12 October 2018 — Socialist Project
In August this year, the acclaimed socialist writer and activist Samir Amin (1931-2018) passed away. Born in Egypt and educated in Port Said and Paris, he eventually settled as director of the Third World Forum in Dakar, Senegal from 1980. Samir was author of numerous books including his well-known Accumulation on a World Scale (1970), De-Linking (1990) and Capitalism in the Age of Globalization (1997), and more recent texts such as The Liberal Virus (2003), A Life Looking Forward (2006), From Capitalism to Civilization: Reconstructing the Socialist Perspective (2010), and many others. Amin was a central figure in the pantheon of thinkers from the so-called Global South who reworked Marxism and the theories of imperialism to examine the dynamics of capitalism and the world market from the territories marginalized – but integral – to global accumulation. We publish here one of Samir Amin’s important assessments of the challenges of political resistance to global neoliberalism – first published in the 2009 Socialist Register.
Compared with preceding political systems, capitalism has historically fulfilled certain progressive functions: it has freed the individual from many constraints imposed by earlier systems, it has developed productive forces on an unprecedented scale, it has fused multiple communities into the nations that we know, it has laid the foundations of modern democracy. Yet all these achievements have been marked and limited by capitalism’s class nature: the ‘free’ individual is in fact nothing more than ‘a well-off male bourgeois’, while the persisting patriarchate has kept most of the female half of humanity in subordinate positions. In the opulent centres of the system, capitalism has no longer much to offer beyond a consumerism that is alienating and destructive and of the relationships of human fraternity, blocking the genuine emancipation of women, and the liberating dimension of the practice of democracy. It must be made clear that its ‘advantages’ are also distributed in an increasingly unequal manner under the dictatorship of plutocracies, supported by their monopoly over the media, reducing democracy to practices devoid of meaning and scope, and thereby destroying its legitimacy. The forceful opening of new fields for the expansion of the dominance of the established plutocracies – the privatisation of public services (education, health) and the infrastructures which provide for basic needs (water, electricity, housing, transports) always end in the exacerbation of inequalities and the destruction of the fundamental social rights of the popular classes. The short-term rationality of calculating the return on equity is an invitation to an explosion of criminal or potentially criminal developments (especially through biogenetics).
Modern imperialism has nothing to offer to the large majorities of peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America (75 per cent of the population of the planet); there, the continuation of its development, beneficial as it may be to a privileged few, requires the massive impoverishment of the others (in particular the peasants who make up close to half of humanity). The rights of nations have been reserved for those belonging to the dominant centres, while those of the dominated and colonised peripheries have been systematically denied. As the successes of its global expansion have increased, the limitations of capitalism have grown steadily, today reaching tragic dimensions. The continuation of the domination of capital over the totality of these peripheries, the peoples of which are as a result in constant revolt (revolt is not revolution but creates conditions for it) requires the militarisation of globalisation. This rules out any genuine democratisation or social progress for those peoples.
At the global level accumulation, driven by the exclusive logic of profit, means: the depletion of non-renewable resources (oil in particular), the irreversible destruction of biodiversity and the accelerated destruction of the natural bases of the reproduction of all life on the planet. This destruction also results in increasingly unequal access to the short term ‘benefits’ which global capitalism provides. When President George Bush I declared that ‘the American way of life is not negotiable’, he was effectively ruling out any general ‘catching up’ for most of the world, since this could only mean that the imperialist nations (first the United States, but behind them the Europeans and the Japanese who had already caught up) would continue to insist on priority of access to the resources of the whole planet. Contemporary globalised capitalism no longer offers an adequate framework for the pursuit of human emancipation. Capitalism is not only a system based on the exploitation of workers; it has become the enemy of all of humanity. As such, it must be considered as an ‘obsolete’ system – one may even say ‘senile’, despite the apparent successes of its ongoing expansion. The defence of humanity requires that we change to fundamental principles other than those which govern the globalised capitalist/imperialist accumulation and reproduction.
The Necessary Radicalisation of Popular Struggles
The aggressions of globalised oligopolistic capital under the control of financial plutocracies clash with the growing resistances of the peoples of the entire planet, with reactions which make counterattacks a real possibility. So far, however, the resistances and the ripostes have been crumbling away. In the opulent countries of central capitalism these resistances are still largely concerned with defending past gains that are being daily whittled away by neoliberal policies. In some peripheral societies reactions crystallise around backward-looking culturalist projects, which, by definition, are incapable of meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century. Most of the movements currently in conflict with the power of the plutocracies do not question the fundamental principles of capitalism, even though they are the cause of the social tragedies of which their popular audiences are victims. These movements grapple with the consequences of the system, without concerning themselves sufficiently with the mechanisms which have initiated them. That is the reason why the struggles have not yet succeeded in shifting the balance of power in favour of the popular classes, even if they may have won some significant victories here and there. The radicalisation of struggles – which I take to mean their becoming aware of the obsolete character of capitalism – governs their capacity to produce positive alternatives. It is necessary and possible.
Despite the extreme variety of the objective conditions of the insertion of the working classes and their nations into the contemporary capitalist/ imperialist system, all the peoples of the world aspire to social progress, to a genuine democratisation, and to peace. To be radical today is not to separate but to bring together the different dimensions of the challenge:
i. Democratisation of the management of all aspects of political, economic, social, family, business, school, neighbourhood and national life, must be associated with social progress for all, starting with the most destitute. Genuine democratisation is inseparable from social progress. The defence of human rights, the right to work, ‘equal opportunity’ for men and women everywhere, however legitimate these rights may be (and they are), is not enough; more must be achieved by involving people in a global project initiating a transition toward socialism. Diversity in vision, though respectable not only for what it is but also because it is enriching, must not be an insurmountable obstacle to the construction of the unity of the working classes and the internationalism of peoples.
ii. The independence and sovereignty of states, nations and peoples must be respected and a polycentric international system must be built on this basis. Unfortunately, many militants of the movements in struggle, notably in the opulent countries of the imperialist centre, reject the idea of the defence of nations, hastily putting this in the same category as aggressive chauvinism. Yet defending the rights of nations is a condition for reducing significantly the conflicts of interest resulting from inequality in capitalist development, for substituting for brutal power struggles an obligation to negotiate, and for eliminating the unending war of the North against the South which characterises our epoch. This means the construction of ‘united fronts’ – the renewal of the united fronts of the Non-Aligned and the Tricontinental movements in particular – around common objectives. It also means replacing the existing institutions serving globalised financial capital – the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, NATO, the European Union, and other regional projects such as the proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, or the free trade arrangements between the European Union and the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific – by other institutions of global management. Some steps have been taken in this direction, especially in Latin America with the ALBA project, and, for what it is worth, Mercosur; and in Asia with the Shanghai group. But we are still far from having managed to put the existing institutions to flight, even if they have already lost their legitimacy in the eyes of the peoples.
Radicalisation, understood in the terms I have outlined, is synonymous with the politicisation of struggles and the affirmation of the socialist alternative. By politicisation is meant the awareness that there is no social movement which can claim an ‘a-political’ character, even if the disgust with politics as we know it may seem a legitimate response to the cynical means by which the established political forces, including the existing centre-left political parties, seek to sustain themselves.
Facing Imperialist Aggression: The Case for Armed Resistance
For the moment, radicalisation requires that priority be given to defeating the project of military control of the planet, at the service of plutocratic globalisation. The current period is one of renewed imperialist deployment, associating the partners of the above-mentioned triad. This association, which makes me describe imperialism as being henceforth ‘collective’ (as opposed to the imperialisms of the past, continuously involved in mutual conflict) means the unconditional alignment of the subordinate partners to the US. Europeans, without calling into question the leadership of Washington, may wish for a greater participation in the formulation of a common strategy and for sharing the benefits to be derived from it less unequally. In any case, this imperialist deployment constitutes a new ‘hundred years’ war’ of the North against the South, which is a continuation of the unending aggression being carried out since 1492.
The way globalised plutocracies view the world is represented by the insipid term of ‘globalisation’, as if the latter could not assume a form other than that which it does at the present. Actually, the violence of the contradictions which oppose the interests of the peoples and nations of the peripheries to those of the dominant sections of globalised capital has become so acute that the globalisation in question has had to be militarised, guaranteed by the military control of the planet proclaimed by Washington. The deployment of over 600 US military bases distributed over the whole planet is intended to establish the domination of Washington over the whole world, including its subordinate associates in the triad, compelled – for lack of comparable military and political means – to align themselves with the unilateral hegemony of the United States.
The United States and their associates have developed a new military doctrine, aimed at giving them an ‘absolute superiority’ over all their adversaries – the peoples and the nations of the South. No doubt this superiority is nothing new. Produced by the unequal character inherent to the development of capitalism, it has enabled the North since 1492 to assert itself against the South, at the price of long wars of colonial conquest. This absolute superiority was called into question for some time by Soviet military power, as well as by the military and political self-assertion of the countries of liberated Asia (China, Vietnam) and a few others (e.g. Cuba). The new political conjuncture and the imbalances which characterise it has led the dominant classes of collective imperialism to imagine a new model of ‘war’ which would no longer require the occupation of land and the difficulties and risks involved in it. In the new model ‘war’ is reduced to massive aerial bombardment (to which victims cannot give a similar response), and to the destruction of the infrastructures and the victims’ means of survival. This form of ‘war’ does not even exclude the possibility of resorting to nuclear weapons – ‘if necessary’ according to G.W. Bush. The aim of this form of war is quite simply to terrorize entire populations, or even, in case of resistance (described as ‘suicidal’ by the new military experts of the Pentagon) to eradicate them (genocide). The United States is a terrorist state, a rogue state ‘par excellence’. Speeches on international law, humanitarian law, and democracy have no meaning whatsoever in face of these realities. The new war technology seemed to its inventors to present a second advantage: a ‘zero dead war’ (for the aggressors, naturally). This ‘requirement’ reflected a marked development in the societies of the North, in which the butcheries of earlier times were no longer acceptable. The doctrine of ‘zero dead’ would be capable, according to its originators, of making people accept the genocide of others. That may unfortunately be the case with respect to the people of the United States, at this juncture. Regarding the peoples of Europe, the authorities have so far opted for silence.
The peoples of the South can meet the challenge only through preparation – including military preparation – that is adequate to the confrontation. ‘Disarm, we are going to attack you’ proclaim the media in the service of imperialism. To this invitation, the strangeness of which is only matched by its ignoble character, the peoples and the states of the South have only one answer: to develop their military capabilities to the required level and forms adequate to deter the enemy. The twentieth century witnessed the deployment of the national liberation movements of the peoples of the periphery. Many popular movements have been compelled to take up arms to respond to the violent interventions of imperialism. They have done so victoriously, and formulated an appropriate military theory and a strategy, models of which have been supplied by the Chinese people’s army and by guerrillas in Vietnam, Algeria, Cuba and the Portuguese colonies. Their effectiveness rested on the double principle of a wide popular mobilisation (involving the politicisation of the armed forces and their participation in the progressive social transformations that were on the agenda), and on the acquisition of suitable combat equipment and techniques. The military writings of the Bolsheviks, Mao Zedong and Amilcar Cabral gave shape to the theory of the ‘fish in water’, made possible by the fact that the enemy was fighting on the terrain of peripheral societies in revolution.
In the capitalist Third World national liberation struggles have led to the construction of local bourgeois authorities of diverse natures, ranging from neo-colonial submission, to the radical bourgeois attempt to secure a ‘new international economic order’. The military doctrine of most Third World states is a function of their political and social character, in other words of the illusions of the project of which their national bourgeoisies are the bearers. In this framework, armed forces have been conceived primarily as internal police forces. This being so, the radical ideologies derived from the national liberation movements initiated a process whereby this conception could be challenged: but they remained prisoners of the bourgeois character of the ruling class, which cannot tolerate the substitution of ‘armed people’ for the concept of a conventional army.
Moreover, the conception of the diplomatic game which was meant to support the nation in its conflict with imperialism rested on the Soviet alliance, which was expected to provide modern armaments and to keep alive the threat of a more sustained intervention if the need arose. At the same time, however, these regimes never conceived of a conflict with imperialism other than a temporary one. This is why, in the Arab world, they thought they could drive a wedge between their direct enemy (Israel) and its American and European allies: they kept their two options open on the diplomatic front, the Soviet alliance being capable of being modulated (or even abandoned) should the West take serious steps toward the recognition of their rights. We know how radical regimes have fallen in this trap and, even before the disappearance of the Soviet Union, have themselves initiated a rapprochement with the United States and Europe, without receiving anything in return. On the contrary, the enemy took advantage of the opportunity to overthrow nationalist regimes and bring to an end any radical tendencies, and submit the countries in question to compradorisation.
Today, within the framework of the United States’ project and collective imperialism, rapid deployment forces have been put in place to avoid the aggressor being bogged down in endless wars. Their logic is that of pre-emptive war, embarked upon ‘before it is too late’, that is before popular national political and social forces manage to seize power. The goals of rapid deployment are to overthrow any government deemed incapable of blocking the emergence of a radical popular movement, or any government forced, through weakness or demagogy, to call into question the imperialist status quo. This strategy means that the takeover must be perfectly controlled; in other words that a new government can be put in place during the operation. Military means must be capable of hitting hard in a short time to destroy the ability to organise resistance. But it must also be at little human cost to the aggressors – i.e., there must be an insignificant number of their corpses lying on the ground.
As a counterpoint, the creation of a deterrent force in the service of the people of the Third World is not a question of pure military technique and armament, but primarily a political question. Hence the creation of this force must necessarily be based on two pillars: a popular army (the ideal of the ‘armed people’), and effective military means. The political objective of the rapid deployment force being to overthrow a regime, it is essential to make this objective impossible (or at least extremely difficult). A dictatorial government, accepted out of passivity, will always remain vulnerable, even if, in spite of its undemocratic character, for one reason or another it is targeted by the West. A real popular national government, supported by a popular army in its image, reduces considerably the vulnerability inherent in the status of ‘underdeveloped’ country. Rapid intervention then becomes ineffective in the sense that the imperialist order can only be restored by the military occupation of the country, compelling the adversary to fight on the terrain of the attacked. In that situation imperialism then has no other option, other than that of committing a genocide by massive bombardment (even nuclear), which would require a real ‘fascisation’ of Western societies.
The recent developments in the Middle East, following invasions by the armies of the United States and its faithful allies (Israel, in particular, and some European countries) are a good illustration of the points made here: the ‘easy’ initial victory in the invasion of Iraq, the political failure of Washington’s project and the rise of resistance (in spite of the inadequacies which characterise it), and the failure of the Israeli army in face of the popular resistance in south Lebanon. While the United States’ project, backed by their subordinate European and Israeli allies, aims to establish military control over the whole planet, the Middle East has been chosen, in line with this perspective, as a ‘first strike’ region.
This is for four reasons: (i) it has the most abundant oil resources of the planet, and their direct control by the United States would give Washington a privileged position, placing its allies – Europe and Japan – and their potential rivals (China) in an uncomfortable position of dependence with respect to energy supplies; (ii) it is located at the heart of the ancient world and makes it easier to maintain a permanent military threat against China, India and Russia; (iii) the region is currently going through a process of weakening and confusion which enables the aggressor to secure an easy victory, at least in the initial stage; (iv) the United States has a staunch ally in the region, Israel, which has nuclear weapons, and has long harboured the goal of splitting up the region into micro-states along ethnic or religious lines.
The implementation of the project is advanced: Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan are occupied and destroyed, Syria and Iran are openly threatened. But the bankruptcy of the project is no less visible; people’s resistance does not weaken, as was particularly seen in Lebanon where an effective armed resistance showed why it is necessary, today more than ever, to defend the people’s inalienable right to armed resistance. However one cannot be satisfied with armed popular resistance as the only possible response to aggression. It is necessary to supplement its potential dissuasive power with effective, modern ‘anti-rapid deployment forces’ equipment. Dissuasion requires that a Third World country have, in spite of the massive destruction which it undergoes following a first strike, a significant response capacity, inflicting thereby heavy losses on the rapid deployment forces or on targets located in the enemy camp. In this situation, rapid intervention becomes an uncertain adventure. Mobile missiles provide one answer to the issue of the required means of dissuasion, since the probability is high that they will escape destruction by a first strike. The question of the ‘proliferation of nuclear weapons’, and more particularly the threat under which imperialists keep Iran accused of developing a ‘dangerous’ nuclear capacity, is also relevant here.
It is not our intention to develop here the analyses called for by the ‘Islamic revolution’. From the point of view of what interests us here I will make only two observations. The first is that the regime of political Islam in Iran is not by nature incompatible with the integration of the country into the globalised capitalist system. The second is that the Iranian nation as such is a ‘strong nation’ whose major components – both working classes and ruling classes – do not accept the integration of their country into the globalised system in a weak position. There is of course a contradiction between these two dimensions of Iranian reality, and the second accounts for the orientations of Teheran’s foreign policy which show a will to resist foreign diktats. The fact remains that it is Iranian nationalism – powerful and, in my opinion, historically quite positive – which explains the success of the ‘modernisation’ of the scientific, industrial, technological and military capacities undertaken by the successive regimes of the Shah and Khomeinism. Iran is one of the rare states of the South (with China, India, Korea, Brazil and perhaps some others, but not many!) to have a ‘national middle-class’ project. Whether the realisation of this project is or is not in the long run possible (and I believe it is not) is not the object of our discussion here. Today this project exists, it is definitely there.
It is precisely because Iran is in this position that toward the end of the Bush II administration the United States threatened the country with a new ‘preventive’ war. Yet the claim that this was just about the nuclear capacities that Iran is developing is dubious. Why shouldn’t this country – like all others – have a right to it, up to and including becoming a nuclear military power? By what right can the imperialist powers award themselves, and certain regional allies, a monopoly of weapons of mass destruction? Can one lend credence to the imperial discourse according to which ‘democratic’ nations will never make use of them, as ‘rogue states’ would? The ‘nonproliferation’ treaty in itself never went far enough, even if – under pressure – many states of the South subscribed to it, while the nuclear powers of the North failed to implement their part in it. Denuclearisation must apply to all, starting with the over-equipped countries, the United States first, and it must also apply to its allies who are not signatories to the treaty. Failing that, proliferation, far from increasing risks, could contribute to their reduction, as some French military experts have openly argued.
The states and the peoples of the three continents are confronted with the same challenge that imperialist capitalism always represented for them. But the economic situation which characterises our period is unfavourable to the fast development of their capacity to respond to aggression, the comprador bourgeoisies being by and large those who monopolise power there. Under these conditions, priority must be given to the organisation of armed popular defence, whose effectiveness has been shown in southern Lebanon. Defending the absolute right of popular organisations under these conditions becomes a major responsibility for all (and this is why the very idea of ‘disarming Hezbollah’ must be treated as unacceptable). At the same time, the development of popular struggles must have the objective of removing from power the local comprador classes or, at least, forcing them to cohabit with the organisations of popular forces. Indeed, the conditions are ripe for a new liberation wave.
The Bolivarian revolution in progress in Chavez’s Venezuela constitutes perhaps a possible road to radicalisation. With the victories gained by other peoples in Latin America, it is no longer Cuba which is isolated on the continent; it is Washington that faces the prospect of isolation. One also observes promising signs of the rebuilding of a front of the South in the debates at the United Nations and the WTO, aided by the strength of anti-imperialist opinion on Asia and Africa. Conditions are evolving that will, among other things, make possible the necessary development of the military capacities of dissuasion. Of course even the more anti-imperialist governments will advance projects of a strictly ‘national’ nature rather than give priority to advancing the interests of the working classes. Here also a radicalisation of the struggles is the only means of increasing the chances of moving toward the formation of popular and democratic political broad alliances with adequate power to move toward fundamental changes in each respective nation state.
The importance that I have given to the military dimension of the challenge is essential. This is because the area of the ‘Greater Middle East’ is today central to the conflict which opposes the imperialist leader to the peoples of the whole world. Derailing the project of the establishment in Washington is the condition for giving progressive forces in any area of the world the opportunity to assert themselves. Failing that, all these advances will remain extremely vulnerable. That does not mean that the importance of struggles led in other areas of the world – in Europe, in Latin America, and elsewhere – can be underestimated. It only means that they must fit into a global perspective which requires defeating Washington in the area that it chose for its first criminal strike at the beginning of the 21st century.
The Moderate Options: Arguments and Limits
The radicalisation of struggle is not an option chosen by many social movements today. The arguments put forward to justify the adoption of moderate positions are numerous. In general what is invoked is the realism necessary to avoid becoming isolated in a far left ghetto. This is all the more so insofar as small radical minorities are indeed likely to be strongly tempted, once more, to proclaim themselves ‘avant-gardes’, to refuse systematically the criticism of others, and to turn a blind eye to the rapid transformations which affect contemporary societies. These arguments are serious. Yet beyond the important questions they raise – to which it is necessary to provide answers – they also often mask dubious analyses of the situation, reflecting political and ideological stances and related strategic options which must equally be subjected to criticism.
The page of the first historical wave of experiments carried out in the name of socialism having been turned, capitalism appears to many as the last frontier of our time (‘the end of history’). Its description at the outset of this essay as senile, against all the indications of its successes, which are constantly in the news, could even make one smile. Under these conditions, popular movements feel compelled to adhere to capitalist logic, to give their struggles only modest objectives – above all pushing back ‘neoliberalism’ of course – but only with a view to promoting the alternative of a ‘capitalism with a human face’. The analysis which I have proposed prohibits such conclusions. This is because the redoubled violence in the relations of domination of capital which characterises our time is not the product of the extravagances of extreme neoliberalism, but a requirement of the reproduction of capital under contemporary conditions. This is what makes capitalism an obsolete system, although certainly not in the sense that it is going to disappear on its own, dying peacefully of ‘natural’ causes, but rather in the sense that its reproduction will require from now on the exercise of increasing violence. We have thus reached the stage when people must get rid of it, threatened as they are, otherwise, with the prospect of seeing humanity condemned to barbarity.
This analysis does not rule out the possibility that popular classes propose immediate objectives for their struggles, undoubtedly modest, but necessary to regain confidence in their power. But in my opinion it should be stressed that these possible victories will remain vulnerable and fragile as long as they are not part of a movement which, while gradually gaining power, assigns to itself the goal of leaving capitalism behind. Many militants of our time – especially in the centres of the world imperialist system – no longer believe that the struggles can fit into a system of independent nations which, according to them, have lost their relevance because of deepening globalisation. And because the relationship between nation and state cannot be dissolved, they develop strategies which deliberately ignore the question of the power of the state and substitute for struggles against the state, struggles in ‘civil society’. And by the same token they challenge the relevance of ‘party politics’, since the life of existing political parties is concerned with the combat for state power at the national level. The absolute priority often given by Europeans to the objective of ‘saving Europe’, as if the ‘Europe’ in question could be other than what it is – which is not likely in the foreseeable future – is also based on ignoring the obvious relevance of the diversity of national realities in Europe today. But the over-representation of the moderate currents within many social forums, which can be easily explained by the disparity of means (among other things, financial), also constitutes a serious threat to the future of popular struggles and is hampering their necessary radicalisation.
To me these ‘moderate’ arguments appear to be founded on hastily-conceived a priori reasoning. Globalisation is not a given ‘objective’ process which inevitably sweeps over everything. The globalisation that currently exists is really a strategy, promoted by the authorities of the dominant plutocracies. One cannot substitute for it ‘another globalisation’ without destroying this one first, and for that, it is necessary to restore the dignity of nations and the sovereignty of peoples and states. ‘Civil society’ or the ‘multitude’ today have not already become subjects of history (as Negri claims); they remain fully conditioned by social relations peculiar to capitalism. Political parties undertake their action – as a very general rule – within the framework of the reproduction of capitalism as if they were themselves convinced of its timelessness. Criticisms of parties are thus perfectly well-founded. But one will not reduce the scope of their discouraging practice by ignoring them, but by inventing new forms of political organisation of the working classes. Admittedly, within this framework parties are governed by the ‘logic of organisation’, while radicalisation calls for a ‘logic of struggle’ to prevail. But the logic of organisation dominates in the majority of ‘civil society movements’ today, as well as in the ‘big parties’. The logic of struggle will assert itself – gradually – only when the struggles themselves are radicalised.
These moderate arguments and analyses have a pre-eminent place in the choice of actions to be carried out. They give an uncritical legitimacy to ‘humanitarian’ actions, often going as far as the proclamation of a ‘right’ – even duty – of ‘interference’, being unaware of the objectives of imperialism (the real existence of which they underestimate or fail to recognise), which loom large behind these interventions. Can one be unaware of the fact that it is in the name of this ‘duty of interference’ that NATO (i.e. the United States and its subordinate allies) actively contributed to the destruction of Yugoslavia, and that efforts are being made to give legitimacy to the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq? Anti-militarist discourse is undoubtedly a product of commendable intentions. But it becomes reactionary when in its name one denies people under threat the right to arm themselves to resist the actual aggressions of contemporary imperialism. Acts of a ‘terrorist’ nature exist, this is undeniable. But the confusion in this field must be rejected: ‘terrorism’ is not cause, it is consequence; it is a product of the inadequacies of the answers given to real challenges with which peoples are confronted. The ‘counter-terrorism’ discourse has been prepared for nearly thirty years by the think tanks which conceived it as a political weapon of US imperialism. It is now taken up again without reflection on its origins, or criticism of it, alas even by a significant part of the lefts in the rich countries. The term ‘terrorism’ – vague to perfection – is used to dispose of the debate on violence – among other things, the violence of military aggressions, of the destruction of cities and villages by unpunished massive bombardments, designed to terrorize (the term is perfectly appropriate) entire populations. The discussion that is necessary on the left should concern how to respond to this first terrorism, to identify effective political and military means and to distinguish them from those which are not so. •