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Year 2001 No. 203, November 27, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Zimbabwe Does Not Need Enemies with Britain as its "Oldest Friend"

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Zimbabwe Does Not Need Enemies with Britain as its "Oldest Friend"

The US-led Aggression against Afghanistan and the Pakistan State

Afghan Farmers Resume Planting Opium Poppies

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Zimbabwe Does Not Need Enemies with Britain as its "Oldest Friend"

On Tuesday both the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw and Foreign Office Minister Ben Bradshaw, made statements outlining the British government’s colonialist and reactionary policies towards Zimbabwe. The southern African country is facing mounting political and economic problems and a presidential election is expected to be held in the first few months of the New Year.

According to the Foreign Secretary’s account, the British government regularly raises the issue of land reform with the Government of Zimbabwe, as if to suggest that this issue is of more concern to the British government than it is to the people of Zimbabwe. A picture is presented that it is the Government of Zimbabwe that is not abiding by various international agreements in regard to land reform. At the same time, Jack Straw’s statement "deplores" the violent incidents that have occurred in Zimbabwe and suggests that the British government’s only concern is for the "poor people in Zimbabwe who are suffering grievously from the results of President Mugabe's policies" and the countries "contiguous to Zimbabwe who are most affected by the disastrous economic and political management of Zimbabwe". In order to address all of these difficulties, so the Foreign Secretary claims, Britain is working with its partners in the EU, the Commonwealth, and the UN as well as in southern Africa itself.

But the fact is that far from being the "oldest friend" of the people of Zimbabwe, as might be inferred from the statement of the Foreign Secretary and those of other government ministers, the Labour government has over the past two years launched an unprecedented campaign of provocations against Zimbabwe, has openly abused its government and president, and blatantly meddled in the internal affairs of that country. Not only that, but it has refused to honour its historical obligations as the former colonial power to fund land redistribution, as required under the terms of the Lancaster House Agreement of 1980. Jack Straw’s statement is presented in the manner of the 19th century imperialists who reluctantly took up the "white man’s burden" to save the peoples of Africa from themselves and graciously imposed their "civilised" values through colonial conquest. What is more, Straw’s statement makes no mention of Britain’s colonial past in Zimbabwe or its continual meddling in that country’s affairs since formal independence in 1980. Zimbabwe’s problems are all presented as a consequence of the policies of the government of Robert Mugabe.

It should not be forgotten that Zimbabwe was Britain’s last colony in Africa only achieving independence following a bloody war of liberation in 1980. The colonial occupation of Zimbabwe in 1890 (at that time named Rhodesia after the British imperialist Cecil Rhodes) commenced with the theft of the land of the African people of that country. By 1903 over 15 million acres of land had been stolen. By 1914 Africans, who were 93% of the population, had been forced to occupy "reserves" comprising of only 23% of the available land. Further measures were taken during the colonial period to further deprive Africans of their own land.

It might be thought that British governments would make some reparation to the people of Zimbabwe for nearly a century of colonial rule, and for the exploitation of Zimbabwe’s human, mineral and other resources. But no British government has initiated such a policy. Indeed since 1980 successive British governments have actively exacerbated Zimbabwe’s economic and political problems while hypocritically posing as its "oldest friend". Rather than funding land redistribution as it is required to do, the British government demands that first Zimbabwe must accept its Eurocentric values. It must conduct its political and economic affairs according to the wishes of the British government, allow in foreign "observers" and conduct its elections according to the model set by the British government, the EU and others, as if Zimbabwe were still a colony and the people of that country unable to conduct their own affairs.

In order to distance itself from the accusation that it is behaving in an openly colonial manner, the British government has enlisted the aid of its "partners" – the US, the Commonwealth, the EU. In Jack Straw’s words, the British government has built a "coalition" and is attempting to force the government of Zimbabwe to comply with various international agreements in which are enshrined the Eurocentric values of Britain and the other big powers. At the present time Zimbabwe is threatened with further EU sanctions, with possible action by the Commonwealth, as well as action by Britain and its "partners" if it does not accept the British government’s dictate.

The stepping up of the British government’s interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe ahead of the presidential elections next year must be condemned. Britain has no business issuing threats and posing as if it is still the colonial power in Zimbabwe or anywhere else in the world.

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The US-led Aggression against Afghanistan and the Pakistan State

At the public meeting jointly organised by NCP and RCPB(ML) at Marx House on November 22, Mohammad Iqbal, an anti-imperialist activist of Pakistani origin, said that it was a tragedy for the Afghan people that they were victims of Anglo-American imperialism and of the Soviet Union before them.

The speaker stated that the Pakistani state had supported the Taleban government, but then the same state allowed the United States to use Pakistani bases from which to carry out many of its military action in the current campaign.

Mohammad Iqbal posed the question of why the Pakistani ruling class had capitulated to US imperialism. He answered by showing how the current ruling class is the descendant of the forces which had collaborated with the British colonialists during the period of British rule; and had, the speaker highlighted, as with the Indian ruling class, preserved Eurocentrism and Anglo-American institutions. US imperialism is now manoeuvring with both the Pakistan and Indian governments.

The speaker then described how the US imperialists were using the method of bribery in order to achieve the support of the Pakistani ruling class. Economic sanctions that had been imposed on the country had been lifted and the government reportedly guaranteed $300 million worth of investment. The Indian government had offered military bases without being asked. The speaker said that the attitude of the Pakistan ruling circles is that Pakistan is "open to business". He quoted the examples that on November 15, a $600m "aid" package had been announced, in addition to the $1bn deal which had been announced on November 10 in New York.

The speaker also referred to the huge number of protests that had taken place in Pakistan after October 7, because of the use of the three air bases and opposition to what was seen as the betrayal of the Islamic state in Afghanistan. He said that the imperialists had spent billions of dollars in destroying Afghanistan, and would now spend billions in reconstruction, all of which benefits the monopolies, while the oppressed people will pay for the loans from the World Bank and Asian development bank through their taxes and increased debt. Afghanistan is becoming a neo-colony of Anglo-American imperialism, for the plunder of the oil and gas in Central Asia.

Referring to recent events the speaker related information as to the loss of life in the US bombing which is not reported here, quoting Pakistani sources. In November17-18, for example, 150 people had been killed in pre-dawn bombing raids, and those who had ventured out to rescue those bombed and to remove corpses had also been bombed.

Mohammad Iqbal concluded his speech by stating that such death and destruction was continuing and was ample evidence with which to indict both Tony Blair and George W Bush for crimes against humanity.

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Afghan Farmers Resume Planting Opium Poppies

With the Taleban government overthrown, the ban on poppy-growing put in place three years ago is no longer being enforced, and hundreds of farmers near the eastern city of Jalalabad have resumed planting the narcotic.

The poppy only requires water twice a year, in contrast with wheat which requires up to nine times, and thus in conditions of drought is preferred by the farmers. After three years without rain, water is precious.

Afghanistan was once the world's largest opium producer, enough to supply 75 percent of the world's heroin, according to the UN Drug Control Programme. Farmers produced 3,611 tons from the 1999 planting. During the past three years, however, farmers had switched to wheat rather than risk imprisonment. The crop in 2000 dropped to 204 tons, the agency said in July.

The UN drug programme spent years working with the Taleban and aid agencies to discourage poppy growing and encourage wheat production. Now, as one farmer is reported as saying, "Our life is really very difficult, because we can't grow wheat and still survive." He said, "We need to grow narcotic, even if it is not fair to the rest of the world."

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