Zimbabwean police were mobilised on Tuesday, the first day of a two-day national strike called by the trade unions against growing economic hardship.
The action, called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), was directly over wages. Inflation has hit 1,700 percent a year and basic supplies are in great shortage.
But it also had a strong political message, and attempted to focus the opposition to President Robert Mugabe’s dictatorial rule. That is why the authorities were determined to crush the strike.
Police set up roadblocks across the capital while military helicopters swooped over workers’ areas.
ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo, said, “Considering the bashing of people and intimidation we have witnessed recently, the strike has been quite successful.”
It is not just repression that holds back workers – with over 80 percent unemployment, many fear for their livelihoods and their family’s survival.
The ZCTU’s instruction to workers to remain in their homes rather than coming together to protest, although designed to minimise casualties, may also have demoralised some.
Mugabe may have been forced to draw back from extending his presidential term to 2010, but his party has endorsed him as a candidate for 2008.
As Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday it was impossible to know how effective the strike has been.
But mass resistance from below, however hard it may be, is the only way to bring real change in Zimbabwe.