Monday, November 22, 2010

New Materials on Zimbabwe Land Reform

Read them here. Haven't gone through yet, but it appears to be a welcomed corrective to the mass of intentional misinformation out there about land reform efforts in general.

Zimbabwe, as I've argued elsewhere, puts those on the critical Left in a difficult position given the way the terms of debate are constructed in mainstream forums. On the one hand, there can be no doubt that Mugabe's regime is corrupt, anti-egalitarian in many respects, and self-serving. But on the other, it is absolutely imperative that we understand this regime in the context of the interrelated phenomena of colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism, and global capitalism.

It's not that we should let Mugabe off the hook by attributing all of his regime's problems to the legacy of colonialism and the effects of continued neo-colonial oppression. But there is something extremely suspicious about attempts by, say, British newspapers to demonize Mugabe as the sole ill plaguing Zimbabwe. This to say, there is something covertly racist about claims of this sort insofar as they insinuate, albeit without directly saying so, that it might have been better to let the "experts" (i.e. colonial elites, be they British or White Rhodesian) maintain control rather than to allow the "incompetent natives" to take matters into their own hands. To fail to mention global capitalism or colonialism is to fail to mention the main cause of human misery and oppression for the last 300 years, which is, needless to say, a bit of a problem.

In cases in which white elites acquired property through the brutal exploitation of colonialism, it's absurd to argue that there's anything prima facie unjust about tinkering with existing property holdings. Absurd though it is, many seem to have no problem getting idignant when the matter of land reform is raised. Just imagine, for example, the vile sorts of things that would go on in the heads of many old, white commentators in the newspapers at the mere mention of such re-distributive reforms. Such vileness is hardly vitiated when clothed in neoliberalism ("but we merely want to maintain firm property rights to encourage development", etc. etc.).


JM said...

They fail to mention the move in 2000 to clear away the slums as Patrick Bond mentions here:

JM said...

oh, my mistake it was in 2005:

"Furthermore, having used mass terror to support the land seizures, Mugabe then turned the mass terror on the democratic and progressive opposition in the towns. As the economic crisis tightened its grip there were a series of extra-constitutional military style crack downs. In 2005 forcibly destroying the homes of the “illegal” shanty towns and brutally evicting tens of thousands of poor families, suppressing illegal panhandler miners between 2006 and 2008, and cracking down on “profiteers” in 2007. Finally last year’s presidential election saw extreme levels of political violence against the MDC, trade unions and urban progressives. Zimbabwe became a very dangerous place to oppose ZANU-PF."