Zimbabwe was the British Colony of Rhodesia. It gained its independence in 1980 after a long war led by ZANU-PF under Robert Mugabe. Since independence Zimbabwe’s economy has declined except for agriculture which remains dominated by the families of former white settlers. The majority of the population are landless and unemployed. The promise of land for the people over which the war of independence was fought has been held off for twenty years. This is the background to the movement of the veterans of the ZANU freedom struggle to expropriate the land by force.
What should Marxists say and do about this situation? In the first place we have to say that the situation in Zimbabwe confirms our view of permanent revolution. That is to say, a national revolution against imperialism cannot achieve even its most elementary bourgeois aims such as land reform and universal democratic rights unless it becomes a socialist revolution. Short of that, the new post-colonial bourgeoisie will continue to rule on behalf of imperialism at the expense of the masses. That rule will be undemocratic and dictatorial when necessary to maintain social order in the interests of imperialism.
This is what explains the ZANU-PF dictatorship under Mugabe. The land was retained mainly by the white farmers (apart from some of the ZANU leadership who became landowners) and not distributed to the mass of Zimbawans. The attempt to manage the economy under the tutelage of the IMF and World Bank has also led to massive austerity and political unrest. It is this unrest among his own supporters that accounts for Mugabe’s willingness to encourage and legalise the land occupations ahead of the elections on June 24-25.Despite the cynicism of Mugabe’s motives and the violence associated with these occupations, they are part of the ongoing national democratic revolution. We have to be in favour of land reform demanded by the masses. If the white farmers have done nothing to implement such reform they have clearly chosen to expose themselves to the risk of forcible expropriation. Marxists are for land to the tillers and no compensation to capitalist farmers.This means that white farmers must leave or join forces with the landless blacks to form cooperative ventures. These occupations should be under workers and poor farmers control so they do not lead to the re-emergence of a new capitalist farmer class.
Read On Class Struggle No 33 June-July 2000