Is there an 'anti-imperialist camp'? A debate (part 1)
Leaders of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Cuba at its 2014 meeting.
[Michael Karadjis responds below. Read part 2 of this debate at http://links.org.au/node/3982.]
By Felipe Stuart
July 31, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Michael Karadjis, I read the exchange between Einde O and you where you state that:
For the record I see the very idea of an "anti-imperialist camp" to be an anti-Marxist, anti-working class aberration." (Marxmail, “Thai junta joins anti-imperialist camp”.)
Michael, what would you say ALBA is, if not an anti-imperialist camp in the Americas oriented to promote even larger formations of anti-imperialist forces such as UNASUR, CELAC, PETROCARIBE, CARICOM, and now a whole gamut of mostly new continental scope Indigenous, Black-Afrodescendant, campesino, labour, women's, environmental, cultural, youth, and sports movements? All these multilateral interstate entities and hemispheric social movements accept either the Abya Yala and/or la Patria Grande as their own framework for fighting to advance their own agendas and proposals for change.
What do you think would be a “Marxist” substitute (antidote) to these “anti-Marxist, anti-working class” (at least, it seems, in your book) aberrations?
I do acknowledge that you have left me and others in suspense about the question of whether you think only the notion “anti-imperialist camps” is an "anti-Marxist, anti-working class aberration” or whether the formations constructed by liberation fighters inspired by this concept are also on your bad list.
Perhaps you don’t consider CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, to constitute an “anti-imperialist camp”. However, CELAC's founders and leaders not only think so, but acted on this understanding when they consciously and deliberately excluded the only two imperialist countries in the Americas -- the USA and Canada -- from the hemispheric organisation.
That exclusion had nothing to do with antipathy to the English language. Many CELAC member countries are Anglophone -- a number of Caribbean Sea island nations (such as Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda and Trinidad) and two "mainland" countries: Belize and Guyana.)
So, here are some questions I think you need to ponder some more.
1. What were the Russian Bolshevik leaders trying to form at their famous 1920 Baku conference, at which they embraced anti-colonial Muslim activists and endorsed the call for a jihad against British imperialism and its empire, on which the sun was indeed beginning to set?
2. The broad leadership core of the governing Cuban Communist Party, including Fidel Castro and Raul Castro, strongly advance the notion of strengthening and amplifying the global anti-imperialist camp (through successive initiatives such as the Non-Aligned Movement, the CELAC in the Americas, pan-African initiatives and currently the Group of 77+China (http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Group_of_77). The G77+China Summit is taking place this week in Bolivia, led by the ALBA-country presidents.
Do you believe that this fact means that Cuba’s communist leaders are at best very poor and woolly Marxists unable to spot such anti-working class and anti-Marxist aberrations?
3. Nearly the whole world during the last century was impacted by anti-colonial struggles and national liberation wars: such as in Ireland during and right after WWI; Algeria after WWII; India-Pakistan-East Bengal during and after WWII; China (1912-1949); Vietnam (WWII through 1972); the Portuguese colonies of Africa and Asia, finally freed by the Portuguese Carnation Revolution 1974); the Philippines, which had to fight three imperialist countries in succession (Spain, the USA, and Japan) to finally win formal independence (however, remaining a USA semi-colony until now); Iran; Cuba, which since liberation in July 1959 has had to defend her people from US-sponsored invasion and terrorist attacks, and a five-decade long financial and trade blockade that the US prefer to call an embargo!
Palestine, still occupied by the Zionist white-settler, apartheid state of Israel; Egypt, attacked by British and French imperialism in 1956 following Cairo’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal; Puerto Rico, still a U.S. colony despite decades of anti-colonial struggle and ferocious US police repression; the Polisario Front’s still ongoing struggle to win UN recognition for the Sahrawi Democratic Republic and guarantee their liberation for Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony; las Malvinas Islands of Argentina occupied and held by imperialist Britain through military force and war; the long anti-apartheid struggle of Black South Africans against the white-settler Afrikaner state backed by London, Washington and Tel Aviv until the eve of its collapse when these friends of apartheid and Jim Crowism could see the obvious: that there was nothing more they could do to save Pretoria’ whites-only regime.
The list is too long to enter here and no mention has yet been made of the first resisters and warriors against colonial-settlerism and genocide – the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Today, 522 years later, this vast array of “first nations” (a Canadian euphemism) continue to resist, from the Patagonia to the Arctic, from Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, French Guiana/Guyane française, Suriname, Guyana, Central America, Mexico, the USA, Canada and Greenland (Denmark!).
Now perhaps you could explain why this process then and now is not both subjectively and objectivelyanti-imperialist, if you really believe that.
Who would deny that during almost any year of the last century anti-imperialists from region to region or country to country reached out to form alliances, movements, confederations, blocks and/or communities?
The latest large and highly visible example is the Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (CELAC, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States). The CELAC website is at http://www.celac.gob.ve/ index.php?option=com_content& view=frontpage&Itemid=1&lang= en. There have been and are initiatives like this on unequal trade concerns, regarding global warming, agriculture and land-use issues, maritime, water and fishing issues, work place health and safety, labour solidarity, women’s liberation, solidarity with minority language groups, networks to defend political prisoners and their families, networks to defend an open, free access internet, and to oppose NSA-style destruction of individual privacy rights, and peace and anti-war networks.
As a longstanding member and activist (we say militante) of the Nicaraguan Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) I have often taken flak from far-left visitors to Nicaragua – especially in the 1980s – who complained about our slow pace in getting rid of capitalism. We hear similar criticisms now about the performance of the Bolivarian comrades in Venezuela, and even worse nonsense about how the ship is being steered in Nicaragua by the current FSLN government.
My definite impression is that the bulk of such criticism and childlike political impatience is rooted in the concept that the socialist revolution consists of a non-stop, forced march to the expropriation of the bourgeoisie. Such a notion, if applied today in Venezuela or other ALBA countries undergoing revolutionary change and advances, would be a plunge into disastrous civil war in which the capitalist classes and their imperialist allies hold most of the cards.
The course towards anti-capitalist, socialist revolution in our Patria Grande is formatting, fortunately, a much different and more realistic and viable pattern. This is largely a by-product of the anti-imperialist springs driving the process forward. All the above-mentioned networks in the Latin-America/Caribbean region, CELAC’s domain, operate in an anti-imperialist framework. How could it be otherwise when our everyday reality habituates us to reject US, Canadian and EU imperialism in the same way we turn away from foul odours. Being anti-imperialist in Latin America and the Black Caribbean (of whatever slave driver’s tongue is now the official national language) is like breathing; we just are! We react involuntarily like the beating heart.
You can hear and feel this, for example in many of the songs composed for the World Soccer Cup games this year in Brazil. The lyrics often chant about the Patria Grande winning, not their own “national” team. When one of our countries is eliminated we switch to being fans of another Patria Grande team.
As CELAC becomes more of a day-to-day factor in the lives of grassroots folks, the affinity of Latinos, Black Afrodescendants and indigenous peoples will become stronger and a street thing. It’s already in our novels, poems, music lyrics and rap. ALBA is beaming this message loud and clear over its radio waves, on Telesur, and through the internet and our social networks.
This could become the cutting edge of the historic struggle to overcome racism, but with a positive thrust because in the ALBA countries and some others (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, El Salvador) the racist right are on the defensive, unlike in the USA and Europe where they are flourishing in their attack mode.
It may not sound just right to self-styled “old school Marxists”, especially if they missed out on Baku and its lessons, but there exist anti-imperialist camps and alliances. More and stronger examples are on the horizon.
Marxists can choose either to be part of them or take the side roads.
Free will, at least in that realm, also exists.
On the concept of an ‘anti-imperialist camp’: Return anti-imperialism to its attachment to human liberation
By Michael Karadjis
Thanks for your comments Filipe. That was quite a substantial post, so here’s a substantial answer.
First, my view can be summarised:
1. I’m differentiating between anti-imperialism which of course I support, and the concept of an “anti-imperialist camp” in the way it is usually used, so I apologise if my brief line rejecting the “camp” was unclear and caused confusion; and
2. I see the issue of class as much more fundamental than “anti-imperialism” in an abstract sense – of course, we always have, but I feel that in a great deal of left discussion, an abstract and mechanical “anti-imperialism” has replaced class, especially since 1991. When certain capitalist states are arbitrarily shoved into some ill-defined “anti-imperialist camp,” it is along these classless “anti-imperialist” lines.
Also, before going into specifics, I want to summarise the different versions of “anti-imperialist camp” you use in your post, because they are often entirely different things:
One You sometimes use it to mean alliances of progressive social movements that come into conflict with imperialist interests, rather than alliances of states. This is not my understanding of “camps” at all.
Two Examples like ALBA and Baku, where blocs are based around states undergoing a socialist revolutionary process, thus connected to class
Three Blocs of states covering the entire non-imperialist world such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), G77/133), or regional variations of it (e.g. CELAC), including every capitalist country there, no matter how regressive, repressive or even actively pro-imperialist they are
Four The more restrictive version which has been more in vogue since the collapse of the USSR, which is an entirely ill-defined lump of left and progressive, and reactionary, repressive, fascist and even arguably rising imperialist states, which have nothing in common other than having one or another conjunctural issue at some time with imperialism.
Thus a monstrous “camp” of Cuba, Venezuela, Putin’s Russia, China, Assad’s Syria (some days, not others, I guess), Iran’s theocracy (though I guess not when it was hailing NATO’s war on Gaddafi) , the hereditary monarchy in North Korea, Gaddafi’s Libya (some days, not others, I guess), the Sinhala-chauvinist regime in Sri Lanka (not usually, just when it gets criticised for massive crimes against humanity), Belarus, probably the Islamic dictatorship in Sudan (though I guess not when it was hailing NATO’s war on Gaddafi), Maliki’s sectarian regime in Iraq (oops – wasn’t this Assad- and Iran-aligned regime installed by a US imperialist invasion?).
So briefly, I’m all in favour of the first two, the third confuses non-imperialist with anti-imperialist but has some, very limited, uses, and the fourth is such anti-Marxist and anti-working-class garbage that the entire European and American ultra-right can spout identical discourse.
ALBA, Baku and class
You begin with ALBA. First, you note that ALBA isn’t simply about states (my understanding of the “camp” concept), but about “a whole gamut of mostly new continental scope Indigenous, Black-Afro-descendant, campesino, labour, women's, environmental, cultural, youth, and sports movements.” So in my understanding, alliances of progressive social movements which come into conflict with imperialist interests (and inevitably also with local capitalist interests) are not the same thing as alliances of states that consider themselves some kind of anti-imperialist “camp.” So perhaps we mean different things.
Second, however, ALBA is of course also an alliance of states. But these are not any old states. Would ALBA exist without the ongoing Venezuelan revolution? Would it exist without Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Ecuador being the heart of it? Seems to me the obvious answer is no. But fundamentally what we support about these states is not some “anti-imperialism” in abstract terms, but, returning to class, the fact that these countries have been moving towards socialist revolution, regardless of the speed, the stage they are at etc. Their very concrete anti-imperialism flows from that.
(As an aside, I apologise for not knowing a great deal about Sandinista Nicaragua Mark II, and whether to include it in my list above of those moving towards socialism, or merely as one of the ring-ins that is only in ALBA because the others make it possible. Sandinista Mark I was very formative. My impression has been that Mark II is not much to write home about. If that’s wrong, it’s wrong. But regarding what you say about criticism of slowness of the anti-capitalist process, if such a process is indeed happening, then I have no sectarian criticism of any slowness involved, in fact I strongly agree with your points about that issue).
Similarly, as with ALBA, I find the idea of the 1920 Baku conference difficult to envisage without the rather obvious fact that the new Soviet workers’ state was bang in the middle of it! Class in the lead, again. You note that at Baku “they embraced anti-colonial Muslim activists and endorsed the call for a jihad against British imperialism.” Yes, and? Who is arguing against struggle against imperialism? As I said, that is a distinct issue from that of “camp.”
Anti-colonial struggles, NAM and G77
You also go into a lot of detail about the anti-colonial struggles of the mid to late 20th century, quite unnecessary detail. I am well aware of all this history, and can’t see how my reference to the “campist” concept would make you think I was opposed to all these anti-colonial, anti-racist, anti-imperialist struggles.
Did states freed from colonial rule in the 1950s and 1960s go on to “form alliances, movements, confederations, blocks, and/or communities” as you note? Of course they did. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) might be an example. Specifically, at the time it reflected the fact that countries just recently freed from colonialism had their own interests which often clashed with those of their former colonial masters. Nothing wrong with that as far as it goes.
But what did NAM mean in practice beyond that? Often very little. Was Saudi Arabia, for example, really a “non-aligned” state when it was in NAM? And even if it had been, I just wonder what that would have meant for the hundreds of thousands of foreign workers with zero rights toiling in their oilfields, and in the rest of the Gulf? Did they benefit from the NAM label? Did the label mitigate the tyranny? Did Saudi women benefit? I just mention groups like workers, immigrants, women etc., because it seems to contradict your talk about “anti-imperialist” blocs of “indigenous, labour, women’s” and other social movements.
Indonesia’s Sukarno was one of the founders of NAM. At the time, while a capitalist state, we can say there were certain progressive features of a number of ex-colonial states such as Sukarno’s Indonesia and Nasser’s Egypt which were supportable. In Nasser’s case, the nationalisation of the Suez Canal was a very specific, concrete anti-imperialist action (in contrast to a lot of the purely rhetorical “anti-imperialism” we hear of these days).
A couple of points. First, would the degree of actual anti-imperialism of such regimes have been even possible without the existence of the Soviet Union, horribly deformed though it was, as a partial alternative powerhouse to imperialism, one having its origins in a class-based social overturn? My answer is no.
Second, when Sukarno was overthrown by Suharto, did Indonesia leave the NAM, or was it thrown out? No, in fact Suharto went on to host NAM in 1992 (just like that other great anti-imperialist leader, Hosni Mubarak (!), hosted it in Egypt in 2009. Yet when Suharto took power, surely Indonesia stopped being non-aligned or in any way in conflict with imperialism. And more importantly from my perspective, when Suharto took power the regime also killed a million people and began 35 years of anti-working class tyranny. Thus was NAM an “anti-imperialist camp”?
Maybe you weren’t referring to NAM as one of these “alliances, blocs” etc., but since you refer to the G77+China bloc, we are talking about the same countries, by and large. Both NAM and G77 (now in fact a G133) encompass virtually every country in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, the entire “Third World”, or non-imperialist world. I certainly have nothing against the entire non-imperialist world aligning on specific issues of concern.
But I don’t understand bodies incorporating the entire non-imperialist world to be the same thing as the “anti-imperialist camp.” It is certainly a very different thing to the actual anti-imperialist, partially anti-capitalist ALBA bloc you referred to above. And it is also a very different thing to today’s conception of “anti-imperialist camp”, which is often a hotch-potch of progressive and reactionary regimes that might just happen to have some conjunctural issue with some imperialist power. But you raised G77.
CELAC and regional blocs
You also raised CELAC, which unlike ALBA incorporates every capitalist state of Latin America, i.e., a regional version of NAM/G77. I will take your word for it that CELAC is becoming “more of a day-to-day factor in the lives of grassroots folks” and that therefore “the affinity of Latinos, Black Afro-descendants, and indigenous peoples will become stronger and a street thing”. I’m certain you would know more about Latin American realities than I would. But why would this be happening? Is it merely because of a bloc of every country in Latin America, even Mexico and Colombia? Does that automatically form this kind of popular, grassroots, progressive process you refer to?
Don’t get me wrong – I hope CELAC replaces the Organization of American States (OAS) and of course I support the right of the Latin American countries to exclude imperialist North America. In the same way as African countries might attempt to represent their common interests through the Organisation of African States, Arab states through the Arab League, Southeast Asian countries through ASEAN, AFTA etc. But I don’t see any of this kind of popular/progressive processes you claim for CELAC occurring anywhere else in the world, in these other blocs.
Could it be, once again, something about active socialist revolutions being a core strength of the CELAC bloc, i.e., does it again come down to the question of class?
Or since you define CELAC as an anti-imperialist camp (at least I assume you do, since that is the argument and that is your example), then are these other regional blocs of non-imperialist states also “anti-imperialist camps”? And all the states in all these blocs are therefore part of this “camp”? I’m genuinely not trying to be difficult. I just want to know where you draw the line, since a multi-state bloc of capitalist, non-imperialist, countries, seems to be one of your key examples.
OK, there may be some issues where most non-imperialist states have different interests to those of imperialist states, even though they are run by capitalist governments whose own interests often intersect with those of the imperialists, and are in conflict with those of their working peoples. You mention for example the question of unequal trade, and you also note the G77 (G133) which plays a certain role in pushing the economic interests of developing capitalist countries against those of the OECD-imperialist bloc.
Yes, when countries bloc together on a concrete issue such as this we should of course support them. Whether such temporary blocs on particular issues lead to long-term “camps” is another thing. And of course, in reality, we understand how little they are likely to achieve, and how minimal are their goals, given the capitalist nature of most states in the world and therefore their ties to imperialism. But that doesn’t stop the issue from being one of minimal economic justice that we can fight around, and support such demands from the G77, the various regional trade blocs noted above etc.
However, even here there are problems. Many of the largest developing capitalist countries, including BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) along with Argentina and others, are allied to countries like Australia as part of the “genuine free-trade” group – they want to end the double standards of the US and European Union who talk free trade but provide massive subsidies to their farmers to dump on the Third World. So that these bigger countries, which are big exporters, can export more. Fair enough. But this playing into the capitalist, free-trade, export-oriented game is potentially detrimental to the mass of poorer countries who are more import-dependent. With “anti-imperialist campers” often looking to the BRICS as some kind of vanguard, they ought to be looking at some of the literature produced by organisations like Focus on the Global South, Food First etc. to get an idea of how contradictory to the interests of the world’s poor some of this BRICS’ push for fairer free trade really is.
‘Anti-imperialist camp’ and human liberation
And so these are many of the contradictions of this definition of anti-imperialist camp. But what you write just after you note the issue of “unequal trade concerns” only further highlights how meaningless both this and the narrower meaning really are. Because you then lead off on a long list of other concerns including “regarding global warming, agriculture and land-use issues, maritime, water and fishing issues, work place health and safety, labour solidarity, women’s liberation, solidarity with minority language groups, networks to defend political prisoners and their families, networks to defend an open, free access internet” and others. This sounds like a good list of issues concerning human liberation as a whole. Yes, I agree that genuine anti-imperialism should be connected to human liberation.
But I’m sorry, I find this utterly confusing in relation to your argument. If you are being specific about ALBA, well and good. But I’m afraid I struggle to see any “anti-imperialist camp” (of states) anywhere in the world that fights around these issues against imperialist states.
I would suggest that the overwhelming majority of capitalist states in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America would be absolutely rotten on peasant land-use issues, labour solidarity, women’s liberation, political prisoners, workplace health and safety(!) etc. And so particularly are the majority within the more restrictive definition, if not often worse.
If anything, on many of these issues it is precisely First World-based liberal NGOs and humanitarian interventionists who at times promote an imperialist agenda by exploiting these issues against some capitalist regime that the West has some problem with. I oppose such imperialist interference; however, I also reject “anti-imperialist camp” type arguments of solidarity with capitalist dictatorships, fascist tyrannies etc. when they assert their “right” to carry out “sovereign” massacres of workers, torture of political prisoners, misogynist policies and practices against women, evicting peasants from their land for “development”, violent suppression of national minorities etc.
So that paragraph to me does not make sense; it is precisely “anti-imperialist camp” discourse that regularly justifies the open and massive violation of all these principles you list, whereas because I see class as more important than abstract, rhetorical, BS “anti-imperialism,” I reject the “rights” of “anti-imperialist” (including the overnight version) capitalist rulers to carry out these anti-working-class actions.
Tell me, where does the “anti-imperialist camp” (whether you mean the whole G77+China, or the more restrictive “camp”) stand on the question you raised of “open, free access internet”? I just ask because members (of both kinds of camp) China and North Korea have the most repressed internet in the world. I think it is unlikely that the “camp” campaigns for China and North Korea to open up internet access. More likely imperialist states do. I oppose imperialist interference, as well as these states’ suppression of the internet, but once again your points leave me confused.
Where do “anti-imperialist camps” stand on “work place health and safety” in China, where the most miners in the world die in industrial “accidents”? Where do such “camps” stand on the question of political prisoners in the absolute, hereditary monarchy of North Korea, a state presiding over starvation and gulag-style murder in vast prison camps?
My understanding of “anti-imperialist camp” politics is precisely that such politics does NOT promote justice around any of the issues you listed, but just the contrary, that it uses BS “anti-imperialist” arguments to defend reactionary and repressive regimes that actively violate every one of them.
The question today of Syria is only the most obvious. While Pinochet, Videla, Suharto, Marcos etc. massacred their peoples like Assad does, I’m not aware that any of them turned every city in their countries to rubble using every conceivable means of “conventional” WMD to do so, just in order to keep a narrow mega-capitalist clique in power (I guess Somoza comes closest, but in those days anti-imperialists and anti-capitalists actually thought it was a bad thing when he bombed Managua with his air force, and didn’t blame the Sandinista rebels for Somoza’s reaction).
Yet many “anti-imperialists” have decided (wrongly, as well) that this regime, which collaborated with imperialism so many times, is part of an ill-defined “anti-imperialist camp”; unlike in the case of Somoza, therefore they blame the Syrian rebels for Assad’s Somoza-100-times-over reaction. To those holding such backward and reactionary views, I say, suit yourself, enjoy your alliance with Le Pen and ilk, for me it’s about class -- I’ll support the struggle of the Syrian working class while you support its class enemy using bogus labels.
Perhaps the Cuban and Venezuelan leaders feel some kind of diplomatic necessity to adopt the position they have adopted of supporting bloody counterrevolution in Syria, possibly related to the economic and diplomatic importance to them of Russia; if so, I generally say little about this. They have their own problems to deal with the US breathing down their backs. This doesn’t alter the fact that they are wrong and have done momentous damage to their standing in the Middle East.
We could go on. When China and Vietnam are in conflict in the South China Sea (also known as the East Sea), where does the “anti-imperialist camp” stand? Campists would generally like to have both states in that “camp.” So that is a concrete question. Does there ever come a point when “anti-imperialist campers” criticise Beijing’s blatant gunboat diplomacy, its Monroe Doctrine for the entire South China Sea, its brutal kidnapping for massive ransoms of thousands of Vietnamese fisherfolk? Not to mention the actual imperialist and highly exploitative nature of its investments in the Third World? Or does inclusion of China in the “camp” mean that the camp has nothing to say?
My view is that such “campism” has no answers for questions such as this, or such as Syria, or for any other – because a view that stresses a very abstract, rhetorical “anti-imperialism” consisting of a certain bloc of capitalist states without reference to class is an anti-Marxist, anti-working class aberration.
In the late 1970s, the Argentine junta was one of the most vicious dictatorships on Earth. And its monstrous repression of Argentine workers was of course backed by imperialism. So I don’t think anyone viewed it as part of the “anti-imperialist camp” (at least by this more narrow definition –your other definition, it was a member of NAM and G77). But in 1982 it entered into a very concrete conflict with British imperialism, over the Malvinas. I think our view was correct, to support Argentina in this specific, concrete, anti-imperialist action. But did this mean Argentina “swapped camps”? Because if it did, it shows how meaningless the concept is; but if it didn’t, then I see no concrete meaning for this alleged “camp” either. In most cases it is simply used to defend indefensible actions by regimes that are not carrying out any real, concrete actions against imperialist interests at all.
Another instance of bad “anti-imperialist camp” politics was the diplomatic support provided to the criminal Sri Lankan Sinhala-chauvinist regime, which has waged genocidal wars for decades against its oppressed Tamil minority, by Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia etc. The Sri Lanka regime, in any case, has no anti-imperialist history at all, not even rhetorical (unlike, for example, what one might have said about Gaddafi’s vicious anti-working-class dictatorship in Libya). So why would these leftist governments even want to support it (not that such support would be better if the regime did have some anti-imperialist history in my view, just it would be easier to see where they were coming from)? Simple – Western governments offered some mild criticism of the breathtaking level of violent repression in UN forums. “Anti-imperialist camp” politics therefore meant doing the opposite.
I could go on. Obviously the 1990s Balkan wars, when many “anti-imperialist campers” lined up with the Serbian chauvinist regime committing genocide against Bosnia’s Muslims. At least this divided the “anti-imperialist” capitalist regimes in the Third World – so Iran, a key backer of Assad today, at least had a good position then, for its own reasons, of supporting Bosnia, along with the rest of the Muslim world. It was one case where “anti-imperialist”, capitalist Iran had a much better position than Cuba. Where it leaves whatever “camp” I have no idea.
Does “anti-imperialist camp” help us understand what is happening in Iraq now – when basically exactly the same bloc of Sunni organisations – nationalist, Islamist, Baathist and jihadist – which were the Iraqi resistance to US occupation several years ago are now once again fighting the regime US imperialism left in place, except that now this regime is a geopolitical/sectarian ally of Assad’s fascist tyranny and Iran’s theocratic tyranny, which “anti-imperialist campists” have adopted as their own?
Anyway, the point is: whichever version of “camp” theory you mean (except that of an alliance of social movements or of leftist, pro-socialist governments a la ALBA), I believe it should be junked, and the concept of anti-imperialism returned to its connection to class, human liberation and anti-capitalism.
[Part 2 is be posted at http://links.org.au/node/3982.]