By Stephen Gowans
MRZine has published an article on the power sharing talks in Zimbabwe by Shawn Hattingh, a research and education officer at the International Labor Research and Information Group. Hattingh makes the claim that “both the MDC and ZANU are neo-liberal” to wish a pox on both their houses.
There’s plenty of evidence that the MDC is neo-liberal, but the claim that Zanu-PF is neo-liberal is quite astonishing.
If it is neo-liberal, it’s probably the first and only case of a neo-liberal party that has rejected, and has been rejected by, the IMF, and probably the only neo-liberal party that restricts foreign ownership levels in key sectors, pursues public policy goals through state ownership of key enterprises, provides subsidized food baskets, imposes price controls and rejects national treatment of foreign investors.
One might wonder too why the neo-liberal US and British governments are so keen on removing the neo-liberal Robert Mugabe from power.
The fact of the matter is that it is precisely because the Zanu-PF government isn’t neo-liberal that the US, Britain and EU are campaigning to drive Mugabe – and his policies – out of Harare.
Below is The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal’s take on the economic policies of the government over which Zanu-PF has presided for 28 years:
o Total government expenditures, including consumption and transfer payments, are very high. In the most recent year, government spending equaled 50.3 percent of GDP. Privatization has stalled, and the government remains highly interventionist.
o The government sets price ceilings for essential commodities such as agricultural seeds, bread, maize meal, sugar, beef, stock feeds, and fertilizer; controls the prices of basic goods and food staples; influences prices through subsidies and state-owned enterprises and utilities.
o The government will consider foreign investment up to 100 percent in high-priority projects but applies pressure for eventual majority ownership by Zimbabweans.
o Zimbabwe has burdensome tax rates. The top income tax rate is 47.5 percent, and the top corporate tax rate is 30 percent.
To be sure, the policies are not socialist, but they are, at the same time, deeply hostile to neo-liberalism, and lean more strongly in the direction of social democracy than the economic policies of nominally social democratic and socialist governments elsewhere.
Zanu-PF is a pro-business, African nationalist, party — not a neo-liberal one.
Hattingh’s argument that “the best hope that Zimbabwe and its people have is for the people themselves to start building a truly anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, and democratic movement,” is not only based on the blunder of equating Zanu-PF with the MDC, but represents a flight from serious analysis into what Lenin called pious benevolence.