By Stansfield Smith – Feb 10, 2024
Fidel Castro, the world recognizes as a historic anti-imperialist figure, repeatedly warned that the main danger to humanity is US imperialism: “There is an enemy that can be called universal, an enemy whose attitude and whose actions…threaten the whole world, bully the whole world, that universal enemy is Yankee imperialism.” He fought to build a world united front against imperialism, of the world’s peoples and countries to oppose the barbarous actions of US imperialism. We see that anti-imperialist unity right now with United Nations votes and worldwide protests against the US-Israeli slaughters in Gaza, in what the New York Times in 2003 called “a second superpower.”
The US empire is opposed to not just revolutionary movements, but to any struggles that place national sovereignty above the interests of the US corporations. The US may pretend the issue is the defense of democracy and human rights, but its only concern is obedience to its dictates.
Imperialism uses human rights and democracy issues in countries it targets for “regime change” as a rationale for foreign interference. It cooks up human rights horror stories – killings of students in Nicaragua in 2018, Qaddafi’s plans for mass rape and murder in Libya, Hamas mass killing and rape of civilians on October 7, Chinese genocide in Xinjiang, Iran’s killing of Mahsa Amin in 2022, Evo Morales stealing an election in 2019, Cuba’s repression of mass protests in 2021, Russia’s “unprovoked” intervention into Ukraine, Syria’s Assad chemical weapons attack on his own people, Venezuela’s President Maduro fixing elections, Chavez’ supporters killing protestors in 2002, and on and on. The only truth is that the US corporate media constantly lies to us to win support for their interventions.
How Progressives Legitimize Imperialist “Regime Change” Propaganda
Many progressive people swallow and even join in these disinformation campaigns in countries the US targets for regime change. They are not simply calling out human rights abuses “from the left,” but help legitimize US propaganda stories, becoming witting or unwitting conveyor belts for them into our movement. As a result, people come to believe that a country targeted for “regime change” may be unworthy of our solidarity against US aggression. Cast aside is the key issue: the US empire has no right to intervene in other countries, period.
In contrast, anti-imperialists focus on uncovering and bringing to light US disinformation and interference in the national sovereignty of other countries. For instance, what was sold as a popular uprising against Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega “dictatorship” was financed with hundreds of millions of US government dollars, or that the White Helmets, alleged “humanitarian” group in the Syrian “revolution,” was funded by the British and US governments and its leader connected to British intelligence MI6.
Some progressives’ back-handed apologetics for imperialist regime change date back at least to Leon Trotsky, who proclaimed, for example, “I consider the main source of danger to the USSR in the present international situation to be Stalin and the oligarchy headed by him.” (Stalin After the Finnish Experience, March 13, 1940) Whatever your view on Stalin’s conduct in the 1930s, the world knew that Hitler planned to annihilate Soviet Russia, welcomed by imperial Britain, France, and the US, before, and even after the Soviet Union was a World War II ally. But to Trotsky, the main danger to Russia and the revolution was the dictatorship, not imperialism. This approach of criticizing leaderships of targeted countries, not imperialist aggression, and not organizing movements against it, is too common among progressives today. It portrays an elementary lack of anti-imperialist consciousness.
Anti-imperialists understand that no country can have any real democracy – whatever you imagine that is – because the US is constantly working to impose subservient governments throughout the world. The empire regards the world as its domain, possessing 800-900 military bases outside its own borders. US imperialism is ever vigilant looking for a chance to overturn a “disobedient” government. “History teaches too eloquently that those who forget this do not survive the error,” said Castro. When targeted countries live under this ever-present threat, how can freedom and democracy flourish? They are forced to take measures to protect their people’s human right to national sovereignty.
Do targeted countries commit actual abuses? How could peoples ruled for centuries by imperial overlords, who treated them as human animals, not commit abuses when suddenly they came to power and had to deal with constant imperial pressure to overthrow them again? Even with outstanding revolutionary leaders such as Cuba’s Fidel, or Russia under Lenin, abuses were committed. Anti-imperialists place the blame where it primarily belongs: not on targets of US imperialism, but on centuries of imperialist abuse of their peoples – which only continued once those peoples came to power.
Many Progressives’ Failure to Grasp US Imperialism’s Tools for Intervention
The US uses many tools to interfere in countries, turning to military invasion as a last resort when all else fails. The world’s leaders constantly experience this US meddling. Yet US people, even progressives, have little grasp of its scope. Julian Assange, who remains imprisoned for his invaluable work, gave us some idea of how the US rulers operate behind our backs.
The US also intervenes through CIA-involved coups – at least 27 operations just in Latin America in the 21st century, almost all unknown to the public. The CIA and military spy agencies possess a publicly admitted budget of $100 billion for coups, assassinations, and other undercover terrorist actions against countries the corporate media lambasts as “human rights violators”.
US corporations bribe foreign government figures to sell out their people’s well-being to US interests. We know very little about how they constantly squeeze and blackmail governments, though Confessions of an Economic Hitman provides examples.
Few progressives understand how the US rulers weaponize their control of the international banking and trade system to wreck other economies. They have the power to shut down a country’s foreign trade and foreign funding. The US blockades countries, and forces other nations to comply – North Korea since 1950, and Cuba since 1962. It blockades Syria, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, even kidnapping their businesspeople as “money launderers” for engaging in legal trade. It employs economic warfare on 30 more countries, causing genuine human rights problems. Clearly, no country fighting to survive under these conditions can permit unrestricted freedom and democracy. That was first brought home by the benevolence and democracy of the Paris Commune, which enabled its enemies to crush it, slaughtering over 30,000 Communards.
The US uses its domination of the world media to paint targeted governments as nefarious actors. It controls nine of the top ten media companies, along with the internet and social media, such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook. Worldwide, they spread disinformation packaged as “news,” often a more effective weapon than US military might. Caitlin Johnstone noted, “Before they launch missiles, they launch propaganda campaigns. Before they roll out tanks, they roll out narratives.” These form an integral part of war campaigns, softening up our opposition to interventions, often so skillfully that they garner support for intervention among anti-war forces – witness the Libya, Syria, and Ukraine wars.
We know little of their use of US and foreign NGOs, both government and corporate funded ones, to influence a targeted nation’s community and popular organizations, as it did with environmental and indigenous groups seeking to overthrow Ecuador’s Rafael Correa and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. Even the “Arab Spring” of 2011 was manipulated to impose pro-imperialist regimes.
We know even less of this government and corporate funding and manipulation of alternative and progressive media outlets in our own country.
The proper work of anti-imperialists is uncovering and educating other working people about US coup attempts and terrorist actions, corporate arm-twisting of foreign figures, the weaponizing of international banking and finance through the dollar’s continued dominance, and the use of NGOs as regime change tools. This is authentic anti-imperialist work, not critiquing victimized countries’ real or concocted human rights abuses or their responses to US aggression.
The Rulers tell us in Advance who they Plan to “Regime Change”
It is no mystery for progressive people who the US empire will target for “regime change” – it is typically well-publicized in advance with media propaganda onslaughts about abuses in some countries. Or we are given direct statements, as when Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman interviewed General Wesley Clark in 2007, who revealed the US had planned in 2001 not just to attack Afghanistan, but seven other countries: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran, which it then did. Or, in 2008, Congress publicly approved President Bush’s request for $400 million “to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran.” A year later, the anti-government Green Movement broke out, followed by US-backed protests in 2017-19 and 2022. In 2012, Ron Paul detailed in Congress military plans to overthrow the Syrian government. Oliver Stone’s widely viewed 2016 film Ukraine on Fire examined the US-instigated coup by anti-Russian fascists, which overthrew a neutral government and installed a pro-NATO government threatening Russia.
Yet those public forewarnings did not stop many in the movement from supporting wars on these countries, including Amy Goodman herself. They often disguised both the US role and their support, even adapting the language of the empire itself: not as imperial wars against “disobedient” countries, but as popular democratic movements against dictatorship. In fact, many who declare themselves sworn enemies of the US empire nevertheless oppose the same governments as our imperial overlords: Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Russia, China, Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Building a united world front against imperialist brutality seems alien to them.
These progressive people’s approach to imperial war: initial opposition to imperial warmongering, then later support as the war propaganda heightens, camouflaging US-backed intervention as democracy and self-determination movements, harkens back to Marxist parties’ conduct a century ago, when they opposed imperial war until it broke out in 1914. They then squirreled around creating justifications for their betrayal.
While this illustrates the lack of anti-imperialist consciousness of many First World progressives, it also highlights corporate media’s power to sway peace advocates to support US imperial regime change – even while believing they are not. It shows the ease US rulers can still manipulate anti-war sentiment.
Anti-Imperialists must be vigilant in defending National Sovereignty against US Empire’s Operations
Anti-imperialists oppose US meddling in the national sovereignty of other countries. It is the business of the peoples of other lands to solve their own problems, their fundamental democratic right to decide their country’s future by themselves. We must forever demand that the US leave them alone, so they can carry out their task. That is the most effective way we can defend their human rights.
Our task is building a movement that moves the Pentagon’s now over one trillion dollar budget from wrecking other countries to ending homelessness and hunger here, providing free national health care, affordable housing, and free education through university, often human rights enjoyed by the peoples in countries the US seeks to overthrow.
The anti-imperialist, anti-war, and human rights movement here would be much more developed, more powerful, more tied to world revolutionary struggles if the time progressives spent on the defects of countries the US targets were instead devoted to exposing US interference in those peoples’ lives. We need to explain to our fellow working people the methods the US rulers use behind our backs for “regime change,” and for manipulating progressive and working-class movements here at home.
We see an inkling of a world united front against imperialism with the movement against the US-Israeli barbarity in Gaza, one which also exposes the habitual deceit of corporate media. The $18 billion the US provided to maintain Israeli apartheid in 2023 was almost the $20 billion needed to end homelessness here. The $111 billion spent just since 2022 for Ukraine war, which many progressives did support – with Biden wanting $60 billion more – could make public university free ($79 billion a year) and end hunger ($25 billion as of 2016). UN climate scientists say $300 billion a year would stop the rise in greenhouse gases, a mere quarter of the US military budget. We can never achieve these humanitarian goals while the US rulers know they can sway progressives with their regime change propaganda. But we can achieve them by developing an anti-imperialist stand of unconditionally opposing all US empire’s schemes for “regime change.”
Stansfield Smith is a Chicago based anti-imperialist activist. He was active for over a decade in the Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5. His work is now on ChicagoALBASolidarity.wordpress.com. He has written on Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and on North Korea for Counterpunch and others.
- Stansfield Smith#molongui-disabled-linkSeptember 20, 2023
- Stansfield Smith#molongui-disabled-link
- Stansfield Smith#molongui-disabled-link
- Stansfield Smith#molongui-disabled-link