Anti-Imperialist

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Caissa
Anti-Imperialist

The following appears at the beginning of the Babble Policy:

Quote:

rabble.ca is a public, independent, progressive news and information source. In defining itself as "progressive," rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and as such encourages discussions which develop and expand progressive thought.

 

I believe anti-imperialist was the most recent to be added.

 

I wonder if some discussion could take place regarding what constitutes an "anti-imperialist stance" since this seems  to be a point of contention/conflict on the board recently.

Slumberjack

Can you point to some recent examples of contention/conflict?

Caissa

I can't point to specifi thread but I think the issue has come up in discussions about Kim Il-Jong and  Libya, to just give two examples.

Unionist

Slumberjack wrote:

Can you point to some recent examples of contention/conflict?

Every day, in every way. As you well know, SJ. That rhymes, hey hey! Whaddya say?

 

 

Unionist

On a more prosaic note:

Do we stand with or against people/nations/countries resisting territorial, military, economic, political, cultural, and other forms of interference, aggression, war, domination, control, annexation, occupation, resource plunder, and labour exploitation by other countries, especially the wealthiest, best-armed, and most bellicose?

That's my proposed litmus test. Subject to refinement.

 

KenS

That looks like a good definition.

Where it gets sticky around here, is where the definition applies.

For example, refraining from jumping on bandwagons [Libya, North Korea] is at least arguably part of that, irregardless of how loathsome the regimes are.

voice of the damned

On the one of the perennial World War II threads a while back, some babblers made the argument that, contrary to American propaganda, the USA got involved with war against Japan for reasons of imperial expansion, rather than, as the propaganda has it, to promote democracy. 

As far as I know, that's probably true. Certainly America's postwar policies in the region didn't do much to advance democracy. But if I say "Well, I didn't like anything about US policy in East Asia before WW2(Taft-Katsura etc), and I really don't like anything about their policies post WW2(backing dictaors etc)" but I do think they were on the right side of WW2", does that make me an apologist for US imperialism? 

Because I don't think you'll find too many residents of former Japanese colonies who think that the US was wrong to join the fight against Japan. Even old Kim Il-sung gave a speech at the end of the war, in which he thanked the Russians and the Americans for their efforts.

voice of the damned

The most that could be said about the ergument the US in WWII was more imperialism, is that of course it would have at least elements of that, and it is arguable that it is first of all an imperialist venture [or at least reccible to imperialist rivalry].

Point taken about Indonesia.

But just to clarify, if I say "I'm glad the US fought agianst Japan in World War II"(similar to what most babblers would say aboout the US fighting in Europe, I'd imagine) is that, in and of itself, a pro-imperialist statement?

 

KenS

MANY, if not most Indonesian nationalists, preferred the Japanese- knowing full well what they did.

And we don't have to get into the outer limits of what is imperialism to talk about a common definition. In fact, that is guaranteed to distract and derail.

The most that could be said about the ergument the US in WWII was more imperialism, is that of course it would have at least elements of that, and it is arguable that it is first of all an imperialist venture [or at least reccible to imperialist rivalry].

But that is WAY OFF being the kind of position we can expect some kind of minimum concensus around here. Which is the context of the topic.

In other words, dont take the thread title too [narrowly] literally.In context, it is not a question of what might be considered to be imperialism.

Slumberjack

I can't stand with the mullahs in Iran, or with those who are influenced by the resources of western endowment agencies designed to create resistance against them. Someone like Malalai Joya or Arundhati Roy...I'd prefer to stand with them. No one suggests that we need to stand with the Taliban or with the North Korean regime because we despise imperialism. All the same, we can take our definitions where we find them, including from the recesses of our own consciousness, without having to be browbeaten back into line. We need to be able to speak emphatically against imperialism; not only because it is so richly deserving of being spoken against, and not only because such caveats are often demanded as a way to measure our compliance with someone else's progressive scale.  At any rate, it seems that it is rarely a given in our discussions.  The same sleeve wearing denunciations are not generally demanded when we speak in the context of repressive regimes. This is in fact discouraged, on the presumed basis that we're lending comfort and validity to the narratives of our reactionary enemies. I think we should be free to reject the false choices between dichotomies and between displays of political contortionism formed out of cement. But we can't put the people out of our minds. They should never be used as anyone's excuse. We need to do a better job of understanding the difference between discussing people and discussing the various political systems they fall under.

KenS

voice of the damned wrote:

But just to clarify, if I say "I'm glad the US fought agianst Japan in World War II"(similar to what most babblers would say aboout the US fighting in Europe, I'd imagine) is that, in and of itself, a pro-imperialist statement?

No. I would not think by the mods here.

[If I'm wrong. Even more reason to stay away from Babble international discussins.]

6079_Smith_W

Didn't Catchfire already say he was regretting letting us know he would be checking in? I am sure this will be a fun an dlively discussion, but I am not sure it is the best way to wish Happy Holidays.

Because really, nothing we hash out or decide here matters. What does matter is how those words are applied by the moderators.

"Anti-Imperialism", and what constitutes fair comment around that can mean a wide range of things depending on whether you are a lay person, a journalist, a partisan, or a conspiracy theorist.I know for a fact it doesn't have the same meaning for all of us here.

(edit)

And of course, nothing is going to get decided because there is no one right and definitive position.

 

 

voice of the damned

Oh, and I have a question for Ken, about Indonesia.

Prior to being occupied by Japan, Indonesia was a colony of the Dutch. It got independence in 1949, after which point it fell under American influence, in the form of US-backed dictators(especially Suharto in that category).

Just for clarification, when you say that  "many, if not most, Indonesian nationalists preferred the Japanese", do you mean as opposed to the Dutch, or the American-backed dictators, or both?

 

Unionist

Slumberjack wrote:
No one suggests that we need to stand with the Taliban or with the North Korean regime because we despise imperialism.

Correct. But those who oppose the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya, or the mounting hysteria against Iran, etc., are constantly blackmailed as follows: "Oh, so you prefer the Taliban ruling Afghanistan? You liked Saddam Hussein's regime? Gaddafi's? Kim's? The mullahs? The rockets fired from Gaza? Girls not being allowed to go to school in Kandahar?"

Those who ask those questions, and who do not oppose the invasions and the threats, are the pro-imperialists. If that's not clear, then nothing can be.

 

Unionist

Yeah, this is lovely. Canadians talking about which colonizer the Indonesian nationalists "preferred". That'll get us a lot closer to an understanding of anti-imperialism.

 

6079_Smith_W

Which brings us to another charming aspect of these discussions. No one talks about fight club.

 

Slumberjack

Unionist wrote:
Correct. But those who oppose the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya, or the mounting hysteria against Iran, etc., are constantly blackmailed as follows: "Oh, so you prefer the Taliban ruling Afghanistan? You liked Saddam Hussein's regime? Gaddafi's? Kim's? The mullahs"

Conversely, those who describe the Taliban as repressive are accused of falling in line with imperialism.  I'll pull a 'Hitch' here to say that its too bad there isn't a hell for both them and the imperialists.  I think this is roughly where we should situate ourselves...if its clarity that is being sought.

Unionist

Slumberjack wrote:

Conversely, those who describe the Taliban as repressive are accused of falling in line with imperialism.

Well, from what I know, the Taliban regime was repressive, misogynist, obscurantist, and generally despicable.

However, that was, and is, a matter to be resolved by the Afghan people alone, without threats, interference, invasion, etc.

Likewise with Gaddafi and Libya.

So you see? We can tell the truth about the Taliban if we like. What we can't do is go in there and save those poor Afghans from a fate worse than being part of global imperialism's stable of loyal servants.

 

Slumberjack

Unionist wrote:
What we can't do is go in there and save those poor Afghans from a fate worse than being part of global imperialism's stable of loyal servants. 

If we announce a capstone to our ideology which in part says we can or can't do, must or mustn't engage in, depending on the circumstance, wouldn't it be better to include that it should only be invoked, using this instance as an example, to deal with the specifics of such a proposal.

CDN_FORCES

Someone mentioned that we can tell the truth about what awful regimes are doing, but we can't go there with military force to do anything about it. Short of actually entering another country, are there any non-imperialist acts that Canada could perform that would "motivate" another sovereign nation to change its ways? I'm thinking about petitions to the UN, economic sanctions, freezing assets, diplomatic shunning and the expultion of ambassadors or closing embassies, not allowing overflight priviledges, and so forth. I think those actions would be absolutely acceptable, they don't require UN approval, and they don't involve military force.

 

Gaian

I thought that after June, 1941, people understood the changeable nature of alliances/imperialism and could distinguish arguments ideological from real-world.

Slumberjack

CDN_FORCES wrote:
Someone mentioned that we can tell the truth about what awful regimes are doing, but we can't go there with military force to do anything about it. Short of actually entering another country, are there any non-imperialist acts that Canada could perform that would "motivate" another sovereign nation to change its ways? I'm thinking about petitions to the UN, economic sanctions, freezing assets, diplomatic shunning and the expultion of ambassadors or closing embassies, not allowing overflight priviledges, and so forth. I think those actions would be absolutely acceptable, they don't require UN approval, and they don't involve military force. 

We'd have to do something about our lack of consistency first, by shunning the hypocrites for starters.

Slumberjack

Gaian wrote:
I thought that after June, 1941, people understood the changeable nature of alliances/imperialism and could distinguish arguments ideological from real-world.

The so called 'communists' were able to distinguish very well as they bounced between Stalin, Mao, Castro, etc.  They certainly had their reasons.

CDN_FORCES

Slumberjack wrote:

CDN_FORCES wrote:
Someone mentioned that we can tell the truth about what awful regimes are doing, but we can't go there with military force to do anything about it. Short of actually entering another country, are there any non-imperialist acts that Canada could perform that would "motivate" another sovereign nation to change its ways? I'm thinking about petitions to the UN, economic sanctions, freezing assets, diplomatic shunning and the expultion of ambassadors or closing embassies, not allowing overflight priviledges, and so forth. I think those actions would be absolutely acceptable, they don't require UN approval, and they don't involve military force. 

We'd have to do something about our lack of consistency first, by shunning the hypocrites for starters.

If that's directed at me, I should be clear that I have no problem with Canada's UN-approved military involvements in Afghanistan or Libya (obviously). I was just trying to figure out where imperialism (as defined by the participants here) starts, and "motivation" ends.

Slumberjack

It wasn't about you specifically, but you managed to implicate yourself in the comment anyway with such a statement.  If we're to act unilaterally against awful regimes in order to lay claim to some high ground, we'd have to first stop operating around the world in conjunction with awful regimes, and we'd have to stop presenting ourselves as an awful regime to the nations who live within the political boundaries of this country.

Unionist

Slumberjack wrote:

If we're to act unilaterally against awful regimes in order to lay claim to some high ground, we'd have to first stop operating around the world in conjunction with awful regimes, and we'd have to stop presenting ourselves as an awful regime to the nations who live within the political boundaries of this country.

Yes. Anti-imperialism begins at home.

 

Gaian

Slumberjack wrote:

Gaian wrote:
I thought that after June, 1941, people understood the changeable nature of alliances/imperialism and could distinguish arguments ideological from real-world.

The so called 'communists' were able to distinguish very well as they bounced between Stalin, Mao, Castro, etc.  They certainly had their reasons.

Those "reasons", up to the death of Stalin, brought changes in thinking about generalizations regarding "imperialism," Old Lenin would have had to do a major re-write. The devil's been in the details ever since.

And I've no idea why you would lump Fidel with the others.

Slumberjack

Gaian wrote:
And I've no idea why you would lump Fidel with the others.

To provide a range...for the purpose of context.

voice of the damned

I'm having trouble understanding what historical events and trajectories are being discussed here. As far as I know, Communists didn't "bounce between Stalin and Mao". In fact, if you were pro-Stalin, you supported Mao after Khruschev's denunciations, because it was China that continued to promote Stalin. 

It might be more accurate to say that people bounced between Moscow and Beijing. And then some over to Tirana after China anoounced its Three World policy in the 70s(which could actually be categorized as a bounce away from Mao, since he had formulated that policy).  

Unionist

Is it really necessary to derail the thread into a discussion of different flavours of communism? Have we already solved the puzzle of what it means for babble to be anti-imperialist, and we're on to other challenges?

Glenl

I find the anti-imperialist challenges to be the most complicated to safely navigate. I personally believe that there should have been an active intervention in Rwanda, is that pro-imperialist for example?

Unionist

I don't know, Glenl. Who do you think should have done what there?

And what about Congo? Or Rwanda today? Should someone intervene? How, and who?

 

Glenl

The killing had already started when I was there in 92, albeit on both sides. I would have hoped to see more UN peace keepers with guns I guess to keep the peace, but it would have been a fight. I can't think of what should have been done but we didn't really try. Anything may have been better?

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Why, hello. This is a good discussion. Thanks, Caissa, for starting it, and thanks for the productive contributions from y'all, especially SJ, Unionist and votd for your thoughtful contributions (and Winston, I'm not officially on hols till Friday--I won't be checking in at all after then!).

The moderator line I've been taking generally has been pretty timid: don't let babblers mock other babblers who bring strong anti-imperialist analysis to the discussions we have here. This is far from ideal, obviously, but it's difficult to ask for anything more when our one mainstream progressive party is hailing the actions of our troops for killing Libyan civilians while the stench from the steaming monstrosities that are the Iraq and Afghanistan is still so fresh.

While it may not be obvious (and we may not always succeed), the primary goal of moderating interventions is to request and educate: here is why what you said can offend our allies, here is why your language participates in the same strategies of othering, marginalization or exclusion mainstream society uses to create an unjust world. It has been my experience--on babble and elsewhere--that such a request can lead to disproportionately violent reactions. Privilege can be a tough armour to pierce.

So it's easy to see how anti-imperialism dovetails with this dynamic. My definition of anti-imperialism would start with the understanding that the world is an unjust place, and that the ruling classes have a standing interest to maintain that inequality and enjoy manifold resources with which to do so. That's the imperialism part: the ways, militaristically, culturally, and discursively the ruling powers maintain their grip on hegemony. It also starts with the understanding that seeing how this works closest to us--the ways in which we--meaning babblers too!--are implicated and complicit in this ongoing practice is the hardest to see; or, as Unionist so succinctly put it: anti-imperialism begins at home!

So anti-imperialism, for me, means any way we disrupt these strategies and practices. It means opposing foreign wars of intervention. It means opposing false narratives spoon fed us by our craven media outlets who merely serve as stenographers of power. It means emphasizing that those hurt more by any conflict--be it military, verbal, legal or cultural--are always, always, always the world's poorest and most vulnerable (and disproportionately women. It's no accident that rape is one of war's most vicious weapons). It means remaining most sceptical when those in power seem to be acting most benevolently. It means never dissolving our critical lens in the soft, warming waters of patriotism, fervour, dogmatism, or loyalty--that is, of ideology.

So I'm not interested or invested in making sure that babblers have the "right" view of imperialism (or patriarchy, or racism, or homophobia or whatever)--mods have often been caricatured as such, but it's simply not the case--I'm invested in making sure that we have the sort of discussions babble was created to have. As always, we're a long way from that yet, but as a wise man once said, hope is better than fear, optimism is better than despair.

Glenl

Not to derail the thread, I was mostly wondering if believing some intervention was called for is pro-imperialistic? I'm not smart enough to know what intervention would have been appropriate.

Unionist

I don't agree, Glenl. It's the same argument that justifies intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. And will one day be used on North Korea, Iran, wherever. The same Romeo Dallaire, who whined and wept for the people of Rwanda, was a staunch supporter of the Afghan "mission". If someone supports the Afghan "mission", and the bombing and regime change in Libya, more power to them. But don't call them anti-imperialist, or the word loses all meaning.

I proposed a definition above. I'm not wedded to it, but I'd appreciate some feedback.

ETA: Oh, sorry, I forgot to mention that Senator Dallaire [url=http://www.680news.com/news/national/article/191337--sen-dallaire-calls-... demanding Canadian troops on the ground in Libya[/url] back on March 2, 2011. A true anti-imperialist.

Unionist

Just noticed Catchfire's post above. I'll second all that. The mods have set themselves a high bar here, and we'll need to find ways to enrich the discussion in order to meet the challenge (I'm looking at you, Unionist!).

It seems [url=http://huey3man.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/what-is-anti-imperialism/]other... are discussing this issue as well. I haven't watched the 2-hour video yet, but I certainly appreciated this introduction (it's by British activists):

Quote:

This year we have witnessed something that should be very worrying to all those that consider themselves anti-war, anti-imperialist and anti-racist. The British state has been at the head of a colonial war in North Africa, and there has been practically zero meaningful opposition to that war within Britain. In February 2003, two million people marched in London against war in Iraq. Only eight years later, all it takes is some reasonably sophisticated propaganda from the press and suddenly nobody is motivated to take a stand against wholesale destruction, widespread massacres and racist lynchings.

The western empire is pushing its agenda of complete domination of Africa and the Middle East, by destabilising and attempting to overthrow all resistant, independence-minded states and groups (in particular Libya, Syria, Iran, Algeria, Hezbollah, Hamas). Dressing this up as a movement for democracy, they have thrown most people off the scent. We need to fully understand imperialist strategy and tactics, and develop our own strategy and tactics to oppose them.

 

Glenl

I certainly don't support Iraq or Afghanistan, and I can see those having imperialistic agendas. Rwanda felt different to me, maybe it was more personal. Is there no way of preventing genocide that is not imperialistic?

Unionist

Glenl wrote:
I certainly don't support Iraq or Afghanistan, and I can see those having imperialistic agendas.

I don't think it matters what the "agenda" is. If someone invades your country and slaughters your people so that they can force you to send your girls to school, or shut down opium production, or steal your oil, or bring you "democracy and liberty" - what exactly is the difference?

Quote:
Rwanda felt different to me, maybe it was more personal. Is the no way of preventing genocide that is not imperialistic?

I don't know, Glenl. What's your answer? "Peacekeepers"? They were there.

What if China airlifted supplies, guarded by armed peacekeepers, to Attawapiskat, without permission of the Canadian government? Would you be ok with that?

Anyway, you still haven't said how you felt about Canada sending its military to prevent genocide in Libya. I'll tell you more about Rwanda after I hear your views about that.

 

Caissa

I wonder if anti-imperialism always requires an anti-interventionist perspective? Is it an approach that argues that nation-states must deal with their own issues internally without external intervention? I also wonder how this squares with a belief in international human rights and internationalism? These are questions I have been pondering. If anyone could help me wrestle with them I would be greatly appreciative.

Unionist

Give us a modern real-life example, Caissa.

 

Glenl

Libya started off well intentioned. The road to hell kinda thing. If it was going to turn into another Rwanda then I'm honestly torn about it. No one knows what would have happened until after the fact. It certainly didn't work out very well. I guess I go along with (what was ) the NDP position on it, try to do something but don't make it worst. We should send food to avoid famines, hell we should send food before there is a famine as well as agricultural aid to avoid hunger. That's an intervention, should we try to avoid mass murders?

Caissa

I'm not interested in examples, Unioinist. I'm looking for a theoretical approach to these issues, in  both a modern sense and historically.

Unionist

Glenl, do you know how many were killed in Libya: (a) before the military intervention; (b) after the military intervention?

Do you know how many people have been killed in Congo in a decade of war, much of it spurred by the "good guys" from Rwanda? Hint: There's a [url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8471147.stm]dispute[/url] as to whether it's 5.4 million, or "only" somewhat less than 3 million. Why are you talking about intervention in Rwanda, when Congo is right next door?

Why did the U.S. defend Saddam Hussein when he was accused of using weapons of mass destruction to commit mass slaughter against his own people - but then they made up fairy tales about WMD to invade and overthrow him when he was doing nothing of the sort?

I've got lots of other questions, but only one answer: Until someone can clearly set out a process whereby the world can intervene in sovereign countries to stop human rights violations in a consistent and coherent way, in a way which puts all countries (all countries) on an equal plane of decision-making, and in a way which excludes any control or domination of the joint effort by the great colonial powers of past or present - then I'll take my chances with shaking hands with the devil.

 

Unionist

Caissa wrote:

I'm not interested in examples, Unioinist. I'm looking for a theoretical approach to these issues, in  both a modern sense and historically.

Read my post just above (last paragraph) - I've given you my theoretical approach. It is universally true, valid, and applicable. I trust you won't be citing any examples to test or critique it. Theory only.

 

Caissa

Thanks, Unionist. I'll reflect on your answer.

Glenl

Rwanda was and is an example. I didn't see any good guys or bad guys in a general sense. I'm familiar with Congo, Burundi and Uganda as well. That's not the thread topic. If my neighbors home is being invaded and their children killed, is it imperialistic of me to try and stop it? I seen stuff while I was there that I can't shake, I couldn't help, maybe the world could have.

Unionist

Glenl wrote:
Rwanda was and is an example. I didn't see any good guys or bad guys in a general sense. I'm familiar with Congo, Burundi and Uganda as well. That's not the thread topic. If my neighbors home is being invaded and their children killed, is it imperialistic of me to try and stop it? I seen stuff while I was there that I can't shake, I couldn't help, maybe the world could have.

There aren't too many examples in modern times of imperialist intervention where the U.S. or the U.K. or Canada or France or Russia declare: "We're marching in to pillage, rape, plunder, conquer, and dominate!"

Naw, they usually always find something terrible happening or about to happen to innocent civilians, women, children... Why, do you recall why Hitler invaded the Sudetenland? and Poland? It was because of radio reports of ethnic Germans being killed, about to be killed, being thought about in a killing way...

So, let's go slowly. Give me an example of a humanitarian intervention where there was no request from a sovereign state for assistance. Then I can think about what, hypothetically, might have happened in Rwanda if someone intervened (we don't yet know who).

 

Glenl

It's not a military example but I think the apartheid government of South Africa were quite content to have the world stay out of it's internal and sovereign affairs.

Unionist

Good example. While South Africa was invading its neighbours, or financing movements to undermine their regimes, the world simply stopped dealing with these fascist creeps - until the people of South Africa flushed them down the toilet. I'm fine with that.

But think about the U.S. raising cries of "genocide" in Darfur in recent years, and getting ready to invade. That would have been a nice one, eh?

 

Fidel

European Parliament resolution condemns NATO's 'stay behind' Gladio terrorism November 2, 1990

[URL=[/URL]">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Gladio#European_Parliament_resolu...

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European parliaments condemned state sponsored terrorism in 1990. I propose that it also be rabble/babble policy to condemn state sponsored terror against innocent civilians and deliberate destruction of public infrastructure..

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