Anti-imperialism and the night in which all cows are black

By Ayyaz Mallick

Imran Khan’s anti-American rhetoric is not anti-imperialism. It is part of Imran and, preceding him, the Pakistani ruling bloc as a whole’s resort to a militarised, security-centric narrative in order to paper over an incoherent social and economic project. Ideological bluster in this case is compensation for the lack of a deep and sustainable hegemony, subjective idealism rooted in an absence of material coordinates.

Any anti-imperialist project in Pakistan would involve, at the very least, a program of rural and urban land reforms, reorientation of economy (through active state intervention) towards building linkages between agriculture and industry, increased direct taxation of monopoly groups, the shift from a security state to welfare state, and the move away from a ruling bloc which finds its ultimate coherence via imperialism (variously the US, Saudi, China etc.) to one which is based on genuine concessions to Pakistan’s multi-national working classes.

Barring any of the above, and Imran Khan’s government in many respects was turbo-charged neoliberalism, all we are left with is a shallow ideological cocktail of religion, patriotism, and praetorianism, one which serves as rhetorical compensation for a fundamental absence i.e. that of a project as outlined above.

It is in this context that we need to understand the recent “US-sponsored regime change” rhetoric of Khan and his supporters. It is also why those (albeit minor) sections of the anti-imperialist left who think of Imran Khan as Hugo Chavez are wrong.

This is why we need to understand history. This is why we have to do class analysis. This is why it is important to understand the mutual relations between state, society and ideology — and in all their historical specificity.

Otherwise, all we are left with — as in the self-proclaimed “anti-imperialist” analysis — is an endless repetition of the same: “the night,” as Hegel once caustically remarked, “where all cows are black”.

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