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Workers have the power to force Mugabe out of office

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Zimbabwe is poised on a knife-edge. Will Robert Mugabe try to steal yet another election? Dave Stockton looks at the key reason for his repeated escapes – the leadership of the opposition and its ties to imperialism and the white landowners

One thing is clear in Zimbabwe. Zanu-PF and its aged dictator Robert Mugabe - in power for 28 years - lost both the parliamentary elections and the presidential poll. The refusal to release the election result can only be because the result is not what the Zanu-PF party wanted. They lost despite the media blackout of the opposition, despite police harassment, and despite outright rigging in areas where they could get away with it.

On the other hand it is clear too that Mugabe is not going gracefully. If he can cling onto power - i.e. if the army and police are willing to fire on the people - then he may gamble on either stealing an election declaring a state of emergency.

In this project he has one ally, albeit an unwilling and unconscious one - the leadership of the Movement for Democratic Change itself. Their tactics and strategy - focused on strictly legal and peaceful means - involves refusing to call for mass mobilisations. This plays straight into Mugabe’s hands, as it has done several times before.

Today, once again the MDC leaders are hoping that the reported deep divisions within the Zanu-PF hierarchy, plus external pressure from the US and UK imperialists as well as other African states, will be enough to win them the presidency, perhaps with some sort of collaboration from a reformed Zanu-PF. Britain and the US in turn reinforce the message that the MDC should take only peaceful measures.

While a negotiated outcome is not entirely impossible, this will only be a compromise with the ruling class. Indeed it is only the holy fear of a revolution that will bring about even the mildest change in the actions of the regime. To assure all and sundry you will remain peaceful (i.e. passive), whatever happens, will only strengthen Mugabe’s resolve to risk a coup and help him rally the army and police chiefs to do the job.

Popular front
The MDC was founded in 2000 as an alternative to founding a Zimbabwean workers’ party - a project that the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), whose president was Morgan Tsvangirai, had espoused. However, powerful capitalists came into the party: people like Eddie Cross, an agricultural economist close to the big white landowners, and Roy Bennett its treasurer and former capitalist farmer. In short the MDC is a popular front: a cross-class party that hands over leadership in the struggle for consistent democratic rights and economic power to sections of the capitalists.

Before 2000 the ZCTU had strongly condemned Mugabe’s failure to take over the huge farms of the white settlers and businessmen, but the MDC turned its back on radical land reforms. It thus handed Mugabe the weapon of fast track land reform to beat them with.

When Mugabe stepped up the repression, the MDC repeatedly called on Britain, the US and the other imperialists to intervene in Zimbabwe. Suddenly Mugabe was able to pose as the anti-imperialist fighter and revolutionary once again.

The working class elements in the MDC were deprived of two of the main weapons to oust Mugabe: the land question and the struggle to free the country from the grip of the multinationals and the foreign banks.

Today there is only one way to stop Mugabe playing his old tricks. This cannot be done by negotiations with the generals and police chiefs, but by mobilising the masses to win over the army rank and file to the progressive movement. Tsvangirai has allowed vital days to slip by, days when the masses were buoyed up by the realisation that Mugabe had lost. For these few days the army and police were hardly to be seen. Then was the moment for a relatively bloodless takeover of the streets, for huge demonstrations, demanding the publication of the election results and the resignation of the tyrant.

Now already the atmosphere has been allowed to cool. The masses, increasingly disappointed and disoriented, have received no calls to action. Mugabe has even been able to mobilise his “war veterans” militia, gangs of thugs he has used time and gain to beat and crush resistance. He has turned the police loose on MDC offices and foreign journalists.

If Mugabe is allowed to announce a falsified result of the presidential poll and call a run-off election, one which will be conducted under the clubs, knives and guns of his “war veterans” and the paramilitary riot police, then once again a profoundly revolutionary situation in the country will have been allowed to slip back into a counter-revolutionary one.

General strike
Only if the working class immediately launches a campaign of workplace occupations, strikes, road blockades, taking over the streets and confronting the army with the appeal not to open fire on their sisters and brothers - i.e. a general strike - will it be possible to turn the tables. To do this means organising action councils in the cities and countryside and forming workers and poor peasants’ militias.

But if the workers thereby pull the MDC’s chestnuts out of the fire for them, then they must not for one minute support its real programme which will be to use the excuse of the economic crisis to pay the white landowners compensation, accept an IMF recovery package, and start selling off state assets to foreign multinationals.

In short the working class must break free of the MDC, and create a workers’ party with an action programme for a socialist solution to Zimbabwe’s broken down economy. The workers must struggle to take power, whether this be from Mugabe or Tsvangirai.