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(en) US, Turning the Tide Vol. 19, #1 - It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over: Editorial

Date Sun, 01 Jan 2006 09:52:43 +0200

It has recently become fashionable among some pundits to declare that the
war in Iraq is over, that the Bush presidency is effectively over, or even
that the U.S. Empire is dead or dying. Frank Rich opined in the NY Times
that the war in Iraq is over, it's just that Bush doesn't realize it. Kim
Scipes wrote for Z Magazine that "It's the Beginning of the End-For the
Empire, Not Just the War." In CounterPunch, Gabriel Kolko recently wrote a
piece entitled, "Defeated in Iraq, Bankrupt at Home, Despised Around the
Globe (And That's Just the Good News): The Decline of the American Empire."
Perhaps this is a reflection on the left of Bush's belief that he can rule
by fiat, or what the Czar in Russia called a "ukaze" - the idea that
declaring it makes it so, as in his infamous declaration on Iraq: "Mission
Accomplished." Perhaps the left is so tired of defeats and defeatism that
it wants to simply declare victory. But as Bush has learned to his chagrin,
saying something is so doesn't make it so. Although defeatism has plagued
the people's movements (at least in the US) since the days of COINTELPRO,
it will not be overcome by simple declarations of success. As African
revolutionary Amilcar Cabral said, "Tell no lies, claim no easy victories."

Instead, what is needed is a meticulous analysis of the contradictions and
weaknesses facing the enemy, and a careful assessment of their strengths -
and a critical and self-critical evaluation of the strengths, weaknesses
and possibilities of unity among the anti-imperialist, popular forces. That
understanding must lead to a relentless practice of struggle against the
Empire in all its manifestations. It is important to recognize that
imperialism is, as Mao called it, a "paper tiger," but also to understand
that it has real, deadly teeth, and that as its situation becomes more
extreme, its actions will become ever more vicious.

Mirroring the Empire's tendency to declare premature victories is exactly
the wrong way to go. The "credibility gap" during the Vietnam War, with its
constant declarations of "light at the end of the tunnel," was a
contributing factor to the development of a revolutionary anti-imperialist
opposition during the 1960s. Similarly, the blatant lies of the current
regime are a critical factor in helping to strip the empire of its air of
invincibility. But what gave the lie to Johnson and Nixon's declarations
was the unyielding resistance of the Vietnamese people, and the
simultaneous development of liberation movements among colonized people
within the US itself.

In the same way, what has exposed Bush's mendacity is not merely the
falsity of his "facts," but the unwillingness of the Iraqi people, despite
shock, awe and tens of thousands of fatalities, to bow to his will. What
turned the tide on US support for Bush and the second Gulf War was the
exposure by Katrina of his contempt for the people of the Gulf Coast, and
of the realities of colonialism and oppression inside US borders.

The desire by some in the anti-war movement to declare the war over
reflects the way in which they tail the Democratic Party. They seized upon
the declaration of Rep. Murtha for a date-certain troop withdrawal, and on
the public opinion polls showing majority opposition to the war and low
approval ratings for Bush. But "public opinion" will not stop the war
today, any more than its vigorous expression worldwide in massive
demonstrations before Bush commenced hostilities deterred him. If there are
indeed divisions among or a weakening of will within our rulers, that is
the moment to intensify our resistance. We must more vigorously pursue
every means to impede the war machine, whether through war tax resistance,
material and political support to Iraqi opponents of US occupation,
counter-recruitment organizing and support for GI resistance to the war.
Now is definitely not the time to unite with a section of the rulers who
want to pursue the same strategy of US domination by a slightly different
tactic, for example air war instead of ground troops. The record of history
is clear that the absorption of a substantial segment of the anti-war
movement during Vietnam into the Democratic Party campaigns of McCarthy and
McGovern actually lengthened the war. It strengthened the hand of the state
to carry out its COINTELPRO counterinsurgency against liberation forces
inside the US.

On the other side of the coin of those who would declare premature victory
because some Democratic office-holders have spoken out, others have
declared premature defeat on domestic battles. They say "the Battle of New
Orleans" is effectively over, hopeless in the face of Bush's stupidity and
cupidity. Mike Tidwell, in a widely circulated piece called "Goodbye New
Orleans," wrote: "As someone who dearly loves New Orleans and has
experienced many of her charms, it pains me immeasurably to call for this
retreat. This is not a rhetorical stunt or a shock argument meant to invite
compromise talks...[but] because the Bush Administration has already given
New Orleans a quiet kiss of death now that the story has run its news
cycle... I say: Shut the city down and board it up before thousands more
lives are lost."

We cannot accept Bush's corporate plan for the quiet destruction and ethnic
cleansing of that Black metropolis. The belief that "You can't fight City
Hall," that there is no point to risk opposing and resisting the Empire
because its victory is a foregone conclusion, has been one of the key
obstacles facing our movements for more than a generation. It feeds
identification with the oppressor, white supremacy and neo-colonialism. It
allows empire-compatible strategies such as religious fundamentalism,
racial nationalism, and social-democratic reformism to take root and grow
among oppressed and exploited people. We need to break the grip of the
imperialist belief system that "There Is No Alternative." In that regard,
the Empire's own belief that it can win simply by establishing a "fait
accompli" (an accomplished fact), what the Israelis refer to as "facts on
the ground," is in fact a weakness of theirs. No struggle is over as long
as collective resistance continues. But to exploit that weakness of false
confidence by the rulers, we need to figure out how to amass our strengths
and build our resistance, not simply for survival, but for building a new
and different world.

The Empire would have us believe that its system is "a done deal." The key
to exposing that as a lie is to say - "No Deal!" We cannot bargain or
negotiate for liberation except when we have the power to exact deadly
consequences on the colonizers. We need to recognize that the choice is not
between Republicans and Democrats, between neo-conservatives and
neo-liberals, but between slavery and freedom, between sustainability and
genocide or ecocide. We have an irreconcilable contradiction with the
Empire as a whole. To turn its internal contradictions to our advantage, we
must figure out how to unite our forces and how to overcome our own
internalized contradictions. That's why opposition to white and male
supremacy, to elitism and hierarchy within our own practice and our own
ranks is so important. It's why recognition of anti-colonial struggles and
the right to self-determination of oppressed and colonized people within
the borders imposed by imperialism is so vital. It's why not merely
upholding the example of unyielding resistance by freedom fighters captured
and imprisoned by the Empire, but concretely developing strategies to free
them from the Empire's grasp, is so necessary. On every front of struggle -
defense of the earth, defense of human rights, defense of labor and land -
new struggles here in the US as well as globally are learning anew the
lesson that effectiveness in the struggle means further repression,
incarceration and assassination of freedom fighters.

The insoluble contradiction faced by the Empire is that it extracts its
life's-blood from the very people it exploits and oppresses. But to bring
this contradiction to fruition by toppling that system means that
leadership must come from those who are exploited and oppressed and
organized to transform their conditions of existence once and for all. US
setbacks in Iraq and in Latin America, exposures of imperial callousness
and incapacity in response to climatic catastrophes must be capitalized on
by struggling ever harder for practical international solidarity, for
making imperialist profit-taking impossible, for direct action to meet
human and planetary needs.

We can't accept "No" for an answer on the demand for the self-determined
reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, or for the immediate,
unconditional withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, the
Philippines, or ultimately for the decolonization of the North American
Empire itself.

Responses to this editorial are always welcome. A free sample copy of
"Turning the Tide" is available (in the U.S.) by writing to ARA-LA, PO Box
1055, Culver City CA 90232; antiracistaction_la@yahoo.com. Subscriptions to
TTT are $16 for six bimonthly issues, payable to "MIchael Novick" at the
above address; subscriptions are free to prisoners and active duty military.
This is the editorial from the new issue of "Turning the Tide: Journal of
Anti-Racist Action, Research & Education," Volume 19 Number 1,
January-February 2006:

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over
Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-LA/People Against Racist Terror
* Turning the Tide is a Journal of Anti-Racist Action (ARA) - which is
an antiauthoritarian anticapitalist social struggle direct action network
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