Speech made by DKP chairman Henrik Stamer Hedin at the 14th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Beirut November 2012.
Imperialism’s response to the challenge of the October Revolution was a strictly defensive one, based on the assumption of universal concord on the branding of socialism and Soviet rule as a crime against well-established and legitimate privileges and freedoms, against the very fabric of society. The imperialist aggression against Soviet Russia in the so-called war of interventions was openly directed against the new phenomenon of workers’ and peasants’ power and aimed at a restoration of the old regime and private property.
The advance of socialism in Europe and elsewhere following the Second World War swept away this self-justification of imperialism and deprived it of any moral claim. Workers and peasants all over the world embraced socialism as the rightful social formation of our time, and the assertion that socialism was a crime against society could no longer be taken seriously. The liberation of the former colonies worked in the same direction.
It is a symptom of the degree to which imperialism has been losing ground during the 50′es, 60′es and even into the 70′es that now it can no longer stand up openly and with any kind of moral force for possession and privilege. Its reactionary aggressiveness, of course, remains, but it has to be disguised as a revolutionary struggle for freedom and democracy. Reality has been turned upside down: Imperialism feigns to be defending the aims and values that it is really attacking.
Of course, imperialism has always been hiding itself behind a veil of humanism and idealistic concerns – be it Christian charity, human rights, or whatever. But that today it is hiding behind pretended “revolutionary” popular masses is a relatively recent phenomenon.
The first full-fledged example of this new strategy was the US instigated mujahedin counter-revolutionary war against the Afghan revolution – or the “Soviet occupation”, as it was labelled. In this murderous war, the CIA trained terrorists to inflict on the Soviet Union what was openly described as a “Soviet Vietnam” – a revenge for the defeat suffered by the US a few years earlier. These terrorists were not generally Afghans, but recruited from the extreme right wing of the Arab Islamist movement; they were easier to manipulate, because they were guided not by a legitimate national interest in the country whose liberty they professed to defend, but by misty religious ideas. As we all know, this strategy was highly efficient in that the Afghan revolution was crushed; but as we also know, it backfired on US imperialism by creating forces like al Qaeda and the Talebans, who did not hesitate to turn their weapons against the US itself.
Perhaps this outcome was not undesired by US rulers, as it gave them a pretext for unleashing the “War on terror” and continuing the war in Afghanistan to this day, again under the guise of a struggle for freedom and democracy and against the very same religious extremism and terrorism that had originated as a tool of imperialism. Keine Hexerei, nur Behändigkeit, as the Germans say.
Be that as it may, the same strategy was subsequently followed in other countries where imperialism, above all US imperialism, wanted to alter realities in its own interest: In Yugoslavia, in Ukraine and Georgia, where it was refined to the point that imperialism did not even have to engage military forces in order to topple a government not to its liking; it was further pursued in Iraq, in Libya and now in Syria.
I want to mention a point, upon which I am not going to elaborate, although I think it is important. There is universal agreement that US imperialism is the main culprit of imperialist aggression and has been so for at least half a century. But since Iraq the US has been reluctant to engage directly in military conflicts; instead, it has been pushing other powers in front of it in a kind of two-tier proxy warfare: The so-called opposition in Syria, for instance, is not as in Afghanistan openly supported by the US except morally, but is armed and funded by regional powers like Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. These powers are controlled, more or less, by the US, but they are not just puppets; they have their own agendas and are pursuing interests which do not necessarily coincide with those of the US. Turkey, for instance, is quite obviously striving to restore, if not the Ottoman Empire, then at least part of its earlier dominant position in the Arab Middle East, especially Syria. Apparently, this is not quite to the liking of its US ally, which is probably why Turkey has not succeeded in getting NATO to back it in an outright aggression against Syria. These differing and partly conflicting interests mean that the situation in Syria is much more serious than that in Libya or even the Iraq war and possesses the potential of a world war.
I am not going to elaborate on this, neither am I going to talk about the resistance of those nations actually affected by these disguised acts of aggression. What, in concluding, I am going to say a little about, is the possibility and problems of fighting these imperialist acts of aggression from within the imperialist metropolis itself.
I characterized the disguise strategy of imperialist proxy aggression as basically a sign of weakness, and indeed it is, but it is also highly efficient, making it very difficult to mount a significant protest movement on the imperialist home front. It is not like the Vietnam War: Back then, it was – or very quickly became – obvious to everybody that a poor and comparatively small third world country was being attacked by a super power. And though the strategy of proxy warfare actually originated in Vietnam, with the “vietnamization” of the war, the proxy that the aggressor had at its disposal, the Saigon government, was in no way convincing, neither militarily, nor politically, nor morally. By contrast, the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh was widely respected and the Vietnamese freedom struggle against French colonial rule a few years earlier looked upon with sympathy. For these reasons, a massive popular movement of solidarity and protest arose almost spontaneously inside the US as well as in most allied nations, contributing decisively to the US defeat in the war.
This is not so in the case of Syria, to take the example closest at hand, and it was not so in the case of Libya. In my own country, which took part in the war against Libya and is a member of the so-called Friends of Syria, a vast majority of the population and even of the Left still believe in the myth of a unanimous people standing up against a dictator, and many believe that the war against Libya was not an imperialist aggression, but a just and strictly limited police operation against one person with perhaps a few followers. Many think that a similar course should be taken by the “international society” against Syria – or Assad.
In this situation, it is not possible to mount a broad campaign of protest against the imperialist schemes on Syria. On the contrary, the first task is to prevent the upcoming of a “solidarity” movement with what we are told is a popular uprising. Already, militant islamists in Copenhagen are collecting money in the streets in support of “the Syrian population”, i.e. the terrorists. The official attitude among politicians and in the mainstream media is on the same lines. What we have to do as Communists, as anti-imperialists, is to unmask the lies about the unanimous people and the isolated dictator. This we have started to do. Together with the colony of Syrians in Denmark, who know very well what is going on, the Communist Party of Denmark has taken the initiative to organize a series of information meetings all over the country about the real situation in Syria.
This began just three weeks ago, and it is a very modest beginning. But the task should not be underestimated. It is an uphill struggle. The reaction of broad sections of the Left to our initiative was, “Why do you side with Assad?” We do not side with Assad. We side with the peoples of the world, with freedom and national independence and progress and peace, against imperialism and imperialist aggressiveness.