Monday, September 25, 2006

Anti -Imperialism - Or a Plague Upon Both Your Houses

I'm no theorist . But this interview of Alex Callinicos , one of the the SWP leaders , left me somewhat puzzled and wondering what it is all about to be an anti-imperialist .

After stating quite accurately and succinctly:-
"...Anti-imperialist nationalism is the ideology of an actual or aspirant 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 and other exploited classes 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."
No argument here from me about what he said there .

Nor do i disagree when he says that :-
"...different Islamist tendencies and regimes that may now present themselves as anti-imperialist have a history of collaborating with imperialism ..."

Or when he says :-
"... 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..."

Callinicos and i would seem be in tune with one another....UNTIL :-

"...If Bush attacks Iran tomorrow, which side are you on? I would be on Iran’s ... I would be for an Iranian victory despite his anti-Semitic rantings, despite the regime’s capitalist class base, despite the repression it perpetrates. This is the politics of permanent revolution, which seeks the overthrow of imperialism and of the local bourgeois regimes..."

I'm left bemused . Just how does all this raise the class consciousness , much less the socialist consciousness , of the workers to a point where we desire to free ourselves from the yoke of capitalism and begin the socialist transformation of society .
Where from history can Callincios offer examples of this of ever having happening .
I remember Vietnam , where America at the cost of 3 million Vietnamese deaths was supposed to have suffered a defeat by the anti-imperialists ....only to have Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City become the cheaper sweat-shop alternative to China , another country that apparently freed itself from European and American domination but to simply to become a major player in the acquisition of raw materials from the impoverished Third World . I remember the chants of Victory to the Vietcong on the streets in my younger years and only a few opposed the slogan .
Where was the consequent shift in working class ideas , though , that should have manifested itself when American helicopters were being ditched at sea as they scuttled from Saigon ?
I can remember the defeats of France and Britain over the years . The Sun setting upon the Empires ...yes , political control gone but yet the multinationtionals still maintaining its economic stranglehold on the newly-independent nations and the wasted deaths to replace the sahibs by local elites .
But , once again , where is the link to the victory or defeat of imperialism to a socialist understanding of the workers , that should have taken place ?
In fact , even a cursory reading of history shows that the powerful Capitalist powers have not been weakened .The USA still stands militarily and economically above all , with the European Union behind it . And when an imperialist country vacates its sphere of influence for whatever reason , does not another step in to take its place and continue the exploitation . Having freed itself from America , did not Cuba chain itself to Russia ?
Has anti-imperialism advanced the cause of the proletariat one inch over the decades ? Or led it down many a tearful false trail ?

Alex Callinicos fully understands :-
"...a key feature of global capitalism is that the world is organized into a system of states in which a few – the imperialist powers – dominate the rest economically, politically, and militarily." and he poses a question that all socialists have done "...what stance Marxists should take when states fight each other."....

Either -
"... since the conflicting parties are all capitalist states the left should, as a matter of principle, take no interest in who wins. This is the line anarchists generally take "

Or -
Better to follow Marx , Engels , Lenin and Trotsky and support wars that are judged to advance the interests of the international working class and support the country whose victory would be the least harmful to the interests of the international working class .

Rather disingenious of Callinicos to ascribe such a policy to Marx and Engels .
Yes they did support certain nationalist movements and some wars ...TO BRING CAPITALISM TO FEUDAL STATES or to give the CAPITALIST CLASS political power so they could create the prerequisites of Socialism , an actual working class within an industrialised society . Prussia against the Slavs . Britain and France against Tsarist Russia . Even Prussia against France so as to strengthen unification of Germany .
But is Callinicos seriously thinking that such a policy is required in to-days world where capitalism is now the predominant system and its the working class thats the decisive class not the capitalists .
What may have been right in the 19thCentury for Marx and Engels , may not now be the right choice in the 20th Century under changed circumstances . What was perhaps provident for backward Russia in the eyes of Lenin or Trotsky need not be applicable or advisable for the rest of us .

Rosa Luxemburg , one of the great Marxists Callinicos fails to mention , did not accept the need for self-determination of nations , and although being Polish herself she chose to participate in the class struggle in Germany instead of advocating a "free" Poland and allying herself with the national bourgeoisie .

The SWP had its roots in the declaration of what was a heresy for Trotskyists "Neither Washington Nor Moscow" . Now it's simply "Anybody But Washington " .

Callinicos in this interview is quite happy to declare his support for reactionary totalitarian countries with the justification that my enemy's enemy is my friend , under the guise of Permanent Revolution . I'm lost by the connection , however . But that's my lack of theoretical knowledge again , probably . How does it take us closer to revolutionary consciousness and Socialism by strengthening one capitalist against another capitalist ?
Callinicos will march us up to the top of the hill and he'll march us all down again to protest against American-Anglo wars of expansion , while at the same time urging us to spill our blood and guts in defence of some home-grown native capitalist .

Alex , i don't care if if my posties cap has the crown on it , or the red star , or the stars and stripes or the star and crescent .
It is the fact that I AM BEING EXPLOITED which matters to me , not the geographic location of the person who is doing it .
And to escape that exploitation , class solidarity needs to take precedence over any national allegiences . I'll stand alongside my fellow postal workers in London , Washington , Moscow , Tehran or Baghdad or anywhere before i stand beside the Boss Class of my country or any other state . One deluded worker killing another deluded worker won't bring us any closer towards Socialism .
The answer to war is for the workers to raise their arms straight up in the air and say "We surrender" ...and then to go on to fight in the class war with class struggle . ( Whatever did happen to that other Leninist tactic Revolutionary Defeatism . At least , it had the beneficial effect of stopping the slaughter , not encouraging it )

More on imperialism here and here and here

As i said , i'm no theorist . Just a worker .


Anonymous said...

Top post Mr Johnstone!
'Imperialism' seems to have replaced capitalism as the main enemy/problem for people like Callinicos. One of my lecturers was an SWP member, and in relation to the 1991 US-Anglo war on Iraq he said it was a case of deciding "which is the bigger bastard?" - it being the U.S. so support Iraq.
Robert (Carlisle)

Bill said...

I alkways wondered, if Imperialism is teh enemy, and if they are prepared to support geurilla insurfgencies and 'terrorists' against it, why do the SWP cadre not start an insurgency in the imperialist heartlands - I'm sure they have enough members to form a decent terrorist organisation and keep the authorities on the run for years...

Anonymous said...

Good post. The SWP just couldn't care less about antisemitism


Jean Duvalloise said...

Dammit you stole my blog name.