[Marxism] Double standards on Zimbabwe (excerpt)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Jul 5 07:53:57 MDT 2008

(The Canadian blogger here isn't for Mugabe or Tsvengarai.)

While Britain's Conservative government had provided some funds as
noted for a "willing seller, willing buyer" approach to land
redistribution, it wasn't enough to change the balance of ownership
in Zimbabwe. In 1992, the Land Acquisition Act was passed to permit
forced sales, but there was little money available to makes those
purchases. Then Tony Blair's Labour government unilaterally withdrew
from the Lancaster House assurances in 1997. Blair's Secretary of
State for International Development, Clare Short, made at that time
an infamous statement in a letter to Zimbabwe's then-Minister of
Land: "[W]e do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility
to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new
government from diverse backgrounds, without links to former colonial
interests. My own origins are Irish and, as you know, we were
colonised, not colonisers."

Three years after that slap in the face, Mugabe's attempt to change
the constitution to permit confiscation of white-owned land was
defeated in a referendum. Violent expropriations by "war veterans"
began shortly afterwards. At that point (2000), two-thirds of the
best agricultural land remained in the hands of a small white
minority--twenty years after independence. Much of what
redistribution there was, however, from 1992 onwards, turned out to
be a distribution of land to Mugabe's cronies, who, by neglect, took
much of it out of production. Once an African breadbasket, Zimbabwe
gradually became an agricultural basket case. Refugees streamed into
South Africa. And Mugabe himself became increasingly erratic,
dispossessing 700,000 people in Harare by demolishing their homes,
and denouncing homosexuality in a manner that would make Fred Phelps

Land reform, then, was going nowhere fast. But if that weren't
enough, the other prong of the neocolonialist fork, an economic
structural adjustment program, was imposed by the IMF in 1991, and it
hit ordinary Zimbabweans fast and hard. It crippled what had up to
that point been a growing economy (an average of 4% real growth per
annum since independence), and plunged the country into poverty and
deindustrialization. Mugabe ended this disastrous experiment in 2001.

The IMF and the West swiftly retaliated with various economic
sanctions. For example, George W. Bush signed into law the Zimbabwe
Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, which had been sponsored
by an old ally of Rhodesia's racist Prime Minister Ian Smith, Senator
Jesse Helms. The Act instructed American officials in international
financial institutions to "oppose and vote against any extension by
the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the
government of Zimbabwe," and oppose any relief of "indebtedness owed
by the government of Zimbabwe." There is an excellent overview of the
subsequent developments here, in an article by progressive journalist
Gregory Elich.

Now, obviously it's time for the ageing dotard to go, along with his
"securocrats" who are actually running the country. But that's no
more than a pious prayer. Restoration of democracy in Zimbabwe is
inextricably tied to the renewal of outside assistance to proceed
with genuine land reform. Yet the latter is probably a pipedream at
this point.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change is seen by the West as
the only alternative, but the likely success at some point in the
future of Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC, a party bankrolled by the
white farmers and supportive of a return to structural adjustment and
privatization, may simply deliver Zimbabwe out of the frying pan into
the fire.

Tsvangirai reminds me quite a bit, in fact, of Mangosuthu Buthelezi,
that Great White Hope (pun intentional) of the likes of Conrad Black
and other dispassionate observers of the African scene. But Buthelezi
was simply outclassed by Nelson Mandela, and became a footnote in the
history of post-apartheid South Africa.

There is, however, no Nelson Mandela figure waiting in the wings in
Zimbabwe. On the one hand, there's Robert Mugabe. And on the other,
Morgan Tsvangirai, who has chosen his advisors from the conservative
Cato Institute and the International Republican Institute. For
ordinary Zimbabweans, traumatized by war, poverty and increasing
lawlessness, it's a classic Hobson's choice. And our lack of
mobilization in North America , pace Jonathan Zimmerman, reflects
precisely that.


Dr.Dawg Location: Ottawa, Canada

I'm a progressive immigrant with annoying views. I have a trade-union
background, and an academic one too. I have published a lot of
poetry, three books, and numerous articles. My interest in blogging
came out of the blue. Well, not entirely. I came across so much
right-wing nonsense in the blogosphere that I thought I could add
some left-wing ...wisdom. I have a good sense of humour and a short
fuse. But I have sworn to myself that I will avoid Usenet and its
low-level babble, and get into the substance of things here. So if
people want to mix it up, I'll try (and maybe fail) to take the high
road. You have been warned. :)


     Los Angeles, California
     Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
     "Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"

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