Did Jeff Flake think Robert Mugabe was a T.S. Eliot fan too?

Charles Johnson uncovers the masters thesis of Sen. Jeff Flake, the main GOP supporter of rapprochement with Cuba. It, uh, doesn’t speak well of his judgment:

The entire premise of Flake’s thesis, “Zimbabwe: Rhetoric vs. Reality,” (below) is that Mugabe really isn’t a Socialist and is “on the side of the West.”

“After a visit to the country with exposure to the amount of private enterprise and limited government interference in the economy, as well as recognizing the viable existence of a second party, one would clearly see that Zimbabwe is more on the side of the West,” Flake wrote.

Flake doubted that Mugabe really was a socialist. “What is the reason for Mugabe’s continuing lip service to socialism? Perhaps Mugabe never believed in following the socialist path at all,” he wrote. “Mugabe may have come to the conclusion that the socialist model of development is bankrupt in the African context.”
Flake continued arguing that “despite the Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, Zimbabwe has not moved towards a high degree of socialism under Mugabe.”

Now, let’s give Sen. Flake the benefit of the doubt; his thesis was exceptionally ill-timed. It was turned in in 1987, the year Zimbabwe’s decline began to accelerate as Mugabe assumed new powers, and major collectivization schemes had yet to take place. But still, we would rightly take a dim view of a masters thesis from 1935 just before the Nuremberg Laws saying Hitler displayed a “gulf between rhetoric and reality” (Flake’s words).

Really wanting socialist revolutionaries to be on your side is different from really wanting national socialists to be on your side. Wyndham Lewis is pretty much forgotten, but in 2008, we see columns in the New York Times about how, despite the lack of evidence, Mugabe was a secret T.S. Eliot fan (h/t Moldbug).

Those parts of the West that didn’t quite support left-wing anti-colonial movements were deeply invested in the notion that the transition to majority rule in Africa would be painless and orderly. The United Church of Christ was firmly in the former camp, however, and had a long history with Mugabe’s regime. That was fine when he was a revolutionary socialist, but less fine when he started oppressing gays. One of the presidents of ZANU, Ndabaningi Sithole, was a UCC minister. He gave an interview in 1995 saying the revolution was kindled by, of all people, Swedes:

Tor Sellström: There was an early involvement by the Nordic countries in the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe. How can you explain that? Did it start with the missions?

Ndabaningi Sithole: Well, to begin with it was an involvement by the missions. Sweden had a very big mission in this country at Mnene. Incidentally, my first child was born at that mission. When the struggle started, somehow the good-hearted people at Mnene sympathized with the African nationalist cause and we were able to send some of our fellows to Sweden. My own son, for instance, got into a family there. They looked after him. My daughter also got there through a Swedish family. But it is not only my family that benefited from being kept by Swedish families during the struggle, but other families as well. They benefited a great deal.

Flake is a Mormon, though, and we usually expect more sober assessments from them.

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