2000s >> 2001 >> no-1166-september-2001

To the workers of Zambia

We publish below the text of a speech delivered at a recent meeting by one of our comrades in Zambia, Kephas Mulenga:

We have been deceived by the government, the trade unions, the banks, the employers and the newspapers.

Let us stand still and reflect: why does the whole horrible social system seem to repeat itself? Why are the majority on the losing side? We vote for what we don’t know. Our vote is powerless to restrain inflation and unemployment. Your Christian hopes and freedoms remain couched in millenniums of divine perplexity – a reality that can only come to maturity after we are dead. It is us, the ordinary working people, who have helped so much to prop up the sickening wages system.

We have accepted without complaint the modalities of a class-divided society and we have laboured to make the system succeed through our dedication and stubborn discipline – matched with a flamboyant reverence for intellectual mediocrity, romance and criticism. But still you keep on to vote for the political system that only implements its promises when a general election is around the corner.

The government surrendered council houses to sitting tenants and hiked civil servants’ salaries and the electorate thought here is a government to trust. But capitalism is not a social system that you can fool – not for too long. The consequences of these measures are not foreseen and shall result in long-term poverty. Capitalism is not a system that can love and care for you. It only thinks about you when a general election is round the corner.

Let me warn you now that hefty salaries awarded to civil servants would cause necessary side-effects upon the income and expenditure of the country. The side-effects would pronounce themselves so hard upon unemployment, and public spending on education, health and social services would decrease in proportion to the increase in public expenditure on civil service related emoluments.

The strike by teachers, nurses, doctors, magistrates and council employees fully endorsed and sanctioned the working-class expression of political resentment against the government’s failure to uplift the declining standards in the civil service.

The strike by the civil servants is the latest expression of working-class-organised militancy against state exploitation. The civil servants are seeking to negotiate wage increments from the government as a section within the working class – but not for the non-unionised working class. Thus the hefty salaries accorded to the public workers does not in any manner signify the immediate appeasement of the entire working class in Zambia.

The Civil Servants Union of Zambia has succeeded to win the class struggle on behalf of public workers – but what about those engaged in the private sector? It is time the workers engaged in the informal sector started to think about intensifying the class struggle by increasing pressure upon the private economic sector.

The failure of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions to spearhead a working-class-organised labour resistance against the forces of oppression has led to the disintegration of the labour movement. The ZCTU has disintegrated into splinter unions because it has placed so much faith in compromising its principles with the objectives of the state.

The nullification of the constitutional amendment referendum consequent upon the ratification of a third-term presidency has led to the emergence of the Forum for Development as another new opposition party in Zambian domestic politics.

Though the Forum saw delegates from all walks of life, its motif is the building of a new political opposition embracing religions, trade unions, civil servants and women. It is mostly dominated by the 22 members of parliament dismissed by President Frederick Chiluba.

But like every Zambian opposition party the Forum for Development lacks a working-class following. Both UNIP and the MMD originated from the grass-root level – the strength of their leadership was derived from popular and charismatic credentials. Both UNIP and MMD strengthened their popularity by consolidating the evident tribal allegiances obtaining in rural areas.

In Zambian domestic politics antagonistic class interests are not very pronounced compared to tribal prejudices and do not determine the priorities of political parties. Voter apathy denotes an electoral boycott of parliamentary and constitutional legality. Political parties and hence governments are assessed on the degree of mass support.

Thus the existence of voter apathy depicts a boiling point in Zambian political history. It illuminates working class self-realisation independent of party allegiances.

The MMD is a clique of political thugs and hoodlums. It has prolonged itself to power through amendments to the constitution and well-timed presidential donations. It is a government that has failed thoroughly in all its dealings.

We in the World Socialist Movement call upon the entire working class in Zambia to rally behind us in our efforts to create a socialist consciousness, detached from the contradictions taking place in the political struggle between the contending traditional political parties whose political and economic manifestos manifest the prolonging of tribalism, nepotism and neo-colonialism.

We strongly believe that the historical conditions are omnipresent within Zambia which can lead to a working class inspired socialist revolution.

Leave a Reply