David Broder spoke to Mike Sambo from the International Socialist Organisation Zimbabwe
What is the current state of the ISO Zimbabwe and the labour movement?
Over the last two years the ISO Zimbabwe grew but this year we have faced more significant challenges. We are trying to stay relevant to the working class, but it is hard to operate. We work around the trade unions but not with the bureaucrats. Most unions support the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, but there are also rank-and-file groups within many of the unions. Furthermore, in the case of the Zimbabwe Graphical Workers' Union, the rank-and-file opposition has actually taken over the leadership of the union. We aim to distribute our paper Socialist Worker among these workers, facilitate meetings and give advice to the labour movement from the left.
You used to refuse to back the MDC, but in the recent election shifted to supporting it. What changed?
Our current position is to support the MDC: it is hard to organise workers against them. After the recent elections we shifted from no support [for the MDC] to seeing it as the only way forward for the opposition. We have to get Mugabe out. The ISO is fully in support of the MDC, unconditionally but critically. Of course, we cannot keep quiet about the betrayals of the MDC leadership. It was created as a workers' party in reaction to the failings of neo-liberalism, but it has diverged from its original aims and has ceased to represent workers. It has been hijacked by white farmers and middle-class neo-liberals. We have to criticise their failures, but facing imminent crisis the opposition needs to put forward a united programme.
How would you analyse the situation the opposition faces after the second round of the elections?
First I will talk about before the election, when Mugabe unleashed a reign of terror on the opposition. He closed NGOs down, made it impossible for trade unions to operate and crushed the structures of the opposition parties. Mugabe killed not only people but even the livestock belonging to opposition supporters. Many people have gone underground to evade capture — the government wanted to arrest me, for instance. It was impossible for the Movement for Democratic Change to campaign, so they pulled out. But since the elections there is no longer so much violence. Rather, Mugabe wants to pull the MDC to the table - to help find economic solutions and political stability with a Government of National Unity. There has been much talk of such a government being put in place. Mugabe has released the political prisoners, including Women of Zimbabwe Arise activists, [MDC General Secretary] Tendai Biti [who is out on bail but still facing treason charges] and civil society leaders. These concessions are bribes to the MDC. The situation has changed significantly.
What is the MDC's attitude to negotiations with Mugabe?
There is a looming split in the MDC. Some say they should refuse any talks with Mugabe — this more radical section is led by the General Secretary — since he is a murderer and not to be trusted. But the party spokesman Chamisa has said that the party is prepared to talk on the condition that Mugabe stops the violence and releases the political prisoners. Tsvangirai too will be willing to negotiate if such conditions are met.
How can you keep up resistance to the regime?
The main problem facing us at the moment is that people — not just activists, but the mass of the people — have been demoralised by Mugabe's show of force. There is a need to restore confidence that we can fight him. Important for this is the unity and regroupment of all the opposition parties and civil society. We need acts of civil disobedience, saying that these elections were not legitimate and Mugabe is not legitimate. But at the moment srikes are difficult, since although many union leaders are militantly opposed to the government, security agents will thwart them. The police and the military will crush resistance. To take action prematurely would risk people, and so we need to build our forces and make sure our machinery is well oiled. Rather than sporadic action, we need to strike against Mugabe once and for all.