[OPE-L:2989] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: working class

From: nicola taylor (nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Tue May 02 2000 - 15:40:34 EDT

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Jerry replying to Rakesh [OPE-L:2976]:

>Above and in other places, you seem to deride the use of the term
>petty (or petit) bourgeoisie. Why is that? Surely, you must
>recognize that there are other classes in contemporary capitalist
>society besides the working class (btw, which is a broader term
>than the proletariat, e.g. consider workers employed in the state
>sector) and capitalists.

Who are the workers? Here is a very interesting argument (in that it has
political implications of great importance). Consider the current
situation in Zimbabwe. Most Zimbabweans of working age hold down jobs of
some sort in small towns, or they are 'self-employed' in black market
activities, or they work on farms. At the same time, these "workers" have
a strong connection to communal lands, through family shares in communal
property, or through ownership of small plots, chickens, goats and maybe a
cow or two. Apart from traditional value, land is therefore a vital source
of wealth, as well as insurance against old age, unemployment and sickness.
 Land is a supplement to wages, and wages supplement the subsistence living
that families force from the land. In short, the majority of Zimbabwean
families are constituted by both workers and peasants.

The current land crisis brings this point home sharply. In 1997 the
Zimbabwe Council of Trade Unions (ZCTU) - which has about 400 000 members -
carried out a series of general strikes, which ended in violent state
repression. As a result, the ZCTU ended its long alliance with the ruling
ZANU-PF party. A new political movement (the MDC) began to emerge around
the trade union movement, through leaders such as Morgan Tsvangirai, a
former clothing worker who led the strikes when he was president of the ZCTU.

Then, on February 13-14 this year, Zimbabweans went to the polls to vote on
a government proposal to alter the constitution. At the Lancaster House
agreement ending the 'liberation war' in 1979, ZANU had agreed that no land
would be seized without compensation. The party now proposed to remove the
compensation clause. For the new labour movement, this referendum created
a hugh political difficulty. On the one hand, the new clause would remove
all obstacles to resettlement. On the other hand, it would also allow the
ZANU government to seize communal and personal land from all of its
political opponents, including the land holdings of the families of
unionised workers. At the end of the day, the response to the ZANU
proposal was an overwhelming NO vote.

The government's response to the NO vote has been extraordinary, given the
history of the country. Playing the 'race' card, they have simply ignored
the referendum result (and a subsequent court injunction) and altered the
constitution anyway. In addition the state has resurrected 3 clauses of
the notorious 'law and order maintenance act' developed by the former
settler regime to suppress political activity. Under the relevant sections
(10, 11, and 12), no unauthorised protest march or gathering of more than
12 people is allowed. No political party can transport people without
government permission (which heavily penalises the MDC, with its base in
the rural working class) Moreover, farms where the opposition to ZANU is
strongest have been invaded, workers beaten, killed or intimidated, their
homes burnt, and their MDC cards confiscated.

What should workers do? How should they respond to the current spate of
'land invasions' by ZANU supporters? Is the MDC call for ZANU-PF supporters
(also mainly land-hungry peasants) to leave the farms a valid form of
protest? The "class" issues are not clear cut at all:- Indeed, all of us
who are actively involved in the Zimbabwean labour movement at present run
the risk of having our cause misrepresented as an unholy alliance with
farming capital!! The difficulty is not so much how to define the classes
and their interests (if that were really so, solutions would be simple),
but how to approach class analysis given the obvious fact that 'classes'
are themselves divided.

Food for thought.

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