Zimbabwe and the Russian Revolution


02/11/2017 by socialistfight

"We're not afraid of what will come," says anti-Mugabe activist Hardlife Mzingu.Mugabe must go… But who is to replace him? The pro-imperialist Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC?

On the two chief indicators of the welfare of the whole of a nation’s populations, life expectancy, and infant mortality, Africa comes at the bottom in all tables. In life expectancy Zimbabwe, at 55.95 years for both sexes, is 191st of 201 countries listed by the United Nations. Every country from 160th Rwanda, to the last, the 201st, Swaziland, is African, apart from Afghanistan and, the most Africa, poorest and oppressed of western nations, the Black Caribbean Island of Haiti, mercilessly punished by imperialism for over 200 years, French and then the USA, because Toussaint l’Overture led first successful slave revolution from 1791 – 1804.

Hati’s revolutionary leader, Toussaint l’Overture 

In infant mortality rate Zimbabwe is 139th in the world, 48.2 per 1,000 births now, improved from 114.59 in 1950. As a comparison Singapore, at number 1, has an infant mortality rate of 1.77 per 1,000 births (60.99 in 1950). The USA is 38th, UK is 26th and Ireland 19th (2.93 now, 41.45 in 1950).   Every country from 134th, Tanzania, to 175th, Sierra Leon, the last, is African, apart from Laos at 138th. South Africa is at 123rd, reflecting the high level of medical care available for a small minority of rich white and the small group of ANC stooges, the privileged blacks. From position 108th to 133rd, apart from Libya at 95th, the rest are African or South East Asian countries. [1]

On October 10th The New York Times, international edition, reported on Helping Africa tackle Cancer. Pfizer and Cipla had provided AIDS drugs at cost price; 14 million Africans were on these and some progress was being made. But cancer was entirely different. It kills 450,000 a year in Africa, the most common are breast, cervical and prostate. The majority die from lack of medicines, hospitals, and medical expertise; oncologists. 90% of women survive breast cancer in the USA, 46% survive in Uganda and only 12% in the Gambia. We learn from the article that the life of a child with leukaemia can be saved for $300; 90% of US children survive that disease, 90% of African children die from it, obviously 100% in the poorest sectors. That is beside the death rate from malaria and typhoid. It is a harrowing article, but we must hope, they tell us, because the World Health Organisation has a plan.

The WHO plan and Lenin’s plan

But the plan won’t work because they do not have the only plan that can defeat the root cause of this appalling situation, that is the iron grip global imperialism, led by the world hegemonic power, the USA, has on Africa, South East Asia and every semi-colonial country in the world. And such a plan exists, and it was put into practice 100 years ago by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in the October Russian Revolution of 1917, the greatest single event in human history. That plan was not only for socialist revolution in Russia but for world revolution as the only way you can have socialism anywhere. When the Stalinist bureaucracy put its counter-revolution into effect from 1924 onwards it was that plan for world revolution they targeted in the first place by the anti-Marxist and politically cowardly theory of socialism in one country. That is still the ideological barriers to new Octobers and reviving the spread of the world revolution, so eagerly sought from 1917 by the Bolsheviks and by all true Trotskyists still today.

When Lenin returned to Russia April 1917 Pravda was under new editors Kamenev, Stalin, and M. K. Muranov. They had ousted the previous editors, Vyacheslav Molotov, and Alexander Shlyapnikov, who had a strong anti-war position against the Provisional Government.  The new editors produced their first edition on 15 March with strong “revolutionary defencist” support for the Provisional Government “insofar as it struggles against reaction or counter-revolution”. They followed through this capitulationist line with a call for a unification conference with the internationalist wing of the Mensheviks. Kamenev’s first editorial said:

“What purpose would it serve to speed things up, when things were already taking place at such a rapid pace?” and on March 15 wrote: “When army faces army, it would be the most insane policy to suggest to one of those armies to lay down its arms and go home. This would not be a policy of peace, but a policy of slavery, which would be rejected with disgust by a free people …. “While there is no peace the people must remain steadfastly at their posts, answering bullet with bullet and shell with shell.”

And that is outright political capitulation on the most crucial question of all for revolutionary Marxists in imperialist countries; what attitude to take to our own imperialist bourgeoisie in war?

The ‘revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’ was the central thing that Lenin’s April theses rejected. In Marxist terms this refers to a capitalist government in a capitalist state. It was an early version of socialism in one country. Lenin could not be more explicit that he was totally opposed to this programme by April 1917:

 “Whoever now talks only about the ‘revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ has lost touch with life, has, in virtue of this circumstance, gone over, in practice, to the petty bourgeoisie against the proletarian class struggle; and he ought to be relegated to the museum of ‘Bolshevik’ pre-revolutionary antiquities (or, as one might call it, the museum of ‘old Bolsheviks’).”

Previously they believed that first capitalism must be developed for a whole historic period – not just a few months – to build up the forces of the organised working class and to make the economy ready for the socialist revolution. Such was the political wisdom inherited by the Bolsheviks from Karl Kautsky and German Social Democracy, unchallenged until Trotsky’s 1905 Permanent Revolution and rejected by Lenin in his April theses. This is Trotsky’s very different outlook in his 1906 work, Results and Prospects:

 “The political domination of the proletariat is incompatible with its economic enslavement. No matter under what political flag the proletariat has come to power, it is obliged to take the path of socialist policy. It would be the greatest utopianism to think that the proletariat, having been raised to political domination by the internal mechanism of a bourgeois revolution, can, even if it so desires, limit its mission to the creation of republican-democratic conditions for the social domination of the bourgeoisie. The political domination of the proletariat, even if it is only temporary, will weaken to an extreme degree the resistance of capital, which always stands in need of the support of the state, and will give the economic struggle of the proletariat tremendous scope.”

These are two counterposed views of historical perspectives for the Russian Revolution. It would indeed be a bourgeois revolution, Trotsky assessed then, but one that could not sustain itself without expropriating the bourgeoisie and making the socialist revolution – hence the uninterrupted, permanent revolution. No whole historic period of consolidating the bourgeois republic and building up its resources was possible, and, contrary to Lars, a few months is NOT an historical era in which the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry reigned: dual power reigned in this period which had to be and was settled in the immediate future in favour of one class only. Fully aware of this Lenin now abandoned the first, ‘old Bolshevik’ perspective and adopted the second in his April theses. This was the direct opposite of Nelson Mandela’s National Democratic Revolution.

The April Theses is imbued with internationalism. That is why Lenin proposed to change the name of the party to the Communist Party and to form a new international. The Third Communist International, the Comintern, was proposed for the first time here because the goal he sought was world revolution.

We would cite the foreword that Lenin wrote to Nikolai Bukharin’s, Toward a Theory of the Imperialist State in 1915 and his own 1916 Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism as the two works that gave Lenin that fundamental understanding of the interconnectedness of the whole world economy, the struggle against imperialism as a truly global one and one which could not be won in a single country. That profound internationalism was the necessary theoretical preparation for the April Theses that brought Lenin and Trotsky together theoretically and politically.

Now, Lenin claimed, we must reject ‘old Bolshevism’ and have our socialist revolution because the class consciousness of the Russian working class is international and constitutes a part of the world revolution.

Image result for Kamenev, Stalin, and M. K. Muranov  images

On 16 March Stalin wrote, “the slogan, ‘Down with the war,’ is useless,” This position contrasted sharply with the views expressed by Lenin in his “Letters from Afar,” and it is not surprising that Pravda published only the first of these and with numerous deletions at that. Among crucial phrases censored out was Lenin’s accusation that “those who advocate that the workers’ support the new government in the interests of the struggle against Tsarist reaction (as do the Potresovs, Gvozdevs, Chkhenkelis, and in spite of all his inclinations, even Chkheidze [all Mensheviks]) are traitors to the workers, traitors to the cause of the proletariat, [and] the cause of freedom.” Kamenev, Zionviev and Stalin surely understood the target of his ire included them as well.

In the 1937 Introduction to his Stalin School of Falsification Trotsky assess Stalin’s position in this crucial period thus:

“How did the present Centrists and, above all, Stalin, conduct themselves on this question? In the nature of things, Stalin was a Centrist even at that time. He occupied a Centrist position whenever he had to take an independent stand or to express his personal opinion. But this Centrist stood in fear of Lenin. It is for this reason that there is virtually no political trace of Stalin during the most critical moments of the ideological struggle – from April 4, 1917, up to the time Lenin fell ill.”

Lenin won the argument for the second revolution with his April Theses, Trotsky and his group joined the party in June and, after the ‘July Days’ when Lenin succeeded in preventing a premature uprising, and formed a united front with the Provisional Government leader Kerensky against the threatened coup of General Kornilov the Bolshevik’s influence increased enormously. Led by Lenin and Trotsky now they began to plan for the second revolution from late September. But the troubles before April now returned. The right wing, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Kalinin, Lunacharsky and others in the Central Committee now reasserted their old opposition, Stalin remained silent, waiting the bounce of the ball. Lenin was absolutely furious.

This is Lenin’s response, as recorded in the minutes of the CC on 1st November (Julian calendar):

 “The question of the armed insurrection was raised at the October 1 session of the Central Committee … However, certain [old] members of the Central Committee came out in opposition. This grieved me deeply. Thus, the question of power has been posed for a long time. Couldn’t we now renounce it because of the disagreement on the part of Zinoviev and Kamenev? The insurrection was [objectively] necessary. Comrades Zinoviev and Kamenev began to agitate against the insurrection, and we began to look upon them as strike breakers. I even sent a letter to the Central Committee with a proposal to expel them from the party.

I expressed myself sharply in the press when Kamenev made his speech in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets. On August 6 (19), he also spoke on the subject of the Stockholm International Socialist Conference, which the Conciliationists proposed to convene in the summer of 1917 for the purpose of expediting the conclusion of peace by the Socialist parties exerting pressure upon their respective Governments] … Kamenev spoke in his own name in favour of participating in the Conference [despite the decision of the Central Committee of the party not to participate in the Stockholm Conference. – L.T.] to assume a severe attitude toward them …

“And now, at such a moment, when we are in power, we are faced with a split. Zinoviev and Kamenev say that we will not seize power [in the entire country]. I am in no mood to listen to this calmly. I view this as treason. What do they want? Do they want to plunge us into [spontaneous] knife- play? Only the proletariat is able to lead the country”.

… As for conciliation, I cannot even speak about that seriously. Trotsky long ago said that unification is impossible. Trotsky understood this, and from that time on there has been no better Bolshevik.”

Image result for Kamenev, Stalin, and M. K. Muranov  images

South Africa’s Stalinist Democratic Revolution

Serious Marxists understood that the ANC game in South Africa in the run up to the first democratic elections in 1994 was to formally end apartheid discrimination against Blacks whilst saving capitalism itself from the threat of social revolution by simply blaming white people. Once Blacks were in charge all oppression would end, they implied in the Peoples’ Charter and in instituting the Democratic Revolution now and the socialist revolution later once industry and commerce had developed sufficiently under the benign guidance of the ANC together with their partners in the SACP and Cosatu.

Nelson Mandela presided over the ending apartheid in a counterrevolutionary manner by embracing the 1991 Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) in a cross-class popular front with the old apartheid ruling class. He then embraced the 1996 Growth and Economic Development programme (GEAR) which was a pro-imperialist neoliberal economic programme which left the black masses worse off in many ways. South Africa vies with neighbouring Namibia and Botswana as the most unequal societies in the world, just behind countries like the Central African Republic, Haiti and China.

This Triple Alliance of the ANC, the SACP and Cosatu are held together by the SACP under the guidance of the 59-year-old SACP general secretary since 1998, Blade Nzimande. He is Zuma’s Minister for Higher Education and Training since 2009. He frequently calls for taxing the rich to pay for education. Back in 2007, before his appointment his new ministry the Mail & Guardian claimed that his salary was equivalent to that of deputy ministers, between R700,000 and R800,000 a year. Now in 2017 his salary is R2,211,937, $167,280.94. The British Prime Minister gets £150,402, $204,283.52, Cabinet minister get £141,505, $192,199.17 and ordinary ministers are on £96,375, $130,901.34. The average wage in South Africa is R224,244, $16,958.78, Black African workers earn about 20% of what white workers earn. Nzimande lived “in a large home in the upmarket Johannesburg suburb of Emmarentia” in 2007, the Mail & Guardian tell us, and he “has been known to have up to four luxury vehicles in his garage. He is most commonly seen in his black Grand Jeep Cherokee, for which he has a driver”. [8]

And he did not forget himself when it came to transport in his new ministerial post in 2009.  The Department of Higher Education purchased a new R1.1 million BMW 7501 for him. The Politicsweb blog quotes him as saying:

“…Nelson Mandela Day must also be a re-affirmation of the values he has come to represent – that of social solidarity, selflessness, dedication, equity and fairness! It is through the consistent inculcation of these values that we can roll back the greed, corruption and selfishness of capitalism.”

Two months later he has approved over R1 million for a luxury car, for his personal use – which is self-indulgent, unnecessary and extravagant. So much for rolling back the greed and selfishness of capitalism. It appears that only the very best will do for the leaders of the working class. [9]

He came out strongly against proposals for nationalisation at the COSATU conference in June 2011, stating that it is not “inherently progressive” as it depended on which class interests were being advanced.

Zimbabwe Today

Today Chinese companies are brutal employers in Africa, not least in Zimbabwe, meting out frequent violence to workers with brutal dictator Mugabe’s support but they provide vast infrastructures projects and other benefits to countries in Africa in order to be allowed to extract minerals and crops in fertile lands they purchased. This is capitalist exploitation but not the daylight robbery the US and EU performs on its victims via import controls, the IMF, World Bank, trade deals, etc. The Guardian recently reported that in 2012 developing countries received a total of $1.3tn, including all aid, investment, and income from abroad. But that same year $3.3tn flowed out mainly to western banks, very little to China.

Back in 2008 Zimbabwe’s Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa said of the elections: “Sanctions against Zimbabwe (were intensified) just before the elections,” while “large sums of money” were poured into Zimbabwe “by the British and Americans to bribe people to vote against President Mugabe.”

The goal, Chinamasa continued, is to “render the country ungovernable in order to justify external intervention to reverse the gains of the land reform program.” He described Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC as an “an Anglo-American project designed to defeat and reverse the gains of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, to undermine the will of the Zimbabwean electorate and to return the nation to the dark days of white domination”. Chinese investments have thwarted the West; the Zimbabwe economy has recovered due to this alliance. The Chinese companies are predatory capitalists but cannot be equated with western imperialism. But a revolutionary, anti-imperialist Trotskyist party must have its own programme, independent of all bourgeois nationalists, no matter how anti-imperialist they may pitch on occasion.

No national perspectives will point the way forward for Zimbabwe today. We must resume championing the perspectives of the April Theses of Lenin and Permanent Revolution of Trotsky. Of course, individual countries can make a socialist revolution like Russia in 1917. But with the understanding that no isolated country, particularly no poor African can stand alone against imperialism. It must immediately call in the world working class to assist it, as Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks did in 1917. That is the lesson we learn from October 1917.


[1] Wikipedia,  List of countries by infant mortality rate,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_infant_mortality_rate


One thought on “Zimbabwe and the Russian Revolution

  1. Viriato says:

    Absolutely correct.
    Real marxist leninists could support the whole political sens of this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

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