“When is terrorism not terrorism? Apparently when it is committed by a more powerful government against those at home and abroad who are weaker than itself and whom it regards as a potential threat or even as insufficiently supportive of its own objectives. Those are the only conclusions one can draw in the light of the current widespread condemnation of aggression and terrorism, side by side with the ability of certain nations to attack others with impunity, and to organize murder, kidnapping and massive destruction with the support of some permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.” - Julius Nyerere, 1986
‘Civil war’ is a totally inaccurate label for what’s going on in Syria. I think we should start calling it what it is: an imperialist war of destabilisation, where the aggressors’ fighting has been outsourced to sectarian religious terrorists. This outsourcing follows the same logic as any other type of outsourcing: it’s cheaper. The political and economic cost of pushing thousands of Iraqi, Libyan and Saudi (etc) terrorists in Syria’s direction is extremely low, at least in the short term. Imagine if it was European and North American soldiers coming home in body bags - there might actually be a viable anti-war movement in the west! And people the world over would know exactly who was to blame for the shameful destruction of a beautiful nation - for the needless deaths of thousands, for the forced migration of hundreds of thousands, for the reversal of decades of progress, for the brutal attack on thousands of years of civilisation.
And of course the ‘civil war’ narrative has another very important function: it contributes to our general prejudice that “these Arabs” (much like “these Africans” and “these Asians”) are inherently barbaric people who simply can’t get along. And it sends out a message that any attempt by a third world nation to follow a path of resistance to imperialism and zionism will inevitably end in murderous in-fighting - for which the civilised, sophisticated, modern imperialist states of course cannot reasonably be blamed.
So to call it a civil war is to take part in a vast deception.
Happy birthday to Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X, born on this day in 1890 and 1925 respectively. The two are linked by more than the relative position of earth and sun at the time of their birth: they were both among the most important revolutionary anti-imperialist leaders of their time. Ho Chi Minh was a communist and an atheist; Malcolm X was a black nationalist and a Muslim. But, in spite of differing ideological/spiritual traditions, they were absolutely on the same side in the historic global struggle against imperialism - a struggle Malcolm defined as “a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter”.
“The basis of socialism is a belief in the oneness of man and the common historical destiny of mankind. Its basis, in other words, is human equality. Socialism is not for the benefit of black men, nor brown men, nor white men, nor yellow men. The purpose of socialism is the service of man, regardless of colour, size, shape, skill, ability, or anything else…
“The colour or origin of the man who is working [towards the abolition of exploitation] does not matter in the very least. And each one of us must fight, in himself, the racialist habits of thought which were part of our inheritance from colonialism…
“All those who stand for the interests of the workers and peasants, anywhere in the world, are our friends. This means that we must judge the character and ability of each individual, not put each person into a prearranged category of race or national origin and judge them accordingly.
“Let us always remember two things: 1) We have dedicated ourselves to build a socialist society in Tanzania; and 2) socialism and racialism are incompatible.”
Julius Nyerere, ‘Socialism is not Racialism’, 1967
ASG's counter-hegemony unit: Excerpts on Syria from Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah's latest speech -
“On the latest Israeli aggression on Syria:
Unfortunately, the Israelis talked of their “enemy’s enemy” and “friend’s friend”. Isn’t the Israeli enemy the benchmark? Isn’t this rudimentary? This is part of our Islamic lexicon.
Of course there were objectives behind Israel’s attacks which it…
What do I think of Seumas Milne’s latest article on Syria? Funny you should ask.
On the one hand, it is probably the best article on Syria you’ll see in the mainstream press. Unlike most other journalists, Seumas strongly condemns the illegal aerial attacks by Israel, and recognises that it is an intervention on the side of the ‘rebels’ (contras is a better term, for those that remember Nicaragua). Further, he accepts that the situation is now a “vicious sectarian war, manipulated by outside forces to change the regional balance of power”. If we ignore the slightly strange idea that Cameron is backing the rebellion in order to “ingratiate himself with the Gulf dictators” (a bit like a slavemaster ingratiating himself with his overseers), it is essentially a solid representation of what imperialism is up to in Syria.
This is all increasingly well understood by the left (some understood it two years ago, but hey, let’s not sweat the small stuff). But how should it affect the political position of anti-imperialists? If it is an imperialist war (what else is it, if it is “manipulated by outside forces to change the regional balance of power”?), then isn’t it quite obvious that we should actively take the side that is under attack from the imperialists and their henchmen? That is to say: we should support the Syrian patriotic front, led by the Syrian government. Yup, that’s right. Even if Syria doesn’t correspond to our own special definition of democracy; even if Syrian prisons are extremely unpleasant places; even if, with our ever-so-refined political culture, we don’t think Hafez al-Assad’s son should have become President; even if we think Syria should really have defeated one of the best-equipped armies in the world (Israel) by now; etc etc. Put as many ‘even ifs’ in as you like, but you can’t escape the inescapable: anti-imperialists should support Syria against imperialist destabilisation, slander and regime change. Chávez was a big supporter of Syria - damn it, be more like Chávez!
And that is exactly where Seumas’ article falls down. Instead of encouraging unity against the main enemy, he says that “the Assad regime bears responsibility” for it all, and that the situation started because of the “brutal repression” of a “popular uprising”. No supporting evidence, of course - by now, the early stories spread by phoney ‘news’ organisations such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have become accepted truth and there is no longer any burden of evidence. And can we please stop using the word ‘regime’, which implies a blind acceptance of the mainstream narrative on democracy (if nothing else, we can say that Assad has infinitely more support and legitimacy than David Cameron).
Seumas’ regurgitation of the neither-Assad-nor-imperialism line leaves his article being little better than the usual demobilising, misleading rubbish that the SWP and others have been coming out with for the past two years. It doesn’t promote unity; it doesn’t mobilise people; it just spreads defeatism. For goodness sake, if Israel is bombing Damascus and the contras are being supplied with weapons and money by the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, then it should be pretty bloody obvious which side to take!
End of rant.
“The liberation of women is not an act of charity. It is not the result of a humanitarian or compassionate position. It is a fundamental necessity for the Revolution, a guarantee of its continuity, and a condition for its success.
“The Revolution’s main objective is to destroy the system of the exploitation of man by man, the construction of a new society which will free human potentialities and reconcile work and nature. It is within this context that the question of women’s liberation arises.
“In general, the women are the most oppressed, the most exploited beings in our society. She is exploited even by him who is exploited himself, beaten by him who is tortured by the palmatorio, humiliated by him who is trod underfoot by the boss or the settler. How may our Revolution succeed without liberating women? Is it possible to liquidate a system of exploitation and still leave a part of society exploited? Can we get rid of only one part of exploitation and oppression? Can we clear away half the weeds without the risk that the surviving half will grow even stronger? Can we then make the Revolution without the mobilization of women? If women compose over half of the exploited and oppressed population, can we leave them on the fringes of the struggle?
“In order for the Revolution to succeed, we must mobilize all of the exploited and oppressed, and consequently the women also. In order for the Revolution to triumph, it must liquidate the totality of the exploitative and oppressive system, it must liberate all the exploited and oppressed people, and thus it must liquidate women’s exploitation and oppression. It is obliged to liberate women.”
Samora Machel, 1973
It’s a very strange form of colonialism, China’s new colonisation of Africa. Unlike British, French, Belgian, Portuguese and US colonialism, it doesn’t involve military bases, armies, assassinations, massacres, pillaging, destabilisation campaigns, divide and rule campaigns, or any coercion as such.
Even at the economic level, it’s quite different: for example it doesn’t do the whole enforced-structural-adjustment thing, and it has developed this cunning trick of building important infrastructure like schools, hospitals and roads, just to make people believe that it’s not simply interested in stealing natural resources.
In fact, given that Chinese colonialism in Africa is based on mutually-agreed trade and aid contracts, you could almost say that it’s not really colonialism at all. More like just… trade and aid.
Still, these are just petty nuances, hardly worth talking about. Down with evil China, the new coloniser of Africa! Come back, Britain, France, Belgium and Portugal, all is forgiven!
Cuba was the only country that provided military advisors and doctors to support the revolution in Guinea Bissau, led by Amilcar Cabral. Cabral wanted liberation to be won by the efforts of the Guinea-Bissauans themselves, but he made an exception for Cuba, whose revolution he deeply respected and with which he felt a special affinity (USSR supplied weapons and supplies, but not people). Most of the personnel sent by Cuba were black, so they wouldn’t be too obviously foreign.
Thanking these Cuban-Africans, Cabral said: “I don’t believe there is life after death, but if there is, we can be sure that the souls of our forefathers who were taken away to America to be slaves are rejoicing today to see their children reunited and working together to help us be independent and free.”
Beautiful. This ‘Conflicting Missions’ book (about Cuba’s engagement with Africa between 59 and 76) is absolutely brilliant, strongly recommended. A great reminder of what anti-imperialist solidarity means.
After attending a UN General Assembly meeting in October 1962, just a few months after Algeria won its independence, Ben Bella flew directly to Havana, in spite of strong protests from the US. He commented:
“What I missed most in the United States was the warmth of human companionship. America is a wall … a wall that separates people. What is lacking is communication among people. I was struck by the absence of that human warmth that is, for us Algerians, an essential element of life, without which we cannot breathe. With what delight we immersed ourselves, as soon as we had boarded the plane, in the warmth of the Cubans. We had just sat down when they served us an excellent cafecito, very strong, very sweet, very fragrant, which was a welcome change from the pale brew they call coffee in the United States. We began talking at once - I don’t know in what language because they didn’t speak Arabic and I only knew a little Spanish. But friendship overcame everything. Between Cubans and Algerians the communication proved to be immediate and deep.”
“The peoples of Algeria and Cuba have faced huge obstacles and fought hard and beautiful battles for their independence and self-determination. Both revolutions are irreversible. We greet you and your delegation as the representatives of a people that has freed itself from the shame of colonialism, and spared no sacrifice. We greet the brave guerrillas who for seven years fought gloriously against a powerful army equipped with all the latest weapons. We greet all those who suffered persecution, torture, imprisonment and exile during those seven tragic years. We greet those who represent the indomitable spirit of the National Liberation Front.”
(Cited in Piero Gleijeses ‘Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976’)