As the Western left has become more aligned with their imperialist bourgeoisie in the destabilization of the Global South, the radical Black tradition provides a clear approach to “turn imperialist wars into wars against imperialism.”
By Ajamu Baraka
Published on BAR, Sept 1, 2021
Changes in historical conditions can elevate a secondary contradiction to a primary, and antagonistic contradiction, in an instant. The rightist collaboration with the Pan-European colonial/capitalist project on the part of the social-imperialist left in the United States and Europe did not occur instantly but has been evolving for decades. The contradictory nature of that relationship has sharpened as a result of the current crisis of global capitalism and the U.S. led Western imperialist project fueled by two interconnected elements: the devastating social-economic conditions that workers and the laboring classes now face as result of monopoly capital’s neoliberal turn over the last forty years in both the imperialist center and global South; and the intensifying challenge to neoliberalism from states and social movements in the global South, with the corresponding response from U.S. and European capital that has ranged from economic sanctions meant to punish whole populations to direct and indirect political subversion and military interventions, all illegal and morally indefensible.
And while political opposition to neoliberal policies have been fragmented and inconsistent in the Northern capitalist countries, the peoples and nations in the global South confronted neoliberal globalization and Western imperialism in various forms, from culturalist rejection of Westernization to sophisticated political opposition that resulted in the nominal capture of neocolonial states by left forces, in particular in Latin America.
The response from capital to those challenges was predictable. Murderous sanctions, wars of aggression and political repression. Yet, over the last two and a half decades there has been a change in how these interventions and illegal actions have been presented to the public. While U.S. and Western innocence was always a component of the propaganda to justify colonialist aggression, the ideas of humanitarian intervention and its corollary, the responsibility to protect, emerged in the 1990s as one of the most innovative ideological weapons ever produced since the end of the second imperialist war in 1945.
That framing that evokes an ideologically-embedded liberalism that infects the consciousness of most Westerners and the Western-orientated left to “instinctively” oppose something called “authoritarianism,” has created a perfect storm of counterrevolutionary ideological reaction. Its liberalism and subconscious assumptions of Western civilizational superiority has transformed large sectors of the Western left into collaborators with the white supremacist, Pan European colonial/capitalist patriarchy, from which it has also benefited materially.
Appealing to “white saviorism,” Western interventions are now framed as “humanitarian.” Already corrupted by material privileges and infused with assumptions of white supremacist biases, elements of the Western left fell into alignment with neoliberal justifications for imperialist actions in the global South.
This sentiment is being captured dramatically with the situation unfolding in Afghanistan. The decision on part of elements in the U.S. foreign policy community to redeploy U.S. forces from Afghanistan has sparked an ahistorical and hypocritical cry from liberals and the pro-war corporate press that the U.S. and the West are abdicating their “responsibility to protect” “oppressed” populations. This fantastic flight from reality by liberals is compounded by an equally, and even more absurd stance taken by large sectors of the radical left in the U.S. and Europe who also seem to believe, like some of their predecessors from the second international that supported Western colonialism, that the West and Western imperialism can have some beneficial results for the natives in the global South.
While this short commentary will not attempt to delve into the complexities of how the radical left ended up as collaborators with their imperialist bourgeoisie, I will discuss the divergent approaches to the current crisis by the international bourgeoisie and the Western left, with a particular focus on the U.S. left.
Having a clear understanding of the objective interests of U.S. led imperialism and the strategies being deployed to protect and advance those interests is imperative for colonized and oppressed peoples and classes. We do not have the luxury of confusion. The Western bourgeoisie still under the hegemony of U.S.-based finance and corporate capital has demonstrated through practice that, notwithstanding secondary conflict of interests among them, they have a common objective interest to act as a block to counter political challenges from the global South to the Pan European colonial/capitalist white supremacist patriarchy.
Biden and the Post-Trump reconsolidation of Global White supremacy
As a result of the incessant propaganda from neoliberal corporate press in the U.S., Biden and democrats are considered to be the nice, rational friends of people of color globally, and Trump the mean massa, the proto fascist at the head of a violent, irrational movement committed to white supremacy and capitalist hegemony.
Of course, as I have said on many occasions, the reality is much more complex, with neoliberalism actually representing a more dangerous threat to colonized and working-class peoples in the U.S. and globally. This is because within the context of the U.S., Democrats have been successful in perpetuating the myth that they represent “progressivism.” This perception usually leads to substantial demobilization and actual liberal – left alignment with neoliberalism objectively when Democrats occupy the Executive Branch.
Yet, as the late Glen Ford said on numerous occasions, the democrats are nothing more than the more effective evil, especially when it comes to advancing a white supremacist imperialist agenda.
Just a cursory examination of the rhetoric of the Biden campaign and his political objectives after assuming office reveals his quite obvious commitment to white unity and global white supremacy.
Restoring the historic alliance between the U.S. and Europe was announced by Biden as a major objective of his administration. His “America is Back” slogan was supposed to signify that the U.S. was ready to reassume its leadership of the Western alliance. Biden proudly identified himself as an “Atlanticist,” and indeed a number of the members of his foreign policy team were plunked from the “Atlantic Council.” Similar to the Council on foreign Affairs (CFA), the Atlantic Council is a neoliberal think tank that is funded by a cross-section of the ruling class but significantly by neoliberals associated with the democrat party.
The Atlantic Council was a severe critic of the Trump administration, not because of any concerns about its “racism” but because the Council opposed Trump’s unilateralist approach to foreign policy and his dangerous ideas like pulling out of NATO, a desire to draw down U.S. troops and his insufficient hostility to Russia. Plus, the Council and the neoliberal ruling class never forgave Trump for his scuttling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership because it pulled the rug out from under the Trans-Atlantic Investment Partnership that was supposed to be the next agreement after TPP and would have solidified the hegemony of U.S. capital in Europe for next few decades.
Biden and the Council believed that unity among the G-7 nations during the current global capitalist crisis was imperative. Consequently, Biden’s aggressive stance toward Russia, Venezuela, blind support for Israel and general hostility toward the progressive governments in Latin America signaled that belligerent U.S. policy would continue, but with an Obama-like smile.
What has been response from the U.S. and Western left to Bourgeois Destabilization in Global South?
Bolivian President, Evo Morales, faced a right-wing coup and instead of unrestrained mobilization the left engaged in a debate about the Bolivian process. In Europe, the liberal-left parliamentarians in the European Union awarded their Sakharav human rights prize to the Venezuelan right-wing opposition, an opposition known for burning alive dark-skinned Venezuelans assumed to be “Chavistas.” Bernie Sanders declares Hugo Chavez a “dead communist dictator” and most respectable liberal-left elements in the U.S. would not get caught dead at a pro-Venezuela demo as long as the new “authoritarian dictator,” Nicholas Maduro, is in power. Gaddafi deserved to die, Assad is a bloodthirsty tyrant, China is capitalist, and a human rights violator, and Haiti is a S…hole country that does not merit much thought or energy, let alone mobilization for.
The anti-anti-imperialism of a Eurocentric armchair commentator like Gilbert Achcar neatly captures the inanity of this approach, dressed-up as nuanced and sophisticated analysis. Grounded in Western chauvinism and completely suspended from the contradictory structures and class forces in the specific, concrete realities of this historical moment, it condemns the left projects that don’t correspond to the imagery of Western leftists who see revolutionary change as some pristine project. These leftists do not seem to notice or don’t care that they are usually on the same side of an international issue as the international bourgeoisie.
Why? Because ideologically they don’t make a distinction from that of a David Lidington, Chair of the Royal United Services Institute and a former deputy Prime Minister of the UK, who argues the benefits of association with the West by states that are supposedly committed to something called a liberal international order. He proudly states that “What made support from the West so attractive to countries around the world was the underpinned commitment to helping countries build liberal, open democracies and a society grounded in the rule of law.”
From Achcar and the “leftists” amplifying the pro-war sentiments being pushed by liberal corporate press in response to the chaos from Afghanistan to Lidington, there is a unity of worldviews that sees stability and a safe normalcy in a world administered by Western powers.
The safe, materially comfortable, latte-left may be able to indulge in these kinds of delusional beliefs, but for the colonized still fighting for national liberation and independence against the real coterie of capitalist nation-states that conquered our lands and enslaved our peoples, it would be suicidal for us to embrace that view.
For the colonized, the terms of the fight are between imperialism and national independence from the very same nations that “leftists” like Achcar give ideological cover to. The sophisticated Western left not only provides a “left” legitimation for alignment with reaction, but also supports the bourgeois ideological attack on the very idea of revolutionary change — a support that confuses and demobilizes activists from coming to the aid of movements and nations who find themselves in the crosshair of vicious U.S. state violence.
The African Response to What must be Done
Lenin was crystal clear on the importance of the struggle for anti-colonial national liberation in the South. But contemporary Eurocentric Western radicals have abandoned the simple and strategically clear positions of their progenitors that the struggle for national liberation continues and that was never any “post-coloniality,” and that every victory in that struggle alters the international balance of forces against the international power of imperialism.
The peoples’ movements for national liberation from imperialism are not necessarily asking Western radicals for ideological or political support but instead are demanding that they target their national bourgeoisie in order to put a brake on their attempts to undermine anti-imperialist national projects. We (they) say, stop giving legitimacy to the white supremacist concepts of “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect.”
To counter the collaborationism and opportunism of the U.S. and Western left, Black revolutionaries must re-center the anti-colonial struggle that addresses the dialectics of the national and class issues produced by the colonial/capitalist system.
This re-centering of anti-colonial struggle is not new. It has been the broad theoretical framework for African/Black radical tradition for decades — from Black socialists in Harlem like Hubert Harrison and the African Blood Brotherhood in the teens and the 1920’s to the revolutionary Pan African tradition. It was also reflected in the articulations of Lenin on the “National Question” and the assemblies of colonial peoples leading to the 1928 declaration on the right to self-determination on the part of colonized peoples and the declaration that Africans in the U.S. constituted an oppressed nation with the right to self-determination.
The radical Black tradition provides an invaluable approach for how a left should address its bourgeoisie. We say that concretely it means that authentic Western leftists must join us to “turn imperialist wars into wars against imperialism.” Specifically for African revolutionaries in the U.S. we must build bottom-up organic black unity and an anti-colonial, pro-socialist movement anchored in the Black working class that must assert leadership of this movement and to the broader radical movement in the U.S.
Biden and the neoliberal, neo-fascists are committed to countering the movements for national liberation and socialism by any means, including destroying the planet to maintain European imperialist power.
The Western social-imperialist left that is still addicted to its material privileges and illusions of being a part of something called the “West” has a choice that it must make: either you abandon privilege and whiteness and join as class combatants against your bourgeoisie, or you will be considered part of the enemy.
Ajamu Baraka is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. Baraka serves on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Peace Council and leadership body of the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC). He was awarded the US Peace Memorial 2019 Peace Prize and is the recipient of the Serena Shirm award for uncompromised integrity in journalism.