In Discourse on Colonialism, Aimé Césaire wrote: “What am I driving at? At this idea: that no one colonizes innocently, that no one colonizes with impunity either; that a nation which colonizes, that a civilization which justifies colonization—and therefore force—is already a sick civilization, a civilization which is morally diseased, which irresistibly, progressing from one consequence to another, one denial to another, calls for its Hitler, I mean its punishment.” Césaire’s argument parallels the one Michael Parenti has made about imperialism: that a country never absentmindedly stumbles into becoming imperialist, it’s always an active choice. A choice motivated by material self-interest. It’s this inescapably sinister nature of colonialism and imperialism, where the benefactors decide to embrace their roles as oppressors for fundamentally selfish reasons, that makes Césaire describe Hitler as the logical conclusion of this path.
These oppressors always claim they’ve chosen to serve oppression for altruistic reasons. They say they seek to “civilize” the peoples they exploit, or to “liberate” these peoples when using the modern imperialist terminology. Or they say they only want what’s best for their own people, implicitly admitting they believe the best role for their people is as oppressors. When the crimes and exploitation that imperialism and colonialism involve are exposed, they justify their stance by arguing that human nature is inherently competitive, and that a civilization must either subjugate or be subjugated. That there are plenty of examples of societies which haven’t existed on the suffering of others, like the hundreds of indigenous nations which took on neither the oppressor nor oppressed roles prior to colonization, is disregarded by this reasoning.
Because we’re now in the historical stage of capitalism, which necessitates imperialism and pushes countries into being either exploiters or exploited, colonialism’s defenders argue that it’s unrealistic for the oppressor-oppressed relationship not to exist. This is a perception that’s rooted in capitalist realism, which depends on circular logic; capitalism is seen as the only system that can exist heretofore, purely because it’s the dominant system of today. That there are still several socialist countries, and that the Soviet bloc existed just a generation ago before falling due to mistakes future communists can learn from, disproves this notion about capitalism being immutable. But that doesn’t convince colonization’s defenders either; they fall back on portraying the socialist countries as themselves being oppressive, confirming their narrative that subjugation is an unavoidable fixture of history.
This is the pattern when it comes to arguing against colonization: those who see colonization as a good thing aren’t able to be won over by any argument, because they aren’t simply intellectually confused. They know what their interests are, and they’ll defend these interests no matter what. One encounters the same phenomenon when they confront an American colonial chauvinist with the recent working examples of returning full tribal jurisdiction: there’s no argument that can change the mind of the chauvinist, as chauvinism is an emotionally rooted idea which intellectual arguments can’t destroy. Correcting the ahistorical claims colonialism’s defenders put forth does nothing to bring them towards the decolonial side, as those claims are merely covers for their true motive: to benefit from the wealth that colonization and imperialism bring to them.
The purpose of every colonial ideology, from American exceptionalism, to Zionism, to the reactionary strain of Chicano nationalism which calls for Mexico to annex the southwest, is to make this motive appear defensible. To make something despicable seem like it’s compatible with a humanistic attitude. Of, course, this is as long as an imperialist pretends to be a humanist; when they take the mask off, they reveal themselves to be essentially indistinguishable from a Nazi.
Because colonialism and imperialism depend on these ideological rationalizations, it is possible for someone born into an exploiting role to reject this role, and to fight on the side of the exploited. Those who are presented with an opportunity to embrace their status as oppressors have the options of succumbing to their dark side, and allying with the forces of colonization, or embracing their noble side, and allying with the peoples fighting for their liberation from colonization. There are plenty of examples of such heroic individuals, like the U.S. soldiers who’ve defected to serve the side of Korean socialism or the white anti-slavery militia leader John Brown. But in plenty of cases, those with the opportunity to serve oppression end up taking that opportunity, and never repenting.
This embrace of the evil within a colonizing society is how that society gets a Hitler. Hitler appealed to the dark side of Germans, claiming that the way for the German people out of their economic crisis was not to become a socialist republic, but to reinvigorate their colonization efforts. To annex Eurasia in a settler-colonial project modeled after the one in the United States, exterminate the communists so the threat of a post-colonial future could be eliminated, and wipe out the Jews, the Romas, and the other groups viewed as threats to the “Aryan nation.” When I say Germany’s dark side was won over by this appeal, I’m primarily talking about the German petty bourgeoisie, the social base for fascism. As America’s fascist movement continues to grow, our own petty bourgeoisie are naturally gravitating towards this role as fascism’s core base.
It’s not poor whites who are driving today’s violent reactionary upsurge, any more than it was poor Germans who put Hitler into power. In both instances, the social class that’s been most willing to become capitalism’s fighting wing is the minority that’s enjoyed great benefits from imperialism relative to the rest of the population. The class that’s feeling frustrated due to new economic strains from capitalism’s collapse, and is threatened by a rise in class consciousness among the poor.
For this reason, poor whites in America have great potential to become won over towards allying with the decolonial struggle. It’s not the working class or lumpenproletarian settler who has their primary interests tied into the continuation of colonialism and imperialism. It’s the labor aristocrat, the petty capitalist, or the CEO, categories that combined represent a small and shrinking minority. Those of all colors who’ve been exploited and pushed aside by capitalism can unite, and work to defeat the fascist project of these elements. We can tap into the majority of the U.S. population that has its primary material interests staked not into the decaying imperialist settler state, but into the creation of a post-colonial socialist federation. Hitler does not have to win, as Hitler represents the desperate survival measures of a parasitic order which can’t sustain itself.—————————————————————————
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