The international imperialist camp, headed by the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom, holds the permanent spectre of war over the heads of the world’s inhabitants. It is, for the most part, capable of maintaining itself through mechanisms of structural and systematic coercion, whereby institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank bind the majority of countries to economic systems and policies which are disproportionately favourable to the already-wealthy imperialist countries, while so-called ‘Third World’ countries which, owing to the abundance of natural resources (such as the Congo, a primary supplier of the valuable resource of Cobalt) are left to stagnate in poverty.
Imperialism, a word once on the tongues of proletarians from the largest cities to the smallest farms and factories, is not a conspiracy of the ‘looney left’. This is not the 1930s, when workers, to varying extent, recognised that their interests and the path to collective improvement was opposed to capitalism, nor the 1960s when, sometimes cautiously, sometimes adopting naïve and ultra-leftist political outlooks, millions mobilised, in their own ways, against imperialism, epitomised by US aggression against Vietnam. To secure oil, rubber, and suppression of the idea that a poverty-stricken people in Southeast Asia could openly defy US interests and voluntarily choose sovereignty and socialism over American capitalism were the aims of the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations, all of which found themselves disgraced when farmers in sandals, shouldering twenty year old rifles and carrying their small pouches of rice with them, left the most formidable military machine in the world running from Saigon with its tail between its legs.
Forty-two years after the end of the War in Vietnam, the resistance of the Vietnamese people and the mobilisation of millions of ordinary folk all over the world against the US presence there still provide a striking example from which revolutionaries, anti-imperialists, and the honest and sincere advocates of liberation from the structural violence and systematised anarchy of international capitalism continue to draw lessons. Opposition to imperialism is an unconditional duty of anyone calling themselves ‘socialist’ or ‘revolutionary’. As Che Guevara said, anti-imperialism “is not a matter of wishing success to the victim of aggression, but of sharing his fate; one must accompany him to death or victory”, because we know that the same imperialism which today bombs the only force standing between the Syrian people and the overt, religious fascism of Daesh, the same imperialism which today crushes the lives out of poor farmers in Indonesia, the same imperialism which today reduces Venezuelans to going without basic necessities and Greeks to scraping a difficult and painful living…this same imperialism reduces social services to decay, piles hundreds of patients in hospital hallways for lack of staff, beds and room on the ward, drives thousands to prison or depression through debt. Though our country has become and remained rich through imperialism, while the nations of the Third World are squeezed, it is the same imperialism which bears down upon the proletarians of Britain, the oppressed nationalities in the United States, and the people of the Third World.
At protests against war, conferences called to oppose budget cuts to important social programmes, and in all the four corners of social media, one can find without too much effort a petty, arrogant, self-absorbed type of individual who prefers to be referred to as “anti-tankies”. The typical anti-tankie is somewhat obnoxious, usually spending more time deriding anti-imperialists’ solidarity with the people of North Korea against the permanent militaristic intimidation imposed by the US (through nuclear blackmail, the occupation of South Korea by tens of thousands of American troops, massive yearly military drills which simulate invasion of the North, etc.), or with our support for the people and the Army of Syria against US-European proxy militias such as the FSA and religious fascists such as Daesh, than denouncing imperialism itself.
The ‘anti-tankie’ enjoys denouncing the alleged ‘crimes’ and ‘human rights abuses’ of countries like North Korea, China, Syria, etc. while remaining mysteriously silent on the crimes of the US. He (and from what I’ve seen they are overwhelmingly male) doesn’t understand that anti-imperialist solidarity, support for the peoples and countries which stand in opposition to the hegemony of the imperialist bloc, does not imply uncritical cheerleading for the political standpoints or governments of such peoples, movements or countries, anymore than the Chinese Communist Party’s agreement to a United Front with the Kuomintang against Japanese aggression implied the Mao was singing the praises of Chiang Kai-shek. Solidarity with the victims of imperialism, with, for example, the people and the government of Syria, is the recognition in terms of practical politics that the contradiction between the Syrian people and the regime which governs them is, under the conditions of an aggressive assault by proxies of the United States and Europe which has seen hundreds of thousands of Syrians killed, subordinated (reduced to a non-antagonistic contradiction) to the antagonistic contradiction between Syria and the fascistic proxies of imperialism. As Lenin emphasised, “to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology”. This is not dogmatism, this is not a suggestion that any criticism of any Marxist political position is bourgeois; it is, on the contrary, a recognition that Marxism is so far beyond the bourgeois ideology and the bourgeois ideological conception of society that the only legitimate criticisms of Marxism originate within Marxism’s own framework. I mention this to paraphrase Lenin and say that to belittle anti-imperialism, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree is, wittingly or unwittingly, to support and strengthen imperialism. This includes, in times when a certain country or a certain people is under attack from imperialism, consciously choosing to emphasise the internal contradictions between the government and the people over the contradiction between the oppressed nation and imperialism. To do so is to strengthen and support imperialism, and to oppose the oppressed, and to oppose socialist revolution.
Revolutionary Defeatism and Pacifism
In addition to systematic economic coercion, structural violence, and military force, imperialism can call upon agencies of ‘soft’ power, often NGOs such as Amnesty International, to reinforce its agenda and discourage opposition. Though formally independent from the institutions of policymaking, such as the State Department in the US, these NGOs spread the ideological outlook of the imperialist bourgeoisie, encouraging people to conceptualise certain phrases in a particular way under the influence of a bourgeois and pro-imperialist worldview. For example, we are not encouraged to view “human rights” as the right to shelter, the right to food, the right to medical care, clothing, education, a liveable wage, and a degree of control over one’s own life and the life of one’s community independent of market and profit imperatives. Instead, “human rights” means the ‘right’ to a British-American style parliament, to a competitive system of multiple political parties created and dominated by the ruling class, out of touch with most of the population and encouraging partisan divides over support for parties while obscuring the economic and social interests of the class as a whole, the right to free speech for racists, homophobes, and others whose worldview depends on the dehumanisation and victimisation of folk for their way of life, etc., etc.
One of the most potent ‘soft’ ideological agencies of imperialism is the nefarious viewpoint of pacifism. Pacifism supposedly discourages violence in all circumstances, insisting that peaceful solutions can always be found. Gandhi, an icon in the West, was a pacifist who advocated unconditional non-violence (and also a racist). In countries such as the UK and the US Gandhi is practically deified, the symbol of the claim that peaceful non-cooperation can defeat empires if used correctly. In India, however, Gandhi is not so revered, and he is actively despised by some, while Bhagat Singh, a Marxist and pro-independence militant who fought violently against the British occupation, is widely revered, his legacy being claimed and exploited even by politicians and political parties who standpoints the man himself would probably have despised. Gandhi, it is reputed by some, may, by his policy of non-violence, have delayed Indian independence by more than a decade.
In the United States, it is Dr King who is held up to the masses as a hero of non-violent change. However, it seems today that Dr King’s more radical statements, such as “my government is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and “capitalism has outlived its usefulness”, are obsessively hushed up, as is the fact that he was most likely assassinated by someone within the very political Establishment with which he often tried desperately to cooperate. It is not unreasonable to argue that the gains made by black people in the United States were granted more out of white fear of the Black Liberation Movement whose figureheads were people like Malcolm X and the Black Panthers than because of the genuine effectiveness of MLK’s non-violence, while even today the non-violent, non-disruptive, largely private protests of Colin Kaepernick have provoked outrage from the white supremacist, chauvinistic liberal establishment.
The lesson ought to be clear: Pacifism is a poison, which keeps crushed, victimised and attacked people unarmed. It is a still-born attempt to fight against an enemy within his rules. Violence, the antagonistic clash of two irreconcilable aspects of the same thing, is an inherent part of change in nature, and society is no different. We must not begrudgingly, reluctantly accept that some force may be necessary to overthrow the violent, rigid, powerful and thoroughly trenched social, economic and political order of capitalist imperialism, but embrace revolutionary, liberating violence, a violence which restores humanity to impotent and pacified masses across the world, as a welcome and useful tool against the structural and reactionary violence of the system.
…The enemy is not ‘crony capitalism’, nor ‘the excesses of neoliberalism’, but capitalist-imperialism, a political, economic, social and cultural order so well entrenched that we cannot escape its influence even in the most private recesses of our thoughts. The way we think, the way we dream, the internalised belief-systems and ideological values which determine our behaviour patterns, are all shaped by imperialism – and that is especially true of people in the UK and countries like it, who live within the imperialist camp itself. For a long time, even after the overthrow of the ruling class, even after the construction of an economy designed to fully satisfy the needs of the whole population and elevate the masses above the animal concerns of food, shelter, and work, the traits of capitalist-imperialism will remain – not only in commodity production, in the necessity of certain forms of hierarchy, but also in our thought and behaviour patterns.
If we are ever to overthrow capitalist-imperialism, if we are ever to rid the planet of the systematically chaotic and anarchic rule of the market and push humanity towards the realisation of its full creative, productive, cultural and innovative potential, we must organise against imperialism, we must do battle with its ideology, with its conceptions and its worldview, and we must organise the masses of its victims against it as it actually manifests to fight against it as it actually is, as it actually exists. Militant solidarity between those trodden into the mud by imperialism, whether in Ferguson, Mexico, Syria or North Korea, seems like a good place to start.