PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa, never mind the eloquence paucity, loves to talk about his grand vision to transform Zimbabwe into an “upper middle class” economy by the year 2030.
This so-called vision is deeply rooted in the latest five-year economic blueprint, the National Development Strategy (NDS 1 2021-2025).
The blueprint was, curiously, launched at pretty much the same time as China’s 14th five year plan with which it is supposed to run concurrently.
Whether this is a mere coincidence, which is unlikely, or a case of Harare replicating Beijing, one is always bound to make comparisons.
One aspect which comes out strikingly analogous in these plans is the patently capitalistic paths the two generally socialist States are taking.
It is therefore imperative to qualify this statement.
China and Zimbabwe were founded purely on a Marxist-Leninist philosophy which abhors capitalism.
Founder of modern China, Mao Zedong, actually adopted and perfected Karl Marx’s Communist manifesto, which he married with Vladimir Lenin’s party-State approach.
The three thinkers, Marx, Lenin and Mao, grappled with what ultimately came to be known as the agrarian question — how to address poverty, oppression and inequality.
Whereas Marx had indicated that to overthrow capitalism, it took an enlightened proletariat, Lenin had indicated that the peasants, which were the most predominant and afflicted class in Russia, were the most revolutionary.
He advocated for the establishment of a vanguard party whose principal role was to enlighten the peasants by articulating their grievances.
The result was the Russian Revolution of 1917, which toppled the Tsarist Empire. During the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks, led by leftist revolutionary Lenin, seized power and destroyed the tradition of Tsarist.
The Bolsheviks would later become the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
The Chinese Communist Revolution followed pretty much the same path, but this time Mao, realising that China was much less developed and more populous, introduced two elements in his quest to answer the same agrarian question: the role of the army and the nation State.
For Mao, the army was instrumental in mobilising the population, which in turn, needed to be galvanised into a unitary force.
This explains the State of China today, a nation which speaks with one voice and has clear objectives.
But then, the agrarian question was introduced to Africa by revolutionary thinkers like Frantz Fanon, author of the famous book, The Wretched of the Earth, Ndabaningi Sithole (African Nationalism) and Amilca Cabral, among others.
The question then was: how do we end the oppression and poverty brought about by colonialism?
Zimbabwe, then Southern Rhodesia (just Rhodesia after 1965), also grappled with the same question and to answer it, Marxism became the most attractive brand of politics.
In The Struggle for Zimbabwe, David Martin and Phyllis Johnson argue that the real turning point in the struggle for liberation was when Zanu decided to send its members for military training in China between 1967-73, where they got immersed in Maoist philosophy which, when the war effort kicked-off in 1974, took Ian Smith’s government by surprise.
Independence was achieved in 1980, but the agrarian question has remained unanswered.
Zimbabwe’s economic blueprint principally seeks to achieve one major goal: the creation of a “middle class”. This would make Marx surely turn in his grave at Highgate Cemetery.
Marx’s main idea was to eliminate the class system and establish a classless society (communism), having declared so legendarily that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”.
NDS 1, therefore, basically marks a further departure from socialism and entrenches neoliberalist thinking; whose legacy in African and the Third World has been the immiseration of the majority.
Even if the so-called upper second-class economy is miraculously achieved, the agrarian question will persist and so will class struggles.
Which could be what the Chinese realised and are trying to address in their own blueprint, a more inward-looking plan which focuses on social development.
For instance, they are moving to upgrade rural areas.
However, on the balance, these are two States with a socialist foundation pursuing a highly capitalistic agenda.