Zimbabwe@34: Base, Superstructure and Democratic Posterity

By Takura Zhangazha

 

Considerations on Zimbabwe’s independence rarely acknowledge the significant role the success of the liberation struggle owed to Socialism/Marxism. Both as an ideological premise as well as a pragmatic tool of linking ideals with the harsh realities of waging a protracted people’s war.   Its key contribution was the accentuation of a critical national consciousness. As the liberation war expanded, so did structural analysis of the state that was being supplanted as well as its envisioned replacement.  

While the same ideological pretext was never organically intertwined within our political culture or structures of the state, analyzing Zimbabwe’s 34 years of independence would take a much more serious perspective if the one time ubiquitous ‘base and superstructure’ Marxian analysis were to be applied in the contemporary.  

Because the base and superstructure theory relates largely to an understanding that every society has a foundation upon which all else is structured, in these mid 30s years of Zimbabwe’s existence, it would be trite to borrow this specific assumption on the basis of the departure point that was 1980. 

It was one characterized by a base that was the settler state’s racist and intrinsically capitalist economic mode of production. 

Granted, no departure is clean cut. Previous journeys always inform the next one. In our country’s case, as has been ably demonstrated both by politicians (of all hues, socialists, capitalists, communists) we realized the harsh reality that we could not shake off the structure of the colonial state. 

Not only because the Lancaster House ceasefire agreement had an 8 year moratorium on changing settler state land ownership patterns or the electoral system.  But also because, while the liberation struggle was both painful and historic, its victory was not going to be succeeded by utopia.  

But the political  ‘base’ had been established by way of its intentions, its execution and the popular expectations of the majority of Zimbabweans.  

What was however to become more urgent was to construct a political-economic superstructure that would succeed that of the Rhodesian settler state.  In building this different and democratic superstructure to the base that was independence, the ruling party made the political mistake of not being visionary enough. Or alternatively, failed to adequately and democratically plan for what was coming.  It emphasized more the political than the holistic basis of Zimbabwe’s independence. This holistic basis would have entailed organic linkages between the politics, the mainstream economy and the sociology of Zimbabwe.  

What we have had, as we have progressed to the 34 years that we now commemorate, is a country that has forgotten its base and reinvented a superstructure that feeds an elitist and corrupt political economy.  

One that does not ask if the people have access to basic socio-economic rights (water, health, education, transport, housing).  And with a political leadership that lives in the moment.  By doing so, it has forgotten the base and subverted the superstructure. Its singular consistency has been the popular but inorganic mandate of reminding the masses of the historicity of independence without marrying it to the contemporary.  

And this is where young Zimbabweans are beginning to ask questions. They no longer  understand the pragmatic and contemporary meaning  of the historical ‘base’ (aka independence) let alone the superstructure that is the existent political economy. Neither do the necessarily want  to. In fact they do not have to because the relevance of the same is lost on them. 

Probably because contemporary national leaders exhibit such a profound ignorance of ‘base and superstructure’  they do not see any specific hope of pursuing as revolutionary a path as that of their forebears. Not that it’s necessary by way of action. But a similar consciousness would help. And seriously so.  

So as we celebrate 34 years of independence, while listening to readings of President Mugabe’s speech and all opposing  leaders counter speeches, we will remain burdened with the fact that we have lost sight of the ‘base’ and are in danger of foregoing a social democratic superstructure. 

As a result the Zimbabwean state, at 34, is in limbo.  It makes sacrosanct reference to its past, but does not hold its future in awe. It functions without collective national vision nor a leadership that understands the imperatives of functioning for posterity.  Instead they function largely as each day comes. If they make mistakes, they revert to the assumed sanctity of the liberation or even post independence democratic struggles.  They invoke memory more than they evoke passion for the future. 

In order to counter such a retrogressive national leadership, the question is no longer the Leninist ‘what is to be done’. Instead it must be, ‘what is to be understood’ before taking action.  

Where we understand, in considerations of the way forward that national independence was intended to be holistic, we begin to discern patterns of what should be a social democratic future.  Indeed there were urgent matters such as universal suffrage, land redistribution at the onset of independence. The broader framework was always for socio-economic justice, economic prosperity and continually democratic leadership.  This with an understanding that politics cannot happen without the economy and the latter cannot happen without the former. Instead, the two have functioned almost by default as has been the case since 1980.  

What is therefore required are no longer abstract five year development programmes such as the much lauded but inorganic ZimAsset.  

Instead we must look at the structures that have made Zimbabwe a state that is running away from the immediate and future needs of its people.  These structures relate not only to what we carried over from the Rhodesian state but that which was constructed with the greater  intention of retaining power.  While at the same time seeking to keep the madding masses at bay. 

To change this sort of politics and elitist approach to the economy, we must bring the present government to account. Not just by way of its current policies but with direct reference to the ‘base’ that was independence and the ideals that currently inform our superstructure. And this will begin with re-emphasising the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter.

 

CPC  & peoplecharterblogspot