Sunday, November 06, 2011

Imperialism sure is complicated!

“Imperialism” is a slippery word as all states seek to channel as much of world profits their way as they can. It is just that some states are stronger – some, much, much stronger – than others and so are better at doing this. In which case “imperialist” would just be another way of describing the successful states. But this does not mean that currently weaker states are not striving to do the same. Imperialism is not something separate from capitalism. All capitalist countries, not just those normally labelled “imperialist”, are prepared to use force to further the vital economic interests of their capitalist class. Every up-and-coming capitalist power finds the world already carved up by the established powers. If it is to expand its influence it must clash with these powers, as Germany, Japan, Italy and Russia have found and as China is now finding. All of them, in their time, have beaten the "anti-imperialist" drum, that is, have opposed the domination of the world by Britain and France and later America. Mussolini talked of Italy as a "proletarian nation" in a class war against the "bourgeois nations". Nazi Germany stirred up Arab and Latin American nationalism. Japan advanced the slogan of "Asia for the Asians". So anti-imperialism has been a doctrine long used by capitalists in relatively weak countries to try and pursue their own interests and ends.

We find that governments today are in reality the executive committees of the trusts and affiliated banks who use diplomacy and armed force if not actually to annex countries, at least to secure markets, excluding competition in their self-allotted spheres of interests. Imperialism aims at the control of all the small nations to exploit them for its own benefit. "Anti-imperialism" is the slogan of local capitalists who wish to dominate the region in place of the US/UK/EU, a situation which would still leave the mass of the population there exploited and oppressed with the eternal problem of finding enough money to buy the things they need to live. The Left-wing are not interested in any criticism of the dogma in their circles that socialists are duty-bound to support struggles for "national liberation". The "revolutionary" Left simply "trot" out the old anti-imperialism position of supporting the weaker country against imperialist aggression which refuses any real class analysis

Anti-imperialist nationalism is the ideology of an actual or aspiring capitalist class that seeks the way to its own independent state blocked by imperialism and therefore must mobilize the masses to help break down this obstacle.The logic of such movements is to subordinate the interests of workers to those of the bourgeois leadership and that such movements can tie their movement to presently supportive states that may well be prepared to use it as a bargaining chip in their pursuit of their own geopolitical interests. Different regimes that may now present themselves as anti-imperialist have a history of collaborating with imperialism. It is of the essence of bourgeois nationalists that, when imperialism prevents them for building their own independent capitalist state, they may lead struggles against it, but they are striving to carve out a place for themselves within the existing system, not to overthrow it. This means that, sooner or later, they will come to terms with imperialism. Successful anti-imperialism becomes imperialism. This is well illustrated by the example of Germany.

The Communist International actually offered some support to the Nazis in the early twenties on the grounds that they were a national liberation struggle. Germany was an oppressed nation, occupied and looted by French and British imperialism. The Nazis fought the occupying troops, so Comintern supported the former, militarily and politically. A decade later, this anti-imperialist movement had become German Imperialism.

Israel was founded in a national struggle against the British Empire and resulted in the forced removal of Palestinians and the occupation of the Palestine.

Indonesia does not remotely correspond to any pre-colonial domain, and possesses an enormous variety of peoples, cultures, languages and religions.The people at one end have far more in common with their neighbours across the national frontier than with their fellow "Indonesians", its shape was determined by the last Dutch conquests. We witnessed the result in East Timor.

The distinction between the nationalism of the oppressors (which is always bad) and the nationalism of the oppressed (allegedly always worth supporting, even if critically) is often made by the Left. This even though that oppressed nations, once "free", can easily become oppressors in turn. Oppression, however, has to be seen in class, not national terms. Both so-called oppressor and oppressed nations consist of oppressor and oppressed classes, and "national liberation" enables an oppressor class to consolidate and expand its power, rather than freeing all the people of a formerly oppressed nation.

The absurdity of Lenin's theory can be proved by a living example from the life of a worker in the Indian subcontinent. Suppose he is 70 years old and now a citizen of so-called independent Bangladesh. He was a subject of Pakistan and before that of the British Empire. According to Lenin's theory, he was subjugated by "British imperialists" up to 1947, then by "Pakistani imperialists" up to 1972. Now by which? Yet all through these years he remained a wage slave, not free, though his masters and nationality changed. What a ridiculous proposition is Lenin's theory!

Many on the political Left will argue that Palestinian nationalism is somehow progressive and different to Israeli nationalism and should therefore be supported. As socialists, we say that this is a dangerous poison that is being spread by the Left .We argue that every nation state is by its very nature anti-working class. The “nation” is a myth as there can be no community of interests between two classes in antagonism with one another, the non-owners in society and the owners. Self-determination for "nations" just equates with freedom and self-determination for a ruling class. Lenin's theory of imperialism made the most significant struggle at world level not the class struggle but the struggle between states, between so-called anti-imperialist and progressive states and so-called imperialist and reactionary states. This was a dangerous diversion from the class struggle and led to workers supporting the killing in wars of other workers in the interest of one or other state and its ruling class.

Anti-imperialist struggles are class struggles under an ideological smokescreen, but not of the working class. They are either struggles by a rising capitalist class to establish themselves as a new national ruling class or they are struggles by an established but weak national ruling class to gather a bigger share of world profits for themselves. There is no reason why socialists should support them. Socialists do not allow themselves to be used as tools of some capitalist state. Socialists are opposed to world capitalism and to governments everywhere. If we are to eliminate wars, waged to obtain markets for the surplus wealth the workers produce, we must realise that our position in society is to transform the private ownership of the means of production and distribution into social ownership, producing for use instead of for profit. The function of the World Socialist Movement is to educate the workers to this end. We reject nationalism as anti-working class because it has always tied the proletariat to its class enemy and divided it amongst itself: the workers have no country.

Almost every country is more powerful than another, and tries to dominate it. Even the smallest countries harbour designs on bits of their neighbours' territory. The tendency of nations to dominate others leads to the view that they are all imperialist, which renders the term anti-imperialism meaningless. As socialists we re-affirm that all peoples should seek their emancipation, not as members of nations or religions or ethnic groups, but as human beings, as members of the human race. They should unite to abolish the division of the world into so-called nation-states and to establish a World Cooperative Commonwealth of which we will all be free and equal members - citizens of the world, not subjects of nation-states.The goal of the socialist movement is not to assist in the creation of even more states but to establish a real world community without frontiers where all states as they currently exist will be destroyed. In a socialist society communities, towns and cities will have the opportunity to thrive – and people will no doubt feel an attachment to places that are real and tangible – but the nation states will be consigned to the history books where they belong

"I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the World." - Eugene V. Debs

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