Anti-imperialism: Yet another statist ideology

Anti-statism refers to opposition to state intervention into personal, social or economic affairs. — Wikipedia.

Anarchy Magazine on anti-imperialism.

Anti-Imperialism remains attractive to Leftists precisely because it mandates that anti-imps support whatever Popular Front-type formation happens to be in an antagonistic relationship toward a chosen imperial state; thus it requires little in the way of critical thinking. Anti-Imperialism is an unthinking person’s revolutionary (im)posture.

Another major problem with such an approach is that by always choosing to side with whoever you think opposes the chosen imperial state, you are permitting that imperial state to set the agenda for you. In a very real way, that state is then controlling your political behavior. Hatred is a form of bondage to the object. Also, of course, the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend, and is something only a simpleton would believe or a charlatan pretend.

A decade ago, the anti-imps of ANSWER supported Milosevic the ethnic cleanser. These days, American and European anti-imps express their solidarity with the clerical obscurantists and misogynists of Hamas and Hezbollah, and/or the Stalinists of the PFLP because they are resisting the militarist ethnic cleansing of the State of Israel. It doesn’t seem to bother the anti-imps too much that these gangs spend almost as much time fighting, kidnapping, torturing, and killing each other in order to consolidate their political and territorial hegemony.

“We must support Mugabe because he stands against imperialism” is precisely the lunacy I heard while a member of a hard left group. As for all the dead bodies piled up in mounds, well, they never talked much about that – and Stalin’s purges were of course never mentioned, much less criticized. Apparently they only oppose ruthless use of force when the other side is doing it.

Anarchist anti-imps are compelled to take sides in every dispute, desperate to find some group—any group—whose Revolution™ they can support. Being activists, they have to Do Something; more often than not they get sucked into Popular Fronts (ANSWER—Worker’s World Party [Now, PSL]; World Can’t Wait—RCP), becoming more bodies at the latest march, at worst insisting—against all evidence to the contrary—that these cross-class fronts really are authentic grassroots progressive coalitions subject to direct democracy, and not under the control or sponsorship of Leninists at all.

That’s why such Leninist vanguard parties are doomed to failure. They can never become genuine mass organizations because by definition they only allow those in the leadership who toe their precise ideological line. So, there’s no real way for them to grow. (Nor do they really want to, the front group is primarily used for recruitment into the party.)

Anti-Imperialism is just as bankrupt today as it was in the ’40s and ’70s; it should be avoided as a label and position by any principled anti-statist.


  • The reason so many hard-Left groups have found themselves in the awkward position of supporting ruthless oppressors in the struggle against ruthless oppression is because it often manifests itself in being the only option. Imperialists are sneaky, and (especially during the Cold War when most of the actions you’re talking about took place) a nation liberating itself from one oppressive imperial power made it the prime target for an opposing imperial power.
    We see this in the histories of Cuba, Uganda, and Syria, where countries formerly sealed in the domination of the United States or Great Britain liberated themselves through peaceful, semi-violent, or violent opposition, only to become pressured into seeking out aid from another despicable imperialist power (in all of these cases, the USSR). Nowadays too, the “anti-imperialists” in Afghanistan and Palestine who are so often heralded by the Left as being heroic are pushed by their desperation to turning to the equally repressive ideology of religious fundamentalism. The secular, level-headed liberators operating in these countries find themselves without a leg to stand on, while the whack-jobs and Islamists find comfort in the support they receive from Iran, the regional imperialist in the Middle East. The fact of the matter is that, in a world divided by imperial domination, moderates are crushed from all sides while imperial stooges find themselves able to succeed on the condition that, once the revolution is won, they turn around and sell the country back to a new imperial oppressor.
    The Left needs to remain vigilant in its mission to defeat imperialism, making sure that the leaders we see as heroic liberators one day do not become the pawns of an imperial slave-master the next. I am all for supporting the cause of the Iraqis, Palestinians, and Afghans, but not so long as the only forces fighting for their liberation are the Mahdis, Hammases, and Talibans of the world.

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