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and the question of imperialism: a Democracy Now! discussion
Horne & Horace Campbell
June 26, 2008
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GOODMAN: Today, we host a discussion on Zimbabwe. We're
joined in Washington D.C. by Professor Gerald Horne, Chair of History
and African American Studies at the University of Houston and the
author of numerous books including "From the Barrel of a Gun,
the United States in the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965 to 1980."
Joining us on the phone from Syracuse is Professor Horace Campbell,
Professor of African Ame rican Studies and Politics at Syracuse
University in New York, has written extensively about Pan-Africanism
and Zimbabwe. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! I want to begin
with Gerald Horne in Washington.
Can you talk about what
is happening in Zimbabwe and the coverage of it, how we understand
what is happening in Zimbabwe in the United States?
GERALD HORNE: Well, obviously
what is happening in Zimbabwe is quite tragic, and I would hope
some of the sympathy that is extended to Zimbabwe could be extended
as well to other African nations that do not have white minorities.
For example, the statement condemning or questioning the Zimbabweans
elections emerged from Swaziland, a South African nation that is
one of the last absolute monarchies on this small planet. Some might
well question why isn't Swaziland's human rights situation being
interrogated and investigated?
A scant year ago in Nigeria,
the continent's giant, you had shambolic elections, had hundreds
killed yet that barely registered a blip on the international media.
At least not in the North Atlantic. Many talk, perhaps understandably,
about the fact the President Mugabe has served as President since
1980, but what about Omar Bongo of Gabon, a close ally of the U.S,
an oil-rich country in West Africa, which of course, he has served
as president since 1967? 13 years before Mugabe came into power.
I mean, I could go on in this vain, but I think the fact that thousands
were killed in Zimbabwe in the 1980's and yet, he received a virtual
knighthood from Queen Elizabeth and received an honorary degree
from Massachusetts, and yet, today in 2008, he is a subject of international
scorn after of course he expropriates some white farmers, really
speaks of profound racism in terms of how this issue has been covered
in the North Atlantic media.
GONZALES: Horace Campbell, I want to ask about this issue. It does
seem that the western media did not focus on Zimbabwe at all until
the expropriations began of l and. But does that deal with-the land
of the white-minority there--but does that deal with the underlying
class conflicts that are obviously clearly percolating in reaching
ahead right now in the country?
HORACE CAMPBELL: Well,
thank you for having me on the show. First of all, I would say this
platform on Democracy Now! is a platform for the progressives, the
left, and those who are involved in the peace movement. Our discussions
on what is going on in Zimbabwe or any other part of Africa should
be guided by how our solidarity with the peoples of Zimbabwe, with
the oppressed workers of Southern Africa, and in all parts of Africa
can assist our own struggle in this country against all forms of
oppression. And so, comparing Zimbabwean's oppression with other
oppression in Africa does not excuse the oppression of the Zimbabweans
people by any means.
I think Gerald
is very right about these oppressions across Africa, but organizations
in this country that are in solidarity with the peace movement across
the world, that are in solidarity with the Zimbabwe people, should
take the cue from the Congress of South African Trade Union that
is calling for a blockade of Zimbabwe because of the oppression.
And I think what distinguished Zimbabwe from those countries that
Gerald speaks about is that none of those countries is representing
themselves as being in the forefront of liberation. Robert Mugabe
and Zanu PF started out like they were Lumumba in the Congo. They
ended up like Mobutu, arresting opposition leaders, calling homosexual
pigs and dogs, and killing hundreds, tens of thousands of people.
80% of the Zimbabwean people are unemployed.
While the stock
exchange is the most successful in Africa. We on the left, in the
peace movement, we acknowledge that George Bush nor Brown have any
moral authority to criticize Zimbabwe because of the unjust war
that they're fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. But having said that,
we on the left and the progressives, we must take the moral leadership
in having solidarity with those opposition leaders, those workers,
those human rights workers in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa who are
being oppressed by the Mugabe government.
Your response, Gerald Horne?
GH: Well I think there
is very much to recommend with what Horace Campbell said. As a taxpayer
to this government here in Washington, my first approach must be
this regime of George W. Bush. And I think we have to question the
hypocrisy of George Bush who has engaged in questionable elections
in Florida and Ohio, questioning the legitimacy of the elections
in Zimbabwe. More than that, if the situation in Zimbabwe is so
terrible, and I agree it is, why is it that the Bush administration
continues to send undocumented Zimbabwe workers back to Zimbabwe?
talk about a so-called genocide unfolding in Zimbabwe, yet, you
see the Gordon Brown administration in London not giving asylum
to Zimbabwe workers who are exiled now in London. We talk about
the Mugabe regime, but just the other day it was revealed that Anglo
American, the major transnational corporation with close South African
ties and headquarters in London, is about to make a $400 million
investment in Zimbabwe. Barclay's bank is in Zimbabwe. Rio Tinto-Zinc,
the major mineral conglomerate is in Zimbabwe. It seems to me in
the first place, we in the North Atlantic should be focusing on
these kinds of contradictions that we can affect and as the African
National Congress has said, leave Zimbabwe to the Zimbabwean people
If you could respond, Professor Campbell, to what Gerald Horne said.
HC: Yes, I want to reiterate
a point that any kind of political work we do on Zimbabwe should
assist us in educating our people here so that, when the Zimbabwe
political leadership represents itself to say that it is being persecuted
because it expropriated the land of the former white settlers, we
have to interrogate what did the expropriation of the land mean
for the millions of Zimbabweans workers, small farmers. It is very
clear that the Zimbabwean people needed to reclaim the land from
the white settlers.
But the Mugabe
government, when he was receiving his knighthood from the British
government, never negotiated about the land because throughout the
period from 1980- 1992, Zimbabwe had the legal powers to be able
to set in motion the possibilities for strengthening the working
peoples, the farm workers, the women, the plantation and agricultural
workers. And when we speak about land, we must understand that whether
the land is owned by white farmers or black farmers, the fundamental
productivity on the land emanates from the labor of the working
people. So our task is how is it we defend the working people of
of thousands of workers who live on the conditions of wretchedness,
who have been exploited by the black capitalist farmers, who are
in the Zimbabwean government just as the whites have done. So any
kind of transition in Zimbabwe must involve strengthening the rights
of the workers, the women, and the use in Zimbabwe. I think that
what Gerald said should throw away all of the talk about Mugabe
been against imperialism because it was very clear that Anglo-American,
Barclay's Bank, and Rio Tinto and diamond dealers have made billions
of dollars while Mugabe was talking about the land.
And what we're calling
for is for any transitional period in Zimbabwe to be one where there
is intervention by the African Union so that the billions that have
been carried out by the ruling elements in Zimbabwe, that we do
not have them carried out repression of the workers with impunity
and then stealing the money as they have done the past 8-10 years.
Gerald Horne, I'd like to ask you. Obviously Mugabe has been an
icon and a hero, a giant in terms of the liberation movements in
Africa for decades. But your sense now, do you believe that he still
represents any forces for progress in Africa or has he gradually
transformed himself into a dictator?
GH: Well, I think that
president Mugabe is a force to be reckoned with in Zimbabwe. And
I agree with those leaders in the region who feel that he and his
party must be contented with if there is to be a settlement of this
controversy in Zimbabwe. I should also say that with regard to professor
Campbell, I'm here not to carry a brief on OPS, but they have argued
they did not move on land reform before 1994, i.e. the date of the
South African elections, so as not to unsettle the situation in
neighboring South Africa, which of course has outstanding land claims
of its own. We all know there are more white farmers killed in South
Africa than have been killed in Zimbabwe.
there are outstanding land claims in neighboring Namibia as well.
I think it's understandable why there has been a focus on on Zanu
PF, but standing in the wings of the opposition of the MDC and sadly,
unfortunately, there has not been considerable focus on them such
as their leaders, Roy Bennet, a top leader, a former major land
owner in Zimbabwe who of course throttled an African leader on the
floor of the Zimbabweans parliament - I would of thought that kind
of behavior would have ended in independence in 1980. You have other
leading Rhodesians in the leadership of MDC.
One thing that
worries many of us is that, if MDC does come to power, there will
be a split and quite frankly, they will pave the way for the rise
of certain retrograde elements like Roy Bennet come back into power.
In some ways, MDC, a trade union-led movement, is akin to solidarity
in Poland which of course paved the way for the present right wing
in Poland to come to power in Warsaw. So we have to be careful when
we try to butt in to the internal affairs of a sovereign state.
I think our energies would be best served by putting pressure on
this government here in Washington and its comical sidekick in London.
Professor Horace Campbell?
HC: The intellectual
subservience of the MDC and the leadership of the MDC is clear to
most workers in Southern Africa. But at this point in the history
of Zimbabwe, the MDC doesn't have political power. The social forces
that are organized in Zimbabwe against the government have thrown
their weight behind the MDC at the present moment. The Women of
Zimbabwe Arise, these are independent organizations, Padare, the
workers, agricultural and plantation workers. I do not think - we
do not have the right to say to the Zimbabwean workers that your
under oppression and therefore, we should decide for you because
of the history of Mugabe's relationship to the liberation movement,
28 years ago, then we should be saying to you what your choices
Africa, the Congress of South African Trade Union movement has called
for a blockade of the Zimbabwean government and is the Zimbabwe
leadership and the Congress of South African Trade Union which is
the largest trade union movement in Southern Africa is a movement
which is calling for the isolation of Mugabe government. What we
agree with Gerald is on the following - the land question in Southern
Africa is an urgent question in the media, in South Africa, and
in Zimbabwe. But having said that, we must learn lessons from Zimbabwe.
To say that
when land his been reclaimed it should not be reclaimed for rich,
black farmers to replace white farmers. Land when it is being reclaimed
in South Africa or in Nambia should be reclaimed in a condition
where there is health and safety conditions for the working people.
So yes, we should take lessons from Zimbabwe and we should introduce
new politics in Southern Africa that is coming out of the politics
of reconciliation. That no concept of victory should be victory
which gives power to one group over another there should be ways
in which the transition is towards a new political dispensation
- in South Africa it is one that strengthens the producing classes,
the small workers, farmers, students.
And these are the forces
that have been repressed, brutalized, the trade union leaders that
are in jail right now in Zimbabwe should be released. Opposition
leaders should be released. Women should be released. Human rights
workers should be released. So that yes, we can criticize the leadership
of the MDC and I have done so in my writing, in my book, "Reclaiming
Zimbabwe" but the government of Zimbabwe must now arise in
a situation where we provide leadership in a condition where 80%
of the people are unemployed, where women have been persecuted as
prostitutes when a walk on the streets, where homosexuals have been
called pigs and dogs and where men go around trying to have sexual
relations with young virgins saying this would prevent HIV/AIDS.
We need a new political leadership to go against this kind of backwardness
that came out of the kind of patriotic leadership that we had for
the past 28 years.
We wanted to bring South African archbishop Desmond Tutu into this.
He also came out forcefully against the violence and intimidation
in Zimbabwe speaking in Cape Town Tuesday, who warned Mugabe should
bend to international pressure or could risk facing universal sanctions
and could risk facing an international criminal court.
TUTU: We are
seeing a country not just steadily, but rapidly going down into
chaos. The international community should, I believe, had intervened
long ago when some of us appeared for a peacekeeping force, to ensure
that people who are not intimidated, people are not attacked. And
that the conditions for a free and fair election would then have
been sustained. Now, I think obviously the effort should continue
where we are hoping against hope that good sense might get to prevail
and that Mr.Mugabe would agree that really his time is up. It's
20 years or more that he has been head of state. I think they've
got to tell him he still has the chance-if he continues and everyone
decides to call his administration illegitimate, then he stands
a very very good chance of being arraigned before the ICC for human
Archbishop Desmond Tutu Gerald Horne, your response both to Archbishop
Desmond Tutu and Horace Campbell.
GH: Well obviously we
have enormous respect for Archbishop Desmond Tutu. But I must return
to the question that should occupy us in the North Atlantic. Which
is why is it the Zimbabwe gets so much focus and attention on this
side of the Atlantic when Paul Biya, the leader of Cameron a few
weeks ago basically named himself President for life and it barely
registers a blip? Similar situation unfolding in Uganda with Yoweri
Museveni. I think part of the reason, not only the race and racism
question, there's also the question that many of the former Rhodesian
have kith and kin on the side of the Atlantic.
The spouse of Henry Kissinger,
the former U.S. Secretary of State. The spouse of Chester Crocker,
the former assistant Secretary of State for Africa under the Reagan
administration. Even some distant relatives of George Washington
for whom the city of which I'm sitting is named. Ian Smith, the
former Rhodesian leader of course has relatives in San Diego. There
were hundreds if not thousands of white mercenaries who flocked
to Rhodesia in the 1970's and 1980's to fight against liberation
of that particular country. And it befuddles and baffles me why
this kind of basic historical background is not integrated into
the conversation, integrated into the discourse on Zimbabwe.
I think it gives a very
bad impression on the African continent which leads many Africans
to consider their only focus on the North Atlantic is on Zimbabwe
because there is a white minority and that perhaps explains to why
there has been such a lethargy in responding to some of the human
rights violations that are unfolding in Zimbabwe. And until that
kind of situation is rectified, I dare say there will continue to
be an uncivil situation in Zimbabwe.
Gerald, all that being true and we clearly recognize that disparity
in approach and coverage, back in 2005, there were massive forced
relocations of hundreds of thousands of people by the Mugabe government
that really stunned people, even here in a progressive community
of the United States who have supported Mugabe and the past. Your
response to those relocations and again to the issue of whether
the government has increasingly become iron handed and dictatorial
in dealing with its own people?
GH: Well, those dislocations
were tragic and unfortunate. I know about them because I hail from
St. Louis, Missouri. And of course it used to be said, with regard
to that city and many other cities, that urban renewal meant negro
removal. That kind of situation is not unique to Zimbabwe. In Senegal
as we speak, there been tens of thousands of Africans who have been
displaced because of a civil conflict there reaches back 25 years.
It has barely registered a blip on the international press screen.
So yes, those situations that are referred to in Zimbabwe are quite
tragic and they need to be criticized as well as other analogous
situations. And when those analogous situations are not criticized,
it basically provides fodder for those who would like to downplay
the situation in Zimbabwe.
Professor Horace Campbell, we just have about 30 seconds, your response
and your summary?
HC: My response
is that the government of Senegal, the government of Cameroon does
not represent itself as a liberation government. The Zimbabwean
government is very aware of the racism that exists in North America.
And it is exploiting that racism and the antiracist sentiment among
Africans in the west in order to legitimize its repression on the
people. The government of Zimbabwe at this moment is illegitimate
we must avoid war at all costs. Mugabe says only god can remove
him and he will go to war. At present, he is at war with the Zimbabwe
people and we must end the silence in the progressive and pan-African
community against this type of manipulation and repression in the
name of liberation.
Chair of History and African American Studies at the University
of Houston and the author of numerous books including From
the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe,
Professor of African American Studies and Politics at Syracuse University.
He has written extensively about Pan-Africanism and Zimbabwe.
Duration: 9min 30sec
Date: June 26, 2008
File Type: MP3
Duration: 15min 10sec
Date: June 26, 2008
File Type: MP3
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