Resisting hegemony


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POST the fall of the Baathist government in Baghdad, the people of Iraq continue their heroic fight against the Anglo-American invaders by their peaceful demonstrations. They deserve full support from all of us who opposed the invasion, called the War on Iraq. The ‘so-called’ war was not even a legal one in terms of traditional international law, which forbids preemptive attacks. Unleashed while a UN inspection was taking place, it can in no way be justified on the pretext that the preemption was legal because there was an imminent threat that the attacked party would attack the attackers if not preempted. The ‘war’ was waged when the UN inspection was going on and, therefore, a surprise attack was technically impossible.

Further, the Report on the ‘National Security Strategy of the United States’ reveals its decision to launch preemptive attacks on possible terrorists and ‘rogue states’ with or without the support of the international community. This official statement by the United States government is in violation of the established principle of international law, which declares illegal any ‘preventive’ military action by a state unless there exists an imminent threat. By proclaiming its will to ignore this principle, recognized by the international community even before the birth of the United Nations, the US has become a ‘rogue state’ that cannot be trusted to respect the established principles of international law. This is why under the rubric of a ‘War on Terror’ we live in a world where the achievements of human civilization, made so elaborately during the past centuries, are simply ignored and nullified by the ‘rogue’ hegemon.

There are, however, a few agents and agencies in the international community and in the world civil society who have raised their voice against this illegalization of the world order, in such institutions as the United Nations or in the streets of different countries, including the United States. Some even argue that there is an emergent bipolar world composed of the global hegemon and the anti-hegemonic global public opinion. This is hopefully so, but the reality of the world public opinion is that it is controlled by the major global media whose selective transmission of facts and interpretations creates an environment of fear against global terrorists, the transnational organized criminals and the rogue states.



It is necessary at this point to look into the development of a new national security strategy by the US following the end of the Cold War. It was long before 9/11 that terrorists were selected as the target of this strategy. The post-Cold War strategy needed a new enemy to justify the maintenance of strong military power by the United States. It was therefore argued by the Pentagon and its strategists that new threats by transnational organized crime had emerged in the 1990s – threats such as trafficking of women, smuggling of illegal migrants, drugs and small arms trafficking, as well as terrorism.

All these new threats were seen as emanating from the South. They were not state sponsored, but organized by private groups. They threatened the security of citizens, so far handled by the police. This construction of new threats was used to justify the continued monopoly of violence by the United States. The constructivists called for a new effort at ‘securitization’, labelling these criminal activities as threats to national ‘security’, thereby elevating them into targets of military strategy.

This construction of a new military strategy has put an end to the modern separation between the military and the police, an arrangement which so far had helped avert a threat to democracy, a likely scenario when the military is permitted to intervene in civilian affairs. Now, all new threats have to be managed through close cooperation between the military and the police, in and out of the United States.



Similarly, the United Nations was also encouraged to develop police operations under the guise of pacification – ‘peace enforcement’ through military means. These new strategies were justified by arguing that there were more domestic conflicts than international wars in the South, that the states in the industrialized regions were no longer fighting against each other and, finally, that the inflow of migrants, especially ‘illegal’ ones, helped criminals and the terrorists to threaten the domestic security of ‘industrial democracies’.

9/11 was only the last phase of the construction of this new process of securitization. The neoconservatives, who had evolved this new strategy to legitimize American hegemony and strengthen its global spread, used the events of 9/11 to push through their plans under the leadership of President Bush. The document, ‘The National Security Strategy of the United States of America’, is only the icing on the strategy developed by them since the beginning of the 1990s.

September 11 nevertheless marked a crucial turning point in terms of the effect it had, thanks to the global media manipulation of public opinion, not only in the US but the entire world. Whereas earlier transnational organized crime was considered a more serious threat such that the UN was impelled to revise the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the 9/11 incidents gave a final push to the growing sense of fear and insecurity created by the informalization of the global political economy. In the North, the perception of threat was enhanced by the increasing number of refugees, ‘illegal’ migrants and trafficked women and children who constituted an ever-increasing tide accompanying globalization.



In the South too, this climate of threat was created by a growing sense of insecurity among different identity communities that had so far lived together, maintaining an often delicate balance of power and interests among themselves. Globalization was accompanied by a zero-sum competition within and between these communities to monopolize scarce resources coming from the North, converting their precarious coexistence into ethnic, communal, and inter-religious conflicts. Paradoxically, the consequent interventions by the industrialized states, mainly the United Nations, were called ‘peace-keeping’.

These efforts were aimed at recreating state control over such communities, ostensibly through ‘democratization’ but without recreating non-zero-sum interdependence and balance among them. The interventions by the international forces served more to punish the people responsible for these conflicts than build new conditions for cooperation among the concerned local communities. These interventions, made in the name of human rights and democracy, were often similar in their political motivation and economic consequences to the traditional interventions by the ‘civilized’ states in their efforts to build colonial empires. This hidden similarity became openly visible thanks to the 9/11 incidents, when a War on Terror was declared in the name of civilization against the enemies of human rights and democracy.



Another new form of colonialism, so far hidden in the informality of its developments, was the global trend of exploitative migration from the impoverished communities of the South into the informal communities of migrants in the urban centres of the North. The migrants, often treated as ‘illegal’, constituted the cheap labour force at the bottom heap of the transnational economy. From working in the rural economy as seasonal work hands, they were, without any social security guarantee, employed to do the dirty work rejected by the organized and unionized workers of the North. Women, in particular, were exploited as ‘indentured’ slaves, exploited commercially and sexually.

Such a workforce, indispensable for the global economic capital accumulation, became a threat both to the workers and to civil society in the North as industrialized countries began to experience economic recessionary trends. Immigrant workers were perceived as stealing jobs from ‘proper citizens’, and as ‘illegal’ elements endangering the security, and law and order of the civilized societies.

To use an expression first developed by Antonio Negri, the ‘multitude’, primarily the ‘illegal’ migrants from the South, were made the object of fear by a global media campaign. This enabled US strategists to develop their ‘new threat’ strategy, making the multitude the locus of all kinds of new threats and insecurity. It also enabled the new fascist powers to establish themselves. Just as traditional fascism of the 1920s and ’30s had established itself using the fear of a proletarian revolution among the middle classes, the new fascists exploited the fear of the multitude propagated by the global media. The breach of fundamental human rights by the new fascist powers was, all too often, considered a necessary evil by civil society. For example, the Taliban prisoners were put in cages and treated like animals in Guantanamo at the end of the war on Afghanistan. This is one example among many others where the uncivilized ‘others’ constitute the object of fear rather than of humane compassion, and are treated as evil people who do not deserve any elementary sense of justice.

The Home Security Office in the United States has developed a racial ‘profiling’ which turns a vast majority of innocent non-wasp peoples into potential suspects only because they belong to the Muslim community or to Muslim countries. They are, however, not the only ones to face constant surveillance. The informal communities of ‘illegal’ migrants which are mushrooming in the big urban centres of the industrialized countries too are an object of the generalized sense of fear among ‘normal’ citizens. This encourages the neo-Nazis and hate crime perpetrators to externalize the collective fear by creating acute insecurity within all members of informal communities of the multitudes, representing the South in the urban centres of the North.



The American hegemonic strategy further skillfully exploits this sense of insecurity among elites in the different countries of the world. Many of the feared identity-groups, often involved in struggles for self-determination as part of their effort at negotiating recognition of their collective identity as peoples, are branded as potential terrorist groups in exchange for co-operation with and allegiance to the hegemon. The Chechens in Russia, the Moro people in the Philippines, the Uigurs in China, constitute some examples of such terrorization of ethnic minorities, a by-product of the War on Terror.



The above considerations indicate that the American hegemony is a castle built on quicksand. It is nevertheless a hegemonic power which becomes stronger, the greater the fear generated through insecurity at the bottom, be it in the failed or in rogue states, or the informal communities in dissolution in the South or in formation in the North. As is discussed in the Report on the Security Strategy of the United States, the present constitutes a historic moment of peace among nations, if only all nations cease their power competition by uniting behind the United States in fighting the common enemy, terrorists.

The hegemony of the United States is based on the globalization of the world political economy which has transformed both states and civil societies. All states now have to participate in the global mega competition. Some of them, especially in the South, have lost control of their economy under pressure of the global financial casino and have become ‘failed states’. Others try to resist and survive by opposing the newly imposed global standards by, in turn, establishing a local hegemony and by developing weapon systems and other means to compete with the North, often ignoring in the process the boundaries of legality. Tragically, their undemocratic and violent means are oftentimes accepted by their citizens who fear of being members of ‘failed states’ if not led by a strong government. Both Iraq and North Korea are cases in point. These countries are then selected by the hegemon as useful targets to keep alive the War on Terror.

In the civil societies of the North where the informal communities of new migrants were more or less tolerated, globalization has generated mutual distrust and insecurity between the majority civil society and the migrant minorities, often treated as ‘illegal’ and criminal, possibly because these communities provide ideal hiding places for transnational criminals and terrorists. This creates pockets of insecurity within civil societies of the industrialized societies, both for the majority citizens and members of the immigrant communities. The prototype model of states and civil societies where the rights of individual citizens are guaranteed by the states and where the states develop mechanisms of international security, no longer operates, as it is supposed to, under neo-liberal globalization.



The United States under the Bush administration has profited from this decay of the modern state/civil society public order. It dominates the community of states and civil societies which fear new threats emanating from the bottom heap of informal communities. This fear helps feed the political campaign against both informal communities and states in the name of the war on terror. This ‘war’ is, in a sense, a Trotskyite revolution in reverse, a permanent counter-revolution uniting states and elites in their common fear of the multitude.

We have to fight against this new global fascism. We must eliminate the fear and the sense of insecurity of the citizens vis-à-vis the multitude. We must encourage all victims of the hegemonic permanent counter-revolution to create a united front and to fight a trench war together. As proposed by Antonio Gramsci in the era of national fascism, we must develop an anti-fascist common front suited to the conditions of global fascism.

This fascism has many victims. There are states, including permanent members of the Security Council, who are concerned about the blatant disregard of international law. There are industrialists, middle and small, who have lost all hope of successfully competing in the global mega competition. There are workers and peasants, who see the global political economy as endangering their security and their very livelihood. There are intellectuals who see the emergence of a new McCarthyism as constraining their right to free speech. There are citizens of the global South as well as of the global North who are concerned by the clash of civilizations and by an approaching ecological cataclysm. There are all the people who are treated as uncivilized, the increasing number of social minorities exploited in terms of their gender, class, ethnic identity and so on.



We must convince civil societies to learn from the example of social movements and begin to cooperate with the multitudes. We must develop a counter-mass media internet alliance against the fascist campaign of fear and hate. We must develop a counter-intelligence and a counter/counter-insurgency strategy to stop the intellectuals from allying with the hegemonic intelligence apparatus.

Above all, we must develop a new vision of hope to counter the rule of fear developed by the hegemonic forces and the promotion of state terrorism as a counter to anti-hegemonic terrorism. The non-violent manifestations in Iraq and elsewhere must become a source of inspiration for a global alliance across cultures and civilizations, uniting the peoples of goodwill across gender, class and ethnic divides.