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International Socialism, Autumn 1966


Robert Watson

From Our Readers

On Zimbabwe


From International Socialism, No.26, Autumn 1966, p.16-17.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Your Editorial 2 in IS 24 is extremely confused and ill-considered. Your main erroneous premise is ‘But it would be foolish to imagine that Zimbabwe Nationalism can, without large-scale outside help, forseeably begin to mount any campaign at the citadels of settler power’ (para 4, page 4). How you reach this assertion, you do not say.

You go on to suggest that the British Left should consider supporting ‘all military preparations made by African Governments and movements.’ (Whether you advocate anything more than just considering them is not clear!) You do not say what preparations have been begun nor how viable any of them are. You also seem to assume that African States somehow must work for an independpent socialist Zimbabwe. First, there is insufficient force available in Africa to mount and sustain a frontal assault on Smith in the forseeable future (see Gutteridge’s Adelphi pamphlet). Second, even assuming sufficient numbers, and agreement among enough States to produce some sort of viable force, it is surely extremely uncertain what they will attempt and even less certain what they would ultimately achieve.

On a realistic level, all Pan-African forces have so far been singularly unsuccessful. The OAU’s Liberation Committee has proved almost unworkable, having very limited funds, no men on the ground (both for political reasons) and only a very tenuous connection with the Southern African liberation movements. The various members of the Committee are at loggerheads over what should be done. The Western Powers are deeply involved through their neo-colonial relations with some of the States and effectively paralyse the Committee. The UN Committee of 24, also involved, only seems more united because it has even less power. These are the types of organisations you presumably expect to carry out a successful campaign against a well-entrenched and armed white minority. You also ignore the difficulties of finding a base in the area from which to operate. Both Zambia and Malawi are highly unlikely to offer themselves, for many reasons, and Tanzania is a bit too far away. Suffice it to say here that no effective external force is likely to be mounted except from Britain, and then only in response to militant Nationalist activity. Surely if you are going to support military preparations by any organisations, is should be the Zimbabwe Liberation Movement itself (especially in view of your policy of Workers Control!!). However, your approach also begs the question of what the most useful way of overthrowing the white Rhodesians will be. Is regular attack the best way? Is irregular war and sabotage possibly not a more effective way? This must be discussed and the military political and social consequences be worked out. You also use the phrase ‘the tactical slogan of calling Zimbabwe’s own citizens to arms.’ It appears that you regard the Zimbabwe people as peripheral to the struggle. It is amusing to hear this from a journal advocating workers control!!

This leads us back to your first mistake, that of neglecting the Zimbabwe Liberation movement because it is slow in developing. Surely no Government is going to be able to maintain even nominal independence in Zimbabwe unless it arises from the strength of the Zimbabwe people? Therefore your most helpful position on the British Left is to strengthen the hand of the liberation movement by military training and extensive publicity about the need for the nationalist movement to wage a violent struggle. (The British public still does not accept the need for the violent overthrow of the South African regime, let alone the Rhodesian. Compare the British Anti-Apartheid with its Scandinavian equivalent.) You must also work to strengthen the hand of the Nationalist movement when it is bargaining with the British over the new constitution, and also in its bargaining over economic agreements. An agreement to take a fixed quota of Zimbabwean produce over a period, in exchange for a fixed quota of British produce for example, both at, say, 1965 prices, would be worth more than all the aid Britain might suggest giving.

Support other African moves by all means if you must, but be sure that they are adding strength to the forces fighting for freedom in Zimbabwe, and not, however inadvertently, to the fresh colonisation of Africa.

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