Capitalism in Zimbabwe


  The following article was first published on 4 October 1981 under the title “Capitalism Stands in the Way of Social Advance” in the “Talking Point” column of the Sunday Mail of Salisbury, Zimbabwe, where the Prime Minister Mugabe has just announced that his Party will rule for ever. Ian Smith was more modest; he merely spoke of ruling for a thousand years. It is up to the working class, armed with the ideas expressed in this article, to bring Mugabe’s ambitions to nought.

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Important changes are taking place now in this part of Africa we live in, changes in human attitudes and the material conditions by which production continues, briefly, in how human beings spend their time. We must try to understand the society we live in.

The dominant society, worldwide, is capitalism. It is international and it is existing now in Zimbabwe, in a less developed form than in, say, Europe or America or Russia. Capitalism is only a name for a type of society characterised by the way people living together under it have certain dealings or relations with each other in the everyday affairs of life.

It is called by this name, capitalism, because the means of production and distribution of commodities under it, the land, factories, railways, etc., are owned by capitalists, that is, by people possessing large amounts of money that they have invested so as to acquire ownership of these means of production and distribution.

They may be landlords with their money invested in land and buildings, and draw their income in the form of rent. They may be owners of factories or trading concerns, or they may have shares in a large number of companies and receive their income in the form of profits.

Lastly, they may have invested their money by making loans to manufacturing or trading capitalists, or by lending it to the Government or councils. They then received “interest” on the loan. All these groups are alike in that they live by receiving income from their investments, a private property income.

The working class, by applying their energies to nature-given material, produce all of the necessities and luxuries which the whole of the population consume; but as employees they receive a wage or salary which provides them only with the means of subsistence for their maintenance and their families.

The workers in, say, three days’ work a week, produce an amount equal to what they receive as wages: the rest of the week their work produces a “surplus value” out of which are derived the rent, interest and profit of the propertied class, their private property.

Here is the root cause of working class poverty. The workers are carrying the propertied class on their backs, the workers are an exploited class under capitalism.

It has been necessary to describe briefly capitalism to begin understanding in what direction Zimbabwe is going.

The old regime was restraining capitalism under the banner of privilege. So for capitalism to develop, it had to be removed. The capitalist knows that black workers can be trained to be as skilled as any white worker, so racial privilege had to go; and further sees in the black workers a vast, expanding market for commodities.

Also, it is essential for the development of capitalism that the small-scale production and natural economy of the self-sufficient peasant be ended, and so steps are being taken to draw the producers in communal lands into the “money economy”.

Town or city workers who lay claim to rural land will be denied this land in the interest of developing capitalism, since workers to be trained for capitalism must be “stable” and compelled to work for wages only.

The growth of the market, the accumulation of capital, the modification of the social position of the classes, a large number of persons being deprived of alternative sources of income other than wages—all these are historical pre-conditions for the expansion of capitalism.

It is against this reality that capitalists and their sycophants issue their appeal to the workers to “forget class”, “forget exploitation”, “work harder” and enter into harmonious co-operation with their employer in the interest of the company, or with the Government in the interest of “the nation”.

However, there can be no sound basis for reconciliation between exploited and exploiting classes.

Exploitation will cease only when the means of production and distribution cease to be owned by a small class of capitalists and become the common property of society as a whole.

Production will be democratically controlled solely and directly for the use of the whole population with no buying and selling, no price system. Rent, interest and profit, and the wages system will be abolished. Production and distribution will be on the socialist principle: “From each according to ability: to each according to need”. All will have free access to society’s products.

There will be no class division, no working class or owning class and no trade unions; there can be no trade unions because there will be no wages to bargain over and no employers to bargain with. Socialist society can only be worldwide, humanity will not be segregated behind national frontiers or coerced by the armed forces of governments.

The question that needs to be put to all political parties is, therefore, whether or not they stand for the immediate abolition of capitalism, substituting socialism. If they do not, then they are standing in the way of social advance, even though, without any justification, they choose to call their policies socialism.