Interview with Comrade Tigwe of the RWG-Z (with an Introduction by the RCIT), 22 January 2019
Note of the Editorial Board: Below we publish an interview which we conducted with comrade Tigwe from the Revolutionary Workers Group of Zimbabwe. The comrade elaborates a very interesting insight into the present conditions of the struggle and the socialist perspectives. He also explains the reactionary role both of the Western as well as the Eastern imperialist Great Powers.
The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) fully supports the popular uprising against the reactionary Mnangagwa-Chiwenga regime and its austerity program. We consider it as essential to build action committees in order to organize the struggle from below and to counter any attempt to manipulate the struggle by the ZCTU bureaucrats or the MDC politicians. Likewise, the RCIT considers it as urgent to raise democratic slogans given the authoritarian character of the regime and the fact that the country suffers from decades of dictatorship and state repression. In addition to elementary slogans like the right to assembly, free press etc., we think it is important to raise the slogan for a revolutionary constituent assembly, elected and controlled by the working people! Such democratic slogans should be integrated into a perspective for a workers and poor peasant government.
The austerity program and the brutal state repression demonstrate once more the utterly reactionary character of the ZANU-PF regime and its role as a servant of the bourgeoisie and imperialism. This fully confirms the RCIT’s position during the time of the military putsch in November 2017 to oppose the coup plotters (of course without lending any support to the Mugabe faction). Unfortunately, at that time some socialists in Zimbabwe supported this coup. Worse, the leader of the pseudo-Trotskyist Lambertist section even stood as a candidate on the list of the ruling ZANU-PF party at the last election in July 2018! This demonstrates once more the corrupted and counter-revolutionary nature of such pseudo-Trotskyist charlatans.
The fact that China and Russia are the main backers of the Mnangagwa-Chiwenga regime also demonstrates again the imperialist character of these two new Great Powers. The RCIT has emphasized since a number of years that it is impossible to find a correct orientation in world politics without understanding this development! Unfortunately, many so-called Marxists still refuse to recognize the emergence of the Eastern Great Powers or even claim that China and Russia are “semi-colonies” or “semi-peripheries” which have to be supported against the U.S., EU and Japan!
Finally, we would like to draw the reader’s attention to a number of statements and articles which the RCIT has published on Zimbabwe in the last period:
* Zimbabwe: Stop the Repression! Neither ZANU-PF nor MDC – for an independent political alternative of the workers and oppressed! 4 August 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/stop-the-repression-in-zimbabwe/
* The Military Coup in Zimbabwe and the Role of Chinese Imperialism, 29 November 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/the-military-coup-in-zimbabwe-and-the-role-of-chinese-imperialism/
* The Current Political Crisis in Zimbabwe and the Slogan of the Revolutionary Constituent Assembly, 24 November 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/crisis-in-zimbabwe-and-the-slogan-of-the-revolutionary-constituent-assembly/
* Zimbabwe: The Fall of Mugabe – Victory for the Masses or for the Military-ZANU-PF Alliance? 22.11.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/zimbabwe-after-the-resignation-of-mugabe/
* Zimbabwe: Down with the Military Coup! No to the dynastic Mugabe Regime! For Independent Workers’ and Poor Mobilisations! For Action Committees of the Workers, Poor Peasants and Soldiers to Advance the Struggle against All Factions of the Ruling Elite! 15.11.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/against-mugabe-and-military-coup-in-zimbabwe/
On the emergence of China and Russia as new imperialist powers we refer readers to the new comprehensive book of Michael Pröbsting “Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry” which can be read online or downloaded at https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/anti-imperialism-in-the-age-of-great-power-rivalry/. Comrade Pröbsting serves as the International Secretary of the RCIT.
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Question: Hello, comrade, thanks for taking the time for this interview! Could you first tell us a bit about yourself and your organization?
Answer: Hello comrade, thanks for the interview. I am Tigwe, a member of the Revolutionary Workers Group of Zimbabwe, RWG-Z in short. RWG-Z is a revolutionary Trotskyist political organisation founded in 2011.We are part of the Liaison Committee of Communists(LCC), a revolutionary Trotskyist pre international that is fighting for the building of a truly revolutionary international premised on the revolutionary works of comrades such as Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.
Question: Could you briefly describe the current situation after several days of militant mass protests and brutal state repression? Would you characterize it as a pre-revolutionary or even revolutionary situation?
Answer: The country is in a very tense situation as we speak. Soldiers and the police are still stationed across cities and residential areas. Activists, ordinary workers, opposition and civic leaders as well as trade unionists are being harassed, arrested, tortured, kidnapped, and sought after as we speak. The internet which was blocked since early last week has however been opened following a high court ruling. Over a dozen people have been killed, with many injured and arrested. Those arrested are facing the threat of fast track convictions possibly on the orders of the government that is eager to send a clear message to both the masses and imperialism. To the masses it wants to create political conditions for a full blown implementation of austerity. To imperialism, both western and eastern, it wants to give an assurance of their ability to crush resistance and deliver super profits. The militant protests were a reflection of the long suffering and anger of the masses. It cannot be discounted that the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDCA), alongside its civic society surrogates saw this as an opportunity to push for their elitist agenda of national dialogue that they expect to lead towards a second government of national unity (GNU). It is important to note that the stay away came after a crippling strike by doctors, a march by some teachers and threats of strike by civil servants and public sector workers. The increase in prices of petrol announced by the president just before leaving for Russia was the last straw in a series of massive attacks on the income and livelihood of the working and poor masses. The main trade union federation, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) was forced to call for the stay away after realising that workers were going to act one way or the other with or without the ZCTU. Given the nature of the protests, the demands by the poor masses and youths, the realisation by the state that it could not reverse the situation without massive repression and shutting down the internet, it is clear that since last week Zimbabwe entered a very important phase in the class struggle and political development of the masses. The situation can however be described as one that is between a non-revolutionary phase and a pre-revolutionary one, a sort of a developing prerevolutionary phase.
Question: How much are the protests controlled by the ZCTU bureaucrats? Are there spontaneously created committees of action or similar structures?
Answer: The ZCTU called for a stay away i.e. it called on workers to stay at home and not go to work as a form of protesting the high cost of living and the inability of workers to make ends meet. But as we saw, from the first day the militant protests across major cities and residential areas developed spontaneously as a reflection of the frustration the masses had with the austerity measures. Youths around working class residential areas not only assembled in their areas but in some areas decided to march to town. It was during these assemblies and marches that the initial confrontations with the police began resulting in several deaths and even the looting and destruction of property. So, to a large extent it is true that the ZCTU had no significant control over the protests given that they had called for a stay away and also that they had not properly planned for any meaningful action. There were no committees of action or even similar structures across the country given the spontaneous nature of the protests, the violent crackdown and the shutting down of the internet.
Question: How strong is the influence of the MDC in the protest movement? And how do you characterize this party?
Answer: The MDC or rather MDCA had minimal influence on the protest movement. It is evident that from those killed, injured and arrested the significant majority has not been identified as belonging to any party but rather as poor people protesting against the cost of living. However, it cannot be disputed that the MDCA had an interest to influence and control the protests. The level of influence could have been more visible had the protests continued up to this day. Another point is that the protesters were calling for the reversal of high fuel and food prices whilst the MDCA and other civic groups were calling for national dialogue. The MDCA is a party led and dominated by the bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie doing the bidding of capital and yet relying on the support of workers and the poor in society. Since its formation in 1999 on the main basis of the ZCTU it has transformed from being guided by social democracy to being an openly reformist pro capital party that intends to serve capital individually and even in alliance with the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).
Question: How do you characterize the military coup of Mnangagwa and Chiwenga in November 2017 which ousted Mugabe?
Answer: The military coup was a result of factional fight within ZANU-PF between a nationalist-protectionist wing and a pro austerity wing hence the defeat of the nationalist-protectionist wing opened the country to full blown austerity as a way of solving the crisis of capitalism in a semi colony. So in essence the coup was reactionary.
Question: What are the main slogans which the RWG raises in the present situation?
Answer: Our main slogans are, an indefinite general strike to defeat austerity and dictatorship, building of cross union strike committees, building of defense committees, international working class solidarity with the workers of Zimbabwe, a workers government to fulfill the interests of workers and the poor and a socialist Zimbabwe as part of a socialist southern Africa.
Question: What are the main areas of your work currently?
Answer: Given our size and the objective conditions currently we are engaged in propaganda work through regular statements on key developments and struggles in Zimbabwe and the region and also by producing a newspaper, the Revolutionary Worker. We are also involved in internal political and theoretical development amongst members on a regular basis. We also do agitation work on key struggles and we are also involved in identifying contacts in key militant trade unions and other bodies of the poor masses.
Question: Zimbabwe was a colony of British imperialism for a long time. However, in recent years imperialist China increasingly played a central role in Zimbabwe. And most recently, the government has strengthened its relations with Russia. How do you assess the influence of the Great Powers in Zimbabwe?
Answer: Ever since 1997 when the government embarked on a military intervention in the DRC the relationship between Zimbabwe and its traditional western capitalist nations has been deteriorating. The fast track land reform programme sealed the divorce and in subsequent years the government was leaning more towards China and Russia as a source of both geo-political protection and financial assistance and investment. Today China, an emerging imperialist country together with Russia, has a significant stake in the mining and agricultural spheres. Even in manufacturing China is elbowing out the traditional players and its intimate relationship with the Zimbabwean army has given it an upper hand in the contestation for economic dominance between the two imperialist wings. Russia as well, has spread its economic activities across key economic areas.
Question: How do you characterize the role of the South African government in Zimbabwe?
Answer: To understand the role of China it is important to appreciate the influence of China over South Africa. As we speak the largest trading partner of South Africa is China and the BRICS mechanism has tied South Africa to China in terms of political and financial support. It is in the interest of both China and South Africa that Zimbabwe remains under the pro Chinese ZANU-PF regime. So the role of South Africa is to push for the Chinese interests and at the same time push for the interests of the junior South African capitalists who have no interest in a stable Zimbabwe that would cut the supply of cheap migrant labour used to push down wages.
Question: Many thanks for taking the time for this interview and good luck for your work!