That bastard Mugabe

Robert Mugabe is an excellent example of someone who I loathe and despise, despite the fact that he also annoys a great many right-wing idiots.

"Comrade Mugabe is an anti-colonialist hero to many [people on the left]. He got his lifetime pass long ago – and he’s been using it for a very long time".

Bullshit. I’ve read *nothing* from anyone on the left defending Mugabe. Indeed, organisations that That Type Of Right-Wing Idiot despises, like the UN, NGOs and the BBC, are precisely the ones that have been raising awareness of Mugabe’s evilness and attempting to provide aid so that his mad policies kill fewer people.

Perhaps more to the point, it’s these idiots’ pet Stupid, Lying That It Was Humanitarian But Actually Slaughtering Tens Of Thousands Of Iraqis War that has discredited the concept of humanitarian military intervention for a generation.

If we were to send Western troops to Zimbabwe, Sudan, or indeed *anywhere else*, the countries’ leaders and their neighbours and allies would immediately scream that we were attempting another Iraq-style war of colonisation, and that tens or hundreds of thousands of people would die.

Worse still, this would be the most logically sensible conclusion to draw.

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29 thoughts on “That bastard Mugabe

  1. Just file it under "general hard right talking point".

    It’s like when some berk like Isntapundit proclaims that Amnesty etc never looks at [insert dictatorial country], despite the plain evidence they do.

  2. > I’ve read *nothing* from anyone on the left defending Mugabe.

    You’re always saying this sort of thing, and it makes me wonder: do the large numbers of overideological nutters on the Left pretend to be sensible when in the presence of other leftists and only start venting their insane spleen when faced with a right-winger? It’s not unlikely. After all, since you’re arguing against intervention in Zimbabwe, why on Earth would a leftist feel the need to roll out their anti-Zimbabwe-intervention arguments in your direction? I’ve had those arguments thrown at me by left-wingers since long before the Iraq invasion. In fact, back when whites were being killed and forced off their land and out of the country, many of the left-wingers I spoke to could barely contain their orgasms over the man.

    Does Mandela count as a left-winger, by the way? He has been against the idea of oppressive white colonialists intervening in Zimbabwe. Mind you, he thought Bush invaded Iraq because Kofi Annan was black.

  3. "I’ve read *nothing* from anyone on the left defending Mugabe."

    Darcus Howe applauded the appropriation of the farms, as I recall. And don’t make me do a Guardian archive search — you just know it’ll turn up something jaw-dropping from Bunting/Younge/Milne/Bodi/someone like that.


    "The British government presents the Zimbabwean problem as one of dictatorship: the murder of white farmers, rigging of elections, silencing of the press, removal of the independence of the judiciary, and stifling Zimbabwean democracy. Sadly, the EU, US and white Commonwealth members have swallowed this "fight for democracy" lie whole.",,1102749,00.html

    "Why did [the Commonwealth] allow itself to conjure up such hype over the Zimbabwe issue that the press, especially in Britain, could seize on it to indulge in its usual simplistic presentation of events as an interplay between forces for good (Britain, Australia, New Zealand) and bad (Zimbabwe, and those who support its "dictator" – South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia)?",,663145,00.html

    "Perhaps taking its cue from the government, most mainstream British media coverage of the Zimbabwean crisis has now abandoned even a veneer of even-handedness, as reporters and presenters have become cheerleaders for the opposition MDC.

    "In Zimbabwe, the liberation war leader Mugabe is at least holding an election of sorts…"

    (Shameless Milne — who else? — back in March 02),,638306,00.html

    "The land distribution programme of Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF government is aimed at redressing gross inequalities to meet the needs of the landless, the smallholders who want to venture into small-scale commercial farming and indigenous citizens who have the resources to go into large-scale commercial agriculture. These are modest, but worthwhile, objectives.

    "Contrary to the received wisdom in Britain, the best chance of completing the unfinished business of land reform, and for improvements in public services, housing, education, clean water, support for people living with illness and dying of Aids, lies with a Mugabe victory in the presidential elections."

  5. Jimmy, the mere fact that someone is published in the Guardian does not make them de facto a member of "the British Left". A Guardian byline plus £1.50 will barely buy you a bruschetta down Upper Street.

    Of your references above, the first and last are written by Zimbabweans commenting on Zimbabwean affairs; the first is mainly about cricket and the last is by a Mugabe partisan currently working for the OU. The second and third actually contain quite a lot of criticism of Mugabe, but are mainly about UK media priorities and – quite correctly – note that the focus on Zimbabwe of all states in Africa has a lot to do with the fact that most of Mugabe’s victims are white. I also note that none of your references is less than two years old.

  6. D2: Do you think there is no significant connection between the Graun’s view of itself as the premier organ of the British left and it’s willingness to publish the sort of thing Milne (eg) wrote about Zimbabwe? (Not that anyone mentioned the British left.)

    True that they’re all more than two years old. But surely there was sufficient writing on the wall to make some of this worth dragging into the light of day and marvelling at.

    "Move along, please; nothing to see here. Just Seumas Milne sneering at the MDC and bigging up Mugabe for conceding to hold an election ‘of sorts’. Anyway, it was way back in 2002."

  7. Actually, it makes a difference to those of us who know a bit about the subject. Here’s a tip; dig around in the d^2d and CT archives and you can find me saying things that I’m sure you’ll find just as damning. In this case, that the MDC as of the 2002 elections was hopelessly compromised by the inclusion in the coalition of a white-farmer element which included a number of people who had no real interest in democracy for Africans (rather like the antichavista opposition in Venezuela). The MDC sensibly got rid of these people after the 2002 elections, which is why they did much better in the 2003 elections, and why you don’t find good-faith criticism of today’s MDC on the British Left. This is an odd case of the idiot Milne having actually made a useful contrarian point.

  8. Wait, no, you don’t stand corrected, Jimmy, unless you’re actually conceding that how good or bad a man Mugabe is depends on how many white farmers happen to be members of the MDC.

    Note the quote that John calls bullshit:

    "He got his lifetime pass long ago – and he’s been using it for a very long time".

    If we’re talking about a lifetime pass being used for a very long time, then we’re talking about a lot more than the last three years. When John says, in that context, that he’s read nothing from anyone on the Left defending Mugabe, you are right to point out that he’s either very shortsighted or talking out his arse.

  9. Well no. Mugabe has got steadily worse since about 1998 (the year he decided to get involved in the Congo conflict). Up until about 2002 it was more or less acceptable to defend him; since then, not so much. In the 1990s, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe was held up by all and sundry[1] as the very acme of a functional, honest, developmental state.

    [1]Although you didn’t hear this view from many Ndebele it’s true.

  10. Equally, if you have a lifetime pass, it tends to not expire. Mugabe’s pass, if he ever had one, clearly now has.

  11. > Up until about 2002 it was more or less acceptable to defend him

    Yeah, ’cause he was only killing white people. Look, when a national leader starts driving people off their land, sometimes killing them, disarming the population, and has a sidekick who likes to call himself "Hitler", it’s not that difficult to work out what’s happening and it’s only acceptable to defend him if you don’t mind a spot of totalitarian genocide. The Left, for the most part, supported him on the grounds that the victims were descended from the wrong people. For some reason, those who oppose inherited wealth are very fond of inherited guilt.

  12. "For some reason, those who oppose inherited wealth are very fond of inherited guilt."

    No. Those who oppose inherited wealth (and power) are opposed to inherited wealth (and power). Without some kind of land, wealth and power redistribution there could only ever be an impoverished democracy in Zimbabwe.

    As it turns out, there is next to no democracy in Zimbabwe. But don’t pretend this is an argument that having the the vast majority of the wealth and power of a nation in the hands of a (racially distinct, and racially ‘aware’) minority, does not act as an anti-democratic force.

  13. Yeah, ’cause he was only killing white people

    That’s not true. The land grab in 2002 wasn’t official Mugabe policy; he gave tacit approval to it but it was not at all obvious that he could have stopped it if he wanted to; the land-grabbers were in general soldiers who had been laid off without pay after the Congo disaster. It was after the 2003 elections that Mugabe specifically was the problem.

  14. Speaking as an SWP member, our sister party in Zimbabwe has been active in the opposition against Mugabe for many years; they were members of the MDC but were ejected by the conservative leadership in (if my memory serves me correctly) 2002 and have since continued the struggle independantly. They were, of course opponents of Mugabe before he began his campaign against white farmers which drew the selective moral eye of the West, when he was implementing the SAP programs of the IMF to the detriment of the Black Zimbabwean working class and farmers.

  15. ’cause he was only killing white people’

    That’s totally inaccurate. The worst atrocities took place in Matabeland during the 1980s, during a period when Mugabe was supported by the British government for the reason that he had respected the property of the white farmers. More recently, the vast majority of victims of Mugabe’s rule have been black, and the fact that the West (and your own post) are concerned solely with the white farmers undermines their claims of moral outrage.

  16. James,

    I’m well aware that that’s totally inaccurate. My point wasn’t that Mugabe was only killing white farmers; my point was that many leftists supported him on the grounds that he was only killing white farmers. Those grounds were wrong, but, hey, they weren’t mine.

    I was not aware of the SWP’s actions in Zimbabwe. If what you say is true, then well done and thank you. However, I’m sure you’re aware that the SWP hardly represent the majority of the Left, and I never said that all leftists supported Mugabe.


    You are right that some type of redistribution is required to bring about freedom. However, violent methods are never the type of redistribution that bring about freedom; they always lead to totalitarianism, as any fule no.

    And those who oppose inherited wealth are very fond of inherited guilt, in my experience. You can say what you like about redistribution of wealth, but I lose count of the arguments I’ve had with people who insist that Zimbabwean whites are settlers who stole land, when, in fact, they are descended from settlers who stole land. Same goes for Northern Irish Protestants, Falkland Islanders, etc.

  17. Yes, but it isn’t about these people’s inherited guilt. It is about their inherited wealth, which acts as an obstacle to a democratic society. And, in the case of Zimbabwe, it was inherited wealth concentrated in such a small group that considered itself quite apart from the rest of the population, providing a perfect structure for an endlessly perpetuating anti-democratic economy.

    Now, if we were serious about democracy in Africa, we should have made efforts to redistribute the wealth of Zimbabwe by injection of a little of our own. Yes, this would have involved the (perhaps compulsory) purchase of white-owned farms, and this would have broken up years of family tradition and heritage. But [1], this is necessary under and redistribution of wealth where the wealth exists in a finite form such as land. It is of greater import that equivalent measures in the UK, as the majority of landowners do not think of themselves as apart from the majority of the population – at least in the comparison to the manner in which white Zimbabweans are able to. And [2], appeals to heritage being a moral legitimation of continued economic supremacy are dangerous – in that the open the door to heritage being used to legitmate the generational transfer of guilt as well as privelidge.

  18. Andrew,

    Did you not see the bit where I wrote "You are right that some type of redistribution is required to bring about freedom"? Why are trying to persuade me of that?

    From what you say, it seems clear that you’re not bothered about inherited guilt in the case of Zimbabwe. Great. Nevertheless, in my experience, most left-wingers are, though they may not word it that way. See the slavery reparation movement, the insistence that all Northern Irish Protestants are settlers and therefore their votes should be ignored, the belief that Falkland Islanders should have to give up their homes because their ancestors won a war against some Argentinians, the left-wing spite poured on anyone with an upper-class accent, etc, etc, etc. And I repeat: I lose count of the arguments I’ve had with people who insist that modern-day Zimbabwean whites are settlers who stole land.

  19. slavery reparation movement

    Whatever the merits of the other cases, the claim for slavery reparations has nothing to do with inherited guilt, since the claim is almost always made against legal entities (companies and governments) which have continued to exist as continuous entities between the time the crime was carried out and the present day.

  20. in my experience, most left-wingers are [very fond of inherited guilt]

    You’ll excuse me for taking any sweeping generalisations about what "most left-wingers" think with a large pinch of salt, doubly so when they come from a hostile voice at the opposite end of the political spectrum.

  21. Hence the phrase "in my experience".

    Most of my observations about the Left aren’t from the opposite end of the political spectrum, as they’re drawn from my time as a Socialist. Ironically, it was the principles I leart from the Left, and which I still hold dear, that caused me to abandon the Left. Economic policy is the only thing I really changed my mind about, and that’s not so important.


    For a crime to be committed, a law needs to be broken.

  22. CMIAW, but wasnlt Mugabe chosen (by Thatcher?) as Zimbabwe’s post-independence leader specifically to avoid any left-wingers getting into power? The typical centre-right "better to have a fascist than a socialist" idea?

  23. the Thatcher government was involved in the negotiations to end the white minority regime and bring Mugabe to power for the reason that he committed any post-independance regime to leave the white farms intact for 15 yrs. Some of the elements in the liberation army refused this deal and continued a struggle against the new government, which was one of the factors leading to the Matabeland massacres in the early 80s.
    From the perspective of the Thatcher government this allowed them to preserve British/settler economic interests and end a long-running political problem for Britain.

  24. No, the Lancaster House Agreement guaranteed a limited degree of specifically white political representation (20 seats in a house of 150). It also installed a ‘willing seller, willing buyer’ solution to the land problem, underwritten by Britain. Over the next 10 years Britain would pay for any farm bought by the Government. Any farm sold had to be offered on a first refusal to the Zimbabwean Government.

    The arrangement stopped when it became clear that any redistribution was from poor British tax-payers to rich Zimbabwean politicans.

  25. The Ian Smith regime acceded to black majority rule on the basis of a promise that the property of the white minority would be protected, as it was. On 17 April 1980 Mugabe declared to a crowd an international crowd:

    ‘If yesterday I fought you as an enemy, today you have become a friend. If yesterday you hated me, today you cannot avoid the love that binds you to me and me to you.’ (Cited in D Smith et al, ‘Mugabe’, Salisbury, 1981, p210)

    The constitution adopted following Independance gauranteed that there would be no forced expropriation of white-owned farms for 10 years, of course this lapsed in 1990 but the Mugabe government showed no interest in redistribution of land for several more years, until the crisis brought about by the IMF ‘structrual adjustment’ led to opposition and the founding of the MDC. Similarly, the conservative Foreign secretary Carrington secured a commitment that the government would not be possible to seize white-owned property. The small amount of redistribution that did take place in the 1980s was largely ‘illegal’ and driven from below.

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