Yesterday we met Caleb Maupin, who became a Communist as a fifth grader in a small Ohio town and by 2010 was a prominent rabble-rouser in Cleveland and a leading local voice in the Workers World Party (WWP).
But the big city beckoned. A year later, Maupin was living in New York, and still an active WWP member. A July 2011 piece at the website of the International Communist Youth League (Fourth International) mentions Maupin’s attendance at a recent event held by the Spartacus Youth Club at the City College of New York. Maupin, identified in the article as “a writer for WorkersWorld newspaper, the party organ of the reformist, pro-Democratic Party outfit of the same name,” was called upon at the event by Spartacists “to defend his party’s fawning over Obama and support to Democratic city councilman Charles Barron.”
Maupin did so by accusing the Spartacists of seeking “to be an isolated sect,” pure in its ideology but barren in its impact, whereas the WWP, in his view, were out to bring together diverse Leninist forces in an authentically productive class struggle “against a common enemy.” (The conflict, interestingly, is reminiscent of that which raged for many decades between strict Protestant fundamentalists – who out of a sense of theological purity chose to keep their distance from politics – and evangelicals, such as Jerry Falwell, who allied with Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants, and others in the Republican Party in an effect to exert a degree of power in the mainstream culture.)
In New York, Maupin was involved in the 2011 planning of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and was also working, according to his profile at RT – the media empire run by the Putin regime in Russia – as “a youth organizer for the International Action Center.”
Maupin turned up in a 2012 Reuters report about OWS’s first anniversary. It quoted Maupin, described as living in Queens, as follows: “A lot of media is saying that Occupy is dying down, but I think the fact that over 100 people were arrested this morning shows that Occupy is still part of the conversation.” He added: “We’ve been locked out, people my age don’t have much chance of getting a job, so we have to do something to get people’s attention.” A year later, Allison Kilkenny of The Nation took note of the second anniversary of OWS, which by this point was being described in the past tense. Again Maupin made an appearance, with Kilkenny describing him as having been “arrested during a couple Occupy Wall Street protests and participated in the original General Assemblies.”
Yesterday we revisited our old pal Robert Mugabe, the brutal Zimbabwean dictator, and learned about a remarkable accolade, the Confucius Peace Prize, that was founded in China in 2010 as an affronted response to the selection of jailed dissident poet Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize, and that was awarded to Mugabe this October. Earlier, as we noted, it had been presented to that other great man of peace, Vladimir Putin.
And who won it last year? Why, none other than Fidel Castro, that’s who.
The jury’s statement explained that Fidel, as president of Cuba, “never used any violence or force when faced with problems and conflicts in international relations, especially in Cuba’s relationship with the United States.” True, Castro didn’t invade the U.S.; neither, for some unfathomable reason, did any of his equally formidable Caribbean neighbors, such as Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Dominica. It’s not that Fidel couldn’t have conquered the U.S., of course; he was just so busy oppressing his people, executing dissidents, and torturing gay people that he never quite got around to it.
So what about Mugabe? What did the Chinese have to say about their reasons for paying tribute to him? Their citation praised him for “working tirelessly to build the political and economic stability of his country, bringing peace to the people of Zimbabwe, strongly supporting pan-Africanism and African independence, and making unparalleled contributions for the renaissance of African civilisation.” Coincidentally, Mugabe’s victory was announced on the same day that he gave his instantly famous speech at the United Nations in which he ringingly affirmed that he and his Zimbabwean compatriots “are not gays.”
Qiao Wei, identified in the New York Times as “a poet and the president of the judging committee of the peace prize,” told that newspaper that “Mugabe is the founding leader of Zimbabwe and has been trying to stabilize the country’s political and economic order ever since the country was first founded. He brought benefit to the people of Zimbabwe.”
Not everybody in Zimbabwe agreed. In an irate article, Gorden Moyo, secretary general of the People’s Democratic Party of Zimbabwe, said that his party was “disgusted” by the accolade. “Mugabe as we know him…is a war-monger, a bellicosist [sic] and a sadist who delights in the misery of the people,” wrote Moyo, who added that the 1980s, which the committee had described as Mugabe’s best years,
were actually the worst years in the history of Zimbabwe. It was that “lost decade” which saw Mugabe presiding over ethnic cleansing which left over 20 000 innocent lives of Ndebele speaking people-women and children from Matabeleland and Midlands provinces losing their precious lives…..Homesteads were torched down, property destroyed, schools shut, and opposition leaders and supporters hunted down like wild animals by Mugabe’s private army….In fact the rule of Mugabe is paved with blood, violence, arson and cruelty….If the Organisers of the Prize have any iota of moral rectitude,then they should hang their heads in shame for rewarding murderers who masquerade as peace makers.
In short, “the Confucius Peace Prize…is an insult to the people of Zimbabwe.” We agree, of course – though we know Charles Barron doesn’t, and we’re not too sure about Bill de Blasio.
Human Rights Watch has called his record “abysmal.” He kidnaps and beats journalists, steals foreign-aid money, and tortures and kills political opponents. He demonizes gays and whites. But, as we’ve seenpreviously on this website, Robert Mugabe has his share of admirers in the U.S. Current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio took part in a 2002 reception in his honor – this at a time when Mugabe, in one reporter’s words, “was already well into his campaign of terror and murder in Zimbabwe.” So did current New York State Assemblyman Charles Barron, a former Black Panther who actually organized the 2002 Mugabe tribute and who today still views Mugabe as a “shining example of an African leader.”
Now it’s clear that Mugabe has fans on the other side of the globe, too. In October, he was selected as this year’s winner of Confucius Peace Prize, which was cooked up five years ago as China’s answer to the Nobel Peace Prize after that distinction went to dissident writer Liu Xiaobo. The latter is still in prison in his homeland, being punished for the crime writing a pro-freedom manifesto.
Now, no prize is 100% reliable. The Nobel Peace Prize itself is well known for its highly spotty record. In his admirable history of the prizes, Jay Nordlinger notes that Betty Williams, who won in 1976, is no peacenik when it comes to George W. Bush, whom she’s expressed a desire to kill. Laureates Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchú, and Nelson Mandela were all fans of Castro; laureates Emily Greene Balch, Arthur Henderson, Linus Pauling, Séan MacBride, and (again) Mandela all praised the Soviet Union.
But the Confucius Prize, which purportedly exists to “promote world peace from an Eastern perspective,” makes the Norwegian Nobel committee look almost like a pantheon of infallible geniuses.
In 2011, the trophy went to none other than Vladimir Putin. As one observer, an ethnographer, documentary filmmaker, and writer named Jin Ge, noted, this award came along at precisely the moment when massive crowds were gathering in Moscow to protest against Putin. Why was Putin chosen to receive the peace prize? The Chinese explained: they admired his support for Muammar Qaddafi, his criticism of Western intervention in Libya, and his “iron wrist” response to Chechen independence activists.
“You might wonder,” wrote Jin Ge, “how ‘Iron Wrist,’ Putin, Qaddafi, and Peace fit together.” Jin explained: in the view of Communist Chinese officials, “War only happens between countries, violence against your own people does not count. To protect ‘sovereignty,’ killing is justified. Human suffering is a small prize to pay to achieve the goal of harmony, stability and unity.” As for Qaddafi: “Putin, Qaddafi and Confucius are in the same camp because they are perceived as anti-West. Since the West (together with Japan) is conceived as the archenemy of China, anything opposite of what they interpret as Western is good. If the West criticizes Putin and Qaddafi, then these two guys must be good.”
With these kind of criteria, who else has won the Confucius Peace Prize? We’ll get to that on Monday.
Yesterday we noted that the admiration of Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro by his American fans shows no sign of having been dimmed by reports of his apparent descent into madness – and his transformation of his country into what one observer has called “an Orwellian dystopia.” Today we thought it might be appropriate to wonder aloud whether the American aficionados and collaborators of another tyrant, Robert Mugabe, who’s been running Zimbabwe since 1980, have been unsettled at all by his latest moves.
Among Mugabe’s stateside enablers, as we’ve previously seen, is New York hedge-fund king Dan Och, whose shady deals with Mugabe provided the despot (whose profligate government had run out of funds) with enough cash “to buy votes and unleash a campaign of brutal repression in an election in which he [had previously] faced almost certain defeat.” Och, as one account put it, “raised $100M for Mugabe’s weapons and torture-chambers in exchange for a sweetheart deal on the country’s platinum mines.” Och can’t claim he was acting out of ignorance: he knew very well that his payments to Mugabe – which led to investigations by both the Department of Justice and the SEC – would be used to fuel the systematic, savage abuse of Mugabe’s own people.
Then there’s Bill de Blasio, now Mayor of New York, who during his tenure in the City Council took part in a tribute by that body to Mugabe, who gave a speech and was fêted at a cocktail reception. The man who organized that event, as we’ve seen, was former Black Panther Charles Barron, who at the time was a City Council member and is now a state assemblyman.
De Blasio and Barron represent themselves as progressive heroes. What, then, do they have to say about Mugabe’s late September speech to the General Assembly of United Nations, in which he concluded an inane rant condemning international efforts to address his human-rights abuses by insisting: “We are not gays!”
“We are not gays!” The subject of homosexuality has been a longstanding preoccupation of Mugabe’s. Gays in Zimbabwe face fines, prison, beatings by the police, and worse. (“Even Satan wasn’t gay!” Mugabe growled when the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law of the land.)
Of course, Zimbabweans don’t need to be gay to feel deprived of freedom, security, and prosperity: Mugabe’s presidency is, by all reasonable accounts, a “reign of terror,” his government a “murderous kleptocracy,” his nation a land of “bloodthirsty depravity” that is characterized by cartoonish levels of corruption, is patrolled by a thuggish secret police that spreads “dread in the cities,” is guilty of “torture on an industrial scale,” and has undergone a precipitous economic decline that The Economist has described as “the most dramatic peacetime collapse of any country since Weimar Germany.”
The very fact that Mugabe was allowed to speak at the UN was a disgrace. But it’s hardly a first. Officials of international organizations, in the face of demands by human-rights activists and other right-thinking people that Mugabe be banned from international conclaves, have routinely given in to demands by Zimbabwe and its African neighbors that it be included. As Marian Tupy wrote in the Wall Street Journal Europe in 2007, European Union officials – who’d recently fallen for Zimbabwean propaganda depicting Mugabe as a victim of Western propaganda and/or succumbed to African leaders’ boycott threats – were responsible for the ethically challenged decision to welcome Mugabe to an EU summit in Lisbon.
But African leaders, noted Tupy, were also deeply culpable: under Mugabe, Zimbabwe had become a terror state, but many leaders of neighboring countries had responded to the nightmare he was creating for his people by “clos[ing] ranks” around him. The most guilty party of all, in Tupy’s view, was South African President Thabo Mbeki, who, given Zimbabwe’s economic dependence on his nation, was “in a position to force change or end Mr. Mugabe’s reign overnight,” but who’d in fact “done more than any other African leader to help Mr. Mugabe hang onto power.”
Alas, Mbeki’s successor, Jacob Zuma, has proven to be even more supportive of Mugabe, saying earlier this year that economic cooperation between the two countries “has never been stronger.” Peter Godwin, a white Zimbabwean who now lives abroad, explained this seemingly inexplicable state of affairs a couple of years ago: these various African regimes came to power in anti-colonial revolutions, and they’re all still in power, and “it’s not in the interest of any of them to let any of the other ones lose power.” Susan Booysen of the University of the Witwatersrand, commenting in 2008 on Mbeki’s refusal to criticize Mugabe, made essentially the same point: “People expected statesmanship. But at the end of the day, he didn’t have the guts to stand up to a fellow liberation movement leader.”
But why is any Westerner eager to be an apologist for Mugabe? One word: imperialism. Or, if you prefer, colonialism. In the eyes of certain Western leftists, who subscribe to a political philosophy that sees the West (especially America) as invariably evil and racist, and the rest of the world (especially Africa) as its helpless victims, Mugabe, no matter what horrors he may be guilty of, is still a good guy, a casualty, a hero, an innocent.
Such is the case, apparently, with Toronto newspaper columnist Rick Salutin, who, as Jonathan Kay of the National Post noted a few years back, had slammed Prime Minister Stephen Harper for, in Salutin’s words,
piling onto Zimbabwe…for its “fraudulent election” and “illegitimacy.” He showed no sense of perspective: that the U.S. held a fraudulent election in 2000, or illegitimately tortures in Guantanamo, and that his own government continues to permit the Americans to practise on Canadian Omar Khadr.
We’ll close with Kay’s highly apropos comment:
Ah yes – “perspective.” Who among us does not remember those pitiful scenes from the 2000 U. S. election, when Republican storm troopers went door-to-door in Florida’s left-leaning counties, burning alive the children and wives of Democratic activists? Or Al Gore’s pitiful concession speech in which he pled (unsuccessfully) for Dick Cheney to spare the lives of DNC election observers being held at South Beach concentration camps?
Yesterday we flashed back to 2002, when most members of the New York City Council chose to boycott a City Hall speech and reception by the Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe; but Bill de Blasio, now Mayor of New York, didn’t. He stayed. He attended. One assumes he applauded at the end of Mugabe’s speech. Years later, presumably for reasons of political expediency, he – or one of his flunkies – decided that it was a good idea for him to apologize for having shown up to honor the Zimbabwean despot; but it’s not as if de Blasio didn’t know at the time who the man was and what he stood for. (Then again, the mayor deserves full marks for ideological consistency: back in the day, he also supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and honeymooned in Havana.)
How, you might wonder, did Mugabe ever come to be honored at New York’s City Hall in the first place? The answer: Charles Barron, a former Black Panther member who spent twelve years in the City Council, and then, after making unsuccessful runs for mayor, governor, and the U.S. Congress, won the election last year to succeed his wife, Inez, in the New York State Assembly. Barron, described by the New York Observer as “among the most flamboyant and inflammatory figures on the New York political scene,” is notorious for his virulently anti-white and anti-Semitic rhetoric, and has been arrested and jailed several times for acts of harassment, disorderly conduct, and criminal trespass, all carried out in the guise of civil-rights activism. It was Barron who, back in 2002, arranged for Mugabe to be fêted at City Hall.
Does he now have regrets? Far from it. In September, Barron told the Observer that now that he’s living in Albany and serving in the state legislature, he “would love” to host a visit by Mugabe to the state capital. “I would love for him to come anywhere in the United States, really,” Barron added, calling Mugabe a “freedom fighter” and a “shining example of an African leader on the African continent.” Far from being disturbed by Mugabe’s distribution to black Zimbabweans of farmland seized from whites for purely racist reasons, Barron explained that he considered this policy especially admirable. “He was one of the few African leaders who had the courage to take the land back from the settlers,” said Barron, who went on to fault Nelson Mandela for not taking away more property from white South Africans.
Like de Blasio, Barron is consistent. He’s a fan of the Castros, a defender of Hamas; when Qaddafi was alive, Barron admired him, too. “All my heroes were America’s enemies,” he has helpfully explained. Moreover, as Michael Moynihan observed in a 2012 profile, Barron
is obsessively hostile to Israel—a country whose founding he rejects as historical crime. After a 2009 trip to Gaza with British MP George Galloway’s anti-Israel group Viva Palestina, Barron told reporters that the Gaza Strip was a giant “concentration camp.” Considering this description a touch understated, he traded Dachau for Auschwitz, comparing the Palestinian territories to a modern “death camp.” Israel, he added, “deliberately cause[s] the death of innocent children” and is guilty of “genocide.”
Moynihan summed up Barron’s politics as consisting of “a deep illiberalism and contempt for democracy, an almost pathological hatred of Israel and fondness for dictatorship.” Yep, that pretty much says it.