Monday, June 23, 2008

355,000 Percent Inflation in Zimbabwe

It is said that, in Zimbabwe, economy is in its tenth year of recession, and inflation is running at "355,000 percent" (Jason McLure and Antony Sguazzin, "Zimbabwe's MDC Quits Runoff; Pressure on Africa Grows," Bloomberg, 23 June 2008).

Under normal circumstances, a government presiding over such an economy, whatever its ideological orientation (good, bad, or ugly), would have been overthrown a long time ago, with no assistance whatsoever from any leftist or rightist abroad. The only question is why that hasn't happened yet.

Drawing upon Antonio Gramsci, Álvaro García Linera, Vice President of Bolivia, explains that in the course of history there may come a time of "catastrophic equilibrium," a terrible stalemate "in the configuration of the class struggle, when neither of the major contending class blocs has the ability to establish its hegemony over the other, a situation that can endure (as García Linera says) for months or even years" (Richard Fidler, Introduction to García Linera's "Catastrophic Equilibrium and Point of Bifurcation" [Empate catastrófico y punto de bifurcación], MRZine, 22 June 2008). That may very well have been the case in Zimbabwe, too. An added problem in the country is that both the parties leading the contending class blocs -- the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change -- have deteriorated over the course of the stalemate.

The way it's going, the end game may be a civil war or East Timorization (the MDC calls for international peace-keepers, who will stay on to watch over a transitional government). Either is even worse than the type of "elite transition" that appeared likely in the wake of the first round of the presidential elections.

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