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+3 votes
Are anarchists anti-imperialist?

1 Answer

+3 votes
Here's how I answered that in 2008:

Anti-Imperialism: Just Another Statist Ideology

by Lawrence Jarach
Anarchy Magazine, issue #65,

During the era of neo-colonialism, the Anti-Imperialist was primarily interested in supporting whatever National Liberation outfit happened to be causing the most problems for American and/or British (and to a lesser extent French, Portuguese, and Dutch) foreign policy, using the binary logic that the enemy of one’s enemy is one’s friend. What that meant in practice was that the Anti-Imperialist was nothing more than a shill for a smaller state (or a state in the making). Adhering to the ideology of Anti-Imperialism was a way to advocate something called Revolution, while avoiding the problems associated with local and international class struggle. The Oppressed Nation (usually represented by the Stalino-Maoist National Liberation Front) became the revolutionary subject, supplanting the more familiar international working class. Anti-imps, who would never even consider sitting in the same room as a local Stalinist, gleefully expressed their active solidarity with the new rulers of formerly colonized countries, even going so far as to excuse the liquidation of dissident Leftists in North Vietnam and the suppression of striking workers in Castro’s Cuba.

No anarchist would be in favor of imperialism (or sexism, or racism, or fascism) of course, but declaring oneself to be an Anti-Imperialist still means one of two things (and perhaps an overlap of the two). On the one hand it is an empty and passive opinion, requiring no particular strategy or action, and needing no explanation. On the other hand, it doesn’t just mean that one is against imperialism; it specifies a particular way to fight against imperialism—that is Anti-Imperialism. It still means taking sides in disputes between parties vying for government control (either trying to keep it or trying to overthrow it). 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.

Seeing the armed struggles of foreign Left-nationalists as the only relevant international revolutionary activity and taking their cue from Che (the executioner of the aforementioned striking workers), anti-imps in Germany and the US (and elsewhere) tried to open up armed fronts in solidarity with the North Vietnamese in their war against the United States. Starting from about 1969 their muddled reasoning led to the creation of urban guerrilla formations like the Red Army Faction and the Weather Underground. These vanguardists substituted self-referential and sectarian ideas for revolutionary theory, and militarized clandestine armed struggle for the revolutionary self-organization of workers.

In Germany, the end of overt US involvement in Southeast Asia shifted the main focus of anti-imps to the struggle of Palestinians against the brutal expansionist policies of the State of Israel. The chilling, self-marginalizing, and nazi-echoing apotheosis of German anti-imps (in collaboration with the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP]) arrives with the selekzia (selection—a process first made infamous at Auschwitz) at Entebbe in 1976. Jews—not just those holding Israeli passports—were separated out as permanent hostages from among the hijacked passengers; the others were released. A further adventure was to have been the assassinations of the heads of the Jewish communities in Berlin and Frankfurt.

By the mid-1980s, the marginalizing antics of the remnants of the WU had devolved into a series of actions mostly undertaken to provide them with the resources to maintain their self-chosen clandestine existence: bank robberies, armored car holdups, and shoot-outs with the police. Despite this self-defeating strategy, the romantic allure of urban guerrillaism has led many anarchists (following their mentor Ward Churchill) to provide financial and moral support to surviving imprisoned Third World nationalists and “North American anti-imperialists”—decoded: white people who unequivocally support the Revolutionary Leadership™ of Third World nationalists.

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.

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; 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.
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. Anarchists have always supported internationalist working-class based tendencies promoting self-organized resistance to colonialism and imperialism, regardless of its country of origin. We have also avoided Popular Front-based pseudo-opposition to fascism and imperialism, whether it is of the Islamist or Stalino-Maoist variety. The relevance of anarchist and other anti-statist ideas and practice can only increase by us refusing to be fooled by the adherence of our supposed allies to yet another statist ideology.
by (570 points)
"Anti-Imperialism is [...] bankrupt [...] it should be avoided as a [...] position by any principled anti-statist [...] Anarchists have always supported [...] resistance to [...] imperialism"

Incoherent ideology is incoherent.
Your cut-and-paste skills would be more impressive if you had any comprehension skills to go with them.

"Anti-Imperialism... specifies a particular way to fight against imperialism..." which is why I reject it and recommend all principled anti-statists also reject it. Back in the early 1970s our German (and some other European) allies had their radical movement split over the question of Anti-Imperialism, and their extra-parliamentary opposition is stronger as a result of this principled stance. The depressing anti-intellectualism that hampers most American radicals precludes the necessary analysis and rejection of Anti-Imperialism as the ideology of lazy oppositionists.
Your attempts to impose a rigid definition on a broadly defined political concept would be more impressive if I gave a damn.
The "rigid definition" is based on the actual history of the term. It was appropriated by Leninists for a very specific function which had nothing to do with self-organized working class and poor people's resistance to imperialism. The concept might be "broadly defined" but the practice has been very specific for the past 80 years or so.

And if you don't "give a damn" then why are you complaining so much?