By Stephen Gowans
Gilbert Achcar has invoked the authority of Lenin to claim that support for Western military intervention in Libya is the only defensible anti-imperialist position. Lenin made compromises, Achcar says, and like him, so must we.
Achcar doesn’t deny that the intervention is imperialist, but believes that imperialist or not, it was necessary to prevent a slaughter. His logic, however, is elusive. If the intervention is imperialist, even if it did prevent a slaughter (and it’s likely instead to have created the conditions for a protracted civil war) how can support of it be anti-imperialist? This is like saying that support for coal-fired generators is the only defensible pro-clean-air position, because nuclear could produce a catastrophe. You can argue about the relative merits of coal versus nuclear, and decide that coal is better than nuclear on balance, but that doesn’t make your position pro-clean air.
Lenin once said that he would ally with the devil himself if the devil was opposed to British imperialism. Where Achcar differs with Lenin is that he, Achcar, has allied with imperialism because imperialism says it opposes the devil.