Reprinted from Black Agenda Report
"Imperyalismo, ibagsak!" That means "Down with imperialism!" in Tagalog, the official language of the Philippines. This columnist was honored to participate in the recent 5th International Assembly of the International League of People's Struggles (ILPS) in Manila where that chant was heard many times.
ILPS "promotes, supports and develops the anti-imperialist and democratic struggles of the peoples of the world against imperialism and all reaction." More than 400 delegates and observers from 36 nations gathered to mobilize in the fight for self-determination and against racism, wars of aggression, and neo-liberal economic policies.
Former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney delivered a keynote address on the dangers presented by president Obama's so-called pivot to Asia. Workshop speakers like Filmon Zerai discussed the importance of international support for Eritrea, which stands as one of just a few African nations that are free of foreign domination.
It was ironic that the ILPS Assembly took place during the same week that the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit conference convened in Manila. President Obama attended himself, which is an indication of what he and his patrons see as being a priority. The United States uses APEC as a tool of the Asia pivot meant to stymie China's growing economic and military power and to maintain American hegemony. APEC is also a linchpin in the push for free trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
These neo-liberal free trade agreements give corporations personhood rights, including the right to sue governments who hinder their profit making in any way. Environmental rules and labor rights are eviscerated and the privatization of public assets quickens at an alarming rate.
Free trade brings jobs -- or so we are told -- when in fact they do just the opposite. Workers instead are pitted against one another in the awful race to the bottom. Inevitably all of them suffer when corporations jump from country to country looking for the fastest route to chew up workers and spit them out. ILPS is certainly not fooled and declared for the record that the world would be better off without APEC.
Capitalism creates a great deal of misery in the Philippines and other places and is carried out in strange ways. Every year Indonesia creates a thick haze of smoke that wafts across Southeast Asia. Thousands of acres of peet forests are burned in that nation to create farmland for palm oil production. People in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and the southern islands of the Philippines are living with a health disaster that goes on year after year.
The Indonesian government does nothing except continue to allow private interests to sicken thousands of people. Not only are humans and wildlife dying from these fires, but palm oil production is itself the cause of another environmental disaster. Palm trees require huge amounts of water and quickly degrade the soil. The vicious cycle destroys the planet itself but if money is involved simple logic goes up in smoke too.
Corporations and their government puppets can't do their dirty work unless chaos and destruction are spread all over the world by the capitalist nations. Trade deals look clean compared to the ultimate and worst manifestation of imperialism, war itself.
On the first day of the ILPS Assembly, the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for a terror attack in Paris, France which claimed 127 lives. ILPS members condemn the violence but point out the duplicitous role that France has played in the Middle East. At first shrewd enough to stay clear of America's catastrophe in Iraq, France now follows along with the rest of NATO as a happy puppet of the United States. Like the United States, France was more interested in getting rid of Syrian president Assad than in fighting IS. Now that its people have been directly affected, France takes on the role of aggrieved injured party, declaring itself to be at war and vowing to increase the bloodshed.
ILPS delegates and observers were well aware of France's ignoble history as a colonizer and its continued interventions in the affairs of states which are sovereign and ought to be treated that way. The ILPS resolution condemned the Paris attacks and an IS bombing in Beirut which claimed 40 lives. That violence received far less world media attention, but it was also the result of interventions in that part of the world.
Crime and chaos are not the only issues hidden from world view. The very existence of left movements are kept as secret. If agrarian workers in Indonesia displaced by global capital forge links with indigenous people in the Philippines or Canada then the goose, as they say, is cooked. If America is exposed as a police terror state then slogans about police violence will no longer substitute for mass political action. The purveyors of violence and theft depend upon a lack of solidarity and common ground experienced by people around the world.
While supposed progressives are beguiled and bamboozled by the quadrennial presidential election dog and pony show, ILPS members know that no American president will change from an imperialist course unless mass movements are coordinated on every continent. These movements may concern themselves with police violence or privatized education or environmental destruction or displacement of people at the whim of the lords of capital. All of these causes matter a great deal, and it takes organized resistance to take on any of them.
That is why the ILPS matters too. It is a vehicle for information and mobilization which must be carried out through an international framework. That is what the other side does after all. They work in concert from far flung places around the globe. ILPS shows that there is strength in numbers for the people too. That is why they also say, "Long live international solidarity!"