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As Ukraine Armed Conflict Begins What Side Will the Pro-Kiev Left Take?

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Reports this morning indicate an accelerating fight in the Ukraine.

Ukraine crisis: Casualties in Sloviansk gun battles

Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian armed men have traded gunfire in a battle for control of the eastern town of Sloviansk, the interior minister says.

At least one Ukrainian officer was killed and both sides suffered casualties, Arsen Avakov said.

Pro-Russian forces took over the town on Saturday, prompting Kiev to launch an “anti-terror operation”.

Kiev and Western powers accuse Moscow of inciting the trouble. The Kremlin denies the charge.


Le Monde puts this in the context of a “general offensive”,

Le gouvernement ukrainien, confronté à des insurrections armées prorusses coordonnées dans l’Est, a lancé dimanche 13 avril une opération « antiterroriste »de reconquête à hauts risques.

The Ukrainian government, faced with armed pro-Russian and co-ordinated insurgencies   in the East, has launched a highly risky  “anti-terrorist” operation of reconquest on  Sunday, April the 13th

So how will those who stand ‘for’ the Ukraine react?

Will they ‘choose’ sides and back the “anti-terrorist operation”?

This is the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty position on the Ukraine.

Russia: hands off Ukraine! Keep Russian troops out!

Western governments: cancel Ukraine’s debts!

The labour movement should back Ukraine’s left in its efforts to create “third pole” against both Russian imperialism and the Ukrainian oligarchs.

This is Socialist Resistance’s line,

A defeat for Russian imperialism in Ukraine is both a victory for that mass movement and the Russian working class. Socialists in imperialist countries should see their primary responsibility as establishing links and building support for those groups in Ukrainian and Russian society which are opposing the oligarchs and organising a real movement against them. That is rather different from helping Putin hold on to power by annexing his own imperialist “buffer zone”.

Others are less decided.

This is the Left Unity Party’s view,

Left Unity statement on Ukraine

Left Unity has issued a statement on the situation in Ukraine, saying that there should be “no foreign intervention in Ukraine – whether political, economic or military”.

The acting officers of the new left wing party are calling for “democracy and equality for all the people of Ukraine”, condemning the different forms of nationalism, corruption and neoliberalism, and the drive to war.

Against nationalism, corruption, privatisation and war

The continuing political and economic crisis in Ukraine is taking a dangerous military turn.

Left Unity takes the position that there can only be a political solution to this crisis and that neither foreign military intervention nor foreign political and economic intervention provide the answers to Ukraine’s complex problems.

But does this also mean ‘backing’ the ‘anti-terrorist’ offensive?

We simply ask.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 13, 2014 at 11:01 am

Denis MacShane Attacks Western Military Interventions (Yes)

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MacShane Against Western Interventions.

Under the headline, “L’interventionnisme militaire occidental est un échec permanentDenis MacShane former European Minister under Tony Blair attacks Western interventions. (Le Monde  10.12.2013).

MacShane begins by citing Kipling on the ‘White Man’s burden and reflects that President Hollande is now taking on this weight with his intervention in the Central African Republic.

While wishing him success he notes that,

Depuis l’expédition de Suez en 1956, aucune intervention militaire menée par les forces européennes en dehors de l’Europe n’a obtenu les résultats espérés. Dans tous les pays où elles ont établi une présence, elles laissent derrière elles plus de problèmes que de solutions.

From the Suez Expedition in 1956 onwards no European military intervention – outside Europe itself – has achieved the aims set for it. In every country in which it has established a presence it has left behind it more problems than solutions.

MacShane covers the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, and reflects that “Le droit d’ingérence et la doctrine de l’intervention sont des concepts qui remontent à l’ère de Francis Fukayama et sa thèse sur la fin de l’histoire.”, the doctrine of the need  to interfere and to intervene (Note, called humanitarian intervention in English) are concepts which belong to the time of Francis Fukayma, and his theory of the End of History. Bernard Kouchner in Paris, Michael Ignatieff at Harvard and Tony Blair argued that this was necessary when countries ignored United Nations norms.

He asserts that interventions failed in Sudan and Rwanda, though worked in Kosovo.

Because of the latter, and the intervention in Sierra Leone, Blair backed the invasion of Iraq.

MacShane observes that far from being just the decision of Bush and Blair  419 left’ MPs in the British Parliament voted for that war.


“Dix ans plus tard, je préfère dire comme Benjamin Franklin que « la pire des paix vaut mieux que n’importe quelle guerre ».

Ten years later I’d rather say, like Benjamin Franklin that “the worst peace is better than any war whatsoever.”

The balance sheet of wars in Afghanistan, the Arab world and in Africa is completely negative. Libya in particular is a disaster, with militias and Salafist warlords in control.

The attitude of the British Labour Party, under Ed Miliband, towards these expeditions, has also changed. They refused to support Prime Minister Cameron, and the French Socialist-led Government, to meddle in the Syrian civil war.

The disgraced former Minister then quotes Churchill, “« Jaw jaw is better than war war »

Sometimes such interventions are justified, as in Sierra Leone.

But while every country should back its army, rare are the occasions when history justifies armed interventions.

MacShane Parliamentary Record.

  • Voted very strongly for the Iraq war.
  • Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.

Wikipedia says of MacShane, “Denis MacShane (born Denis Matyjaszek; 21 May 1948) is a former British Labour Party[1] politician who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Rotherham from 1994 until his resignation in 2012.[2] He served in the Labour Government as Minister for Europe from 2002 until 2005.

On 2 November 2012, he was suspended from the Labour Party after the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee found that he had submitted 19 false invoices “plainly intended to deceive” the parliamentary expenses authority. Later that day he announced his intention to resign as MP for Rotherham.[3][4][5] On 9 October 2013, MacShane was removed from the Privy Council and stripped of the right to use the title of The Right Honourable.[6] On 18 November 2013 he pleaded guilty to false accounting at the Old Bailey, by submitting false receipts for £12 900.[7]

Imperium. Perry Anderson. Critical Thoughts.

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Imperium. Perry Anderson. Critical Thoughts. New Left Review. No82 (New Series) 2013.

“American capitalism has resoundingly re-asserted its primacy in all fields – economic, political, military and cultural – with an unprecedented eight-year boom.”

Perry Anderson. Renewals. 2000.

“(New Left Review’s Relaunch)…scandalised many by demanding from the left a lucid registration of defeat ‘No collective agency able to match the power of capital is yet on the horizon’ Anderson noted……These judgements stand.”

Susan Watkins. Shifting Sands. 2010.

“In contrast to the economic structure, the political structure cannot be expanded indefinitely, because it is not based upon the productivity of man, which is indeed, unlimited. Of all forms of government and organisations of people, the nation-state is least suited for unlimited growth because the genuine consent at its base cannot be stretched indefinitely.”

Hannah Arendt. The Origins of Totalitarianism. (1)

The “unprecedented” American boom ended in Autumn 2008. But despite the absence of what Anderson has called an “answer to the prolonged slow-down of the advanced capitalist economies that set in forty years ago” America remains, post Soviet Collapse, the uncontested, hegemonic, global authority. (2) American power reaches outwards across the globe. This is not just grounded on the attraction of its economic strength, cultural appeal, or technological advances. An active exercise of domination is at work.

Within this received wisdom on the left, the Special Issue of New Left Review, Imperium, sets out to present the “outlook and continuity of objectives” of the “administration of empire, the thinking behind this rule. It also aims to “asses” this vast field, centring on what is decidedly not a “poverty of strategic theory.”

To former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, writing in 1997, U.S policy goals must be “to perpetuate America’s own dominate position for at least generation and preferably longer still; and to create a geopolitical framework” that can evolve into “shared responsibility for peaceful global management.” (3) By contrast, for Anderson, in 2002 the US’s objectives unfurling before the rather less peaceable invasion of Iraq, were described as part of a “structural shift in the balance between force and consent within the operation of American hegemony…” (4)

The present study is only the latest, then, of Anderson’s efforts to understand the leading role of America in what David Harvey has labelled the “new imperialism” and the global dominance of neo-liberalism. Following indications signalled by Robert Brenner he looks further into history to explain the particular form that the American state has taken. Imperium begins by stating, “Since the Second World War, the external order of American power has been largely insulated from the internal political system.” The focus is therefore on the “narrow foreign-policy elite, and a “distinctive ideological vocabulary” of “grand strategy.” (5)


Imperium concludes with, and starts from, the following historical narrative, “In the course of four decades of unremitting struggle, a military and political order was constructed that transformed what had once been a merely hemispheric hegemony into a global empire, remoulding the form of the US state itself” (Page 110 Imperium) Included in the Special Issue is a study of the above American “literature of grand strategy”, Consilium. We discover (to no particular surprise) that it is soldered around the idea that the “hegemony of the United States continues to serve both the particular interests of the nation and the universal interest of mankind” (Consilium Page 163)

These were the long years of the global fight against the Soviet Union. For Anderson the USA, he concedes, graciously or not, “was indeed an electoral democracy, did confront a socio-political system that was not” (Page 33 Imperium). During those decades the country has witnessed domestic opposition to “imperial force”. This, volatile, “constraint”, the limited “public tolerance” of foreign expeditions (we immediately think of the aftermath of Vietnam) has played a role. It continues to shape the decisions of the Obama administration. (Page 108. Imperium)

But behind this is there is, as he has commented on the second Obama Presidential victory an “all-capitalist ideological universe – a mental firmament in which the sanctity of private property and superiority of private enterprise are truths taken for granted by all forces in the political arena.” The Democrat President cannot ignore the culture that feeds Obama’s Republican opponents. One feature stands out, a domestic “nationalism peculiar to the United States as the capitalist superpower in the struggle with communism, intensely more hyperbolic than that of any Western society.” (6)

Outside this native soil there is little alive that is capable of offering a serious political challenge to policies dictated by the “new regime of accumulation” and the “liberal-capitalist order”. Gloomily in 2002 he talked of ‘resistance’ as “chaff in the wind.” In 2007 Anderson had a brief flicker of hope in “spectacular demonstrations of popular will” the World Social Forums in the first half of the last decade, and a “patchwork of resistance”. But they could not halt, “a further drift to the right” as a “new Concert of powers has increasingly solidified.” (7) Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew Coates

November 22, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Bangladesh Comes to London: Left Should Support Bangladeshi People Against Genociders.

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The people of Bangladesh have launched mass protests. Many have been held to demand the death sentence for the Islamists convicted of war crimes during the  1971 War of National Liberation.

The Pakistani army tried to crush the Bangla people with a cruelty that resembled the Nazis’ on the Eastern Front,

“…… we were told to kill the hindus and Kafirs (non-believer in God). One day in June, we cordoned a village and were ordered to kill the Kafirs in that area. We found all the village women reciting from the Holy Quran, and the men holding special congregational prayers seeking God’s mercy. But they were unlucky. Our commanding officer ordered us not to waste any time.”

Confession of a Pakistani Soldier. Bangladeshi Genocide Archive.

Official estimates say more than three million people were killed in the 1971 war.

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Bangladesh in protest over sentences handed out in relation to alleged war crimes during the 1971 war of independence.

It took decades for a tribunal to be set up to look at the atrocities committed at that time, and the first verdicts came this year, including the conviction of a senior leader of Bangladesh’s biggest Islamic party.

A former leader from Jamaat-e-Islami was sentenced to death in absentia. Another leader, Abdul Kader Mullah, was given a life sentence last week.

Some protesters feel the sentences have been too lenient, or that the process has been flawed.

Meanwhile, supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami held separate protests calling for Mullah’s release.

Some in Bangladesh say that public protests could put unnecessary pressure on judges presiding over the tribunal.

Nick Cohen, comments,

“Do I hear you say that Bangladesh is far away and the genocide was long ago?

Not so far away. Not so long ago. And the agonies of Bangladeshi liberals are nothing in comparison to the contradictions of their British counterparts.

The conflict between the Shahbag and Jamaat has already reached London. On 9 February, local supporters of the uprising demonstrated in Altab Ali Park, a rare patch of green space off the Whitechapel Road in London’s East End. They were met by Jamaatis. “They attacked our men with stones,” one of the protest’s organisers told me. “There were old people and women and children there, but they still attacked us.”

The redoubtable organiser is undeterred. She and her fellow activists are going back to the park tomorrow for another demonstration. Her friends are worried, however. They asked me not to name her after unknown assailants murdered Ahmed Rajib Haider Shuvo, one of the leaders of the Dhaka rallies, on Friday.”

Cohen continues, that the Jamaat is not challenged in the East End, indeed it is accepted as part of the Establihsment.,

The scoundrel left led the way down this murky alley, as it leads the way into so many dark places. Ken Livingstone and George Galloway have backed the Jamaat-dominated East London mosque, and Islamic Forum Europe, the Jamaat front organisation that now controls local politics in Tower Hamlets.

The Jamaat still have a fight on their hands, as,

The British-Asian feminist Gita Sahgal launched the Centre for Secular Space last week to combat such indulgence of theocratic obscurantism. She told me that Jamaat perverts traditional faith and she should know. Not only did she name alleged Jamaat war criminals living in Britain for Channel 4 in the 1990s, she is also Jawaharlal Nehru’s great niece and a distant relative of the Indira Gandhi who sent the army into Bangladesh. I admire Sahgal and Quilliam hugely, but they are mistrusted, even hated by orthodox leftwingers. The feeling is reciprocated in spades and perhaps you can see why.

Now what Cohen calls the “scoundrel left”  is very quiet about their relations with the Jamaat genociders at the moment.

But a taste of what they think of Bangladesh can be got from Bob Pitt and his ‘Islamophbia Watch’ 

This is how Islamophobia Watch greeted  in 2010 the decision in Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League to restore the secular state.

Defend Jamaat-e-Islami against ‘secularism’

Under the heading “Bangladesh set to become again a secular state”, left-wing blogger Andrew Coates has enthusiastically hailed what he claims is a decision by the government of Bangladesh to restore the secular foundations of the country’s constitution.

He bases his post on reports that the Supreme Court in Dhaka has upheld a ruling that the government can reverse amendments made to the constitution in the period following the military coup of 1975. Coates approvingly quotes law minister Shafique Ahmed as saying: “In the light of the verdict, the secular constitution of 1972 already stands to have been revived. Now we don’t have any bar to return to the four state principles of democracy, nationalism, secularism and socialism as had been heralded in the 1972 statute of the state.

It is the same government that then set up the War Crimes Tribunal.

We wonder what Pitt and his friends think of the Jamaat thugs attacking Bangladeshis protesting at the genocide in London.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 18, 2013 at 11:54 am

Histoire de l’anticolonialisme en France. Du XVI à nos jours. Claude Liauzu. Review.

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Histoire de l’anticolonialisme en France. Du XVI à nos jours. Claude Liauzu. Pluriel. 2012 (2007)

“Ce pays est à toi! Pourquoi? Pace que tu y as mis le pied? Si un Tahitien débarquait un jour sur vos côtes, et qu’il gravât sur une de vos pierres ou sur l’écorce d’un de vos arbes: ce pays est aux habitants de Tahiti, qu’en penserais-tu?

This is your land! Why? Because you’ve walked on it? If one day a Tahitian came to your coast, engraved on one of your stones, or on the bark of one of your trees, this county belongs to the Tahitians what would you think?

Supplément au voyage de Bougainville. Diderot. 1772.

The French intervention in Mali is a good moment to read up on the history of French colonialisation. And opposition to it. There are few better guides than Claude Liauzu. Deceased in 2007, he wrote 20 books, mostly on the subject. In 2005 he was the moving force in the campaign against a law recognising the contributions made by “répatries” (pieds-noirs) that included plans to introduce into the National Syllabus the “rôle positif” of France in its colonies, notably in North Africa. The campaign partially succeeded, and in 2006 the Constitutional Council annulled this section of the decree.

The Histoire de l’anticolonialisme en France is not, then, a dry academic study concerned with opposition to French colonialism. It is coloured by Liauzu’s “post colonial humanism.” That is, it is as much a political intervention as a history. Liauzu refused all “Manichean”, simplistic, judgements. The epigraph at the front of the present volume notes the “ambiguity” of colonialism. The Universalist message of Year ll of the French Revolution let, an epigraph at the start of the book states, let students dream during the colonial night. Did it help pave the way for anticolonialism? Liauzu shows both how it did, and yet also how the Revolution’s legacy was also ambiguous.

Liauzu aims to embody this today. He criticises both to the Western centred fear of the “choc des civilisations”, and “third worldism”. As a historian and committed anti-colonialist, Liauzu is primarily concerned with the violent creation of the French Empire to its height during the era of 20th century imperialism, and with the persistent, if minority, opposition to it. The views and strategies of that opposition should concern a wide audience, well beyond the Hexagone.

From Early Critics to the French Revolution.

The Histoire begins with the first critics of colonial conquest, from the 15th century Dominican Las Casas, to the 16th century doubts about the superiority of Europeans in Montaigne’s Essais. A beautifully compressed summary presents European doubts about colonial domination. The meat in this section deals with Enlightenment thinkers and the French Revolution. Diderot, cited above, was a critic of colonialism, but also a believer that it was necessary to bring some peoples out of barbarism (Page 50) The contradiction between universal human rights and French republicanism brought the issue to political reality. The Déclaration des droits de l’homme of 1789, by definition proclaiming human equality, made slavery inconceivable.

A movement led by the Abbé Grégoire (1750-1831), the Société des amis des noirs had been formed in 1788. Influenced by British ‘abolitionists’, including Thomas Clarkson (1760 – 1846) (who would write up debates in the Revolutionary Assembly for the Ipswich local paper!), its demands for the abolition of slavery came to the forefront with slave revolts in the Caribbean. Slavery was abolished in 1794. There were, Liauzu observes, over 24 official festivals celebrating the event. But the colonies were not freed. They became ‘assimilated’ as departments (that is, on the same footing as metropolitan French counties and electoral divisions).

Bonaparte undid this “intégration républicaine” in 1802. He brought back the colonies under Paris’s direct rule, re-established slavery, laid down a colour bar, and forbade mixed marriages. Only in Saint-Dominique (Haiti) would the resistance of the people, led by Toussaint Louverture, (though eventually captured and imprisoned by the French) succeed in throwing out the French.

In a nutshell the French Revolution illustrated political and intellectual divisions that would mark the 19th century. That is, between those who wanted the French Republic’s values to be universal – human rights for all – and those who were interested in the rights of the French state; between those who promoted these as political principles and who considered that it was never right to take anther people under their control (a tiny minority) and those who were concerned with the interests of the French nation. Historically these issues were settled by the victory of the colonial party. Trade and control of resources won. An “impérialisme liberal” emerged, led by “bourgeois conquérants”, promoting economic expansion. If there was support for ending slavery, which was finally abolished in 1848, this too was accepted as economically rational.

Algeria and Civilisation.

The conquest of Algeria, which began in 1830, brought these themes to public debate. In the 1840s some republicans demanded ‘assimilation’ of the Algeria as equals, by the 2nd Republic in 1848 failed to make the indigenous Muslims or Jews French citizens.

Critics of this, and other colonial expeditions (as France ventured further into Africa and the Far-East) complained about their uncertain value. A certain ‘anti-colonialism’ which focused on the cost of overseas possessions, developed. Even the French right could sometimes criticise it as a “luxury” (Page 132) It would remain influential throughout the century, paralleling similar objections in Britain. By the end of the 19th century the British Radical John Bright’s complaints about the Raj would still focus on the cost of governing India.

Others justified the occupation as a means to spread civilisation. Jules Ferry (1832 – 1893) in 1885, French Minister several times, and republican stalwart, retrospectively justified the “suppression of piracy in Algeria” in 1885. For Ferry the “superior races” had a right to “civilise the inferior races”. The forceful anti-Clerical was following many others, from religious or secular backgrounds. Liauzu notes that, although without any racist assumptions, Marx would not regret the disappearance of a “nest of pirates” in Algiers (Page 88) Frederick Engels would himself claim in 1848, “The conquest of Algeria is an important and fortunate fact for the progress of civilisation” (1) People could, like Victor Hugo, criticise the violence used by the French to secure the conquest of North Africa, and others, while still accepting that colonialism would ultimately civilise and improve the world.

The Worker’s Movement.

The Histoire describes pacifist opponents of colonisation and those who stood on the side of the colonised, called ‘indigéophiles’ by Liauzu. As the century wore on they became more common. Within the workers’ movement and the left there was early opposition. Proudhon was, he notes, firmly anti-colonialist calling for universal national independence and federation, not empires. Despite his views on Algeria (shared by Marx) Engels advocated that colonies should be taken charge of by the working class and led to independence. . (Page 180) Louise Michel, exiled after the Paris Commune to New Caledonia, made contact with the Kanaks and denounced the way they were forcefully “civilised”. Her views, Liauzu states, were not shared by most of her fellow deportees. But solidarity, or at least sympathy, with the colonised became more current by the end of the century. The secularist writer Anatole France (1844 – 1924) wrote the Île des pingouins (1908) in part, as a satire of “civilising” colonialisation.

Within the formal workers’ movement anti-colonialism began to take a political shape. The Parti Ouvrier français (POF) of Guesde adopted it as a principle. The POF was the only French political party to denounce the blood-stained conquest of Madagascar. Influenced by Marx’s son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, it was identified with the expiration of capital and surpluses. It was denounced for its boost to the militarism that was leading Europe into wars. Read the rest of this entry »