A long way from socialism

“Labour is not working” was a Herald headline a few weeks ago, meaning, as far as I could tell, that the unions were not working for Zanu (PF)’s new policy for economic recovery.

Bernard Chidzero
Bernard Chidzero

I must admit I haven’t read the Zim Asset programme document, so I can’t criticise it in detail. My impression is that they were promoting the policies of the World Bank and IMF which must take their share of blame for the mess we have sunk into. They promoted a model of development that might be good for “the economy” as they define it, certainly made a few people obscenely rich, and impoverished the rest of us. Organised labour is not working to further Zanu(PF)’s aims.

It is clear that Zanu (PF) doesn’t have what it takes to get us out of the economic mess we are mired in. It’s not just a question of not having ideas; they don’t have the motivation to engage in the clean-up we need so badly. Did they ever?

I sometimes wonder whether Bernard Chidzero was the most honest man in Zimbabwe’s first cabinet. He had no difficulty in admitting that he was not a socialist, when socialism was the flavour of the month and most of his colleagues were rushing to pay lip service, without much understanding of what socialism really might be. I admit there were a few who did have some understanding and commitment, but they were rather like a tail that couldn’t wag the Zanu dog.

The policy of “Growth with equity” was the big give-away. Like many political slogans, it sounds a noble ideal until you examine what its proponents actually meant. Most people who put “growth” first would point to successes that in fact meant great growth for some, but a widening gap between those who profited by this “growth” and the many who slaved to produce the growth and were paid a pittance for their trouble.

Not to mention that usually even more people are excluded from the “growth” system altogether, without even the chance of gathering the few crumbs trickling down off the rich man’s table in the form of wages for employed workers.

The truly amazing Commission on Prices and Wages appointed just after independence did suggest that we should have not only a legal minimum wage, but also a legal maximum to limit how much anyone could be paid. In a country as unequal as this was then, and still is, there must be some restraint on how much the rich can grow richer or there will be no growth for anyone else.

Most of Zanu (PF)’s most fervent foreign supporters in the early days believed that the liberators wanted a different kind of society from the grossly unequal and unfair one we had before 1980. They became disillusioned faster than our home-grown socialists. They could see more clearly than we did how the first priority was to establish the Party’s control over every source of power, and the second, which may have emerged a bit later, was to direct as much wealth as possible into the hands, the pockets and the foreign bank accounts of our new rulers.

And so the trade unions were high on their list of organisations they needed to control. This was a need they felt all the more strongly because the first stirrings of African aspiration for full human rights within the colonial system came from trade unions before political parties: the City Youth League, NDP and ZAPU in succession, emerged from within the trade union movement. With Albert Mugabe as secretary general of the ZCTU, they seemed to have made ZCTU a labour wing of Zanu. Whatever you may think of Morgan Tsvangirai, he struggled hard and successfully for the independence of the unions. But Zanu remains sure the unions are their enemies.

We’re a long way from socialism now.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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