The war has
put the various anti-capitalist programs and views to a litmus test.
The autonomists’ view, postulated by Michael Hardt and Toni
Negri, has been thrown into disarray. The utopian view of an empire
set to overcome the contradictions cutting across imperialism, and
a counter-power ‘from below’ that rendered the political
struggle for state power pointless, became helpless in the face
of a shooting war. Maybe, this explains the little activity displayed
by, and the silence of, those like the MTD (unemployed movement)
from Solano in the face of such a momentous event. The Solano MTD
is a member of the Anibal Verón jobless coordinating force
and claims allegiance to such views.
Police actions by the ‘Empire’ or an imperialist
The autonomist views postulate that ‘there has been a change
in the nature and the role of war in our society’. For Toni
Negri, the ‘preemptive war’ doctrine formulated by Bush
is a ‘new strategic theory (…) a new art for war, this
is to say, for policing’ that would be instrumental in building
‘the order, the place and the form of government carrying
though the dictates of the empire. It is no longer about imperialism,
but rather an ongoing and permanent building of a place of command
for the empire’.
This view writes off the concept of the state as the political and
military agency of war. In this case, it overlooks the fact that
a bunch of imperialist states was bent on war against a semicolonial
and oppressed state such as Iraq. Besides, the aim of this war would
not be, according to autonomism, a reinforcement of the US hegemony
and a reshuffled world scenario against rival imperialist powers.
Instead, it was an action by an Empire –an entity that has
overcome the antagonisms opposing the states of the various powers-
whose main challenge is to set up a new order of rule over society
by means of police-styled methods. We are thus witnessing some kind
of supra-state acting as a world gendarme.
Indeed, imperialism underwent major changes in its structure in
the last two decades, which were reflected in the military interventions
of the 1990s. In the first Gulf War, the US gathered an unprecedented
multinational coalition, which seemed to usher in a new era in which
the contradictions opposing the different strands of imperialism
were a thing of the past. In turn, war mongering was disguised in
the robes of humanitarian causes. The support of the UN (on some
occasions) and of the various powers to the US interventions, lent
a cover-up of international ‘legitimacy’ that reinforced
the appearance of police-styled actions, smoothing the political
and material interests at stake and the rifts opposing the states.
Those who mistook the appearances on the surface with the real content
were seriously blinded already back then, taking some of the arguments
that the imperialists used to justify their massacres at face value.
But when it comes to the war in Iraq, to consider Anglo-American
invasion a mere ‘police styled intervention’ is just
ludicrous, a view that fails to account for the political scenario
In the first place, the war aims of the Americans mean that the
imperialist agenda falls back on an outright colonial agenda, in
order to uphold the hegemony of their state on a world level. It
is a conflict devised with the aim of consolidating and spreading
its rule throughout the Middle East, and for that they need to deploy
troops on the ground and to appoint a viceroy in Iraq to do the
job for them.
In the second place, the coveted booty of the oil reserves gave
the war a looting and rapacious nature. The coalition troops were
not under the command of a transnational capital, some kind of global
Empire, but they rather followed the orders emanating from the US-based
On the other hand, the disruption of the international ‘consensus’
and the inter-imperialist disputes were a key element of the war
, which have shattered the illusory appearance of an imperial command
presiding over the conflicting interests of the rival powers. Thus,
the ‘Empire’ appears as a concrete force, the U.S.;
and the victim, a subjugated people that has been stripped of its
sovereignty. It is not then about a police styled action –one
which tries to make the agents toe the line- but rather an imperialist
war against an oppressed nation.
Last but not least, according to the autonomists, there is a ‘state
of permanent war’ that pervades all the fields of social life
with same intensity. To consider the new nature of the war as police-styled
fits in with that definition, which puts an equal sign between all
the armed actions as such, downplaying the concrete thrust of the
imperialist belligerence and the crusade against Iraq.
At times of heightened tension, a correct theory becomes a sharp
weapon leading to mass actions; if it does not do so, it is just
a dogma, a hollow shell that no longer reflects the living reality.
In order to appraise the nature of war correctly –even more
so after the US victory- is a key question to fight back the ongoing
agenda of ‘preemptive war’ devised by Mr. Bush.
The antiwar movement and autonomism
In tune with the abovementioned postulates, autonomism claims that
the present anti-war movement, so markedly anti-American, is a step
back with regards to the anti-globalization movements that challenged
capital in general. In the words of Michael Hardt, the struggle
against those ‘forces governing capitalist globalization these
days’ has been superseded by ‘anti-Americanism’.
He regrets that ‘unfortunately, but also inevitably (…)
the protests against globalization have been reoriented against
the war’, warning that ‘we have to oppose this war,
but at the same time we have to look beyond it, trying not to fall
into the trap of its narrow political logic’.
We might agree with the claim that the anti-Americanism emanating
from the European governments is another imperialist ruse. However,
putting an equal sign between it and the mood of a mass movement
bent on halting the war machine –whatever its limits- speaks
of political shortsightedness. It means that they do not understand,
in contrast with their governments, for the people that took to
the streets throughout the Middle East, it was about identifying
those responsible for their plight. It means glossing over the fact
that for the protesters in the European heartlands it was about
targeting the staunch allies of the US, e.g. Blair and Aznar. Last
but not least, it means overlooking the fact that thousands of voices
rose over the jingoistic clamor against the war at the very heart
of the ‘American empire’.
Far from lamenting about the shapes of the movement, we have to
highlight the anti-imperialist mood animating it, with a view to
overcoming pacifism –i.e. an active militancy against the
military occupation of Iraq and for the victory of the oppressed
nation. The war drive means we have to step up the independent intervention
of the mass movement and set up a social force transcending the
borders, to defeat militarism and the imperialist governments pursuing
a profit out of this war.
Instead, for Toni Negri everything boils down to nurturing ‘alternative
forms of social life’, which ‘have to take over the
question of the state of permanent war situation, of all its conditions
and all its consequences’. In a nutshell, this is about a
power coexisting with capital on its fringes, an exodus towards
new relations based on solidarity, free communes that should refrain
from directly challenging the state.
It is very naïve from them, since they forget that present-day
militarism flows from war machine in motion, which is nourished
by monopolistic corporations and the American state. On top of this,
the political scene in the US and the world has veered to the right,
which is a threat for the oppressed peoples and for any attempt
at social transformation. Considering all these, the very idea of
an exodus is nonsensical. Today, international politics in the wake
of the war has to do with a given balance of forces, more than ever
before. The massive concentration of imperialist forces and firepower
has to be confronted with a counter-power that takes heed of this
somber reality and furnishes a superior alternative, that emanating
from the working class movement of the world and the oppressed peoples,
with a view to transforming the war into a social revolution.
The conditions ushered in by the war are not only those fueling
barbarism but also those that might bring about the subversion of
the existing order. The foundations of society as a whole are upside
down now. We should not forget Marx’s dictum that in moments
like the present one, all the solid objects fade away into thin
air. Seize upon the commotion, transform into a revolutionary opportunity,
that is perspective that not only is necessary but also a realistic
one. We have to face the challenge posed by the first imperialist
carnage of the twenty first century: socialism or barbarism.