The crisis of the nation-state and the limits of anti-imperialism
Halil Berktay: Absolute Anti-Imperialism: A Senile Disorder / Nicos Trimikliniotis: Cypriot Communism: Facing the Crisis of Anti-imperialism and the Challenges of Rapprochement in Resolving a National Question
Absolute Anti-Imperialism: A Senile Disorderby Halil Berktay
Rather obviously the title takes its cue from Lenin’s ''Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder''. I argue that taking another of Lenin’s key ideas (about the economic foundations of colonial empire-building in the late 19th and early 20th centuries), extrapolating it into a general, abstract, timeless and omnipresent sort of Imperialism writ large, and defining Leftism on the basis of absolute opposition to this kind of scarecrow, has had devastating theoretical, ideological and political consequences which have become ever more glaring since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In particular, not only in former communist countries in Eastern Europe or the Balkans but also in Turkey and elsewhere in what was once called the Third World, it has caused or permitted large sections of what was once the Left to relapse into nationalism, and thence into fascism, abandoning all struggle for democracy as not only ‘bourgeois’ but now also as tantamount to ‘national betrayal’. This, then, has become the mentally disabling, debilitating old-age syndrome of a ‘revolutionary Left’ tradition deriving from Leninism and the international communist movement.
Cypriot Communism: Facing the Crisis of Anti-imperialism and the Challenges of Rapprochement in Resolving a National Questionby Nicos Trimikliniotis
This paper considers the challenges of the Left in Cyprus in agreeing for a settlement in this divided country that has repeatedly threatened to drag three NATO countries (Greece, Turkey, UK) to war. The contrasts between Left-wing parties and schools of thought in Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and the UK illustrate the disarray in the state of theory and anti-imperialist strategy in general as tools for analysis for the Left in specific contexts. Indicative of this are the attitudes towards the 2004 UN proposal to resolve the problem, the Annan plan, which was put to a referendum to the two main Cypriot communities, the Greek-Cypriot and the Turkish-Cypriots in 2004: some considered the rejection of the Annan plan as an attack on the ‘imperialist chain’; for others it was a regrettable slide into new irrational nationalism, which injures the opportunity for rapprochement, and which might lead to a permanent partition of Cyprus. Perry Anderson’s ‘Divisions of Cyprus’ is typical of the first type.
The central questions are: (a) How can Marxists deal with the conflicting legacies of a rather sterile anti-imperialism and a class-based rapprochement in the context of resolving a specific ‘national question’, such as the Cyprus problem? (b) How do the forces of the Left in Cyprus compromise the competing legacies of fostering ‘national unity’ within their ethnic communities, when there are such fundamental differences on the ‘national question’ whilst trying to reach an understanding with the other community Left-wing forces, who are in power on the other side? (c) How should Marxists evaluate the role of the various international factors in a way that can properly integrate them in an analysis and strategy for the Left internationally? As such, we need a nuanced analysis of the complexities role of the various forces entangled in the conflict: such as Turkey, the occupation force, which is riddled with internal contradictions; or the role of Greece, as another sub-imperialists in the region; or the role of or the UK the former colonial master which has two large military ‘sovereign’ bases; the role of the USA, Russia and China. What about the UN and the EU as an international player? The case of Cyprus entails whole complexity of the current conjuncture and is illustrative of the need for a comprehensive and holistic theory and long-term strategy. The Cyprus problem consists of a multiple sets of conflicts and is riddled with local, regional and international contradictions. Only via a multi-layered and complex theory that assesses the role ‘imperialism’ today, nationalism, class and other social conflicts, inter and intra-regional state projects and rivalries can we gain the insight to appreciate it and devise the necessary strategies and tactics. There is a delicate ‘balance’ to be drawn in such an analysis that can easily ‘tipped over’ should we over-stress one side of the equation at the expense of the other. The most important element in this ‘equation’ is the ‘internal’ versus ‘external’ component of the Cyprus problem - both of which are of equal importance and priority. The paper examines the prospects of a lasting resolution the national question given the parties of the Left, the Communist AKEL in the south and its’ Turkish-Cypriot sister party CTP in the north are both in power and are negotiating for a settlement of a long-lasting conflict. This unique opportunity is analyzed in the backdrop of the disappointment caused by failures to find a solution in the past. In spite of the generally sound claims that globalisation shifts decision-making away from nation-states, particularly weak and small states to networks beyond the nation-state, in the case of Cyprus what we may have for the first time paradoxically is the fate of Cyprus primarily in the hands of Cypriots themselves.