ANTI-IMPERIALISM: BANKRUPTCY OF THE LEFT?
The last issue of datacide went to print only a relatively short time (at least in datacide-terms) after the events of September 11, 2001 – the commentary titled Terror Against Terror was written in the immediate aftermath. In the years since then it’s become possible to assess the events as crucial, but not necessarily in the sense they were interpreted in the official canon. This was an event that accelerated a number of developments that were in process already, especially concerning the left and the anti-globalisation movement.
The attack on the United States, and more specifically on the East Coast, was identified by the perpetrators with finance capital which they imagine to be run by Jews. This was clearly the most spectacular “anti-Imperialist” coup perpetrated since Nasser claimed the Suez Canal, and was considerably more bloody.
The WTC attack has greatly confused a large section of the left since it was done with some aims in mind that the left usually claimed as their own. It was done by Islamo-fascists with the explicit aim of attacking and destroying “crusaders and jews”. Brushing aside this reality, western left-wing intellectuals were quick at laying the blame at America itself – apparently its imperialist politics had sown what the collapsing towers were the harvest of.
Other sections escaped into mushrooming conspiracy theories, putting the blame back into the same court, but this time insinuating that the Bush government had advance knowledge – if not even a hand in the proceedings – and gladly had the towers destroyed so they would get carte blanche to set up a “tyrannical” regime at home and increase the pressure of their imperialist foreign policy on the rest of the world.
These positions made it possible for the left to maintain their own anti-imperialist ideology rather than having to scrutinize it.
Equally the solidarity of most of the international left with the second Intifada started by Arafat in 2000 remained unchanged. Again – contrary to historical fact – the blame was shifted from the Palestinian leadership to Ariel Sharon’s visit to the temple mount as the reason for the bloody events ensuing. The eagerness of the left to side with them seems strange, insofar that by this point the Palestinian groups had pretty much given up any pretense at social liberation which they had propagated in the times of the Cold War.
So the Left managed to hold on to some of its key positions that are also occupied by ultra-reactionary religious groups and explicit fascists through a simple strategy of denial. The left looks only on one side (US, Israel) and does not analyze the position of the others (Islamo-fascism, Arab Nationalism, the Palestinian Leadership), and sometimes even goes so far as to denounce some of them (Al Queda) as a US-construct.
This situation could only worsen as America planned to strike back. While few had the nerve of coming out with ludicrous slogans such as “Victory to Afghanistan!” (New Line (London), the daily paper of the Workers Revolutionary Party in one of their editions in the early days of the War against the Taliban regime), the peace demonstrations attracted an increasingly varied mixture of people. This became much more acute during the campaigns against the Iraq war. Everybody agreed that the war against Iraq had to be averted: The Left, the Neo-Nazis, official Germany and France, the whole of the Islamic World, from Arab Nationalism to Islamic Fundamentalists, the Vatican… This unappetizing coalition unfolded remarkable activities essentially on behalf of the Ba’ath-Party regime in Baghdad. Within the Left views ranged from “the Ba’ath Party is fascist and should be toppled, but by Iraqis and not by the Americans” to “Saddam is a great anti-imperialist and should be supported against the US”. This range already makes it questionable to talk of “the Left”.
The ensuing exchange of ideas and the essential unity of action by some sections of the radical Left with some sections of the radical Right demands further scrutiny. Is there actual collaboration or are there just incidental parallels between two otherwise incompatible camps?
Indeed open collaboration is – so far – relatively rare, but we will see that the underlying ideology is in many cases far closer than many involved would like to admit – and once they can admit it, the obstacles to a united front are fast disappearing.
After many years of only obscure Strasserite sects openly advocating a National Socialism with elements of both spectrums (such as the KDS – Kampfbund Deutscher Sozialisten), this has been reinforced in the last few years on the one hand through the migration of some formerly high profile left-wing figures like Horst Mahler, Bernd Rabehl and others to the fascist right, and on the other hand with the influx of ideas of the French Nouvelle Droite into the mainstream as well as, apparently, sections of the Left.
When the KDS is referring to their solidarity with “friends from Iraq, from Cuba, the Palestinians, the PLO and PFLP, but also the people of North Korea, because what is decisive is: only National Socialism is international!” they are by no means alone.
Prominent on the far left is the Anti-Imperialist Coordination (AIK), mainly based in Italy and Austria. At an annual “anti-imperialist camp,” meetings are held and campaigns planned and coordinated such as the “10 euro for the Iraqi resistance” campaign. One statement on their web site declares pompously: “There are struggles which mark epochs. Today it is on the shoulders of the Iraqi people to defend the front line separating freedom from tyranny. We will support them in every possible way, for freedom and self-determination of Iraq, and for the defeat of imperialist tyranny throughout the world.” It’s only consequent that the same site features an interview with a Hamas leader under the title “Together against Imperialism”.
It’s also only logical that a recent book titled “Ami Go Home” authored by one Wilhelm Langthaler (of the AIK) and Werner Pirker (notorious for his anti-Zionist agitation in the Stalinist daily paper Junge Welt) has in turn received a glowing review in the “Deutsche Stimme”, the paper of the neo-nazi NPD (Jan. 2006).
An increasing number of similar initiatives of combining the romantic anti-Capitalism with fanatical anti-Imperialism of Left and Right have surfaced in the last few years. Not that this is a new phenomenon as such – we can trace it at least back to the 20’s – but recently it has gained a virulence that Third Positionists in the 90’s could only have dreamt of.
Obvious extremists such as the KDS or the AIK are only the tip of the iceberg of a phenomenon that now permeates large segments of European society: More and more radical anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism in red, brown and green variations, and an increasing preparedness to either openly set aside other differences to seek a united front, or – more commonly – simply denying or ignoring the partners in the pursuit of attacking the common enemy.
“The key factor in politics today, nationally and internationally, is resistance and opposition to the occupation of Iraq” was declared by the British SWP (Socialist Workers Party) in their conference resolution of 6-8 January 2006. This Trotskyist party is notorious for its attempts to capitalize on any popular movement that would seem to bring their agenda ahead. Indeed their January 2006 conference resolution is called “Building the SWP in the Age of Mass Movements”. The mass movements referred to are likely to be the anti-Globalisation and Peace movements. The SWP is also largely behind the party R.E.S.P.E.C.T. which stood in the last general elections and managed to win one seat with George Galloway, the former Labour MP, is a fervent anti-Zionist and supporter of Saddam Hussein. He belonged to the set of politicians who visited the dictator during the sanctions along with Austrian far-Right politician Jörg Haider, French far-Right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen and his wife, as well as a delegation of the KDS, and many others, including French politicians from the governing UMP (Chirac’s party).
Galloway, Haider, Le Pen and other supporters of the Ba’ath regime have also in common that they are desperate to a appear as “great men” with historical importance. Thus they bathe in the sun of the fascist dictator. They are also willing to go to considerable lengths just to be in the public eye: For example, Galloway was taking part in the TV program Celebrity Big Brother (Jan. 2006) – the proceeds of which (a £ 60’000 fee and an estimated £ 100’000 from text messages) he is donating to the Interpal. This organisation is registered as a charity in the UK, but has been listed as a terrorist organization by the US.
That the Iraqi dictator received support from the European far Right clearly makes sense – his Ba’ath party, founded by Michel Afliq in the 30’s was modeled on the Fascist parties and the Arab Socialism they preached was based on German National Socialism. Saddam himself is a fervent admirer of both Hitler and Stalin. The country was ruled with incredible brutality: tens of thousands were murdered, torture and executions were the order of the day.
How then was it possible that the mobilizations to avert a war against such a regime reached the vast proportions they did?
In the European mainstream in the meantime it appeared that practically the whole of the population in France as well as in Germany stood behind their respective governments in their distancing from the US. It’s worth mentioning in passing that French President Chirac had won a huge majority over the far-Right candidate Le Pen in the presidential elections, and that German Chancellor Schröder to a large degree managed a re-election in 2002 due to his anti-American stance.
But these were not just election maneuvers: European investment banked on the status quo in countries like Iraq and Iran – no matter what the political situation is – and also the massive EU-investments into the Palestinian Authority that (along with ample donations by Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region) made Arafat an extremely rich man and helped make his “insurrection” against Israel possible. An attempt by MEP Ilka Schröder to shed some light on the trail of money originating from the EU and ending in the war chests of anti-Semitic terror organizations was essentially blocked by the EU. It wasn’t till after Arafat’s death that a clearer picture would emerge. Namely, there existed no accountability and book-keeping, and that the boundaries between the finances of the PA and of Arafat’s “personal” matters were blurred to say the least. All hand-outs, cash and cheques were issued by the leader himself, often to buy loyalties of the various armed and political factions, and not without funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into bank accounts and investments abroad, including 100’000 $ a month to finance his wife’s lavish life style in Paris. It seems mysterious that this man was seen as a hero by many people considering themselves on the side of progress and emancipation.
One possible interpretation is the vulgar theory derived from Kautsky that capitalism develops towards a kind of super-imperialism. “This theory is rolled out regularly by the left and the far left of capital, the better to chain the workers to “their” national state, against “worldwide capitalism” and “non-national” bodies like the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, multinational corporations, etc.” (ICC). This “super-imperialism” is generally identified with the US, which in turn is identified with globalisation, which in turn is often equated with “americanization”.
The resulting anti-imperialism has a tendency to support or tolerate any movement that is at odds with the perceived enemy. It is thus becoming the rallying cry for any sort of nationalism, and all sorts of fundamentalist movements directly opposed to enlightenment and (bourgeois) democracy, as much as to social liberation and (communist) universal emancipation.
The ultra left analysis is correct in pointing out the rivalries between the different factions of the international bourgeoisie, to understand a lot of the drift against the US as an attempt by the European and Arab ruling classes to position themselves to their advantage in the imperialist competition, and to view anti-imperialism as a mobilizing tool to tie the working classes to the various local elites against a powerful foreign enemy. While certainly being the case in Europe, this is particularly true for Islamic countries, especially the ones with economic and political domestic problems. However, this analysis usually overlooks one important element that glues the different anti-Imperialist camps together: anti-Semitism.
While anti-Semitism has never completely disappeared, it certainly has had a big resurgence since 9/11. This is one of the aspects where the calculus of the attackers has clearly worked, since the attack on the WTC was consciously planned as an attack on global finance capital. In the mind of the anti-Semite, global finance capital is always imagined to be run by “the Jews”.
The prominent unifying factor in the red-brown-green front is the “politically correct” form of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and hatred against the USA. These two ideologies are closely tied together. Some from this coalition often described the neo-conservatives around Wolfowitz and Perle to be like a group of latter day Elders of Zion, manipulating American foreign policy in the interest of Israel. Both countries are seen not as “real” nations, but as “constructs” that lack the blood-ties of a “people”.
The attention given to the conflicts in Israel/Palestine and the hatred poured upon Israel is disproportional to say the least and its fanaticism is remarkable. This is not only the case with neo-nazi boot boys, but equally with members of the lefty intelligentsia.
But it doesn’t make sense anymore to equal the far right with violent skinheads, although they will still do the job of inflicting physical harm. Many publicists on the right have resorted to a strategy of attacking Zionism rather than Jews, and quoting writers of Jewish descent such as Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky to back up their arguments.
This is particularly popular in the context of Holocaust revisionism, for which both these authors have done invaluable services. Finkelstein construing a “Holocaust Industry” whereby he is not denying the reality of the Shoa, but claims that it is primarily instrumentalized by the Jewish establishment to serve their current political and economic interests. This is now practically serving as a “politically correct” starting point for some Holocaust revisionists. Their “reasoning” suggests that if the Holocaust has mainly become a tool, then wouldn’t those who use it exaggerate a little bit, or worse? Chomsky on the other hand has publicly defended the right of revisionists to voice their “opinion”.
The Iranian government has aggressively embraced the cause of Holocaust revisionism as a weapon in its war against Israel by announcing a “scientific” conference. Among the invites are Horst Mahler, Robert Faurisson and Israel Shamir (living proof that people of Jewish descent can be anti-Semites).
These various elites cooperate with each other in the “war to extermination” (so said the foreign minister of the Arab League in 1948) against Israel, a country described as an “apartheid regime” and the “colonialist bridgehead of imperialism”, and its supporter, the “great Satan” USA, the cosmopolitan, multicultural and mixed race giant that is out to rule the world and destroy the “authenticity” of local cultures with its globalization.
Official Europe’s indifference is now being tested by the (at least publicly) increased radicalism of Iran and the election victory of Hamas. While France is still embracing Hezbollah in Lebanon, Germany is a bit less spectacular in its official embracing of the theocratic and fascist regimes in the Middle East. However, almost needless to say, Germany is the biggest investor in Iran. At home Germany is concocting a discourse that has gained momentum over the last few years that is gradually revising history to the point that – while neither the Nazi dictatorship nor the Shoa are negated, the German people are exculpated as a whole and turned into a super-victim, first of the Nazi dictatorship and then of the allied “bombing terror”. Through such revisionism it becomes possible to speak of a “special responsibility” towards Israel, and at the same support its enemies.
On the street all this can look entirely different. For example, at an anti-Israel demonstration on April 13, 2002 in Amsterdam, 15’000 participants with organizations as diverse as the Grey Wolves, the PKK and the DHKP-C stood shoulder to shoulder when slogans as “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas!”, “Hitler, Hitler”, “Jews are Nazis” or “Jews are dogs” were shouted. These slogans – and there were many more – aptly illustrate the confusion of the anti-Semites today: On the one hand the Nazis are referred to positively for having gassed Jews, on the other hand Israel is denounced as a Nazi state. This is reflected in the view of the Holocaust that is seen by many in the Middle East as something that didn’t take place, at least not to its actual extent. At the same time these anti-Semites suggest that the Shoa should have happened, or should now take place because the Jews are the “Nazis” of today. A Jewish person who happened to walk past this demonstration was badly beaten by a mob, only one of hundreds of incidents in the last few years.
If we consider the Left as a diverse grouping of people, initiatives, movements and parties that are dedicated to social emancipation and progress, then such a Left should distance itself from the kind of anti-Imperialist ideology outlined above that is unifying such an international front of nationalist and religious movements, no matter what criticism could be leveled at the US and their allies. A critique of anti-Imperialism is taking place at least in a minority of the German scene. However in the rest of the world it is still nearly non-existent. For a new communist perspective to emerge, such discussions are of fundamental importance.
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