Imperialists or Irredentists
On the Fifth and Sixth Points concerning the values of the Mont Order
The Western powers are still deemed imperialist by their critics, due to their history of imperialism and their recent behavior as conquerors and exporters of their supposed “democratic” superiority. On the other hand, they try to accuse their own foreign opponents such as Iran, Russia or even the Palestinian people of having imperialist or similarly coercive goals against them or their allies.
Some commentators even astonishingly try to convince anti-war activists in the West to shift all their attention to criticizing non-Western governments and advocating military intervention for the sake of “peace” as well as the old “democracy”. They accuse the anti-war activists of hypocrisy for failing to address the apparent crimes of the non-Western powers such as Russia, Iran, or the al-Assad government in Syria.
There is, however, no hypocrisy in criticizing the Western powers and their allies exclusively while supporting foreign powers such as Russia, Iran and the Syrian Arab Republic. This is a very consistent position, and has to do with the difference between imperialism and national liberation.
National liberation often manifests as a focused, potentially legitimate type of irredentism (the goal of expanding or regaining a particular state’s territory), which gains popular appeal because of strong cultural and historic regional influences. Imperialism, on the other hand, liberates no-one. It consists of the policy of states trying to rule over foreign peoples with or without their consent. Irredentism, whether good or bad in practice, is related to a desire on the part of states to rule over their own people or historic territory rather than any desire to conquer others.
Imperialism is always imposed, whereas irredentism can be consensual. What happened with Russia’s reunification with Crimea, for example, is not imperialism but irredentism. People were not deprived of their rights or suppressed by force in that process, but were allowed to express their right to self-determination via a referendum. Today, the only power using force against civilians near Crimea is the Ukrainian central government, which rejects what it calls separatism.
Whether or not one thinks of Russia as a democracy, the right to self-determination via a referendum like the one in Crimea is supposed to be the cornerstone in the legitimacy of a modern democratic state. North Korea’s goal of seeing the Korean Peninsula united is also an example of irredentism, and is founded on the genuine desire of the Korean people to be united again. Therefore, the primary aggressor and rights violator in the Korean Peninsula is clearly the United States, not Pyongyang.
It is, of course, possible for irredentism to be pursued in harmful ways, such as via terrorism or military invasions and suppression of dissent, and you will find no support for such acts here. However, it is important to realize irredentism is not necessarily that way. Imperialism can only be fulfilled by waging war, blockades and economic sanctions. It can only gain the appearance of popular approval after suppressing freedoms, imprisoning critics, and taking lives.
To demonstrate why it is right that they distinguish between coercive irredentism and national liberation, the Mont Order‘s code has a fifth point approved by its advisers in 2015, stating “The Order questions the territorial claims of countries which rely on colonial policies of occupation, censorship and human rights abuses to make these claims.” While this point rejects a set of behaviors including those typical of imperialism, it also rejects some territorial claims of irredentist states, including Israel and India. Both of them made life intolerable for Muslims, so their only hope was to live in a separate homeland.
A sixth point then follows on from the fifth, stating, “The Order supports all liberation, resistance and anti-nationalism in the sense that the movements are directed against occupying and colonial central governments.” This allows for accepting the legitimacy of certain autonomy-seeking movements around the world; namely, those based on rejecting intolerable coercive policies of imperialist integration as described. In the audio version of the discussion this point is based on, postcolonial nationalism is deemed to be sufficiently different from imperialist nationalism and exceptionalism that it is worth all people supporting it as a form of freedom struggle.
What some apologists of imperialism, and indeed apologists of racism, try to do is to compare the identity politics of national liberation movements with the brutish nationalism at the heart of imperialism itself. Why is it acceptable, they might ask, that liberated postcolonial states should be tolerated by anti-imperialists and anti-racists when they advance their ethnic or religious identity as their political identity? The answer is simply that one type of identity politics, the one driving imperialist policy and racism, is founded on the theory of superiority rather than the theory of liberation.
In an ideal world, international opponents of imperialism would not embrace national liberation movements in order to erase imperialism and oppose Western aggression. National liberation does not bring about a perfect system or ultimate peace. However, in the current state of world affairs, it is a tolerable and often more efficient vehicle than naked internationalist anti-imperialism, which would look just as Western and just as alien as imperialism itself to many colonized peoples.
Imperialism and colonialism can be rejected altogether, in all forms, based on the judgments of history and international law. Irredentism requires more careful case studies of each state to actually see whether there is legitimacy in their exact territorial claims. The studies have, in fact, been done, although they are typically buried in immense works of sociology not appropriate to cite in an article such as this.
Where there is a strong historic need for irredentism or independence, it is inhumane to reject it. People such as the Palestinians, the Kurds and the people of Kashmir have been denied their political rights for a prolonged historic period and the only possible conclusion to the territorial disputes in question can be democratic referendums. If they are not done now, the disputes are only extended and the violence is prolonged further until they are done.
In respected Western media sources, we hear constant justifications of “territorial integrity” and “the right to defend itself” in territorial disputes and the suppression of national liberation struggles. Such language is designed to maintain the status quo, which is tantamount to maintaining the conflict. Someone with a genuine desire for resolving conflicts would not be caught up in worshiping arbitrary borders or self-defense arguments for states with questionable legitimacy. The only thing of interest should be the will of the people on the ground. That has to be determined empirically by a referendum in each case, rather than dictated by the usual imperial overlords and shallow propagandists who invaded Iraq in 2003.
On the scales of wrongdoing, it is absolutely absurd to say non-Western countries are guilty of equivalent crimes to the West and its collaborators. The crimes of imperialism, sanctions and missionary aggression for “civilization” and “democracy” are without parallel in all of history. To even compare the actions of Russia, Iran and other alleged aggressors with the international criminals in London and Washington shows a total lack of regard for history and current events. It is for this reason Mont Order members and other critics of Western governments will be caught red-handed ignoring the alleged crimes of Russia and other non-Western countries, and they are not ashamed of it.