By Azwell Banda
Zambia has never been a socialist country; it has always been a capitalist country.
At independence in 1964, to protect their wealth and investments in Zambia, the departing racist and colonial British government hoisted onto the newly independent Zambia a liberal capitalist constitution in which private property was held sacred.
Kenneth Kaunda’s nationalisations were not a seizure of economic and political power by the Zambian working class and the poor rural peasant farmers, the only route through which socialism can occur; it was an effort at establishing state capitalism to fast track the material and cultural development of the Zambian native whom the racist, colonial and capitalist British left in a most deplorable state.
Kaunda’s one-party state was a pragmatic political response to the threats Zambia faced mainly from the racist, colonial and apartheid Rhodesia and South Africa, the appetite to eliminate his internal political opponents and of course the urgent need to attend to the social development of the mass of poor Zambians, we must concede. None of these measures were socialist, rather, they were all versions of capitalism – the system of private and state ownership of wealth and the means of production.
Socialism occurs when the working class, in combination with the poorest sections of the peasants, violently overthrow their oppressors, tormentors and exploiters – the private property owners – the capitalist class – and begin to construct a totally new civilisation and genuine democracy based on securing and advancing the interests of the vast majority; the working class and poor peasants. The change from capitalism to socialism is violent precisely because the oppressors, the capitalist class, inevitably use violence, state and private, to sustain themselves in power and to resist change: to overthrow them, the working class must overcome this violence with their revolutionary violence. Of course, after successfully seizing power, the working class must suppress the capitalist class by whatever means necessary, if they are to accomplish the destruction of a system of organising society based on oppressing, suppressing, dominating and exploiting the majority by a tiny minority – the capitalist class.
No such socialist revolution has ever occurred in Zambia, to the best of my knowledge. Genuine socialism cannot be created by pronouncement, decree, or mere constitutional changes: it is the violent overthrow of the exploiting capitalist class by the working class in alliance with all progressed sections of society, and in our case, in alliance with the poor rural peasants. Socialism is the seizure of societal power by the working class and poor peasants from the capitalist, and the establishment of a society dominated by these classes.
Of course, “socialism” like the words “Christianity” and “Islam” and many others, is easy to abuse: any charlatan wanting to lure the working class and poor peasants into their lair as voting folder are free to call themselves “socialists”. The rich capitalists wanting to demobilise the working class and tame them are free to call themselves “socialists” especially if they release some of the loot they steal from the working class at the point of production and hand it over to the working class as “free education”, “free housing”, “free health services” and so forth. Concealed in all these fake “free” gifts is the fact that the money which creates them is stolen from the working class at the point of production by the capitalists, and through taxes by the capitalist government.
Usually, intellectuals, academics, professionals such as engineers, doctors, teachers, lawyers and others, pastors, priests, mullahs, semi rich peasants, artists, musicians, writers, and so on, who are slightly well off than an average gumboot worker dream of a capitalist society freed of the ugly things necessary and essential for capitalism to exist such as low wages, brutalities in factories and all places of work, unemployment, poverty, hunger, inequalities, domestic and gender violence, drug abuse, racism, tribalism, climate change, global warming, pollution and so on – these do-gooders usually collectively called “the middle class” – are also free to call their utopias
Zambia is a class society. We have just about 1,000 US dollar millionaires in a country with slightly over 19 million people, by UN estimates for this year. It is from this tiny class that Zambia’s “private sector” comes. It is this class which stands to benefit the most from everything HH and Musokotwane, now clearly being cheered on by Nevers Mumba, are doing. The IMF and all the macro and micro economic policies and the punishing debt restructuring processes are designed to protect the wealth and money of this tiny class of rich people, in the clearly dubious illusory lie that when this class gets richer, Zambia’s working class and poor rural peasants’ lives improve! Low inflation, stability in the exchange rate, foreign money and the six key economic sectors HH and the UPND are pursuing are all aimed at facilitating the wealth accumulation of our tiny millionaire’s club.
The majority of Zambians survive by either working for themselves or selling themselves to a capitalist who has use for their labour; who wants to make profits from their power to work. The dominant form of economic activity in Zambia is private ownership of the means by which wealth is produced; even in rural areas, families “own” their patch of earth upon which they grow crops and raise animals for consumption and selling. In the urban areas, individuals and companies own the means by which wealth is produced, and they produce things by employing labourers: educated and uneducated, skilled and unskilled. Unfortunately, the majority of workers cannot find work. Zambia is, therefore, a capitalist country, a very poor, backward, low wage capitalist country. It is suffering mass hunger, unemployment and extreme inequalities – all normal features of capitalist neo-colonies.
Being born and growing up in capitalist Zambia means that the most dominant ideas and ways of seeing life are capitalist: from birth to death, we are all surrounded and saturated by lies, corruption, private greed, selfishness, desire to win alone, a voracious appetite for money even if it is stolen or immorally acquired, ruthless competition for just about everything; and above all, we are groomed to either grow up and get a job or creating our own economic opportunities. To be rich we are lied to, is the main purpose of life; for only then can we be happy and find love. It has been like this since independence, to date! Kaunda tried to teach us otherwise, he failed lamentably because without societal power transferring to the producers of wealth, the working class and rural peasants, no “moral system” is sustainable!
*Hichilema, Musokotwane and Nevers are our self-ordained Zambian High Priests of capitalism, the defenders of private property, and therefore the champions of foreign private money into Zambia. It is important to understand and appreciate that these priests do believe in the power of private greed to liberate Zambia from its current malaise. The poor and the working class must wait for the profits of the rich to grow (economic growth) for them to have any respite from their suffering. This myth is so deep rooted among us and strong that the working class and the poor uncritically believe it. No “economic growth” is good for all social classes in society. Profits, for example, can only grow if the capitalists exploit the working class more!
The world working class is fast working up to the fact that capitalism is not just oppression, suppression, domination and exploitation of the working class and rural poor peasants, it is also global warming, climate change, pollution of soils, rivers, lakes, oceans and seas. Capitalism is gender oppression as it promotes male labour above female labour. Capitalism is guns, mass killings, wars and all kinds of violence as the rules of competition are broken by the powerful. Capitalism is today pandemics.
Capitalism has its origins in slavery, it grew up in colonialism and it has matured as imperialism, a decayed and dying imperialism, today. Capitalism, in its war in Ukraine, is now threatening to burn the earth with nuclear war.
The world working class, conscious of their historic mission to end all oppression and exploitation, know that “national socialism” is a lie; only a global uprising of the working class can clean the world of the effluvia of capitalism and imperialism. Hakainde, Situmbeko and Mumba must be careful what they are sowing; they will reap the harvest