Mar 23 2002

Why Emancipation And Liberation?

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 01RCN @ 7:12 pm

Emancipation and Liberation are heady words. Yet it is vital that we give serious consideration to what we stand for – not merely what we are against.

The left is best known for being anti – anti-cuts, anti-poll tax, anti-Nazi, anti-fascist, anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-globalisation or anti-capitalist. Some will argue that as long as we stand as socialists or communists then it will be clear that we also offer a positive alternative. Unfortunately both words have become tarnished. Socialism has been used to describe a variety of states from National Socialist Germany to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; a whole host of authoritarian populist regimes in Africa, Asia and Latin America; and the now much diminished and compromised forces of social democracy. Communism became synonymous in many people’s minds with such brutal tyrannies as those led by Stalin, Hoxha, Kim Il-Sung and Pol Pot or the dull grey bureaucracies led by Honecker in East Germany and Husak in Czechoslovakia.

Since September 11th, Bush and Blair have raised the political stakes considerably by invoking the defence of civilisation and enduring freedom. Without offering this positive vision, these politicians would find it far harder to legitimise their new-found crusade – the Coalition Against Terror. If they confined themselves to being merely against terrorism, it certainly wouldn’t take long to expose their hypocrisy. It is indeed a strange Coalition Against Terror which includes the USA, Russia, China, Israel, Turkey, Pakistan and the Northern Alliance!

Triumphalism offers no positive vision

During the Cold War, US and British imperialist propagandists knew how important it was to oppose the socialist or communist challenge with a positive alternative – the defence of the free world. When USSR style communism/socialism imploded after 1989, George Bush senior coined the phrase the New World Order, whilst Francis Fukuyama hailed the end of history. But these phrases reeked merely of triumphalism and offered no positive vision.

This triumphalism became less certain as murderous civil wars maintained their momentum in Afghanistan, Somalia and Angola, even though their previous Great Power sponsors withdrew or lost interest. With the end of the bi-polar world dominated by the USA and USSR it became more difficult for the imperialist powers to calculate their immediate interests and intervene effectively. This situation allowed the embers of old civil wars to flare up or provided kindling for new ones. Hence the re/emergence of troubled hotspots from Algeria to Rwanda and Zaire; Palestine, Iraq Kashmir; and the Balkans, with its succession of wars.

Yet none of these conflicts presented a fundamental problem for the spin-doctors of the New World Order precisely because they offered no real threat to the imperialist heartlands. But a serious challenge did occur with the emergence of the Zapatistas. Just as the USA government launched the North American Free Trade Alliance, the prototype for US transnational corporation global domination of the world, a consciously internationalist anti globalist movement emerged in Mexico. This has acted as a beacon to all those challenging the New World Order. This has inspired an increasingly coordinated and international opposition.

The World Trade Organisation was forced to cancel some of its meetings in the face of massive opposition at Seattle, in the very heart of the beast – headquarters to Microsoft and Boeing. It became clear that the Capitalist Offensive, which took off after 1975, had finally produced the possible seeds of its own destruction. And up until September 11th, this anti globalisation/anti-capitalist movement continued to gain strength. The political high points last year were the meeting of the World Social Forum at Porte Alegre in Brazil in January and the fierce contest on the streets of Genoa in July, involving tens of thousands of Italian workers, along with trade unionists from elsewhere in Europe and the international left.

September 11th came as a shock not only to Bush but to the left as well. After Seattle it was possible to conceive of a massive anti globalism/anti-capitalism protest, which either blockaded or occupied the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon or the White House in Washington. The notion that a direct attack on the commercial and political capitals could be initiated in one of the most undeveloped countries on this planet, with such devastating impact, was beyond most people’s comprehension. Islamic supremacist organisations had caused problems for US imperialism in places such as Beirut, Aden and Dar-es-Salaam, but these were far away from the imperial metropoles. An earlier attack on the Twin Towers had been relatively ineffective, especially when compared with the terror launched in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh, one of the USA’s own domestic terrorists.

New challenge

Yet, clearly the emergence of al-Qaeda represented a new challenge. One of the reasons why Islamic supremacist organisations have been able to establish networks within the USA and UK, is that key personnel were initially invited into both these countries by their respective state security agencies. Such people were seen as key to organising opposition to the USSR and the secular, left nationalist PDPA in Afghanistan. Their terrorist capabilities were looked on most favourably then. For similar domestic political reasons, a whole host of terrorist and criminal organisations opposed to Cuba and to the left nationalist forces in Latin America have been able to operate freely from the USA; whilst the UK has been a haven for Italian fascists responsible for the Bologna bombings. These far right wing emigres were just not subjected to the same surveillance as those who were thought to have any sympathy (real or imagined) with the USSR. Fascism develops its initial strength by doing the dirty jobs that employers or governments cannot do or don’t want to be seen doing themselves.

In Afghanistan the CIA gave the most favoured treatment to the most reactionary and brutal forces, including those led by bin-Laden. Many fascist organisations never get beyond such a servicing role. Some though, such as those led by Mussolini and Hitler, utilise this training and official licence to attempt a later direct challenge to their previous masters. Bin-Laden’s Islamic supremacism had originally been sponsored by the US, Saudi Arabian and Pakistani states for purely local use. However, he gained in confidence, especially since he had been massively aided in the crushing of all progressive forces in both Afghanistan and north west Pakistan which could act as a restraint on his activities.

Islamic supremicism

After the defeat of the Taliban, al-Qaeda’s pan-Islamic world pretensions might now have been decisively punctured and no longer represent a fundamental threat to the Great Satan. However, clerical fascism still represents a double threat to the left. Many members of al-Qaeda and Taliban have quietly gone native. In their new role, many will attempt once more to revert to the servicing role they once performed for US and British imperialism (and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia), particularly if the left and other revolutionary forces (e.g. the Labour Party Pakistan, Afghan Revolutionary Labour Organisation or the Revolutionary Alliance of Afghan Women) increase their influence. Islamic supremacists continue to murder socialists, trade unionists and women in the refugee camps, cities towns and villages of Pakistan.

The other threat lies in Bush and Blairs’ attempt to link the atrocities of September 11th with the left and the anti-globalisation/anti capitalist movement. Much of their drummed-up moral outrage is designed to disguise the fact that it had been US and UK imperialism, which had done so much to create the monsters which bit the hand that once had fed them. Indeed, so close were Bush’s personal connections with the Bin-Laden family, that those members still resident in the USA had to be quietly spirited out of the country immediately after September 11th to save him embarrassment!

USA: world’s number one rogue state

Furthermore, as leading American dissident, Noam Chomsky, has well demonstrated, the world’s number one rogue state is the USA itself. It has a record of mass killings stretching from Horishima and Nagasaki to Korea, Indo-China and Iraq. Yet, it is only the steady decline of British imperialism from its glory days in the nineteenth century, which has allowed the USA to usurp this particular title. The recent televised showings of Bloody Sunday and Sunday, along with the assasinations in Northern Ireland of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, Martin O’Hagan and William Stobie, also highlight the fact that state terror is not confined to nasty rogue states in the Third World.

You can see why Bush and Blair are so desperate to deny responsibility for the murderous beasts they have created. If they can link the challenge of al-Qaeda to the challenge of the anti globalist/anti-capitalist left, they will have effectively offloaded their responsibility for the creation of the former, whilst better positioning themselves for the marginalisation of the latter.

Their task has become even more essential, now that easy military victories in Afghanistan threaten to be overshadowed by very obvious economic failures in Argentina. Argentina was meant to be the flagship economy which relaunched NAFTA to cover the whole of the Americas. The catastrophic collapse of the Argentinian economy and its abandonment of dollar parity represents a considerable blow both for the global corporations and the New World Order. However, things are unravelling even closer to home, with the spectacular bankruptcy of Enron and the illegal dealings of Arthur Andersen, both US companies with far-reaching tentacles. These reach close to Bush (and Blair) and won’t necessarily be as easy to spirit away as the Bin Laden family!

Bush and Blair know that an ideological battle confined to the terrain of the struggle of the antis – anti-terrorism versus anti-war or anti-left versus anti-capitalism, could get tricky for them. One decade after the demise of the Evil Empire, Bush and Blair have once more been able to launch a new crusade against a more defined enemy. In the War on Terrorism they have repackaged the older positive alternative – defence of the free world, or as it is now called civilisation. The freedoms they offer today, in a world increasingly dominated by the transnational corporations, are consumer choice and electoral choice. Whether it be commodities or parties, the offers are the same – brightly packaged but very similar products and the best that money can buy.

Beyond the anti campaigns

Therefore, it is absolutely essential that we also move beyond our anti campaigns – anti-war, anti globalisation and anti-capitalism to our own positive agenda. When the New World Order apologists focus on consumer choice andelectoral choice, they highlight the division lying at the heart of capitalism. The economic and political spheres are separated, although both need to be linked and carefully coordinated behind the scenes for capitalism to continue. Similarly, we need to overcome this division in our own political activity.

Underlying the capitalist promise of consumer choice through the free market (however illusory even that may prove for countless millions in the world) is the stark reality of wage slavery. Therefore, it is not economic freedom but continued exploitation which forms the economic basis of capitalism. Yet today, most of the left cannot see further than higher wages – house slavery rather than field slavery. To counter wage slavery we need once more to raise the banner of Emancipation. Furthermore, contemporary capitalism is not at all averse to absorbing, perpetuating and even extending earlier slaveries to meet its greed for profit – the chattel, debt, domestic, child and bonded labour slaveries. A truly global challenge to the global corporations means linking all those resisting every form of exploitation.

Raise the banner of liberation

Behind the capitalist promise of electoral choice in parliamentary elections lies the reality of national states which ensure that their key repressive institutions lie beyond popular control. Whilst imperialist globalisation spreads, its key decision making centres lie beyond even any formal democratic accountability – G7/G8, WTO, IMF and NATO. Furthermore, as the politicians representing this new global power concentrate ever more power in their own hands, they exploit real differences or manufacture artificial identities, the better to divide-and-rule us. Therefore, it is not political freedom but continued oppression (and where opposition becomes serious, violent repression) which forms the political basis for capitalism. To counter this we need to once more raise the banner of Liberation. Liberation means the thoroughgoing democratisation of society. In the past socialists and communists have divided on Economist and Politicist lines – one claiming the primacy of economic struggle, the other the primacy of political struggle. However, a genuine new human society can only emerge by overcoming the profound division between the economic and the political found in capitalism. Real political democracy can not be sustained on the basis of wage labour. True economic freedom can not be sustained on the limited democracy found in parliamentary government.

Now that we have the beginnings of a new internationalism in the growing anti-globalisation/anti capitalist movement, we need to ensure that we rise to the challenge of Bush and Blairs’ New World Order and its military wing, the Coalition Against Terror. Emancipation from wage and other slaveries and liberation from all forms of oppression must be our clear aims.

Struggling for what we wish to be

Our relaunched magazine intends to further these aims. We will chronicle the resistance to exploitation, including those workplace struggles upholding the sovereignty of the workplace against the sovereignty of the trade union Headquarters. We will chronicle resistance to oppression. As well as covering key international issues we will place special emphasis on the republican struggle for democracy, upholding popular sovereignty against the sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament. We intend to highlight cultural challenges to oppression and alienation, especially where these have contributed to communities of resistance. Or, hopefully in the near future, contribute to communities of liberation, where we get our fulfilment not only from what we have but in struggling for what we wish to be.

And of course, we will be contributing to the debates on the necessary forms of organisation, including the various Alliances, both in these islands and on a European basis, as well as such global developments as the World Social Forum. We need not only to make the growing protest and resistance effective politically, but to create the basis for a truly human global society, based on the principle of from each according to their ability – to each according to their needs and where the freedom of each is the condition for the freedom of all – a true emancipation and liberation – the genuine communism Marx originally outlined.

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