Jude defends Mugabe

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Fri Apr 28 00:12:52 PDT 2000

At 20:57 27/04/00 +0000, Patrick Bond wrote:

>What a curiousity piece, Doug! What does one do when
>there's so much cutting-edge truth mixed with such bad agit-prop?

Patrick is an expert in this field but from my position in the old imperialist country, the broad brush picture is important to grasp:

The land movement (not just Mugabe) is trying to complete the anti-imperialist anti-colonialist struggle of 20 years ago, and reclaim the land seized by British settlers in the 1890's. Quite right. Quite right that Britain should pay compensation.

Reparations for Zimbabwe!

There have been many land distributions in many parts of the world as part of the bourgeois democratic revolution, including in Ireland and Taiwan. It is a normal democratic process in essence, although strategically it creates a problem of a large number of small semi-peasant proprietors, and there is a possibility of a clash of class interests between these and the working class.

From my vantage point in London there is an endless barrage of imperialist propaganda misrepresenting the situation by harping on what, *from our point of view* should be minor details. The only possible excuse is that Robin Cook has used its arrogant diplomatic style to prepare British public opinion for the handing over of 36 million pounds to Zimbabwe to fund land redistribution. (Policy as of yesterday.)

Patrick has much more detail about the internal situation in Zimbabwe and is much more focussed, (in general terms rightly so) on the world struggle against the IMF and the World Bank. But I think it is important as Patrick notes, that a success for land distribution in Zimbabwe may raise the question more prominently in the rest of Africa. The private ownership of land is also a feature of the capitalist system and while the global target of campaigns should be global finance capital, the socialisation of land is also an important progressive question.

It is also about undoing the imperialist settlement.

I would therefore disagree with Patrick 's comment:

> However, assailing petit-bourgeois acquisitiveness--
>which also motivated white Zimbabweans to loot their
>compatriots' land and labor beginning in 1890--risks
>downplaying the second factor: the role of global
>financial pressure.

In 1890 they were not Zimbabweans, they were white colonialists from Britain. The two types of petty-bourgeois action should not be evaluated as being equivalent. One was imperialist, the other is anti-imperialist.

There is also the question, kept out of the British press headlines, of what the land is used for. Arguably less efficient use of the land by black Zimbabwean peasants for domestic consumption rather than tobacco for export, may be more efficient for the country as a whole.

Patrick notes

> The IMF and donors are explicitly withholding hard
>currency until these three policies are reversed. So
>Zimbabwe spends its hard currency repaying foreign
>lenders, and can't afford to import petrol. The harder
>the economic pressure bites, the more Mugabe staggers

This of course is the cruellest blackmail, and fosters the black on black violence that the British media delights in denouncing. It is a blackmail that the British government consciously declined to apply to Russia to prevent its colonial war on the Chechen people.

This context also makes me suspicious of any emphasis on Mugabe's possible electoral defeat. He has a number of weaknesses which have been known about for years, but if out of opportunism he wins the election with a campaign for land distribution, that is democracy as we have been taught to revere bourgeois democracy, is it not?

Besides I am suspicious of a party, the MDC, that came into existence only at the end of last year. We saw in Russia how Putin's party was created in a matter of months. We know that global finance capital and its agent governments interfere in other countries setting up parties. Although the MDC from one point of view may, as Patrick says, be "labour-based", I doubt if it is free of such manipulation. The fact that it may on paper have a more logical policy for winning a degree of independence from the IMF does not invalidate this probability.

I am not competing with Patrick on the details, on which he is undoubtedly better informed, but the broad brush is one in which, whatever Mugabe or Jude's weaknesses, we should support the demand for the ex-colonial power, Britain to fund land redistribution. It is up to the people of Zimbabwe to handle their contradictions non-antagonistically. Their internal difficulties should not be an excuse to ignore the justice of the overall demand.

Chris Burford


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