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  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 . 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 . 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 . 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 .
“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) . 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”  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” .
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” ) 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)
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