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The decline of socialism in Zimbabwe.

National Liberation

THE REPUBLIC OF ZIMBABWE WAS BORN IN 1980 AS A NATION WORKING TO BUILD a socialist society. By 1990, it had worked an "about-face" and appeared to be turning to a capitalist model of development. What happened? What do the events in Zimbabwe portend for the possibility of socialism in the periphery and for Zimbabwe itself?

Since Zimbabwe's adoption of a socialist ideology of development predates its independence, it may be helpful to review briefly the recent history of its struggle for national liberation. For nearly two decades, a bloody war raged between the government of Rhodesia and two sometimes allied groups of freedom fighters, ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People's Union) and ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union). Based in Zambia and Mozambique respectively, both guerrilla groups adopted socialist ideologies. Finally, while clearly losing on the battlefield, the Rhodesian government agreed to negotiations and eventually an election for majority rule. Those elections were won decidedly by ZANU and Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe was born in early 1980.

ZANU has won every election since 1980, becoming the dominant political body in Zimbabwe. The early social composition of ZANU was that of a broad liberation front based in a multiclass alliance.(1) The mass base of ZANU was in the country's rural peasantry, who had long resisted both colonialism and settler domination (Ranger, 1985). The early nationalist leadership was mostly made up of educated petty bourgeoisie from the cities. As will be seen, ZANU has remained a multiclass mass party and never actually transformed itself into a single-class vanguard. In an interview during 1984, Robert Mugabe acknowledged this historical identity:

We are not a vanguard organization yet, we are a mass movement. Not every member of the party is necessarily a socialist. We still have people with bourgeois mentality in the party...we have that element that is bourgeois.

ZANU, the liberation movement, was a nationalist front fighting for political freedom and independence from white settler rule. This took expression in popular goals such as majority rule and regaining lands lost during colonialism. This ideology enabled ZANU to organize Zimbabweans of various classes and backgrounds against minority rule. Terence Ranger's (1985) study of "peasant consciousness" and the Zimbabwean liberation movement reveals that this nationalism was specified for the rural masses as the desire for land and a government that would look after them as well as the Rhodesian state had provided for white farmers. Ranger further emphasizes that land had always been central to the long history of peasant resistance in Rhodesia and to the very beginnings of the modern liberation front. The people were told, sometimes with the powerful assistance of traditional religions, that national liberation would return their lands to them and allow them to live with dignity through their own self-reliant efforts. As a recent editorialist (Kabweza, 1992: 4) in Zimbabwe remembers it, "in those days, the people understood that the whites were to be driven out of Zimbabwe and the blacks would, once more, have as they had lived before 1990."

Recently, the claim of widespread and cooperative mass support for ZANU has been questioned by a revisionist view that argues that peasant activities that further the guerrilla struggle were often the result of coercion or non-nationalistic group interest.(2) It is very likely that a variety of motivations explain why specific groups in the various regions of Zimbabwe supported die armed struggle. Some may have accepted the whole ideology of liberation and socialism while others, acting in their own material interests, saw the struggle as a way to achieve self-determination, land, personal freedom, or some other important, but perhaps more limited, goal.(3)

What about socialism? Socialism was the professed goal of the leadership cadre within ZANU. Although it may not have always used socialism to mobilize the peasants, ZANU conceived of itself as a socialist organization. It saw its struggle as more than a fight against white settlers, for the whites were themselves the local agents of foreign capital. The enemy was imperialism and capitalism. The leadership in ZANU believed that political liberation composed the "national democratic" phase of a socialist revolution in Zimbabwe. Once independence was won, ZANU would be transformed into a political party with an announced class base and socialist program.

Another complicating factor in the struggle for Zimbabwe was the existence of a second liberation group with its own army, the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU). Though ZANU resulted from a split within ZAPU, it went on to become the strongest force among the majority Shona people, who make up 75% of Zimbabwe's population. ZAPU, on the other hand, was grounded in the Ndebele of the southwest region of the country. Although both organizations professed socialism, they disagreed over tactics. ZANU adopted a Maoist strategy of popular struggle based in the politicization of the rural masses, while ZAPU adopted a more conventional military strategy and was closer to die Soviet Union than to China. Thus, political differences within the liberation struggle reproduced existing ethnic divisions in Zimbabwe. The political-ethnic rivalry between ZAPU and ZANU continued to characterize Zimbabwe through a series of disputes, fighting, and agreements. This process culminated in a post-independenced dissidence movement among the Ndebele that was brutally crushed by the new Zimbabwean Army. More recently, ZANU and ZAPU signed a unity agreement that merged the two into a single organization. Although ethnic tensions remain strong in Zimbabwe, they seem more muted than in many other nations, especially when considered within the historical context of that country's race and class relations. At any time, in the 1980s ZANU ran for office on an explicitly socialist platform and won the election with a large majority.

Zimbabwe's Socialism

ZANU's stated goal during the first decade of independence was to begin the transformation of Zimbabwe into a socialist society. ZANU's leadership believed that the socialization of the means of production through, for instance, radical land reform and the nationalization of industry was not possible and that the transitional period in Zimbabwe would be long, slow, and difficult They felt that for some time the country would be economically dependent upon the productive power provided by the forces of capitalism, particularly white commercial farmers. Overall, ZANU encompassed a rhetorical commitment to radical socialism while formulating actual policies of reconciliation and gradualism.

Was Zimbabwe on its way to socialism? This question has generated a good deal of controversy since 1980. Zimbabwe did make some progress toward some of the goals normally invoked when speaking of the struggle to create a socialist society. Many social reforms were enacted by the new government and these did improve the quality of life for ordinary, working Zimbabweans. Zimbabwe spent a good deal of public money and effort on redistributive measures to bring education and health care to the majority. It spent nearly one-quarter of its budgeted recurrent expenditures on education and almost as much on health care (Chimanikire, 1991: 15-16). It tried, through support of unionization and minimum wage legislation, to improve the lives of workers. New laws were enacted to improve the position of women in society. Revenue for these projects came from increasing taxes on the wealthy. In addition, the government sometimes provided support for building up the cooperative sector of the Zimbabwean economy (Ibid.). Yet in other ways, Zimbabwe never positively chose to create a socialist society: there was no attempt to "socialize the means of production" in Zimbabwe.(4)

Neither was Zimbabwe's socialism premised on the political empowerment of the masses. Indeed, the masses were "helped" rather than empowered. It seems that die ruling bloc within ZANU did not consider working-class democracy to be essential to die transition to socialism. For most of the first decade of independence, ZANU promoted an ideal of a one-party state for Zimbabwe. This vision of socialism, then, was centered on state activity rather than on the self-determination of the masses. Along similar lines, some of the practical policies of the ZANU government reflected the political weakness of die working classes: land reform proceeded slowly, housing shortages abounded, unemployment grew, and labor unions were heavily regulated while the state continued, year after year, a state of emergency and limited basic civil rights. Zimbabwe's route to socialism certainly would improve the standard of living of many working people, but equally certainly would grant them very little real political power.

The choices made by a party and government ideologically committed to socialism can be understood by remembering several factors concerning the liberation of Zimbabwe. Independence came to Zimbabwe through the efforts of a multiclass front that cohered only around the necessity of national liberation (Sithole, 1987: 99). Further, the front's most important base of support came from a peasantry starved for land while its leadership was largely petty bourgeois. That such a grouping should, upon independence, opt for policies of reconciliation, reform, and gradualism is not surprising. Second, Zimbabwe's independence - though it was preceded by a long period of armed struggle - came without the experience of organizing "liberated territories" within the country. Thus, ZANU had little prior practical experience with socialist forms of organization. It is often claimed that such practical experience and commitment make it more likely that a socialist-oriented liberation movement will act like socialists when they achieve power. Another factor behind the decision to adopt policies of gradualism and reconciliation upon independence was that ZANU heeded the advice of Samora Machel to avoid radical changes that might frighten away white settlers with their capital and technical skills. Mozambique itself, due in part to such an exodus, experienced nearly a 10% contraction in GDP immediately after independence.

Throughout most of the 1980s, Zimbabwe nonetheless continued to announce loudly its commitment to the development of socialism and the government continued to mount social programs aimed at reducing social inequalities, providing essential social services to the masses, and gradually strengthening the public sector (Patsanza, 1988: 149). The key to this program for gradual transition is encapsulated in the phrase "growth with equity," which was used at the time by government planners. This meant that the government would reconcile itself with capital to gain the necessary economic resources for creating a more just society. It was hoped that private capital would cooperate with government policies aimed at increasing the public sector, redistributing land through land reforms, and developing cooperatives and other public enterprises.

Thus, although economic policies recognized the power of domestic and foreign capital in the economy, they seemed to presume that these powers would allow a gradual socialist transformation to take place. In this sense, Zimbabwe's well-known policy of reconciliation refers not only to racial harmony, but also to the acceptance of the economic dominance of private capital. It is captured in the ideological ambivalence of early government statements that at one and the same time called for socialism and reassured private capital that its interests would be protected and even promoted (see, Gordon, 1984). Zimbabwe decided to attempt to work slowly within its inherited economic structures. The new ZANU government felt that this was necessary to ensure economic growth and the increased public revenues that would be required by the planned social reforms. Their initial success is revealed by the fact that in the first two years of independence the economy grew at over 10%, providing for social reforms in areas such as education and health care with a budget deficit of only about six percent of GDP.(5) ZANU's reforms during the 1980s reduced infant mortality rates, increased life expectancy, doubled enrollments in elementary education, and improved die productivity and lives of the rural majority Republic of Zimbabwe, 1991). The reforms did expand public services and reduce inequalities, transferring some income away from the capitalist class and into the pockets of workers and peasants.

Although early reforms improved the lives of many and established cooperative and state sectors, they failed to address the structures of property ownership in Zimbabwe. Nor did ZANU institute socialist democracy. ZANU ruled the country, as a de facto one-party state wherein party organizations overtly supervised the actions of government ministries and regulated popular organizations. All in all, ZANU's socialist rhetoric was much more striking am its actions.

Structural Adjustment in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's early economic success and the dream of a gradual transition to socialism came to an end with the switch to an Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP) at the beginning of the 1990s. Superficially, Zimbabwe's Economic Structural Adjustment Program was derived from a particular technical interpretation of the performance of the Zimbabwean economy. This analysis originated with a group of "technocrats" put together by Minister of Finance Bernard Chidzero. This group then convinced the leadership of ZANU that ESAP was necessary. Once the policy was decided, it was announced to the people through the press and political meetings. Indeed, it seems that the interests of foreign capital voiced by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the U.S. Agency for International Development had more impact on the decision than did the opinions of ordinary Zimbabweans.

The policy was announced formally in a speech by President Mugabe in 1989 and first detailed in Minister Chidzero's 1990 budget proposal.(6) ESAP entails a now well-known package of economic programs centered on fiscal and monetary policy, trade liberalization, and economic deregulation. As a way of reducing deficits, it includes reductions in public spending to no more than five percent of GDP. These reductions are to be achieved by reversing many of the early reforms. School fees and medical care charges have been reinstated, most price controls ended, and labor laws restrained. Subsidies to parastatal enterprises are to be greatly reduced, and these firm have been directed to operate as commercial entities making a profit from their activities. Plans also call for large reductions in the civil service. ESAP will reduce economic regulations and corporate taxes to improve the investment climate" for capital. Additional incentives for investment are to be put in place. Manufactured exports are to be made more competitive through a significant devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar. Finally, the program contains a "social dimension fund" to protect poor people and to assist those temporarily disadvantaged by the structural adjustment process.

As Chidzero concluded in a 1992 speech at the University of Zimbabwe, ESAP aims at moving Zimbabwe toward an economy led by a "dynamic private sector." In this speech, Chidzero also stressed the general world trend away from socialism and argued that in such a historical context Zimbabwe had no choice but to join the trend. The attempt to build socialism had been noble, but it was not possible at present. Zimbabweans were told that unless economic policies changed, the future held only decline and tragedy.

The introduction of ESAP is a major policy change in Zimbabwe. As stated in the program's founding document (Republic of Zimbabwe, 1991), ESAP is a "transformation [that] entails moving away from a highly regulated economy to one where market forces are allowed to play a more decisive role...."

How can such a change be explained?

Why ESAP?.

Some have argued that ZANU and the leadership of the post-independence government were never really serious about socialism die firstplace. They argue that the adoption of socialism during the liberation war was purely manipulative and self-serving. Some of these analysts suggest that ZANU merely adopted socialist rhetoric to gain much-needed material support from Eastern Europe and China. Others argue that ZANU adopted a "veil of socialism" to achieve centralized political control and that process now continues under the rhetoric of structural adjustment (see Moyo, 1991). Some posit that the ZANU leadership was and is a state petty-bourgeoisie using political power to build up their own private power and wealth, all the while mouthing the ideology of socialism (Astrow, 1983). The evidence most often advanced for these interpretations is the failure of the ZANU government to implement radical socialist policies. However, the failure to socialize the means of production immediately upon independence only means that ZANU was cautious and gradualist in its approach to socialist transition. This caution could be explained as a desire to avoid the negative consequences of a rapid transition such as the flight of capital and skills that might occur if white capitalists were scared away. In other words, it might have resulted from a serious recognition of the power of white settler capital within the economy of newly independent Zimbabwe. Indeed, this kind of factor seemed to have been in the mind of Samora Machel when he counseled Mugabe to adopt a gradualist approach to socialism and thereby avoid the traumas that were destroying revolutionary Mozambique. Undoubtedly, during the armed struggle the ideology of socialism did garner ZANU (and ZAPU) some support from socialist governments and parties both in the region and elsewhere. Yet if the use of a socialist ideology by ZANU was merely a hypocritical manipulation of external opinion, it should have ceased or become more muted after liberation, when sticking to socialism resulted in a series of negative economic and political consequences. Surely, if the use of socialism were purely manipulative, it would not take 10 to 12 years to drop the mask. ZANU's decade of socialist rhetoric and social reforms certainly cost Zimbabwe - and its ruling elite - dearly and could only have delayed any project of capitalist class formation. It resulted in such punitive events as the withdrawal of IMF funds and U.S. aid as well as the severe delimiting of funds from other "Western" powers such as England. It helped to insure costly destabilization raids from South Africa. It resulted in the formation within the party of a leadership code aimed at preventing the accumulation of personal wealth by political leaders. At the same time, it quickly became clear that the socialist countries were unwilling or unable to match or replace funds and support lost from the "West." Surely policies and rhetoric more acceptable to foreign and domestic capital, as perhaps the history of Botswana shows, would have made the position of the new elite in power much more secure. That ESAP meant a dramatic shift in ideology and economic policy was indeed clear to ordinary Zimbabweans who spent 1991 and 1992 reeling from rising prices and fees and declining public supports and services. Zimbabweans everywhere confessed to being confused over the ideological path that the government was following and ESAP was nicknamed "Extreme Suffering for the African People."

A second oft-heard argument is that socialism in Zimbabwe was doomed by the compromising nature of the Lancaster House agreements through which the country finally gained independence. It seems clear that certain elements of the Lancaster House documents, especially the property rules of the new constitution, greatly delimited the economic power and transformational options of the new Zimbabwean state. The new constitution contained protection for private property that made it difficult for the government to really command Zimbabwean businesses. Yet this is at best an incomplete explanation. It was, after all, a constitution agreed to by all parties to the negotiations, including ZANU. Why did they, as socialists, agree to preserve private property in Zimbabwe? Why didn't ZANU - as more radical members and leaders urged - simply abrogate the agreements? Rather than consent, why not just declare them null and void because they were negotiated in a situation of coercion?

In the end, turning to the Lancaster House compromises only moves the question a step back. Even if one accepts the argument that Zimbabwe was diverted from socialism by the requirements encoded in these agreements, then the question becomes why a socialist organization would agree to such stipulations. Answering this question leads to consideration of the power and influence of international forces in Zimbabwe. Most observers agree that ZANU entered into the Lancaster House negotiations in part as a response to pressures from "Frontline" States such as Tanzania and Zambia (see, Thompson, 1985: 75-96). These nations decided to press for negotiations because of the costly reactions of the capitalist powers to their support of the liberation movements in Zimbabwe. In other words, the Frontline States were constrained by their own economic dependence on global capital. If, in a very real sense, it was their dependence on international capital that moved the Frontline States to pressure for a negotiated solution in Zimbabwe, then the compromises of the Lancaster House agreement themselves are explained by the structural dependence of the Frontline States on the political and economic powers of the capitalist world-system. The importance of foreign capital, economic dependence, and peripheral location to any explanation of the decline of socialism in Zimbabwe is a point to which I will later return.

The Senior Minister of Finance for the government of Zimbabwe, and the architect of ESAP, is Bernard Chidzero. He has his own explanation of the recent sea-change in Zimbabwe. Chidzero argues that ESAP was necessary because ZANU's attempt at socialism was an economic failure. According to this position, as repeated in most press and government reports in Zimbabwe, social spending and the growth of the state expanded public deficits and became a drain on the economy, producing rising unemployment, falling investment ratios, and a fiscal nightmare. Then, with the economy in decline, the government was forced to turn to private capital to restart economic growth. Speeches by Senior Minister Chidzero and other officials repeatedly recite this litany of economic decline due to falling private investment, rising unemployment, growing budget deficits, and a chronic shortage of foreign exchange.

Yet it is not true that from 1982 on the Zimbabwean economy was falling into ruin. Indeed, after the serious problems of drought and decline from 1982 to 1984, the economy picked up again during the mid-1980s (Raftopoulos, 1992). The balance of trade improve dramatically by 1986, as did the balance of payments a year earlier. Even the deficit was reduced from 12% in 1986 to a round 10% by the end of the 1980s. Inflation fell from 20% in 1983 to 12% by the end of the decade. In 1985, the government adopted a new set of economic plans that kept, but scaled down, the program of social reform. Between 1985 and 1989, growth was erratic, but averaged four percent In a context that included the continued negative reactions of the IMF and the World Bank, as well as a serious drought during 1987 and 1988, this must be considered a fairly strong performance. In 1984, it should be recalled, the IMF departed from Zimbabwe, claiming impending economic disaster from unwise government spending on social reforms (Ibid.: 65). Although it is fair to say that Zimbabwe experienced some very difficult years, particularly in mid-decade, it is not true that the country was a shambles of economic decline. The economic figures do not look like those of an African country suffering from a pure failure of economic policy. Indeed, it may be argued that, except for the devastating effects of two periods of drought, the economy performed decently, particularly for Southern Africa in the 1980s. Achieving a four percent growth rate in the 1980s in Southern Africa is an indicator of some degree of economic success. Many countries in the region, and throughout the developing world, experienced a much worse decade (see Mhone, 1991). One must remember that the overall GNP per capita growth rate for sub-Saharan Africa during the 1980s was -1.7% (World Bank, 1991). Coupled with enviable economic growth, it must be repeated that the 1980s were also a period of social development in Zimbabwe (Chimanikire, 1991).

Still, by the last years of the decade, Minister Chidzero had won over some in the government to the necessity of some kind of economic liberalization program to create more investment and more jobs. In 1988, an extensive study of Zimbabwe's economic development was commissioned. Two years later, an ideological and policy shift from socialism to market capitalism via ESAP was announced. Socialism, the government argued, had achieved many things, but in the end it retarded necessary economic growth and development. Chidzero's policy paper, Zimbabwe: A Frame work for economic Reform (1991) stated that the economy was not growing adequately primarily because of "a low level of investment," which also produced high unemployment, a growing public deficit and a declining standard of living. If a change in economic policy did not occur, Chidzero threatened, Zimbabwe would experience increasing unemployment and poverty, high inflation, and declining productivity. Speaking to a group of trade unionists, he concluded that "socialism cannot work in this country" (Sakaike, 1991: 8).

Chidzero's interpretations won the policy debate and convinced many in the leadership that they had no choice but to turn to the marketplace as a way of rescuing an economy in distress. Two factors, which again reflect the power of international capital and the importance of the context of global capitalism, helped to give the Chidzero position the final edge in policy circles. First, the capitalist world economy was undergoing a worldwide recession that restrained growth and development throughout the Third World and this general economic context certainly made things more difficult for Zimbabwe. Second, Chidzero's arguments had the authoritative backing of the IMF and the World Bank, who readily supported the idea of the economic failure of socialism.

Explaining ESAP

If the most common understandings fail to adequately explain ESAP, it may be wise to look at one offered - though unintentionally - by Chidzero himself in a 1992 speech where he stated that "if we believed in socialism at a certain period, it doesn't follow not to change when circumstances change." What were the internal and external circumstances surrounding Zimbabwe and the adoption of ESAP?

A fairly common perspective in the study of policy choices in Zimbabwe and elsewhere stresses circumstances within the government and the ruling parry in the form of conflicting leadership factions (see Cokorines, 1984; Libby, 1984). As Cokorines (1984: 8-54) has shown, a serious split has characterized ZANU's leadership cadre for a long time. He describes a split between a more or less petty bourgeois political leadership and a more militant military faction. Similar factions have been discovered by Libby (1984) and others (Sylvester, 1990; Herbst, 1990). Libby finds a "technocratic" faction headed by Bernard Chidzero and other ministerial figures who are primarily Western-educated experts who lived in exile during the liberation war. Mildly reformist, this faction believes with Chidzero that the Zimbabwean economy is in trouble and needs high levels of foreign investment to restart growth. First housed in the state bureaucracy, with the coming of ESAP this faction had spread into the central bodies of ZANU. A second faction, sometimes called the "populists," was headed by Edgar Tekere (until he left the party) and includes the remaining "radicals" within the ZANU leadership. This group originated in the military wing (ZANLA) during the armed struggle and is self-consciously Marxist and socialist. It supported the redistribution of wealth in Zimbabwe through economic reforms and wished to decrease the role of foreign capital in the economy. The coming of ESAP signals a low point in the power of this once prominent faction, nearly all of whom have been removed from the highest bodies of both party and state.

Since 1982, the technocrats have promoted a developmentalist philosophy of economic growth in Zimbabwe and argued for closer ties with the IMF. The IMF in turn ratified these opinions and promoted the leading figures of this faction within the government. Thus, the power and influence of the IMF in an economy very dependent on foreign capital and during a time of world economic recession assisted the technocrats into predominance. The process continued until the present when it has become a regular commentary in Zimbabwe that Mugabe and the radicals have lost control of the party to Chidzero's technocrats. Indeed, a local editorialist has joked that "every ZANU central committee these days is a classroom for Dr. Chidzero" (Moyo, 1992: 4). As with most versions of the instrumentalist theory of the state, this view supposes that the actions of government can be explained by the characteristics of office holders. However, if the material source of the power of Chidzero and the technocratic faction is to be found in the support of international capital as evidenced through the actions of multinational organizations like the World Bank, the IMF, and USAID, the emphasis on government personnel may be shortsighted. In the end, the internal focus of this perspective begs the question of why the theories and policy proposals of the technocrats became dominant by the end of the decade. To understand ESAP more completely, external circumstances also must be taken into account.

The Structural Dependence of the State on Capital in Zimbabwe

The social context of global capitalism discourages the state from adopting anticapitalist policies (Block, 1977). As we first heard long ago, "the state tends to serve the interests of the capitalist class" (Ibid.: 10). It does so due to a set of "major structural mechanisms" that center on the fact that "those who manage the state apparatus - regardless of their own political ideology - are dependent on the maintenance of some reasonable level of economic activity" (Ibid.: 14-15).(7)

This is because the state relies on taxation or borrowing for its self-financing and good economic times" for its public legitimacy. Further, in capitalism, the level of economic activity is determined by the investment decisions of private capital. In his presentation of this theory, Fred Block suggests that the concept of "business confidence" can stand as an indicator of how capital evaluates an economy's "investment climate" and the readiness to invest in a particular economy (Ibid.: 17). He clearly recognizes that this notion has national and international aspects:

As the level of business confidence declines, so will the rate of investment. Business confidence also has an international dimension when nations are integrated into a capitalist world economy. Multinational corporations, international bankers, and currency speculators also make judgments about a particular nation's political/economic climate, which determine their willingness to that nation (Ibid.: 16).

Block (Ibid.: 17-20) goes on to lay out a step-by-step scenario of how the process works "when left-of-center governments come to power...and attempt to push through major reforms." From the very beginning, business confidence declines as manifested in increased currency speculation, which discounts the value of the nation's currency. Responding to redistributional reforms, businesses raise prices, resulting in increased inflation. If the government continues with its reforms, the next likely step is capital flight from the country and the refusal by the international banks and financial agencies to lend money. Attempting to insulate itself from these "external" forces, the government may respond with increased controls over prices, imports, and foreign exchange relations. These measures serve to further reduce business confidence and speed the withdrawal of investment. The latter fuels an economic downturn with increasing unemployment, shortages of essential commodities, and general social and political discontent. Finally, this process results in the loss of power to a group or party intent on reversing the reforms and reestablishing business confidence.(8)

Block's version of state theory is very useful for understanding the decline of socialism in Zimbabwe. Although it is not reasonable to expect an exact correspondence between model and reality, comparing actual events with Block's scenario may improve both our understanding of Zimbabwe and the general theory. It is particularly important to focus on the two specific mechanisms underscored by the theory, business confidence and the level of investment.(9) Throughout the 1980s, the level of investment in Zimbabwe was quite low, at around 10% to 14% compared to an average investment ratio of 20% to 24% in the 1970s. This was especially true for foreign capital and foreign investments. This was even true during the early "boom" years when increased consumer demand and the bringing on-line of idle productive capacity produced economic growth of nearly 12% per annum (Raftopoulos, 1992: 64). Throughout the decade, there was growing concern over Zimbabwe's failure to attract significant foreign investment. Government planners saw only 10% of hoped-for investment. Even foreign aid was disappointing as actual levels failed to reach promised grants. For instance, U.S. aid during these years did not equal 25% of what was promised during independence negotiations. In 1984, the IMF withdrew from Zimbabwe, citing concern over rising budget deficits and an overvalued Zimbabwe dollar. Paradoxically, at the same time, local business confidence" was moving higher toward that of the early boom years. Domestic business confidence improved in most years and plans for investment seemed to be on the increase. However, it is true that the worldwide recession and falling commodity prices produced a persistent shortage of foreign exchange that restrained actual investments.(10)

These general trends point out the importance of distinguishing between domestic and foreign capital. Although the overall investment rate did remain low during these years, local surveys of business confidence indicated more positive sentiments for 1985, 1987, and 1988. On the other hand, during these years the IMF, whose judgments often set international capital's attitude toward a country, refused, to become engaged in Zimbabwe. As Baker (1984: 173) observed,

The local business community has maintained a some what different view.... While they continue to have concerns about specific economic policies and take issue with various decisions of the government, on balance, business executives operating in Zimbabwe do not share the almost or gloomy assessments more frequently found abroad.

The IMF was discontented with what they felt was a continually high budget deficit caused by expenditures for social services and the subsidizing of parastatal enterprises. During the same time period (1986), the United States stopped all aid to Zimbabwe in retaliation for the country's disagreements with U.S. foreign policy. Perhaps the IMF and the United States were simply responding to the negative climate for capital in Zimbabwe and President Mugabe's continuing attacks on imperialism. It may also be that they were worried by policy decisions such as the refusal to sign the U.S. OPIC pact of guarantees to foreign investors. Yet it is also possible that they were worried that Zimbabwe might be able to overcome its problems and continue on the course of social reform toward socialism. Whatever the dynamics, in a country where foreign corporations account for 70% of the productive capacity (Baker, 1984: 167), the perceptions and actions of foreign capital are a crucial factor. In 1988, when Chidzero and the technocrats within the government were arguing for a comprehensive review of economic policy in Zimbabwe, they cited IMF and World Bank concerns with public spending, rising budget deficits, expenditures on parastatal subsidies, and the creation of a poor investment climate by government economic regulations. By 1989, it was clear that structural adjustment was coming to Zimbabwe. ESAP was launched the next year. Minister Chidzero (1992: 13) was most revealing in a recent why Zimbabwe chose structural adjustment,

... we had to do certain things to try to generate more wealth. We had to attract

investment.... People feared nationalization of everything, in fight of our

socialist ideology.

To summarize, it seems that die country's key economic difficulty was "the failure to generate foreign private investment" (Gordon, 1984: 138). The history of ESAP in Zimbabwe, then, lends support to the idea that:

Perhaps the central tension is that while private investment is ... crucial to

maintaining growth ... the ideology of socialism and die long-range threat it

poses to private investors continuously weakens the ability of the government

to sustain desired levels of private investment (Ibid.).

In this context, ESAP emerges as the Zimbabwean state's response to die failure of international capital to invest in its project of socialist construction. In Zimbabwe, the material consequence of die use of die ideology of socialism was the effective enmity and opposition of international capital, an opposition d= in die end forced the government to change direction. When it did so, international capital reacted to the new economic ideology of ESAP with promises of millions of dollars of support and [assistance..sup.11]

Lessons of the Zimbabwean Experience

For Theory

This study points out the importance of not overextending the idea of die "relative autonomy" of die state within die periphery of global capitalism. Even if, as Thompson (1985) argues, the successful liberation of Zimbabwe illustrates real political autonomy in the Frontline States of Southern Africa, the decline of socialism within 10 years after independence reveals die very real power of international [capital..sup.12] The experience of Zimbabwe in the 1980s points to the strict policy limits imposed by dependence on international capital.

Using a theory of the dependence of the state on capital to study the decline of socialism in Zimbabwean also uncovers new areas for further development of the theory. First, die events in Zimbabwe indicate that the theory must include a careful distinction between die interests and influence of domestic versus foreign [capital..sup.13] It may be die case that government rhetoric and practices produce different responses from domestic and foreign capital. The findings of "business confidence" surveys reveal that at least some parts of domestic capital were more or less comfortable with the performance and pragmatic gradualism of the Zimbabwean state. Perhaps due to their experiences with a strongly interventionist Rhodesian state, local capitalists did not reject absolutely the policies of the new government. Some concluded that they could still operate profitably in the new Zimbabwe. However, international capital reacted negatively to Zimbabwe's socialist orientation and goals, perhaps frightened that the "wrong policies" might actually succeed (Stoneman, 1993).

For Socialist Practice

There are insights here for die question of gradual reform versus revolutionary radicalism in the transition to socialism. In a sense, Zimbabwe attempted to "finesse" its transition to socialism through its policy of reconciliation and pragmatism. It hoped that by adopting pragmatic rather than radical economic policies it could conduct, or at least prepare for, a socialist transformation without arousing punitive reactions from capital. Zimbabwe did not nationalize land or industry; neither did it expel foreign corporations; it also abided by the Lancaster House protection for private property. The failure to accomplish its goals successfully was due in large part to the enmity of international capital to even gradual reforms. ZANU seized control of the state, but decided not to replace existing social relations and, in the end, social relations displaced die goals of the revolution. In a gradual transition, economic power remains in the hands of private capital. In this situation,

Since die new government had no fundamental control over the productive

forces in the country, it had to rely on die investment decisions of private

capital to insure adequate economic growth (Raftopoulos, 1992: 64).

Indeed, gradualism and die "growth with equity" scheme actually may have delegated social power to private capital by making equity reforms dependent on moneys derived from the market success of capital.

The success of foreign capital, through the IMF, the World Bank, and Western aid agencies, in pressuring the government to decide for structural adjustment highlights the considerable power of this group in peripheral nations even in the face of at least some disagreement from local capital. Capital has grown even stronger in the "new world order," where it faces little global opposition. These insights reflect the ongoing globalization of capitalism under the hegemony of finance capital and a related recolonization of peripheral societies (Meisenhelder, 1993; Sweezy and Magdoff, 1992; Amin, 1990). Actualized by the influence and power of the IMF and the World Bank over die economic practices of Third World states, the process of recolonization is part of the development of a new stage in the history of capitalism, a stage of globalization produced by the centralization and concentration of capital and the emerging dominance of finance capital. Transnational finance capital increasingly can command key aspects of national policies, particularly in the dependent economies of the periphery, by turning on and off die international flow of investment capital. Capital is directed into countries where a high profit is possible and removed from less cooperative or more independent places. Through the power of its transnational agencies and their ability to impose structural adjustment on developing nations, capital is restructuring national economic policies in the periphery so that they first serve the interests of transnational capital. It may be that capital has become truly transnational, out growing the nation-state in the process and reducing its autonomy. Indeed, in the streets of Zimbabwe many people have no doubt that the IMF is the real motivating force behind ESAP.

Zimbabwe's planned transition to socialism might have been more successful if it had been protected by the commitment of the masses. That is, if socialism in Zimbabwe had been more democratic, if the mass of ordinary Zimbabweans had been directly and consciously engaged in the building of socialism, then perhaps the project could have been defended against the onslaught of international capital by the force of broad Popular support. Yet ZANU instead accepted the idea that socialism could be built from the "top down" through a gradual transformation of the "command structures" of the economy and without the actual participation of ordinary working people. When challenged by international capital, then, Zimbabwe's Socialism was not grounded in its people, who were seen as subjects to be controlled and instructed, rather than as comrades in the process of socialist construction. Government turned instead to the experts,, who, trained in the universities of capitalism and living a privileged lifestyle, counseled for ESAP.

Is there a future for socialism in Zimbabwe? What is the political lesson of its recent history? It may seem that socialism anywhere is impossible short of a simultaneous worldwide revolutionary process. Alternatively, the political lesson of the Zimbabwean experience may be that trasitional governments Must act quickly to introduce social control over economic production through concrete structures of worker democracy. At the very least, it is important for transitional governments to lessen the force of their rhetoric and increase the force of their actions. It is suicidal to do more for socialism rhetorically than practically, for then the state's rhetoric merely arouses the anger of a capitalist class that still controls die performance of the economy (Przeworski and Wallerstein, 1988: 23). Predictably, capital in today's global economy reacts by fleeing Of withdrawing from the country, leaving the economy weaker. Socialists must not assume the kindness or stupidity of capital. Contrary to the oft-quoted maxim from Lenin, capital cannot be fooled into providing the rope with which it will be hanged. It will not finance programs overtly designed to bring capitalism to an end. Those who argue for a reformist path to socialism fail to recognize the hard fact that international capital will not abide by serious economic and social reforms. At the very least, "socialist governments should never announce more than they intend to do and.... [T]hey should do what they announce fully and quickly" (Ibid.)

Of course, it is just possible that Zimbabwe's turn to ESAP is but a short detour in its own road to socialism. it may be that, after this detour into ESAP, Zimbabwean socialism will reemerge more securely grounded in popular organizations and movements. After all, there is strong opposition to ESAP in Zimbabwe and this opposition comes from the political Left in the media, trade unions, the women's movement, and the university. The trade unions recognize that "market liberalization" "will likely make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Women's groups know that as the government becomes less interventionist their opportunities and protection will disappear as well. When ESAP crumbles, it will be these new forces on the left that will gain credibility as the social movements that consistently opposed the policy. Seen this way, the class struggle in Zimbabwe is clearly continuing. Its results perhaps are "conservative in the short term," but may become progressive in the long term" (Block, 1977:21). The road to socialism must be expected to have some compromising detours. After all, "the transition to socialism is a process, and the experiences gained from die various twists and turns in that process are necessary for its future advances" (Munslow, 1983: 38). Zimbabwe may yet show that socialism in the periphery is possible.


(1.) Focusing on ZANU, which is primarily a Shona organization, eliminates mention of the impact of the Shona-Ndebele conflict on the recent history of Zimbabwe. THis is an important and unfortunate, but necessary, omission. A good review of ethnicity in Zimbabwe can be found in Brand (1981: 36-57). (2.) The growing literature of this debate has been summarized by David Maxwell (1993). the key sources here are Ranger (1985), Kriger (1992), and Lan (1985). (3.) Norma Kriger's (1988, 1992) research into why peasants and others participated in the liberation war reveals that many did so to achieve ends quite distinct from the ideological goals of ZANU. For instance, women participated to free themselves from the immediate oppression of village patriarchy and many others in rural villages did so to challenge traditional leaders. (4.) There were some limited nationalizations, particularly in the important mining sector of the economy. (5.) These and all future statistics on the performance of Zimbabwe's economy during the 1980s are taken from the quarterly and yearly country reports on Zimbabwe compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit. If other sources of data are used, specific reference information will be supplied. (6.) There was, of course, some opposition to ESAP. In the government and in the party, this was based in a group of radicals with declining influence. Elsewhere, opposition was centered in ex-combatants, students, trade unionists, the independent press, and a number of small opposition political parties. (7.) Block also mentions several "subsidiary mechanisms" in his analysis of the structural dependence of the state. (8.) Block (1977:19) mentions that a government could respond to declining business confidence and investment by acting to socialize productive property. However, he believes that most elected leftist governments have no political mandate for such actions. (9.) Judgments of business confidence are taken from the Economist Intelligence Unit Country Reports on Zimbabwe. These reports regularly summarize the results of business confidence surveys conducted by the University of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Confederation of Industries. (10.) It is important to remember the economic impact of the "dissident" problems in Matebeleland during many of these years. These events surely must have had a negative impact on agricultural and industrial productivity (through loss of facilities and labor), rates of investment (through a declining reputation for social stability), and government spending (especially in the area of defense). (11.) Summarized by Minister of Finance B. Chidzero in a press statement issued in March 1990 at Harare, Zimbabwe. (12.) The strength of international capital in Southern Africa is apparent also in recent events in Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa. In Angola and Mozambique, efforts at socialist construction failed to survive when confronted with economic and - more importantly - military warfare directed by regional and "Western" capitalist imperialism. Both governments now embrace the "market" even though Angola originally developed a heavily centralized socialism and Mozambique a more populist version (for Angola, see Somerville [1986]; for Mozambique, see Urdang [1989]). More recently, press reports about the negotiations and election campaigning in South Africa reveal that the African National Congress has been forced by the threatening power of capital to modify its economic and social plans, substituting reformist social democracy for its earlier revolutionary rhetoric. (13.) This requirement can also be derived from the logical structure of the theory,as is demonstrated in A. Przeworski and M. Wallerstein (1988).


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Title Annotation:Justice and the World-System
Author:Meisenhelder, Tom
Publication:Social Justice
Date:Dec 22, 1994
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