By Nemequene Tundama
[Nemequene Tundama is an anti-imperialist activist based in London, originally from Muisca Territory (Colombia), and is currently organising an anti-imperialist study group in London. If interested please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Liberal activists and the majority of the left in the West devote much of their energy to the symptoms that capitalism produces whilst ignoring the inner workings of this world-system and their privileges within it. Their inability to perceive the imperialist heart of the capitalist system allows them to ignore or distort the roots of mass migration to the West and therefore causes them to believe that the solution can be found in ‘open borders’, foreign aid, cutting support for ‘dictators’ (neo-colonialists), and lax immigration policies from their governments. The small sections that do include some anti-imperialist ideas in their protests will limit this to the obvious military invasions/bombings but still ignore the West’s imperialist-capitalist policies that are more widespread and less obvious.
An important yet often neglected aspect of capitalism, for example, is its financial imperialist networks across the globe. First World governments, transnational companies, and their banks all collude with each other and help finance their worldwide parasitic capitalist projects. Capitalist nations accumulate economic surpluses for their national economies through investing in exploitative projects in purposefully weakened Third World nations. The threat of violent coercion by the exploiter nations against the exploited nations is always an underlying reality but neo-colonial relationships with the local comprador class usually means local military and police forces are in charge of quashing movements for liberation.
The West, then, washes its hands by delegating violence and coercion of labouring masses in the Global South to their local agents. The millions of displaced and persecuted peoples by this global imperialist system are forced to migrate internally within their own borders or externally to the West. Ultimately, the exploiter nations in the West cannot truly rescue or save immigrants coming from the Third World exploited nations. The aggressor cannot at once be the saviour.
While these pro-immigration movements are indeed helpful and necessary in the short-term they also neglect the background story and therefore tend to reinforce Western-centric narratives in the long-term. Narratives that fundamentally portray us migrants and refugees as people to be saved from what is ‘self-inflicted barbaric’ conditions back home. Narratives that entertain the idea that the solution lies in the West’s reaction to the ‘crisis’ rather than in destroying its cunning parasitism that lies at its source.
Indeed, going to the root of the problem means that activists in the core capitalist nations must challenge their collective privilege as a labour aristocracy. It’s much easier, however, for them to play out their white ‘saviour’ delusions which depends on seeing us as powerless victims to be brought into the fold of Western ‘progress’. The conversation ends up being one where Westerners and their nations are blamed for not doing enough to help, rather than for being the source of the migration problem.
This whitewashed narrative has also been successfully implanted into the minds of those of us who are migrants and refugees, the diaspora forced to live in the West. It has penetrated popular thought to such an extent that we join pro-immigration movements without having a clear anti-imperialist theory that explains the context of modern migration. We ignorantly become entangled in this dangerous idea that Western nations should be humane enough to rescue us from our ‘natural’ condition in our homelands.
The small sections of the diaspora that rejects this abyss of imperialist deception are subtly shunned from participating in platforms where we can share our views. The section of the diaspora who are most loyal and well-versed in the Western-saviour narrative are rewarded with status, careers in NGOs, or positions in liberal political parties. They become the token immigrants who fortify and validate the Western-saviour narrative whilst claiming to champion migrant rights.
Ultimately, if we are to be honest with ourselves, we must be committed to supporting radical anti-imperialist movements in the Global South as they are the most likely to dismantle the capitalist structures that create the conditions of war, poverty, hunger and instability around the world. Only when the exploited nations overthrow the comprador classes and initiate socialist modes of production and distribution of the wealth made from production can this world-system be dismantled and a new chapter in World History be welcomed.
Those of us who find ourselves in the West must sacrifice whatever material/status/career privileges that may come our way and energetically organise radical anti-imperialist movements to serve as an internal front for the destruction of capitalism and its parasitical tentacles on the rest of the world.
1. Tony Norfield, 2016, The City: London and the Global Power of Finance, London: Verso