, and two trainer aircraft. Also, Zimbabwe received five fighter aircraft from Kenya in 1981 and 90 armored cars from Brazil form 1984 to 1987.

As the years past, the political situation changed in Zimbabwe. In 1981, Edgar Tekere, part of Zanu-PF, was dismissed from the government in 1981, with Tekere supported by Whites in Zimbabwe and later becoming a rival to Mugabe. The same year, traditional doctors were given legal recognition by Zimbabwe, and other nationalist governments, in 1981, and throughout the 1980s. [16] In order to avoid a “repeat of Angola” in Zimbabwe, Mugabe kept a tactical alliance with Nkomo, who he allowed to stay in the government first as Minister of Home Affairs (1980-1982), and then as Vice-President for twelve years (December 1987 to July 1999), even as he viewed Nkomo as an adversary. In the years that followed, some Westerners were wary of national liberation movements such as MPLA and FRELIMO which had seized power, along with Zanu and Zapu in Zimbabwe. This partially manifested itself in the bloody Gukurahundi campaign, from 1983-1987, in which the CIA almost seemed afraid of Nkomo-friendly forces being suppressed. While the facts are mired in political accusations aimed at Mugabe and so on, Mugabe did call what happened “madness” at the 2000 funeral service for Nkomo, saying that thousands were killed, after an uprising by those favoring Nkomo, and that he was not proud of what happened.

As the years passed on, some moderate opposition grew. In 1985, in the elections for the lower assembly, the seats for the Zanu-PF grew, with a loss of seats for the Zapu and newly-christened Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe (CAZ), a racist White party. The same year, people said that Zanu-PF was a “bogus liberation front,” thrown off the stage of African liberation in the place of Zapu-PF and the ANC, even though both organizations were backed by Soviet social imperialists, along with attacking organizations such as the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC). Keeping this in mind, it worth pointing out that while Mugabe did not nationalize White land, as he should have done, he did become the leader of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1986, a position he retained until 1989. Additionally, Black nationalists were supported rhetorically and there were strained relations between Whites and Blacks from 1980-1989 as “White flight” continued despite his pandering. Domestically, in 1987, Mugabe became president, replacing Canaan Banana, the country’s first President, under which it was a ceremonial positional, constitutional amendments were passed, a unity agreement between Zanu-PF and Zapu-PF meant that Zapu-PF was merged into the Zanu-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front). The opposition to this government manifested itself in a Zimbabwean Unity Movement (ZUM) led by Tekere, and the CAZ, which enjoyed representation on the municipal level, after 1987. The latter party, still lead by Ian Smith, chaired a meeting of opposition groups, including the Zanu–Ndonga party, UANC (United African National Council), and ZUM (Zimbabwe Unity Movement), in 1992, with these parties basically splintering and disappearing in later years. Internationally, Mugabe stood by the revisionist Chinese government during the Tiananmen Square protests, lasting from April until June 1989, and peaceful economic relations continued between the two countries. [17] Some consider these protests to be counter-revolutionary, while others claim they had “merit.” Even Margaret Thatcher told Mikhail Gorbachev, the person who was a biggest cause of the Soviet Union’s dissolution due to his policies, making the Western capitalist class smile with glee, that there needed to be a settlement in South Africa, saying that events happening there were the same as those that occurred “during the initial period of implementation of the agreement granting independence to Zimbabwe.”

By the 1990s, the situation in Zimbabwe was changing. In the first general elections under the amended constitution in 1987, which abolished the Senate, was conducted on a single roll, with no separate voting for Whites and Blacks, a step forward in the country’s post-independence period. In the elections, the Zanu-PF gained over 83% of the vote and the ZUM gained roughly 17% of the vote, which apportioned seats in the lower assembly. The dissolution of the USSR in December 1991 had a profound effect on Africa, which even the US White propaganda outlet, VOA, admits, as deeply affecting “Marxist-inspired governments and movements” such as those in Benin, Ethiopia, and Angola, while those “anti-communist authoritarian governments” backed by the U$ and Europe also “turned to multi-party elections” in due time. For Zimbabwe, mentions to Marxist-Leninism and scientific socialism were removed from the Constitution, with market measures seeming the way to go. As a government that was short on cash, the Zanu-PF government began an IMF Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP), with similar programs pushed by the U$ across the world, leading to a program of austerity which hurt the populace for years to come, while also weakening the government.

With the U$ as the sole superpower, a unitary world order began to form, with the U$ using the IMF, World Bank, and GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), along with the WTO (World Trade Organization) to impose a “global neoliberal iron heel.” In an effort to lessen their “significant international debts,” their debt service involved yielding to the “global neoliberal dictatorship” which resulted in the large state sector and local industries, which were protected, were declared as “inefficient.” [18] Furthermore, such measures were adopted by Mugabe and the Zimbabwean government enthusiastically even though the results were disastrous. This IMF prescribed program, lasting from 1991 to 1995, resulted in scarce foreign exchange, destruction of domestic industry, many consumer goods became unobtainable, and thousands of civil servants fired, but Mugabe was arguably forced into this position, with the country opened to foreign investment.

The ESAP program was clearly a form of neo-colonialism forced upon Zimbabwe. Kwame Nkumrah explained this in his book on the subject, saying that this form of domination operates in the economic, religious, political, ideological, and cultural spheres, writing that:

“…it [the former colonial power] is ‘giving’ independence to its former subjects, to be followed by ‘aid’ for their development…it devises innumerable ways to accomplish objectives formerly achieved by naked colonialism…another neo-colonialist trap on the economic front has come to be known as ‘multilateral aid’ through international organisations: the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-national Bank for Reconstruction and Development (known as the World Bank), the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association are examples, all, significantly, having U.S. capital as their major backing…neo-colonialism is not a sign of imperialism’s strength but rather of its last hideous gasp. It testifies to its inability to rule any longer by old methods. Independence is a luxury it can no longer afford to permit its subject peoples.”

Nkumrah goes on to say that other forms of neo-colonialism are: (1) the “economic penetration” due to the fact that much of the world’s ocean shipping is “controlled by me imperialist countries,” (2) evangelism, (3) international capital’s control of the “world market, as well as of the prices of commodities bought and sold there,” and (4) the “use of high rates of interest.” He also writes that neo-colonialism, with its divide and rule tactics, can be defeated, with unity and ideological clarity, providing that neo-colonialism is simply “the symptom of imperialism’s weakness and that it is defeatable,” with the fighter for independence “invariably decides for freedom.”

In 1992, there was another sea change in Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s wife, Sally Heyfron, died of kidney illness, and before her death he reportedly saw a mistress named Grace Marufu. With Sally dead, this may have given Mugabe more of the initiative to engage in nationalist policies (though this is doubtful). [19]In 1996, he married Grace, a South African-born woman, who currently has an active role in the Zimbabwean government, which has led to Western sanctions, and anger from some because of her alleged (and overblown claims of) “extravagance.”

As the years went by, the ESAP was still implemented, making the West happy that Mugabe seemed to be “on their side.” This is reflected in the fact, for example, that in 1994, the Queen of England made Mugabe an honorary knight, making them think Mugabe had been made and that everything was going according to plan. The following year, in parliamentary elections this year, the Zanu-PF won more than 81% of the vote while the opposition Zanu-Ndonga only gained about 7% of the vote. Also the same year, Sithole, a veteran of the Zimbabwean liberation war, returned in 1995 and was elected to parliament, later becoming part of the small opposition to the government.


Notes

[1] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle (ed. Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu), Cairo: Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization, 1972, second edition), 7, 13-14.

[2] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary; Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 351; Ian Taylor, China and Africa: Engagement and Compromise (New York: Routledge, 2006), 94, 106, 114; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 57-60,  68-70. Other organizations included the International Union of Students, World Trade Union Federation (Zacu a member), All African Trade Union Federation, All Africa Women’s Conference, Women’s International Democratic Federation, Pan-African Journalist Union, and Tri-Continental Organization (implying that Cuba, Vietnam, and U.A.R. are their allies). They also said that Zapu firmly believes in “armed struggle” but for it not to be “random,” with no considerations of race, class, tribe, or other delineations within the struggle,showing that this position is  BS. The reporter in this documentary implies that stereotypes persisted because guerrilla forces don’t want interviews from reporters stereotypes persisted, but these viewpoints may have been ingrained because of a colonized mindset so such interviews could have still led to negative reporting, which the guerrillas may have realized.

[3] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 8-9, 71. Those on the Zapu executive committee are as follows: Life President Joshua Nkomo, Deputy Secretary to the President William J. Mukarati, Deputy National Secretary Edward S. Ndlovu, National Chairman Samuel Munedawafa, National Treasurer Jason Ziyapapa Moyo, Financial Secretary Rubatso George Marange, Secretary for External Affairs Joseph Musika, Secretary for Youth and Cultural Affairs Clement Muchachi, Deputy Secretary for Youth and Cultural Affairs Boniface Nhariwa Gumbo, Secretary for Information and Publicity T. George Silundika, Deputy Secretary for Information and Publicity Alois Z. Wingwiri, Secretary for Women Jane Ngwenya, Secretary for Public Relations Dzawanda Willie Musarurwa, Secretary for Organization Lazarus Nkala, and Secretary for Education Josiah Chinamano.

[4] Thomas Turino, “Race, Class, and Musical Nationalism in Zimbabwe,” Music and the Racial Imagination (ed. Ronald M. Radano and Philip V. Bohlman, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 572.

[5] This information comes from the SIPRI trade register. The government also received five Reconnaissance AVs in 1977, five APCs in 1977, and ten Portable SAMs from an “unknown country” from 1977-1978, along with reportedly 5 light transport aircraft from Mozambique, though this is mostly definitely an error since Sonora Machel of the Mozambican government would never have made such a transfer. Additionally, the government received 14 trainer aircraft from an unknown country in 1977.

[7] Ian Taylor, China and Africa, 108-109, 113; Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 255; M. Tamarkin, The Making of Zimbabwe: Decolonization in Regional and International Politics (New York: Frank Cass, 1990, 2006 reprint), 174.

[8] M. Tamarkin, The Making of Zimbabwe: Decolonization in Regional and International Politics (New York: Frank Cass, 1990, 2006 reprint), 219; Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun, 351; Ian Taylor, China and Africa, 48.

[9] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. All the information until the next footnote comes from this documentary.

[10] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Also, Machel of Mozambique insisted that Mugabe attend the talks, saying that he would withhold support for ZANU if he did not attend.

[11] M. Tamarkin, The Making of Zimbabwe, 201.

[12] Alex Thomson, Introduction to African Politics, 2000, p. 31; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Also Sithole lost 1980 election to Mugabe, going to London, then Silver Spring, Maryland later in his life, which is exactly what a bourgeois nationalist like him deserved.

[13] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Films about the Zimbabwean liberation struggle were also put out over the years, including but limited to Albino (1976 German Thriller), Game for Vultures (1979 British Thriller seeming to show Black nationalists fairly), Blind Justice (1988 British film which shows Black nationalists unfairly), Flame (1996 American film which portrays Zimbabwe as authoritarian after independence and ZANU as betraying their revolutionary ideals), Concerning Violence (documentary on protests and resistance against White rule in Zimbabwe in the 1960s and 1970s, based on a passage of Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth).

[14] Jack Woddis, Introduction to Neo-Colonialism: The New Imperialism in Asia, Africa, and Latin America (New York: International Publishers, 1969, second printing), 28, 32, 43-44, 46, 52, 56, 70, 68-69, 87; Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1963), 27-28, 55, 59-60, 101, 120, 124. Fanon cites the ruling of Monsieur M’ba in Ghana as an example of neocolonialism.

[15] Ian Taylor, China and Africa, 114-115, 117, 119-121, 123, 126; Patrick Bond and Richard Saunders, “Labor, the State, and the Struggle for a Democratic Zimbabwe,” Monthly Review, Vol. 57, issue 7, 2005; Reuters, “Soviet Union Is Establishing An Embassy in Zimbabwe,” June 3, 1981; three paragraph article reprinted in the New York Times. In this article Bond (and Richard Saunders) wrote he cites ZCTU, Anti-Privatization Forum (APF), and MDC as “resistance” and angry at anything pro-ZANU-PF. Saunders is a smiling bourgeois academic who has written a good amount on Zimbabwe clearly of a critical nature. The Trotskyists consistently hate Mugabe time and time again, making it hard to find anything on the Marxist Internet Archive on Mugabe that is more fair than Trotskyist smears.

[16] John Iliffe, The African AIDs Epidemic: A History (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006), 93; Thomas G., “How the U.N. Aids Marxist Guerrilla Groups,” Heritage Foundation, April 8, 1992.

[17] Ian Taylor, China and Africa, 114-115, 117, 119-121, 123, 126. She also told him that in South Africa, the “situation in dangerous” and that we need to “doe everything possible in order to control the situation, not to let the settlement be destroyed,” a typical fear of a Western capitalist ruler.

[18] Patrick Bond and Richard Saunders, “Labor, the State, and the Struggle for a Democratic Zimbabwe,” Monthly Review, Vol. 57, issue 7, 2005.

[19] Ibid; Alex Thomson, An Introduction to African Politics, 2000, p. 177; Staff Reporter, “Mugabe reminisces about late wife, Sally,” NewZimbabwe.com, November 9, 2014; LA Times, “Sally Mugabe; Wife of Zimbabwe President,” January 28, 1992; Robert Verkaik, “Exclusive: The love that made Robert Mugabe a monster,” The Independent, April 6, 2008. Sally spent 10 years in exile, from 1967-1977 in London, and was a loyal comrade to Mugabe. Some say that the battle to save his wife from deportation from 1970 made Mugabe angry at the British government as he never forgot the British attempts to deport her, with both of them as comrades in love in the liberation struggle.

“It is homeland or death”: From British colonialism to the Zimbabwean liberation war

Picture of the Great Enclosure, part of the Great Zimbabwe ruins (courtesy of Wikimedia).

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.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Feb 23, 2017.

Every day the Western bourgeois media concocts another story about Zimbabwean President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s faults. [1] The “human rights” organizations like Amnesty and “Human Rights” Watch join in on the charade, siding with the opposition in the country, which is predictably backed by the U$ and the West. As a result, the state of Zimbabwe is rocked by political turmoil because the opposition leads to polarization, not due to the policies of Mugabe and the ruling Zanu-PF party. The masses of Zimbabwe are “one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death” as Reason Wafawarova, an Australian political writer for the government-owned newspaper, The Herald, writes at the bottom of many of his editorials. In order to recognize this perspective, this article will examine Zimbabwe’s history from before European contact into the last days of the 1960s, with other articles focusing on other periods.

The history of Zimbabwe dates back to years before the first White imperialist would be  out of their womb. The earliest kingdom in the region may date back to 500 C.E.. with the area known as Great Zimbabwe settled in the 11th century, and more substantially by the thirteenth century, with many states around the region “built around stone forts.” [2] The term “Zimbabwe” can be used to designate, at a minimum, the Zambesi-Limpopo cultures. These cultures, with peoples who were state-builders and iron users, flourished in the region of present-day state of Zimbabwe, in the centuries before European arrival.During the pre-European period, the area was part of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, an African civilization lasting from the eleventh century (roughly 1220) to the fifteenth century (roughly 1450) which was called “Monomotapa” by the Europeans, with building of large stone palaces, which were known as “Zimbabwe.” This empire had access to mineral resources and coastal trade, mainly with traders from the Asian continent, especially China.

The famous stone ruins at Great Zimbabwe are worth describing. Near the capital of “Southern Rhodesia” in the 1960s, Salisbury (present-day Harare), there were “two outstanding buildings” which were named by Europeans the “Acropolis” and the “temple”/”elliptical building,” with the plain beneath the “Acropolis,” stands a “solid fortress, with strong battlements” which is made from local granite, constructed by Zimbabweans. The complex building is “300 feet long, 220 feet broad” with walls that “were 20 feet thick and 30 feet tall” along with stepped “recesses and covered passages, the gateways and the platforms” which were hewn out elaborately with “soapstone bird-gods” inside and outside the structure. [3] Walter Rodney added that there were “encircling brick walls” at this site, and in other parts of the African continent where Bantu-speaking people were inhabitants, which was “characteristically African” and that undoubtedly a large amount of labor was needed to construct buildings. He added that such workers likely came from particular ethnic groups with possible subjugation and subsequent social class delineations, but that there wasn’t simply “sheer manual labor” because the structures themselves had a level of advanced “skill, creativity, and artistry” which went into construction of the walls, doors, inner recesses, and decorations of the buildings. There were also great brick constructions, which dated back to the 14th century, which were commonly referred to as “temples” which served religious purposes since the religious aspect of development in that society was greatly important, just as it was across the African continent.

The various societies that constituted a developed (and advanced) Zimbabwean culture lasted a total of a thousand years. People constructed dams for irrigation, raised cattle, sowed grain, and traded across the Indian Ocean, with chiefs enjoying “fine pottery or china” while sitting at-top of warring cultures. [4] These cultures, with no system of writing, were “highly stratified,” with chiefs and priests, miners, and specialized craftsmen, the latter who created ornaments with exact skill and lightness of touch. There was also mixed farming, with cattle valued as important work animals, and major terracing and irrigation which is comparable to that of ancient Rome, or civilizations in Asia, making Zimbabweans, what we now would call “hydrologists.” In the society itself, there were several ethnic groups which mixed: Khosian type hunters or “Bushmen” who were long-time residents, and newcoming Bantu-speakers from the north, all of which had varying pottery styles and burials, with certain ethnic groups, likely, relegated to inferior status so that “labor for agriculture, building, and mining” as necessary for societal needs.

While the kingdoms long fought off “barbarian invaders,” they couldn’t stand against the Portuguese. After the collapse of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, there was the Kingdom of Mutapa, which the Portuguese confronted in the 1500s. This empire, first ruled by Mwene Mutapa, from 1415 to 1450, who appointed governors to rule over numerous localities outside the capital, spreading from Zimbabwe to Mozambique’s hinterland, with the center of the Mutapa empire at Great Zimbabwe at first, and later moving northward. [5] While those living in the region at the time were predominantly Sotho-speakers, many of those in the ruling class were pastoralists who had religious rituals with objects symbolizing cattle, possibly meaning that cattle owners were honored in society, and paid homage to their ancestors. As Immanuel Wallerstein argues, the Portuguese went on the full offensive, sacking coastal cities, reducing Indian Ocean trade, which was a “severe blow to Zimbabwe peoples” as the Portuguese (the first imperialists to visit), with firearms, went into the interior, taking sides, and undermining “the whole structure” of the kingdom. Still, they were too weak to establish a colonial administration, only having enough power to destroy and cause destruction.

This could have been helped by the fact that in Zimbabwe and Congo, social organization was low until the 15th century. This was even the case despite significant political structures in the area as tentacles of the transatlantic slave trade encroached on Africa. [6] In later years, as the Mutapa empire waned and dissipated in 1760, there was the Rozvi empire, lasting from 1684 to 1834. The lords of the both empires encouraged production for “export trade, notably in gold, ivory, and copper” with Arab merchants living in the kingdom. The Zimbabwean region, at the time, was still connected to the “network of Indian Ocean commerce.” A “single system of production and trade,” was organized by collecting tribute from other states. In later years, the Mthwakazi, a Ndebele kingdom, existed until the late 19th century, when the British colonists come into the picture. Despite the fact that indigenous kingdoms in present-day Zimbabwe ultimately faltered, there is no doubt that such development showed that there were advanced societies on the continent before the Europeans arrived. The idea that there was some “dark continent” with people running around like “savages” as European imperialists imagined in their racist, colonialist minds is utterly false.

In 1889, the British South African Company came to Zimbabwe, later naming it “Rhodesia” after British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. Not only did this name override the indigenous name of Zimbabwe, which came from the Shona language and meaning venerated or stone houses, but it showed that the age of imperialist exploitation was at hand. In 1895, African history was whitewashed when a prospector was sent by the South African company to exploit the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, making it harder to know what the gold smelters of Zimbabwe produced years earlier. [7] History was lost to greedy White settler capitalism. Luckily, while most of the “copper and gold objects were largely destroyed and melted down” by 1902, similar objects at the Mapungubwe have been found, objects which were “unravaged by Europeans with a civilizing mission.” As a result, historians can recognize the reality of African and Zimbabwean history, not the whitewashed one “handed down.” Even with this, there is no doubt that Cecil Rhodes, his imperial agents, and “settler pests,” came in to Zimbabwe to “rob and steal,” coming north from present-day Botswana to raise a flag at (Mount) Harare, later renamed Salisbury by the White settlers. While these new invaders marveled at “surviving ruins of Zimbabwe culture,” they assumed, from their Eurocentric perspective, that it had been built by White people.

This exploitation went beyond the erasure of culture. In the economy of Southern Africa and Rhodesia under British colonialism, Africans were treated as cheap labor who were prohibited from growing cash crops so their labor could be exploited by White “owners.” [8] These “owners” included those such as Standard Bank, a financial organization which was founded on loot of Rhodes and De Beers, headquartered in London, which expanded from the Cape Colony to Mozambique, Rhodesia, and Bechuanaland (present-day Botswana) in 1895. Still, this was not accepted without resistance. There were numerous bloody battles between the indigenous African population and invading settlers. During this time, when power began to be exclusively held by Whites, native Africans engaged in rebellions against White settlers, but these rebellions were crushed. This didn’t stop Robert Mugabe, once a Zimbabwean revolutionary (not anymore), who was pivotal in the anti-colonial struggle, to see those who rebelled as first African revolutionaries in Zimbabwe. He remembered how folklore about past struggle was told to them by their parents so they could explain “how White men came to the country, how he grabbed the land.”Mugabe also added that

“In a society where you have a class whose main purpose and accepted privilege is to exploit others, naturally it rebuffs. If the majority of people are being oppressed, being exploited, you can’t avoid, if you have any moral principles at all, the call to do something about it.”

In the years that followed, the British South African Company continued to control the British colony of Rhodesia. In 1923 this changed. As a result of plans made by White British colonists, settler migrants came to the colony after WWI with the London government granting the settlers a “Letters Patent Constitution” which made it a “self-governing colony.” [9] This designation meant that settlers had the right to secede or not, but the British retained “control over defence and foreign policy, certain reserve powers” which included issuing discriminatory legislation to control the African population. Hence, the British colony of Southern Rhodesia was born, the following year, comprising the area of the republic of Zimbabwe, founded in April 1980, splitting from the Northern section, called “Northern Rhodesia,” covering the area of the independent republic of Zambia, formed in October 1964. As the years went on, the oppression mounted. While the idea of “reserve powers” was supposedly to protect African interests, it became ineffective with the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 revised in 1941, and in a number of other times, a law that formed the basis of the “social and racial structure” in Rhodesia.

Even with the settlers with official power, the British monarch in the colony itself is represented by the governor and there were “British errand boys” who lived as White settlers. The greedy mentality of the colonists led to more divisions. Such colonists divided the country into two portions: the “native” area for Black Africans and Crown or European land for White settlers. [10] Predictably, the “rich and fertile land” was occupied by White settlers and the “sandy, semi-dry land” given to Black Africans, land from which they can be expelled from if minerals are found or settlers want to buy a farm in the area. Adding to this insult were laws on the books, enacted in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, which evicted Africans from “European land,” gave the government control of all the aspects of African life, and gave each family eight acres for “living in farming.” The latter measure was one of social control, in an attempt to keep Africans poor and give White settlers “cheap and exploitable labor for the mines, farms, light and heavy industries.” This is why the fight over land is so important in present-day Zimbabwe.

In the 1950s there were other sea changes in Southern Rhodesia. While the White settlers celebrated “sixty years of progress” in 1950, oppressed Africans did not see it the same way. African civilization had become the largely the domain of Christian missionaries, with different forms of education (“European,” “African,” “Asian,” and “Coloured”)  “separated budgeted for.” [11] To enforce the inequality, more was spent on European education than on African education. In 1953, officially, the structure of the colony changed, with the creation of the Central African Federation (CAF), comprising the areas of present-day Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi (Nyasaland), in an effort led by Southern Rhodesian settlers under the direction of Godfrey Huggins. To reinforce this, the British colony received, between 1950 and 1958, 10 armored cars, 22 Spitfires, 32 fighter aircraft, 16 trainer aircraft, 8 transport aircraft, 2 light transport aircraft from UK, and 18 bomber aircraft, all from London, while NATO accompanied this by providing bombers and armaments. The latter information comes from the SIPRI trade register.

Of course, this action was done without the approval of Africans. As the settler oppression became even more ruthless, “African resistance rekindled” against racist laws, enacted to maintain settler dominance, and against the idea that racial discrimination was the “order of the day” in Zimbabwe. [12] In 1957, a chapter of African National Congress (ANC) organized in the country, led by Joshua Nkomo, with the chapter joining the ANC in South Africa which had been created in 1912. The following year, as the record shows, Nkomo began his contact with the Soviets, which would prove as a major force in the liberation struggle to come despite the fact they were  revisionist and social imperialist. During this time period, the political aspirations of the Black masses seemed modest, as nationalists only wanted simple political rights which they demanded in clearly nonviolent demonstrations. This perception was also because the struggle was reformist since the major groups were not forceful or anti-capitalist. However, after demonstrations were banned by the colonialist government, there was more frustration, with moderation turning to militancy and passive resistance turning into civil disobedience. The stage was set for set for full-scale civil war.

In the 1960s, the anti-colonial struggle in Zimbabwe heated up. In December 1961, after frustrations with previous nationalist groupings such as the National Democratic Party (NDP), established in January 1960, which pushed for a constitutional conference, with party members demonstrated, rioted and committed acts of arson in hopes of changing the conditions in Zimbabwe, Nkomo formed the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union, or Zapu, just after the NDP was banned. [13] As for the actions of the NDP, as Mugabe put it many years later, some of those in the organization were some of the first to use petrol bombs in 1960 as a “means of pressure, not really to destroy life” and that there were strikes and demonstrations in 1961.

Zapu named Nkomo as President, Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa as vice-president, Ndabaningi Sithole as chairman, Jason Moyo as information secretary, and Mugabe as publicity secretary. The organization embarked on pushing the failed policies of the NDP, with Nkomo banned from coming into Zimbabwe under legalistic jargon from the colonialist state. [14] Furthermore, Nkomo wanted to encourage the British government to agree to nationalist demands, and the organization boycotted the settler elections in Dec. 1962, with Nkomo declaring that Zapu must “continue in any form desired by the people at a given time, and under different circumstances. But I must repeat, that we shall never, I repeat never, form any new Party.” In order to back up these claims, Zapu and related freedom fighters engaged in civil disobedience, arson, sabotage, and demonstrations against the White minority government, which they refused to talk with, rightly so. Nkomo was imprisoned and official Black opposition banned in 1962 by the white colonialist government. The Soviets played a part in this liberation struggle by giving massive support for Zapu, which made its first contact with them through the ANC in South Africa, with the Soviets continuing their opposition to the settler government in Zimbabwe at major international forums time and time again, with Nkomo and other top leaders went on troops worldwide in an effort to garner international support. Even so, thy corrupted the struggle as social imperialists, since they did not try to make sure it remained united, backing more moderate forces.

In 1963, the equation changed. The “more radical elements” of the anti-colonial Zimbabwe opposition, who were mostly in prison, broke away from Zapu to form Zanu, the Zimbabwe African National Union. [15] This new grouping, which had come about due to justifed anger against Nkomo by those who accused him of allowing the White settlers to unite and different strategy, was led by Sithole. It believed in immediate armed confrontation with the White settlers and self-reliance while Zapu wanted intervention from the international arena. Broadly speaking, Zapu was aligned with the Ndebele and Zanu was aligned with the Shona. Additionally, those in Zanu, including Mugabe of course, were progressive nationalists who wanted immediate action, while Zapu represented the more conservative nationalists, seeming to only engage in slow maneuvers. Predictably, the Zapu denounced Zanu as dividing the movement, even though the tactics of Zapu, assisted by the revisionist Soviets, led to this result! At a “people’s conference,” supposedly to solve problems within the Zimbabwe liberation movement, attendees resolved that Nkomo was the only leader of the anti-colonial liberation movement in Zimbabwe, that bans on African nationalist organizations. throughout Africa must be denounced, that “divisive tendencies” must combated, and vigilance against the settler regime continued. Additionally, the conference declared that “active resistance” against the settler regime would continue, rejected cooperation with the British, and expelled the “four conspirators” which formed Zapu (Sithole, Mugabe, Washington Malianga, and Leopard Takawira). The attendees declared that these individuals were “dividing” the Zimbabwean people through forming their own party, seeing it as an imperialist divide-and-control policy.

Due to these differences, the conflict between Zapu and Zanu erupted. At times it became violent. While some may be included to do so, it is wrong to discount the Zanu group wholesale. For one, Mugabe, a top leader in the group, spent 11 months in detention which hurt his son psychologically, who later died from malaria. [16] Years later, he summarized, in part, the beliefs of Zanu, by saying that “you cannot fight for grievances by pleading…you can only do so by getting to the root cause of the problem and that’s the problem of power.” As for Zapu, it suffered from the justified defection of members to Zanu. A number of the key figures of Zanu’s armed wing had played a role in leading Zapu’s armed wing, taking with them “operational information and many individual cadré.” This altered the “balance of power in the liberation movement,” leaving Zapu with the short end of the stick, something from which it would not recover from in the years to come, which was good for the people of Zimbabwe. While the idea of reconciliation between the two “wings” of the liberation movement was proposed, it was quickly abandoned within the country as untenable.The same year, the Central African Federation dissolved and military power was handed over to Winston Field, leading to continued oppression.

As the liberation movement in Zimbabwe split, so did the funding. Zapu representatives went to a number of so-called “socialist” countries, including the social imperialist Soviets, and based in Zambia with the military wing of ZIPRA (Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army). [17] As for Zanu and their military wing, the Zimbabwean African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), they received much of their support from Maoist China, which  benefited the Zimbabwean people. The latter socialist state promoted the idea of guerrilla warfare as a way to win the liberation war. Simply put, Zanu, later led by Mugabe, had a pro-China leaning while Zapu, led by Nkomo, had a pro-Soviet leaning, leading to distortion and division. Black leaders in nations such as Mozambique, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, and Angola, supported the guerillas with training areas and pitched camps, while the White settler government in Zimbabwe formed “a well trained, moderately equipped, and integrated armed force.” Arguably, Zapu, also supported by Cuba, the short-lived United Arab Republic (U.A.R.), and the German Democratic Republic (GDR or “East Germany”), followed Soviet-influnced teachings while Zanu, with their varying external networks, followed the teachings of Mao Zedong. This meant that Zanu worked to mobilize the rural peasantry, Zapu worked to mobilize those in urban areas.

This manifestation of the Sino-Soviet split, begun in part by Nikita Khrushchev’s traitorous “Secret Speech” denouncing the supposed “wrongs” of Joseph Stalin, meant that China determined more of the direction of the Zimbabwe liberation struggle than the Soviets. Beijing’s association with Zimbabwe goes back to the liberation struggle, a time when Zanu cadres went to China to get guerrilla training and attended classes in Ghana taught by Chinese instructors. [18] As a result of Chinese support, Zanu was transformed from a splinter organization into a full-fledged participant of the liberation struggle, and it became more bold, criticizing the alliance of the Soviet-aligned ANC and Zapu, saying this allowed racists to consolidate their forces. In later years, Zanu revamped its strategy to be more Maoist, with armed struggle based in “support of the people,” by the early 1970s, as Mugabe said years later. As a result of the guerrilla warfare tactics by Zanu and traditional military tactics by Zapu, along with Zanu freedom fighters trained by the Vietcong and Chinese in guerrilla tactics, with the fighters returning from the latter country coming back radicalized, the White settler government adjusted their system of racist terror. China, for their part, was active in aiding liberation in the country, seeing as a way to counter “Soviet hegemonism” and “Sovietism” with their support as part of their anti-superpower and anti-Soviet agenda. Such a viewpoint was undoubtedly right, as the Soviets were utter social imperialists who needed to be countered. Hilariously, this was misread by the White apartheid government as a way to get Western capitalists and China to work together and fight the Soviets, as they clearly did not understand what was happening, but the Chinese would have no part in such an “agreement.”

The Zimbabwean liberation movement was up against a formidable adversary. Between 1960 and 1963, the White settler government had received four transport aircraft, 12 fighter aircraft, and 30 armored fighting vehicles, called Ferret armoured cars, from London, along with three light helicopters from France, as noted by the SIPRI trade register. The colonial organization in 1965, in Zimbabwe, was changed. In 1964, a White minority government, called UDI (Universal Declaration of Independence), was illegally created by Ian Smith, imposing apartheid rule and invalidating the phony 1961 constitution. [19] But the British “lacked the [political] will to put down this constitutional treason,” even as they had the will to disarm those that opposed the new government, so the UN instituted sanctions and gave sympathy to the liberation movement, setting the stage for guerrilla warfare in years following. During the period, Smith’s government received 10 light aircraft and 20 towed guns from Italy, along with one transport aircraft from the United States and 12 armored cars from apartheid South Africa.

Still, the Zimbabwean revolutionaries did not give up. As resistance against the settler government continued to grow, and the Rhodesian Front whipped up White nationalist sentiment, Zimbabweans argued that “freedom can only be achieved by confrontation and determination.” [20] The Soviets, in their social imperialist stance, still backed the moderate Nkomo over Mugabe, who was more radical and Marxist, showing that Maoist China had the right approach. This was also partially due to Mugabe’s call to run his own organization while Nkomo was willing to rely on aid from the Cubans (tainted by Soviet social imperialism) and Soviets. The Soviets also felt this aid was important since they saw China’s aid in this struggle as “hostile” even if that meant supporting someone less radical. It is also worth pointing out that despite Cuba’s misguided support for Zapu broadly, they did, to their credit, help the military wing of Zanu, which also received military training in Mozambique. This shows yet again that Cuba is not some “Soviet satellite,” as ignorant bourgeois commentators will bark.

While one could argue that Zapu was more internationalist since they sought assistance from Ghana, Egypt, the Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO), GDR (“East Germany”), and Eastern European nations within the Warsaw Pact, which interestingly gave Fidel Castro more of a role as a “benefactor of third world liberation,” allowing them to be better trained and equipped than the Zanu’s military wing, Zanu connected with exiled Black nationalist Robert F. Williams. [21] They asked Williams to send copies of his publication, The Crusader, in exchange for copies of their paper, the Zimbabwe News. It is worth pointing out that despite charges that Zanu was some U$-backed organ because of their reported skepticism of “accepted” liberation organizations in Southern Africa, the publication criticized Moscow, said that the Soviets were collaborating with U$ imperialism, criticized ANC for being pacifist, took a Black Power stand, promoted those such as H. Rap Brown, and frequently cited Mao Zedong, along with pronouncements of African socialism. This position shows they were  the real revolutionaries in this  fight, not Zapu. Hence, the Zapu claim that Zanu was U$-sponsored falls flat and is almost a joke. Such a claim is also further invalidated by the fact that Zapu’s strategy to discredit Zanu leaders was “based on personal accounts and accusations” in papers such as the Daily News, which effectively served as a pro-Zapu and anti-Zanu outlet.

Despite their differences, there is no doubt that Zapu and Zanu had a tough fight. For Zanu, they engaged in armed struggle, first tested in April 1966 in Sinoia, in an engagement that proved “tactically manageable” but shook the “Rhodesian White community,” as it should! [22] Such events, followed by freedom fighters of Zanu and Zapu going off to socialist countries to train, coming back “to intensify the armed struggle,” were downplayed by the information department of the UDI, who claims that all was well in the country, with news of battles suppressed in their totality. The same was the case for those guerrillas in the Zapu-ANC alliance, which engaged in a rough, bloody battle in August 1967, which resulted in heavily censored news inside of the country. Zanu, pointed this out the same year, arguing that the illegal White government in Zimbabwe was trying to stoke ethnic discord by stressing “ancient wars among Africans” in radio and news commentaries, along with in schools, saying that the government was circulating letters that purport to be from the GDR (“East Germany”) as a way of stirring up mischief. As for the tactics used by Zapu, some argued they had no significant impact, an assessment which resulted in a new strategy formulated, with a plan to send a joint military force across the Zambezi River into northwest Zimbabwe. This was done with the realization of the nature of their enemy as “British imperialism assisted by NATO” while understanding “the savagery role of the Washington government,” vowing the fight until the end.

Internationally, Zapu and Zanu played differently. Zanu members were critical of Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture) leading SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), arguing that Carmichael was partnering with Zapu and ANC, which was only partially true since in his autobiography, he says that he supported the Pan-African Congress more than other organizations, seeing it as mature, principled, and young, a bit like SNCC. [23] Still, it worth noting that this “alliance of convenience” between the ANC and Zapu may have seemed sound by many but also could be arguably “narrow and selfish” with a wider alliance of nationalist parties in the region perhaps a better strategy. In Algiers, the location of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Eldridge of the Black Panthers met with Charles Chikarema of Zapu who introduced him to an Elaine Klein, an American woman who worked with the Ministry of Information in Algeria, who let Eldridge be officially invited to the country along with a Black Panther Party delegation, removing his dependency on Cuba as a place of exile. Due to this development, and the fact that Sithole of Zanu appeared in court, at one point, saying that he publicly wanted to disassociate himself from “any subversive activities” and from any “form of violence,” it is possible that the Black Panther coalition and support group in Zimbabwe was pro-Zapu. But it could have also been pro-Zanu because Zanu was much more Black nationalist and radical. The latter was clear when the Zimbabwe News declared that “Christianity has been used as a subtle instrument to destroy Zimbabwe culture” which some was a statement that went “too far.”

By 1969, the situation in Zimbabwe was worsening. With financial interests in White-ruled Africa, Africans continued to be oppressed by about two hundred British firms in companies led by a small “White group of capitalists,” while 86% of Zimbabweans worked (and lived) in rural areas on European farms or subsisting as cash-crop farmers. [24] Additionally, education was not free (or compulsory), Whites earned much more than Black Africans by far, and no African nationalist organization could hold weight, with the masses angry about the system of the whole, not just the UDI government. It was clear that the British government would not “stand idle while a truly people’s socialist revolution is on the verge of reality in Zimbabwe” with British intervention in the country either to save their “kin” or to put in place a “neo-colonialist puppet regime” (which ended up happening ultimately) While this did not happen by 1970, the UDI elites consolidated their control. At that time, they had a strong military force, consisting of 3,400 regular troops, 6,400 police troopers, 28,500 reserve police, two infantry battalions, 1,200 Air Force personnel, 4,000 Air Force personnel in reserve, and one field artillery piece. They also had advanced airplanes, helicopters, and other machinery, many from Western capitalist states, along with an alliance with South Africa. This included, in part, South African troops in Zimbabwe, aided by the British and U$ military, along with fascist organizations across the Western capitalist world supporting the White settler government.

There were a number of continuities throughout the 1960s in the Zimbabwean liberation struggle. For one, Zimbabwean women subverted traditional gender roles by fighting as freedom fighters, sometimes in fatigues, along with providing troops with food and clothing, and they later earned praise for their valuable “contributions to the revolution.” [25] This was likely the case in Zanu and Zapu. There is no doubt that the violence of the apartheid government in Zimbabwe led to armed resistance among the liberation movement, along with Nkomo to be imprisoned in a concentration camp, one of the ways the government tried to keep the populace under control, from 1964 to 1970, along with killing of many comrades in the process. It is worth noting that Mugabe was also imprisoned from December 1963 until November 1974, but was still part of the liberation struggle. The bloody battle for liberation in Zimbabwe, between the White settler-rulers and “black guerrilla movements” through the 1960s and until the late 1970s, as even the U$ State Department acknowledged, was part of something bigger. There were liberation groups and revolutionaries across East Africa ranging from The Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO), the Southwest African People’s Organization (SWAPO), ANC, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), Zanu, and Zapu, all of which “utilized Tanzanian training camps” so they could “prepare and plan anticolonial wars” against White settler governments in the region. Such developments interested Black nationalist Robert F. Williams greatly. As John Nkomo of the Zapu grouping, said years later, they worked closely with Nordic countries, such as Sweden, the latter which cooperated with Zanu and Zapu, allowing them to bring equipment back to Zimbabwe, with some equipment later donated to Zambia since they had “sacrificed so much.”


Notes

[1] Such stories have been published in the Zimbabwe Independent, News24, International Business Times UK, New Zimbabwe, The Zimbabwe Mail, NewsDay, ZimEye, and The Zimbabwe Daily, among many others.

[2] Immanuel Wallerstein, Africa: The Politics of Independence: An Interpretation of Modern African History (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), 22;Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1982), 65.

[3] Wallerstein, 22; Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, 64, 65.

[4] Wallerstein, 23; Rodney, 48, 66-67.

[5] Rodney, 64, 67; Wallerstein, 23.

[6] Rodney, 67-68, 134.

[7] Wallerstein, 23; Rodney, 65.

[8] Rodney, 163, 165, 233;  Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle (ed. Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu), Cairo: Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization, 1972, second edition), 14; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Sadly, the original name of this documentary or its British announcer, clearly a journalist at the time, is not known. On the webpage for the film, a horrid anti-Mugabe book is linked, a book by a French academic who wants to think “beyond” the Zanu-PF.

[9] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 14-15.

[10] Ibid, 15-17.

[11] Ibid, 17-21.

[12] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 19-21; Chenhamo Chimutengwende, “Zimbabwe and White-Ruled Africa,” The New Revolutionaries: A Handbook of the International Radical Left (ed. Tariq Ali, New York: William Morrow & Company, 1969), 241-242; Ian Taylor, China and Africa: Engagement and Compromise (New York: Routledge, 2006), 107-108; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary.

[13] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 22-23; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Mugabe also said that his wife at the time, Sally Mugabe, participated in a women’s demonstration in 1961.

[14] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 24-29; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary; Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 351; Alex Thomson, An Introduction to African Politics, p. 144. There is also an academic article by Dumiso Dabengwa titled “Relations between ZAPU and the USSR, 1960s–1970s: A Personal View” which may shed light on this subject.

[15] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 24-25, 31-32, 33-37; Chimutengwende, 242. Mugabe himself had declared in December 1962 that it was time to move to armed struggle. Part of this armed confrontation included the conviction that “physical attacks on Whites and their property were necessary.”

[16] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 38. After this idea of reconciliation was abandoned from within the liberation movement, it became an “external, non-Zimbabwe wish, not worth pursuing” (by those like the Soviets) as Zapu argued in this publication.

[17] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 21-22, 40; Timothy Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe: Harare and Highfield, 1940-1964 (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2008), 141, 146, 161. Despite the futility of the Zanu-Zapu power struggle, reportedly the split between Zanu and Zapu was a “class divide” with Zanu supporters including college students (and peasants) and Zapu supporters being the “old guard.” Also, reportedly, Zapu was better in urban settings than Zanu. It is also worth pointing out that China funded the Pan-African Congress while the Soviets supported the African National Congress in South Africa.

[18] Taylor, China and Africa, 106-110, 113. In earlier years, the Chinese trained and sent arms to Zapu, but this changed after the Sino-Soviet split came into full force in the later 1960s. All in all, supporting Zanu rather than Zapu was the right move.

[19]  Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 47-49; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Also, top British colonial personnel continued talks with the regime, allowing it to stand under legal fictions, and putting in the farce of sanctions, reinforcing their “colonial responsibility” in Rhodesia.

[20] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 40-41; Timothy Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe, 148. Comes from a letter in 1964 from Zimbabwean mothers.

[21] Timothy Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe, 141; Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun, 247, 258; Robeson Taj Frazier, “A Revolution is Not a Dinner Party: Black Internationalism, Chinese Communism and the Post World War II Black Freedom Struggle, 1949-1976,” Spring 2009, Dissertation for University of California, Berkeley, p. 179. Zapu guerrillas also reportedly received training in Algeria, Bulgaria, North Korea, and the Congo region. Also, one Zapu guerrilla told a Zimbabwean court in 1968 that in the Soviet Union, guerrillas had classes lasting four months on a wide range of topics including “political science, aspects of intelligence work…use of codes and ciphers.” and given a rundown on work of “the CIA, MI6 and MI5, and the French and Federal German intelligence organisations” along with being taught how to use “explosives, hand-grenades, and how to use and assemble guns, rifles and pistols.” Horne, who obviously thinks more highly of Zapu than Zanu, claims that the US was more skeptical of Zapu than Zanu because Zapu was friendlier to Eastern European socialist nations, claims that Zanu boosted “marginal forces with suspicious origins” like COREMO (Mozambique Revolutionary Committee), and that Nkomo dealt with African-Amerikans more diplomatically than Zanu. These claims should be treated very skeptically

[22] Chimutengwende, 245-246; Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun, 255; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 60-65.

[23] Thomas Turino, “Race, Class, and Musical Nationalism in Zimbabwe,” Music and the Racial Imagination (ed. Ronald M. Radano, Philip V. Bohlman, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 572; Maxwell C. Standford, Jr., “We Will Return in the Whirlwind: Black Radical Organizations 1960-1975,” January 3, 2003, Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, Ohio, p. 277-278; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 39-40; Gaidi Faraj, “Unearthing the Underground: A study of radical activism in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army,” Fall 2007, Dissertation for the University of California, Berkeley, p. 197; Robeson Taj Frazier, “A Revolution is Not a Dinner Party,” p. 153, 182; Chimutengwende, 244. It is worth noting that both the ANC and Zapu groups had a “fairly formal structure with a commander and a political commissar,” with both “dressed in semi-military uniforms” from 1966 to 1968, at least.

[24] Chimutengwende, 238-240, 248, 250; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 50-51. Examples cited include those of Sekou Toure or Albert Karume.

[25] Robeson Taj Frazier, “A Revolution is Not a Dinner Party,” p. 156; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 52-55; Linda Lumsden, “Good Mothers with Guns: Framing Black Womanhood in the Black Panther, 1968-1980,” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol. 86, No. 4, Winter 2009, p. 908, 919; Taylor, China and Africa, 107-108; Timothy Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe, 146; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 42, 44-46, 66. In a 1976 article, The Panther extolled the “egalitarian, gun-toting example of women revolutionaries who fought alongside men” in Palestine and Zimbabwe.