Forwarded from Dale T. McKinley

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue May 9 11:55:00 MDT 2000


[Dale, this arrived in my mailbox on 4/30 but I apologize for not
forwarding it sooner.]

Comrades,

Recently, the US-based, Workers World (WW) newspaper ran an editorial
entitled "For the Oppressed of Zimbabwe" (included below). I consider this
editorial to be representative of an ill informed and ultimately
destructive approach to the Zimbabwean situation (particularly as it comes
from a progressive source). I have responded to WW and post that response
here (below the editorial) as a further contribution to what is an
extremely important struggle/situation that we cannot fail to continue to
engage.

Dale T. McKinley

******************************************************

WW EDITORIAL: FOR THE OPPRESSED OF ZIMBABWE

The most important question regarding land redistribution in Zimbabwe is:
Who are the oppressed and who are the oppressors?

Unless you start from this question, you can wind up misled by what will
certainly be an all-out effort by the imperialist media to demonize the
liberation war veterans and Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

A little history is in order. From the end of the 19th century--when Cecil
Rhodes' British South Africa Co. stole the region from the Africans--until
1965, Zimbabwe was a British colony called Southern Rhodesia. In 1965
right-wing settlers declared "independence" and allied with apartheid South
Africa.

Guerrilla warfare by Black revolutionaries forced concessions that led to
African-governed independence in 1980. Mugabe, as the leader of that
liberation struggle, became president in 1980 and has remained in office
since.

But the struggle ended in a compromise, and the settler farmers still held
all the best land that had been stolen from the African people.

This land was supposed to be turned over to the population, especially to
the liberation fighters. Thousands of their brothers and sisters had been
slaughtered by the racist settler government in the fight to win the land.
But 20 years after liberation the best half of the farming land is still in
the hands of 4,500 European settler farmers, while 10 million Africans farm
the more barren half.

So it is clear. British imperialism and the European farmers are the
oppressors. The African war veterans now squatting on the land are the
oppressed.

Anyone who is for the poor of the world, anyone who thinks the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are oppressive instruments,
anyone who fights for civil rights and for freedom, has to be on the side
of the squatters and against the settler-farmers and their backers in
London and Washington.

President Mugabe has spoken out in favor of the squatters and has called
the settler-farmers "the enemies of Zimbabwe." If he stays consistent in
his support of the poor, the big-business media in Britain and the U.S.
will attack him in the same way they do Slobodan Milosevic, Fidel Castro
and Saddam Hussein. They will make him out to be evil because they want to
intervene against him.

And they won't only attack Mugabe. They will also attack the squatters and
call them terrorists, just as the slaveholders in the United States
vilified those who led slave revolts.

It is important, as a struggle starts, to know which side you are on. In
this struggle anyone fair will be on the side of the liberation struggle
veterans in Zimbabwe.

*******************************************************

RESPONSE:

First of all, I am extremely surprised that WW (a publication that provides
useful coverage and analysis) has allowed itself to publish (as its own
opinion) an editorial that lacks even the most basic historical
understanding of the character of the liberation struggle and a grasp of
the class character of the more contemporary political situation in Zimbabwe.

It is well known among most liberation veterans and socialists in Southern
Africa (albeit seemingly unrecognised by the western left) that in late
1978/early 1979, Mugabe physically eliminated almost the entire 'socialist
left' within ZANU at base camps in Mozambique - as a means to ensure that
his coming to power would not be challenged (from the left) intellectually
or organisationally from within ZANU. This pre-independence purge was just
the start of what soon became (by the mid 1980s) a war of vengeance against
any and all Zimbabweans (in this case, those from the minority Ndebele
people who had fought with ZAPU during the liberation war), that resulted
in Mugabe's army killing close to 20 000 rural people in Matabeleland as a
means to enforce subjugation to ZANU and usher in a period of unchallenged
political and economic hegemony for Mugabe and his clique of newly formed
comprador bourgeoisie. By the late 1980s all pretense to progressive (not
to mention socialist) policies had been thrown out the window and Mugabe
(and his cronies) gleefully embraced the IMF/World Bank strutural
adjustment programmes that were dangled in front of them as another means
to consolidate their class rule. All the while (since independence), Mugabe
showed little interest in land redistribution for the rural poor, although
there were ample opportunities to make use of fallow land already owned by
the state, back the nascent land invasions that regularly took place by
peasants and genuine war veterans and make proper use of land acquired
through the use of available funds. Instead, most of the "redistributed"
land went to cronies of Mugabe (which included 'war veterans') who set
about re-inforcing rural class oppression through their champinoning of
so-called 'indigenous capitalism' - i.e., the creation and sustenance of a
new black bourgeoisie, wholly symbiotic with the interests of international
capital.

Throughout the 1990s Zimbabweans experienced the seriously negative effects
of the mutually reinforcing structural adjustment programmes (of which, not
a negative word was said from Mugabe and ZANU-PF for years) and the
increasing class oppression of Mugabe and his bureaucratic/ indigenous
bourgeoisie who took all the goodies for themselves and intimidated and
harassed any and all political opponents (particularly socialists and other
progressive 'civil society' forces). All the while, again, there was no
serious attempt on the part of the Mugabe regime to institute any real,
radical land redistribution nor to listen to the pleas of the (previously
independent) war veterans association who pleaded and marched for land
redistribution, job opportunities and democratic and open debate on key
issues. Mugabe and his cronies ran the economy into the ground (through
their own voracious accumulation in conjunction with international finance
and mining capital) and enjoyed the benefits of a capitalism that saw every
social service rendered almost inoperable (to the extent of there being no
basic medicines in state hospitals and an unemployment rate of close to
60%), alongside spending vast amounts of public monies on luxury
consumption, paying off corrupt politicians and capitalists (in one case
losing upwards of Z$5 billion of public money on one Roger Boka, a close
Mugabe confidant who was a champion of 'indigenous capitalism' and a
virulent reactionary who vilified all - black and white - who stood in his
way). Indeed, for most of the 1980s and 90s, it has been Mugabe and his
clique that have acted as the willing agents of imperialism (all the while,
masquerading as progressive 'nationalists' trying to ward off the
imperialist onslaught), cynically manipulating popular discontent when
deemed necessary for their own class preservation but always showing their
true colours by striking deals when beneficial for their own class
interests (not those of the Zimbabwean people).

In the late 1990s, when the people of Zimbabwe (but particularly the
organised working class) began to organise against their own class
oppression (from both the Mugabe capitalists and international imperialism)
and the horrendous declines in the standard of living etc., Mugabe turned
to the oldest trick in the book to ward off any substantive challenge to
his personal hold on political power and the class interests of the 'new'
bureaucratic/indigenous bourgeoisie who had benefited most from almost two
decades of his 'nationalist', pro-people charade. He started to use the
land issue (knowing full well its emotive, economic and historical
significance) to deflect the rising political challenge to his personal and
class rule. In doing so, he has paid millions of Z$ to so-called 'war
veterans' to form gangs of thugs and act as if they are the vangaurd of a
renewed popular offensive to reclaim land taken by the colonialists and
still 'owned' by a small group of predominately white farmers. It is
instructive to note (a fact which seems to have escaped much of the western
left in its rush to proclaim internationalist 'solidarity' with the
discredited Mugabe and his gang of thieves) that it has been the workers
(both in urban and rural areas) who have been the first to see this latest
Mugabe opportunism for what it is and have thus rallied around a political
opposition that forms the real reason behind the staged land invasions.
They have been the ones calling for radical land reditribution for years
and understand that this cannot be either sustainable nor empowering for
the landless as long as it is being used as a politically obstrusive and
opportunist class instrument to ensure continued capitalist relations of
production and distribution (whether in rural or urban areas). In other
words, they understand the need for fundamental political change in
Zimbabwe (even if the leaders of the opposition MDC are themselves being
caught up in the vortex of considerations of political power and class
politics) if there is going to any 'people's' land redistribution and a
shift in the economic priorities of a developing country with the means to
achieve economic self-sufficiency and political independence from the
imperialists.

To call Mugabe a 'friend of the poor' and as part of the "oppressed" is not
only objective nonsense but is akin to saying that the poor and oppressed
of Zimbabwe are both ignorant and misdirected in their consistent and
sustained opposition to capitalist oppression, in whatever form it presents
itself. Those presently "sqautting" on the farms are not representative of
the majority of the poor and oppressed, any more than Mugabe and his clique
is representative of the interests of most Zimbabweans and it is quite
clear that they are there solely to carry out the political machinations of
a man who cannot imagine losing power whatever the cost to the 'people' he
has used for so long. To argue that socialists and progressive
internationalists must defend Mugabe and his cronies (on the pretext that
the imperialists will call them all sorts of names and try to intervene -
since when has this not been the case with all petty class bureaucrats in
the developing world once they have outlived their usefulness?) is to
abandon the anti-capitalist struggle that is being waged by the Zimbabwean
masses and, even worse, to make the fundamental mistake of confusing a
reactionary, comprador bourgeois nationalism with genuine people's power
and anti-imperialism. Yes, we all need to know "what side we're on", and
the choice of that "side" is not between the imperialists and Mugabe but
with the majority of the poor and workers of Zimbabwe, whose courageous
struggles will only be further hampered by ill-considered and uninformed
'solidarity'.

______________________________

Dr. Dale T. McKinley Johannesburg, South Africa
Email: <drdalet at sn.apc.org>

Recently, the US-based, Workers World (WW) newspaper ran an editorial
entitled "For the Oppressed of Zimbabwe" (included below). I consider this
editorial to be representative of an ill informed and ultimately
destructive approach to the Zimbabwean situation (particularly as it comes
from a progressive source). I have responded to WW and post that response
here (below the editorial) as a further contribution to what is an
extremely important struggle/situation that we cannot fail to continue to
engage. Dale T. McKinley

******************************************************

WW EDITORIAL: FOR THE OPPRESSED OF ZIMBABWE

The most important question regarding land redistribution in Zimbabwe is:
Who are the oppressed and who are the oppressors?

Unless you start from this question, you can wind up misled by what will
certainly be an all-out effort by the imperialist media to demonize the
liberation war veterans and Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

A little history is in order. From the end of the 19th century--when Cecil
Rhodes' British South Africa Co. stole the region from the Africans--until
1965, Zimbabwe was a British colony called Southern Rhodesia. In 1965
right-wing settlers declared "independence" and allied with apartheid South
Africa.

Guerrilla warfare by Black revolutionaries forced concessions that led to
African-governed independence in 1980. Mugabe, as the leader of that
liberation struggle, became president in 1980 and has remained in office
since.

But the struggle ended in a compromise, and the settler farmers still held
all the best land that had been stolen from the African people.

This land was supposed to be turned over to the population, especially to
the liberation fighters. Thousands of their brothers and sisters had been
slaughtered by the racist settler government in the fight to win the land.
But 20 years after liberation the best half of the farming land is still in
the hands of 4,500 European settler farmers, while 10 million Africans farm
the more barren half.

So it is clear. British imperialism and the European farmers are the
oppressors. The African war veterans now squatting on the land are the
oppressed.

Anyone who is for the poor of the world, anyone who thinks the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are oppressive instruments,
anyone who fights for civil rights and for freedom, has to be on the side
of the squatters and against the settler-farmers and their backers in
London and Washington.

President Mugabe has spoken out in favor of the squatters and has called
the settler-farmers "the enemies of Zimbabwe." If he stays consistent in
his support of the poor, the big-business media in Britain and the U.S.
will attack him in the same way they do Slobodan Milosevic, Fidel Castro
and Saddam Hussein. They will make him out to be evil because they want to
intervene against him.

And they won't only attack Mugabe. They will also attack the squatters and
call them terrorists, just as the slaveholders in the United States
vilified those who led slave revolts.

It is important, as a struggle starts, to know which side you are on. In
this struggle anyone fair will be on the side of the liberation struggle
veterans in Zimbabwe.

*******************************************************

RESPONSE: First of all, I am extremely surprised that WW (a publication
that provides useful coverage and analysis) has allowed itself to publish
(as its own opinion) an editorial that lacks even the most basic historical
understanding of the character of the liberation struggle and a grasp of
the class character of the more contemporary political situation in Zimbabwe.

It is well known among most liberation veterans and socialists in Southern
Africa (albeit seemingly unrecognised by the western left) that in late
1978/early 1979, Mugabe physically eliminated almost the entire 'socialist
left' within ZANU at base camps in Mozambique - as a means to ensure that
his coming to power would not be challenged (from the left) intellectually
or organisationally from within ZANU. This pre-independence purge was just
the start of what soon became (by the mid 1980s) a war of vengeance against
any and all Zimbabweans (in this case, those from the minority Ndebele
people who had fought with ZAPU during the liberation war), that resulted
in Mugabe's army killing close to 20 000 rural people in Matabeleland as a
means to enforce subjugation to ZANU and usher in a period of unchallenged
political and economic hegemony for Mugabe and his clique of newly formed
comprador bourgeoisie. By the late 1980s all pretense to progressive (not
to mention socialist) policies had been thrown out the window and Mugabe
(and his cronies) gleefully embraced the IMF/World Bank strutural
adjustment programmes that were dangled in front of them as another means
to consolidate their class rule. All the while (since independence), Mugabe
showed little interest in land redistribution for the rural poor, although
there were ample opportunities to make use of fallow land already owned by
the state, back the nascent land invasions that regularly took place by
peasants and genuine war veterans and make proper use of land acquired
through the use of available funds. Instead, most of the "redistributed"
land went to cronies of Mugabe (which included 'war veterans') who set
about re-inforcing rural class oppression through their champinoning of
so-called 'indigenous capitalism' - i.e., the creation and sustenance of a
new black bourgeoisie, wholly symbiotic with the interests of international
capital.

Throughout the 1990s Zimbabweans experienced the seriously negative effects
of the mutually reinforcing structural adjustment programmes (of which, not
a negative word was said from Mugabe and ZANU-PF for years) and the
increasing class oppression of Mugabe and his bureaucratic/ indigenous
bourgeoisie who took all the goodies for themselves and intimidated and
harassed any and all political opponents (particularly socialists and other
progressive 'civil society' forces). All the while, again, there was no
serious attempt on the part of the Mugabe regime to institute any real,
radical land redistribution nor to listen to the pleas of the (previously
independent) war veterans association who pleaded and marched for land
redistribution, job opportunities and democratic and open debate on key
issues. Mugabe and his cronies ran the economy into the ground (through
their own voracious accumulation in conjunction with international finance
and mining capital) and enjoyed the benefits of a capitalism that saw every
social service rendered almost inoperable (to the extent of there being no
basic medicines in state hospitals and an unemployment rate of close to
60%), alongside spending vast amounts of public monies on luxury
consumption, paying off corrupt politicians and capitalists (in one case
losing upwards of Z$5 billion of public money on one Roger Boka, a close
Mugabe confidant who was a champion of 'indigenous capitalism' and a
virulent reactionary who vilified all - black and white - who stood in his
way). Indeed, for most of the 1980s and 90s, it has been Mugabe and his
clique that have acted as the willing agents of imperialism (all the while,
masquerading as progressive 'nationalists' trying to ward off the
imperialist onslaught), cynically manipulating popular discontent when
deemed necessary for their own class preservation but always showing their
true colours by striking deals when beneficial for their own class
interests (not those of the Zimbabwean people).

In the late 1990s, when the people of Zimbabwe (but particularly the
organised working class) began to organise against their own class
oppression (from both the Mugabe capitalists and international imperialism)
and the horrendous declines in the standard of living etc., Mugabe turned
to the oldest trick in the book to ward off any substantive challenge to
his personal hold on political power and the class interests of the 'new'
bureaucratic/indigenous bourgeoisie who had benefited most from almost two
decades of his 'nationalist', pro-people charade. He started to use the
land issue (knowing full well its emotive, economic and historical
significance) to deflect the rising political challenge to his personal and
class rule. In doing so, he has paid millions of Z$ to so-called 'war
veterans' to form gangs of thugs and act as if they are the vangaurd of a
renewed popular offensive to reclaim land taken by the colonialists and
still 'owned' by a small group of predominately white farmers. It is
instructive to note (a fact which seems to have escaped much of the western
left in its rush to proclaim internationalist 'solidarity' with the
discredited Mugabe and his gang of thieves) that it has been the workers
(both in urban and rural areas) who have been the first to see this latest
Mugabe opportunism for what it is and have thus rallied around a political
opposition that forms the real reason behind the staged land invasions.
They have been the ones calling for radical land reditribution for years
and understand that this cannot be either sustainable nor empowering for
the landless as long as it is being used as a politically obstrusive and
opportunist class instrument to ensure continued capitalist relations of
production and distribution (whether in rural or urban areas). In other
words, they understand the need for fundamental political change in
Zimbabwe (even if the leaders of the opposition MDC are themselves being
caught up in the vortex of considerations of political power and class
politics) if there is going to any 'people's' land redistribution and a
shift in the economic priorities of a developing country with the means to
achieve economic self-sufficiency and political independence from the
imperialists.

To call Mugabe a 'friend of the poor' and as part of the "oppressed" is not
only objective nonsense but is akin to saying that the poor and oppressed
of Zimbabwe are both ignorant and misdirected in their consistent and
sustained opposition to capitalist oppression, in whatever form it presents
itself. Those presently "sqautting" on the farms are not representative of
the majority of the poor and oppressed, any more than Mugabe and his clique
is representative of the interests of most Zimbabweans and it is quite
clear that they are there solely to carry out the political machinations of
a man who cannot imagine losing power whatever the cost to the 'people' he
has used for so long. To argue that socialists and progressive
internationalists must defend Mugabe and his cronies (on the pretext that
the imperialists will call them all sorts of names and try to intervene -
since when has this not been the case with all petty class bureaucrats in
the developing world once they have outlived their usefulness?) is to
abandon the anti-capitalist struggle that is being waged by the Zimbabwean
masses and, even worse, to make the fundamental mistake of confusing a
reactionary, comprador bourgeois nationalism with genuine people's power
and anti-imperialism. Yes, we all need to know "what side we're on", and
the choice of that "side" is not between the imperialists and Mugabe but
with the majority of the poor and workers of Zimbabwe, whose courageous
struggles will only be further hampered by ill-considered and uninformed
'solidarity'.

______________________________
Dr. Dale T. McKinley
Johannesburg, South Africa
Email: <drdalet at sn.apc.org>


Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/





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