To the Editor:

Bayard Rustin’s article, “The War Against Zimbabwe” [July], is a reasoned and provocative analysis of a complex issue which has been characterized by much misplaced emotional posturing. In detailing the factors leading to the Zimbabwean internal settlement and the successful April elections, Mr. Rustin appropriately distinguishes between the substance of what occurred (i.e., the democratic transfer of power to the black majority) and the admittedly imperfect process which has been the focus of sustained criticism.

Mr. Rustin raises a most significant question curiously overlooked in the debate about Zimbabwe Rhodesia’s future; namely, the political system under which effective majority rule will manifest itself. He specifically rejects the contention that the guerrilla Patriotic Front’s participation in a coalition government is a necessary condition for a stable constitutional order, or that their exclusion (largely self-imposed) suggests a cynical attempt to maintain white control at the expense of supposedly representative nationalist forces. In fact, he describes the Front as a “paper political alliance” incapable of even reconciling its differences. The Front’s accession to power probably would trigger an even bloodier civil war to establish political control.

As such, Mr. Rustin’s argument effectively condemns the arrogance and hypocrisy with which our present policy toward Zimbabwe Rhodesia is infused. In commenting upon Zimbabwe Rhodesia’s international pariah status, despite its popularly elected government, and the support for the Patriotic Front in the United Nations and other international bodies, he notes:

It is especially interesting that the excommunication of Zimbabwe has been decreed in the name of racial self-determination, but in total disregard of that country’s black majority; and that the Patriotic Front is favored in the name of majority rule, but in total disregard of that group’s anti-democratic outlook.

Given the United States’ own history of excluding blacks from the political mainstream, it smacks of self-righteousness when we prescribe, among other things, the proportion of white representation in the Zimbabwean parliament. Little effort has been made by some observers to understand the practical and moral justification of the Muzorewa government’s position as understood by Zimbabwe Rhodesians themselves. The West is obsessed with structural imperfections in the constitution and election and appears wedded to accommodating the views of African front-line states.

Bayard Rustin’s trenchant study strengthens the growing awareness that our present policy conveniently ignores the significance of the transformation taking place in Zimbabwe Rhodesia. Paradoxically, we risk the very survival of representative democracy based on majority rule which is our proclaimed goal.

[Senator] Richard S. Schweiker
United States Senate
Washington, D.C.



To the Editor:

Bayard Rustin’s article is one of the finest pieces on the subject I have seen, and I read virtually everything written on Zimbabwe Rhodesia. My interest goes back to the early 1960’s when I began research toward a doctoral dissertation in Rhodesian history, which I completed in 1972. . . .

I share Mr. Rustin’s conclusions, and only wish that his voice would be heard by President Carter. . . .

Anthony P. Diperna
Commack, New York



To the Editor:

Bayard Rustin’s . . . remarkable article, “The War Against Zimbabwe,” should be read by everyone concerned with American foreign policy. The stakes are much higher than the fate and future of a small and seemingly unimportant country.

Mr. Rustin was an on-the-spot observer during the recent election in that country and traveled widely throughout it as a kind of poll-watcher during the several days in which the election took place. On the basis of his observations he came to the considered conclusion that the election, in which the balloting was secret, was free of intimidation and that Bishop Muzorewa is the democratically elected Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Rhodesia. Yet even before the results were in, the policy-makers in the State Department were ready with the pronouncement that nothing had changed, that it was still “Ian Smith’s government,” and that Bishop Muzorewa was simply a stooge for Ian Smith. Now one can assume two things. The first is that Mr. Rustin is quite competent to judge who is and who is not a white man’s stooge. The second is that the policy-makers in the State Department know perfectly well that Mr. Rustin, whose views had already been made known before the appearance of this article, is telling the truth. Why else would they go to the absurd length of trying to minimize Bishop Muzorewa’s electoral strength by adding to the votes of the opposition the numbers of those who did not vote at all (31 per cent)? As Mr. Rustin points out, the use of this same technique for interpreting an election would have “proved” that Jimmy Carter was elected President with a mandate of 27 per cent of the American electorate! . . .

The crucial question is, why are these Americans so desperately and willfully determined not to be proved wrong, even if this were to require the destruction . . . of a country against the interests both of its own inhabitants and the United States? What is the basis of this fanaticism? As plausible as it may seem to think so, this attitude does not in fact derive from a pro-Marxist standpoint, notwithstanding the excuses these people are prepared to make for what is going on in Angola and Mozambique. What is at work, rather, is the oldest syndrome in race relations, namely, the use by the white of the black as an emotional pawn, and it works in the following way. First, whites are moved by moral indignation to become the spokesmen for blacks who are politically oppressed and utterly lacking any voice for the affirmation of their interests. At this initial stage, the aims are of necessity vague and sweeping—for example, “liberation”—for the oppression is so pervasive that there seems to be no prospect whatever for practical amelioration. . . . Thus in this phase the white spokesmen and the voiceless blacks are in agreement.

The situation, however, can change for the better in an unpredicted way. If it does, the blacks who are directly affected by the change at once lose interest in the vague aims of the past, which are then seen as mere slogans, and turn with practical concern to specific goals. . . . These goals can include a willingness and desire to enter, in a wholly new spirit, into accommodations with their erstwhile oppressors who before the change would not have sat down at the same table with them.

At this point the grounds exist for the most painful rift between the blacks, who now have a voice, and those whites who were formerly their spokesmen. The blacks, who have their own interests to consider, want to live in the present and future. They are willing to forgive and forget and “get on with it.” The white spokesmen, on the other hand, have no interests at all to consider but only their passions of moral indignation which require a demonstrative act of revenge against the blacks’ former oppressors. And to get this revenge they are perfectly willing to advocate policies entailing the utter destruction of the blacks! . . . At this point the blacks have become simply a pawn in an emotional vendetta. If blacks decide that they want neither revenge nor their own destruction, they are flatly dismissed as “unrepresentative,” “Uncle Toms,” “sell-outs,” etc.

This is an old story which goes back to the Civil War. As soon as Lincoln became a political force in America, the black leader Frederick Douglass saw that the situation had fundamentally changed. The Union could be seen in a new light as sound and worth preserving. He did not, of course, cease to be an abolitionist, but he saw . . . that the old policy of wanting the North to secede from the “morally contaminated” Union, which was advocated by the white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, was politically insane because it would abandon the slaves to the total control of the slaveholders in the South. Douglass, in what was a personally agonizing decision for him, broke with his old benefactor over this issue. Garrison reacted with coldness to Douglass’s decision to strike an independent line which was focused on the interests of the blacks rather than on the moral feelings of the whites. . . .

As for Zimbabwe, the white “spokesmen” for the blacks are angry with Bishop Muzorewa essentially because he does not want revenge against Ian Smith and the whites Smith represents. They are right. He does not want revenge. He wants the whites to stay. He needs their skills and he also thinks they have a right to stay in the country which belongs to all its citizens, black and white alike. The politics of revenge would drive out the whites. To prevent this, Muzorewa has been perfectly willing to agree to give the whites certain guarantees . . . which are temporary and which may be absolutely necessary in the immediate circumstances. Evidently many other blacks in Zimbabwe agree with him. After all, Bishop Muzorewa, had he wanted to, could have played the same card as Nkomo or Mugabe did; his popularity within Zimbabwe today may be due precisely to his refusal to do this.

The situation seems to be somewhat complicated by the hostility of the most “militant” members of the Organization of African States to Bishop Muzorewa. But . . . they too are using the blacks in Zimbabwe as pawns to blackmail the West by trying to make it feel guilty for supporting a “racist” and “undemocratic” regime. One could mention in passing that the rulers of Nigeria and quite a number of other countries in Africa are hardly in a position to give lectures about constitutional democracy.

The real moral of the story, however, is the strangeness of demanding democratic change in Zimbabwe while arrogantly dismissing what the people of that country, black and white, themselves have to say about their own interests. Evidently, the whites in the State Department are more elitist than the whites in Salisbury.

Howard Brotz
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario



Bayard Rustin writes:

I want to thank Senator Schweiker and Anthony P. DiPerna for their comments on my article. I also want to commend Howard Brotz for his analysis of the Zimbabwean situation and for the very relevant parallel he draws between the moral absolutism of William Lloyd Garrison and the practical humanitarianism of Frederick Douglass. I have long felt that the tendency of some white radicals to use blacks as revolutionary proxies must be resisted if democratic reform is to succeed. Regarding Zimbabwe Rhodesia, I think it is necessary to lay aside old prejudices and take a fresh look at the possibilities for a peaceful settlement that offers the prospect of interracial democracy.

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