Last year, on the 16th of January 2012, several groups in the northern region of the West African state of Mali known as Azawad – arguably the most prominent of which was the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) – have initiated an insurgency against the Malian government. By April of that year, despite US imperialist attempts to prop up the Malian army, Azawad came under the control of the rebels, who declared its independence from Mali. Their authority was recognized by neither the European Union nor its agents in the African Union.
In March, a military coup overthrew the Malian government, citing its inability to defeat the insurgency as motivation. The ensuing period saw the increase in tension and conflicts between Nationalist and Islamist forces. The French imperialists have used the presence of Islamist forces, mainly Ansar Dine, and their alleged imposition of Sharia law – specifically, their capture of the town of Konna – as a pretext to invade Mali and prop up the army and central government.
We do not claim to know the ins and outs of Malian politics or history. As a small group working in occupied Palestine, it is difficult for us to study the details of all important world events, even ones as important as this one. However, admitting our relative ignorance does not prevent us from upholding a simple revolutionary principle: whenever there is a war between oppressor and oppressed, we side with latter against the former.
Why? As Marxist revolutionaries, we do not check our communist principles at the door when we leave the borders of “our” own country. In every country in the world, imperialist or not, we uphold the independence of the working class and the need to struggle for a socialist revolution against the capitalists and the state which serves them. However, when confronted with two enemies, one more dangerous and the other less, we sometimes find ourselves having to stop firing at the less dangerous enemy and turn our aim towards the more dangerous one.
Thus, in a conflict between an imperialist force and an oppressed country led by bourgeois forces, we always take the side opposite to that of the imperialists. Nothing special needs to be known to follow this simple, common-sense line. At the same time, we do not for a moment give these organizations an ounce of political support: we do not call on workers to join them or to support them in elections or other such platforms. Our attitude only extends to the military situation. We do not for a moment lie to the workers about these being alien class organizations which will ultimately also attack the working class.
Marxists are very familiar with those who call for neutrality in the case of war “between reactionaries”. Such demands, when they mean equating the oppressor and the oppressed, amount to a support of imperialism. Thus to fail to have defended Hamas against the Zionist-Fatah coup in 2007; to fail to defend the Syrian rebels against the Assad regime in Syria; to fail to defend Hizballah in Lebanon against Zionist attacks; all these positions amount to a defense of imperialism. “Socialists” who take such positions are nothing more than what Lenin would call social-chauvinists: socialists in rhetoric, bourgeois chauvinists and racists in practice.
How? Obviously, we have no military means with which to support the Azawad rebels against French imperialism. However, this should not prevent us from taking a principled position. As all but cynical bourgeois politicians know, principles have value on their own; they raise the possibility that in a different situation, one would act in the interests of the oppressed with all the means one would have. But that is not all, of course. Even outside Mali, revolutionaries can encourage the working class and oppressed to protest the French invasion, explaining the connection between their exploitation and oppression and imperialist savagery. As revolutionaries in one of the most dangerous imperialist countries in the world and the vanguard of the racist anti-Muslim and anti-Arab campaign, we see a special importance in defending an oppressed Islamic country against an invasion which “our” ruling class supports. Concrete demands can be put out in each country, for example, calling on workers to refuse to handle equipment which will be used by the French invaders, etc.
The left. The fact that the “socialist” Hollande government in France is the one conducting the invasion should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the history of the social-democratic parties in Europe. With the experience of the Zionist “Labor” Party, which was the main party of the Zionist colonialist movement and the main culprit in the ethnic cleansing of 1948 – the Nakba – as the well as the party which holds the main responsibility for all major Israeli wars of aggression and West Bank settlements, we can have no illusions about such parties. Just as surprising is the energetic support given by the contemptible “Communist” Party and the Left Front to the invasion. No less reprehensible is the position of groups like the Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) and the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), which supposedly oppose the invasion but refuse to defend those fighting it, making their opposition nothing more than an empty slogan which is backed up by nothing.
We condemn all organizations which vacillate on the question of imperialist invasion in the name of socialism or communism. No socialist or even progressive worth his name can stand aside while imperialism attempts to force its will on an oppressed country. Those who respond with hand wringing and abstract sloganeering to an imperialist attack today will surely be no more brave when it is time to rise up against their own ruling class in the future.
Defeat French Imperialism!
Defend All Fighting Against the Invasion – No Political Support to the MNLA or Ansar Dine!
Condemn the Social-Chauvinists In France and Worldwide!