PART’s Perspective: One Struggle, Many Fronts
One Struggle, Many Fronts!
Oppose the Imperialist “Summit of the Americas”
By Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror (ARA-LA/PART)
Fresh from rattling the saber against China with his Asian allies and lamenting the loss of life in Uvalde TX (surely there is no connection between the US military-industrial complex and war machine, and the unbelievable and intolerable incidence of mass shootings in the US), Joe Biden is coming to Los Angeles to address the US-dominated Organization of American States (OAS) “Summit of the Americas” during the first full week in June. Demonstrations are planned on Wednesday, June 8 by the “Anti-Imperialist Summit of Nuestra America”, initiated by Union del Barrio, and on Friday, June 10 after a three-day “Peoples Summit for Democracy”, held at Los Angeles Trade Technical College near the OAS venue at the LA Convention Center.
Not present for the OAS Summit will be Cuba, Nicaragua, or Venezuela, banned from participation by the US State Department. Nor will the President of Mexico attend because of the ban on those others. And most of the Caribbean countries said they would not attend if the US invited its puppet, Juan Guaido, to “represent” Venezuela. The US also denied visas to a couple of dozen Cubans, doctors and other medical workers invited to address the People’s Summit for Democracy. The Anti-imperialist Summit of Nuestra America broke the ban by having a Cuban spokeswoman and a Venezuelan labor leader and legislative deputy address their gathering via zoom, along with local representatives of the Sandinistas from Nicaragua’s FSLN and of the FMLN in neighboring El Salvador, where the right-wing populist government of Bukkele has imposed a “state of emergency” over-riding all individual rights in the wake of the collapse of Bitcoin cryptocurrency, which Bukkele had made legal tender in the country.
The US bans and the response to them, along with the general refusal of governments across “Latin” America and the Caribbean to fall in line with the US/NATO sanctions on Russia over its war with Ukraine, underline the diminished power of the US, which can no longer expect its neighbors to respond, “How high?” when it commands, “Jump!” Even as the US invites its NATO allies like France, the UK and the Netherlands to participate in military “exercises” in South America along with its ‘Southern Command”, and the government of Colombia deepened its partnership with NATO, the people of Colombia voted for a former anti-capitalist guerrilla leader number one in their recent elections with over 40% compared to 28% for the second-place finisher, an anti-establishment right-wing populist.
But the question remains, here in the “belly of the beast”, what people in this country can do to further weaken the US imperial system, to strengthen the popular forces internationally, and to build relations of conscious solidarity among poor and working people through the Americas and the world. If US hegemony is weakening in the world at large, the domination of imperialism and monopoly capitalism, even in its most reactionary variants, seems undiminished in the US. The weakness of the US left has material consequences on liberatory class and anti-colonial struggle throughout the world.
What Makes It, Breaks It
What formed the “states” that the US has pulled together in the Organization of American States and uses to advance its efforts to stigmatize, isolate and attempt to destroy governments that resist US domination? It was a similar process of colonization, land theft, settler colonialism and enslavement of indigenous and African people as occurred here in the US, with the exception that the primarily Spanish, Portuguese and French colonizers did less (except in the Caribbean) of seeking to exterminate and eliminate the indigenous population than the British did in North America. That means that at the base of those societies, and the most exploited and oppressed within them, are masses of Indigenous and African-descent people. This was manifest in the wars for independence against Spain and Portugal, when Bolivar’s armies (like those in Mexico, too) consisted primarily of Indigenous and African descent people, who received essential refuge and support from the people of Haiti, who had themselves overthrown the yoke of enslavement and colonization by defeating Napoleon’s army. It was manifest in the refusal of the US government to extend any solidarity to the republican revolutionaries of Mexico, waging a war for independence against Spain. John Quincy Adams, then US Secretary of State, refused a request from the new and embattled Mexican government, denouncing their revolution led by indigenous and African descent people as a “servile rebellion” that threatened “civilized” society with upheaval, and thus different from the US Revolutionary War for independence, which he portrayed as Anglo-Saxons seeking their birthright as transplanted Englishmen.
That reality is reflected today in the base of struggles for socialism, sustainability and indigenous sovereignty and environmental protection, in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Honduras, Colombia and Brazil, among other societies. There is a need for intercommunal solidarity, proletarian and campesino internationalism, not just recognition of the sovereign rights of nation states. The land and water protection struggles of indigenous peoples in the Americas, north as well as south, in Canada and the US fully as much as in Brazil, Chile or Bolivia, are some of the sharpest anti-capitalist and anti-colonial class struggles in the world today. Left forces in the US need to do better than mimic the “sovereign-states” posture of the OAS, and recognize the sovereignty of indigenous peoples, whose traditional territories and stewardship of land do not necessarily correspond to the state borders created by Europe settler colonial powers.
Support for the Indigenous is critical to the kind of militant protection of the environment from further capitalist depredation and degradation that is demanded of us in this era of deepening climate crisis. Capitalism was birthed in the expropriation of the lands of America and the stolen labor of indigenous and African people. As Marx said: “The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalized the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of [primary] accumulation. On their heels treads the commercial war of the European nations, with the globe for a theatre.”—Capital, Volume One (1867)
Yet many self-described Marxists today fail to get what Marx really said, and meant, over a century and a half ago. They quote him from Capital: capitalism came into the world “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt,” yet still imagine that capitalism was in some way liberating or progressive. In fact, capitalism is inherently racist and destructive, and so-called primary or primitive accumulation, and expropriation, are not artifacts of the past but essential aspects of the ongoing nature of capitalism and its “wealth generation” right up to the present moment. Capitalism did not abolish earlier forms of class or gender oppression such as the oppression of women or the exploitation of peasants, but incorporated, internalized, and refined them. Aristocracy, patriarchy, and white supremacy are hallmarks of capitalism and imperialism, and especially settler colonialism.
This is critical to understanding how the US has come to play a role as the world bastion of reaction, where settler colonialism acts as a basis for class collaboration and a safety valve for class antagonism not only within its own militarily imposed and maintained borders, but throughout the rest of the world. To use the phrase coined by Noel Ignatiev, the Irish became white, not only in the US, but even in Ireland, through access to stolen Indigenous lands and to the ranks of relatively-privileged “free” labor above enslaved Africans, including as members of law enforcement. Mass migration of Irish to the US, along with waves of Swedes, Bohemians, Germans and other Europeans, particularly after failed uprisings and revolutions, blunted revolutionary class consciousness on both sides of the Atlantic. This process is still taking place today, including in its inculcation of criminality and a predatory consciousness, with migrants from many parts of the world, increasingly including “Latin” America, Asia and even Africa. Remittances from poor migrants in the US to even poorer family members in their home countries are now one of the largest flows of capital in the world (yet they are crumbs from the table of the feast of wealth that US and European capitalists extract from those very countries they impoverish (including by importin labor from them).
These realities are also manifest in the grip of the Democratic Party and its embrace of the military-industrial complex, the carceral state and surveillance capitalism not only on well-to-do and well-educated white professionals but on many BIPOC communities. They also assert themselves in the right-wing patriarchal nationalist populist appeal of Trump and other so-called anti-elitist formations, politicians, and media propagandists which are now popping up globally to counter and suppress the left in countries like Brazil, El Salvador, or the Philippines.
What Is to Be Done and Undone?
Late in the 1960s, during a period of mass radical resistance led by anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles inside the US that identified with anti-capitalist liberation movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America, it was disclosed that the CIA had been running the international operations at least of the student movement through the National Student Association, and of the US labor “movement” through the AFL-CIO, as well as planting and purchasing agents of ideological influence in academia, publishing and print and broadcast journalism. The disclosures ultimately did little or nothing to change the dominant politics within universities, organized labor, or the corporate media. That’s because COINTELPRO decapitated revolutionary leadership from anti-colonial and anti-racist struggles inside the US, and severed the connection between them and similar struggles in the so-called Theird World.
The threat to Empire of revolutionary struggles in Africa and Central America, combined with the onset of “stagflation” and on-going economic crisis, impelled the rise of neo-liberalism and corporate globalization, with the attendant hollowing out of the vestiges of democracy and the welfare state.
In the ensuing half-century, all those suppressed contradictions have only deepened beneath the surface. The bourgeoisification of the labor movement, the women’s movement, environmentalism, LGBTQ liberation, and even the struggles of Black, AAPI, Chicano-Mexicano-Latino and indigenous communities have been exposed as dead ends. What is needed if we are to seize the time, to create a fundamental shift in the balance of power and relation of forces between the oppressed and exploited on the one hand, and the oppressors and exploiters on the other? We need a culture of solidarity, resistance and liberation.
Solidarity starts with a recognition of the agency and leadership of those struggling against imperialism – in Palestine, in Venezuela, in Haiti; but also at Standing Rock, Tierra Amarilla New Mexico, or Jackson/Medgareversville, Mississippi.
Resistance means making a break with the debilitating identification with the oppressor and with the empire, particularly with white and male supremacy and economic privilege.
Liberation means going all the way, being explicitly anti-capitalist, and understanding that we need thorough-going systemic change. It means accepting that we have not just political opponents or bad policies or ideas to overcome, but an implacable enemy that will stop at nothing to maintain its power and its freedom to operate as it sees fit.
It also means remembering that the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Irish revolutionaries may have accepted aid from Germany to oppose British colonialism during the first World War, as Russian revolutionaries accepted German help in getting back into the Czarist empire. But they harbored no illusions that Germany was a friend of the Irish or Russian people, or the international working class. They were simply taking advantage of inter-imperial contradictions to advance their own struggles for independence and socialism. Even during most of the heyday of state socialism in the USSR, its influence encouraged stale and fruitless political formations and positions in other countries, class collaborationism and corruption, as the USSR pursued its own narrow national interests and was willing to sacrifice revolutionaries and revolution to serve its own institutional ends. Today, more than ever, we need an internationalist and intercommunal vision of liberation from below that unites working and oppressed people and communities in all countries against all forms of oppression, exploitation, repression, racism, sexism, and reaction.
Developing such kernels in this country would be a tremendous contribution to the necessary global social, economic, political and ecological transformation that the times require. A US left worthy of the name would be in a position to undermine and challenge US militarism and its NATO infrastructure, and smash the ideological and material underpinnings of the US war and surveillance machine, the blending of corporate and state power, patriarchy, racism, and national chauvinism that goes by the name “fascism.” We urge people to investigate the initiatives of municipalism and dual power that are developing, to communicate with groups like Cooperation Jackson and Cooperation Humbodlt, and to attend the Dual Power 2022 conference near Chicago the weekend of July 29-31 (actually in Indiana Dunes state and national park across the state line in Indiana). Learn more at https://dualpower2022.org/