Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The American Empire’s Dystopian Epilogue

The American experience throughout the country’s existence as an empire has been one of learning to look the other way, of ignoring the evils that our government is perpetrating at home and abroad while going along with America’s vapidly patriotic traditions and beliefs. In the 20th and early 21st centuries, as our country’s aggressive wars caused tens of millions of deaths over the course of a few generations, Americans didn’t question capitalism and imperialism. The people who went along with the system never expected that there would be blowback from it, or at least that the blowback would be as dire as it’s now showing itself to be.

In its last years of global hegemony, the United States is a funhouse mirror image of its former self. As the empire reacts to its declining influence by simultaneously carrying out war campaigns against China, Russia, and many of their allies, and as the Trump administration creates tensions with many American allies through trade wars and the sabotage of international agreements, America’s characteristic jingoism and paranoia are now being taken to their extremes. 

Trump has started a potential new 4th of July tradition of rolling tanks through Washington DC. The country has made so many enemies that Americans are constantly exposed to propaganda which whips them into frenzies of hate, whether the villain is Maduro, Assad, the Iranians, the Russians, or the Chinese. National Security Advisor John Bolton declares war on international law by making speeches which claim that a sinister global network of foes is conspiring to undermine America’s constitution and hurt its international reputation.
In a situation like this, it’s natural that the country has also been progressing through the steps towards dictatorship and genocide. The War on Terror has been the catalyst not just for the erosion of civil liberties like privacy and due process, but for a culture of Islamophobia and xenophobia that’s now enabling worse and worse atrocities.

Trump’s almost total ban on immigration from Muslim-majority countries has been preventing numerous families in the Middle East from being able to seek refuge from persecution and war in their home countries. Over the past year or so, seven children have died in U.S. immigration custody or shortly after being released, whereas no children had died from the treatment of U.S. detention camps in the ten years prior to these deaths. The children in these camps are reportedly being deprived of clean clothes or bathing equipment, forced to endure extreme cold temperatures and 24-hour lights, and commonly given punishments like having their beds taken away. These are the conditions that migrant kids are put into after they’re unnecessarily separated from their parents at the border.

The fact that these horrors are taking place in a 21st century “free” society through the use of modern technologies gives them the same historically uncanny nature that’s present in Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians. Amid its destructive process of racism and escalating state violence, Israel is a modern society that’s regressed into the practices that we associate with societies which are in the distant past, or which don’t claim to be inclusive democracies like Israel does. 

The torture of prisoners, the relocation of ethnic groups, laws that persecute people based on race or religion, and the other barbaric practices that Israel engages in are facilitated by the country’s high-tech surveillance state and advanced weapons. The starkly modern horror which is Israel shows that the darkest chapters of human history can fuse with our own civilization. Now during its period of imperial collapse, America is demonstrating the same fact.

Beneath the efforts from Trump to showcase America’s might through military parades, vast increases of the Pentagon budget, and projects like Space Force, the country is effectively a failed state. Forty years of neoliberal austerity policies have made the U.S. government unable to keep around half of its own population out of poverty. The country’s infrastructure has declined to ranking behind much of the developed world. Corporate money in politics, widespread gerrymandering, regular collusion between presidential administrations and the big banks, and systemically enabled electoral fraud and voter suppression have destroyed America’s constitutional republic and turned it into an oligarchy.

As these unsustainable conditions cause the country to head towards unrest, and as the country’s influence abroad vanishes, the response from the capitalist class is to turn towards fascism. To varying degrees, fascism is historically what the bourgeois embrace when their power is threatened. And the current fascist shift throughout the capitalist world is in response to a proportionally massive blow to bourgeois power, which is the loss of the ability of the bourgeois to carry out imperialism.

When the U.S. empire comes to an end during the next decade, it won’t be replaced by a new hegemonic empire like the British empire was. The role of the dominant world power will be turned over to China, whose foreign policy model doesn’t resemble imperialism but rather a restrained and peaceful project by a socialist state to further its interests. China’s ally Russia isn’t imperialist either, nor is its other most powerful ally Iran. In a world where the imperialist instruments of the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the other members of the NATO power establishment are fractured and weakened, these newly hegemonic powers will be able to protect themselves and their allies from whatever future attempts at aggression that come from the remains of the old U.S. empire. Add in the factor of the new wave of worker’s revolutions that’s likely to sweep the world in the 2030s, and imperialism itself appears to be set to become a thing of the past.

With the end of imperialism will come the crippling of the leverage of the capitalist class. As Michael Parenti has written about the necessity that imperialism has for capitalism to function in its current form:

Imperialism may not be a necessary condition for investor survival but it seems to be an inherent tendency and a natural outgrowth of advanced capitalism. Imperial relations may not be the only way to pursue profits, but they are the most lucrative way. Whether imperialism is necessary for capitalism is really not the question. Many things that are not absolutely necessary are still highly desirable, therefore strongly preferred and vigorously pursued. Overseas investors find the Third World’s cheap labor, vital natural resources, and various other highly profitable conditions to be compellingly attractive. Superprofits may not be necessary for capitalism’s survival but survival is not all that capitalists are interested in. Superprofits are strongly preferred to more modest earnings. That there may be no necessity between capitalism and imperialism does not mean there is no compelling linkage.

Capitalism will hold on in the coming decades, but only when it takes the form of fascism. Capitalist societies won’t be able to maintain their formerly normal mode of liberal democracy, and we’re seeing this as fascism rises throughout most of the capitalist democracies around the globe. All the erosions of liberty that we’ve seen throughout these countries in recent years, from the persecution of Julian Assange to the rise of internet censorship to the global expansion of government surveillance, are part of the shift towards a post-imperialist totalitarian dystopia.

This will be a dystopia where even as America and global capitalism have entered into a greatly diminished state, we’ll be told that these facets of civilization are as strong as ever. Trump is claiming that he’s brought back “American greatness” by “rebuilding our military,” getting “tough on immigration,” and “bringing back jobs.“ Such grandiose distortions of reality will become the norm among politicians and the media as the U.S. continues to decline. As will the claims that America is being undermined by China, Russia, immigrants, and other scapegoats.

And the deeper our society sinks into this madness, the more the political and media establishment will try to convince Americans that they shouldn’t abandon the glorified old vision of what their country is. There will still be people who wave the flag, support the military, and love their favored capitalist politicians only because this is what they’ve been conditioned to do. Ironically, the United States is coming to resemble the cartoonishly totalitarian caricature that American propaganda has made north Korea out to be. The American people are being persuaded to fear the imaginary tyranny and aggression from demonized foreign leaders like Kim Jong Un, while ignoring the fact that their own country is just as paranoid, violently repressive, and aggressively militaristic as America makes north Korea out to be.

But through efforts to combat imperialist propaganda and to build the socialist movement, Americans will be able to take their society in a healthy direction. The people of the DPRK have done this with the socialist revolution in their country, and we can do the same here. We just have to defeat all of the lies that the capitalist class uses to keep us from pursuing these changes. As the hip hop artist Marcel Cartier said in his 2014 song about the DPRK titled “Bomb Threat”:

I'm turning on the news and I'm seeing all this bullshit
Conservatives and liberals are yappin' all that useless
even most you leftists are spewing your excuses
talkin' all that noise, "North Korea acting ruthless"
Imagining scenarios, "oh, they gonna nuke us!"

The truth is, you got no context to your rumors
backward positioning of who is the aggressor
who is on whose border with an arsenal of weapons
who controls the military of the country next to it
who is self-defending, who is acting negligent

They like to paint the north as a kingdom, prison camp
that is quite ironic when the number one prison land
is really my own country, the U.S. imprisons more
than any other country in world history before
and that you can't deny, but still I'm sure you'll try it

Reality is simple, Washington is the real tyrant
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