The Coup in Bolivia: Lessons for our Movement
Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity
The US engineered another coup, this time Bolivia, and again our movement could not effectively counter pro-coup propaganda the US was selling to the public, let alone take any action to stop it.
There is an imperative need for much greater long-term cooperative work to combat US interventions. Needed is a qualitatively higher level of unity of action among our networks to combat imperialism. Lenin, one of the most effective leaders of the struggles against the ruling classes, emphasized that "The proletariat has no other weapon in the fight for power except organization. "
The divisiveness among ourselves and our alliances is a secondary issue. We often pursue political work while poorly trained in the lessons our predecessors learned from their experiences in combating the corporate elite's repressive actions at home and abroad. The movement against ruling-class brutality has accumulated over the centuries a valuable heritage of struggle and an invaluable body of experience about effective and ineffective strategies and tactics under the given conditions. No school or clearing house collects and teaches this heritage, so we have to relearn these lessons almost from scratch each generation. We also usually must recreate a national network to implement our collective anti-imperialist struggle each generation.
Here, the ruling class and their government have significant advantages over us. They have their own legacy of experience in maintaining their rule, and they maintain a series of institutions devoted to gathering and passing down their methods of regime change (coups, color revolutions, wars), political disruption, and media-disinformation campaigns. These ruling-class institutions include universities, think tanks, and government agencies like CIA, DIA, and FBI. The ruling class has the capacity to manufacture and implement a coup or a domestic wave of political repression almost off-the-shelf. On this score, they are light years ahead of us, while we are often reduced to the level of having to learn how to control and use fire each generation.
Another reason for our lack of effective anti-imperialist organization is our lack of confidence that a serious challenge to US imperial power is even possible, which certainly seems understandable given the above. Nevertheless, we must also recognize that their system of corporate imperial rule is not stable, as the major economic crises and climate catastrophe in the coming years will show us. The rulers' "solution" to these issues will only antagonize the majority of humanity and make them fight corporate domination of human life.
Role of US Government Disruption
Another cause of our weakness is the government disruption of our movements, something we gloss over. Defending Rights and Dissent just reported on FBI spying over the last ten years in "Still Spying on Dissent," showing how the FBI goes far beyond just spying to include break-ins, disruptions, political frame-ups, stings, murder, blackmail, and drug-dealing.
These operations have escalated with Obama signing NDAA 2017, which lifted restrictions on the CIA and other organs of the national-security state feeding fake news to the US population. The NDAA established "an executive branch interagency committee to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence over peoples and governments... through front groups, covert broadcasting, media manipulation, disinformation or forgeries, funding agents of influence, incitement, offensive counterintelligence, assassinations, or terrorist acts."
Senator Portman, one of the chief authors of the law, stated its intent is to "improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from our enemies by establishing an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government." NGOs and civil society can receive grants to paint voices of the anti-war movement as spreading Russian "disinformation." This may shed light on the origin of the story that those opposed to the regime-change operation on Syria are "Putinists" and "Assadists."
Lack of Popular Participation in Social Movements
Our movement's weakness must be seen as a result of the people's insufficient participation in the fight against US wars and the military budget, even though both rob us of the wealth we need to counter our worsening quality of life. This lack of participation, lack of sustained mobilization, is hardly unique to the anti-war struggle. At present this characterizes the spectrum of social movements: the women's movement, immigrant rights, Black Lives Matter, and so on. And even while the movement against climate change recently could rally four million, with 600,000 in the US, Greta Thornberg acknowledged the movement has not stopped carbon emissions from continuing to increase.
Almost everyone is aware of the looming climate catastrophe around the corner, but people are generally expecting someone else to do something about it. They do not understand that the ruling class plans to do nothing, that nothing will be accomplished until we mobilize in the many millions.
Partly a result of seeming a more viable alternative to movement building and partly a result of political naivete, people still look for solutions by investing their time and money in Democratic and Republican campaigns. For now, the movements that bring large numbers out into the streets are those contained by these two parties. This undermines our building forces independent of these two corporate parties, who serve to snuff out the movements that represent the interests of the 99%.