Statues and the crimes of imperialism

It is widely accepted that the imperial powers committed terrible crimes in the past, but is the past really so different from the present?

Proletarian writers

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While workers are arguing amongst themselves over the rights and wrongs of slavers from history, the present-day slave-masters continue to loot the world’s wealth unhindered.

Proletarian writers

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Protests that have sprung up across the western world recently directed a lot of energy towards the destruction of statues and memorials celebrating various slave owners and colonial statesmen.

While their removal is not to be lamented, we cannot but note that capitalist imperialism and all the filth it drags in its train – slavery, mass poverty, inequality, hunger and destitution – are not at all things of the past, the memories of which can be consigned to a museum, but a continuing plague on humanity that needs to be fought tooth and nail. Symbolic shadow-boxing is not going to cut it.

Divide and conquer: racism, sexism, religious intolerance

The foul murder in broad daylight of black working-class American George Floyd has prompted much urgent debate about the history and reality of racism in our society.

Racism is a tool that our rulers use to divide workers along national, racial or ethnic lines (much in the same way as the pitting of man against woman or the promotion of religious intolerance), with the aim of weakening us as a class through confusion and in-fighting.

Communists cannot allow the working masses to be divided along these artificial lines, which are so played up by the capitalists and their lackeys. Instead of taking the bait, we must fight strictly along the line of class.

We have witnessed the pathetic spectacle of politicians, in particular of our degenerate Labour party and the Democratic party in the US, hotfoot from sponsoring racist imperialist wars, scrambling to self-identify as anti-racist heroes by the cost-free and empty gesture of ‘taking the knee’ in supposed solidarity with oppressed black workers. So meaningless has this me-too posturing become that even the brutal thugs of the US police have joined in.

Meanwhile imperialism continues to commit, aid and abet all manner of atrocities all over the globe, as we will now review.

Open slavery in Libya

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, backed by the popular masses of Libya, sought to break the vice-like grip of North America and Europe on Africa, and for his efforts was brutally murdered.

The disgusting deed was broadcast across the world and held up as a grotesque trophy by the imperialists who had organised it. Hillary Clinton watched the murder on television, memorably gloating “We came, we saw, he died!”

And it was upon this dire landscape that the hideous, shameful sight of an open trade in black African slaved reared its ugly head – presided over by United Nations ‘peacekeepers’.

War in Yemen

Even before the war, Yemen was the poorest country in the middle east. The situation is now even more dire after five years of aggression by the feudal marionettes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose entire existence is dependent on oil exports to the centres of imperialism, predominantly the US.

While the boots on the ground were initially provided by the Saudis, alongside various mercenaries, the strings are being pulled and the armaments supplied by the US and its British and French side-kicks.

The US, as the most powerful imperialist power, masterminds the whole affair, relying on feudal monarchies and the zionist state of Israel to act as a check upon the development of independent, anti-imperialist nations in the middle east.

Britain, through the Royal Air Force and British Aerospace, plays its sordid part by training Saudi pilots, providing key logistical support, supplying expertise to command and control centres and selling munitions. Our ruling class is doing its best to help keep the failed war going, inflicting unimaginable suffering to the civilian Yemeni population in the process.

French state-owned ‘defence’ company Nexter, based in central France, has been cashing in by selling its Caesar truck-mounted howitzers, Leclerc tanks, Aravis armoured troop-carrying vehicles and many more weapons of death and destruction to the Saudis, with a lucrative contract to supply over 120 of such war machines between 2018 and 2023. (The itinerary of a secret shipment – made in France, Disclose, 15 April 2019)

Of course, the official line is that these machines are “placed for the most part in defensive positions, outside of Yemeni territory or under coalition control, but not on the front line”. Who believes such rot? There is no ‘defensive position’ for the aggressors in a rapacious war like this.

Terrorism in Syria

Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad earned the undying hatred of the imperialists, alongside the respect and admiration of the progressive, anti-imperialist world, by insisting on a path of independent economic and foreign policy for Syria, by allying with Iran and with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, by opposing the war on Iraq, by supporting the Palestinian resistance and other such courageous and admirable acts of resistance against the imperialists’ insane drive for total domination of the world’s resources.

Maddened with rage that any should stand up to their rule, the imperialists launched a dirty proxy war against the sovereign nation of Syria.

The war was fought initially by bands of jihadi mercenaries. Openly terroristic organisations were billed as ‘moderate rebels’ by the imperialist media, although the only way they could possibly have been considered ‘moderate’ was by comparison with their imperialist paymasters, who are themselves the greatest sponsors and enactors of terrorism on the planet.

The aggression was stopped in its tracks by the Syrian Arab Army backed up by Russia, the latter knowing full well that Syria was just a stepping stone towards direct confrontation with itself. Yet the US won’t admit defeat, continuing to loot Syria’s oil for as long as it can maintain a shaky military presence on Syrian soil.

The looting of Africa, Asia and Latin America

Imperialist aggression is not just a military affair, it is also an economic one. Formed towards the end of WW2, the US-controlled World Bank and International Monetary Fund (the latter described by David Graebner in his book Debt as “the world’s debt enforcers … You might say the high finance equivalent of the guys who come to break your legs”) work hand in hand in order to keep poor countries chained in shackles of economic bondage – a system impeccably documented by John Perkins in his Confessions of an Economic Hitman.

“The World Bank was supposed to make loans for what they call international development. Development was their euphemism for dependency.

“The World Bank was supposed to provide infrastructure loans that other countries would go into debt to American engineering firms for, to build up their export sectors and their plantation sectors. So there would be roads, port development for imports and exports. Essentially, they would make long-term capital investments in the foreign trade sector.

“The IMF was in charge of foreign currencies. The aim of the IMF was quite explicitly to prevent any country from imposing capital controls to protect its balance of payments.

“Many countries had a dual exchange rate, one exchange rate for trade in goods and services, the other exchange rate for capital movements. The function of the IMF was essentially to make other countries borrow, not in their own currencies, but in dollars, and to make sure that if countries could not pay their dollar-denominated debts, they had to impose austerity.

“And the IMF developed a plan, saying any country can pay any amount of debt to the creditors if it just impoverishes its labour enough.” (The IMF and World Bank: partners in economic backwardness by Prof M Hudson and B Faulkner, Global Research, 6 July 2019)

It is through such mechanisms that Africa, Asia and Latin America are looted. African governments “received $32bn in loans in 2015, but paid more than half of that – $18bn – in debt interest, with the level of debt rising rapidly”.

Further: “African countries received $162bn in 2015, mainly in loans, aid and personal remittances. But in the same year, $203bn was taken from the continent, either directly through multinationals repatriating profits and illegally moving money into tax havens, or by costs imposed by the rest of the world through climate change adaptation and mitigation.” (World is plundering Africa’s wealth of ‘billions of dollars a year’ by K McVeigh, The Guardian, 24 May 2017)

Thus, countries that are home to immense natural resources, potentially capable of generating tremendous wealth and a wonderful standard of living for their inhabitants, are reduced to a state of perpetual and extreme poverty.

The atrocities above detailed are far from a complete list, as witness the unending war in Afghanistan, the utter devastation of Iraq, the sanctions against north Korea, Cuba, Iran and Venezuela, all of which also face constant military provocations and threats of open military assault … to name but a few.

Wage-slavery in capitalist countries

Many would like to think of slavery as an ill of the past, never to be repeated. However, as we have seen, not only does slavery exist today in its ancient historical form, it is also very much alive in the heartlands of imperialism in the modern, disguised form of wage slavery.

The development of capitalism, with the industrial revolution, the rise of factory production and the seizure of state power by the rising bourgeoisie, brought into existence a new form of slavery: wage slavery. The toilers were ‘freed’ – that is, freed from the land, freed of property; unlike the peasant they had no land from which to live but only their labour-power, their ability to work, to sell, and no fall-back plan if no buyer could be found.

Unlike the slave or serf, the new class of workers were not sold individually. The individual toiler was no longer owned by another individual, but the class of workers was effectively owned by the class of capitalists.

The working class, the exploited proletariat, must work for the capitalist class in order to live under this economic order. This is how most of the world lives today, dependent for our survival on the whims of anarchic capitalist production.

Of course, the trafficking of people with black skins was an utter abomination. But so was the way that the white traffickers and others of their class treated workers with white skins during the same period.

One has only to read such works as Friedrich Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England, or novels like Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and Charles DickensOliver Twist, to know that life for many millions of ‘free’ white-skinned English workers was a living hell, and continued to be so even after slavery was officially ‘abolished’.

The issue of slavery must not be used as a ploy to set black and white workers against one other, but, on the contrary, to strengthen their mutual solidarity against all forms of modern slavery – including and especially wage slavery.

Only socialism can abolish the exploitation, and hence the enslavement, of man by man. It does this by making the working class the collective owners of the means of production, which are used to meet the workers’ needs.

Today, although its reign is faltering, imperialism continues to run rampant across the globe and to heap untold misery upon the world’s people. Workers, rather than resting satisfied with the symbolic destruction of statues of long-dead exploiters, or being fooled into fighting along racial lines, will surely learn to direct their rage against the present-day masterminds of global terrorism and piracy – the ruling capitalist-imperialist class.

And once the bourgeoisie has been overthrown, workers will be free to set about building a world that serves the interests of the many, not the few, consigning capitalism to the dustbin of history – statues and all.