TOTW: Anarchist Anti-Imperialism

Anti-imperialism is a term used in a wide variety of contexts, usually by nationalist movements who want to secede from a larger body politic (often in the form of an empire, but also in a multi-ethnic sovereign state) or as a specific theory opposed to capitalism in Marxist–Leninist discourse, derived from Vladimir Lenin's work Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. People who categorize themselves as anti-imperialists often state that they are opposed to colonialism, colonial empires, hegemony, imperialism and the territorial expansion of countries.

For this topic of the week we will discuss anarchism and anti-imperialism with the situation in Venezuela, Haiti, and Nicaragua as some recent focal points to think about. What does resistance to imperialism look like, or does it look like in an anarchist context? How can we be more proactive in combating imperialism instead of constantly responding to crises?

[This topic of the week idea is inspired by (and heavily lifted from) this article on The Base BK website recently: ]

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Anti-imperialism? I call it taking down the biggest fucker in the room.

^ niiice. whenever i think of anarchy and imperialism i am like "well of course fuck imperialism because ALL nations, identities and governments must be destroyed."

Anti-imperialism is a leftist ploy to draw people into binary ideological warfare.,.

Well that's historically factual... Anti-imperialism has become the main rallying paradigm of the political Left ever since the Bandung Conference of '55. But isn't the Non-Aligned Movement also a cover for China's underlying global influence, or its own developing imperialism?

Declaring oneself to be an Anti-Imperialist means one of two things (perhaps overlapping). On the one hand it is an empty and passive opinion, requiring no particular strategy or action, needing no explanation. On the other hand, it doesn’t just mean that one is against imperialism; it specifies a particular way to fight against imperialism—that is Anti-Imperialism. It means taking sides in disputes between parties vying for government control (either trying to keep it or trying to overthrow it). Anti-Imperialism remains attractive to fools precisely because it requires little in the way of critical thinking. Anti-Imperialism is an unthinking leftist's revolutionary (im)posture.

is that it was a way of thinking popularized by noam chomsky and howard zinn, and i have nothing against it in particular except that it doesn't go far enough. I prefer a more thorough anti-authoritarianism found in anarchism, more specifically individualist anarchism. It's important not just to appose nation states but the smaller versions of nation states, and especially the communist revolutionary mindset.

> How can we be more proactive in combating imperialism instead of constantly responding to crises?
Anarchists resist against all forms of statehood. Those with imperialist trappings or not.
You can learn from most successful revolutions.about building dual power structures and methods of communication. But it all takes time until the material conditions are correct.

"You can learn from most successful revolutions.about building dual power structures and methods of communication."

That's a pretty good parody of the positivist nonsense coming from neo-Platformists and "especifistas," who've always been weak on the anti-statist content of anarchist practice; "dual power" is a temporary condition, not a strategy. What defines a "successful revolution"? Surely it must have something to do with duration, and if that's included, then there's never been a successful revolution, and definitely not a successful anarchist one...

"But it all takes time until the material conditions are correct."
That's an excellent parody of Marxists, always condemning anarchists as irresponsible adventurists, all while waiting for the moment when the "material conditions" are ripe for them to inflict themselves on the proles...

Glad to be of amusement . Interesting to see a dual power thread take off..
I was thinking of the American Revolution when wrote the above, My last post in this thread

i've heard this term used so much on the website and im not exactly sure what it is. Is it just another term for the "dialectic" nature of marxist philosophy? I'm pretty sure that no humans in the history of the planet survived with just a dialogue between two people...

means building a state within a state with leaders and institutions ready run the country in the event of a revolution. That's why communist parties are usually outlawed whenever they achieve any substantial influence in politics. Anti imperialism means taking sides against the empire, choosing the lesser of evils e.g. siding with Russia and the Assad regime against US intervention in Syria, none of which is anarchist in my opinion. One exception would be federations and confederations which are a form of dual power and this is where anarchy blends with ultra leftism. There is a new one called Symbiosis in the US maybe someone could comment on that.

In Marxist theory, it's assumed that, usually, a single class has "power" (including control of the state and economy) in a given unit (nation-state, region, world-system...) So for example, a particular unit can be characterised as "bourgeois", "feudal", "proletarian". (Of course there is also struggle among individual feudal lords, capitalist companies, etc; or between "fractions" of a class, e.g. financial and industrial capital - that's not dual power, because it happens within a particular mode of production controlled by a single class). In some cases, no class has enough power to dominate the situation and two class regimes coincide, usually in a situation of conflict. For example, capitalists continue to control parts of the economy but workers' councils seize control of other parts. This kind of situation is called "dual power". Russia between February and October 2017, France in 1968, and China during the civil war (c. 1930-1949) are some of the examples I've seen given of dual power. It's a loaded concept (one has to accept the idea of normal unitary class power for it to work), but I can see it being useful if we tweak it towards ideas of dispersed vs concentrated power (as in Zibechi's work on Bolivia). Autonomous zones and liberated spaces (e.g. social centres) are little hubs of dispersed power which challenge the exclusive dominance of concentrated power. If they become powerful past a certain point, they create the possibility to replace concentrated power with dispersed power. In the meantime, they coexist as a kind of very localised dual power.

I think the situation is more complicated than Marxists allow anyway, because the state is a class-like force in its own right (this is very clear in Bakunin and Kropotkin, but also suggested in Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire and in scholarship on neo-patrimonialism and crony capitalism). There are also other classes allied with the ruling elite, so even "normal" capitalism isn't a unitary power-system, it's rule by a coalition of classes - capitalist, statist, and other elite and intermediary groups. Most Marxists have a weird investment in state instrumentality even though they don't believe the state is just a neutral tool. They want to situate "real" power in social classes and see the state as somehow a tool of one or more classes, even if they assign it more or less autonomy. I think this reflects the fact that they actually internalise statist thinking in their own thought, i.e. they'd like to imagine they're expressing a proletarian class position, but in fact, they're combining elements of such a position with elements of a state-class position. This isn't just a political issue, but embedded quite deep within Marxism, in the assumption that people form a collective unity and therefore should be organised on a mass scale. It's only if we Stirnerise Marx that we get away from this entrenched statism.

for anarchists. Anything you do that frees you from dependency on the state is DP like gardening, solar power, squatting, tenants councils as well as being sweet in this comments section. Some ideas from libertarianism like stockpiling food, money, guns and ammo can help you live independently as well as cooperative and collective ideas of mutual aid and community spirit.

DIY doesn't stop hierarchical authoritarianism tho sweetie! Its only a material independence.

is straight through. I don't know if hierarchical authoritarianism could ever be eliminated or if it's even worth trying but there are ways to improve your position in cybernetic capitalism. I was thinking what anarchist anti-imperialism is and I think it would be well researched criticism of all actors in any conflict. I originally come from a tradition of pacifists and conscientious objectors who wouldn't take sides at the level of nation state conflict. I think a good example of effective anti-imperialism is the opposition to the Viet Nam war which was influential in ending it. So I think anarchists are anti-imperialists but not as an alibi for authoritarian communism.

"improve your position in cybernetic capitalism"

is that seriously your objective?

anyway. How you define improvement is up to you but surely you don't want to self sabotage.

Neither are green restoration operations... filling potholes... But tell us more about your plans to stop hierarchical authoritarianism, as you seem to have found the Secret. And this is, a platform that's basically made for those ideas to be shared!

"... a specific theory opposed to capitalism in Marxist–Leninist discourse..."

It is not opposed to capitalism, dear a-political subculture scenester. It's a new management strategy for capitalist exploitation.

Try to get out of your subculture sandbox a bit more often.

If someone's anti-X (whatever X is – imperialism, fascism, capitalism, state, sexism...) then what they mean by anti-X will depend what they mean by X. I agree with previous commentators that people usually only call themselves anti-imperialist if they have a particular idea of what imperialism is. I'd say they're usually people who relate imperialism closely to capitalism or treat it as the root of other forms of oppression, and therefore, establishes imperialism/anti-imperialism as the “principal” or “primary contradiction” - primary over, and prioritised over, other forms of oppression, including, crucially, the oppression of local people by particular states. Quite often, they also won't recognise forms of dominance by non-western states as imperialist in the relevant sense, e.g. China in Tibet and Xinjiang. (There's a subtle difference between “anti-imperialist” and “decolonial”, but they're quite similar in this idea of primacy).

I generally think it's hard to reconcile anarchy (rejection of all domination) with ideas of primary contradiction, although it's just about possible if certain structures are taken to be the matrix for others. I'd expect anarchists are against empires and against some states/groups subordinating or forcibly displacing other states/groups. I'd also expect anarchists to be against nationalism, i.e. the subordination of individuals, groups, classes to nations, and to be against local authoritarian regimes even if they're standing up to major powers. And we're usually anti-militarist, which means being against powerful states engaging in wars most of the time. Making power as dispersed and decentralised as possible, moves us closer to anarchism, which is the ultimate dispersal of power. Breaking up big states (such as empires) would seem to benefit anarchism in general, unless it leads to a more effective state or one with greater popular support, or to a spike in nationalism. However, breaking up one big state while leaving another intact might make things worse (as we saw in the 1990s). Too much concentrated power moves us towards a world state or an integrated world system, which is the ultimate form of concentrated power. Things get a lot harder when nobody can flee beyond the dominant regime's reach, there's no visible alternatives to this regime's economic system, and the regime can roll out global rules which apply everywhere (see Bey's Millennium for a good discussion of this problem). It helps to think about anarchy here as a quantum rather than an absolute – something there can be different amounts of (a la Kropotkin/Landauer/Ward's social principle, or Bey's autonomy). Shifts in power among non-anarchist actors which create greater amounts of anarchy are good for anarchy, whereas those which reduce the amount of anarchy are bad.

Most of the time, a big dominant state with strong commitments to concentrated power, authoritarian statism, and unrestrained capitalism uses imperialist wars and similar tactics to attack other states/regions which are either insufficiently statist, insufficiently capitalist, or which undermine its concentrated power; or which have land or resources it wants to plunder. The early US against the Native Americans; European states in Africa; Indonesia in West Papua; the US in Vietnam. These are “textbook” cases which are relatively straightforward for anarchists as I see it – even though the local actors aren't necessarily anarchist.

The real dilemmas start when there's a particularly nasty local state which isn't particularly strong compared to other states, and a threat of intervention by a bigger state (or the “international community”). Is it more important to stop the big state getting more power by attacking the smaller state, or to try to get rid of the particularly nasty local regime, or should anarchists take a “plague on both your houses” approach? Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua are not good examples. Because in all these cases, American intervention leads to a worse (more pro-capitalist, more anti-poor, probably more repressive) regime, as well as helping a bigger state get more power over a smaller state. So for me, it's pretty obvious that anarchists should oppose intervention in these cases. I'm more torn in cases like Saddam's Iraq, or Afghanistan under the Taleban, or former Yugoslavia (where far-right Serbian militias were ethnically cleansing other groups), or today, Iran or North Korea, or the US defending the YPG-held areas from ISIS or Assad. In most of these, I'm still very much anti-intervention, but I can see why an anarchist in (say) Iraq would support an intervention which creates more political space. But in the YPG case, the west is clearly propping up a relatively more anarchistic enclave which might otherwise be overwhelmed by far more authoritarian forces. So in this case, I lean the other way.

"Is it more important to stop the big state getting more power by attacking the smaller state, or to try to get rid of the particularly nasty local regime, or should anarchists take a “plague on both your houses” approach?"

This has ultimately been something that has plagued a lot of my anarchist reflections. The "plague on both your houses" approach seems to be the most principled, even though i would have to lmfao @ any anarchist who thinks they've cleansed themselves of all links to statecraft.

I think in the modern world a strategy that would work fine in theory would be to try and make as much money as possible doing things you enjoy and then using those funds to help people that you know. To me capitalism isn't so "evil" as it is amoral, and that the question of how money is made is much more useful for individuals than just declaring oppositions to capitalism in general...

Wouldn’t that be a preferable term as it would avoid the duelist binary problem that Marxism is quite often sucker to. The dispersal strategies still apply.

In terms of to intervene, there’s a long running Lenin Trotsky structured debate that goes in binary pathological positional directions. You either have fundamentalistic non interveners or you have Trots who become imperial interveners(US neocon figures).

I agree with the critic that nuance is required to avoid the pathology of both Marxist originated positions.

I don't think an anarchist "anti-imperialism" has much relevance to daily life at all tbh, it's just a rather obvious lens through which to view a much more accurate version of history and geopolitical maneuvering by our various enemies. Of course the CIA and others are trying to knock over another relatively socialist government in Venezeula, of course this is the latest in a long string of neo-colonial ventures in that part of the world, etc. That's what they do. Old news.

The anarchist perspective would also then critique the leftist blind spots while talking about this stuff but the power dynamics are pretty straight forward. Maduro represents an economy that actually benefits the ordinary people in that country and US efforts are a very tired, old playbook of conquest and propaganda for 2019.

Should this matter to anarchists outside of venezeula? Not really. Is it another sign of the decline of US hegemony? Probably. Does that matter to anarchists? Maybe. But only as one more reason to keep doing whatever you were already doing, unless you're doing nothing, which you'll probably keep doing too.

Is actually a sign of declining us hegemony, has not had a huge effect so far...

You don't think so? Lot of economists would argue that. I mean, the NATO empire will still have a huge military edge for a very long time but their economic hegemony is definitely eroding.

Like I say, I don't think it matters for normal people and @s except in terms of austerity policies strangling the poor but that can always backfire like in France recently.

Climate change is the real shit, the rest is details compared to that.

climate will more than likely cause gigantic civilization-destroying catastrophes over the next couple hundred years and may destroy our species entirely. Civ has become incredibly resilient the effects of the damage are uncertain...

i feel with austerity politics theres a certain threshold that are in the interests of the wealthy to maintain, and im not sure how much they can push that before there's a ton of civil unrest that they are desperately trying to avoid

as far as trump and economics are concerned though, the US is still the wealthiest country at the moment. I'll definetly be paying scant attention to politics over the coming decade out of curiosity in how all this plays out. Maybe trump has shocked "establishment politics" so much that it will actually cause the US to improve its global domination by creating smarter megalomaniacs

Well ... They're definitely supposed to trot out a semi convincing smooth talker for the next episode, not that it matters.

They've got scouts out now looking for a charisma spewing cheshire cat type with a golden voice and a speech which juxtaposes the 10 most popular homilies and witticisms ever spoken in the last 3 thousand years e.g
-Lend me your ears and your hearts countrymen we can make this nation great, I have a dream, there are those that say no, but Rome wasn't built in a financial year, we will never surrender, we will fight on the beaches, the streets, on Wall St until the banks are free, because whomever says, there is the institution that launched a million mortgages, by working together, don't ask what the State can do for you, but what you can do for the nation, oooohhhhh yeeees, ask yourself, will you die for your nation,,,,,,blah blah etc,,,,,

weird ,,, Le Fool's commas but that was actually funny?! The broken clock principle,,,,


ushering in the new fascism but it's diffused and cybernetic and probably won't ever look like the old fascism. That's why it's so pernicious because it's difficult to recognize but the combination of hard and soft power is almost irresistible. The contemporary spectacle uses sleep and peaceful death and soft bondage in addition to military hardware and the carceral state to keep us constrained.

Hey, Lightning McQueen! Your wheels are spinning in the air and your acc shit's not getting any traction.

for the negative feedback loop, there's always a catfish nibbling at my bait. Besides I'm just a simple spammer who wants to see his name up in lights and acceleration doesn't have to gain any traction because these ideas are already in our heads.

i like you for the person you seem to be, but i hate acc, i can't help myself. i could, but i choose not to. i recognize acc is just a wordy aestheticized rehash of the status quo, and its problematic trends.

Just had another thought. I don't know the details, but I've been told that foco theory (the guerrilla war strategy used by anti-imperialists in South America) influenced the anarchist idea of autonomous zones. A foco is (I think) an attempt to create dual power by establishing concentrations of guerrillas in particular "liberated zones" and trying to implement full communism in those zones (in fact the way "liberated zones" are run is usually a lot preferable to what will eventually be implemented if the war is won). Of course it's all tied-up with the ideas of class power and vanguardism, the idea that a small party or army with the right analysis can act on behalf of an entire social class without any structure of representation whatsoever... but it does seem that groups like the Zapatistas descended from the foco model.

Seems that the Zapatistas also inherited the BLA/Fred Hampton's view of grassroots communitarian resistance in the context of urbanity (the people's pancakes, community clinics and all that good shit). The autonomous zones of anarchists were also heavily influenced by May '68 and later autonomist practice and theory (starting but not limited to the Situationists). To be reducing it all the Debray/Guevara seems to me like an over-simplistic funnel.

Back in the '90s when this whole train rebooted, it was a melting pot of several radleft influences, a vast cloud blurring ideologies or tendencies that are otherwise diverging when not totally opposite (like trots, maos and anarchos). I recall a time when we were occupying several office buildings downtown Montreal, and nobody cared about the who's who and all that ideological team sports fandom.

Just saying how practices or their popularity have little to do with where they came from, decades earlier. What's more important to look into is the motives behind a given practice of insurgency, or the purpose. If occupations in your town are led by a bunch of maoists and are controlling entries and venues, then yeah, they are authoritarian Left, but that's not due to where the occupation movement came from, historically, or what was the academic theory behind it.

Not implying you wouldn't disagree on that)


I'll begin with the questions from The Base BK website which inspired this topic of the week idea.

"What resistance to imperialism should, or can, look like in an anarchist context?"

There are not currently enough anarchists, each separate by themselves, let alone united and coordinated, to form an "effective" opposition to any given weak state, let alone a neo-colonial superpower. Even weaker states, with more resources, military and otherwise, have not been able to effectively or durably oppose or resist imperialism. The state-centric macro approach of this question or framework for analysis can help you understand historical and current power dynamics, geopolitics, resources extraction and exploitation, global labor division, and global inequality, etc. etc., but it's not so useful for individuals, or even groups, to decide what to do about it.

"How can we be more proactive in combating imperialism instead of constantly responding to crises?"

Has any single extractive operation been permanently interrupted? Can it be done? Anyone willing to try?
Has any army been sabotaged by the inhabitants of the territory of that same state, to a degree that they can't carry operations overseas?

. ... . ..

Now I will let loose whatever thoughts I have left on the matter, without linking stuff or giving homework to anyone who reads this.

There is very real global inequality that is evident to the people who get the shit end of the stick. But since nation-states work by trying to foment nationalism and national identity and channel that into support for the state, usually the citizens of that state or of other nation-states, make the discussion of being against or for said government, or whether or not to change the administration and the policies of said state.

The most fervent in decrying against imperialism are currently calling for support against US intervention in Venezuela.
How could anyone who listens to that call even go about doing that?
Actually think through the logistics of the type of actions that would be necessary to actually achieve that, what that would entail. These are the same people that support the legacy of the Bolivarian Revolution and what the continuation of that project will bring. They say that anarchists are "more radical than thou" and childish for wanting to abolish the state "overnight" and that that is childish and absurd. Yet they find feasible to ask for "international support against imperialism". What's this world war that they're envisioning? How is this more feasible or realistic?

Those that support Maduro, even if critically, (whatever that means, right) do they think any country gets to keep their little democratically elected talking head if they happen to like it, but the super powers reeeally really don't? Do they think that there is something that will stand in between the super powers and the resources they want to extract? Can mass quantities of people modify their consumer habits, their economical relations so to change the global flows of capital towards equality or i dunno what? That all sounds like wanting to do the ending of the movie "Us" irl (no spoilers).

The only way that super powers' armies can crumble, other than extinction level events, mutually assured destruction etc. is voluntary mass desertion/defection. But these more recent interventions are way more truculent and tactically tactful, the operatives are more discrete, require less feet on the ground, get a lot of remote support, they are less visible and elicit less protests. They have insidious and covert ways to assert influence (among them, pop culture, soft-power, Spectacle TM etc). If some people want to erect a state (natlib) in order to isolate themselves from these influences, or to have a better place in the global scheme of things, that's worse that someone trying to start a car manufacturing start-up to compete with Toyota. Fidel had his way with Cuba, and the US did the isolating for him, to most people's detriment (btw, Cuban missile crisis was fun, huh?). And speaking of corporations, leftists can't even oppose or disrupt the operations of much vilified companies like Monsanto or Nestle etc etc etc, how do they think that they can form some anti-imperialist opposition? Have those peeps striking at those burger joints gotten better wages, btw? Cuz that seemed more doable, and yet it was an uphill struggle huh?

This lame rant is not to say "it's hopeless, nothing can be done", but rather that the focus is better honed around your current sphere of influence (which you can change in different ways, but it's limited). Temporarily disrupting the patrolling of a single cop car during 1 specific shift in a very small area can be considered over-reaching and beyond the capacities of most individuals, but a more proximate-goal than what some anti-imperialist action would entail. Hell, I mean, who reading this made some new year's resolution or some exercise or diet bs they didn't keep? Who's struggling to make ends meet? People struggling with their day to day lives are going to make international anti-intervention interventions or paralyze, reverse, or redirect the extraction and flows of resources? Let's keep it real. Anti-Imperialism, Anti-Capitalism, Anti-State are mainly opinions you don't directly act upon at that level, you have to get much more micro and concrete for it to make sense.

I hate myself for writing all this, a lot of it was said in the other comments. But i don't know, it kind of ticked me off to see such a low comment count or little discussion on this topic that's so recurrent in leftists circles, and in the media cycle, and in many countries. I imagined leftists being like "see, @ don't know, or care anything about this topic!", and of course i won't convince them otherwise with this rant, but at least i got it out of my system.

Maybe a severely corrupt and incompetent State is not a very good instrument of working class power/self-management.
Then there is the mess Mugabe managed to make of Zimbabwe (also with hyperinflation).
It is truly amazing how good the authoritarian Left is at creating capitalist propaganda. The capitalists should PAY them.

18:39, you've nailed some actual (practical as well as tactical) impediments to the delusional self-identification of Anti-Imperialists. Throughout the post-WWII era of national liberation/third wordlism (the vestiges we continue to experience), the declarations of Anti-Imperialist Solidarity coming from the notorious Metropoles have been largely symbolic and impotent. Those who create and control the twists and turns of geopolitics and superpower foreign policy don't give two shits about anti-imperialists; hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in the streets preemptively protesting against the second gulf massacre didn't stop it from going forward as planned. Aside from that, the fact that Anti-Imperialism in practice always looks like (verbally) supporting some small or embryonic state against some stronger or better armed state makes this moralistic ideology rather irrelevant for consistent and principled anti-statists.

WTF is that picture of Che Guevara doing on an anarchist site?!
I AM TOTALLY DISGUSTED BY THIS NARCISSISTIC LEFTIST, even IF anti-imperialism was their schtick And that is the TOTW, a picture of him blurred out, or a photo of Noam Chomsky would have been more appropriate.,.

the che picture is an illustration of anti-imperialist consumerism. Eat anti-imperial bread! Listen to anti-imperial music! Buy fair trade products! Cow-tow to chairman moa!

The authors appear to be amalgamating "authoritarianism" with conformity, and that's a tad problematic analytically. While the two tendencies have a relation of causality, they may not be always found at the same places/contexts. Authoritarianism also refers to a propensity within relational dynamics of obedience and hierarchy, where conformity (the "normies") is more a behavior of herding, or grouping around perceived aggregates. So I'm questioning whether the authors draw a clear distinction between the two, and their dynamic relation.

they are authoritarian.

*puffs pinapple vape in personal study*

quite the jolly bourgeoisie sport! Place your bets gentlemen, place your bets. I shall not be on my merry way to the polling booths of 2020, but shall be spectating this bizarre and dystopian spectacle to the extant that I can stand it.

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