[Make sure to read Daniel Greenfield’s contributions in Jamie Glazov’s new book: Barack Obama’s True Legacy: How He Transformed America.]
Whether the Jews and Arab Muslims in the Middle East, the Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka, Hispanics and Indians in South America, or the Chinese in Indonesia, decolonization is a euphemism for the majoritarian oppression of minority groups in the name of liberation.
Western anti-colonialism allied with Third World nationalist tribal movements in the name of opposing imperialism and colonialism. Rather than offering equality and human rights, these movements routinely launched programs of ‘decolonization’ which defined citizenship in the newly liberated nation around the ethnicity, language and culture of the majority. Everything from access to higher education to property ownership was reserved for members of their tribe.
Western leftists cheered as ‘democratic socialist’ people’s republics spread this program of ethnic, religious and racial repression across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Many of them were indeed democratic, anchored by the votes of an ethnic, racial or religious bloc, but what they lacked was any standard of fairness or justice beyond majority rule.
Faced with riots, massacres and civil wars, the Left blamed the horrors on the relics of western colonialism. It justified the mistreatment of Jews in Algeria or the Chinese in Indonesia because they were more westernized and successful, and had prospered under European rule’. Third world nationalists argued that the minorities had it coming because, being better educated, they had been complicit in “colonialism” and the purges were the revenge of the oppressed majority.
Left unsaid was that the only reason the minorities had turned to the colonial regimes was because they had been persecuted and denied civil rights under the old tribal regimes.
Decolonization brought back the old persecution of minority groups with a vengeance.
In the Middle East and North Africa, Jews fled Muslim countries for Israel, Europe or North America. Christians continued their own long slow exodus westward. Having consolidated power in the Middle East, Islamists reached out to Asia beginning what would become the age of terror, ending modernity and coexistence across religious and ethnic lines. The Christians of Pakistan, the Hindus of Kashmir and the Chinese of Indonesia were among the victims.
The images of westernized women in short skirts became monotone relics of the past in places like Afghanistan and Iran, another casualty of decolonization, but so did civil rights in general.
Decolonization meant that the majority was free to terrorize and repress the minority. Rather than moving forward, its mission was to go back, all the way, as Hamas and Arab Islamists in general insist, to a caliphate a thousand years in the past.
Rather than uniting the world, decolonization spurred every group to pursue its own dreams of glory, reaching back to reclaim a past that may never have existed, while resuming old conflicts with historic enemies leading to endless brush fire wars around the world.
The end result of decolonization was not democracy or human rights, but an infinity of ethnic conflicts, all competing for the approval of the western leftist ideologues whose support could make or break a movement; providing funds, weapons and the backing of the worldwide Left.
Decolonization had put the western opponents of colonialism in charge of deciding the rightness of conflicts, who were the oppressors and the oppressed, what needed to be contextualized and what had to be ignored, so that decolonization became the new colonialism.
Except that instead of looking for support from oil companies, fruit companies or the CIA, Third World movements took their case to Harvard, Yale and Manhattan Marxists. The new colonialism was no longer run by Haspburg heirs but by the likes of Noam Chomsky who could contextualize the Cambodian genocide and the 1.7 million dead for the Western Left.
Like most revolutions, decolonization became the very thing it had been fighting against.
Colonialism was renamed decolonization. In the name of fighting European nationalism, Western leftists endorsed Third World nationalisms, to fight fascism at home, they embraced it abroad and to defeat imperialism, they endorsed the imperialism of their enemies. Their only enduring principle turned out to be a burning hatred of their own countries and peoples.
Decolonization endorsed any form of nationalism, no matter how cruel or brutal, as long as its perpetrators were dedicated to rolling back Western imperialism. Their only real problem with colonialism, it turned out, was not the repression of a vulnerable group, but that the wrong people, European males, were doing the repressing. Its vision was to take the Third World back to where it had been half a thousand years before Europeans had begun their explorations.
America’s nation building efforts, misguided and doomed as they might have been, were far more noble than the despicable majoritarian tribal tyrannies that the same leftists who flooded the streets chanting against all war had repeatedly endorsed across the Third World. Where America had at least made some effort to treat all ethnic and religious groups fairly, decolonization gained its impetus from pitting different groups against each other.
When the Sandinistas massacred Indians in Nicaragua churches, they cheered the atrocities as decolonization. And when Arab Muslim armies repeatedly invaded Israel to wipe out the region’s only Jewish nation, those campaigns of genocidal imperialism were also decolonization.
The problem with decolonization and its paradigm of the oppressor and the oppressed, the capitalist and the worker, the nationalist and the socialist, was that an ideology rooted in class warfare had no meaningful relevance to conflicts based around ‘peoplehood’.
Class warfare applied to entire ethnic groups made for ethnic cleansing and genocide. Those ideologues who got to define oppressors and the oppressed also got to perpetrate the genocide. That was something that Hitler and the Nazis, who had closely followed the logic of Marxism, were among the first to figure out and then implement. But they were far from the last.
It was obvious from the beginning that these Marxist abstractions were useless when leftists first tried using them to arbitrate the rights of the Russians, the Germans, the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Serbians and the Jews. Rather than following any coherent principles, they picked and chose sides for reasons of political convenience and then justified them with ideology.
When a group became ideologically inconvenient, its existence was denounced as a fiction. And so Lenin could declare that the Jews, who had been around for thousands of years, were an artificial entity created by capitalism that had no national legitimacy and had to cease to exist.
In the generations that followed, the USSR, Communist China and Marxist regimes, guerrilla and terrorist movements around the world would make similar genocidal pronouncements, deem some ethnic and religious groups legitimate, while inventing others, like the ‘Palestinians’, out of whole cloth for political convenience to solidify their power and ambitions.
The Soviet Union internally administered its own bewildering system that recognized and favored some groups at the expense of others which changed from era to era. In practice, the USSR favored the Russian majority much as China favored the Han majority. Communist Cuba repressed its black minority. Behind the ideology, it was easier for totalitarian regimes to build their power base around the tried and tested tribal models. Minority groups were treated to the equally familiar systems of political repression, divide and conquer or apartheid.
The only differences between this and colonialism were in the proximity and the name.
Third World leftists wanted to build their own Soviet Union. Decolonization replaced Third World governments modeled on and influenced by European nations with those modeled on and influenced by the Soviet Union. Western leftists defended them just as they had the USSR.
Western academia filled up with Third World national socialists like Edward Said who adapted leftist politics for arguing in favor of the right of their majority to oppress the minority. The process of decolonizing academic studies of the Third World replaced liberal condescension with racism, totalitarianism and antisemitism in the name of fighting constructs like ‘Orientalism’.
The Western left’s embrace of identity politics picked and chose winners at home and abroad. Identity politics was nationalism wrapped in liberationist rhetoric but always came down to the supremacy of the rights of one people over another. The illiberal campus was the outcome of an intellectual corruption that swapped out objective standards and global perspectives for not only partisan, but narrowly sectarian and tribal ones, under the guise of a worldwide leftist revolution.
This was most obvious when it came to Israel, where academia became a swamp of Arab Muslim nationalist propaganda, worshiping and celebrating the poems, art and narratives of the terrorists, but it also became commonplace for Asian and Latin American studies, and the accompanying history departments, to uncritically venerate favored terrorist groups and their narratives without trying to understand who they really were and what they wanted.
Constructs like the ‘Palestinians’ thrived under these conditions of ideological dishonesty.
Western leftists viewed ethnic and national conflicts through the distorting lens of Marxist theory. Rather than deal with who the actual combatants were, they framed everything through ideological abstractions so that different cultures were reduced to broad tropes, the oppressors and the oppressed, the capitalists and the workers, the dictatorship and the resistance.
When Western leftists refuse to say “Hamas” and instead talk only of the “Palestinian resistance” in Gaza, it allows them to evade the specifics of what Hamas actually believes. Similarly in the early days of the Iraq War, anti-war leftists had taken to celebrating the attacks of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Jihadist group that would later become ISIS, as the “resistance”.
Using generic terms protected leftists from looking beyond the Marxist abstractions that had papered over ethnic cleansing and mass murder by majoritarian nationalist and sectarian movements, including Hamas, whose parent organization was the Muslim Brotherhood: an Arab Islamic nationalist group with a global presence and whose parties govern entire countries.
The political impulses that shape the world are governed less by the intellectual abstractions that make for good propaganda material, but by tribe and belief. What started out as the revolution of the working class fell apart when it exchanged one group of oppressors for another. Decolonization did the same thing for the Third World that the dictatorships of the proletariat did for workers. Rather than bringing liberation, it was tyranny in a new drag.
When the advocates of decolonization support Hamas, that is not an aberration, it is the root cause of their intellectual corruption. Decolonization supports nationalist majorities over minorities, it endorses atrocities as long as they are aimed at a minority group that is more ‘westernized’ and it wraps the worst kinds of tribal violence in the rhetoric of liberation.
Decolonization is not justice or liberation: decolonization is ethnic cleansing and genocide.