Anti-imperialismo / Oswaldo Barreto


We have more than enough reasons to believe that almost all the Earth’s inhabitants above the age of fifty are now, or have been at one or many points in their lives, real or virtual enemies of imperialism. But this individual condition wouldn’t necessarily change its bearers into members of a specific ideology or political current. And this is because during the era in which their lives have taken place there have been, on the one hand, a wide range of imperialisms, varied and opposed in their forms and content and, on the other hand, many of those anti-imperialists, if not all of them, lived as enemies or adversaries of other social entities. In rigorously scientific terms, but which have happily become commonplace in all languages and cultures, we can affirm that until recently the condition of being anti-imperialist was not an abstract quality in any way. This condition wasn’t allotted to a specific being, individual or collective, as we tend to do when we refer to someone as being Catholic or Muslim, or when we qualify a tendency within those religions as being orthodox or Sunni. It was always the case that the very circumstances of place and time where the anti-imperialist reference emerged already added, whether implicitly or explicitly, the concrete specifications of that type of anti-imperialism. Thus, 50 years ago in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, when one spoke of anti-imperialism, it was understood, if no other specification was explicitly formulated, that one was referring to French Imperialism. And the same would happen if the reference were given in Senegal, Madagascar or Vietnam. It was always French Imperialism that was being referenced, as it was English Imperialism in the British colonies and Portuguese Imperialism in those belonging to Portugal. But, against all evidence, we couldn’t always depend on such simple logic: we sometimes required intense research in order to know what type of anti-imperialism we were dealing with. Thus, during those years or at the beginning of the sixties, it was neither easy nor free of risks to try and find out what a young Italian man, a student at the University of Rome, was talking about when he declared himself an anti-imperialist and a profound defender of the Soviet Union, being the good communist activist that he was. Since for communists it was considered counter-revolutionary and therefore false to speak of Russian or Soviet imperialism, one might think he was referring to colonial European empires, or even the United States. But our friend, a philosophy student, was talking about the imperialism that French philosophers were trying to impose on European philosophy at the time, starting with Sartre and followed by the wide range of structuralists. And I experienced something even stranger in Prague, when I heard Louis Aragon tell Roque Dalton, the Salvadoran poet, that the great problem facing Spanish-speaking poets was Pablo Neruda’s imperialist vocation. Because at the time, and not just in particular circles, people spoke about cultural imperialism or Hollywood’s empire, and we should remember that people even spoke about the Empire of the senses.

But since many years before and during the period when the world lived through the Cold War, voices surged everywhere in protest against this pluralist vision of anti-imperialism, voices that usually came from the militant sectors of anti-imperialist activists who had taken up arms, who predicated that, against all these diversionist or intellectualizing readings, every anti-imperialist knew very well who his true enemy was, the one he was fighting against, and what he was like. Thanks to the planetary diffusion of Mao Tse-Tung’s theses on the contradictions that were being lived in all societies and what were the determining aspects of that contradiction, any neighbor’s son who was moderately up to date on those political theses was able to know which was the enemy imperialism and what forms that enmity took in the society to which he belonged.

So here in the Americas what happened was that for at least the last four decades of the previous century, just as people thought that “the duty of all revolutionaries is to make revolution,” the idea was spread in the heart of our societies that the imperialism here in the Americas was none other than Yankee imperialism and that, consequently, the duty of every anti-imperialist was to fight that imperialism. Anything else was pure diversion and café charlatanism.

This reductive and simplistic vision of imperialism didn’t just spread throughout the entire world, including the former imperial metropolises, but it continues to acquire, day by day, traits of unquestionable reality and scientific truth. And thus, thanks to the daily labor of capitalist transnationals, as well as the research and theories of strategists, political scientists and sages of all types, people are questioning the existence of multiple imperialisms and are now affirming the existence of a single Empire. A center of power that directs human life in all its aspects, economic, political, environmental, and even biological. So it is that Hardt and Negri, in the already famous Empire, published at the beginning of this century, affirm that in today’s economy “the creation of wealth (understood as the production of merchandise) is in addition guided by what we will call bio-political production, that is, the production of social life itself, in which economy, politics and culture are more and more intertwined, interfering with each other.”

Against the vision of these authors, who achieved a certain consensus within European political and academic media a few years ago about an Empire without a determining or hegemonic spatial center, certain studies we find more rigorous demonstrate that the United States, whether as a “mercenary State at the service of economic powers,” or as the “Organizer of global disorder” (definitions by the French strategist and academic Alain Joxe), represents the sovereign center of this single Empire. Thus, one of Joxe’s brilliant disciples, the French-Algerian Saïda Bédar wrote in early 2002: “The “manifest destiny” of American power is none other than to assume the defense of the West against all types of threats, from the most benign (inter and intra-state crises and conflicts in developing countries, trafficking of arms and drugs, organized crime, etc.), to the most serious (obstacles for accessing vital regions such as the Middle East, the emergence of China as a competitive partner who could destabilize the Asian space and the global system).”

Whether we accept one or another of these readings, the actual problem for all countries is that there is no Nation State in the world that isn’t vitally linked to that Empire today. And not just passively, as receptors of its power, influence and investments, but as active parts of the system of production, distribution and consumption practiced by this Empire. One can think, for instance, of how countries such as Venezuela, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, or any other, live off their capitalist investments in the United States or in other zones of the planet, off their commercial exchange with the Empire and their cooperation with the Empire’s web in the fight against some of those threats described by Saïda Bédar. The problem, then, is how to actually fight the Empire – and not just with words, but with what the Americans call sound policies. For example, we could focus on Venezuela’s links with the Empire, which are mediated through Citgo, Venezuela’s powerful capitalist company that operates in the U.S. But that would divert us from the general character of this article.

{ Oswaldo Barreto, Tal Cual, 16 September 2008 }

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