This weeks class was fortunate to be visited by Blair Rutherford who shared a comprehensive history of Zimbabwe. Blair helped explain the political, social, and economic conditions of the state in the last century which is crucial to understand the contemporary state of Zimbabwe. One of the topics my group discussed was how president Mugabe could stay in power for over 30 years; especially despite scandalous and violent behavior from himself and other elite. This was followed by the larger class discussion of whether Mugabe’s regime can be described as fascist or authoritarian and what are the defining characteristics.
In The ‘Fascist Cycle’ in Zimbabwe; 200-2005, Timothy Scarnecchia attempts to draw similarities between regimes in Zimbabwe (2000-2005) and Italy (1920-1925). He uses the framework of the ‘fascist cycle’ an ideology written by historian of European fascism, Robert Paxton. What Paxton calls ‘the fascist cycle’ is characterized by state leaders who try to evade process and rule of law, use fear mongering, and mobilize nationalists for support. The parallels which Scarnecchia discusses between Zimbabwe and Italy include the state use of violence (including military) to maintain control, the abuse of legislative and judicial power to protect the ruling party, and the requirement of party membership as a basis for involvement in social and economic life.
What stands out to me is the emphasis of violence. Scarnecchia argued that fascist ideologies legitimate the state use of violence by claiming that violence is the right of a nation to defend itself against foreign and domestic enemies. In the case of Mugabe’s regime, violence and coercion was used to maintain power against competition and non-supporters. Scarnecchia uses the example of the 2005 Murambatsvina where thousands of urban Zimbabwe citizens were relocated from their homes into designated compact lands of poor condition. The operation was targeted at the poor, and those involved in the informal sector. Informal traders were called unpatriotic ‘economic sabateurs’ who were working with western imperialists and were responsible for the current economic crisis.
Often discussed as a part of fascist ideologies, violence is a cycle of its own. Yet all over the world people all over the world continue to use violence for protection, influence and control. Violence and intimidation is an effective way to gain control of a population, however it will not gain legitimate support of citizen. Use of violence can be said to show the weakness of a person or party who cannot gain support or legitimacy through ideas and solidarity. The reoccurring theme of violence leads me to question whether fascist or authoritarian ideologies can or have existed without violence.