Today, the threat of imperialism looms with increased might and is putting the future of life and the planet at risk. It has diverse manifestations from military aggression, to the pillaging of territories near and far by transnational companies for natural resources, the militarization of the planet and stockpiling of incomprehensibly dangerous weapons, a global economic order characterized by extreme inequality, and the subjugation of nation-states to international financial and trade institutions dominated by imperialist powers. While we are not always conscious of it, many aspects of our daily lives are shaped by imperialism.
Over the past century, imperialism has been met with popular resistance. From the triumph of the Chinese revolution to the Cuban revolution, from the national liberation struggles at the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung (1955) to the Tricontinental Conference in Havana (1966), from the anti-war resistance against US invasion of Vietnam to the anti-capitalist mobilizations against Free Trade Area of the Americas, international working class struggles have been marked by the fight against imperialist domination and expansion.
A challenge that we are still met with today is how to understand and conceive of the vast dimensions of imperialism. While witnessing the brutality of the First World War and following the 19th century colonial “scramble for Africa”, Lenin reflected on imperialism in his booklet, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism.” He argued that imperialism was largely an economic phenomenon driven by capitalist accumulation, which through the ever concentration of wealth and production would lead to the creation of monopolies. The logic of capitalist accumulation necessitates the conquering of new territories to access more resources and dominate new markets. Imperialism, the “highest stage of capitalism,” is based on the inherent militarism of monopoly capital, which will mobilize state power to dominate other peoples and nations. This process has concrete impacts both within the domestic life of the imperialist powers as well as abroad where these nations-states and their corporations (or perhaps vice-versa) go and conquer.
In order to understand this complex and ever-evolving process, people’s movements have used art and creative expression to be able to communicate the horrors of imperialist might. One of the bold nations that has dared to defy the might of the US empire, which today is the largest and most aggressive imperialist power, is the small island nation of Cuba. Since the triumph of the Cuban revolution, Cuba has not stopped at merely denouncing the imperialist aggression that it faces from invasions to economic blockade, but it also was central in forging internationalist solidarity with nations resisting imperialist powers globally.
The Organization of Solidarity of the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAAL) grew out of the Tricontinental Conference and was headquartered in Cuba. This internationalist organization created hundreds of posters through which diverse peoples across the globe came to know of each other’s struggles. Defying a crippling embargo imposed by the United States that has continued for over 70 years, OSPAAAL sent tens of thousands of magazines and posters around the world – images to express the brutality of capitalism, uplift the aspirations for national liberation and unite peoples and movements in a common anti-imperialist struggle.
The Anti-Imperialist Poster Exhibition
Today, through a joint initiative between the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the International Week of Anti-imperialist Struggle, we have reignited this historic tradition. Over the past couple of months, we have organized calls to artists and militants to create posters on different key concepts of imperialism. The posters are part of the contemporary efforts to build a united anti-imperialist movement to take on the challenges of today and “in defense of life on the planet, for peace and social justice.”
Our third call for artists is on the theme of ‘Imperialism’. The exhibition will be launched in conjunction with the International Week of Anti-Imperialist Struggle week of actions planned in October 2020.
The text below serves as a guide on how we understand imperialism, which we invite you to interpret visually. We have included links to some resources below to deepen your understanding of imperialism.
IMPERIALISM: A few countries have built enormous militaries and control international systems of trade and finance in order to plunder natural resources, exploit workers, and increase and consolidate profits and power. These countries, controlled by their corporations, bully the rest of the world to do their bidding.
- Information: Title of work, full name, country, organization (optional), social media handle (optional).
- Color: Any – purple emphasis recommended for visual unity between posters.
- Visual Identity: Incorporate the logo of the International Week of Anti-Imperialist Struggle and Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research in art work (link)
- Language: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, French (Minimize text for wider accessibility)
- Submission format: A3 (portrait orientation); .jpg (300dpi)
- Deadline: 10 September 2020
- Submission: [email protected]
- Gender (optional):
- Vijay Prashad discusses his book Washington Bullets about US imperialism
- Imperialism Still Alive and Kicking: An interview with Prabhat Patnaik (2017)
- Tricontinental’s Dossier 15: The Art of the Revolution Will be Internationalist (2019)
- Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, How to Read Donald Duck (1971)
- V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917)
- Mao Zedong, Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art (1942)
Jointly curated between Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the International Week of Anti-Imperialist Struggle, the exhibition will be hosted on the Week’s website and distributed as a digital catalogue, with all credits given to the participating artists. The posters will be made available to the hundreds of movements that are participating in this anti-imperialist process. We ask that the artists to creatively incorporate the logos of the Week and Tricontinental so that they will also be our visual tools in building the process itself.