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Archive for the ‘NGOs’ Category

Concerned Africa Scholars’ Jacob Mundy

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By Stephen Gowans

A member of the executive committee of the scholars’ organization that has accused Mahmoud Mamdani of falling for what it calls the anti-imperialist rhetoric of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, has volunteered and worked for pro-imperialist organizations and has given briefings to the US State Department and Intelligence Council. (1)

Jacob Mundy, who co-edited a recent collection of articles posted on the Concerned Africa Scholars’ website, criticizing Mamdani for failing to take a hard negative line against Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF party, was a Peace Corp volunteer and has held jobs with The International Crisis Group and Amnesty International. (2)

The Peace Corps “was spawned by the US cold war desire to compete with the Soviet bloc for influence in the third world.” While it no longer has a cold war mission, it remains, at its core, committed to a “battle for hearts and minds” (3) – instilling pro-West and pro-capitalist values in third world populations.

On top of its missionary function, the Peace Corps has been used as a CIA front.

“Those agents in the Peace Corps who were conscious of their role had several tasks. As they mingled with the people, they were identifying future leftist leaders as well as those right-wingers who in the future would work for U.S. interests. They were assessing consciousness, evaluating reactions to reforms. And they were selecting and training future agents.” (4)

That’s not to say Mundy is a CIA operative, only that his CV is replete with connections to organizations that are interlocked with the CIA or have served pro-imperialist roles, beginning with the Peace Corps.

Mundy’s term with the Peace Corps coincided with the directorship of Mark L. Schneider, who would later join the notoriously pro-imperialist International Crisis Group as Senior Vice President and Special Adviser on Latin America. Mundy would later show up at the ICG to serve a three month stint in 2005. (5)

The International Crisis Group is funded by such pro-imperialist and CIA pass-through organizations as the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie Foundation, The Soros Open Society Institute and the Ronald Reagan established US Institute for Peace, of which the US Secretaries of State and Defense are ex officio board members.

The ICG’s board members, past and present, include US and British foreign policy luminaries, among them Wesley Clark (who commanded the Nato assault on Yugoslavia in 1999), cold warrior Zbigniew Brzezinski (who ordered the backing of the Mujahadin in Afghanistan), Lord Robertson (the former Secretary General of Nato), and billionaire financier George Soros, who has been active in bankrolling color revolutions. (6)

Also on the board is Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, wife of Peter Ackerman. Ackerman, another color revolution activist, is a member of the US ruling class Council on Foreign Relations, heads up the CIA interlocked Freedom House, and runs the International Center for Non-Violent Conflict (the ICNC).

The ICNC is significant for having Stephen Zunes, who once was a research fellow at the United States Institute for Peace, as a member of its academic council. What’s the connection to Mundy? Zunes is co-author, along with Mundy, of the forthcoming Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution in Northwest Africa.

The rights group Amnesty International, whose US branch Mundy worked for as assistant country specialist, North Africa, from 2004 to 2007, tends to reserve its harshest criticisms for countries outside the West, preferring a more reserved and nuanced approach to its criticisms of Western governments and their allies. This reflects an underlying commitment to the view that the West possesses a moral credibility which legitimizes its taking a leadership role in the world. For example, Amnesty International USA’s executive director, William Schulz, once called on George W. Bush to order a full investigation into the “atrocious human rights violations at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers,” because,

“when the US government calls upon foreign leaders to bring to justice those who commit or authorize human rights violations in their own countries, why should those foreign leaders listen? And if the US government does not abide by the same standards of justice, what shred of moral authority will we retain to pressure other governments to diminish abuses?” (7)

In this can be glimpsed the basis of AI’s human rights imperialism – the idea that the US government has an obligation, borne of an assumed moral authority, to lead the world in the defense and promotion of human rights. It’s astonishing that anyone with even a passing acquaintance of US foreign policy would believe that the US hadn’t long ago surrendered the last ounce of moral credibility it ever had and is, without exception, the world’s worst human rights violator.

Former Amnesty International USA board member Dennis Bernstein underscored AI’s eagerness to expose human rights violations outside the West and kid gloves approach to Western countries in a 2002 interview.

“To be sure, if you are dealing with a human rights situation in a country that is at odds with the United States or Britain, it gets an awful lot of attention, resources, man and womanpower, publicity, you name it, they can throw whatever they want at that. But if it’s dealing with violations of human rights by the United States, Britain, Israel, then it’s like pulling teeth to get them to really do something on the situation. They might, very reluctantly and after an enormous amount of internal fightings and battles and pressures, you name it. But you know, it’s not like the official enemies list.” (8)

In 2006, Mundy wrote a paper on Western Sahara, Islam, Terrorism and Economic Marginality in the Sahara-Sahel for the U.S. National Intelligence Council, gave a presentation on Morocco and Western Sahara to the U.S. State Department and National Intelligence Council, and in August of that year, briefed Ambassador-designate for Algeria, Robert Ford on Western Sahara.(9)

Let’s review.

Mundy starts out working for the Peace Corps, an organization established expressly to serve imperialist goals, and which has a history of being used as a cover for, and means of, recruiting CIA agents.

He serves a short stint at the International Crisis Group, which is linked up with the US government foreign policy establishment, corporate foundations, and color revolution financier George Soros.

He spends four years working for Amnesty International, an organization whose eagerness to attack US foreign policy targets and reluctance to take on the US, Britain and its allies is notorious.

Meanwhile, he gives briefings to the US State Department and National Intelligence Council while co-authoring a book on Western Sahara with Stephen Zunes, who is active in the US-government-corporate-foundation-supported community of pro-democracy, non-violence activists who travel the world training youth to overthrow the governments of US foreign policy targets, among them the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe.

Next he shows up as member of the executive committee of the Concerned Africa Scholars, an organization offering a scholarly legitimation of the US, British and EU demonization of the Mugabe government, which these powers have openly targeted for regime change.

The orientation of the Concerned Africa Scholars and the background of one of its executive directors provide an answer to the obvious question: About what are the Concerned Africa Scholars concerned? The answer would seem to be legitimizing the narrative that justifies Western intervention in Zimbabwe (even if only limited to the new missionaries, NGOs (9)) and more broadly, in Africa as a whole.

1. Mundy’s CV was pointed out to me by Michael Barker, who has written indefatigably on the networks of organizations and individuals engaged in democracy manipulation.

2. Jacob A. Mundy, Source Watch, http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Jacob_A._Mundy

3. Kevin Lowther, “‘Service to your country’ muddied by Peace Corps-military agreement”, Christian Science Monitor, September 21, 2005.

4. Annon, “Under the Cloak and Behind the Dagger”, North American Congress on Latin America, Latin America & Empire Report, July – August 1974, pp. 6-8.

5. Mark L. Schnieder, Source Watch, http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Mark_L._Schneider

6. International Crisis Group, Source Watch, http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=International_Crisis_Group

7. Alan Cowell, New York Times, May 26, 2005.

8. Francis A. Boyle and Dennis Bernstein, “Interview with Francis Boyle: Amnesty on Jenin, Covert Action Quarterly, Issue 73, Summer 2002.

9. Jacob A. Mundy, Source Watch, http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Jacob_A._Mundy

10. One of the articles critical of Mamdani compiled by Mundy is written by a civil society scholar who is referred to in some anti-imperialist circles as Bond, Patrick Bond, of her majesty’s NGOs. Bond has labeled Sokwanele, a US-financed poplar insurrection group trained by “pro-democracy” non-violence activists, as an independent left, despite its connections to imperialist governments and corporate foundations. I’m not sure what Sokwanele is independent of, but it’s not independent of the US government’s regime change plans for Zimbabwe. Neither, it would seem, is Mundy.

West Takes Aim at Belarus’ Pro-Social Policies

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Belarus is one of the few remaining genuine alternatives to the neo-liberal economic order. A US nurtured and bankrolled fifth column is working with Washington to topple it from within.

By Stephen Gowans

The US government has nurtured a fifth column in Belarus to help overthrow the Lukashenko government to replace its socialist-oriented policies with a made-in-the-USA neo-liberal regime that favours US investors and corporations.

The US State Department last year provided funding to five opposition parties and 566 opposition activists, and support and training to over 70 civil society organizations, 71 antigovernment journalists and 21 opposition media outlets in Belarus. On top of that, 900 Belarusian youth were enrolled tuition-free at US government-expense at the European Humanities University. The university is an alternative to Belarusian state schools which the US government condemns for failing to “support the country’s transformation to a free-market democracy.” [1]

The US government has been nurturing Belarus’s anti-Lukashenko coalition since President George W. Bush signed the Belarus Democracy Act in October 2004. The act authorizes the US government to spend millions of dollars to create antigovernment media in Belarus, train election monitors to discredit Belarus’s elections, and back civil society organizations opposed to the Lukashenko government. [2] Washington pledged nearly $12 million to Belarusian antigovernment forces to fight the March 2006 presidential election. [3] The opposition candidate, Alexander Milinkevich, lost badly, an outcome Washington attributed to vote fraud. But even Western newspapers and polls paid for by the Republican Party’s international arm, the IRI, acknowledged that Lukashenko would win the vote handily and that the opposition’s support was in the single digits. Having failed to meet its regime change objective in 2006, Washington authorized further spending of $27 million in each of 2007 and 2008 to support opponents of the Lukashenko government. [4]

The mantra from Washington, echoed by dodgy leftists close to the US ruling class, is that Belarus is governed by an authoritarian president who abuses power to win elections. As we’ll see, this is an invention used to justify US meddling in Belarus’ internal politics. What authoritarian measures the Lukashenko government have taken have been defensive reactions to blatant Western attempts to engineer a free-market coup d’etat.

Contrary to the charge that he is Europe’s last dictator, Lukashenko is an elected president whose electoral victories have been based on wide popular support, earned by promoting the interests of the vast majority of Belarus’ citizens. Washington’s real grievance with the Belarusian government is that its policies are at odds with the interests of US investors and corporations.

Here’s what’s wrong with Belarus, according to the CIA:

• Not enough structural reform.
• Market socialism.
• Private companies have been re-nationalized.
• A wide range of income redistributive policies has produced levels of income equality almost unmatched in the world, but these policies have made Belarus unattractive as a destination for US investment. [5]

Here’s the view of the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal:

• Foreign banks are virtually shut out of the country.
• US investors are barred from buying land.
• Basic goods and services are subsidized by the state.
• Retail prices are regulated.
• The government continues to rely on state-owned enterprises.
• Tariff barriers and subsidies make it difficult for US companies to compete in Belarus. [6]

The Economist’s Intelligence Unit complains that:

• Belarus follows active policies of import suppression and export promotion.
• Lukashenko “pursues a policy of pervasive state involvement in the economy.”
• The government denies ownership rights to the commons, keeping natural resources, waters, forests and land under public control. [7]

The Washington Post says “The economy of Belarus is still state-controlled (and) the nation’s food is grown on collective farms.” [8] And The New York Times points out that “Mr. Lukashenko…has steadily turned Belarus into a miniature version of the Soviet Union itself, with a state-run economy.” [9]

Is Belarus under Lukashenko really as socialist-oriented as US establishment sources say?

Tatyana Golubeva, general secretary of the Communist Party of Belarus, part of a governing coalition with Lukashenko, says “Belarus is still on the socialist path of development. We are one of the few that never gave up.”

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez praises Belarus “as a model of a social state,” likening it to the society Chavez’s Bolivarian revolutionaries are building in South America. [10] Chavez, who calls Lukashenko “a brother in arms” [11] awarded the Belarusian leader Venezuela’s highest award for foreigners, the Order of the Liberator. Lukashenko has also been awarded the highest honor Cuba bestows on foreigners, the Order of Jose Marti.

Belarus retains the symbols and social supports of its Soviet past. An imposing monument to Lenin still guards the approaches to the government headquarters. Education through university is still free, and university students continue to enjoy living stipends as they did in Soviet days. [12] Much of the economy remains under public control.

Clearly, Belarus isn’t the kind of place the CEO’s, corporate board members and investment bankers who dominate decision-making in Washington can warm up to. Sure, Minsk’s policies are good for ordinary Belarusians. Basic goods and services are kept affordable, the public controls the commanding heights of the economy, and income equality is virtually unmatched in the world. But what about the interests of American investors and exporters? Where are the profitable investment opportunities? Where are the lucrative export markets?

Building an opposition

To oust Lukashenko and his socialist-leaning policies, the US government set out to mold a disparate group of opposition parties and activists into a single, coherent unit, guided by a single executive with authority to enforce common goals and strategy. The international arm of the Republican Party, the IRI, has assumed a leadership role in focusing “primarily on the process of consolidating and unifying all of the pro-democratic elements in the country into a single coalition.” [13]

True to the game plan the US government has followed in engineering soft coups in other countries, the opposition has been given a name that underscores its professed struggle for democracy against an alleged dictatorship. While the West created the Democratic Opposition of Serbia to oppose what it called the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic, and the Movement for Democratic Change to oppose the misnamed dictatorship of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, in Belarus the US-backed and funded opposition goes by the name of the United Democratic Forces (UDF). Its goal is to oppose and topple the alleged dictatorship, and socialist-oriented policies, of Alexander Lukashenko.

The US government uses the word “dictatorship” in a unique way. Belarus is decried by Washington as a dictatorship even though the country’s political system is a multi-party democracy with universal adult suffrage. [14] Dictatorship is to be understood in the world of Washington’s regime changers, not as rule by an individual or committee, where suffrage is absent, but as rule by elected officials the US government opposes because their policies are either immediately or indirectly at odds with the interests of US capital. Branding a socialist or nationalist leader as a dictator provides the US government with a pretext to sanitize its interference in the internal politics of foreign countries by misrepresenting its meddling as democracy-promotion.

The US government has likewise tried to discredit the government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, referring to Chavez as a would-be autocrat, to justify nurturing and bankrolling the “democratic” opposition. Chavez, Milosevic, Mugabe and Lukashenko have all pursued policies that have rejected, in various degrees, the free-market, free-enterprise, free-trade orthodoxy Washington insists all countries (but itself) adopt.

The UDF comprises 10 opposition parties and more than 200 NGOs. In 2005, the coalition selected Alexander Milinkevich as its candidate for president. Terry Nelson, national political director of the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign, practically ran Milinkevich’s 2006 campaign, according to The New York Times. [15] But help from the Republicans was not enough to overcome Milinkevich’s failure to resonate with the public. The UDF’s own polling, paid for by the IRI, “showed the ratings of Milinkevich and other opposition leaders in the single digits.” [16] Lukashenko won the election handily with 83 percent of the vote, a lopsided victory the US government immediately attributed to vote rigging, on grounds that no one could be that popular.

But there are plenty of elections elsewhere won by higher margins which the US government has endorsed as fair reflections of the democratic will. The US-educated and fiercely pro-US ruling class Mikhail Saakashvili polled 97 percent in Georgia’s 2004 presidential elections, without Washington batting an eye. Kurmanbek Bakiyev won 89 percent of the vote in Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution, without incurring Washington’s disapproval. And Eduard Shevardnadze, when he was still Washington’s man in Georgia, polled 92 percent of the vote in Georgia’s 1992 election, without repercussions.

Laying aside US government double standards, there are a number of reasons to believe the 2006 presidential vote in Belarus was free and fair. All the polls, including the opposition’s IRI-paid poll, anticipated a Lukashenko victory as a virtual certainty. This reflected Lukashenko’s enormous popularity, something even members of the opposition acknowledge. [17] “Even his fiercest opponents don’t question the accuracy of independent polls that rate him the most popular politician in the country.” [18]

Lukashenko’s popularity derives from policies which favour the working class over Western investors. He has,

“presided over a continual increase in real wages for several years…He has also cut (the value added tax), brought down inflation, halved the number of people in poverty” and created “the fairest distribution of incomes of any country in the region.” [19]

Belarus’ egalitarianism has been a particular irritant to the US government. While the Lukashenko government’s income-redistribution policies have maintained a narrow gap between the rich and poor, they have also reduced the attractiveness of Belarus to the US corporate rich as a venue for profitable investment. With a choice of serving ordinary Belarusians or catering to corporate America, Lukashenko chose the former and incurred the wrath of the latter.

Beginning in April 2007, the IRI, along with the Democratic Party’s international arm, the NDI, and the Council of Europe, hosted a series of meetings with UDF members, culminating in a national congress attended by 693 delegates. The purpose of the meetings was to formulate coalition strategy and to draft a transitional constitution to be rolled out if and when the UDF topples the government and seizes the reins of power [20] (at which point it will sell off public enterprises, end subsidies for basic goods and services, and reverse Lukashenko’s income redistribution policies.)

Uncle Sam’s NGOs

The US government also provides “extensive support, grant making, leadership and capacity building to over 60 indigenous NGOS.” The US State Department, PACT and the NDI have assisted 60 NGOs in various ways, purchasing goods and services for the organizations, setting up cross-border exchanges with other NGOs, offering advice on strategic planning, and doling out over 40 grants. To strengthen connections among NGOs, the sponsors established a Leadership Fellows Program, to build leadership skills among members of the anti-Lukashenko opposition. [21]

The NDI, “held a youth conference in February 2007 to assist youth groups in their efforts to mobilize, build organizational capacity, (and) improve cooperation.” Not to be outdone, the IRI hosted 10 sessions for more than 300 Belarusian youths, to train “the next generation of political leaders.” These sessions were led by “trainers from across democratic Europe,” [22] non-violent pro-democracy activists trained to foment uprisings in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine. Every few months, disciples of Gene Sharp, the US-based guru of non-violent regime change, are “deployed abroad to teach democracy activists how to agitate for change…going everywhere from Eastern Europe to train Belarusians to Turkey to coach Iranians.” The Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies, bankrolled in part by the IRI and the CIA-interlocked-Freedom House, plays a leadership role in these training sessions. [23]

Along with Renaissance, Pontis, and the Eurasia Foundations, the US State Department helped found the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, a think tank of pro-US ideologues prepared to disgorge policy advice congenial to the US government’s free-market, free-enterprise, free-trade ideology. [24] When the media need quotes from “experts,” they turn to BISS.

As part of efforts to shape public opinion, the US State department funds European Radio for Belarus, an anti-Lukashenko radio station, joining Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, US-government-sponsored propaganda radio stations, in preaching the anti-Lukashenko, anti-socialist, pro-neo-liberal gospel. On top of ERB, Western regime changers doled out $24 million to Media Consulta, a German-led consortium to broadcast anti-government news into Belarus. Individual European countries have also kicked in. [25]

The fifth column goes to Washington

The Republican Party has been heavily involved in nurturing Belarus’s opposition, meeting frequently with its key activists. In April 2005, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held meetings in Lithuania with members of the opposition, discussing the use of “mass pressure for change,” [26] and pledging $5 million in backing, to be provided through the IRI. [27] It is typical of color revolutions, including the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the ouster of Milosevic in the former Yugoslavia, for the US-sponsored opposition to accuse the government of electoral fraud. This provides an occasion to mobilize opposition supporters to take to the streets to force the government to step down. At her meetings in Lithuania, Rice told opposition representatives that the impending presidential election would be an “excellent opportunity” to challenge the government. [28] The opposition followed Rice’s strategy to a tee, not as much “running an election campaign as…trying to organize an uprising.” [29] The New York Times commented that Milinkevich was “campaigning not for the presidency but for an uprising.” [30] For the opposition, an uprising was the only realistic path to power. Polls paid for by the IRI “showed the ratings of Milinkevich and other opposition leaders in the single digits.” [31]

Opposition activists have unique access to high US State officials through the IRI, and have been provided a platform from which to deliver persuasive communications to a wide audience – a platform they would not have without US government influence.

The IRI hosted a delegation of opposition activists over eight days in December, 2007. The delegation had private meetings with Rice and a nearly one-hour meeting with US President Bush, after which each delegate had his photograph taken with the president. The IRI also arranged for the delegation to meet with the Washington Post editorial board, to answer questions on a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty call-in show beamed into Belarus, and set up radio and television interviews with the official US overseas propaganda service, Voice of America. [32]

This came on the heels on another UDF visit to Washington hosted by the IRI from February 26 to March 2. On this trip, delegates met with State Department, White House, and Congressional officials, and shared their points of view with the media, including The Washington Post, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In its meetings with US officials, the delegation expressed its gratitude “for the support of the US government.” [33]

Supporting a working class-friendly alternative

There are a few reasons to oppose US interference in Belarus’ democracy.

Belarus is one of the few remaining places on earth in which the commanding heights of the economy are publicly owned, where robust income redistribution narrows the gap between rich and poor, where essential goods and services are subsidized so they remain affordable to all, and where education is free and university students receive a living stipend.

US government interference in Belarus is not aimed at promoting democracy. Belarus already has a democracy, both in the narrow, technical, sense of offering universal adult suffrage and regular elections featuring a multiplicity of parties, and in the broader, more meaningful, sense of being a place in which the interests of the bulk of people predominate.

US government interference in Belarus is aimed at the very opposite of democracy: promoting the interests of a super-privileged minority comprising US and Western investment bankers, CEOs, corporate board members, and hereditary capitalist families, who seek unfettered access to Belarus’ resources, markets, labor and public assets. Corporate America wants to own Belarus’ banks, waters, forests and other natural resources; to buy Belarus’ state-owned enterprises; to sell goods and services unimpeded by tariff barriers and unhindered by subsidies to domestic firms. It wants a low-tax environment, no restrictions on expatriation of profits, and a low-wage and biddable workforce held in check by a reserve army of the unemployed. From the point of view of the US ruling class, Belarus should be investor-friendly, not working class-friendly.

US citizens and citizens of other Western countries that contribute to nurturing Belarus’ fifth column should oppose the use of their tax dollars to bring down one of the few remaining challenges to the neo-liberal economic order. Taxpayer dollars should be used to help fund public health care, provide free education, and subsidize basic goods and services at home, not to undermine working class gains abroad.

1. United States Department of State, “Belarus 2007 Performance Report,” November 16, 2007. http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDACL044.pdf
2. The Los Angeles Times, September 25, 2005; “Belarus Democracy Act Will Help Cause of Freedom, Bush Says,” October 21, 2004. http://www.america.gov/st/washfile-english/2004/October/20041022100536btrueveceR0.8822595.html
3. The New York Times, December 17, 2005.
4. Russian Information Agency Novosti, July 13, 2007.
5. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, Belarus. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo.html
6. The Heritage Foundation, 2008 Index of Economic Freedom. http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/country.cfm?ID=Belarus
7. Cited in The Heritage Foundation, 2007 Index of Economic Freedom.
8. The Washington Post, September 23, 2005.
9. The New York Times, January 1, 2006.
10. The New York Times, July 24, 2006.
11. The Financial Times (London), August 2, 2007.
12. The Morning Star (UK), January 7, 2008.
13. Remarks by Stephen B. Nix, Director of Eurasia Program, International Republican Institute, Conference on European Union and Democracy Assistance, Center for European Studies, the University of Florida, March 30, 2007, http://www.iri.org/eurasia/belarus/2007-03-30-Belarus.asp
14. The IRI’s Belarus page describes Belarus’ type of government as a dictatorship. On the same page, under the rubric “suffrage” is written: universal, age 18. http://www.iri.org/eurasia/belarus.asp The CIA’s World Factbook lists 19 political parties in Belarus.
15. “Bringing Down Europe’s Last Ex-Soviet Dictator,” New York Times, February 26, 2006.
16. Ibid.
17. The Washington Post, March 21, 2006.
18. The Los Angeles Times, September 25, 2005.
19. Times Online, March 10, 2006.
20. United States Department of State, “Belarus 2007 Performance Report,” November 16, 2007. http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDACL044.pdf
21. Ibid.
22. Ibid.
23. “A Georgian soldier of the Velvet Revolution,” The Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2008.
24. United States Department of State, “Belarus 2007 Performance Report,” November 16, 2007. http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDACL044.pdf
25. The New York Times, February 26, 2006.
26. The New York Times, April 22, 2005.
27. Xinhua News Agency, May 13, 2005.
28. The New York Times, April 22, 2005.
29. The New York Times, January 1, 2006.
30. The New York Times, February 26, 2006.
31. Ibid.
32. “IRI Host Belarusian Democratic Leaders,” IRI News Release, December 12, 2007. http://www.iri.org/eurasia/belarus/2007-12-12-Belarus.asp
33. “IRI Host Belarusian Democratic Leaders,” IRI News Release, March 9, 2007. http://www.iri.org/eurasia/belarus/2007-03-09-Belarus.asp

The U.S. Department joins the CIA, the Heritage Foundation, The Wall Street Journal and The Economist in complaining about Belarus’s refusal to establish conditions congenial to foreign investment:

“After an initial outburst of capitalist reform from 1991-94, including privatization of state enterprises, creation of institutions of private property, and development of entrepreneurship, Belarus under Lukashenko has greatly slowed, and in many cases reversed, its pace of privatization and other market reforms, emphasizing the need for a ‘socially oriented market economy.’ About 80% of all industry remains in state hands, and foreign investment has been hindered by a climate hostile to business. The banks, which had been privatized after independence, were renationalized under Lukashenko. The government has also renationalized companies using the ‘Golden Share’ mechanism–which allows government control in all companies with foreign investment–and through other administrative means.

“The U.S. Government continues to support the development of the private sector in Belarus and its transition to a free market economy. With the advent of the Lukashenko regime, Belarusian authorities have pursued a generally hostile policy toward the private sector and have refused to initiate the basic economic reforms necessary to create a market-based economy. Most of the Belarusian economy remains in government hands. The government, in particular the presidential administration, exercises control over most enterprises in all sectors of the economy. In addition to driving away many major foreign investors–largely through establishment of a ‘Golden Share’ requirement, which allows government control in all companies with foreign investment–Belarus’ centralization and command approach to the economy has left only a trickle of U.S. Government and international assistance programs in this field.

“The United States has encouraged Belarus to conclude and adhere to agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on macroeconomic stabilization and related reform measures, as well as to undertake increased privatization and to create a favorable climate for business and investment.

“Because of the unpredictable and at times hostile environment for investors, the U.S. Government currently does not encourage U.S. companies to invest in Belarus. Belarus’ continuing problems with an opaque, arbitrary legal system, a confiscatory tax regime, cumbersome licensing system, price controls, and lack of an independent judiciary create a business environment not conducive to prosperous, profitable investment. In fact, several U.S. investors in Belarus have left, including the Ford Motor Company.” (My emphasis.) US Department of State, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5371.htm .

Written by what's left

October 13, 2008 at 10:03 pm

Stephen Zunes’ False Statements on Zimbabwe and Woza

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By Stephen Gowans

Stephen Zunes is making a career of legitimizing fundamental US government assessments of all but a few of its foreign policy targets, uncritically mimicking State Department slanders of target countries and falsely declaring US funded regime change organizations to be “progressive organizations which could by no means be considered American agents.”

Reacting to a Netfa Freeman article in the Black Agenda Report criticizing his position on Zimbabwe, Zunes refers to “Mugabe’s election fraud, mismanagement of the economy, and human rights abuses.” This is State Department boilerplate. While it would be too much to ask Zunes to back up his statements in his brief reply to Freeman’s article, I cannot recall that he has ever produced evidence of any of his charges against US foreign policy targets in his longer articles, or has ever shown the slightest hint of scepticism regarding the charges Washington has levelled against “outposts of tyranny.” Instead, Zunes freely apes State Department rhetoric, defending from the left fundamental State Department views.

Particularly galling is his reference to Mugabe’s “mismanagement of the economy,” standard fare from US Secretaries of State, the CIA and New York Times, but hardly what one would expect from a critical and sceptical progressive who claims to be independent of US establishment positions. Attributing Zimbabwe’s economic difficulties to Mugabe’s policy errors whitewashes the role of the US in sabotaging Zimbabwe’s economy through the US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, which effectively cuts Harare off from balance of payment loans, development assistance and lines of credit from international lending agencies.

In his reply to Freeman, Zunes falsely states that Women of Zimbabwe Arise can by no means be considered American agents. The group’s leader, Jenni Williams, was presented with the State Department’s 2007 International Woman of Courage Award for Africa by Condoleezza Rice in a March, 2007 ceremony in Washington. The US State Department does not give out awards to people who work against the interests of the US economic elite. It does, however, award those who advance the elite’s positions.

A US government report on the activities in 2007 of its mission to Zimbabwe reveals that the “US Government continued its assistance to Women of Zimbabwe Arise.” US government assistance to Woza and other civil society organizations was channeled through Freedom House and PACT. Freedom House, which is interlocked with the CIA and is a “virtual propaganda arm of the (US) government and international right wing,” according to Noam Chomsky’s and Edward Herman’s Manufacturing Consent, is headed by Peter Ackerman, who also heads up the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC). Stephen Zunes is chair of the board of academic advisors to the ICNC. Ackerman’s wife, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, is a former director of the Albert Einstein Institute, an organization which trained activists in popular insurrection techniques to overthrow Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. Zunes has vigorously defended the AEI. She is also currently a director of the US foreign policy establishment-dominated Human Rights Watch, which recently launched a dishonest attack on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s human rights record.

Woza supports two US State Department propaganda vehicles: SW Radio Africa, a US State Department funded short-wave radio station that beams anti-Mugabe propaganda into Zimbabwe, and the Voice of America’s Studio 7, also funded by the State Department to broadcast US foreign policy positions into Zimbabwe. All political parties in Zimbabwe have, in their recent Memorandum of Understanding, urged journalists to abandon these pirate radio stations to “start working for the good of the country rather than for its enemies.” Jenni Williams and Woza are not, as Zunes falsely claims, working independently of the US government.

Zunes is close to individuals and organizations that are members of the US foreign policy establishment (Freedom House head and Council on Foreign Relations member Peter Ackerman) and have received funding from the US government and ruling class foundations to train popular insurrection groups to overthrow US foreign policy targets (Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institute). He has been criticized from the left by Michael Barker, Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster, and George Ciccariello-Maher and Eva Golinger. He is intolerant of criticism, asking WordPress to shut down my blog for criticisms of his association with Ackerman.

His modus operandi is to accept State Department denunciations of most US foreign policy targets as true, while attacking Washington’s foreign policy for being based on hypocrisy. He denies that insurrectionary movements trained by organizations that are funded by wealthy individuals, ruling class foundations and Western governments are agents of US imperialism, portraying them instead as independent grassroots groups.

There is much about Zunes to raise doubts about his politics.

Written by what's left

September 30, 2008 at 10:26 pm

The War over South Ossetia

with 8 comments

By Stephen Gowans

On August 4, 2008, Russia’s deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin phoned US assistant secretary of state Daniel Fried to complain about the build-up of Georgian troops in the vicinity of South Ossetia. [1] Two days later, South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity, having evidence that Georgia planned a military strike before the month was out, told Denis Keefe, Britain’s ambassador to Georgia, that a Georgian invasion was imminent. [2]

Georgia had increased its military budget from $30 million to $1 billion per year, under its US-aligned president, Mikhail Saakashvili, relying on deep infusions of aid from Washington. [3] A country of only 8 million, Georgia had sent 2,000 troops to help US forces occupy Iraq, the third largest occupation force in the oil-rich country, after the US and Britain. Tbilisi “considered participation in Iraq as a sure way to prepare the Georgian military for ‘national reunification’ – the local euphemism of choice for restoring Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Georgian control.” [4]

Georgia’s attack was emboldened by three US moves: the sending of “advisers to build up the Georgian military, including an exercise” in July “with more than 1,000 American troops”; Washington’s “pressing hard to bring Georgia into the NATO orbit;” and the US “loudly proclaiming its support for Georgia’s territorial integrity in the battle with Russia over Georgia’s separatist enclaves.” [5]

On the eve of the war, Russia convoked an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, presenting a resolution that called on both sides to renounce the use of force. [6] The US, Britain and France refused to back the resolution, arguing that it was unbalanced. Only South Ossetia and Russia should be called upon to renounce the use of force, they said. Georgia should be allowed to defend herself. [7]

The above shows that far from restraining the Georgian hand, the US was facilitating, even encouraging, an attack; that the South Ossetians and Russians anticipated an attack and that the Russians used their position at the United Nations to try to stop it; and that the West was setting the stage to blame the attack on the victims.

The war was swift, and for the Georgians, ignominious. Georgian forces were rapidly pushed back, their positions easily over-run and much of their equipment captured or destroyed. In the end, Saakashvili would rail against Russian aggression, and wonder histrionically who was next.

The Russians did not strike first, as Georgian officials now claim. The New York Times cited evidence from an extensive set of witnesses that Georgia’s military began to pound South Ossetia’s capital, Tskhinvali, with heavy barrages of rocket and artillery fire, after Saakashvili gave the order and before Russian troops entered Georgia. The result was hundreds of civilian deaths. Among the targets of the Georgian assault was a Russian peacekeeping base. There “has been no independent evidence, beyond Georgia’s insistence that its version is true, that Russian forces were attacking before the Georgian barrages,” reported The New York Times. [8] Moreover, an unnamed senior US official told the newspaper that Russia’s response didn’t look “premeditated, with a massive staging of equipment,” adding that “until the night before the fighting, Russia seemed to be playing a constructive role.” [9]

On August 26, Moscow recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent. Meanwhile, Saakashvili vowed to rebuild his army to try again at a later date. [10]

Origin of Tensions

Ossetians have their own language and, in recognition of this, enjoyed autonomy within Soviet Georgia. Abkhazia, too, was an autonomous region. When the Soviet Union dissolved, Georgia declared the autonomous status of both regions to be void, and attempted to integrate them. This sparked fighting between the Georgians on one side, and the South Ossetians and Abkhaz on the other. The two regions “settled into a tenuous peace monitored by Russian peacekeepers,” in which both enjoyed a de facto independence. But “frictions with Georgia increased sharply in 2004,” when Saakashvili was elected,“ pledging “to restore Tbilisi’s rule over South Ossetia and Abkhazia.” [11]

Pipelines

There are two overland routes for pumping petroleum resources from the oil- and gas-rich Caspian basin to markets in Europe: through Russia, and alternatively, through Western-built pipelines that run through Georgia. Washington would like Caspian oil and gas to be delivered to European markets through the pipelines Western oil companies control in Georgia; Moscow would like Europe to continue to rely on pipelines that transit Russia. [12]

Two Western pipelines run through Georgia: “the 1,000-mile Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan line, which can deliver up to one million barrels of crude a day from the Azerbaijani coast on the Caspian Sea, through Georgia and Turkey to the port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea”; and the BP-operated Western Route Export pipeline, capable of carrying up to “160,000 barrels of oil a day from Baku on the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan to the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa.” [13]

For Washington, the routes through Georgia represent a way of checking “Russia’s control over pipelines and energy resources.” Pipeline projects through Georgia are valued owing to their potential “to loosen Russia’s grip over European energy supplies”, and to fatten the bottom lines of US oil companies. [14]

From Moscow’s perspective, control of Georgia and its pipelines puts it in a position to establish an “energy chokehold on Europe.” [15]

Georgia, then, is of strategic importance to Washington because Western oil companies can transport “oil, and soon also gas, that lies not only in Azerbaijan, but beyond it in the Caspian Sea, and beyond it in Central Asia” to European markets, through Georgia, thereby cutting the Russians out of the action and giving Washington control over Europe’s energy resources. [16] Equally, Georgia is of strategic importance to Moscow for the same reasons.

Encircling Russia

When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the United States found itself in a unique position. As the lone remaining superpower, it had the potential to dominate the world for the foreseeable future. To maintain its primacy, it would have to prevent potential rivals from growing strong enough to challenge US pre-eminence. The route to remaining top dog lay in unchallenged military supremacy, and the determination to use military force to eclipse the rise of potential competitors.

The Pentagon set out its strategy in the Defense Planning Guide, a 16-page Pentagon policy statement leaked to The New York Times, on March 18, 1992.

“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival…First, the U.S. must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests.
We must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order. Finally, we must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.” [17]

In 2000, a group of US ruling class activists established The Project for a New American Century, a think-tank whose aim was to press the Clinton administration to more closely follow the 1992 Defense Planning Guide’s blueprint for US primacy. Members of the group — investment bankers and CEOs who had circulated between top jobs in Washington and corporate America — furnished the personnel for key positions in the Bush administration and would soon become the principal architects of the war on Iraq. They urged the Pentagon to eclipse the rise of new greater power competitors, and to adopt this as its main 21st century mission. [18]

Russia was, and remains, of particular concern to the US ruling class. While weak compared to the Soviet Union, it remains the country most able to challenge the US. To preserve US military pre-eminence, Washington seeks to build a ring around Russia, integrating countries on Russia’s periphery into the Nato military alliance. Despite promises that it would not expand toward Russia’s borders, Nato’s policy since the demise of the Soviet Union has been to aggressively expand, dismissing the alarm raised by Russian leaders as paranoia. Expansion serves the purpose of hemming Russia in militarily and expands markets for US arms manufacturers who supply the standardized military equipment Nato countries buy as part of the alliance’s equipment interoperability requirement.

A continuing strategy

While it seems as if Washington’s encirclement strategy is new, dating from the early aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, it is, on the contrary, an extension of a Western policy pursued since the beginning of the Cold War.

The Cold War, remarked R. Palme Dutt in 1962, was “directed against the Soviet Union” since it, and the countries it liberated in WWII “remained…completely independent of American domination and control. The aims of American world domination required the overthrow of this independent power.” [19] The new Cold War is no less directed at Russia, and is no less perpetrated by the US, than the old one (or the continuing one) was.

These “ultimate major aims,” Dutt continued, “required as their presupposition and first step the building up of a coalition of governments and armed forces under American control.” The “long-term strategic plan required the preliminary conquest of (the Soviet Union’s) periphery, and establishment of a chain of bases and hinterland territories from which to launch the offensive.” [20]

Thus, it has been US policy since the beginning of the Cold War to encircle Russia with a chain of bases and armies under US domination. The strategy was not born in 1992 and cannot be said to be the brainchild of neo-conservatives of either the Bush I or Bush II administrations. Its origins stretch back to the 1940s.

In the West, the spat between Georgia and the Ossetians appears to be rooted in longstanding ethnic animosity, but in Russia, it is seen quite differently. Russians understand that the United States is gradually encircling their country, and that Georgia is an important link in the chain. [21] Russian president Dmitri Medvedev complains of “being surrounded by bases on all sides” and of the “growing number of states…being drawn into the North Atlantic bloc.” [22] He and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin protest vehemently against US plans to site antimissile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, on Russia’s doorstep. They fear, justifiably, that the missile shield is aimed at Russia, and provides the US with a new offensive capability.

Saakashvili and the Rose Revolution

Mikhail Saakashvili is typical of local rulers Washington brings to power to act as its proxy on the ground. He is US-educated, fanatically pro-American, and implicitly shares the imperialist values of his backers in Washington. It is not by chance that the Saakashvili government enthusiastically pledged troops to the occupation of Iraq, and named a street in honor of George W. Bush.

With aid from the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and billionaire financier George Soros’ Open Society Institute, Saakashvili was carried to power by the so-called Rose Revolution of 2004, a US ruling class-financed overthrow movement that forced Georgia’s then president Eduard Shevardnadze, to step down. Soros’ intimate connection to Saakashvili’s rise to power is evidenced in his helping finance the Georgian government once Saakashvili was installed in the president’s office, and in Georgia’s designation as Sorositan by critics of the financier’s meddling. [23]

Washington was happy to partner with Soros to rid Georgia of Shevardnadze, a former Soviet foreign minister who was too close to Russia and not close enough to Washington. Intent on extending its ring of armies and military bases around its potential great power competitor, the US finagled Shevardnadze’s ouster and replaced him with the biddable puppet, Saakashvili.

The name for our profits is democracy

While the official propaganda holds Saakashvili to be a champion of democracy, the real story is quite different. The Georgian president is in reality a champion of Western investment interests who is prepared to suspend political and civil liberties to crush opposition to his pro-US economic policies.

The World Bank recognizes Saakashvili’s Georgia to be “the number one economic reformer in the world,” having climbed to 18th place from a shameful 112th under Shevardnadze, by creating “a friendly business environment.” Saakashvili earned the bank’s high praise by replacing Georgia’s progressive income tax system with a regressive flat tax; [24] privatizing publicly-owned assets; and gutting the civil service. The latter action sparked huge street protests last autumn, which Saakashvili put down with riot police, rubber bullets and truncheons, charging that the protesters were planning to stage a coup, with Russia’s collusion. [25] Ruling with an iron fist, he had no qualms about dispatching masked police officers to ransack an opposition television station, forcing it off the air. [26] Soon after, he declared a state of emergency, suspending advocacy rights and freedom of assembly – an action which, had it been done by his predecessor Shevardnadze, would have called forth howls of outrage and new infusions of aid for pro-democracy activists from Western governments, imperialist foundations and billionaires. On Saakashvili’s watch, by contrast, abridgments of civil and political liberties are met with fond reminiscences of the Rose Revolution and paeans to Saakashvili’s pro-American leanings and supposed democratic credentials.

Saakashvili won snap elections held two months after he cracked down on protestors, but his victory was secured under a cloud of accusations of blackmail and vote-buying. The government accused two opposition leaders of treason, charging they were conspiring with Russia to overthrow Saakashvili. [27] Having himself come to power with the aid of outside forces, Saakashvili more than anyone else knew the danger of foreign-directed overthrow movements, and perhaps knew better than others, how to defeat them.

Post Rose Revolution

Once Saakashvili had been installed as president, Washington scaled back funding to the civil society organizations that had been instrumental in destabilizing Shevardnadze’s rule, shifting aid instead to building up the central government, now under Saakashvili’s control. [28] Achieving the policy aim of installing a local proxy quite naturally led Washington to channel funding away from the manipulated “pro-democracy” civil society groups on the ground who paved the way for Saakashvili’s rise to power, to the government forces that would secure the friendly economic and military environment Washington desired. In other words, once civil society served its purpose, it was cut free.

Today, Rose Revolution true-believers are embittered. “Georgia is a semi-democracy. We have traded one kind of semi-democratic system for another,” laments Lincoln Mitchell, who worked for the Rose Revolution-funding Democratic Party-arm of the NED in Georgia from 2002 to 2004. “There is a real need to understand that what happened is another one-party government emerged.” [29]

Naïve do-gooders who thought money pitch-forked into the coffers of civil society groups by wealthy individuals and the US government would create democracy in Georgia now complain that Georgia under Saakashvili is no better, and probably worse, than it was under Shevardnadze.

Mitchel, for example, points out that under Shevardnadze, there was freedom of assembly and the press, the government was too weak to crack down on dissent, and the parliament could lay a restraining hand on the president. Under Saakashvili, the media have far fewer freedoms, civil society has been weakened, the government is strong enough to crack down on dissent with ease, and the parliament is less able to restrain the president. As regards elections, they’re run no better under Saakashvili. [30]

Exporting color revolutions

The Los Angeles Times of September 2, 2008 ran a story on Nini Gogiberidze, a Georgian who “is deployed abroad to teach democracy activists how to agitate for change against their autocratic governments, going everywhere from Eastern Europe to train Belarusians to Turkey to coach Iranians.” She is not, predictably, deployed within her own semi-democratic country, working to bring down the liberal democracy-disdaining Saakashvili.

Gogiberidze’s salary is paid by the Soros-linked Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies, funded by the Republican Party arm of the US Congress’s National Endowment for Democracy, headed by John McCain, a friend of Saakashvili. Freedom House, a US ruling class organization that is interlocked with the CIA and is headed by former Michael Milken right-hand man Peter Ackerman, also chips in.

Gogiberidze is hardly the kind of grassroots, left-leaning, radical democracy activist one is led to believe make up the officer corps of the Soros-funded international army against autocracy. Like one of her Zimbabwean colleagues, who is a white conservative businessman with a penchant for good manners and the British royals (who we’re to believe is working underground to overthrow the Mugabe government because he’s keenly interested in democracy), Gogiberidze sounds more like a conservative interested in promoting Western economic interests on behalf of Uncle Sam. She studied at the London School of Economics and is married to an investment banker. She’s also on the payroll of US ruling class foundations. Moscow “views the so-called color revolutions as US sponsored plots using local dupes to overthrow governments” Washington is unfriendly to “and install American vassals.” [31] Is it any wonder?

The Los Angeles Times reporter who brought the Gogiberidze story to light, mocks Moscow’s assessment of the color revolutions, while at the same time documenting the manifold connections Gogiberidze and her fellow color revolutionaries have to US ruling class organizations. The only way to square this circle – to explain how color revolutionaries can be on the regime changer’s payroll while mocking the idea that color revolutions are US-sponsored plots to overthrow governments Washington has targeted for regime change – is to believe billionaire financiers, CIA pass through organizations, and foundations dominated by US investment bankers and CEO’s, are really concerned with promoting democracy.

Conclusion

US ruling class activists and George Soros, sponsored dupes in Georgia to overthrow the Shevardnadze government to bring the ardently pro-US, pro-foreign investment, pro-imperialist Mikhael Saakashvili to power. Since ascending to the presidency, Saakashvili has gone on a neo-liberal binge, privatizing formerly publically-owned assets, replacing the country’s progressive income tax system with a regressive flat tax, and firing civil servants in heaps. While this has earned him the admiration of the World Bank, it has created unrest at home, which Saakashvili has put down with truncheons, rubber bullets, police attacks on opposition media, and abridgements of political and civil liberties.

At the same time, Saakashvili has acted to further his US-sponsor’s military designs, deploying 2,000 Georgian troops to Iraq, bulking up his military, clamoring to join Nato, and keeping Russia off kilter with incessant threats to annex South Ossetia and Abkhazia militarily, now acted upon.

The great democrat, in the eyes of color revolution hagiographers, is hardly a democrat. Leaders who deploy troops to occupy conquered countries, who attempt to integrate regions that don’t want to be integrated, and who limit political and civil liberties when they threaten to derail the building of a business friendly environment, are not democrats, no matter how many dollars their supporters receive from Freedom House, George Soros and the National Endowment for Democracy.

The US seeks to expand its sphere of influence to hem Russia in militarily in order to preserve US pre-eminence; to draw new countries into the Nato alliance to expand markets for US arms manufacturers; and to secure new markets and investment opportunities for US investors and corporations in countries whose economic ties have historically been oriented toward Russia. Russia seeks to resist the encroachment, to hang on to as much as the former Soviet sphere of influence as possible.

To expand its influence into the former Soviet domain, Washington deploys a number of tactics. In Belarus, it sponsors a civil society-based overthrow movement to destablize the Russia-aligned government of Alexander Lukashenko. In Ukraine, it sponsored the Orange Revolution to force the Russian-aligned leader Viktor Yanukovich to yield power to the US-oriented Viktor Yushchenko. Washington is very likely to have sponsored, encouraged and aided the secessionist movement in Chechnya, with the aim of breaking the territory away from Russia.

To maintain, or in an attempt to restore, its influence in these regions, Moscow backs Lukashenko in Belarus and Yanukovich in Ukraine, facilitates Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s remaining independent of Georgia, and militarily crushed the Chechen secessionists.

The struggle to expand spheres of influence (the US) and to maintain or restore them (Russia) inevitably leads powers to take hypocritical positions: the US insists on Georgia’s territorial integrity (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) but denies that of Serbia (Kosovo); Russia insists on its own territorial integrity (Chechnya) but denies that of Georgia.

There is no doubt that the US is the more aggressive party in this clash, but it can be, because it is by far the stronger of the two. The jingoist depiction in the Western media of Russia as provoking a new Cold War and seeking to expand militarily into neighboring countries is without foundation and is an inversion of reality. The US pursuit of a Cold War against Russia has been carried on without interruption since the 1940s. It is not Russia that is aggressively acting to expand its sphere of influence, it is the US. And yet this reality is so infirmly grasped that it is possible for the leader of a country whose scores of thousands of troops occupy conquered Iraq and Afghanistan to lecture Russia that countries don’t invade other countries in the 21st century.

The Rose Revolution was not a people power-driven rebellion against autocracy but a movement of dupes sponsored and manipulated by Washington whose purpose was to pave the way for the rise to power of a US-educated lawyer with connections to Washington and Wall Street.

Saakashvili is not a hero of democratic reform, but a representative of US ruling class interests who is prepared to suspend civil and political liberties, tinker with elections, and commit war crimes if that’s what it takes to secure his patron’s economic and military objectives.

Russia did not initiate an attack on Georgia. Georgia launched an artillery and rocket barrage on the capital of South Ossetia and on Russian peacekeepers before Russia entered Georgia.

The US did not try to defuse tensions in the region; it has actively moved to inflame them.

Russia has not provoked a new Cold War; the US has allowed the Cold War is had pursued against Russia since the 1940s to heat up, using its puppet, Saakashvili to fan the embers.

1. RIA Novosti, August 4, 2008.
2. RIA Novosti, August 6, 2008.
3. Russia Today, August 8, 2008. US assistance to Georgia is about to increase significantly, with Washington announcing on September 3 that it is hiking economic aid to Georgia to $1 billion per year from $63 million in 2007, placing the country among the top recipients of US aid, along with Israel, Egypt, Turkey and Colombia: The Guardian (UK), September 3, 2008.
4. New York Times, August 10. 2008.
5. New York Times, August 13, 2008.
6. Independent (UK), August 8, 2008.
7. New York Times, August 10, 2008.
8. New York Times, September 3, 2008.
9. New York Times, August 10, 2008.
10. New York Times, August 26, 2008.
11. New York Times, August 10, 2008.
12. Los Angeles Times, August 13, 2008.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. Zbginiew Brzinski, quoted in Serge Halimi, “The Return of Russia,” MRZine, August 28, 2008,
http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/halimi280808.html .
17. Nato in the Balkans, International Action Center, New York, 19998. p. 4.
18. http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf
19. R. Palme Dutt, “Problem of Contemporary history,” International Publishers, New York, 1962.
20. Ibid.
21. View of Russia’s representative to NATO, New York Times, August 28, 2008.
22. New York Times, August 28, 2008.
23. Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2008.
24. “The political realities of ‘democratic’ Georgia,” World Socialist Website, August 18, 2008. http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/aug2008/saak-a18.shtml
25. New York Times, August 12, 2008.
26. New York Times, August 14, 2008.
27. “The political realities of “democratic” Georgia,” World Socialist Website, August 18, 2008. http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/aug2008/saak-a18.shtml
28. Glenn Kessler, “Georgian Democracy A Complex Evolution,” The Washington Post, August 24, 2008. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/23/AR2008082301817_pf.html
29. Ibid.
30. Ibid.
31. Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2008.

Written by what's left

September 4, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Zimbabwe at War

with 35 comments

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

Expressions of imperialism within Zimbabwe

with 10 comments

By Stephen Gowans

Zimbabwe’s Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Friday denounced the US and Britain for their interference in Zimbabwe’s elections. At the same time, he decried the Morgan Tsvangirai faction of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), and its civil society partner, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), as being part of a US and British program to reverse the gains of Zimbabwe’s national liberation struggle.

“It is no secret that the US and the British have poured in large sums of money behind the MDC-T’s sustained demonization campaign,” Chinamasa said. (1)

“Sanctions against Zimbabwe (were intensified) just before the elections,” while “large sums of money” were poured into Zimbabwe “by the British and Americans to bribe people to vote against President Mugabe.” (2)

The goal, Chinamasa continued, is to “render the country ungovernable in order to justify external intervention to reverse the gains of the land reform program.” (3)

The justice minister went on to describe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC “for what they are — an Anglo-American project designed to defeat and reverse the gains of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, to undermine the will of the Zimbabwean electorate and to return the nation to the dark days of white domination.” (4)

The minister also described the ZESN as “an American-sponsored civil society appendage of the MDC-T.” (5)

Were they reported in the West, it would be fashionable to sneer at Chinamasa’s accusations as lies told to justify a crackdown on the opposition. But, predictably, they haven’t been. For anyone who’s following closely, however, the minister’s charges hardly ring false.

The ZESN is funded by the US Congress and US State Department though the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Its board is comprised of a phalanx of US and British-backed fifth columnists. (6)

Board member Reginald Matchaba Hove won the NED democracy award in 2006. Described by its first director as doing overtly what the CIA used to do covertly, the NED – and by extension the NGOs it funds — are not politically neutral organizations. They have an agenda, and it is to promote US interests under the guise of promoting democratization. Hove is also director of the Southern Africa division of billionaire financier George Soros’ Open Society Institute, which has been involved in funding overthrow movements in Yugoslavia, Georgia, Ukraine and elsewhere. Soros also has an agenda: to open societies to Western profit making. Indeed, the board members of the ZESN comprise an A-list of overthrow activists, with multiple interlocking connections to imperialist governments and corporate foundations.

It doesn’t take long to connect Hove to left scholar Patrick Bond (of Her Majesty’s NGOs) and his Center for Civil Society. The Center is a program partner with the Southern Africa Trust, one of whose trustees is ZESN board member Reginald Matchaba Hove. The Center for Policy Studies, whose mission is to prepare civil society in Zimbabwe for political change (that is, to prepare it to overthrow the Zanu-PF government), is funded by the Southern Africa Trust, a partner of Bond’s Center for Civil Society. Other sponsors include the Soros, Ford, Mott, Heinrich Boll (German Green party), and Friedrich Ebert (German Social Democrats) foundations, the Rockefeller Brothers, the NED, South African Breweries and a fund established by the chairman of mining and natural resources company, Anglo-American. Significantly, Zimbabwe is rich in minerals. Zanu-PF’s program is to put control of the country’s mineral resources, as well as its land, in the hands of the black majority, depriving transnational mining companies, like Anglo-American, of control and profits. Everjoice Win, the former spokesperson for the ZESN, is on the advisory board of Bond’s center. The Center supports the Freedom of Expression Institute (FEI), which is funded by George Soros and the British government’s Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD). The FEI is a partner of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (also funded by the British government), whose director Rashweat Mukundu is a board member of the ZESN.

Bond co-authored a report with Tapera Kapuya, a fellow of ZESN sponsor, the NED. He also contributed to a report titled Zimbabwe’s Turmoil, along with John Makumbe and Brian Kagoro. The report was sponsored by the Institute for Security Studies, which is financed by the governments of the United States, Britain, France and Canada, the Rockefeller Brothers, and of course, the ubiquitous George Soros and Ford foundations. Makumbe has published in the NED’s Journal of Democracy, and is a former director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (funded, not surprisingly, by the NED). The Coalition, like the Center for Policy Studies, is devoted to ousting the Mugabe government under the guise of promoting democracy, but in reality promotes the profits of firms like Anglo-American and the interests of US and British investors. Kagoro is a former coordinator of the Coalition. Significantly, the Coalition is a partner of the ZESN.

Add to this Bond’s celebrating the Western-trained and financed underground movements Zvakwana and Sokwanele as an “independent left” (7) and his co-authoring a Z-Net article on Zimbabwe with MDC founding member Grace Kwinjeh [8] (MDC leader Tsvangirai admitted in a February 2002 SBS Dateline program that his party is financed by European governments and corporations (9)), and it’s clear that Bond links up with the spider web of American and British-sponsored civil society appendages of the MDC-T.

Chinamasa’s clarification of the connections between the US and Britain and Zimbabwe’s civil society and opposition fifth columnists is a welcome relief from Western newspapers’ attempts to cover them up. The ZESN, despite being generously funded by the US through Congress and the State Department, is described by the Western media as “independent” while ZESN partner, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), is called “an international pro-democracy organization” (10) and “a Washington-based group.” (11) What it really is, is the foreign arm of the Democratic Party. The NDI receives funding from the US Congress (as well as from USAID and corporate foundations), which it then doles out to fifth columnists in US-designated “outposts of tyranny.” Only in the service of propaganda would the Democratic Party be called “a Washington-based group.” One wonders how Americans would have reacted to the British monarchy parading about post-revolutionary Washington as a “London-based” group – an “international good government” organization bankrolling an American NGO to monitor US elections? Would anyone be surprised if the leaders of the British-financed NGO were dragged off to jail, especially were its backers openly working to oust the government in Washington to restore the rule of the British monarchy? In Zimbabwe, the only surprise is that the Zanu-PF government hasn’t reacted with as much force as the Americans would have done under the same circumstances. That Zimbabwe’s government has tried to preserve space for the exercise of political and civil liberties in the face of massive hostile foreign interference is to be commended.

Washington is quite open in its intentions to overthrow the Mugabe government. Under the 2001 US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act “the President is authorized to provide assistance” to “support an independent and free press and electronic media in Zimbabwe” and “provide for democracy and governance programs in Zimbabwe.” (12) This translates into the president financing anti-Zanu-PF radio stations and newspapers and bankrolling groups opposed to Zimbabwe’s national liberation movement to inveigle Zimbabweans to vote against Mugabe.

“The United States government has said 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.” (13)

Last year, the US State Department acknowledged once again that it supports “the efforts of the political opposition, the media and civil society” in Zimbabwe through training, assistance and financing. (14) And the 2006 US National Security Strategy declares that “it is the policy of the US to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation…with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in…” North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Belarus and Zimbabwe. (15)

The goal of the overthrow agenda is to reverse the land reform and economic indigenization policies of the Zanu-PF government — policies that are against the interests of the ruling class foundations that fund the fifth columnists’ activities. The chairman of Anglo-American finances Zimbabwe’s anti-Mugabe civil society because bringing Tsvangirai’s MDC to power is good for Anglo-American’s bottom line. Likewise, the numerous Southern African corporations that Lord Renwick of Clifton sits on the boards of stand to profit from the MDC unseating Zimbabwe’s national liberation agenda. Lord Renwick is head of an outfit called the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust (ZDT), also part of the interlocked community of imperialist governments, wealthy individuals, corporate foundations, and NGOs working to reverse Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. The ZDT is a major backer of the MDC. (16)

Police raids on the offices of the ZESN and Harvest House, the headquarters of the MDC, seem deplorable to those in the West who are accustomed to elections in which the contestants all pretty much agree on major policies, with only trivial differences among them. But in Zimbabwe, the differences are acute – a choice between losing much of what the 14-year long national liberation war was fought for and settling for nominal independence (that is crying uncle, so the West will relieve the pressure of its economic warfare) or moving forward to bring the program of national liberation to its logical conclusion: ownership of the country’s land, resources and enterprises, not just its flag, by the black majority. In this, there is an unavoidable conflict between “a government which is spearheaded by a revolutionary party, which spearheaded the armed struggle against British imperialism” and “a party that was the creation of the imperialists themselves (that) has been financed the imperialists themselves.” (17)

It’s impossible to achieve independence from foreign control and domination without turmoil, disruption and fighting – not when the opposition and civil society are directed from abroad to serve foreign interests. Can Zimbabwe’s elections honestly be described as free and fair when the economy has been sabotaged by the West’s denying Harare credit and debt relief [18] and where respite from the attendant miseries is promised in the election of the opposition? Are elections legitimate when media are controlled by outside forces (19), and civil society and the opposition have been controlled by foreign powers?

Chinamasa’s complaints, far from being demagoguery, are real and justified. Zanu-PF’s decision to fight, rather than capitulate, ought be applauded, not condemned. Imperialism cannot be opposed without opposing the MDC and its civil society partners, for they too are imperialism.

1. Herald (Zimbabwe) April 26, 2008.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. Michael Barker, “Zimbabwe and the Power of Propaganda: Ousting a President via Civil Society,” Global Research.ca, April 16, 2006. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8675
See also http://www.ned.org/dbtw-wpd/textbase/projects-search.htm and http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Zimbabwe_Election_Support_Network
7. Stephen Gowans, “The Politics of Demons and Angels,” April 15, 2007, http://gowans.wordpress.com/2007/04/15/zimbabwe-and-the-politics-of-demons-and-angels/
8. Stephen Gowans, “The Company Patrick Bond Keeps,” March 24, 2008, http://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/03/24/the-company-patrick-bond-keeps/
9. Rob Gowland, “Zimbabwe: The struggle for land, the struggle for independence,” Communist Party of Australia, http://www.cpa.org.au/booklets/zimbabwe.pdf . The MDC is also financed by the British government’s Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust, whose patrons include former British foreign secretaries and is headed by Lord Renwick of Chilton, vice-chair of investment banking at JPMorgan (Europe.)
10. The Globe and Mail (Toronto), April 26, 2008.
11. The Washington Post, April 26, 2008.
12. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s107-494
13. The Guardian (UK), August 22, 2002.
14. US Department of State, April 5, 2007.
15. http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss/2006/
16. “Zimbabwe ambassador: Self-determination is at the root of the conflict,” FinalCall.Com News, April 22, 2008. http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_4611.shtml
17. Ibid.
18. Under the US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, “the Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct 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.”

See http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s107-494

19. The same question can be asked of elections in Western liberal democracies, where the media are controlled by an interlocked community of hereditary capitalist families and corporate board members who share common economic interests inimical to those of the majority.

Written by what's left

April 27, 2008 at 9:41 pm

No individualist solution to foundations

with 10 comments

By Stephen Gowans

A number of articles published here and elsewhere have been critical of progressives who have become entangled with foundations sponsored by corporations, imperialist governments and wealthy individuals. These progressives have been criticized by some for being willing to accept foundation support and by others for presenting themselves and other foundation-connected leftists as “independent” left voices. The first group of critics complains that progressives undermine their credibility by taking foundation grants and accepting foundation positions or unjustifiably enhance the credibility of the foundations they take money and jobs from. This group has no basic disagreement with the political positions of the foundation-connected progressives. The criticism of the second group, on the other hand, originates in disagreement over fundamental political positions. It defines the political position of foundation-connected progressives as pro-imperialist, not in intentions but in its effects, and argues that it is this basic political position which makes these progressives attractive to foundations. They appear to be credibly progressive – even radical – but in fact promote views that pose no real threat to corporate domination and indeed even buttress the ideological foundations of that domination. They are independent in the sense that they are not told to what to do or say, but their views considerably overlap in important ways those of their foundation sponsors.

The first group of critics argues that progressives should reject connections to corporate and government-controlled foundations, or, alternatively, should take the money but scrupulously refuse to self-censor, even if it means losing funding. The point of this article is to argue that were progressives to follow this advice, little of consequence would change.

The most significant role foundations play, is not in encouraging progressives to self-censor, either to guarantee ongoing funding or to secure funding for the first time (although this doubtlessly happens), but to funnel money to progressives who promote views that are no threat to continued ruling class domination and reinforce certain views and values that discourage leftists from emulating or supporting militant movements or parties, at home and abroad. By providing these progressives with a platform to reach a large part of the progressive community, the corporate community, through its foundations, puts these left intellectuals in a position to define for the progressive community a common sense that is at worst innocuous to the interests of foundation sponsors and more often indirectly conducive to those interests. More militant voices, whose views are uncompromisingly antagonistic to those of the foundations’ sponsors, are denied funding, and dwell, as a consequence, along the margins, where their ability to set the agenda is severely limited. This is a long-standing ruling class strategy: give the moderates a voice and marginalize the militants. If the militants can’t be marginalized, suppress them.

What would happen if those who self-censored refused to do so any longer, and renounced their ties to foundations, as the first set of critics prescribes? The same foundation money would flow to someone else who expressed the same self-censored views, only this time without the need of self-censorship. Wolfe’s quip applies not only to journalists but to intellectuals generally. “You cannot hope to bribe and twist, thank God, the British journalist. But seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to.”

There is no shortage of people who lean to the left who needn’t be bribed through the promise of foundation grants or implicit threats of their withdrawal to express views that are pleasing to corporate foundation sponsors – views that implicitly accept as desirable certain societal arrangements or strategies for the left to follow that allow the corporate rich to maintain their dominance and further their goals. It’s wrong to suggest that Stephen Zunes has been bought or sold out because he has accepted a position with a foundation controlled by former Michael Milken right hand man Peter Ackerman. Zunes is saying what he would have said all along, even if he hadn’t forged foundation ties. That Zunes has found a community of interest with Ackerman, who is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and head of Freedom House, simply reveals how mildly left Zunes’ views really are.

Foundation-friendly leftist views hold that the world can be changed without taking power; that hierarchical political organizations of the type that have proved successful in class and national liberation struggles of the past are undesirable and should be set aside in favor of loose, decentralized, (and therefore ineffective) movements; that the highest task for progressives is the extension of the democratic project, defined without reference to class; and that this goal should be achieved by a loose coalition of grassroots groups practicing non-violent direct action. These views are, of course, far more pleasing to the dominant class than the view that says power should be seized and held onto to accomplish concrete anti-capitalist goals (freedom from exploitation or neo-colonial domination) and that the route to power lies in the same hierarchical, disciplined organizational forms that have proved successful in the past. Z-Net style progressives are pleasing to the ruling class because they promote a strategy for the left that has no chance of success, and is built around the pursuit of nebulous goals. To conserve the status quo, all you have to do is make sure this brand of leftism receives a large “advertising” budget, to maintain the “brand’s” dominant share position in the left community. I’m borrowing marketing terminology, but it fits well. Coke has more customers than RC Cola because it has a much large advertising and promotion budget. Foundation funding is like an advertising budget that allows the foundations’ sponsors to push their preferred brand (in this case, a brand of leftism) to the fore.

Telling progressives, therefore, that they’re being manipulated by foundations is pointless and at odds with reality. Many progressives with foundation ties are not being manipulated, bribed or bought. They point out correctly that there are no strings attached to the money they receive, they say what they want to say without interference, and they’ve secured a platform they would not otherwise have to advance views they strongly believe in. To these progressives, it is the foundations that are being used, not themselves. Journalists say the same: Editors don’t tell me what to write. But, then, editors don’t have to tell journalists who implicitly accept capitalist goals and values what to say. Likewise, foundations don’t need to use the threat of withdrawing support to left intellectuals. Many left intellectuals have, without the spur of stick or carrot, adopted views that are already, in the view of foundation sponsors, desirable for a leftwing opposition to hold.

The problem, then, is much larger than one of individuals’ relations to foundations. It is a problem of a class comprised of a tiny minority, which, by virtue of owning the major productive resources, has a virtual monopoly on resources that allow it to define the common sense of the age, not only broadly, but within the left community as well, by giving a platform to those who hold desirable views. The same problem surfaces in the media, where the parallel individualist solution of importuning journalists to stop self-censoring or give up their jobs as journalists, has obvious weaknesses. There is also an obvious weakness in FAIR’s strategy of asking the mass media to forget they’re owned and controlled by corporate wealth that has an interest in propagating certain views and values.

To define the common sense view, all you have to do is make sure those whose view of the common sense is compatible with your own interests, get heard. Challenging the virtual monopoly of the corporate rich to define the ruling ideas or to define what constitutes a desirable set of views and values for the left to hold cannot be done, therefore, by urging individuals to be incorruptible, most of whom are not corrupt now and are incorruptible anyway. The challenge is a systemic one, whose solution lies in changing the system, not individuals. So long as major productive resources are privately owned, the wherewithal to define the common sense will lie within the grasp of private owners. They will use foundations to raise the visibility and voice of left intellectuals who hold desirable views to weaken left opposition and divert its energies to humanitarian, but conservative, tasks which pose no threat to the interests and continued domination of the corporate rich. The left intellectuals who rise to prominence will do so, then, not because their arguments are more compelling, their approach more realistic, or their orientation more leftist, but because they’ve been handed a platform their militant left competitors are denied.

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April 16, 2008 at 10:53 pm

Doing overtly what the CIA used to do covertly

with 2 comments

By Stephen Gowans

Stephen Zunes continues to complain about what he calls unfair attacks from critics who, he says, lie about him and the work of the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, headed up by Wall Street investment banker, Council on Foreign Relations member, and Freedom House supremo, Peter Ackerman.

Zunes doesn’t respond to all attacks – only those that offer him room to exercise his talents for diversion, demolition of straw men, forensic sleight of hand, appeal to authority, invoking of honorific titles (it’s Dr. Ackerman by the way), red herrings and the trotting out of his progressive credentials. In marketing it’s called blowing smoke.

Zunes writes a lot in reply to critics but steers clear of the main criticisms. When challenged to talk about what he’s doing today, he talks about what he did yesterday. When criticized for his current links to ruling class regime change organizations, he tells us he opposed apartheid and Nato’s bombing of Yugoslavia. In all of this, what he doesn’t say directly is that he has no trouble with US regime change efforts – he just doesn’t always agree with the methods.

Zunes isn’t only a target of criticism; he doles out his fair share, too. Those who say nonviolent democracy activists are agents of imperialism, simply because they’re funded by imperialist governments, corporate foundations and wealthy individuals, are wrong. They’re promoting a conspiracy theory, he says. Foreign-funded “grassroots” activist groups have arisen spontaneously, and would have arisen in the absence of foreign funding. Besides, the funding they receive is too insignificant to make much of a difference. Those who try to discredit these groups by pointing to the groups’ sources of foreign funding are either misguided or lying.

If this is true, Zunes ought to lead a delegation to Washington to ask the NED, USAID, and USIA to stop giving money to regime change groups and media abroad. If the money makes little difference anyway and only brings these groups into disrepute and hands the local government an excuse to crackdown, surely the wisest course is to use the money for something truly progressive – like helping the victims of New Orleans, building decent inner city schools and funding a public health-care program, rather than squandering it abroad where it’s not needed. After that, he might set up meetings with Peter Ackerman, George Soros, Britain’s Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Canada’s Rights and Democracy, and Germany’s Heinrich Boll and Friedrich Ebert Foundations, to explain that the money they’re spending on regime change operations has little effect.

Zunes rails against the democracy promotion hypocrisy of Washington and says he works of behalf of democracy, whether it’s in Washington’s interests or not. But he fails to come to grips with the reality that nonviolent democracy promotion’s successes have come in countries where the local government is resisting being pulled into the US imperial orbit, never where it is already doing Washington’s budding. Were he to do so he would have to acknowledge that no matter what his intentions or positions on apartheid, Nato’s bombing of Yugoslavia and the US invasion of Iraq are, the effects of his actions are decidedly pro-imperialist.

Another thing. Someone ought to explain to Zunes that overthrowing a government nonviolently to impose foreign domination is as imperialist as doing the same with tanks, guns and cruise missiles. What’s at issue isn’t how the struggle is carried out, but why it’s carried out, who’s directing it, and who benefits.

Zunes travels aboard to train non-violent democracy activists. Does he use his own money to finance these trips? Do the groups he brings his missionary zeal to pass around a tattered hat to raise the funds to avail themselves of his expertise? Or is the tab picked up by the same wealthy individuals, corporate foundations and imperialist governments Zunes says are an unavoidable reality of capitalist society, that realists, like himself, have learned to compromise with?

As to his expertise, does he have a track record at home that qualifies him to train people abroad? Where are the homegrown nonviolent democracy activists he’s trained who have accomplished anything of significance? Have they made even the slightest dent in the vast US war machine, slowed, even for the briefest moment, the juggernaut of US imperialism, or advanced, even one iota, the project of ending the exploitation of man by man? Given that the challenges loom so large at home, and that, in his view, pro-democracy regime change groups are popping up spontaneously all over the world, and don’t need US funding and expertise to be successful, you would think Zunes would be busily working at home, rather than jetting off to someone else’s country to do missionary work for his corporate patrons.

Why does Zunes travel abroad anyway? Are foreigners incapable of organizing their own nonviolent opposition, in the same way, according to Washington, Iraqis, Palestinians, Afghans, Haitians and on and on are incapable of organizing their own police, military, elections and political system? How is it that in so many countries the talent to undertake basic political functions is absent, residing, it seems, exclusively in the US, Britain and other countries of the Anglo-American orbit? The dispatching of experts (the new missionaries) to organize political life in other countries is as much a part of imperialism as dispatching troops to topple governments. Zunes might reply that the ignorant of foreign lands, thirsty for democracy, asked for his expertise, but so too does Washington say Iraqis and Afghans, thirsty for democracy, asked to be occupied.

Zunes is no anti-imperialist. If the NED does overtly what the CIA used to do covertly, Zunes does overtly what CIA agents used to do covertly. But it’s not too late. If Zunes wants to become a true anti-imperialist, he should:

(i) resign his position as chair of the board of academic advisors to the ICNC and abjure all current and future connections to corporate and imperialist government-funded regime change organizations;
(ii) stay at home. Contrary to the paternalistic ideology that pervades the larger part of the progressive community, foreigners are indeed capable of organizing their own political affairs;
(iii) devote his energies, not to working with wealthy individuals, corporate foundations and imperialistic governments, but to working to change the system of which wealthy individuals, corporations and imperialistic governments are the masters and beneficiaries. This would truly do something to promote substantive democracy, not the hollow corporate brand Zunes does missionary work on behalf of today, as his CIA predecessors once did covertly not so long ago.

Written by what's left

April 9, 2008 at 10:09 pm

On Zimbabwe, Western left follows agenda set by capitalist elite

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By Stephen Gowans

While the Western media loudly demonizes the government of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, it is fairly silent on the repressions of the US client regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

Outdoing each other in the quest for the William Randolph Hearst prize for excellence in yellow journalism, Western newspapers slam Mugabe as the “Monster” and “Hitler of Africa .” At the same time, civil society hagiographers compromise with imperialist forces to help oust the “dictator” in Harare, but on Egypt, have little to say.

Meanwhile, wave after wave of strikes rock Egypt, sparked by rising food prices, inadequate incomes, political repression, and the government’s gutting of the social safety net.

Virtually absent in a country which receives $1.3 billion in US military aid every year are democracy promotion NGOs helping to organize a people’s revolution. Indeed, it might be hypothesized that the amount of democracy promotion funding a country receives is inversely proportional to the amount of US military aid it receives.

Egypt is not even a limited democracy. It is a de facto dictatorship. You might, then, expect to find Stephen Zunes’ International Center for Nonviolent Conflict training nonviolent democracy activists to overthrow the Mubarak regime. You might expect the Voice of America to be broadcasting “independent” news and opinion into Egypt, urging Egyptians to declare” enough is enough!” Predictably, this isn’t happening.

A year and a half ago, Hosni Mubarak – seen in Egypt as “Washington’s lackey” (1) — reversed the country’s social security gains of the 50s and 60s. The changes, he said, would “not only aim to rid Egypt of socialist principles launched in the 60s, but also seek a more favorable atmosphere for foreign investment” (2) – the same goal the opposition seeks in Zimbabwe.

Elections held last June to select members of the upper house of Parliament were described by election monitors “as manipulated to ensure that the governing party won a majority of seats.” (3)

Still, in the West, few have heard of vote-rigging in Egypt. Most, however, are familiar with vote-rigging allegations against Mugabe. Few too know that in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, “the only opposition group with a broad network and a core constituency,” is banned. (4) At the same time, Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC has never been banned, despite its conspicuous connections to foreign governments that have adopted regime change as their official policy.

The Brotherhood’s “popularity is based on a reputation for not being corrupt and extensive solidarity work in clinics, nurseries and after-school tutoring.” Its volunteers “fill the gaps left by a state system that has seen illiteracy rise and services fail as liberal economic reforms enrich businesses close to the regime.’ (5) Zimbabwe’s opposition, by comparison, seeks to privatize, slash government spending and give the country’s prized farm land back to European settlers and their descendants to restore the confidence of foreign investors.

In recent years, “Egyptian officials have stepped up repression as a means to blunt the rising popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood, locking up its leaders without charge. There is also talk of amending the constitution for president, but in such a way as to prohibit any independent candidate aligned with the Brotherhood.” (6)

As in Zimbabwe, a vast majority live in deep poverty, but unlike in Zimbabwe, “Egyptian authorities have cancelled elections, prohibited the creation of new parties and locked up political opponents.” (7)

Last June, “President Bush lavished praise on President Hosni Mubarak…while publicly avoiding mention of the government’s actions in jailing or exiling opposition leaders and its severe restrictions on opposition political activities.” (8) Bush’s silence contrasts sharply with his accusations against President Mugabe, who hasn’t jailed or exiled opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai or banned his party.

So, how is it that a regime that “arrests political opposition figures, beats street demonstrators, locks up bloggers, and blocks creation of new political parties” (9) gets so little attention in the West, while Zimbabwe gets so much?

And why is there a liberal-progressive-left affinity with opposition forces in Zimbabwe, when those forces are funded by a billionaire financier, capitalist foundations and Western governments, while if there’s any solidarity movement with the people of Egypt, it is virtually invisible?

The answer, I would suggest, lies in the failure of the greater part of the Western left to understand how corporate officers, corporate lawyers, and investment bankers set the agenda through their ownership of the media, domination of government, and control of high-profile foundations and think tanks.

Mubarak’s pro-investment policies and repression of the Arab street serve
the bottom-line interests of the US corporate class. Accordingly, the media and foundation agenda steers clear. What foundation grants are distributed, are handed out to groups that eschew confrontation, and seek to work within the system, rather than against it, to change it.

On the other hand, Mugabe’s land reform and economic indigenization policies challenge Western corporate and investment interests. It’s in the interests of European-connected commercial farmers, resource-extraction companies and Western banks, through their control of the media and foundations and domination of Western governments, to mobilize public opinion and forces on the ground to oppose these policies and replace them with more investment-friendly ones.

Not surprisingly, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the principal immediate potential beneficiary of the corporate-directed mobilization in Zimbabwe, promises to “encourage foreign investment” and to bring Zimbabwe’s “abundant farmlands back into health” (10) – that is, to return Zimbabwe to raising cash crops and to reverse legislation mandating majority ownership of the economy by the majority population.

This is an agenda that serves Western corporate elites, not ordinary people. Cheerleaders for a left practice of compromising with imperialism say this is a sign of independence. But a left that is regularly mobilized on behalf of corporate and investor interests when those interests are threatened, and remains quiescent when the same interests are being challenged, is hardly independent.

Western leftists should ask themselves fundamental questions.

Who owns and controls the media? Are the media neutral, or do they shape public opinion in ways that advance the interests of the media’s owners and others who share the same interests and connections? What are the interests of the people who own and control the media?

Who owns and controls the foundations that fund policy experts, including those on the left? Do foundations give money to people who effectively oppose their interests or to people who effectively advance them?

How will a leader, political party, or movement that effectively advances the interests of ordinary people over those of corporations, banks and imperialist governments be treated by the media and by foundation-connected experts (recognizing that corporations and banks own the media and foundations and dominate imperialist governments)? Will they be given grudging respect? Are will they be vilified?

If a leader promotes the interests of corporations and investors while cracking down on ordinary people (Mubarak) will he be demonized? If not, why not? And if a leader promotes the interests of ordinary people over those of foreign corporations, investors and colonial settlers (Mugabe), will he be treated indifferently?

1. New York Times, September 20, 2006
2. Al-Ahram Weekly, February 1, 2007
3. New York Times, June 15, 2007
4. New York Times, April 9, 2008
5. The Guardian (UK), July 19, 2007
6. New York Times, October 22, 2006
7. Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2006
8. New York Times, June 17, 2008
9. New York Times, September 20, 2006
10. The Guardian (UK), April 7, 2008

Written by what's left

April 7, 2008 at 10:47 pm

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