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Abridged Version in VCD:

War, Imperialism and Resistance From Below

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairman, Center for Social Studies
Utrecht, Netherlands

24 April 2004

Dear Colleagues,

Good afternoon!

Let me thank the Global Studies Association for inviting me to speak on the occasion of its Third Annual Conference. It is an honor to speak before a distinguished assembly of scholars.

For someone like me who is banned from entering the US, it is gratifying to be able to speak on an occasion like this.

  1. The Phenomenon of War as Concomitant of Imperialism

    Let me speak first on the relationship of modern imperialism and war.

    Free competition capitalism reached the apex of its development in several industrial capitalist countries from 1860 to 1870. At the end of the 19th century, monopoly capitalism or modern imperialism became dominant in the leading industrial capitalist countries.

    Industrial capital had merged with bank capital to form the finance oligarchy. The export of surplus capital began to gain importance over the export of surplus goods. The imperialist countries and their monopoly firms formed international combinations (such as cartels, syndicates, trusts and so on) against the people and against each other.

    Beyond the imperialist and colonial countries, the economic hinterland of the world was divided into colonies, semi-colonies and dependent countries. These were coveted by the imperialist powers as markets, sources of cheap raw materials, fields of investment and spheres of influence.

    After the frenzied acquisition of colonies by the chief European states in the years 1884-1900, the division of the world among imperialist and colonial powers became complete. No country could be found outside the clutches of modern imperialism and old style colonialism.

    The manufacturing surpluses and the ensuing crisis of overproduction in imperialist countries impelled them to compete bitterly with each other, expand economic territory and come into violent collisions that culminated in wars. Chauvinist calls and war hysteria became convenient for drawing away the consciousness of the working class, particularly the unemployed, from class struggle against the monopoly bourgeoisie.

    Imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism in America and Europe, and later in Asia, became conspicuous through wars and the economic crisis in the period 1898-1914. The Spanish-American War (1898), the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) and the economic crisis of 1900 in Europe were the signal events in the appearance of modern imperialism on the stage of world history.

    The competing protectionist drives of the imperialist powers prevailed over the pretenses at free trade. The crisis of overproduction sharpened the political and economic conflicts within each imperialist state and among the imperialist powers and led to the first global inter-imperialist war from 1914 to 1918. However, these also provided the conditions for the rise of the first socialist country and encouraged the anti-colonial struggles of the people in many countries.

    After an alternation of crisis and boom in the aftermath of World War I, the Great Depression came upon the world capitalist system after the Crash of 1929. It was a prolonged crisis of overproduction and financial collapse. It exacerbated the contradictions among the imperialist powere and caused the second inter-imperialist war to break out. World War II was even more destructive than World War I. But it also resulted in the rise of several more socialist countries and a great wave of national liberation movements.

    In 1948 the US launched the Cold War in order to contain and combat the challenge of socialism and the national liberation movements and to counter the tendency of the US economy to slide into a crisis of overproduction. The Cold War was actually a series of hot localized wars. These included the big US wars of aggression in Korea and Indochina, the US-supported Israeli wars on Palestine and the anti-Soviet wars in Angola, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Afghanistan.

    During the Cold War, the US instigated the overthrow of independent governments and propped up repressive puppet regimes, which unceremoniously killed people in great numbers. The massacre of at least 1.5 million Indonesians was a major campaign of repression intended to secure US, British and Dutch oil interests and countervail the losing position of the US in Indochina. The death toll as a consequence of the daily violence of exploitation and the intolerable burden of foreign debt should also be taken into account in a complete reckoning.

    The US could not solve the problem of stagflation within the framework of Keynesianism for several reasons. It served the interests of the military-industrial complex and thus obscured the cost-push effect and limited job growth in high military spending, especially for high tech weaponry and space research and development. It wanted to wreak vengeance on the working class and pointed to wage inflation and state social spending as the cause of stagflation. Thus, the neoliberals and monetarists of the Chicago School went to town to replace the Keynesians.

    Running parallel to the economic decline of the US, the phenomenon of modern revisionism and monopoly bureaucrat capitalism was undermining and degrading the socialist-labeled countries and pushing them towards open and unabashed adoption of capitalism. Afflicted by its own stagnation, corruption and military overspending, the Soviet Union was outplayed by the US in the contest of neocolonialism for hegemony over the newly-independent countries.


  2. Imperialism: Neoliberalism and Neo-Conservatism

    In the period of 1989-91, all the revisionist-ruled and pseudo-socialist countries were in turmoil. The big bourgeoisie proceeded to legalize all previous ill-gotten private assets and accelerated the open privatization of the most important and largest public assets. The Soviet Union collapsed. The bipolar world of the Cold War ended. The US emerged as the sole superpower.

    There was the widespread notion that the end of the Cold War would result in "peace dividends" for humanity, especially in terms of more funds for poverty alleviation and socio-economic development. But subsequent developments showed that the US became more rapacious and aggressive. The consensus in Washington to this day is to let the phoney free market of monopoly capitalism solve the problems of the world and to let high tech weaponry take out any "rogue state" or unwieldy client regime.

    The disintegration of the Warsaw Pact provided the opportunity for the US and NATO to expand to Eastern Europe and to some former Soviet republics. The US and NATO were able to wage wars on Iraq and the former Yugoslavia. The US strengthened its position in the Middle East and built positions of strength on the southern flanks of Russia. Further, the US gained foothold in the Caucasus, Caspian sea region and Central Asia, all regions related to the overweening desire of the US to control the sources and routes of energy supply.

    After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it became fashionable for some bourgeois propagandists to proclaim the end of history with capitalism and liberal democracy. In fact, the crisis of the world capitalist system was conspicuously worsening in the 1989-1991 period, as manifested by the bursting of the Japanese bubble economy, the stagnation of the German economy and of course by the devastation of the economies of the former Soviet bloc countries and the third world countries.

    The crisis of overproduction and financial collapses persisted in the world capitalist system throughout the 1990s. The US economy could shine only at the expense of its imperialist allies and the newly-industrializing economies. It continued to attract heavy doses of funds from abroad, especially from Europe, Japan and the oil-producing countries, due to high US interest rates and favorable rates of return on capital. It took the lead in the commercialization of high technology. It kept the US consumer market as "the market of last resort" of the entire world.

    The moment of truth came for the US and entire world capitalist system in 2000. The high tech bubble burst due to the global crisis of overproduction in high tech goods. US industrial production plummeted. The financial meltdowns spread to the stock market and to the banks in the US and throughout the world. Until now, both the US and global economy are in a protracted state of stagnation and decline. Bankruptcies, production cutbacks and high unemployement rates continue to constrict the global market.

    Neoliberalism has proven to be a futile policy for fixing the problems of the world capitalist economy. It has accelerated the concentration and centralization of capital in the imperialist countries, chiefly the US. And it has whipped up financial speculation far beyond the real economy in the imperialist countries and in so-called emerging markets or transition economies. Financial collapses have been terribly devastating.

    In connection with the invasion and occupation of Iraq and other aggressive actions elsewhere, neoconservativism as a policy direction in Washington has gained global notoriety. It projects a new American century, in which the US as sole superpower develops full-spectrum power, uses this to impose a Pax Americana on the world and launches preemptive war in order to take out a recalcitrant regime and prevent any power from being able to rival and challenge the US.

    The 9/11 attacks have given the so-called neoconservatives the pretext for claiming to wage a permanent war on terrorism and for seeking to deprive opponents of the US weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, the US went to war against Iraq in violation of the UN charter and UN Security Council resolutions by dishing out lies that Iraq had conspiratorial links with Al Qaeda and had weapons of mass destruction.

    The real motives of the Bush regime and the so-called neoconservatives are to take over the second largest oil resources of the world in Iraq, keep secure the US dollar as the currency of oil transactions, increase US control over Saudi Arabia and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), use US military bases in centrally located Iraq to control the entire Middle East and remove Iraq as a threat to the US-Israeli collaboration.

    Neoconservativism is apparently the unabashedly violent complement of neoliberalism. It adds the force of war to the myth of "free market" under modern imperialism. Both neoliberalism and neoconservatism are intended to expand US economic territory and to make the pretense at building a market economy and democracy.


  3. Resistance from Below

Let me speak of the anti-imperialist resistance from below.

We may count as forces of resistance from below those nonimperialist states that stand up to defend their national independence against imperialism. In fact the US has launched the most violent wars of aggression against such states, which have included Iraq, former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan in recent times. It has also emboldened and supported the Israeli Zionists to occupy Palestine and suppress the Palestinian resistance. As a consequence, we see the steady growth of armed and other forms of resistance in countries directly or indirectly attacked by the US.

During the first quarter of 2003, we saw the rising of millions of people in hundreds of cities all over the world. The biggest was on February 15, when 30 million people rose up. The protest marches and rallies were reminiscent of those held at the peak of the people’s resistance to the Vietnam war in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The resurgence of mass protest actions against war and against imperialism in the imperialist countries reflects not only a high sense of solidarity of the people in such countries for other peoples but also the growing discontent over the crisis of the world capitalist system. The people are restive over high rates of unemployment, the reduction of social benefits, the deterioration of social services and the highest priority given to corporate benefits and to military spending.

The Iraqi people are now waging a broad-based armed resistance of nationalists, communists, religious believers and various ethnic communities against the US occupation and the puppets and are laying the basis for bigger protest actions in the US and in the world.

The American and other peoples of the world are now demanding the withdrawal of US troops and bases from Iraq. It is difficult for peaceful mass actions to compel the US to withdraw from Iraq. But as in the US war of aggression in Vietnam, the increasing US body bags from the Iraqi battlefield and the gigantic mass actions of the American and other peoples of the world can persuade the US to withdraw from Iraq.

Throughout the world, the broad masses of the people have been roused by the exploitative character of "free market" globalization and by the oppressive character of "the new world order." They detest and resist the ugly character and consequences of neoliberalism and neoconservatism. They are carrying out various forms of resistance, which are spreading and intensifying.

The most effective and most promising kind of resistance are the revolutionary armed struggles being carried out in such countries as the Philippines, Turkey, Nepal, India, Colombia and Iraq. There are also reemerging revolutionary forces of the oppressed nations and people that see the imperial overstretch of the US and are determined to wage armed revolution.

It is self-defeating for the US to have used cruise missiles and other weapons of mass destruction to take out regimes that are opposed to it and also for it to have provocatively shown off its military strength in so many countries. Now, it has become clear that the US has nearly exhausted its deployable military forces by being absorbed in only Iraq and Afghanistan. It has also become clear that hightech weapons are ineffective against people’s revolutionary forces that wage an armed resistance of fluid movement and offer no fixed targets to their enemy.

The resistance from below from the toiling masses of workers and peasants is the strongest, most inexhaustible and most important kind of resistance. The toiling masses are ever willing and eager to resist the most intolerable forms of oppression and exploitation, now surfacing under the current crisis conditions. The people’s resistance is sustained and well-directed where there is a truly revolutionary party of the proletariat. The working class is still the principal agent for revolutionary change in the epochal struggle against imperialism.

So long as imperialism persists in oppressing and exploiting the people, the people’s struggle for national liberation, democracy and socialism will continue. US imperialism and the local exploiting classes themselves create the crisis conditions which generate the people’s resistance and pave the way for the revolutionary forces to arise. There is no stopping the wheels of history from moving, despite any curve, bumps or zigzags along the way.

Thank you. ###

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