Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Internationalism, interventionism and some other things that don't belong to the ruling class. posted by Richard SeymourI see the Global Day for Darfur wasn't at all as impressive as one might have expected. Blue hats, dare I say it, were not in fashion this Sunday. Leaving aside the well-meaning humanitarians (and there must be some), isn't this because the 'movement' such as it is happens to be led by a campaign group for International Solidarity with Imperialism? The pro-war left and liberal interventionists are anxious for the ruling class to prove themselves worthy of adulation: their acres of verbiage and inches of demonstrators essentially make the appeal "Please, intervene, humanitarianly, somewhere, and prove that we are right to adore you". I have suggested that if these people are serious about Darfur, they should form a solidarity group with the Justice & Equality Movement, presently the main rebel force in Darfur, but I have noticed no movement yet. I'll give a starting donation of a tenner to anyone who does it. I really will.
I haven't detected much agitation from these folks on Myanmar where recent reports have suggested that the mortality rate for young males is close to that achieved in Cambodia under Pol Pot. Possibly, this is because Britain continues to arm the regime despite making flattering noises about Aung San Suu Kyi, and despite having a nominal blockade in place. Perhaps it is because British capitalism does nicely out of the large-scale import of cheap goods. More likely it is because, as I have said, they don't really give two shits: they are much more interested in trying to prove that their own moral fortitude resides in their support for imperialism. There is, in fact, a movement among liberals and human rights activists to support Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese democracy movement, but it isn't calling for war, or even a UN force. And there lies the rub.
For this slender but vocal movement, only the satisfaction of cleansing violence by Western states or (less satisfactorily) via local surrogates is good enough. Internationalism is for them a synonym for boundless international militarism; interventionism is code for invasion. Everything else is superfluous. Of course, the internationalist interventionism in support of Palestine, Iraq, Venezuela, Lebanon and, not so long ago, South Africa cannot possibly count. It cannot be good enough. Mr Blair doesn't get to bomb anyone. It is not nor it cannot come to good, unless the we get to fantasize about the ruling class becoming the armed wing of Amnesty International or executing a revolutionary transformation of the Other in its capacity as a Thomas Jefferson arsenal. The imperial mission force must be allowed to structurally adjust the crap out of assorted TV bad guys. This is one reason why the dramatis personae is so limited, and only states are real players with passive, sullen populations awaiting the arrival of superman: because the worship of power is partially an effect of television. Each week there must be a structured Manichean narrative in which our superheroes seek out evil, destroy it and leave a grateful population smiling and waving. There is half an hour of violent bliss, and then there is closure.
Because mass movements are invisible in the media, because only power has a legitimate purview for them, because other points of view must prove themselves sensible to power, comportable for that narrow spectrum of opinion, some more simple-minded viewers have become persuaded that these movements don't exist and that international solidarity was invented by the ruling class: precisely as William Wilberforce freed the slaves and Winston Churchill defeated fascism, George Bush now emancipates oppressed women, while Blair exhibits the Africa-shaped scar on his conscience and prepares to do something about it. But internationalism, solidarity and interventionism do not belong to the ruling class. The US air force is not the international brigades and the CIA is not the Comintern. Bush is not Sylvia Pankhurst and Blair is not Toussaint L'Ouverture. The attempt at enclosure, at appropriating the historical legacy of Atlantic motley crews, slave rebels, Chartists and revolutionaries, at transforming this legacy into a domesticate fairy tale for infants and infantile adults, is not the least of thefts that the left has to resist.