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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 28, New Delhi, June 27, 2020

Imperialism in Crisis: The Struggle against Racism and War - Report from a Webinar | Jahanzaib Choudhry and Archishman Raju

Friday 26 June 2020


by Jahanzaib Choudhry and Archishman Raju

After seeing the brutal murder of George Floyd in the United States, the question of racism has entered peoples’ minds around the world. There are large anti-racist protests, not just in the United States, but also in Germany, the UK and other European countries. We in India have had a long relationship with the struggle against racism, both through our own struggle against British colonialism and in its relationship to the African-American struggle for freedom. However, the current discussion of racism is confined to seeing it as a subjective matter of individual discrimination rather than recognizing its systemic nature as well as its relationship to imperialism and war. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. argued that there are three evils of American: society, militarism, racism and poverty. Police murders of black people in America are racist as are American wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and around the world.

With this in mind, and to bring clarity to the question of racism as well as its relationship to imperialism, the All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation held an international webinar on 21 June [2020] entitled “Imperialism in Crisis: the struggle against racism and war” featuring speakers and participants from the United States, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The webinar discussed in detail how profound the political crisis in the United States was. As the leader of the multilateral system established after the end of the Second World War, as well as the undisputed world-leader after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a political crisis in the US has consequences for the whole world.

Speakers included Dr. Anthony Monteiro, a long time member of the black freedom struggle in the United States who invoked the memory of the late Romesh Chandra, former president of the World Peace Council. He reminded us that Romesh Chandra had a close relationship with the African American struggle and high regard for its leadership including W.E.B Du Bois and Martin Luther King Jr. He argued that the African American struggle exposed the hypocrisy of American attempts to spread “democracy” around the world. He argued that Donald Trump is a political outsider and a disruptive force in American politics and that, in the words of the poet W.B. Yeats, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”.

This idea of a crisis of imperialism was reiterated by other speakers including Bahman Azad, representing the U.S. Peace Council and S. P. Shukla, former finance secretary of India as well as former Ambassador to GATT. S. P. Shukla argued that global institutions have failed to respond to this crisis. He pointed out that the multilateral system established after the end of the Second World War, and under complete western domination after the collapse of the Soviet Union is unable to deal with the kinds of crises our world faces. He called for the peace movement to base itself on a vision for an alternative world system. He called for the replacement of narrow nationalism with a concern for all humanity which would require us to fundamentally alter how we see the world.

Discussion in the webinar frequently went to the importance of history to the situation we find ourselves in today. Participants brought in the importance of the Non-Aligned Movement and both S.P. Shukla as well as the general secretary of the All India Peace and Solidarity Organization, Arun Kumar explained the importance of NAM and the regretful abandonment of the movement by the current Indian government.

Arun Kumar further said in his remarks that Eduardo Galeano had educated him about the “discovery” of America. He also reminded us that the killing of black people did not begin with Trump and will not stop with him. He, as well as Ramindu Perera from Sri Lanka urged that a more systemic view of racism be taken, to see its relationship with neoliberal capitalism, its relationship with the public health crisis as well as the commonality of the struggles of working people and the poor.

Other speakers, including Taimur Rahman, a professor from Pakistan and Hasan Tarique Chowdhury representing the Afro Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization from Bangladesh brought in a more regional perspective to the discussion. Hasan Chowdhury pointed out that those who support the doctrine of supremacy of a certain religion are often in complete support of imperialism. Taimur Rahman similarly said that there were many internal divisions in our own countries that we forget, that imperialism is not a policy but a system of exploitation and that the anti-imperialist struggle must search for unity to be able to change the systemic nature of exploitation.

Speakers also related the history to our contemporary situation. Bahman Azad pointed out contemporary struggles going on in the U.N., as well as the campaigns to stop American sanctions and reduce the American military budget. He also reinforced the importance of keeping track of the increasing military treaties between America and governments in Asia. Anthony Monteiro ended by saying that this upcoming election may be the most important election that the US has seen for a long time, and that the power struggle among the American elite to attempt to consolidate their hold over a decaying empire must be watched very closely by the world to understand how they should situate their own struggles.

The webinar was moderated by Archishman Raju and attended by around a 100 people who raised questions and comments. Vineet Tiwari from the All India Peace and Solidarity Organization concluded by saying that this would be one of other events expressing the support of the Indian people for struggles in Latin America, Africa and other oppressed people and nations.

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