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Proper Internationalism

Recently, a comrade from the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan [CMPA] was in Canada as part of a larger trip to drum up ideological support for his organization amongst the left at the centres of capitalism.  Although the CMPA is recognized as the largest secular anti-occupation force in Afghanistan by people living in Afghanistan, the fact that most of its propaganda is in Farsi––and that so far it has not had an obvious international presence––is something it has recently recognized as a problem.  If and when the majority of the Taliban is incorporated into the ranks of the Karzai puppet regime as part of the US 2014 "exit" strategy (where they move to military bases and enforce their will through their puppet government and cheaper Afghan soldiers), the CMPA, left in the field as the only real anti-occupation force, will need international recognition and ideological support from leftists at the centre if it is to succeed in resisting imperialism in Afghanistan––and so this comrade visited Toronto and Montreal as part of a larger campaign for ideological recognition.

the image used in Toronto and Montreal to support the CMPA

This bid for international recognition amongst broad swathes of the left has revealed, at least in the context of Canada, the disreputable state of internationalism.  For decades we have allowed our internationalism to devolve into a rather liberal and nebulous understanding of international solidarity.  When we hold events designed to criticize the occupation of Afghanistan, for example, we rarely talk about the revolutionary forces in the country (which, at this moment, is only the CMPA) and instead focus on the problem of the occupation itself.  Sometimes the discourse is moralizing, occasionally it is veiled in liberal human rights jargon, and most often it is only about "bringing the troops home" rather than examining the efforts of our revolutionary comrades over there who are fighting for self-determination and socialism.  Indeed, there is a self-centeredness to this internationalist approach: we have the power to liberate the poor people over there, we don't have to listen to the demands of revolutionaries engaged in struggle, we don't even have to investigate whether revolutionary forces exist in the first place.  And this approach to internationalism infects so much of our international solidarity.

But proletarian internationalism is not and has never been simple international solidarity.

Take the ideology that is developing around the boycott-divestment-sanctions line concerning Palestine and how it has produced a liberal discourse that promotes historical amnesia of the history of resistance movements in Palestine.  And though I generally support the BDS line, and believe that those who don't support it are guilty of abdicating their international responsibility, I also do not think that these types of approaches go far enough.  Nor am I comfortable with the social imperialist discourses they tend to produce: we are liberating Palestine from apartheid, we are leading the struggle from here, we the privileged are bringing freedom to the underprivileged.

In any case, when it comes to the CMPA's desire to brand itself internationally, to make the left at the centres of capitalism realize it exists and support its struggle rather than supporting capitulationists and/or Islamists, the predominant style of internationalism is most probably a stumbling block.  The default opportunism that defines are entire political practice taints our internationalism: we don't know what it means to be internationalists anymore; we might not even like it when a revolutionary organization in another country asks us to promote its existence, ideology, and put on an event according to its ideology and its practice.  Thus the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan is forced into a line struggle it shouldn't have to wage in order to gain international recognition and support amongst the left.  Hell, the fact that maoist-style communism has lost much of its cache at the centres of capitalism (but definitely not at the peripheries where it is and has been for a very long time, the dominant form of communism) is an issue for the sectarianized and eurocentric left that is more inclined to promote anarchism, trotskyism, autonomism, and post-trotskyism rather than the leftism of those comrades leading revolutions in other countries.

Never mind the fact that the CMPA has a serious presence in Afghanistan amongst the left, that maoism has always been the most popular ideology amongst all secularist camps in the country (even those who are now revisionist and who are still allowed to speak in the West, such as RAWA), and that they are preparing to wage a serious liberation struggle––no, let's pretend they don't exist even when we are told they exist.

So this failure to properly appreciate what internationalism actually means was already evident before the CMPA launched its international campaign.  In January, some of us organized around an international week of solidarity with the Peoples War in India––one of the most significant revolutionary movements happening in the world today––and barely anyone in the left in this country at least seemed to care.  Some wanted to ignore it, complain about it, refuse to respond to a call-out that the people engaged in this revolution had initiated.  Far better to support the movements that lack any obvious political demands; far better to support those worldwide rebellions that we can name, describe, and claim according to our own ideology.  So what if Arundhati Roy, who is definitely not a maoist, has been supporting the Peoples War in India in her own way and taking the heat for this support?  What do we care if she understands what true internationalism means?  All we can do, it seems, is the most opportunistic international solidarity.

But the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan is trying very hard to gain some sort of recognition and support amongst the secular left at the centres of capitalism because this secular left, happy to most often provide the most abstract international solidarity, is more than happy to support the semi-capitulationist forces surrounding the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan [RAWA] which is hardly "revolutionary" and hardly does work for the women, most especially proletarian and peasant women, of Afghanistan.  Indeed, when I briefly mentioned the fact that RAWA was not a revolutionary force in Afghanistan in a previous entry about the CMPA, I had more than one ignorant commentator attempt to correct me by citing wikipedia articles about this organization and/or making bizarre claims about how the CMPA was an organization based in Canada (!).  Once again: no investigation, no right to speak: one of the reasons the CMPA is pushing for international recognition is because it wants the secular left here to recognize that it is an important force, the principal anti-occupation organization on the ground in Afghanistan, with concrete links to the masses.  Just because you don't want to admit this is the case, just because you're happy that RAWA apparatchiks speak at your events, does not mean that you are correct.  Nor are you correct when you imagine that, because you might dislike maoism, they don't exist and significantly exist.  [Please note that I've arranged for an article about RAWA and its links to the known revisionist Afghanistan Liberation Organization (ALO) to be written by a CMPA supporter in the near future.  So save your irate and misinformed comments, probably guided by random wikipedia links and your lack of any internationalist solidarity with revolutionaries in Afghanistan, for that post.]

So the question remains: what should internationalism look like in this context?  Well we know what it's not: self-centred ventures where we think we're the prime liberating force of people over there.  Nor am I arguing that it should ever be uncritical support of any and every armed struggle, especially those struggles that may turn out to be, while progressive when judged against the contradiction of imperialism versus the oppressed masses, reactionary in implementation.  What I'm arguing is that, in accordance with what the CMPA has argued, when there is a significant secular left formation in a nation, and that secular left formation is asking for international support and even goes so far as to send people to encourage this support, the entire left needs to be supportive and stop thinking it can call the shots of what international solidarity events should look like.

But if revolutionary left comrades from an embattled country decide they want an event to look and function a certain way, and they bring their propaganda and their slogans, and you refuse to come because you want to continue doing international solidarity according to your comfort zone, then you are not an internationalist.  If you say you want to host them but completely refuse (and I'm not talking about line struggle but just about a chauvinist and complete rejection) to allow them to represent themselves the way they want to represent themselves then you are not an internationalist.  If you claim you support them but don't like how they represent themselves then you are not an internationalist.  If you only go to acceptable international solidarity events and utterly ignore any events where revolutionaries are actively seeking your support for your struggle then you are not an internationalist.  If you are not about supporting world-wide revolution but only world-wide uprisings that you can theoretically name and command then you are not an internationalist.

[Due to the CMPA's visit, I plan to dedicate the next few posts to issues connected to the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan.]