When My Enemy’s Enemy Is Not My Friend

Campism in Dangerous Times

June 1, 2022

In This Feature

As I write this article,the US-led imperialist bloc’s lengthy standoff with its Russian rival has escalated into a brutal invasion of Ukraine by the Putin regime. It is impossible to know how the situation will have developed by the time this goes to print, but it is quite certain that one general observation will remain entirely valid: geopolitical rivalry between the still dominant US imperial power and those that threaten its place, constitutes a dreadfully dangerous expression of the multifaceted crisis of global capitalism—one that threatens far bloodier results than the present invasion.

It is now obvious that the unfolding confrontation with the Putin regime is but one expression of this international rivalry, and not even its main element at that. Russia, after all, is very much in second place as a threat to US hegemony. It is China, of course, that is its main foe, and the contest with Putin over Ukraine is but a side show by comparison to the potential for conflict with the leading rival. Given the pervasive nature and enormous significance of this dangerous international confrontation, the question of how the Left balances an effective anti-imperialist approach with a principled application of international working class solidarity is of no small significance.

For this reason, it is vital to draw a line between just such a principled internationalism on the one hand, and an opposing perspective, often referred to as “campism,” that considers the world to be divided between a bloc of countries aligned with the US-led imperialist powers and a supposedly anti-imperialist camp centered in the Global South. As I shall attempt to show, the great danger with this approach is that geopolitical rivalry is put ahead of working class struggle, and that forms of popular resistance within the countries that make up this second camp are viewed with suspicion, if not open hostility.

It is vital to draw a line between just such a principled internationalism on the one hand, and an opposing perspective, often referred to as “campism,” that considers the world to be divided between a bloc of countries aligned with the US-led imperialist powers and a supposedly anti-imperialist camp centered in the Global South.

I live in Canada, an imperialist junior partner of the US, and I am mindful of the need and the duty to respond as vigorously as possible to the belligerent intentions of “our” ruling class. The Trudeau government is certainly playing its part in this regard, standing firm with its allies; it had sternly warned Putin that Canada would impose “severe costs” on Russia before the present invasion was unleashed. Still, I firmly believe that a determined challenge to the pursuit of rivalry by the Canadian state can and must be taken up without embracing the distorted geopolitical fixation that underlies the campist outlook.

 

My Enemy’s Enemy…

Campism has a deep history on the Left; it developed out of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution. For the first few years following the revolution, as the new workers’ state hung on under appallingly difficult conditions, wide sections of the international working class movement were filled with a strong (and fully justified) desire to stay the hand of the imperialist powers that were desperate to crush this vital beachhead of international revolution. Historic struggles were taken up, such as the Black Sea Mutiny of 1919, in which French sailors defied efforts to attack the workers’ republic. However, as the bureaucratic degeneration of Soviet society intensified, and the theory of “socialism in one country” took hold, the initiatives and priorities of the international communist movement became ever more focused on the overriding objective of preserving the Soviet Union. From the disastrous absurdities of the Third Period, through to the unprincipled capitulations associated with the Popular Front, the class struggle in each country was tragically subordinated to the pragmatic foreign policy twists and turns of the Stalinist Soviet leadership.

This readiness to put international revolutionary objectives behind the preservation of an increasingly dubious “socialist homeland,” inflicted a disastrous level of political disorientation and miseducation on generations of socialists, and the impact of this is still very much with us today. Then, in the period after World War II, the development of the campist perspective was taken further in a different context, as the communist movement split, and Maoism and “Third Worldism” came into play.

This current took shape out of the Bandung Conference of 1955. As Dan La Botz notes, it “brought together 29 Asian and African nations, including China, and rejected ‘imperialism in all of its manifestations,’ that is the imperialism of both Western capitalist countries and the Soviet Union.” The problem that begins to emerge here is not at all the entirely correct understanding of a world divided between exploiter and exploited countries. It is rather the danger that, in practice, loyalty before all else to an avowedly “anti-imperialist” camp will inevitably degenerate into uncritical support for oppressive regimes and, by extension, the local exploiting classes they politically represent.

The current resurgence of the campist perspective, in a post-Soviet context no less, has amplified this view that the countries of the earth can be neatly divided between friend and foe. “In this clearly bifurcated world,” La Botz continues, “the campists argued, one had to be on the side of the governments that rule the proletarian-peasant world, a world of Black and Brown working people fighting against the capitalist powers of the wealthier white world.”1Ibid. Once again, the politically tragic logic of this position leads to support for some very dubious champions of anti-imperialist struggle. “Obviously,” La Botz points out, “this view tended to downplay or totally ignore the class divisions within both the capitalist and the so-called proletarian-peasant worlds. For the campists, the camp was thus more important than the class.”

Before exploring further the dangers of campism, in the context of intensified global rivalry, let’s to set out a couple of basic perspectives with regard to a healthy internationalism. I put forward two simple, but I think, very useful guiding principles. The first of these is to keep firmly in mind that the campists take hold of a very substantial grain of truth when they focus their attention on the outstandingly malevolent power of US imperialism. Thus, the old adage that “the main enemy is at home” has a great amount of validity to it. Secondly, however, in order to avoid this very unfortunate trap of putting “the camp ahead of the class,” we should be ready to support the struggles of workers and oppressed peoples in every part of the earth, even when they are taken up against governments the State Department would like to overthrow. So, the second consideration is that we need to understand very clearly that the enemy of my enemy can (and almost always does) fall well short of being my friend.

It was Karl Liebknecht, of course, who put forward the idea that “the main enemy of the German people is in Germany” in response to the slaughter of World War I. This was in the context of a clear-cut situation of bloody rivalry between gangs of imperialist pirates. He was ready to explore the part played by the contending parties and condemn them for what they were; but he was also primarily focused on the duty and ability of each national working class to thwart the murderous plans of its own exploiting class and to build a struggle that could lead to its revolutionary overthrow. For socialists, then, the main enemy is “our” particular capitalist class because we want to break the ideological hold it has over working class people, counter its chauvinistic propaganda, and do all we can to defeat its drives to war.

In the context of the US-led bloc’s present imperialist rivalry with Russia and China, I would argue that very similar considerations apply. However, a focus on defeating the aggressive plans of our “main enemy” by no means demands of us that we shy away from a realistic appraisal of the predatory nature of the rival powers. We must utterly reject the distorted brand of anti-imperialism that would have us act as apologists for the governing powers in Beijing and Moscow. Above all else, we must absolutely offer our full support to working class resistance and popular struggles that are taken up against the enemies of our enemy because, for us, the class must always be more important than the camp.

As the effort to preserve US hegemony brings with it intensified rivalry and armed confrontation, the need to place international working class solidarity ahead of geopolitical considerations will become ever more important. This rivalry will only intensify the economic crisis that is emerging in the wake of the pandemic, and its impacts will lead to sudden and explosive upsurges of social resistance. When such struggles are directed against governments Washington doesn’t like, it would be politically catastrophic to view them as unwelcome problems that stand in the way of a far more important geopolitical contest.

The campist delusion is…a persistently influential viewpoint that takes an alluringly simple view of the world stage that seems to resonate during moments of uncertainty and upheaval.

The campist delusion is not some insignificant and quirky current within the political left that we can afford to simply ignore. It is a persistently influential viewpoint that takes an alluringly simple view of the world stage that seems to resonate during moments of uncertainty and upheaval. The governments of historically oppressed countries that Washington seeks to bring under its control often encourage this perspective. They regard the power of China and Russia to be a counterweight to the threat posed by the US and take the side of its rivals in international disputes. Hence, in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Félix Plasencia, presented this attack as entirely justified. While suggesting that a diplomatic solution must be the goal, the minister asserted that “Russia had the right to defend itself.”2TeleSUR, “NATO’s Encirclement of Russia Threatens Peace, Warns Venezuela,” February 26, 2022.

The highly influential news network, teleSUR, which positions itself as a voice of the Global South, has taken much the same position. As a horrible act of armed aggression is inflicting death and destruction on Ukraine, the channel uncritically reports the outrageous line take by Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov that the invasion of Ukraine is but an attempt to engender good faith negotiations, which can proceed once Ukrainian soldiers “lay down their arms.” For good measure, teleSUR approvingly stresses that, “President Xi Jinping assured President Vladimir Putin that China respects the Russian actions in the Ukrainian crisis.”3TeleSUR, “‘Russia Does Not Plan to Occupy Ukraine’: Lavrov,” February 25, 2022.

There is a level of support within the northern left for just this perspective. The dogged persistence of The Grayzone is worth mentioning in this regard. The editorial line of this website, founded by independent journalist Max Blumenthal, has been to consistently condemn any expression of social and political grievances that occur in any place run by governments the State Department doesn’t like. At best, such oppositional forces will be regarded as the useful idiots of imperialism, but they may also be branded as fully fledged agents of the Western powers.

The largest wave of protests that swept Hong Kong in 2019, brought out almost two million people into the streets. Yet the scale of this social uprising, the searing inequalities of the society they challenged, and the profoundly antidemocratic measures directed against them by an alliance between the Beijing government and local elites were of no interest to The Grayzone contributors. If someone waving a US flag could be found to photograph, that would settle the matter, and it was all the work of the CIA. When it comes to another example, the Chinese government’s use of repression, this same publication’s readiness to dismiss one of the largest scale human rights violations of the twenty-first century inflicted on the Uyghurs by the Chinese government, has been equally blinkered and brazen.

…Is Not My Friend

I’m far from wanting to deny the existence of protest movements with reactionary objectives. In fact, in Canada, we have just faced a rather shocking manifestation of precisely this phenomenon, in the form of a far right “truckers” protest. Nonetheless, the accusation of right-wing leadership and objectives is very often hurled without legitimate cause. Efforts to discredit opposition to any of the regimes that make up the “anti-imperialist” camp invariably involve allegations of Western manipulation and control. The overused term “color revolution,” originally used to describe emergent movements in the post socialist world that explicitly aligned themselves with NATO, has been pressed into service in this way. For example, as a mouthpiece of the Chinese government, Global Times has readily used this term, going so far as to label the Arab Spring as an example of a US-orchestrated protest movement. The logic of the campist viewpoint plays itself out in such attacks on the legitimacy of vital social struggles and political upheavals.

The membership of the supposedly anti-imperialist camp contains some extremely unsavoury characters whose sins are not washed clean by the enmity of Washington.

The harsh truth is that the membership of the supposedly anti-imperialist camp contains some extremely unsavoury characters whose sins are not washed clean by the enmity of Washington. The regime in the spotlight at the moment, that of Vladimir Putin, is a good starting point. The society he presides over has been described as, “the most unequal of the world’s major economies.” Russian society seethes with a sense of grievance and profound discontent, and the wave of protests against the invasion of Ukraine that are now unfolding, while they certainly show a very real anger at the brutal attack that Putin has launched, also express that deep underlying mood of frustration. Yet, we may expect reports from some quarters that offer dubious evidence in support of the view that these protesters are simply the “useful idiots” of Washington.

The main rival of the US-led West is, of course, China, and the governing power in that country is presented as the preeminent member of the anti-imperialist camp, leading a process of global socialist construction. Though some are capable of convincing themselves that, under the guiding hand of the Chinese Communist Party, a carefully controlled partial restoration of capitalism has been set in motion that will create the social wealth needed to complete the socialist project, the reality of what exists is stark and unmistakable.

Levels of inequality in China are among the highest in the world, with a population of billionaires that has grown at an astounding rate. The anger that this has created within Chinese society is so pervasive and entrenched that the regime has adopted the rhetoric of “common prosperity.” However, only true believers would put much faith in the prospects for a substantial change of direction. As it is, strikes, protests, and disturbances break out regularly in China and on a huge scale. Containing them through limited measures of appeasement and frequent resort to state repression has become the stock-in-trade of the Chinese authorities.

The massively exploited Chinese working class, subjected to conditions that have produced such horrors as the notorious Foxconn suicide phenomenon, is the largest in the world. Nowhere can the folly of putting the camp ahead of the class be greater than in China. If the pivotal struggles of the working class in that country against its exploiters and oppressors are viewed as a threat to the stability of the absurd fiction of “market socialism,” it is hard to imagine a more debilitating form of political disorientation. Support for the struggles of Chinese workers to push back and, ultimately, overthrow the corrupt and oppressive regime that rules over them must be a central component of any viable concept of international solidarity.

Given the exploitative nature of Chinese society and its increasing economic power on an international scale, it is hardly surprising that its state enterprises and private companies are functioning as global predators. It’s not necessary to present any detailed account of China’s overseas investment patterns or explore the ramifications of its Belt and Road initiative. Copious evidence exists of the kind of behavior long associated with Western neocolonial forms of exploitation being carried out by Chinese capitalists.

Reports from various parts of the world reveal dreadful working conditions, wage theft and environmental degradation at the hands of China’s business interests. Africa Times sums up the situation by stating bluntly, “China’s increasing unfair economic domination on African economy, market and products as well as Chinese cultural hegemony—with its potential to undermine African identity, sovereignty and development—make China the neocolonial power in Africa.”4Africa Times, Editorial, “Is China the Neocolonial Power in Africa,” October 27, 2019. Yet again, those who cling doggedly to the view, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that the Chinese state is the socialist leader of a global anti-imperialist alliance, place themselves on the wrong side when African workers challenge this rampant process of exploitation.

 

Anti-Imperialism of Fools

China and Russia are the two powers that the US and its allies view as major rivals. There are, however, a great number of countries that the US seeks to dominate, installing client regimes and intensifying the capacity to exploit their workforces and resources. Iran, which is also something of a regional rival, is a country that the US has long wanted to return to the fold. The loss of the Shah’s torture state was a great blow to US imperialism, and the restoration of a comparable regime is a cherished ambition. That this threat hangs over Iran and casts its shadow over the political life of the country is beyond dispute. Opposition to US sanctions and military aggression is a non-negotiable matter of principle. However, Iran is also a site of ongoing class struggle and resistance to social injustice and the perverse notion that we should place the “objectively anti-imperialist” nature of the governing regime ahead of working class solidarity is entirely wrong.

Last year, “a group of Syrian writers and intellectuals and others who stand in solidarity with them” issued an open letter that focused on “the anti-imperialism of fools.” The letter took aim at those on the Left who engage in “a refusal to contend with the crimes of the Assad regime, or even to acknowledge that a brutally repressed popular uprising against Assad took place.” It challenged a situation where “all pro-democracy and pro-dignity movements that go against Russian or Chinese state interests are routinely portrayed as the top-down work of Western interference.”5Al-Jumhuriya, “Erasing the People Through Disinformation: The Anti-Imperialism of Fools,” March 27, 2021, trans. Mjmwah ktab, https://aljumhuriya.net/en/2021/03/27/محو-الناس-عبر-التضليل-سوريا-وأنتي-إمب/. The effort to offer legitimacy to Assad, in the face of all his crimes, is perhaps one of the sharpest lessons in what happens when you try and make an anti-imperialist silk purse out of an oppressive sow’s ear.

No one can doubt that the political leaders of US-led imperialism want to install an entirely compliant regime in Venezuela and that it allies itself with the most reactionary elements within the country to try and achieve this aim. We are all too familiar with the kind of “freedom fighters” assembled around people like Juan Guaidó. Yet, while utterly opposing imperialist intervention and its agents, it is quite possible to acknowledge that there are real grievances against the Maduro government and that left oppositional forces continue to express them concretely and legitimately. The same is true of Nicaragua, where an uncritical view of the rather tainted President Daniel Ortega is adhered to at all costs. The governing power is always given the benefit of the doubt, while the articulation of grievances at the base of society are discounted, if not denounced.

A few years ago, I put up an article on my Facebook page about a courageous protest that disabled people had taken up in Bolivia that was directed at the government of Evo Morales. The protesters came to La Paz to press for a basic disability pension and Morales refused to meet with them. Instead, they were dispersed very brutally by riot police. To my disgust, I got a string of comments denouncing the protest and, in one case, even spitefully claiming the participants were faking their disabilities. In the blinkered view of these commentators, no legitimate grievances could exist in Bolivia and anyone who protested the government was simply an agent of Washington.

The following year, I actually got to spend several days in the company of two of these magnificent comrades, at a disabled peoples’ solidarity summit in London, and I can confirm that they were lifelong socialists with a very clear understanding of the role that imperialism has played in the life of their country. Nonetheless, they felt they could fight for the rights of impoverished and abandoned disabled people without doing the work of the CIA.

In the case of Cuba, there is an especially strong determination to defend the government uncritically. When protesters took to the streets there last year, I was struck by the fact that the Cuban president took a more conciliatory view of what was happening than did many on the Left here in Canada. Miguel Diaz-Canel, actually acknowledged (albeit belatedly) that his government has made mistakes over shortages in the country and that many on the streets had valid grievances, but many leftists here would consider no other explanation than that the hand of US intelligence had been at work. No doubt Washington did intervene and seek to influence the protests, but the assumption that the anger on the streets had no valid basis flies in the face of strong evidence to the contrary. Certainly there are strong and clear voices within Cuban society that are able to press for greater freedoms without doing the work of the US State Department.

Those of us who live in one of the countries that make up the US-led alliance of imperialist powers, if not the US itself, must certainly oppose its pursuit of global rivalry and domination at every turn. However, this by no means requires us to adopt an uncritical attitude toward the governments with which this alliance is at odds. There is no valid reason for us to have the slightest hesitation in expressing our solidarity with working class struggles that place demands before those governments.

Those of us who live in one of the countries that make up the US-led alliance of imperialist powers, if not the US itself, must certainly oppose its pursuit of global rivalry and domination at every turn. However, this by no means requires us to adopt an uncritical attitude toward the governments with which this alliance is at odds.

Ukraine

It must be stressed that adopting a position of genuine international working class solidarity, in place of the geopolitical focus of the campist perspective, is not by any means an abstract expression of political principle or some claim to moral purity. On the contrary, it is an orientation that makes possible and, indeed, demands of us that we seriously grapple with complex, particular situations as the agenda of global rivalry plays out. Far from it being a question of agreeing on a couple of broad principles that settle everything, rejection of the campist outlook necessitates deep discussions and vigorous debates on unfolding developments. The present situation in Ukraine is a very clear example of this.

 

 

Reject any notion that the Russian state and the Putin regime are a component part of an anti-imperialist grouping.

It is first of all necessary to reject any notion that the Russian state and the Putin regime are a component part of an anti-imperialist grouping. On the contrary, a lesser imperialist power is engaged in a war of aggression against Ukraine, based on its own predatory interests. That must mean full support for the demand for the withdrawal of Russian military forces, every possible expression of solidarity with courageous people taking to the streets in Russia to oppose the war and, of course, full support for Russian soldiers who defy their commanders and take actions that could bring the war machine to a halt.

At the same time, however, the principle that the main enemy is at home comes into play, even without the direct involvement of NATO troops. A decades-long effort has been underway to push the US-led alliance’s military further and further into eastern Europe, and Washington and its allies have hardly limited their specific involvement in Ukraine to commentary from the sidelines. There is no lack of evidence of NATO countries supporting and training the ugliest far right elements within the Ukrainian military.

Moreover, the present invasion is being used by the US-led imperialist powers to increase the murderous capacities of their aggressive military alliance. NATO’s recently released annual report made it abundantly clear that it sees present developments in Ukraine precisely in terms of its escalating conflict with its rivals. As NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg put it, “We have entered a new era in global security, where authoritarian powers, like Russia and China, are openly contesting core principles for our security, and seeking to re-write the entire international order on which our peace and prosperity depend.”6Jens Stoltenberg, “The Secretary General’s Annual Report 2021,” March 31, 2022, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_193590.htm. A clearer and more emphatic drawing of imperialist battle lines is hard to imagine.

In this context, it must obviously be a priority for those of us who live in one of the countries that make up the NATO alliance to challenge any efforts to expand it. Indeed, we must demand the withdrawal of NATO troops and the disbanding of this instrument of state violence and terror. This is all the more true when the present situation is used to orchestrate an ugly mood of Russophobia that closely resembles the xenophobic war fever that marked earlier episodes of imperialist confrontation. The cancelling of Russian artists, the banning of Russian literature, and other such displays of backwardness must be challenged.

There is no doubt that Putin’s invasion has been met with a determined and popular resistance by the people of Ukraine. Their right to take up resistance can’t be denied for a moment. However, it is here that the complexities and contradictions that arise from an invasion that is occurring in the context of interimperialist rivalry pose major challenges. As surely as the aggressor based in Moscow is ruthlessly pursuing its interests, the gang headquartered in Washington is looking to use the present situation to strengthen its hand and further its interests.

Without doubt, the Zelensky government in Ukraine wished for the fullest possible support from NATO powers. Zelensky himself used the occasion of an online address to the Canadian parliament to call for a no-fly zone to be established over Ukraine. This, of course, would constitute an utterly reckless escalation that would threaten an horrific wider conflict with Russia, but it poses the question: to what extent should the Left back actions taken by the US-led powers in this situation?

There is, of course, the matter of sanctions against Russia. These have had a major impact, but it is hard to see how we can fail to oppose the hardship inflicted on working class Russians and the refinement of a weapon that the US uses so brutally across the globe. The tougher issue is that of arms shipments to Ukraine by NATO powers. Doubtless, a very brutal invasion is presently being resisted, and the supply of weapons is a very practical consideration. However, in my opinion, neither the immediate interests of working class people in Ukraine nor the longer term challenge to interimperialist rivalry are served by supporting the efforts of Washington and its allies to opportunistically engage in a proxy war with Russia.

The immediate prospects for an end to military aggression are increased, not by bringing Ukraine further into a US-led alliance, but by advancing a position of neutrality. Tellingly, Hillary Clinton has been only too ready to draw comparisons with the quagmire that the Soviet Union found itself in in Afghanistan. A sustained and devastating conflict that weakened Russia would be to the advantage of the NATO side, with the flow of their weapons, along with an increasingly authoritarian and repressive Zelensky government, ensuring that result. The present invasion will not be the last act in the rivalry that is playing out in Eastern Europe by a long way. To the extent that the NATO powers are able to use this situation as an opportunity to extend their military reach, the seeds of even more devastating and terrible conflicts are sown.

International Solidarity

The dilemma around arms shipments from NATO powers is one of many that we will have to grapple with. For the campist, who sees one side in the rivalry as a progressive force, such matters are easily settled. A genuinely internationalist position, however, means wrestling with contradictions. The oppression of the Uyghurs by the Chinese state is very real and solidarity with their struggle is essential. However, it is also true that Washington and its allies are only too ready to use this oppressed people as a cynical means of furthering their objectives in their rivalry with Beijing, at the same time whipping up anti-Chinese hatred domestically. As I previously suggested, once the distortions of the campist perspective are set aside, the development of a position of true internationalism is no simple matter, but it is the only way to advance a meaningful socialist intervention in the context of interimperialist conflict.

The campist disorientation has a long history and is a significant political current. Moreover, this is a period when it can become an even greater problem. US hegemony is still in place, but its best days are behind it. It is losing ground to China, and it is quite desperate to regain what it has lost and set a new stamp on the world with a blood-soaked brand of imperialism that is hypocritically cloaked in the language of human rights and democracy. In such a situation, especially for those becoming newly politicized by the unfolding situation, the uncomplicated view of the US camp and an opposing anti-imperialist one has some allure. An internationalism that puts international working class solidarity ahead of geopolitical sharp lines, on the other hand, is a somewhat more challenging and complicated project.

One of the problems with the campist perspective is that it draws upon some very definite partial truths. The threat of US imperialism and the need to defeat it is anything but a fanciful consideration. This means that when movements of social resistance break out in countries that Washington has in its sights, US sanctions are often part of the problem, and the threat of military intervention is a very real factor. Yet, the notion that Iranian workers shouldn’t go on strike or that the Uyghurs should endure colonial dispossession for the good of a greater “anti-imperialism” must be rejected as completely absurd.

It is also quite true that allegations of Western intelligence intrigue and the existence of reactionary currents within such movements are also likely to have some basis in truth. The US flag wavers in Hong Kong that The Grayzone triumphantly revealed to us do actually represent a “pro-US and anti-Chinese far-right forms of Hong Kong localism” perspective that is very significant and should not be ignored or disregarded. There is no doubt that the CIA and reactionary emigres were doing all they could to influence the protests I describe above in Cuba. Yet, the unsullied anti-imperialist camp is a fantasy just as antiseptic, risk-free movements of social struggle are not part of the real world. The overriding consideration is that the countries that are on Washington’s disapproved list are themselves sites of class struggle and resistance to oppression, and that simply isn’t a reality we can shy away from.

Some months ago, I had a conversation with one particular and by no means insignificant representative of the campist viewpoint on a specific struggle being taken up by Iranian workers, and he said something that rather surprised me. He actually acknowledged that the exploitative conditions and wage theft being resisted by these workers were real and even conceded that their strike was justified. However, he was of the view that, since we could do nothing to influence the course of events, it was better to stay silent because any support we gave those workers would only serve the interests of US imperialism.

This was, of course, an exceptionally crude way of viewing things, but it does speak to the problem with the whole campist perspective. It arrives at a point where the struggles of working class people become, at best, an inconvenience against the backdrop of geopolitical realignment. In the case I just mentioned, so repressive and dreadful an institution as the Iranian regime had to be legitimized, at the price of turning away from a courageous workers’ struggle, for the good of a sad caricature of anti-imperialism.

It may be true that working class movements in Canada have a very limited ability to impact the decisions of the Iranian government, but the notion of wanting to hush up the struggles of workers in that country is simply rotten politics. We should be doing all we can to make working class people in our country aware of the struggles of those workers and to let them know that we are in solidarity with their vital and inspiring resistance.

The struggles that working class people take up must never be something we want to deny, and we must never be on the side of those who exploit them or unleash repression in the interests of the exploiters. We understand that our most important contribution to the international struggle is to defeat our own class enemy at home, and we oppose and work to defeat its acts of aggression. However, the class struggle, wherever it is being waged, comes first, and we must never and under no circumstances put the camp ahead of the class.

  1. Dan La Botz, “Internationalism, Imperialism, and the Origins of Campism,” New Politics XVII, no. 4, Winter 2022. 
  2. Ibid.
  3. TeleSUR, “NATO’s Encirclement of Russia Threatens Peace, Warns Venezuela,” February 26, 2022. 
  4. TeleSUR, “‘Russia Does Not Plan to Occupy Ukraine’: Lavrov,” February 25, 2022. 
  5. Africa Times, Editorial, “Is China the Neocolonial Power in Africa,” October 27, 2019. 
  6. Al-Jumhuriya, “Erasing the People Through Disinformation: The Anti-Imperialism of Fools,” March 27, 2021, trans. Mjmwah ktab, https://aljumhuriya.net/en/2021/03/27/محو-الناس-عبر-التضليل-سوريا-وأنتي-إمب/.  
  7. Jens Stoltenberg, “The Secretary General’s Annual Report 2021,” March 31, 2022, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_193590.htm
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