U.S. imperialism’s supremacist ideology can be defeated by liberation struggle solidarity
The pitch that the U.S. empire makes is one of a shared conquest. Or, to put it more bluntly, a shared project to steal from other civilizations. The American imperialists have stolen an entire continent from the Natives, stolen over ten trillion dollars worth of wealth created through the labor of African slaves, and distributed the benefits gained from this theft among the white settlers so that a mass social base can be created for their parasitic project. Then they’ve expanded their parasitism worldwide, turning the U.S. empire into the world’s foremost purveyor of war and neo-colonial exploitation. This has allowed for the capitalist ruling class which runs the empire to make the wealth of the settlers more secure, and to distribute some of imperialism’s spoils to the bourgeois minority among nonwhites. The empire seeks to assimilate its internal colonies—the African nation, the Indigenous First Nations, the Brown nation—into its prevailing ideology, while maintaining the loyalty of the settlers by continuing to give them relatively substantial benefits.
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However, because of the deterioration of capital and the decline of U.S. hegemony, during the last half-century this model for social stability has become increasingly untenable. The bourgeoisie within the imperial center can no longer afford to allow a robust welfare state, so they’ve implemented neoliberal reforms. As a consequence, living standards for people of all demographics have been consistently decreasing throughout the last several decades. This rise in inequality has hit the colonized nations the hardest, as they were already in an especially bad situation. But it’s also had the effect of causing a newfound mass confusion among the settlers. In reaction to their disappearing wealth, many white Americans—especially white American men—have come to feel like they’ve been lied to, because unlike the colonized peoples, they until recently believed that the system is set up to help them. In reaction to this sense of disillusionment, these whites have often been turning to drugs and alcohol, committing suicide, or directing their rage outwards by committing mass shootings.
Such social ills are the byproducts of an empire in decay, of the exposure of the lie behind our social order. This lie being that our society is fundamentally fair, that there’s substance behind the settler state’s claim of representing lofty ideals of justice. The evidence against this is visible everywhere around us, including within expanding elements of the settler communities: widespread poverty both urban and rural, lack of economic recovery since the 2008 crash, wages that have been declining with inflation for over a generation. From a dialectical point of view, the fact that this growing misery is statistically impacting nonwhites more than whites shouldn’t stop the impacted whites from fighting in solidarity with the colonized peoples who share their struggles; their best interests both lie in the defeat of the U.S. empire, and in the construction of workers democracy.
But white supremacy is and has historically been the biggest obstacle to class struggle in the United States, and this is true for a reason: that appeal towards a desire for collective triumph among those within the American “nation,” where the deserving people can build up their wealth or pull themselves out of deprivation through subduing the enemy nations, has stubborn influence within the white psyche.
This is not an argument for race essentialism, or for an “original sin” concept in which people should suffer for the crimes of their ancestors. It’s an acknowledgement of the reality that when you build an entire society off of theft from other cultures, whether through slave labor that still hasn’t been compensated, forced annexation of land via genocidal extermination campaigns, or global imperialist bloodshed and ongoing slave labor, that society’s cultural hegemony will mirror the violent ideology which has justified these crimes. The believers in the ideology of the United States view history as an unavoidable struggle between dominators and the dominated, in which any given people must either exact violence against others or have violence be exacted against themselves.
This is where the seemingly strange reactions that we see among white reactionaries to decolonial liberation efforts come from. When white supremacists say that Black nationalism is reverse racism, or that Natives who seek to regain full jurisdiction for their tribes intend to ethnically cleanse whites, they’re projecting their own violent mentality onto the peoples they seek to continue subjugating. If we don’t continue the colonial occupation, they claim, the occupied will simply begin occupying us. Never mind that traditional Indigenous thought tends to view the concept of land ownership as culturally alien, and as disrespectful towards the environment. Never mind that the Black nationalists who have class consciousness naturally understand the need for equality among workers of all colors. The occupied must have the same supremacist beliefs that we do, and their intentions can only be revenge.
When you think like this, you come to see the deterioration of the conditions of the masses under capitalism not as a mandate for class solidarity across racial barriers, but as a mandate for the favored people to intensify their colonial warfare. Loyalty to the U.S. “nation” must be reinforced, the national liberation efforts from the internal colonies must be vilified, colonial extraction and subjugation must be intensified. On a global scale, military adventurism, murderous sanctions, and demonizing propaganda must be increased as well, however apparent it becomes that these things can’t reverse the decline of Pax Americana. There can never be a moment of self-reflection, a consideration as to whether the imperialist project is not a path towards greatness, but a death cult. A death cult in which the believers rationalize their complicity in the harm the capitalist machine causes towards others, before ultimately falling victim to the machine themselves.
In this way, the climate crisis is the great equalizer, imperiling people within both imperial periphery and core, in both colonized and settler communities. The material advantages the richer groups have can make them less vulnerable, but this shouldn’t dissuade them from fighting the socioeconomic system which is creating the crisis. The imperialist cult seeks to persuade them that it’s in their best interests to pit themselves against the less advantaged, even as their conditions scream out the need for solidarity.
Plenty within this cult remain obstinate, and have the potential to join the fascist militias with their plans for racial and political mass extermination. But with the deterioration of the people’s conditions, the people will inevitably undergo changes in their consciousness. The question is whether these changes will be steered in reactionary and ineffectual directions by the currently dominant ideology, or whether studied communists will manage to sufficiently educate the people on the theory required for their liberation. This task of ours requires us to sufficiently understand that theory ourselves; we must be intellectually humble, and aware of the ways in which imperial or colonial chauvinism may unconsciously remain within our psyches. Ho Chi Minh warned of how individualism, the central ideology of the bourgeoisie, is insidious in that it can impact our thinking without us knowing. In the imperial center, the entitled, self-centered, and hubristic mentalies of imperialism represent extensions of this, and we must be willing to correct our course should we ever succumb to their influence.
Through vigilance, revolutionary discipline, and an empathetic attitude towards the masses, we can cut through the ideas which imperialism continues to make dominant within our culture. We can tell the people a different story from the one of an unending battle between different groups, driven by a supposedly selfish “human nature.” This is a story of the oppressed and exploited peoples of the world working in growing numbers towards the defeat of the imperialist beast, and the advancement to a better stage of historical development.
The peoples of formerly colonized countries like China and Vietnam, which used to long be at war with each other, are strengthening bonds of cooperation in their mutual interests. This new chapter in their relations has come about due to their both establishing socialism, and their both choosing to be principled in their opposition towards imperialist machinations. They won’t let Washington divide them, which would merely leave them both vulnerable to imperialism’s aggressions. Such bonds are being strengthened across the rest of the imperial peripheries, with African countries being lifted from their colonial impoverishment by Chinese development projects, Latin American anti-imperialist countries being enabled to defy sanctions because of Iranian aid, and independent anti-imperialist republics receiving help from Russia. In turn, the masses within the formerly colonized world have been rejecting the U.S. propaganda about Chinese “neo-colonialism,” and have been demonstrating in support of Russia’s humanitarian military intervention within Ukraine. Cry not for the past’s failures of anti-imperialist solidarity. Be grateful for the progress that’s now being made to an accelerating degree.
The forces of anti-imperialism are demonstrably proving wrong the ideology of the imperialists, with its assertions about cruelty and competition being innate human traits. A more equitable world order is emerging, one that will be free from imperialist exploitation when the U.S. and its allies are defeated. The globe is becoming ready for a new wave of revolutions, precipitated by the weakening of capital and the rise of class struggle. The model of domination, extraction, and perpetual war that imperialism represents is getting revealed to be not an immutable fixture in history, but a scam designed to enrich a select minority. As imperialism’s spoils dry up, the few who remain loyal to this dying system are mobilizing towards violent counterrevolution. But the rest of humanity is increasingly mobilizing to make their efforts at preserving empire impossible.
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