The US Secretary of State, Kazakhstan and anti-Russia hysteria

US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, launched an unhinged tirade at Moscow, denouncing the decision by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to deploy troops to Kazakhstan at the invitation of that nation’s president. The CSTO is a post-Soviet military-political alliance involving six former Soviet republics, committed to military cooperation. The political situation in Kazakhstan has stabilised after a tumultuous few days.

Others have deeply analysed the turmoil in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic which has a large continuous land border with Russia. It is worthwhile for our purposes to examine the reasons behind the loud denunciations by the US administration of Russian intervention, because it throws light on imperialist hypocrisies. Blinken, while on the subject of the CSTO’s intervention, commented that once Russian troops are stationed in your nation’s territory, it is very difficult to get them out.

The boorish hypocrisy of his statement is staggering, considering the numerous countries which have been the target of US interventions, and the spreading of American military bases around the world. However, a few days after the CSTO deployment to Kazakhstan – from which nation CSTO troops have already begun to withdraw – news reports from the US made clear that the CIA was quite prepared to assist an insurgency inside the Ukraine. The latter is embroiled in a dispute with Moscow, and has become a base for European white supremacist groups.

Kazakhstan, like all the ex-Soviet republics, has structural economic inequalities. Its socialist assets, in similar fashion to other former Soviet states, were privatised back in the early 1990s with the restoration of capitalism and market mechanisms. Under the leadership of long term former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan opened up to transnational corporations, including American energy companies.

Nazarbayev also cultivated friendly and cooperative relations with both Moscow and Beijing. Kazakhstan eagerly participated in the Chinese government’s Belt and Road Initiative, an inter-state economic project to expand Chinese investment and infrastructure projects around the world. Kazakhstan has extensive natural and mineral resources, and is the host of the Baikanour cosmodrome, the space and astronomy port built by the Soviets in the 1950s. It still plays a crucial role in the Russian space programme.

It is relevant to highlight the extensive experiences Russia has in participating in peacekeeping efforts, both in former Soviet republics and overseas under the auspices of the United Nations. In 2020, Russian peacekeepers were deployed to the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, as part of a Moscow-brokered ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Since 1992, Russian troops have maintained a peacekeeping role in the self-declared republic of Transnistria. The latter, a Russian-speaking region of Moldova, did not want to secede from the USSR in 1991. Moldova, an ex-Soviet republic, gravitated to its larger neighbour, Romania, with whom Moldovans share linguistic and cultural ties. With armed clashes breaking out, Moscow arranged a ceasefire and deployed peacekeeping soldiers.

In numerous African nations – the Sudan, Chad, Sierra Leone – Russian troops have participated in peacekeeping missions, and maintaining order between armed groups. Moscow is not a novice when it comes to following international law. Russian intervention in Syria, while militarily significant, was largely defensive in origin and sought to preserve Russian interests only in that nation. That is only a brief evaluation, and can be debated, but this article is not the forum for an extensive discussion on Syria.

There is no doubt that pervasive inequalities prompt large-scale protests and uprisings by the disadvantaged. It is also true that Kazakhstan – a country closely watched by Moscow – borders the Chinese region of Xinjiang, which has become the target of Islamist rebels and Uyghur militants. Kazakhstan is not immune to these developments.

Blinken is upset, not because the Kazakh people are struggling in difficult conditions, but because the CSTO intervention in Kazakhstan put an end to the prospect of a colour revolution. The latter is a tactic of the US to effect a ‘soft power’ change in a particular country, and install a pro-Western amenable regime – such as the 2014 Maidan ‘revolution’ in the Ukraine.

The structural inequalities in Kazakhstan are the result not of any ethnic or racial failings of the Kazakh people, but the deliberate consequence of years of implementing capitalist economic programmes, supervised by the IMF and the World Bank. The experiences of all the other ex-Soviet republics bears out this view. In Russia itself, in the wake of capitalist restoration in the early 1990s, there followed mass pauperisation, criminality, rampant ethnic conflict and humanitarian dislocation.

Instead of wasting our time and energy on faux outrage about Russian troops in Kazakhstan, let’s focus on the original crime – the economic policies promoted by the West which resulted in a humanitarian and social collapse. Blinken should turn his attention to the internal rot of the capitalist system in the United States before shouting condemnations of other nations.

Antifa and the false equivalence with the Alt-Right

When Antifa – an abbreviation of anti-fascist – gets lumped into the same category as white supremacists and neo-Nazis, it is time to demolish this malign and false equivalence. No, Antifa is not one single organisation; no, it is not the ethical equivalent of the far right.

Slanderously cynical and egregious falsehoods – equating those who advocate genocidal racist violence and those who promote ethnic equality – cannot remain unanswered. The ultranationalist Right, an agglomeration of white supremacist and ultrarightist groups, incites violence against the majority of humanity, and dehumanises nonwhite peoples. Opposing such an outlook, and the economic system that perpetuates racial divisions, is the diametric opposite of the pinstripe-suited Alt-Right.

Antifa is not a single group, but a description of loosely-organised, community based autonomous groups united by a common platform of opposition to racism and ultrarightist groups. The latter make no secret of their desire to attack migrant communities and minority religious groups. Ultranationalist terrorism has been, and still is, a fact of life in Britain and the United States.

Accusations of external fundinga tired old cliche

Ultranationalist groups, when confronted by movements for racial and economic equality, resort to an old, worn tactic – accusations of funding by controlling self-interested and malevolent forces. In the heyday of the US civil rights movement, the usual scapegoat trotted out as a ‘secret financier’ was the Jewish people. Portraying egalitarian movements as the dupes of malign external forces serves to delegitimise the goals and motivations of the accused groups.

In this era of updated antisemitic vitriol, liberal billionaire George Soros is targeted, accused of bankrolling Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and similar antiracist groups. There is zero evidence that Soros is contributing to any Antifa group, but that has not stopped the ultrarightist camp from using Soros as a convenient bogeyman, replacing the role of Rothschild in the right wing imagination.

Accusing Antifa of being the brainchild of a ruthless, conspiratorial billionaire derails the serious conversations we need to have about racism and economic inequalities in settler colonial societies. In fact, in a kind of mirror image way, ultranationalist groups are projecting their own trajectory and origins onto their opponents; ruthless billionaires have financed ultrarightist and white supremacist organisations as a counterweight to the organised labour movement.

When Antifa groups, drawn from their local communities, march in the street, they do so to promote an inclusive society – one that welcomes ethnic and religious minorities as equals. When the far right marches in the street, they do so to promote a racially exclusive society, intending on starting a race war to drive out nonwhite communities.

Rebranding political extremists is a practice of the corporate media

Since the early 1990s, the ultranationalist Right in the US has received international support – from their co-thinkers in Eastern Europe. Nazi collaborators from the World War 2 period have been systematically rehabilitated, along with their doctrines. American rightist groups have become emboldened by the success of their fellow white supremacists overseas.

We should also be mindful of the role of the corporate media in helping to rebrand Nazi collaborators as freedom fighters. American and British ultranationalist groups have marched alongside their neo-Nazi political brethren in Poland, the Baltic republics and Eastern European nations. While xenophobic groups despise those they view as foreigners, they actively support foreign-born racists.

This makes the necessity of Antifa more urgent; when the far right demonise migrants, and call for racist violence, it is ineffective to simply respond with centrism or blaming ‘both sides.’ Antifa draws from a longstanding and much ignored history of antiracist organising, confronting fascist groups wherever they arise.

The doctrines of the far right are deployed today

The far right has tried to revamp its image from that of bullyboy skinheads to that of pinstripe-suited intellectuals. However, scratch beneath the surface, and we can find the same inhumane ideas that motivated the fascist parties of old. When the director of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, suggests that the current Covid morbidities are largely acceptable because they occur among the already elderly and differently-abled, she is drawing from the long history of eugenics in the United States.

Resurrecting the spectre of eugenics in the US, rationalising the fatalities caused by Covid in the elderly and differently-abled as the inevitable deaths of a burdensome segment of the population, directly descends from Nazi-era eugenical,thinking. In fact, prior to World War 2, the United States was a world leader not only in legalised racial stratification, but also in legislating eugenics measures to control people deemed to be the ‘surplus’ population.

No, Walensky is not a fascist – but being of the sensible centre, she should know what kind of ideas she is circulating. In fact, all of us require a political education to understand the kinds of ideologies advocated by Antifa and its ultranationalist opponents. Drawing a false equivalence between the activists of Antifa and neo-Nazi groups only serves to obfuscate the rising problem of racism today.

Hindutva diplomacy, anti-Black racism and colonial patriotism among immigrants

Growing up among the Egyptian-Armenians – Armenians who come from Egypt – one encounters the prejudices and outlook expressed by that particular community. Having absorbed the perspective of the overarching British colonial power – the latter having control of Egypt prior to the 1952 revolution – Egyptian Armenians for the most part see themselves as colonial patriots, reflecting the attitudes of the English empire loyalists.

The late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for instance, was a frequent target of mockery and racial ridicule by Egyptian-Armenians – the veteran anti-apartheid campaigner and South Africa’s ethical conscience was greeted with ridicule by the corporate media when visiting Australia in the late 1980s and early 90s. A man who fought for the equality of races was considered an object of mockery by the colonial-minded Egyptian Armenians.

The Islamophobic and anti Black prejudices of the Egyptian Armenians – not quite white, but not coloured either – finds similarities in the South Asian communities in Britain and the United States. Dinesh D’Souza, conservative pundit in the US, is a prime example, expressing anti black racism in his commentary, particularly during the presidency of Barack Obama.

More important than just confrontational conversations with people who express anti-black racism, is the question why minority groups – such as South Asians – express overt racism? Climbing the right wing racial pyramid requires that we integrate into the notion of whiteness – and one way to do that is advocate hostility against those who are nonwhite. It is a peculiar kind of racism, directed against those similar but still different to us.

South Asian communities in Britain and the US have a stubborn history of reckoning with anti-black racism. Political figures such as D’Souza, Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley uphold their examples of immigrant success stories – by distancing themselves from their ethnic background and attacking other minorities. When D’Souza expresses his opposition to former US President Obama, he attacks not the Democratic Party policies, but Obama’s African American background.

Hindutva diplomacy

There are both historical and contemporary reasons for the persistence of Afriphobia in the South Asian community. Britain, the former colonial power in numerous African nations, deployed non-African ethnic minorities as settler communities, providing them with privileges over and above the indigenous African population. South Asians were settled in Uganda and Kenya, and were maintained as economic props buttressing the colonial system.

After independence, the commercial and economic networks of the South Asians became targets of the newly assertive African governments. A policy of Africanisation ensued – with the Kenyan government demanding that South Asians acquire Kenyan citizenship. Uganda, ruled at the time by Idi Amin, summarily expelled the South Asian community.

They arrived in England, Canada, the United States and other nations with ready-made stories of ‘African persecution’, lapped by a corporate media eager to find fault with the administrations of newly independent African nations. Anti-black racism found a fresh start in the white majoritarian settler-colonial societies.

In Egypt, the policy of nationalisation lead many non-Arab minorities, including the business-oriented Armenians, to flee the country. My late father, in contrast, was politically awakened by, and remained part of, the Nasserist generation.

Turning to contemporary times, the colonial separatism of the South Asian communities received a boost – from Narendra Modi’s India. His government, which has elevated the Hindu supremacist ideology of Hindutva to national policy, has deliberately cultivated supporters among India’s diasporic communities.

Hindutva, an ideology of Hindu supremacism, shares many features with rabid white nationalism. Portraying the Islamic community as ‘foreign invaders’ who don’t belong in India, they have found common cause with the Islamophobic wings of conservative parties in Britain and the US. Turning the South Asian communities into stable hotbeds of bigotry is the goal of Hindutva diplomacy. Anti-black racism finds the prejudices of Hindutva separatism to be fertile ground.

Please do not use the excuse that ‘everyone is racist’. The claim that ‘everybody does it’ is not a defence for harmful or criminal behaviour. This retort is the nuclear kamikaze option – take everyone in the world down with me. Yes, I can hear the screaming objections – do not generalise; not every South Asian or Egyptian-Armenian is racist. Thanks for these helpful observations, but they are completely irrelevant and derail serious conversations about prejudice. And screaming ‘but I don’t see race!’ is equally ridiculous and beside the point.

One of the officers who watched his colleague, Derek Chauvin, suffocate a black man to death, was an Asian American man, a Hmong officer. The need for re-education about race and racism is greater than ever, but it can be done. While tensions between the African American and South Asian communities exist, there is no reason for those tensions to remain in place.

South Asian and African American communities have a long history of interracial cooperation and support. They have fought together, marched and been arrested together. There is no doubt that South Asian migrants, and their children, are having the difficult conversations about racism in their own communities.

The Rif rebellion in Morocco – an inspiring anticolonial uprising

This year marks the centenary of the Rif rebellion in Morocco, an anticolonial uprising by the Amazigh people – commonly known as the Berbers. Fighting against their Spanish colonial overlords, the leader Muhammad Ibn Abd al Karim al-Khattabi (1882/3 – 1963) was a skilled political and guerrilla commander whose tactics inspired Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Che Guevara.

In Eastern Europe, the wartime ultranationalist Nazi collaborators and war criminals, heroised as freedom fighters by today far-right and nationalist politicians, should be condemned for what they were – fascist accomplices and racists whose ideology advocated genocidal violence against ethnic minorities. Their statues should be taken down – not for the purpose of ignoring history, but because their criminal ideology of white supremacy is a threat to humanity.

The Spanish enclave in Morocco faced a serious rebellion in 1921 by the people of the Rif mountains – mainly Berbers. Although France occupied Morocco, Spain carved out a portion of Moroccan territory in its bid to be a colonial power. The Riffian peoples, under Abd al-Krim’s leadership (that is the abbreviation of his name) fought Spanish troops to a standstill, and inflicted a humiliating loss on Spain at the Battle of Annual. The numerically superior Spanish army lost thousands of soldiers against the smaller and determined Berber guerrillas.

Abd al-Krim’s forces established the Rif republic – complete with a constitution, ministerial cabinet, courts, flag, telephone system, and plans to issue a currency. Waging a nationalist revolt, he also implicitly declared his opposition to the centuries-old Moroccan dynastic family, the Alawis, from whom the Sultan originated. The sultan had become a compliant figurehead, taking orders from Spain. So the Riffian republic was redefining Moroccan nationalism, and what a Berber state should look like.

The Riffian revolutionaries attempted to gain international recognition for their republic. In America, still in the grip of Wilsonian idealism, it was African American groups, such as the black nationalist Marcus Garvey, who extended solidarity to the Berber guerrillas. France, which had by now joined Spain in a combined military effort to suppress the Rif rebellion, deployed Senegalese troops, from its west African colony, to break down interracial solidarity.

The French authorities, in their campaign to defeat the Rif insurgency, employed white American aviators to carry out aerial bombardments – which resulted in mass civilian casualties – of the Rif strongholds. Spanish forces used chemical weapons to crush the Rif republic.

By 1925, the colonial offensive was overwhelming, and the rebellion was defeated. However, the Rif republic’s example inspired neighbouring Algerians, in the decades that followed, to launch their successful anticolonial revolution against the French.

A young Spanish officer in the Rif war was Francisco Franco, who would go on to lead the 1936 ultrarightist uprising in Spain, plunging the country into civil war. He learned the ruthless tactics of scorched earth – and accompanying atrocities – when fighting in Morocco. In fact, the Spanish officers in the Rif developed an ultranationalist, white supremacist Africanist chauvinism.

It is important to stress that, because the ethnic chauvinist ideology that Spanish fascism advocated was strikingly similar to the Eastern European ultranationalist collaborators who served as auxiliaries to Nazi German imperialism. The Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) claimed to be fighting both the USSR and Nazi Germany to achieve Ukrainian independence, but in reality cooperated with German fascism out of an ideological correspondence with the Nazi party.

The anticommunism of the OUN, similarly to other East European Nazi collaborators, was not borne out of any rational critique of Marxist philosophy, but was an extension of their vicious antisemitism. The Ukrainian, and Baltic, white supremacist insurgents did not make a thorough critique of Marx’s Das Kapital after reading its contents and hold political discussion clubs. Their anticommunism derived from the ultranationalist identification of Communism with Judaism. The latter, the alleged authors of socialist doctrine, were accused of masterminding a Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy against the Ukrainian nation.

The ultranationalism of Eastern European collaborators was necessarily a racially paranoid, exclusive nationalism. Defining themselves in racially purist terms, the OUN, and similar groups, defined their nations as ethnically purified entities, purged of Jews, Roma, Russians and other undesirable elements. The armed militants of the OUN aided and abetted the genocidal Nazi project out of an ideological similarity with their German protectors.

When the Ukrainian authorities erect statues to Stepan Bandera, they are not merely remembering their history or respecting a ‘freedom fighter.’ They are advocating the cause of a racist killer, and rehabilitating the ideology he espoused. That is why it is important to support the Moscow-proposed UN general assembly resolution to condemn the glorification of Nazi collaborators, because by overlooking their criminal history, they are helping to revive racist doctrines today.

The anticolonial uprisings of the past, such as the Rif rebellion, contain many lessons for our times.

Mormons, peopling of the Americas and sectarian pseudoarcheology

The Asia Pacific headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) – commonly known as the Mormons – is an impressive and opulent complex in Honolulu. The Polynesian Cultural Centre is owned and operated by the church. Mormons don’t drink, smoke or gamble – and neither do I for that matter. Polygamy is not a relevant issue – what a person does in their bedroom is their own business.

However, when the Mormon zealots, in pursuit of a theologically-influenced sectarian pseudoarcheology, go digging up indigenous American sites and remains – that is an unpleasant and disrespectful project. It elevates a holy book into an archaeological text, and that is an enormous disservice to the field of archaeology, and especially to the indigenous nations in the Americas.

The Mormons were in the news only recently, deploying a team to a town in Iowa for an archaeological dig. The purpose? To uncover the remains of what they believe is an ancient Biblical Hebrew metropolis of Zarahemla. The Mormons, in line with their philosemitic ideology, believe that one of the lost tribes of Israel, Lehi, constructed a ship and sailed to the Americas thousands of years ago. This seeding event, they contend, is the starting point for the peopling of the Americas. The indigenous nations are but descendants of, or the admixing result from, the original lost Jewish tribes.

Hewing to their theme of a ‘chosen people’ escaping slavery, the Americas are the purported ‘promised land’. This alleged history, preserved on gold tablets, has been passed on down the generations, and finally made its way into the foundational scriptures of Mormonism. What is the harm in this kind of fabricated wisdom? It demeans and degrades the indigenous people, who are cooped into a sectarian rendering of pseudo history.

It is one thing to appreciate Jewish culture and people; philo-Semitism however, transforms the biblical Hebrews and the Jewish experience into a politically-charged religious sectarian experience. The Mormons have an obsessive preoccupation with philo-Semitic themes and subjects. Mormon politicians have a mezuzah in their keeping, and Utah – the closest thing the United States has to a theocratic state – produces pro-Zionist and pro-Israel politicians every generation.

Fundamentalist Christianity and pro-Zionism have found common cause in the United States. Utah, a state founded as a Mormon homeland, mimics the Biblical Hebrew story, escaping from persecution to seek out a new holy land. The Mormons strongly identify with the Zionist story – seeking out a land, excluding the natives, and building a religiously-sanctioned ‘homeland.’ The American Protestant experience has a long history of spiritual Zionism – a ‘return’ to the holy lands.

Immediately next to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem stands the Jerusalem centre of Brigham Young University, named after the second presidential of the LDS church, first governor of Utah and philo-Semitic politician. The identification of the Mormons with the Zionist state is strong, and Mormons provide pro-Zionist voters to the US Congress.

The peopling and settlement of the Americas is a fascinating subject in archaeology and anthropology. The entrance of geneticists and DNA studies has vastly expanded our understanding of this mysterious and interesting topic. It speaks to us because humans want to understand our origins; both biological and cultural.

The current mainstream views holds that the Beringia land bridge was the mostly likely route, from the West Asian land mass, accessible to paleolithic hunter-gatherers, prior to the formation of the Bering strait. As the ice retreated, migrants made their way across modern-day Alaska and peopled the American continents. Geneticists have identified common haplogroups between the Siberian people and today’s indigenous nations in North America.

The Book of Mormon, authored in the 1800s, contains numerous references to species and technologies that were simply not present in the Americas during the times they purportedly describe. References to chariots, metallurgy – these may be familiar to our picture of biblical lands as described in the Old Testament, but they are a complete departure from anything resembling Native American civilisations. There are numerous biologists who are religious – but none of them are seriously searching for evidence of the talking snake from the Book of Genesis.

None of this is intended to invite ridicule or mockery of the LDS church and its followers. The intention is to protect indigenous American archaeology and history from being subsumed by sectarian pseudoarcheology.

Indigenous Americans already have a fraught relationship with the field of anthropology and archaeology. It is incumbent on non-indigenous people to respect the artefacts and stories of indigenous people. We may not always agree, but we can cooperate in order to understand and build mutual respect.

The 2013 Kenya Westgate shopping mall, Fortress Europe and refugees in the English Channel

It is the selective outrage, and the exploitation of our reactions by the corporate media and the governments they serve, which reveals the insular nature of our Anglocentric political culture.

The 2013 attack in the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya, was a terrible atrocity. Committed by Al Shabaab militants, the attackers were retaliating for Kenya’s role – and Ethiopia’s – in the invasion and chaos in their native Somalia. The guerrilla insurgency of Al Shabaab spilled over the borders, and was on gruesome display in Nairobi.

Paul Gottinger, writing in Counterpunch, cautions us to be wary of the grotesquely insincere and manufactured emotions of the media punditocracy when understanding why the Westgate attack occurred:

We must resist being held hostage to the emotions the media tell us we must feel. The cheap, bewildered horror we are to maintain demeans not only ourselves, but the victims as well.

For it only disrespects those killed when we allow the vile media and criminal governments they serve to monopolize the narrative of terror attacks like these.

Somalia has long been a target of imperialist intervention, given its strategic location at the Horn of Africa and at the entrance to the Red Sea. While US forces were defeated by a local insurgency in the early 1990s, the United States has sought to intervene in Somalia by using African proxies. The Ethiopian and Kenyan militaries fit the bill, with Ethiopia especially being prepared by US forces for its invasion of Somalia.

The Somali guerrilla insurgency, in the shape of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), brought a sense of order and stability in the areas they controlled. But it was the 2006 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia which radicalised guerrilla groups, such as Al Shabaab, waging a nationalist reaction against a foreign-backed enemy. Kenya fully complied with this 2006 war against the Somali Islamist militants.

The nationalist aspect of the Somali insurgency is often ignored; portraying the enemy as irrational, inflexible Muslim militants satisfies our sense of outrage, making purported sense of ‘senseless violence.’ The numerous drone strikes on Mogadishu, which involve hundreds of Somali fatalities, are routinely ignored.

The purpose of this brief and necessarily truncated account of recent Somali history is to expose the selective and hypocritical outrage of our corporate media commentariat. Shopping mall victims made good copy – given our Australian consumerist shopping culture. Going into details about foreign policy outcomes which result in foreign victims – and allocating responsibility for our imperialistic conduct – is time-consuming and outside our Anglocentric insular vision.

Fortress Europe created the conditions responsible for refugee deaths

In 2013, the same year as the Westgate mall attack, a group of 300 refugees drowned off the coast of the Italian island Lampedusa. They were attempting to reach European Union territory – and that was not the first nor the last time refugees drowned in terrible circumstances. Last month, 27 refugees died in the English Channel, most of them from Iraq, Iran and Syria. This was the largest fatality of refugees in the Channel since records began being kept in 2014.

Paris and London, while expressing shock at the loss of life and purported sympathy for the victims’ families, are trading bitter recriminations over sovereignty in the Channel. Similar expressions of dismay and sympathies were expressed by EU officials back in 2013 over the Lampedusa drownings. It is difficult to take these official statements of sympathy seriously, given that the EU nations have assiduously cultivated a militarised Fortress Europe to stop refugees fleeing war zones.

In fact, EU nations, such as France and UK – the latter an EU state prior to Brexit – supported and participated in imperialist wars of expansion in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya; nations whose populations have suffered dislocation and humanitarian crises because of policies pursued by EU member states. Patrick Cockburn makes this precise point in Counterpunch; if you are responding for undermining a state’s ability to provide for its people, whether through warfare or sanctions, then you are morally obligated to accept refugees fleeing those perilous circumstances.

It has been ten years since the UK-French led intervention in Libya. In that time, Libya has endured economic and political chaos, poverty and fragmentation. Indeed, there is a flourishing slave trade. The EU’s response to the outflow of refugees, from Libya and sub-Saharan Africa, is to outsource refugee detention, paying poorer nations to forcibly detain and mistreat asylum seekers.

Niger, the Sudan, Mali – among others – have received funds to deter refugees. Greece, while inside the EU, received financial incentives to militarise its borders with non-EU state Turkey. The EU has created a business model for dealing with asylum seekers encouraging people smuggling as a financially rewarding enterprise. Using third-party countries as giant prison camps for refugees creates a vulnerable underclass open to exploitation.

As long as immigration and refugee policy remain shaped by toxic political discourses about ‘invasion’ and ‘swamping’, fortress Europe will continue to cost asylum seeker lives. We need a complete revamp, basing immigration and asylum on respect for human rights.

Being multicultural and Australian – ethnic identity and white racial resentment

NSW Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, in a book about her political experiences, details the racist hate she and her staff regularly receive from anonymous trolls and online sources. They all have the same hateful message – “go back to where you come from”. Originally from Pakistan, Senator Faruqi is an environmental engineer, has extensive experience in local government, and advocates for social justice policies.

However, the only issue that matters to the online pests is that she is Muslim. They make highly intelligent critiques of her policies, such as ‘go back to your sh*thole Pakistan”. When Senator Faruqi posted pictures of her trip to Brisbane, with photos of the river, buildings and skyline, one commenter helpfully observed – “before your husband blows it up.”

No politician is beyond criticism – but the attack on Senator Faruqi always involves questioning her motivations and identity. The policies of the Greens never seem to matter – waging an Islamophobic assault on her background is the one singular contribution by resentful Anglo Australians. As Senator Faruqi has explained:

Being born a person of colour outside Australia is a permanent mark that is used to render me, and people like me, irrelevant and voiceless in white-colonised countries. This rule doesn’t apply to white politicians who were born overseas and migrated here, like Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott.

Why is being a person of colour a permanent reminder of outsider status? Shouting the xenophobic phrase ‘go back to where you come from’ is an obnoxious accusation for the nonwhite person to ‘prove’ their loyalty. Wrapping ourselves in the Australian flag, speaking the Aussie vernacular and shouting abuse at the cricket may make racially resentful white Australians pleased, but it does nothing to contribute to the welfare of the community.

She is proud of her country of origin, and proud of her new home. She is not going anywhere.

Not black enough

Claire Coleman is an Indigenous novelist and activist, who has written about her experiences as a white-presenting indigenous Australian. She is of mixed English-Irish and Aboriginal ancestry, and identifies as Indigenous. She is asked one overwhelmingly repetitive question – actually, an accusation, by white Australian audiences; you are not black enough.

The people who accuse Coleman of ‘not being black enough’ are white, allocating to themselves the right to define who is indigenous or coloured. Australia, in similar ways to other settler colonial societies, implemented a ‘one-drop’ rule for racially classifying indigenous and non-indigenous people. Half-caste, quadroon, octoroon – fabricated gradations of bloodline ancestry to establish a racially stratified society were legislated.

One drop of blood – indigenous or black – was all that was needed to classify a person as coloured. While those laws may have officially passed, the ideology remains. Coleman elaborates how she is on the receiving end of accusations – why indigenous? Why don’t you identify as Anglo? Coleman tries to explain it for the benefit of Australian audiences – “I’m a Vegemite sandwich on brown bread.”

As Coleman elaborates:

No matter what happens to Aboriginal children of mixed race, no matter whose ‘fault’ it is that their skin is lighter than they would like, it’s not their fault. Nobody gets to choose their race. I am mixed-race because my family is and I did not choose my family.

Nor would I choose to be anything other than who I am.

Demanding DNA tests

Andrew Bolt, right wing commentator, accused white-presenting Indigenous Australians of perpetrating a racial scam – pretending to claim indigenous ancestry for financial gain from government institutions. Slandering indigenous persons as ‘race-fakers’ is a serious charge – and a group of indigenous activists successfully sued Bolt for defamation.

It is the height of perverse hypocrisy to accuse indigenous leaders of being ‘divisive’. This falsity rests on the cynical assumption that Anglo Australia is colour-blind. But everyday that white Australians shout their contempt at Senator Faruqi, or deny the indigenous ancestry of Claire Coleman, or scream ‘go back to where you come from’ at me from moving cars, they expose the racially-driven resentment of their worldview.

DNA ancestry tests are all well and good, but they are not instruments to buttress white racial resentment. If the only time you demand a DNA test is to purportedly ‘expose’ a ‘race-faker’, then you are not interested in questions of ancestry, but only in reinforcing your bigoted worldview. Empirical veracity is a commendable objective, but do not deploy it exclusively in the service of racial stratification.

In fact, DNA tests are a double-edged sword; the more we study about ethnicity and race, the more we realise how multicultural societies are. Even the Vikings, the epitome of white European conquering warriors, were not the ‘pure’ master race that white supremacists would have us believe. Projecting racially motivated fantasies back in time creates an imagined past that distorts our understanding of our ancestry, but also of our present circumstances.

The European far right, white South Africans and supporters of Zionism

In June this year, two former Israeli ambassadors to South Africa referred to the system of military occupation in the occupied Palestinian Territories as apartheid. This is a direct reference to the South African Bantustan policy, implemented by the racist government of Pretoria until 1994.

Separating and confining the indigenous populations into non-continuous enclaves, and ruling over them with military laws, were among the similarities noted by the two former Israeli ambassadors between Israeli policy today and South African apartheid. These comments speak to a deeper parallel between the two ethnoseparatist garrison states – apartheid South Africa and Zionist Israel had a cooperative and longstanding military-political alliance for decades, based on a shared politico-religious vision of their respective nations.

The Afrikaners, in settling and colonising African land, invoked the notion of a ‘chosen people’, a god-ordained biblically informed vision of establishing an ethnosupremacist state. This has direct parallels with the Zionist notion of a biblically inspired campaign to colonise the holy lands of the Old Testament, namely Palestine. In both cases, the indigenous populations – black Africans and Palestinians – are regarded as the eternal outsiders; the savages who need civilising.

Jan Smuts, long time Afrikaner politician and field marshal, was not only a racist advocate of Afrikaner supremacy, but also an enthusiastic supporter of Zionism. Forming a friendship with Chaim Weizmann, leader of the Zionist federation and first president of Israel, Smuts strongly supported the Zionist goal of building settlements in pre-1948 Palestine. A supporter of the 1917 Balfour declaration, he expressed his admiration for the civilising mission of Zionism in Palestine – there is a kibbutz named after Smuts in his honour.

The alliance between Tel Aviv and apartheid-era Pretoria is not just a matter of academic history. Since the end of apartheid in 1994, growing numbers of Afrikaners – both those born South African Jewish and converts – are finding a comfortable new home in Israel. Abba Eban, the former Israeli foreign minister, was the most famous South African to move to Israel, and many have followed in his footsteps.

The Afrikaners who come from a Pentecostal background, and convert to Judaism, may have a spiritual connection to Israel. But latching onto this explanation ignores the shared history of settler colonialism and apartheid practices of both garrison states. Afrikaner racism and Zionist exclusivity are fellow political travellers, and share a vision of a state based on suppressing the respective indigenous populations.

European antisemites – Zionism’s biggest supporters

European ultrarightist parties have a long history of vicious antisemitism and white supremacy. However, that has not stopped them, over the last few years, from expressing open support for the Zionist state. From Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ultranationalist Hungarian Civic Alliance – Fidesz – all have advocated steadfast political support for Israeli colonisation in Palestine.

To be sure, the European ultraright is undergoing a makeover, abandoning the white hoods and bedsheets, and taking up the collared shirt and office suit. They realise that the skinhead, bully boy image is harmful to their electoral prospects. However, there is also a deep ideological correspondence – Israeli apartheid is an ethnonationalist model state that the European far right intends to emulate.

The rise of a new enemy has lead to an emerging political nexus between the European far right and Tel Aviv – the purported ‘threat’ of Islam. Hostility to Muslim immigration has provided an ideological glue sealing together the goals of Zionism – as an outpost of settler colonialism against Muslim-majority Palestine, and European ultranationalist parties who intend to sustain Europe as a white Christian entity.

Geert Wilders, the suit-wearing suntanned neofascist of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) called Israel the ‘canary in the coal mine’ with regards to the ostensible struggle against Islam. Preying on paranoid anxieties about ‘mass Muslim immigration’, Wilders has pushed Dutch politics further to the right.

The Austrian neofascist politician, Heinz Christian-Strache, has visited Israel numerous times, applauding Tel Aviv’s militarised response to refugees, particularly against the Palestinians. Rabid Islamophobia, combined with anti-immigration xenophobia, has led to a rise in violence against migrant communities – but the ultranationalist admiration for Israel has not abated. Being participants in a global ‘war against Islam’ has provided a pole of attraction for Tel Aviv and European white supremacists.

It is difficult to conceive of a European far right that is internationalist in its perspective – hating foreigners is a necessary precondition to join or support such organisations. Despising foreigners is one aspect – supporting foreign-born racists is the other side of the coin. Screaming claims that anti-Zionism is antisemitism only distract from the very real cultivation of political links between Tel Aviv and the European far right.

John Locke, the Enlightenment and racism

The Enlightenment was a truly historic achievement, promoting rational thinking, empiricism and the scientific method as opposed to religious superstition and monarchical absolutism. However, we cannot ignore the racism in the writings of its leading lights.

The writings of John Locke (1632-1704), English philosopher and businessman, were assigned to us at university by the bucketload. His work, along with David Hume, were considered exemplars of Enlightenment rationalism. That is true enough, but we must also highlight the racism included in the works of Enlightenment philosophers. To ignore this racial prejudice distorts our understanding of this tumultuous historical period.

What was the Enlightenment?

Let’s begin with a broad definition of the Enlightenment; this was a historical period of bourgeois revolution, (in the 17th century) which witnessed the rise of secular and rationalist ideologies, challenges to religious-political rule by the feudal class, and the adoption of the scientific method. Obviously this is a huge subject and much more can be said. However, these are the general outlines of the intellectual and social changes involved in the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment thinkers, though varied in their ideas, all advocated basic propositions – the natural world could be understood through reason and empirical evidence; that religious authority and superstition could be challenged by rational thinking; and that human beings possess universal and inalienable rights. The rising capitalist mode of production tore apart not only feudal social relations, but also the religious ideology which buttressed it.

However, it was on the question of universal human rights – and in particular about the notion of race – where the Enlightenment leaves a divided legacy. For while there were philosophers who advocated the equality of races (and genders), such as the Marquis de Condorcet, the Enlightenment’s mainstream thinkers accepted slavery and proposed a racialised classification of human beings.

John Locke and white racial solidarity

It is worth stressing that prior to the Enlightenment, there was no concept of systematised human races. John Locke, whom we mentioned earlier, has been upheld as the philosopher who provided the main ideological underpinning of the American revolution, articulating doctrines of liberty and prosperity. Locke, himself involved in the slave trade, elaborated a doctrine that provided liberty and economic well-being – based on an intra-European truce as ‘whites’, to conquer the indigenous American nations.

Locke regarded the indigenous Americans as nothing more than ‘savages’, whose connection to the land was tenuous at best, because they failed to cultivate it, as he saw it. It was the small settler, the farmer who tilled the land who actually owned it, by virtue of his labour. Yes, his labour, not hers – he never acknowledged equality of the sexes.

Locke has been selected as a hero of liberty because his doctrines of classical liberalism have provided a rationalisation of the enslavement of black and indigenous people. Locke’s pamphlet A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) was written as a way to reconcile the previously warring European Christian denominations – now confronting the non-white indigenous and black African civilisations.

It is true that Locke criticised slavery in his book Two Treatises of Government – but not the transatlantic slave trade. He denounced ‘slavery’ of the English people to an absolutist monarch, and advocated the separation of religious authority from the state. Confronting the overarching power of the church – and throwing off the shackles of that particular ‘slavery’ – advanced the interests of the rising mercantile class.

Locke was not the only racist thinker from the Enlightenment – Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804), a central thinker from that age, created a formalised hierarchy of human races. Kant, who elaborated moral and social philosophy – and had an enormously impact on epistemology – opined that human beings achieved true perfection in the white race.

While there were proto-racial ideas prior to the rise of capitalist settler-colonialism, it took the Enlightenment to create a pseudoscientific racial taxonomy of humankind. This was the era of colonial expansion – European powers were encountering civilisations completely unknown to them – absent from biblical and religious accounts of human history. A new philosophy of humanity had to be constructed to make sense of these discoveries – that there are human civilisations outside the narrow framework of biblical literalism.

A contested legacy

Non-European civilisations – the ancient Indian, Chinese, Islamic, and numerous African and indigenous nations – all developed philosophy, empirical techniques and rational thinking. These intellectual and ethical values are not the exclusive preserve of the West, no matter how much white Europeans like to think so. Centuries before the Enlightenment and Renaissance, Islamic philosopher and astronomer Al-Haytham (965-1040) – sometimes latinised as Al Hazen – was a pioneer of the scientific method, combining theorising with experimentation. He is rightly regarded as the father of modern optics, and his writings influenced generations of scientists and philosophers.

Every era passes on its legacy – and that inheritance can be contaminated by the obsolete ideas and ethically repugnant practices of the past. While the Enlightenment was an outstanding social and ideology achievement, we should not be reticent in criticising its flaws. Let’s remember that Enlightenment thinkers, such as Spinoza, advocated a radical vision of equality, at odds with those like Locke who have been heroised by posterity.

Belarus, the EU and weaponising refugee stories

The border between Belarus and the European Union (EU) nations has become a crisis point over the last few months. Refugees from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Mali and other war-torn have been attempting to enter the Schengen area from Belarus.

The EU nations, namely Poland, Lithuania and Germany, have accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, of deliberately weaponising the refugee issue to promote discord within their ranks.

The Belarusian government responded by stating they are simply retaliating for EU-imposed sanctions and hostility from EU member-states, and denied using asylum seekers as a political tactic.

The refugees, trying to cross into the Schengen zone, face barbed wire fences, Polish and Lithuanian troops, and are stuck in a no-man’s land where they face harsh and life-threatening conditions. The governments of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have rushed to militarise the border, and have portrayed refugees as an ‘invading influx’.

Retaliation against the EU by relaxing border controls is certainly a cynical move on the part of Minsk – but weaponising refugee and migrant stories, and turning immigration into a toxic issue, is not. In fact, Minsk is simply following in the footsteps of the major capitalist powers in turning the refugee-migrant issue into a political football.

In fact, the Australian government has used the harsh treatment of asylum seekers as a vote-gaining tactic for successive decades. The mandatory detention of refugees in offshore camps by Canberra has not only promoted anti-immigration xenophobia, but has also inspired the EU nations – and in particular far right forces – to advocate for the same restrictive policies.

Demonising refugees and migrants as ‘invaders’ is a long-term political device employed by Australia’s major parties. EU nations, such as the Baltic states, have followed this example, denouncing the Iraqi and Afghani asylum arrivals from Belarus as a threat to be repulsed. Heavily militarised borders have made their return, in the name of stopping refugees – decades after East Berliner refugees were hailed as brave escapees for having successfully negotiated the Berlin Wall.

The Polish government’s mistreatment of migrants, stranded at the Polish-Belarusian border, has come under increasing criticism from human rights organisations. Warsaw has deliberately cultivated an atmosphere of anti-immigrant xenophobia, portraying the refugees as dangerous elements. Warsaw has stopped journalists and aid-workers from accessing the 3-kilometre deep borderland area – and deployed thousands of troops to deal with what it calls an emergency.

Médecins Sans Frontières – Doctors Without Borders – have noted at least eight deaths of migrants, stuck in harrowing conditions with a lack of food, water, medicine – in a densely wooded area in subzero temperatures. While the EU nations are pushing refugees back to Belarus, Minsk is refusing to take them.

Minsk’s retaliatory measures are deplorable, but not without extensive precedent. Turkish President Recep Erdogan ‘threatened’ to allow refugees from the Middle East to enter the EU from Greece in order to extract European assurances for Turkish policy in Syria. Erdogan’s cynical gesture was a perverse exploitation of Islamophobic stereotypes – playing up the anxieties of anti-immigrant advocates inside the EU of a putative ‘Muslim invasion.’

Eastern European nations, since the dissolution of the Eastern bloc in 1990-91, have become hotbeds of ultranationalist and anti-immigration political rhetoric. Right wing politicians, such Hungary’s Viktor Orban, have promoted Islamophobic and antisemitic conspiracy theories, accusing non-European nations of using migrants as an intrusive force intent on ‘taking over’ Christian-majority Europe.

Such rhetoric only feeds the hysteria against refugees – who are fleeing the consequences of imperialist wars overseas. These American-led wars, such as those against Iraq and Afghanistan, have been strongly supported by the same Eastern European governments now turning away refugees.

I am old enough to remember a particularly cynical PR campaign in the late 1980s exploiting a refugee group for political purposes – the campaign to ‘liberate’ Soviet Jews. The latter, facing restrictions on their ability to travel, were no better or worse off than other nationalities in the former Soviet Union. However, the George Bush administration (1988-92), following in the footsteps of the Reagan administration, turned the issue of Soviet Jewish emigration into a PR effort.

Feigning concern for the human rights of Soviet Russian Jews, the Bush administration loudly asserted the right of Russian Jews to emigrate – ostensibly to Israel, but from there, other nations were the intended destination, such as the United States. Private Zionist organisations in the US helped to fund such a campaign, President Bush and his colleagues gave fiery speeches about the importance of liberty, and Russian Jews were turned into sympathetic refugees. This was part of a deliberate effort to turn former Soviet nationalities, particularly those of a right wing bent, into a cause célèbre.

Never was there any expression of anxieties about the new non-Christian immigrants failing to assimilate. At the same time, the US was actively supporting and funding dictatorial regimes and death squads in Central American nations, which created an outflow of Hispanic refugees.

As long as the EU regards itself as a fortress, repelling refugees as an ‘invading’ force, crises such as the one currently unfolding on the Belarus-EU area border will arise. The crisis is not one caused by the asylum seekers, nor is it a crisis because refugees are arriving. The crisis is caused by the inhumane and repressive policies of the EU.