Friday, December 1, 2023

Mounting solidarity with the people of Palestine in face of Israel’s assault

As I write, Israel has resumed its genocidal military assault on Gaza following a brief pause in the fighting. The scope of the Zionist state’s devastating onslaught on the Palestinian people is described by Gilbert Achcar in this post:

Tens of thousands demonstrated in support of Palestine before Canada’s parliament in Ottawa on November 25.

Ottawa on November 25

Another demonstration will be held December 2 in Ottawa, called by the Palestinian Youth Movement.

Among the participants in the November 25 protest were two busloads of delegates attending a weekend congress of Québec solidaire in nearby Gatineau. The next day, the congress of the left party voted to adopt an emergency resolution proposed by the party’s parliamentary wing and its Global justice and international solidarity commission. Here is the text, in translation:

That the 16th convention of Québec solidaire:

1. is outraged by the Israeli intervention in the Gaza Strip and the violence against the Palestinian population in the West Bank, and denounces the State of Israel's disregard for international law in its military intervention, including the bombing of civilians and its blockade of the Gaza Strip;

2. condemns the Hamas attacks on civilians launched on 7 October;

3. calls for an end to the Israeli occupation and apartheid regime, the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, respect for international law and the right of the Israeli and Palestinian people to live in peace and security;

4. calls on the Canadian Government to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza;

5. reiterates its support for the non-violent actions of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign and calls on the Government of Quebec to cancel the opening of its trade office in Tel Aviv;

6. Finally, denounces the rise in hateful acts targeting Quebec's Jewish and Muslim communities and commits to actively working to bring these communities closer together.

Délégation QS à la manif de la Palestine 2

Québec solidaire delegates at the November 25 demonstration on Parliament Hill, Ottawa

Further reading: A statement by Solidarity, the U.S. revolutionary socialist organization, on how anti-imperialist politics are inseparable from solidarity with all struggles for self-determination of oppressed and occupied nations, including today in Palestine and Ukraine:

Friday, November 3, 2023

Ukrainian Letter of Solidarity with the Palestinian people

Russia’s occupation of parts of Ukraine is not fully comparable in scale with Israel’s occupation of Palestine, although they involve similar tactics of violence, discrimination, and illegal settlement (Crimea, West Bank). And the Ukrainian government’s support of Israel’s war on Gaza grossly confuses the relationship of the occupier, Israel, with the occupied and nationally oppressed Palestinians. The Ukraine-Palestine Solidarity Group has issued the following statement that addresses and clarifies these distinctions. It was first published in Commons, a left-wing Ukrainian journal of social criticism whose editorial board shares egalitarian and anti-capitalist views. (If the Ukrainian links published here are inaccessible, the text may be accessed here.)

* * *

Ukrainian Letter of Solidarity with Palestinian people

November 2, 2023

We, Ukrainian researchers, artists, political and labour activists, members of civil society stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine who for 75 years have been subjected to and resisted Israeli military occupation, separation, settler colonial violence, ethnic cleansing, land dispossession and apartheid. We write this letter as people to people. The dominant discourse on the governmental level and even among solidarity groups that support the struggles of Ukrainians and Palestinians often creates separation. With this letter we reject these divisions, and affirm our solidarity with everyone who is oppressed and struggling for freedom.

As activists committed to freedom, human rights, democracy and social justice, and while fully acknowledging power differentials, we firmly condemn attacks on civilian populations — be they Israelis attacked by Hamas or Palestinians attacked by the Israeli occupation forces and armed settler gangs. Deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime. Yet this is no justification for the collective punishment of Palestinian people, identifying all residents of Gaza with Hamas and the indiscriminate use of the term “terrorism” applied to the whole Palestinian resistance. Nor is this a justification of continuation of the ongoing occupation. Echoing multiple UN resolutions, we know that there will be no lasting peace without justice for the Palestinian people.

On October 7 we witnessed Hamas’ violence against the civilians in Israel, an event that is now singled out by many to demonize and dehumanize Palestinian resistance altogether. Hamas, a reactionary Islamist organization, needs to be seen in a wider historical context and decades of Israel encroaching on Palestinian land, long before this organization came to exist in the late 1980s. During the Nakba (“catastrophe”) of 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians were brutally displaced from their homes, with entire villages massacred and destroyed. Since its creation Israel has never stopped pursuing its colonial expansion. The Palestinians were forced to exile, fragmented and administered under different regimes. Some of them are Israeli citizens affected by structural discrimination and racism. Those living in the occupied West Bank are subjected to apartheid under decades of Israel’s military control. The people of the Gaza Strip have suffered from the blockade imposed by Israel since 2006, which restricted movement of people and goods, resulting in growing poverty and deprivation.

Since the 7th of October and at the time of writing the death toll in the Gaza Strip is more than 8,500 people. Women and children have made up more than 62 percent of the fatalities, while more than 21,048 people have been injured. In recent days, Israel has bombed schools, residential areas, Greek Orthodox Church and several hospitals. Israel has also cut all water, electricity, and fuel supply in the Gaza Strip. There is a severe shortage of food and medicine, causing a total collapse of a healthcare system.

Most of the Western and Israeli media justify these deaths as mere collateral damage to fighting Hamas but are silent when it comes to Palestinian civilians targeted and killed in the Occupied West Bank. Since the beginning of 2023 alone, and before October 7, the death toll on the Palestinian side had already reached 227. Since the 7th of October, 121 Palestinian civilians have been killed in the occupied West Bank. More than 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners are currently detained in Israeli prisons. Lasting peace and justice are only possible with the end of the ongoing occupation. Palestinians have the right to self-determination and resistance against Israeli’s occupation, just as Ukrainians have the right to resist Russian invasion.

Our solidarity comes from a place of anger at the injustice, and a place of deep pain of knowing the devastating impacts of occupation, shelling of civil infrastructure, and humanitarian blockade from experiences in our homeland. Parts of Ukraine have been occupied since 2014, and the international community failed to stop Russian aggression then, ignoring the imperial and colonial nature of the armed violence, which consequently escalated on the 24th of February 2022. Civilians in Ukraine are shelled daily, in their homes, in hospitals, on bus stops, in queues for bread. As a result of the Russian occupation, thousands of people in Ukraine live without access to water, electricity or heating, and it is the most vulnerable groups that are mostly affected by the destruction of critical infrastructure. In the months of the siege and heavy bombardment of Mariupol there was no humanitarian corridor. Watching the Israeli targeting of the civilian infrastructure in Gaza, the Israeli humanitarian blockade and occupation of land resonates especially painfully with us. From this place of pain of experience and solidarity, we call on our fellow Ukrainians globally and all the people to raise their voices in support of the Palestinian people and condemn the ongoing Israeli mass ethnic cleansing.

We reject the Ukrainian government statements that express unconditional support for Israel’s military actions, and we consider the calls to avoid civilian casualties by Ukraine’s MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] belated and insufficient This position is a retreat from the support of Palestinian rights and condemnation of the Israeli occupation, which Ukraine has followed for decades, including voting in the UN. Aware of the pragmatic geopolitical reasoning behind Ukraine’s decision to echo Western allies, on whom we are dependent for our survival, we see the current support of Israel and dismissing the Palestinian right to self-determination as contradictory to Ukraine’s own commitment to human rights and fight for our land and freedom. We as Ukrainians should stand in solidarity not with the oppressors, but with those who experience and resist the oppression.

We strongly object to equating of Western military aid to Ukraine and Israel by some politicians. Ukraine doesn’t occupy the territories of other people, instead, it fights against the Russian occupation, and therefore international assistance serves a just cause and the protection of international law. Israel has occupied and annexed Palestinian and Syrian territories, and Western aid to it confirms an unjust order and demonstrates double standards in relation to international law.

We oppose the new wave of Islamophobia, such as the brutal murder of a Palestinian American 6-year old and assault on his family in Illinois, USA, and the equating of any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. At the same time, we also oppose holding all Jewish people all over the world accountable for the politics of the state of Israel and we condemn anti-Semitic violence, such as the mob attack on the airplane in Daghestan, Russia. We also reject the revival of the “war on terror” rhetoric used by the US and EU to justify war crimes and violations of international law that have undermined the international security system, caused countless deaths, and has been borrowed by other states, including Russia for the war in Chechnya and China for the Uyghur genocide. Now Israel is using it to carry out ethnic cleansing.

Call to Action

  • We urge the implementation of the call to ceasefire, put forward by the UN General Assembly resolution.
  • We call on the Israeli government to immediately stop attacks on civilians and to provide humanitarian aid; we insist on an immediate and indefinite lifting of the siege on Gaza and on an urgent relief operation to restore civilian infrastructure. We also call on the Israeli government to put an end to the occupation and recognise the right of Palestinian displaced people to return to their lands.
  • We call on the Ukrainian government to condemn the use of state sanctioned terror and humanitarian blockade against the Gazan civilian population and reaffirm the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. We also call on the Ukrainian government to condemn deliberate assaults on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
  • We call on the international media to stop pitting Palestinians and Ukrainians against each other, where hierarchies of suffering perpetuate racist rhetoric and dehumanize those under attack.

We have witnessed the world uniting in solidarity for the people of Ukraine and we call on everyone to do the same for the people of Palestine.

Signatures (as of 2023/11/02)

1. Volodymyr Artiukh, researcher

2. Levon Azizian, human rights lawyer

3. Diana Azzuz, artist, musician

4. Tams Bilous, editor

5. Oksana Briukhovetska, artist, researcher, University of Michigan

6. Artem Chapeye, writer

7. Valentyn Dolhochub, researcher, soldier

8. Nataliya Gumenyuk, journalist

9. John-Paul Himka, professor emeritus, University of Alberta

10. Karina Al Ithmuz, biomedical engineer programmer

11. Yuliia Kishchuk, researcher

12. Amina Ktefan, fashion influencer, digital creator

13. Svitlana Matviyenko, media scholar, SFU; Associate Director of Digital Democracies Institute

14. Maria Mayerchyk, scholar

15. Vitalii Pavliuk, writer, translator

16. Sashko Protyah, filmmaker, volunteer

17. Oleksiy Radynski, filmmaker

18. Mykola Ridnyi, artist and filmmaker

19. Daria Saburova, researcher, activist

20. Alexander Skyba, labour activist

21. Darya Tsymbalyuk, researcher

22. Nelia Vakhovska, translator

23. Yuliya Yurchenko, researcher, translator, activist

And many more, see Ukrainian Letter of Solidarity with Palestinian People

See also “Why Ukrainians should support Palestinians,” by Daria Saburova, October 27, 2023

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza (II)

Palestinian Liberation and the MENA Revolutions

By Joseph Daher

October 22, 2023

The following article was originally published by Joseph Daher, a Syrian/Swiss academic and internationalist, in the journal Tempest on July 5, 2021. I republish it here believing it provides important background, particularly on Palestinian formations and their politics. – RF

* * *

Israel’s recent attacks against Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza demonstrated, once again, the brutal colonial, racist, and apartheid nature of the Zionist state. The replacement of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government by a new coalition led by ultranationalist Naftali Bennett will change nothing for Palestinians.

The new regime’s policy is no different than Netanyahu’s. Proving this reality, Bennett ordered fresh air strikes on Gaza just a few days after his assumption of power. These new acts of violence and repression prove why the international left must stand in unconditional solidarity with the Palestinian resistance.

But we also must engage in the strategic debates about how to win liberation and our role in it. Socialists should see the Palestinian struggle as inextricably tied to the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) against all the region’s states, most importantly Israel. This combination of resistance in Palestine and regional revolution is the only realistic way to free Palestine and all the peoples of the region.

Israel: a settler-colonial state

The Zionist movement from its origins in Europe to its foundation of Israel in 1948 and its displacement of Palestinians today has been a settler-colonial project. To establish, maintain, and expand its territory, the Israeli state has had to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their land, homes, and jobs. Throughout this process it allied with, and found sponsorship from, imperialist powers, first the British empire and then the United States, which used Israel as their agent in the struggle against Arab nationalism and socialism.

Thus, the Israeli state’s support for Zionist settlers’ expropriation of Palestinians’ homes in Sheikh Jarrah must be seen as a continuation of the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) that drove over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948. This process of ongoing colonization is the reason why more than 5 million Palestinians refugees live in camps and cities in the Middle East and North Africa.

Even mainstream groups now recognize the reactionary nature of Israeli colonization. For example, both Human Rights Watch and Israel’s B’Tselem have recently denounced Israel’s ongoing seizure of Palestinian land. They have documented how Israel has violated international laws to back 620,000 colonists building colonies in the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They also concluded that Israel is an apartheid state that gives Jews special privileges and reduces Palestinians to second-class citizenship.

Given the utterly reactionary nature of Israel, the far right’s political hegemony over the last decade should come as no surprise. It is in some sense the logical outgrowth of the Zionist movement, its ethnonationalism, Israel’s institutional racism, and its more than seven decades of oppression and dispossession of Palestinians. These create the conditions for the flourishing of right-wing Zionist mobs that march through Palestinian neighborhoods chanting “Death to Arabs.”

Mistaken alliances with authoritarian regimes

Just like any other population under colonial occupation and apartheid, Palestinians have the right to resist, including with military means. Support for this right should not be confused with support for the political perspectives of the various Palestinian political parties. None of these parties—Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front of the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), and others—offer a political strategy capable of winning Palestinian liberation.

The dominant Palestinian political parties look not to the Palestinian masses and the regional working classes and oppressed peoples as the forces to win liberation. Instead they seek political alliances with the region’s ruling classes and their regimes to support their political and military struggle against Israel. They collaborate with these regimes, and argue for non-intervention, even as those regimes oppress their own popular classes and Palestinians within their borders.

One of the key examples in the evolution of this approach was in Jordan 1970, and culminated in the events known as Black September. Despite the strength, organization and popularity of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) within Jordan— a country whose population was seventy percent Palestinian— the Fatah leadership of Yasser Arafat initially refused to support a campaign to overthrow the country’s dictator, King Hussein. In response, and with the backing of the U.S and Israel, Hussein declared martial law, and with the regional Arab governments largely passive, Hussein attacked the PLO camps, killed thousands of Palestinian fighters and civilians, and ultimately drove the PLO out of Jordan and into Syria and Lebanon.

Despite this history, and its subsequent experiences in exile, the PLO pursued this strategy of collaboration and non-intervention for decades. Today, the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas supports Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s dictatorship in Egypt. In another shocking example, Abbas recently sent a message of congratulations to Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad on “his re-election” in May 2021, despite Assad’s brutal repression of Palestinians participating in the Syrian uprising and destruction of the Yarmouk refugee camp.

Hamas pursues a similar strategy; its leaders have cultivated alliances with monarchies in Gulf states, especially Qatar more recently, as well as the fundamentalist regime in Iran. In 2012, Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza at the time, praised Bahrain’s “reforms” while the regime with the backing of its Gulf allies smashed the country’s democratic uprising. Many Hamas leaders viewed it as a “sectarian” coup d’état by the Shi’ites of Bahrain supported by Iran.

In April 2018, former Hamas leader Khaled Mashal praised Turkey’s invasion and occupation of Afrin in Syria during a visit to Ankara. He stated that “Turkey’s success in Afrin serves as a solid example” hopefully to be followed by similar “victories of the Islamic ummah in a lot of places in the world.” The occupation of Afrin by Turkish armed forces and its reactionary Syrian proxies drove out 200,000 mostly Kurdish people and repressed those who remained.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian left has for the most part implemented its own version of the same strategy. It too has withheld criticism of its allies’ repression of their people. The PFLP, for example, has not voiced any objections to the Syrian regime’s crimes and has even supported its army against “foreign conspiracies,” declaring that Damascus “will remain a thorn in the face of the Zionist enemy and its allies.” The PFLP’s relationship towards the theocracy in Iran, and the military dictatorship in Egypt follow a similar pattern.

Regimes betray the liberation struggle

Rather than advance the struggle, despotic states in the region have repeatedly betrayed it and even repressed Palestinians. As noted earlier, the Jordanian state crushed the Palestinian movement in 1970, killing thousands and expelling the PLO during Black September.

In 1976, Hafez al-Assad’s regime in Syria intervened in Lebanon against Palestinian and leftist organizations in support of far-right Lebanese parties. He also conducted military operations against Palestinian camps in Beirut in 1985 and 1986. By 1990, approximately 2,500 Palestinian political prisoners were held in Syrian prisons.

Egypt has collaborated in Israel’s blockade of Gaza since 2007. Iran opportunistically seeks to use the Palestinian cause as a foreign policy tool to achieve its wider objectives in the region.

While the Syrian regime has supported Hamas, it drastically cut assistance to it when it refused to support the regime’s counter-revolution against the democratic uprising in 2011. Iran only resumed formal ties with Hamas after the election of Ismail Haniyeh and Saleh al-Arouri as the new leadership.

Tehran collaborated with U.S. imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s why during the recent Iraqi uprising protesters marched under the slogan “Neither USA, Nor Iran.” These examples alone demolish the idea that Iran is a reliable ally of the Palestinian cause or that is an anti-imperialist state.

Turkey, despite Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s criticisms of Israel, maintains close economic connections with it. Erdogan has increased the volume of trade with Tel Aviv from the $1.4 billion when he came to power to $6.5 billion in 2020. Thus, the regimes restrict their support for the cause to areas where it advances their regional interests and betray it when it doesn’t.

Dead end of peace deals brokered by U.S. imperialism

With the failure of its strategy of relying on political support from, and alliance with the regions regimes, the PLO turned to an even more bankrupt approach of pursuing a peace deal brokered by the U.S. and other great powers. The hope was to secure a two-state settlement through the Oslo Accords struck in 1993.

Instead of winning Palestinian liberation, such a settlement would amount to surrender, accepting Israeli colonialism in historic Palestine, while at best winning a Palestinian rump state, and betraying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their stolen land in Israel. In the final analysis, the peace process has reduced the PA to ruling over a bantustan entirely under the control of Israel.

This disastrous result should come as no surprise. The U.S. and other imperialist powers have supported Israel as their local police force against the revolutionary transformation of the region, an event that would challenge their control over its strategic energy reserves.

Israel served this purpose repeatedly since its founding. In 1956, it participated in France and Britain’s attack on Nasser’s Egypt following its nationalization of the Suez Canal. In 1967, Israel’s Six Day War targeted Nasser’s Egypt as well as the Syrian state during their radical nationalist phase.

Since then, the U.S. has backed Israel. Washington has poured an average of $4 billion annually into Tel Aviv’s coffers, backing its colonization of Palestine and its wars of aggression against progressive governments and movements in the region. Washington supported Israel’s military intervention in Lebanon in 1978 and 1982 that oversaw the terrible massacre of Sabra and Shatila, destroyed progressive Palestinian and Lebanese forces, and installed a friendly regime in Beirut.

Israel’s victories against Arab nationalist states and its intervention in Lebanon led to the retreat of radicalism in the region, isolating the PLO. This predicament led, in 1978, to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction adopting the two-state solution, a necessary step along the path to its signing off on the 1993 Oslo Accords.

In effect, this meant the surrender of the struggle for the liberation of historic Palestine, and the transformation of Fatah into the Palestinian Authority (PA), administering the occupied territories. The Palestinian intellectual Edward Said, who opposed the Oslo agreement, declared that it represented “a massive abandonment of principles, the main currents of Palestinian history, and national goals” and “relegated the diaspora Palestinians to permanent exile or refugee status.”

The U.S. and Israel have supported the PA controlling Palestinians in the West Bank as well as Gaza (before the latter was taken over by Hamas in 2007). The PA has been happy to serve as Washington and Tel Aviv’s cop. For example, during the recent uprising, the PA arrested more than 20 activists for their social media posts and leadership of protests. More recently, Nizar Banat, a leading Palestinian activist and critic of the PA, was killed in a raid by its security forces on his home in Dura in Hebron.

With the PA functioning as a quisling regime, the U.S. has promoted Israel’s political and economic integration with states in the region, most recently through the Trump administration’s Abraham Accords. This normalization of relations between Israel and several Arab states further isolates the Palestinian liberation struggle.

Newly elected president Joe Biden has reaffirmed Washington’s unflinching support for Israel, whatever its crimes against Palestinians. In the midst of its most recent bombing of Gaza, a sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel passed Congress and the billions in annual aid will continue to pour in. The PA strategy of collaborating with the U.S. entails surrender to the occupier and its imperial sponsor.

The Weakness of the Palestinian Working Class

If strategies based on the region’s states and peace deals brokered by the U.S. are dead ends, what about an alternative orientation on the Palestinian working class? That too is foreclosed by Israel’s particular nature as a settler-colonial state.

Unlike apartheid South Africa, which relied on Black workers’ labor in its factories and mines, Israel has driven Palestinian workers out of any central role in its economy and replaced them with Jewish workers. As a result, Palestinian workers do not have the means to shut down the Israeli economy through strikes like Black workers did in South Africa.

That does not mean that the Palestinian resistance is powerless within the state of Israel and in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The struggle of workers of other groups remains central to the movement.

The most recent wave of Palestinian struggle demonstrates its power as well as its potential to forge a new strategy to supplant the failed one of relying on support from the region’s regimes. New youth and feminist groups such as Tal’at as well as the working class have been at the heart of the recent resistance.

The workers’ general strike on May 18 was called and led from below. It shut down sections of the economy from Israel to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. As Haaretz noted: “The Israel Builders Association observed that Palestinian workers had observed the strike, with only 150 of the 65,000 Palestinian construction workers coming to work in Israel. This paralyzed building sites, causing losses estimated at 130 million shekels (nearly $40 million).”

The character of the strike, while extremely important, should not be exaggerated. As Assaf Adiv, the director of the MAAN Workers Association — the only Israeli trade union that organizes Palestinians in the industrial zones of the West Bank settlements (from which Palestinian trade unions are barred)—noted the observance of the strike by Palestinians who work in Israel was in part “due to closure of the checkpoints and uncertainty on the roads of the West Bank.”

Regardless of the breadth of the participation in the strike, the Israeli economy was relatively unscathed, showing that the Palestinian working class and other social movements need solidarity from other workers, peasants, and oppressed peoples. The question is which ones should Palestinians orient on to win a secular democracy in historic Palestine.

The Israeli working class—not a strategic ally

The first and perhaps obvious strategic orientation would seem to be on the Israeli working class. But it has always placed loyalty to Israel over and above class solidarity with the Palestinian masses.

This is not just the result of ideological devotion but material interest in the Israeli state, which provides Israeli workers with homes stolen from Palestinians as well as inflated standards of living. The Israeli ruling class and state thus integrate the Israeli working class as a collaborator in a common project of settler colonialism.

Its working class institutions such as its union, the Histadrut, have played a central role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Labor Zionist leaders established the Histadrut in 1920 as an exclusively Jewish union and used it to spearhead the displacement of Palestinian workers.

Its slogan “Jewish land, Jewish work, Jewish product” neatly summarizes its ethnonationalist class-collaborationist project and underlines how fundamentally hostile it is to solidarity with Palestinians. Applying these slogans during and after the founding of Israel, it has helped ensure that land was only leased to Jews; farms and industries hired only Jews; and Palestinian farms and industries were boycotted.

On top of that, the Israeli state has militarized the incorporation of Israeli workers through mandatory conscription. This compels them to participate in the repression of Palestinians, enforce the occupation, and defend Zionist settlers’ theft of Palestinian homes and land.

Given this incorporation into the colonial project, it should come as no surprise that, with few exceptions, workers supported the most recent assault on Gaza. In just one example among many, the union of the Israeli Electric Corp (IEC) went so far as to declare that it would not repair power lines to the Gaza Strip until two Israeli soldiers and a missing Israeli civilian were returned.

Does this mean that Palestinians should not seek collaboration with progressive sectors of the Israeli working class? Of course not. Examples of small-scale solidarity exist, but they are rare.

It is hard to imagine these becoming a counter to the overwhelming pattern of ethnonationalist unity of Israeli workers with the Zionist state. A strategy focused on trying to build working class unity against Zionism between Israeli and Palestinian workers is thus unrealistic.

The regional revolutionary strategy

The key to developing a better strategy for liberation is putting Palestine in the regional context. Because Palestinian refugees in their millions are integrated in the Middle East and to a lesser extent in North Africa, their national and class struggle is necessarily intertwined with that of the region’s masses.

Those workers and peasants remember their forebearers’ fight against colonialism, confront imperialist powers that support the regimes that oppress them, identify with the struggle of the Palestinians, and therefore see their own battle for democracy and equality as bound up with its victory. That’s why there is a dialectical relationship between the struggles; when Palestinians fight it triggers the regional movement for liberation, and the regional movement feeds back into the one in occupied Palestine.

Their united revolt has the power to transform the entire region, overthrowing the regimes, expelling the imperialist powers, ending both forces’ support for the state of Israel, weakening it in the process, and proving to Israeli workers that the regional transformation can end their exploitation. Far-right minister Avigdor Lieberman admitted the danger posed to Israel by the Arab Spring in 2011 when he declared that the Egyptian revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak and opened the door to democracy was a greater threat to Israel than Iran.

The power and potential of this regional strategy has been repeatedly demonstrated. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Palestinian movement spurred a rise in class struggle throughout the region. In 2000, the Second Intifada opened a new era of resistance, inspiring a wave of organizing that would eventually explode in 2011 with revolutions from Tunisia to Egypt to Syria.

In the summer of 2019, Palestinians in Lebanon organized massive demonstrations for weeks in refugee camps against the Labor Ministry’s decision to treat them as foreigners, an act they considered to be a form of discrimination and racism against them. Their resistance helped inspire the broader Lebanese uprising in October 2019, which in turn has led to the popular uprisings in Iraq.

To implement a strategy based on this regional solidarity, Palestinian groups and movements must abandon the policy embraced by the PA, Hamas, and most of the left of non-intervention in the affairs of countries in the region. Such non-intervention was the precondition of getting aid from various regimes. Accepting that policy means cutting Palestinians off from the social forces that can help them win liberation.

Instead, the Palestinian struggle must recover the regional revolutionary strategy that was pursued by leftists in the 1960s. Unfortunately, most abandoned this strategy to tail the PLO in allying with the region’s reactionary states.

The strategy of regional revolution based on class struggle from below is the only way to win liberation from Israel to Saudi Arabia and Syria as well as their imperialist backers from the U.S. to China and Russia. In that fight, Palestinians and those in other countries must embrace the demands of all those that suffer national oppression like the Kurds and others who suffer other forms of ethnic, sectarian, and social oppression.

Now is the time to resurrect the regional strategy. The whole of the Middle East and North Africa is in a long-term revolutionary process rooted in the masses’ blocked political and economic aspirations. There have already been two waves of uprisings, the first in 2011 that rocked the whole region and a second in 2018 and 2019 that swept through Sudan, Lebanon, Algeria, and Iraq.

With none of the popular grievances won, no doubt a third wave is on its way. And Palestine can and must be at the center of this next wave in a fight to liberate it and the entire region.

Palestine in the revolutionary process

Only through this regional revolutionary strategy can we envision the establishment of a democratic, socialist, and secular state in historic Palestine with equal rights for both Palestinian and Jewish people within a socialist federation throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In the new Palestinian state, all Palestinians would have the right to return to their land and homes from which they were forcibly displaced in 1948, 1967, and after. In addition to this, the liberation of Palestine must also include a global project of economic development and reconstruction to guarantee Palestinians their social and economic rights.

To implement this strategy, Palestinians must forge a new political leadership committed to self-organization from below within historic Palestine and the region. They cannot do that alone but must do so through collaboration with socialists from Egypt to Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Algeria, and all the other countries.

The most important task for those outside the region is to win the left, unions, progressive groups, and movements to support the campaign for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. Forcing this on institutions and corporations in the imperialist powers, especially the U.S., will help block their support for Israel and other despotic regimes and weaken their hold in the region.

The liberation of Palestine thus passes through the liberation of all the peoples living under tyrants in Damascus, Riyadh, Doha, Tehran, Ankara, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Amman, and all the others. As a Syrian revolutionary wrote from the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights in the summer of 2014, “freedom—a common destiny for Gaza, Yarmouk and the Golan.” This slogan holds out the hope of regional revolutionary transformation, the only realistic strategy for liberation.

*I would like to thank Ashley Smith and Sai Englert for their help in the writing of the article.

Further reading

“Secular democracy and the future of Palestine,” by Haidar Eid, January 28, 2022

“A Secular Democratic State in Historic Palestine: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?” by Ghada Karmi

One State: The Only Democratic Future for Palestine-Israel       by Ghada Karmi  One State (

Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza (I)

Gaza: between a second chapter of the Nakba and the revival of the Oslo fiction


October 20, 2023

There are forecasts that one hopes will be belied by reality. What we forecasted on these pages a week ago (“The ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’ Threatens to Sweep Gaza Away”, Al-Quds al-Arabi, 10 Oct. 2023) on the fourth day of the new Gaza war, is one such instance. Here is what we foresaw:


Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist right has been dreaming of completing the Nakba of 1948 with a new mass expulsion of Palestinians from the whole of Palestine between the sea and the river, including the Gaza Strip. There is no doubt that they now see what happened last Saturday as a shock that will allow them to drag the rest of Zionist society behind them in implementing their dream in the Gaza Strip first, while awaiting the opportunity to implement it in the West Bank. The gravity of what befell Israel last Saturday can reduce the deterrent role of Hamas’s holding of hostages, unlike what happened in previous rounds of confrontation between the movement and the Zionist state. It is very likely that the latter this time will not be satisfied with anything less than a destruction of the Gaza Strip to an extent that exceeds anything we have seen to date, in order to reoccupy it at the lowest possible Israeli human cost and provoke the displacement of most of its residents to Egyptian territory, all under the pretext of completely eradicating Hamas. It is to be greatly feared therefore that the ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’ will eventually sweep away the entire Gaza Strip, just as the natural flood swept away the Libyan city of Derna a month ago, but on a much larger scale.

Unfortunately, the spectacle of Gaza’s destruction has already began to outweigh that of what the natural flood swept away in Derna. What is yet more serious than the destruction of buildings is that the new massacre that the Zionist occupation army has begun to carry out in Gaza has already exceeded in size the largest previous massacres that befell the people of Palestine, while the Israeli aggression is still at its beginning, and the number of displaced people inside the Gaza Strip has now exceeded the number of those who were displaced during the 1948 Nakba. The Zionist army is truly destroying the Gaza Strip to an extent that exceeds anything we have seen to date.

This is because it is an army keen on keeping its human losses low, which is what thwarted its attempt to invade Beirut in August 1982. Ariel Sharon ordered his troops to storm the besieged Lebanese capital then and they were forced to stop the operation after realizing that they would incur heavy losses because of the difficulty of penetrating into built-up areas, where it is easy for resistance fighters to hide and surprise the enemy. The lesson was confirmed when the Zionist army launched a ground attack on Gaza in 2009. The Zionist army was not going to repeat the experience, therefore. Instead, it is using its overwhelming superiority in destructive power to flatten built-up areas as a prelude to storming them.

Destruction on a similar scale was not possible in Beirut 1982, nor in Gaza 2009 due to the absence of favourable political conditions (in 1982, Israel was subjected to great international pressure and its society was deeply divided over the invasion of Lebanon led by the duo of Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon). Today, the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation—which included acts of killing committed against unarmed men and women in numbers that exceeded anything Israel had ever known before, acts that were exploited to the fullest extent by the global pro-Israel media—provided Israel with a golden opportunity to proceed with the implementation of a new chapter of the Nakba, just as Al-Qaeda’s attacks in 2001 provided the US administration of George W. Bush with a golden opportunity to realize its members’ long-held project to occupy Iraq (they agreed to start with Afghanistan after some of them insisted that starting with Iraq might be difficult to sell to the public opinion).

The massive destruction inflicted on Gaza is not limited to military considerations this time. It serves an additional goal, which is the displacement of the Strip’s population. We have become accustomed to the Zionist army’s excuse that it did warn civilians and that Hamas is responsible for their deaths because it is based in the middle of built-up, populated areas (as if it were possible for Hamas to be based outside these places without being immediately destroyed by Israeli bombing!). However, this time the call on the people to flee is not like what was witnessed in previous rounds of aggression against the Gaza Strip but falls rather transparently into the project of displacing most of Gaza’s population, in the same way as eighty percent of the Palestinians living in the lands seized by the Zionist state in 1948 were displaced out of them.

Completing what was begun in that fateful year is a dream that has haunted the Zionist far right since the Nakba. This far right, of which the Likud Party is the legitimate heir, blamed David Ben-Gurion and his colleagues in the mainstream Zionist movement of that time for having accepted a ceasefire before completing the occupation of all the land of Palestine between the sea and the river. It is worth remembering that it was that same political movement that carried out the Deir Yassin massacre, the most famous of the atrocities that accompanied the Zionist takeover of Palestine and caused the displacement of its population.

The Zionist far right remained determined to achieve its “Greater Israel” project. Thus, Sharon faced strong opposition within Likud in 2005 when he was both leader of the party and Israeli prime minister and decided to evacuate Gaza (“unilateral disengagement plan”) to satisfy the military’s desire to get rid of the burden of controlling the Strip from within. Sharon’s priority was indeed to consolidate Israel’s control of most of the West Bank and formally annex these territories at first political opportunity, while keeping Gaza and Areas A and B stipulated in the Oslo II Agreement under the control of the Palestinian Authority so as to liquidate the Palestinian cause under the pretext of granting the Palestinians an entity of their own (even if under tight Israeli supervision).

Benjamin Netanyahu led the campaign against Sharon within Likud and went so far as to resign from the cabinet in protest against the withdrawal from Gaza. Sharon soon left Likud to establish another party, and Netanyahu replaced him at the helm of the party, which he continues to lead to this day. He saw in the “Al-Aqsa Flood” not only an opportunity to divert the attention of the Israeli opposition from him and achieve a Zionist revengeful unity against the people of Gaza, but also a golden opportunity to reoccupy the Gaza Strip, while emptying it of most of its people this time, as in the 1948 Nakba. Netanyahu, who brandished a map showing “Greater Israel” at the UN General Assembly less than a month ago, clearly wants to displace most of Gaza’s people to Sinai, beyond the border with Egypt. For this, he hopes that the United States will be able to convince the Egyptian regime to take them in.

On the other hand, Washington hopes that the Zionist army will “content itself” with eradicating Hamas (and Islamic Jihad) from the Gaza Strip in order to then hand over its administration to the Ramallah Authority, thus reviving the Oslo fiction without a permanent displacement that would increase the amplitude of the Palestinian refugee issue. For, what Netanyahu aspires to would inflame the entire Arab region and cancel the “normalization” achieved between Israel and some of the Arab regimes, whereas Washington believes that what it advocates will allow the “normalization” process to move forward. Which of the two options will be achieved in the end will be determined by the speed with which the Zionist army can advance in seizing the Gaza Strip in the face of an international pressure that will escalate the more the spectacle of what is happening to Gaza’s people will overshadow the scenes of the “Al-Aqsa Flood”.

Translated from the Arabic original published in Al-Quds al-Arabi on 17 October 2023.

Source: Gilbert Achcar blog

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The left and Ukraine: Anti-imperialism or alter-imperialism?



At its annual convention on September 12, the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) adopted almost unanimously a strong resolution of solidarity with Ukraine. The debate may be viewed here.

When I posted this information to a discussion list sponsored by Socialist Project, Sam Gindin was quick to point out that “the history of the Labour Party and the TUC have been proudly [pro] NATO for some time now…. The consensus is not quite as tight or unproblematic as Richard proclaims,” and he cited this text in support.

I reminded the list that Stop the War, the source of that text, had campaigned furiously against the TUC’s resolution. Its adoption, I said, was “a major defeat for these fake ‘anti-imperialists’,” who have opposed solidarity with Ukraine since the outset of the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022. And I added:

“Anyone who listens to the debate will see Sam’s claim about support of NATO strongly refuted by the unions speaking in favour of the composite resolution. They speak in the language of class solidarity with the workers of Ukraine, and against the neoliberal and pro-NATO governments of Ukraine and the UK.”

The TUC resolution marked a welcome development in working-class politics in the United Kingdom, a departure from the complicity with British and global imperialism that has plagued the workers movement for many years.

As Sam’s comment indicates, those on the Left, like him, who oppose the Ukraine resistance often argue that its reliance on NATO weaponry necessarily equates as support for NATO and Western imperialism among socialist opponents of Russian imperialism and supporters of Ukraine.

I recently translated and published an article by Rafael Bernabe that criticized this reasoning as “reductionism,” which he defined as “the mistake of reducing a complex process or phenomenon to one of its elements.” Among the reductions he identified were reducing “imperialism” to “Western imperialism or US imperialism” and reducing “the war between Ukraine and Russia to an inter-imperialist (by proxy) war or conflict between NATO and the Russian Federation.”

Rafael Bernabe has now written a follow-up piece (first published at New Politics) that expands on his argument, quite compellingly in my view, and deserves wide reproduction. By the way, I prefer his choice of “alter-imperialism” to designate the position of those on the Left (often termed “campist”) who recognize only the United States and its Western allies as imperialist.

Richard Fidler

* * *

The left and Ukraine: Anti-imperialism or alter-imperialism?

By Rafael Bernabe

21 September 2023

Recently, several sites have published translations of some of my articles on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I thank them for this. Yet, I feel it is important to update some of these interventions, some of which were written more than a year ago.

Seeking to navigate in an increasingly unstable and complex international situation, the left should keep three fundamental principles in mind:

  1. Consistent anti-imperialism
  2. Recognition of the right of peoples to self-determination
  3. Support of the struggles of the exploited and the oppressed in all states and nations

Surely, the first point includes the struggle against US and NATO imperialism. We reject the notion of NATO or its member states as a democratic force.  Some NATO members (Turkey) are far from being democratic governments, even by the least demanding criteria. Some NATO allies are downright undemocratic (Saudi Arabia). On more than one occasion NATO members have supported the overthrow of democratically elected governments and protected those who overthrew them. Simply put: NATO is an arm of Western imperialism and of US imperialism within the Western imperialist bloc (tensions exist and have existed within that bloc).

The idea that NATO would dissolve after the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact was based on the appreciation that its raison d’être was the Cold War against the Soviet Union and its allies. But that was part of its objective: the broader objective is the defense of Western imperialist (and capitalist) rule on a global level, against any threat. In recent decades this has included the imposition of the neoliberal order across the planet. This is why the demise of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, far from leading to the dissolution of NATO, was followed by its eastward expansion and its redefinition as a “security” pact, enabled to act beyond the borders of its members states. And the frictions caused by this expansion led to the aggravation of tensions which is undoubtedly one of the causes of the present conflict between NATO and the Russian Federation. Those who denounce the role of NATO expansion in the preparation of the conflict are right. That is undoubtedly an aspect of the war that we cannot lose sight of.

How should the left respond to NATO expansionism and Western imperialist policy? The general line of this response is well known. It includes building a defense of the living standards and immediate interests of the majority; linking that defense to an anti-military, anti-interventionist policy, while struggling to give that movement an increasingly clear anti-capitalist orientation.

Nevertheless, while we fight US and NATO imperialism, we must not reduce imperialism to its Western variant. The transformations in Russia and China during the last decades have created two great capitalist powers[1] interested in consolidating their own zones of influence and political, economic, and military control and the projection of their interests beyond their borders. The fact that these imperialist projects are weaker than Western imperialism does not change their content or their nature. We are, as Lenin described in his classic study, faced with a world of growing inter-imperialist conflicts. NATO’s eastward expansion clashes with the Russian Federation’s attempt to create its own zone of influence in territories of the former Soviet Union. The preponderance of the United States and its allies in Asia and the Pacific clashes with China’s objective of carving out its sphere of influence in that vast region.

Those who argue that Putin or China are reacting to Western imperialism are right: Western imperialism is a dominant and aggressive force. But it must be underlined that the Russian and Chinese governments respond, not as anti-imperialist forces, but rather with their own plans for control and dominance. The invasion of Ukraine by the Russian federation is part of that imperialist policy and, as such, an evident violation of the right of nations to self-determination. Affirming that right, we must recognize Ukrainian resistance as a just war against imperialist aggression. We reject NATO expansionism, but rejection of NATO expansionism does not imply support for Russian expansionism, if we are to abide by the first two principles mentioned above. We support the movements in Russia that are campaigning against Putin’s war on Ukraine.

Some on the left insist that Putin’s arguments regarding NATO’s expansion and US imperialism are true. The West, Putin has argued, has no moral right to speak about democracy. Indeed, there are enough crimes of US and NATO imperialism around for anybody, including Putin, to point out and denounce. This is why we resolutely oppose Western imperialism. But Western imperialism’s crimes are no reason to support Russian imperialism. What moral standing does the Russian capitalist oligarchy have to speak about democracy? Neither Western imperialism nor Putin have any standing in this regard.

Working class and oppressed peoples must fight NATO expansionism through organization and mobilization against militarism and imperialism, linked to the fight against neoliberalism, austerity, and the many-sided employers’ offensive (against pensions, wages, labor rights, social provisions) and in defense of democratic rights (women’s, reproductive, LGBTQ). An anti-imperialist government in Russia (or elsewhere) would link-up with these movements. It would, along with them, denounce the massive waste of resources in military projects, while itself adopting and implementing a working-class and democratic agenda. But this is not Putin’s agenda or program. As the representative of a capitalist oligarchy this is not how he responds to NATO expansionism. Rather, he enacts his own imperialist agenda, a mirror image of his imperialist rivals. As anti-imperialists we reject both NATO imperialism and Putin’s imperialist reaction to it, as well as the anti-working class and anti-democratic policies that go with it.

It should be stressed that, since all imperialisms are aggressive and predatory, their mutual accusations are often true. During the First World War, German social patriots denounced the despotic character of Tsarism and French imperialism denounced German militarism. After the war, German imperialism denounced the abuses of the Versailles peace and Japanese imperialism denounced the excesses of Western imperialism in Asia. They were all true accusations. But none of them justified supporting German, Russian, or French imperialism during the war, or German rearmament after the war, or Japanese imperialism against Western imperialism, let alone supporting the Japanese invasion of Indochina, Indonesia, or the Philippines. Similarly, our rejection of NATO and Western imperialism cannot lead us to support (or tolerate or fail to denounce) the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.

After the First World War, the imperialist victors imposed harsh and humiliating terms on a defeated Germany. As some already predicted at the time, this helped nurture the rise of a reloaded German nationalism and imperialism, seeking to break out of the limits imposed on it. The left could and did denounce many of the terms imposed at Versailles and the imperialist victor’s vindictive policies. But that did not turn the resurgent German nationalism and imperialism into a progressive or anti-imperialist force. The same applies to the catastrophic consequences of the capitalist shock therapy promoted in Russia by the United States and its allies in the 1990s. This surely was one factor that nurtured a nationalist reaction under Putin, seeking to repair some of the economic damage done under Yeltsin (and US advisors, such as Jeffrey Sachs). We can and should point out the West’s role and partial responsibility in all of this, but, as in the case of a resurgent German nationalism in the 1930s, this does not make Putin an anti-imperialist.

The left is now faced with a major danger. If, in a world of intensified inter-imperialist conflict it clings to the notion of the US and its allies as the sole imperialism, it runs the risk of sliding from anti-imperialism to alter-imperialism: not opposing all imperialist powers and projects but rather opposing one or some, while explicitly or tacitly supporting another.

In short, we reject NATO imperialism, but not to support the expansionism of the Russian Federation headed by Putin. We do not reject one imperialism to support another. We are anti-imperialists, not alter-imperialists. Therefore, while denouncing Western imperialism, we unequivocally reject the invasion and occupation of areas of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.

The same is true on the other side of the current inter-imperialist conflict. Our opposition to Russian expansionism cannot lead to any sympathies or illusions regarding NATO imperialism. That too would be a slide from anti to alter-imperialism.

Support for Ukrainian resistance does not imply or require an endorsement of Zelensky’s government. This corresponds to the third principle presented above. It is true that Zelensky’s government has perpetuated or initiated frankly anti-democratic, repressive, anti-worker and neoliberal measures. These policies must be denounced. Those resisting them must be supported.

But it is one thing to oppose Zelensky or Zelensky’s policies, quite another to support Putin’s intervention or Russian occupation. Zelensky’s reactionary politics are a reason to oppose him or his government, not to support Putin’s invasion. The left cannot embrace Putin as the agent of its democratic agenda. If Zelensky needs to be removed, this is a task for the Ukrainian people, not Putin.

Different voices have denounced the presence of far-right forces in Ukraine. Their weight is a matter of dispute. Yet, the same point applies: their presence must be opposed and denounced, but their presence does not justify the invasion led by Putin or support for that invasion.

Let us recall the precedent of China and Japanese imperialism. During the 1930s, the international left supported China in the face of Japanese aggression. The left sided with China even though its government was controlled by the repressive and corrupt Guomindang apparatus, headed by Chiang Kai-Shek (fiercely anti-communist and perpetrator of the 1927 massacre), a government supported by western imperialism. Chinese resistance was a just fight against Japanese imperialism, despite the nature of its government and of the support it received from rival imperialisms. Similarly, Ukrainian resistance is a just fight against Russian aggression, despite the nature of its government and of the support it received from rival imperialisms.

The position outlined here closely follows Lenin’s views on this question. Lenin underlined the need to fight all forms of national oppression, which in turn required the recognition of the right of nations to self-determination. Tsarism had nurtured hatred against Russia among many in the oppressed nations of the empire, including Ukraine. The end of that oppression and the hope of reconciliation between the peoples estranged by Tsarism demanded the recognition of the right to self-determination, among other measures. In his own way, Putin understands this quite well: he openly blames Lenin for Ukraine’s independence, which he considers a crime against Russia that his invasion seeks to rectify. Logically, he also repudiates Lenin’s doctrine of the right of nations to self-determination, which he considers absurd and untenable. Consciously or not, those in Russia (or elsewhere) struggling against Putin’s war and defending Ukraine’s right to self-determination are recuperating Lenin’s orientation.

But Lenin also argues that all national cultures and all nationalisms, including the nationalism of the oppressed, contain aspects that are undemocratic, oppressive, discriminatory, and chauvinistic. The same democratic impulse that inspires the fight against national oppression commands us to struggle against these oppressive aspects present in all national cultures and characteristic of all nationalisms. In the struggle against US colonialism in Puerto Rico (to speak of the struggle in which I have been involved since the 1970s) we must also fight against the conservative, sexist, racist aspects of Puerto Rican culture, for example. This applies to Ukraine and all nations under imperialist aggression. While struggling against Russian imperialism, a fight must also be conducted against the reactionary dimensions of Ukrainian nationalism. Fighting Russian aggression but ignoring this would be inconsistent from a democratic and liberating perspective. Nor is it permissible to deploy the reactionary aspects of Ukrainian nationalism to support Russian aggression: this would be equally inconsistent from a democratic and anti-imperialist perspective.

To resist, Ukraine must obtain weapons wherever it can. Without recognizing this right, the denunciation of Putin’s invasion becomes an empty gesture. In the present context, Ukraine may only obtain these weapons in the NATO imperialist camp. There is no contradiction between denouncing NATO imperialism and supporting Ukraine’s use of its military supplies to resist Russian aggression. Unlike many in Ukraine, we foster no illusions regarding NATO, nor will we call for an end to the flow of military material required for an effective resistance. The same applies elsewhere. Faced with US aggression, we recognize the right of Cuba, or Venezuela, for example to seek material and military support wherever they can obtain it, including a rival imperialism, such as Russia. We would foster no illusions regarding Putin, nor would we call for an end to the flow of military supplies required for an effective resistance to US aggression. Again: this is the only way of remaining consistent anti-imperialists instead of embracing some version of alter-imperialism.

Alter-imperialism would have us choose between imperialisms. For some, any opposition to NATO implies support for Putin. To oppose Russian imperialism, they would have us side with NATO imperialism. For others, opposition to Putin is an indication of pro-NATO sympathies. To fight NATO imperialism, they would have us embrace Russian imperialism. We reject both formulas, based on the same alter-imperialist logic. We can and should stand against both NATO and Russian imperialism, and with the victims of their aggression, be they Cuba or Venezuela, or Ukraine.

Similarly, to call for an end of military aid to stop the war, despite the humane intentions of many, in practice disarms Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. It plays into Putin’s hands. It means peace at the cost of Ukrainian capitulation. If the US were to invade Cuba or Venezuela, would we seek to disarm them to bring about an end to the war? Surely, we would campaign for an end to US aggression, while hoping that Cuba or Venezuela arm themselves to resist as best they can, using whatever sources they have at their disposal no matter how unsavory. The same position must be adopted regarding Ukraine and Russian aggression.

Sometimes, the rise of China and Russia as rivals of US imperialism is presented as the emergence of a multipolar world, no longer under the thumb of the latter. But the contrast of unipolar and multipolar is too abstract. We must ask: what kind of “multipolarity” is crystallizing in today’s world? We should remember that the world order that produced the first and second world wars was a multipolar world. In other words, a world of inter-imperialist conflicts is a multipolar world. In such a world the role of the left is not to cheer or celebrate the rise of multipolarity given the consolidation of new competing imperialist projects but rather to clearly position itself against all such projects.

We recently encountered the argument that “Whatever you think about Ukraine, in Africa, Russia is fighting imperialism.” The premise here is that anybody clashing or in tension with Western imperialism is anti-imperialist. Again, the example of Japanese imperialism is illustrative. During the 1930s did it clash and fight Western imperialism in Indochina, Indonesia, the Philippines, etc.? Yes. Was it fighting imperialism? No: it was advancing its own imperialist project. In other words, rival imperialisms conflict with each and the fact that Russia clashes with Western imperialism does not make it any less imperialist.

Imperialist powers normally embellish their plans with reference to admirable ideals. US and NATO imperialism act in the name of freedom and democracy and, more recently, of anti-terrorism and even women’s rights. The left rightly dismisses these proclamations as the deceptions that they are. It seeks to demonstrate the stark realities that they hide. But this is and will be equally true of new imperialist projects. They will speak in terms of multi-polarity, cooperation, anti-hegemonism, etc. (Japanese imperialism once presented its Pacific empire as a “co-prosperity sphere.”) They will justify their denial of democratic rights as a sovereign act or as an alternative to degenerate or decadent Western culture and denounce any criticism as a foreign intervention or as eurocentrism. The left must also see through this rhetoric and teach others to see through it. Otherwise, it will be lured from anti to alter-imperialism while embracing the ideological justifications of one imperialist camp or another.

We similarly must reject such notions as the “Asian” sources of Russian imperialism, counterposed to “European” democratic values (there are many variations of this). If anything, little is more typical of Europe than imperialism, which has been part of European development since the rise of capitalism. Contemporary Russian imperialism is no less capitalist than its tsarist predecessor (both with diverse non-capitalist admixtures) and its present rivals: its roots are capitalist, not “Asian.”

It is a fact that inter-imperialist conflict creates some space for maneuver for non-imperialist countries in the Global South seeking concessions from the major powers. It is legitimate to play one power against another, to seek more aid, better trade arrangements, debt forgiveness, etc. But often governments may go beyond this to assume the perspective, orientation, or politics of their closest imperialist ally, be it US imperialism or Russian imperialism. Anti-imperialists must not follow them down that path if they wish to avoid the drift toward alter-imperialism.

In the present context it is easy to fall into a one-sided perspective. Faced with US and NATO aggression, military buildup, and propaganda (in Latin America, for example), it’s easy to lose sight of the need to confront Russian and Chinese imperialism or the need to support Ukrainian resistance. Faced with Russian aggression, it’s easy to lose sight of the need to oppose NATO imperialism. An internationalist left must offer a perspective which integrates the struggle against all imperialist camps, while defending the right of peoples to self-determination and the struggles of the exploited and oppressed in all states and nations, including those under imperialist attack. This is the perspective we have tried to present in this text, a perspective that can bring together progressives fighting in different fronts: those conducting working class struggles in Western Europe, those directly confronting US and NATO imperialism in the Global South, those struggling against Putin’s capitalist authoritarianism in Russia, and thus resisting Russian aggression in the Ukraine, while struggling for a democratic transformation of their own country (against the reactionary forces within it). This is not a program, but only a general framework. It must be developed by the participants in all those struggles. But it can be a shared starting point.

Rafael Bernabe is a Senator for the Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana in Puerto Rico. He is the author of several books including, with César Ayala, Puerto Rico in the American Century: A History Since 1898 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006).

[1] Although China has mobilized foreign and domestic capitalism on a large scale as integral parts of its development strategy since 1978, I am not convinced that China can be accurately characterized as a “capitalist” power, although its territorial claim on Taiwan and its national oppression of Tibet and the Uyghur peoples do qualify it as “imperialist.” But that is a subject for another debate. – R.F.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

That other 9-11: The coup that ended Chile’s Popular Unity government

St.Petersburg, Russia - February 13, 2012:  A stamp printed in CUBA  shows Salvador Allende, from series, circa 1983

By Richard Fidler

This year, on September 11, we mark the 50th anniversary of the coup in Chile. The violent military overthrow of the Popular Unity government put an end to a turbulent experiment in the parliamentary road to socialism initiated with the presidential election of Salvador Allende just three years earlier. The coup government headed by General Augusto Pinochet launched massive and deadly repression and inaugurated the capitalist world’s first major wave of neoliberal economic “reforms,” many of which remain in force today.

It seems appropriate to look back at the Chilean experience – the first breakthrough for the Left in Latin America after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 – and to think about the lessons to be learned for today’s Left and progressive movements. Allende’s electoral base, the Unidad Popular (UP), or Popular Unity, was a coalition of his Socialist party with the Communist party and several much smaller parties around a programmatic agreement that promised “revolutionary changes” to “liberate Chile from imperialism, exploitation and poverty.” And it pledged to do this in full respect for and compliance with the country’s parliamentary, legal and other institutions.

For an initial balance sheet, I recommend an important article by Ralph Miliband first published in the 1973 edition of Socialist Register. Miliband was a prominent sociologist and author of numerous books on socialism and politics, including Parliamentary Socialism and The State in Capitalist Society. His essay, too lengthy to be reproduced here, merits reading in its entirety. But here is a brief excerpt, from its concluding section, on “the question of the state and the exercise of power.”

It was noted earlier that a major change in the state’s personnel is an urgent and essential task for a government bent on really serious change; and that this needs to be allied to a variety of institutional reforms and innovations, designed to push forward the process of the state’s democratization. But in this latter respect, much more needs to be done, not only to realize a set of long-term socialist objectives concerning the socialist exercise of power, but as a means either of avoiding armed confrontation, or of meeting it on the most advantageous and least costly terms if it turns out to be inevitable.

What this means is not simply ‘mobilizing the masses’ or ‘arming the workers’. These are slogans – important slogans – which need to be given effective institutional content. In other words, a new regime bent on fundamental changes in the economic, social and political structures must from the start begin to build and encourage the building of a network of organs of power, parallel to and complementing the state power, and constituting a solid infrastructure for the timely ‘mobilization of the masses’ and the effective direction of its actions. The forms which this assumes – workers’ committees at their place of work, civic committees in districts and sub-districts, etc. – and the manner in which these organs ‘mesh’ with the state may not be susceptible to blueprinting. But the need is there, and it is imperative that it should be met, in whatever forms are most appropriate.

This is not, to all appearances, how the Allende regime moved. Some of the things that needed doing were done; but such ‘mobilization’ as occurred, and such preparations as were made, very late in the day, for a possible confrontation, lacked direction, coherence, in many cases even encouragement. Had the regime really encouraged the creation of a parallel infra-structure, it might have lived; and, incidentally, it might have had less trouble with its opponents and critics on the left, for instance in the MIR, since its members might not then have found the need so great to engage in actions of their own, which greatly embarrassed the government: they might have been more ready to cooperate with a government in whose revolutionary will they could have had greater confidence. In part at least, ‘ultra-leftism’ is the product of ‘citra-leftism’.

Salvador Allende was a noble figure and he died a heroic death. But hard though it is to say it, that is not the point. What matters, in the end, is not how he died, but whether he could have survived by pursuing different policies; and it is wrong to claim that there was no alternative to the policies that were pursued. In this as in many other realms, and here more than in most, facts only become compelling as one allows them to be so. Allende was not a revolutionary who was also a parliamentary politician. He was a parliamentary politician who, remarkably enough, had genuine revolutionary tendencies. But these tendencies could not overcome a political style which was not suitable to the purposes he wanted to achieve.

Miliband focused his analysis on the trials and tribulations encountered by the UP government as it sought to pursue, and then retreat from, its reform program in the face of strenuous and mounting opposition by Chile’s capitalists backed by Washington. Writing from afar, he was unable to assess the reactions among the popular forces that constituted the government’s social base. That, however, is the subject matter of a remarkable study of “constituent popular power and the politics of conflict” in Chile from 1970 to 1973 that – in the words of its author Franck Gaudichaud – are “keys to understanding a thousand days that shook the world.”[1] Gaudichaud’s text, adapted from his doctoral dissertation under the supervision of Michael Löwy, is a detailed analysis of the forms of “popular power(s)” created in their struggles by the workers, peasants and “pobladores” of the shanty-towns during the UP regime.

This research shows that at the heart of this period of social confrontations and political upheavals, various attempts at what we have proposed to call popular constituent power arose. A notion defined as ‘the creation of social and political experiments of organized counter-power and counter-hegemonies’ leading to ‘new forms of popular collective appropriations’ and ‘a calling into question – total or relative – of relations of production, forms of work organization, social and spatial hierarchies and material or symbolic mechanisms of domination’. It is precisely in the specific (and historically determined) configuration taken by these forms of popular power that the true originality of the Chilean process, its transformative capacity and its historical force are located. This, beyond the unprecedented nature of Allende’s project of transition to socialism or a supposed intangible stability of the democratic institutions of the ‘compromise State’. And it seems to us that there is here a path worth taking, to explore, in the study of other great political crises or Latin American revolutionary processes.

If we examine the various facets of this collective turmoil which mobilized several tens of thousands of employees, pobladores and left-wing activists, we see the emergence of a ‘grammar of protest’ little known to Popular Unity. This idée-force is that of popular power, but in this turbulent sky, one star shone more brightly than others: that of the industrial cordones.[2] Certainly, ‘the theme of the industrial cordones refers to one of the most important and successful experiences of Popular Unity, perhaps approaching one of the most realized utopias of Chilean socialism: that in which the workers built themselves as an historical actor with strong collective economic and political responsibility within the ongoing process. Appearing most of the time on the outskirts of the major cities, these are territorial bodies of class coordination, bringing together the unions of several companies in a specific urban area, with the immediate aim of realizing demands such as the extension of the nationalized sector, workers’ control of production, the self-defense of factories, the increase in wages or even, in the medium term, the establishment of a new institutional architecture, based on municipal and provincial popular councils. The cordones thus draw a new topography of struggles in urban areas, alongside other actors in the social movement. They gradually anchor themselves in a city in struggle and territories appropriated by and for massively mobilized popular classes.

A militant in the Chilean process in the early 1970s was the Peruvian peasant leader and ecosocialist Hugo Blanco, who died this year at the age of 89. Released from prison in 1970 by Peru’s revolutionary military junta, Blanco made his way to Chile. He authored many articles on the grassroots mobilizations and political conflicts under the UP government. Some were translated and published in English in Intercontinental Press, a socialist newsweekly published in New York City.[3] They provide insightful analyses into the class dynamics of the events, and can be accessed on line. Here is a representative sample:

Chilean Workers Organize Distribution, April 23, 1973,35

Right Wing in Popular Unity Consolidates, April 30, 1973,35

Fascist Threat Mounting in Chile, May 7, 1973,35

The Sharpening Struggle in Chile, May 28, 1973,35

Fascist Provocations, Labor Unrest in Chile, June 4, 1973,35

Chilean Workers Organize to Meet the Rightist Threat, June 11, 1973,35

The Workers’ Cordones Challenge the Reformists, June 18, 1973,35

The Role of the Cordones Industriales, November 26, 1973,35

Also worth reading:

Allende’s dream, Pinochet’s coup and Chile’s present By Carmen Aguirre.

People in Chile never stopped resisting the dictatorship that began 50 years ago, or seeking to revive the social reforms of the 1970s. A childhood in exile has made it impossible for me to forget that.

This article, published in the Toronto Globe & Mail September 8, is remarkable not least because it is almost unique, amongst the coverage of Chile’s coup in the business media, to remind us of the complicity of Pierre Trudeau’s government in related events before, during and after the Pinochet coup.

[1] Franck Gaudichaud, Chile 1970-1973, Mille jours qui ébranlèrent le monde (Presses universitaires de Rennes 2013, free on-line since 2017). In French only, at present.

[2] The Spanish word cordones could be roughly translated in English as “lanyards,” that is, interlaced bodies of workers in different workplaces or geographic units.

[3] As a staff writer for Intercontinental Press in the early 1970s, I met Hugo Blanco for the first time in 1974, in Italy, at the Tenth World Congress of the Fourth International.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Canadian Left Responses to War in Ukraine – a Provisional Balance Sheet

By Richard Fidler

February 24, 2022 marked the opening of a new phase in the developing reconfiguration of global capitalist and popular forces. Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine, the prompt mobilization of resistance by Ukrainians, and the quick shift toward public support for NATO in much of Europe, confronted the international Left and progressive forces with some major challenges. The Left in Canada was no exception.

“This conflict will change everything,” wrote Quebec socialist Pierre Beaudet in a memo to the solidarity organization Alternatives that he directed, just days before Beaudet’s sudden death March 8. “As in any important debate, there are theories, strategic issues, choices to make in our practice.”

Beaudet pointed to some key features of the new situation:

1. Russia’s determination to prevail, its denial of “the very reality of Ukraine as the sovereign state and territory of a people with the right of self-determination,” risked a long war in which “resistance to the aggression is the only outcome on offer.”

2. Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin’s approach “borrowed from the tradition of the USSR under Stalin in imposing a centralizing and repressive state along with attempts to carve out a place in the global arena.”

3. The post-Soviet expansion of NATO, and Washington’s failures in its intervention in the Middle East and Central Asia, prompting Putin’s belief that this was now the time to strike a major blow in Ukraine, where Russia had already annexed Crimea in 2014 and supported pro-Russian separatists in the east.

“Now that Russia has attacked, there is no turning back. Either Putin wins his bet by the subjugation of Ukraine, which would allow him to ‘entrust’ to a new government the job of ‘re-establishing order.’ Or the situation will drag on into an endless conflict – unless Russia decides to wage war in the cities even if it means destroying them, with their people, as was done in Syria.”

The result will be “an immense realignment of priorities and strategies.

“NATO, its relevance diminished in recent years, will return in force. The member states will be required to increase substantially their military spending and become directly involved in the strategy of counter-attacking and weakening Russia….”

4. The Canadian government will follow the U.S. line, as always. Military spending will surge, financed by severe cutbacks in other expenditures. Fossil fuel export projects – perhaps “the LNG project designed to bring Alberta’s gas through Quebec” – will be relaunched as part of the “war effort.”

5. “We act in solidarity with the Ukrainian resistance that aims to re-establish an inclusive and peaceful sovereignty without abuses of national minorities. Our solidarity can be exercised in the area of humanitarian assistance” which “must not be reduced to meet Ukraine’s needs.”

6. Russia’s invasion was a “blatant violation of the UN Charter and international law. The United States and their NATO allies, including Canada, have plunged us as well increasingly into this war by a flurry of sanctions and outrageous statements.” A peace process must include the United Nations, and not be left to the major protagonists like the European Union and NATO.

The analysis was prescient. With hindsight, we can think of some elements that can now be added. However, Beaudet’s argument had the virtue of centering our response on the need to support Ukraine’s defense of its territorial sovereignty and self-determination.

In the 18 months since Beaudet’s memo, his organization Alternatives has worked to promote solidarity with the Ukraine resistance while opposing Russian aggression and NATO expansion. It has also joined the international campaign for the release of Boris Kagarlitsky and other Russian antiwar prisoners. Its approach contrasts with that of the pacifist organization Échec à la guerre, which claims to oppose all imperialisms – especially U.S. “military domination” -- but has not rallied to defend Ukraine.

In what follows, I will outline and critically comment on some of the other responses to the war by the Canadian and Quebec left.

The parliamentary Left

When it comes to membership in NATO and its alliance with U.S. imperialism -- the bedrock of Canada’s foreign policy -- the labour-based New Democratic Party tends to march in lockstep with whatever government holds office in Ottawa. The Ukraine war is no exception. While supporting provision of weapons needed by Ukraine – as it should – the NDP has also agreed with moves to reinforce Canada’s military spending and NATO involvement as well as sanctions designed to harm the economic needs of the Russian people.

In a statement issued on the one-year anniversary of the full-scale Russian invasion, the NDP reaffirmed its support of “the Ukrainians who are defending their country and … those who have been forced to flee.” But it called for strengthening the sanctions regime, and failed to raise the need to cancel Ukraine’s public debt as it seeks to rebuild.

The other party of Canada’s parliamentary Left, the pro-Quebec sovereignty party Québec solidaire, defends Ukraine of course. However, it has limited its support to a motion in Quebec’s National Assembly, on the eve of Russia’s aggression,[1] and a resolution adopted by its National Council on May 28, 2022. The resolution condemned Russia, reaffirmed Ukraine’s right to self-determination while calling for an immediate ceasefire and negotiations to end the aggression, and urged rapid reception of Ukrainian refugees.

The QS council resolution emphasized that “this conflict must not be used as a justification to allow the exploitation of Quebec’s oil and gas resources, or to increase exports of fossil fuels from Canada on the pretext of replacing Russian oil and gas.”

Finally, it called on its members, and citizens, to “support peace demonstrations opposing the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army….”

However, QS has not itself initiated any such demonstrations although its program[2] declares that the party “will participate in building international mobilizations against military interventions (of imperialist powers) aimed at ensuring control over peoples and their wealth and attacking their sovereignty.” The party also calls for Canada’s immediate withdrawal from NATO and NORAD.[3]

Extraparliamentary Left

Québec solidaire identifies itself as “a party of the streets as well as the ballot-boxes,” and it is the extraparliamentary wing of the party that has taken the lead in defense of Ukraine. The popular website Presse-toi à gauche (PTàG) includes among its editors and writers the most prominent left-wing activists within QS. Since the war began each weekly edition has included a selection of articles on the war, the vast majority sympathetic to Ukraine.

Another left website based in Quebec, Pivot, has likewise supported Ukraine, although not as diligently as PTàG. In April it published a powerful rejoinder to a few accounts in mainstream media and left-leaning publications in Quebec that attributed the war to provocation of Russia by NATO and/or Ukraine.

In the rest of Canada, unfortunately, the major left publications and organizations have tended to ignore the Ukraine resistance or dismiss it as a “proxy” for what they portray as a NATO war against Russia.[4] People’s Voice, the Communist party monthly newspaper, not surprisingly supports Russia. “NATO, the US, EU and Canada have left Russia with few options,” said the CP in a statement issued in October 2022 that echoed some of the Kremlin’s narratives.

A prolific blogger on the war is Yves Engler, who has a well-earned reputation as the most prominent critic of Canadian foreign policy from an anti-imperialist standpoint. The author of many books and articles, Engler is associated with the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, an NGO that sponsors online seminars and petitions critical of Canadian corporate and government intervention abroad. Engler and the CFPI have campaigned against the provision of Canadian arms to Ukraine, and joined the international chorus advocating a “negotiated peace” in Ukraine that is not predicated on Russian withdrawal.[5]

Engler’s articles have been republished by some on-line “progressive” websites such as, which otherwise have little to say about the war.

A widely-read online website The Maple publishes well-researched critiques of Canadian foreign policy but has said little about the Russian war on Ukraine. Its managing editor Alex Cosh published an article in another left publication Briarpatch that repeated much of the Kremlin narrative justifying its aggression.[6] However, The Maple also organized an on-line debate between Ukrainian socialist Taras Bilous and Quebec blogger Dimitri Lascaris on the issue “Should Leftists Support Sending Weapons to Ukraine?”[7] Lascaris, who once ran for leader of the Canadian Green party, is notorious for his support of Russia as a force for peace. A readers’ poll conducted by The Maple following the debate found a substantial majority supporting Bilous in his defense of the Ukraine resistance.

A rare debate on the war: Canadian Dimension

Canadian Dimension, a Winnipeg-based monthly magazine (founded in 1963, on-line only since 2019), is undoubtedly the most prominent publication on the English-Canadian left. Its extensive coverage of the war[8] has been slanted heavily against Ukraine’s resistance, some of it authored by writers like Yves Engler and Dimitri Lascaris, as well as U.S. sources like CodePink. However, CD also published five articles this year by Russian antiwar critic Boris Kagarlitsky, and recently published a strong editorial statement protesting Kagarlitsky’s arrest and urging its readers to support the international solidarity campaign for his release.

When Canadian Dimension introduced an article by Kagarlitsky with the headline “Clear-eyed veteran Russian leftist dissident offers a courageous and politically indispensable take on the Russia-Ukraine war,” Toronto socialist Sam Gindin and Montreal-based professor David Mandel wrote an angry “reply to Kagarlitsky” deriding his analysis as “shallow” and “simple-minded.” Their article was largely a defense of Putin based on a selective discourse analysis purporting to show that “there is no hint here, or indeed anywhere in Putin’s speeches or writing, of a denial of the right of the Ukrainian state or people to exist” – deliberately overlooking the ample well-documented evidence to the contrary.[9] As for Gindin and Mandel, they argued that Ukraine could not possibly strive for sovereignty given its reliance on US support. It was just a “proxy” for US imperialism in its attempt to weaken Russia.

In a subsequent article, Mandel repeated many of the now-familiar (and false) Kremlin talking points in its narrative of defensive war. Canadian Dimension has now published a devastating rebuttal, refuting many of Mandel’s “myths” one by one.

The Gindin-Mandel piece was a clear illustration of how viewing the war as a defensive reaction by Russia to U.S. aggression tends to translate into support of Russia and justification of its action. Both authors had been developing this position on an internal discussion list of the Toronto-based Socialist Project over the past 18 months. In Gindin’s case, it seemed to reflect the disorienting impact of the war’s outbreak on a thesis he had long defended with the late Leo Panitch, articulated at length in their magnum opus The Making of Global Capitalism.[10] As I have summarized it:

“The book’s central thesis is that the United States has dominated the planet since World War II, integrating other powers (and countries) by way of subordination to its ‘informal empire.’ This portrayal is distinguished from the conditions of inter-imperialist rivalry that Lenin had characterized as a central element of prewar capitalism…. This new world superpower has integrated ‘all the other major capitalist powers into an effective system of coordination under its aegis’.”[11]

Clearly, this portrayal of a harmonized (if competitive) global capitalism was a long shot from the brutal imperial savagery of capitalist Russia’s violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. Gindin seems unable to explain this contradiction, and has fallen back on a more classic, but still unipolar, image of a U.S. empire determined to discipline, even militarily defeat a recalcitrant subaltern in its global order.

(If, as some argue, the war is fundamentally an inter-imperialist conflict, revolutionary socialists would support neither side, although they might still defend Ukraine state sovereignty.)

Gindin is by far the pre-eminent member of Socialist Project’s steering committee. Following his lead, the SP has refrained from campaigning in defense of the Ukrainian resistance. Instead, the few articles on the war published in its on-line Bullet have promoted pacifist themes and opposition to providing Ukraine with defensive weapons. The Bullet has also published two articles by David Mandel that attempt to “explain” and excuse the Russian invasion. Both articles proclaim that Ukrainian resistance is futile and should immediately cease.

It should also be noted that Socialist Project, unlike many groups and individuals representing a diversity of political perspectives, has not even endorsed the international campaign of protest against the arrest of Boris Kagarlitsky.[12]

Ex-Trotskyists rejecting Ukraine solidarity

Among the other political casualties of the war are some of the small groups with roots in various wings of the international Trotskyist movement. The Toronto-based International Socialists published a statement on February 24, 2022 denouncing “Russian expansionism” and calling for Russian withdrawal from Ukraine… and Canadian withdrawal from Eastern Europe, referring to its role in NATO “training fascists within the Ukrainian military.” Ukraine, it said, “is once again paying the price as a state stuck in between two major imperialist rivals,” Russia and NATO. The IS newspaper Socialist Worker has published several articles along the same lines since the invasion, all of them produced by their co-thinkers in Britain.

Spring, the on-line publication of a group that broke with the IS a few years ago, has reposted many articles on the war by Yves Engler, and two or three of its own. David Bush denounces the Russian aggression but insists “the main enemy is at home.” This means opposing “troop deployments and arms shipments” to Ukraine. James Clark, once a leader in the Canadian movement against U.S. aggression in the Middle East and Afghanistan, wrote a four-part series of articles on the antiwar movement of ten years ago, but made no attempt to link its lessons to the war on Ukraine.

Fightback (in Quebec, La Riposte, a recognized collective within Québec solidaire) is the Canadian member of the British-based International Marxist Tendency. At the outset of the war, its publications featured a lengthy statement by the IMT dismissing the Ukrainian resistance:

“All the talk of Ukrainian sovereignty is contradicted by the fact that the country has been under growing domination from the US since the victory of the 2014 Euromaidan movement. All the key levers of economic and political power are in the hands of a corrupt oligarchy and its government, which, in turn, is the puppet of US imperialism and a pawn in its hands…. In fact, the current war is to a large extent a US-Russia conflict, being played out in the territory of Ukraine.”

Subsequent articles on the war have replicated this approach.

Finally, it is worth noting the fate of a tiny current that originated in some 2004 expulsions from the U.S. Socialist Workers Party because they had questioned the SWP’s support of the Pentagon overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. John Riddell and Roger Annis, joined by Ian Angus, founded an on-line journal Socialist Voice and invited some other Marxists (including myself) to participate in its production. An on-line archive of the issues and pamphlets published before its demise in 2011 may be accessed here.

As it explains, Socialist Voice ceased publication because its key editors had become heavily committed to other enterprises. John Riddell had resumed publication of his massive volumes on the proceedings of the Communist International in Lenin’s day.[13] Ian Angus was publishing his website Climate & Capitalism and writing books on Ecosocialism.

As for Roger Annis, he travelled to Ukraine with two other Canadians – Radhika Desai and Alan Freeman – in 2014, at the invitation of Boris Kagarlitsky, and emerged as a supporter of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and intervention in Eastern Ukraine. He has since transformed his blog A Socialist in Canada into a shameless propaganda mouthpiece for Putin’s regime and its aggression, occupation and annexations in Ukraine. Independently of Annis, Desai and Freeman (he is a former Trotskyist, in Britain) have created their own website and authored a Manifesto that praises today’s China as “the indispensable nation in humankind’s struggle for socialism, offering aid and inspiration as a worthy example of a country pursuing socialism in accordance with its national conditions.” Among the initial signatories of the Manifesto is John Riddell.

The group praises China – and Russia – as paragons of “multipolarity,” the alternative they promote to U.S. unipolar hegemony. What this means for Ukraine is described by Radhika Desai in her recent book: “[T]his war takes the form of a US-led NATO war against Russia over Ukraine. In this war, Ukraine is the terrain, and a pawn—one that can be and is being sacrificed with the apparent cooperation of its West-oriented leadership.”


As in other countries, Canadian left responses to Russia’s war have tended to divide along two conflicting fault lines. Crudely put, there are those who see the war as a Russian imperialist assault on Ukraine and seek to mobilize solidarity with Ukraine’s popular resistance, including its right to acquire the weapons it needs for its defense. In contrast, there are those who reduce the war to a conflict between NATO and Russia, the Ukrainians being simply pawns of the Pentagon and its European allies. The first group call for immediate Russian withdrawal from Ukraine as the only path to a peaceful solution. The second claim that Russia has some legitimate interest in occupying all or part of Ukraine, and invent narratives to justify its aggression and deny Ukraine’s right of national self-determination. These differences cannot be reconciled. It is a fundamental rift.

Thanks to Art Young for his assistance in reviewing a draft of this article. – RF

[1] “L’Assemblée nationale adopte une motion unanime de soutien à l’Ukraine,” February 23, 2022.

[2] Programme de Québec solidaire. See, in particular, para. 9.2.1.

[3] North American Air Defense Agreement (NORAD).

[4] For a critical analysis of this convoluted reasoning, see “The war in Ukraine: four reductions we must avoid.”

[5] A typical article: “Cutting through Canada’s war propaganda.”

[6] See also “Yes, The Ukraine War Could Have Been Prevented,” by Alex Cosh, arguing that the war is a “NATO proxy war.”

[7]Should Leftists Support Sending Weapons to Ukraine?

[8] See the section “Crisis in Ukraine” on the CD website.

[9] See, for example, Putin’s speech on February 23, 2023 justifying his decision to invade Ukraine.

[10] The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire (Verso, 2013).

[11] Richard Fidler, “Remembering Leo Panitch.” See the text following the subhead “Global capitalism.”

[12] As one of the very few SP members on its discussion list to dispute Gindin and Mandel, I was barred by the steering committee from posting any comment on “the Ukraine-Russia war” (sic) for two months earlier this year.

[13] Pathfinder Press and Haymarket.