making them work right this time by creating a more ‘liberal’ political economy.” Callaghy (1994) has referred to this as ‘back to the future’. This observation underlies the project of neoliberalism, which is to fully integrate African economies into the world capitalist economy. This is where a Marxist analysis may be relevant in exposing the true intentions of a capitalist project in Africa, as aimed merely at facilitating economic exploitation than promoting sustained economic development.
The experience of neoliberal policies in sub-Saharan Africa over the past two and half decades has almost been uniform. Apart from very few exceptions, such as Angola and Mozambique, which have seen large increases in economic growth in excess of 8 percent per annum, on the whole the policies have played havoc on African economies. Trade liberalisation has led to the flooding of local markets with cheap imported goods thereby ruining local producers. Privatisation of state-owned enterprises was in the main poorly handled, with corruption and cronyism influencing the decisions. Few of the privatised industries have survived the competition of a fully-fledged market economy. Whereas the operation of the market has not been left to have a free reign. To cushion local business from stiff competition and shelter newly privatised companies, state elites have imposed forms of regulations and tempered with the operation of the laws of supply and demands. The other effect of privatisation has been an increase in number of the unemployed and poverty levels.
There is now almost a universal acknowledgement that neoliberal policies have not helped redress inequality and end poverty and underdevelopment in Africa. Public opinion surveys across Africa seems to suggest that support for market reforms among Africans is mixed, with a majority opposed to neoliberal policies and finding them not beneficial to improving their lives or only serving the economic interests of a few, especially those in power (Bratton, Mattes and Gyimah-Boadi, 2005: 19- 23). The experience of Zambia will show how the adoption of SAPs in the 1980s and 1990s, helped exacerbate the economic crisis and how the economy has been ‘restructured’ to benefit a few and the attendant contradictions within the logic of economic reform.
Neoliberalism in Zambia, 1980-2005
In the last two and half decades, the working masses of Zambia have waged massive struggles that have shaken the roots the post-colonial authoritarian state and its vicious neo-liberal agenda, which has caused immense suffering to the ordinary people. The struggles mirror similar events that have swept aside entrenched regimes in other periphery capitalist states like Kenya, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. The struggles in Zambia raise fundamental questions about the possibilities of socialist revolutions in periphery capitalist societies. The working-class resistance against first the United National independence Party (UNIP) and later the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) governments has been weak and shallow compared to other parts of the continent.
Following independence on 24 October 1964, the Zambian nationalist leadership adopted social welfare policies partly to redress the imbalances created by colonialism and also partly as a wider socialist ideological orientation of the new government. Influenced by the anti-imperialist and anti- capitalist ideological rhetoric of first Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Kaunda crafted the philosophy of Humanism. This ideology based on the centrality of the individual provided rationalisation for state intervention into the economy through nationalisation of private property and provision of social welfare services, such as education and health to all Zambians. By the end of 1979, over 80 percent of the Zambian economy was under state control.
For the first ten years Zambia experienced rapid economic growth averaging 8-10 percent per annum. The country had huge foreign reserves; foreign exchange receipts were high and copper prices were high and stable, while the trade balance was positive. However, towards the mid-1970s, the economy went into serious crisis occasioned by the collapse of the copper prices on the world market and the increase in oil prices. Zambia’s foreign exchange reserves were exhausted within a few months as the cost of importing petroleum products soured and exacerbated by the use of alternative trade routes following the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Ian Smith in Rhodesia. On the other hand, foreign exchange receipts from copper sales were inadequate to stabilise the economy.
5 III Conferencia Internacional La obra de Carlos Marx y los desafíos del Siglo XXI – Neo Simutanyi