by Pierre Beaudet, Viento Sur

The right-wing press in Venezuela and throughout the world is raving against the government of Hugo Chávez for its expressed support for the regime of Qaddafi. The Venezuelan exterior minister, Nicolás Maduro, has declared that the repression in Libya was necessary in the name “of peace and national unity.” The same Venezuelan right recalls that Chávez has visited Libya frequently since 2001, most recently in October 2010, with the aim of signing various accords relating to oil, agriculture, communications and higher education. In his turn, Fidel Castro emphasizes that the destabilization of Qaddafi’s regime forms part of a NATO strategy to invade Libya, implying that we consequently must support the regime.

This is all amazing, and brings back bad memories. For several years, Hugo Chávez has been seeking to reinforce his cooperation with states whose principal characteristic, from his point of view, is opposition to United States hegemony (Iran, Belarus, Zimbabwe, etc.). In Iran, the reactionary regime of Ahmadinejad vaingloriously boasts the good relations maintained with his Venezuelan “brother.” Certainly Fidel Castro has a point in at least one aspect: US imperialism is ready to intervene to “save”” Libya as in its day “save” Iraq and Afghanistan. For the anti-imperialist and other-worldist movements of the world, the dilemma is not trivial.

It is impossible to defend these reactionary regimes on the pretext that they oppose the United States. There is no room for doubt that Libya or Iran are ruled by autocratic and predatory regimes that beat back popular aspirations. The repression in the form of massacres of innocent civilians or the denial of fundamental rights (arbitrary detentions, torture, etc.) have nothing to do with the vulgar “anti-Americanism” of Qaddafi and Ahmadinejad, but reflects a pathological obsession with maintaining power. Even so, the fact is certain that the current crisis opens the door for imperialist intervention that will hoist, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, the “humanitarian” flag.

It is already known that the “humanitarian aid” operations on the part of US imperialism only generate still more repression, still more massacres. After the programmatic destruction of these states and their peoples by US occupiers, Saddam Hussein and Mullah Omar seem retrospectively to be mere heads of criminal bands.

The Double Standard
Likewise, it is not necessary to emphasize the absolute hypocrisy of the Western powers that are “scandalized” by the repression in Libya as they “ignore” that carried out by their Israeli, Saudi or Colombian allies. Said powers not only support these dictatorships, but they maintain commercial and military links with “strong” states whose merit is to maintain “stability.” Do we recall that Qaddafi himself, today condemned by Washington and its allies, was just recently a “partner” in oil exploitation, and was welcomed in the “endless war” of the United States against “international terrorism”?

Where does this leave us? Should we support the enemy of our enemy at the expense of the truth and struggle for justice?

In a time not long distant, this Manichean logic acquired caricatured forms. Movements of the left across the world declaimed their support for the Soviet Union, for China (or Albania!). They said, “the world is divided in two and we have to choose sides, like it or not.” We had to swallow a lot of toads [accept the unacceptable—ed.] in regard to the brutal Soviet invasions of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. There were parties of the extreme brain-damaged left that defended the same Chinese government that supported repression in Chile and Sudan, or that invaded Vietnam under the pretext of opposing “Soviet hegemony.”

This antique political culture that has done so much damage to the left vanished after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the monstrosity that called itself the “international communist movement.” Later, unprecedented mobilizations and movements surged in many parts of the world, and especially in Latin America, finally liberated of this sickly vision: it was no longer necessary to support the Soviet “Big Brother,” which in any case had ceased to exist. It was no longer necessary to be afraid to solidarize with the Chinese people in Tiananmen Square. There was no longer doubt in condemning dictatorships such as those of Khomeini in Iran or Saddam Hussein in Iraq, because failing to do so would be playing the game of the United States’ “humanitarian” imperialism. In this way, the social movement reinforced its legitimacy, reaffirming untouchable principles, beginning to support all people who struggle against oppressors, no matter who they are.

New Threats
Today, things have become a little complicated. US imperialism is retreating, yet at the same time on the offensive. It has been exposed as incapable of winning the “endless war” in pursuit of the foolish dream of “re-ordering the world.” Nonetheless, it has not suffered a strategic defeat, and maintains under Obama the same strategy, even if many of the tactics have changed. In the center of this effort is the will of the US, together with its subalterns in the European Union, Japan and Canada, to establish absolute supremacy in the world. The real adversaries in this project are above all China and Russia, in a competitive logic that is the soul of capitalism and imperialism. But given that these states are powerful, it is not possible to attack them head-on; therefore the tactic consists of waging conflicts on “secondary” fronts—weak or fragile states that refuse to submit to the Empire. This was the case with Saddam and today it is the case with Ahmadinejad.

Clearly, this offensive against “rogue states” thusly defined by Washington forms part of a long-term strategy to shore up its supremacy and prevent real or potential adversaries from expanding their influence. Evidently, to not let these “competitors” reinforce themselves, capitalist and imperialist practices are consolidated on the backs of the world’s peoples.

Epicenter of the Crisis
In the current phase, the epicenter of the crisis is in that vast arc that crosses Asia and Africa through the Middle East, where the main energy resources are located, and where persists a culture of anti-imperialist resistance that has caused hard reverses for United States hegemony on several occasions—and where the present rebellions have surged. There is no doubt that for the US and its strategic partner Israel, the prisons, the tortures and massacres are acceptable when the dictatorships demonstrate their “effectiveness.” But now they have ceased to be so.

Nonetheless, the battle has not ended. Washington is seeking to stabilize the situation and assure an orderly “transition,” which implies maintaining essentially the same politics as before. They need to support the repressive apparatuses, modernizing them and maintaining them under the authority of US military mechanisms. They also seek to seduce part of the so-called “middle class” which has acquired privileges, but which also seeks to loosen archaic and antiquated autocracies, installing “liberal democracies” whose mission consists of maintaining neoliberal policies and controlling the region to the benefit of the US and at the expense of its multiple enemies. The operation is risky, but has at times been obtainable, as occurred in Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries. In this “crisis management,” it can also be very tempting to totally or partially occupy select countries, as much to install in them new centers of military command as to eliminate “free radicals” or uncontrollable elements in the mode of Qaddafi (or Saddam Hussein in his moment).

This could also come to pass in Yemen, in Sudan, in other places where repressive regimes persist that have occasionally confronted the US and which now “dissimulate” in order to gain a place in the sun under the “Pax Americana.” If this project materializes, the consequences will be disastrous for the peoples of these countries. In any case, Libya in the hands of the imperialists will be a real threat for the emancipation struggles throughout the region.

History Continues
Meanwhile, on the ground, the popular revolt continues. In Egypt and in Tunisia, the popular classes begin to enjoy their freedom and (self-)organization. Every day, new popular organizations appear in the factories and barrios. The people continue occupying the streets and reminding the “renovated” dictatorships that they will not accept subterfuges.

The task of this new popular movement is enormous, especially considering that during the years of the dictatorships, with the aid of their Western mentors, they repressed everything that moved. Thousands of activists were assassinated, imprisoned, exiled. All opposition movements were crushed or—when they played by the “rules of the game,” as the Islamist movement did in Egypt—co-opted, content to occupy a subaltern space and collaborate with the regime. It is understood, therefore, that now the proletarian masses seek new instruments, new identities. This cannot be constructed from one day to the next.

It is correct and justified to expose Western hypocrisy—but not to portray the “anti-imperialist” dictators as allies of the “cause.” In this sense, the policy of the Hugo Chávez government is not acceptable. Worse still, it threatens to delegitimize that state which has had the courage to impose new priorities in response to the popular expectations in Venezuela. It is necessary to find the way to say this in a way that will not be exploited by the discourse of “humanitarian” imperialism.

But in the end, this is not the highest priority. That must be to support, seriously and systematically, our true allies in the womb of the popular movements. In the first place, they lack everything, including the indispensable resources which are now monopolized by the middle classes, little prone to facilitate the organization of the masses. It is in this point that internationalist mobilizations can intercede. We maintain our course towards Helwan and Gafsa [working class cities in Egypt and Tunisia, respectively] and the various places of popular mobilization by those little spoken of, and see what we can do to assist them in a concrete and immediate manner.

In the second place, it is mandated to incorporate and involve these sectors in the construction of the world social movement, where they can and wish to contribute much, and also where they can fertilize the popular dynamic of all the world. In this sense, the World Social Forum must redefine its priorities for 2011 and 2012, and concentrate is forces in North Africa and the Middle East.


Pierre Beaudet is a professor at the University of Ottawa, an editor of the French-language Journal des Alternatives, and an organizer of this year’s World Social Forum, to be held in Dakar. This story first ran March 4 in the Spanish-language publication Viento Sur, which translated it from the French. It was in turn translated into English by World War 4 Report.

From our Daily Report:

Libya: rebels retake oil port, US sends warships
World War 4 Report, March 3, 2011

Libya: rebels tighten circle around Tripoli; Western intervention next?
World War 4 Report, Feb. 25, 2011

See related story, this issue:

What’s going on in Libya?
by Santiago Alba Rico & Alma Allende, RebeliĂłn
World War 4 Report, March 2011

Reprinted by World War 4 Report, March 6, 2011
Reprinting permissible with attribution