Political economies of terror? Ancient monarchic Israelite and post-colonial Zimbabwean political economies in dialogue towards an inclusive economic ethics.
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This work is an attempt at Marxist biblical scholarship. It seeks to add to a growing list of works from African biblical scholars that employ insights from the social sciences, Marxist analytical categories in particular, to shed light on, and better understand the social life of ancient Israel. It uses Marxist analysis to facilitate a dialogue between the political economy of ancient monarchic Israel and that of post-colonial Zimbabwe, with a view to an inclusive economic ethics. A Marxist reading of social life in ancient monarchic Israel reveals a class divided society in which the upper classes seized the institution of the state to further their own class interests. A picture that emerges from that society is of a tiny elite parasitically living off the sweat and toil of the peasants. Physically devastated by corvée labour, impoverished by onerous tribute and taxation, and having lost property and family to debt instruments, the hardworking peasants rue the day their ancestors accepted the tributary state, with its monopoly of the legitimate use of violence and ideo-theologies that support and legitimate the status quo; that support and legitimate the luxury that they see being displayed wantonly by their rulers. Like the sons and daughters of Israel they read about daily in their bibles, without stopping for a moment to reflect on their social life, the peaceful hardworking Zimbabwean masses, decimated by poverty, fear and state-sponsored brutality, yet unable to change their story, unwilling to mobilise and stage a citizen’s revolution, have resigned to fate, hoping that the God of the Hebrews will listen to their cries and avenge their blood, sweat and tears. From the highs of the defeat of white racist supremacy to the lows of recording the second highest rate of inflation in recorded history, from being the second most advanced economy on the continent south of the Sahara, to rank among the poorest on earth, from its citizens being proud white collar employees, to beggars and vendors on the streets of neighbouring countries, yet their rulers and patronage networks unashamedly display their extortionate wealth in broad day light, no one in their wildest imagination would have thought that just two decades into independence, the country would descend into a predatory and brutal police state in which its leaders would join hands with the military to terrorise any form of dissent, torture tens of thousands, murder thousands of their own people who hold a different opinion from theirs, as the country tethered on the brink of becoming a failed state. Regarded as a pariah by the international community, industry having been decimated by hyperinflation and shortage of foreign exchange, the country would be abandoned by more than half of its skilled workforce, but only after the ruling politico-military elite and its patronage networks had looted the state coffers empty. With social services having virtually collapsed, citizens would die of avoidable diseases such as cholera. The picture that emerges from Zimbabwe is of a defeated and confused citizenry, scratching their hands trying, but failing, to get answers to what has led them to be in this sorry state. Although separated by millennia, a Marxist reading of the two political economies shows striking similarities in terms of stratification, primitive accumulation of wealth by the upper classes and their apparent insensitivity to the plight of the masses. A biblically-inspired economic ethics that extols community and advocates an option for those who have fallen on the wrong side of the political economy is what the exploited in both contexts want to hear.