Several years ago, it occurred to me how pitiful the state of anti-imperialist activity in England had become. A certain character (i.e. “political activist”) parading under the name of Daniel Renwick delivered a speech on an anti-imperialist platform just after the Nato-Jihadi operation to unseat the government of Libya was completed with the public lynching of the Colonel Muammar al-Ghadhaffi which the British media welcomed by gloating and celebrating his martyrdom.
On this platform, Renwick declared that Britain had become, culturally speaking, an anti-imperialist country. He supported this falsely ridiculous assertion by correctly informing the attendees at the meeting that British people have grown an appetite for foreign food and also because Manchester City Football Club (MCFC) employs a culturally diverse selection of football players from around the world. Hence, MCFC were “global” and therefore anti-imperialist, whereas a football club such as Liverpool, which at that time presumably did not employ a diverse squad, was not. What I eventually found most disturbing is that his friends, acquaintances and comrades refused to distance or disassociate themselves from the joker’s remarks let alone condemn them for what are – a highly patronising form of Euro-supremacist mockery and trickery. Worryingly, some of this character’s associates consider themselves as “Sons of Malcolm”, that is, followers of the 1960s African-American revolutionary, Malcolm X, yet not a whisper from any of them. When this blogger vouched this incident, on a few occasions on social media, with the UK’s leading, self-anointed “Sons of Malcolm” figure, Mr. Sukant Chandan, I was only shockingly met with personal abuse!
Historically, a similar episode occurred when anti-imperialist activity began to emerge in England in the 1960s. The British-Pakistani, Marxist revolutionary, Tariq Ali is one of Britain’s foremost anti-imperialists. He recounts an incident in his autobiography where he is racially heckled by someone belonging to another left-wing revolutionary group by being asked why he simply doesn’t “go back to Pakistan?” as he was delivering a speech. According to Ali the leader of the heckler’s group disapproved and apologised on behalf of the heckler, but he could not explain why it occurred.
This leader, in the manner of all known tin-pot gangsters to history, then slyly doubled down on Ali and said that if he had joined his organisation, the International Socialists rather than the rival International Marxist Group, he would not have been racially heckled! Ali claims that this leader was being sectarian, rather than a sinister political thug.
The whole incident made Ali reflect on whether it was worthwhile joining white led lefty groups:
“Many of my black nationalist friends, heavily influenced by Stokley Carmichael and the American Black Panthers, often derided me in private for working with the ‘white Left.’ Their argument was that racism ran deep in British society and there was no way in which being an ideological leftist helped to clean the slate.”
Face to face with this reality, Ali chose to persevere with these inconsequential revolutionary groupings and the leader in question, Tony Cliff (aka Yigael Gluckstein), went on to change the name of his Trotskyist organisation to the Socialist Workers Party in the late 1970s. Maybe, if Ali had chosen the other path and with his superb eloquence, erudition and intelligence he would have more than assisted in defining and developing a consequentially powerful non-white left wing political culture in England on a par with what has developed in the United States.
Even if we take Ali at his word and accept that he was motivated by ideology to turn a blind eye, then the question should be, who and by what criteria defines the priorities of this ideology?
Furthermore, what is most sad about the Ali-Cliff exchange is that we should know today why such an incident occurred and not be surprised by Cliff’s response. It’s not helpful playing dumb. The British have no anti-imperialist traditions when it comes to their imperialism so it’s actually worse than playing dumb. During the period Ali covers in his autobiography British imperialism was engaged in counter-revolutionary operations in at least three countries, Oman, South and North Yemen and there is no reference to them at all. More so, the millions of people killed by British imperialism over the centuries means nothing to these characters or their miniscule, irrelevant “revolutionary” groups. By turning a blind to these characters we only help to confer legitimacy on one of the most inconsequential political trends ever, the British ‘far Left.’
But ultimately, those of us attracted to an anti-imperialist cause must always be prepared to bitterly stomach the fact that the likes of a Cliff or a serpent like Renwick will always have their (covert and overt) apologists amongst people of colour. For these apologists, their ideological and personal proclivities, is far more meaningful than the cold and ugly political reality exposed to them in front of their very eyes.