What do anarchists, Maoists and Marxist-Leninists have in common? No, this is not the set-up of a bad joke. What we on the revolutionary left share is the conviction that our aim is the overthrow of capitalism and the State. At least, that is the claim. However, when confronted with actual issues of anti-imperialist praxis, many self-proclaimed revolutionaries seem to turn into average, whining liberals making their excuses for imperialism.
This is best illustrated with an example, and one of the most appropriate contemporary examples is that of North Korea. Every principled communist recognises the necessity of defending North Korea against the intimidation tactics of the US imperialists. This is because, though the world is complicated, communists recognise that US-led imperialism is still the primary enemy of the world’s masses and the principle obstacle to liberation. Communists therefore take it upon themselves to defend North Korea by any means at their disposal, including anti-war campaigns, working to improve cultural ties, and refuting the lies and half-truths spread about the country both by imperialist State media and by the ‘soft’ ideological apparatuses of imperialism such as “pro-democracy” NGOs. This last point is a vital and necessary component in opposing the ideological foundation of the imperialist war-drive.
It seems fairly obvious to a communist that no country can be bombed into freedom, particularly when those bombs are being dropped by the most ravenous and aggressive military in modern history. Whatever problems the Korean people have, those problems are for the Korean people alone to deal with, while we in the West must expend our efforts in opposing interventionism and aggression against any country, no matter which, no matter under which circumstances. As Lenin wrote over a century ago, “if tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, India on England, Persia or China on Russia, and so forth [i.e. an oppressed, poor country against an oppressing, rich country – RC], those would be “just”, “defensive” wars, irrespective of who attacked first; and every Socialist would sympathise with the victory of the oppressed, dependent, unequal states against the oppressing, slaveowning, predatory “great” powers”. It was true then, and it is true now. However, mention North Korea to an anarchist, or a (supposedly anti-war) liberal, and all international context, all talk of imperialism and solidarity, all revolutionary comprehension is flung out, tossed aside, and our anarchist and our liberal starts spouting the same nonsense about the governments and regimes of the victimised countries as the imperialists. Intentionally or unintentionally, by choosing to emphasise the negative in the countries victimised, intimidated and attacked by imperialism rather than the conflict, the contradiction between these countries and imperialism, these so-called ‘revolutionaries’ become mouthpieces for the imperialist bourgeoisie little different from the warmongers on Fox News.
That the countries which are victimised by imperialism are not paradises, that many of them are governed by regimes which rule contrary to the interests of the popular masses, even that some of them have been terroristic bourgeois dictatorships, is not the point. The point is that no matter how anti-people a country’s government may be, the intervention of imperialism invariably worsens the situation. Not once in history has imperialist aggression or occupation improved a situation, in any country – on the contrary, imperialism multiplies the sufferings of the masses, manipulating politics, culture, economics and social organisation to its own ends with extensive and perpetual terror, whether physical or structural. No-one can claim, for example, that Saddam Hussein’s regime was popular, revolutionary, or that it stood on the side of the mass of Iraqi proletarians and peasants. Nevertheless, every left-winger worth his salt opposed the US-British invasion of Iraq and were right to do so, seeing that a puppet regime was subsequently installed and a murderous chaos swept over the country.
Neither North Korea, nor Syria, nor any other country subjected to the intimidation, blackmail, and aggression of imperialism is too much different: no matter what our opinion of their governments or political systems, it is the duty of revolutionaries to oppose the agendas of ‘their own’ ruling classes, to stand against the war-drive unconditionally and in all circumstances, and to stand in solidarity of the victims of imperialism. Whatever other problems the people of the world have, whatever internal issues they face, those issues and problems are theirs to handle, not ours; as citizens of the imperialist metropolises and revolutionaries at one and the same time, our policy, our duty, is not to spout “look how totalitarian North Korea is”, it is not to promote the spreading of bourgeois democracy into Syria or Iran. Positions like these disqualify anyone who holds them, whether ‘anarchist’, ‘communist’ or whoever else from the right to call themselves ‘revolutionary’ or ‘anti-imperialist’, because they are identical with the positions, standpoints, and agendas of imperialism. Our policy, our duty as revolutionaries is to stand against the imperialist bourgeoisie of our own countries, to work for the defeat of their class interests and their policies of aggression. As Lenin said, “during a reactionary war a revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its own government”. This standpoint is true not only in times of war, but at all times: a revolutionary class cannot but desire the frustration of the reactionary, imperialist State’s aims, the weakening of its structures and the failure of its reactionary policies.