The scary politics of fighting against someone instead of fighting for an alternative

By Lenin Tinashe Chisaira

Zimbabwe still continues to be every activist’s dreamland by each passing week. People are courageously taking to the streets and they know what they are fighting against: rampant unemployment, some undemocratic leaders and some corrupt politicians.

Sadly, when trying to fix the economy and the politics, it is not enough to say the struggle being waged is a mere fight against one or two corrupt leaders or the rampant unemployment of university graduates. What is wholesome is to state the clear nature of the economic and political alternatives being fought for.

In economics, there is growing danger that people will easily fight on behalf of foreign capital for the latter to come and invest. But the same people run the risk of being blind to the ordinary worldwide investor tradition. That is a tradition of wage slavery, exploitation of labour and abuse of environmental rights. No group has come out fighting for an alternative employment culture that will be buttressed by workers’ empowerment, just labour practices and full workers’ democracy in the workplace.

Likewise, the struggle against authoritarian rule and human rights violations must be complemented by the fight for a clear political alternative. The struggle must clarify what kind of democracy is being fought for. Is it the same old bourgeoisie democracy or its social democracy or its wholesome socialist democracy? Ignoring these terms as academic or abstract norms can be another recipe for confusion.

Most messaging in opposition politics and protest groups in Zimbabwe and indeed most countries, is heavily obsessed with the “Down with X” and ‘President X Must Go” mantra. Rarely do you find groups knowing exactly what they are fighting for as much as they know who or what they are fighting against.

Protesters and opposition should be about alternatives, mostly ideological to the ruling system. They should be frameworks on economic and political structures to be utilised after victory. Otherwise the struggle will be futile.

In the #FeesMustFall days, South African students did not just fight against fee increase, they fought for Free Education. In Zimbabwe everyone knows ‘who must go’, but sadly the opposition and protest narrative lacks a viable alternative. There is lack of impetus or support for alternative economics. Politics don’t just start and end at institutions of government, but also on the economic drawing table.

Worthwhile struggles and allies

The only worthwhile struggle in the political environment is one where people are conscious of the way the economic, political and social structure will be organised after the so called ‘revolution ‘or revolt. Otherwise there is grave danger that such struggle effort will either wane with time, lead to disastrous consequences or be hijacked by opportunist elements.

In the same vain, it is futile to build alliances for the sake of building them. United fronts should be built on shared visions for the future. Building alliances with anyone and everyone, and yet lacking any tangible shared goal is unfortunately to be expected whenever people are just angry at the visible target but do not know what the struggle seeks to build as an alternative. Will some of these allies be strategic in the building of an alternative economic and political system in the country?

In conclusion, during the early days of independence in the African colonies, there rose a system known as neo-colonialism where the people got voting right and black leaders but the economic superstructure and exploitation remained the same or even got worse. People must be wary of that.

One can only salute the fearless people who are exercising their democratic rights to protest and to communicate their messages to the government of the day in various creative ways. What is unsettling is the realisation that such efforts can easily be in vain if people don’t shift from merely fighting against someone and become consciousness of the alternative Zimbabwe they are fighting for. Aluta.

[Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is a lawyer, activist and former student leader based in Harare. He tweets at @LeninChisaira and blogs at ]



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