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Global Left Midweek – April 17, 2024

Internationalism and democracy

Activists burn a copy of Modi's anti-Muslim law during a protest in Kolkata, India, on March 12, 2024. Credit, AP Photo/Bikas Das
  1. Message From GLM Moderator
  2. Ukraine and Palestine
  3. Key Town Falls to Myanmar Resistance
  4. Three Wakeup Calls from South Africa
  5. Who Killed Marielle Franco? 
  6. The Struggle for Sudan
  7. More Surprises From Austrian Voters
  8. Environment Defenders in Bosnia
  9. Ugandans Resist LGBTQ+ Criminalization
  10. Poems That Challenge Modis Hate


Message From GLM Moderator

Ethan Young / Portside (New York)

May Day is soon. The holiday is probably the US workers movement’s most important contribution to internationalism. But our left’s understanding of internationalist solidarity is more polarized now than it has been since the height of the last cold war… 70 years!

Case in point: Ukraine. An influential part of the antiwar movement believes that the path to peace is to get Washington to step out of the way and just let the Russian army finish its work.

And Kurdistan. Revolutionaries have pushed the ethnic struggle in that region to create a breakthrough experiment in communitarian politics, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, aka Rojava. It faces violent repression from anti-Kurd authorities in Turkey. But it’s scarcely known or recognized on the left.

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Perhaps most questionable – and revealing – is the left’s failure to support, or even acknowledge, the revolution taking place in Myanmar. The people’s resistance there brings to mind the classic mass uprisings in the ’70s, including Vietnam. It involves a broad, rural-urban alliance engaged in guerilla war, nonviolent demonstrations, strikes, and a shadow government, against an increasingly isolated military junta. The country has the fifth largest population in Southeast Asia. Why is this uprising ignored?

The answer is: politics.

The theme of multipolarity is gaining influence on the left. It counterposes combined pressure of states whose fate was previously tied to the US and/or European colonialists, against US/NATO strategies. From here comes the view that movements that are outside the frame of multipolarity are only sideshows in the big picture.

To the contrary, these popular movements taken together are in themselves becoming a new global power going in the opposite direction. Recognizing this is a different kind of solidarity than the anti-interventionism of the ’60s and ’70s.

In Ukraine, Rojava and Myanmar, US imperialism is a secondary factor at best. In all three, armed popular resistance has broken out to defend democracy, against enemies that have little in common besides the shared authoritarianism of Putin, Erdogan and the Myanmar junta. At present, none of the rival blocs support the Kurds or the Myanmarese insurgents. All these struggles deserve support or at least attention from the left. 

There are competing ideas in the global left about internationalism. There has been a convergence around opposition to Netanyahu’s genocide campaign, but underlying tensions reflect different world views that will be hard to reconcile. They raise core questions: How have geopolitics changed since the collapse of the Soviet bloc? Is imperialism still defined by the power of the US and allies? What do we mean by democracy? How do we understand socialism as a goal? And what does this mean for international solidarity?

Each of these questions leads into serious and necessary discussion and debate, as we turn a crucial corner in history. US imperialism still dominates. New forms of resistance to colonialism appear around the world, as any reading of Global Left Midweek will tell us. But the alignments and goals of these various fronts are new. The US and allies are not always centrally involved. The frontline could be Canadian campuses, South American indigenous areas, streets where women mobilize in Poland, Indian farms or Iranian steel mills. The strength of left parties in various governments reflects the growth of these insurgencies.

What bridges them is a demand for democracy. Not the superficial models of the Cold War years – for the east, anti-fascism, and for the west, the freedom to exploit. For authoritarian states, democracy is considered moot, or it is distorted in nationalist rhetoric. For liberal democracy, it's a closed club running an open society, about to face its primary contradiction.

A demand for direct democracy, rule by the majority, is rising worldwide. This can take the form of fights for climate justice, gender justice, land justice, basic life security, or freedom from militarism, corruption, and the lingering relations rooted in colonialism. In each case, the solutions require more organized, popular political power. Ultimately, this means imposing the will of the majority over the ruling minority. In socioeconomic terms, that majority is the international working class.

There is also the demand for autonomy and sovereignty among states. China is leading the way in that direction, though they have their own problems in areas where people feel dominated by China’s claims to ownership in various regions. Yet, the demand for sovereignty is a democratic demand, even when it comes from states that are not so democratic. The problem for the left is determining when that fight supercedes other fights on behalf of the majority. It begs the question, if/when US domination is curtailed, who will then call the shots?

States under capitalism are always in conflict. Undemocratic states are by design antagonistic in the long run. The antiwar movement of this century can push for peaceful resolutions, but only if we can focus on the political potential of the vast majority in every country, and recognize the need for solidarity to make it real. Or as we used to say, all power to the people.

Ukraine and Palestine

Simon Pirani / Anti*Capitalist Resistance (London)

Putin’s regime is a frankenstein monster that has turned against the American empire that once fostered it. The western powers, to justify their opposition to Putin and support for Netanyahu, say they are defending “democracy” from an “alliance of authoritarian powers” including Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. This is a false dichotomy.

Key Town Falls to Myanmar Resistance

Helen Regan, Teele Rebane, Kocha Olarn and Sandi Sidhu / CNN (Atlanta)

Last month, ethnic rebels in northern Kachin state seized a key trading town on the Myanmar-China border, along with dozens of outposts and bases, local media report. The fall of Myawaddy to the resistance forces is the latest humiliating defeat for the junta, which has been losing control of towns, bases and territory across the country, as it grapples with troop losses and reports of mass defections. 

Three Wakeup Calls from South Africa

Who Killed Marielle Franco?

Cynthia Rachel Pereira Lima / RioOnWatch

Six years ago, a barbaric crime took the lives of Rio de Janeiro Councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes. To this day, her political femicide remains unsolved. There have been many allegations that authorities have been hindering investigations into this heinous crime. 

The Struggle for Sudan

Khalid Mustafa Medani / Middle East Research and Information Project (Chicago)

The revolution of late 2018–2019 promised to usher in a new, albeit fragile, era of democracy after three decades of authoritarian rule. Instead, the current protracted conflict in Sudan is threatening the very foundation of the Sudanese state and hence the stability of the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.

More Surprises From Austrian Voters

Ines Schwerdtner / Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (Berlin)

KPÖ Plus (an electoral alliance between the Austrian Communist Party and the Young Greens) notched up its second triumph in as many years, following up on the success of last year’s regional elections. It became the second-strongest party in Salzberg municipal council and mayoral elections, increasing its 2019 result sixfold. Party seats in the municipal council rose from one to ten.

Environment Defenders in Bosnia

Peter Lippman / LeftEast

All around Bosnia-Herzegovina, ordinary citizens are mobilizing to fight industrial developments threatening to damage, or have already destroyed, parts of the environment where they live. There are the stirrings of a widespread movement to protect the environment in numerous local situations around the country. 

Ugandans Resist LGBTQ+ Criminalization

Khatondi Soita Wepukhulu / openDemocracy (London)

“Homosexuality” and “promotion of homosexuality” are offences under Uganda’s 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) that can fetch life and 20-year jail terms respectively, upon conviction. “The judges should know that the people they’re trying to bury – they’re human beings,” said Aggie Nshemereirwe, an activist and head of the Africa Queer Network Uganda.

Poems That Challenge Modi’s Hate

Krupa Shandilya / The Conversation (Waltham MA)

Four years ago, university campuses and Muslim neighborhoods such as Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh were packed with people who, day after day, chanted slogans, belted out songs and recited poetry. Poetry seemed to unsettle the government the most. Dissenters reciting protest poems were accused of spreading hate against India, beaten and arrested by the police.