December 9, 2019

“All Power to the People” : Meeting with Ajamu Baraka

Report by Igor Sadikov

On November 15, national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace, former U.S. Green Party vice-presidential candidate and longtime peace activist Ajamu Baraka addressed a full room gathered at the Greek Workers Association hall in Montreal, as part of a tour of Eastern Canada organized by the Canadian Peace Congress and the Mouvement québécois pour la paix. Baraka provided an analysis of imperialism as the material basis for war and spoke of a “global de-colonial imperative” – the need for an international anti-imperialist front in order to directly confront white supremacy and neoliberal ideology.

Baraka identified the U.S., E.U., and NATO as the driving axis of imperialism, “fueled by one objective: to position Western colonial, capitalist interests to be able to more effectively plunder the labour and resources of the peoples and nations of the Global South.” Whether couched in Donald Trump’s “crude white supremacy” or Barack Obama’s “slick criminality”, imperialism operates through an objective, material logic that always has devastating consequences. Throughout the world, “it is imperialism that makes water a commodity, food a luxury, education an impossibility and healthcare a distant dream,” said Baraka. “It is the absolute disregard for human life by imperialism that drives the arms trade, creates human incarceration as a profitable enterprise and transforms millions into migrants and refugees because of war and economic plunder.”

Meanwhile, from Syria to North Korea to Cuba and Venezuela, where over 40,000 people have lost their lives to economic sanctions, peoples and movements that attempt to resist and extricate themselves from the neoliberal order are vilified among Western populations through a “weaponized” discourse of democracy and human rights. In this context, Western liberals and radicals subject oppressed peoples and nations struggling against imperialism to idealistic “purity tests” instead of standing with them, in effect siding with the imperialist powers “in a form of cross-class white supremacist national solidarity,” said Baraka.

The need to combat this reality through a systemic analysis of imperialism is what motivated the formation of the Black Alliance for Peace. “The Black Alliance for Peace makes the connection between our concerns with U.S. imperialism and the domestic repression that takes place in the U.S. What we’re looking at is in fact a global system, a structural relationship,” Baraka explained. “When we talk about ending the U.S. military footprint in Africa, shutting down AFRICOM [the U.S. Africa Command], we connect that to the fact that in the U.S., there is a Department of Defense program that has been responsible for transferring $4.6 billion worth of military-grade equipment to the police forces. [...] While we are concerned with standing in solidarity with people in Palestine, [...] we are opposed to the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] training police forces in the U.S. [...] We are building the Black Alliance for Peace one step at a time as an anti-imperialist formation, because we understand that imperialism is the material basis of white supremacy. We make those connections.”
Baraka was accompanied by Miguel Figueroa, president of the Canadian Peace Congress and former general secretary of the Communist Party of Canada. Figueroa and Baraka spoke to Canada’s role as an imperialist state, noting Canada’s support for the coup in Bolivia, its forefront role in regime change and repression in Haiti and the attempted coup in Venezuela, and the devastating effects of Canadian mining companies’ operations in Colombia and throughout Latin America. Figueroa highlighted that the country’s announced 70 per cent increase in military spending has seen very little political scrutiny, all parties in Parliament being “on the same page” about foreign policy. He emphasized the importance of rebuilding a peace movement that is militant and “aware of the source of the danger,” namely imperialism, adding that a strong and principled anti-imperialist core is central to the international peace movement’s strength and effectiveness.

Our role as leftists in raising issues of foreign policy is to confront liberal ideology directly and “expose the contradictions” between the interests advanced by the state and those of the people – who do not benefit from imperial intervention and have a “desire for peace”, argued Baraka. “We’ve got to be clear in our opposition to imperialism, we got to demand that people in the U.S., in Canada stop the collaboration. We cannot afford the continuation of this notion of Western innocence,” said Baraka. As an alternative to the neoliberal order, Baraka outlined an internationalist political program of demilitarization to end the “human waste” of the arms trade, promotion of human rights situated in needs instead of legal abstractions, and socialist transformation.

“Imperialism can be defeated,” Baraka said in closing. “It is on the defensive everywhere, and that is its weakness. It cannot sustain the many body blows from multiple places. If the working class in the U.S. and in Canada stops sending its soldiers and supporting these policies, then it will be over. [...] It will be over and a new day of freedom and possibility for people in the U.S. and in the world will be born. All power to the people!”

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