September 19, 2012

Agent of Change

by Carlos Martinez

If, like me, you live in relative comfort in a rich country, and your attempts to change the world are limited to ‘safe’ (and generally pretty ineffectual) activities such as writing, demonstrating, ‘online activism’, making music, making films, etc, then you should probably think twice before branding people or movements as ‘sellouts’.

According to our western coffee shop socialists, people like Nelson Mandela and Daniel Ortega are sellouts because they have made various compromises in order to get or keep state power. Qaddafi was a ‘sellout’ because of his (limited) rapprochement with the west since 2003. Mugabe was a sellout when he accepted a Structural Adjustment Program. Deng was a sellout because he invited foreign capital into China. Gerry Adams was a sellout when he signed the Good Friday Agreement, etc etc.

But the reality is that these issues are *incredibly* complicated and cannot be understood with simple formulas (generally I don’t think they can really be understood by people who are not right there in the thick of the situation). Have you ever tried running a third world state that doesn’t accept the dominant world order?

Have you ever had to choose between famine and an unfair loan? Or between a principled war and an unprincipled peace? Between increasing political freedom and preserving basic security? Between winning power in a shaky alliance and not having power at all?

It really isn’t for us to make all these gut-feeling blanket condemnations of people and movements who have made incredible sacrifices for the cause. It only ends up feeding into the divide-and-rule strategy that imperialist states are *always* using against the rest of the world. Our focus should always be on opposing the main enemy, including its very sophisticated divide-and-rule tactics.