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”→
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.
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?”→
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?”→
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.”
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?”→
Joe Thorne looks at the evidence, and draws some conclusions
The calamity of a people is beneficial to others
Libyan Proverb 
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?”→
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.
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”→
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.
David Broder writes on the disappointed revolutionary aspirations of the WWII-era left
The recent collapse of dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia marked inspiring victories for the mass uprisings in the Arab world. However, these revolts have again posed an age-old question of revolutionary politics: is the aim to get rid of this or that leader, or to overthrow the system as such?
This question was sharply posed in the late World War II period when mass resistance movements besieged fascist régimes across Europe. These movements were dominated by activists who believed in the desirability of communism.
Okay, beyond the provocative title, I’m as much in the dark as you are on this one. But I would like to start the article by listing the only things I hold to be self-evident in regards to the Julian Assange story.
One: WikiLeaks is a great thing, providing us with documentary proof of government collusion against the interests of the general public, in favour of the super-rich. Two: we cannot be sure that Julian Assange did not sexually assault either or both of the women at the centre of the allegations against him, because we were not there. Three: the criminal action against Assange is politically motivated, whether he assaulted the women or not. Four: WikiLeaks must be defended from those in positions of power who wish to shut it down and intimidate would-be whistleblowers. Continue reading “the truth about julian assange and wikileaks”→
Last Saturday I had a five-hour bus journey to Manchester. It was cold, the guy sitting next to me was eating something weird, and I’d forgotten my earphones so couldn’t listen to any music.
Further misfortune struck when I received an email on my phone, bearing an attachment of the Communist Workers’ Organisation article ‘The National Question Today and the Poisonous Legacy of the Counter-revolution’.
Part of this article was a reply against my own piece ‘The Earth is not flat’. Or, to be more precise, it was supposed to be a reply to my article, but in fact neatly sidestepped my points and instead held up their programme as a shining alternative to various straw-man arguments.
Allan Armstrong replies to Clifford Biddulph’s No nationalist solutions
Clifford Biddulph’s No nationalist solutions (issue no. 15 of The Commune) consists mainly of a reply to my article, The Communist Case for Internationalism from Below. This was written for the Second Global Commune event held on May 22nd in Edinburgh. I appreciate the time Clifford has taken to contribute to this debate. However, there will probably need to be a number of further articles before readers can fully appreciate the politics underlying our two approaches.
Clifford’s reply only addresses a few of the arguments, which I put forward in this article. Instead, Clifford puts forward his own particular critique of nationalism – the neo-Luxemburgist variant of the cosmopolitan approach, which I have already examined and found wanting. Of course, it is perfectly valid for Clifford to write an article offering his own view and to outline its particular origins. In doing so, however, he hasn’t dealt with my critique of the two main approaches to nationalism and the struggle for national self-determination found on the Left – (con)federal and cosmopolitan. Continue reading “the national question: for active involvement in all our class’s struggles”→
In issue 15 of The Commune, Greg Brown made his case for supporting the boycott of Israeli goods, as well as the campaign for divestment and sanctions against the Zionist state. I decided to take up the challenge and sketch a counter-argument, partly because I’d long felt ‘instinctively’ opposed to it, and wanted to work out exactly why.
After pondering the comrade’s article for a while, I realised the fundamental reason I’m not in Greg’s camp on this one. For me, an essential part of being a communist is the belief that working class unity is the only way to finally overcome the special oppressions suffered by many around the world. Women are generally more oppressed than men, for example, and dark skinned people are generally more oppressed than light skinned people, but patriarchal and racist structures are the products of material conditions – i.e. they exist because they benefit the ruling class. The character of gender oppression has changed as ruling classes has adapted to economic changes, and the same can be said of race oppression. Continue reading “a communist case against boycotting israel”→
As UK troops pulled out from the Sangin area of Helmand in early July, commanders hailed the successes of their mission in Afghanistan.
Yet at the same time the US-backed president Hamid Karzai has sought reconciliation with the Taliban, demonstrating the sham of ‘democracy’ brought by imperialist troops. The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan reports.
By inviting the Taliban, the leaders of the Islamic Party and other “Jihadi leaders” to be part of a “Consultative Peace Jirga,” Hamid Karzai is committing yet another crime against the Afghan people.
He has installed former Soviet puppets and Northern Alliance warlords in key posts of his government. He even went as far as assigning the two most notorious warlords, Karim Khalili and Qasim Fahim, as his vice presidents. Continue reading “an olive branch to the taliban?”→
Barry Biddulph replies to a debate on the national question
In the Earth is not Flat (see issue 14), David Broder argued that the aim of getting rid of capitalism by class struggle is too abstract in the face of some forms of nationalism. For David, nationalism which is a reaction to imperialism cannot be sidestepped or simply opposed by communism.
This seems to be the Leninist point about two kinds of nationalism: those of oppressed, and oppressor nations. A limited extension of popular democracy or the sovereignty of an oppressed nation can be supported. Even so, David does not entirely share the orthodox Leninist position of unconditional support for the self-determination of nations. Continue reading “Nationalism is not a solution.”→