Young activists push back against American imperialism
Updated 20:43, 20-Apr-2022
North America;United States
An American flag is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., March 7, 2022. /CFP

An American flag is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., March 7, 2022. /CFP

Editor's note: Abhishek G Bhaya is a senior international affairs commentator. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

There's a subtle anti-imperialist movement taking shape in the United States, steered by a group of leftist and progressive young scholars and youth organizations. They seem to understand that while the U.S. may not be an "empire" in the conventional sense of the word, it pursues an aggressively "imperial" foreign policy, driven by zeal to perpetuate global hegemony with the necessary support from other Western allies.

These politically liberated young scholars admit that most of their American and Western peers remain oblivious to the U.S. imperial ambitions and the global destruction it has caused, as most of the agenda is carried out under the guise of doing global good, defending democracy and human rights. To create awareness on the perils of imperialism and neocolonialism, these youth organizations host regular exchanges through meetings and webinars.

"One of the problems we have here in the U.S. is a sense of suppressed historical context among young people," said Eshaan Vakil, member of the Steering Committee for the International Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America, answering a question from CGTN on awareness about imperialism in American youths at one such webinar on Wednesday morning, Beijing time (Tuesday evening in the U.S.).

Aptly titled "Anti-Imperialism: A Youth Intro," the webinar was hosted by the Massachusetts Peace Action (MAPA) Peace and Climate Working Group and centered on political education around imperialism, neocolonialism, revolutionary optimism and youth liberation. It was co-sponsored by several youth organizations including Sunrise Movement, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) International Committee, MAPA's, the Claudia Jones Club at Howard University, the Boston Young Communist League, and the District of Columbia Young Communist League.

'Rampant political miseducation'

Noting that the American education system gets rid of "inconvenient historical facts that our governments and other Western governments have done," Vakil, a Harvard scholar, said that the ignorance about imperialism is prevalent "even among highly-educated university circles."

"When you ask people about the embargo in Cuba for instance, very few people know the details of the embargo. Why it was put in place? How it restricts basically every good that can enter Cuba. The sense of historical context has been suppressed in the American educational system," elaborated Vakil. "That's the one thing that any aspiring anti-imperialist in the U.S. should be working on to help further educate people about this historical context surrounding imperialism."

Aaron Booe, a member of the political education project known as the Claudia Jones Club at Howard University, concurred. "I have many peers who have no idea about the actual historical context behind many geopolitical conflicts. One time I was talking to one of my friends about the 2003 Iraq invasion, and this person, who's very educated, a student at Oxford, they had no idea that the charge of Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction was a fabrication with no credible evidence behind it."

"I think a big part of the problem comes from the fact that there's so much rampant political miseducation, and that's because the ruling class is working tirelessly to ensure that young people can't name the things that we are constantly seeing happen to us around the world, and a big part of that is also suppressing history," reiterated Booe, who's also a member of the District of Columbia Young Communist League.

A screenshot of the webinar titled "Anti-Imperialism: A Youth Intro" hosted by the Massachusetts Peace Action (MAPA) Peace and Climate Working Group. /MAPA

A screenshot of the webinar titled "Anti-Imperialism: A Youth Intro" hosted by the Massachusetts Peace Action (MAPA) Peace and Climate Working Group. /MAPA

Connecting the dots, a challenge

Fattouma Ben Abdullah, a 17-year-old UK-based Tunisian anti-imperialist felt that the youth in general perceive the existing global inequalities but fail to connect the dots to identify imperialism as the underlying cause.

"I don't think young people are uneducated or unaware. They tend to be quite aware about most things. The main thing that's lacking in a lot of young people is maybe understanding the bigger picture… and putting a name to it and soft contextualizing it within a system," she said.

The youngest speaker at the webinar advocated for the youth to learn more about imperialism and its global impact. "Historically, young people have shown the potential for some great social changes. It's quite easy to mobilize and organize young people, she said, adding that, "that's why it's so necessary" for young people to join the anti-imperialism campaign.

Vakil agreed that "a lot of young people have this intrinsic and internal sense that something is deeply wrong with the way we organize our world," and blamed the educational system for "ensuring that people never really make that connection between that sense and capitalism."

While Booe viewed imperialism "as a necessary function of capitalism," Vakil defined imperialism as "fundamentally an economic phenomenon that almost cloaks itself in flags to help perpetuate and spread across the globe" with an inherent objective of "domination of other nations in pursuit of the profit motive." Ben Abdullah saw imperialism as an "expansion or exportation of capitalism and exploitation."

"One of the core reasons why imperialism exists is to fundamentally maintain the extraction of resources and wealth from the Global South to the Global North," Vakil emphasized.

'Good time to get involved'

The young campaigners stressed the importance of active youth participation in anti-imperialist work and expressed confidence about a wider reach in times to come.

"A lot of young people when presented with anti-imperialist perspectives are more than willing to learn and change their analyses. People who do want to learn must get involved with an organization," advised Ben Abdullah.

"Change is really something that only comes about through mass or popular struggle. And so it is very important for each and every one of us who is genuine and fighting against the systems to join an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist organization in your area," echoed Booe.

"It's an amazing time to get involved in (the) anti-imperialist campaign, especially if you're a young American, there are a lot of anti-imperialist organizations both that are existing and those that are just popping up," Vakil said.

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