Thatcher, Chavez and the signs of our times

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WHAT a month it has been since the March 16 referendum on Zimbabwe’s new constitution!
The giant of the global neoliberal classes, Margaret Thatcher, departs so soon after the Bolivarian titan of the most radical working people’s revolution in the last 50 years, Hugo Chavez, dies.
President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson, Nathaniel Manheru, donning a fake Marxist cap, comes out guns blazing against International Socialist Organisation (ISO) revolutionaries, in defence of a mooted middle class-run opposition party by Morgan Tsvangirai’s oldest intellectual advisor, now adversary, the National Constitutional Assembly’s Professor Lovemore Madhuku. What is happening?
Telling is it not, that when millions across the globe mourn Chavez, the ditty “Ding-dong ding-dong the witch is gone” tops BBC charts and the British ruling class is not sure whether to honour this Colossus of the global neoliberal ruling classes with a state funeral or a ceremonial funeral? A lesson, perhaps, for this self-appointed ideological guru of the Zimbabwean national bourgeoisie, who sings himself hoarse shouting that a Tsvangirai bourgeois democratic comprador state will be a second Rhodesia – all too powerful for the masses to take on because it will hang on the aprons of the mighty imperialists.
The quandary the British ruling class finds itself in is not exactly surprising. You don’t carry out triumphal marches when Rome is burning! From Greece, Spain and Italy yesterday, Portugal, Cyprus today, and is it France tomorrow, the original heartland of capitalism writhes in painful and unending death argons, that potentially imperil this economic order, globally.
The situation has been worse for the comprador minions. Today Hosni Mubarak, formerly the giant of a ruthless and tyrannical African comprador ruling elite, lies dying in an Egyptian military prison hospital sentenced to life imprisonment. The billions of American dollars, subsidising the biggest and most powerful military machine in Africa, could not save him from rampaging and hungry youthful plebeians and proletariats ravaged to the bone by neoliberal capitalism.
And similarly, the other western comprador darling, Ben Ali, could not survive the same class storms in Tunisia. Peering over the events in the land of Hannibal, the Libyan dictator correctly read the situation and tried to rally his peers to the barricades shouting that what he saw in Tunisia was no less than Russia 1917 and had to be stopped at all costs. Unfortunately and fatally for him, his calls were in vain.Advertisement

No Nathaniel, Rhodesia, the child of a then much stronger era of capitalism, is gone and is not coming back…kare haagari arikare. What frightens the ruling classes today is much more serious stuff, an existential threat: that is a global social revolution arising from the generalised and systematic failure of the capitalist system as dramatically heralded by the 2008 – 2009 global economic crisis. This Great Recession has revealed the fundamental problem of today’s society.
The economic relations that made capitalism so powerful have become outdated because of the massive development of technology and productive forces. A system based on production for profit, wage slaves, private property and the nation state and now dominated by fat cat financial capitalists, is structurally unable to absorb the massive and cheap products coming from highly advanced and globalised production systems concentrated in China and a few other places.
For the rest of the world, a de-industrialised wasteland becomes the new reality in which jobs and livelihoods are massacred as the real economy contracts and only the speculative financial capitalists prosper. This is the world that Thatcher and Ronald Reagan brought into being and which is now coming apart at its seams.
The only solution is to socialise the global means of production, end the nation state and produce for human need and not profit. But capitalism cannot do that without abolishing itself. So all it can do is now look after its own through neoliberal austerity savagery against workers, rural farmers, youths, women and the urban and the rural poor – what MDC’s Tendai Biti calls “eating what we hunt.”
But ordinary people are waking up to the reality that only the politicians and the rich seem to be eating – and thus a storm of massive and unprecedented class struggles and social conflicts has been unleashed across the world. The pioneering revolts being in the weakest chain of the link, the Global South, namely the anti-IMF structural adjustment revolts of Africa, Asia and Latin America of the late 1980s and 1990s as well as those of Eastern Europe, the climax of all the above, probably being the Venezuelan revolution of the mid 1990s led by Hugo Chavez.
Thereafter, the crisis and revolts, reached the belly of the beast – Seattle, Genoa etc, and subsequently in the post-2008 Great Recession era reached a new qualitative stage – globalised crisis and revolts happening simultaneously and interchangeably in the global south and global north – a completely new phenomena which laid for the first time the basis of globalised resistance, as first reflected in the lowest level by the World Social Forum process.
Thus from Tunis, Tahir Square, Madrid, New York to London, back to Lagos, Mumbai, back to Chicago and latest and most explosively Marikana, thereby vindicating Nigerian revolutionary Baba Aye’s aptly titled “Era of crises and Revolts.”
And if Manheru was honest, it is the same fear that motivates his seemingly unlikely defence and apparent attempts at luring Prof Madhuku, the NCA and other nationalist-leaning sections of the middle classes and national bourgeoisie to form, in the now looming post-Mugabe era, a cross-party nationalist but still bourgeois and elite bulwark against this inevitable and rising storm of the working classes and the poor, urban and rural.
The professor who would not be a Ramaphosa
Beyond the current Mugabe/Tsvangirai or MDC/Zanu PF binary, Manheru envisages, post- Mugabe, a monumental cross-party re-organisation of local elites or ruling class re-alignment, between the nationalist sections and the bourgeois democratic but western-leaning comprador neoliberal sections. Kenya is the model, where Daniel Arap Moi’s protégé, Uhuru Kenyatta, under the cover of the Jubilee Alliance, has successfully led a resurrection of the old KANU, against the western supported comprador CORD alliance of Raila Odinga.
Incredible that the latter, the so-much loved pioneer of opposition politics in Kenya starting with FORD, even jailed for six years on treason charges, should today lose to this princeling of the once so-reviled KANU dictatorship, “the Mount Kenya Mafia.”
As in Kenya, the two major emerging poles amongst elites will be a western-leaning neoliberal and comprador consortium anchored by a Tendai Biti-led MDC-T but drawing from Zanu PF “moderates” that Manheru says are already fighting their battles from within for now. On the other, is possibly a more radical nationalist and national bourgeois-based coalition. At the heart of this will be the current Zanu PF nationalist hardliners, Mugabe’s true heirs, but also drawing from formerly pro-MDC middle class elites who are now moving in a nationalist and anti-imperialist direction.
This re-alignment amongst our elites is already underway, pioneered by Simba Makoni, Dumiso Dabengwa and today Tracy Mutinhiri, in one direction, and Prof Jonathan Moyo, Gabriel Chaibva and now it seems Prof Arthur Mutambara in the other direction. But post-Mugabe, the flood-gates will open, involving very very big fish from Zanu PF, who indeed must be encouraged by the warm embrace Mutinhiri has received.
For Manheru though, the real big fish from the other side, for any future emerging nationalist coalition is Madhuku. And correct he is. Arguably, after Tsvangirai, Madhuku is the most popular political figure of the pro-MDC oppositional forces, certainly amongst its rank and file – the heir apparent who could, if he so chose, easily brush aside all the current pretenders to the Tsvangirai throne, very much as Cyril Ramaphosa has done in the ANC.
But Madhuku has walked away, seeming to have chosen a different route, increasingly assuming not only a rabid anti-MDC stance, but preparing to launch his own party, post-elections, on a clearly nationalist and anti-western basis, a fact that has incensed Nathaniel’s antithesis twin, Muckracker, of the Zimbabwe Independent.
Like Manheru, Madhuku instinctively realises that given the above described swelling social class storms buffeting modern capitalism, especially the western variant, and in which the questions of the day will be resolved by iron and blood, the future does not belong to comprador western puppetry. The fate of Mubarak, Ben Ali and now Odinga shows as much. A fact which exposes the key weakness of Manheru’s claim of a strong neoliberal Tsvangirai state.
Parties of elites that will stand a chance are only those that make a partial disengagement with imperialism, especially the west, and based on a national bourgeoisie that will try and re-establish a fresh and hopefully better social contract with the still strong Chinese/BRICS block. But also ones that make some economic concessions to the revolting masses, that neo-liberalism refuses to make.
Mugabe, crucially through the radical land reform, and now the indigenisation agenda, pioneered such approach, after being stung by the 1996 – 2000 anti-neoliberal revolts, and has been richly rewarded with unlikely survival, unlike the likes of Kenneth Kaunda, Kamuzu Banda etc. Today Kenya again re-affirms this.
Drooling at how the KANU dictatorship has resurrected itself through such class-re-alignment strategy, Manheru too dreams the same for the nationalist hard-core of the Zanu PF regime, thereby poking Thomas Mapfumo’s “vakomana muchamhanya” in Mamvemve. And how sweet are such dreams in which, like the learned Greek slaves of the Roman empire eventually rewarded with peculium and libertus, Manheru too, finally emerges from the drudgery and shadows of mere bureaucracy and moves to the main stage and thus into light out of today’s back-stage of darkness or manheru!
Not to lose the plot, the above is the same reason Manheru rails so passionately against the ISO for its call on radical trade unionists, workers, women, students, youths and the urban and rural working class not to be deceived even by seemingly radical but still elite dominated parties and alliances, current and to emerge.
Instead, inspired by the Venezuelan trailblazer which is the only way bus drivers can turn into presidents, they must remain focused on building their own mass anti-capitalist and revolutionary parties and movements, towards, yes, that imminent reality that sends chills of fear down the spines of Manheru’s masters: “the dictatorship of the proletariat.”
Using the above dialectical analysis of the global crisis of capitalism and the class revolts it is unleashing, Manheru’s attack on ISO for allegedly aligning with the comprador MDC and not the nationalist Zanu PF becomes shallow. Just as he admits that both parties are not homogenous and in fact in future a re-alignment of their elite elements likely, the same applies to ISO.
It is perfectly legitimate for revolutionaries to seek to build a long term relationship with the radical rank and file working class base of the MDC, by not alienating them on a transitory issue like the coming elections, when the bourgeois-democratic question arising from the Zanu PF dictatorship still looms large. The radical rural peasantry remains a project for the future, as such class remains yoked to the nationalist Zanu PF petite bourgeoisie, due to “the halo” of the liberation war, land reform and above all Mugabe.
The more realistic and strategic platform is the urban working class, but which is still also yoked to Tsvangirai. Not surprising because the MDC and he are products of their own inspiring class struggles. But the above swelling class and social struggles mean that this may not remain so for long, as the Vote No results in towns show, moreso under a neoliberal Tsvangirai presidency, which will finally and fully expose him and the MDC for their betrayal of the masses.
In a post-Mugabe near-future of growing and open class war, or Thomas Mapfumo’s “Varombo kuvarombo Vapfumi Kuvapfumi,” the possibilities of re-uniting the urban and rural struggles of the masses, which got so tantalisingly close in 1997, can once again become real. Defeating Mugabe and his dictatorship will most likely spur major working class confidence, likely to be translated into an eruption of social and class struggles, if history is anything to go by, as the defeat of the Ian Smith-Abel Muzorewa colonial regime did in 1980, unleashing a massive wave of rank and file strikes and farm invasions.
This is the dialectic of the necessary compromises radicals sometimes have to make. Thus we learn from the Russian Putilov mutineers going in alliance with the Czarist pawn, Father Gapon in 1905 or the Bolsheviks in 1917 rushing to the barricades to defend the equally comprador Kerensky government against reactionary Kornilovists. The other lesson being, perhaps as Joseph Mutero and the Zvishavane Sounds’ Mutongi Gava Maenzanise would warn Munhu, under conditions of real or threatened absolute tyranny, all democrats, regardless of weighty differences over constitutional affairs, must rally together, or all risk facing the fate of Ken Saro Wiwa and Moshood Abiola.
Thus Manheru’s real fear, like capitalists the world over today, is this coming storm of the hungry and rising masses, led by the workers. But masses whose struggles are still to deliver the mortal blow against the capitalist system because, disoriented, and class consciousness in its infancy, and without yet real mass global revolutionary movements of their own, they sometimes and often mistake who is the real devil on the cross. Thus it’s not only been an era of revolts but the barbarism that Rosa Luxembourg warns of, evident in post-Saddam Iraq, Kenya 2007 and Syria today.
Only lived experience and actual struggles under the leadership of the modern proletariat will de-colonise the mind and hasten the sure coming real and defining battles against this historically fated but still fighting ruling class. It is the dawn of the next society, communism, which Manheru sees on the horizon and so much fears, and tries to forestall by his feeble railings. The compass lies not with Alexander Herzen but Bolsheviks supporter, Maxim Gorky and his “Mother”!
Thus radical workers, youths, rural farmers, activists and revolutionaries must not be deceived by the above re-alignment of class forces amongst the elites, even seemingly radical ones – it is their own class parties they are building and re-aligning for looming future class battles against the working classes. The focus must remain the construction of working people’s own radical anti-capitalist and revolutionary parties and movements built on a regional and global basis, to properly equip our side in the coming battles and which war, history teaches, is for us to win. And thanks to Manheru for his advice to our side.
In his tongue in the cheek condemnation of “Gwisai’s Germany” via Rosa Luxemburg Foundation agency, he gives back-handed but nonetheless real advice to today’s working class. Of course, while the RLF as a socialist based foundation may give solidarity internationally, the point of this ideologue of a party still receiving largesse, reportedly from the Moxtons of this world and previously the Tiny Rowlands, IMF and World Bank, is valid.
As Madhuku has also correctly pointed out, the western imperialists fund in order to maintain global hegemony. So too, is it dangerous for trade union and social movements, radicals as well as revolutionaries to turn permanent, strategies hatched out of desperation from the imploding economic social order of the hyper-inflation years. No genuine radical trade union, student or social movement let alone revolutionary movement will be built from donor funds or bosses funds, whether given directly or indirectly through NECs etc.
The lessons from the World Social Forum, including the Zimbabwean one, and the Anti Privatisation Forum and Landless Peoples Movement in South Africa, is that such funds destroy internal movement democracy and accountability of the leadership to the rank and file and enable middle class gate-keepers to pacify and sell out struggles and movements to hostile  capitalist forces.
Hard, painstaking it may be, but the working classes will have to build and fund their own movements, from the bottom to the top. But doing so in the concrete knowledge that, as Marx and Engels so precinctly revealed, the wheels of history are now moving quicker and quicker for Manheru’s masters to meet their ultimate fate, one which the Iron Lady after such haunting tribulations at the end of her reign was clearly not up to facing again.
Let Manheru and the rich classes that he sings his supper for, tremble – the working class demands its space on the global and historical stage and its time has arrived!
Munyaradzi Gwisai is a former MP and country representative of the International Socialist Organisation. E-mail him: