Many observers and analysts of the Zimbabwe nationalist movement have noted factionalism and suggested ethnicity as a dominant factor (Dumbuchena, 1975; Breytenbach, 1977; Nyangoni, 1978; Ranger, 1979). This author (Sithole, 1979; 1980) has made a similar argument elsewhere. Yet, others have observed the same factionalism but suggested a different explanation—the class factor.
The purpose of this paper is not to repeat nor repent from the ethnic factor argument but rather to examine and assess the class factor argument. The task for this paper is twofold. The first is to examine the frequent argument of Marxist colleagues engaged in the profession of analyzing society that factionalism and its ethnic manifestations are caused by “petty-bourgeois” politicians in the nationalist movement. The second task is to attempt to show that, to date, there is no clearly denned class basis for the factionalization in the Zimbabwe nationalist movement.
There has been a proliferation of factionalism in Zimbabwe politics from 1963 to the present. While some analysts have suggested ethnicity as the explaining factor, others sought to employ class analysis to explain the same phenomenon. Ostensibly, most of these analyses were the work of intellectuals and activists external to Zimbabwe but sympathetic to the cause of liberation. More recently, interest in this analytic tool seems to be gaining momentum among locals.