…how brutal Empire is…
They call it “conspiracy theory” as an excuse not to listen to what the people are trying to tell them.
We draw closer to another imperialist war and as the global economy creaks beneath our feet, red-baiting is again back in fashion.
We are to believe there is no choice between ISIS and Obama. There is no choice between abject poverty and crushing student loans. No choice between the burka and the bikini. In a culture where choice is worshipped as part of holy agency, holy self-value and atomization, the choices presented to us are rather bare bones – we will have neoliberalism or we will have death. “There is no alternative.” And don’t speak, don’t even think, about seizing the means of production.
In the clip above, released by the US State Department, we have a strange comparison. On the left, we have communism, and on the right, ISIS. The title is “Destruction of Holy Sites”.
At first blush, this might seem rather nonsensical. The two historical and geographic contexts presented to us in the video are completely different. Did the United States and its allies fund communism, for one? But then to examine the context of the propaganda: does communism have a strong history or a foothold in the Arab world? Well, the answer here is yes. Red groups and red money has shaped much of the policies of the region. Today, red groups are making some of the strongest gains against the rag-tag lot of foreign takfiris styling themselves after the sahaba who also call themselves Dawlat Islameeya, the Islamic State. These revolutionaries don’t accept the idea that the barbarity seen mounted on the spikes of the Raqqa’s city centre is homegrown, a natural conclusion to the horrific chapter of American occupation. They don’t accept the idea that this is a tribal spat, an ethnic power struggle. No, they see it as part of class war, as foreign imperialism making a play.
And so a false equivalency is generated to guide those who would otherwise gravitate towards pointing the finger (rightly) at American and Zionist designs on the region, away from a politics of liberation and towards capitalist enclosure.
I’m a red. The people dearest to me in this life are reds. I have immense respect for Mao Tse-Tung, who liberated the Chinese people not only from imperialism, but also from poverty. Maoism inspired millions of people worldwide to struggle towards their own liberation. And I don’t recall Maoists in China kidnapping women and putting heads on spikes, but perhaps this is a part of the story Maz might not want to discuss. Regardless, back to the context – really? Are reds in a position of power as ISIS is? Can we fairly compare the two? Or is this is a smear against reds in the same tradition as the US State Department video mentioned earlier.
Likewise in Ferguson, Missouri, where we again find the horrified whisper regarding “outside agitators”, a civil rights-era slur against those who struggled for the liberation of oppressed nations in the United States. Now, to be fair and give credit where credit is due, the civil rights movement was certainly supported by communists in the United States and abroad. More importantly, it would be a tragedy and crime to erase incredible leaders such as A. Philip Randolph, Paul Robeson, Bayard Rustin, Angela Davis and most of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense – all reds. But where are they now? Is the RCP secretly getting paid by a Soviet Union that no longer exists? Back to the context! While this smear of “outside agitators” was used against the civil rights movements as a dog whistle for communists, and as it is used today for reds and anarchists, it’s also an exercise in mystification, in red-baiting and in smearing the ideology of socialism as something ‘foreign’ to the people.
Stalinist (or Baathist) is just another term used to defame reds – mainly those who are against imperialist war in Syria. Even as Libya writhes in agony after a NATO war that left the African country with the highest HDI and best public infrastructure in smoldering ruin, to suggest you are against such further aggression will earn you the title of ‘Stalinist.’ And again, to give credit where credit is due, the USSR under Stalin did annihilate the Nazis and liberate most of Europe. But to be called a Stalinist (or even Baathist) by someone who is most certainly not a red is to be smeared, and is unambiguously used to discipline other reds and pinks to shy away from speaking out against NATO intervention in Syria for fear of being a secret Stalinist, whatever that word even means outside Cold War hysterics.
All of these things aside, why now? Why the recent spike in red-baiting? From Arabic-language State Department videos comparing ISIS to communists to VICE “journalists” denouncing Stalin like they’re lifelong members of the fourth international, there seems to be a resurgence on the periphery of some sort of – and I can only call it preventative – red scare. The language of being a red is gone – now you are either a radical or a barbaric Stalinist. Radicals can shill for bombing Libya, radicals can produce ‘ironic’ racist burlesque minstrel shows, radicals represent the underclass and everyone who disagrees with them are now comparable to mercenaries who crucify people (including reds) in public squares in Syria.
So what danger on the horizon, then, from reds?
The disciplining is remarkable – Steve Salaita is fired from a tenured position over his views on Gaza, and an unknown but certainly existing number of academics switch off their profiles, put everything to private. Reds are doxed – their address, their phone numbers, their emails, their boss’s info are posted to the internet along with their designation as DANGEROUS COMMUNISTS and they suddenly disappear. Public campaigns from neocons against leftist magazines that publish anti-imperialist articles. Visits from FBI agents with dossiers triggered by what exactly – maybe it was a tweet? Julian Assange locked in the Ecuadorian Embassy for how many years now? Chelsea Manning in solitary confinement. No wonder people go under pseudonyms – the environment is once again getting dangerous for those who don’t think imperialism or capitalism is such a hot idea.
Consider that much of this red-baiting is in response to a growing, powerful war hysteria. It’s undeniable – a comrade of mine in the states observed it’s worse than the rhetoric in 2002. Ukraine must be protected from Putin’s hordes, Syria must be protected from tyrant Assad, and Iraq must be protected from themselves and their barbarian savages. The drums are beating louder and louder, while the working class of the world stands war weary and exploited to the extreme. The most powerful challenge to capitalism in the history of the world emerged out of the first World War. Impoverished millions sent to die on the front line, and while it may not be our boys off to fight in the trenches this time, a world war that echoes the motivations and methods of 1914 will cause damage and pain such as we’ve never seen. In a global economy where billions are underserved, unemployed or barely working, this war can only be won under a red banner. Indeed, now more than ever, the spectre of working class revolution strikes terror into the hearts of the barricaded ruling class. This is why they persist in their handwringing about Stalinists and Maoists – because the moment of truth is approaching once again, and both Stalin and Mao have never been friends of global capitalist hegemony. A revolution that seizes the means of production is not something that is built overnight, as history teaches us, but we need to start on the foundations of such a project as soon as possible. Their anxiety is a cue for us to intensify in our efforts.
This is why they are resurrecting red-baiting, why they are looking nervously over their shoulders for the communist menace to arise. This is why it’s worth it for them to try and entrap the youth on a micro-level, atomize us further, discombobulate our senses and teach us not to trust what is real and what we know to be true in a material sense. Capitalism has produced its own grave diggers, and they are handed a shovel while being told to go support yet another imperialist war.
I didn’t want to watch another video of someone getting their head cut off. I was barely seventeen when video of WSJ journalist Daniel Pearl’s beheading was uploaded on the internet. The brutality of the Syrian Civil War, the children dead in pieces in Gaza, all of the other images of ISIS uploaded on to the internet were too much blood for me. And the fact that the video of James Foley kneeling in the hot sun next to a menacing, knife-wielding man was immediately yanked off of the internet meant for sure this video was more brutal than all the rest. Considering the sheer volume of grotesque imagery available on Youtube and Twitter, that which we cannot see must be more truly horrible. I asked a comrade if he saw the video, and he told me no, because that sort of thing wasn’t good for the mind. Everyone else said the same thing. And I had no desire to watch it. I could let others tell me about it.
But here’s my comrade telling me to watch it, go ahead and watch it. He sends me a live leak video. I watch it, and if James Foley really is dead, there is no conclusive evidence here – there is barely any gore, in fact no active representation of fatal violence (not counting Obama’s speech at the beginning). The only blood in the video is in the still image of a decapitated body whose face is covered in blood. And there is no way to say that it’s James Foley. As the shrouded menace grabs James Foley by the chin and begins to saw away at his neck, the movement is exaggerated and there is no blood. Fade to black. Fade up on the photo of a body that may be Foley’s. Fin.
Journalists now are either saying they have not seen the video or they are saying that the video clearly shows the beheading of James Foley.
A gigantic video screen in downtown Beijing is showing gruesome footage of the beheading of American journalist James Foley by Muslim extremists and images of racially charged riots in the Missouri town of Ferguson. – “In busy Beijing, graphic video of James Foley’s beheading is shown over and over on a giant screen” (NY Daily News)
…In the video Foley delivers a statement calling on his friends and family to “rise up against my real killers, the U.S. government.”
Then the ISIL member makes a statement. Speaking in what may possibly be a British accent, he identifies Foley and says his death is a direct result of American intervention in Iraq.
“So any attempt by you Obama, to deny the Muslims of living in safety under Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.”
He then beheads Foley. –“Video shows ISIL beheading of photojournalist James Foley” (Politico)
In the video posted Tuesday on YouTube, Foley is seen kneeling next to a man dressed in black. Foley reads a message, presumably scripted by his captors, that his “real killer” is America.
“I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope for freedom to see my family once again,” he can be heard saying in the video.
He is then shown being beheaded. –“Video shows ISIS beheading U.S. journalist James Foley” (CNN)
There is even an article in the BBC titled “Experts warn of trauma after watching Foley death video” – because while the footage of children hoisting decapitated heads high in Raqaa and stills from mass executions are brutal, sure, for some reason they don’t really compare to the trauma and brutality of watching a white American man allegedly begin to be murdered.
I don’t really know what has happened to James Foley, but the question of why we should pretend this video shows something that it does not deserves to be answered. Why the swift media blackout of the footage? Why the possible play-acting? Why the fake knife?
Maybe this all boils down to facts, and the refusal to share them with us, the refusal to follow-up on sources. Why was the media telling us that he was being held by the Syrian government until this video was released?
Why are they still saying that? Why is this man’s disappearance and alleged murder a casus belli that we are not allowed to review, one that journalists are steadfastly refusing to investigate?
And of course, we should ask the producer of this video – allegedly an ISIS guy – why bother to put something up that looked so weird, possibly fake? The organizing strategy of ISIS is clearly one of terror and nightmarish presentations of gore. Why did they leave it out for the Americans?
And now I really have to ask – how many fingers am I holding up? Do you see three? You’re wrong, it’s four. Try harder.
You may learn in time that “activism” and militancy is the highest stage of alienation.
Do you really think it matters whether you “oppose” imperialism or not. Your yelling and “loud” opposition is utterly ineffectual and impotent.
She’s a bit too “enthusiastic“. I think she’s slightly over-estimating her self-importance and that of those she associates with.
What is a troll? Accused of anonymity and distasteful disagreement, a troll is a nobody. Nobodies inhabit the earth in billions, just numbers on a census, silenced from debate and discourse. A troll is a nobody who goes against what good nobodies are supposed to be doing: acquiescing, marching behind somebodies, those unique souls imbued with a sense of authority by the powers that be. This class of somebodies include tenured professors, experts, pundits, image-conscious journalists, celebrities and politicians.
I laughed when Professor Rechtenwald left the above paternalist comments on my recent essay on the urgent necessity of anti-imperialism. I currently pay for a shared studio with vermin on a street where people are murdered, I make $15 an hour as a temp in New York; no one has to tell me I’m alienated. I do not disagree that militancy and activism are results of alienation. Word on the street is that this is how revolutionaries live: cut off from all sorts of things, certainly from the teat of NYU positions. But his comments got me thinking about unimportant nobodies versus very important somebodies, and I’d like to make some comments about nobody politics.
As much as anyone wants to beat up on Stalin and Mao for “cults of personality”, we have a strange blind spot towards our utterly bizarre celebrity culture.
Celebrity is a gorgeous date for neoliberalism. The cult of the individual manifests itself as worshiping the individual traits of those we have never met or spoken with. We need to see cellulite, we need to read interviews, we need to breathlessly pour over family photos of intimate gatherings on their timelines. This cult of celebrity is encouraged by and exists for the purposes of capitalism. Celebrities mean celebrity endorsements, of course, but they also foster a sense of individual worship. The difference between Stalin and an American celebrity is that Stalin was seen as the embodiment of the Soviet Union and its values, while we love our celebrity because of her individual qualities, namely her saucy attitude, sizzling hot fashion sense, and her performances for us – be they on stage or on Instagram. Stalin never posed for centerfolds, he never gave out fashion tips or spoke about his family and personal relationships at length. He was a portrait, a ghost of an actual individual, an iconic face that meant nothing to most of us on an individual scale.
For sure, our present ruler in the United States indulges in this celebrity, playing to memes or appearing on ironic hipster webisodes. But mainly, we eat up our information from the New York Times op-ed pages. We are told how to think about things by columnists that indoctrinate us with capitalism’s smokescreens and lies, revealing just as much about themselves in the process. These are important people. This pundit class that gets asked to speak and sign autographs are very important people. Their opinions are considered authoritative and valid. They must be smarter, more hardworking than all of us. They must have access to different, better information. After all, they are there for a reason, no?
Much of the authority bestowed on us by capitalism correlates to our socio-economic status and relationship to the means of production. Law makers, politicians, professors, millionaires – by and large these actors come from a certain class, and are generally white and male. What then, of the other voices we see represented – who are they meant to appeal to? Like the indigene begging for NATO intervention, feminists incessantly speaking about sex work, the person of color arguing that we are in a post-racial society: celebrity pundits must also appeal to power.
I wrote on this about a year back. I wrote about American radicalism and the sacrifices that had to be offered to count yourself among the likes of Assata Shakur, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, John Brown, Bill Haywood, and others. I wrote that the person embraced and encouraged along by the imperialist machine would be suspect, because being an actual radical can be fatal. There are dead workers buried all over this country from crushed strikes that are testimony, among others in unmarked graves. But now there are radicals who promote Pussy Riot, who cheer on the bombing of Libya, who hustle hard for imperialism, who endorse products. Radicals who make lots of money on the stock market and buy brownstones (oh, maybe they give some of their money away, but probably not to the Naxalites). These people also happen to be Somebodies. They are pulled in towards the heart of Empire and so are rewarded not just with wealth and power, but also a platform to speak from. This is somebody politics.
But let’s talk about nobody politics. On the other end of the spectrum, we have those who are hungry, those who are poor and frustrated. These are nobodies. These are the alienated. They are the ones who die under NATO bombs. They are the ones vaccinated without giving informed consent, their signatures forged. These are the youth, the people of color, the poor. They are nobodies. Their voices are seen as insignificant. Their opposition to imperialism and capitalism is, as Professor Rechtenwald tells me, meaningless, utterly ineffectual and impotent. The militant activists are alienated, not important. Nobody politics are for nobodies. Somebody politics are for somebodies. So, if you’re a nobody, why not try shilling somebody politics for a change? It may even result in a respite from the alienation, may help one bootstrap their way into a book deal or high-paying job.
Or not. As the numbers tell us, opportunity for youth, people of color, and other oppressed communities is nonexistent compared to the exciting lives of our favorite celebrities. They jet around the world on company money, endorse products for easy cash, and spend an awful lot of time reinforcing to us how empire is blameless and there’s really no other way that things could be. You get the freelance journalists hustling for a staff position. You get the academics hustling for a book deal. You get a lot of hustle from lawmakers, artists – in fact let’s just call then “somebodies” – for just straight-up payoffs and bribes.
Meanwhile, the nobodies hustle for rent, debt, and hospital bills. In fact, the more of a nobody they are, the more they owe, the more they “hustle”. The nobodies hate capitalism. The nobodies hate imperialism. The nobodies hate racism, the nobodies hate sexism. The nobodies hate poverty. They hate hustling. Nobodies want free housing, education, healthcare, food and guaranteed employment. They hide their faces or don’t speak up because they know what they want goes against what those in power want for them. If they are too loud with their discontent, there is a crackdown, minute pressure points in society the people in power can press, releasing spurts of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and mass incarceration. The somebodies know how to shut nobodies like me up – that’s how they stay in power.
So I laughed when Professor Rechtenwald tried to do me a favor and remind me how unimportant I am. Yes, professor: I have bed bugs, rats, a low-paying temp job, tens of thousands in debt, and unstable access to healthcare. Everything in my life serves to remind me of my unimportance, my alienation. I get it. I’m a nobody. And I live on a street in a neighborhood full of nobodies. A city and country, a world full of nobodies. I write under a pseudonym and I hide my face, among other reasons, because there really is nothing so special about me. I’m not important. Not much unique. I’m just one of many gunning for your class, gender, sexual, and racial privilege with my politics, which I have decided to speak up about. I’m not a celebrity, not quirky and sexy and talented and nodding along with empire, I’m a nobody. Now, move along. We’re talking nobody politics with other nobodies.
Many of the youth coming into the anti-imperialist movement today seem genuinely confused about what imperialism is – what it smells like. Off the top of my head, I can think of two reasons why this is. First, popular cultural American portrayals of imperialism focus mainly on nostalgic representations of Victorian society. As the United States is engaged at the height of its imperialism, this does not surprise me. While the empire’s enslaved may be mostly absent from films like Sherlock Holmes, there is a common cultural nostalgia for the fashion and manner of being of the Victorian era. This corresponds with the presentation of imperialism in most American history textbooks, such as when children are taught about the British Empire. Americans struggle to connect their present day culture with that of one hundreds of years ago elsewhere in the world. This makes imperialism, like fascism, something that happened in the past that is no longer with us, though still something we are culturally inundated with through Victorian nostalgia.
I believe the second main reason for the misunderstanding of imperialism is an association between anti-imperialism and broader anti-war activism. Anti-war positions and anti-imperialism, while sometimes coexisting in each other’s spaces, are not equivalent. To many in the anti-war camp, so long as there are no American boots on the ground, no official “war” so to speak, there is no need to fret. So long as the people in mysterious places abroad are accepting the tremendous amount of American aid money with smiles and open hands, we should not see imperialism here. We should instead see the Millennium Development Goals. Only when the fever pitch of war is at its height and the need to win over the American population the most essential do we see women blowing kisses at US soldiers on their way to Baghdad – clear propaganda. Otherwise, the smiles come from women showing off their ink-stained fingers after voting in an election made possible by US-NATO intervention – propaganda largely unchallenged. Because there is a near-complete absence in the discourse on what imperialism actually is, there is much confusion. Clarification is needed.
It is in this light that I would like to respectfully respond to Matthijs Krul’s article on imperialism and anti-imperialism.
I hope that many of my comrade scholars and organizers can agree that foreign aid money, not limited to the NED and other so-called ‘democracy-building‘ organizations, represents a rather naked form of imperialism. In fact, there is already a discipline to study this type of phenomenon: it is called development. Anyone still paying attention knows that the planet is currently facing a number of challenges, from climate change to human safety. From hunger to diseases and illiteracy. The core issue, however, is one of poverty. Any number of development economists, such as Harvard professor and millionaire Amartya Sen, write extensively on this topic. The focus of all development work is basically the same: how to fix the problems that imperialism has wrought upon the world? But instead of attacking imperialism as the main perpetrator of the above conditions, the development economist hopes to find a way that will solve these problems while keeping capitalism intact. This may be out of an ideological commitment to capitalism, but is just as likely adopted because of the desire to give their plans ‘teeth‘. Without the financial and logistical backing of the Pentagon and the US-NATO capitalist class, such development might never take place. Alternative modes of development that find success just as often find themselves staring down the barrel of a gun, as the powers that be and their relentless appetite for markets decide to drop bombs when their aid packages and foreign direct investment are not accepted.
This is why anti-imperialism is not simply about drones and boots on the ground, but also about the incredible lengths the class protected by US-NATO goes to shape the conditions in which decisions about governance are made. A country such as Iran may be relatively untouched by imperialism in a direct way, as far as shock-and-awe or billion-dollar investments are concerned, but the active proliferation of these mechanisms on their border affect their decision-making. They have agency, certainly, as does technically everyone on earth, but this agency is informed by the surrounding environment. One may have the choice between a noose or pills with which to kill oneself, but one hardly chooses the chronic unemployment, crushing debt, poverty, desperation and loneliness mediated by ubiquitous capitalist atomization.
So, the activist’s new rallying cry is “Hands off!” because imperialism isn’t just about bombs and guns, but hands that go into people’s pockets and livelihoods, into their voting booths, hands that seize their hopes for the future. Madeline Albright and others from the US-NATO’s pack of imperialist running dogs attended to the recent elections in Ukraine. She and other international observers assured us that the election was legitimate. Aside from the fact that the US-backed junta banned communist parties (as they have in Palestine and countless other places), we should also consider that gangs of armed fascists that were funded by American money and manned by US-NATO mercenaries terrorized the Ukrainian people. This included not just communists, but a broad coalition of people who were against a legislative agenda that called itself a “Kamikaze government” due to the ‘unpopular decisions that needed to be made’ for the sake of austerity. In Syria, the United States government calls the upcoming elections prematurely invalid because of the “conditions” within which such elections would take place, and while the US government called the elections in Crimea prematurely invalid because of alleged Russian interference, there was no outcry or allegations of a prematurely invalid election when Madeline Albright was the one confirming the veracity of the polling sites in Ukraine. This is precisely because the conditions under which the election takes place were already heavily influenced and endorsed by the United States. It’s impossible to say that elections in Syria will not be affected by the Americans. But the fact that the sitting Syrian government is on the ballot is precisely the reason why the United States calls it illegitimate. When the election was between alleged “warlords” in Libya, the United States did not object because it had already removed the most direct threat to its influence. After the new government, set up by the rebel groups funded and armed by the CIA, disappointed, Washington sent tanks rolling again to Benghazi, this time led by their own man from Langley. Imperialism is what sets the conditions for agency.
The fact that the United States and Russia are armed with enough nuclear weapons to destroy civilization many times over, the fact that we are facing a global catastrophe of epic proportions as the climate is radically transformed, these are all conditions that are both caused by capitalism and, at the same time, required by capitalism to subjugate the people of the earth. The main problem (contradiction) is that the constant immiseration of imperialism leads to eruptive civil unrest. This encourages another facet, what we call development, which is focused on delivering heaping spoonfuls of aid to the people who face their misery due to the present system. And yet, the people can’t get aid without first subjugating themselves to imperialism on a legislative and economic level. Each spoonful of aid comes with a truck full of this kind of poisonous influence. Each spoonful gives way to a feeding tube.
Now on to Matthijs Krul’s criticisms. He presents what me and many of my comrades see as a straw man of anti-imperialism. When the protesters shout “No Blood for Oil!” they are not speaking simply as if the United States is going to gobble up all the oil in Iraq. “No Blood for Oil” signifies something more important. As Harvey writes: control of the world’s oil supply and prices is what really matters. With a jackboot on the spigot, the United States-NATO suddenly commands not just the military capabilities of countries that do not have the same bottomless checkbook as the US-NATO, but also the rate of development for many countries. In this light, it is quite legitimate to use this slogan. And if the average protester does not understand wholly the conditions of the world petroleum market, how it works, they are still taking a correct stance against US Imperialism; that is: to condemn it.
There are those who are against certain US-NATO conflicts or intervention, but not all. This is a problem of educating people about imperialism. It warmed my heart to have attended recent meetings and marches in New York against US imperialism, where slogans were chanted in solidarity with several different fronts, not just one in particular. This is because anti-imperialism is not about weighing certain situations against others. It is a broad line. Demanding that people have room to organize without the oppressive conditions US-NATO puts down is the first, important step.
Anti-imperialists based in the United States should not be taking equal time to condemn countries facing the brunt of US-NATO military and economic power. Certainly, there are things to criticize about foreign governments, even things to criticize about all governments as they are currently structured. But behind each government that is allowed to exist on this planet is the background of the world imperialist system. Therefore these issues, such as the continued gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia for instance, are implicitly supported as a way to keep the situation conducive. The United States does not presently take decisive action in a number of fronts not because it doesn’t have the passive consent of the American population, but rather because it is taking different means to an end, using tactics that are more effective, clandestine and (most of all) profitable. When US-NATO takes action in a theater of war or strife in a decisive way, it’s because it is something worth investing in.
Before we proceed: we simply cannot equivocate this stage of US-NATO imperialism to those before the collapse of the Soviet Union. We should look at the present stage objectively. In this stage of imperialism, there is no threat that significantly checks imperialism such as the Soviet Union. The last minor remaining threats to complete US-NATO domination are currently being brought to heel. That which remains of the Soviet Union are hardly ideal models for governance, but US-NATO imperialism has helped decisively shape those very models. Whatever remains of elevated working conditions and a basic standard of living must be eradicated. Imperialism would rather eliminate any traces of a dictatorship of the proletariat. This is why countries such as North Korea, which experience frequent brown and blackouts, are portrayed as existential threats to US-NATO in films such as the Red Dawn remake, or in alarmist propaganda in the news media. These countries may not be much compared to the great power of the US-NATO armies, but they might be able to spur something of a larger challenge, and imperialism cannot abide it.
To call out Marxist-Leninists in the same language imperialist running dog Thomas Friedman assigns to Arabs – “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” – is a straw man. Marxist-Leninist anti-imperialist groups are clear that one should provide moral support to regimes facing the onslaught of US imperialism, but they are hardly ignorant, brainwashed, or naive.
To Marxist-Leninist anti-imperialists, the main condition that prevents the rising of the working class is the violent exploitation, terror, and flat-out murder of working people worldwide. Imperialism first and foremost seeks to strangle these sorts of uprisings in their cradle. As Lenin writes in To The Rural Poor, the people need space to organize in order to make socialism possible. And as we can see by the conditions worldwide, historically and in the present era, US-NATO influence precludes that space. Whether it is bombing infrastructure, training intelligence services and officer corps, or hand-picking cabinet members, the space for people to think, dream and plan a dictatorship of the proletariat are strangled by imperialism.
This is not an issue we can safely situate in countries halfway across the world – the United States itself is filled with oppressed nations living under the yoke of imperialism, and we have seen their constant oppression, especially with regards to working class or anti-imperialist movements. Untold millions of undocumented workers provide a source for murderous exploitation while African Americans, dragged from the African continent in chains and enslaved for nearly half a millennia, are routinely imprisoned, impoverished, and murdered with impunity.
We must, as Lenin says, fight to achieve this space for organization. We cannot equivocate the governments of US-NATO with those on the periphery. One bloc is focused on a global campaign of domination and subjugation and is armed to the teeth. The others are its shopping list: Syria, Venezuela, Russia, Honduras, North Korea, Ecuador, Ukraine. We really cannot scientifically equivocate here, and we shouldn’t be wasting time contorting ourselves in all sorts of bizarre positions to try and do so. The equation is simple, far from the “realist” view of international relations that anti-imperialists are accused of. No Blood for Oil! Hands off!
The goal for Americans should be to try to hobble the greatest threat to building a better world. This means being loud and unequivocal about our dissent. There will always be those cheerleaders for capital that dredge up dirty laundry and horror stories for the nightly news from fronts across the world, reasons why we should only be passive against imperialism. Anti-imperialism can’t earn the trust of oppressed peoples worldwide by speaking out against imperialism while parroting the talking points of the imperialists. As Audre Lorde said, we cannot destroy the master’s house using the master’s tools. They are tainted, exist only to serve the master.
The “Made in USA” brand earns distrust and resentment worldwide, it’s time we started to speak out against it, trash it. Those who count themselves as revolutionary anti-imperialists know that history text books are falsified, and they know that Victorian nostalgia is window dressing for deplorable crimes. What is needed is a program and organizational strategy towards mass education, an education that connects the plight of the worker here to the plight of the worker in sweatshops abroad, to those workers under fire by US-NATO weapons, those workers who struggle under US-NATO influence. We must have uncompromising solidarity with those people fighting against US-NATO domination or aggression and must insist that at this time, a country founded on dispossession, genocide, slavery, operating on the threat of nuclear weapons and the eradication of people’s movements worldwide has no place to determine the legitimacy of elections, much less determine the ‘superior’ system of government or economies.
This does not mean you need to support the atrocities of these besieged places, the mistakes they make, or the tragedies they oversee. There is a way to denounce and disassociate oneself without doing a favor for imperialism. But it is not alright to be on the side of the imperialists, and that means calling out propaganda for what it is. I’d never heard a supposed communist, even a concerned “leftist” call out the imperialist crimes of Muammar Ghadaffi before Libya was squarely in the imminent sights of US-NATO bombs. When anti-imperialists call out US-NATO support for the tyrannical governments of the Gulf States, they should do so only to expose the fact that US-NATO dictates the conditions in which such tyrannical governments exist – not to point out our alleged “hypocrisy” (Really, there is none!) towards human rights issues. Human rights are the wedge used by imperialism to pry open stubborn mouths to those feeding tubes of aid, arms and influence. If the good of humanity was truly US-NATO’s concern, we should find this current system of world domination immediately dismantled to allow socialism to be built. This is what we must be calling for as anti-imperialists. We do not shout for the end of imperialism and with the same breath embrace its inevitability. We do not shout to end imperialism because we want things to remain the same. We do not accept the conditions built around us. Ending imperialism will bring an opportunity to break this path towards ruination and immiseration, which US-NATO is invested in blazing at all costs.