Bob Gould, 2007

Loopy backers of the Mugabe dictatorship

Source: Marxmail, April 10, 2007
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

Now and then Marxmail seems to take off into the loopy stratosphere. I don’t know what I’ve ever done to Walter Lippmann except take the mickey out of him a while back for his frenetic posting and his general semi-Stalinist support for whatever unpleasant regime it’s necessary for the Cuban and Venezuelan governments to have dealings with for their own survival.

That’s entirely reasonable for beleaguered socialists in those countries, but extremely unpleasant coming from Lippmann, a self-appointed commentator living in the dominant imperialist country. I have a feeling that his unprovoked outburst against me may be a kind of pre-emptive strike against anyone who he suspects may disagree with his support for the reactionary, anti-socialist dictatorship in Zimbabwe.

As a matter of fact, I have been trying to get around to writing something on that question, but Mike Karadjis and Norm Dixon have been doing pretty well. I might just say about Zimbabwe that there’s almost no one on the left in Australia who supports the Zimbabwe dictatorship. The only exception is the very small Communist Party (formerly the SPA).

Historically, the reason for that is that the left here has had strong connections for 30 years or so with the struggles for liberation in southern Africa, and several activists, such as Sekai Holland from Zimbabwe, spent their exile years in Australia, and many leftists know those people. Sekai Holland, when she was in Australia was the subject of a brutal attack by the local fascists, as was at roughly the same time a bookshop that I ran.

When Australians on the left see Sekai Holland carried out of hospital seriously injured by a beating from Mugabe’s thugs, the revulsion against the reactionary regime is close to universal on the left. Sekai Holland is in her sixties, with 40 years of left political activity behind her.

The reactionary geopolitical nonsense, with Stalinist overtones, pedaled by Lippmann and others cuts no ice on the Australian left. This view is shared by both factions of the DSP, Labor leftists, Greens, the ISO, Socialist Alternative, etc.

As a matter of fact, Ed Lewis put the ISO statement up on Ozleft and I wasn’t even aware of it until it appeared. For us, putting up things like that on Ozleft for information purposes is entirely routine and Ed was quite right to do so. One of the reasons that Ozleft gets a reasonable number of hits is its serious information function. What’s the beef?

The document was in the public domain anyway. The really eccentric thing about all this is that there’s little disagreement between anyone on the left in Australia on the assorted questions of national liberation struggles that don’t fit the mindset of Lippmann and Joaquin Bustello, another Marxmail poster.

Almost anyone on the left in Australia broadly agrees with Norm Dixon’s summary of the issues in dispute, which he has put on Marxmail.

On another matter to do with Zimbabwe, I find Louis Proyect’s dragging of “Zinovievism” into the Zimbabwe issue forced and artificial. I have my own critique of Zinovievism, which is directed at resurrecting a more open Leninism in debate among the whole of the far left, but to throw that into the pot, and then to throw the pot at the Zimbabwe ISO seems, to me, rather unpleasant.

I’ve met some people from the Zimbabwe ISO, and as revolutionary socialist groups go they seem to be among the least Zinovievist. They’ve stood up to Callinicos and their international centre on tactics in their own country and in opposition to the expulsion of the US ISO from the IST. Some Zinovievists!

They clearly have a certain implantation in the student movement and the embryonic labour movement, and although they are largely Shona they’ve stood up vigorously for the other large ethnic group, the Matabele, who were the first major victims of Mugabe’s repression.

They’ve also fought pretty hard in defence of the hundreds of thousands of urban squatters driven out of their homes in Harare by Mugabe’s thugs. Some global progressive, that Mugabe!

With all the accumulated experience of ex-colonial regimes in Africa, and some in Asia such as Myanmar, using Marxist rhetoric to entrench brutal capitalist regimes, it’s anti-Marxist reactionary Stalinism to rush to the defence of the anti-working-class Mugabe dictatorhip citing an over-generalised anti-imperialism. I’ll deal with the issues raised about Australia by Joaquin Bustello, in the framework of his published views, in another post.