Garikai Chengu: Goldman-Sachs alumnus and gold mine-owning anti-imperialist
Let’s start with Garikai Chengu’s article that appeared on CounterPunch yesterday, which is a defense of a seemingly indefensible proposition, namely that Gaddafi’s Libya was the most democratic country in Africa. Chengu, a Zimbabwean, has a most interesting profile for an “anti-imperialist”. On his blog he describes himself as a researcher on Africa for Columbia University and Harvard and hopes to utilize “his intellectual and financial capacity” to develop Zimbabwe. One must assume that on the financial plane he will be benefiting from this background: “He has worked for Goldman Sachs and is the Founder and Chairman of Chengu Gold Mining Pvt. Ltd. one of Zimbabwe’s fastest growing indigenous private gold companies.”
It would appear that Comrade Chengu is one of those people who are in the vanguard of the BRICS revolution. In an article titled Mugabe Re-election Heralds ‘New’ Economic Model For Africa, Dana Sanchez quotes my fellow Goldman-Sachs alumnus:
Chengu cites a recent U.N. Africa Progress Report that Africa loses $63 billion dollars each year through foreign multinational corporations’ illegal tax evasion and exploitative practices. This figure surpasses all the money coming into the continent through Western aid and investment, Chengu says.
“It is for this reason that Zimbabwe’s new indigenization model emphasizes local ownership and foreign partnership with emerging nations, such as Brazil, Russia, India and China,” the editorial says, omitting South Africa from the list.
Unless China is truly communist as some of our anti-imperialist comrades allege, I doubt that it will be treating Zimbabwe any differently from other nations in Africa, namely as a place to extract minerals and agricultural commodities in exchange for the export of manufactured goods. In a July 31, 2015 article from the Zimbabwe Independent, we learn that China has directed Zimbabwe to pay up the $1.5 billion dollars it owes or else it would no longer do business there. I guess profits trump ideology.
While undoubtedly Zimbabwean entrepreneurs such as comrade Chengu will benefit from business deals with China, there are signs that the working class will function much more as impediments to the dowry that will surely await all of Zimbabwe once the economic marriage with China is consummated. Atlantic Monthly reports on the files in the ointment:
So far, the Zimbabweans who are most feeling China’s influence in their country are the workers. As Chinese firms take over business and Chinese managers come to run everything from billion-dollar mining companies to the downtown restaurants in capital Harare, Zimbabwean workers and labor unions are complaining of mistreatment and exploitation. Earlier this month, construction workers went on strike over low pay — $4 per day — and what they said were regular beatings by their managers Chinese managers with the Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company. The case is just one of many that has labor groups — one of the few segments of Zimbabwean politics that enjoys latitude from the ruling party — up in arms.
Reports of beatings by Chinese managers are so common that even a cook at Harare’s popular China Garden restaurant complained of them, telling the Zimbabwe Mail & Guardian, “Working for these men from the East is hell on earth.”
“Workers continue to endure various forms of physical torture at the hands of these Chinese employers right under the noses of the authorities,” a spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Construction and Allied Trade Workers’ Union told the same newspaper. “One of the most disturbing developments is that most of the Chinese employers openly boast that they have government protection and so nothing can be done to them. This clearly indicates that the issue has more serious political connotations than we can imagine.”
With this as background, it is not too hard to understand why Chengu would describe Libya as a virtual paradise. In case the reader has a skeptical streak, he reminds us that even the NY Times was wowed by the grass roots democracy:
In 2009, Mr. Gaddafi invited the New York Times to Libya to spend two weeks observing the nation’s direct democracy. The New York Times, that has traditionally been highly critical of Colonel Gaddafi’s democratic experiment, conceded that in Libya, the intention was that “everyone is involved in every decision…Tens of thousands of people take part in local committee meetings to discuss issues and vote on everything from foreign treaties to building schools.”
The brazenness of comrade Chengu’s defense of Colonel Gaddafi left me quite breathless. Does he think that CounterPunch readers will not take the trouble to look up the article that this seemingly positive sentence is extracted from? It is true that most people would not take out a subscription to the NY Times, the only way its archives can be searched, but yours truly is an exception to the rule mainly because he is addicted to the Sunday crossword puzzles and to Melissa Clarke’s recipes.
You’ll note that Chengu’s article lops off the beginning of the sentence in which this Libyan version of a New England town meeting takes place. Let me fill it in for you: “In Libya, the theory goes…” So how does the theory match up to the practice? Not so good:
Authoritarian leaders all over the world take steps to create a veneer of democracy. In Egypt, for example, there are elections, though there is never any doubt that the governing party will win.
Libya outdoes almost all of them.
Here, tens of thousands of people take part in meetings to discuss issues that are decided by a small group at the top, with all direction coming from the Brother Leader.
“He makes the decisions,” said a high-ranking diplomat in Tripoli, the capital, who is not being identified to avoid compromising his ability to work here. “He is the only one who knows.”
Reporters from The Times watched as committees around Tripoli discussed Colonel Qaddafi’s plan to abolish the government. After the perfunctory poetic genuflecting to the leader, more than half the speakers said they did not want money, they wanted a functioning government. They were angry and heartbroken that such a resource-rich nation, a member of OPEC, could be performing so poorly.
Oh well. Who could believe such lies from the bourgeois media? That is unless you want to quote it out of context to twist the truth into a pretzel.
Turning now to Robert Fisk, the Independent newspaper’s resident amen corner pundit who shares such duties with fellow Independent reporter Patrick Cockburn, we read an article that is all aflutter over the Russian intervention in Syria titled “Everyone wrote off the Syrian army. Take another look now”. It rather has the aura of a sports writer impressed with the turn of fortune of perpetual losers like the NY Mets or the Chicago Cubs.
The less said about this idiotic article, the better. But this sticks out like a sore thumb: “The Syrians have found that the Russians do not want to fire at targets in built-up areas; they intend to leave burning hospitals and dead wedding parties to the Americans in Afghanistan.”
Perhaps Mr. Fisk does not read his own newspaper–how unfortunate:
To wind up this sorry survey, let us turn to Noam Chomsky who evokes the words “How the mighty have fallen” given his analysis of Russian intervention, while not as bad as Fisk’s comes close.
In the Youtube clip below, you can find Chomsky’s reply to a question about Russian intervention at 58 minutes. It is mixture of confusion and bad politics.
To start with, Chomsky rejects the label “imperialist” to describe Russian bombing. One supposes that this is his concession to the virtually hegemonic view on the left that it is only the USA and its European allies that deserve such a label. As a diehard Marxist, I hew toward the Leninist perspective in which the term imperialism can be applied to states that are below the USA on the totem pole such as Czarist Russia and Japan—two countries that went to war over control over strategic resources in a manner anticipating 1914.
Chomsky has a habit of thought that is prevalent on the left, no doubt a result of his prestige. When the subject of Russian intervention comes up, his tendency is not so much to evaluate the merits of the case being made for or against the Kremlin but to put its enemies on the defense by claiming that they are only doing the same thing as us. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. For example, he says that the USA has no right to criticize the annexation of Crimea since we annexed Guantanamo more than a century ago. If you follow his logic consistently, peace might be achieved if Russia’s imperial outreach was respected. This, of course, is the same realpolitik found in Stephen F. Cohen and Walt/Mearsheimer. With all due respect to Chomsky, I think the obligation of the left is to put the heat on the USA for refusing to let its claws loose of Guantanamo and the Kremlin for annexing Crimea. That was the general outlook of revolutionary socialism in the post-WWI period and one worth reinvigorating.
He also tells the audience that his analysis of Syria is very much influenced by Patrick Cockburn even as he believes that no good can come out of military intervention. Perhaps Chomsky has not been apprised of the fact that Cockburn is quite all right with Russian bombing. That contradiction is one for Chomsky to resolve, not me.
Finally, he believes that peace can come to Syria as long as we accept that Bashar al-Assad will be part of the negotiations. One has the sinking feeling that Chomsky agrees with many liberals that a Yemen type solution is worth supporting, namely Assadism without Assad. That is virtually excluded by the dictatorship whose followers raised the slogan, “Either Assad or the country burns”.
Like so many, Chomsky seems to believe that such a peace was in hand after a Finnish diplomat recently reported that a Russian diplomat was agreeable to a Yemen solution but it was aborted by the USA that demanded Assad’s removal as a precondition. Not withstanding the dubious merits of a Yemen type solution, there was never such a deal in the offing as I point out here: https://louisproyect.org/2015/09/19/baathist-truthers/