The paradox of Nationalism as Internationalism from below

Barry Biddulph replies to Bob Goupillot and Allan Armstrong on communists and Scotland’s referendum.

Maclean – For a Scottish Workers’ Republic

Bob Goupillot and Allan Armstrong of the Republican Communist Network (RCN), want to create a new global order. Yet their starting point for a communist transition is a national territorial framework in general, as they acknowledge, and Scotland in particular. They argue that they are not nationalists, but internationalists, with a strategy of internationalism from below, in which small nation nationalism can be transformed into internationalism. This is a  paradox. What is their tactical and strategic standpoint? Continue reading “The paradox of Nationalism as Internationalism from below”

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more liberal wars for democracy?

This month’s editorial looks at the rising threat of war in Syria and Iran

March was quite a month for the champions of liberal imperialism. Not only does the raging civil war in Syria raise the prospect of Western intervention, but the social media-based ‘Kony 2012’ campaign  saw such luminaries as Russell Brand and Rihanna promoting the cause of humanitarian intervention in Uganda. Meanwhile, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu complained that his country would not wait long in attacking Iran’s alleged nuclear facilities.

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dressed to kill

It was against this backdrop that David Cameron and Barack Obama reaffirmed the ‘special relationship’ between Britain and the United States, a ritual of Prime Ministerial visits to Washington dating back more than thirty years. Many media noted their chummy relationship, including visiting a basketball game and playing table tennis. Continue reading “more liberal wars for democracy?”

Defeat in Victory for Libyan Rebels?

Barry Biddulph rejects the notion that Western intervention in Libya has shown the possibility of any new, ethical, or progressive content to imperialism.

The victory of the rebels in Tripoli was seen to be dependent on NATO bombing, western weaponry, special forces, and planning by strategists in Paris, London and Washington. From the start of imperialist intervention in Benghazi, NATO has been bending the rebellion towards imperialist aims to secure a transition to a new regime compatible with western interests. This loss of independence and undermining of the rebellion from below was the reason why communists opposed the intervention and the no-fly zone.

Gilbert Achcar, moralising from the University of London, has argued it was not decent to oppose NATO Intervention and the no fly zone. He condemned the anti-imperialist left for not caring for real people on the ground (‘Popular Rebellion and Imperialist Designs’). The Alliance for Workers Liberty has echoed this denunciation, describing those who opposed imperialist intervention in Libya as morally degenerate. But anti imperialists cannot oppose revolutionaries in the Arab Spring and revolutionaries in general for supporting revolts by unarmed people’s against professional armies in Libya, Syria and elsewhere. Revolutions are violent and even attempts at peaceful revolution, as in Chile in 1970-3 can result in mass killings and defeat. Marx opposed any insurrection in Paris in 1871, but when the commune was crushed , he did not claim the leaders of the Paris Commune were morally responsible for 25,000 deaths. Fighting counter-revolution was an inspiration for the socialist future. Continue reading “Defeat in Victory for Libyan Rebels?”

any hope for libya?

Joe Thorne writes on NATO’s role in post-Gaddafi Libya, and whether its ‘humanitarian intervention’ is really cause to re-think anti-imperialism 

Less than a month before the fall of Tripoli, the BBC suggested that rather than a rebel victory, “what may emerge is a complicated deal struck between rebels and erstwhile Gaddafi loyalists to get the Libyan leader out of the picture and open up the way for a national transitional government.”

no tears for Gaddafi, no cheers for NATO

Indeed, I argued in the last issue of The Commune that this was precisely NATO’s strategy.  They saw such a compromise as the best means to ensure the political stability they want.  It would allow the NATO powers, as the brokers of any compromise, to play king-maker, and perhaps facilitate acceptance of foreign troops on Libyan soil, as ‘peace-keepers. But this was far from certain: the rebels were neither  NATO pawns nor idiots, and many would oppose such impositions.

In the event, Gaddafi’s army collapsed quicker than most had predicted.  The stalemate which had prevailed since late March was broken on 29th July, when rebel fighters in the West took five small villages in the plain below the Nafusa mountains.  This opened the way for the push to the coast and the taking of Zawiyah on 19th August, and the severing of the coastal artery supplying Tripoli with petrol and food.  Thus followed a collapse of morale in the loyalist army.

The end, then, was not so much the “grubbier” compromise that the Western powers were hoping for, but a far more straightforward rebel victory.  In consequence, the Libyan rebels are in a much stronger position to define the form of a new Libya than they otherwise would have been, and than NATO hoped they would be.  In consequence it seems, for example, that a Western base is off the agenda and there are signs that some rebel elements are resisting the imposition of ex-Gaddafi loyalists. Continue reading “any hope for libya?”

what is NATO doing in libya?

Joe Thorne looks at the evidence, and draws some conclusions

The calamity of a people is beneficial to others 

Libyan Proverb [1]

The NATO powers are not intervening in Syria or Bahrain, where pro-democracy movements are also subject to brutal suppression.  They did not intervene in Gaza during Cast Lead, or in Tamil Eelam during the offensive which wiped out thousands of Tamils.  While millions of dollars are spent on cruise missiles and aerial bombing, UNICEF, the same powers in their guise as protectors of children, say they are worried that because of insufficient resources to deal with famine “65,000 children in Kenya alone are at acute risk of dying.”  Indeed, “Britain trained and equipped some of the Libyan special forces who inflicted such horrors on cities like Misrata. Western states continue to train Saudi forces, and this may well have much the same effect.”

We don’t need to labour the point: the NATO powers are not ‘humanitarians’, their motives are not ‘humanitarian’, and what they do has nothing to do with the defence of human life.  Could it be the case that their malign motives are a given, but the objective outcome of their policy may nonetheless be welcome?  It was not the case in Kosovo or Iraq.  The point of reminding ourselves of NATO’s hypocrisy is not just that they are hypocrites: it is to understand how the specific, very much non-humanitarian, objectives of the NATO powers will play out in their actual policy in the coming weeks, months, and years. Continue reading “what is NATO doing in libya?”

some notes on libya and imperialist intervention today

Joe Thorne spent a week in Western Libya during June.

The following is a series of disconnected notes responding to the questions which I am most often asked about my visit, which was an observer of, but not at all a participant in, events.  As a communist returning from a civil war – one which is, in some sense, a revolution, but ultimately no more than a bourgeois one – the most frequent question I’ve been asked is: is there any visible class or political division within the rebel camp?  The blunt answer to this, at least in the West, is: no.

A rebel flag is held aloft at a funeral in Nalut, Western Libya

The economic base

Within Western Libya, the every-day economy is not currently organised in a capitalist way (although by no means a communist one either).   Around 80% of the population have fled to refugee camps in Tunisia, and there are hardly any commercial businesses operating – perhaps a small shop selling cigarettes here and there.  All food is provided by international aid organisations or imported centrally by the rebels, and distributed for free.  Basics, such as petrol, are allocated centrally by the military council.  Hardly anyone works for money now: all those who have stayed are staying to fight, tend to the injured, do media or humanitarian work, or simply – as in the case of many older people – to stay in solidarity with those who are doing those things. Continue reading “some notes on libya and imperialist intervention today”

meeting 14th april: class struggle in world war II

A meeting of the Birkbeck discussion group*, with a lead-off by David Broder.  From 7:30pm on Thursday 14th April at Room 254, Birkbeck, Malet Street (Goodge St. tube). All welcome.

The Second World War was the greatest crisis in the history of capitalism. For six years the system of states was in chaos as rival
imperialisms fought each other for control. Many communists hoped that the disaster of war and the discrediting of the ruling class would provide an opportunity for revolution. Yet the democratic bourgeoisie  emerged from 1945 stronger than ever.

Continue reading “meeting 14th april: class struggle in world war II”