Iraq and Beyond

by Michael Novick Sunday, Feb. 15, 2004 at 6:46 PM

This is an inspiring article about envisioning a better, post-imperialist world, and the fight that's necessary to gain it. (reposted by imc volunteer)



Editorial from the current issue of "Turning the Tide: Journal of

Anti-Racist Action, Research & Education"

Volume 16 NUmber 4, Winter 2003-2004

Free sample copy of entire issue available upon request from ARA, PO Box

1055, Culver City CA 90232 (tel 310-495-0299)

The unpredictable course of the war in Iraq proves once again that even the

best-laid plans often go astray. Bush and his brain trust had convinced

themselves that Iraq would be a cakewalk. As invasion turned to occupation,

and determined resistance transforms the occupation into a protracted

counter-guerrilla war, Iraq has proven to me a much thornier and less

hospitable patch of briars than Bush expected. Instead of demonstrating the

invincibility of the US war machine, it has exposed its weaknesses in

staffing and readiness for irregular and "asymmetrical" combat. Bush has

been forced to reduce the readiness level of a record number of troops in

order to re-provision, re-supply and re-train them. Even worse from the

imperialist perspective, nagging resistance within the US to combat

operations overseas has begun to reassert itself. Recruitment, after an

initial patriotic boost, is falling off, and re-enlistment, even more vital

to the strength of the military machine, which still ultimately depends on

the personnel that run it, is dropping precipitously. The real cost of

enlistment in the reserves and National Guard has come vividly home to

potential recruits, with long term consequences. All this bodes well for

the forces of liberation and opposition to empire. But this demonstration

of the failures and weaknesses of imperialist planning does not relieve us

of the responsibility to do some serious planning of our own. They are

planning for the next war. Are we?

Anti-war activists are aware, in retrospect, that the wars in Afghanistan

and Iraq have been scripted for several years by ideologues and planners

envisioning a "New American Century." Anti-globalization organizers

understand that the WTO, NAFTA and FTAA are elements of an imperialist

economic blueprint that has been years in the making. Civil liberties

defenders are clear that the USA PATRIOT Act was essentially written long

before 9-11, and that the militarization of the police has been in train

since the 60s. Trade unionists know that corporate employers and their

political representatives have been systematically eroding the base of

organized labor for decades, and are working for its demise.

Yet we seem to think that our own strategic planning extends no further

than scheduling a protest six to eight months in advance. This is a recipe

for continued failure. Bush et al are planning the next several wars,

including one with China. They are planning for the day, nearer than they

admit, when the petroleum on which the current economy is based begins to

dry up. They have plans for controlling the water supplies that are the

planet's even more fundamental life's-blood. What plans do we have for

denying them, for protecting our posterity and life itself?


Liberal, and even some radical, media pundits and muckrakers seem content

to pillory Bush for his lies. But all the while, the biggest, most

fundamental lie goes unexamined: the lie that this system can be reformed,

that the U.S. state has ever been something other than a settler-colonial

empire. Until we stop lying to ourselves, our efforts to deal with war,

poverty, injustice and environmental devastation will be fruitless.

Poor, working and oppressed people are perfectly capable of long-range

planning on an individual or familial basis. Every day, people sweat and

sacrifice for their children's education and future, or for the next crop.

Every year, people make their resolutions and often follow through. Teams

figure out what they need to do to win. But we are faced with the

collective responsibility to envision a different world, and more

important, to chart out how we are going to get there in the face of the

determined, murderous opposition of our rulers and exploiters. In response,

we seem to suffer from a collective failure of imagination, or perhaps of

nerve. Because we can't deal with it unless we extricate ourselves from the

big lie.

Fear of failure or mistrust of authority (and authoritarians) are not

sufficient reasons to avoid the nitty-gritty details of planning,

organization and accountability for follow-through, without which we have

lost before we start. Without a course in mind, mid-course corrections are

impossible. More to point, as Malcolm X used to say, "If you don't stand

for something, you'll stand for anything."

At the dawn of 2004, people worldwide celebrated the tenth anniversary of

the open Zapatista insurgency in Chiapas. Fewer, however, take note that it

also marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the EZLN. The Zapatistas

learned from previous failures of revolutionary struggle and of indigenous

resistance in Mexico. In summing that up, they turned away from failed

models and learned to listen. They spent a decade away from public view or

state surveillance integrating themselves with a deeply rooted culture of

resistance to empire and colonialism, and participating in the development

of a strategy and organization that could move the struggle forward.

We too need to be making plans NOW that will carry us successfully into a

multi-generational struggle for liberation over the NEXT decade or two. We

need to learn the dialectic between urgency and patience - we cannot delay

in commencing that effort, nor can we imagine there are any shortcuts or

easy roads to victory.

When Hitler and Mussolini backed the Spanish Falange in overthrowing the

Spanish Republic, there was a worldwide response that included volunteer

brigades from around the globe who joined the battle in Spain. Eurocentrism

and white supremacy made the reaction to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia

and the Japanese Empire's invasion of China less consistent or effective.

In retrospect, the inability to counter or overcome those opening salvos

made the Second World War inevitable, and dreadfully bloody. Today, the

popular responses to the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are even

weaker. It is vital that we make a realistic assessment of ourselves and of

our enemies, if we are to begin to delineate an analysis and strategy of

how to move from a position of weakness to one of strength. What

contradictions in the empire can we exploit? What alliances can we build?

What initiatives can we take that will begin to exercise the people's

capacity to make history? These are the yardsticks by which we must measure

our current efforts. If our strategies and tactics look no further than

Election Day in November 2004, and are predicated on the search for the

"Anybody" that can beat Bush, then they are guaranteed to come up short. We

will condemn ourselves to reacting to the Empire's initiatives, always

playing catch-up, never setting the terms or terrain of struggle to our own


Nor does the answer lie in doctrinaire formulations that rely on the

insights of anarchist or socialist theoreticians of decades, or centuries,

past. Rather, we need to examine the inadequacies of those past doctrines

and organizational guidelines, take what is useful and abandon what was

self-defeating. Indigenous resistance to imperial conquest, colonization

and settlement was broken. The industrial army of labor strategies of 19th

Century socialists and anarchists were euro-centric and were defeated. The

communist revolutionary movements of the early 20th Century advanced the

slogan, "Workers and Oppressed People of the World Unite! You Have a World

to Win!"

They understood that the earlier formula, "Workers of the world unite! You

have nothing to lose but your chains!" was wrong in a couple of key

aspects: First, unity must embrace more than workers, and second, we've all

got something to lose.

But though several of those movements overthrew their states and came to

power, they failed to overcome their own internal contradictions and

ultimately failed. In the later half of the 20th Century, national

liberation movements (mostly predicated on that same Communist belief

system) took the anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist

struggle to a new high water mark.

But they too have proven insufficient to carry out the struggle to end

class society and liberate all of humanity, while enabling us to live in

harmony with the rest of the biosphere. Most of the societies where such

previous revolutionary movements did take power have now substantially

fallen back under capitalist, imperialist domination, giving the empire a

new lease on life as it loots their social capital and recolonizes them.

This record of previous false starts and failures should not discourage us.

It represents a wealth of hard-won knowledge about ourselves, our enemies,

and the true nature of this society. As Malcolm X said, history, of all

studies, merits and rewards our efforts.

What have we learned about ourselves? That we internalize our oppression

and identify with our oppressors, and that even the most oppressed must

proceed toward liberation via self-criticism. That we embody material

contradictions of gender, race, class, colonialism, and proprietorship of

land which divide the working class against itself, and which must and can

be overcome through struggle and conscious solidarity.

What have we learned about our enemies? That the greatest weapon in their

hands is the mind of oppressed. That all their wealth and power is stolen

from the people and the land they exploit and oppress. That their days are

numbered, because every empire in history has crumbled, and that knowing

this, they fear any manifestation of dissent or resistance.

What have we learned about the true nature of this society? That it's a

single seamless empire, "from sea to shining sea" and around the globe.

That there's no amelioration possible in the actions of the empire "at

home" or "abroad" as long as it is an empire, and that its actions do not

constitute a domestic or foreign "policy," but are simply two fronts of the

same struggle for domination or liberation.

Armed with these understandings, we can begin to see how to mulch and

detoxify our own soil, sink roots and bear fruit.

["Turning the Tide: Journal of Anti-Racist Action, Research & Education"

has been publishing for more than 16 years without partisan sponsorship,

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send for a free sample or inquire about subscribing by writing ARA, PO Box

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Original: Iraq and Beyond