what's left

Homage to Manuel Marulanda

Posted in Colombia, FARC by what's left on May 30, 2008

“The FARC does not have contiguous frontiers with a supporting country like Vietnam had with China; nor the arms supply from a USSR, nor the international mass support of Western solidarity groups like the Sandinistas. We live in times where supporting peasant-led national liberation movements is not ‘fashionable’, where recognizing the genius of peasant revolutionary leaders who build and sustain authentic mass peoples armies is taboo in the pretentious, loquacious and impotent World Social Forums – which ‘world’ routinely excludes peasant militants and for whom ‘social’ means the perpetual exchange of e-mails between foundations funded by NGOs.”


The Zimbabwe Question and the Two Lefts

Posted in Zimbabwe by what's left on May 30, 2008

“In the course of Zimbabwe’s crisis, the politics of the internationalist Left as a whole have congealed in a concrete political position. First, it has celebrated bourgeois political institutions, whereby civil society, the rule of law, corporate media, and parliamentary democracy have been extolled. Second, it has propagated a human-rights moralism, by which human rights have been routinely detached from their social context and suspended in mid-air, above social rights and the right of national self-determination. Third, it has woven a discourse of ‘crisis, chaos, and tyranny’, by which the need for urgent external interference is evoked, in the interest of ‘régime change’. And, fourth, it has explicitly supported, denied the existence of, or remained silent about, imperialist sanctions. And, here, the chosen political strategy is not to mobilize and capacitate the working class for sustained ideological and political struggle against the state and capital. It is to rely on externally imposed sanctions as a means of undermining the land reform, the economic recovery, and thereby the ‘tyrant’. Economic recovery is their worst enemy.

“…in relation to the Zimbabwe question, they abandoned the land occupations early, absorbing international media reports uncritically, and allowing themselves to be swept away by liberal critique and banal prejudice against black nationalism. They remain silent on imperialist sanctions.”

Of course, you might ask, is a left that “celebrates bourgeois political institutions,” extols “the rule of law, corporate media and parliamentary democracy,” propagates “human rights moralism,” prioritizes civil and political liberties over social and self-determination rights, “absorbs international media reports uncritically,” “evokes the urgent need for external interference…in the interest of regime change,” and allows itself to be “swept away by liberal critique and banal prejudice” really left, or is it simply a movement of foundation-supported liberals lurking behind a Marxist and anarchist exterior?


Zimbabwe’s political opposition deploys its own WMD claim

Posted in Civil Society, Color Revolutions, Humanitarian Intervention, Imperialism, Zimbabwe by what's left on May 20, 2008

By Stephen Gowans

Zimbabwe’s political opposition and its Western-sponsored civil society allies are concocting stories of an impending genocide to call for Western intervention to oust the economic nationalist Zanu-PF government of Robert Mugabe. Yet they themselves have used threats of violence to destabilize the country to pursue an agenda shaped by and conducive to the interests of Western corporations and investors and the white settler community.

The opposition had planned to use the March 29 elections to follow the color revolution script written in Washington to springboard to power. That script called on the opposition to declare victory in elections before the first vote was cast, and then to denounce any outcome other than a clear opposition victory as evidence of electoral fraud. If the opposition failed to prevail at the polls, its supporters were to be mobilized to take to the streets to bring down the government, in a repeat of previous Western-engineered color revolutions in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine.

On the eve of the election, Ian Makoni, director of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s campaign, explained that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would avoid the failures of the past.

“The lesson from (the election of) 2002 is we didn’t plan for after the vote. Everyone stayed at home and said we will go to the courts. What happened in Kenya was they knew there would be fraud and they were ready. We will be out in the streets celebrating when the polls close. It can turn into a protest easily. Zimbabweans are angry; they are desperate; they are ready to protest. It’s the tipping point we are planning for.” [1]

But when the opposition’s charges of vote rigging fell flat as election results showed the governing Zanu-PF party losing its majority in the assembly and the party’s presidential candidate Robert Mugabe trailing Tsvangirai in the presidential contest, the edifice on which the MDC’s color revolution plan was predicated collapsed. If the vote had been rigged, Mugabe’s party would have sailed to victory. Instead, Zanu-PF trailed. The margin separating the two parties, however, was slim, revealing the opposition’s support to be limited. With Tsvangirai unable to command overwhelming support, despite massive Western intervention in the election against Mugabe, the opposition needed a way to grab power without having to rely on the uncertainties of a run-off election. It decided to take a leaf from the book of its US and British patrons, inventing a pretext for military intervention on par with the WMD fiction used as the basis for US-British intervention in Iraq. Outside forces, preferably those of the former colonizer Britain, whose corporations still have a large stake in the country, would be called upon to intervene militarily to avert an impending genocide and in the process, install the MDC as the new government.

Over a month ago, MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti appealed to his “brothers and sisters across” Africa not to “wait for dead bodies in the streets of Harare.” “Intervene now,” he demanded. [2] Twelve days later, with no sign of an impending genocide, Morgan Tsvangirai called on the West to launch a humanitarian intervention. [3] The next day, church clerics weighed in with their own warning: “If nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe from their predicament, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and other hot spots in Africa and elsewhere.” [4] Two days later, MDC-T (the faction of the party led by Morgan Tsvangirai) spokesman Nelson Chamisa warned that “If something isn’t done in a few days, this country is going to be converted into a genocide zone.” [5] That was more than three weeks ago. A half a month later and with still no looming genocide in sight, Biti sounded the genocide alarm once again, calling on Zimbabwe’s neighbors to ease Mugabe from power “before rivers of dead people start to flow, as they did in Rwanda.” [6]

It is true that there has been politically-motivated violence in Zimbabwe, but it has occurred on both sides, is political, not ethnic, and has led to nowhere near the number of deaths that would even remotely qualify as genocide.

The stakes in the election aftermath are high. Violence has erupted on the part of some Zanu-PF supporters because they fear the loss of what they gained through their revolutionary struggles, and there’s no doubt that an MDC government would set back the project of investing national liberation with real content. That the elections were neither free nor fair has only made Zanu-PF supporters more embittered by Zanu-PF’s poor showing in the elections. Jabulami Sibanda, chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, has criticized the vote for being held “when people were being pushed by hunger and illegal sanctions to conduct themselves in a way that could have been different.” [7] And Zanu-PF itself has challenged the fairness of the elections, pointing out that:

o NGOs distributing food threatened to cut off food aid if Zanu-PF won the election.

o The sanctions, which will be removed if Zanu-PF is ousted, amount to Western blackmail.

o The campaigns of the MDC-T and former Zanu-PF member Simba Makoni were financed by foreign governments and corporations.

o Western-financed anti-Zanu-PF radio stations, including Radio SW Africa (financed by the US State Department) and the Voice of America’s Studio 7 stepped up their broadcasts during the election period.

o MDC activists doubled as vote educators working for the US government-financed Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network and used their position to promote the opposition under the guise of explaining electoral procedures. [8]

There’s no question there has been massive Western interference in the elections. During the election campaign British Prime Minister Gordon Brown informed the British Law Society that his government’s funding to civil society organizations in Zimbabwe opposing the Mugabe government had been stepped up. [9] On May 14, 2007 Australia announced it would spend $18 million backing critics of Mugabe, two-thirds of which was slated to be spent in the run-up to the elections. [10] And this doesn’t include the much more extensive funding Mugabe’s opponents have received from the United States, other Western governments, corporate foundations, and wealthy individuals.

Western interference has made the post-election period one aptly described by Sibanda as “a battle between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries: Zimbabwean people represented by President Mugabe and foreign interests (represented by) the MDC.” [11] Under these conditions, and especially considering that MDC youth activists have a history of using violence to provoke the police, and then to use the police response to paint the government as authoritarian and repressive, some degree of political violence is inevitable. But is it out of hand? And is it one-sided?

The documentation of violence against MDC supporters has been gathered by the US Embassy in Harare, which is hardly neutral and has an interest in discrediting Zanu-PF to bring its favored vehicle, the MDC, to power. Human Rights Watch (HRW), which is dominated by former members of the US foreign policy establishment, has also been involved. But even HRW acknowledges the violence isn’t exclusive to supporters of Zanu-PF. “Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that…MDC supporters had burned homes of known Zanu-PF supporters and officials.” [12] Louise Arbour, the UN’s top human rights official, who, in previous jobs has invariably sided with the US and Britain, notes that the information she has “received suggests an emerging pattern of political violence” that is not exclusively inflicted by supporters of Zanu-PF. [13] Kingsley Mamabolo, a senior South African official who led the region’s observer team for the March 29 elections agrees that violence is “taking place on both sides,” as do human rights and doctors groups in Harare, most of which have Western sources of funding. [14] Paul Themba Nyathi, a civil rights lawyer and MDC member, says that “Tsvangirai’s followers seem to be saying to themselves that they can win elections by beating people and by using the crudest methods of intimidation.” This has largely escaped the attention of the media, he adds, “because the big prize is still to rid the country of Mugabe.” [15] Police arrested 58 opposition activists on May 9 on suspicion of setting fire to the homes of Zanu-PF members. On May 14, they arrested 50 Zanu-PF activists.

While Mugabe is often portrayed as a monster egging on thugs to beat opposition supporters (whereas we’ll see below, it is opposition leaders who have egged on their followers to use violence), he has spoken out against violence. On May 17, he told the country that “Such violence is needless and must stop forthwith.” He added that “support comes from persuasion, not from pugilism. Genuine support for the party cannot come through coercion or violence.” [16] At the same time, Zanu-PF has proposed a joint Zanu-PF-MDC committee to investigate political violence. Zanu-PF representative Patrick Chinamasa invited the MDC-T to form a joint team “to investigate violence so that we do not end up with false allegations.” MDC-T spokesman Nelson Chamisa voiced no objection, “as long as there was commitment among the parties.” [17]

Despite these developments, it’s unlikely the opposition’s calls for military intervention will cease. Last summer, then Archbishop Pius Ncube called on Britain to invade. “I think it is justified for Britain to raid Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe,” he said. “We should do it ourselves but there’s too much fear. I’m ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the people are not ready.” [18]

Former head of the British military General Lord Charles Guthrie revealed that the British government had pressed him to consider invading Zimbabwe on a number of occasions. Guthrie says he advised against an invasion, warning military intervention would backfire. [19] But that hasn’t stopped the politicos from pressing for a military assault. Tony Blair’s chief of staff for 10 years, Jonathan Powell, argued in a Guardian article in November for British military intervention in Zimbabwe on humanitarian grounds. In the article, Powell defends interventions in Yugoslavia and Iraq and argues for a British invasion of Zimbabwe. “Are we really saying we just have to wait while (Mugabe’s) people suffer?” [20] If Powell were genuinely concerned about the suffering of Zimbabwe’s people, he would press for the removal of sanctions, the principal cause of Zimbabweans’ suffering.

Basildon Peta, an opposition journalist, also makes the case for Western intervention. “The philosophy that African states should take the lead in Zimbabwe is bankrupt,” he argues. “Most of these entities would not survive without Western subsidies. We Zimbabweans have reconciled ourselves to the fact that our fellow Africans will do nothing for us in our hour of need. In desperation we have to look to our former colonizers for help.” [21]

The MDC claims to be the party of democratic change, founded on the non-violent principles of Ghandi and King, but its behaviour belies its claims. No sooner had the party been born, with Britain acting as mother, father and midwife, than it was threatening political violence. “What we would like to tell Mugabe is please go peacefully,” said leader Morgan Tsvangirai. “If you don’t want to go peacefully, we will remove you violently.” [22]

When Tsvangirai lost an internal vote on whether to boycott or participate in Senate elections, he claimed that the leader of the party was not bound by the majority’s decision. What ensued showed the party’s non-violent credentials to be as bogus as its democratic principles. An internecine war flared between the two factions, featuring beatings, hijackings, posters stripped from street polls, and the party’s director of security thrown down a stairwell. [23]

Leader of the alternative MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara, is equally prepared to use violence to achieve political goals. “I’m going to remove Robert Mugabe, I promise you, with every tool at my disposal,” he told supporters. “We’re going to use every tool we can get to dislodge this regime. We’re not going to rule out or in anything – the sky’s the limit.” [24] Were Mutambara the leader of an opposition group opposed to a British or US ally, he would find himself on the US and EU official lists of terrorists.

Neither is the Roman Catholic Church averse to violence, as already seen in former Archbishop Pius Ncube’s desire to lead the people, guns blazing. “In an Easter (2007) message pinned to church bulletin boards around the country, Zimbabwe’s Roman Catholic Church bishops called on President Robert G. Mugabe to leave office or face ‘open revolt.’” [25]

Ncube contemns Zimbabweans as cowards. “The idea of dying for your country was something valuable in Western countries. We haven’t grasped the idea of laying down your life. The people are cowards. I was hoping the politicians would do it but it seems that don’t have any convictions. We must torment and harass the government. Zimbabweans are a bit lethargic and we find ourselves caught with our pants down.” [26] Zimbabweans are hardly cowards. Many fought in the war to liberate Zimbabwe from British colonial rule and Rhodesian apartheid. They are understandably uninterested in rallying behind Ncube and others who are leading the charge to restore Britain to its former dominant position in Zimbabwe.

Finally, it should be noted that MDC-T spokesman Nelson Chamisa, whose colleague Tendai Biti was crying wolf over an impending genocide a little over one week later, warned three days before the elections that if Zanu-PF won, Kenya would look like a picnic. [27]

Zimbabwe’s government has been far more lax in its tolerance of violent dissent than Western governments would ever be. In the US or Britain, a political leader who threatened to use violence to oust the government, appealed for foreign military intervention and economic warfare, and accepted funding from hostile foreign powers, would be branded a terrorist and traitor and locked up. Not surprisingly, there are some in Zimbabwe urging the government to take a harder line. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Justice has importuned the government to declare a state of emergency. “Zimbabwe is at war with foreign elements using local puppets,” says the organization’s chief advocate Martin Dinha. “Western countries are known to fuel violence, civil war and strife.” The government, Dinha says, should “consider the possibility of declaring a state of emergency to quell the disturbances.” [28]

Clearly, the opposition, with the massive backing of Western governments, corporate foundations and wealthy individuals, intent on coming to power to reverse Zanu-PF’s economically nationalist policies, has no qualms about using violence, nor deception, to carry out its Quisling aims. Tsvangirai, Biti, Chamisa and their civil society allies are prepared to use a lie as great as the WMD deception of their British and US patrons for the same end: to justify military intervention in order to put the West firmly in charge. Where Zanu-PF has used violence, has been in the struggle against oppression. Where the opposition has threatened and carried out violence has been in the pursuit of an agenda shaped by and conducing to the interests of Western economic elites. There is no looming genocide in Zimbabwe, only the threat of Western military intervention whose justification is a lie concocted by fifth columnists doing their masters’ bidding.

1. The Guardian (UK), March 28, 2008.
2. The Independent (UK), April 9, 2008.
3. The Times (London), in The Ottawa Citizen, April 22, 2008.
4. Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches. The Independent (UK), April 23, 2008.
5. The New York Times, April 26, 2008.
6. The Washington Post, May 16, 2008.
7. TalkZimbabwe.com, April 4, 2008.
8. The Herald (Zimbabwe) May 3, 2008.
9. The New African, April 2008.
10. Reuters May 14, 2007.
11. The Herald (Zimbabwe) April, 2, 2008.
12. Human Rights Watch, April 25, 2008.
13. The New York Times, April 28, 2008.
14. The New York Times, May 10, 2008.
15. TalkZimbabwe.com, April 28, 2008.
16. Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe), May 18, 2008.
17. The Herald (Zimbabwe), May 20, 2008.
18. The Sunday Times (UK), July 1, 2007.
19. AFP, November 21, 2007.
20. The Guardian (UK), November 18, 2007.
21. The Independent (UK), September 20, 2008.
22. BBC, September 30, 2000.
23. The New York Times, May 5, 2007.
24. Times Online, March 5, 2006.
25. The New York Times, April 9, 2007.
26. The Guardian (UK), April 2, 2007.
27. The Herald (Zimbabwe), March 27, 2008.
28. TalkZimbabwe.com, May 15, 2008.

Even at MRZine the ruling ideas on Zimbabwe are the ideas of the ruling class

Posted in Zimbabwe by what's left on May 5, 2008

By Stephen Gowans

On May 4, 2008 MRZine published Chido Makunike’s “The Complexities of Zimbabwe.” Makunike’s analysis had originally appeared at the Ford and Soros foundation-funded Pambazuka News, with help from the European Union and British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, partners with another Pambazuka News sponsor, Fahamu. Pambazuka News’ editor, Firoze Manji, is the director of Fahamu. His views on Africa, very likely reflecting those of the imperialist governments and corporate foundations that pay his salary and sponsor his publication and charity, was published by MRZine on April 28 (“China Still a Small Player in Africa”).

While the ostensible mission of MRZine is to dissect the politics and culture of capitalism, Makunike, a Western-educated public relations executive living in Africa, strayed no further than the accustomed anti-Zanu-PF line of the New York Times, Times of London, and other ruling class-dominated newspapers in the West.

Since these newspapers recycle the views of the US State Department and British Foreign Office, and rely on so-called “independent” experts on the ground, who in reality, represent corporate foundation- and Western-government supported NGOs, the circle is complete. The British Foreign Office puts forward its views on the Mugabe government, the world’s major media amplify the message, Makunike mimics it, and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, through Fahamu, provide him a platform to express recycled British Foreign Office views in the apparently left-leaning Pambazuka News.

MRZine then reproduces the article, under the guise of dissecting the culture and politics of capitalism. Anyone exposed to the blanket of negative coverage of the Zimbabwe government and the Zanu-PF program comes to the conclusion that the British Foreign Office view is indisputable; after all, everyone appears to agree on it: other Western governments, Western-educated PR executives living in Africa, the New York Times and Times of London, and MRZine (or at least its editor, Yoshie Furuhashi.)

What’s happened, however, is that the independent socialist publication has reproduced ruling class ideology, and has put its own stamp on it to make it acceptable to its left-wing constituency. When the British Foreign Office view is passed from one publication to the next, each affixing its own imprimatur, is it any wonder everyone agrees with the British Foreign Office?

To piece together what’s really going on in Zimbabwe, you need to critically examine what’s coming from the opposition, the government and other governments, but what’s usually done is to seek out “independent” sources, who often receive funding from the US or British governments or both, and turn out to be repeating what the mainstream media say, which in turn repeat what the US State Department and British Foreign Office say.

Last March, Z-Net published an analysis on Zimbabwe by Grace Kwinjeh, a founder, along with white commercial farmers and the British government, of the now US- and British-backed Zimbabwean opposition party, the MDC. Z-Net didn’t bother to mention Kwinjeh’s party affiliations, presenting Kwinjeh instead as an “independent” journalist.

The MDC’s program is to establish conditions agreeable to US and British foreign investment in Zimbabwe. Because Kwinjeh’s analysis was co-authored with leftist scholar Patrick Bond and appeared in an apparently leftist publication, the illusion is created that Zwinjeh’s US and British-backed MDC view is really an independent left view. In the same vein, co-author Patrick Bond, celebrates the underground anti-Zanu-PF groups, Sokwanele and Zvakwana, as an independent left, even though their funding and training comes from Western sources, the same sources that stand to profit from the replacement of Zanu-PF by the MDC.

While committed publicly to dissecting the politics and culture of capitalism, MRZine does nothing of the sort where Zimbabwe is concerned. Instead, it repackages the justifications the US and British ruling class are using to torpedo Zimbabwe’s efforts to invest national liberation with real content, in the service of the bottom lines of Western investment banks, corporations and white commercial farmers.

How is it that “independent” journalists, “independent” experts, “independent” underground movements, “independent” left scholars, “independent” election monitors, “independent” media, and “independent” socialist e-zines, are either funded by or represent the US and British ruling class or repackage ruling class ideas? So pervasive is the use of the word “independent” to disguise the influence of corporations, imperialist governments and their foundations, that “independent” should become a warning sign: Caution: Ruling class interests ahead.

William Blum: Neo-Malthusian

Posted in Liberals, Moderate Left, Neo-Malthusianism by what's left on May 4, 2008

By Stephen Gowans

One billion people in the world – one-sixth of humanity – have too little to eat. One-half of humanity is malnourished. Some 18,000 children die every day from malnutrition. (1)

If that weren’t enough, rising prices are pushing food beyond the reach of numberless more.

Government leaders, corporate board members, the owners of large corporations, are concerned – not because billions are hungry, but because the hunger of billions threatens to destabilize their rule. Food riots have become too frequent to ignore. The head of the CIA worries that growing desperation and poverty in the world will degrade “the US security environment.”

The causes of rising food prices are manifold and interconnected. The industrialization of China and India has created growing demand for oil, putting upward pressure on the price of agricultural inputs based on petroleum, from fuel to run farm machinery, to fertilizers and pesticides. Downstream, rising oil prices increase the costs of transporting foodstuffs to market. Increased emission of greenhouse gasses has created droughts, desertification, and extreme weather, the latter responsible for considerable crop damage. For example, heavy rains last summer left tens of thousands of acres of farmland flooded in north Korea. The growing demand for oil has led agribusinesses to divert land use to ethanol production, reducing the supply of corn for human and livestock consumption. Finally, rising standards of living in China and India have led to an increased demand for food.

Global growth in demand for comestibles at a time supply is contracting has hurt Third World populations the most. Many were already precariously balanced between subsistence and famine. Now millions more are faced with starvation. Western domination long ago forced Third World countries into a pattern of monoculture farming, where a few cash crops are raised for export and most foodstuffs are imported. These countries are food insecure, relying on exports to earn sufficient foreign exchange to import what food they need. But as food prices rise, countries that export foodstuffs are imposing export tariffs, reducing even further the supply of food heading to straitened Third World countries. That has put even more upward pressure on prices in places where rising prices can be absorbed the least. Food aid from Western countries palliates the problem in the short-term, but reinforces the underlying causes. The food the West sends to the Third World to avert famine is grown in the West, which means the problem of Third World dependence on Western countries for food is never addressed. The Third World needs to become food independent, which means breaking the chains of neo-colonial bondage.

Rising food prices command considerable attention today, partly because their effect is felt in the West and partly because they threaten to touch off militant challenges to the system, but the real reason one-sixth of humanity is hungry and one-half malnourished has nothing to do with the rising standard of living in China and India (indeed, rising standards of living attenuate the problem.) The roots of hunger are found in the reality that food is produced and sold to earn a profit, and half of humanity doesn’t have the income to pay for food at prices that allow the producers to make a profit.

At root, it is a system that sets prices above the ability of half of humanity to pay that is to blame. It is not a paucity of food and water relative to the population that is creating privation, as William Blum, author of Killing Hope and the Anti-Empire Report, would have you believe. Blum recommends that birth rates “be radically curbed” because “all else being equal, a markedly reduced population count would have a markedly beneficial effect upon global warming and food and water availability.” There are simply too many people, he says. (2)

About the time Blum was revealing his neo-Malthusian sympathies, Fred Magdoff was pointing out in The Monthly Review that the fact billions are hungry has nothing whatever to do with population counts, but with capitalism. In the US, more food is produced than the population requires, yet hunger remains a problem. Cut the US population in half and there would still be an over-supply of food — only a bigger one. Would food banks suddenly disappear? The same is true elsewhere. Magdoff points to two headlines to make his case:

“Poor in India Starve as Surplus Wheat Rots.” (3)

“Want Amid Plenty: Bumper Harvests and Rising Hunger.” (4)

Those who remember the Great Depression will recall that poverty and hunger co-existed with plenty. Indeed, poverty and hunger were the children of plenty, of “too much civilization,” as Marx and Engels put it in the Communist Manifesto.

If the crises that threaten capitalism occur predictably so too do the regular bouts of Malthusianism that break out whenever the system threatens to fall into disrepute among those who must bear the brunt of its inhumanity. It is then that intellectuals, both left and right, raise the over-population alarm. Beneath their apparent hard-headed realism lurks the system-conserving message: poverty and hunger are not systemic; they happen because there are too many mouths to feed. In 1936, when Blum’s intellectual predecessors were attributing the Great Depression to over-population, one opponent of this deeply reactionary view replied:

“The plea of ‘over-population,’ of the ‘pressure of rising population on natural resources’… has demonstrably no basis in world facts, that is, in the physical and technical facts of world resources and world production. The alleged ‘over-population’ of particular countries is in the first place relative to the social relations within those countries, and is finally…relative to the existing system of division of the unity of world economy. On a world scale the advance of productive forces and even of actual production far outstrips the advance of population.

“The expansion of world production…including foodstuffs, has far exceed the growth of world population.

“Potentially, then, we have all the conditions present for world abundance and for immeasurable advance for every inhabitant of the globe. For the actual expansion of production bears no relation to the potential expansion which could be achieved, if the existing fetters” (i.e, capitalism) “were removed.” (5)

The solution for hunger is not, as Blum advises, “petitioning American leaders to become decent human beings” and radically curbing birth rates. (6) The moral decadence of American leaders and the size of the world’s population are not the problem. The problem is the organizing principle of the capitalist system. Food isn’t grown to feed people; it’s grown to feed bottom lines. Prices are set to make a profit. If the prices are out of reach of half of humanity, from the point of view of the system, that’s regrettable, but unavoidable. Profit is the system’s alpha and omega; people are simply the means of getting there.

Blum, whether he intends to or not, is a system-conserver, acting to deflect attention away from the system itself, to red herrings, like American leaders needing sensitivity training and women needing to be outfitted with the Malthusian belts imagined by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World to keep the world population in check. If you’re bamboozled into believing the cause of world hunger lies in George Bush needing moral remediation and people being too philoprogenitive, the system carries on, and is never challenged and changed. When future crises arise, and want worsens in the face of “all the conditions (being) present for world abundance and for immeasurable advance for every inhabitant of the globe,” another Blum will step forward, as Blum’s have before, to blame capitalism’s failure on an unsustainable population count.

1. Fred Magdoff, “The World Food Crisis: Sources and Solutions,” Monthly Review, May 2008.
2. William Blum, “Anti-Empire Report,” May 1, 2008. Blum argues in the same issue that Colombia’s rebel guerrilla army, the FARC, long ago ceased to be Marxist and has become the Colombian equivalent of the Mafia, engaged in kidnappings for ransom, protection rackets and drug trafficking. Blum seems to regard the words “Marxist” and “criminal” as mutually exclusive. Being outside the state, the FARC is hardly in a position to tax the residents of Colombia to raise money in “legal” ways as Colombia’s regular army does. Blum’s disqualification of the FARC as being Marxist because it engages in criminal activities brings to mind Brecht’s question: What is the crime of robbing a bank against the crime of founding one? It’s unclear how Blum expects the FARC to furnish itself with the means to operate – apply for a Ford Foundation grant?
3. New York Times, December 2, 2002.
4. Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2004.
5. R. Palme Dutt, World Politics, 1918-1936, Random House, New York, 1936, pp. 27-28.
6. Anti-Empire Report.

Unusual Sources on Zimbabwe’s Elections

Posted in Zimbabwe by what's left on May 1, 2008

Ideological Mine Fields

Posted in Foundation Left by what's left on May 1, 2008

By Stephen Gowans

It’s easy to rail against The Times of London, The Telegraph, Canada’s The National Post and scores of US equivalents for being the worst kind of purveyors of right-wing propaganda. These advocates of all that is backward, with their philosophy of unremitting indulgence for the rich and limitless harshness for the poor, wear their reactionary, jingoist attitudes on their sleeves. They strive to be “in your face” – and are. But because they make no secret of their right-wing prejudices, their propaganda value in the larger population is approximately zero. These newspapers consciously cater to a right-wing constituency. There’s no need to worry about stumbling into ideological mine fields here; the mine field has been conveniently fenced off and bright warning signs have been deployed along the periphery.

More dangerous, like a mine field cleverly concealed beneath an inviting patch of turf sporting signs reading: “Please walk on the grass” are the respectable, seemingly balanced, quality newspapers. They share the same right-wing prejudices, but skillfully disguise them and package them to be palatable to those who aren’t inclined to spout right-wing shibboleths. Chomsky, Herman and others have been dissecting the reporting of these newspapers – the New York Times in particular – to show that the biases of so-called liberal media tilt just as strongly toward ruling class interests as their unabashedly right-wing counterparts do. The genius of the liberal media lies in reproducing ruling class ideology without seeming to – the deception aided by their being starkly different on the surface from their conspicuously right-wing cousins.

The same can be said of progressive and radical sources of information. In societies dominated by hereditary capitalist families and corporate wealth there are few places hived off from the influence of those who own the society’s productive assets. One way in which the corporate ruling class extends its influence to the progressive and radical communities is through buffer organizations. Buffer organizations include foundations, as well as government agencies that have names that appeal to traditional progressive concerns about peace and democracy. The United States Institute for Peace, for example, sounds like it might engage in the kind of work progressives can applaud, but is a buffer organization of the US State Department and Pentagon. The National Endowment for Democracy, which claims to promote democratization around the world, appears to be engaged in praiseworthy work, but works to destabilize foreign countries whose economic policies are not conducive to the interests of US investment banks and corporations.

It is through these buffer organizations that wealthy individuals like billionaire financier George Soros and former Michael Milken right-hand man Peter Ackerman, hereditary capitalist families like the Fords, Rockefellers and Carnegies, and the governments they dominate, connect with the progressive community. These connections reach into sources of progressive and radical news and analysis.

Consider two recent examples. Last March, Z-Net published an article on Zimbabwe by a founding member of the Movement for Democratic Change, a coalition of foreign-funded civil society organizations that came together in 2000 to oppose Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF government as it was about to embark on a program of fast-track land reform. The leader of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, acknowledged in 2002 that the MDC is funded by the British government and European corporations. Both Washington and London have since openly admitted to bankrolling Zimbabwe’s opposition and its civil society adjuncts. The author of the piece, Grace Kwinjeh, who has traveled to Washington on George Soros’ tab to confer with Washington’s regime changers on how to get rid of the Mugabe government, failed to acknowledge her MDC credentials, passing herself off as an independent journalist (kind of like Donald Rumsfeld writing commentary on US elections for a Zimbabwean audience while pretending to be an independent US journalist.) To give the article a radical feel, Patrick Bond added his name as co-author. Bond had assured progressives in a Counterpunch article last year that the Western funded Zimbabwean underground movements Zvakwana and Sokwanele, which count among their number “a conservative white businessman expressing a passion for freedom, tradition, polite manners and the British Royals” represent an “independent” left. In Bond’s and Kwinjeh’s lexicon, “US/British funded fifth columnist” equals “independent.”

In April, MRZine published an article titled “China still a small player in Africa,” by Firoze Manji, the director of Fahamu and editor of Pambazuka News. Pambazuka News operates on grants from the Ford Foundation and George Soros. Fahamu is backed by the US Congress-funded Media Institute of Southern Africa, the European Union, and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. (You can read Bond on Pambazuka News, too.)

How far does Grace Kwinjeh stray from the views of the MDC when she’s masquerading as an independent journalist, and how far do the views of the MDC stray from its regime change underwriters in Washington and London? Are Manji’s views independent of the corporate foundations, wealthy individuals and imperialist governments who allow Pambazuka News and Fahamu to operate, and provide him a remunerative and interesting job?

You don’t have to log onto Z-Net to find out what the MDC’s views are and you don’t need to read MRZine to discover what the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, George Soros and the Ford Foundation think about Africa. But if you go to these sources directly, you know what you’re getting into. Not so if you go to Z-Net and MRZine; you might think you’re getting an “independent” left view, but you could be getting a ruling class view, repackaged to be leftist-friendly. This mine field doesn’t come with warning signs.

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