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Archive for June 2008

June 25, 2008 Unusual Sources Interview on Zimbabwe

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June 30, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Zimbabwe

Defending the Indefensible: Sham Democracy Promoter Defends Imperialist Ties

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By Stephen Gowans

Stephen Zunes, an advisor to the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, an organization founded by former Michael Milken right-hand man Peter Ackerman, continues to defend “non-violent pro-democracy” activists involved in promoting overthrow movements abroad.

In a June 27, 2008 article in Foreign Policy in Focus, Zunes springs to the defense of Gene Sharp, the founder of the Albert Einstein Institution, who has been exposed in Eva Golinger’s “Bush vs. Chavez: Washington’s War on Venezuela” as “a self-titled expert of what he calls ‘non-violent defense’, though better termed regime change” who has provided “aid to Venezuela’s opposition in finding new and inventive ways to overthrow Chavez.” Sharp has been variously connected to Western-backed overthrow movements in Myanmar, Tibet, Belarus, Serbia and Zimbabwe – countries the US ruling class is acting to bring under its heel.

Zunes’ defense of Sharp, which amounts mostly to declaring Golinger’s and others’ exposure of the AEI founder to be “fabricated allegations,” rests on his demolishing a straw man. Sharp is not, he argues, part of a Bush administration conspiracy to overthrow foreign governments. This is probably true. But I’m not aware of anyone who has ever directly linked Sharp to either the Bush administration or a conspiracy. Someone may have done so somewhere, but for the most part, Sharp has been criticized for accepting funding from and acting (whether intentionally or not) on behalf of US ruling class forces. These forces, of course, are much broader than the Bush administration.

Peter Ackerman, the head of the ICNC, which Zunes belongs to in an advisory capacity, is not, as far as I’m aware, connected to the Bush administration, but has taken on a leadership role on behalf of the US ruling class. He has celebrated the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic by forces Gene Sharp had a key role in training, and Western governments had a key role in bankrolling and establishing the conditions for the success of. Ackerman’s ruling class credentials are impeccable – a Wall Street investment banker, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and head of Freedom House, which is interlocked with the CIA and a “virtual propaganda arm of the (US) government and international right wing,” according to Noam Chomsky’s and Edward Herman’s Manufacturing Consent. This is the company Sharp, Zunes and their left-wing regime change promoters keep. Ackerman’s wife, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, is a former director of the AEI. She is also currently a director of the US foreign policy establishment-dominated Human Rights Watch, which promotes the view that the US should use its “moral authority” to promote human rights around the world, and the US Congress-funded International Center for journalists.

After two pages of telling us there is no truth to the charges against Sharp, Zunes reinforces the case Sharp’s critics have been making, when he reveals that the AEI:

• Is funded by corporate foundations.
• Is open to accepting funding from organizations that have received funding from government sources (i.e., accepts government funding passed through intermediary organizations.)
• Has received grants from the US Congress’s National Endowment for Democracy (an organization that does overtly what the CIA used to do covertly.)
• Has advised members of the Venezuelan opposition.

Not disclosed in Zunes’ article, but revealing nonetheless, is that the NED paid for the AEI to provide advice to Zimbabwe’s Western-backed neo-liberal opposition party, the MDC.

I’m never sure whether Zunes is unsophisticated, sophistical, or both. He declares Sharp to be innocent of all charges, and then adduces evidence that backs up the allegations of Sharp’s critics. In doing so, he sets out a defense that amounts to the following:

1. It’s all right for left activists to take money from corporate foundations.
2. It’s all right to take money from governments, just so long as they’re not Republican ones and was done years ago.
3. It’s all right to take money from Republican governments today, just so long as it comes through pass through organizations. (The CIA, it should be noted, has a long history of using intermediaries to fund organizations like the ICNC, Freedom House and the AEI.)
4. Even if foreign overthrow movements have been bankrolled by the US, Britain and other Western governments, the effect of the funding on the success of these movements is immaterial; governments can’t be brought down unless they lose popular support.

Zunes’ last point is true, but the pressure Western governments exert on foreign policy targets through threats of war, bombing campaigns, sanctions, and propaganda, go a long way toward alienating target governments of popular support, and thereby preparing the ground for Sharp- and Zunes-trained overthrow movements to go to work.

Serbia, whose once social- and publicly-owned enterprises have been sold off to Western investors, is a model of what overthrow movements Zunes celebrates and assists produce.

As ever, Zunes would like us to believe that nonviolent pro-democracy groups are not influenced by the corporations and wealthy individuals who fund them. This may be true, but useful idiots don’t need to be bribed. This is succinctly illustrated in a David Horowitz quotation, cited by Michael Barker in a forthcoming Swans article. “In the control of scholarship by wealth, it is neither necessary nor desirable that professors hold a certain orientation because they receive a grant. The important thing is that they receive a grant because they hold the orientation.”

Frances Stonor Saunders in her “Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters”, points out that the NCL, the non-communist left, has long been the favored funding recipients of foundations and the CIA. The idea, from their point of view, is to channel leftist sentiment and thinking in pro-imperialist directions by amplifying the voice of the pro-imperialist NCL, thereby drowning out and marginalizing the voice of the communist left. While the NCL is often opposed to Western military intervention, and on this basis professes to be anti-imperialist, it promotes and legitimizes imperialist interventions in other ways. It encourages overthrow movements, celebrating them as pro-democracy people’s forces, offers them assistance, training and legitimacy, and mimics the rhetorical assaults by imperialist governments on target governments, thereby promoting the view that Western governments must act, even if not militarily.

A commitment to peace and low-level democracy is not equivalent to anti-imperialism, and as Sharp demonstrates, is a leftist version of a pro-imperialist program. What Zunes leaves out or does not understand is than non-violent pro-democracy movements are often powerless without imperialist governments first threatening or deploying military interventions, imposing sanctions and blockades and broadcasting anti-government propaganda, thereby turning the population of targeted countries against their governments. In other words, the bad guys Zunes can rail against to establish his leftist credentials do the dirty work while his people’s forces come in at the end to effect the coup de grace. The result is never democracy, in the original sense of the word, but improved trade and investment conditions for Western economic elites – the same elites Sharp and Zunes are taking foundation lucre from.

Zunes would also like to bamboozle us into believing that the assistance and funding overthrow movements receive from Western imperialist governments makes little difference in the grand scheme of things (which means, by implication, that the foundations which dole out funding are managed by morons who are squandering money on ineffectual programs.)

As always, Zunes does his part in promoting US foreign policy goals, aping US government descriptions of regime change targets, vilifying them as “autocratic regimes,” which presumably deserve to brought down by handsomely funded overthrow movements trained by Zunes, Sharp and the left “non-violent democracy promotion” apparatus. It comes as no surprise that while Zunes refers to the target governments of Belarus and Zimbabwe as regimes (as the US State Department does), he refers to the current US executive as the Bush “administration.”

Zunes has put together a public statement in defense of Sharp, which has been signed by NCL luminaries Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. Zunes hopes their endorsement will lay to rest legitimate questions about the role played by Sharp and other nonviolent pro-democracy activists, including Zunes himself, in promoting US imperialism under the guise of advancing democracy. But endorsements by Chomsky or Zinn don’t change the facts; they only raise questions about the endorsers and Zunes’ stooping to reliance of appeal to authority. Apparently, he has judged his argument too weak to stand on its own. Calling in NCL luminaries is the political equivalent of calling out the sheep herders to bring the flock back into line. But is the authority of Chomsky and Zinn deserved?

Joan Roelofs reveals in her “Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism” that The Progressive, the magazine for which Zinn writes a regular column, had advisory board members on the Council of Foreign Relations and receives grants from the Ford Foundation. Zunes will reply that I’m making accusations of guilt by association, but the point is that the ruling class funds the NCL and the NCL gladly accepts ruling class lucre. Zunes can dismiss the connection as irrelevant and of no consequence, but this is sheer sophistry.

Sharp and Zunes may be genuinely interested in the pursuit of democracy, but it’s a low-intensity democracy subordinate to US imperial interests they’re promoting. Foreign governments on the US ruling class regime change hit list – and anti-imperialists in the West — have a legitimate reason to be wary of Sharp, Zunes and other leftist members of the US regime change apparatus. They are ruling class operatives who align with ruling class figures to facilitate the pursuit of overseas profits through the elimination of nationalist and socialist governments which stand in the way. Their promotion of democracy, revealed in the neo-liberal, privatized tyrannies which are the invariable outcomes of their work, is as much a sham as the democracy promotion of the imperialist governments they’re tied to through pass through funding and interlocks with ruling class foundations and activists.

Look for Michael Barker’s forthcoming article on Zunes’ defense of Sharp in Swans.

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June 29, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Myths of “humanitarian” imperialism

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By Stephen Gowans

Timothy Garton Ash, a columnist for the British newspaper The Guardian, has called on “people outside Zimbabwe” to “help the majority inside Zimbabwe have its democratic will recognized” by doing seven things, the first of which is to press their governments for stronger sanctions on Zimbabwe. Ash’s column is titled, “We don’t need guns to help the people pitch Mugabe from his perch.”

Ash’s argument, a call for “liberal” or “humanitarian” imperialism, is based on a false premise. It is also morally repugnant.

False premise: The idea that a majority in Zimbabwe is awaiting the help of Westerners is at odds with reality. If you check, you’ll discover that the governing Zanu-PF party won the popular vote in the March 29 elections, but owing to Zimbabwe’s first past the post system, won fewer seats than the MDC did. It would be more accurate to say that somewhat less than 50 percent of Zimbabweans would welcome the MDC coming to power, and fewer than that, I suspect, would welcome further misery from a stepped up Western intervention.

Morally repugnant: Ash’s argument amounts to this: Imperialism is fine, just so long as it isn’t pursued by military means. Lay aside his eagerness to outrage the sovereignty of Zimbabwe, but not, say, Ethiopia, whose brutal Meles’ regime steals elections, locks up the opposition, and has invaded and occupied Somalia, on behalf of London and Washington. People ought to ask themselves why they’ve heard so much about Zimbabwe, but not Ethiopia.

Non-military interventions can be just as harmful, if not more so, than military ones. The international sanctions regime imposed on Iraq led to the excess deaths of more than a million people, deaths caused by Western countries whose governments lied their only concern was freeing Iraqis from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, and then freed numberless Iraqis from life (and, if Washington and London get their way, from the benefits of their oil wealth.) Sanctions were denounced as sanctions of mass destruction, as devastating as campaigns of carpet bombing. No one should delude themselves into thinking that non-military interventions are free from grim humanitarian consequences.

Ash’s appeal for intervention, then, is based on three myths: (1) that a majority of Zimbabweans are opposed to the Mugabe government and would welcome Western intervention; (2) imperialism without guns is better than imperialism with guns; (3) Western intervention in Zimbabwe (which has already happened on a massive scale through funding of the opposition by Western governments and corporate foundations, and though financial isolation of the country) is motivated by humanitarian, not, imperialist goals (otherwise, why no indignant calls for intervention in Ethiopia — or in Egypt, where the president has hung on to power for as long as Mugabe has, but acts to promote British and US foreign policy goals?)

While it’s bad enough that the heirs of British colonialism press for neo-colonial interventions, it’s even worse when they wrap up their arguments in a tissue of myths.

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June 26, 2008 at 2:38 pm

Violence in Zimbabwe and the MDC and its Social Imperialist Supporters

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By Stephen Gowans

It was MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai who said to Mugabe, “If you don’t want to go peacefully, we will remove you violently.” [1]

It was MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara who said he was “going to remove Robert Mugabe, I promise you, with every tool at my disposal” and that “We’re not going to rule out or in anything – the sky’s the limit.” [2]

It was secretary general of Tsvangirai’s MDC faction, Tendai Biti, who warned of Kenya-style post electoral violence if Mugabe won. [3]

It was opposition principal Pius Ncube, then Archbishop of Bulawayo, who said he was “ready to lead the people, guns blazing,” to oust the Mugabe government. [4]

It was the Zimbabwe Resistance Movement that promised to take up arms against the Zanu-PF government if “the poodles who run the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission,” failed to declare Tsvangirai the victor of the presidential run-off election. [5]

In light of this, is it any surprise that Zanu-PF supporters are “outraged that the Security Council that never saw the need to convene and discuss Kenya when more than 2,000 people were hacked to death over two months, at times in front of Western cameras, saw it fit to meet and discuss Zimbabwe on the back of” claims by the opposition that it was being repressed by a campaign of violence? [6]

The Social Imperialist Project

With Western media coverage on Zimbabwe monopolized by the views of the neo-liberal MDC, the US and British governments, and “independent” election monitors and human rights groups funded by the US Congress and State Department, the British government’s Westminster Foundation for Democracy, George Soros’ Open Society Institute, and the CIA- and Council on Foreign Relations-linked Freedom House, one might think it would be possible to find a measure of relief from the blanket uniformity of ruling class dominated opinion on a socialist web site. Just a tiny break.

Instead, the Socialist Project [7] served up an article on Zimbabwe, “Death Spiral in Zimbabwe: Mediation, Violence and the GNU”, by Grace Kwinjeh, a founding member of Zimbabwe’s neo-liberal MDC party and member of its executive committee. [8] The article, not surprisingly, re-iterates a view that is friendly to the party the author is a principal member of.

Kwinjeh has a habit of disguising her background, one that’s hardly irrelevant to the subject she’s writing on, by presenting herself as simply an independent journalist living in South Africa – kind of like John McCain submitting analyses on Obama’s politics while calling himself an independent journalist living in Arizona. Kwinjeh, a regular on the US propaganda arm Voice of America’ Studio 7, traveled to Washington not too long ago on George Soros’s tab to testify to the regime changers in Washington. She is neither independent, particularly interested in national self-determination, nor an opponent of neo-liberalism. [9]

One might expect the Socialist Project to offer a view from the other side, especially given its professed support for “the national self-determination of the many peoples of the world” and ostensibly implacable opposition to neo-liberalism.

Unlike Kwinjeh, I am sympathetic to Zimbabwe’s project of national self-determination, I am implacably opposed to neo-liberalism, and while many of my articles have been published in Zimbabwe’s state-owned newspaper, The Herald, (none of which I submitted or was paid for) I have no membership in any political party in Zimbabwe, disguised or otherwise, much less a relationship as a founding member.

ISO’s Latest Silliness

Here’s what wrong with the MDC, according to the Zimbabwe section of the International Socialist Organization: “The increasing domination of the party leadership by capitalist and Western elites and the marginalization of workers and radicals…will lead to its likely pursuing a neoliberal capitalist agenda if it assumes power to the detriment of the working people.” [10]

Funny that it has taken this long for the ISO to figure this out. Here’s then MDC spokesman Eddie Cross, formerly vice-chairman of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, in advance of 2000 elections – eight years ago!

“We are going to fast track privatization. All 50 government parastatals will be privatized within a two-year time-frame, but we are going to go beyond that. We are going to privatize many of the functions of government. We are going to privatize the central statistical office. We are going to privatize virtually the entire school delivery system. And you know, we have looked at the numbers and we think we can get government employment down from about 300,000 at the present time to about 75,000 in five years.” [11]

Moreover, the principal role in the formation of the party played by the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust, whose patrons are former British foreign secretaries Douglas Hurd, Geoffrey Howe, Malcolm Rifkind and whose chair is Lord Renwick of Clifton, should have provided more than an inkling of what was ahead.

So now that the ISO has belatedly figured out that the MDC is dominated by “capitalist and Western elites” and will likely pursue “a neoliberal capitalist agenda,” what does it recommend radicals and working people in Zimbabwe do?

Unconditionally support Tsvangirai. Yes, that’s right. “The ISO…has now modified its position to call for unconditional but fraternally critical support to Tsvangirai.” [12]

A Canadian connection: Roger Annis and John Riddel are part of a Canadian organization called Socialist Voice, whose web site links to The International Journal of Socialist Renewal, the journal in which ISO-Zimbabwe’s latest silliness appeared. A few years ago Annis and Riddel made essentially the same analysis, but in connection with Canada’s New Democratic Party. After taking the NDP to task for acting “as a faithful defender of the capitalist order,” whose parliamentary program hews “close to the Liberal model” and whose leader “opposes or at best abstains from … mass struggles” — closing with “they are committed defenders of capitalist rule” – the two recommended that “socialists…give critical support to the NDP.” [13]

Do these guys go to the same confidence trickster school?

Morgan Tsvangirai and the New Humanitarianism

During the run-up to the predatory NATO war on Yugoslavia, groups of people who came to be known pejoratively as “cruise missile leftists” and the “new humanitarians” sought to provide a new legal basis for Western imperialism by arguing that ideas of state sovereignty were no longer valid, and that the West should be free to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries on humanitarian grounds. The elevation of the Rwandan civil war to the status of a genocide helped, for calls for interventions in numerous places could be justified by the need to “to prevent another Rwanda.”

In an article published in the British newspaper The Guardian on June 25, Morgan Tsvangirai trotted out the same argument. ”Our proposal,” he wrote, “is one that aims to remove the often debilitating barriers of state-sovereignty” to open the door for “the words of indignation from global leaders to be backed by the moral rectitude of military force.”

So the military pursuit of imperialist goals has now become the moral rectitude of the West’s military force.

Tsvangirai Speaks the Truth

In the same article, Tsvangirai opines: “The battle in Zimbabwe today is a battle between democracy and dictatorship, justice and injustice, right and wrong.”

He’s right. The battle in Zimbabwe today is between the democracy of popular land ownership and self-rule and the dictatorship of rule by outsiders working through proxies; between the justice of Zimbabweans reclaiming the land that was stolen from them and the injustice of sanctions; between the right of struggle for national independence and the wrong of neocolonial oppression.

1. BBC, September 30, 2000.
2. Times Online, March 5, 2006.
3. Herald (Zimbabwe), March 27, 2008.
4. Sunday Times (UK), July 1, 2007.
5. The Zimbabwe Times, May 31, 2008.
6. Herald (Zimbabwe) June 25, 2008.
7. http://socialistproject.ca/
8. http://socialistproject.ca/bullet/bullet116.html
9. You can learn more about Kwinjeh here http://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/03/23/who-is-grace-kwinjeh-and-why-did-patrick-bond-co-author-an-article-with-her/ and here http://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/03/24/the-company-patrick-bond-keeps/
10. http://links.org.au/node/489
11. John Wright, “Victims of the West,” Morning Star (UK), December 18, 2007.
12. http://links.org.au/node/489
13. http://gowans.blogspot.com/2005/12/marxists-my-ass-these-people-are.html

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June 25, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Imperialism, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe at War

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By Stephen Gowans

This is a war between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries; between nationalists and quislings; between Zimbabwean patriots and the US and Britain.

Should an election be carried out when a country is under sanctions and it is has been made clear to the electorate that the sanctions will be lifted only if the opposition party is elected? Should a political party which is the creation of, and is funded by, hostile foreign forces, and whose program is to unlatch the door from within to provide free entry to foreign powers to establish a neo-colonial rule, be allowed to freely operate? Should the leaders of an opposition movement that takes money from hostile foreign powers and who have made plain their intention to unseat the government by any means available, be charged with treason? These are the questions that now face (have long faced) the embattled government of Zimbabwe, and which it has answered in its own way, and which other governments, at other times, and have answered in theirs.

The American revolutionaries, Thomas Jefferson among them, answered similar questions through harsh repression of the monarchists who threatened to reverse the gains of the American Revolution. There were 600,000 to 700,000 Tories, loyal to the king and hostile to the revolutionaries, who stood as a threat to the revolution. To neutralize the threat, the new government denied the Tories any platform from which to organize a counter-revolution. They were forbidden to own a press, to teach, to mount a pulpit. The professions were closed to them. They were denied the right to vote and hold political office. The property of wealthy Tories was confiscated. Many loyalists were beaten, others jailed without trial. Some were summarily executed. And 100,000 were driven into exile. Hundreds of thousands of people were denied advocacy rights, rights to property, and suffrage rights, in order to enlarge the liberties of a larger number of people who had been oppressed. [1]

Zimbabwe, too, is a revolutionary society. Through armed struggle, Zimbabweans, like Americans before them, had thrown off the yoke of British colonialism. Rhodesian apartheid was smashed. Patterns of land ownership were democratized. Over 300,000 previously landless families were given land once owned by a mere 4,000 farmers, mainly of British stock, mostly descendents of settlers who had taken the land by force. In other African countries, land reform has been promised, but little has been achieved. In Namibia, the government began expropriating a handful of white owned farms in 2004 under pressure from landless peasants, but progress has been glacially slow. In South Africa, blacks own just four percent of the farmland. The ANC government promised that almost one-third of arable land would be redistributed by 2000, but the target has been pushed back to 2015, and no one believes it will be reached. The problem is, African countries, impoverished by colonialism, and held down by neo-colonialism, haven’t the money to buy the land needed for redistribution. And the European countries that once colonized Africa, are unwilling to help out, except on terms that will see democratization of land ownership pushed off into a misty future, and only on terms that will guarantee the continued domination of Africa by the West. Britain promised to fund Zimbabwe’s land redistribution program, if liberation fighters laid down their arms and accepted a political settlement. Britain, under Tony Blair, reneged, finding excuses to wriggle out of commitments made by the Thatcher government. And so Zimbabwe’s government acted to reverse the legacy of colonialism, expropriating land without compensation (but for improvements made by the former owner.) Compensation, Zimbabwe’s government declared with unassailable justification, would have to be paid by Britain.

In recent years, the government has taken steps to democratize the country further. Legislation has been formulated to mandate that majority ownership of the country’s mines and enterprises be placed in the hands of the indigenous black majority. The goal is to have Zimbabweans achieve real independence, not simply the independence of having their own flag, but of owning their land and resources. As a Canadian prime minister once said of his own country, once you lose control of the economic levers, you lose sovereignty. Zimbabwe isn’t trying to hang onto control of its economic levers, but to gain control of them for the first time. Jabulani Sibanda, the leader of the association of former guerrillas who fought for the country’s liberation, explains:

“Our country was taken away in 1890. We fought a protracted struggle to recover it and the process is still on. We gained political independence in 1980, got our land after 2000, but we have not yet reclaimed our minerals and natural resources. The fight for freedom is still on until everything is recovered for the people.” [2]

The revolutionary government’s program has met with fierce opposition – from the tiny elite of land owners who had monopolized the country’s best land; from former colonial oppressor Britain, whose capitalists largely controlled the economy; from the United States, whose demand that it be granted an open door everywhere has been defied by Zimbabwe’s tariff restrictions, investment performance requirements, government ownership of business enterprises and economic indigenization policies; and from countries that don’t want Zimbabwe’s land democratization serving as an inspiration to oppressed indigenous peoples under their control. The tiny former land-owning elite wants its former privileges restored; British capital wants its investments in Zimbabwe protected; US capital wants Zimbabwe’s doors flung open to investment and exports; and Germany seeks to torpedo Zimbabwe’s land reforms to guard against inspiring “other states in Southern Africa, including Namibia, where the heirs of German colonialists would be affected.” [3]

The Mugabe government’s rejecting the IMF’s program of neo-liberal restructuring in the late 1990s, after complying initially and discovering the economy was being ruined; its dispatch of troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help the young government of Laurent Kabila defend itself against a US and British-backed invasion by Uganda and Rwanda; and its refusal to safeguard property rights in its pursuit of land democratization and economic independence, have made it anathema to the former Rhodesian agrarian elite, and in the West, to the corporate lawyers, investment bankers and hereditary capitalist families who dominate the foreign policies of the US, Britain and their allies. Mugabe’s status as persona non grata in the West (and anti-imperialist hero in Africa) can be understood in an anecdote. When Mugabe became prime minister in 1980, former leader of the Rhodesian state, Ian Smith, offered to help the tyro leader. “Mugabe was delighted to accept his help and the two men worked happily together for some time, until one day Mugabe announced plans for sweeping nationalization.” From that point forward, Smith never talked to Mugabe. [4]

Overthrowing the Revolution

The British, the US and the former Rhodesians have used two instruments to try to overthrow Zimbabwe’s revolution: The opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, and civil society. The MDC was founded in September 1999 in response to Harare announcing it would expropriate Rhodesian farms for redistribution to landless black families. The party was initially bankrolled by the British government’s Westminster Foundation for Democracy and other European governments, including Germany, through the Social Democratic Party’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Ebert having been the party leader who conspired with German police officials to have Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht murdered, to smother an emerging socialist revolution in Germany in 1918.) Party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who had been elevated from his position as secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to champion the West’s counter-revolutionary agenda within Zimbabwe, acknowledged in February 2002 that the MDC was financed by European governments and corporations, which funneled money through British political consultants, BSMG. [5] Today, the government of Zimbabwe charges NGOs with acting as conduits through which Western governments pass money to the opposition party.

The MDC’s orientation is decidedly toward people and forces of European origin. South African-based journalist Peta Thornycroft, hardly a Mugabe supporter, lamented in an interview on Western government-sponsored short wave radio SW Africa that:

‘When the MDC started in 2000, what a pity that they were addressing people in Sandton, mostly white people in Sandton north of Johannesburg instead of being in Dar es Salaam or Ghana or Abuja. They failed to make contact with Africa for so long. They were in London, we’ve just seen it again, Morgan Tsvangirai’s just been in America. Why isn’t he in Cairo? Maybe he needs financial support and he can’t get it outside of America or the UK and the same would go for (leader of an alternative MDC faction, Arthur) Mutambara. They have not done enough in Africa. [6]

A look at the MDC’s program quickly reveals why the party’s leaders spend most of their time traipsing to Western capitals calling for sanctions and gathering advice on how to overthrow the Mugabe government. First, the MDC is opposed to Zimbabwe’s land democratization program. Defeating the government’s plans to expropriate the land of the former Rhodesian elite was one of the main impetuses for the party’s formation. Right through to the 2002 election campaign the party insisted on returning farms to the expropriated Rhodesian settlers. [7]

The MDC and Land Reform

These days Tsvangirai equivocates on land reform, recognizing that speaking too openly about reversing the land democratization program, or taxing black Zimbabweans to compensate expropriated Rhodesian settlers for land the Rhodesians and other British settlers took by force, is detrimental to his party’s success. But there’s no mistaking that the land redistribution program’s life would be cut short by a MDC victory. “The government of Zimbabwe,” wrote Tsvangirai, in a March 23, 2008 Wall Street Journal editorial, “must be committed to protecting persons and property rights.” This means “compensation for those who lost their possessions in an unjust way,” i.e., compensation for the expropriated Rhodesians. Zimbabwe’s program of expropriating land without compensation, he concluded, is just not on: it “scares away investors, domestic and international.” [8] This is the same reasoning the main backer of Tsvangirai’s party, the British government, used to justify backing out of its commitment to fund land redistribution. The British government was reneging on its earlier promise, said then secretary of state for international development Claire Short in a letter to Zimbabwe’s minister of agriculture and lands, Kumbirai Kangai, because of the damage Zimbabwe’s fast-track land reform proposals would do to investor confidence. Lurking none too deftly behind Tsvangirai’s and London’s solicitude over impaired investor confidence are the interests of foreign investors themselves. The Mugabe government’s program is to wrest control of the country’s land, resources and economy from the hands of foreign investors and Rhodesian settlers; the program of the MDC and its backers is to put it back. That’s no surprise, considering the MDC was founded by Europe, backed by the Rhodesians, and bankrolled by capitalist governments and enterprises that have an interest in protecting their existing investments in the country and opening up opportunities for new ones.

Civil Society

There is a countless number of Western NGOs that either operate in Zimbabwe or operate outside the country with a focus on Zimbabwe. While the Western media invariably refer to them as independent, they are anything but. Almost all are funded by Western governments, wealthy individuals, and corporations. Some NGOs say that while they take money from Western sources, they’re not influenced by them. This is probably true, to a point. Funders don’t dangle funding as a bribe, so much as select organizations that can be counted on to behave in useful ways of their own volition. Of course, it may be true that some organizations recognize that handsome grants are available for organizations with certain orientations, and adapt accordingly. But for the most part, civil society groups that advance the overseas agendas of Western governments and corporations, whether they know it or not, and not necessarily in a direct fashion, find that funding finds them.

Western governments fund dozens of NGOs to discredit the government in Harare, alienate it of popular support, and mobilize mass resistance under the guise of promoting democracy and human rights. Their real purpose is to bring down the government and its nationalist policies. The idea that Britain, which, as colonial oppressor, denied blacks suffrage and dispossessed them of their land, is promoting rights and democracy in Zimbabwe is laughable. The same can be said of Canada. The Canadian government doles out grants to NGOs through an organization called Rights and Democracy. Rights and Democracy is currently funding the anti-Zanu-PF Media Institute of Southern Africa, along with the US government and a CIA-linked right wing US think tank. While sanctimoniously parading about on the world stage as a champion of rights and democracy, Canada denied its own aboriginal people suffrage up to 1960. For a century, it enforced an assimilation policy that tore 150,000 aboriginal children from their homes and placed them in residential schools where their language and culture were banned. Canadian citizens like to think their own country is a model of moral rectitude, but are blind to the country’s deplorable record in the treatment of its own aboriginal people; it’s denial of the liberty and property rights of Canadian citizens of Japanese heritage during WWII; and in recent years, its complicity in overthrowing the Haitian government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and participation in the occupation of Afghanistan. As for the United States, its violations of the rights of people throughout the world have become so frequent and far-reaching that only the deaf, dumb or insane would believe the US government has the slightest interest in promoting democracy and human rights anywhere.

Consider, then, the record of the West’s self-proclaimed promoters of democracy and human rights against this: the reason there’s universal suffrage in Zimbabwe and equality rights for blacks, is because the same forces that are being routinely decried by Western governments and their NGO extensions fought for, bled for, and died for the principle of universal suffrage. “We taught them the principle of one man, one vote which did not exist” under the British, Zimbabwe’s president points out. “Democracy,” he adds, “also means self-rule, not rule by outsiders.” [9]

Regime Change Agenda

The charge that the West is supporting civil society groups in Zimbabwe to bring down the government isn’t paranoid speculation or the demagogic raving of a government trying to cling to power by mobilizing anti-imperialist sentiment. It’s a matter of public record. The US government has admitted that “it wants to see President Robert Mugabe removed from power and that it is working with the Zimbabwean opposition…trade unions, pro-democracy groups and human rights organizations…to bring about a change of administration.” [10] Additionally, in an April 5, 2007 report, the US Department of State revealed that it had:

• “Sponsored public events that presented economic and social analyses discrediting the government’s excuse for its failed policies” (i.e, absolving US and EU sanctions for undermining the country’s economy);

• “Sponsored…and supported…several township newspapers” and worked to expand the listener base of Voice of America’s Studio 7 radio station. (The State Department had been distributing short-wave radios to Zimbabweans to facilitate the project of Zimbabwean public opinion being shaped from abroad by Washington’s propagandists).

Last year, the US State Department set aside US$30 million for these activities. [11] Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that the UK had increased its funding for civil society organizations operating in Zimbabwe from US$5 million to US$6.5 million. [12] Dozens of other governments, corporations and capitalist foundations shower civil society groups with money, training and support to set up and run “independent” media to attack the government, “independent” election monitoring groups to discredit the outcome of elections Zanu-PF wins, and underground groups which seek to make the country ungovernable through civil disobedience campaigns. One such group is Zvakwana, “an underground movement that aims to resist – and eventually undermine” the Zanu-PF government. “With a second, closely related group called Sokwanele, Zvakwana’s members specialize in anonymous acts of civil disobedience.” [13] Both groups, along with Zubr in Belarus and Ukraine’s Pora, whose names, in English, mean ‘enough’, “take their inspiration from Otpor, the movement that played a major role in ousting Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia.” [14] One Sokwanele member is “a white conservative businessman expressing a passion for freedom, tradition, polite manners and the British royals,” [15] hardly a black-clad anarchist motivated by a philosophical opposition to “authoritarian rule,” but revealing of what lies beneath the thin veneer of radicalism that characterizes so many civil society opposition groups in Zimbabwe. In the aforementioned April 5, 2007 US State Department report, Washington revealed that it had “supported workshops to develop youth leadership skills necessary to confront social injustice through non-violent strategies,” the kinds of skills members of Zvakwana and Sokwanele are equipped with to destabilize Zimbabwe.

In addition to funding received from the US and Britain, Zimbabwe’s civil society groups also receive money from the German, Australian and Canadian governments, the Ford Foundation, Freedom House, the Albert Einstein Institution, the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, Liberal International, the Mott Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers, South African Breweries, and billionaire financier George Soros’ Open Society Institute. All of these funding sources, including the governments, are dominated by Western capitalist ruling classes. It would be truly naïve to believe, for example, that the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict and Freedom House, both headed by Peter Ackerman, member of the US ruling class Council on Foreign Relations, a New York investment banker and former right hand man to Michael Milken of junk bond fame, is lavishing money and training on civil society groups in Zimbabwe out of humanitarian concern. According to Noam Chomksy and Edward Herman, Freedom House has ties to the CIA, “and has long served as a virtual propaganda arm of the (US) government and international right wing.” [16]

Political lucre doesn’t come from Western sources alone. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation awards a prize yearly for “achievement in African leadership” to a sub-Saharan African leader who has left office in the previous three years. The prize is worth $500,000 per year for the first 10 years and $200,000 per year thereafter – in other words, cash for life. Ibrahim, a Sudanese billionaire who founded Celtel International, a cellphone service that operates in 15 African countries, established the award to “encourage African leaders to govern well,” something, apparently, Ibrahim believes African leaders don’t do now and need to be encouraged to do. What Ibrahim means by govern well is clear in who was selected as the first (and so far only) winner: Mozambique’s former president Joaquim Chissano. He received the prize for overseeing Mozambique’s “transition from Marxism to a free market economy.” [17] While there may seem to be nothing particularly amiss in this, imagine billionaire speculator George Soros establishing a foundation to bribe US and British politicians with cash for life to “govern well.” It wouldn’t elude many of us that Soros’ definition of “govern well” would almost certainly align to a tee with his own interests, and that any politician eager to live a comfortable life after politics would be keen to keep Soros’ interests in mind. Under these conditions there would be no question of democracy prevailing; we would be living in a plutocracy, in which those with great wealth could dangle the carrot of a cash award for life to get their way. As it happens, this kind of thing is happening now in Western democracies (that is, plutocracies.) Handsomely paid positions as corporate lobbyists, corporate executives and members of corporate boards await Western politicians who play their cards right. There are Mo Ibrahims all over, who go by the names Ford, GM, Exxon, General Electric, Lockheed-Martin, Microsoft, IBM and so on.

Threat to US Foreign policy

Why does the government of the US consider Zimbabwe to pose “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States”? The answer says as much about the foreign policy of the United States as it does about Zimbabwe. The goal of US foreign policy is to provide profit-making opportunities to US investors and corporations. This is accomplished by pressuring, cajoling, bribing, blackmailing, threatening, subverting, destabilizing and where possible, using violence, to get foreign countries to lower or remove tariff barriers, lift restrictions on foreign investment, deny preferential treatment to domestic investors, allow repatriation of profits, and provide the US military access to the country. The right of the US military to operate on foreign soil is necessary to provide Washington with local muscle to protect US investments, ensure unimpeded access to strategic raw materials (oil, importantly), and to keep doors open to continued US economic penetration. It is also necessary to have forward operating bases from which to threaten countries whose governments aren’t open to US exports and investments.

The Zanu-PF government’s policies have run afoul of US foreign policy goals in a number of ways. In 1998, “Zimbabwe – along with Angola and Namibia – was mandated by the (Southern African Development Community, a regional grouping of countries) to intervene in Congo to save a fellow SADC member country from an invasion by Uganda and Rwanda,” which were acting as proxies of the United States and Britain. [18] Both countries wanted to bring down the young government of Laurent Kabila, fearing Kabila was turning into another Patrice Lumumba, the nationalist Congolese leader whose assassination the CIA had arranged in the 1960s. Zimbabwe’s intervention, as part of the SADC contingent, foiled the Anglo-American’s plans, and earned Mugabe the enmity of ruling circles in the West.

The Zanu-PF government’s record with the IMF also threatened US foreign policy goals. From 1991 to 1995, Mugabe’s government implemented a program of structural adjustment prescribed by the IMF as a condition of receiving balance of payment support and the restructuring of its international loans. The program required the government to cut its spending deeply, fire tens of thousands of civil servants, and slash social programs. Zimbabwe’s efforts to nurture infant industries were to be abandoned. Instead, the country’s doors were to be opened to foreign investment. Harare would radically reduce taxes and forbear from any measure designed to give domestic investors a leg up on foreign competitors. The US, Germany, Japan and South Korea had become capitalist powerhouses by adopting the protectionist and import substitution policies the IMF was forbidding. The effect of the IMF program was devastating. Manufacturing employment tumbled nine percent between 1991 and 1996, while wages dropped 26 percent. Public sector employment plunged 23 percent and public sector wages plummeted 40 percent. [19] In contrast to the frequent news stories today on Zimbabwe’s fragile economy, attributed disingenuously to “Mugabe’s disastrous land policies”, the Western press barely noticed the devastation the IMF’s disastrous economic policies brought to Zimbabwe in the 1990s. By 1996, the Mugabe government was starting to back away from the IMF prescriptions. By 1998, it was in open revolt, imposing new tariffs to protect infant industries and providing incentives to black Zimbabwean investors as part of an affirmative action program to encourage African ownership of the economy. These policies were diametrically opposed, not only to the IMF’s program of structural adjustment, but to the goals of US foreign policy. By 1999, the break was complete. The IMF refused to extend loans to Zimbabwe. By February, 2001, Zimbabwe was in arrears to the Bretton Woods institution. Ten months later, the US introduced the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery, a dagger through the heart of Zimbabwe’s economy. “Zimbabwe,” says Mugabe, “is not a friend of the IMF and is unlikely to be its friend in the future.” [20]

Zanu-PF’s willingness to ignore the hallowed status of private property by expropriating the land of the former Rhodesians to democratize the country’s pattern of land ownership also ran afoul of US foreign policy goals. Because US foreign policy seeks to protect US ownership abroad, any program that promotes expropriation as a means of advancing democratic goals must be considered hostile. Kenyan author Mukoma Wa Nguyi invites us to think of Zimbabwe “as Africa’s Cuba. Like Cuba, Zimbabwe is not a… military threat to the US and Britain. Like Cuba, in Latin America, Zimbabwe’s crime is leading by example to show that land can be redistributed – an independence with content. If Zimbabwe succeeds, it becomes an example to African people that indeed freedom and independence can have the content of national liberation. Like Cuba, Zimbabwe is to be isolated, and if possible, a new government that is friendly to the agenda of the West is to be installed.” [21]

The Comprador Party

If Zanu-PF is willing to offend Western corporate and Rhodesian settler interests to advance the welfare of the majority of Zimbabweans, the MDC is its perfect foil. Rather than offending Western interests, the MDC seeks to accommodate them, treating the interests of foreign investors and imperialist governments as synonymous with those of the Zimbabwean majority. A MDC government would never tolerate the pursuit in Zimbabwe of the protectionist and nationalist economic programs the US used to build its own industry. The MDC’s goals, in the words of its leader, are to “encourage foreign investment” and “bring (Zimbabwe’s) abundant farmland back into health.” [22] “It is up to each of us,” Tsvangirai told a gathering of newly elected MDC parliamentarians, “to say Zimbabwe is open for business.” [23]

Encouraging foreign investment means going along with Western demands for neo-liberal restructuring. “The key to turning around Zimbabwe’s economy…is the political will needed to implement the market reforms, the IMF and others, including the United States, have been recommending for the past few years,” lectured the former US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell. This means “a free-market economy and security of property to investment and economic growth.” [24]

Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown has developed an economic program for Zimbabwe to be rolled out if Western regime change efforts succeed. Brown says his recovery package will include measures to:

(1) help Zimbabwe restart and stabilize its economy;
(2) restructure and reduce its debt;
(3) support fair land reform. [25]

What Brown is really saying is that:

(1) Sanctions will be lifted, and the resultant economic recovery will be attributed to the MDC’s neo-liberal policies.
(2) Zimbabwe will resume the structural adjustment program Mugabe’s government rejected in the late 90s.
(3) Either land reform will be reversed or black Zimbabweans will be forced to compensate white farmers whose land was expropriated.

The reality that Brown has developed an economic program for Zimbabwe speaks volumes about who will be in charge if the MDC comes to power — not Zimbabweans, not the MDC, and not Tsvangirai, but London and Washington.

Not surprisingly, MDC economic policy is perfectly simpatico with the prescriptions of its masters. Eddie Cross, formerly vice-chairman of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, who became a MDC spokesman, explained the party’s economic plans for Zimbabwe, in advance of 2000 elections.

“We are going to fast track privatization. All 50 government parastatals will be privatized within a two-year time-frame, but we are going to go beyond that. We are going to privatize many of the functions of government. We are going to privatize the central statistical office. We are going to privatize virtually the entire school delivery system. And you know, we have looked at the numbers and we think we can get government employment down from about 300,000 at the present time to about 75,000 in five years.” [26]

Of course, the intended beneficiaries of such a program aren’t Zimbabweans, but foreign investors.

The MDC’s role as agent of Western influence in Zimbabwe doesn’t stop at promoting economic policies that cater to foreign investors. The MDC has also been active in turning the screws on Zimbabwe to undermine the economy and create disaffection and misery in order to alienate Zanu-PF of its popular support. Arguing that foreign firms are propping up the government, the MDC has actively discouraged investment. For example, Tsvangirai tried to discourage a deal between Chinese investors and the South African company Implats, that would see a US$100 million platinum refinery set up in Zimbabwe, warning that a MDC government might not honor the deal. [27] The MDC leader, true to form, was following in the footsteps of his political masters in Washington. The United States has pressed China and other countries to refrain from investing in Zimbabwe “at a time when the international community (is) trying to isolate the African state.” [28] Washington complains that “China’s growing political and commercial influence in resource-rich African nations” [29] is sabotaging its efforts to ruin Zimbabwe’s economy. More damning is the MDC’s participation in the drafting of the principal piece of US legislation aimed at torpedoing the Zimbabwean economy: The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act. Passed in 2001, the act instructs “the United States executive director to each international financial institution to oppose and vote against–

(1) any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe; or

(2) any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the Government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any international financial institution.” [30]

The effect of the act is to cut off all development assistance to Zimbabwe, disable lines of credit, and prevent the World Bank and International Monetary Fund from providing development assistance and balance of payment support. [31] Any African country subjected to this punishment would very soon find itself in straitened circumstances. When the legislation was ratified, US president George W. Bush said, “I hope the provisions of this important legislation will support the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle to effect peaceful democratic change, achieve economic growth, and restore the rule of law.” [32] Since effecting peaceful democratic change means, in Washington’s parlance, ousting the Zanu-PF government, and since restoring the rule of law equates, in Washingtonian terms, to forbidding the expropriation of white farm land without compensation, what Bush was really saying was that he hoped the legislation would help overthrow the government and put an end to fast-track land reform. The legislation “was co-drafted by one of the opposition MDC’s white parliamentarians in Zimbabwe, which was then introduced as a Bill in the US Congress on 8 March 2001 by the Republican senator, William Frist. The Bill was co-sponsored by the Republican rightwing senator, Jesse Helms, and the Democratic senators Hilary Clinton, Joseph Biden and Russell Feingold.” Helms, a notorious racist, had a penchant for legislation aimed at undermining countries seeking to achieve substantive democracy. “He co-authored the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which tightened the blockade on Cuba.” [33]

The Distorting Lens of the Western Media

Western reporting on Zimbabwe occurs within a framework of implicit assumptions. The assumptions act as a lens through which facts are organized, understood and distorted. Columnist and associate editor for the British newspaper The Guardian, Seamus Milne, points out that British journalists see Zimbabwe through a lens that casts the president as a barbarous despot. “The British media,” he writes, “have long since largely abandoned any attempt at impartiality in its reporting of Zimbabwe, the common assumption being that Mugabe is a murderous dictator at the head of a uniquely wicked regime.” [34] If you began with these assumptions, ordinary events are interpreted within the framework the assumptions define. An egregious example is offered in how a perfectly legitimate exercise was construed and presented by Western reporters as a diabolical exercise. Zanu-PF held campaign workshops to explain what the government had achieved since independence and what it was doing to address the country’s economic crisis. The intention, according to Zimbabwe’s Information and Publicity Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, was to “educate the people on the illegal sanctions as some of them were duped to vote for the MDC in the March elections.” [35] But that’s not how the British newspaper, The Independent, saw it. “The Zimbabwean army and police,” its reporter wrote, “have been accused of setting up torture camps and organizing ‘re-education meetings’ involving unspeakable cruelty where voters are beaten and mutilated in the hope of achieving victory for President Robert Mugabe in the second round of the presidential election.” [36] Begin with the assumption that Mugabe is a murderous dictator at the head of a uniquely wicked regime and campaign workshops become re-education meetings and torture camps. Note that The Independent’s reporter relied on an accusation, not on corroborated facts, and that the identity of the accuser was never revealed. The story has absolute no evidentiary value, but considerable propaganda value. The chances of many people reading the story with a skeptical eye and picking out its weaknesses are slim. What’s more likely to happen is that readers will regard the accusation as plausible because it fits with the preconceived model of Mugabe as a murderous dictator and his government as uniquely wicked. How do we know the accuser wasn’t a fellow journalist repeating gossip overheard on the street, or at MDC headquarters? How do we know the accusation wasn’t made by the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, or any one of scores of representatives of Western-funded NGOs, whose role is to discredit the Zimbabwe government? McGee is a veritable treasure trove of half-truths, innuendo, and misinformation. And yet the Western media, particularly those based in the US, have a habit of treating McGee as an impeccable source, seemingly blind to the reality that the US government is hostile to Zimbabwe’s land democratization and economic indigenization programs, that it has an interest in spinning news to discredit Harare, and that its officials have an extensive track record in lying to justify the plunder of other people’s countries. To paraphrase Caesar Zvayi, if George Bush can lie hundreds of times about Iraq, what’s to stop him (or McGee or the NGOs on the US payroll) from lying about Zimbabwe? That the Western media pass on accusations made by interested parties without so much as revealing the interest can either be regarded as shocking naiveté or a sign of the propaganda role Western media play on behalf of the corporate class that owns them. If the US and British governments and Western media are against the democratization and economic indigenization programs of Zanu-PF, it’s because they’re dominated by a capitalist ruling class whose interests are against those of the Zimbabwean majority.

It is typical of Western reporting to attribute the actions of the Zanu-PF government to the personal characteristics of its leader: his alleged hunger for power for power’s-sake; demagogy; incompetence in matters related to economic management; and brutality. The government’s actions, by contrast, are never attributed to the circumstances, the conditions in which the government is forced to maneuver, or to the demands of survival in the face of the West’s predatory pressures. This isn’t unique to Zimbabwe; every leader the West wants to overthrow is vilified as a “strongman,” “dictator,” “thug,” “war criminal,” “murderer,” or “warlord” and sometimes all of these things. All of the leader’s actions are to be understood as originating in the leader’s deeply flawed character. If Iran is building a uranium enrichment capability, it’s not because it seeks an independent source of fuel for a budding civilian nuclear energy program, but because the country’s president is to be understood as a raving anti-Semite who seeks to acquire nuclear weapons to carry out Hitler’s final solution by wiping Israel off the face of the map. The same reduction of international affairs to a moral struggle between the West and what always turns out to be a nationalist, socialist or communist country headed by a leader whose actions are invariably traced by Western reporters to the leader’s evil psychology applies equally to Zimbabwe. If the Mugabe government has banned political rallies, it is not because the rallies have been used by the opposition as an occasion to firebomb police stations, but because the president has an unquenchable thirst for power and will brook no opposition. If opposition activists have been arrested, it’s not because they’ve committed crimes, but because the leader is repressive and dictatorial. If Morgan Tsvangirai is beaten by police, it’s not because he tried to break through police lines, but because the leader is a brutal dictator and ordered Tsvangirai’s beating because that’s what brutal dictators do. If an opposition leader is arrested and charged with treason, it’s not because there is evidence of treason, but because the president is gagging the opposition to cling to power because it is in the nature of dictators to do so. If the economy falls into crisis, it’s not because the West has cut off the country’s access to credit, but because of the leader’s incompetence. If agricultural production drops, it’s not due to the drought, electricity shortages and rising fuel costs that have bedeviled other countries in the region, but because the leader is too stupid to recognize his land reform policies are disastrous.

A New York Times story published three days before the March 29 elections shows how Western governments and mass media cooperate with civil society agents on the ground to shape public opinion. The aim of the March 26, 2008 article, titled “Hope and Fear for Zimbabwe Vote,” was to discredit the elections that Zanu-PF seemed at the time likely to win.

Harare had barred election monitors from the US and EU, but allowed observers from Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, South Africa and the SADC to monitor the vote. The Western media pointed to the decision to bar Western observers as indirect evidence of vote rigging. After all, if Zimbabwe had nothing to hide, why wouldn’t it admit observers from Europe and the US? At the same time, Western reporters suggested that Zimbabwe was only allowing observers from friendly countries because they could be counted on to bless the election results. By the same logic, one would have expected that a negative evaluation from observers representing unfriendly countries would be just as automatic and foreordained, especially considering the official policy of the US and EU is to replace the current government with one friendly to Western business interests. Indeed, it is this fear that had led Harare to ban Western monitors.

With Western observers unable to monitor the elections directly, governments in North America and Europe found themselves on the horns of a dilemma. How could they declare the vote fraudulent, if they hadn’t observed it? To get around this difficulty, the US, Britain and other Western countries provided grants to Zimbabweans on the ground to monitor the vote. These Zimbabweans, part of civil society, declared themselves to be independent “non-governmental” observers, and prepared to render a foreordained verdict that the election was rigged. Cooperating in the deception, the Western media amplified their voices as “independent” experts on the ground. The US Congress’s National Endowment for Democracy — an organization that does overtly what the CIA used to do covertly — provided grants to the Zimbabwe Election Support Network “to train and organize 240 long-term elections observers throughout Zimbabwe.” The NED is also connected to the Media Monitoring Project through the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, which it funds, and the Media Institute of Southern Africa, which is funded by Britain’s NED equivalent, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and Canada’s Rights and Democracy. The Media Monitoring Project calls itself independent, but is connected to the US and British governments, and to billionaire speculator George Soros’ Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.

When the New York Times needed Zimbabweans to comment on the upcoming election, its reporters turned to representatives of these two NGOs. Noel Kututwa, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, told the newspaper that his group would be using “sampling techniques to assess the accuracy of the results announced nationally.” Yet, Mr. Kututwa also told the newspaper that, “We will not have a free and fair election.” If Kututwa had already decided the election would be unfair and coerced, why was he bothering to assess its accuracy? Andrew Moyse, a regular commentator on Studio 7, an anti-Mugabe radio station sponsored by the US government’s propaganda arm, Voice of America, was quoted in the same article. “Even if Mugabe only gets one vote,” Mr. Moyse opined, “the tabulated results are in the box and he has won.”

Moyse, on top of acting as a US mouthpiece on Voice of America, heads up the Media Monitoring Project. While part of the NGO election observer team the US and EU were relying on to ostensibly assess the fairness of the vote, he had already decided the vote was rigged. Kutatwa and Moyse were the only experts the New York Times cited in its story on the upcoming elections. Yet both represented NGOs funded by hostile governments whose official policy is to replace Robert Mugabe and his government’s land reform and economic indigenization policies. Both presented themselves as independent, though they could hardly be independent of their sources of foreign government and foundation funding. Both declared in advance of the election that the vote would be coerced and unfair and that the tabulated results were already in the box. Their foreordained conclusions – which turned out to be wildly inaccurate — happened to be the same conclusions their sponsors in the US and Britain were looking for, to obtain the consent of a confused public to intervene vigorously in Zimbabwe’s affairs. This is emblematic of the symbiotic collaboration of media, Western governments, and NGOs on the ground. Western governments, corporations and wealthy individuals fund NGOs to discredit the Zanu-PF government, and the Western media present the same NGOs as independent actors, and provide them a platform to present their views. Meanwhile, the Western media marginalize the Zanu-PF government and its supporters on the ground, denying them a platform to present their side. To publics in the West, the only story heard is the story told by the MDC and its civil society allies, who reinforce, as a matter of strategy, the view that Mugabe is a murderous dictator at the head of a uniquely wicked regime. The MDC, civil society, the Western media, the British and US governments, and imperialist think tanks and foundations, are all interlocked. All of these sources, then, tell the same story.

Safeguarding the Revolution

After the revolutionary war, would the Americans who led and carried out the revolution have allowed loyalists to band together to seek public office in elections with a program of restoring the monarchy? We’ve already seen that the answer is no. When the Nazis were ousted in Germany, was the Nazi party allowed to reconstitute itself to seek the return of the Third Reich through electoral means? No. Countries that have gone through revolutionary change are careful, if the revolution is to survive, to deny those who have been overthrown an opportunity to recover their privileged positions. That often means denying former exploiters and their partisans opportunities to band together to contest elections, or constitutionally prescribing a desired form of government and prohibiting a return to the old. The US revolutionaries did both; they repressed the loyalists and declared a republic, which, as a corollary, forbade a return to monarchy. Even if every American voter decided that George Bush should become king, the US constitution forbids it, no matter what the majority wants. The gun (that is, the violence employed by the American revolutionaries to free themselves from the oppression of the British crown) is more powerful than the pen (Americans can’t vote the monarchy back in.)

In Zimbabwe, the former colonial oppressor, Britain, has been working with its allies to restore its former privileges through civil society and the MDC. Britain doesn’t seek a return to an overt colonialism, complete with a British viceroy and British troops garrisoned throughout the country, but to a neo-colonialism, in which the local government acts in the place of a viceroy, safeguarding and nurturing British investments and looking after Western interests under the rubric of managing the economy soundly. Britain, then, wants the MDC, for the MDC is British rule by proxy. Many Zimbabweans, however, are vehemently opposed to selling out their revolution to a party that was founded and is financed by a country to which they were once enslaved.

Western media propaganda presents Zimbabwe as a pyramidal society, in which an elite at the apex, comprising Mugabe, his ministers and the heads of the security services, brutally rule over the vast majority of Zimbabweans at the base who long for the MDC to deliver them from a dictatorship. A fairer description is that Zimbabwe is a society in which both sides command considerable popular support, but where Zanu-PF has an edge. This may sound incredible to anyone looking at Zimbabwe through the distorting lens of the Western media, but let Munyaradzi Gwisai, leader of the International Socialist Organization in Zimbabwe, a fierce opponent of the Mugabe government, set matters straight.

“There is no doubt about it – the regime is rooted among the population with a solid social base. Despite the catastrophic economic collapse, Zanu-PF still won more popular votes in parliament than the MDC in the March 29 parliamentary elections. Mugabe might have lost on the streets, but if you count the actual votes, his party won more than the MDC in elections to the House of Assembly and Senate. Zanu-PF won an absolute majority of votes in five of the country’s 10 provinces, plus a simple majority in another province. By contrast, the MDC won two provinces with an absolute majority and two with a simple majority. But because we use first past the post, not proportional representation, Zanu-PF’s votes were not translated into a majority in parliament. It was only Mugabe himself, in the presidential election, who did worse in terms of the popular vote.” [37]

Those in the thrall of Western propaganda will dismiss strong support for Zanu-PF in the March 29 elections as a consequence of electoral fraud, not genuine popular backing. But it would be a very inept government that rigged the election and lost control of the assembly and had to face a run-off in the presidential race. No, Mugabe’s support runs deep.

“According to a poll of 1,200 Zimbabweans published in August (2004) by South African and American researchers, the level of public trust in Mr. Mugabe’s leadership” more than doubled from 1999, “to 46 percent – even as the economy” was severely weakened by Western sanctions. [38] Significantly, it was over this period that the government launched its fast track land reform program. Notwithstanding Western news reports that Mugabe’s supporters are limited to his “cronies”, Zimbabweans participated in a million man and woman march last December, where marchers “proclaimed that Washington, Downing Street and Wall Street (had) no right to remove Mugabe.” [39]

Elsewhere in Africa, Zimbabwe’s president is enormously popular. As recently as August 2004, Mugabe was voted at number three in the New Africa magazine’s poll of 100 Greatest Africans, behind Nelson Mandela and Kwame Nkrumah. [40] The Los Angeles Times, no fan of the Zimbabwean president, acknowledges that “Mugabe is so popular on the continent…that he is feted and cheered wherever he goes.” [41] That was evident last summer when, much to the chagrin of Western reporters, who had been assuring their readers that Mugabe was being called to a meeting of SADC to be dressed down, that “Mr. Mugabe arrived at the meeting to a fusillade of cheers and applause from attendees that…overwhelmed the polite welcomes of the other heads of states.” [42] A European Union-African Union summit planned for 2003 was aborted after African leaders refused to show up in solidarity with a Mugabe who had been banned by the Europeans for promoting the interests of Zimbabweans, not Europeans. The summit went ahead in 2007, but only after African leaders threatened once again to boycott the meeting if Mugabe was barred. With China doing deals with African countries, the Europeans were reluctant to sacrifice trade and investment opportunities, and laid aside their misgivings about attending a meeting at which Mugabe would be present. That is, all except British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He stayed home in protest. German leader Angela Merkel did attend, but thought it necessary to scold Mugabe to distance herself from him. Senegal’s president Abdoulaye Wade sprang to Mugabe’s defense, dismissing Merkel’s vituperative comments as untrue and accusing the German leader of being misinformed. [43]

Opposition’s Failed Attempts at Insurrection

Mugabe’s popularity, and that of the movement for Zimbabwean empowerment he leads, explains Zanu-PF’s strong showing in elections and why the opposition’s numerous efforts at seizing power by general strike and insurrection have failed. Civil society organizations and MDC leaders have called for insurrectionary activity many times. In 2000, Morgan Tsvangirai called on Mugabe to step down peacefully or face violence. “If you don’t want to go peacefully,” the new opposition leader warned, “we will remove you violently.” [44] Arthur Mutambara, a robotics professor and former consultant with McKinsey & Company and leader of an alternative wing of the MDC, declared in 2006 that he was “going to remove Robert Mugabe, I promise you, with every tool at my disposal.” Asked to clarify what he meant, he replied, “We’re not going to rule out or in anything – the sky’s the limit.” [45] Three days before the March 29 elections, Tendai Biti, secretary general of Tsvangirai’s MDC faction, warned of Kenya-style post electoral violence if Mugabe won. [46] In the US, where United States Code, Section 2385, “prohibits anyone from advocating abetting, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States by force or violence,” opposition leaders like Tsvangirai, Mutambara and Biti would be charged with treason (Biti has been.)

Leaders of civil society organizations which receive Western funding have been no less diffident about threatening to overthrow the government violently. Last summer, the then Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, said he thought it was “justified for Britain to raid Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe. We should do it ourselves but there’s too much fear. I’m ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the people are not ready.” [47] Ncube complained bitterly that Zimbabweans were cowards, unwilling to take up arms against the government. This was a strange complaint to make against a people who waged a guerilla war for over a decade to achieve independence. Zimbabweans’ unwillingness to follow Ncube, guns blazing, had nothing to do with cowardice, and everything to do with the absence of popular support for Ncube’s position.

Recently, the International Socialist Organization, one of the founding members of the MDC along with the British government, argued in its newspaper that “the crisis was not going to be resolved through elections, but through mass action.” ISO – Zimbabwe leader Munyaradzi Gwisai “said that the way forward for the Movement for Democratic Change and civil society was to create a united front and mobilize against the regime.” [48] The ISO makes the curious argument that Zimbabweans should take to the streets to bring the MDC to power, recognizing the MDC to be a comprador party (one the ISO helped found). A comprador party, in the febrile reasoning of the ISO, is preferable to Zanu-PF. Gwisai’s offices were visited by the police, touching off howls of outrage over Mugabe’s “repressions” from the ISO’s Trotskyite brethren around the world. Followers of Trotsky are forever siding with reactionaries against revolutionaries, the revolutionaries invariably failing to live up to a Trotskyite ideal. If they can’t have their ideal, they’ll settle for imperialism. While Gwisai wasn’t arrested, Wellington Chibebe, general secretary of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, was. He too had urged Zimbabweans to take to the streets to bring down the government.

Some opponents of Mugabe’s government go further. An organization called the Zimbabwe Resistance Movement promises to take up arms against the Zanu-PF government if “the poodles who run the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission,” fail to declare Tsvangirai the victor of the presidential run-off election. [49] The Western media have been silent on this form of oppositional intimidation and threats of violence.

The opposition has also tried other means to clear the way for its rise to power. In April, 2007 it called a general strike, as part of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign. The strike fizzled, accomplishing nothing more than showing the opposition’s program of seizing power extra-constitutionally had no popular support. The campaign “was a joint effort of the opposition, church groups and civil society… As a body…it (did) not…have widespread grassroots support,” reported the Toronto newspaper, The Globe and Mail. [50] While depicted in the Western media as a peaceful campaign of prayer meetings, the campaign was predicated on violence. MDC activists carried out a series of fire bombings of buses and police stations, events the Western press was slow to acknowledge. A May 2 2007 Human Rights Watch report finally acknowledged that there had been a series of gasoline bombings, but questioned whether the MDC was really responsible. By this point, as far as Western publics knew, peaceful protests had been brutally suppressed by a uniquely wicked government. To keep matters under control, the government banned political gatherings. The opposition defied the ban, calling their rallies “prayer meetings.” It was a result of this defiance that Arthur Mutambara was arrested, and Morgan Tsvangirai roughed up by police when he tried to force his way through police lines to demand Mutambara’s release. The MDC took full advantage of the event to play up to the Western media, claiming Tsvangirai had been beaten up as part of a program of political repression, rather than as a response to his tussling with the police. As the Cuban ambassador to Zimbabwe explained, “What happened in Zimbabwe of course is similar to what groups based in Florida have done in Cuba. They put many bombs in some hotels in Cuba. They were trying to…generate political instability in Cuba, so I see the same pattern in Zimbabwe.” [51]

Making the Economy Scream

While quislings work from within the country to make it ungovernable, pressure is applied from without. Western governments say they’ve imposed only targeted sanctions aimed at key members of the government, nothing to undermine the economy and hurt ordinary Zimbabweans, but as we’ve already seen, the US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act has far-reaching economic implications. On top of this, other, informal, sanctions do their part to make the economy scream. As Robert Mugabe explains:

The British and their allies “influence other countries to cut their economic ties with us…the soft loans, grants and investments that were coming our way, started decreasing and in some cases practically petering out. Then the signals to the rest of the world that Zimbabwe is under sanctions, that rings bells and countries that would want to invest in Zimbabwe are being very cautious. And we are being dragged through the mud every day on CNN, BBC, Sky News, and they are saying to these potential investors ‘your investments will not be safe in Zimbabwe, the British farmers have lost their land, and your investments will go the same way.’” [52]

In March 2002, Canada withdrew all direct funding to the government of Zimbabwe. [53] In 2005, the IT department at Zimbabwe’s Africa University discovered that Microsoft had been instructed by the US Treasury Department to refrain from doing business with the university. [54] Western companies refuse to supply spare parts to Zimbabwe’s national railway company, even though there are no official trade sanctions in place. [55] Britain and its allies are now planning to escalate the pressure. Plans have been made to press South Africa to cut off electricity to Zimbabwe if the MDC doesn’t come to power. Pressure will also be applied on countries surrounding Zimbabwe to mount an economic blockade. [56] The point of sanctions is to starve the people of Zimbabwe into revolting against the government to clear the way for the rise of the MDC and control, by proxy, from London and Washington. Apply enough pressure and eventually the people will cry uncle (or so goes the theory.) You can’t say Zanu-PF wasn’t forewarned. Stanley Mudenge, the former foreign minister of Zimbabwe, said Robin Cook, then British foreign secretary, once pulled him aside at a meeting and said: “Stan, you must get rid of Bob (Mugabe)…If you don’t get rid of Bob, what will hit you will make your people stone you in the streets.” [57]

Harare’s Options

Those who condemn the actions of the Zanu-PF government in defending their revolution have an obligation to say what they would do. Usually, they skirt the issue, saying there is no revolution, or that there was one once, but that it was long ago corrupted by cronyism. Their simple answer is to dump Mugabe, and start over again – a course of action that would inevitably see a return to the neo-liberal restructuring of the 1990s, a dismantling of land reforms, and a neo-colonial tyranny. Not surprisingly, people who make this argument find favor with imperialist governments and ruling class foundations and are often rewarded by them for appearing to be radical while actually serving imperialist goals.

Throughout history, reformers and revolutionaries have been accused of being self-aggrandizing demagogues manipulating their followers with populist rhetoric to cling to power to enjoy its many perks. [58] But as one writer in the British anti-imperialist journal Lalkar pointed out, “The government of Zimbabwe could very easily abandon its militant policies aimed at protecting Zimbabwe’s independence and building its collective wealth – no doubt its ministers would be rewarded amply by the likes of the World Bank and the IMF.” [59] If Mugabe is really using all means at his disposable to hang on to power simply to enjoy its perks, he has chosen the least certain and most difficult way of going about it. Lay this argument aside as the specious drivel of those who want to bury their heads in the sand to avoid confronting tough questions. What would you do in these circumstances?

In retaliation for democratizing patterns of land ownership, distributing land previously owned by 4,000 farmers, mainly of British stock, to 300,000 previously landless families, Britain has “mobilized her friends and allies in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand to impose illegal economic sanctions against Zimbabwe. They have cut off all development assistance, disabled lines of credit, prevented the Bretton Woods institutions from providing financial assistance, and ordered private companies in the United States not to do business with Zimbabwe.” [60] They have done this to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy to alienate the revolutionary government of its popular support. For years, they have done this. Soni Rajan, employed by the British government to investigate land reform in Zimbabwe, told author Heidi Holland:

“It was absolutely clear…that Labour’s strategy was to accelerate Mugabe’s unpopularity by failing to provide him with funding for land redistribution. They thought if they didn’t give him the money for land reform, his people in the rural areas would start to turn against him. That was their position; they want him out and they were going to do whatever they could to hasten his demise.” [61]

The main political opposition party, the MDC, is the creation of the Rhodesian Commercial Farmers’ Union, the British government and the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust, whose patrons are former British foreign secretaries Douglas Hurd, Geoffrey Howe, Malcolm Rifkind and whose chair is Lord Renwick of Clifton, who has collected a string of board memberships in southern African corporations. The party’s funding comes from European governments and corporations, and its raison d’etre is to reverse every measure the Zanu-PF government has taken to invest Zimbabwean independence with real meaning. Civil society organizations are funded by governments whose official policy is one of regime change in Zimbabwe. The US, Britain and the Netherlands finance pirate radio stations and newspapers, which the Western media disingenuously call “independent”, to poison public opinion against the Mugabe government and its land democratization and economic indigenization programs. It’s impossible to hold free and fair elections, because the interference by Western powers is massive, a point acknowledge by Mugabe opponent Munyaradzi Gwisai. [62]

Guns Trump “Xs”

Zimbabweans who fought for the country’s independence and democratization of land ownership are not prepared to give up the gains of their revolution simply because a majority of Zimbabweans marked an “X” for a party of quislings. There are two reasons for their steadfastness in defense of their revolution: First, Americans can’t vote the monarchy back in, or return, through the ballot box, to the status quo ante of British colonial domination. The US revolutionaries recognized that some gains are senior to others, freedom from foreign domination being one of them. Americans would never allow a majority vote to place the country once again under British rule. Nor will Zimbabwe’s patriots allow the same to happen to their country. Second, no election in Zimbabwe can be free and fair, so long as the country is under sanctions and the main opposition party and civil society organizations are agents of hostile foreign governments. The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Justice has called on the government “to consider the possibility of declaring a state of emergency,” pointing out correctly that “Zimbabwe is at war with foreign elements using local puppets.” [63] Western governments would do – and have done – no less under similar circumstances. Patriots writing to the state-owned newspaper, The Herald, urge the government to take a stronger line. “The electoral environment is heavily tilted in favour of the (MDC) because of the economic sanctions,” wrote one Herald reader. “If it was up to me there should be no elections until the sanctions are scrapped. If we don’t defend our independence and sovereignty, then we are doomed to become hewers of wood and drawers of water. I stand ready to take up arms to defend my sovereignty if need be.” [64] The heads of the police and army have let it be known that they won’t “salute sell-outs and agents of the West” [65] – and nor should they. And veterans of the war for national liberation have told Mugabe that they can never accept that their country, won through the barrel of the gun, should be taken merely by an ‘X’ made by a ballpoint pen.” [66] Mugabe recounted that the war veterans had told him “if this country goes back into white hands just because we have used a pen, we will return to the bush to fight.” The former guerilla leader added, “I’m even prepared to join the fight. We can’t allow the British to dominate us through their puppets.” [67] Zimbabwe, as patriots have said many times, will never be a colony again. Even if it means returning to arms.

1. Herbert Aptheker, “The Nature of Democracy, Freedom and Revolution,” International Publishers, New York, 2001.
2. Herald (Zimbabwe) April 2, 2008.
3. “No Better Opportunity,” German Foreign Policy.Com, March 26, 2007. http://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/fulltext/56059
4. Times (London), November 25, 2007.
5. Rob Gowland, “Zimbabwe: The struggle for land, the struggle for independence,” Communist Party of Australia. http://www.cpa.org.au/booklets/zimbabwe.pdf
6. Herald (Zimbabwe) May 29, 2008.
7. Guardian (UK), March 3, 2008.
8. Wall Street Journal, quoted in Herald (Zimbabwe) March 23, 2008.
9. Talkzimbabwe.com, June 19, 2008.
10. Guardian (UK), August 22, 2002.
11. Herald (Zimbabwe) May 29, 2008.
12. Herald (Zimbabwe), February 22, 2008.
13. New York Times, March 27, 2005.
14. Ibid.
15. Los Angeles Times, July 8, 2005.
16. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, “Manufacturing Consent,” Pantheon Books, 1988, p. 28.
17. The Independent (UK), October 22, 2007; New York Times, October 23, 3007.
18. New African, June 2008.
19. Antonia Juhasz, “The Tragic Tale of the IMF in Zimbabwe,” Daily Mirror of Zimbabwe, March 7, 2004.
20. Herald (Zimbabwe) September 13, 2005.
21. Herald (Zimbabwe) August 12, 2005.
22. Morgan Tsvangirai, “Zimbabwe’s Razor Edge,” Guardian (UK) April 7, 2008.
23. Globe and Mail (Toronto), May 31, 2008.
24. Response to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Monetary Policy Statement,” Ambassador Christopher Dell, February 7, 2007.
25. The Independent (UK), September 20, 2007.
26. John Wright, “Victims of the West,” Morning Star (UK), December 18, 2007.
27. Herald (Zimbabwe), July 6, 2005.
28. AFP, July 29, 2005.
29 Ibid.
30. US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001.
31. Herald (Zimbabwe) June 4, 2008.
32. “President Signs Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, December 21, 2001. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/12/200111221-15.html
33. http://www.pslweb.org, October 17, 2006.
34. Guardian (UK), April 17, 2008. Milne is also clear on who’s responsible for the conflict in Zimbabwe. In an April 17, 2008 column in The Guardian, he wrote, “Britain refused to act against a white racist coup, triggering a bloody 15-year liberation war, and then imposed racial parliamentary quotas and a 10-year moratorium on land reform at independence. The subsequent failure by Britain and the US to finance land buyouts as expected, along with the impact of IMF programs, laid the ground for the current impasse.”
35. Herald (Zimbabwe), June 11, 2008.
36. The Independent (UK), June 9, 2008.
37. Weekly Worker, 726, June 19, 2008 http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/726/forced.html.
38. New York Times, December 24, 2004.
39. Workers World (US), December 12, 2007.
40. Proletarian (UK) April-May 2007.
41. Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2007.
42. New York Times, August 17, 2007.
43. New York Times, December 9, 2007.
44. BBC, September 30, 2000.
45. Times Online, March 5, 2006.
46. Herald (Zimbabwe), March 27, 2008.
47. Sunday Times (UK), July 1, 2007.
48. Weekly Worker, 726, June 19, 2008 http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/726/forced.html
49. The Zimbabwe Times, May 31, 2008.
50. Globe and Mail (Toronto) March 22, 2007.
51. Herald (Zimbabwe) April 15, 2007.
52. New African, May 2008.
53. Herald (Zimbabwe), October 18, 2007.
54. Herald (Zimbabwe), January 28, 2008.
55. Herald (Zimbabwe), January 11, 2008.
56. Guardian (UK), June 16, 2008.
57. New African, May 2008.
58. See, for example, Michael Parenti, “The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History Ancient Rome,” The New Press, 2003.
59. Lalkar, May-June, 2008. http://www.lalkar.org/issues/contents/may2008/zim.php
60. Address of Robert Mugabe to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, June 3, 2008.
61. New African, May 2008.
62. Weekly Worker, 726, June 19, 2008 http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/726/forced.html
63. TalkZimbabwe.com, May 15, 2008.
64. Letter to the Herald (Zimbabwe), May 6, 2008.
65. Guardian (UK), March 15, 2008.
66. Herald (Zimbabwe), June 20, 2008.
67. The Independent (UK), June 14, 2008.

Written by what's left

June 24, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Zimbabwe: Politics and Food Aid

with 5 comments

By Stephen Gowans

There is no evidence that the government of Zimbabwe is using food “as a political tool to intimidate voters ahead of an election” or that it is deliberately denying “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Zimbabweans” food aid, as Human Rights Watch and The New York Times allege.

In fact, a careful reading of what both sources claim, points to a deliberate and knowing attempt to palter with the truth, reflecting and reinforcing a narrative that holds Africa, and particularly Zimbabwe, to be marked by suffering people, corrupt and monstrous governments, and endless chaos.

The New York Times began a June 4 article on Zimbabwe by announcing that “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Zimbabweans — orphans and old people, the sick and the down and out – have lost access to food and other basic humanitarian assistance.”

It’s true that Zimbabweans have lost access to food delivered by Western NGOs, but not food aid altogether, and only for the duration of the presidential run-off election campaign. In the interim, the government has made arrangements to take on the job of distributing food aid to those in need. No government-engineered famine is imminent, notwithstanding what The New York Times says.

Harare has ordered NGOs to temporarily scale back or cease operations, accusing them of illegally channeling funding to the opposition MDC party and in March’s elections of “going around threatening villagers in rural areas that the donations they were handing them would be the last if they voted for Zanu-PF and President Mugabe.” [1] It is out of a desire to eclipse Western interference in the election that the Zimbabwe government has taken this step.

Are the government’s accusations credible?

For the last seven years, the US and its allies have cut off all development assistance to Zimbabwe, disabled all lines of credit, stopped the World Bank and International Monetary Fund from providing financial assistance, and have pressured private companies from doing business with the country. The result has been “a form of collective punishment designed to destabilize the country and shake the population’s faith” in the government. [2] Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Zimbabweans — orphans and old people, the sick and the down and out – have suffered. And to hide their hand in creating the misery, the US and Britain and their allies have blamed it all on Harare’s land reform policies, an inversion of the causal chain. It was not Harare’s land reform policies that created the disaster, but the West’s meting out collective punishment in response to the land reform policies that undermined Zimbabwe’s economy and created widespread suffering.

It is hardly outside the realm of high probability, then, that Western governments that continue to use sanctions “to weaken the economy of the country, to get the people of Zimbabwe so poor and hungry they can change their voting behavior,” [3] would also use food aid directly as a political weapon to shape the outcome of the upcoming election through their influence over NGOs operating in the country. After all, creating hunger in Zimbabwe is exactly what Western governments have been doing for the last seven years, indirectly, through the use of sanctions.

But Human Rights Watch and The New York Times say nothing about Western sanctions and instead accuse the Mugabe government of making Zimbabweans miserable, and further, of deliberately inducing hunger. Human Rights Watch researcher for Africa, Tiseke Kasambala, accuses Harare of taking a decision “to let people go hungry,” citing it as “yet another attempt to use food as a political tool to intimidate voters ahead of an election.” [4] Kasambala conjures the impression that (a) the government is deliberately inducing hunger and (b) that this will somehow help Mugabe’s chances of winning the presidential election run-off poll. But while the HRW researcher says the government is letting people go hungry, he also complains that it is picking up the slack, delivering food aid in place of the NGOs. The government, he says, should not be distributing food but should “let independent aid agencies feed people.” [5]

Harare, then, stands accused of two opposing crimes: of letting people go hungry, and of delivering food aid (in place of NGOs) and thereby saving people from hunger. Kasambala’s “you’re guilty no matter what you do” approach reveals that what’s really at issue isn’t whether people will go hungry (and they won’t, though Harare’s accusers play politics by carefully couching their comments to make it seem a government-engineered famine is imminent); the real issue is who controls the food aid. The problem from Kasambala’s and New York Times reporter Celia Dugger’s point of view, is that it isn’t Western-funded NGOs that will be doling out relief for the duration of the election campaign. Dugger acknowledges that the government has bought 600,000 tons of corn to distribute to the hungry, but warns Harare could (not will, but could) use food “as an inducement to win support.” [6] Of course, she offers not a whit of evidence that it is doing so or will do so. On the other side, there is good reason to believe that if Western governments are consistent, they’ll use their funding arrangements with NGOs to extend their policy of bribing the people to vote for their candidate – this time with threats of food aid deliveries stopping if the wrong candidate is elected.

Kasambala, representing a rights organization that is dominated by the US foreign policy establishment, and can therefore hardly be expected to be politically neutral where Zimbabwe is concerned, goes further by predicting Harare will withhold food aid as “a political tool to intimidate voters ahead of (the) election.” [7] In a milieu in which the “media have long since largely abandoned any attempt at impartiality in its reporting of Zimbabwe, the common assumption being that Mugabe is a murderous dictator at the head of a uniquely wicked regime,” [8] Kasambala’s dark prediction has a ring of plausibility to it, but if you examine his accusation critically, it falls apart.

How, one might ask, could a government induce hunger and expect to win support, when a hungry electorate would be far more likely to vote against, not for, whoever caused the hunger? Indeed, the aim of sanctions is to create enough misery to force the voters to cry uncle by voting Mugabe out of office. It would surely be a government of fools that would add to the misery already created by sanctions by deliberately engineering more misery. This would serve the aims of the regime changers in the West, not Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party. According to Kasambala’s logic, if John McCain wants to win support, he should announce that, if elected, he will restore the draft and hike taxes sharply across-the-board.

Western media and organizations allied with US and British imperial goals are trying to create the impression that the government of Robert Mugabe is deliberately inducing hunger and using food aid to shape the outcome of the presidential run-off election, that is, when they’re not accusing him of planning to rig the election. One wonders why Mugabe would tamper with the election results if he is using food as a political weapon, and vice-a-versa. Apparently, the aim of the demonization campaign is to hurl as many accusations at Mugabe as possible, in hopes that some or all of them will stick, even if they’re mutually contradictory.

It is Western countries that have created hunger through a program of sanctions that has sabotaged the Zimbabwean economy and led to widespread misery and need for food aid. Mugabe’s government has temporarily suspended the operations of NGOs, not to seize control of the delivery of food aid for political gain, but to block Western governments from operating remotely through NGOs to channel funding to the campaign of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and to use food as a political weapon. If you read the Western press uncritically and absorb Human Rights Watch’s analyses without a healthy dose of skepticism, it doesn’t seem that way, but as Malcolm X once said, “If you’re not careful the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” [9]

1. Herald (Zimbabwe) May 29, 2008; June 4, 2008.
2. CPGB-ML Statement, “Hands off Zimbabwe,” May 12, 2008.
3. Peter Mavunga, Herald (Zimbabwe) May 3, 2008.
4. Guardian (UK), June 4, 2008.
5. Ibid.
6. New York Times, June 4, 2008.
7. Guardian (UK), June 4, 2008.
8. Seamus Milne, Guardian (UK), April 17, 2008.
9. New African, June 2008.

Written by what's left

June 4, 2008 at 10:54 pm

Posted in NGOs, Zimbabwe

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