Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Imperialism’

Protesters for Libyan freedom in London

It seems like years ago, but only a few months have gone by. The anti-imperialist world raised their virtual glasses in a united toast to the people’s revolutions. When I say this phrase, it seems I need to define every term, so bear with me. I will try to not take any concepts for granted.

The anti-imperialist world as I have come to know it is generally comprised of generally well-to-do intellectual-type folks who engage more time in discourse and social networking than they actually do in developing strategies or training individuals for a radical change in society where local (indigenous) people are their own leaders and determine for their exclusive benefit the policies and economic organisation of their own territory. They however are generally very passionate about the need to seek justice against tyrants and they believe that the people themselves want the same thing, so they do what they can (far from the places themselves) ninety-nine times out of one hundred by raising awareness through their articles, videos, comments, social network activities and fundraisers for more public events to raise awareness (and this cycle continues until it exhausts itself into the next fashionable group of unfortunate others).

With all that awareness-raising, you would be sure that by now, this formidable band of selfless virtual warriors would have convinced all of the world that there is no way on earth that the will of the people should be trampled on and that sooner rather than later, each people will achieve its own autonomy and self-reliance. These people who have concretely moved towards self-liberation might even be so inclined as to bite the hands that looks like it feeds them, if this has to happen for them to truly be free, but an anti-imperialist should never look at his or her own interests as a member of the empire who enjoys the privileges of that status, and should even tolerate great levels of aggression against the empire he calls home.

That said, when first Tunisia, then Egypt, began staging independent demos to demand change in their government systems, inspired by their sheer numbers, they seemed to be fully successful. There was bloodshed among civilians, but it ended, and this was a revolution that was almost like a dream, almost too easy and certainly so full of promise and hope. It even adopted the name that will remain with it for all time, “Arab Spring”, the long-awaited renewal of Arabhood connected to the idea of development of a new society that was going to put people before anything else. That it gained support at a global level probably was intrinsic to its success.

Protesters in Gaza

How did that happen? Well, we all know it was through mass communications, some of it entirely spontaneous between those directly involved, and some of it presented to a wider community to enlist their sympathies and support. It was the fact that the world was watching that perhaps hastened the demise of Ben Ali and Mubarak, and it could also be the fact that a barrier of fear had been broken. Make no mistake, I have been  documenting Egyptian uprisings for at least 3 years, and there are others who like me were not under the impression that Egyptians were passively accepting a lack of political expression and a worsening social crisis. Several of us had commented that it was necessary to break through the impression that Egyptians were incapable of rebellion and to show that there was the emergence of a protest movement that was non-confessional, and was tying together the idea of the rebirth of Arabhood as well as an Egyptian national identity that was as vibrant as the Egyptian people. We could have been some of the few who were not surprised by the revolution, but what did surprise us was the enablement that  this gave to nearby peoples.

Living in the European country closest to Libya and with a colonial past which as recently as 1972 has seen mass expulsions of Libyans of Italian descent, whatever happens in Libya is going to be felt directly. In the past years, hundreds of boats full of refugees have headed toward our shores,  and as has been documented thoroughly, the Libyan regime had utilised the African migrants as a playing card to obtain many things from Italy. The Africans who were brought to Libyan Migrant Detention Centres were actually imprisoned there, and the thought of dying at sea on unsafe and overcrowded ships was a risk almost all of them were desirous to take after months of torment from the military and police branches of the Libyan government. There were truckloads of them driven to the confines of the desert and left there to die, documented by Italian film crews, who were concerned about lives in the face of the “Bilateral Agreements” so that Gaddafi could keep a foothold in Italy’s economy and obtain “aid” worth billions of Euros for infrastructure (some of it I can personally testify was for bunkers), weaponry and telecommunications in exchange for a policy of limiting African immigration from Libyan shores.

Gaddafi’s racism thought it found another foothold in the sensitivities of the Italian government, and his words were carefully used to obtain what he  wanted, a combination of greed and rank racism that I witnessed few anti-imperialists getting upset about.  It deserves being read word by word:

“Europe runs the risk of turning black from illegal immigration, it could turn into Africa. We need support from the European Union to stop this army trying to get across from Libya, which is their entry point. At the moment there is a dangerous level of immigration from Africa into Europe and we don’t know what will happen. What will be the reaction of the white Christian Europeans to this mass of hungry, uneducated Africans? We don’t know if Europe will remain an advanced and cohesive continent or if it will be destroyed by this barbarian invasion. We have to imagine that this could happen but before it does we need to work together.”

Gaddafi's recent "Rome By Night" outing

Gaddafi would come to Italy, honoured by Silvio Berlusconi and the best that the Italian government had to offer by way of hospitality, in order to seal more deals and to re-establish that these two neighbours had the same interests at heart: especially a thirst for petroleum and a provider who would make sure there would be preferential treatment under certain conditions, including keeping Europe white. Berlusconi was also an honoured guest in Libya, promising billions of Euros for schools, retirement homes, infrastructure and other things. It is curious that those continually claiming Libya was fulfilling all of its people’s needs on its own seem to not question why they would need so very much Italian money to do what they claim has already been done. During these visits, our news shows were almost suffering an embarrassment at how to represent it. The feelings run deep, and we had known of the abuses that were going on in Libya. Many of us know Libyans, some of them in exile, “You mean  you can’t go back? What do you mean you can’t go back?” Others who come on scholarships and seem to never want to talk about politics either. I would joke with two friends (one in each category) and call it the Libyan black hole. However, both would easily admit that Libya could be much more than it is, if only it could have the chance for that.

So, I watched the revolutions with other anti-imperialists, and the Libyan revolution had quite a few of us excited at the first moments because  Libya is not a Middle Eastern country and it also has ambiguous and collaborative relations with the empire, and with my nation in particular. I  was naively convinced that true anti-imperialists would welcome the will of the people as sovereign and that the information constantly withheld from us regarding many human rights violations would cause one of those powerful moments of decision: supporting an action that really was going to mean conflict and risk for my own nation. As February 17th approached, (with its planned march in Benghazi of the family members of the 1,200 political prisoners of Abu Salim who had been executed by Gaddafi ) I noticed that a few would start to say it was not a real revolution because a) it was against a leader who claimed to be anti-imperialist, b) it was a tribal conflict that we should not take part in, as it would lead to division of Libya (as if they actually knew or cared!), c)the protesters had some problems that did not make them revolutionary, with the sub-groups of 1) they are seeking the restoration of the monarchy, 2) they are religious fanatics that will turn back the clock on progressive revolutions and make Libya a theocratic state. I asked them if they had the right to determine when a revolution was valid and when it was not, and I was surprised to hear that they were putting conditions on the support of a people, and didn’t they notice the people were demanding their freedom?

I started to check into all my favourite anti-imperialist sites, most of the relevant articles indicated to me by friends on Facebook, and lo and behold, most of these were articles by Westerners. If I had kept count, and I should have, I would have the evidence in front of me that out of 100 articles perhaps 3 were actually penned by Libyans. I got to wondering what was happening when I had been reading and hearing the reports from Benghazi by Mohamed Nabbous, killed by Gaddafi’s squadrons and in the many comments surrounding these interventions, and noticed the enormous gulf in what the Pundits were saying, and what Libyans were saying. It was as if there were two worlds colliding. All of these people claimed to love freedom and to want to do anything necessary to obtain it, but there was that nasty issue of Gaddafi actually threatening to exterminate those who tried. At this point, one would think that this would be enough for one to firmly side with the Libyan people and wonder what the pundits were going on about.

And, at this time, many things entered the scene, such as NATO, which all of us detest, and transitional governments and Libyan officials abandoning their leader and an upsurge in refugees flooding into Tunisia and war and death in the land that only a few weeks before was the next domino with a tyrant’s face that had to be knocked down.

We read of infiltrations of Al Qaeda, (this was what Gaddafi claimed the Thuwar (“rebels” to those who hate them and “freedom fighters” to those who love them), of deals with Empire, of CIA infiltrates and anything else that you can imagine by way of establishing that those who were commemorating the massacre of their loved ones and who were massacred while doing so were SO BAD and if we supported them, we were dupes. I guess it would take a very self-assured person to still want to see the Thuwar and indeed the people opposing Gaddafi in a decent light.

Already involved in a few discussion groups regarding the events in the region, I was invited by friends to join a few private mostly-Libyan discussion groups. I wanted to observe the discourse, and since my sympathies and antipathies were known to me, but not backed up by enough concrete information, I took it as my “personal fact finding mission” to learn as much as I could about the situation from Libyans. Indeed, the discussions in these groups are lively, and shockingly, almost everyone in the groups (which are by no means small either) has a martyr for the cause and has family living in conditions of siege. It is quite a shocker to log in and see someone receiving condolences for his father, his uncle, her brother, a daily litany of suffering and loss… And even more shocking was the coming into contact with a world I should have been more aware of, that of the acceptance of the will and wisdom of God.

Yes, religion plays a big part in many of these struggles, and while this is not a religious war, (and all Libyans practice the same religion for the most part), the element of faith and perseverance that these people surely learned from over four decades of negation of their political freedom is omnipresent. I would also peek into Pro-Gaddafi boards and oddly, there was a sort of violence and lack of humanity that were not even hidden very well. It became almost apparent to me that there was a lot more to this situation than meets the eye.

I got into discussions with American Communists (self-proclaimed, naturally) and leftists in general and when they started to stress that they didn’t like the religious symbolism that they were seeing (as if their taste was going to matter) I had to ask them why they thought they knew better than the Libyans what was best for Libyans. I was told that the Libyans would put the monarchy in. I stated that the TNC issued a statement and it was supported by those I was discussing things with, that there were to be elections and there was going to be an establishment of democracy. These AC + Leftists told me that the Libyans were dupes for the empire and religious fanatics and that if they were not working for a world revolution but for a repressive and authoritative patriarchal set-up, and thus, as AC + Leftists, the Libyans would not be worthy of obtaining their support. I thought that was some cheek. So what I decided to do was to serve as a filter, I invited Libyans to use my board to engage with these anti-imperialists, and many willingly did so. They presented the Libyan point of view, they were kind, patient and tried to explain what the situation was so that it could be understood.

I admit I was shocked at the violent verbal reactions they got. I admit it was the classic Western Pundit thing of orientalism and ignoring the voice of the common man if that common man was not “politically advanced”. It was the thing I see time and again in Palestine activism: the great Western hero (usually white, male, often Christian or Jewish) determines that he or she knows what is best and becomes the spokesman and mouthpiece for Palestinians. It is denial of Palestinian agency, but it is so common and so normal that we tend to not notice it as the alarming trend it is.

McKinney not looking too objective there.

Working for the Man

So, when Cynthia McKinney stepped onto the scene, it is as if the secret prayers of the Gaddafi supporters who also are against the Libyan people’s revolution (they want to deny it’s what it is, but they are unable to turn off our memory cells that far back) had been answered. Black, female, present in the past in brave gestures for Palestine, outspoken against the robbery of the Democratic vote in the Bush elections, pacifist and they can plug their noses on the fact that she actually might represent empire by being involved in the presidential elections as a candidate and as a Roman Catholic. She does fine to complain against NATO abuses and even their involvement, but to become the mouthpiece of Gaddafi went above and beyond the call of duty, even going so far as to follow the game plan he provided while establishing the proper narrative to put forth. She did this as well on Libyan State TV, yes, the same state TV that has been accused by Libyans as sending out calls for ethnic cleansing of the Amazigh people (a linguistic minority in Libya) and those living in cities where protesting became resistance and then revolution.

And it seems, once again, we have thousands of eyewitnesses who the anti- imperialists, Leftists, American Communists refuse to listen to or when they are given the opportunity censor them or hurl insults their way, but when an American “eyewitness” (who has been shown where the Gaddafi cronies have taken her and nowhere else) speaks, she is the one who must be listened to, because she will not change anything, because she has no loved ones there, so whatever happens is politics, because she will have her hardcore followers and for all the ones she loses, she will pick up more, sensing where the anti-imperialist (banter) winds blow, feeding the fundraising machine for awareness-raising in an endless cycle. Those who actually are Libyans are treated to the usual “shut up” that is reserved for “counter-revolutionaries”. All from the comfort of these Western Anti-Imperialist homes far away from where the blood is being shed.

So what is my final remark to anti-imperialists, that group which I had felt I had proudly belonged to for decades? Quit lecturing with such an attitude of cultural colonialism and start listening to those who are actually the directly interested party. Answer them at least once when they ask  what alternative you would have offered when it was clear that their people were being violently crushed. Realise they are not interested in anything but their own freedom, and that includes freedom from you and your ideology and platitudes that contain nothing concrete for them to use towards obtainment of their freedom. If the anti-imperialists can’t understand that, then Khalas, because shutting up is golden.

Gheddafi and Chavez

If one, like myself, is raised with the love of “the worker” and “the people” which exceeds any love of a party, an ideology or even a nation, it is difficult to really fit in with any established left. While the left claims that it seeks power of the people, too many times its public statements make it clear that the people to protect are instead the people already in power, despite what they might actually have to do in order to maintain that power.

In the past, I have been critical of the massive investments Fidel Castro allowed to be made by Rafi Eitan and have been told that expressing how wrong the policy of “anything at all to uphold the Cuban revolution is good, even if it means trampling on Palestinians” was. I was accused of siding with dissident Cubans. It seems that there is a belief that this leader is beyond criticism.

Again, when I have criticised Ahmadinejad (who is not a leftist leader, but currently a leader some of the anti-imperialists who do not accept pan-Arabism look to as being “the voice of truth”) for the lack of what I consider political savvy in some of his speeches and how easily they are used to deflect attention to Israel as victim and away from Palestine as real victim, I have been accused of being a Zionist… and to my eyes, the automatism of Ahmadinejad=the real anti-Zionist seems like rote dogmatism without true reflection of what precisely Iran’s role in the region’s in/stability might be. Iran deserves to be free of all instrumentalisation and to have a truly autonomous and independent domestic and foreign policy, no matter if Ahmadinejad is the leader or not, but those in the West who insist upon singing the praises of Ahmadinejad as a symbol and condemning those who don’t are using simpleton logic and do nothing that is different from those who use him as the banner for what is evil.

Today my inbox has gotten another jolt. It seems that the “Hugo Chavez International Foundation for Peace, Friendship and Solidarity” is supporting Muammar Gheddafi and accusing the uprising in Libya as being the work of foreign services. Like classic dogmatic leftist propaganda, their press release attempts to equate the person of Gheddafi with the nation of Libya. Like all pieces of dogmatic propaganda, it contains some elements of truth, such as lamenting the lack of media attention for the crimes against humanity committed against the Palestinian people as well as the tendency of the forces of power in the West to attempt to hijack any popular movement and take control of it. As well, its statements about Gheddafi’s son being a benefactor in an NGO are also true, as his foundation donated 180 vehicles to the Viva Palestina mission as well as having assumed the exaggerated costs of the doomed and ill-planned Road to Hope Convoy, which did not factor in the amount of money to actually bring the goods to Gaza by boat, as is (unfortunately in these horrible times we live in) the only means possible. However aside from some facts and truth in the press statement, the core truth is that once again, the “left” sides by the power of a leader who states himself to be anti-imperialist, (despite evidence to the contrary) and instead tyrannically controls the business and wealth in a sort of State Capitalism where only a few gain and where democracy is seen as counter to the interests of the State. 

It is sufficient to read the press statement to see that the great blindspot blocking many who speak in the name of the “left” is a lack of awareness of the unstoppable force and legitimacy of the Arab masses. People in the MENA lands are divided into nations, religions, political orientation so that they can be used for a huge variety of dogmatic reasons. This is done even by their friends and supporters who neglect a very basic reality – unity across every artificial divide. There are those who blame/praise the recent uprisings on Islam, but that is again untrue. Though these are nations with a vast Muslim population, the uprisings are not religious rallies and are indeed joined by Muslim groups, but not lead by them, just as they are joined by internationalist groups, but are not lead by them. It is simply the power of human beings who live in the “Middle East” and North Africa who are demanding their political and human rights. It is their identification as a united front which brings them en masse to the largest squares in their countries, allows them to face bravely the very real threat of bodily harm and even death. 

It is the Arab human being who is being buried on the beaches of Tripoli, the cemeteries of Soussa, Manama and Cairo. It is the Arab human being who is arrested in Palestine for sharing his or her solidarity with other humans fighting for their rights. There is no limit of age, sex, religion, political credo or even social class. There is one uniting factor, the factor of Arabhood, Arab Consciousness that is drawing these people to demand to have a say in their own future and to construct their own country, and protect it for all the nationals abroad who are in exile or diaspora, ousting corrupt and tyrannical leaders who have at times used patriotism of the nation to inspire “brand loyalty” to the leader. 

Yet, these same feelings of patriotism, the beloved flags of all the independent nations, are being waved in a mass statement of unity. Arab people are supporting other Arab people across the globe, seeking to empower the individual national struggles in the name of Arabhood and humanity as a whole. The Algerian, the Moroccan, the Jordanian, the Tunisian, the Iraqi, the Egyptian and all the other national identities are not abandoned, but are instead joined together in solidarity as a sole people rising up against any outside forces or internal pressure that seeks to strip them of their power and determination to be the protagonists of their own stories. 

Just as it is wrong and improper to impose sanctions against a people to bring down a leader, as is attempted from the West and the imperialist powers (US and EU sanctions against Iran, Iraq, Gaza, to name only some), it is also wrong to have attempted to call for an economic boycott of Egypt to bring down Mubarak. To boycott an Arab nation at this time, as is expected soon from the USA towards Libya, never brings down the leader, it only weakens the masses and makes them further victimised by the oppressive powers, their own and those from outside. Boycotts are to change policy, not to bring down leaders, and they do nothing but increase suffering to the population which does not possess any kind of powers or economic clout. 

So the left, rather than support Gheddafi, should condemn the proposed boycott of Libya while at the same time accept the power of the people and abandon the dogmatism of the charismatic “revolutionary leader” when it is evident that his leadership is in place only by means of oppression. I would expect that true revolutionaries and leftists will ignore the appeal of the Chavez Foundation and will take their place alongside the Arab people in their struggle for freedom. 

(thank you Ali Baghdadi for bringing this missive to my attention).   

HUGO CHAVEZ INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR PEACE, FRIENDSHIP AND SOLIDARITY

HCI-FPFS

“To love one’s neighbor is also to love one’s enemy. Although in reality that qualifier-‘enemy’ does not exist in my vocabulary. I recognize that I only have adversaries and I have acquired the capacity to love them because in this way we do away with violence, wrath, vengeance, hatred and substitute them with justice and forgiveness.” 
Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet Gonzalez (1999)

Press Statement                                                                       23 February, 2011.

Bamako, Republic of Mali                    Tel: 00223-6413027.

This is the second statement to the Press issued by the Hugo Chavez International Foundation for Peace, Friendship and Solidarity (HCI-FPFS), in the light of the situation in Libya. It is no more a secret to state in this Press Release that foreign powers, opposed to peace, unity and progress of Africa are in action again, leading a wicked campaign of treachery, deception and terrorism against Libyan leader, Muammar Al-Qathafi and the people of Libya. This time, the enemies of Africa are hiding behind the corrupt foreign media in their criminal attempts to attack and destroy Libya.

The international conspiracy to destroy Muammar Al-Qathafi through a carefully-calculated media frenzy constitutes the burden of each of our position statement on current events in Libya, especially the wide, vicious, hypocritical gap between the US and Western powers’ “democratic” avowal and the state terrorism associated with the activities of these so-called civilized nations towards the people of Africa, Middle East, the Caribbean and Latin America. In the first place, the Hugo Chavez International Foundation for Peace,
Friendship and Solidarity (HCI-FPFS) wonders how British Foreign Secretary William Hague can feel so comfortable in the company of anti-Libyan organized crime groups that seek the devastation and destruction of Libya. For instance, it was the British Foreign Secretary-turned-coat anti-Libyan, anti-Qathafi, anti-Africa, anti-Arab, anti-Hugo Chavez, anti-Venezuelan whom led the malicious lie to the world that Libyan leader Muammar Al-Qathafi had ran away and sought refuge in Venezuela. The malicious lie was doctored at a time British Prime Minister David Cameron was on an unannounced visit to Egypt, ostensibly to urge the military junta in Cairo to respect the so-called timetable for holding elections.

The other lies, deceptions and ill-thought-out propaganda associated with the ongoing anti-Libyan campaign in the corrupt media include the following misguided allegations, that:

LIBYAN WAR PLANES BOMBED CIVILIANS.

It is innuendos and reckless dissipation for any foreign government, organization or the corrupt media to suggest that the competent authorities in Tripoli used Libya’s fighter jet planes against Libyan civilians. It has never happened and there is no evidence to convince any sane person to believe that the Government of Muammar Al-Qathafi ever used fighter planes against the Libyan people, since the dawn of the era of the Great September 1st Al-Fateh Revolution in 1969. As a matter of fact, there are all evidences available to conclude that the Government of Muammar Al-Qathafi does not need importing foreign mercenaries to protect Libyan life and property against the terrorist activities of organized crime groups and the corrupt media.

It is now clear that the “corrupt international media” disproportionately covers human rights violations in Libya beyond an attempted distraction from the actual situation on the North African nation. For example when Israeli army massacred Palestinian men, women and children in the occupied Arab lands and territories, there is little media coverage compared to the coverage generated over the drown attacks directed by the White House in Washington against tribes men, women and children in Afghanistan. The extrajudicial execution of Egyptian opposition leaders by US/Israeli trained agents of former government of the disgraced dictator Hosni Mubarrak was not covered by the “corporate media” despite it being a heinous crime against humanity. We assert that, the assumption that Libyan fighter planes deployed by the Libyan Government against civilians is without basis. This is further evidence that the corporate media’s claims about happenings in Libya are without substance.

SAIF AL-ISLAM QATHAFI THREATENED THE LIBYAN PEOPLE.

The corporate media got it wrong from the beginning when it made and repeated the claim that Saif Al-Islam Qathafi, the President of the Gadafi Foundation threatened the Libyan people. When weighing the claims of the corporate media against the President of the Gadafi Foundation, one should look at Saif Al-Islam’s background. This is a man who leads a respectable Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), the Gadafi Foundation that has been instrumental in enforcing the principles of the Green Charter International (GCI), for peace, human rights, rule of law, democracy, freedom and human dignity in Libya and world over.

Saif Al-Islam’s statement on attempts by criminals to rob the Libyan people of their peace, freedom and dignity was crystal clear and made to urge the Libyan people to resist any foreign attempts to destroy their country. The accusations against Sail Al-Islam are false and reveal that the corporate media is ever willing to blatantly lie in order to attempt to damage the reputation and illuminating personality of Sail Al-Islam.

Thus far we have seen how a simple, clear-cut national security case became a wider, more serious problem through unwillingness on the part of the enemies of Libya to respect the sovereignty and independence of the North African nation. Instead they (the enemies of Libya) deliberately buried facts and began a campaign of gossip, tale bearing and slander against Sail Al-Islam. We have also learned how the US and Western imperialists encouraged the corporate media’s anti-Libya terrorism by listening to their unfounded and baseless allegations and treating them as true.

NO FLY ZONE RHETORIC.

A number of heretics, racists and anti-Libyans have gone mad and resorted to advocate for a “no fly zone” be imposed on Libya. The objective, it is now clear-to create a corridor for aggression and violation of Libya’s sovereignty and integrity. Those who advocate for this subversive action plan are themselves collaborators of organized crime groups intending to destroy Libya.

On whether Muammar Al-Qathafi is in control of Libya, we would leave it to the sane international community to read the writings on the wall. There is no gain saying the fact Muammar Qathafai is well, kicking and performing his duties as Leader and Guide of the Revolution, and remains the legitimate leader of the Libyan masses. The Libyan Government is fully in control of its country’s internal situation, and as repeatedly said by Muammar Qathafi, the Libyan Government would not sit idle and allow any body pursue vested personal agendas, or derail the country from path of economic prosperity and sustained development.

The competent authorities in Tripoli have undertaken full duties and responsibilities through decisive action in the face of a well planned international covert agenda, and managed to restore security and protect human life and property in Libya. The US and Western governments hate-filled attacks on Colonel Muammar Qathafi are mere “propaganda” aimed at diverting growing international concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Iraq, occupied Palestine, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Anger and frustration at the collapse of the anti-Arab, pro-zionist regime in Egypt is completely understandable and shared by us, in the Hugo Chavez International Foundation for Peace, Friendship and Solidarity (HCI-FPFS), yet that anger must not be directed at destroying.

Concluding we call upon the civilized international community to exert pressure on the military junta in Cairo not to allow any part of Egypt be use as staging posts for the destabilization of Libya.

Signed:………………………….

Alimamy Bakarr Sankoh

President of the Hugo Chavez International Foundation for Peace, Friendship and Solidarity (HCI-FPFS),

For, and on behalf of the Hugo Chavez International Foundation for Peace, Friendship and Solidarity (HCI-FPFS).

Over three years ago, an idea took shape. That idea was to create a network of activists that would share their material, translating things they considered important from one language, and in exchange, they would be able to circulate things translated by others. We hoped that we could contribute to a more active, involved discourse in our own milieus that would not limited by language. We believed that a good article was like a painting or a song, if it had something to communicate, it could be appreciated in a different context, and we wanted to spread the ideas around as much as we could. We already liked some of the same authors, some of the same sources, and had a common view of the major issues, not less important, we shared a bond of friendship and trust. It was intended to be “for private use”, for our mailing lists, newsgroups, blogs and personal research. We didn’t create it with the intention of making it become a site. Yet, after four months of collaboration, that group of people decided it would be a good idea to share the material we were quickly compiling in great quantity with others. There was no other solution but to open a site, which we launched officially on this day. www.tlaxcala.es

Tlaxcala at the time was a loose assembly of about 25 translator-activists who decided to pool their resources and work in a coalition by agreeing to a common ideal. There have been translation collectives before, and many sites have staff that translates, and most of us had been translating for one site or another as volunteers for a few years, so we weren’t inventing anything new when we started, but there was indeed something “different” about Tlaxcala. The difference of Tlaxcala with other groups is still quite obvious to those of us who answered that first calling to “form a group of anti-imperialist translators”. We have maintained that focus, translating a staggering quantity of material, broadening our vision as a group, but also as individuals. We are trying to keep awareness on what the struggle against “Empire” really is. Together we have discovered how the only way to support liberation from the domination of Empire (be it military, economic, cultural, social, religious, political) is to actively participate, reclaiming the miracle and the mystery of diversity, exalting it even, while making the connection between every struggle, finding their commonalities as well as discovering their unique aspects, and discovering that there are more than a few rays of hope filtering in, and the mainstream media doesn’t seem to want to let people know.

Hegemonic thinking exists in every society, anywhere there is a need for consensus. It is not necessarily damaging to the causes of liberation, and indeed, there are corners of the world where “the people” are influencing “the power elite”, and this too is important news to share. An example among many, for three days the Italian media was hounding about the “mania of dictatorship of Chavez”. The mainstream must have been convinced it was enough to paint him as a megalomaniac and dangerous demagogue, after all, they use the same “Rogue State” menu that they are taught to use by the US. Apparently, it’s easy to call someone a dictator when there is a belief that “the people would not let this happen” and it was basically a given that the Venezuelan referendum would not pass. When it actually did pass, all of a sudden there was silence, this kind of consensus doesn’t seem to find any air time between one fluff story and another. More than that, it would have created a difficult situation to handle: either implying that Venezuelans do not know what democracy is, or that our mass media was busy using a propagandistic element with the Italian public. Either way, they took the easy way out and simply made that story disappear.

Tlaxcala is a group that exists in the realm of language, one that places the struggle for freedom, peace and justice in that sphere. Language is the basis of human existence. We came into a world that was already loaded with meaning, and we learn its codes, its mores and its limits through words. Indeed, our own existence is moulded by the language that we discover, each one of us on our own. It should not be surprising that activists are not expected only to vote or march when called to do so, they are aware of the important position that discourse always has had, of how it evolves, of the way it becomes an action itself, and for an activist-translator, action and language merge their boundaries, they unite into a single instrument.

Since the founding of Tlaxcala, we have grown in number and in dedication. We have obviously fulfilled our purpose of translating material (we now also subtitle videos and have an audio-visual section on our site, in addition to coordinating or supporting international campaigns and petitions), but more than that, we have grown into “Tlaxcala”: an international group with a distinctive character. Not only that, Tlaxcala this month, due to exponential increase in its user base, is upgrading the site, which will be easier to navigate, and will integrate more language pages and with improved features. But the site is only the aspect of Tlaxcala that others see. Tlaxcala is very much more than that.

It actually is hard for me to describe what Tlaxcala really is. Without being a party, sect, social network or NGO, it has managed to create a strong community. There is a human bond and connection of respect, admiration, collaboration and commitment that is so rare it actually does stand out when it happens. I don’t believe a day has gone by when I haven’t learned something, from improving my language skills to learning about the situation in another country to finding out information that otherwise would have been very difficult for me to obtain. I don’t think I would exaggerate to say that many members of Tlaxcala can attest to the same thing. Additionally, I have come into contact with so many outstanding people, people with brilliant minds, generous hearts, a sense of humour, compassion, talent. Every new member brings a whole new patrimony to our group, it is like discovering a new branch on a family tree. Each new member is reason for celebration. This is not to say there are not passionate disputes, that we sit around the campfire singing Kumbayah, but the bond that unites us is strong enough to ALLOW room for debate, dispute and discussion. This is the private side of Tlaxcala, and it is a source of enrichment for those who participate.

Three questions were posed to our members, so that words could convey the relationship between the aspect as an activist and as a translator. Here are replies to these questions from some of our members: I asked them to reply in a language I understood, and I hope the readers of this can also understand the material that is not in English. Check the Tlaxcala site, who knows if it won’t be translated into other languages!?

1)    Do you believe that your participation in our collective has affected your own activism?

Adib: Collective work is always creative and stirs activism and new ideas, man is a social animal, thus always learns from others.  

Atenea: Without a doubt. I believe that activism is about putting your life experience and education at the service of political causes that you strongly support and believe in. Tlaxcala has become one of the key places where I have been able to combine both my profession and principles to contribute, and it has shown me many a times that collective activism is powerful and effective.

Carlos: Naturalmente que si. Primeramente, porque aprendo cada día un oficio que no me es propio, el de traductor, de muy buenos traductores de todo el mundo. Segundo, porque a través de Tlaxcala se produce un importante intercambio de información que es de gran utilidad en otras actividades que hago en redes y organizaciones, con lo que Tlaxcala transciende más allá del  grupo en sí. Tercero porque aporta un enfoque amplio en matices pero bastante estructurado que conforma un tapiz de lo que podríamos considerar una corriente universal de izquierdas en la que es posible y grato trabajar hasta el punto de lamentar muchas veces no disponer del tiempo suficiente para hacerlo. 

Cristina: Mi activismo está ya muy activado, pero Tlaxcala me permite estar al día y acceder a información que de otra manera, a lo mejor, no tenía y propagarla por el mundo.

Diego: Beh, non mi sento un attivista o, almeno, non ritengo paragonabile quello che faccio ad una qualsivoglia forma di attivismo. Detto questo, mi fa piacere far parte di una comunità di persone umane, serie ed intelligenti che, loro sì, hanno molto da insegnare e da cui sono orgoglioso di poter apprendere. Soprattutto, Tlaxcala è un modo per evadere dalla nostra miserabile condizione italiana, soprattutto per evadere dal mare di soprusi e bugie in cui affoghiamo. Tlaxcala, senza retorica, non è solo un modo per conoscere nuova gente e mentalità diverse ma, per me, è una via per far sapere alle persone degli altri paesi che qui in Italia siamo ancora molti a non arrendersi a questo declino morale e sociale che ci sta inghiottendo. In condizioni normali, le idee o gli articoli degli autori che spesso “traduco” circolerebbero senza troppi problemi attraverso i normali canali. Ma non viviamo in condizioni normali e quindi ritengo di dover fare qualcosa per fare sapere almeno all’estero che qui in Italia abbiamo tante persone che meritano di essere ascoltate. E d’altro canto, cercare di contribuire a diffondere le notizie di avvenimenti esteri che qui da noi vengono spudoratamente filtrati, manipolati o censurati. Cmq faccio tutto questo sempre nella consapevolezza che poter scrivere e fare queste cose è un lusso che probabilmente la maggioranza della popolazione mondiale non può permettersi avendo necessità di sopravvivere. E’ uno dei tanti sensi di colpa che mi tormentano da sempre: se ragionassi come molti, dovrei godermi di più la vita proprio per rispetto di chi è meno fortunato, proprio come quando i genitori rimproverano i figli che non consumano fino in fondo il proprio pasto “per rispetto ai bimbi africani”. E’ sbagliato, è come dire che bisogna consumare di più per rispetto di chi non ha niente. In realtà, bisognerebbe rinunciare concretamente ad una parte di quel che abbiamo affinché i bisogni di qualcun altro possano essere soddisfatti. Questa è l’unica via. E, a parte la rinuncia concreta che mi impongo su molte cose, Tlaxcala è un modo come diversi altri per sentirsi più vicini a quelle persone, nella speranza che mi trasmettano un po’ della loro dignità.

 

Dima: it restored my faith in collective activism…

Esteban: Yes, I’m more attentive with the various opinions.

Kourosh: Definitely. Tlaxcala has contributed to my progression immensely. Since I was invited to join the network by Manuel Talens and Mary Rizzo, I made the acquaintance of a number of mindful, intellectual, prosperous and inspirational people who are unassumingly ready for any kind of sacrifice and commitment.

Following my admission into the network, my interviews and articles, fortunately, achieved a broad feedback and reflection internationally, thanks to the constructive contribution and involvement of worldwide translators who work under the umbrella of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity.

 

As a journalist who pays a high priority to the circulation of his message and the wide distribution of his productions, I’m exceptionally satisfied that my articles, interviews and reports were translated into Arabic, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Swedish and a couple of other languages pursuant to the precious and worthwhile endeavors of Tlaxcalains. I hope this could help the world to hear our call for peace, equality, improvement, tranquility and brotherhood.

 

Manuel: Le ha dado una visión mundial y ha eliminado cualquier resto de nacionalismo que pudiera quedar en mi.

Nadia:  No sólo ha afectado mi activismo, sino que cada día le da forma, de la mayor consistencia. Tlaxcala para mi es algo más, mucho más que un grupo de activistas procedentes de distintos lugares del mundo que comparten ciertos ideales, que persiguen ciertas metas en común, es una escuela, una escuela en la que perfeccionamos nuestras habilidades linguisticas, pero además, y más importante, trabajamos para construir un mundo mejor, un mundo sin exclusiones, sin prejuicios, un mundo en el que todos podamos ver más allá de la punta de nuestras narices. 

Susanne: I am a member of the local WDM (World Development Movement) group and I have been sharing some of the articles and videos with them. The articles I read on and translate for Tlaxcala provide me with view from those that are marginalised or completely ignored in the mainstream media and that helps to inform my own activism.

2)     What feelings and thoughts come to you when you are translating and then when you see your translations published?

Adib: The world is a global village; so you have to know what your next door neighbor and friend believes in to be able to associate with him in a civil manner so as both of you benefit from each other’s work, unless that next door neighbor is an intruding enemy who plans to expand to your living and bed rooms, then kick you out and replace you in them as we Palestinians are suffering with our intruding unwanted “guests”.. Translation helps you to know both your friend, to ally with him, and your enemy, to confront him and put an end to his atrocities. Know both your enemies and friends. Unfortunately what we learned from our enemy is that he is not willing to learn from his own mistakes… We learned that our enemy is digging its grave with its own hands.

When you see your translations published you earn satisfaction as you know that your time was not wasted, on the contrary it benefits others.

 

 

Atenea: I only choose to translate those articles and essays that resonate with my political convictions and interests, so the experience is always rewarding as every time I learn and/or open new windows to further strengthen my position in specific issues. I try to stay away from well-known authors in alternative media as I find it more urgent to lend my skills and profession to convey the ideas and thoughts of those who are not so popular but equally incisive and sharp. Publication and re-publication in other sites only means that we are achieving our goal as a group: giving a voice to those who would otherwise remain unheard, offering people a view into the other side of the (hi)story, and counteracting and counterbalancing the enormous amount of mainstream so-called information that bombards the world 24/7.

Carlos: Si la conciencia colectiva de una comunidad es su idioma, el esfuerzo de traducir a otra lengua diferente de la tuya, la materna, es adentrarse en un horizonte nuevo y abrirse a una nueva mentalidad, y así es como acometo un texto, que escojo en función de varias consideraciones y no sólo de mis preferencias personales puesto que influye la actualidad, la relevancia de lo tratado, los hechos que rodean el texto, su autor, etc..

Cuando un trabajo se ve después publicado pienso en la utilidad que pueda tener y para quién puede tenerla. Busco vestigios de errores y trato de tenerlos en cuenta para la siguiente traducción y también para escoger un nuevo texto. De unos trabajos te sientes más satisfecho que de otros pero, como los temporales en la mar, el peor siempre es el último.

Cristina: Hay veces (me acaba de pasar con un tema de Venezuela) en que me apasiono e implico de tal modo que me sale una traducción con mucha vida y yo llego a emocionarme. ¡Ésas son las mejores! 
No he visto aún ninguna traducción mía publicada porque soy una novata entre vosotros.

Diego: Nell’ordine: camuffare in qualche modo la mia limitata conoscenza della lingua straniera; evitare fraintendimenti e possibili querele (che da noi sono molto di moda) sperare di non commettere troppi errori, visto che tu ed altri dovete sobbarcarvi le revisioni. Quanto alle pubblicazioni fanno piacere ma più che altro implicano la possibilità che ancor più persone possano leggerle.

Dima: I recognise the importance of what we’re doing as translators, seeing the translations on the web affirms my commitment. it’s only a shame I can’t contribute as frequently as i would like to..

Esteban: Je n’en tire aucune gratification personnelle, le seul fait de savoir que le texte d’un auteur engagé pour les mêmes idées que moi sera certainement lu par des personnes qui n’auraient jamais pu le lire et par conséquent n’auraient pas pu avoir une information parallèle ou un avis en dehors du cadre de la pensée unique m’incite à catalyser les deux parties. Tous les textes de Tlaxcala (et d’autres sites également) ne seront jamais imprimés dans la presse impérialiste, et pourtant avec Tlaxcala ils sont à la portée de tout un chacun afin qu’il s’interroge et s’aperçoivent comment les médias manipulent les consciences. Le niveau des textes étant élevé, Tlaxcala est un excellent vecteur d’information, d’apprentissage, de formation et de stimulateur à la lutte.

Kourosh: At the time of writing and translating, I just try to set focus on the job which is assigned to me; a genuine concentration. Due to the overwhelming clutter of works which usually entangle me, sometimes I can not manage to draw the projects to a close and finish up the works timely, for which I should apologize to all of the Tlaxcalains; however, that’s a source of honor and pride for me to see an abundant trust and confidence which the people bestow upon me.

Manuel: Como cualquier otro traductor implicado en un trabajo político colectivo y voluntario, escojo los textos en función de mis propias preferencias. En el proceso de traducción procuro plasmar las ideas del autor original de la manera más clara posible y con la mayor corrección estilística de la que soy capaz. El lector se merece siempre un buen texto. Cuando veo mis traducciones publicadas suelo estar ya haciendo alguna nueva, así que nunca vuelvo la vista atrás.

Nadia: Una traducción publicada es un nuevo cohete qassam lanzado en contra de la ocupación de la que somos objeto, es un acto de protesta y por ende de resistencia. Tal como los combatientes que en algún rincón del mundo elaboran rudimentarias armas para defenderse de aquellos que los oprimen, nosotros, con nuestras traducciones también reivindicamos nuestro derecho a luchar elaborando cada una de nuestras traducciones. En el proceso dejamos el alma, no hay traducción que no cuente, que no aporte, cada una de ellas representa nuestro grito de protesta, ese grito que, como decía el subcomandante marcos, se sumará al de otros en distintos rincones del mundo hasta finalmente ser escuchado por aquellos que resisten y luchan con las armas en nuestro nombre, porque todos somos combatientes, todos somos palestinos, subsaharianos, iraquíes, tibetanos, todos empuñamos la misma arma.

Susanne: Some of the articles in particular made me think about how the things are connected and how the response in the Western corporate media just doesn’t reflect the severity of some conflicts and the suffering in the world because of some powerful interests, it’s like a script being followed. I have noticed how my translations appear on a number of blogs after publication on Tlaxcala, for all those readers who want to get beyond the scripted reporting in the corporate media. It makes me happy.

3)     Have you gained in a personal way from participation in our collective, or have you lost something?

 

Adib: Definitely both in a personal and collective way. How could anybody lose in collective work. Collective efforts is like yeast that matures dough that becomes good bread when baked thus you have your fill that is consumed with pleasure.

Atenea: No original answer here: I have gained a solid network of compañeros whom I share a world and life view with, a really big thing when you actually think about it. I have lost some free time, but have become a more creative time manager!

Carlos: Aparte de algunas clases de saxofón he perdido poca cosa comparado con lo mucho que he ganado, lo más importante de todo: estar en contacto con un creciente grupo de personas extraordinarias, lo cual sería imposible de otra forma. He ganado también  aprendizaje y  posibilidades de expresión. Desde cualquier punto de vista personal la experiencia es enormemente positiva.

Cristina: He ganado el participar en un proyecto como Tlaxcala del que soy admiradora hace años.
Me enorgullece formar parte de un grupo de gente tan luchador, generoso, valiente con cuyas metas y puntos de vista coincido al cien por cien.
No pierdo nada, porque el tiempo empleado me parece un granito más de arena en la montaña que pare la injusticia.

 

Diego: Mi pare di aver risposto in parte già nella prima. Cmq, più che altro, mi pare di star “rincretinendomi”. Ma forse dipende dal fatto che è Tlaxcala stessa ad essere probabilmente qualcosa di un po’ “folle”.

 

Dima: I like being in a world-wide collective and I intend to plan some trips to countries when some Tlaxcala members have a spare bed for me to lie on (watch out everyone!)

 

Esteban: Comme j’ai dit dans la phrase en rouge ci-dessus, elle est pour moi EN PREMIER. Et donc j’ai gagné sur mon chemin personnel et j’espère encore gagner dans mon apprentissage sur les couleurs du monde, dans ma façon de penser et de réagir. Il faut dire que l’activité intense de beaucoup de militants au sein de l’association incite à aller de l’avant.

 

Je profite de ce questionnaire pour dire que : il est vrai que j’ai des préférences pour des textes et des auteurs, mais je n’ai AUCUNE retenue pour les luttes et les combats des peuples, ethnies, communautés ou individu contre l’impérialisme aliénateur. De même, il y a quelquefois des textes auxquels je n’adhère pas entièrement, alors, je m’abstiens de traduire ou de commenter ; pour autant si une majorité des membres actifs pense que ce texte peut être positif pour les luttes (même s’il n’a pas la radicalité qui me convient), alors je m’investis dans cette optique, ET JE L’ASSUME (« Je l’assume » c’est la seule raison qui me fait signer à la fin, sinon je signerais « le collectif »).

 

it’s a part of me…

Kourosh: Undisputedly, working in Tlaxcala added some new values to me. A beneficial sort of communal cooperation with a group of admirable people who are enthusiastic about their works, making new contacts with people who understand the reality of pure dedication, commitment and pledge, fueling the process of advantageous movements to help the oppressed, needy and impoverished worldwide and finally, acting upon the responsibilities which I believe are allocated to me.

Manuel: He ganado un horizonte sin fronteras y he perdido tiempo libre.

Nadia: No he perdido nada, cómo podría? He ganado mucho, he ganado un espacio de lucha y me siento privilegiada por ello, he ganado el martillo y el cincel con los que estoy contribuyendo a modelar el mundo en el que quiero vivir. 

Susanne: It’s only a short time since I have been a member, but in this time I have been very impressed and inspired by the dedication and courage of Tlaxcala’s members and friends. It is very life affirming and gives me hope that the world can be improved. 

Speech delivered by Nadine Rosa-Rosso at the The Beirut International Forum for Resistance, Anti-Imperialism, Solidarity between Peoples and Alternatives, held from January 16 to 18, 2009. 
The key question in this forum is how to support resistance against imperialism across the world. As an independent Belgian communist activist I would like to focus on the position of the European Left vis-à-vis this issue.

The massive demonstrations in European capitals and major cities in support of the people of Gaza highlighted once again the core problem: the vast majority of the Left, including communists, agrees in supporting the people of Gaza against Israeli aggression, but refuses to support its political expressions such as Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Left not only refuses to support them, but also denounces them and fights against them. Support for the people of Gaza exists only at a humanitarian level but not at the political level.

Concerning Hamas and Hezbollah; the Left is mainly concerned with the support these groups have amongst the Arab masses, but are hardly interested in the fact that Israel’s clear and aggressive intention is to destroy these resistance movements. From a political point of view we can say without exaggeration that the Left’s wish (more or less openly admitted) follows the same line as the Israeli government’s: to liquidate popular support for Hamas and Hezbollah.

This question arises not only for the Middle East but also in the European capitals because, today, the bulk of the demonstrators in Brussels, London and Paris are made up of people of North African origin, as well as South Asian Muslims in the case of London.

The reactions of the Left to these events are quite symptomatic. I will cite a few but there are dozens of examples. The headline of the French website ‘Res Publica’ following the mass demonstration in Paris on the 3rd of January read: “We refuse to be trapped by the Islamists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah!” The article continued: “Some activists of the left and far left (who only turned out in small numbers) were literally drowned in a crowd whose views are at odds with the spirit of the French Republican movement and of the 21st Century Left. Over 90% of the demonstrators championed a fundamentalist and communitarian worldview based on the clash of civilizations which is anti-secular and anti-Republican. They advocated a cultural relativism whose harmful tendencies are well known, particularly in England.

Res Publica is neither Marxist or communist, but one would be hard pressed to find even the most remotely positive words about Hamas on Marxist websites. One does find formulations such as “Whatever we think about Hamas, one thing is indisputable: the Palestinian people democratically elected Hamas to lead Gaza in elections held under international supervision.” Looking further at “what we can think of Hamas” one finds on the websites of both the French Communist Party and the Belgian Labour Party an article entitled “How Israel put Hamas in the saddle.” We learn little more than the assertion that Hamas has been supported by Israel, the United States and the European Union. I note that this article was put online on January 2nd after a week of intensive Israeli bombardment and the day before the ground offensive whose declared aim was the destruction of Hamas.

I will return to the quotation of Res Publica, because it summarizes quite well the general attitude of the Left not only in relation to the Palestinian resistance, but also in regard to the Arab and Muslim presence in Europe. The most interesting thing in this article is the comment in parentheses: ‘the Left and far Left (who only turned out in small numbers)’. One might expect following such a confession some self-critical analysis regarding the lack of mobilisation in the midst of the slaughter of the Palestinian people. But no, all charges directed against the demonstrators (90% of the whole protests) are accused of conducting a “war of civilizations.”

At all the demonstrations I participated in Brussels, I asked some demonstrators to translate the slogans that were chanted in Arabic, and they did so with pleasure every time. I heard a lot of support for the Palestinian resistance and denunciation of Arab governments (in particular the Egyptian President Mubarak), Israel’s crimes, and the deafening silence of the international community or the complicity of the European Union. In my opinion, these were all political slogans quite appropriate to the situation. But surely some people only hear Allah-u-akbar and form their opinion on this basis. The very fact that slogans are shouted in Arabic is sometimes enough to irritate the Left. For example, the organizing committee of the meeting of 11 January was concerned about which languages would be used. But could we not have simply distributed the translations of these slogans? This might be the first step towards mutual understanding. When we demonstrated in 1973 against the pro-American military takeover by Pinochet in Chile, no one would have dared to tell the Latin American demonstrators “Please, chant in French!” In order to lead this fight, we all learnt slogans in Spanish and no one was offended.

The problem is really in the parentheses: why do the Left and far Left mobilise such small numbers? And to be clear, are the Left and far Left still able to mobilize on these issues? The problem was already obvious when Israel invaded Lebanon in the summer of 2006. I would like to quote here an anti-Zionist Israeli who took refuge in London, jazz musician Gilad Atzmon, who already said, six months before the invasion: “For quite a long time, it has been very clear that the ideology of the Left is desperately struggling to find its way in the midst of the emerging battle between the West and the Middle East. The parameters of the so-called “clash of civilizations” are so clearly established that any “rational” and “atheist” leftist activist is clearly condemned to stand closer to Donald Rumsfeld than to a Muslim.”

One would find it difficult to state the problem more clearly.

I would like to briefly address two issues which literally paralyze the Left in its support to the Palestinian, Lebanese, and more generally to the Arab and Muslim resistance: religion and terrorism.

The Left and Religion

Perplexed by the religious feelings of people with an immigrant background, the Left, Marxist or not, continuously quotes the famous statement of Marx on religion: “religion is the opium of the people”. With this they think everything that needs to be said has been said. It might be more useful cite the fuller quote of Marx and perhaps give it more context. I do this not to hide behind an authority, but in the hope of provoking some thought amongst those who hold this over-simplified view, “Religion is the general theory of this world, (…), its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. (…) The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

(Translation of Prof. W. Banning, Life, Learning and Meaning, 1960, The Spectrum (p.62-63)

I have always been and remain an atheist, but the rise of religious feelings is hardly surprising. In today’s world most politicians, including those on the Left, do little more then display their weakness on this issue: they do nothing against the military power of the US, they do nothing or almost nothing against financial speculation and the logic of profit that plunges billions of people on this Earth into poverty, hunger and death. All this is due we are told to “the invisible hand” or “divine intervention”: where is the difference between this and religion? The only difference is that the theory of the “invisible hand” denies people the right to struggle for social and economical justice against this “divine intervention” that helps to maintain the status quo. Like it or not, we cannot look down on billions of people who may harbour religious feelings while wanting to ally with them.

The Left does exactly the same thing as what it accuses the Islamists of: it analyses the situation only in religious terms. It refuses to disclose the religious expressions as a “protest against misery”, as a protest against Imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. It cuts itself off from a huge part of the masses. Gilad Atzmon expresses it best when he states: “Rather than imposing our beliefs upon others, we better learn to understand what others believe in”. If we continue to refuse to learn, we will continue to lament the religious feelings of the masses instead of struggling with them for peace, independence and social and economic justice.

But there is more. The fate of Islam is very different from that of Christianity. I have never known the Left to hesitate when showing solidarity with the Latin American bishops, followers of liberation theology and the struggle against Yankee Imperialism in the 70s, or the Irish Catholic resistance to British Imperialism. Nor have I known the left to criticize Martin Luther King for his references to the Gospel, which was a powerful lever for the mobilisation of the Black American masses that did not have political, economic or social rights in the U.S in the sixties. This discriminatory treatment by the Left, this systematic mistrust of Muslims who are all without any distinction suspected of wanting to impose sharia law on us, can only be explained by colonialism that has profoundly marked our consciousness. We will not forget that the Communists, such as the Communist Party of Belgium (KPB), praised the benefits of colonization that were enthusiastically spread by Christian missionaries. For example, in the 1948 program of the KPB, when the party had just emerged from a period of heroic resistance against the Nazi occupation, it stated the following about the Belgian Congo: “a) Establishment of a single economic unit Belgium-Congo; b) Development of trade with the colony and realization of its national resources; c) Nationalization of resources and trusts in Congo; d) Development of a white colonists class and black farmers and artisan class; e) Gradual granting of democratic rights and freedoms to the black population.”

It was this kind of political education of workers by the Party which meant that there was hardly any protests from these Belgian workers influenced by the KPB when Patrice Lumumba, Pierre Mulele and many other African anti-imperialist leaders were assassinated. After all “our” Christian civilization is civilized, is it not? And democratic rights and freedoms can only “gradually” be assigned to the masses in the Third World, since they are too barbaric to make good use of them.

On the basis of exactly the same political colonialist reasoning, the Left is rather regretful in having supported democratic elections in Palestine. Perhaps they should have adopted a more gradualist approach towards the Palestinians since the majority of Palestinians have now voted for Hamas. Worse, the Left bemoans the fact that “the PLO was forced to organize parliamentary elections in 2006 at a time when everything showed that Hamas would win the elections”. This information is available on the sites of the French KP and Belgian PVDA.

If we would agree to stop staring blindly and with prejudice at the religious beliefs of people, we would perhaps “learn to understand” why the Arab and Muslim masses, who today demonstrate for Palestine, are screaming ‘Down with Mubarak’, an Arab and Muslim leader, and why they jubilantly shout the name of Chavez, a Christian-Latin American leader. Doesn’t this make it obvious that the Arab and Muslim masses frame their references not primarily through religion but by the relation of leaders to US and Zionist Imperialism?

And if the Left would formulate the issue in these terms, would they not partly regain the support of the people that formerly gave the Left its strength?

Another cause of paralysis of the Left in the anti-imperialist struggle is the fear of being associated with terrorism.

On the 11th of January 2009, the president of the German Chamber of Representatives, Walter Momper, the head of the parliamentarian group of ‘Die Grüne’ (the German Greens), Franziska Eichstädt-Bohlig, a leader of ‘Die Linke’, Klaus Lederer, and others held a demonstration in Berlin with 3000 participants to support Israel under the slogan ‘stop the terror of Hamas’. One must keep in mind that Die Linke are considered by many in Europe as the new and credible alternative Left, and an example to follow.

The entire history of colonisation and decolonisation is the history of land that has been stolen by military force and has been reclaimed by force. From Algeria to Vietnam, from Cuba to South-Africa, from Congo to Palestine: no colonial power ever renounced to its domination by means of negotiation or political dialogue alone.

For Gilad Atzmon it is this context that constitutes the real significance of the barrage of rockets by Hamas and the other Palestinian resistance organizations: “This week we all learned more about the ballistic capability of Hamas. Evidently, Hamas was rather restrained with Israel for a long while. It refrained from escalating the conflict to the whole of southern Israel. It occurred to me that the barrages of Qassams that have been landing sporadically on Sderot and Ashkelon were actually nothing but a message from the imprisoned Palestinians. First it was a message regarding stolen land, homes, fields and orchards: ‘Our beloved soil, we didn’t forget, we are still here fighting for you, sooner rather than later, we will come back, we will start again where we had stopped’. But it was also a clear message to the Israelis. ‘You out there, in Sderot, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv and Haifa, whether you realise it or not, you are actually living on our stolen land. You better start to pack because your time is running out, you have exhausted our patience. We, the Palestinian people, have nothing to lose anymore”. (Gilad Atzmon – Living on Borrowed Time in a Stolen Land)
What can be understood by an Israeli Jew, the European Left fails to understood, rather they find ’indefensible’ the necessity to take by force what has been stolen by force.

Since 9/11, the use of force in the anti-colonial and the anti-imperialist struggle has been classified under the category of ‘terrorism’; one cannot even discuss it any more. It is worth remembering that Hamas had been proscribed on the list of ‘foreign terrorist organizations’ by the United States in 1995, seven years before 9/11! In January 1995, the United States elaborated the ‘Specially designated terrorist List (STD)’ and put Hamas and all the other radical Palestinian liberation organisations on this list.

The capitulation on this question by a great part of the Western Left started after 9/11, after the launching of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) by the Bush administration. The fear of being classified ‘terrorists’ or apologists of terrorism has spread. This attitude of the Left is not only a political or ideological question, it is also inspired by the practical consequences linked to the GWOT. The European ‘Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism’ and its attached terror list who was a copy-and-paste version of the American terror list that has been incorporated into European legislation, which allow the courts to prosecute those who are suspected of supporting terrorism. During an anti-war rally in London, some activists sold a publication which included Marxist analysis on Hamas were stopped by the police and their magazines were confiscated. In other words, to attempt to inform people on the political program and the action of Hamas and Hezbollah becomes an illegal enterprise. The political atmosphere intimidates people into distancing themselves from these resistance movements and to denounce them without reservations.

In conclusion I have a concrete suggestion to make: we must launch an appeal to remove Hamas from the terror lists. At the same time we must ensure that Hezbollah are not added to the terror list. It is the least we can do if we want to support the Palestinian, Lebanese and Arab resistance. It is the minimal democratic condition for supporting the resistance and it is the essential political condition for the Left to have a chance to be heard by the anti-imperialist masses.

I am fully aware of the fact that my political opinions are a minority in the Left, in particular amongst the European communists. This worries me profoundly, not because of my own fate, I am not more then a militant amongst others, but for the fate of the communist ideal of an end of exploitation of man by man, a struggle which can only happen through the abolition of the imperialist, colonial and neo-colonial system.

Nadine Rosa-Rosso is a Brussels-based independent Marxist. She has edited two books: “Rassembler les résistances” of the French-language journal ‘Contradictions’ and “Du bon usage de la laïcité”, that argues for an open and democratic form of secularism. She can be contacted at nadinerr@gmail.com

http://www.countercurrents.org/rosso110209.htm

To support Peoples’ Anti-Imperialistic Resistance and the building of Alternatives to Globalisation 

On the initiative of several research centres, associations and socio-political movements, The Beirut International Forum was held on 16, 17 and 18 January 2009, attended by Arab and international delegations and authorities from five continents (66 countries).

 

This Forum, in which South America, Asia and Near East were massively represented, embodied the spirit of the Tricontinental centre.

 

Two major topics characterised the Forum. On one hand, the heroic resistance by the Palestinian people of Gaza and their ability to confront an intense violence and unprecedented barbarity. On the other, capitalism’s global crisis, which is not only financial but also on economic, social, cultural and moral fronts, thus posing a threat to the survival of humanity itself.
Principles and rights

The Forum declares that:

- All Peoples have the right to resist. This right must be inalienable, supported by the entire international community and recognised as such within international law;

- The resistance’s fight against colonialism can’t be detached from the struggle carried out by world revolutionaries and free individuals when facing global capitalism, imperialism, militarisation and destruction of social achievements. These have been the product of the working classes’ tenacious struggles for two hundred years;

- Peoples have the right to sovereignty over their own natural resources. Rights to nourishment, health and education prevail over all commercial stakes;

- Every culture has to be able to help build humanity’s common good with respect for nature, the supremacy of human needs and a democratic management of societies;

- The right to democratic participation must be exerted not only on a political level but also on an economic one and it applies to men and women alike;

- The right to cultural differentiation and freedom of worship without any cultural or racial stigmatisation.

 

Campaigns and resolutions
Concerning Gaza:

The Forum’s attendees declare their support of the Palestinian people’s resistance of Gaza. They condemn the terrorism, crimes, violations of the rule of law and disregard for human value, which Israel has inflicted on these populations.

Moreover, they call for:
1-     Applying severe sanctions against Israel, such as: calling off relations and covenants and forbidding any sale of weapons to this country;
2-     Legal proceedings against states and companies selling weapons to Israel;
3-     Urging the EU to put an end to all economic, political and cultural relations with Israel and to cancel all the covenants and agreements linking it with this country;
4-     Holding an international conference in order to judge war crimes and crimes against humanity inflicted upon Gaza’ s population, as well as economic and environmental crimes, and to bring to court the persons accountable for these actions, as well as for those committed in Lebanon in 2006;
5-     Restoring UN Resolution 3379 which classifies Zionism as racism, and ousting Israel from the UN;
6-     Launching an international campaign for rebuilding Gaza, lifting the blockade and having political prisoners released

Concerning the anti-imperialistic and anti-colonialist struggle
1-     The Forum participants expressed their support for both the Palestinian and Lebanese resistances against Israeli occupation, as well as to the Iraqis’ fight against American occupation. In addition, they back the Iraqi people’s endeavours to preserve their territorial unity.
2-     The participants declare their support for self-determination for the Afghan people and to their struggle against the American and Atlantic occupation.
3-     The participants salute Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales for their support to the peoples’ resistance. They express total endorsement of their fight against US’s interference in South America.
4-     They call for lifting the embargo on Cuba and the release of Cuban prisoners detained in US’ prisons.
5-     They demand the establishment of an international league of Parliamentary members in order to uphold the peoples’ right to resistance and self-determination, in order to restore accords relevant to the defence of civilian populations.
6-     They urge the creation of an international media network that may expose the mendacious propaganda concerning Israel’s character and crimes.
7-     Carrying on the moral imperative to judge war crimes, namely bringing to court the people responsible for the war crimes committed in Lebanon in 2006.
8-     Launching a campaign to enforce the consultative advice by the International Court of Justice concerning the wall’s ethnic segregation in Palestine.
9-     Setting up an international network with the aim of coordination between local delegations during crises and wars.
10-          Refusing threats and provocations by the US against Iran with regard to its right to develop its nuclear program for civil purposes within the context of international laws. Refusing, likewise, the threats of war by the US towards Syria and Sudan.
11-          Opposing American attempts to make international and humanitarian laws ineffective under the pretext of the war on terror.

The participants suggest the following as alternatives to the market’s blackmail:
1-     Excluding agriculture and feeding-related sectors from the international negotiations contemplating the privitisation of markets (GATT, OMC…)
2-     Turning down accords and international policies that allow corporations to control living organisms thus jeopardizing biodiversity.
3-     Setting up a Mediterranean Common Market based on fair trade between customers and producers, from the north and the south of the basin as well as within each country. All this is to be performed within a process for building an area linking Mediterranean basin with Mesopotamia (leaving out Israel until the colonial question in Palestine is settled), in opposition to Sarkozy’s neo-liberal project.
4-     Fighting the excessive exploitation carried out by industrial fishing in favour of artisan fishery.
5-     Preserving the common asset of humanity and the fundamental resources for living. Developing organic agriculture and using renewable energy sources.

 

The Center for Studies and Documentation in Beirut, International Campaign against American and Zionist Occupation (the Cairo Conference), the National Gathering to Support the Choice of Resistance (Lebanon), The International Anti-Imperialist and Peoples’ Solidarity Forum (the Calcutta- India Conference), Stop The War Campaign (London), L’union de la jeunesse démocratique (Liban), Réseau des organisations de la jeunesse Palestinienne, The Party of Dignity (Egypt), The Popular Campaign to Break the Siege on Gaza, KIFAYA (le mouvement egyptien pour le changement), Union of Democratic Youth (Lebanon), Egyptian Women Issues Association, Palestinian Youth Organizations Network (Palestine), Fédération des Syndicats marocains, AMCI (The Mediterranean Agency for International Cooperation (Morocco), Arab Youth Council- and the wWalk to the aArab pParliament (Morocco), Data and Strategic Studies Center (Syria), El Badil Regroupement Anti Globalisation (Syria), Campaign Genoa 2001 Greece, l’altra Lambardia-Sulatesta, Anti- Imperialist Camp (Grèce),  Socialist Thinking Forum (Jordan), Organisation des socialistes révolutionnaires (Egypt), To be continued…

TRANSLATED BY DIEGO TRAVERSA AND REVISED BY SAJA RAOOF, MEMBERS OF TLAXCALA. www.tlaxcala.es