I first saw these methods widely used by white racists in their struggle against civil rights in the 1960's. When Black Southerners, in their millions, were taking to the streets, defying both police violence and the Klan, in rebellion against centuries of racial injustice, the white racists almost always blamed this movement on "outside agitators." Historian Gilder Lehrman gives us a good example of the use of this method when he recounts the response of George Wallace to a Mrs. Martin, who asked him about segregation as he was running for US president in 1964:
|Despite growing conflict over race and civil rights, Wallace wrote Martin that “we have never had a problem in the South except in a few very isolated instances and these have been the result of outside agitators.” Wallace asserted that “I personally have done more for the Negroes of the State of Alabama than any other individual,” citing job creation and the salaries of black teachers in Alabama. He rationalized segregation as “best for both races,” writing that “they each prefer their own pattern of society, their own churches and their own schools.” Wallace assured Martin that Alabamans were satisfied with society as it was and that the only “major friction” was created by “outside agitators.”|
Actually such racist complaints about "outside agitators" served a dual function. First, it deprived the black people in the south of any agency in the struggle for their own liberation. Second, it implied that anyone who took up this struggle that wasn't a southern black was an "outsider," whose involvement in the struggle was illegitimate. Often one was branded an "outside agitator" on the flimsiest of grounds. For example, after years of involvement in the student and anti-war struggles at Washington University, St. Louis, including a term as the president of the campus SDS chapter, I was branded an "outside agitator" by the school administration in the first semester I was no longer attending classes. Peter de Lissovoy, a SNCC worker in 1963, recounts how those that who were white or came from the north were branded communists as well as outside agitators:
|I guess the idea was that it was we "outside agitators" from the North who were communists trying to bamboozle the "good Nigras" of the crackers' fond imagination into communist revolution.|
Sadly, we see this same racist method being used today by members of the so-call "anti-imperialist" Left in their attack on the popular democratic revolution in Syria. The Christmas day Truthout article, Last Chance for Peace in Syria: Will Obama Sabotage the Geneva II Syria peace talks?, written by Shamus Cooke and republished from CounterPunch, gives us an excellent example of how this approach is applied to the Syrian Revolution. I am citing only selected quotes related to the subject at hand. Those looking for the larger context can find it in the whole article through the link above. However these selections are taken in the order that they are found in the Truthout article.
First, the entire struggle for freedom and democracy, and against the Assad dictatorship, which has taken so many Syrian lives that the UN has stopped counting, is negated. We are told about:
the religious sectarian killing across the Middle East that is the life-blood of the Syrian conflict.Which sounds awfully like the real problem is squabbling among the tribes. Next, it is implied that those shedding their blood to defeat the dictatorship are not doing it for themselves but are agents, or proxies, of "outside powers" and then the so-called anti-imperialist Truthout/CounterPunch calls upon these imperialist powers to put an end to this struggle against the Assad dictatorship. They suggest that:
[If] groups on the ground in Syria refuse to negotiate, the outside powers are then expected to exert their leverage on their proxies, with the threat of being cut off politically and financially.And it is the US president, who has never given more than token support to Assad's opposition, that is promoted to the position of commander-in-chief of this "proxy" army. These were happy slaves before he set them in motion as agents of his plans of "regime change."
Obama is essentially attempting to achieve via talks what he couldn’t achieve through a proxy war.Saudi Arabians aren't allowed an independent policy either. They are "dogs," in fact, they are "attack dogs" and these so-called "anti-imperialists" are calling upon the US imperialists to "muzzle" them. The denigration of human beings as unpleasant animals is another racist method with a long history. It's sad to see that some on the Left are still willing to stoop to it:
But Obama continues to encourage war in Syria by refusing to muzzle his attack dog, Saudi Arabia.In the glory days of George Wallace, and his attack dogs, all those who fought for freedom were branded as "communists." Times have changed since then. The "War on Communism" has been replaced by the "War on Terrorism" and the new whipping boys of the imperialists are the Islamic extremists, so it is not surprising that those who oppose the Syrian Revolution today brand 100% of their opposition "Islamic extremists" just as those who opposed the civil rights struggle then branded 100% of their opposition "communists." What is surprising is that forces on the Left are in the forefront of this name calling:
in Syria there are zero “moderate” rebel forces with any shred of power.Meanwhile, in the real world, far from the racist propaganda of these leftists, those "zero 'moderate' rebel forces" have been doing quite well in their struggle against the real Islamic extremists. As the LA Times reported on Sunday:
|"The rebels have achieved tremendous progress against [Islamic extremist] ISIS in all the points of conflict, liberating more than 80% of the Idlib countryside and 65% of Aleppo and its countryside" said Abu Bakr, a media activist for the Sham News Network in Raqqa.|
Even though Obama has given no heavy weapons to the FSA, only a sprinkling of small arms, some radios, some food and a token program in Jordan designed to train 50-100 rebel fighters a month when Hezbollah troops, in their thousands, were pouring across the Lebanese border to fight for Assad, and now even these paltry efforts have been abandoned, they are "his Free Syrian Army."
And true to the history of this method, they are quick to complain about all manner of "outside agitators." Now they are called "foreign fighters" and as far as these Leftists are concerned, they have no business supporting the Syrian Revolution.
a recent study estimates that as many as 11,000 foreign fighters have fought in SyriaThe bulk of these "foreign fighters" are Arabs from neighbouring countries with a strong sense of Arab nationalism, but even though as early as 1931 a pan-Arabist covenant declared:
|The Arab countries form an integral and indivisible whole. Hence the Arab nation does not accept or recognize the divisions of whatever nature to which it has been subjected.|
These so-called anti-imperialists do and give no credit what-so-ever to Arab nationalism. If Arabs in Iraq crosses an artificial line drawn up by a white man from England, Mr. Sykes, and a white man from France, Mr. Picot, almost a hundred years ago, to help their brothers and sisters on the other side fight a dictatorship, even though they both be of the same tribe, they are "foreign figthers" .i.e. "outside agitators" as far as these so-called Leftists are concerned.
And again they negate Arab nationalism by suggesting that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are as foreign to this struggle as Iran or Russian. Then they drive home their point that the Arab countries who support the revolution are not acting with regards to their own best interest as those countries see it. They are controlled by US imperialism and can only do what they are "allowed" to do:
Obama continues to allow Saudi Arabia to fuel the conflictNever mind that John Kerry met with Bashar al-Assad six times even before he became Secretary of State, and was meeting with him still as popular protests broke out in March 2011. Never mind that Mr. and Mrs. Assad and Mr. and Mrs. Kerry could break bread together at a private dinner or that he called Bashar al-Assad his "dear friend," they are "his rebels." This is how this "new" Left sees the Syrian Revolution, as a proxy war between western imperialists and the "anti-imperialists" who support Assad. Again the Syrian people are robbed of their agency.
John Kerry openly mocked the prospect, so sure he was of his rebels taking power.Syrian protesters in their hundreds of thousands have braved gunfire fire and detection to demand an end to the Assad Regime but they are Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" to the Truthout/CounterPunch crowd. They see only Obama's repeated "demands" that Assad voluntarily step down:
Obama has sabotaged peace talks for over a year by attaching pre-conditions and demands — such as the removal of Bashar al-Assad– before peace talks could begin.Finally, they say peace in Syria has little to do with what Syrians do. As any network engineer will tell you, proxies only forward what has been sent to them by their masters, they have no agency or content of their own:
Obama’s actions will testify to his intent in Syria; he will either insist on a no conditions peace talk and pressure his allies to stop the bloodshed, or he will do the opposite and remain a driving force for senseless slaughter and the continued butchering of innocents.So while the Assad Regime is busy dropping barrel bombs from Russian made war planes on schools, hospitals, and bakeries, he is not responsible for the "senseless slaughter and the continued butchering of innocents" and it isn't even the Syrian opposition fighters because proxies are dumb and only do what they a told. It is the leader of US imperialism that is behind the carnage! This is how racism is done by the "anti-imperialist" Left in the 21th century. This is so sad.