Bush doesn’t want you to talk about empowering the people
of Africa – and neither do some African Americans. Issuing
thinly veiled threats, these individuals and organizations
appropriate to themselves the colors Red, Black and Green,
and label as treasonous all Black criticism of their current
Strong Man of choice, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
a twisted kind of Black “solidarity” that mirrors the “patriotism”
of the white Right in the U.S., these groups claim that criticism
of Mugabe gives aid and comfort to American and British schemes
against the national independence of Zimbabwe. Since the Americans
and British are always
scheming to commit crimes against Africa, the threat to Black
American critics of Mugabe and other African Strong Men is
meant to be a permanent injunction. Under these terms, the
time will never
be right for progressives in the Diaspora to make common cause
with the African people, if that involves strong critiques
of specific African governments.
crude gag rule was invoked in June against signatories to
an Open Letter to President Robert Mugabe – men and women
who rightfully claim “strong historical ties to the liberation
movements in Zimbabwe, which included material and political
support, as well as opposition to U.S. government policies
that supported white minority rule.” The ongoing slanders
against the signatories are designed to shut down African
American discourse on the subject of African development and
democracy, itself. This is absolutely unacceptable.
stooges of imperialism among the Zimbabwean opposition to
Mugabe’s rule, including at the very top of the Movement for
Democratic Change. That is to be expected. Mugabe’s war against
civil society in Zimbabwe has succeeded in driving broad sections
of his nation into a very small social space. Within that
confined and crowded space, he brands all opponents as stooges.
His supporters in the U.S seek to replicate those tactics
in Black America, so that they can appear to be the true defenders
of African liberation. Everyone else is warned to remain silent.
a man says “Shut up,” you defeat him by refusing to do so.
The best way to counter this ugly, thuggish and politically
vacuous campaign against progressive Black Americans is to
speak the Truth about all the parties in Zimbabwe. Our contribution
to the debate revolves around five documents, listed and linked
below. We invite readers to study the documents in depth.
Man rule creates weak civil societies that are, ultimately,
helpless to defend the nation against imperial power. Robert
Mugabe has sought to strengthen his regime by weakening Zimbabwean
civil society, thus making the nation more vulnerable to American
and British subversion.
America is not Zimbabwe. This debate will not be throttled.
responsibilities of Black progressives
must first assert in the strongest terms that it is the obligation
of African Americans to treat developments in Africa with
the utmost seriousness, to debate issues of human rights and
economic development in Africa among ourselves and with others
in the Diaspora and on the Continent, and to formulate positions
on these matters so that we can most effectively serve the
purposes of African liberation. Circles associated with the
December 12th Movement seek to monopolize and smother
that discussion through intimidation and slander. This has
the effect of narrowing the scope of African American solidarity
with the peoples of the continent. It is, therefore,
reactionary politics of the crudest kind, and must
mindset of the muzzlers is evident in the words of Professor
James Small, the international vice president of the Organization
of African American Unity.
"There are too many Blacks in America pandering to right-wing
elements," said Small, in the June 27 edition of The
Final Call. "It is beyond my comprehension why any
African American group would openly speak out against any
amazing statement, but one that reveals the mentality of those
who, as The Final Call puts it, are “in the forefront in orchestrating
the response” to the June 3 Open
Letter to President Mugabe. Although the December 12 Movement
claims that its “hands off President Mugabe and the people
of Zimbabwe” statements are directed at the Bush Administration
and the British, their real audience is Black America, and
the goal is to shut down debate.
Bush men could care less what either the December 12th
Movement or progressive Black activists, unionists, and clergy
have to say about U.S. Africa policy. This is an internal,
African American affair, an attempt to taint Black progressives
with U.S. foreign policy aims and, thus, delegitimize them
– a lowdown, dishonest campaign.
of civil war
fact, the signers of the June 3 letter had long avoided harsh
criticism of Mugabe – no doubt anticipating the reaction from
the Strong Man’s Black American acolytes – even as the targets
of his repression expanded to include virtually all sectors
of civil society outside of Mugabe’s party control. It had
become clear to any honest observer that Zimbabwe was poised
at the edge of civil war – a pretext for U.S. intervention.
Zimbabwe today, all of our relations and our deep empathy
and understanding of events there require that we stand in
solidarity with those feeling
the pain and suffering caused by the abuse of their rights,
violence and intolerance, economic deprivation and hunger,
and landlessness and discrimination,” wrote the signatories,
to Mugabe. “We ask that you initiate an unconditional dialogue
with the political opposition in Zimbabwe and representatives
of civil society aimed at ending this impasse. We call upon
you to seek the diplomatic intervention of appropriately concerned
African states and institutions, particularly South Africa
and Nigeria, and SADC and the African Union, to assist in
the mediation of Zimbabwe's civil conflict.”
are two factors that work against a British-American military
action to effect a “regime change” in Zimbabwe: the willingness
of Zimbabwe’s people to resist, and the potential reaction
to such aggression from its African neighbors, first and foremost,
South Africa. The June 3 signatories have excellent relations
with the South African government and the broad coalition
that underpins it, including and especially the trade unions.
The signers were urgently signaling their support for an African
solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis. Instead, they have been tarred
and feathered as agents of George Bush. How absurd!
generalized repressions weaken the nation, herding masses
of the poor into alliances with those who would welcome
an Anglo-American intervention (a subject to which we will
return, below.) If his African American supporters pronouncements
have any effect on Mugabe, it is to stiffen his resolve to
resist African mediation – precisely the result desired by
the Pirates in Washington.
believe that Bush would have already taken military action
in Zimbabwe, had the Iraqi occupation not sucked up most American
and British military resources. For that, Africa can thank
the Iraqis, not Mugabe or his African American surrogates.
Forum President Bill Fletcher, Jr. wrote a followup letter
on June 6, titled, “Why
We Spoke Out on Zimbabwe.” Fletcher undercut the argument
– ironically, one put forward with equal fervor by both Mugabe
supporters and George Bush and Tony Blair – that Mugabe
was the initiator of land reclamation. “[T]he the issue of
land redistribution was largely ignored by President Mugabe's
government until a mass opposition movement arose that challenged
his, until then, undisputed leadership role,” wrote Fletcher.
“It was only at that juncture that President Mugabe championed
immediate land redistribution, but in a manner that benefited
not the mass of agricultural workers and farmers, but instead
first and foremost the party faithful of the ZANU-PF – the
are facts known to every student of recent history and conscientious
news-watcher. Zimbabweans themselves are painfully aware that,
after assuming power 23 years ago, Mugabe was quite late to
rise up against the global machinery of imperialism. “President
Mugabe, the truth be told, supported the structural adjustment
policies insisted upon by the International Monetary Fund
and World Bank,” said Fletcher. “In fact, it was largely the
backward and anti-people economic policies of his government
that resulted in the development of a major opposition movement
in the late 1990s.”
was not interested in land reform until the issue was forced
upon him. After two decades in power, Mugabe attempted to
restore his revolutionary credentials by making a show of
confrontation with a tiny white landholding class that he
could and should have dismantled years before. He proceeded
to establish his own tiny clique of new big landowners, while
leaving the actual tillers of the soil largely out of the
the crisis deepened.
chose to feature Obi Egbuna’s article, “Who
else but Mugabe?” because the piece was widely read on
the Web, and generally reflects the positions of those who
pilloried Fletcher and the other June 3 letter signers.
begins with threats, his clear purpose for writing. He warns
that “any intense attacks or criticism of Mugabe while Blair
and Bush seek to orchestrate his demise will put you on a
collision course with the sons and daughters of the African
Soil all over the planet.” Apparently, critics of Mugabe must
wait for the “all clear” whistle from Egbuna’s Pan African
Liberation Organization before venturing an analysis. Or,
possibly, the imperialists will declare a time-out on aggression,
making it safe for progressives to speak frankly on African
must be aware that this is not debate, but an attempt at bullying.
He is trying to bring Mugabe’s terms of discussion to Black
an effort to excuse Mugabe’s years of inaction on land reform
– after an agreed upon ten-year moratorium on disturbing
white ownership had passed – Egbuna writes: “If the land was
seized right away, European and United States media would
have had a field day making comparisons of Mugabe to Idi
Amin in Uganda which would have been chaotic and it would
have complicated things in Azania/South Africa and Namibia.”
As if the British and American governments and their media
have not been having a field day for the last several years!
And hasn’t the current crisis “complicated things” for South
Africa and Namibia? This is too weak for words, but passes
for argument in Egbuna’s circles – the level of discussion
that they would impose on Black America.
U.S. supporters are not concerned about land reform and social
transformation. They deal in comic book politics, barbershop
rhetoric that means nothing to Black Zimbabweans who have
worked the land for generations only to find they have not
been favored to own it, or who have gained a deed to
a plot but have no access to fertilizers or tools.
stateside supporters like the idea of Africa, but have
no ideas on how to empower the people of Africa. They
prefer to limit the conversation to seizing the land from
the whites, the bulk of whom have already been dispossessed.
real mission is to promote the image of the Great Man. “[P]resident
Mugabe poses the most serious threat to Imperialist forces
on the African Continent,” says Egbuna. In reality, Mugabe
presents a great opportunity to the imperialists in
Washington and London. His repression of civil society makes
Zimbabwe ever more ripe for the plucking. At the same time,
U.S. and British funding further subverts an opposition that
now includes wide sectors of the population.
to judge a revolution
an example of the African American discussions that Mugabe’s
surrogates want to suppress, we offer Professor Horace G.
for Debate on Realities of Life for the Zimbabwean Working
Peoples.” Prepared for circulation at the Black Radical
Congress’ June 20 national conference, the paper provides
an excellent basis for discussion among activists who actually
care about the people of Zimbabwe.
than 300,000 farm workers have been rendered homeless by this
grabbing of land by the political class,” writes Campbell,
a BRC executive council member and professor of political
science and African American studies at Syracuse University: