How history informs, frames the Zim meaning of reform


By Dr Tafataona Mahoso

IN the last instalment I alleged that too many Zimbabweans are not clear on the precise meaning of ‘reform’. 

This lack of clarity on reform is the result of lack of ideological clarity.  

One of the results of this lack of ideological clarity is that Zimbabweans for the most part, are failing to distinguish between reform and conformity.  

Those who seek to uphold the global status-quo of the post-Second World War (since 1945) era are rhetorically posing as the true reformers driving change when all their practices are driven by a propensity to uphold the status-quo of the last 75 years.

We can illustrate this fact by just listing current institutions and structures which arose after 1945 and are integral features of the legacy of the so-called Second World War:

  • The promotion and entrenchment of the US dollar as the premier international currency.
  • The conflation of the US dollar payment system with the Society for World-Wide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), whereby SWIFT has become the infrastructure while the US dollar has become the content enabling the US Government to monitor every international transaction and therefore to impose financial sanctions against whoever they choose, including third parties who are not actually the intended target of any of the 8 000 US sanctions in place today.
  • The current global economic aid system and its norms, rules and regulations. 
  • The current international financial and trade institutions (IFIS), including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank Group, the World Trade Organisation and so forth.
  • The global military-industrial complex which became a revolving door between US global multinationals and the Pentagon (US Defence Department) resulting  in the commercialisation (privatisation) of war and militarisation of critical industries.
  • The UN system as we know it today, marked by its failure to point out for instance that the existing 8 000 separate sanctions the US currently enforces against hundreds of nations and other entities are a direct nullification of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Precisely because these institutions, structures, rules, norms and practices date back to 75 years ago, they should be the real targets of honest serious reforms.  

Yet, quite the contrary, these structures and institutions purport to be the drivers of change when it is clear that they are largely dependent on the inertia of US hegemony left over from the results of a world war 75 years ago.


To deepen the readers’ understanding of what gave rise to the now waning status-quo, it may be necessary to outline one of the   processes that gave rise to it, the so-called Marshall Plan of the US to reconstruct  Europe from the ravages of the Hitler wars ( i.e. Second World War). 

The Marshall Plan served a number of important purposes for the post-1945 ‘American century’.

Among the first of these purposes was to retain a North-Atlantic control over Europe’s African and Asian colonies which were in the process of breaking away at a fast pace. 

The colonial economies were needed for the reconstruction of Europe because they served to replace the trade with Eastern Europe which Western Europe had lost at the end of the Hitler wars.

Before the Hitler wars, Eastern Europe had traded its raw materials and foods with Western Europe in exchange for manufactured products and machinery. 

The role of Eastern Europe had to be taken up by Africa and Asia because Eastern Europe was now part of the Soviet bloc.

Africa and Asia had the added advantage that the raw materials and minerals they could provide the US were of great and rare strategic importance.

A second important purpose was that the Marshall Plan provided a mechanism for the devastated European economies to earn easy foreign currency, that is US dollars, from their former colonies, through a triangular trade whereby the US obtained strategic raw materials from the colonies while the US dollars earned by the same colonies accrued to the European powers who used the foreign currency to purchase capital goods and consumer goods from the US.

Britain in fact retained a centralised foreign currency account in London, where critical foreign currency earnings from the colonies accumulated and gave the metropolitan power the high credit rating it needed to ease its post-war reconstruction.

Africa, through its contributions to the Marshall Plan, made it possible for the US to experience a qualitatively superior post-war recovery, far superior to what would have happened without colonial strategic materials and without US dollars earned on behalf of Europe by Asians and Africans. 

Without these, the US post-war recovery would have had to rely mostly on the internal consumption of US domestic consumer goods. (Wood, 1986: 40 – 60).

Equally important was a third purpose of the Marshall Plan: to foreclose peculiar and autonomous nationalist paths to capitalist recovery in Europe in favour of a US-sponsored path of pan-European recovery steeped in anti-socialist and anti-communist ideology and rhetoric.

Directly related to the foreclosure of autonomous nationalist paths to recovery was the development of an anti-communist ideology and it’s blending with development systems, so that development itself within the US sphere of influence was made synonymous with anti-communism and with the suppression of anti-colonial revolutions.

A fifth objective of the Marshall Plan was to extend to the South the same ‘development’ straitjacket of foreclosures imposed on Europe. 

The current global development aid regime is the product of that straitjacket which is overseen by the World Bank and the IMF.  It’s norms, its rules and regulations are the reasons for the apparent symmetry between US and EU responses to Zimbabwe.

A sixth objective was to develop the principles, norms, rules and regulations of ‘development aid’ to be applied universally across the globe. 

This meant between 1987 and 1990 Zimbabwe would be forced to adopt a structural adjustment programme almost identical to those programmes imposed on more than 100 other countries on all continents. 

In turn, structural adjustment created the social, political and economic crisis being used by both the US and EU as a justification for even more intrusive interventions. (Wood 1986: 94 – 137)

In the seventh place, finally, the Marshall Plan aimed to prolong the so-called ‘American century’ after the Hitler wars.

Likewise, the current US-EU focus on Zimbabwe has to do with the desire to prolong the domination of the world by the North Atlantic states. 

Zimbabwe’s quest for a radical reorientation of trade and development is seen as a direct challenge to the old triangular relationship, since that reorientation would introduce China, India, Brazil, Malaysia, Iran and Indonesia against the old triangle of North America, Europe and Africa.

The result is a paradox. 

Those who want to force the world to change are the ones fearing change and resisting regime change. 

The weakness of such a hegemonic system under stress is that its responses are too predictable to be accepted as explained. Declarations purporting to unite the entire white world from Norway to New Zealand on the question of Zimbabwe may succeed in creating the image of pan-European solidarity but they also trigger images of a white  racist axis which is as unthinking as it is prejudiced. 

Worse still, the leaders and representatives of Zimbabwe happen to know that Europe makes monolithic-sounding declarations when in fact it is not really united or monolithic.  

This is the meaning of BREXIT. 

The temporary unification of Portuguese, Afrikaner and English settlers under the guidance of the US in the 1970s finally broke down when the Afrikaners decided that they could prolong the life of apartheid a bit more by abandoning Rhodesian whites and their Internal settlement to the victorious Patriotic Front. 

Likewise, there should come a time when Europe and the US may accept to live with the reality of the African land reclamation movement in Zimbabwe in exchange for retaining some access to strategic materials and to consumer markets in the region against Chinese, Indian, Brazilian and Malaysian competitors.

The current global development aid regime was constituted in the period between the end of the Hitler wars and the defeat of the US in Indochina. 

For this reason, the aid regime contains and is still heavily dependent on assumptions of that period about global imperial power. 

These assumptions became most clear after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, particularly in the North Atlantic states’ obsessive continuation with structural adjustment programmes on a global scale despite the danger warnings from Rwanda, Somalia, Turkey, Argentina, Indonesia, Sierra Leon and Ivory Coast.

A multipolar world was already obvious when the unipolar myth was declared.

Part of the reason is that the principles, the norms and the rules and regulations of the current global development aid regime reflect assumptions about the world which developed between 1945 and 1974, a period when the US believed its power to be without limits. Robert Wood in From Marshall Plan to Debt Crisis cites Joseph Jones of the US State Department 10 years after the Second World War.

“What, indeed, are the limits of United States Power? 

And what are the limits of United States foreign policy? 

The answer is that the limits of our foreign policy are on a distant and receding horizon; for many practical purposes they are what we think we can accomplish and what we think it is necessary to accomplish at any given time.” (Wood 1986: 1).

The crisis facing the powers trying define reform and change in Zimbabwe is therefore the crisis of powers who themselves fear change and are committed to resisting all changes which have upset the post 1945 world order.

Just as the Marshall Plan was based on two prongs, economic assistance and military aid, the global aid regime is still based on the same. 

The highest per capita recipients of US aid are also receivers of massive military aid. 

In fact, the so-called ‘success’ of the Marshall Plan itself happened after the end of the official Marshall Plan and it was based on militarisation. (Wood 19: 60 – 65; Peck 200)

The Marshall Plan and the global development aid regime resulting from it were both political in character, in the sense that they were meant to fore-close nationalist and national development options in conflict with US interests. 

The link between economic development and political development was that nations chose their economic, development paths through politics. 

Political revolutions created the opening for experimentation in economic models.  

Therefore the Marshall Plan and the development aid regime were aimed at foreclosing political revolutions which were seen as likely to lead to autonomous economic developmental options.

In the words of P.W Preston: “Development is a politico-ethical notion and not a technical one. Development is not the simple accretion of some set of artefacts which may be cultural, industrial or social. It is rather the installation of ‘a politico ethical orientation’.” (Preston 1982: 17)

The most important results of the Marshall Plan happened long after the programme of that name. 

In the words of Robert Wood: “There is no radical discontinuity between the Marshall Plan and the later aid programmes focused more exclusively on the Third World. The Marshall Plan not only shaped the international context within which the aid regime subsequently evolved, but it also created a body of operating principles and procedures that remain an integral part of the aid regime (to this day).”

Therefore just obeying the rules and norms of that post-1945 order cannot be deemed as ‘reform’.

An ideological posture based on this reality would lead to the following outcomes:

  • The realisation that engagement and re-engagement are good practices consistent with hunhu/ubuntu. This is because the African dariro as a metaphor for hunhu/ubuntu represents willingness to engage with all corners of the globe. In the dariro we look East, West, North and South at once. We are global.
  • However, ideological awareness is not about the processes or rituals of engagement and re-engagement alone. It is not about just dialogue. It is first and foremost about the content of dialogue, the agenda for re-engagement. In Zimbabwe any political or economic dialogue which denies or suppresses the sanctions issue will be bogus. This is so because there is always real, concrete, common ground inside every genuine African dariro. That ground in the middle stands for the tangible interests of the whole group, the entire nation. The dariro is never empty like an agenda less ‘dialogue’. 

Not usually reported in Zim: The global significance of the anti-sanctions mobilisation

According to Ryan McMaken writing for the Mises Institute, the US is currently attempting to enforce more than 8 000 separate sanctions against hundreds of nations, institutions, banks and individuals.  

This reality makes a mockery of the rhetoric of economic freedom or free trade, so that McMaken’s article is appropriately called. ‘The world looks to abandon the US dollar as US sanctions tighten their grip’. 

Since in the view of many media outlets in Zimbabwe we are all supposedly praying for the seemingly attractive return of the US dollar (re-dollarisation), such media outlets will never allow their readers and viewers to know that such views as McMaken’s article actually constitute the posture of the global majority against US aggression.

The truth, however, is that while the European Union has sanctions against Zimbabwe in sympathy with the US and UK, it is however, fighting US sanctions against European banks and other companies being punished by the US for trading with Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran and Cuba!

In this way, according to McMaken:“Washington is treating the EU as an adversary.  

It is dealing the same way with Mexico, Canada, and with allies in Asia.  

This policy will provoke counter-reactions across the world.”

This is the global frame which the sanctions mongers in Zimbabwe would not want MaDzimbahwe to know.  

The aim of the sanctions mongers is to project ‘reform’ as Zimbabwe’s obedience to North America and Europe and to present the illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe as a sign of total isolation when in fact the fight against US and EU sanctions makes Zimbabwe a true member of the real progressive global community.

How the US system was set up which is now being dismantled:  How Zim can join in the dismantling of the same

  • The global strength of the US dollar was one of the consequences of the Hitler wars in Europe. Because the wars were fought away from US territory, the US benefited immensely from supplying weapons, food and clothing to the western allies fighting Hitler.
  • After the war: “Financial institutions wanted to communicate with other financial institutions so that they could send and receive money. This led them to abandon inefficient institution-to-institution communications and to converge on a common solution: the financial messaging system maintained by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) consortium.”

In addition, the same banks were obviously attracted to the accumulated strength of the US dollar which it had accrued through financing the Second World War. So international banks sought to make their transactions in the same US dollar.

  • In terms of infrastructure, financial flows came to be channelled and concentrated through a restricted number of data cables and switch points which are now referred to as SWIFT.
  • As a result, a double asymmetry merged: the dominant and concentrated use of the US dollar and reliance on a few global networks and connections, yielding power and opportunity to the US to mold and change the global financial infrastructure for surveillance and control. This asymmetry meant that there emerged a symbiotic relationship between the US-dominated financial system and the US intelligence-gathering system.
  • The September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon precipitated a conflict situation over the control and surveillance of financial flows: The US sought to tighten its grip and was in a position to monitor and control that same system to the minutest detail. On the other hand, the global service providers wanted to present a neutral private sector face for the SWIFT system. “Swift officials were concerned that it would 

become widely known that SWIFT was becoming politicized and largely a tool of US Treasury Officials and US allies.” It was also becoming a direct tool of the US intelligence system. Since SWIFT became synonymous with reliance on the US dollars, that US dollar became a direct weapon when SWIFT became a weapon in US hands.

Anyone reading the US Patriot Act of 2002 would notice that US imperial interests were moving fast to formalise their grip on financial, telecom and data flows from the vantage point of entrenching US global domination. 

The same Patriot reader would also come to appreciate why the US has panicked over Huawei’s development of 5G technology and infrastructure ahead of the US.  

In fact this development is the main reason for US sanctions against China.

According to McMaken: “By 2012 for the first time ever, SWIFT unplugged designated Iranian banks from the (global finical) system in accordance with a European directive and under threat of possible US legislation.”

The US was now openly fighting an ideological and political war using supposedly neutral banks, supposedly private telecoms and international data gateways.

What had up to that time been misrepresented as a technically efficient, safe and neutral financial service system was exposed as the latest instrument for threatening the direct imperialist strangulation of adversaries, competitors and even innocent third and fourth parties caught in the cross-fire.

The global fall-out from the rampant resort to sanctions 

  • Here let me repeat that for ideological reasons, most journalists and editors in Zimbabwe have failed to inform their readers that the anti-sanctions fight in consistent with progressive reform and is part of a popular global movement, including the movement to reform the UN system and protect it against US abuses. λ Europe itself has set up an alternative payment system called INSTEX, ‘to facilitate trade with Iran without using the US Dollar and the (US-controlled) SWIFT system built upon it’.
  • In a continental report called, ‘Toward a Stronger International Role for the Euro’, the European Commission called US sanctions against Europe and Iran, “a wake-up call regarding Europe’s economic and monetary sovereignty,” according to McMaken.

Other nations opposed to the way the US is trying to force third parties to participate in criminal sanctions against Iran have been invited to join the European INSTEX system in order to by-pass the US dollar and SWIFT.

  • China has already set up its Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) in order to by-pass the US dollar and its SWIFT system.
  • Russia has also set up its own System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SFPS) in order to by-pass payments in US dollars and to trade without hindrance with partners of its own choice outside the US-controlled and US dollar-based SWIFT. 


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