what's left

Unusual Sources Radio Program

Posted in Civil Society, Color Revolutions, Human Rights, NGOs, Zimbabwe by what's left on April 15, 2007

Brendan Stone interviews Stephen Gowans on the subject of left and support for demonized regimes.


Zimbabwe and the Politics of Demons and Angels

Posted in Civil Society, Color Revolutions, Zimbabwe by what's left on April 15, 2007

By Stephen Gowans

Soon after I wrote an article titled “Mugabe gets the Milosevic Treatment,” posted at Counterpunch.org, I received an e-mail from a representative of SW Radio Africa, who said I should visit Zimbabwe before writing articles about the country. This was followed by a Patrick Bond reply to my article in Counterpunch, invoking the same argument, though in an indirect way. Gowans’ views are nonsense, Bond fumed, at least, as he saw them, sitting across the Limpopo river, where, he said, he had managed to establish a pretty good handle on what was going in Zimbabwe.

Had I been writing a travelogue both of my critics would have made a good point, but inasmuch as I was writing about Washington and London having dragooned civil society – and in some cases, having created it from the ground up – for the purpose of ousting the government of Robert Mugabe, their criticism was wide of the mark. You don’t have to travel to Zimbabwe to figure out that Mugabe is getting the Milosevic treatment.

Even Bond, in his characteristically haughty way, acknowledged the US intrigues in Zimbabwe with a dismissive “tell us something we don’t already know.”

For the record, the British newspaper The Guardian revealed as early as August 22, 2002 that, “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.”

Washington confirmed its own civil society-assisted regime change plans for Zimbabwe in an April 5, 2007 report, revealing that in 2006 “The U.S. government continued to support the efforts of the political opposition, the media and civil society,” including providing training and assistance to the kind of grassroots “pro-democracy” groups the US had used to bring down the government of Slobodan Milosevic, and that Bond had celebrated in his Counterpunch article as “the independent left.”

There are three key reasons why the US is trying to oust the Zanu-PF government:

(1) The Zanu-PF government has expropriated land from white commercial farmers for redistribution to the rural poor.

(2) It has pursued economically nationalist policies at odds with IMF demands.

(3) It has been a rallying point for anti-imperialist sentiment in southern Africa.

SW Radio Africa is a UK-based radio station, funded by the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives to broadcast anti-government propaganda into Zimbabwe. Violet Gonda, one of the station’s interviewers, has been sending me transcripts of her interviews ever since my Milosevic Treatment article appeared on the Counterpunch site. In an April 10 interview with Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, UK-based Gonda was challenged by Mohadi to “come to Zimbabwe and witness this for yourself and don’t be talking about things that you don’t know,” turning the argument Gonda’s colleague had made to me against her. Mohadi was referring to Gonda’s allegations that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai had been beaten and that MDC supporters had been tortured.

Amusing as it was to see the same argument used against SW Radio Africa, the “come to Zimbabwe before you say anything” demand is based on the startlingly naïve view that someone else’s perspective must align with your own if only he visits the same piece of real estate. The view of the rural poor in Zimbabwe, or of veterans of the guerilla war for national liberation, can hardly be expected to be the same as those of white commercial farmers, even though they live in the same country. It is experience, race, which side of colonialism you’ve been on, and what opportunities imperialist countries offer you, that account for why the views of Zimbabwe’s rural poor and of Zanu-PF supporters are different from those of comfortable white professors ensconced in foundation-supported positions across the Limpopo river, and of young black Africans from Harare who travel to the US on US State Department sponsored trips to study civil disobedience techniques.

If my article  resonated with anyone, it  resonated with black Africans, members of the African Diaspora and anti-imperialists. White commercial farmers and anyone linked to the civil society apparatus deployed to unseat Mugabe’s government angrily dismissed it. But why? Why would opponents of Mugabe – including Bond, who acknowledges that the US is acting to drive Zanu-PF from power (that is, when he’s not arguing the exact opposite) — take exception to someone drawing attention to something that is a matter of public record?

The reason, I think, has everything to do what different groups of people value more: the thwarting of imperialist designs (and the land reform, redress of colonial injustices, and national sovereignty that are thereby given space to come to fruition), or ousting Mugabe. If you want Mugabe to go, you’ll oppose anything that reveals efforts to unseat him as being illegitimate. It won’t be enough to say, “Yes, you’re right, Washington and London are engaged in intrigues to topple the Mugabe government, but all the same I dislike him and his program and here’s why.” Instead, you’ll fulminate, “This is nonsense!”

You’ll probably also practice the politics of demons and angels – the division of the world into two camps: bad guys and good guys, black hats and white hats. The objective is to describe leaders, governments, movements and programs you want to see the end of as demons, and those who are acting to achieve this end as angels. However, because those that lean to the left of the political spectrum are unlikely to regard imperialist governments as angels (although this is far from being invariably true) civil society groups are recruited as proxies. They appear to be independent, to do good works, and they have a “socialism from below” feel that resonates with the Western left. Patrick Bond, who directs a center for civil society, is a master of invoking the kind of rhetoric about social movements being an “independent left” operating in spaces between neo-liberal Third World governments and neo-liberal First World governments that appeals to the Z-Net congregation.

The politics of demons and angels is terribly unsophisticated. That should be enough to keep 100 paces away from it. But it should also be eschewed for an even more compelling reason: because it’s used to build support for imperialist interventions in other countries — interventions that have nothing whatever to do with promoting human rights, building democracy, and keeping the peace, and everything to do with opening up space for the intervening countries’ corporations, banks and investors to make a profit.

Yugoslavia was transformed by Western intervention from a country with a large socially and publicly owned sector, whose government balked at IMF reforms, into a neo-liberal workshop of growing economic insecurity and domination by Western capital. Iraq, brutalized by sanctions, terrorized by war, and humiliated by occupation, may in time yield its prize of a bonanza of oil profits to British and US oil firms. These prizes could not have been won without campaigns of vilification to manufacture consent for intervention. The bases for these interventions – that Milosevic was orchestrating a genocide in Kosovo and that Saddam Hussein was hiding banned weapons – were lies.

In the real world there are three kinds of views on the struggle in Zimbabwe: those that demonize Mugabe; those that angelize him; and those that do neither. In the Manichean world of the politics of demons and angels there are only two: those that demonize Mugabe and those that angelize him. Anyone who expresses a view that neither demonizes nor angelizes Mugabe is accused, by those who demonize him, of angelizing him.

A person who notes, quite accurately, and with the weight of evidence behind him, that Washington, London and the EU have built and enlisted civil society in Zimbabwe to oust Mugabe, will be called by those who demonize him, a pro-Mugger, Mugophile, or practitioner of the basest enemy of my enemy is my friend politics. And yet there is no justification for making these accusations. Repeating what has been said over and over by the US State Department and in newspaper reports about US and British intrigues in Zimbabwe is hardly the same as saying Mugabe is my friend, Mugabe is my hero, or Mugabe is a great guy, let’s organize a celebration in his honor.

When demonizers of Mugabe accuse those who point out that what Washington and London admit to openly, as being Mugabe-angelizers, we have to ask why? Is it because their Manichean worldview allows them to see the world in no other way (if you don’t call him a demon you must think he’s an angel, because there are only angels and demons in my world), or is it because they’re so embittered toward Mugabe that they don’t care who gets rid of him or how or what follows him, just so long as he goes, and therefore anyone who would regard him as something other than a demon must be stopped from doing so in case he persuades other people?

To be sure, these are not mutually exclusive alternatives. Both may be true. But what’s significant is that both mesh nicely with the openly admitted plans of Washington and London to oust Mugabe’s government. If Mugabe is universally understood to be a demon, we can hardly marshal the energy to stop plans to oust him. Why bother? You’ll only soil yourself by association. And who wants to back a demon?

The claim made by Z Magazine’s Michael Albert, that human psychology isn’t this simple – that people recognize that a foreign leader’s being a demon doesn’t justify an intervention to remove him – reveals Albert to be either disingenuous or the last person on earth you would want to invite into an advertising firm as a human relations expert. You don’t have to talk to too many people, including readers of Z Magazine (especially readers of Z Magazine?) to hear it said: “Oh sure, maybe the bombing of Yugoslavia, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the war on Iraq, were done for the wrong reasons, but all the same, they served the useful function of ridding the world of monsters.”

Given a zeitgeist that favors a never-ending series of demons for people to vent their moral outrage on, it comes as no shock to find professed anti-imperialists combing their archives to dredge up whatever dirt they can find on Mugabe. One found an article that exposes Mugabe as a homophobe. But what have Mugabe’s views on homosexuals to do with the struggles in Zimbabwe that connect the rural poor, white commercial farmers, Zanu-PF, civil society, and the imperialist machinations of the US and the UK?

The answer, of course, is nothing. But there is a political function and also a psychological function to be served in good old-fashioned dirt-slinging. Politically, the object is to personify a movement to discredit it by drawing attention to the revolting features of the person the movement has been equated to. There’s a Pavlovian character to this. The pairing of the bell with food, eventually leads to the bell alone calling forth the dogs’ salivation. Likewise, the pairing of the person with the movement, or class, or nation, eventually leads to the negative features of the person being transferred to what he has been equated to. Were one to dredge up articles on Castro and Che being homophobes, Cuba-supporters would immediately recognize the political nature of the act. They don’t, however, seem to recognize the political nature of the act of visibly parading one individual’s failings about, under the guise of a making a significant contribution to understanding the struggle in Zimbabwe — or do, but go about doing it anyway because their commitment to anti-imperialism is fair-weather (strong when there’s no danger of being demonized by association, absent otherwise.)

The psychological as opposed to political function of dirt-slinging is to socially affirm oneself as a decent human being by denouncing those who express indecent values. This is particularly attractive to people on the far left, who are already mistrusted by the larger community for holding dangerous and unsettling views. How better to affirm one’s place in decent society than by leading the chorus in denouncing those vilified by conservative forces as leftist and anti-imperialist “monsters.” See, not all of us are monsters. We hate the monsters just as much as the rest of you do.

Let’s be clear. The very fact that I’m questioning the practice of personifying groups of people in order to demonize the individuals equated to them will be used to denounce me as a thug-hugger, apologist, and lionizer of monsters. In other words, if you’re not with us in vilifying the latest Satan, you’re against us. The great irony is that people who rail against those who refuse to participate in campaigns of vilifying those calumniated as left and anti-imperialist “monsters” accuse people like me, of practicing a with-us-or-against-us politics of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

“Unhappy is the land that needs heroes,” remarked Brecht. He might have added, unhappy is the land that needs demons (but then, the land that needs heroes, must, per force, need demons as their heroes’ antithesis.) The movie The Motorcycle Diaries, about Che Guevera’s trip through South America with his friend Alberto Granado in the early 50s, has been justly criticized for angelizing the Argentine revolutionary. When those enchanted with Che the angel discover Che the human being, a man with warts – though, as is true of all larger-than-life figures, uglier than those of the rest of us – they become disillusioned, embittered and, if strongly committed to a Manichean view of the world, swing radically to the other pole, denouncing their fallen angel as Satan incarnate, rather than recognizing him as a human being.

The best that can be said about discussions of Zimbabwe, or north Korea, or Sudan, or Iran that reduce to a set of accusations about the demonic character of some leader is that they’re superficial and frivolous. What can also be said is that they’re products of manipulation by forces seeking to manufacture consent for interventions in other countries – interventions that have nothing to do with human rights and democracy and have everything to do with securing advantages for the intervening countries’ corporations, banks and investors. When we dissociate ourselves from “unsavory” regimes – and there’s not one government, Western or otherwise, free from unsavory features that would not allow any of them to be demonized – we isolate really-existing projects for national and class emancipation and thereby undermine the potential for the success of progressive struggles in the real world. It’s true that in behaving in this way we can avoid demonization by association and thereby splatter-proof our own vision – a strategy that may serve the purpose of making our vision more saleable to a skeptical public — but it cannot be safeguarded from vilification forever. The moment it too becomes a threat, it will be vilified as vigorously as all real-world threats to imperialism are. The idea that you can escape being vilified by those you oppose is true only so long as you don’t oppose them in any kind of serious or effective way. Utopian visions – and those whose left politics amount to nothing more than pious expressions of benevolence and goodwill to men – are no threat.

What’s more, the view that the success of the independent (which is to say, the US government and ruling class foundation supported) left in Zimbabwe in toppling the Zanu-PF government is something to be wished for, is naïve or (given the foundation-connections of those who express this view) disingenuous. A successful civil society-executed regime change operation will not produce a decentralized, participatory democracy committed to egalitarianism, but a neo-colonial regime headed by an Anglo-American puppet which will immediately handcuff land reform and abrogate every policy at odds with neo-liberalism and ownership of Zimbabwe’s assets by US and British capital.

The models are Poland and Yugoslavia (among others.) There, trade unions and civil society also managed to enchant the Western left while bringing down governments that were the only serious obstacle to the installation of comprador regimes — regimes whose agenda was one of shutting down shipyards, selling off socially and publicly owned enterprises, and ushering in an era of growing inequality and subservience to Western capital. You don’t hear much about these places anymore. You should. They’re what Zimbabwe will become if civil society topples another anti-imperialist government.

Talk Left, Funded Right

Posted in Civil Society, Color Revolutions, NGOs, Zimbabwe by what's left on April 7, 2007

By Stephen Gowans

In their zeal to demonize Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF government it sometimes seems that members of the “independent left” are working for the US government. The reason why is that many are.

At the same time, Trotskyites peddling bizarre theories that say the country’s president Robert Mugabe is in league with the same governments that are trying to overthrow him, might as well be.

An April 5th US State Department report [1] confirms what has been revealed in scattered press reports for years: that civil society groups and media some left scholars misrepresent as “the independent left” are actually puppets of the US governments.

That’s not to say these groups don’t believe they’re independent, or that all of their members know that the funding for their expensive websites, magazines, newspapers and radio programs are financed by Uncle Sam. However, knowingly or not, they’re doing Washington’s work.

Only the wilfully blind or naïve would believe the US government lavishes money on groups that aren’t going to be of some service in promoting its agenda. And only the wilfully blind or naïve believe that Uncle Sam’s agenda has anything to do with promoting democracy, freedom of expression and good governance.

Patrick Bond, director of the right-wing funded Center for Civil Society at the University of Natal — whose case against Mugabe is formulated in the same language of hunger for power leading to betrayal and corruption that characterized Trotsky’s case against Stalin — points to such US-funded groups as Sokawanele as the “independent left” in Zimbabwe [2]. Is he wilfully blind, naïve or is he grinding the usual Trotskyite axe against really-existing socialist governments and national liberation movements?

The US and EU use civil society to effect color revolutions – to do overtly what the CIA used to do covertly. An integral part of any color revolution is to demonize target governments to facilitate their replacement by local politicians prepared to open or re-open their country to imperialist penetration [3]. Bond is thoroughly integrated into the civil society apparatus. His Center for Civil Society (whose web site links to Zimbabwe’s US- and EU-funded MDC opposition party) is connected to the ruling class Kellogg and Ford foundations, the South African NGO coalition, the South African bank, ABSA and the South African Chamber of Commerce [4]. It could be said of Bond that he talks left and is funded right.

Last year, according to the US State Department, Washington was busily interfering in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs, funding the opposition, backing civil society groups, showering money on “alternative” media, and seeing to it that Bond’s “independent left” was well greased with lucre [5].

“The U.S. Government continued to support the efforts of the political opposition, the media, and civil society.” (That the efforts pertained to replacing the Zanu-PF government with one that would effectively shelf land reform, lift tariffs, abolish performance requirements on foreign investment, and privatize state-owned enterprises, should be spelled out. That these policies would benefit the corporations, investors and banks connected to Bond’s Center for Civil Society should also be spelled out.)

“The United States sponsored public events that presented economic and social analyses discrediting the government’s excuses for its failed policies, (which is to say, absolving US and EU sanctions of undermining the country’s economy.)

“The U.S. Government sponsored … and supported … several township newspapers” and worked to expand the “listener base” of “Voice of America’s Studio 7 radio station” (by distributing short-wave radios to expose the population to anti-Zanu-PF propaganda.)

“U.S. programs provided funding to NGOs that collected and circulated information on civil society, human rights, and government actions,” (groups like Sokwanele.)

The US “supported workshops to develop youth leadership skills necessary to confront social injustice through nonviolent strategies,” a reference to the “grassroots” “pro-democracy” activist groups the US has previously trained and funded in Yugoslavia (Otpor), Belarus (Zubr) and Ukraine (Khmara), to carry out color revolutions with the intention of installing local politicians that favor pro-US trade and investment policies. The Zimbabwean equivalents are Bond’s favored Sokwanele, and its counterpart Zvakwana.

The State Department also “sponsored an … exchange program to learn about activism by civil society groups in the United States,” groups that one might infer are as deeply embedded in Uncle Sam’s pocket as their counterparts in Zimbabwe are.

Any doubt that these civil society regime change operations are motivated by purely economic considerations should be laid to rest by the State Department’s observation that “A growing number of like-minded donors now agree that fundamental political and economic changes are a prerequisite to reengagement by the international community with the government.” In other words, once Zimbabwe shelves its land reform program, opens its doors to unfettered US investment and exports, and stops interfering in US imperial designs in Africa, funding to civil society and Bond’s “independent left” will dry up.

The actions of some Trotskyite groups and Trotskyite-inspired scholars serve the same ends.

Australia’s Green Left Weekly, and the Zimbabwe International Socialist Organization, have both backed the opposition MDC from the start (in fact, the ISO is a founding member) [6]. The problem with the MDC is that it’s the US and EU vehicle for strengthening a neo-colonial domination of Zimbabwe and of white farmers for stopping land reform.

The ISO and Bond use language to rail against Mugabe that seems to be drawn from the same bag of clichés. Bond’s “Mugabe talks radical — especially nationalist and anti-imperialist–but acts reactionary” [7] is almost a word for word recycling of the ISO’s “Mugabe is compromising with the bosses at the expense of the workers – not only the local capitalists, but with foreign investors,” and “he speaks left but his policy is pro-capitalist” [8].

If Mugabe is as useful to imperialism as his Trotskyite detractors say he is, (Bond says “The Zim counter-example, frankly, is a useful one for imperialism to keep alive” [9]) why are imperialists in Washington and London lavishing money and support on the political opposition, “independent” media and “independent left” to overthrow him?

The anti-Mugabe screed is a replay of the Trotskyite narrative about pure revolutionaries opposing a revolution that has been hijacked and betrayed by an unworthy power-mad monster (Stalin being the Trotskyites’ archetype.) In this view, all revolutions are corrupt and must be overthrown – that is, all but the one that will never happen.

Trotskyites have always been useful to Washington and London: many are reliably against the same revolutions (though for different reasons), and therefore serve the useful function of whittling away at left support.

To discourage left support for Third World anti-imperialist movements, many Trotskyites invoke the argument that those who support Zanu-PF, the DPRK and sometimes even Cuba, are reflexively placing a plus sign beside the enemy of my enemy and that they ought to be more selective in who they support. Since many Trotskyites often have trouble with really-existing socialist governments and national liberation movements, this amounts to a prohibition against putting a plus sign beside any such movement.

The truth of the matter, however, is that anti-imperialists support national liberation movements, not because Washington or London dislike them, but because national liberation movements are anti-imperialist, period.

By comparison, misnamed independent left groups that depend for their existence or funding on the US, the EU and Western ruling class foundations, and those Trotskyites who can be reliably counted upon to oppose all revolutions except those they lead or influence, do what they accuse Zanu-PF of doing: talking left, and walking right.

1. US Department of State, “The U.S. Record, 2006,” http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/shrd/2006/
2. Bond, Patrick (a), “Mugabe: Talks Radical, Acts Lie a Reactionary: Zimbabwe’s Descent,” Counterpucnh.org, March 27, 2007, http://www.counterpunch.org/bond03272007.html
3. Gowans, Stephen, “Zimbabwe’s Lonely Fight for Justice,” March 30, 2007, https://gowans.wordpress.com/2007/03/30/zimbabwe%e2%80%99s-lonely-fight-for-justice/
4. Center for Civil Society at the University of Natal, http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs/
5. US Department of State
6. Gowland, Rob, “Zimbabwe: The struggle for land, the struggle for independence,” http://www.cpa.org.au/booklets/zimbabwe.pdf
7. Bond (a)
8. Gowland
9. Bond, Patrick (b), Reply to “Gowans, Stephen, “Grassroots Lieutenants of Imperialism, April 2, 2007, https://gowans.wordpress.com/2007/04/02/grassroots-lieutenants-of-imperialism/ , https://gowans.wordpress.com/2007/04/02/grassroots-lieutenants-of-imperialism/#comment-14

Grassroots Lieutenants of Imperialism?

Posted in Zimbabwe by what's left on April 2, 2007

By Stephen Gowans

Patrick Bond would probably never balk at being accused of contributing to the barrage of negative publicity against the Mugabe government. Bond appears to hate Mugabe with a passion.

Nor, I suspect, would he object to anyone pointing out that, where he can, he acts to alienate left support for Mugabe’s government by portraying Mugabe as a reactionary who dishonestly exploits anti-imperialist rhetoric to cling to power at any cost.

Bond doesn’t believe Mugabe is engaged in an anti-neo-colonial struggle. He sees Mugabe as nothing more than a corrupt demagogue who has become so addicted to the perks of power that he’ll never give them up willingly.

Bond’s argument resonates with some progressives because it gives them an easy way out of the dilemma of feeling obliged to support a beleaguered leader everyone says is a brutal dictator who steals elections and mismanages the economy. No one wants to be known as a thug-hugger. When Bond reinforces the crudest CNN and BBC propaganda, and tells progressives that Mugabe is a phony, he signals it’s okay to join in the two minutes hate.

While there may be an emotional appeal to what Bond has to say, his argument, examined dispassionately, is weak. If Mugabe is the crypto reactionary, pro-imperialist Bond says he is, why are the openly reactionary, imperialists in London and Washington so agitated about Mugabe and his policies?

In an article posted at Counterpunch.org, and subsequently reposted at MRZine, Bond urges readers to look to the “independent” left to find out what’s really going on in Zimbabwe.

Bond doesn’t say what the “independent” left is independent of. What’s clear, however, is that it isn’t independent of the governments and foundations that want to replace Mugabe’s economic and land reform policies with a neo-liberal tyranny and return to a glacial pace of land reform. Indeed, Bond’s “independent” left appears to be as much a part of the US and British foreign policy apparatus as the Foreign Office, the Voice of America and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Consider, for example, Sokwanele, one of the groups Bond urges progressives to check out to find out what’s really going on in Zimbabwe.

Sokwanele is an offspring of Otpor, the underground movement that was established, funded, trained and organized by the US State Department, USAID, and the US Congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy (which is said to do overtly what the CIA used to do covertly) to bring down the Milosevic government in 2000.

Here’s how it worked: The West ordered the formal political opposition to unite under a single banner, and to select a name that emphasized the word “democracy,” to invest the united party with moral gravitas. In Serbia, the anti-Milosevic opposition became known as the Democratic Opposition of Serbia. (In Zimbabwe, the opposition, following the same game plan, calls itself the Movement for Democratic Change.) The opposition’s anointing itself as the champion of democracy serves the additional function of calling the government’s commitment to democracy into question. If the opposition is “the democratic opposition” then what must the government be? The answer, of course, is undemocratic.

The plan called for the opposition to accuse the government of electoral fraud to justify a transition from electoral to insurrectionary politics. The accusations built and built as the day of the vote approached, until, by sheer repetition, they were accepted as a matter of indisputable truth. The failure of the opposition candidate, Kostunica, to win the election on the first ballot, provided the pretext for people to take to the streets to force the government to step down. Otpor was central to organizing the planned “spontaneous” demonstrations.

Wherever Washington is engaged in regime change operations, known now as color revolutions, the same plan is put into play. And where Washington is interfering in a country’s internal politics to oust governments it doesn’t like, you’ll also find Sokwanele’s sister organizations: Zubr in Belarus, Khmara in Georgia, Pora in the Ukraine. All translate into the same English phrase: enough is enough.

Zvakwana, “an underground movement that aims to …. undermine” the Mugabe government, is another Optor offspring. (Sokwanele, “specialize(s) in anonymous acts of civil disobedience.”) (1) Both groups receive generous financing from Western sources. (2) While the original, Otpor, was largely a youth-oriented anarchist-leaning movement, at least one member of Sokwanele is “A conservative white businessman expressing a passion for freedom, tradition, polite manners and the British Royals.” (3) That, in Bond’s view, counts as the independent left.

Not surprisingly, the Bond-recommended Sokwanele Web site links to Zvakwana’s Web site. Members of Zvakwana say their movement is homegrown and free of foreign control (4), but free from foreign control doesn’t mean free from foreign funding. The US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, signed into law by US President George W. Bush in December 2001, empowers the president under the US Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to “support democratic institutions, the free press and independent media” in Zimbabwe – which is to say, groups like Sokwanele and Zvakwana.

Movements, political parties and media elsewhere have knowingly accepted funding from Western governments, their agencies and pro-imperialist foundations, while proclaiming their complete independence. (5) Members of these groups may genuinely believe they remain aloof from their backer’s aims (and in the West it is often the very groups that claim not to take sides that are the favored recipients of this lucre), but self-deception is an insidious thing – and the promise of oodles of cash is hard to resist.

There’s no doubt Sokwanele and Zvakwana are well-financed. Their Web sites alone betray a level of funding and organization that goes well beyond what the meager self-financing of truly independent grassroots movements — even in the far more affluent West – are able to scrape together.

If Zvakwana denies its links to the US, other elements of the Western-backed anti-Mugabe apparatus are less secretive. Studio 7, an anti-ZANU-PF radio program carries programming by the Voice of America, an agency whose existence can hardly be said to be left-oriented or independent. Studio 7 is carried on SW Radio Africa, a shortwave radio station operating from the UK, also endorsed by the Bond-recommended Sokwanele. The station is funded by “international pro-democracy groups” (6) (i.e., US ruling class foundations and Western governments.)

Groups like Sokwanele, Zvakwane and SW Radio Africa – and the arguments of individuals like Bond who promote them as the independent left – should be examined with a fair degree of skepticism. Are they really “independent”? If not, and they’re bound up with the foreign policy apparatus of imperialist countries, are they really left, or do they simply talk left, to hide a fundamentally pro-imperialist orientation?

1. “Grass-Roots Effort Aims to Upend Mugabe in Zimbabwe,” The New York Times, (March 28, 2005)
2. Los Angeles Times (July 8, 2005)
3. Ibid.
4. New York Times (March 27, 2005)
5. See Frances Stonor Saunders, “The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters,” New Press, April 2000; and “The Economics and Politics or the World Social Forum,” Aspects of India’s Economy, No. 35, September 2003, http://www.rupe-india.org/35/contents.html
6. Globe and Mail (March 26, 2005)

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