Undoing the historic land reform initiated by ZANU-PF in 2000, Zimbabwe’s new administration, under the leadership of Emmerson Mnangagwa, has returned seized land to the the first white farmer in a process he hopes will restore Zimbabwe’s agricultural success. Robert Smart and his son Darryn returned to their former farm about 200 kilometers east of Harare, where they were greeted by supporters from the community. As an individual, many there had remembered Smart as having cooperated with the land reform and sheltered guerrillas during the war. From their descriptions, one may be tempted to ask why this reversal is such a bad thing if he is an ostensibly noble individual. It is not about the individual. Sure, Robert Smart may have contributed to Zimbabwe’s future by helping to bury Rhodesia, assuming what has been said is true, but we cannot reduce a structural problem to the character of a single individual. His historical relationship to ZANU-PF now serves only as propaganda for the general push by Mnangagwa to empower and reintegrate white farmers into the agricultural system.
In the light of Mnangagwa’s decision, the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), which stands for the interests of white farmers and the return of “their” lands, has expressed a deep sense of optimism, and have moved to meet with ministers involved in implementing new agricultural reforms. The CFU is not merely a collection of individuals, but is an institution with specific class-national interests and objectives acting as a political base for colonial reaction. It is no mistake that they’ve found common cause with the neoliberal leadership in the new government who are now hard at work, undoing all progressive policies of the post-colonial Zimbabwean government. In its place they are building a thoroughly neocolonial Zimbabwe, and comprador bourgeois forces are working hand-in-glove with all the forces of colonial reaction to restore a de-facto white minority rule, emanating from neoliberal trade agreements with europe and their empowered white allies in the country.
But how did it get to this point? It did not begin with Mnangagwa’s coup. The roots for such a reaction are quite old, and have their history in the crumbling periphery of Mugabe’s administration. After all, Mnangagwa and his cohorts have all been in power, serving as central figures in the ruling party for decades. The disintegration of the socialist bloc and the subsequent corrosion of political leadership within the ZANU-PF has created the current political climate. The struggle between neocolonialists and anti-imperialists in the party and state has been played out in the battle for strategic positions, new economic reforms and a hopeful integration into the world economy. Mnangagwa and his advisers were not on the sidelines in these affairs, they were central to the party’s policy-making apparatus, advocating for stronger programs of liberalization and repairing economic connections to europe. Their justifications were always the same: it is unavoidable in revitalizing the Zimbabwean economy.
The roots of neocolonial and neoliberal reaction are found in the opportunism of state forces when it comes to the political questions of colonialism and imperialism. To Mnangagwa and his allies, “prosperity” is the only question and it is the direction of “petty politics” that has stifled its development. Seeing the decline of the Zimbabwean economy and agriculture with the deliberate pursuit of land reform, and the international sanctions which have been imposed as a result, the neoliberal bloc has sought to place production in absolute command over politics. Whereas the national bourgeoisie saw political objectives outside the realm of production, whose policies often had adverse economic impacts, the compradors have moved to undo their “mistakes” and set the country on a path to a so-called recovery. While this provides a clear path to “prosperity” in the world economy, opening up many avenues for development and the enrichment of the bourgeois class, it strengthens the underlying machinery of colonial restoration, and has made those like Mnangagwa fast friends of reactionary white-power institutions like the CFU.
Meanwhile, for the Zimbabwean proletariat and peasantry, their losses are being solidified by the coup government, which has so far only succeeded in codifying the changes which were already practically in the works for over a decade. The class-national struggle in Zimbabwe had been proceeding through the years of decaying power under Mugabe, and many losses had already been suffered. Even the land reform, which had given land to so many landless farmers, was pursued half-heartedly and ended in the reconsolidation of land in unusused, large private tracts. The victory of the neocolonialists was dependent, in part, on the failure to electrify the country in its opposition to the slow hegemonic struggle for control of the state that was being waged. Now, with their rule firmly in place and the last of the obstacles to full integration with the imperialist world economy gone, the partnership of white farmers and neocolonialists will accelerate the robbery of political influence and power by the imperialists.
The leadership of the national bourgeoisie has failed, and its confused economic program is responsible for preparing the groundwork for neocolonial reaction in the party and state. This great betrayal should not be forgotten, and we should all learn from the process of decay that we have witnessed in the Zimbabwean state preceding its ultimate backslide into neocolonial capitalism. The neocolonialists have stated that this is the only path to “prosperity” but we must ask who that prosperity is for. Certainly it is not for the broad masses, who now are seeing all political gains earned over the past decades evaporating before their eyes. Production in command of politics, in the era of imperialism, demands the supremacy of the imperialists, and enforces neocolonialism.
The only way to combat this is to put politics back in command of production. Real electrification must now take place to defend and advance the gains of the land reform, and politically justify all economic decisions. Given the historic failure of the national bourgeoisie to deliver the country from imperialism, the commanding political structures must be rooted in the Zimbabwean masses, particularly the proletariat and peasantry, which suffer the most under the despotic rule of the imperialists. Although it should root itself in the concrete political gains of the Mugabe era, the movement to destroy neocolonialism in Zimbabwe must be able to extend beyond its limitations. Real social revolution must replace superficial anti-colonialism if they are to repel the neocolonial tide, and reverse the many defeats they have been dealt.