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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 6, No. 5, 21 March 2007

In this Issue:

Red Alert

Zimbabwe: 'A bourgeois state without a bourgeoisie'?

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

On 21 March South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day. The SACP will be joining millions of other South Africans in commemorating this day. In addition we are going to be using March, the human rights month, and April 2007, the Chris Hani month to take forward our struggle for the transformation of the financial sector. We will embark on mass demonstrations reiterating our demand for a total once-off amnesty for all of the estimated 5.5 million people blacklisted by the faceless credit bureuax, a demand for a new model to finance low cost housing, and a complete rejection of above average interest rates on bonds for low cost housing.

Unfortunately we are celebrating human rights month in the context of a deteriorating human rights situation in neighbouring Zimbabwe. The SACP, together with many other progressive forces, strongly condemned the latest round of repression directed at opposition parties by the Zimbabwean government. The SACP continues to express its solidarity with the workers and the poor of Zimbabwe, who are not only facing the repressive actions of the police, but whose socio-economic conditions continue to rapidly deteriorate. To this end, on 3-4 April 2007, the SACP will be joining other progressive forces that will be holding demonstrations in solidarity with the Zimbabwean people.

However, much as principled condemnation and highlighting of current developments conditions in Zimbabwe is absolutely necessary, this is not enough. For the sake of the revolution in the Southern African region, it is important that we constantly analyse the underlying causes of developments in Zimbabwe.

It is also important that our condemnation must be distinguished from the chorus of opportunistic condemnation by parties like the Democratic Alliance (DA) and large sections of bourgeois media. Otherwise how do we explain such condemnations on Zimbabwe, when these very same critics are completely silent on the more than 3 decades of severe repression in a country like Swaziland? We are also equally concerned about the very weak stance taken by our government in the light of the very serious latest developments in Zimbabwe.

Our point of departure is that a former liberation movement that begins to turn the repressive organs of a state over which it presides against what was part of its own constituency, is a movement and a state in severe crises.

The SACP, in late 2003 undertook a fact finding mission to Zimbabwe. One of the things that struck us during this trip, a matter we also raised in our discussions with some of the leadership of ZANU-PF, was the extent to which any voice critical of ZANU-PF and government was labeled 'Blairite', 'racist inspired' or 'sell-out'. We asked of ZANU-PF, how come that such significant sections and former allies of the former liberation movement - the trade unions, progressive NGOs, mass organizations, the churches - have all of a sudden become part of an imperialist plot. Whilst not denying that imperialism has always sought to undermine post-independence governments especially those led by former liberation movements, is what is happening in Zimbabwe not also a reflection of the declining hegemony of the former liberation movement itself and why? We were asking these questions not because of a 'holier than thou' attitude, but to honestly explore why previously heroic liberation movements, such as in Zimbabwe, can rapidly deteriorate to the extent of significant sections of society rejects them. And also to force ourselves to explore what mistakes such movements themselves might have committed to produce such situations.

The Zimbabwean developments pose other very pertinent questions that should constantly be canvassed by all liberation movements in our region. Is it inevitable, as Afro-pessimists and other reactionary forces are wont to say, that post independent states, led by former liberation movements are bound to fail? Or posed from a progressive angle, are liberation struggles and post-independence governments led by former liberation movements, bound to degenerate especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union? An even more pertinent question, also relevant for our own South African realities, is whether national liberation struggles that fail to rapidly advance towards socialist-type or full-blown socialist dispensations are bound to degenerate into some kind of deformed bourgeois democracies or repressive oligarchies?

Ibbo Mandaza, a leading Zimbabwean scholar and prominent ZANU PF intellectual, from about the mid 1980s used to argue that the explanation for the many problems facing post-colonial states in our continent, especially in the Southern African region, was that they were 'bourgeois states without a bourgeoisie'. He regarded Zimbabwe as one expression of such a state. I used to vehemently object to this characterization as I considered it thoroughly un-Marxist: how can a state be characterized as bourgeois when it does not have a bourgeoisie?

Mandaza's characterization is also ambiguous, and can be subject to various interpretations which, I thought, does not help us to understand our Southern African realities. This characterization of a 'bourgeois state without a bourgeoisie' can be interpreted, as found also within sections of our own movement, as implying that for our countries to flourish we need to develop an indigenous bourgeoisie, as a precondition to overcome underdevelopment. Mandaza's own elaboration of this, I thought, was closer to this, though informed by a more leftist interpretation.

Mandaza's argument, amongst others, was that African post-colonial states were characterized by the fact that political power was transferred, often through negotiated settlements preceded by protracted liberation struggles, to a domestic political elite whilst the economy remained in the hands of a (white) colonial bourgeoisie, either located in the metropole or, like in the case of South Africa, domestically. And any stratum of an indigenous bourgeoisie that emerged out of these post-colonial realities was highly dependent on the 'metropolitan' bourgeoisie as well as over its control of the state apparatuses.

Whilst I still remain highly skeptical of Mandaza's characterization, perhaps his elaboration is after all not so off wide the mark. Perhaps a generous but Marxist interpretation of the notion of 'a bourgeois state without a bourgeoisie' helps to highlight a number of important issues about the challenges facing Zimbabwe in particular and, to a more or lesser degree, the post-colonial state in general on the African continent.

In our own Tripartite Alliance we have on occasion, albeit inadequately, debated Zimbabwe over the last few years. The one argument found within our movement to explain the foundations of the current crisis in Zimbabwe is that during the first decade of Zimbabwe's freedom (1980-1990), the government legitimately spent vast amounts of money on social services (health, education, welfare, etc), but without due regard to the fiscus and therefore the sustainability of such spending. When such spending began to be a drain on the fiscus, this argument continues, the Zimbabwean government was forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund, thus sliding into a spiral of further debt and all its consequences on ordinary people. In our ranks this argument was also used to justify our own macro-economic policy, GEAR.

The SACP has always been of the view that the above argument is very superficial. The fundamental problem in many post-colonial states is that of transfer (usually without any significant transformation) of political power to local political elites, whilst leaving the colonial character of the economy untransformed. In such a situation the character of the economy is unable to sustain a transformative effort, instead it continues to serve the interests of the colonial bourgeoisie and local economic elites, whilst actively undermining (if not reversing) developmental measures aimed at addressing the interests of ordinary workers and the poor. This was also the Zimbabwe of the 1990s, the era of the structural adjustment programmes, which actively reversed even the many gains made during the first decade of Zimbabwe's democracy.

In such situations, a highly compradorial and parasitic layer of the bourgeoisie drawn from indigenous populations emerges, without its own independent 'means of accumulation', thus relying on its access to state power to preserve and reproduce its wealth.

Failure to transform the conditions of the ordinary mass of the people for the better generates resentment. As we have argued before, such situations produce a whole host of behaviour from the ruling elites. There usually is denialism about the scale and extent of the problems facing those societies. The recent SAFM interview of ZANU PF leader Nathan Shamuyarira with Xolani Gwala is a case in point, including the externalization of all the problems (eg. 'adventurism or imperialist co-option of trade unions').

The last stages in such degeneration are a turn against the masses when they begin to legitimately struggle for better conditions. Usually in such cases, liberation movements that during the struggle against the colonial regimes were able to distinguish between the enemy and people's camps, begin to confuse expressions of genuine grievances of the people's camp for enemy fire, and real enemy strategies (eg. Structural adjustment programmes) are treated as the necessary instruments to transform society!

Without by any means undermining the role of imperialism in destabilizing post-colonial states, especially those presided over by radical national liberation movements, it is developments as outlined above that creates further conditions for imperialist interventions of all sorts to finally defeat those former liberation movements.

Indeed, one key feature in Zimbabwe in the current period is that there has now been a rupture between the ruling elite and sections of the colonial bourgeoisie (both domestic and global), primarily as a result of the measures taken by the Zimbabwean government on the land issue.

Perhaps Mandaza's notion of the post-colonial state as a 'bourgeois state without a bourgeoisie', can in such circumstances also be interpreted to mean that it is impossible in a continent like ours to build even bourgeois democratic states, for two main reasons. Firstly, there are no conditions to build such societies, given the scale of underdevelopment and inequality in society. And, secondly, the location of such states in the current imperialist global division of labour, as such states continue to be exporters of raw materials (and cheap labour), import dependent, thus further enriching the North - the real bourgeois states with a bourgeoisie!

Unfortunately in such instances, such as the case of Zimbabwe, the opposition that emerges becomes largely reactive and unable to provide a more superior alternative vision in such conditions. That alternative and superior vision can, in our circumstances, only be that of the completion of the national liberation struggle and its vision; that national liberation without full social and economic emancipation shall always remain incomplete and liable to serious reversals. One without the other is a foundation for future regressions. This is the only full meaning of human rights, and it is for this reason that during this South Africa human rights month we are escalating our campaigns to highlight that there can be no human rights without socio-economic rights.

In short, the building of independent working class formations in society as vehicles for socialist oriented national democratic revolutions remain as relevant as ever in our post-colonial realities. This is the only basis for addressing the challenge of underdevelopment as part of a struggle for socialism!



SACP Statement on Zimbabwe

The SACP considered current developments in Zimbabwe, including regretfully so, the shocking incidents of state inflicted fatalities on Zimbabwean pro-democracy activists and lately a dramatic hike in assaults, detentions of leaders and membership in democratic and other opposition forces and hermetic prohibitions of leadership intending to travel outside the country.

Our party has maintained that as a result of the Zimbabwean ruling political elite's bureaucratic erosion of revolutionary national liberation movement values, anchored around a critical safe guard over progressive socio-economic and political demands, it is inevitable that the attainment of revolutionary objectives will likely suffer an authoritarian annihilation. For democracy, and the entrenchment of popular rights, to mobilise, coordinate, think and critique is inherently an anathema to elitist consumption and accumulation patterns.

The SACP has always held the view that the determination by all progressive forces on all sides in Zimbabwe of a strategic convergence around a shared vision of reconstruction and development is central to a patriotic, including in particular, an all inclusive popular democratic constitution development process towards a free and fair election is central to the unlocking of the current impasse.

The regional governments and SADC responses to the Zimbabwean government's belligerence and the escalation of force have created a negative political balance. Their appraisal must go beyond a necessary condemnation, but should entail an examination of how their indolence in the run up to the Zimbabwean 2005 elections, in insisting on an adequate electoral framework and Zimbabwe's scrupulous compliance to SADC electoral guidelines, have wittingly or unwittingly triggered the recent denouement.

The SACP is aware that the current framework and the ongoing decomposition of the authoritarian state, a brutal state that functions like an occupying force, opens up all sorts of avenues for opportunistic forces of both an imperialist and militaristic nature, to exploit the situation. It is thus important that there is from all sides a rapid mobilisation of Zimbabweans, around the definition of the national agenda, the transformation path, against bureaucratisation and corruption in the country.

We once more call upon our public broadcaster the SABC, to consider whether, especially in this critical period, it is in the public interest to continue the complete blackout of news coming from Zimbabwe.

We also wish to caution against both a doctrinal veneration of patently exaggerated anti-imperialist credentials of Zanu-PF on the one hand and the United States' fictitious trepidation, projecting its human rights concerns as preeminent in its foreign policy agenda. President Mugabe is not a Southern African Chavez and will never be.

As a major and active part of the broad Solidarity Forum for Zimbabwe, the SACP will join all activities and demonstration including the march on the 3rd April