Reflections on Resistance
- by Macdonald Stainsby
I had a dream last night that involved an event I went to in November of 1999. The Communist Party of Canada had their annual dinner in honor of the Russian Revolution, "Great October" off the tongues of these folks. In my awakening life, there would be two things that I'd recount if asked about this evening. One of them was a moment of what was overall a pretty ordinary speech, a moment which recalled pride where there has been none for so long. In reference to the defeat of the USSR in the Cold War, people usually cringe, cower, shrink or simply shrug their shoulders when speaking of socialism and of an end to capitalism. But instead of adopting any such change in posture, this speaker simply listed the acts of imperialism since the defeat of the Soviet state. This speech was made before the turn of the Millennium and just a couple of weeks before the definitive arrive of so-called "anti-globalization" at the Battle of Seattle.
The list of imperialism's misdeeds since then and after 9-11 have only grown so much longer, starker and more ominous that his final comments still resonate: "The time has come for us to stop apologizing". At the time, I took that to mean that people who had defended or who would like to see a Soviet system should stop being intimidated and afraid of what they stood for. I would still not want to make any Red stop, twist up and explain away minutia of the USSR before being allowed to call for the end of imperialism. But now that sentence means a lot more to me.
It is time all of us stopped dancing around what it is we really want: There is nothing at all shameful-- be it anarchist, undecided, communist with a big or little c, revolutionary feminist, et al-- in declaring a permanent, open hostility to not only imperialism, but to any and all visions of the world that continually denigrate our dignity as people, and dehumanize our relations with one another.
Later that November 7 evening, I experienced what returned to my dreams last night. There was a speaker who had been talking about things I have long since forgotten. Then, he asked us all to pause and recognize two people seated among the crowd that evening. A man and a woman in their eighties stood and acknowledged the attention. The speaker let us know they were veterans of the International Brigades that fought Fascism in Spain. One had been a field medic, the other a soldier. We all stood and gave deep, prolonged applause. I remember the feeling that overwhelmed me to be in the presence of veterans of a unrecognized campaign against Fascism, but not for the tales of nostalgia. For I try to take the lessons with me where I go. My dream was of having a discussion with someone about what is going on in the modern era and the parallels to the 30's.
There is one Holocaust survivor left in the Israeli Knesset, Yosef "Tommy" Lapid, the leader of the centrist (by Israeli standards) Shinui Party. There is nothing remarkable from a human rights point of view about the rabidly secular Lapid; he is a firm believer in the legitimacy of the creation of Israel by massive ethnic cleansing. Yet he was still moved to remark of the recent Israeli campaign of home demolitions in Rafah that the images reminded him of his grandmother picking through rubble (She was murdered in the Holocaust).
Thousands of people are becoming homeless as I write this, and for some newly minted refugees, it is for up to a fourth time since 1948. This is the same week as yet more images out of Abu Ghraib Prison prove to the world what Iraqis already knew about US motives; Cuba has been further legislatively strangled than ever before for having the gall to defend a system that has given them higher literacy, culture and physical educational access than any society in the world. For that, they must be punished, and no treatment can be ruled out.
Of course, no one should be at all surprised to find that upwards of 80 mercenaries from the paramilitaries of the genocidal model democracy of the South, Colombia, have been captured invading the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela-- another people currently making leaps and bounds in social welfare, education and health rights in an increasingly hostile atmosphere of foreign-directed subversion.
In my dream, I was stating it feels like we have so much fear about saying who we are and what we really stand for. Internationalism is not manifested by our recent (North America wide) retreat into parliamentary and electoral cretinism. We need to exhibit a deep understanding of our role: those who can slow down the mechanisms of imperial power. Once, with the Luftwaffe bombing the people of Guernica, we had our people there and yet today we are afraid of activity that goes outside of the carefully constructed "acceptable" routes provided by bourgeois democracy. And in all of our agitational material, we act as if we don't have a side, as if this were like WWI with all fighting parties equally in the wrong. That's not the case.
Meanwhile, seeking each other out quietly and discreetly after every new family member disappears into places like Abu Ghraib or under rubble in the Brazil district of Rafah, resistance ranks swell. Bolivarian Circles across Venezuela respond to the escalated aggression of global capital by arming themselves and learning basic maneuvers. Most significantly, Venezuela has made common cause not only with peace, but the inherent right of self-defense and self-determination, and internationalism manifested in escalating oil shipments to the Cuban Revolution.
If the people of our ranks began to think of their actions being something other than educational materials en masse, then we could make significant leaps forward in one major area: Honesty. We all know and believe that it is both right and just that people rise to resist the removal of their self-determination, but we are afraid of the word resistance and even more afraid of acts of resistance for ourselves. Time is not best spent now breaking an understanding of our position globally, and in its stead placing our hopes on getting the good people elected, at least enough New Democrats so we can then influence a minority government into reducing military spending, or enough left Democrats to force Kerry to turn to the UN. Please.
When recent social movements have seen themselves as part of an international movement with solidarity among all regions at the heart, we have had a tremendous social power. That has been precisely the vision inherent in being part of a global movement. That understanding of how we ultimately answer to a larger movement than our own also inevitably leads to more disruptive strategies. When we challenge their right to operate with impunity, we not only continue to diminish their legitimacy, we also challenge the legitimacy of societal operations continuing "business as usual". What right do we have to just merely go on with quietly holding meetings, giant cry-ins and pep rallies disguised as a political statement?
True internationalism will have, at its core, a fundamental anti-racism that goes beyond attitudinal concerns, but instead seeks out to undo any and all structures that promote racism; anti-racist politics will challenge not only the occupations of Iraq and Palestine, but also seek to make certain that Zionist laws against Palestinian equality-- including the rights of refugees-- are abolished; that the UN never administers Iraq in place of Iraqis themselves; that we recognize the need to back movements that defend refugees and self-determination for indigenous populations here. And for those in "Canada", strengthening Canadian state sovereignty will weaken the consciousness of the movement, weaken self-determination of indigenous nations and Quebec, and place a state with more power to persecute migrating populations. Xenophobia and a renewed Canadian imperialism is a political disaster for a movement that has its strength in the international arena.
Strategy has been to "movement build". That term, unfortunately, has become synonymous with trying to dilute politically, and ultimately to funnel into electoralism and the Trade Union Bureaucracy. For those in British Colombia, the price paid for lining up with TUB's has been painfully clear during the recent betrayal of a near general strike. Short term alliances with any "progressive" forces that respect political independence are one thing, and are never to be discounted out of hand. Becoming radical window dressing on the legitimacy of the imperialist left is another thing entirely. However, there is a place to look for allies too often untapped. It is among the resistance of the world. People know what the world is run by, and will respond when we stop the patronizing apologies. We have nothing to apologize for, and our allies have risen in Fallujah and the streets of Rafa, Caracas, Havana, Kanehsatake and throughout the world.
It is not their slogans and their pamphlets, demonstrations and speeches that leaves us no doubt that anti-imperialism is on the agenda for humanity. It is their resistance. Where is ours?
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Macdonald Stainsby is a young freelance writer and social justice activist based in Vacouver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.