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How we build a democratic, anti-imperial global order

As colonialism expands in Ukraine, Palestine and everywhere, Global Justice Now convenes a global dialogue between anti-imperialist activists. Seema Syeda explains the ambitious, necessary project

5 to 6 minute read

A purple and green graphic advertising Think Global Act Global conference, London 23 March 2024, with sponsoring group logos along the bottom

How do we resist all imperialisms? How do we develop a coherent set of principles and bottom-up, democratic ways of organising our movements and our solidarity? How do we act on a global scale, in the face of  an inherently oppressive nation-state system in which nation states as imagined communities, seek to enforce ethnically dominated societies? How do we confront racial capitalism – a capitalism in which the hierarchical construction of races allows for global exploitation of racialised populations?

On Saturday 23 March 2024, Think Global Act Global will bring together activists and organisations with links across the world to explore these contradictions and imagine new strategies for the key challenges of our time. 

Speakers at the London event will include Decolonial Centre Director Mohammed Elnaim, Sudanese democracy activist and editor of African arguments Raga Makawi, Lebanese-Palestinian podcaster and anti-imperialist writer Elia J Ayoub, Ukrainian anti-capitalist researcher Yuliya Yurchenko, John Mcdonnell MP, Clare Short and many more. 

They’ll be discussing climate, colonialism, migration, economy, Trump, foreign policy and more. As a Red Pepper reader, you are invited to join this dialogue to build an internationalism in new times.

Colonialism continues under a brazen Putin

A key issue on the agenda is the hypocrisy and impunity of states in the international legal order. Colonialism hasn’t ended. The Global North continues to oppress the Global South. China’s authoritarianism (including Uygher genocide) and Russian imperialism (including Russian support for Assad in Syria) are crushing democracy. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and Israeli settler-colonialism in Palestine both demonstrate that the international legal world order is inadequate protection against these colonial dynamics. 

It’s been over two years since Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The invasion itself is a brazen violation of international law. Putin denies the Ukrainian people’s right to self-determination, claiming Ukraine does not ‘exist’. His forces have committed war crimes, massacres, bombed hospitals and civilian infrastructure and cut off crucial supplies of water, energy and fuel to civilian populations. 

Commentators have, rightly, loudly supported Ukrainian armed resistance

The Ukrainian people have the right to armed resistance and self-defence against this brutal aggression. Commentators have, rightly, loudly supported this armed resistance. Ukraine has received billions of dollars worth of military and financial aid from the US, EU and many other countries around the world. Russia faces sanctions and divestment

The International Criminal Court has issued Putin’s arrest warrant. Macron is now mooting putting French boots on the ground. The EU and UK rightly quickly implemented mechanisms for the regularisation of Ukrainian refugees. 

Meanwhile, media outlets were full of racist proclamations that these ‘refugees’ were not like other ‘migrants’ because of their white heritage. Putin’s illegal invasion continues.

Western support for the Zionist colonial project

Contrast this with the situation in Palestine. For decades, Israel has clearly been the aggressor, occupier state, practising settler colonialism on an indigenous population. From its 19th-century roots, Zionism is a self-proclaimed colonial project.

Since Britain, then occupying Palestine, made the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which favoured the establishment ‘in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’ while ignoring the nationality rights of existing ‘non-Jewish’ peoples, Jewish settler militias have conducted campaigns of ethnic cleansing of indigenous populations. 

In the Nakba of 1948, thousands of Palestinians were massacred, their villages depopulated, and over 750,000 displaced, creating a permanent refugee population. This system of apartheid, settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing has culminated in the present day genocide of the Palestinian people, livestreamed on social media. Israel is also bombing and occupying neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Syria

All the while, Western imperialist powers have financially and militarily aided this project, and continue to do so. Western societies are deeply complicit, with many businesses funding and operating in illegal Israeli settlements, many media outlets falsely reporting Israeli propaganda as truth, portraying Palestinians as the aggressor and Israel as the victim, and decrying all armed resistance.

Mainstream media outlets will not make the case that Palestinian armed resistance is legitimate

It’s difficult to envision mainstream media outlets and commentators across the political spectrum making the case that Palestinian armed resistance is legitimate in principle, even if it may not be the most palatable or successful tactic. Palestinians like Husam Zomlot have long been making this case. Ukrainians, too, have highlighted the common underlying principles of their respective struggles. 

Prominent intellectuals like Judith Butler has also done so, including in conversation with decolonial feminist thinker Françoise Vergès. So too has Naomi Klein. The silence is slowly being broken. Palestinians have tried everything, from the diplomacy of the Oslo Accords (result: betrayal by the international community and no clear establishment of a recognised Palestinian state), to the peaceful marches of return where kids were shot by Israeli snipers (once again with impunity).

Democratic rights for all

Against the military might of Israel and its backers, armed resistance alone is unlikely to liberate Palestinians. There must be an end to all military and financial aid to Israel. Boycotts, sanctions and divestment must be applied by the entire international community. Institutions like the ICC must act as swiftly in the case of Israel as they have in the case of Russia. 

All war crimes committed by all parties must be investigated including those committed by Palestinian groups (Hamas already accepts ICC jurisdiction and has been calling for an investigation for years, while Israel refuses its jurisdiction). The key protagonists of genocide and its public backers must be brought to justice. And a solution that guarantees equal democratic rights for all regardless of religion or ethnicity, the right of return of refugees and peaceful coexistence must be implemented.  

Think Global Act Global will be a space to discuss these fraught questions and more, building links between different struggles. What alternatives are there to nationalism? How do we build a genuinely democratic global order? For just as the Ukrainian people rightly deserve freedom, so too do the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Sudanese, the Congolese, and all who suffer under capitalism and imperialism on our planet today. 

Red Pepper is a media partner of  ‘Think Global Act Global’

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