- economic struggle vs political struggle in Zimbabwe
- lending a political character to the economic struggle
- de-lending the political character from the economic struggle
The real struggle, for the widest number of people, is economic rather than political. The reality, however, is that you cannot separate economics from politics over the long run.
In both the short and long run, economics is dictated by politics. Both politics and economics exist within the domain of limited resources. The problem is allocation. In all instances, politics prevails over economics. Politics shape economics.
In democracies, in the short run, as defined by election cycles, economics can shape politics. The management of the economy (actual and proposed) dictates the winner of the elections. In autocracies, in the long run, economics shape politics as well. Empires are overthrown for bad economic management.
Politics and economics are intertwined and cannot be disentangled. However, politics and economics are two different things, even though they are so entangled and inseparable.
The average person does not care much about politics as long as the economy is managed well. His interests in politics are, by and large, with regard to economic management. If the economy is well, the average person is okay.
In some countries with very good economies, some above-average persons do not even care about politics to an extent that they sometimes forget who the representative for their constituency is. In the most extreme cases, they forget who the president of the country is. When things are well, the average person does not get hyped with elections.
The politician is usually not the average person. The politician is a narcissist and a psychopath. He is not all about economics. His main attraction point is power. He loves power. He wants to be the one who makes the decisions. He wants to hold that sweet power over those sad people. Money makes a person powerful. For politicians, money is an instrument for control. What they actually want is control.
The worst dictator is drunk with power. Robert Mugabe, for example, was all-in on power and not really all-in on the money. Money is a by-product, a necessary tool for the sustenance of the exercise of power.
The worst dictator, when offered a choice between owning a whole island to himself and his family with no one else on it versus owning a similar island full of people to rule, will always choose the latter. The average politician is a psychopath. The average politician is also a sociopath.
A politician would kill when he doesn't even need to. Politicians lie and cheat. They are morally depraved. They can kill for no apparent reason or for the slightest of provocations.
When a robber attacks you, the intention is clear, he wants to get hold of your material possessions (phone, wallet, car, house furniture). When a psychopath attacks you, he is not really interested in your material possessions. He just wants to exercise power over you. The power to take your life from you. He wants to play God. He gets off to your sadness.
Now most politicians are not robbers, they are psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists. But things get a little bit more complicated. The only convenient tool that psychopathic politicians can use is control over economics. They can of course, directly control the military and use it to exercise their power. However, in the absence of war abroad and protest at home, they cannot easily unleash that sad power on the populace. Thus, the sweet power has to be unleashed in the economic domain and the political domain.
Most of the compliance laws do not really solve anything. They are just there for control. Most of the national security regulations are not really there due to a real or perceived national security interest/threat, they are just there for control. They in place for the exercise of sweet power over the people.
The best form of power for politicians is the power to influence economic outcomes. That is how politicians poke their fingers into economics and never leave the economy alone to flourish.
The Economic Struggle vs Political Struggle in Zimbabwe
The economic situation in Zimbabwe has been dire for more than two decades. The struggle is well documented.
The crisis in Zimbabwe is economic. It has its roots in politics. The political crisis spilled over into the economy and created an outsized economic crisis.
The political crisis was ever-present, but in periods of relative economic stability, less attention was paid to that crisis. Ian Smith declaring UDI was a political crisis. The war of liberation was a political crisis. The crisis appeared to be resolved at independence. However, the Gukurahundi massacres in Matebeleland were a serious political crisis. The Unity Agreement seemed to have resolved that crisis.
However, in politics, the last solution usually becomes the next problem. Galvanization of power in Robert Mugabe’s hands was a silent political crisis. Throughout the early and mid-90s, Mugabe cemented his authority and modeled himself into a perfect dictator. This was a political crisis. In the late 90s, when the economy went sour, political opposition arose through the MDC and Mugabe responded by unleashing violence, creating an even bigger political crisis. The stories proceed past 2000 until today, we still have a political crisis of some sort.
The vast majority of people were not really concerned with the various political crises from 1980 to 2000. It was only when the economic crisis emerged that people became really interested in politics and governance.
The economic struggle is faced by Zimbabweans on a daily basis.
Lending a political character to the economic struggle
Morgan Tsvangirai and other trade unionists decided to lend the economic struggle a political character. This was necessary because the economic struggle itself was engineered by bad economic management from politicians in power.
The state could not be effectively challenged to create better conditions for the worker without adopting a political character. Tsvangirai and his ZCTU comrades were primarily concerned with the rights of the worker, which were being violated by the predatory state. The choice to form a political party that would spearhead the economic struggle was the right one at that time. The only way to achieve their objectives was by assuming political power.
The economic struggle could not be structured as purely an economic struggle. It had to wear a political character. When the MDC was formed, the dominant struggle was economic, for most people, even though the most real struggle is always the political one.
The last point on the political struggle being more real than the economic struggle needs clarification. Whilst there are some nations (China and Rwanda) for example, that have managed to separate economics from politics, thus separating the economic struggle from the political struggle, for most nations, and in most cases, the economic struggle is authored by bad politics (i.e., political struggle) thus making the political struggle the most real struggle.
Lending the economic struggle a political character resulted in Tsvangirai’s MDC gathering the widest support from the masses. The small economic struggle fought by trade unionists transformed into a large nationwide and all-encompassing economic struggle for the entire nation.
The year was 1999. Fast forward to 2021, the dynamics between the political struggle and the economic struggle have been twisted. They are still fundamentally the same, but they have been twisted a little bit by frictions over the years.
De-lending the economic struggle a political character
The authoritarian systems at the heart of the political crisis have, over the years, collated the economic struggle with the political struggle. Both the opposition and the ruling parties have correctly collated the economic struggle and the political struggle.
The collation is correct. For our country, you cannot separate the economic struggle from the political struggle. Our economic struggles are political. Our political struggles manifest economically.
That being said, right now, in 2021, at this point in time, the economic struggle needs to be uncollated from the political struggle. Doing so will result in the widest number of people participating in the economic struggle, thus giving the economic struggle the best shot at success.
The economic struggles had borrowed a political character. It is time to roll back on the loan. Let us reverse the “lending”, i.e., let us de-lend. We need to de-lend the economic struggle “itself” of a political character.
- Any economic complaint is viewed as a cry for regime change. It doesn't have to be so.
- Society has been bifurcated along political lines. Identity politics and personality cults are the order of the day.
- The economic struggle affects the vast majority of people
- Everybody wants a better economy, regardless of political party affiliation
- The existence of political parties should not be a boulder in the way of the economic struggle
The idea is not to create a one-party state. The idea is to mentally extricate the economic struggle from being collated with the political struggle.
If that is done, a wide cross-political or apolitical movement can be able to fight the economic struggle. As long as the economic struggle is collated with the political struggle, the chances of winning the economic struggle are low.
The vast majority is afraid of demanding better services because doing so is regarded as desiring regime change. Any protest for service delivery is deemed as an MDC activity or a pro-MDC activity. Teachers, mine-workers, doctors, and even farmers cannot fight any economic struggle without being deemed as pro-MDC and pro-regime change.
Pensioners cannot complain without being deemed anti-establishment. Even liberation war veterans cannot air out a single complaint without being deemed as elements seeking to change the government.
Now, most people would ascribe this bifurcation and extremism to the powers that be. They are the ones in power, and they are the ones who view every complaint as a threat to their political power and deem it a political struggle. That is true. What is also true is that the political opposition has cozied up to this identity. Every economic struggle is deemed political because it is truly political. However, because of the bifurcation, that identity does not help in the economic struggle.
In this case, the political opposition would actually be better off by not identifying every economic pain point as political. In other words, it is better off choosing a misleading identity than the correct identity. It is better to actually do the incorrect thing. The opposition should not claim that every struggle is political.
Because bifurcation lines have already been drawn, it is now very difficult for any political opposition to “uncollate” the economic struggle from the political struggle.
However, things could actually change if a third force comes along. A force that does not demand any political power. That force will be better-positioned to spearhead the economic struggle.
If that force is rational, well-organized, cross-political, or rather apolitical, whilst pushing forward the economic struggle, it could have better odds at attaining its goals.
This is unthinkable and seems highly improbable given the current point in time we are existing at. Is there anyone, who is not interested in gaining political power, who wants to bring the police, teachers, ghetto youths, and farmers under one umbrella for the economic struggle? No, there is none.
Farmers need better economic conditions too. Their value is being stolen away by agric boards, auctions, and unfair exchange rates. These problems are economic. They are not just for trade unions and trade groupings. The problems are systemic and perennial. But the farmers have been taught by hard violence and sweet farm rewards not to associate their economic struggles with the MDC. The MDC, as a political party has thus become a blunt instrument in carrying out the economic struggle of the farmers. The same goes for the police, the miner, the teacher, and the entrepreneur.
The soldiers (the majority of them) also have economic struggles but they are not allowed to unionize. Their wives and children can however unionize and lead the economic struggle on behalf of their husbands. The war veterans also have their economic struggles. The Zanu PF Youths also face serious economic struggles, even though the struggles are authored by their madala’s in power. The fight against corruption is an economic struggle countrywide.
All these sets of struggles need to be galvanized into one economic struggle. This can only be done if and when the economic struggle has been stripped of a political character.
Condensing the pockets of economic struggles into one giant struggle that does not have a political character will attract numbers. Critical Mass. Whereas lending the economic struggle a political character was instrumental in bringing urban masses to the MDC in the late 90s and early 2000s, de-Lending the economic struggle itself of a political character will bring even larger masses to whichever movement that arises without a political identity or agenda.
Political struggles are not easily understood by the masses, especially the rural ones, mostly because they are not well educated. The right to vote, the need for free and fair elections, the need to shun state-sponsored violence, freedom of assembly, the fight against autocracy and repression, fair representation, good governance, respect for human rights, etc. are usually expressed as concepts. Villagers, ghetto youths, gold panners, farmers, and the rest of the population have an understanding of these things but that understanding is not really deep. Some don't really understand. Some actually believe that autocracy is good governance since it imposes order in a society.
Economic struggles, on the other hand, are easy to understand. It is so simple for someone who has been deprived of his economic rights to understand that he has been deprived and that he needs to be restituted. Farmers know that they need a fair price, paid in a stable currency for their produce. Vendors know they have a right to free trade without harassment or paying bribes. Villagers know that money has to maintain its value. Ghetto youths know they need jobs, and they need to make money. People with land and property know that they need title deeds to fully realize the value of their land and property. those without land know they need land. Civil servants know they need decent salaries. These are economic pain points. They are not concepts. They are a lived reality to the ones concerned.
The ZCTU was a trade union. The MDC was the party formed to echo the voices of the working class and students at tertiary institutions. Expressing the economic struggle of the working class in a political manner created an environment that allowed persons outside the working class and tertiary students to join in the struggle. The unemployed urbaners, who did not belong to the working class, and the managerial class also jumped onto the bandwagon.
Other classes, such as the rural farmer, the poor villager, attempted to join but the party, its formations, and orientations were for the working class. The party was not created for the rural masses. It has thus struggled to make inroads into the massive rural backbone. Economic mismanagement has led to a dwindling working class. There is no working-class anymore. The identity of the party gradually shifted into a generic econo-politico struggle formation.
What is needed is a non-political formation that is classless in its foundation. The formation does not have to be for a specific class; working-class, urban class, or rural class. It needs to be for all classes. It needs to be wide and all-encompassing.
The economic struggle, when fought without a political basis, does not result in total liberation from the oppressors or fundamental changes. However, it does help in laying the groundwork for the political struggle. The people have been dominated into submission. They totally avoid politics. However, the economic struggle resonates with almost everyone.
The pursuit of political rights is dangerous. It is suicidal. The pursuit of economic rights, however, can be somewhat tolerated by the regime. It is a starting point for a mass movement. The pursuit of economic rights has been cracked down because it has occurred in silos. Teachers protests on their own, doctors on their own, and nurses on their own.
It is possible for the regime to push back on some economic rights.
De-Lending the economic struggle itself of a political character is easier said than done. It is easy to type on a keyboard but very hard to implement on the ground. It is not something that can be implemented in a year. It is a multi-year theme. It’s a long play. It is difficult but it can be done. How? That is the next question. The first question is what needs to be done and stripping the political character from the economic struggle is the answer.
On the how part, the first thing to do is to think. The revolution has largely been spearheaded by doers (ana Itai) with no roles for the thinkers (ana Fungai). How do you outwit the system that you oppose without thinking and excellent planning? Relying on the spontaneity of the masses alone does not lead to the best outcomes.
Over the last seven years, a few non-political movements have sprung from the ground with considerably far greater momentum than the MDC as a political party. However, the momentum generated has always been short-lived, mostly due to a lack of serious planning at a high intellectual level.
The following movements have attempted to de-lend the economic struggle itself of a political character.
- #ThisFlag led by Pastor Evan Mawarire
- #Tajamuka/Sesijikisile led by Promise Mkwananzi
- 31st July Movement led by Jacob Ngarivhume
These outfits were thwarted by the regime. They were not outright political outfits. Another spontaneous protest broke out after fuel increases in January 2019. The protests were largely leaderless. These attempts were brave and bold.
As brave as they were, the attempts were largely generic and not purely economic, though they touched on economic themes such as corruption and better economic management.
If all these attempts could be amalgamated into one attempt, the effect could be large. It would not achieve political power, but, when repeated, on a nationwide scale, the regime could be forced to make concessions, because it is easy for the state to make these types of concessions since they do not outrightly attempt to grab or challenge political power.
The demands need to be specific. A demand for title deeds will resonate with millions. The demand for passports is specific. These things are the crux of the economic struggle for the average person. the passport is not viewed as a national document, it is viewed as an economic document. A demand for ending corruption is not specific unless it cites a specific office.
The point is economic struggles are specific and that should be taken into account. The economic struggles of those close to the regime are the pain points that should be addressed with vigor. the pain points of villagers, farmers, Zanu PF youths, makorokoza’s, and soldiers should be addressed in order to win these sections over to the economic struggle.
De-lend the economic struggle itself of a political character.
This is what needs to be done.
How it should be done is for another day.