Al Qaeda

Is libertarian socialism possible in North Africa?

Is libertarian socialism possible in North Africa? Is it even possible to struggle for it in an organised way? What about West Africa? Central Africa?

These are the regions I am trying to educate myself about now. South of Europe.  There are hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, and I have been trying to find out why.

Of course, I knew the general picture – Wars, Poverty, environmental destruction, corrupt and oppressive governments – and I knew that all these things in one way or another are the fault of transnational capitalists and the big imperialist states, of which most sit on the UN Security Council.

But now I’m trying to find out which way or another. Which transnational corporations, companies and capitalists are making money out of where, with help from who, and with what consequences? It’s a big question, made up of a great deal of smaller ones.

Of course, there are lots of books available, and lots of documentaries, but you’d be surprised how little actually. Or perhaps you wouldn’t.

Most countries in the Sahara and Sahel regions do not have TV networks producing high quality journalism in the English language, because of government repression, a general lack of resources, and sometimes just because of the generally chaotic situation.

Two English-language broadcasters who do have quite a lot of stuff up there on YouTube for free are Al Jazeera – owned by Qatar, and Press TV, owned by Iran. Iran and Qatar have completely contradictory geopolitical interests for the most part, and it is no surprise that Al Jazeera and Press TV often report contradictory narratives.

For example, take the war in the north of Mali. Al Jazeera glorifies the struggle of the Tuaregs for an independent State called Azawad with many emotional interviews and personal stories. Press TV says that hardly anyone in the north of Mali actually wants independence and it’s all a French conspiracy.

So basically, both of these channels are trying to appeal to Westerners who have anti-imperialist sympathies, as of course is Russia Today. But all of them are actually controlling information and constructing narratives to suit the interests of various imperialist states and, one must suppose, transnational capitalists.

How many Tuaregs actually wanted independence? Al Jazeera could just be focusing on the minority who do and making it seem like they represent them all, or Press TV, who don’t provide any evidence for their statistics, could be making it all up. Al Jazeera makes no mention of possible French interests in stirring up the conflict, though is usually quite critical of French imperialism.

So you can’t just base your ideas on what is on TV, is the conclusion. You have to go back to the basics.

When Britain, France and other imperialist powers directly colonised countries in Africa, and in other parts of the world, they basically wanted to export resources back to their imperial centres to sell to their people, or to convert in factories to something else which they could sell to people both in the colonies and in Europe.

So they needed to make sure that some roads and ports got built, as well as mines, plantations and a few shitty houses for native workers to sleep in, but that was about it. They definitely didn’t want these countries to have big industries of their own so that they could produce their own goods, because then they wouldn’t have to buy them from the imperialists.

Today in Africa you still see people using industrially-made products that are imported from outside Africa, only now the companies are not only European but Asian and American as well. You still also see African resources mainly being exported outside of Africa to Europe, Asia and the Americas.

So it’s clear that despite many changes of government in the past 60 or more years since these countries became independent, not that much has changed in terms of the basic economic set-up.  In colonial times, this economic set-up was based on the brutal force of a completely undemocratic state, and again, not much has changed.

So what about libertarian socialism? As Nationalism, Marxist-Leninism, Islamic Fundementalism and even ‘African Socialism’ have all failed to actually change the basic situation that African workers, peasants and landless, unemployed refugees are in, could a non-statist political movement work?

What has usually happened when countries have had mass political movements for independence from European empires is that their leaders have taken over the state structures and economic infrastructure that the Europeans left and have been corrupted or bullied by the Europeans and Americans into keeping everything basically the same as it was before.

Often there has been a bit of a struggle, usually taking the form of military coups and civil war, which when you look a bit closer turn out not to be a bunch of ‘mindless savages killing each other for no reason’ or whatever the Western media tries to present it as, but actually a bunch of armed groups funded by different imperialist powers fighting each other, or just one group funded by the West fighting another group which genuinely wants to nationalise the wealth of the country.

Unfortunately most of these armed fighters who have simply wanted to nationalise the wealth of the country have also been guilty of killing civilians and so cannot be supported uncritically, even if the imperialist stooges they are fighting are far worse.

Increasingly the anti-imperialist fighters are fucking crazy Islamic fundamentalists who kill anyone they don’t like, oppress women, kill LGBT people, and do all sorts of other stupid bullshit.

So what about libertarian socialism? What about a movement that says the same thing as all the others have said ‘stop exporting all the resources at the barrel of a gun’ but which instead of saying ‘then give it to our new state in the name of Allah, Socialism, the Nation or Whatever’ says ‘let the workers control the means of production directly at the level of the shopfloor?’

What about NO state? What about communities running their own affairs in municipal assemblies, workers running their own workplaces, everyone electing all individuals to be put in any position of responsibility or authority and having the power to instantly recall them if they abuse it?

What about villages, neighbourhoods, workplaces, all being self-governing and choosing delegates, again subject to instant recall, to go to regional or industrial meetings to coordinate production and distribution between themselves as and when is necessarily, with no fixed centralised authority?

There are some African political activists calling for such a thing. There are anarchist movements in South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, maybe other places. But it is a very small movement in a very big continent.

Travelling activists have always played a role in the history of the anarchist movement. Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, Emma Goldman, Makhno, they all moved across borders many times in their lives, spreading ideas along the way and linking together organised workers and revolutionaries in different countries.

It seems to be that Europe has quite a lot of educated people of libertarian socialist opinions (whether they use that term or not) who are not particularly ‘engaged in revolutionary struggle’ right now – and North Africa is the closest place to go for most Western Europeans, where they would be able to find actual revolutionary conditions.

In Europe, conditions are not revolutionary because the ‘masses’ are far too bourgeois. There is an ‘underclass’ or lumpenproletariat of people who have nothing much too lose and everything to gain from social revolution. The majority of people, though, are enjoying the benefits of transnational capitalist imperialism far too much.

Look at me, for instance. I am unemployed, yet I can still eat and have a roof over my head, because the food I eat is mostly grown in other countries and the producers paid a fraction of the low prices that I pay for it, out of money that the State in my country is able to afford to pay me, just to stop me getting too angry, because it is a rich State that makes wealth by exporting high tech arms and financial services around the world to maintain the global, brutal capitalist order which it helped create in the first place.

Now take the average unemployed person in Morocco, the closest African country to me. They don’t get given money by the State just for being unemployed. The state isn’t going to pay the impoverished masses there money to stop them getting too agitated. Instead it relies on brute force and a network of government informers in every neighbourhood.

The Moroccan state couldn’t afford the kind of social welfare system that exists in the UK. They have what money the Western imperialist governments let them have, through the World Bank, foreign aid, or direct investment, which is very little.

Say they wanted to buy a load of landmines from a Western company. Well, I’m sure a Western bank would lend them the money, and a Western government would encourage them to. Then the Western arms company would have more money, and so would the bank, so that Western government would have a higher GDP. The same people might even own the bank, the arms company, and control the government. In effect they have just given the Moroccan state a bunch of weapons for free, because they wanted to anyway, to keep down the pesky Moroccan workers. But you may as well make shit loads of money at the same time.

So basically, in Europe you have a lot of revolutionaries with not much potential for revolution, and in Africa you have a lot of potential for revolution without enough revolutionaries. So how about some redistribution?

To be clear – I am not at all calling on European activists to come and ‘save Africa’ or any shit like that. We are not going to ‘bring anarchism’ to the masses. Anarchism doesn’t work like that. It is not the same as Marxism.

Marxists, especially Marxist-Leninists, believe that the people are basically too stupid to govern themselves, but that if a bunch of Marxist intellectuals come along at the right time and boss them around a bit, maybe those intellectuals could take over the State, and boss the people around some more, until one day, far in the future, the people will be ready to govern themselves.

Anarchists believe that people are able to govern themselves now, if only they would be given a fucking chance. Being given a chance includes acquiring land, tools and other means of production while being free from external oppression for long enough to get something going.

So whereas Marxists, for their strategy to work, need to go around convincing people that Marxism is a belief system that makes sense, but that is just too complicated for the workers to understand, and that they, the Marxists, are very clever and should be listened to and obeyed all the time if the workers know what’s good for them, anarchists have no need to behave like this.

Anarchists just need to go along, pitch in, help out, just like everyone else, and stay true to their principles, being as open and honest about them as is possible without getting shot in the head. At the most, anarchists need to convince workers of the value of themselves, not of anarchist theory.

For example, if you say to someone, ‘you can do that yourself, you don’t need some big shot to do it for you” and they say ‘oh no, for sure, I couldn’t do that, not little old me”, you just need to tell ‘em they shouldn’t be so down on themselves. Just be encouraging, like a mate.

There are people in Africa who cry out for foreigners to come and solve all their problems for them. They may not particularly be happy with a bunch of foreigners coming and saying ‘no, do it yourself, but we can help out a bit if you like’, but hey. Fuck ‘em. You can’t treat someone differently because they are from a different country. If some dickhead came up to me in England and asked me to solve all their problems for me I would tell them the same thing.

There can be no revolution in Europe without revolution in Africa. When people there kick out the multinational corporations and destroy all the dictatorships, taking the wealth of their countries into their own hands, directly, you know what will happen here in Europe? We won’t have any fucking food to eat, or petrol to drive cars with, uranium to power our laptops, or coltan to make those laptops out of. Then you might see some revolution. Then the European working classes might think about rising up and seizing the land, factories, and other means of production.

So that is the basis on which I am saying European activists should go to Africa – as revolutionaries who see no borders as being real, and know that our liberation is bound up with the liberation of all people, all around the world. We should use our privileged access to resources – as well as other privileges such as relative freedom of movement and in many cases skin colour privileges – to support working-class, peasant and landless people’s struggles for liberation – helping to build connections between movements in different countries, on the basis of non-hierarchical, horizontal organising, and resisting all bureaucratic or authoritarian tendencies in those movements from within.

It’s a lot to ask, I know, and potentially very dangerous. But what else is there? Shall we let Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb be the leading voice of opposition to capitalist imperialism in the region while we sit in Europe watching things get worse and worse from a distance?

Or should we practice what we preach?

The West Supports Islamic Terrorism When It Suits It’s Geopolitical Interests

Some people may take me as a “conspiracy theorist” for what i’m about to say, so let me make this clear:

It doesn’t matter to me whether or not 9/11 was an “inside job”. Nor does it matter to me whether or not the moon landing was fake, or whether Stanley Kubric was the one who filmed it. I don’t care whether or not Jay Z, Rhianna or even Obama are members of Satanic cults. I don’t even really care whether or not reptilian aliens from the other side of the galaxy have been secretly running all human civilisations for the past 130,000 years.

But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter if powerful people are secretly doing things which lead to the deaths of civilians that they then lie about. Killing civilians is not acceptable by most people’s standards of morality, and what’s more it goes against the Geneva convention, as does torture and the mistreatment or prisoners of war. If a government which has signed the Geneva convention does these things, the officials responsible are War Criminals.

Not lizards, or satanists or members of whatever New World Order you think is going on, but War Criminals. War Criminals who don’t want to be brought to justice, and would rather hide their tracks. If possible, they would rather be remembered as heroes, not criminals, or failing that not remembered at all.

If the West is at war against Islamist Terrorism, that’s one thing. Of course, “terrorist” is a slightly meaningless label given that most of the West’s enemies would call it’s leaders terrorists as well.  Whenever someone uses violence to achieve their political goals, then their opponents will probably call them a terrorist. It’s a subjective definition.

So let’s just stick with the term “War Criminal”, because that’s a lot more clear-cut. If a rebel group attacks a nation state, even killing military personnel in the process, they are not necessarily war criminals. In fact they may be completely dedicated to achieving a lasting peace and a democratic system of government, only resorting to violence because their enemies are so despotic and brutal that they are ensuring perpetual conflict.

However, anyone, whether they are a Nation-State, a rebel group or a mercenary squad, who kills civilians, tortures people or mistreats/kills prisoners of war, is a War Criminal, whatever their ideology, nationality or size.

The leaders of the West (broadly speaking, the NATO powers) are War Criminals. The mistreatment of prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay is well known, and this is only one site at which prisoners of the “war against Terror” are tortured. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq due to Western bombs and bullets are also well known. Again Iraq is only the most famous recent example: Western bombs killed plenty of civilians in Libya, Mali, Afghanistan and Pakistan too, to name just a few examples.

Also War Criminals are the leaders of Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Boko Haram, Al Nusra and any other Islamist militant group that targets civilians, torture’s people or kills or mistreats prisoners of war. So in this “War of Terror” both “sides” are War Criminals. Both can be called terrorists too, if you like that term. But it is of course more complicated than that, because there are not just two sides. There are too many “Islamist groups” in the world for anyone to be able to count them all, and they are not all united in common cause, with common leadership or even with a common ideology.

The West gets around this complexity by simply referring to them all as if they were the same, much as they used to refer all leftists and serious labour organisers around the world “Communists”, and for much the same reason. So that they can kill them, and their citizens will not object to it because the majority of those citizens have been convinced that “Communists”, or “Islamists” are a deadly threat.

But this lumping of all Islamic militants in the same category plays another function as well, which is to disguise the fact that the West is only really at war with some of these groups, and is in fact funding or operationally supporting others. This is the point at which some people will say i’m a conspiracy theorist, so i guess i’d better name drop some respected journalists and academics who have collected a wealth of empirical evidence for these claims: Michel Chossudovsky and Jeremy Scahill are good places to start.

I am going to focus on the bigger picture of the basic theory. Lets start with three basic assumptions: 1. Imperialism is a lot easier if the imperialist nations don’t have to fight all their own wars but can instead get the people who have already been conquered to fight them instead. 2. Imperialism is also a lot easier is the people who are being conquered are too busy fighting ethnic wars against one another instead of uniting against their colonisers. 3. Imperialism is even easier if the colonised people don’t even see themselves as such but instead are deluded into thinking they are citizens of independent sovereign nations.

Today we have a world divided between three major imperialist powers (Russia, China and the West) with a few countries led by governments who at least try to maintain a degree of independence (e.g. Iran, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela). Most of the world’s supposedly independent sovereign nations are actually Western proxy governments, since the West is the most militarily superior imperialist power.

Instead of ruling these countries’ peoples directly as colonial subjects, the West installs pseudo-democratic governments. These governments hold elections, but if the population elects a candidate the West doesn’t like, they will either be assassinated by agents working for the west, or their entire government will be overthrown by rebels armed by the West.

Two important books documenting this overall pattern are “War is a Racket” by Major General Smedley Butler and “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins, both of whom were actually heavily involved in this process and who later choose to expose it through their writings.

If the colonised people happen to vote for pro-Western candidates in their fake elections then they stand a chance of being able to live in peace. If not, and if they organised armed rebellion against whatever government the West imposes on them by force, they will most likely be drawn into a civil war that takes on ethnic dimensions.

Their revolutionary army will be infiltrated by Western agents who will do all they can do split the organisation into rival warring factions on ethnic lines, or the West will simply form a new “rebel” group to fight against them from the outside. Western propaganda, and the propaganda of the Western proxies on the ground, will constantly emphasise the ethnic dimensions of the conflict.

This could be done for example by forming a rival rebel group comprised of members of only one ethnic group to attack the genuine revolutionaries. This would be likely to inflame passions all across the country and perhaps lead to the spontaneous formation of other rebel armies representing only one ethnic group. Then the war will appear to outsiders and even to the citizens of the country to be an ethnic war rather than one between an imperialist country and it’s subjects.

Sometimes Russia, China, Iran or some other anti-western power will also be funding one of the other rebel armies, or perhaps the government the rebels are fighting itself. This is what’s going on in Syria: Russia is supporting the Assad regime, Iran are supporting Hezbollah, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supporting various other rebel groups. It must be pretty annoying (to say the least!) to be a genuine Syrian revolutionary and having to work with all these imperialists!

The interesting this is that the NATO powers do not directly fund the rebels, instead they fund Saudi Arabia and Qatar and let them fund rebels, though CIA, M16 and other western secret service agencies are almost certainly playing more direct roles than the Western governments are publicly letting on. Nonetheless, it is an example of the kind of long twisted hierarchies of power in modern Imperialism.

The interesting by-product of this complexity is that the West finds itself actually funding groups who share the kind of Islamist ideology that the West declared war against after 9/11. Some of the Syrian rebels, like Al Nusra are openly in allegiance with “Al Qaeda”, as the West itself admits and complains about. But they don’t tell Saudi Arabia or Qatar to stop funding them.

“Al Qaeda” itself is not the most coherent of organisations, but rather many different organisations pursuing different objectives in different parts of the world with different leadership structures. This is how it is possible for some Al Qaeda groups to be working with the West, as in Syria, and some working against the West, as in most places.

The point is, all of this should be enough to show that the West do not really care about fighting Al Qaeda or Islamist militancy per se. They will support or fight against these groups depending on other factors, as to whether or not it seems to suit their short term geopolitical interests.

So what are these interests? Well, the financial system or the western world (by which we mean all it’s quasi colonies in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Australasia as well as simply the imperial heartlands of Europe and North America) is still dominated by the US dollar. The value of the US dollar, and thus the integrity of the whole system, is based on it’s link to energy supplies, especially Oil and Gas. If Oil and Gas are sold in dollars at a good price, then the West is happy. If not, it’s not.

This is why we always hear about war or tense diplomatic relations concerning the West in countries where there are Oil and Gas reserves under the ground: (e.g. Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Mali, DRC, Venezuela), or where Oil or Gas pipelines would have to be built (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia).

For the rest of the Western colonies in the world the explanation is slightly simpler. There’s no point going to all that trouble ensuring the ratio of value between US Dollars to Oil is OK if no workers are being exploited to turn natural resources into commodities for those dollars to be spent on. So the West makes sure that the countries with the raw materials are run by regimes who’ll sell them to the West cheaply, and the countries with the workers will be run by regimes who’ll keep wages down by violently repressing trades-unions and other social movements of the poor.

The companies making money off of the cheap labour power and raw materials, are of course all based in the West and their owners go to the same parties as Western military and political leaders, since they are members of the same social class- the ruling class.

So there you go. It’s not all an Evil conspiracy. It’s just plain, good old-fashioned Imperialist War crimes being covered up behind a smokescreen of democracy for the benefit of capitalists.