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Vote shows workers clamour for change

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Issue 1703

Mugabe gets narrow victory but

Vote shows workers clamour for change

PRESIDENT ROBERT Mugabe has just held off a massive challenge from the opposition in Zimbabwe. But the election results also demonstrate that workers are clamouring for fundamental change. Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party won 62 seats, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) got 57, and another party got one seat. But Mugabe will have a clear majority in the parliament because he appoints 30 more MPs.

The MDC won overwhelmingly in the cities and big towns. In some of these areas it took 85 percent of the vote and routinely won over 70 percent. Three senior government ministers, including the home affairs and justice ministers, lost their seats.

But in the rural areas Mugabe’s supporters held on. Violence and intimidation by Mugabe’s thugs played a role. Large sections of peasants and rural workers voted Zanu-PF because the party promised to take the land from the rich white farmers.

This was gross hypocrisy from a man who has totally failed to redistribute land during the 20 years he has led the country. But the MDC leaders, seeking international and local backing from the rich, gave Mugabe a huge boost by denouncing the move as “extreme” and “unfair”. Mugabe’s narrow escape will not stop the ferment inside Zimbabwe.

The election will not solve the economic crisis. Unemployment is now well over 50 percent and wages are low. Mugabe has also sent 11,000 troops to a wasteful and bloody war in the Congo. He has tried to hold down wages and cut services to please local and multinational capitalists. The health service is in tatters, corruption is rife inside the government, and AIDS kills thousands every week. These issues have not gone away and will increasingly come the focus for political debate.

Voice of struggle

MUNYARADZI GWISAI, a member of Socialist Worker’s sister organisation in Zimbabwe, was elected as the MP for Highfield in Harare this week. He stood as an MDC candidate but raised a clear socialist programme during the campaign. He won 73 percent of the poll and took 12,616 votes compared to Zanu-PF’s 3,234. Munyaradzi Gwisai spoke to Socialist Worker:

“The atmosphere in the cities was electric during the elections. There was a sense of excitement and waiting for change. In this constituency our main themes for the campaign were “Power to workers and the poor” and “Tax the rich to fund the poor”. We also pushed the slogan “Forward to socialism”. We called for price controls, subsidies on basic goods, land for the peasants and the seizure of big farms without compensation, an end to the IMF adjustment plans for the economy, jobs for youth, houses for the masses, and labour rights. This programme was well to the left of the one put forward by the MDC leaders. But they knew it was popular and did not dare to move against us. Although the outcome is not a win for the MDC, the cities have spoken clearly. The workers want Mugabe out. They want change. It is not simply a rejection of one man. It is a revolt against a whole system of running the country. Young people especially do not feel any reverence towards Mugabe. The MDC’s victories will give confidence to sections of workers. The fact that an overall victory has been snatched away will increase the anger against Mugabe and his supporters. The MDC is at a crossroads. It has a good base, but it will develop it only if it reverses the move rightwards. There will also be many questions about the way the MDC leaders campaigned politically. They played into Mugabe’s hands in the rural areas by lining up with white farmers. The results have favoured the middle class elements in the MDC. There are about six worker MPs elected. Some of them are clear that they will have to work to develop independent positions. We will now step up our efforts to put the case for socialism, revive workers’ committees and to develop the confidence of the working class to fight. My role is to build the struggle and to stand with those who are really crucial, the people fighting for change, for economic and social liberation. I want to be a voice for them, not for the bosses and the bankers.”

Tensions open up inside the MDC

THE SUCCESS of the Movement for Democratic Change will unleash a period of acute tension between its leaders and its mass base. It arose originally out of the country’s trade unions, and workers and the poor provide most of its votes.

But its leaders have gone out of their way to court big business. That is why it has the support of much of the British media and New Labour ministers. The movement’s contradictory nature means its MPs include Munyaradzi Gwisai, on the one side, and Eddie Cross, a former chairman of the industrial employers’ association, on the other.

The MDC is the product of three years of sharp class struggles. Since 1995 the acute economic and social hardship in Zimbabwe has driven more and more workers and peasants into clashes with Mugabe. As popular protest grew, workers and peasants demanded that leaders of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions set up an opposition party. So the MDC was launched in September last year.

Its president, Morgan Tsvangirai, was until recently the ZCTU general secretary. The MDC claims to have recruited over one million members in its first five months. Most of these were workers, peasants, students and the unemployed. As Tsvangirai said at the MDC’s inaugural congress in January, “Don’t forget where we come from. Our base is the workers, peasants and the poor-75 percent of the people of Zimbabwe.”

The MDC’s growth terrified Mugabe and he has unleashed a violent campaign against rank and file MDC activists. But while the poor flooded into the MDC, its leaders were moving sharply rightwards.

The MDC’s manifesto did promise some reforms in health and education, and to end the Congo war. But its economic policy favoured the bosses. The MDC said it was for privatisation and a cut in state spending.

The MDC leaders’ move rightwards intensified as Mugabe tried to rebuild support by encouraging occupations of white-owned farms. Broad sections of the landowners were ready to back the opposition-and so were more businessmen.

The MDC could have called for the land occupations to be extended and could have attacked Mugabe for taking 20 years to begin any sort of land reform. Instead it called for “law and order” to be restored and backed the white farmers.

Yet the MDC’s mass base still wants what it fought for six months ago. Tsvangirai began to reflect this in more radical speeches towards the end of the campaign. Zimbabwe still faces a period of highly charged political change.

Why I’m going to Marxism

‘I AM Kurdish and used to live in Turkey. Marxism 2000 is something new for me. It has such a variety of subjects, from feminism and gay liberation through to modern telecoms, art and culture. These are important issues in every part of the world.

I think the meetings will build a bridge between history and today. I hope the bridge will help people to cross to the anti-capitalist side.’


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