Hands off Zimbabwe! Victory to the Patriotic Front


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 2 - January/February 1980

The most dangerous stage of the Zimbabwean liberation struggle has now been reached. The Lancaster House settlement has not ended the war but has taken it to a new and perilous phase. Perilous for the Patriotic Front and the black masses of Zimbabwe. The same forces which underlay the war continue to exist. The suffering and injustice which drove the people of Zimbabwe to take up arms under the leadership of the Patriotic Front still exists. The same reactionary racist state apparatus still exists. The same imperialist interests which have tried time and again to 'stabilise' Southern Africa by procuring the defeat of the Patriotic Front still exist. The victory of the Patriotic Front still threatens the ability of imperialism to exploit the resources and the masses in Southern Africa. Most of all it threatens the very existence of the bastion of reaction — the South African apartheid state itself.

No agreement or settlement alters any of that. Only victory for one side or the other — for the Patriotic Front or for imperialism could end the war in Zimbabwe. It was the military successes of the Patriotic Front which finally drove the British ruling class to force a settlement. Had the Rhodesian racist regime, with the backing of South Africa, been able to defeat the Patriotic Front, nobody would have been more pleased than the British ruling class. But such a victory proved impossible. Even with martial law covering 90071) of the land, with half a million Zimbabweans in 'protected' villages, with tens of thousands of political prisoners and with an army of sophisticated troops and equipment — even with all that against it — the Patriotic Front fought on undefeated.

Even worse, from the viewpoint of imperialism, the Patriotic Front moved from success to success. The great majority of black Zimbabweans support the Patriotic Front. Thousands of trained freedom fighters have fought bravely and effectively. Large numbers of whites have been leaving the country. The internal settlement proved a non-starter in the face of Patriotic Front resistance. Fear and panic spread in the camp of imperialism.

British Imperialist plans

British imperialism saw that the time had come to intervene decisively in a manner that would weigh the scales against a Patriotic Front victory.

Nothing could have been more brazen than the role played by the British imperialist state at the Lancaster House talks. The motives and interests of British imperialism were displayed for all to see. The British state wants the defeat of the anti-imperialist struggle and the installation of a pro-imperialist puppet regime.

Of all the imperialist powers, Britain has the greatest stake in Southern Africa. A victory for the Patriotic Front in Zimbabwe is a threat to its interests in the whole region, in Namibia and in South Africa itself. The extent of British involvement in South Africa is enormous. British companies account for more than 50% of total foreign investment in South Africa. For that reason the British state will stop at nothing to prevent any movement endangering imperialist interests in the region. That is why the British-imposed Lancaster House Settlement is designed in every particular to prevent a Patriotic Front victory.

The Lancaster House talks were not talks. Britain dictated. The Patriotic Front was directly tip against the total weight of British imperialism and British backed Rhodesian military forces supported by the armed might of the South African racist state. These pressures included raids and bombings of the Front line states housing Patriotic Front forces. In the case of Zambia this was added to by blocking all grain supplies and thus creating the prospect of famine.

The Patriotic Front had to face these mighty forces of imperialism with scarcely any support from the British labour movement. In addition they were continually attacked and abused by the petit bourgeois socialist groupings of the British left.

The result was that the British were able to get away with murder at Lancaster House. The British imposed plans included an elected assembly with one fifth of the seats reserved for whites. The whites make up one-thirtieth of the population. Built in to the constitution is a substantial bloc of reaction. Also built in by the British were clauses enforcing compensation for redistributed land. Land that was stolen from the Zimbabweans! The British were determined to reward the white settlers for services rendered.

But such constitutional questions were not the real issues at stake. If the liberation struggle is victorious it will chew up and spit out such provisions. Crucial for British imperialism was that the transitional and election arrangements should lay the basis for the political or military defeat of the Patriotic Front. The British plan was simple: Patriotic Front guerrillas are to be mobilised in assembly camps while the whole racist apparatus of the Rhodesian police mercenaries, judiciary, civil service and media remain intact. According to the British, the Rhodesian military would be withdrawn to barracks leaving only: South African troops, white reservists and 120,000 armed whites roaming the country. For the purposes of law and order' the British governor would rely on the white officered butchers of the Rhodesian police force.

The reality of this is now emerging in Zimbabwe. A black crowd welcoming Patriotic Front leaders was attacked by Rhodesian police using tear gas and dogs. Courtesy of Britain. The Rhodesian army is assembled near Beit bridge — the main supply route from South Africa. Courtesy of Britain. Governor Soames ordered the Rhodesian military into action against a group of Patriotic Front freedom fighters killing seven of them. Protected villages still exist, the nearly quarter of a million refugees are not being allowed back into the country to vote. And most ominous of all, South African troops continue to enter and to operate in the country. These are border movements which the British turn a blind eye to.

One further reality is also becoming clearer every day. The fact that the Patriotic Front has the overwhelming support of the black masses in both rural and urban areas. Crowds of up to 100,000 have braved the attacks of the police to welcome Patriotic Front leaders. There is no doubt that the Patriotic Front would win a free election. The question that is worrying the imperialists is whether, even with all the odds Britain has stacked against them, they might win the rigged election that is to be staged.

South African intervention

Britain's plan, should such a Patriotic Front victory come about, is simple. It is called 'Get out and leave it to General Walls and South Africa'. Already Walls has warned that a Patriotic Front victory would lead to civil war. And South African intentions have been clearly stated. General Magus Melan said: ‘The future of our country, indeed of the whole constellation of Southern African states, whether they remain part of the free world or fall prey to Marxism depends on the statesmanship displayed by the present leadership. In this Rhodesia fills a key role'.

South Africa will not stand idly by and watch a revolution in Zimbabwe. Botha, Prime Minister of South Africa, has stated that they would intervene militarily 'if chaos should prevail' in Zimbabwe. British imperialism knows that South Africa is attempting to create the economic and military means to dominate the whole of Southern Africa. With the price of gold rocketing, South Africa has the means to suit its actions to its words. Should the British plan prove insufficient to defeat the Patriotic Front, the threat of a South Africa — Walls — Muzorewa coup is a real one.

And it is the British plan which has set the stage for this. It has kept intact the racist apparatus of the Rhodesian state, it has tried to gather the Patriotic Front forces into assembly points where they will be vulnerable to attack. Nkomo called these camps ‘death camps'. If they prove to be so, they will be British death camps. If there is a coup, then whether Governor Soames's bloated body is back in Britain or not, it will be a British engineered coup. If there is a South African invasion then it will be a British backed and British inspired invasion.

Britain has strongly fostered an image of itself as neutral arbiter. Today the media continues to play up this image with films and photos of benevolent-looking British soldiers unpacking corned beef and cigarettes at the Patriotic Front assembly points. Anti-imperialists are not fooled. Britain is the oldest imperialist butcher of them all. But today, with 13,000 British troops tied down in Ireland, it lacks the capacity to make a decisive military intervention It does not need to. It has pumped every form of assistance into South Africa so that its dirty deeds may be done at one stage removed. Behind Botha, Walls and Muzorewa stands British imperialism backing them to the hilt.

It has been and remains the task of anti-imperialists in Britain to expose the British imperialist plans and to oppose British imperialist intervention, whether direct or covert. It has been and it remains our task to give full support to the Patriotic Front.

During the talks at Lancaster House, that task was an urgent one. The British estate was determined to isolate the Patriotic Front. Willy Musaruwa (Publicity Secretary ZAPU) made the point clear when he said ‘we are being punished for coming to negotiate in the enemy's home ground.'* While the British state was threatening and bludgeoning the Patriotic Front, real practical demonstrations of solidarity from the British working class would have been of enormous significance. What a blow would have been struck at the imperialist arrogance of the British state had tens of thousands of British workers been on the streets demanding Victory to the Patriotic Front! British Hands Off Zimbabwe!


The opportunity was there for the activities of British socialists to make a practical difference to the fate of the Zimbabwean revolution. The result would have been a more favourable position today for the Patriotic Front and the Zimbabwean masses. That opportunity was destroyed by the British petit bourgeois socialist organisations.

The British petit bourgeois left organisations are renowned for their attacks on liberation movements. They have criticised every major anti-imperialist movement in the world, reserving the most vitriolic abuse for those movements in the forefront of the fight against British imperialism — the Provisional Republican Movement, the African National Congress (SA) and the Patriotic Front. By these attacks, the British petit bourgeois socialist groupings have proved that they stand in the camp of British imperialism.

Never has this been shown more clearly than during the Lancaster House talks. While the British imperialists were working militarily, politically and diplomatically to isolate the Patriotic Front, the British petit bourgeois left added to the imperialist campaign by directing a ceaseless stream of attacks at the Patriotic Front.

Socialist Worker had this to say:

‘The Lancaster House Conference on Zimbabwe has seen the self-avowed "revolutionaries" of the Patriotic Front make concession after concession to the white minority and their allies'. (Socialist Worker 6 October 1979)

This was because:

‘The war is not going too well for the Patriotic Front'.

Socialist Challenge wrote:

‘The Patriotic Front leaders have fought by exclusively military means, shunning political organisation among the working class, not encouraging land seizures by the peasantry — in short doing nothing to upset their image as responsible neo-colonial leaders.

‘This is what has enabled Britain to impose its solution. The military position of the guerrillas is undoubtedly weak. Their talk of controlling ninety percent of the country is sheer bravado. They are able to draw on the good will of the overwhelming mass of the population but they have done nothing to mobilise the workers and peasants, to conduct their own resistance.' (Socialist Challenge 22 November 1979).

So, according to these petit bourgeois socialist organisations, the Patriotic Front is militarily weak. What rubbish! It is the very fact of its mass support and its military strengths which have forced British imperialism to adopt its present tactics. Since when did imperialists sit down to negotiate with liberation movements suffering a defeat in the field? According to the petit bourgeois socialists the Patriotic Front has engaged only in the military and not the political struggle. On the contrary, as all oppressed peoples have learnt, the military struggle is part of the political struggle for liberation. Only those born and bred in conditions of bourgeois democracy could think otherwise. Such a criticism is doubly shameful when it is recalled that the Patriotic Front has been a illegal organisation having to work underground. It is only the privileged pro-imperialist petit bourgeois left in Britain who cannot understand this reality. And the crowning absurdity? The Patriotic Front, says Socialist Challenge, has not mobilised the masses. Who then is flocking to greet the returning Patriotic Front leaders, if not the black masses? Who has provided the fighters for the war of liberation — if not the masses? Who has given the support which no liberation movement can survive without — if not the masses? Why are half a million black Zimbabweans locked up in concentration camps called 'protected villages' — if not to prevent them from giving support to the Patriotic Front.

All this ceaseless criticism from the petit bourgeois socialist organisations has been, and is, a source of comfort and succour to British imperialism: as are the identical attacks they have made on the Provisional Republican movement and the African National Congress (South Africa): as is their consistent support for the pro-imperialist Labour Party which, in office has supervised the operation of British imperialism throughout the world.

This criminal betrayal of the Patriotic Front by the petit bourgeois left was fully carried through in practice on 11 November. On that day, the Socialist Workers' Party and the International Marxist Group, both so scathing about the Patriotic Front's so-called inability to mobilise the masses, did not mobilise even a tiny fraction of their membership to attend the demonstration against British plans for Zimbabwe called by the Zimbabwe Emergency Campaign Committee. That demonstration came at a crucial time and could have helped break down the isolation of the Patriotic Front. Instead it was a demonstration of the British petit bourgeois left's treachery. Only between 2-3,000 people marched that day. The largest part of the demonstration was made up of the Patriotic Front contingents. On the march showing common cause with the Patriotic Front's struggle, were the African National Congress(SA) and the Provisional Sinn Fein. The Revolutionary Communist Group, recognising the importance of the march, mobilised nationally, including in Scotland.

And the SWP and IMG, the mass mobilisation experts? The IMG had 15 people behind three banners. The SWP announced before the demonstration that only students and branch representatives should go since their priority went to the TUC 28 November anti-cuts demonstration. Evidently two demos in a month is too much for these people who think that fighting a liberation war is a very simple thing. The result was 50 people on the SWP contingent.

Hands Off Zimbabwe

The months ahead will decide the future of the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean masses, under the leadership of the Patriotic Front, have sacrificed everything, their lives in many cases, to reach their goal — a liberated, democratic Zimbabwe. We are confident that they will continue the struggle until victory is achieved.

But there are immensely strong enemies blocking their path to a democratic Zimbabwe. Britain along with its racist partner South Africa is the greatest obstacle. British imperialism has tried and will continue to exert every effort to prevent the people of Zimbabwe under the leadership of the Patriotic Front, from gaining their victory.

Anti-imperialists in Britain have a duty and a responsibility to stop British imperialism from robbing the people of Zimbabwe of this victory. Large scale mobilisations must be carried out around the slogans British Imperialist Hands Off Zimbabwe! South African troops out of Zimbabwe! Victory to the Patriotic Front! In doing this, the British movement will be aiding the victory of the Patriotic Front in Zimbabwe and so strengthening the liberation forces throughout Southern Africa and the anti-imperialist movement in Britain.

The Revolutionary Communist Group has always given its unconditional support to the Patriotic Front. In future issues of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! we will continue to give a platform to the Patriotic Front and to mobilise on the basis of full and unconditional support to the Patriotic Front. We will continue and step up our work in Britain in support of the struggle in Zimbabwe. We will continue to expose British imperialism and its agents in the working class movement.

Maxine Williams - 2 January, 1980

* ZAPU Publicity Secretary Willy Musaruwa made this comment in an interview with Fight Racism! Right Imperialism! on 13 November while the Lancaster House talks were still going on. We are not publishing it in full because the interview refers to the pre-settlement stage of the talks and has therefore been overtaken rapidly by events. We would like to express our appreciation to Comrade Musaruwa and to ZAPU comrades in Britain for arranging the interview.


In England the Revolutionary Communist Group mobilised for the 11 November demonstration and participated on local ZECC committees. In Scotland where no such committees existed, the RCG was the only British organisation which held mobilising meetings for the march.

The widespread support for the Patriotic Front amongst anti-imperialists in Britain was well illustrated by the well attended public mobilising meetings held in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee by. the RCG. In Glasgow a message of solidarity with the Patriotic Front was received from Provisional Sinn Fein (Glasgow), Palestinian and Iranian organisations. In Dundee solidarity messages were received from Provisional Sinn Fein, the African National Congress (South Africa), The General Union of Palestinian Students, the Iranian Stu-dents Society and the Latin American Society. As a result of the meetings, £35 was collected for the Patriotic Front and a coachload of people attended the march in London from Scotland. All three meetings were addressed by speakers from the Patriotic Front as well as from the RCG.


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