A resolution on imperialism passed at Counterfire National Conference 2015. Submitted by the Steering Committee

conference Notes

  1. We are living through the disintegration of the ‘unipolar moment’ of US power that followed the end of the Cold War. This is happening in several registers.

    The economic register

  2. The US economy is in long term, relative economic decline compared to its rivals: China, the EU, and, to a lesser extent, Russia. This is an extended process, the first phase of which began with the break-up of Bretton Woods after the Vietnam War. It provides the background but not the proximate causes of the recent instability. The US remains the largest economy in the world.
  3. The US is overwhelmingly the largest military power in the world.
  4. The key characteristic of the ‘war on terror’ was the attempt by the US to rewrite the global economic order in its favour by use of its overwhelming military might to compensate for its relative economic decline: the eastward expansion of NATO, control of the middle east, subordination of the EU in strategic terms.

    The geo-political register

  5. The failure of the war on terror is the most important immediate cause of the current crisis.
  6. The US military (and even more spectacularly the UK military) were defeated at the hands of the Iraqi insurgency and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  7. The war on terror produced long term majority opposition to war in the metropolitan heartlands.
  8. The failure of the war on terror increased role of regional powers filling the vacuum created by the imperial crisis: these include Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia and the Latin American states. It also includes a limited (but not fundamental) deterioration in US-Israeli relations. 
  9. The failure of the war on terror has also created a space in which non-state actors have played an increased role: ISIS, the Kurds, Hezbollah, various militias in Libya, the Maidan movement and the east Ukrainian rebels.
  10. 6. The defeat of the Arab revolutions has meant that the majority of these non-state actors are reactionary in nature and often sponsored by imperial states or sub-imperial states. This is true of ISIS and the FSA, to the extent that its members have not defected to ISIS, in Syria; to the contending militias in Libya, to the Kiev government that came out of the Maidan movement, and to the Iraqi Kurdish leadership. It is not true however of various progressive resistance movements: Hamas, Hezbollah, the Kurdish struggle as a whole, especially the PKK in Turkey and its Syrian allies.
  11. The rise of IS and other reactionary terrorist groups signifies a real change in the situation. In the first phase of the war on terror the threat of terrorism was limited to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Now it has spread and become more powerful.
  12. The continuous electoral defeat of neoliberal parties in Latin America has forced dominant classes in these countries to seek new forms of destabilizing the progressive governments, from outright coup attempts in Venezuela to anti-corruption campaigns in Brazil and Argentina.

    The domestic political register

  13. Obama has in many ways sought to continue the war on terror by other means (bombing campaigns in Libya and Iraq, drones, special operations, including assassination, etc.) but has been averse to challenging the ‘Iraq syndrome’ head on.
  14. Cameron suffered an historic defeat over Syria in the August 2013 vote against intervention. The anti-war sentiment has been renewed by the recent scale of the movement over Gaza.
  15. The rise of ISIS and the renewed anti-Russian propaganda over Ukraine, the Paris killings in early 2015, are all providing the imperial powers with a chance to recover lost ground and to redeploy the argument for humanitarian intervention.

    The response of the anti-war movement

  16. Cameron has used this new situation to join the US bombing of Iraq and to relaunch an Islamophobic offensive aimed at restricting civil liberties and stoking racism.
  17. We will need to redouble our efforts to build STWC, especially by convincing as many as possible of recent Palestine protestors of the need to participate in a movement against all aspects of the imperial project.
  18. The issues are significantly different than in the first phase of the war on terror because we are dealing with the fall out of the failure of the war on terror and the failure of the Arab revolutions.
  19. A significant effort will have to go into explicitly rearming our theoretical understanding of this.
  20. It will also mean a head on confrontation of anti-Muslim prejudice.
  21. This theoretical work will in part be carried by STWC, but must also be carried by Counterfire. This is a place where we can deal with issues like the one state solution in Palestine, the situation in Kurdistan or the roots of terrorism and Islamophobia, which cannot be dealt with in STWC but which will help deepen the understanding of those in STWC and therefore strengthen the movement.
  22. Such work can also build Counterfire, as the recent articles and the meeting with Tariq Ali show. We will need to consciously further this aspect of our work. We should also strengthen our links to and work with the Venezuela Solidarity Campaigns and other solidarity campaigns with Latin America.
  23. The attacks on Charlie Hebdo, at Chapel Hill, and various other horrific incidents have put the issue of racism and Islamophobia centre-stage.
  24. The establishment media have conducted a concerted campaign to marginalise discussion and explanation about the causes of such killings, which are linked to the War on Terror and the wars being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and other Muslim countries.
  25. Despite attempts by the media and the establishment to foreground immigration, according to recent polls, austerity and rising costs continue to be the issues that concern the vast majority of the British public.
  26. There has been a decrease in support for far right groups and arguments, partly due to the campaigning work of the Left.

Conference Believes

  1. Recent years have seen a convergence of two discrete but interdependent racisms operating in Britain and Europe more generally:
    1. Islamophobia connected with the War on Terror;
    2. Racism against immigrants, connected with the recession and anxieties about unemployment, housing and welfare provision.
  2. While Ukip, an organisation that has managed to blend common all-garden xenophobia with an anti-establishment, anti-corporate stance with some deftness, has risen in the polls over the past year, there are signs that support will not translate into serious parliamentary presence.
  3. Given the severity of the crisis in the Middle East and the chorus of Islamophobic and anti-immigrant propaganda in the media and the establishment, campaigning against racism will be central to our campaigning priorities over the next year.

Conference Resolves

  1. To actively promote the arguments against anti-immigrant propaganda and against Islamophobia, as widely as possible and particularly emphasise the links between Islamophobia and the War on Terror.
  2. To build and help shape the anti-racism movement in Britain, promoting the Unite Against Fascism and Stand Up To Racism initiatives, including building for the important demonstration against racism on 21st March.
  3. To work actively in Stop the War Coalition to help promote the arguments against Islamophobia and against the War and Terror as widely as possible.
  4. To support and stand in solidarity with communities under attack in our local areas, such as Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets.

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