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.
12 thoughts on “Even at MRZine the ruling ideas on Zimbabwe are the ideas of the ruling class”
I wondered if you’d seen the Progressive magazine article by Mukoma Wa Ngugi of Pambazuka News about McCain and the IRI. I just learned about Pambazuka News from you and thought it interesting that the article focused on a Republican and the IRI, and said nothing about the Democrats and nothing about the other so-called NGO’s like the NED. I wondered if you had any comments.
See “McCain’s Meddlers” at
I also wondered if the people at the Illinois radio show “This is Hell” contacted you about an interview, and if you’d consider an interview in the future if they did ask. I recommended you to them and they said they’d look into it. They have some silliness, but they do have some good interviews.
South African civil society’s favoring the MDC probably has something to do with the reality that it is funded by the same foundations, corporations and governments which fund both Zimbabwe’s civil scoiety and the MDC.
What is your take on South Africa’s role in this situation?
It seems that many South African “civil society” organizations, trade unions, and media are deeply involved in the Zimbabwe dispute, and they tend to favor the Neoliberal MDC and while attacking Mugabe. I wonder why this is?
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that South Africa is part of the British Commonwealth and thus follows an Anglo-American geopolitical agenda.
You ask: Does the West not have a duty to try and influence change in a country which is run in the manner that this one is?
1. The West never intervenes to benefit the majority.
2. Even if it did, there’s no basis for an intervention.
Be clear on who it is in the West you’re referring to and in whose interest they’re acting. What you call the West are corporate foundations, wealthy individuals, and governments dominated by corporations and wealthy individuals, who intervene when intervention fattens their bottom lines and stand aside when vote rigging, dictatorship, political repression, torture, war crimes and ethnic cleansing, fatten their bottom lines.
If you really think the West has a duty to intervene, why aren’t you urging the “West” to intervene in Egypt, in Ethiopia, in Saudi Arabia, in Israel where far worse things happen than anything Mugabe has ever been accused of?
As regards the basis for intervention, what would it be: to reverse the gains of national liberation and to stop the indigenization program it its tracks? That may be a justifiable basis for intervention from the point of view of Western corporations, investors and the former white settlers who monopolized the land, but not from the standpoint of Zimbabwe’s rural poor or even its urban working class.
As a South Africa who rgularly visits Zimbabwe, may i ask a few questions;
Does the West not have a duty to try and influence change in a country which is run in the manner that this one is? So many left wing people demonize this influence. A few facts – not propoganda, just my observations – I have friends who support both political parties (ZANU-PF and MDC (T)). Why is is that only my MDC friends are injured from the recent intimidation sweeping across th3e country? Why is is that – amongst what is arguably the best educated populus in Africa – there is a majority move to support the opposition (this despite massive one sided propoganda in the electronic and print media? Why is it that if the millions of exiled Zimbabweans return to Zimbabwe from the neighbouring territories that the vote would be a landlside victory for the opposition? For that matter, why are their so many axiles? Regarding your statement that the economy is “a good deal better today for the black majority” may I say that whatever you are smoking could I have some! What has in effect happened is that the white minority has been replaced with a black minority (not even representative of the whole of Zim, byut rather dominated by one tribal group). I don’t know if you have evcer been to Zim. Your pontifications however clearly show you haven’t been there since the elections – I have (three times). The despondency on the one hand, and shere disgust at the ruklinbg parties excess’s needs to be experienced. Please stop believeing the propganda that you read (just as the pro west forcs should not always believe the propoganda they read) visit – see the horror of a meglamaniac dictator for your own eyes – I know you will change your views.
To deny the West is backing the MDC is akin to saying Saturn doesn’t have rings. The West’s backing of the MDC is thoroughly documented and openly acknowledged by Washington and London. Check out the U.S. Department of State’s account of its own regime change activities in Zimbabwe. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/shrd/2006/ Therein, you can read about how the US government supports “the efforts of the political opposition, the media and civil society.”
On July 8, 2005 the Los Angeles Times reported 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.”
I can go on and on.
Regarding Ian Smith: He may have “kept a healthy economy under a war situation and the sanctions” but he didn’t have to deal with the ruinous effects of IMF structural adjustment, droughts and energy shortages that have bedevilled the region, nor denial of credit and balance of payment support. Moreover, Britain’s refusal to deal harshly with its “kith and kin,” gave Smith considerable breathing room. More significantly, who was Simth’s economy healthy for? Certainly not for the majority of rural poor indigenous Zimbabweans, but for a tiny stratum of racist white settlers. I daresay the economy, with land reform having been carried out, is a good deal better today for the rural poor black majority than it was under a Rhodesian apartheid regime in which the country’s productive assets, including its fertile land, were held by a white minority.
You say that my “understanding of Occam’s Razor is slightly wide of the mark. It’s not the simplest explanation that is best, but the simplest explanation that accounts for the facts fully.”
I disagree with the word “fully”. What it states (and I didn’t elaborate, you simply weaved another of your webs) is that “one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything”. The criterion that it should explain facts fully is a little strong. How can we know that we (and in this I even include you, Stephen) are ever in possession of all of the facts?
I’m afraid it’s your argument that is built on a fallacy. I agree with your point about the cock crowing and it’s lack of an effect on heavenly bodies, but that type of spurious causal link was not one to which I was laying claim.
Rather, it was more of the following type: Bush has control over US foreign policy … Bush wants something badly … Bush takes action … consequent chaos.
Substitute “Mugabe” for “Bush”; “Zimbabwean” for “US”; and “domestic” for “foreign”; and you might, hopefuly, get my point.
Mugabe is the man in charge. Therefore it is Mugabe who has responsibility for the economy going into the shitter, as you so eloquently expressed it. Causal link intended, on this occasion.
Lastly, you are right about the election result. Of course it was eventually released. Mugabe eventualy woke up and released it. Now I wouldn’t say for one minute that he released the result after his people had had time to tamper with it to force a run off election in which he could mobilise his people to use intimidation and violence to increase the chances of his getting the result he wants at the second attempt: but many would.
It seems ZANU-PF propaganda is succeeding outside Zimbabwe. Many believe the fallacy that MDC is Western-backed ,that sanctions are the sole cause of misery in Zimbabwe. How do you explain the following:
Ian Smith kept a healthy economy under a war situations and the sanctions. Smith had hostile countries around him except South Africa.
The answer is simple: Discipline. The corruption we witness today was unheard off during UDI. Hospitals had medicines. Our rulers would rather buy cars for top officials with the little forex than buy medicines. These are our revolutionaries. We removed a Racist(Ian Smith) to replace him a Corrupt ,Power hungry dictator.
As we speak now Mugabe wants to contest the Presidential election then do what when he wins? He has failed. Insulting the West and MDC wont serve it does not matter what the Herald Newspapers ,ZBC or the so-called paid foreign columnists say
I’m afraid your understanding of Occam’s Razor is slightly wide of the mark. It’s not the simplest explanation that is best, but the simplest explanation that accounts for the facts fully. Your explanation limps along on a logical fallacy: the cock may crow but the sun’s rising soon after doesn’t mean the cock’s crowing caused the sun to rise. Your argument: economy good…Mugabe shows up…economy goes into the shitter…is of the same sort.
There are four reasons the economy is in the shitter:
(1) A carry-over of the injurious effects of the IMF structural adjustment program of the 90’s;
(2) Drought (which has had devastating effects on neighboring countries, as well);
(3) Power shortages (suffered throughout the region and not unique to Zimbabwe);
(4) Denial of balance of payment support and access to credit by US and British dominated international lending institutions.
As regards violence, consider the following:
A. The documentation of violence against MDC supporters has been gathered by a three person team from the US Embassy in Harare and by Human Rights Watch, which is dominated by former members of the US foreign policy establishment. But even HRW acknowledges the violence isn’t exclusive to supports of Zanu-PF. “Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that…MDC supporters had burned homes of known Zanu-PF supporters and officials.”
HRW, April 25, 2008
B. “The information I have received suggests an emerging pattern of political violence” not exclusively inflicted by supporters of Zanu-PF. — The UN’s top human rights official, Louise Arbour. New York Times, April 28, 2008.
C. “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 “because the big prize is still to rid the country of Mugabe.” –Paul Themba Nyathi, a civil rights lawyer and MDC member. TalkZimbabwe.com, April 28, 2008.
You may have forgotten that the MDC has a long history of threatening violence. Prior to the election, MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa warned that if Zanu-PF won, Kenya would like a picnic.
As for the results of the presidential election, you must have been in a coma these last few days. The results were released. Mugabe trails Tsvangirai. Wake up.
What a web you weave.
An application of Occram’s Razor would not go amis here.
Zimbabwe was one of the wealthiest countries in Africa when Mugabe came to power. How did that happen?
Now it is one of the poorest. For that, and the disastrous agricultural policy, Mugabe is totally responsible.
What was the result of the presidential election? Why was it not released? Why are the militias mobilised and is it right that they are intimidating, injuring and killing their own people? Is isn’t that exactly the kind of thing the anti-colonial resistance fought against? Get real.
Is it true that the International Socialist Organization (Zimbabwe) helped to found the MDC, even though the latter advocates a Neoliberal agenda?
I guess this shouldn’t be that surprising given that the ISO-Zimbabwe is part of the
Trotskyite “International Socialist Tendency,” which is a BRITISH-led group.
It’s curious that many of these “internationalist” coalitions happen to be led by Anglo-American/Western leftist organizations–which of course are based in advanced Capitalist nations.
This would be analogous to Nazi German “anti-war” organizations leading an international peace movement during WWII!
Writing about the Iraq War, Kola Odetola makes some trenchant comments about this broader political phenomena that rarely is heard from erstwhile Progressives today:
“The multi billion pound human rights/NGO industry for one (the new missionaries) are as dominant in the third world as any multinational, and in many ways even more powerful, since they seduce the minds of the natives buying up activists by the barrel load, feeding them with inconsequential facetious drivel about ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ all the better to cement the west’s moral and ideological supremacy over the natives.
Trade unions from the west struggle to organise in the third world to ensure the starving do not go beyond the level of loyal opposition to the western banks and companies that impose the crucifix of hunger on their children. Even the far left get in on the act with an assortment of ‘Mac’Trotskyist groups fighting for the ‘world revolution’ creating so called internationals – a global franchise they dress up as fraternity. The headquarters of the ‘world revolution’ sharing its capital with that of world finance.
Saddams Execution: The western anti war movement – the left boot of imperialism?
MR cannot but drift in the direction of the prevalent mindset of the Western Left, that is towards sucking to liberals. Or they risk to lose subscribers and go down. Makunike’s piece also suggests that foundations increasingly customize their feed to target specific audiences. It has that sleek touch, the air of objective radical standpoint. The West is bad, too bad. But since Mugabe has chosen parliamentary democracy he must abide by its rules. How about squashing it instead and proclaiming the antiimperialist dictatorship? Hm.. that would be too much for MR even in its better times.