Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Yes to the tour!

Here's something I posted in the comments boxes at indymedia...

Those on the left who are calling for a boycott of Zimbabwe are lining up, not with the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, but with the governments of the Western powers responsible for much of the misery of Africa, with reactionary local politicians like Don Brash, Winston Peters and Phil Goff, and with the Movement for Democratic Change, an organisation funded by the CIA and dominated by white politicians from the Rhodesia era.

This year, Mugabe has displaced 200,000 citizens by destroying their homes - that's 100,000 less than the city of Bombay displaced in a similar operation last year, and 300,000 less than the US-UK displaced when they razed Fallujah last year. Why, pray tell, has nobody called for the Lions to be banned from NZ, as a consequence of British actions in Iraq? Why aren't Goff and Brash enraged by British or American war crimes? Why have they chosen to focus on Zimbabwe, instead? The reason, of course, is that the hysteria over Zimbabwe is not motivated by any genuine response to oppression and suffering there. When was the last time Goff or Brash or Blair or John Howard cared about such things?

Zimbabwe has been singled out for a variety of reasons, but the most important one is the fact that Mugabe has, in his grotesquely distorted way, attacked the property of capitalists - big farmers, mainly - with long-standing links to Britain and NZ. Mugabe's parody of land reform is very popular in South Africa, where the UK has huge investments and the black population is simmering after a decade of declining living standards caused the maintenance of economic apartheid by a parasitic black elite. In NZ, the ruling class frets about the possibility of a renewed outbreak of Maori occupations, as the 'Treaty process' is shown to be merely a vehicle for the advancement of a handful of Maori capitalists. No wonder that the Maori Party has for all its faults been able to see through the anti-tour hysteria.

Those who want to oppose Mugabe effectively should stop chasing after a bandwagon being driven by Blair, and instead try to learn something about the history of Zimbabwe, and the legacy of the Lancaster House agreement, which ensured the present crisis by attempting - like the phoney transition in South Africa, and the Treaty 'settlement' process here - to put a black elite in charge of an unmodified capitalist economy dominated by a white elite and foreign imperialists.

Here's an article I wrote a couple of years ago which goes into these issues in more detail:


The Western campaign against Zimbawe has reached another fever pitch, with Tony Blair and John Howard taking time out from their preparations for war on Iraq to accuse the Mugabe government and the land occupation movement of terrorism. Blair and Howard don’t like the way that landless Zimbabweans have been seizing the big properties of the four and a half thousand whites who for a hundred years have controlled the country’s best farmland. They blame Mugabe for stirring the natives up. For its part, the Clark government has been one of the most enthusiastic backers of the anti-Mugabe, anti-occupations campaign. Clark unsuccessfully urged the expulsion of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth last year, and is now backing British and Aussie calls for cricketers to boycott the Zimbabwe leg of the upcoming World Cup. We all know that governments which oversee the slaughter of thousands of civilians in one semi-colonial country are hardly likely to be genuinely interested in human rights in another. Making war in Afghanistan and Iraq doesn’t square with defending human rights in Zimbabwe. What, then, lies behind the anti-Zimbabwe campaign? We think that the Clark government’s hatred of the land reform movement in Zimbabwe is motivated as much by internal as external concerns. Clark is worried, in particular, that the Zimbabwean land occupations will inspire Maori to direct action in their struggle to recover stolen land and to win reforms like better housing and more jobs.

But what exactly is going on in Zimbabwe? Let’s be clear: Mugabe is no friend of socialists. He is a nasty bureaucrat who rode the anti-colonial struggle to power by cutting a deal with the British that prevented socialist revolution and real land reform in Zimbabwe, and for many years, through the 80s and most of the 90s, he loyally followed the dictates of the International Monetary Fund. Mugabe has been forced to move to the left and take on imperialist powers like Britain by the strength of Zimbabwean anger against white farmers, the IMF, and the imperialist governments that bleed Africa dry. Faced with a popular desire to seize land, Mugabe decided that it would be too dangerous to take the side of the white famers and imperialism. Like Chavez in Venezuela, he is trying to ‘ride the tiger’ of popular protest. He has been forced to undertake certain leftist reforms, like the nationalisation of the food distribution network, but he has also acted wherever he can to compromise with imperialism and to undermine the occupation movement. He has installed his wealthy henchmen on many of the occupied farms, and he has promised multinational companies that their factories in Zimbabwe will be safe from occupation.

We should be careful, then, not to believe the mainstream media when it tells us that Mugabe and the land ocupations movement are one and the same. The occupations movement in Zimbabwe started without Mugabe, and it needs to get rid of Mugabe if it is to succeed.

So what does all this have to do with Aotearoa? Since December 7 a noho (occupation) by Te Whanau o Ngawha of Ngati Rangi, Ngapuhi and supporters has been blocking the construction of a jail on whenua tapu (sacred land) at Ngawha Springs. A Marae, a Kohanga Reo, gardens and a wharekai are being established on the occupied land. The occupation follows the May arrests of 37 anti-prison protesters at Ngawha. Labour ministers have condemned the Ngawha protesters are irresponsible troublemakers, using language that recalls the Maori-bashing of Muldoon twenty years ago.

The government is worried that Ngawha will be the beginning of a new wave of occupations, as Maori get fed up with the failure of political correctness, ‘Maoricorp’ capitalism, and kissass Maori MPs to address burning issues of land, housing, GE, and jobs. The example of Zimbabwe terrifies Labour MPs who know about the linked history of anti-imperialist struggles in Aotearoa and Southern Africa. In the 1970s, the decade of Bastion Point and the Land March, strong links existed between the Maori struggle and the anti-apartheid struggles in Rhodesia and South Africa. Many Maori were inspired by the guerrilla war waged by the Zimbabweans against the Smith regime in Rhodesia, and by the Soweto uprising staged by South African students and workers in 1976. In 1981 the struggles in Southern Africa and Aotearoa overlapped when many Maori joined protests against the Springbok tour. South African political prisoners rejoiced when protests forced the cancellation of the opening tour game, and sent messages of solidarity to imprisoned Maori protesters.

Later in the 80s and through the 90s the struggles in Aotearoa, South Africa and Zimbabwe were all sold out by a leadership which set itself up as a neo-colonial capitalist class. Mugabe, Mandela, and Maoricorp leaders like Robert Mahuta all tried to build national or tribal capitalism, acting as the agents of global capitalism which continues to colonise the economy even after formal political colonialism is abolished. Now the rank and file workers and farmers who Mugabe rode to power are revolting against economic colonialism, and Maori can be inspired by their example.


For information about the real nature of the Movement for Democratic Change, see http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/feb2002/zimb-f21.shtml


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