Introduction by David Moore
Dzinashe ‘Dzino’ Machingura (aka Wilfred Mhanda) wrote his A Treatise on Zimbabwe’s National Liberation Struggle: Some Theoretical Problems in the late 1970s while in a Mozambican prison camp. He and his comrades in the vashandi (‘peoples’’ or ‘workers’’) tendency of the Zimbabwean People’s Army had been relegated there by the Mozambican state in co-operation with Robert Mugabe and the leaders of the Zimbabwean African National Union and the Zimbabwean African National Liberation Army who had emerged after a conflictual mid-1970s interregnum in the Zimbabwean liberation struggle. It began with the ‘détente’ exercise of late 1974 and the Chitepo assassination of March 1975, persisted as the young vashandi cadres tried to unite the armies of the two main Zimbabwean liberation movements and imbue the struggle with radical Marxist and democratic principles, and ended with their incarceration in early 1977. Machingura’s A Treatise is a prison notebook of sorts, although much more focused on a particular struggle than Antonio Gramsci’s wide-ranging ones. The document is as much a reflection on why Machingura and his comrades, who had hoped to move the Zimbabwean liberation struggle to a definitive new stage, ended up in prison camps as it is on the nature of the liberation struggle in general: in other words it is a chronicle of how a ‘revolution’ can devour its children, written from immediate experience and within the framework of theories of third world liberation struggles and ‘national democratic revolution’ on offer in the bookstores of Dar es Salaam and from the largesse of Soviet and Chinese publishing mills.
A Treatise is referenced in John Saul’s review article on Mhanda/Machingura’s autobiography Dzino: Memories of a Freedom Fighter (Harare: Weaver, 2011) which will appear in the Review of African Political Economy later this year. A Treatise had been entrusted by Mhanda to me in the hope that it would be disseminated widely, because it had been deemed by the publishers as too large to be included in the autobiography. It is placed on ROAPE’s website in the hope that it will help deconstruct Zimbabwe’s ‘patriotic history’.
David Moore has been Professor of Development Studies at the University of Johannesburg since mid-2008. His Phd is from York University in Toronto. He has taught in Canada, Australia, and at the University of KwaZulu-Natal before moving to Johannesburg.
A Treatise on Zimbabwe’s National Liberation Struggle: Some Theoretical Problems
Dzinashe ‘Dzino’ Machingura (Cabo Del Gado, Mozambique: April-May 1978)
The Zimbabwean national liberation struggle has been beset by monolithic problems ever since the advent of African nationalism which assumed a definite form in the mid 1950’s. These problems have hitherto arrested the full development of the liberation struggle. Little or insignificant development has been made in terms of concrete realisation of the basic goals of African nationalism; political power has not been transferred to the nationalists nor have any significant compromises been made to increase their representation and participation in organs of power and the decision making process. The only political achievement worthy of mention that could be directly attributed to the efforts of the African nationalists was the entrenchment in the 1961 Constitution and the subsequent Constitution of Rhodesia of a provision for the election of a handful of Africans (15) into Parliament. This concession by the British Government left the political status quo intact without any meaningful change for the Africans.
The Zimbabwe African nationalist movement has, since its inception, been characterized by intense political inertia punctuated by a series of setbacks manifest in the frustrated hopes of the nationalists and periodic dislocation of action programmes. The gains that have so far materialized have been incommensurate with the costly human and material sacrifices. The movement has also been rocked by factional recriminations that have only served to misdirect and dissipate efforts. Consequent on these setbacks, the nationalist movement has shown great pliability to manipulation by imperialists, falling victim to one imperialist manoeuvre after another, with costly and unpalatable consequences for the development of the nationalist struggle.
It is important to grasp the characteristics of Zimbabwe’s nationalist struggle – past and present, and its general effect on the development of the national liberation struggle. An understanding of the fundamental weaknesses underlying the nationalist movement and of the problems currently bedeviling Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle can be gained from a historical analysis and outline of the development of the national liberation struggle ever since the settler occupation in 1890.This has to be discussed against the background of a brief analysis of the social character of Zimbabwe; the principal determinant of the nature of the struggle to be waged to achieve victory. It is only by gaining a broad conception of the problems of the nationalist struggle in their proper historical perspective, that a realization of the direction in which the subjective efforts of the national liberation struggle have to be channeled to achieve victory can be made. Indeed the awareness creates an objective platform from which a critical, sober and scientific analysis of the current course of the liberation struggle can be made.
The Social Character of Zimbabwean Society
Any meaningful analysis of the Zimbabwe national liberation struggle and of the character of the nationalist movement has to be done within the context of an analysis of the social character of colonial Zimbabwe. Such an analysis provides an objective basis for scientific and purposive summing up of experiences that will promote the development of the national liberation struggle along the correct revolutionary path. Failure to grasp the social character of present day Zimbabwe would inevitably result in the liberation movement groping in the dark and in the dissipation of precious effort in a fruitless exercise. The social analysis of Zimbabwe will present an objective basis for the formulation of the correct strategy and tactics that will guide the struggle to final victory. The prosecution of the struggle without an objective analytical base will be more of a trial and error process that will inevitably lead the nationalist movement to staggering from blunder to blunder in search of an elusive victory. Prospects of victory will continue to be gloomy with the goal of liberation moving farther and farther away.
Zimbabwe was invaded and reduced to a colony in 1890 by an occupation force organized by the arch monopolist Cecil John Rhodes. Colonial occupation was consummated on 12th September, 1890 by the hoisting of the union jack on Salisbury kopje of what was to become known as Fort Salisbury. Zimbabwe thus formally became a British colony but with control of the territory falling into the hands of Cecil John Rhodes. That fateful day marked the beginning of the political domination, economic subservience, cultural enslavement, social degradation and military subjection of the peace loving people of Zimbabwe by British colonialism a phenomenon that has pervaded Zimbabwean society up to this day. These colonial features underline Zimbabwe’s social character. It is however noteworthy that, unlike other British colonies in Africa, Zimbabwe was a mandated colony with the British Government maintaining only formal and nominal control over its Rhodesian colony. Zimbabwe was mandated to the British South Africa Company (BSAC) through a royal charter of 1899 on the basis of a fraudulently extracted Rudd Concession of 1888.
However by 1923 the British South Africa Company had begun to experience some administrative problems and suffered serious economic setbacks. These problems were against the background of contradictions that had developed between monopoly capital represented by the BSAC and the emergent domestic bourgeoisie amongst the white settler community. These developments led to the transfer of Rhodesia’s colonial mandate from the BSAC to the white settler minority through the Responsible Government Act of 1923. This followed a referendum in the same year in favour of responsible government as opposed to being appended to the Union of South Africa. Rhodesia remained with the legal status of a responsible government until 1965 when Ian Smith’s Rhodesia Front government declared unilateral independence on 11th November of that year. Britain’s control over her Rhodesian colony has always been indirect. At no time did the British government exercise direct control over Rhodesia or intervene in Rhodesia’s internal affairs despite the presence of an entrenched clause within both the 1923 and 1961 Rhodesia constitutions providing for the British government’s intervention in the event of the violation of the “interests of the African people of Rhodesia”.
To all intents and purposes, Britain has ruled Zimbabwe through political surrogates first the BSAC from 1890 to 1923 and the white settler minority after 1923. Britain thus virtually bestowed her surrogates with all the powers and authority to rule over Zimbabwe whilst retaining only formal and nominal control. This has practically made the white settler minority the defacto rulers of Zimbabwe. It is therefore the white settler minority who are perpetrating the colonization of Zimbabwe. This has given rise to endogenous colonialism commonly referred to by the African nationalists as “settlerism”. Technically of course we talk in terms of British colonialism but the problem is essentially that of endogenous colonialism – the settler factor. It is the white settler minority that indeed is the colonizing agent but of course on behalf of and with the blessing of the British government.
Ever since 1923, and more so after 1965 the successive Rhodesian regimes have continued to cater for British and other imperialist interests in much the same way an independent white minority regime would have done. As far as the African people of Zimbabwe are concerned, it is immaterial whether the minority regime oppressing them is independent or not as it does not change their political or social status; it does not mitigate their domination and oppression in any material way. In practical terms therefore, in contradistinction to technical legalities, it is the white racist settler regime that constitutes the principal enemy of the people of Zimbabwe. Indeed it is the racist white minority regime that is the object of removal in Zimbabwe’s national liberation struggle as it constitutes the impediment to the attainment of the legitimate aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.
The central aim of the British occupation force of 1890 was to subjugate Zimbabwe and deprive its inhabitants of their political power. This was progressively realized through innumerable acts of provocation and aggression between 1890 and 1902 and paved the way for the establishment and subsequent consolidation of colonial power under the British South Africa Company. The consummation of this evil colonialism saw the people of Zimbabwe become the political subjects of foreigners in the land of their birth. Ever since that time, the African people of Zimbabwe have been excluded from the political process in their country of birth. Decision making in all political matters became not only the prerogative, but an exclusive preserve of the white settler minority. The Africans had no representation whatsoever in the state’s decision making organs from 1890 till 1961 when a provision for a token number of Africans in the Southern Rhodesia Parliament was entrenched in the 1961 Constitution. This token concession was made to dampen the effects of the wave of the African nationalism that was sweeping across the African continent and was now poised to threaten white minority in Rhodesia. It is noteworthy that this concession represented no qualitative change in the political status of the Africans. The African people of Zimbabwe continued to suffer political domination by a handful of white settlers who at no time exceeded 3% of the population. The white minority maintained effective control of all the instruments of state power which they used effectively to suppress the African people and to perpetrate their narrow reactionary interests.
The white minority has always had and still has the vote thanks to the qualified franchise with which they elect their representatives to parliament. The settler minority has always had and still has a parliament that they dominate and through which they enact, with a semblance of democracy, whatever legislation is deemed necessary to promote their racial and economic interests, to control and restrict the activities and movement of Africans and to check and suppress any opposition and resistance to their rule. They have always had and still have firmly under their control the reactionary repressive and coercive apparatus with which to impose their draconian laws against the will of the Africans; they have always had and still have at their disposal an exclusively white judiciary thoroughly schooled in the philosophies of capitalism and racism with which to confer a stamp of legality and justice on the imprisonment, restriction, detention and execution of their opponents.
Finally, the white settler minority has always commanded and still commands a formidable array of penal institutions including the gallows with which to incarcerate, neutralize, dehumanize and permanently silence or eliminate African political activists and freedom fighters in a desperate endeavour to perpetuate and entrench their reactionary white minority rule.
It is this elaborate maze of political repression in the service of white minority interests that has literally thwarted and suffocated the political aspirations of the broad masses of the African people of Zimbabwe. It is no wonder therefore, that Zimbabwean society continues to be characterized by the domination of the overwhelming majority of the people of Zimbabwe by a handful of reactionary minority of racist settlers. So long as the vital instruments of political power remain vested in the hands of the reactionary white minority settlers, it is difficult to imagine how the broad masses of the people of Zimbabwe can meaningfully become active participants in the Zimbabwean political process. They will continue to be victims of political domination by the racist settler minority and the political dispensation in Zimbabwe will continue to be reflective of white minority interests that are completely incompatible with the legitimate aspirations of the overwhelming majority of the people of Zimbabwe.
The economic subservience of the people of Zimbabwe
Among other strategic considerations, the desire to colonise Zimbabwe was primarily motivated by the craving to exploit the rich mineral wealth of Zimbabwe. It was Rhodes’s dream of another Rand in the heartland of Rhodesia which drove him to illegitimately extort the Rudd Concession from King Lobengula in 1888. The Rudd Concession purportedly granted him exclusive mineral rights over Zimbabwe. By the end of the succeeding year, Rhodes had secured a mandate from the British Government through a royal charter to dispatch an occupation force. Each member of the invading force was promised fifteen gold claims and a vast tract of land ranging between 3 – 5000 acres.
The desire of the British South Africa Company to exploit the mineral riches of Zimbabwe and the enticement of white settlers through promises of gold claims and land holdings created the economic dimension of the colonization of Zimbabwe which underlies the social character of Zimbabwe up to this day. The revenues and royalties from the mining industry and agricultural produce, whose history lies embedded in the original motives of the colonial occupation of Zimbabwe, today constitute the principal foreign exchange earners for Rhodesia. It is not an exaggeration that the question of land in Zimbabwe and landed wealth is the hotbed of political contradictions between the African people and the white minority settlers.
Zimbabwe’s economic destiny is wholly controlled by the white minority settlers with the lion’s share falling in the ambit of international finance capital, the original colonizers and the rest under the white domestic bourgeoisie that germinated from the white settler occupation force. The authors of international finance capital literally control the lifeline of Rhodesia’s economy ranging from mineral and agricultural production to manufacturing industries, distribution centers, exchange and control of commodity circulation, transport and communication with the domestic bourgeoisie only playing an accessory and supplementary role in the economy. The companies that operate both the primary and secondary industries are basically monopolies that have pillaged and plundered Zimbabwe’s economic wealth since 1890.
The exploitation of Zimbabwe’s wealth by the monopolies takes very crude forms and continues with intensity with each succeeding year. Rhodesia, being essentially an economic enclave of imperialism has most of her mineral and agricultural produce exported raw or half-processed to the imperialist countries in order to service, sustain and complement their secondary industries. This naturally deprives the country of the high revenue that could be earned by exporting finished goods and fully processed products. Furthermore, the country is forced to import not only some of the goods she could produce locally through the promotion of local secondary industries, but also finished goods from the country’s raw and semi-processed products exported to the imperialist countries.
The international monopolies are, on account of their economic might, in the strategic position to determine, promote or retard the growth of both the primary and secondary industries based on the primacy of their narrow economic interests that service their parent industries in their home countries. The monopolies are also in an excellent position to regulate the growth of the country’s economy at a pace which enables them to eliminate competition from domestic industries. The commanding position of international capital furthermore enables them to reap super profits from Rhodesia and make the country economically subservient to international finance capital. Each year, astronomic sums of money are criminally drained to their sanctuaries in Europe and America, making the country most unjustifiably an unwilling victim of imperialist plunder and exploitation.
The domestic bourgeoisie only dominate the scene in those sectors that are less profitable to the international monopolies and hence only required to service and complement international monopolist enterprises. This is especially applicable to the agricultural and farming industries with the exception of estate and plantation farming and extensive ranching that are in the hands of the multinationals. Consequently, the greater proportion of the white domestic bourgeoisie is landed and it is no surprise that the white agrarian bourgeoisie forms the backbone of white nationalism.
The African majority are the principal victims of exploitation by both international finance and domestic capitalists who are plundering and pillaging their national wealth. The exploitation is further exacerbated through institutionalised racism in the national economy that discriminates against Africans and restricts the circulation of capital in the hands of the non-African international and domestic bourgeoisie. Furthermore, no material or social benefits accrue to the benefit of the African masses from the royalties and revenue collected by the state from the business operations of international monopoly and domestic enterprises. Instead, the African masses are further impoverished and bled white through a complex system of innumerable forms of direct and indirect taxation. This is against the background of the dispossession of their land, their only source of livelihood, subsistence and dignity. Aside of the Crown land under state control, 50% of the remainder has been misappropriated specifically for 6000 white farmers, leaving the seven million Africans crowded in the other infertile and barren half.
The land designated for white farmers was specifically selected in order to guarantee high yields and productivity for them. Moreover, the white farms are adequately serviced by an efficient and elaborate network of communication services that facilitates easy access to the urban markets. Legislation was passed to protect the agricultural interests of the white farmers and eliminate competition from African farmers especially with regard to the sale of their produce (Maize control Act of 1935).
It is quite clear that the overwhelming majority of African masses are victims of double economic domination primarily by international finance capital and secondarily by the white domestic bourgeoisie. Both of them pillage and plunder national wealth of the African people and cruelly exploit their labour power. The economic interests of the African people are subordinate to those of imperialism and the white settlers. The miserable economic plight of the African people should be viewed against the background of the contradiction between imperialism and the colonial and dependent countries. Ever since the settler occupation of Zimbabwe, the economic relations in colonial Rhodesia have been characterized by economic injustices in favour of imperialism and the white settlers with a strong bias against the overwhelming majority of the labouring masses of the African people. As a consequence of this economic disparity, the broad masses of the African people tenaciously struggle on the lifeline between survival and extinction all year round.
Long before the physical occupation of Zimbabwe in 1890, inroads had already been made by the cultural agencies of western countries into Zimbabwe in the form of missionary and exploration forays. Their primary task, as it later turned out was to lay the preparatory groundwork to facilitate the subsequent colonisation of Zimbabwe. They accomplished their mission through the denigration of Zimbabwe’s African religion and the depersonalization of the indigenous African people. This was achieved gradually by overwhelming the Africans with technical superiority and western way of life. The “higher” cultural order that was preached by the Christian missionaries overawed the Africans and made them feel inferior and helpless.
The school curricula provided by the missionaries was subtly calculated to cow African masses into submission and into discarding their own socio- cultural order encompassing their own religion, cultural traditions, social values and habits that constituted their very personality. It is noteworthy that, whatever positive spin-offs of western cultural influence accrued to the Africans, it was more of something incidental than design on the part of the colonisers as in the final analysis it served to promote western cultural norms at the expense of indigenous ones. The educated Africans therefore served merely as agents of cultural transformation and the entrenchment of the new socio-cultural order.
The episode of settler occupation of Zimbabwe began soon after the missionaries had taken root among a significant section of the African population. It is little wonder that men of cloth like Reverend Helm played a prominent role in extorting the Rudd Concession from King Lobengula that provided the legal pretext for the dismemberment of Zimbabwe. This is not very surprising since men of the church had gained the confidence of the African people and acted as interpreters in all dealings between the settler scouts and African leaders. It could be safely concluded therefore that, the honourable men of the cloth, who came with the bible in one hand, were an interested party in the colonization of Africa and served as the reconnaissance personnel and the harbingers who heralded the beginning of Africa’s colonization. As elsewhere in Africa, the church in Zimbabwe was notorious for facilitating and conferring sanctity on colonialism. They painted the images of the colonizers favourably depicting them as the liberators of the African people from the forces of evil and backwardness.
The advent of colonialism saw the establishment of a host of educational and cultural institutions by the state and the church. These institutions have a dual function, first to train a large literate army of cheap labour to serve the international and domestic capitalist enterprises. Secondly, they designed to educate the African masses into submission. As already pointed out earlier on, whatever benefits accrued to the African people were purely incidental and came about involuntarily as a concomitant price for the realization of the grand scheme of colonialism. The cultural offensive launched by the colonial authorities had therefore a dual function; first serving as an essential and integral component of the capitalist economic cycle and secondly to facilitate the perpetuation and consolidation of colonial rule.
All colonial education has hitherto been aimed at proving to the African people that they have no history of their own to boast of; all they have is a dark past and a precariously uncertain future. Had it not been for the colonialists who rescued them from cultural obscurity, they would have continued to be victims of the vicissitudes of the evil forces of nature that doomed them to inevitable extinction. Conversely, the history and cultural background of the colonialists is extolled and the colonisers themselves favourably painted as condescending saviors. Innumerable and persistent campaigns have been launched to bring about the cultural assimilation of the African people into the ambit of western civilisation. They strive to do this through constantly discrediting, discouraging and pooh-poohing the cultural traditions, practices and all social values and habits of the African people, irrespective of whether or not they have a progressive social content. This is tantamount to training their cultural guns at the very foundation of African being and personality.
The sole criterion for all cultural and social values is given as Western standards regardless of the numerous flaws and social ills prevalent in western society manifest in moral decadence. There is incontestable evidence that the moral decadence and the concomitant social ills of capitalism highlight a politically reactionary society founded on economic injustice. This is a society replete with retrograde and decadent social and moral values devoid of all progressive social content, which the African masses are taught to espouse and emulate. All liberal and philanthropic talk about the well-being of the people, “human rights”, “benevolent societies”, etc is nothing more than spurious talk calculated to dupe the African masses into cultural submission. If one casts a quick glance at the Rhodesian society, social disparity and polarisation between urban and rural areas becomes evident at once; the cities with their advanced and better social amenities and the countryside with its social stagnation. The imbalance evident in the concentration of schools, hospitals etc. for Africans in the urban areas and the scarcity of corresponding institutions in the countryside where the majority of the Africans, live reflects the desire by the capitalists, completely regardless of humanitarian consideration, to adequately service their economic enterprises so as to reap higher profits in contradistinction to uplifting the masses of the African people.
Basically the desire to apprentice the Africans to western civilization is calculated to lead to depersonalisation of the Africans and to gradual loss of cultural identity which makes them amenable to foreign domination. It is the cultural enslavement of the Africans that forms the foundation stone for the political and economic edifice of settler domination in Rhodesia.
Social degradation of the African people
Racism permeates the political and socio-economic fabric of Rhodesian society. It has been used as an instrument for the social degradation of the African people relegating them to a position of inferiority in the land of their birth. Furthermore, it has served as an economic lever mollifying the contradiction between both international and domestic bourgeoisie on the one hand and the white workers on the other. The exploitation of the white workers is mitigated and partially set off by the compensation given to them in the form of higher salaries reaped from the super exploitation of masses of the black labouring people who get miserable and meager wages as remuneration for their indefatigable services to the entrepreneurs. The white workers constitute a kind of labour aristocracy. The economic advantages that accrue to them, thanks to racism, push them together with the white intellectuals and the petty bourgeoisie onto the pole of the ruling classes thereby pitting them against the overwhelming majority of the masses of the black people. The white workers appear to have no alternative but to lend political support to the Rhodesian national bourgeoisie that constitute the ruling class in return for the security of the affluent standard of living they enjoy.
The social degradation of masses of the African people finds concrete expression in the devaluation of their human worth that is manifest in their subordinate role in political, economic and cultural spheres. The Africans have been reduced to mere objects of social ridicule. The phony concepts of white supremacy and black inferiority have subjected the entire black population of Rhodesia to untold social indignities since advent of settler occupation. The Africans have become unwilling victims of white supremacy in a number of ways.
First, besides the segregation of all educational institutions save the University of Rhodesia, the racist white settler minority have devised an inferior, cumbersome and backward system of education especially designed to retard the blacks mentally and to cultivate servility of the African school child. A department of African education is dedicated to this exclusive purpose despite having a single ministry of education which could easily cater for the same standard of education for both blacks and whites. This discrimination against Africans and their low quality of education at primary and secondary levels gives their white counterparts an unfair advantage at institutions of higher learning where blacks and whites share the same educational system and standards. It therefore requires considerably greater effort on the part of the black student to catch up and march in step with their fellow white students, this not arising from inherent mental inferiority but from a deliberately downgraded educational background.
Besides the general inferiority of African education, the number of educational institutions and corresponding facilities, teacher training and technical colleges set aside for the Africans is severely limited catering only for an insignificant proportion of the African population in stark contrast to the universal and compulsory education for whites up to secondary level. The number of secondary schools for whites more than trebles that for Africans despite the fact that whites constitute less than 3% of the population.
This disparity and inequality applies to other social fields as well. For instance, the size, quality and location of African residential areas in the urban areas is hardly comparable to those for whites. The so-called African townships comprise nothing more than dinghy little hovels and overcrowded hostels that are the polar opposites of the affluent white suburbs. African housing averages two rooms for marriage quarters and five occupants per single male hostel room. These living quarters are inadequately furnished lacking basic modern amenities and facilities such as adequate lighting, cooking, heating, laundry, toilet facilities and telephone services which abound lavishly in the white suburbs. Moreover, the African townships that are in essence more of slums are poorly located with respect to sanitation being situated adjacent to industrial area where industrial and noise pollution overburdens them.
The condition of social amenities and recreational facilities for the African people are just pathetic, being reflective of the racial segregation of sporting and recreational facilities with those for whites getting the lion’s share from the national cake. Health facilities are similarly segregated as are cemeteries with only a handful of state hospitals confined to the urban centers. Holiday facilities and resorts, hotels, motels and restaurants are likewise segregated along racial lines with the Africans, the indigenous people of the land, occupying the place of underdogs.
It is this humiliating and dehumanizing social degradation of the blacks, a permanent feature of life in present day Rhodesia that constitutes the phenomenal expression of the political, economic and cultural domination and oppression of the African people in Rhodesia.
Military subjection of the African people
The subjugation of Zimbabwe by British colonialism in 1890 was imposed by force of arms and duly resisted by the heroic people of Zimbabwe. It is therefore clear that from the very inception of Zimbabwe’s colonisation, there was an imperative need for setting up and maintaining a coercive state apparatus without which colonial rule would have been vulnerable to overthrow by the embittered African people. Ever since that time, successive Rhodesian minority regimes have paid great attention to the creation of a formidable military machine as the basic guarantee of invincibility in the face of resistance against their rule from the African people. Consequently, for the past 88 years, the African people have been and are still living under military control and subjection. The Rhodesian army has been ostensibly projected as a security force poised to ward off external aggression. In reality it was created as a strategic force braced against African resistance to racist white minority rule. Its sole purpose has and still is the perpetration of racist white minority rule through the brutal suppression of the broad masses of the black people. It is inconceivable, given the geo-political situation prevailing in southern Africa prior to 1960, to imagine that the threat of external aggression prompted successive racist white minority Rhodesian governments into building and expanding the Rhodesian army. The real material threat to white minority rule came from black opposition to their domination.
Before the emergence of African nationalism, the Rhodesian terrorist army, though on permanent military alert against possible civil disobedience by African masses, remained largely in the background with the notorious Rhodesian terrorist police force in the forefront of repressing Africans. However with the escalation of racial conflict engendered by African demands for majority rule and self-determination, the Rhodesian terrorist army began to play an increasingly prominent role in the suppression of black revolt. The onus of enforcing law and order today now rests largely with the Rhodesian terrorist army with the police also being groomed for military action through its transformation into a paramilitary force close behind its heels.
In the face of increasing repression by the Rhodesian terrorist army, Rhodesia has to all intents and purposes been literally transformed into a military dictatorship, from being a national detention camp for Africans during the peak of African nationalism to a national concentration camp during the current peak of the national liberation war. Rhodesia has developed from the permanent state of emergency of the days of African nationalism to martial law at the peak of the liberation struggle characterized by courts martial and rigid enforcement of strict day and night curfews with the indiscriminate butcher of black civilians being the order of the day.
It is noteworthy that in all its repressive operations, the Rhodesian terrorist army operates above and independently of the Rhodesian draconian laws that in themselves leave little room for peace for the African people. The Rhodesian terrorist army demonstrably has no need for a cloak of legality and justice in its repressive operations. With all their democratic rights whittled away and being under constant molestation and harassment and with the threat of torture and murder by the so-called security forces being a daily reality, Rhodesia has, in so far as the African people are concerned, to all intents and purposes been transformed to a hell on earth for black people.
Such is the social character of Zimbabwe: political domination, economic subservience, cultural enslavement, social degradation and military subjugation of the African people by the racist white minority settlers. This has been the daily order of life in Rhodesia since the advent of colonialism in 1890. It is these inhuman circumstances that have awakened national consciousness of the African people and heightened their political awareness. This national and political consciousness has now been transformed into a formidable material force with which to overthrow national oppression and restore the democratic rights of the people of Zimbabwe and pave the way for the creation of a new Zimbabwe free from oppression and exploitation of man by man and founded on economic justice and social security for all.
2) A brief historical outline of the development of the national liberation struggle in Zimbabwe
The development of the national liberation struggle in Zimbabwe stretches from the wars of resistance of the 1890’s to the current national liberation war in the late 1970s. For convenience of analysis the whole period may be broken into four major phases as follows:
1890 to 1902 – armed resistance against the colonial invaders
1902 to 1945 – period of relative lull in the struggle against colonialism and the phase of consolidation of colonial rule in Zimbabwe
1945 to 1970 – reformist nationalism stretching from passive reformism of 1945 to 1956 through active reformism of 1957 – 65 to militant reformism of 1966 – 1970
1970 onwards – militant nationalism characterized by the armed national liberation struggle and forging closer links with the progressive international community.
The tracing of the historical development of the Zimbabwe national liberation struggle which follows is largely a political evaluation rather than a historical analysis of the development of the national liberation struggle. This is largely on account of the absence of relevant authoritative reference material at the time of writing. Rather than being descriptive and explanatory the account only serves to outline the development of the national liberation struggle with special reference to the circumstances surrounding the emergence of African nationalism in Zimbabwe which is the subject of this treatise. The brief revisiting of the political developments prior to the emergence of African nationalism is especially important as it facilitates a full appreciation of the essence of African nationalism in Zimbabwe and concomitantly, the sources of its weaknesses. The brief historical outline of the development of the national liberation struggle has been starved of factual detail and consequently cannot serve as a standard historical account of the national liberation struggle. However, there is a strong contention that it lies within the broad framework of the historical development of the national liberation struggle and therefore, the evaluation of the political development may be safely taken as valid.
National Resistance: 1890 – 1902
Cecil John Rhodes secured a British Royal Charter on the basis of the Rudd Concession of 1888 that was illegitimately extorted from King Lobengula which granted him nominal possession of the present day Rhodesia. The Charter enabled him to set up his British South Africa company which invaded Zimbabwe in 1890. The Rudd Concession had ostensibly granted Rhodes only mineral rights over Lobengula’s political domain as distinct from territorial rights over the whole of Zimbabwe. However the nature of the invasion force organized by Rhodes euphemistically dubbed the “pioneer column” transcended the limits and provisions of the Rudd Concession. It was not surprising therefore, that as soon as the pioneer column set foot in Zimbabwe clashes began with the local inhabitants especially the Shonas as the invasion force had deliberately skirted Matebeleland to avoid a premature clash with the dreaded King Lobengula’s Amajaha. Every one of the invasion force, the so-called pioneer column was promised fifteen gold claims and vast land holdings of between 3 – 5000 acres. This naturally set the invasion force on a collision course with the local inhabitants from the very beginning. Rhodes’s grandiose promises to the settlers could certainly not materialize without provocation of the local inhabitants and clashes with them.
As soon as the settlers got to their respective destinations, they began setting up an administrative apparatus at once and carved out vast tracts of land for themselves through forcible eviction of the Africans. They went on to reserve land for prospecting minerals and press-ganged Africans into unpaid labour contracts. They systematically subverted and undermined traditional authority and institutions with the ultimate aim of controlling the black population.
The situation was further aggravated by the institutionalisation of various measures designed to induce the employment of Africans by the settlers. All these provocations coupled with innumerable acts of aggression were completely incompatible with the wishes and aspirations of the local inhabitants who quickly reached the end of their forbearance and braced themselves for an all-out struggle against the occupying force. This was for the Africans a just struggle as the provocative activities of the settler forces had undermined the traditional social order, trampled underfoot their sovereign rights and whittled away their basic freedoms and made them slaves in the land of their birth.
It is therefore not surprising to see that the settler occupation of Zimbabwe provoking the bitter resistance of the people of Zimbabwe that took armed form, beginning as isolated incidents in 1890 and gathering momentum and growing in proportions that culminated in the well-chronicled Wars of Resistance of 1893 and 1896. The heroic resistance against heavily armed settler forces demonstrated the ruthless determination of the African people of Zimbabwe to ward off settler occupation, regain their freedom, recover land that had been robbed and reassert their right to self-determination and national sovereignty.
The Wars of Resistance by the people of Zimbabwe are, in the light of the overwhelming odds against them eloquent examples of supreme courage and heroic and sublime sacrifice. The settlers had a well organised conventional force that was armed to the teeth with modern and superior weapons that included cannons and heavy machine guns pitted against poorly organised indigenous forces equipped with only spears, bows and arrows.
Overwhelmed by superior technology and well organised settler forces, with a sense of purpose and everything to lose, the people of Zimbabwe stood little chance of defeating the settler aggressors. However, their sublime heroism and relentless determination to resist settler occupation wrote glorious pages of valour and ingenuity in the annals of Zimbabwe’s history. Their supreme sacrifices are a shining example to all Zimbabweans and continue to inspire all Zimbabwean freedom fighters of today’s national liberation war.
Despite all the heroic determination to drive off the settler invaders, the people of Zimbabwe were defeated but however they only regarded the defeat as temporary, with the resistance continuing in other forms. They could not reconcile themselves to the defeat as final and sealing the fate of Zimbabweans forever and accordingly pledged that future generations would eventually re-conquer the fatherland and once again become masters of their own destiny.
The main reasons for the defeat of the African people lay on the one hand, in the superiority of the technology and organisation and military art of the of the settler forces and in disunity, poor organisation, absence of central direction and command of the resistance and the inferiority of armaments and fighting methods of the local inhabitants on the other. It took up to about 1902 for the settler forces to eliminate the last pockets of resistance and fully assert their authority over the local inhabitants. After the crumbling of their resistance, the people of Zimbabwe were left with no option but to submit to the colonial authority. It is however important to note that total submission in the form of harmonious cooperation with the settler authorities was long drawn and gradual, varying according to areas. It is incontrovertible that even after the military defeat of the African people; generalised hostility against colonial authority continued to be widespread and sometimes took the form on non-cooperation with the administrative steps by the settler authority such as the collection of taxes etc.
Relative Lull in Resistance: 1902 – 1945
The period stretching from 1902 – 45 represents both a relative lull in resistance by the Africans to racist white minority domination, and the entrenchment and consolidation of settler minority rule. After the defeat in the wars of resistance of the 1890’s, the African people realised that it would be sheer adventurism to continue with their armed resistance against settler minority rule. Given the superiority of the settler minority forces, perpetration of armed resistance would have only served to exact a heavy toll of lives of the African people without achieving the desired result of driving away the settlers. Consequently, in line with the dictation of the objective conditions, the resistance against minority settler rule subsided and as it were, went underground. It was during this period that capitalism firmly took root in Zimbabwe and initiated the differentiation of the traditional social order. Urban areas sprang up where settler communities were concentrated, mining establishments developed, modern agriculture was introduced, manufacturing and other industries started in the urban centers, schools and other educational institutions were set-up and an administrative infrastructure took a definite form.
The Africans no longer had only to contend with forced evictions from prime agricultural land and dispossessions and de-stocking of their livestock in the rural areas, but with the brutal exploitation of their labour and dehumanising working conditions as well. This was superimposed on forced labour on railway and road infrastructure and taxation to induce rural to urban migration to provide cheap labour for the mines and factories. Furthermore, and with far reaching implications for the future, the hitherto unstructured African society gave birth to a working class and the petit bourgeoisie in addition to the peasant subsistence farmers residing in the now re-designated African reserves and the so-called tribal trust lands.
The organisation and subsequent consolidation of the administrative and economic infrastructure had a profound effect on the social organisation of the traditional order. Its consequence was the stratification of traditional society to meet the demands of the emergent capitalist relations of production that was superimposed on the existing traditional order. This marked the beginning of the proletarianisation of the peasantry that proceeded simultaneously with the emergence of the petty bourgeoisie from the rich peasants together with petty traders and intellectuals in the urban areas.
The emergence of these social groups, strata and classes was concomitant with the development of capitalist relations of production and destined to become a threat to the monopoly of political power and the economic interests of the racist settler minority. The agrarian bourgeoisie who controlled political power in Rhodesia were fully aware of the threat posed by the emergence of the new social groups amongst the Africans and took practical steps to safeguard their rule and economic interests through the introduction of draconian laws such as the Land Apportionment Act, the Industrial Conciliation Act, the Preservation of Constitutional Government Act and the Pass Laws etc. However, most importantly, the settler minority regimes barred the broad masses of the African people from participating in the political process through a racially qualified franchise.
These developments engendered a struggle on two fronts i.e. the urban front for the emerging working class, the struggle for better wages and the rural front for the peasant farmers in defense of their land rights and livestock. As had happened elsewhere throughout the world, the struggle by the working class soon gave rise to organised resistance in the form of strikes in the mid1940s. The promulgation of the Land and Animal Husbandry Act of 1950 saw the peasant farmers rise up in sporadic acts of defiance and non-cooperation characterised by isolated attacks on dip tanks. The Land and Animal Husbandry Act limited the size for individual peasant land holdings and the number of cattle they could own. Urban dwellers were particularly affected as they were deprived of the right to own land contrary to traditional African custom It also had a provision for small holder farmers.
We have already seen that the introduction of capitalism in Zimbabwe destabilized the traditional social order, and accelerated the differentiation of African society resulting in the emergence of new social groupings among the African people that corresponded with the new capitalist relations of production. Gradually, the new social groups became partially alienated from the traditional society and accepted the new social order albeit reluctantly. They became acclimatized to capitalist relations of production and through labour, familiarized themselves with the Europeans whom they had hitherto feared, revered and considered to be endowed with supernatural powers.
This familiarization cracked the myth of white supremacy as the Africans discovered that the Europeans were just ordinary human beings like themselves without any special endowments deriving from their race. The Africans thus began to view the white settlers in a different light. This eventually awakened the African workers, intellectuals and petty bourgeoisie to the consciousness of social injustices brought about by the racist white minority rule. They became averse to social degradation and racial discrimination perpetrated by the Europeans. This awareness generated popular discontent among the African elite and organisations championing the cause of the African elite and workers were formed as early as 1911.
The formation of these organisations varied according to phases in the development of capitalism and the relative development of the urban areas. The Africans demanded social equality, better working and living conditions, better salaries and wages and above all involvement in the decision making process. What is noteworthy about the nature of this movement is that it was largely confined to the struggle for economic and social rights and better working conditions. It lacked a popular character and championed only the cause of the African elite and workers. The movement lacked a national character and operated within the context of the capitalist society unlike the wars of resistance that preceded it that were waged on a national plane and within the framework of traditional society.
The struggles deriving from this new wave of consciousness was not based on the mobilization of the broad masses of the people and had only a peripheral political character. It is therefore not surprising that little was achieved in terms of material gains or the amelioration of social conditions during this phase. However, its great positive achievement was the cracking of the myth of white supremacy that laid a firm basis for the subsequent emergence of African nationalism. This whole period was therefore essentially a period of gestation for the emergence of African nationalism.
Passive African Nationalism: 1945 – 1970
The fundamental political contradiction between the racist white minority rule and the broad masses of the African people that had been forced onto the background with the defeat of the wars of resistance resurged with a definite political character with the emergence of African nationalism following the end of the Second World War. As was the case with the rest of Africa, the end of the world war in itself played a prominent role in resuscitating the struggle against colonialism in those countries like Zimbabwe where it had subsided. This is not surprising since the major European colonial powers emerged weakened after the war, with the United States of America and the Soviet Union surfacing as the two major world powers. The emergence of African nationalism in Zimbabwe also benefited immensely from the more radical sister movements in neighbouring countries like South Africa, Malawi and Zambia were African nationalism had taken root much earlier.
The rise of African nationalism, which stretched between 1945-56 was associated with sharpening economic struggles, increasing demands by Africans to participate in decision making processes, the struggle against the formation of the Central African Federation (1953-63) and against repressive and racist legislation such as the Land Apportionment Act and the Land Husbandry Act, and the struggle for social equality. It was during this period that amorphous political organisations such as urban residents associations, the African Youth League and the British Voice Association that championed the rights of the African people were formed.
African labour unions also mushroomed and became active in agitating for the improvement of working and living conditions and wages for the African workers. The incipient struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie took the form of workers strikes in urban centres. This was a new form of struggle for Zimbabwean workers and the semi-proletariat. Industrial strikes assumed greater proportions and with time embraced larger numbers of workers. Workers strikes played a very important role in the emergence and shaping of African nationalism. They became an essential component of the African nationalist movement, especially in the era of reformism.
In spite of its lofty aims and objectives, African nationalism in its initial stages failed to make considerable strides as its efforts were not channeled through a well-organised political movement. The African nationalist movement was still essentially reformist in character that focused on appealing to the conscience of the white racist settlers. Another peculiar feature of the movement was that it was led by the petty bourgeoisie and intellectuals resident in the urban areas. It is therefore not surprising that the movement was confined to the urban areas without taking root among the masses of the peasantry, the bulk of the African population. Though workers in some urban centres were mobilized to participate in the nationalist movement this was never on a national scale and no links were established with the peasantry.
This brief phase however ushered the struggle of the African people against racist minority rule onto a higher plane of African nationalism which culminated in the formation of the African National Congress in 1957. For the first time the struggle against racist minority rule became identified with a mass movement. The African National Congress became the first nationally organized detachment to spearhead African nationalism in Zimbabwe long after sister organisations had established themselves in South Africa, Malawi and Zambia.
Active Reformist Nationalism: 1957-70
The period stretching from 1957 – 70 may be termed the era of reformist nationalism. The reformist nature of this general period arises out of the general essence and orientation of the nationalist movement during this period as manifest in central objectives and the political methods and tactics employed to secure the realization of the political objectives of the nationalist movement. In concrete and practical terms, the nationalist movement in Zimbabwe during this period never transcended the limits of bourgeoisie narrow nationalism. It was nothing more than the equivalent of white nationalism that reached its zenith during roughly the same period. Active reformist nationalism, like its predecessor, passive nationalism was under the leadership of the petty bourgeoisie resident in the urban centres. Reformist nationalism, was closely linked to the development of the labour movement within big towns like Salisbury and Bulawayo.
The African National Congress (ANC) was formed at the end of 1957 under the leadership of Joshua Nkomo and was closely linked to its sister movements in Malawi and Zambia under Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda and Harry Nkumbula respectively within the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. As has been pointed out earlier, at this point in time, these fraternal organisations were definitely more militant and took the lead in the development of African nationalism in Central Africa.
Unlike the preceding political organisations that had a largely amorphous and para-political character, the African National Congress had a distinct, definite and national political character with a concrete organisational form. It advanced definite and clear political slogans that became the rallying point for the African masses. Its cardinal political demands were the enfranchisement of the African people, their active participation in the political process and the dissolution of the Central African Federation, the struggle for the proscription of racial discrimination and better working conditions and wages for the African workers. The struggle against destocking of domestic animals and re-allocation of land also featured prominently amongst the ideals of the ANC.
It was the struggle for these lofty ideals that formed the basis of nationalist consciousness during the era of reformist politics. The African nationalists at this stage acknowledged the superiority of western standards and values to which they themselves aspired. This greatly influenced their political approach and notwithstanding their grievances against the racist white settler community, the ANC hoped to fulfill their political objectives on the basis of harmonious cooperation between Africans and the Europeans. This was basic nationalist policy for which the ANC campaigned vigorously. Herein lies the reformist essence of the early nationalist movement which continued to cast a dark shadow on the revolutionary commitment of the African Nationalists.
The ANC achieved quite a measure of success in its agitational work, especially in the urban centres where a number of workers’ strikes for better working conditions and better wages were associated with the political activities of the ANC. It also managed to make inroads into the rural areas where it began to mobilize the peasantry especially with regard to destocking of cattle, dipping fees and grievances on land. The successes achieved by the ANC in arousing political consciousness though limited, greatly alarmed the settler authorities who proscribed it in 1959 and rounded up its main leaders before it could consolidate itself nationally and extend its political tentacles into the countryside where the bulk of the black population lived. The political activities of the ANC between1957-59 revealed both organisational inexperience and political immaturity of the nationalist leadership that would haunt the nationalist movement for a long time to come.
The nationwide propagation of the gospel of African nationalism was left to the National Democratic Party (NDP) which was formed in 1960 as the successor to the ANC again under the leadership of Joshua Nkomo. Unlike the ANC, the National Democratic Party had a broad based mass character that also encompassed the peasants. Influenced by the wave of independence sweeping across the African continent to the north, the National Democratic Party, for the first time in the history of African nationalism in Zimbabwe advanced clear and categorical demands for national independence and majority rule under the all-conquering slogans of “one man one vote” “no independence before majority rule” and “mwana wevhu”. These slogans had a tremendous effect on the development and re-awakening of national consciousness of the African masses who responded with massive enthusiasm. The NDP imparted the political dimension of national independence to the earlier struggles against racial discrimination, for the dissolution of the Central African Federation, for social equality and better working conditions and wages for the Africans. National independence remains to this day the clarion call for the nationalist movement.
The National Democratic Party made great strides in arousing the political consciousness of the African masses that was manifest in the increasing number of industrial strikes and demonstrations that assumed a definite political character and numerous acts of civil disobedience that were widespread in the rural areas. There were for example industrial strikes in Salisbury and Bulawayo in June, July and October of 1960. Molotov cocktails popularly known as petrol bombs were used for the first time in demonstrations in June, July, October and November of 1960. In the rural areas the African peasants refused to cooperate with agents of settler authority, the notorious “Native Commissioners”. They resisted displacement from their farmlands, refused to cooperate with tax collectors, destroyed agricultural produce in neighbouring white farms; smashed cattle dip tanks and engaged in various other non-conformist activities. It was on account of nationalist pressure and civil disobedience in the rural areas that the derogatory title of “native commissioner” was subsequently changed to the less offensive district commissioner.
All these activities occurred within the framework of peaceful political struggles which the NDP had vowed to follow. At this stage, it was the declared intention of the African nationalists to follow the parliamentary route to majority rule or independence. All the urban political strife and civil turmoil that was rampant in the rural areas were calculated to bring pressure to bear on both the minority settler regime and the British Government who were both expected to yield to the demands for majority rule. The political violence of 1960s should therefore be viewed as a component of composite tactics of pressure and leverage to influence the minority settler regime and the British. Both were not very responsive, with only a token concession made in the 1961 Constitution to provide for fifteen African members of parliament in a legislative assembly of fifty, with the rest being white.
However, the nationwide political activities of the NDP and the mounting national consciousness of the African masses alarmed the racist settler authorities, who proceeded to ban the party on 9th December, 1961. It was the activities of the NDP that gave birth to the notorious Law and Order Maintenance Act of 1960 that has become instrumental in the repression of political activity in Rhodesia to this day. It allowed for the arrest, detention and restriction of political activists without trial.
Much to the chagrin of the minority settler authorities, a new political organisation the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) again under the leadership of Joshua Nkomo was formed a few days later on the ashes of the NDP. The formation of ZAPU did not bring anything new with regard to the basic orientation of the nationalist movement. More or less the same tactics were adopted to intensify pressure for the negotiation of a constitutional settlement on the basis of majority rule. There was however an introduction of sabotage as a new weapon in the struggle that saw isolated incidents occurring in the urban centres. It was out of the desire to acquire the requisite skills in sabotage warfare that the nationalist movement began to recruit African youths for training outside the country as early as 1962.
It is important to note that the introduction of sabotage activities onto the political scene did not represent a shift to the strategy of confrontation with the settler authorities but only served to accentuate the pressure in search of a constitutional settlement. In addition to the element of sabotage, there was an increase in the number of industrial strikes, protest marches, political demonstrations and more civil disobedience in both the urban and rural areas. ZAPU achieved extensive nationwide mobilization of the African masses. It became a household name throughout Zimbabwe and far exceeded the achievements of its predecessors, the ANC and the NDP. Echoes of “one man one vote” reverberated from every corner of the country and support for the nationalist movement mounted considerably. The African people demonstrated that they were prepared to go to any length in support of the struggle for majority rule.
The heightened political consciousness of the African masses and the increasing militancy of the nationalist movement as evidenced by the sabotage activities sent the racist settler authorities into panic mode and proceeded to proscribe ZAPU in September, 1962, after less than one year of the organisation’s existence. The nationalist organisation, which was by now already a mass movement went underground after the ban but most unfortunately by mid-1963, a serious rift had developed within the ranks of the nationalist movement that most regrettably led to the formation of a rival organisation in August 1963, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) under the leadership of Rev Ndabaningi Sithole.
There is no evidence to suggest that the split was a consequence of any major differences in political strategy other than personality differences and minor difference in emphasis in tactics within the general framework of pressure and leverage strategy against the racist settler minority rule. Any claim to the contrary, suggestive of deep seated ideological contradictions or any fundamental difference in strategy are completely without foundation and not borne by subsequent developments. Up to this moment in the national liberation struggle, the two organisations have an identical ideological outlook and the development of their strategic concepts has closely followed the same pattern corresponding in both time and content. The formation of ZANU was answered with the formation of the People’s Caretaker Council (PCC) which was in essence the continuation of ZAPU under the new circumstances of political rivalry within the nationalist movement. This presented ZAPU with a legal platform (following its proscription in September 1962) with which to challenge ZANU.
The emergence of the two organisations, ZANU and PCC, did not herald any new or radical political developments on the political scene other than mutual hostilities and bloody vendettas that characterized relations between the two rival organisations and threatened to paralyse the nationalist movement and engulfed it in bitter political recriminations. Rather than concentrating on the pursuit of the central goal of attaining national independence, political energy and attention of the African masses were now diverted to partisan political squabbles. This naturally played into the hands of the racist settler authorities who watched with glee and folded arms as the two sides slugged each other in the African townships. This was indeed a sad episode for the nationalist movement.
Notwithstanding the political confusion and rivalry, isolated incidents of sabotage activities and the recruitment of youth for training in sabotage warfare outside the country continued unabated. Capitalising on the disorder and internecine violence within the nationalist movement, the racist Smith regime of the right wing Rhodesia Front that came to power in 1962, outlawed both organisations in mid-1964. It is ironic that the degeneration of the nationalist movement coincided with the hardening intransigence of the racist Smith regime whose party had come to power on the ticket of also demanding immediate independence for Rhodesia from Britain within the context of white nationalism.
Ian Smith went on to declare Rhodesia unilaterally independent from Britain in November, 1965 which complicated the situation for the African nationalists. The silencing of both ZANU and PCC and the subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by Smith in 1965 marked the end of the first phase of active reformism by the African nationalists. Judging by the achievements of other nationalist movements elsewhere in Africa, the Zimbabwean nationalist movement had been a remarkable failure which called for a review of strategy in political struggle given the peculiarity of the Rhodesian situation. The racist settler authorities had employed the strategy of not permitting nationalist organisations to take root among the people by outlawing them whenever they posed a serious threat. The measures that were taken by the Smith regime to outlaw and suppress the nationalist movement eventually forced it underground and to resort to clandestine activities and intensify sabotage activities with the hope of reversing the unfavourable political situation in their favour.
The African nationalists continued to pursue their constitutional struggle regardless of the deteriorating political situation in Rhodesia and the intransigence of the Smith regime. The declaration of unilateral independence by Ian Smith constituted a major blow and impediment to their hopes of an amicable constitutional settlement and their hopes of an early political victory began to recede. UDI partially awoke the African nationalists to the realities of settler intransigence and they began contemplating an armed struggle as a form of struggle that could tilt the balance in their favour. However, lacking confidence in the prospects of victory for an armed liberation struggle at this point in time, the nationalists only viewed the armed struggle as a lever for influencing political developments to a point when constitutional negotiations with the British Government could be resumed.
They particularly hoped to secure British intervention in Rhodesia by fomenting internal disorder through widespread sabotage activities and isolated military action. It is noteworthy that the African nationalists still had complete faith and confidence in the impartiality of the British Government to honestly broker a constitutional settlement in Rhodesia in their favour. They had faith that the British Government could easily reverse Smith’s UDI. The misguided and erroneous views of the African nationalists were not helped by their gullibility to the British assurance that they would only intervene in Rhodesia if there was a break down in law and order. On their part, the British Government continued to raise the hopes of the African nationalists through vaguely worded proposals on unimpeded progress to majority rule and the so-called ”six principles”.
The exiled nationalists stepped up their recruitment campaigns and organized the training of large numbers of black youths in military art in anticipation of British intervention. Quite a number of African youths received military training in friendly African countries such as Ghana, Tanzania and Algeria and in socialist countries as well. By the beginning of 1966, preparations for launching military operations were already advanced. The whole period from April 1966 to 1970 was characterized by sporadic military operations by both nationalist organisations in an atmosphere of rivalry confined to the northern half of the country. The wave of these military operations conducted during this period took the form of sabotage of railway and power lines and on other economic targets and guerrilla attacks on outlying and isolated military and police posts. On some occasions preemptive attacks were made by the Rhodesian forces on guerilla bands before they got to their targets inflicting heavy losses on them.
At this stage in the national liberation struggle, the guerillas had inadequate military training and were poorly equipped and lacked combat discipline with combat security leaving a lot to be desired. The strength of the guerilla bands varied from sections to platoons in the case of ZANLA combatants and companies in the case of ZIPRA as the ZAPU fighters generally operated in larger combat units than ZANLA. Another characteristic feature of these military operations was the absence of political work among the local population in the rural communities. Little pains were taken to mobilize and organize the masses of rural peasants with the result that they became vulnerable to attacks by the better trained and equipped Rhodesian army. All the military operations carried out during this period were not based on any strategic military plan and were essentially sporadic and uncoordinated. Their sole objective was to sow seeds of terror in Rhodesia with the hope of provoking British intervention.
Any claim or attempts by African nationalists to elevate the military skirmishes of 1966-70 to strategic military endeavour to destroy enemy forces with the objective of toppling the racist Rhodesian regime would be misleading, unjustified and completely without foundation and devoid of any factual basis. Such claims would be an unscrupulous attempt to disguise and mask the political naivety of the nationalists that drove these adventurist operations at a high cost of lives. It is however in place to pay tribute to the early freedom fighters for their courage and determination and commitment to the cause of liberation. They fought gallantly against the Rhodesian forces in the face of overwhelming odds.
The military skirmishes in northern Zimbabwe did not achieve the intended objective of provoking British intervention in Rhodesia. Though Britain had imposed economic sanctions on Rhodesia it did not do much to reverse the unilateral declaration of independence, UDI. It was only after the British premier, Harold Wilson had amply demonstrated in practice his bias in favour of the Smith regime by sidelining the African nationalists in both the HMS Tiger Talks of 1966 and the HMS Fearless Talks of 1968 to resolve the constitutional impasse caused by UDI. The nationalists began to realize that avenues for their involvement in constitutional negotiations had been effectively blocked.
The hopes for peaceful struggle that had up to now been entertained by the nationalists were smashed by the open treachery of the British who went on to suggest the HMS Fearless proposals to resolve the Rhodesian impasse without even consulting the African nationalists as before. This put the last nail in the coffin of nationalist reformist politics in Zimbabwe that had continued to linger on despite the worsening political situation in Rhodesia as evidenced by the suppression of nationalist activities and Ian Smith’s UDI. The nationalists lost confidence in the British Government and began to contemplate seriously, armed struggle as a viable alternative to the hitherto pursued constitutional avenue to independence.
The armed struggle of 1966-70 was designed to play only a supplementary role to the constitutional struggle being waged by nationalist organisations that lacked a background in military affairs. Consequently the armed struggle could not have been expected to achieve much in the circumstances. Notwithstanding, the role played by guerilla fighters, the unwilling victims of political opportunism and military adventurism of the nationalist leadership were exemplary and heroic in facing the vigorous challenge by the Rhodesian counter-insurgency and in their readiness to accept the supreme sacrifice.
Up to this day, the remarkable role played by forerunners of the modern freedom fighters provides an unfathomable source of inspiration to all the liberation fighters engaged in the current phase of the armed struggle. The experience acquired by the guerilla fighters during this period was invaluable in as much as it laid a firm base for subsequent better planned and organised military operations. These took the form of classical guerrilla warfare following a critical strategic re-appraisal of the methods and forms of struggle. It is little wonder that the guerilla fighters themselves in both nationalist organisations were instrumental in the shift in strategy to adopt armed struggle as the principal from of struggle to achieve self-determination for the people of Zimbabwe.
The era of reformist nationalism which had stretched from 1957 – 70 constituted a major defeat for the nationalist movement. Majority rule was nowhere in sight after all those years of struggle and elsewhere in Africa most national movements had attained their goal of national independence. There were a number of reasons and a variety of factors that contributed to the failure of the nationalist movement at this stage. Principal among these was the incorrect and subjective appraisal of both the domestic and international situation in relation to their struggle for self-determination.
The nationalists viewed the problem of Zimbabwe’s independence as similar to that of Britain’s other colonies where the settler factor was either insignificant or practically non-existent. This led the nationalists to expend most of their efforts in lobbying the international community to exert moral pressure on the British Government so that she could affect the transfer of power from the racist settler minority to the nationalists. The African nationalists erroneously believed that political change in Rhodesia could only be effected by the British Government. Little did they appreciate the role of the settler factor in the whole political equation which counter-poised white nationalism against African nationalism. Nor did they perceive Britain’s thinly veiled machinations to promote and support white nationalism for what it really was: recognition that the white settlers constituted the only reliable custodian of her vested colonial and imperialist interests in Rhodesia.
The political strategy and tactics of reformist nationalism failed basically because it was based on the false premise that all that was required was to bring pressure to bear on the British Government to convene a constitutional conference and discharge her colonial obligations to the satisfaction of the nationalists as she had done elsewhere. Such a subjective approach no doubt emanated from failure to fully appreciate the essence of colonialism and imperialism which were in Rhodesia compounded by the settler factor. The British Government and the racist minority regime on their part capitalised on the political immaturity and inexperience of the nationalist leadership and continued to give false hopes that lured them further into reformism.
The political and organisational inexperience of the nationalist leadership was particularly manifest in their failure to put forward a sound political programme that embraced the struggle for national independence; in their inability to formulate a correct political line to guide the broad masses of the people in their just struggle for national self-determination and in their inability to constantly sum up political experiences so as to create an objective basis for future progress. All their tactical and strategic planning appeared to arise more from enthusiasm rather than from a sound analysis of the objective conditions. The incompetence of the nationalist leadership was also reflected in their failure to give political and organisational direction to their followers. It is therefore little wonder that the nationalists fell prey to the political deception of the more seasoned British politicians. The weaknesses of the nationalist movement were further compounded by political disunity arising from power struggles, the corrupt practices of leading officials of the nationalist movement and the occasional degeneration into tribal feuding.
The weaknesses of the nationalist movement should be viewed within the framework of the bourgeois context of African nationalism which played a decisive role in fettering the development of the national liberation struggle. Notwithstanding these weaknesses, reformist nationalism in Zimbabwe made a positive contribution, on balance, to the development of the national liberation struggle in particular with regard to resuscitating national consciousness and keeping the flame of liberation burning in the hearts and minds of the African masses. The nationalists’ inclination towards violence in the latter 1960’s sowed the seeds for the revolutionary consciousness of the African masses that became easily receptive to and firmly supported the arduous and protracted armed struggle that unfolded in the 1970’s. It may therefore be safely concluded that the era of reformist nationalism was a necessary stage in the development of the national liberation struggle and served as a gestation period for the sustained guerilla campaign that is currently raging in Rhodesia.
Militant Nationalism: 1970 –
It was earlier on pointed out that the disenchantment of the nationalists with the British Government engendered a re-examination of the methods of struggle and the general strategy hitherto employed in the struggle for independence. The bankruptcy of securing British intervention in Rhodesia was laid bare by the negative responses of the British Government to the military activities of the nationalist guerillas. This left the armed struggle as the only principal form of struggle for the nationalists and the only viable alternative of continuing the struggle for liberation in the circumstances. The shift to armed struggle represented a leap from reformism which had sought to bring about political change through constitutional means to armed confrontation with the racist Smith regime as the basic strategy in the national liberation struggle. The reformism of 1957-70 was thus transformed into militant nationalism that began around 1970. This leap marked a positive development of African nationalism though regrettably, the movement continued to be plagued by most of its earlier weaknesses.
The new strategy of the nationalist movement came to fruition with the launching of guerilla operations in North Eastern Zimbabwe in 1972 by the ZANLA, the military wing of ZANU. This was closely followed by ZIPRA operations in North Western Zimbabwe. The military operations by the ZAPU guerillas in the north western operations did not immediately develop into a full scale war as did the north eastern front operated by ZANU guerillas. The ZANLA guerillas operating on this front employed the strategy of guerilla warfare based on the people’s war which entailed extensive mobilization and organisation of the masses in the operational areas. In no time they had secured a foothold inside Zimbabwe and firmly rooted themselves among the masses of rural peasants in the area. Within two years the war waged on the basis of mobilization and organisation of the masses had developed to deal shattering blows on the morale of the Rhodesian forces. It disrupted the Rhodesian economy and way of life and threatened the stability of the Smith regime.
The Smith regime responded by tightening the security laws, instituting call ups for military service, imposing collective fines for collaboration with the freedom fighters and herding the masses into concentration camps to stop them from supporting the nationalist guerillas. All these measures proved ineffective to contain or stop the war. The ZANLA forces in the North Eastern area numbered about four hundred guerrillas at the end of 1974 with about one thousand two hundred trained guerillas poised to join the from the rear. This situation was aggravated by the decolonisation of Mozambique following a military coup in Portugal in April 1974. This development changed the strategic balance of forces in southern Africa tilting it against the racist minority regimes in southern Africa.
The strides made in the guerilla war in Rhodesia and the decolonisation of Mozambique left the racist minority regimes in southern Africa extremely vulnerable and threw them into a state of panic. In response to this unfavourable development, the imperialists conceived a major détente exercise for Southern Africa with the aim of stemming the tide of revolution in Zimbabwe. Following the developments in Portugal, that set in motion the decolonisation of its African colonies, it was resolved to stop the radicalisation of the Zimbabwe liberation movement by bringing to an end the liberation war. The key players in the détente exercise were the South African premier John Vorster and the Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda. John Vorster was to prevail over Ian Smith, the Rhodesian rebel leader to release the nationalist leaders on condition that they would bring the guerilla war to an end. Kenneth Kaunda on the other hand was to persuade his fellow African leaders to put pressure on the liberation movement to bring the war to an end in return for the release of their nationalist leaders. With the end of the guerilla war, a new political dispensation would then be negotiated to resolve the Rhodesian political impasse with the involvement of both the African nationalists and the leaders of the African frontline states comprising Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Angola and Mozambique.
As it turned out, both Vorster and Kaunda delivered on their undertakings with Ian Smith releasing all the detained nationalists in December 1974. Kaunda on his part ensured that all the Zimbabwean nationalist leaders renounced the armed struggle and agreed to pursue the path of negotiations under the umbrella of the United African National Council headed by Bishop Abel Muzorewa. An agreement to this effect was signed by all the Zimbabwean nationalist leaders under the Lusaka Unity Accord of 9 December 1974. This is how the nationalist leaders like Ndabaningi Sithole the leader of ZANU, Joshua Nkomo of ZAPU, Robert Mugabe and others secured their freedom from Smith’s prisons.
The détente exercise had serious consequences for the liberation struggle with the external leadership of ZANU and the ZANLA fighters based in Zambia bearing the brunt of its effects. Admittedly, the incarcerated nationalist leadership was now free but at what cost. The détente exercise succeeded in destabilizing the Zimbabwean liberation movement and practically brought the liberation war to an end, to the satisfaction of Ian Smith and John Vorster and their imperialist masters. Not a single shot was fired at the Rhodesian forces by the nationalist guerillas for close to a year, thanks to the détente exercise. Détente came to an end a year later following the initiative by ZANLA and ZIPRA combatants on their own to form the Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA) on 25th November, 1975 as a united front of the two armies to resuscitate the armed liberation struggle.
The formation of ZIPA consigned the détente exercise to the dustbin of history. The liberation struggle made great strides, within a few months of the formation of ZIPA sent shock waves within imperialist circles. By June 1976, evidence of the successes scored by ZIPA was manifest in the desperate manoeuvres of the embattled Smith regime to thwart the advance of the liberation war. Guerilla operations covered more than half the country with the Smith regime resorting to massive call ups for the war, prolongation of the period of national service, instituting convoy system for transportation, introducing the curfew system and mobile martial courts to deal with guerilla supporters. The Rhodesian forces changed their counter-insurgency strategy from that of clear and hold, to a general offensive. All these desperate attempts to stop the revolutionary advance of the people’s war under ZIPA failed dismally.
By September 1976, the people’s war waged under the leadership of ZIPA based on extensive and thoroughgoing mobilization and organisation of the masses had aroused the national consciousness of the people of Zimbabwe to unprecedented levels and dealt crippling blows to the Rhodesian army and to his sanctions battered economy. The entire eastern half of the country was now practically a war zone and a semi-liberated zone with more than five thousand ZIPA forces operating there. Another twenty thousand forces under arms were waiting to join them from the rear. By October 1976 the Soviet Union had also pledged to meet ZIPA military requirements including the training of up to 5000 fighters. The Tanzanian government had at this time also offered Frelimo’s former training camp Nachingwea for the training of ZIPA forces in conventional warfare. ZIPA’s plans to set up liberated zones that it could defend from enemy attacks were at an advanced stage and scheduled to come into effect in early 1977. To this end, ZIPA had embarked on leadership training of a core of military cadres at its Whampoa Academy in Chimoio, Mozambique.
The stability of the Smith regime was severely threatened and security of the economic interests of imperialists could no longer be guaranteed. Under pressure from the revolutionary advance of the people’s war waged by ZIPA, the imperialists were forced once more to resort to counter-revolutionary dual tactics in a desperate bid to safeguard their vested economic interests in Rhodesia. The Americans and the British concocted the Kissinger proposals to end the war in Rhodesia and save the Smith regime from collapse. For the first time in history, Ian Smith unconditionally accepted the principle of majority rule in his life time which he had previously scorned declaring that there would be no majority rule in a thousand years. However, the imperialist machinations and dirty intrigues were exposed and foiled by the liberation movement at the Geneva Conference of October, 1976. The imperialist manoeuvres, as before were aimed at thwarting the legitimate aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe by sabotaging the development of the liberation struggle and hijacking the revolutionary gains of the people’s struggle. Their central aim was the installation of a reactionary neo-colonial puppet regime to take care of their vested interests in Rhodesia.
The imperialist schemes were frustrated by the advanced stage the liberation struggle had attained under the leadership of ZIPA. Both the Zimbabwe people and the international community had been fully mobilized and exposed to the reactionary essence of the imperialist maneuvers. It was through ZIPA’s efforts that the Patriotic Front was formed in October 1976 between ZANU and ZAPU to confront the Kissinger proposals in Geneva. ZIPA was actually advocating for an even broader united front that would encompass all the Zimbabwean nationalist organisations but unfortunately both the leadership of ZANU and ZAPU and some of the Frontline states leaders were opposed to this at the summit of Frontline Heads of State held at the end of September 1976. ZIPA’s strategy was to unite all the nationalists so as to prevent the imperialists and the Smith regime from exploiting the divisions among Zimbabwean nationalists to their own advantage. These fears were eventually borne out with the subsequent developments that culminated in the internal settlement agreement of March 1978 between the Smith regime and some of the nationalist leaders like Muzorewa of the UANC, Chikerema of FROLIZI and Ndabaningi Sithole of ZANU Ndonga, the former leader of ZANU.
However, most regrettably, at this critical juncture, ZIPA’s revolutionary thrust was emasculated through the arrest of its core leadership in Mozambique. It was certainly not a coincidence that these development occurred at this critical juncture of the liberation struggle as had happened earlier in Zambia during détente in 1974. It was now the turn of the young ZIPA commanders who had earlier foiled the détente machinations to make way for the nationalist leaders released by Ian Smith two years earlier.
The dismemberment of ZIPA fully revived the age old nationalist rivalry between ZANU and ZAPU. This transported the national liberation struggle to the pre-ZIPA days characterized by confusion within the ranks of the nationalist movement. Faced with the failure of the Kissinger proposals that were thwarted in Geneva in December 1976, yet more sinister plans were contrived in 1977. After ZIPA’s demise, content that its threat was no longer an obstacle to their diabolical manoeuvres, the imperialists came up with the half-hearted Anglo-American Proposals whilst Ian Smith was simultaneously hammering out an Internal Settlement agreement with some of the nationalists leaders. These twin diabolical manoeuvres are now casting a dark shadow over the development of the national liberation struggle at this critical stage. Plans for the installation of a neo-colonial puppet regime within the framework of the internal settlement agreement have now reached an advanced stage.
It is precisely at this critical juncture – when the development of the national liberation struggle is seriously threatened by the imminent successes of the imperialist manoeuvres to halt the revolutionary tide of the liberation struggle and deprive the people of Zimbabwe of their legitimate aspirations through the installation of a neo-colonial puppet regime – that we should carry out an exhaustive analysis of the Zimbabwean nationalist struggle with the aim of thwarting imperialist manoeuvres. It is now more than ever before incumbent upon all revolutionary forces to steer the national liberation struggle into its correct revolutionary orbit that will ensure final victory.
3) Character of the Zimbabwe nationalist struggle
The development of the Zimbabwe’s national liberation struggle from 1890 was traced in the preceding section against the background of a general analysis of Rhodesia’s social character. Special attention was given to the rise and development of African nationalism from passive reformism after the Second World War through active reformism to the current militant reformism. This was done to facilitate the comprehension of problems confronting the nationalist movement, since most of its weaknesses are deep rooted with a long history, having been inherited from the earlier stages of the nationalist struggle. Without such a background, the weaknesses of the nationalist movement can neither be appreciated in the proper historical context nor can African nationalism be viewed in its totality as a phenomenon embracing various stages of the struggle. Such an approach gives continuity to the development of African nationalism and enables the consideration and evaluation of the current phase of nationalism in relation to the preceding developmental phases. It also makes it possible to make a correct and objective appraisal of the weaknesses of the nationalist movement which cannot be considered in isolation from the earlier weaknesses of the movement.
The transition of the national liberation struggle from reformism to militant nationalism is evident in that the struggle is no longer being waged within the framework of a constitutional process, but has now assumed the form of armed struggle. As nationalism forms the general context of the liberation struggle, it is of paramount importance to examine its nature and impact on the struggle. Whatever problems beset the national liberation struggle cannot be divorced from the general context of African nationalism.
Militant nationalism in Zimbabwe today takes the outward form of advanced nationalism or as it were revolutionary nationalism, but on closer examination, it reveals itself as conservative, narrow and bourgeoisie in essence. The outward revolutionary projection of African nationalism is based on the external nationalist propaganda couched in progressive and revolutionary ideas that conform to an anti-imperialist stance that seeks to identify with the world struggle against imperialism. This is based on the nationalist posturing of waging a genuine national liberation struggle to overthrow national oppression and restore the democratic rights of the people of Zimbabwe. The African nationalists further maintain that the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe is under the influence of proletarian ideology and has the basic interests of the workers at heart. They also avow that the basic contradiction in Zimbabwe can only be resolved through armed struggle.
This is what constitutes the phenomenal appearance of militant nationalism in Zimbabwe today, giving the impression of revolutionary nationalism. However, this outward appearance does not give the correct reflection of the essence of African nationalism in Zimbabwe which is essentially conservative, narrow and bourgeois in content. For the convenience of revealing the essence and content of militant nationalism the major features of the nationalist movement will now be examined. This will entail the evaluation of the nationalist movement’s fundamental approach to the question of national liberation, its political programme, political line and its organisational principles and leadership
Nationalist approach to the political problem in Zimbabwe
To begin with, the Zimbabwean nationalist struggle was and is based on a faulty foundation that emanates from a subjective analysis of the Rhodesian society. The subjective analysis is indicative of the nationalists’ inability to thoroughly grasp the character of the struggle to be waged and to chart out the revolutionary course to guide the national liberation struggle. It is only through an objective appraisal of the character of society that the nature of the liberation struggle to be waged can be correctly determined, that a political programme commensurate with the scope of the liberation struggle can be drawn and that a correct political line to guide the struggle can be formulated.
The principal error that arose from the nationalists’ subjective analysis of the character of Rhodesian society was the perception of the foreign element as the principal feature of white domination in Rhodesia, which then overshadows the need to struggle resolutely against the domestic forces of reaction under the guise of settlerism. This led to the erroneous strategy of directing efforts at the British Government “the legal colonial power” to the neglect of resolute struggle against the Smith regime. An attempt was made to correct this error at the beginning of the 1970’s but most regrettably the hangover continues to haunt nationalist politics in Zimbabwe to the extent that the overall political strategy of the nationalist movement takes into account Britain’s prominent role in any negotiated settlement.
An earlier analysis of the social character of Rhodesia demonstrated that that it is the racist white settler community that is the de facto political force in Rhodesia and not the British Government whose role continues to be exaggerated out of proportion. The continued assigning of a prominent role of the British Government in any negotiated settlement is fraught with serious consequences for the national liberation struggle. It is completely at variance with a consistent revolutionary approach to the national liberation struggle and leaves a loophole through which the imperialists will continue to manipulate the nationalist movement through deceptive and treacherous schemes that seek to provide a neo-colonial settlement in Rhodesia. This same loophole also serves as safety valve for pressure outlet for the racist white settler minority whenever the pressure of the liberation struggle becomes unbearable.
Any sober analysis of Rhodesian society which takes into account the reality of racist settler domination clearly reveals that basing the liberation strategy on Britain’s responsibility as the colonial power in Rhodesia, other than for purely diplomatic consideration of tactical significance only, is a futile exercise which in the final analysis militates against the genuine and thoroughgoing liberation of Zimbabwe. Given such a loophole, the British Government will always be in an excellent position to prevent with relative ease a complete military defeat of the Smith regime by diverting attention from the armed struggle to political negotiations at all critical junctures of the struggle as she is assured a prominent role at all times. This places the British Government in strategic position to forestall the realization of the legitimate aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe for which precious blood has already been sacrificed. So long as this loophole remains, the genuine liberation of Zimbabwe, which can only come through the complete and total seizure of political power, will never be realised and all the war cries of the nationalist movement will lose revolutionary significance and degenerate into empty sloganeering. The dangers of a counter-revolutionary hijack of the revolution will become more material with each stride in the liberation war.
In this sense, the age old weakness of the nationalist movement has not yet been rectified but has only been slightly mitigated by changing only in form but not in content. This fundamental weakness of the nationalist movement stems from a subjective analysis of the character of the present day Rhodesian society. It can therefore only be rectified by an objective and scientific analysis of the social character of Rhodesia which will reveal the essence of racist settler oppression. Without grasping this simple fact, the scope of the liberation struggle will continue to be limited and it will neither realize its full dimension nor attain its lofty objectives. The threat of a neo-colonial settlement will continue to loom over the heads of the people of Zimbabwe.
Another important feature of the Zimbabwean nationalist struggle that emanates from the subjective analysis of the Zimbabwean society is the counter-posing of African nationalism against White nationalism. The black nationalists directed the efforts of their struggle to Britain in total disregard of the reality of the white settler factor. The White settlers on their part also directed their struggle for “independence” within the context of settler domination to Britain. This resulted in the emergence of two parallel nationalist movements in Rhodesia, one black and the other white. The Black nationalist movement to all intents and purposes discounted and dismissed the white nationalist movement as inconsequential.
The source of two nationalist movements in the same country lies in the unique character of the British colony of Rhodesia which had two racially segregated mutually exclusive racial groups one black and the other white, each with its own brand of nationalism. The two communities felt independently affiliated to the British government and held that government responsible for them. The white community felt dependent on Britain but at the same time claimed the right, as a superior race to rule over the Africans whilst the Africans also felt dependent on Britain but sought the right from the British government to rule over the whites as they were the rightful owners of the country. This dichotomous political situation arose out of the complicating settler factor in Zimbabwe’s colonisation that had the blessing of the British government.
Whilst the two nationalist movements directed their struggles to Britain, the reality on the ground was that here were two political armies that to all intents and purposes were poised against each other. Given this reality, and the entrenched white settler rule and its economic interests based on capitalism, it becomes ludicrous to conceive of genuine liberation that could result from counter-posing African nationalism against white nationalism both of which are bourgeois in essence.
Substituting African nationalism for white nationalism in a country with an entrenched capitalist socio-economic order will not result in the genuine social and national liberation of the people of Zimbabwe and the concomitant socio-economic transformation that will buttress that liberation. It will only result in a change in form but not in content. Besides, counter-posing African nationalism against white nationalism reduces the two to a mere racial struggle making both the African and white nationalists guilty of racism. The only correct solution in the given circumstances is to counter-pose a revolutionary struggle that transcends the bounds of African nationalism against white nationalism. Unlike Zimbabwe, Britain’s other African colonies did not have the complicating white settler factor. This left African nationalism directed at the British government and its surrogate rule in their countries. Their nationalism had no racial connotations since it championed the legitimate demands of the African people to free them from British colonial rule and not from white settler rule.
It becomes obvious that in Zimbabwe’s case, only a revolutionary struggle will provide the correct solution to the problem of white settler domination and bring about the requisite transformation needed to attain genuine national and social liberation of the broad masses of the people of Zimbabwe. Only a genuinely revolutionary struggle can effectively combine the displacement of the racist and reactionary white minority rule with the revolutionary transformation of Zimbabwean society. As far as the Zimbabwean liberation movement, as it currently stands is concerned, it is a purely nationalist movement that is completely incapable, by its very nature, of carrying out a radical transformation of the Zimbabwean society, the only guarantee for genuine and sustainable liberation. The best it can achieve is substitution of black for white nationalism within the context of rabid capitalist development which only serves to perpetuate the bondage of the people of Zimbabwe.
The moment the need for elevating the nationalist struggle to a revolutionary struggle is realised, the more obvious it will become that genuine liberation of the people of Zimbabwe can only be guaranteed by a relentless armed struggle given the prevailing political circumstances. Without the realisation of the need to elevate the nationalist struggle onto a revolutionary orbit, the revolutionary significance of the armed struggle will not be fully appreciated. A peaceful settlement of the Zimbabwean political impasse at this stage can only serve the interests of nationalism and never transcend the limits thereof to achieve revolutionary transformation of society. It will leave the existing socio-economic order with its attendant structures and institutions; the bedrock of our oppression, intact. The revolutionary forces in the struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe should firmly grasp this point. Only consistent and thoroughgoing revolutionary action can bring about genuine national liberation and the social emancipation of the heroic people of Zimbabwe.
In the first place, the white settler regime cannot stand on its own feet economically; it has to be propped by imperialists, without whose support it cannot survive as Rhodesia is still a fledgling capitalist formation. It similarly follows that any African nationalist government cannot ever hope to attain economic independence and would inevitably be forced to rely on imperialist support for economic survival if it rests on the same capitalist foundation bequeathed to it by the racist regime. Any nationalist government resting on the same capitalist foundation would have to be dependent on imperialist support for economic and political survival, culminating in a neo-colonial situation. Such a course of events would be inevitable as long as the path of revolutionary armed struggle is not adopted and pursued to its logical conclusion. All indications at present are that even an armed struggle within the context of nationalist politics will not realize complete victory because the nationalist struggle appears bent on crowning the armed struggle with peaceful negotiations as the consummation of the liberation struggle.
The problems bedeviling the Zimbabwean nationalist movement are rooted in the subjective approach of nationalism to the quest for liberation. This subjective approach constitutes the foundation that determines the political programme, the political line and the strategy and tactics of the nationalist struggle. Whatever flaws characterise the political programme and political line as well as the strategy and tactics of the liberation struggle, they are merely a reflection of the weaknesses and shortcomings in the fundamental approach to the liberation struggle that is rooted in the subjective appraisal of the domestic and international alignment of forces against genuine liberation.
The political programme of the nationalist movement
Of fundamental importance to any revolution or liberation struggle is its political programme which reflects the essence of the revolutionary process. The political programme of a political movement serves to state the basic aims and objects of the struggle and outlines the central goals of the revolution and the means of fulfilling them in the light of the domestic and international socio-political situation. It follows that without grasping the social character of the society undergoing revolution, the nature of the revolution or struggle to be waged in order to effect revolutionary change cannot be correctly determined. Neither can a political programme corresponding to the prevailing socio-economic situation be drawn.
With respect to the political programmes of the nationalist organisation in Zimbabwe, they define national independence as the goal but stop short of a deep social analysis that would facilitate the articulation of the basic political demands in clear and concise terms. The programmes state in general terms about overthrowing settler minority rule and replacing it with a socialist oriented Zimbabwe where the political rights of all Zimbabweans will be guaranteed. The political programmes are replete with glowing Marxist-Leninist terms mechanically transplanted from Marxist literature completely out of touch with the social realities in Zimbabwe. The nationalists plagiarise Marxist literature in order to feign themselves Marxist revolutionaries whereas in reality there are pseudo-revolutionaries. This is a fashionable trend among the petty bourgeoisie.
The political programmes of the Zimbabwean nationalist organisations know of no maximum or minimum demands of the struggle and closely resemble election manifestos of western political parties. They are basically aimed at hoodwinking the broad masses of the people into supporting one or the other of the prominent nationalist organisations. They are designed more to impress the broad masses and the progressive international community than reflecting the basic demands of the liberation struggle. Where sections of the programmes correspond to the needs of the struggle other than the demand for national independence, it is more a question of coincidence than design. In the majority of cases, the nationalists themselves do not fully understand the actual meaning of the decorative Marxist terms interspersed in their political programmes.
It simply will not do to state only in general terms about the interests of the people and the aims and objects of the struggle. They have to be spelt out in clear and concise terms if the conscious support of the masses is to be won and their enthusiastic participation in the struggle guaranteed. The basic demands of the liberation struggle should emanate from the concrete needs of the people and not mechanically borrowed from other revolutions and struggles. Furthermore, the respective stages of the struggle should be clearly outlined and so should the demands corresponding to the stages of the revolutionary struggle. These are the basic requirements for the formulation of a scientific political programme that accords with the objective needs of a revolutionary struggle.
As the situation stands, the Zimbabwean nationalist movement lacks such a programme and has as its fundamental political documents the so called policy statements and programmes that are no more than stereotypes devoid of revolutionary content that corresponds to the objective situation in Zimbabwe. This is typical of petty bourgeois nationalists and betrays their half-hearted commitment to the revolutionary struggle. These nationalists are insincere to their Marxist pronouncements and lie in ambush waiting for an opportune moment to hijack the revolutionary struggle and lead it along the bourgeois path. What they actually aspire and strive for is to step into the shoes of the white settler minority and continue to exploit the broad masses in pursuit of their selfish ends and insatiable avarice. But they are careful not to reveal their true nature to the people and instead masquerade as revolutionaries during the course of the struggle.
The political line of the Zimbabwean nationalist movement
Given the absence of a sound political programme, it is little wonder that the nationalists lack a correct basic political line required to lead the liberation struggle to total victory. In the absence of a correct political line, a clear distinction between friends and foes of the revolution cannot be made nor can the broad masses of the people be firmly united behind a common political programme that leads the struggle. It is the revolutionary organisation’s political line that should define the nature of the revolution, its tasks, objects, targets, perspectives and the motive and leading forces of the revolution.
Without a clear understanding of these cardinal aspects of a revolutionary struggle, that constitute the fundamental question of any revolution, a political organisation will at worst indulge in senseless unnecessary sacrifices of the revolutionary forces and grope about in the dark, staggering from blunder to blunder. On the other hand, without grasping the nature and scope of the revolution to be undertaken and the laws governing it, without grasping its tasks, targets, perspectives, the motive and leading forces, engaging in a revolutionary struggle will at best be an exercise in trial and error without any objective basis for the proper subjective direction of the struggle. Victory will be difficult to achieve under such circumstances and neither can the revolutionary struggle be thoroughgoing and the danger of defeat and hijacking the struggle will continue to haunt the liberation movement.
For the nationalist movement, the nature of the revolution to be waged has not been completely defined and is in the least clearly understood by the nationalist leaders. Only the objective of national independence has been clearly articulated. As for the task, the targets, the motive forces, scope and perspectives of the struggle, they are either half known or unknown or have been left to posterity to define. Notwithstanding the revolutionary Marxist terms that abound in the political literature of the nationalist movement, it is difficult to imagine whether they have at all grasped the fundamentals of articulating a correct basic political line required to guide the struggle to complete victory.
All indications are that otherwise they have only a rudimentary idea of the need for revolutionary political line or have no idea at all as to what it entails. An analysis of the nationalist movement confirms this assertion. The nationalist movement is characterised by incessant splits, power struggles, antagonisms and hostilities between various political factions, rivalry and competition in diplomatic activity aimed at the total exclusion and paralysis of sister organisations, misdirection of efforts to political infighting within the movement, superficial and divisive organisational and propaganda work among the masses, degeneration into the parochial pursuit of tribal interests etc.
The foregoing weaknesses that bedevil the nationalist movement are a clear manifestation of the absence of a correct general political line to guide the struggle. They constitute a political syndrome symptomatic of political immaturity and political degeneracy; a reflection of political undernourishment that only serves to confirm the assertion that the Zimbabwean nationalists either have only a rudimentary idea of the requirements of leading and waging a successful revolutionary struggle or have completely no idea of what a revolution is. It is definitely not a dinner party as some experienced revolutionaries have stated.
It would appear that the guiding principle of the Zimbabwean nationalist movement is the pursuit of personal and clique power and not the attainment or revolutionary ideals. As far as the nationalists are concerned, national independence and liberation can only be conceived of within the context of the political domination of a given political clique and not otherwise. Innumerable cases are ample testimony that the nationalists regard political guise as a matter of expediency pertinent to the pursuit of power that can be freely traded with another when convenient, without regard to the fundamental aims of the struggle, as long as the guise serves the objective of gaining political dominance for the individual or related clique. There are numerous examples of the nationalists switching from one political platform overnight to the other purely out of power considerations. The political stance of nationalist cliques can never really be taken for granted as it is subject to modification according to the prevailing circumstances of the power balance, and influence within the nationalist movement and the power configuration in the future independent Zimbabwe.
In the light of these characteristics of the nationalist movement, where the general political line is governed by considerations of pursuit of personal power, it would be ridiculous and intellectually dishonesty to give prominence to talk of the existence of a sound and objective basic political programme that could steer the liberation struggle to complete victory. The unhappy chapter of political divisions, squabbles and power struggles since the emergence of African nationalism in Zimbabwe, is eloquent testimony of the absence of such a line to guide the struggle. Political opportunism and naivety are characteristics of Zimbabwe’s brand of African nationalism which in turn reflects the superficial character of the nationalists’ degree of political and national consciousness.
The political blunders that have been committed by the nationalists thus far border on being politically reactionary. Their only redeeming feature has been keeping the flame of nationalism burning in the hearts and minds of the people of Zimbabwe. Otherwise, the nationalists would have been worthy of total condemnation as they are now more of a liability than an asset to the liberation struggle; their leadership is virtually now holding the liberation struggle to ransom on account of the pursuit of personal and clique power.
The organisational features of the nationalist movement
The Russian leader Lenin said that organisation is the strongest weapon for the working class in its struggle for political power. The same applies to any oppressed people who rise up in struggle for their emancipation. Any oppressed people who wish to overthrow oppression have no alternative but to organise themselves into a revolutionary movement and rise up in struggle for their liberation. It is only through organised activity that the revolutionary consciousness of the people can gain full expression and be transformed into a formidable political force capable of overwhelming the enemy. Without organisation, the consciousness of the masses and their revolutionary feelings against the enemy cannot be harnessed and into a dynamic force capable of defeating the enemy. Organisation lays a solid basis for victory. It facilitates the coordination of the forces against the enemy and guarantees the smooth development of the people’s struggle thereby making victory a reality.
It is critical that the forms of organization and the organisational line of a revolutionary movement correspond to the objective conditions obtaining in the country. This enables the movement to meet the demands of the revolution and facilitates the accomplishment of these twin lofty tasks of overthrowing oppression and transforming society.
The question of organisation remains one of the thorniest problems arresting the development of the Zimbabwean liberation movement. The nationalist organisations are controlled by the petty bourgeoisie which determines their organisational form which is essentially bourgeois. The nationalist organisations are founded on bourgeois organisational principles and attuned to a bourgeois style of work that militates against the development of the liberation struggle. Their organisational features are out of touch and discordant with the objective situation as they are best suited for bourgeois parliamentary struggles. Though they pose as political parties, they are nothing more than mass organisations with a heterogeneous class composition. Technically speaking, a political party can only be an organisation with a definite class character that serves as the nucleus of its class and has the class as its base. A political party is a product of class struggle and an instrument of class struggle in the service of a given class. All this is quite at variance with Zimbabwe’s nationalist organisations that are masquerading as political parties.
The nationalist organisations have an amorphous character without organisational rules or strict discipline binding all the members. Consequently, they lack internal cohesion and organisational solidity which are indispensable conditions for a revolutionary vanguard to steer the national liberation struggle to victory. Internally, the nationalist organisations lack uniformity, standardisation and unity in political outlook and political action. This renders them vulnerable to infiltration and manipulation by enemy forces that capitalise on the internal disunity and confusion to sow seeds of further discord and derail the revolutionary course of the liberation movement.
The nationalist organisations, being petty bourgeois in character, lack a mass character. Their leadership of the liberation struggle has stifled the initiative of the masses who, lacking a proper political orientation, are left at the mercy of the politically misguided leadership of the nationalists. No thoroughgoing and painstaking work is done to organise and educate the masses and train a core of cadres to serve as the backbone of the liberation struggle. Consequently, the majority of the members of the nationalist organisations are inexperienced and lack theoretical and practical guidance, have a low political consciousness and are incapacitated to carry out effective political and agitational work among the people. They lack a firm grasp of the content, direction and perspectives of the revolution which in essence should form the basis for organisational work among the people. Given this reality, it becomes evident that neither the full weight of the nationalist organisations nor of the masses themselves can be thrown into the struggle against the enemy. The conscious participation of the masses cannot be realised either.
Another particular feature of the nationalist movement is the lack of organisational continuity and coordination between the guerrilla forces and inside the country and the masses inside the operational zones. This stems from the absence of the political and organisational link at the local level between the internal branches of the externally based nationalist organisations and the guerrilla forces. The link between the internal and external wings of the nationalist organisations only exist at the national level and not at the local level casting doubt on the existence of underground structures of nationalist organisations at the grassroots level. Furthermore, the guerrilla fighters do not set up internal branches of the nationalist organisations in the operational zones.
As a result, in the absence of organisational continuity between the guerrilla fighters and the internal organisations of the nationalist organisations the national liberation war cannot realize its full potential and the full expression of its popular character on the one hand and the internal branches of the nationalist organisations (if at all they exist) cannot serve as organs of the national liberation war. It is the internal branches or local party committees that should eventually replace the reactionary organs of settler power in the countryside and serve as the organs of the people’s revolutionary power with the responsibility to support national liberation war effort in defense of the revolutionary gains of the peoples’ struggle to overthrow settler oppression.
The organisational weaknesses that characterise the nationalist movement also find expression within the nationalist armies as well. It will be recalled that nationalist armies emerged in the course of the development of the nationalist struggle to become the principal form of struggle in the quest for national liberation. Though the nationalist military wings are organisationally dovetailed into their respective parent organisations at the political level, they are regarded as organisationally distinct from the nationalist organisations themselves without party structures being present in the armies. In other words, the fighters of the nationalist armies are not technically card carrying members of the nationalist organisations themselves except at very highest level.
The nationalist armies are taken as instruments in the service of the nationalist organisations and not as extensions of the parent organisations. In contradistinction to revolutionary armies elsewhere, the nationalist leaders have not extended the nationalist organisation’s structures into their military wings by setting up party branches and political committees within the armies. Consequently, the broad masses of the fighters are in reality not politically interred into the nationalist organisations. They have no say in the political affairs of the organisation and are not consulted in the decision making machinery nor can they ever hope that their views could prevail within the nationalist organisations.
Organisationally therefore, the masses of the fighters are not members of the nationalist organisation, they are members of the nationalist armies. This reduces them to the level of bourgeois armies that are apolitical. It is only the leading cadres that are so to speak politically integrated into the nationalist organisations. Unlike the broad masses of the guerrilla fighters, they have a say in the affairs of the organisations at the political level. In a revolutionary situation such relations between the army and the political organisation are ironic and can only be counter-productive; as the denial of democracy to the guerrilla forces fighting for democracy sows seeds of discord that could give rise to political instability within the organisation. Politically, the army, as the instrument in the service of the nationalist organisation should be imbued with the political line of the parent organisation. However, the fighters are given only the minimum of political education required to make them loyal and faithful instruments of the leadership. Beyond this, further political education is discouraged as it could lead the fighters to interrogate the political line of the nationalist organisations and bring their leadership under scrutiny.
All revolutionary political literature is anathema to the nationalist leadership and considered to be subversive as it might influence and incite the fighters to rise against authority. The cases of earlier Cuban trained guerrilla fighters within the nationalist armies are eloquent cases in point. However, out of historical circumstances, given the West’s aversion to armed struggle, the nationalist organisations had no alternative but to develop friendly relations with socialist countries. The nationalists recognised the need for military violence to influence political developments within Rhodesia, but without support from the West, they themselves lacked a military background without any military know how whatsoever. This left them with no other option but to turn to the East. This entailed sending their fighters to socialist countries for military training where they came into contact with Marxism-Leninism. This is how the seeds of revolutionary ideology were sown into the ranks of the nationalist fighters. All that was left was their germination.
Though revolutionary ideas are incompatible with the world outlook of the nationalist leaders, they have no choice but to tolerate the presence of these revolutionary seeds amongst their fighters as the price they have to pay for getting military assistance from the socialist community. The best they can hope for, is to progressively and timely weed out revolutionary elements who are perceived to be a challenge or a threat to their authority.
Consequently, though the nationalist fighters are under the political and organisational leadership and influence of the nationalist leadership, ideologically the guerrilla fighters were exposed to a Marxist – Leninist world outlook at variance with that of the nationalists. In the course of time, this ideological outlook develops to the point of influencing the organisational and political views of the guerrilla forces. This inevitably sets the guerrilla forces on a collision course with the nationalist petty bourgeois political leadership. With the latter lacking a correct general political line and the requisite military know how this contradiction will eventually develop to hamper the qualitative development of the national liberation struggle itself.
Furthermore, the restriction of internal democracy within the ranks of the nationalist armies inevitably becomes a hotbed of tension within the nationalist organisations with the stringent internal organisation within the guerrilla forces limiting the combat effectiveness of the army and arresting the initiative of the masses as there is no tolerance of alternative approaches. The military leadership with close links to the nationalist leadership decrees what has to be done and how.
It is self-evident that the organisational forms and characteristic of the Zimbabwean nationalist movement fetter the development of the liberation struggle politically and militarily. Without overhauling these organisational forms, principles and the organisational line governing the political and military activity of the nationalist movement, it will be difficult nay impossible for the revolutionary forces to unfetter the development of the liberation struggle hamstrung by these constraints. Political and military setbacks will continue to mount and blur the image of victory that is dimly looming at the horizon. Given the crafting of a correct basic political line and determination of the people to overthrow national oppression, the organisational line of the liberation movement will become the decisive factor in winning final victory. Waging the struggle without a sound organisational base will only serve to complicate the path to victory thereby unnecessarily protracting the people’s liberation struggle.
The Leadership of the Nationalist Movement
The leadership of the Zimbabwean nationalist organisations is an important element of the nationalist movement. In any revolution, the question of leadership is a key factor with an important bearing on the development and outcome of the revolutionary struggle. Leadership can influence the development of a revolutionary struggle quite independently of the maturation of the objective factors in the country of struggle. Even when the objective conditions are ripe for victory, leadership can be decisive in determining the fate of the revolution by leading it to complete defeat. Leadership acts as the nucleus for the subjective direction of the liberation struggle and plays an important role in influencing the development of the subjective factors of the revolution. Generally speaking, the leadership of a revolutionary struggle should be the embodiment and compendium of the ideological, political and organisational outlook of a revolutionary movement and should be reflective of the aspirations of the broad masses of the people and the basic aims of the struggle.
Experience has shown that the class composition as well as the political and ideological outlook of the leadership of a political movement is a reflection of the general orientation of the struggle and of the measure of the scope and degree of maturity of the subjective forces of the revolution with a bearing on the extent of the conscious participation of the broad masses of the people in the revolutionary struggle. The erroneous lines and views that sometimes characterise revolutionary movements are nothing more than a manifestation of the weaknesses and political immaturity of the leadership.
The struggle of ideas within the ranks of the leadership of a revolutionary movement are a manifestation of class struggle within it and expresses itself outwardly as a struggle between two lines, the struggle between correct and incorrect ideas with a bearing on victory or defeat of the revolutionary struggle depending on which side prevails. A close examination of the composition and personalities of the leadership of the nationalist movement will reveal the sources of its weaknesses.
It will be recalled that African nationalism in Zimbabwe began as a movement led by intellectuals and the petty bourgeoisie against racial inequality in the political, economic and cultural domains. Ever since that time, the leadership of the nationalist movement has remained in the hands of the African petty bourgeoisie and the emergent African national bourgeoisie. The nationalist movement began as a genuine movement embracing the entire spectrum of the social strata of the Africans. African nationalists in Zimbabwe have been characterised by a number of opportunist tendencies. Opportunist trends particularly played a prominent role in attracting the petty bourgeoisie into the leadership ranks of the nationalist movement. Only a few elements of the petty bourgeoisie have been motivated by a genuinely patriotic desire into the ranks of the nationalist movement. Consequently, the majority of the petty bourgeois elements within the nationalist movement have an opportunistic character. This opportunism has given rise to the emergence of career politicians within the movement. Up to this day very few elements from the stratum of intellectuals, petty and national bourgeoisie have voluntarily joined active service within the liberation movement. The majority of them join the struggle in search and anticipation of political fortunes.
The preponderance of the petty bourgeois elements within the leadership ranks of the nationalist movement, with their half-hearted commitment to the revolution, explains the source of the subjectivist ideas and mistakes which plague the political and organisational lines and the ideological outlook of the nationalist movement. Furthermore, the presence of career politicians in large numbers within the leadership ranks explains the source of the incessant power struggles which is so characteristic of the Zimbabwean nationalist movement.
In common with the petty bourgeoisie elsewhere, the Zimbabwean petty bourgeoisie and intellectuals, the current helmsmen of the nationalist movement, share the same weaknesses. They display marked individualistic tendencies and are very subjective in their approach to problems of the revolution and look down upon the broad masses of the people whom they despise as being ignorant and backward. They show only half-hearted commitment to the liberation struggle, displaying excessive revolutionary zeal during moments of victory and hope but become downhearted and disillusioned in moments of despair and hardships, leading to their wholesale desertion of the liberation struggle at critical junctures. They are especially good at phrase mongering and sloganeering with often great disparity between what they preach and what they practice. They can only conceive of their active participation in the revolution within the context of their leading role and never in the position of the led.
Their opportunistic character, their subjective approach, and lack of faith in the masses of the workers and peasants, places the revolution in jeopardy, leading it through unpredictable vicissitudes engendered by their inherent weaknesses. This is particularly so given their leading role in the liberation movement. However, the weaknesses of the petty bourgeoisie, though they are an integral part of their class nature, are not beyond redemption. They can be gradually overcome through their integration with the masses and through their prolonged participation in an arduous struggle with the masses, sharing weal and woe with them and through acceptance of the working class ideology. Without fulfilling these basic requirements, they will continue to be a burden to the revolution, more so because of the leading positions they occupy.
With respect to the Zimbabwe nationalist movement, the petty bourgeois leadership has not met any of these basic requirements through which they could remold their world outlook and play a useful role in the liberation struggle. Because of their airs of superiority, individualistic tendencies, their subjective approach to the question of national liberation and their half-hearted commitment to the revolutionary struggle, the Zimbabwe petty bourgeoisie, the leading force of the nationalist movement, have not succeeded in lowering themselves to the level of the masses. They have not fully integrated themselves into the liberation struggle. Their aloofness from the struggle became especially manifest after leaps from the reformist and exclusively political form of struggle to a revolutionary struggle embracing both political and military forms of struggle. They lagged behind and failed to keep pace with the development of the struggle on account of their aloofness.
The political outlook and approach of the nationalist leadership has remained essentially reformist whilst the broad masses of the people and the fighters who have been actively engaged in the struggle all along, have acquired a revolutionary outlook and familiarised themselves with the military aspects of the struggle. The disparity in outlook between the nationalist leadership and the broad masses of the people and the guerrilla fighters has led to the alienation of the nationalist leadership from the revolutionary struggle and exacerbated the contradiction between the leadership’s subjective direction of the struggle and the objective course of the revolution.
With the leadership being divorced from the actual military struggle and the fighters and the masses actively participating in it, a common language no longer exists between the leadership and the fighters and the masses. Rather than taking timely and practical steps to rectify the situation by lowering themselves to the level of the masses and fully integrating themselves into the struggle, the nationalist leadership continues to look down upon the masses and despise military activity as cumbersome, inferior and beneath their dignity. They overemphasise the division of labour between political and military work in order to justify their non-participation in military training and operations. They are unaware that in a revolutionary situation such as is prevailing in Zimbabwe, political and military affairs are inseparably bound together and constitute a single integral approach to the problem of liberation. It is imperative for all revolutionaries to familiarise themselves with both political and military affairs and be good at both if they are to fully grasp the laws governing the development of the revolutionary war and correctly handle the relationship between politics and military affairs in the course of the struggle.
Without a thorough grasp of both political and military affairs, one can hardly acquire an all-round conception of the revolution let alone lead one to victory. In the concrete revolutionary situation of Zimbabwe, where only the broad masses of the guerrilla fighters have military know how, and are alone together with the rural masses actively engaged in the liberation war while the leadership has no knowledge of military art and is in practical terms completely divorced from direct involvement in the liberation war, it is difficult to even imagine how the direction of the struggle by the nationalist leadership could correspond to the war situation and create conditions conducive to the proper development of the national liberation war. In the circumstances, it becomes difficult to justify their positions as leaders of the revolution when they are actually trailing behind it.
The more the revolutionary war develops and gains in complexity, the less the positive role the nationalist leadership can play and the more they lag behind the pace of the revolution. Such a situation will inevitably exacerbate the disparity in revolutionary outlook between the leadership and the broad masses of the fighters giving rise to the potentially antagonistic relations between them. The uneven development of these political forces of the nationalist movement will eventually and inexorably lead to political differentiation within the nationalist movement. The moment the nationalists perceive the beginning of the process of differentiation, they interpret it as a threat to their authority and their grip on power and react by resolutely weeding out, isolating and neutralising all those fighters perceived as potentially threatening to their entrenched positions.
In order to further safeguard and consolidate their leading positions, the nationalist leaders invariably resort to tribalism so as to divide the ranks of the fighters and proceed to place candidates of their choice in key positions without regard to merit. These characters either happen to be tribally loyal to them or to be political sycophants seeking promotion through obsequious service and servility. The nationalist leaders resort to all sorts of corrupt practices in a bid to secure the loyalty of leading cadres especially the military. The majority of the hand-picked appointments chosen without any regard to merit, turn out to be ignoramuses without any political or military competence to write home about. The resultant depreciation and devaluation of the political and military leadership sets brakes to the momentum and development of the struggle culminating in inexorable political degeneration of the movement and the deterioration of the entire war effort.
Furthermore, the cognition by nationalist leaders of the scope of the challenge posed to their leadership by the emergent political and military cadres, armed with considerable leadership qualities acquired in the course of revolutionary practice, gives rise to capitulationist tendencies within the nationalist leadership. They consider the elimination of revolutionary elements to be only a stop gap measure that in no way guarantees the security of their grip on power. They begin to lose confidence in the future development of the armed struggle which they perceive as a hotbed of rebellion threatening their authority. In their opinion, prospects of an outright military victory would push military cadres to the fore and pave the way for their ascendance. A complete military victory becomes a nightmare spelling their political doom. In order to avert the unpalatable situation, to which they can never reconcile, the nationalist leaders become conciliatory in their approach to the liberation struggle and covertly wish and strive to strike an early compromise with imperialist powers.
They begin to prefer peaceful struggle and constitutional negotiations to a relentless armed struggle. In essence, the nationalists become political dualists. However, they take special care not to reveal their apprehension of a victorious armed struggle and their conciliationist posturing. Instead, they intensify revolutionary rhetoric outwardly while inwardly they wait in ambush for the seizure of a favourable opportunity to strike a compromise with the imperialists; the only guarantee for their continued relevance as political leaders. Such political behaviour on the part of the nationalist leadership is only but an expression of the weaknesses underlying their class nature and a manifestation of their lack of revolutionary thoroughness. It underscores their opportunist character and their unreliability as the leading force of the revolution.
The role that has been played by the petty bourgeois nationalists in the liberation struggle thus far has revealed the ideological, political and organisational inadequacies of their leadership. Their opportunist character leads them to aspire for leading positions. Their concomitant half-hearted commitment to the revolutionary struggle, their subjectivist and individualist approach to the struggle prevent them from integrating with the masses and actively participating in the struggle and more importantly from giving proper subjective guidance to the struggle. This makes it difficult for them to sum up their experiences and draw lessons from their mistakes and failures. Their inevitable consequent and subsequent alienation from the struggle gives rise to the political differentiation within the ranks of the nationalist movement discussed earlier, which culminates in the brutal suppression of progressive revolutionary elements desirous and capable of unfettering the revolutionary development of the national liberation struggle. These features of the nationalists, coupled with their class character and interests, disqualify them from the responsibility to lead the revolution and instead requires of them long and patient apprenticeship in the revolution under worker-peasant influence. This is the basic condition for overcoming their inherent weaknesses and transforming them into revolutionary activists.
Ultimately, the opportunism of the nationalist leadership and their lack of revolutionary thoroughness reveals itself in their proneness to compromise with imperialists. In view of the necessity the national democratic revolution to uninterruptedly develop into the socialist revolution, the ideological backwardness, political unreliability and organisational incompetence of the petty bourgeois nationalist leadership comes to fetter the uninterrupted development of the revolution. This brings into question the desirability of the continued petty bourgeois leadership of the national liberation struggle. The nationalist leadership is at this juncture confronted with two choices; either they conform with the laws governing the development of the revolution or they will be swept aside by the tide of national liberation struggle and get overtaken by events.
The brief examination of the fundamental aspects of the Zimbabwean nationalist movement relating to the fundamental approach to the question of liberation; the political programme; the basic political line; organisation and the problem of the leadership of the liberation struggle has revealed the content of Zimbabwe’s brand of African nationalism. On contrasting this content of African nationalism with its outward form typified by the struggle against national oppression, the struggle for the democratic rights of the people of Zimbabwe, all within the context of the world struggle against imperialism, it would appear that the liberation struggle is advanced in form but discordant with the content discussed above. It is revolutionary in form but narrow and short on content and inconsistent with a thoroughgoing revolutionary struggle.
The liberation struggle is strongly nationalistic in character and not aimed at transforming the social base of oppressive and exploitative relations in Zimbabwe. In this sense, it stops short of being a revolutionary struggle. In as much as the nationalist struggle is not fundamentally aimed at transforming the social character of present day Rhodesia, and is at present not showing any signs to the contrary, it cannot but be bourgeois, conservative and narrow in content without any positive contribution to the world struggle against imperialism. The best that they could achieve is the removal of white minority rule in Rhodesia, which in itself is not enough as it only clears the ground for imperialist neo-colonialist designs in Zimbabwe.
Without a revolutionary and thoroughgoing transformation of present day Rhodesian society, Zimbabwe will never break free from the vicious network of imperialist control, plunder and exploitation. This militates against the highest interests of the people of Zimbabwe that find expression in genuine national liberation, complete sovereignty, and democratic rights in the realm of politics, the economy and culture. So long as the attainment of these lofty ideals cannot be guaranteed, the nationalist struggle will remain bourgeois, conservative and narrow in content in spite of peoples’ expectations to the contrary. The determining factor of the essence of the nationalist struggle is the class nature of the leading force of the nationalist movement that governs the development, scope and perspectives of the national liberation struggle. It should be borne in mind that the current struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe is nothing more than militant nationalism and has not yet developed to become a revolutionary struggle.
4) The general effect of nationalism on the national liberation struggle
Ever since the nationalist movement adopted armed struggle as the principal form of struggle at the beginning of the 1970’s, great progress and significant strides have been made in the quest for national liberation but the struggle has not achieved the objective of overthrowing white settler rule and attaining national liberation. Militant nationalism increased the Smith regime’s isolation and shattered the morale of the regime’s political and military forces to the point of losing confidence in the sustainability of white minority rule. It has weakened the country already crippled by the sanctions battered economy, over-taxed the regime’s manpower, won great sympathy and support from the international community, greatly aroused the enthusiasm of the broad masses of the people for national liberation, forced Ian Smith to resort to one political manoeuvre after another, and obliged the British Government to come up in desperation with one neo-colonial scheme after another but final victory remains elusive. Militant nationalism has managed to weaken the enemy and push him to a point of desperation without defeating him. It has only realized quantitative growth without the attendant qualitative development required to topple the enemy.
The major weaknesses of the nationalist movement discussed in the earlier sections of this work have played a decisive role in crippling the development of the national liberation struggle and have prevented the realisation of final victory. Consequent of these weaknesses, the national liberation struggle has now ground to a strategic stalemate where neither the Smith regime nor the liberation forces can hope for outright military victory. This situation enhances the possibilities of a neo-colonial solution to the problem of Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence. It has now become evident that, in as far as the further development of the struggle is concerned, nationalism has generally come to play a negative role that militates against the realisation of genuine national liberation. The following analysis makes this abundantly clear beyond any shadow of doubt.
Effect on the mass character of the liberation struggle
Political fragmentation and continued political bickering within the nationalist movement and the erroneous political line pursued by the nationalist leadership have constrained the national liberation struggle and prevented it from realising the full potential of its mass character. The revolutionary forces have been split behind various political factions resulting in the misdirection of their efforts that are now expended in faction fighting. In such an unfortunate situation the full weight of the broad masses of the people cannot be applied against the enemy nor can their deep hatred for settler oppression and the concomitant revolutionary enthusiasm be transformed into a material force capable of destabilising white minority rule. Furthermore, the dissemination of factional propaganda among the masses to the neglect of propaganda work against national oppression, retards the development of political and national consciousness of the masses and the fighters. Consequently the masses have failed to appreciate the significance of national unity.
The ideological importance of national unity has been blurred and forced into the background leaving the masses blinkered with a parochial approach to the question of national liberation. The erroneous political and organisational lines pursued by the nationalist organisations have limited the scope for mobilisation and organisation of the masses. As a result, the nationalist organisations have failed to draw large numbers of workers, intellectuals and the petty bourgeoisie into active participation in the liberation war. The only exception has been the peasant masses and students who have been motivated more from patriotic desire into joining the ranks of the national liberation struggle.
The nationalist movements have thus far failed to control and exercise leadership over the broad masses of the workers, peasants, intellectuals and the petty bourgeoisie despite a formidable array of mass organisations operating and existing legally in Rhodesia such as trade unions, teachers associations, youth movements to name but a few. They have failed to give political direction to these organisations and utilize them to support the war effort. Up to now, the broad masses of the people consider their role in the liberation war as being purely supportive and subsidiary to the guerrilla fighters. They have not yet been educated to understand that the national liberation war is a people’s war, their war. To them the liberation war is a war fought exclusively by the guerrilla forces but of course with their logistical support and assistance. It is axiomatic to all revolutionaries that a revolutionary war is essentially a mass undertaking. Most regrettably, this has not yet dawned on the nationalist leadership. Broad and united participation of the masses in a revolutionary war is an indispensable condition for victory. To the extent that this is not realised in practice, military victory will continue to be an elusive distant goal beyond the reach of the nationalist movement.
Effect on the development of the war
The major weaknesses of the nationalist organisations discussed above find their concrete and material expression in the conduct of the national liberation war. On account of its highly dynamic and complex character and the concentrated activity associated with it, the liberation war effort serves as an ideal barometer for evaluating the maturity of the subjective forces of the revolution. The weaknesses of the nationalist leadership have become acutely manifest in their subjective direction of the liberation war. Their political immaturity, organisational incompetence and lack of military know how and the absence of a military line corresponding to the war situation in Rhodesia, have arrested the development of the national liberation war to higher and meaningful levels. The only developments that have been achieved to speak of are geographical coverage and quantitative growth. The war has stagnated and not gained in scope since its re-launch in January 1976. It has marked time at the level of scattered, isolated, sporadic and uncoordinated operations of a guerrilla character conducted by small units.
In the absence of a strategic plan, the war has virtually failed to develop to the stage of semi-mobile warfare and let alone mobile warfare proper. With the initial launching of guerrilla activity over an extensive and fluid front, the initial objective of guerrilla warfare of dispersing enemy forces and building of a large nationalist armed force have been adequately realised. However the effective weakening of the Rhodesian forces and the thoroughgoing mobilisation and organisation of the masses has not been accomplished with the attendant effect of the war remaining static and circling about the initial stage. This has exposed the guerrilla fighters and made them vulnerable to piecemeal elimination by the well-equipped Rhodesian forces. The problem is compounded by substandard and incompetent military commanders appointed solely out of loyalty considerations and not military prowess. In the circumstances, the guerrilla forces cannot give full play to their tactical and strategic advantages nor can they effectively implement elementary guerrilla tactics encompassing, ambushes, surprise attacks and sabotage warfare.
It would be wishful thinking to expect the war under these circumstances to develop to the stage of establishing liberated zones characterised by the liberation movement’s organs of political power within the country. The liberated zones should serve as the backbone for sustaining the war effort. It requires concerted, thoughtful planning and sustained military and political effort to attain this level of development. Without building a powerful army, without the development of guerrilla warfare into mobile warfare, without the organisation of the revolutionary political power of the masses, it would be inconceivable to dream of establishing liberated areas as was the case in Vietnam and China. Equally, it would be inconceivable to hope for military victory without setting up liberated zones and organs of revolutionary power in the liberated areas as the guerrilla fighters will be deprived of a stable and reliable rear to serve as sources of manpower, logistical support and as the battlefield for annihilating the enemy forces in large numbers.
The four main pre-requisites for setting up liberated zones or base areas are:-
- Strengthening the national liberation forces
- Inflicting military defeats on enemy forces in the projected liberated zone
- Arousing and organising the masses in the area
- Setting up people’s revolutionary organs of political power.
None of these conditions have been fulfilled to satisfy the requirements of setting up liberated zones that would serve to consolidate revolutionary gains and serve as a launch pad for further attacks on the enemy.
It is a strategic weakness to rely exclusively on external bases in the neighbouring countries as this exposes the liberation movement to political pressure from their backers. If liberated zones are not established and developed, it will eventually become difficult to sustain the guerrilla operations on a large scale within the contested zones.
Given the erroneous political line of the nationalist organisations, full play cannot be given to the resourcefulness and creative potential of the broad masses of the people and the fighters in the liberation war. The people and the fighters have been oriented to rely wholly on foreign assistance. Such an approach to the fundamental problems of logistical support for the war is counter-productive and completely at variance with the needs of a revolutionary people’s war which is essentially protracted and ruthless. This emanates from the enemy’s military strategic advantage given his superiority in arms and technical equipment. A revolutionary people’s war should be in a position to continue raging and gaining momentum even in the situation of a total blockade as exemplified by the heroic examples of the Soviet Union during the Civil War (1918-20), the people of China during their Anti-Japanese War of Resistance (1935-45) and the Vietnamese people during their War of Resistance against the French (1945-54) and against the military adventures of the US aggressors in Indo China up to 1974.
Without relying on their own efforts, the revolutionary forces cannot persevere in a ruthless, protracted and arduous struggle to win final victory. They should primarily rely on their own efforts, improvise, make and produce their own materials and equipment wherever and whenever possible and seize every opportunity to capture enemy weapons and materials to sustain the war. As the situation stands, the production of war materials and equipment by the masses and the fighters is not under consideration while capturing weapons from the enemy is anathema. The fighters and the broad masses of the people have not been educated to grasp the ideological importance of self-reliance while poor military art, lack of an indomitable spirit of fearing no sacrifice makes it difficult for the fighters to capture weapons from the enemy. The moment foreign assistance is not guaranteed; sustaining the liberation war will become difficult.
It requires intensive ideological and political education among the masses and the fighters to raise their consciousness to the level of understanding and appreciating the problems associated with a ruthless and protracted war waged by a small, weak and poorly equipped army against a strong and powerful enemy with the advantage of superior arms and technical equipment. Without grasping this point, the fighters and the masses will not appreciate the importance of relying on their own efforts and of fearlessly and artfully fighting against the enemy so as to capture his weapons and materials. The material efforts of the masses and the fighters should form the basis for victory in the national liberation war.
Another chronic problem bedeviling the development of the war is poor organisation and management of both the army and the war. This problem exists at all levels and in all aspects of work ranging from political to administrative work within the army and permeates all levels from the highest to the lowest. Basically, the root of the problem can be traced to inappropriate organisational principles of the nationalist organisations and their retrograde work style that has harmful influence in the army. There is widespread laxity in carrying out orders on the part of both the commanders and the fighters that stems from a low political consciousness and lack of a firm political and military discipline within the army. Generally speaking, most of the military cadres are incapable of formulating correct and effective plans for guiding and directing military work and combat operations.
In most cases, their approach to military problems is highly mechanical, dogmatic and stereotyped. Some of the military ideas are often based on foreign experiences that may not necessarily conform to the conditions in the country. Lack of practical experience and the requisite competence on the part of the senior commanders hampers the formulation of an independent general military line that corresponds to the concrete and particular circumstances prevailing in the country. Revolutionary experience elsewhere, has demonstrated that mechanically clinging to foreign military concepts, which may in some cases be already obsolete, brings great harm to the struggle. Only after the revolutionary forces have discovered the laws governing the development of their revolutionary war can they creatively apply the revolutionary experiences of other countries and further enrich the wealth of revolutionary experience and lead their revolutionary struggle to victory. Without such an approach, their revolutionary war will not make headway and will continue to be beset by seemingly insurmountable problems. The emergence of a correct military line can only come about on the basis of practical experience in the national liberation war itself.
As things stand at present, there is no active participation by leading political and military cadres in military operations. They prefer to direct the war from the shelter of offices in foreign countries. Furthermore, the supervision of the war and checking on the accomplishments of military assignments is very slack and has given rise to the anarchical development of the war. If progress is to be made in the national liberation war, both the leading political and military cadres of the liberation movement have to grasp the fundamentals of sound administration and practically engage in the military work so as to create an objective basis for their correct guidance of the war. This would help enhance their organisation and management skills not only of the liberation war, but also of the revolution in general and subsequently of the projected independent Zimbabwe.
Effect on the revolutionary transformation of society
All revolutionary struggles shoulder a twofold task: the destruction of the old society so as to pave the way for building a new one and the construction of a new social order on the basis of the destruction of the old society. These twin tasks are both complementary and mutually compatible and constitute an integral feature of all thoroughgoing revolutionary processes. They should permeate the revolutionary struggle from beginning to end. At the beginning of the revolution, the task of destroying the old social order is primary while that of building a new society will be secondary. However with the development of the struggle the two processes will come to be in equilibrium until finally the construction of a new social order overtakes that of destruction as the revolution marches on relentlessly to a triumphant outcome. After nationwide victory, the building of a new society will gain further momentum and be elevated to a higher plane, whilst that of destruction will persist for some time in a subordinate role in order to obliterate the remnants of the old social order. Such a process constitutes revolutionary transformation; the essential element of a genuine and thoroughgoing revolutionary struggle.
As the liberation war develops, the reactionary organs of state power should be destroyed and be replaced by the people’s revolutionary power. The new organs of the people’s revolutionary power should mark the beginning of social progress in the new society and initiate and direct the transformation of the old way of life into a new order. The transformation of the old society, should embrace the political, economic and cultural aspects of people’s lives. The broad masses of the people should become masters of their political destiny, occupy the commanding heights of economic life and foster unfettered cultural expression.
The political domination of the settler reactionary organs of power, the concentration of economic power in the hands of monopolies and domestic entrepreneurs and the cultural enslavement of the African people should be brought to an end and be replaced by a new popular and just socio-economic order that guarantees the democratic rights of the people by placing political power in their service so as to release and set in motion their creative and innovative potential. Such is a reflection of a thoroughgoing revolutionary process. However as things stand today, the nationalist leaders are either unaware of the need for such a revolutionary course or they are totally opposed to traversing such a thoroughgoing revolutionary course. There are no concrete plans for the subsequent transformation of present day Rhodesia other than overthrowing white minority rule. The broad masses of the people and the guerrilla fighters are not conscious of their role as builders of a new society, thanks to the erroneous political line pursued by the nationalist leadership. They only conceive of themselves as destroyers of the old society.
As the war develops inside the country, no efforts are being made to set up bases of people’s revolutionary power to serve as bastions and active agents in the transformation of the old society into a new one. The national liberation struggle remains unable to cross the threshold to develop into a revolutionary struggle that would lay a solid foundation of a new progressive social order. It remains merely a struggle with the exclusive objective of substituting Black nationalist majority rule for white minority rule. Such a struggle can by no means be termed a revolutionary struggle. It would be a misnomer to term it so as it remains a mere armed struggle devoid of revolutionary content as the present struggle is not in a position to realise the lofty ideals of the national democratic revolution.
Even within the rear bases in the neighbouring countries, where the nationalist leaders have every opportunity to instill revolutionary ideas of the new society without hindrance, no effort has been made to imbue the fighters and the refugee population with the ideas of a new Zimbabwe. One would have expected the essentials of the new society to be reflected in the people’s daily lives within the rear bases where every opportunity exists to educate the fighters and the people on the kind of society that they are fighting and sacrificing for. No steps have been taken to even cultivate and develop revolutionary cadres to serve as the backbone for the construction of the new Zimbabwe. All the masses and the fighters know is that they are fighting to overthrow settler oppression. This is not enough.
The fighters and the masses should be educated to appreciate and understand that, whilst they are fighting to overthrow settler oppression, they are also simultaneously fighting to build a new society that guarantees all democratic freedoms and rights for all Zimbabweans without the exploitation of man by man. The struggle to build a new society is just as important as overthrowing national oppression. It is equally important for the masses and fighters to fully grasp the fundamentals of the struggle to create a new society as it is to grasp the methods of fighting to defeat the enemy, otherwise fighting loses its revolutionary significance and degenerates into a means of mechanically substituting one oppressive system for another.
So long as the basis for the new society is not firmly laid in the course of the liberation struggle, and the masses and the fighters are not educated to understand this, victory in the national liberation struggle will be devoid of revolutionary significance. It will be more difficult to commence building the new society after liberation as there will be great resistance from reactionary and retrograde forces. It will also be difficult to arouse the enthusiasm of the of the masses to support and actively participate in the building of the new society and resolutely struggle against reactionary forces as they will lack the requisite political consciousness that they should have otherwise acquired in the course of the liberation struggle.
Worse still, commencing reconstruction only after nationwide victory is fraught with serious consequences for the survival of the revolution. That would pave the way for the defeat and hijacking of the revolution by opportunists, and pro-capitalist petty bourgeois elements within the ranks of the nationalist movement. These counter-revolutionary forces will capitalise on the ignorance and low political consciousness of the masses and the fighters to hijack the revolution and perpetuate the old system by stepping into the shoes of the former white minority oppressors to the detriment of the masses.
That is why it is of utmost importance to nurture and cultivate a strong backbone of revolutionary cadres in advance. The leading cadres would then spearhead the construction of the new society in the liberated zones and rear bases during the course of the struggle so as to ensure and invest in the security of the revolution and guarantee its uninterrupted development to final victory. Only such a revolutionary approach could frustrate all counter-revolutionary hopes by opportunist elements within the nationalist movement and help nip them in the bud. The people should become their own masters during the course of the struggle.
Fundamental and thoroughgoing reforms affecting people’s lives should be effected within the liberated areas in the course of the struggle. The reforms could take the form of self-defence units, the introduction of people’s democracy, equitable land re-distribution, fair exchange of commodities, setting up schools of a new type consistent with the revolutionary thrust. Such revolutionary activities will arouse and boost the enthusiasm of the masses to defend and consolidate the gains of the revolution and spur them to fight with greater determination and all conquering enthusiasm till final victory.
So long as the nationalist movement does not transform itself and develop into a genuine revolutionary movement, so long as the masses and the fighters are not educated to understand the significance of transforming the old society into a new one, the thoroughgoing execution of the people’s national democratic revolution cannot be guaranteed.
Effect on expanding the scope of the struggle.
One important effect of nationalism on the national liberation struggle is that it has prevented the utilisation of all forms of struggle in the quest for liberation. A revolutionary struggle is not an all out military struggle against the enemy. It is at one and the same time a political, economic, cultural and diplomatic struggle against the enemy. A truly revolutionary struggle is an integral form of all these aspects of the struggle. As long as these various forms of struggle are not well coordinated, integrated and woven into a single dynamic movement against the enemy, the path to final victory will be unnecessarily prolonged and needless losses and sacrifices will be sustained by the revolutionary movement in vain. Though armed struggle may be the principal form of struggle, it has to be supplemented and complemented by other forms of struggle if it is to realise its full effectiveness. Absolute reliance on the military struggle to the neglect of other forms of struggle is a leftist error tantamount to militarism and could bring great harm to the struggle. Revolutionary violence does not only compromise military violence but encompasses political violence as well.
In the course of a revolutionary struggle, armed struggle has to be supported by political violence which could take varied forms like protest marches, demonstrations and labour strikes. The revolutionary movement should capacitate the masses to give full play to their initiative in the employment of political violence in support of the armed struggle. It should excel in organising and guiding the masses through ruthless exposure of the settler regime’s crimes against the people. Political violence serves to push the enemy into the defensive politically, enhances his notoriety and increases his isolation internally and externally. Political violence has been successfully employed in other victorious struggles with remarkable results especially in Vietnam where it was closely interwoven with the military struggle against the US aggressors and th puppet regime in Saigon. Political violence is an important weapon in the hands of the oppressed and should continue to be a glorious tradition for the struggling masses of oppressed peoples who should further develop and enrich it with new creative experiences.
Economic struggles should also be closely aligned to and coordinated with political struggles in order to get maximum mileage in the fight against the enemy. Economic strikes can be effectively employed to paralyse the enemy’s economy and create favourable opportunities for the military defeat of the enemy by sowing seeds of economic confusion within his rear and nerve centers. Strikes that are isolated from the political struggle are ill-timed and inopportune and can achieve very little. Their effectiveness can be greatly enhanced by imparting a political character to them and coordinating them with the political activity of the masses. Economic strikes that are well coordinated both with each other and with political violence can have a powerful impact on the enemy and contribute to exacerbating the general crisis within his ranks and facilitate his military defeat.
Furthermore, the revolutionary movement should be good at employing both open and clandestine forms of struggle and at utilizing both the legal and illegal forms of struggle. The liberation movement should employ all forms of struggle at its disposal and apply the maximum possible strength of the broad masses of the people in the struggle against the enemy. The utilization of diverse forms of struggle weakens the enemy and throws his forces into disarray and confusion and creates favourable opportunities for the effective use of the liberation movement’s principal forms of struggle. Revolutionary forces should not only understand the importance of employing every means of struggle at its disposal, but should be good at implementing them to achieve maximum effectiveness.
The possibilities of utilising diverse forms of struggle in the national liberation struggle in Zimbabwe are great and limitless but little has been done to exploit them. The reasons behind this are the weaknesses, inexperience and incompetence of the nationalist leadership. The nationalists fervently pin all their hopes on the armed struggle as the sole form of struggle and hope that it will deliver victory on its own. This is a mistaken view with a negative impact on the struggle as it increases the human cost of the liberation struggle and prolongs the realisation of victory. The human cost to the liberation struggle could be mitigated by coordinating and supplementing armed struggle with other forms of struggle which in turn creates favourable opportunities for the accelerated development of the armed struggle and brightens prospects of victory.
Furthermore, the nationalist movement has failed to pursue a correct policy of disintegrating enemy forces and exploiting contradictions within the enemy ranks. It has already been pointed out that victory in the national liberation struggle is not dependent on military operations alone but on the combination with other forms of struggle as well. Besides, the other forms of struggle discussed above, disintegration of enemy forces also plays a contributory factor to defeating the enemy. It is of prime importance for the liberation movement to implement the policy of dividing and isolating the hardcore enemy diehards. This can be accomplished by employing correct political tactics such as giving lenient treatment to prisoners of war and carrying out propaganda work amongst the enemy forces and their supporters.
Currently, the nationalist forces pursue a hardline policy based on mass elimination of enemy agents and their dependents, indiscriminate victimisation of whites including missionaries, elimination of supporters of the Smith regime, adoption of a hostile attitude towards enemy forces as a whole without taking into account the class contradictions among them, intimidation of the masses into submission and the adoption of a militarist attitude towards the civilian population. All the erroneous practices are typical of the activities of the nationalist forces within the war zones. Such malpractices do not only retard the development of the war but also alienate the people from the liberation fighters, hardens white feelings against a nationalist take-over, unites and closes the enemy ranks and offers an objective basis for undermining and discrediting the integrity of the liberation fighters in the eyes of the people and the international community.
These erroneous and decadent excesses play directly into the hands of the enemy and are capitalised on and fed into the enemy’s propaganda machine. They militate against the interests of the struggle and ultimately retard the development of the liberation war. So long as the liberation movement does not pursue a correct policy of disintegrating enemy forces and winning them over to their side in large numbers, closely aligning itself with the masses, distinguishing between diehard reactionary forces and the white population in general, dividing enemy ranks and isolating the diehards, the national liberation struggle cannot make rapid progress.
The successes that have been scored by the guerrillas on the battlefield have inflicted considerable losses on the enemy forces politically, militarily and economically. These losses have in turn given rise to contradictions and division within the ranks of the enemy. Rather than exploiting these contradictions that are a direct fruit of their efforts, the nationalist forces have set back with folded arms and continued to view the enemy as a monolithic granite block without a single crack in it. Such an attitude reflects political naivety. The nationalist leaders, enmeshed in power intrigues, fail to perceive these contradictions and cannot grasp the given opportunities which might persist for a long time before they eventually slip out and slide down the drain when the enemy makes belated amends.
The disintegration of enemy forces and the exploitation of contradictions within their ranks are both important weapons at the disposal of the liberation forces that can produce miracles when properly handled. Revolutionary forces in other countries have successfully utilised these weapons with marvelous results for their struggles. Opportunities for disintegrating enemy forces and exploiting contradictions within their ranks are great and ever present awaiting exploitation by liberation forces. Enemy forces, just like the nationalist forces cannot thrive without contradictions within their ranks. It however requires considerable political skill to identify and single out the contradictions for exploitation to own advantage. There is no doubt that the Smith regime itself practices the same policy towards the nationalist movement. Unlike the Smith regime that exploits such opportunities to its advantage, rather than utilising such opportunities and divisions within their own ranks and exploiting divisions within their ranks to the advantage of the enemy, the nationalists are experts at weakening their own ranks.
The Nationalist Movement and Imperialist manoeuvres
The struggle for national liberation waged by the people of Zimbabwe poses a direct threat to the economic interests of both the white settler minority and imperialist powers. Their determination to cling to political power is driven by the need to safeguard these economic interests. The victory of the national liberation struggle poses a serious threat to both the white settler minority and imperialist powers. In a desperate bid to ward off and neutralise the threat posed by the liberation struggle to their interests, they conceive diabolical schemes that aim at installing a neo-colonialist puppet regime in Zimbabwe that would safeguard their interests. They are especially concerned about the continued development of the armed struggle as this radicalises the masses that they want to continue exploiting and oppressing. Besides retarding the development of the national liberation, the nationalist leadership renders the liberation struggle vulnerable to manipulation by imperialists in the face of their feverish activity to safeguard their vested interests. The nationalists have proved to be readily gullible to deceptive manoeuvres by imperialists and have shown remarkable pliability to their neo-colonial designs.
The nationalist movement has suffered innumerable setbacks through the Smith regime’s diabolical machinations and imperialist sponsored neo-colonial schemes. Already, a significant section of the nationalist forces has lined up with the Smith regime in the so-called “internal settlement scheme”. This is a direct consequence of the weaknesses inherent in the nationalist movement that the Smith regime is exploiting with the support of its imperialist backers. Failure by the nationalist leadership to handle contradictions among themselves in the correct manner has exposed them to the enemy. The situation has now developed to dangerous proportions and poses a very serious threat of a neo-colonial settlement. It is thanks to the weaknesses of the nationalist movement that has made the liberation struggle conducive to imperialist machinations. The Achilles heel of the nationalist movement is its disunity on which the enemy forces have capitalised.
Whenever the nationalists sense imperialist manoeuvres in the offing, rather than fervently working on contingent counter manoeuvres, they patiently wait for the schemes hoping to exploit them to their advantage and propel themselves into power. Such a way of doing things is not good for the struggle and easily renders the liberation movement passive with complete loss of initiative and thereby seriously compromising the security of the revolution. Such an opportunistic attitude paves the way for hijacking the revolution and setting up a neo-colonialist puppet regime in Zimbabwe. The imperialist powers on their part are fully aware of the political impotence of the nationalist movement and of the great confusion rife within its ranks. They can afford to patiently work out their diabolical schemes with ease and self-assured confidence. The nationalist attitude of looking to Britain to broker a solution to the crisis is not helpful either. In a way Britain is made a reluctant referee in its own cause. The people of Zimbabwe fight hard for their liberation only to hand over the results of their sweat to Britain again. What amazing logic!
The brief appraisal of the general effect of African nationalism on the national liberation struggle and particularly the effect of the nationalist leadership reveals the negative role they are playing in the liberation struggle. It is evident that nationalism has now developed to become a fetter retarding the development of liberation struggle in a number of aspects. They have now reached their limit and exhausted their revolutionary potential and the best that they could do is to sustain the struggle at the current level without any prospects for further development. However, even the current stagnation is temporary and could with time decline into defeat if timely amends are not made. More importantly, the stagnation could be easily exploited by imperialist powers to further their neo-colonial designs for setting up a puppet regime in “independent” Zimbabwe.
Radical changes are necessary if the struggle is to develop further beyond the current stage of stagnation. To conceive of further development of the struggle into a revolutionary struggle capable of leading the struggle to final victory under the auspices of nationalist leadership would be a contradiction in terms given their retrograde essence. Clearly the development of the national liberation struggle into a revolutionary struggle cannot be realised within the context of the nationalist movement given its inherent chronic limitations.
The nationalist movement has made a great contribution to the national liberation struggle from the beginning but they are now at the deep end when it comes to transforming the liberation struggle into a revolutionary struggle. It has now overburdened itself with weaknesses that can no longer be rectified with an African nationalist framework. The demands of the liberation struggle have now outgrown its limits. Given the entrenched and deep rooted monopoly capitalist interests, there is need for a thoroughgoing struggle to achieve real victory. Only a sustained revolutionary struggle is the basic guarantee for the victory of the national democratic revolution in Rhodesia’s particular circumstances.
5) Transformation of the nationalist movement into a revolutionary mass movement
a) The emergence of revolutionary forces within the nationalist movement
As the situation stands, the Zimbabwe nationalist movement has reached the limit of its potential and is now gradually sliding into a negative role by fettering the further development of the national liberation struggle to the degree necessary for the attainment of final victory. It can no longer measure up to this responsibility and has demonstrated in practice that this task is beyond their ken thanks to its inherent weaknesses. The analysis of the social character of Zimbabwe has revealed that national oppression is based on a well-entrenched capitalist order which cannot be re-shaped to serve the interests of the people of Zimbabwe by reformist nationalism or the military struggle of militant nationalism. The forcible overthrow or peaceful replacement of white minority settler rule will in itself do nothing to change its socio-economic base, the real root cause and source of national oppression, exploitation, domination, dehumanization and all other kinds of sufferings of the people of Zimbabwe.
Settlerist oppression and imperialist plunder of our resources are inseparable from the capitalist order prevailing in Rhodesia. It requires nothing short of thoroughgoing and dynamic revolutionary action to overthrow the settler minority oppression and simultaneously transform the social base of that dehumanising oppression. This is the minimum requirement and basic guarantee for genuine national liberation and the complete realisation of the people’s democratic rights. This calls for the transformation of the nationalist movement into a revolutionary mass movement with a thorough grasp and mastery of the laws governing revolutionary struggles to accomplish this lofty task. Thorough mastery of the laws and ideology governing revolutionary struggles will enable the revolutionary mass movement to maintain its bearings in the course of an arduous struggle amid the maze of social contradictions and machinations characteristic of an oppressive system.
The transformation of the nationalist movement into a revolutionary mass movement has become a necessity if the challenges of the national liberation struggle are to be met and complete victory is to be assured. The incapacity of the nationalist movement to promote the further development of the struggle necessitates the emergence of a revolutionary force capable of steering the liberation struggle to final victory. Such a force is already present in embryonic from within the womb of the nationalist movement; its period of gestation is rapidly coming to a close with the objective conditions for its maturation already ripe. The active participation of the fighters in the struggle and their intercourse with the revolutionary experiences of other people’s struggles gave rise to the emergence of the embryonic revolutionary forces within the liberation struggle. It comes about as a product of struggle and is historically determined by the circumstances of struggle and expresses itself outwardly as uneven political development within the nationalist movement. The uneven political development polarises the political forces within its ranks thereby laying a concrete basis for the subsequent transformation of the nationalist movement.
The polarized political forces within the nationalist movement coexist peacefully for some time, but in the course of the struggle, a point is subsequently reached when they can no longer exist in harmony and promote the further development of the struggle. The relations between the two poles come to a head when on the one hand, the old guard nationalist political forces can no longer cope with the struggle and fail to direct its further development in the required direction and on the other, when the emergent political forces gather in strength and for all practical purposes no longer exclusively rely on the old guard leadership in the prosecution of the war. At this stage, the uneven political development precipitates a crisis. The old guard nationalist leadership begins to fetter the development of the struggle whilst at the same time, the emergent revolutionary forces are filled with revolutionary enthusiasm and become intolerant of the stagnation of the struggle and fervently desire to carry it to its logical conclusions.
The struggle between the old guard nationalist political forces and the emergent revolutionary forces is an inevitable process in the course of the development of the nationalist movement and the national liberation struggle. It arises from the heterogeneity of class forces within the nationalist movement and from the circumstances of struggle that bring the class contradictions of the diverse political forces within the movement to the fore. The crisis within the nationalist movement can, at this point in time be defused by the peaceful transformation into a revolutionary movement with the emergent revolutionary forces gaining the upper hand or it may develop into open antagonism which can only be resolved by precipitate revolutionary action. The revolutionary transformation of the nationalist movement cannot be expected to be a spontaneous process devoid of subjective direction. It can only come about as result of conscious effort. Subjective forces can play an active role in the transformation process by either accelerating or retarding it.
Though it is historically inevitable, the objective course of the transformation of the nationalist movement develops independently of the will of subjective forces. In this regard, it is incumbent upon the emergent revolutionary forces to bring their efforts into correspondence with the objective conditions if they are not to suffer unnecessary losses and setbacks. From a historical point of view, the subsequent triumph of the emergent revolutionary forces is inevitable. However, they may suffer defeats and setbacks, not because their ideas are incorrect, but because in the balance of forces engaged in the struggle, they may not be as powerful for the moment as the forces of reaction. They may therefore be temporarily defeated but are bound to triumph subsequently, sooner or later. Their subsequent victory over the forces of reaction is historically determined when the objective conditions have ripened.
b) The revolutionary vanguard
The scenario of the revolutionary development and transformation of the nationalist movement into a revolutionary vanguard discussed above may be specifically applicable to nationalist movements that have a heterogeneous class character and are currently locked in protracted liberation struggles against endogenous, colonial or imperialist forces of oppression during the era characterised by the integration of national liberation struggles into the worlds struggle against imperialism and the general decline and retreat of the forces of imperialism into a defensive shell the world over. With specific regard to the revolutionary transformation of the nationalist movement into a revolutionary vanguard, three schools of thought have emerged as possible routes to the transformation.
The first school, with strong adherents within the ranks of the nationalist forces, does not view the current stagnation in revolutionary development of the national liberation struggle as a crisis point for the nationalist movement itself. They regard it as a temporary setback emanating from the shortcomings of the current leaders of the nationalist movement. They assert that the shortcomings of the current leadership are not beyond redemption and continue to be optimistic of bright prospects of the liberation struggle within the context of the nationalist movement with all its attendant weaknesses.
The second school, with strong adherents within the fighting forces, views the current crisis as signaling the complete failure of the nationalist movement and any other projected political forms that lack a definite class character. With particular regard to the situation in Rhodesia, they consider all mass movements without a class character as outmoded and not up to the task of accomplishing a thoroughgoing revolution in Zimbabwe. They assert that the crisis in the liberation struggle is a reflection of the sharpening of the contradiction between labour and capital in Rhodesia. In their view, such a contradiction can of necessity only be resolved by a proletarian party and not by a mass movement. For the national liberation struggle to achieve victory, they argue, it should be brought under the leadership of a proletarian vanguard.
There is yet another school of thought, the third, also with strong adherents within the fighting forces, which views the current stagnation in the development of the national liberation struggle as being engendered by the decadence of nationalism which they say has outlived its days. However, unlike the second school, they don’t view the stagnation as a reflection of the maturation of the contradiction between labour and capital in Rhodesia. While taking note of the great level of the contradiction between labour and capital, and acknowledging its profound effects on both the objective and subjective factors in Rhodesia, and while further acknowledging the important role of the working class in the liberation struggle, they assert that it is not only still possible but that it is the only correct route to continue waging the struggle within the context of a heterogeneous mass movement that transcends the limits of moribund nationalism. They regard the call for the emergence of a proletarian party as adventurous and premature at this point in time given the prevailing alignment and relative strengths of class forces at present. They view the emergence of a revolutionary mass movement as the necessary next stage in the liberation struggle in the light of the prevailing political situation.
Advocating the formation of a proletarian party would only serve to alienate the revolutionary forces from the masses, split up the motive forces of the national liberation struggle and reinforce the ranks of the enemy, thereby rendering the struggle vulnerable to defeat. The adherents of this school therefore advocate for the transformation of the liberation movement into a revolutionary mass movement as being appropriate and not into a proletarian vanguard.
c) The case against the formation of a proletarian vanguard
The third school of thought, that has quite a considerable following amongst the fighters, appears to offer the only viable alternative to the continued stagnation of the liberation struggle. Before examining the nature of the proposed revolutionary mass movement envisaged by this school, it is necessary to clarify its position further in relation to second school. The arguments against the first school have been adequately dealt with in the main body of this treatise.
The emergence of a proletarian vanguard is considered premature for a number of important and valid reasons that have to be fully taken into account before embarking on that path. Though the working class in Rhodesia, like its sister proletariat elsewhere is endowed with immense leadership potential and has an historic duty to deliver humanity from oppression, it cannot stand as a viable independent political force at this point in time for a number of reasons. Primarily, capitalism in Zimbabwe has only realised a low level of development as yet. It only took root in Zimbabwe at the beginning of this century and its pace of development has been retarded by monopoly capital which regulates the development of capitalism in accordance with its needs and interests. Monopoly capital takes special care to reduce competition from domestic capital so as to prevent the duplication of industries catered for by its subsidiaries elsewhere.
Though the capitalist socio-economic order is well entrenched in Rhodesia, it has not had much time to produce a sizeable force of workers. The working class is still numerically small and inferior to the relative strengths of the working classes in advanced capitalist countries where a strong proletarian contingent exists. The numerical strength of the industrial workers in Rhodesia is still far below a million and therefore still weak to constitute a viable and independent political force. Furthermore, the Rhodesian working class is still unorganised and more of “a class in itself “than a “class for itself”. It still has not seriously embarked on an economic struggle to improve working conditions and fight for its rights not even to talk about a workers movement worthy of significance. Trade union organisation is still embryonic and caters for the interests of a small section of the working class in Rhodesia.
Before the Zimbabwean workers present themselves to the stage of history as an independent revolutionary force, they first should organise themselves as a class. Their consciousness has to be aroused and their aspirations channeled into a workers movement with a definite form. It is only after the workers movement has assumed a definite form that it can be linked with the struggle for socialism. As the situation stands today, there is neither a workers movement nor a movement for socialism of any significance.
Besides, there are several other factors that still militate against the constitution of the Rhodesian workers into an independent political force. They have as yet not been steeled in struggle. They lack experience in class struggle especially in comparison with the working classes elsewhere where strong proletarian parties have emerged. They have never participated in economic struggle on a wide scale where they could have gleaned the requisite experience. Very few major strikes have been staged in Zimbabwe and still less have produced significant results. In the absence of experience in class struggle, the workers of Zimbabwe have no other school than to actively participate in the national liberation struggle to acquire the requisite experience in struggle. They should actively participate in the liberation struggle to steel themselves and acquire a revolutionary outlook. Furthermore, the Rhodesian workers still have a very low cultural, literacy and technical level when compared to the petty bourgeoisie. A high cultural and literacy level is an important asset in class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The working class parties in other countries make great efforts to acquire high cultural and literacy endowments.
Additionally, the current alignment of forces militates against the emergence of a worker’s party at this point in time. Firstly, the broad masses of the people are not receptive to proletarian revolutionary ideas at this stage because of the prevalence of a strong wave of anti-communist propaganda propagated by the Smith regime that depicts the guerrilla forces as communist agents. Any dissemination of communist revolutionary ideas will simply play into the hands of the enemy and result in the alienation of the freedom fighters from the masses. This would serve to complicate the development of the struggle and diminish the prospects of victory. Secondly, careful note should be taken of the relative strengths of the petty and national bourgeois elements within the ranks of the liberation movement. They are currently its leading force and therefore constitute its backbone though the workers, peasants and students are the main motive forces.
True to its class nature and interests, the Zimbabwean petty bourgeoisie is not enthusiastic for socialism and instead wishes to inherit, albeit in modified form, the present socio-economic base in Zimbabwe. Overlooking the relative strengths of the nationalist and petty bourgeois forces and their leading role with the nationalist movement, their ideological orientation and vested interests and proceeding to organise a proletarian party regardless of the strength of their aversion to it, will not only split the liberation movement but could also result in an ill-fated liberation project.
At the current stage of our struggle, the national democratic revolution, and the specific circumstances and nature of our struggle, national unity is indispensable and should be tirelessly striven for by all revolutionary and patriotic forces rather than be thrown into jeopardy through reckless and shortsighted ultra-leftist tactics. Such an approach would not only bring about the danger of defeat for the liberation struggle but would also be counter-productive to the cause for socialism. The national democratic character of the liberation struggle is determined by the tasks of that struggle which are to overthrow national oppression by the white settler minority as a guise of British colonialism and restore the peoples’ democratic rights in the realm of politics, the economy and culture.
The task is not to overthrow capitalist relations of production and capitalist private property. Such a task would require a socialist revolution that resolves the contradiction between labour and capital. But the principal contradiction underpinning Zimbabwean society today is not that between labour and capital but that of the political domination of the black indigenous people of Zimbabwe and British colonialism under the guise of white settler minority rule. Therefore, from a purely political technical point of view, calling for the working class to form a political vanguard and lead the liberation struggle within the context of the struggle between labour and capital would be tantamount to calling for a proletarian socialist revolution in Rhodesia which does not correspond to the social character of Rhodesia at present.
The weaknesses of the Zimbabwe working class discussed above militate against their constitution as an independent political force. What is called for at this point in time is an alliance of the working class with other progressive and patriotic forces that are in favour of fighting for genuine national liberation that restores the people’s inalienable rights. That alliance should take the form of a revolutionary mass movement that will consummate the national democratic revolution. Without such an alliance, the working class, having no organisation of its own, lacking the requisite revolutionary experience and aptitude and being extremely fragile at this stage, cannot hope to emerge as an independent and viable political force capable of leading the revolutionary struggle without the close cooperation of the other progressive forces in Zimbabwe. It is therefore imperative for the revolutionary and progressive forces to reconcile themselves to this reality and actively work for the emergence of a revolutionary mass movement.
d) The revolutionary mass movement
The basis for the emergence of the revolutionary mass movement has already been laid within the nationalist movement as has already been discussed. The projected mass movement should take the form of a political front of all social classes and strata of the oppressed masses of Zimbabwe. The envisaged revolutionary transformation and development of the nationalist movement into a revolutionary liberation movement should be ideological, political and organisational. This would ensure all round transformation of the nationalist movement and the birth of revolutionary mass movement rich in revolutionary content. The mass movement should be the driving force of the national liberation struggle and guarantee the complete overthrow of national oppression and the concomitant restoration of the people’s sovereignty and democratic rights in a thoroughgoing consummation of the national democratic revolution.
e) the ideological plane
Ideologically, the revolutionary mass movement should be imbued with and fall under the guidance of a revolutionary ideology. In the struggling third world countries and dependent colonies, the principal contradiction characterising their societies is the struggle between the broad masses of the people on the one hand and colonialism and imperialism that takes the form of monopoly capital on the other and not that between socialism and capitalism. However, the struggles for national liberation of the oppressed masses of the world is inextricably linked to the struggle for socialism in a sense as both are struggling against capital with the former locked in the struggle against monopoly capitalism in the form of imperialism and the latter against capitalism in general.
Without the support from the world forces of socialism, the struggles for national liberation against the forces of colonialism and imperialism cannot be thoroughgoing and without the guidance of their revolutionary experiences genuine victory cannot be a reality. The revolutionary experiences of the forces for socialism give solid guidance to struggles for national liberation that enables them to correctly handle and resolve the maze of social contradictions that characterise the oppressive system obtaining in Zimbabwe in the face of imperialist manoeuvres and intrigues designed to derail national liberation struggle and hijack it into neo-colonialist settlements. However, although the revolutionary mass movement might draw freely from the experiences of successful struggles of socialist countries, that does not elevate or equate it to a communist or socialist party of the proletariat.
The revolutionary mass movement differs from a party of the proletariat on the one hand in that:
i) It has a mass character and has no definite class character in contrast to a workers’ party
ii) It has as its goal the attainment of thoroughgoing and complete national liberation and not the establishment of a socialist state. The focus of its struggle is colonialism and imperialism, monopoly capitalism and not national capital and differs from the nationalist movement in that:
iii) It falls within the revolutionary orbit of consistent anti-imperialism and wages a resolute struggle against imperialism and is not confined to narrow nationalism
iv) It spearheads a struggle that is genuinely an integral part of the progressive world’s struggle against imperialism
v) It has as its content the ideal of transforming the Rhodesian state complete with its institutions and attendant structures into a new Zimbabwe reflecting the will and serving the interests of the majority of its formerly oppressed people and not just the form which typifies nationalism bent on substituting white with black nationalism.
vi) In other words, the revolutionary mass movement would have an enriched content of anti-imperialist struggle in comparison to a nationalist movement. It also assumes a revolutionary internationalist standpoint in practice which materially links it to the struggling masses of the people the world over.
The foregoing ideological content of the projected revolutionary mass movement distinguishes it from moribund nationalism on the one hand and the party of the proletariat on the other. It is this ideological outlook and thrust that enables the revolutionary mass movement to lead the national liberation struggle to complete victory. Such an ideological outlook capacitates the liberation movement to timely expose and frustrate all imperialist maneuvers, rally all progressive forces within the country against the enemy and march in step with revolutionary forces elsewhere in the struggle against imperialism. It is the primary duty of progressive forces within the liberation movement to cultivate this revolutionary ideology amongst both the masses and the fighting forces. In the final analysis, it is the ideological awareness of the masses and the fighters that lays a concrete basis for the revolutionary transformation of the nationalist movement.
f) political plane
Politically, the liberation movement should undergo the revolutionary transformation to become the revolutionary vanguard to lead the national liberation struggle through a complex and tortuous political course to final victory. To rise up to the occasion, the revolutionary mass movement should craft a revolutionary political programme, formulate a correct basic political line to guide the liberation struggle on the basis of an objective appraisal and understanding of the concrete situation in Zimbabwe and lead the broad masses of the people in struggle for their national liberation. The political programme and the basic political line should be a reflection of the objective laws for the development of the national liberation struggle in Zimbabwe.
The brief social analysis of the situation in present day Rhodesia made earlier, basically determines the course of the revolutionary struggle to be followed in order to resolve and sweep away the principal contradiction underlying the Rhodesian society. From it follows that the national liberation struggle in Zimbabwe is for the exclusive purpose of overthrowing national oppression and bestowing the democratic rights of the people of Zimbabwe. Herein lies the national democratic character of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. The liberation struggle is national because it overthrows national oppression, democratic because it bestows the hitherto suppressed and stifled democratic rights of the people of Zimbabwe, revolutionary because it is transformational in nature as it destroys the old oppressive system and replaces it with a new progressive social order. Overthrowing national oppression and bestowing democratic rights are thus two sides of the same coin in Zimbabwe’s national democratic revolution. They together constitute an integral feature of the national democratic revolution in Zimbabwe.
The primary task of the national democratic revolution is the liberation of the people of Zimbabwe and the attainment of full democracy and not overthrowing capitalist relation of production i.e. the task of the socialist proletarian revolution. As already discussed, the full appreciation of the objective course of development of the revolution in Zimbabwe in the light of the contemporary world situation should form the basis of the movement’s revolutionary programme and the formulation of the general political line to guide the liberation struggle to victory. Both the immediate and higher objectives of the liberation struggle should be taken into account the respective stages of the struggle clearly stipulated and the requirements of the struggle at each stage clearly defined. A revolutionary political programme that charts out and maps the whole course of the liberation struggle should be consistent with this approach. The liberation movement should fully mobilise the broad masses of the people to unite behind the revolutionary programme whose realization is their duty.
Corresponding to each of the principal stages of the liberation struggle, the liberation movement should draw up a minimum and maximum programme that clearly defines the political content and limitations of the respective stages. Corresponding to each of the stages of the struggle, the mass movement should also formulate a basic political line to lead and guide the success of the respective stages. The general political line of each stage should clearly define the nature, task, motive and leading forces, the targets and perspectives of the revolutionary stages. The general political line should serve as the political means of all the policies and tactics adopted in the course of the struggle against the enemy.
It is the task of the liberation movement to educate the people to understand the full content of the national democratic revolution. It is the task of the national democratic revolution to totally and thoroughly overthrow white minority settler domination and completely restore the democratic rights of the people. The revolutionary forces should actively and resolutely lead the broad masses of the people and the fighters in a relentless struggle against the erroneous political line of the old guard nationalist leadership. They should seize every opportunity to influence the political line of the liberation movement so as to consolidate its transformation into a revolutionary movement. They should spare no effort to mobilise political forces for the transformation process. The revolutionary forces should pay constant attention to enhancing their ideological outlook, strengthen their ideological unity and elevate their political consciousness to the level of grasping all the important aspects and problems of the national democratic revolution. This would put them in an ideal position to influence the revolutionary transformation of the liberation movement in the correct direction.
The revolutionary forces should pay special attention to educate the broad masses of the people and the fighters to understand the significance and importance of national unity within the liberation struggle. They should fully appreciate the negative role of the current political fragmentation within the liberation movement which for opportunist reasons is ascribed to presumed differences in political and ideological outlook. All attempts to perpetuate the factional existence of nationalist organisations should be ruthlessly exposed as reactionary and retrogressive and be opposed resolutely. The principal victims of disunity are none other the masses themselves whose emancipation would be unduly prolonged with precious efforts and sacrifices being misdirected to serve narrow partisan interests.
All the Zimbabwean nationalist organisations have identical class composition which precludes grounds for the presumed “irreconcilable ideological differences” and “incompatible political approaches” between organisations that have the same class character and are fighting for the same goal. In essence, all these organisations are alike with a pronounced petty bourgeois character. Consequently, there is no justification whatsoever for an antagonistic relationship between them, especially during this important stage of national liberation. It is therefore necessary and important for the revolutionary forces within the liberation movement to close ranks and join hands in the resolute struggle for both the unification and revolutionary transformation of the liberation movement. These two lofty tasks are equally important, mutually reinforcing and complementary to each other. They can be realised ether simultaneously within the liberation movement or successively. Efforts should be put in both directions simultaneously in order to achieve maximum results.
With regard to the revolutionary transformation on the political plane, the process should culminate in the emergence of a revolutionary vanguard capable of making a clear distinction between friend and foe and uniting the broad masses of the people in the relentless struggle against the enemy and leading it to complete victory.
g) the organisational plane
Organisationally, the leadership and composition of the revolutionary mass movement should reflect its revolutionary content. To give expression to its revolutionary content, the organisational line of the movement should be based on the tried and tested mass line and the principles of democratic centralism. Organisationally, it should be composed of elements from the working class, the peasantry and revolutionary intellectuals as its main motive forces with a revolutionary core as its vanguard. Sections of the national and petty bourgeoisie should also be part of the motive forces although they cannot be firmly relied on to persevere and prosecute the struggle to complete victory.
There should be a significant swing within the leadership ranks in favor of revolutionary elements from the working class and progressive intellectuals. Class origin, political background, revolutionary experience and competence should be the key criteria for leadership within the transformed liberation movement in contradistinction to decadent nationalist practices where leading cadres are appointed on the basis of ethnic compatibility, social status, family background, academic qualifications and political servility.
True revolutionary leaders are a product of struggle: they develop and get transformed through struggle, and get tested and steeled in the course of the struggle. The transformed liberation movement should strictly adhere to this revolutionary principle and desist from giving responsibility to individuals without or having little experience. They might not persevere in times of hardship and could let down the struggle and desert at critical moments when the going gets tough and becomes unbearable for them. The revolutionary struggle is full of twists and turns and revolutionary movements are advised to shape their leadership accordingly. All leading cadres should be equal to their responsibilities and promote the development of the struggle and not become a hindrance to it.
The leadership of the transformed liberation movement by progressive and revolutionary elements is fundamental and the basic guarantee for consolidating and maintaining the revolutionary character of the movement. Without this leadership, the thoroughgoing execution of the national liberation struggle cannot be guaranteed and the danger of hijacking the revolution will be ever present. Revolutionary elements should persevere in the struggle and display revolutionary qualities fearing neither hardships nor sacrifices so as to establish themselves as the leading force and be worthy of that historic role. Revolutionary elements from progressive classes and social strata especially the working class, the peasantry and revolutionary intellectuals who prove themselves in the struggle not to be narrow-minded and not to be careerists or opportunists but to be reliable and dependable should be promoted into positions of responsibility. This is a question of fundamental importance of the revolution as it is the basic guarantee for retaining and maintaining the revolutionary character of the liberation movement.
So long as careerist and opportunist elements continue to occupy leading positions within the liberation movement, its revolutionary transformation will be greatly retarded. If the revolutionary transformation does eventually materialise, and opportunists continue to occupy leading and key positions, the revolutionary character of the liberation movement will not be guaranteed and the danger of a relapse into the retrogressive past will remain material. It has already been shown that petty bourgeois elements are currently at the helm of the liberation movement. This however should not be interpreted to mean the need for their wholesale riddance to ensure a smooth transformation into a revolutionary movement. The replacement of undesirable elements should be phased out till the balance is eventually shifted in favour of revolutionary elements. So long as there is an effective critical mass of revolutionary cadres within the ranks of the liberation movement, the revolutionary character of the movement can be guaranteed.
In addition to strengthening the organisational representation of revolutionary elements within the liberation movement, the revolutionary mass movement should adhere to correct organisational principles and adopt a democratic style of work that gives full play to the initiative, resourcefulness and creative capabilities of the broad masses of the people and the fighters. A democratic style of work enhances the revolutionary character of the liberation movement and serves to motivate both the masses and the fighters to participate in the liberation struggle with heightened enthusiasm.
Without the adequate organisational representation of revolutionary elements within the leadership ranks of the liberation movement, and without a sound organisational line to give expression to its revolutionary character, the transformation of the liberation movement in the ideological and political planes would lose its purpose and significance. It is critical to have strong organisational representation of progressive and revolutionary elements within the leadership ranks of the liberation movement so as to give material effect to the ideological and political transformation of the movement.
The emergence of a revolutionary vanguard capable of leading the currently stalled national liberation struggle to its logical conclusion can only come about as a result of transformation of the nationalist movement ideologically, politically and organisationally as discussed above. Without embracing these three pivotal aspects, the transformation of the liberation movement will be incomplete and the continued development of the liberation struggle in the right direction cannot be guaranteed. It is incumbent upon the revolutionary forces to actively and consciously accelerate the transformation process. The continued development and transformation of the revolutionary forces themselves is an objective law of social development in the service of the cause of revolutionary forces. Since all political movements and political parties are themselves agents of social transformation it is important therefore for the revolutionary forces to employ the laws of social development in their service and achieve the transformation of the political movements and parties themselves to higher forms.
h) The Intensification of the National Liberation Struggle
The transformation of the liberation movement into a revolutionary movement is not an end in itself but a means to an end. It does not in itself provide magic solutions to the thorny problems of the national liberation struggle. All it does is to release the subjective forces capable of giving proper direction to the struggle. Once the liberation movement has undergone revolutionary transformation, the stage will have been set for the further development of the liberation struggle and its intensification to win final victory. The revolutionary transformation of the liberation movement and unification of the political forces create an objective basis for the intensification of the liberation struggle politically, militarily and diplomatically. While putting emphasis on the armed struggle, the liberation movement should strive to coordinate to the maximum possible all forms of struggle at its disposal and give full play to the initiative, resourcefulness and creative capabilities of the masses so as to create favourable conditions for victory.
Taking advantage of the excellent domestic and international situation, which is decidedly in their favour, the revolutionary forces should escalate the struggle in the military, political and diplomatic spheres. The white minority regime is in disarray, the broad masses of the people are desirous of genuine liberation, with the progressive international forces doing their best to frustrate the neo-colonial manoeuvres for the so-called internal political settlement engineered by the British and American imperialists. This is an excellent opportunity for intensifying the liberation struggle. The liberation movement should strive to increase the isolation of the forces of reaction internally and externally by employing the correct revolutionary tactics. It should arouse the masses to rise up against the enemy in their millions and extensively mobilise the progressive international forces to render all possible assistance to the struggle.
While hoping for foreign assistance, the revolutionary forces should spare no effort to rely on the resourcefulness of the broad masses of the people and the fighters to come up with novel improvisations to support the struggle. The liberation movement should regard foreign assistance as only serving the purpose of creating a material base for self-reliance, and for the promotion of self-reliance in the prosecution of the struggle. The liberation movement should utilise every opportunity to train a large army of political and military cadres to serve as the backbone of the revolutionary struggle. The cadres should be educated to understand the theoretical problems of the revolutionary struggle so as to capacitate them to lead the masses and the fighters to victory in the struggle and in the creation of a new progressive Zimbabwe. They should grasp that a revolutionary war is a war of the masses that can only be waged by fully mobilizing and organizing the masses and relying on them.
The military cadres should have a thorough grasp of the theoretical problems of the national revolutionary war and military administration and organisation. They should actively apply their theoretical knowledge to the concrete conditions of the Zimbabwean struggle. They should continuously sum up their experience in the war and elevate their subjective ability to direct the development of the war from the current guerrilla warfare to mobile warfare. The fighters should be given broad and varied military training ranging from guerrilla warfare to mobile warfare and specialized technical training in the use of advanced military equipment.
The liberation movement should, on the basis of sound political training of both the commanders and the fighters, adherence to self-reliance, material assistance from fraternal countries intensify the struggle to establish revolutionary base areas in the form of liberated zones. Once established, these revolutionary base areas should give effect to the popular character of the liberation war and serve as the organs of national liberation. Particular attention should be paid to the establishment of these zones of liberation as they enable the liberation movement not only to give full play to its superiority but to apply their full strength against the enemy and guarantee the retention of the initiative even in the face of political or military hardships.
So long as the liberation movement has its own secure base areas it will be in a position to pursue an independent policy and retain the initiative even in the face immense pressures from any quarter and successfully smash one imperialist manoeuvre after the other. The establishment of these revolutionary base areas is therefore an indispensable condition for political and military victory and the basic guarantee for the independence and initiative of the liberation movement.
Furthermore, the establishment of liberated zones gives the liberation movement the opportunity to give material effect to its revolutionary policies. The character of the liberation movement will be easily judged from the policies and the actions it pursues in the liberated zones. The masses will be in a position to judge for themselves whether the liberation movement is for their genuine empowerment and liberation or for their continued exploitation and oppression. Liberated zones are in a sense, the material expression of the triumphant march of the liberation struggle.
The situation in Zimbabwe is currently characterised by the stagnation and profound confusion within both the ranks of the enemy and the liberation movement. It has developed into a political and military strategic stalemate. In the face of possible defeat by the liberation forces, the racist Smith regime has come up with an internal political settlement scheme with the support of the British and American imperialists. This is a diabolical scheme to Zimbabweanise the war and entails splitting up the ranks of the nationalist forces. The objective of the so-called Salisbury Agreement is to install a neo-colonial puppet regime in Salisbury with a superficial transfer of power to black puppets and real power remaining in the hands of the racist white settler minority Smith regime.
The internal settlement scheme falls short of satisfying the political aspirations of the broad masses of the people of Zimbabwe and hence is doomed to fail. However, the liberation movement is facing a severe test given frantic efforts by imperialist forces to prop up the puppet government in Salisbury. Sadly, the Patriotic Front now spearheading the liberation struggle is failing to exploit the current confusion in the enemy ranks and deliver decisive blows to paralyse the diabolical scheme. The nationalist movement is hamstrung by disunity, competition and instability within the nationalist organisations themselves. These weaknesses stem from the nature of the nationalist movement itself which is conservative and narrow in its approach to the struggle. The confused situation within the nationalist movement does not bode well for the future and holds gloomy prospects for the national liberation struggle and is potentially fraught with serious political consequences for the people of Zimbabwe.
Wilfred Mhanda was often known by his nom de guerre, Dzinashe Machingura, acquired during the war against the white settler regime in Rhodesia in the 1960s. He was born on 26 May 1950 and he died on 28 May 2014. He was a commander within the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and became a trenchant opponent of Robert Mugabe’s during and after the liberation struggle; in post-independence Zimbabwe he remained a harsh critic of the new regime. He formed the Zimbabwe Liberator’s Platform which criticised Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) led government after the 2000 so-called Third Chimurenga. Mhanda’s book Dzino: Memories of a Freedom Fighter was published in 2011 and condemned by ZANU but recognised as a vital part of the critical and untold story of Zimbabwe’s fraught and problematic liberation. Unsurprisingly he was not conferred ‘hero’ status on his death in 2014.