There’s an explanation for why even after the United States has been exposed a thousand times over as a perpetrator of war crimes, and its ruling institutions have betrayed its own people by engineering horrors like the Ohio chemical spill, there are still actors who uphold the lies that let it continue committing these evils. That explanation is found in The Denial of Death, the legendary psychological science book that Ernst Becker wrote in response to learning he was dying. On why human beings defend unjust systems, the conclusion Becker came to was that their goal is to defy their limited lifespan by advancing something they hope can be made immortal:
Our heroic projects that are aimed at destroying evil have the paradoxical effect of bringing more evil into the world. Human conflicts are life and death struggles—my gods against your gods, my immortality project against your immortality project. The root of humanly caused evil is not man’s animal nature, not territorial aggression, or innate selfishness, but our need to gain self-esteem, deny our mortality, and achieve a heroic self-image. Our desire for the best is the cause of the worst…Our heroic projects that are aimed at destroying evil have the paradoxical effect of bringing more evil into the world. Human conflicts are life and death struggles—my gods against your gods, my immortality project against your immortality project. The root of humanly caused evil is not man’s animal nature, not territorial aggression, or innate selfishness, but our need to gain self-esteem, deny our mortality, and achieve a heroic self-image. Our desire for the best is the cause of the worst. We want to clean up the world, make it perfect, keep it safe for democracy or communism, purify it of the enemies of god, eliminate evil, establish an alabaster city undimmed by human tears, or a thousand year Reich.
Because Becker’s chosen job was not to become the best at class analysis, his perspective was limited in a way which led him to the common liberal view that communism is merely another religion. Should he have had the opportunity to discover how many medical advancements, environmental benefits, transportation innovations, and poverty reduction successes communism has brought in spite of its historical errors, he may have come to think differently. As a resident of the imperial center, it was clear the main thing he aimed to condemn was how the drivers of his society have obstinately invested themselves in upholding a system that’s indefensible. The United States was and is the greatest instigator of violence on the planet. It’s extended its original indigenous genocide into a project to subjugate the entire formerly colonized world, a project that’s taken tens of millions of lives throughout dozens of invasions. And those are only one category of its atrocities. The USA’s coups, carried out to protect corporate interests, have brought about dictatorships and pseudo-“democratic” regimes that are collectively behind many millions more murders.
Mass incarceration, the militarized police who execute citizens in public, the unaccountable War on Terror prison network, and our government’s other tools for inflicting violence on its own people are the logical conclusions of this campaign to maintain profits by sacrificing lives. As are the policies of warfare upon the working class that our ruling oligarchs have been progressively imposing for the last half-century. In an effort to maintain the system as it’s entered into an unprecedented stage of crisis, these elites have created a situation where the people fall into perpetually deeper poverty, while law enforcement gets ever more tools for terrorizing them. The combination of catastrophes that the people are experiencing—toxic industrial accidents, climatic disasters, an unprecedented new economic crisis, a pandemic with more fatalities in America than anywhere else—are the system’s fault too. Our government has betrayed us in favor of the corporations that own it, condemning us to a crisis that we were already made unequipped for.
This is a social system that’s more than morally bankrupt. It’s a system that didn’t need to be corrupted in the first place, as it’s always existed to advance profits above all else. The system’s partisans defend their support for it by pointing to how capitalism is a historical improvement upon the previous social order. But even Marx, Engels, and other major communists have recognized this, agreeing with how capitalism advanced society beyond feudalism and how the 1776 revolution was progressive in its context. And these facts don’t negate their thesis, which is that at this stage in history, capitalism is the reactionary force and socialism is what can bring civilization to the next stage. Communists hold the dialectical view that whatever relative good the present order represented at one point, it’s since outlived its usefulness. The upholders of the discredited liberal order insist that it’s not discredited, as they leave out this context and claim capitalism brought the final developmental stage.
It’s possible for those who benefit from the bourgeois order to embrace the dialectical view, and fight for the rights of the proletariat in opposition to their own material interests. Engels was from a bourgeois family, Castro dispossessed his own family of land as part of his revolutionary program, Mao chose to be a revolutionary despite having had the opportunity to ascend the capitalist hierarchy. Whether one helps reaction or progress is a question of priorities. Do you care more about your immediate material benefits, or more about freeing the people from exploitation and subjugation? Those upholding NATO and its propaganda narratives, who include not just conservatives and liberals but leftists as well, have chosen the selfish path. They claim to merely care about stopping “autocrats,” and protecting “sovereignty” or “human rights,” but if this were true they wouldn’t be working to aid the United States. Their true concern is whether the imperial project survives, and is allowed to continue robbing the Global South. That’s why Washington provoked Russia into intervening: because it wanted a war which weakens Russia enough that it collapses, leaving China vulnerable in the great-power competition and thereby keeping Washington in control of its neo-colonies.
This goal of theirs to destabilize Eurasia has at this point been proven unrealistic, so much that I barely need to keep reiterating it. The IMF is predicting Russia’s economy will grow, and that alone represents defeat for the empire on the geopolitical chessboard. For a while the empire’s narrative managers were promising that Russia’s unexpected ability to withstand the sanctions will ultimately prove temporary, but when the empire’s own prime neo-colonial economic institution has admitted Russia is resilient to this degree, those claims simply aren’t plausible. China, Russia, Iran, and the other challengers to American hegemony will continue building a new order which makes the imperial project untenable. And for its desperate efforts to reverse this trend, in geopolitical terms the empire will get nothing besides an accelerated disappearance of its influence.
In this situation where the immortality project they’ve chosen to fight for is in terminal decline, the cult of NATO’s agents have not chosen the correct path. They won’t give up on imperialist opportunism and join the fight for proletarian revolution. They’ll continue to promote the lies the empire concocts to try to appear credible, even after revelations like the one about how the U.S. side blew up Nord Stream. They’ll keep accepting payments, whether monetary, social, or in terms of career opportunities, to narratively fight against the anti-imperialist movement.
This is how these actors can keep benefiting from the system, and by extension from the record oil profits the Ukraine war has provided this system. Through price gouging, monopolization, arms profiteering, and further austerity, our corporate rulers are finding ways to keep their parasitic arrangement alive following the fall of the U.S. empire. An economic system doesn’t go away until it’s exhausted every means to stay in existence. The only way capitalism can function at this stage is by driving the people into destitution, while allying with fascists to wage war against the people. This is the future that NATO’s agents have doomed us to. We can only gain our freedom by forcing them and their corporate masters out of power.
If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here.