An awakening is happening in the imperial center. Half a century of progressively severe attacks against the working class; the construction of a war machine that preys on working class young people for recruitment; an intelligence apparatus that works to undermine racial, environmental, antiwar, and labor organizing efforts; a government that’s been willing to place us under the threat of nuclear war and test atomic weapons on its own people; a police state that’s become more militarized as the consequences of imperialism have piled up; a healthcare system that’s prohibitively expensive; a media that’s been taken over by the Pentagon so that it can twist the minds of an undereducated populace; a corruption that’s been innately ingrained within our political system, and that lets the firearms industry block basic gun regulations which almost everyone supports; a pharmaceutical industry that’s been allowed to poison our communities; a paradigm of mass incarceration that’s made the U.S. prison population dwarf those of all other countries; a fossil fuel industry that’s condemned us to a future of climate destruction; a banking system that’s deregulated the economy and driven us into an ever-deepening cycle of downturns; a Federal Reserve that’s now assisting the ruling class in a scheme to drive up unemployment so employers can gain more leverage; all of these evils represent reasons behind why a mass resistance towards imperialism is emerging among people who still technically benefit from imperial extraction.
Within the context of these ways living under the United States government harms us, these “benefits” the U.S. working class gets from imperialism are marginal in comparison. The main way we “benefit” from the global economy’s structure is through the availability of cheap consumer goods, which are nothing more than a way to placate us amid our exploitation. Under socialism, we’ll have a vastly more efficient system, one where capitalist consumption has been shown as a wasteful feature which supplements adequate living standards with endless shiny new items. This absurd nature of our present system is becoming even more apparent with the blowback from the Ukraine proxy war. Because our government decided to provoke Russia into a conflict, then adopted a policy of perpetually refusing peace negotiations, the inflation crisis has accelerated. Almost two-thirds of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck, an amount that will go up as the Fed continues its scheme against the working class and as the war machine keeps destroying the economy.
In response, the people are increasingly mobilizing. Mobilizing in a way which provides a crucial anti-imperialist synthesis to the rise in strikes and unionization that’s been occurring for many years. When the empire gave the people an urgent reason to build a movement against NATO and imperial militarism, the revolt against exploitation they had already been getting involved in was injected with a more revolutionary character. With the awareness that to win against the bosses, we’ll need to fight against not just capitalist violence within this country, but capitalist violence abroad. As the people see how this global type of harm is also having catastrophic consequences for their own material interests, they see why they should fight to stop their government from inflicting harm against its imperial targets. Whether those targets are the Donbass civilians who Russia is fighting to save from Washington’s fascist Kiev puppet regime, or the Palestinians who Israel is committing genocide against with Washington’s blessing, or the Africans who’ve come under a new de facto colonial occupation with AFRICOM. An occupation which is itself one of the empire’s tools for waging war against the Chinese people.
Because the consequences of imperialism are being demonstrated to the imperial center’s working class, they’re developing a mass consciousness that orients far more of them towards solidarity with the empire’s global victims. As for how Marxists should respond to this consciousness shift, that’s something the movement is having an internal dispute over. Because whereas the self-described Marxists with radical liberal impulses believe the U.S. working class lacks revolutionary potential even as this transformation is occurring, the Marxists who have a dialectical perspective recognize that view as counterproductive.
What do I mean by the dialectical perspective? I mean the perspective that allows somebody to analyze our situation through a lens of historical development. That doesn’t lead us to reject the possibility of revolution in the core just because the core’s people have in large part historically benefitted from imperial extraction, and still do to an extent. Communism is not moralism. It leaves no room for the liberal attitude that an individual, or an entire society, should be eternally devalued based on how their conditions have shaped them. Such an attitude is good for letting one feel superior, but it does nothing to improve a situation. We’re going to get nowhere by acting like the people of the U.S. have been irreversibly corrupted by an original sin. That’s not the materialist analysis of history, the one that views history as a fluid thing where people and societies are constantly in a process of change.
To act like history is static, to deny the ways the character and consciousness of the imperial center’s people have changed since the empire’s mid-20th century peak, is to renounce one’s commitment to contributing to the revolution. The elements of leftists or “Marxists” who’ve adopted this analysis are more than out of touch with the present conditions of the United States. They would have been detached from its conditions prior to when many of them were even born, because that’s how far along the core’s decay is. The rise of support for socialism among young people in the U.S. means something. The rise of the anti-NATO movement means something. These are not trivialities to be dismissed as nothing more than the latest precursors to reformism, because at this stage in the empire’s decline, the people of the core can no longer get the reformist social democratic policies of the New Deal. Their sole option is the revolutionary option.
The leadup to this economic crisis, and to the anti-imperialist revolt it’s helped provoke, has been long. The internal residents of the empire have been getting pushed closer to the economy’s margins, and in many cases even further to those margins, for many decades. This cartoon from the book Addicted to War is a full generation old, speaking to the conditions that working class Americans were subjected to prior to the War on Terror. At a certain point, the society it’s talking about was going to come to a moment of consequences for the ruling class. To a moment when the majority of the people who have a primary material stake in ending the empire would rise up to assert their interests.
The constructive course of action for a Marxist in the core is to say to the people: we hear your outrage, we see this crime that’s been committed against you and your communities over the course of generations. Those who oppose the anti-imperialist cause from a “left” angle seek to divide those who share a primary interest in defeating the imperial state. They exclusively emphasize the differences between the present and historical experiences of the different elements within this majority, acting like white Americans or even the entirety of the U.S. public are destined to have an irreconcilable conflict with those below them on the imperial hierarchy. To argue this is ironically to argue in favor of the positions that white supremacists or imperial chauvinists hold, as it affirms the idea that those born on the advantaged sides of racial or national barriers have no reason to act in solidarity with those less advantaged. It is not a serious stance. Thankfully, holding it has the effect of isolating oneself from the people and the struggle, rendering those who share it handicapped in their ability to influence history.
The rest of the class struggle’s history will be defined by those who recognize the great opportunities we have for reaching the people. Who recognize that it is “our duty, if we wish to remain socialists to go down lower and deeper, to the real masses,” as Lenin described. At this moment in the core, the real masses can be found not in the insular spaces which typically claim to represent “Marxism” in the imperial center, but in the elements of the people which are responding to their circumstances by seeking out answers. Answers to why their own government is so aggressively harming them for the benefit of executives. The answer is that under a capitalist state, the people have no true way of being represented. And when that state finds itself in crisis due to the innate fragility of our socioeconomic system, the people are who it sacrifices. When trapped in this progressively crueler political reality, the people’s only recourse is to overthrow that state.
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