programme to meet workers’ demands, was the case with the reversal of increases in maize prices in December 1986, this was not the case under the MMD. Despite the MMD having been sponsored by organised labour, the government was able to prosecute one of the toughest economic reform program on the continent. Zambia joined Ghana as IMF/World Bank’s star pupil.
Following the prescription given by scholars such as Nelson (1994), the MMD government embarked on a doubled-barrelled program of economic and political liberalisation. Given the huge mandate obtained in the October 1991 presidential and general election, which saw the defeat of founder President Kenneth Kaunda and UNIP after 27 years in power and euphoria of political change, the MMD was able to implement an unpopular economic programme with little or no organised opposition. The working class under the leadership of the ZCTU hoped that the new government would be able to grant concessions to the workers in due cause. But in 1994 began to question the logic of remaining in an alliance with a party that had unleashed an assault on workers’ rights and undermined their militancy. The introduction of industrial and labour relations legislation during the 1992-94 period completely weakened the organisational basis of the trade unions. For example, the unity of the trade union movement was undermined with the liberalisation of formation if trade unions, whereas guarantees for job security were wiped out with redundancy programmes undertaken by firms in response to economic liberalisation.
Between 1992 and 2004 the Zambian government prosecuted one of the most vicious privatisation programmes on the continent. A total 263 state-owned companies were privatised, while tens of thousands of workers were declared redundant, a euphemism for being fired. Foreign exchange and import controls were liberalised. Zambia is today boasts of one of the most open markets in Africa, where externalisation of foreign currency is even more liberal than South Africa. But all this has not translated into improvement in living standards. The market economy has only helped serve the capitalist interests, while the majority of Zambian have continued to wallow in poverty and destitution.
Relevance of Marxism to Africa
While Zambia did not adopt fully-fledged socialist policies under Kaunda’s reign, its association with socialist states and experiment with a social democratic programme has led to a mistaken label of a failed socialism state. However, it is important to point out that under Kaunda’s reign the ideology of humanism was subjected to serious critique and a robust discourse ensued on its practical merits. Theoreticians, academics and policy-makers were challenges to see how humanism would be practically applied to Zambian conditions. The ideological debates on the negative influence of international capitalism, such as neo-colonialism and imperialism were engaged the elite for most part of the 1970s and 1980s. It was that discourse which persuaded Kaunda to succumb to the machinations of the IMF and World Bank in mid- 1980s, but to his disappointment neoliberal policies only exacerbated the crisis and undermined his legitimacy.
In capitalist society, politics tend to be organised on class lines. That is to say, that political parties tend to mirror sectional interests. The paradox of the new political liberalism, which comes as a package with neoliberalism is that political parties lack any ideological differentiation. If anything, the new parties aggregate the interest of a cross-section of interests, most of which tend to be contradictory to each other. For example, the MMD aggregated the interests of workers, poor peasants and business groups. Given that neoliberalism is the dominant ideology in the country, the political parties have all come to embrace them in their manifestos. Thus of all the main political parties in Zambia, there is none which articulates a distinctively social democratic or socialist programme. The main opposition party, the United Party for National Development (UPND) led by a businessman, Anderson Mazoka, espouses neoliberal ideas, though hopes to pursue a more social democratic programme when in power. The parties, such as Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), Patriotic Front (PF) and Party for Unity and Development (PUDD), led by persons who held ministerial positions in the MMD government have nothing against neoliberal policies. As for UNIP, it has changed social democratic stance purely to win electoral support.
7 III Conferencia Internacional La obra de Carlos Marx y los desafíos del Siglo XXI – Neo Simutanyi