Capitalism maintains itself through depriving its victims of the international solidarity required to carry out anti-colonial socialist revolution. Where I am, in the North American imperialist countries, the masses are kept demobilized and powerless through a twisted cultural hegemony. One that gets them to disregard the oppression of imperialism’s global victims.
Our media doesn’t tell us about how U.S. sanctions are behind the dire conditions in Cuba, Iran, north Korea, and other countries we’re supposed to hate. Our military strategically keeps us in the dark about the severe humanitarian impacts that its operations in Africa have. We’re never told about how the U.S. provides military assistance to well over two-thirds of the world’s dictatorships. We’re insulated from realities like the CIA death squad atrocities in Afghanistan, or the bloodshed from U.S.-backed Colombian paramilitaries, or Israel’s U.S.-assisted bombings of Gaza (which even our “leftist” politicians rationalize as being part of the costs of furthering U.S. interests).
And these are only the warfare aspects of the violence that imperialism inflicts upon the world; even when the imperialists aren’t attacking the people of the countries they target, they’re imposing horrific overexploitation upon them. We don’t like to think about the living standards gap between the exploiting world and the exploited world, a gap that’s currently growing despite how much neoliberalism has battered living standards in the imperial center. To put in perspective how much the exploited world is abused by capital and empire, Haitians on average live 15 years less than U.S. citizens, are 61.3% less likely to have electricity access, and are 3.9 times more likely to live below the poverty line.
What makes it worse is that these discrepancies still apply even after over 8 million U.S. citizens have slipped into poverty since May of this year alone, and after the hunger rate within U.S. households has tripled since the pandemic’s start. This acceleration of global inequality’s rise during the last two years is due in part to the new wave of austerity, privatization, and wage cuts that the IMF has imposed upon 81 countries as part of its campaign to take advantage of the pandemic.
For as long as the masses in the center of imperialism can continue detaching themselves from these evils, these evils will continue, to the detriment of proletarians in both the exploited and exploiting countries. We must smash the cultural hegemony that causes this willful ignorance, or the globe’s conditions will worsen even further.
Part of what sustains this cultural hegemony is the very existence of the global proletariat’s conditions as a partitioned and unevenly exploited class. By separating the global proletariat between the workers within the oppressed and oppressor nations, the bourgeoisie have employed a deliberate divide and rule strategy. Cecil Rhodes clarified that it’s deliberate when he said:
I was in the East End of London [a working-class quarter] yesterday and attended a meeting of the unemployed. I listened to the wild speeches, which were just a cry for ‘bread! bread!’ and on my way home I pondered over the scene and I became more than ever convinced of the importance of imperialism.... My cherished idea is a solution for the social problem, i.e., in order to save the 40,000,000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom from a bloody civil war, we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population, to provide new markets for the goods produced in the factories and mines. The Empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists.
This strategy has indeed worked at preventing revolution in the core imperialist countries. As Che Guevara said, “Workers in the imperialist countries gradually lose the spirit of working-class internationalism due to a certain degree of complicity in the exploitation of the dependent countries, and this weakens the combativity of the masses in the imperialist countries.” By granting some extra benefits to the workers in the imperialist countries, the bourgeoisie have created the illusion that the former types of workers are fundamentally at odds with the latter. The job of Marxists is to expose this illusion, to prevent the bourgeoisie from keeping the global proletariat divided.
Crucial to this is acknowledging the dual nature of the conditions of these workers in the imperial center. They may be complicit in imperialism and benefit from it, but only insofar as this can keep them under the ever-tightening boot of neoliberal exploitation. Our relative privilege is paradoxically weaponized against us, used to create the sense that our version of capitalist exploitation shouldn’t be challenged due to it being better than its version in the exploited countries. For this reason, the IMF’s heinously opportunistic actions during the pandemic are necessary to preserve the very foundations of capitalism; growing the living standards gap between the exploiting and exploited countries is essential for maintaining the narrative that we in the imperial center should be grateful for what we have, even as we keep losing more and more. The IMF seems to be taking a page from Rhodes.
When we realize that the two sides of imperialism’s global divide aren’t our only options, that there’s a revolutionary path which can let all proletarians build a better new world in unison, facing up to imperialism’s evils becomes easier. We in the exploiting countries no longer have to push the crimes of our governments into the backs of our minds in order to feel comfortable with ourselves. Revolutionary consciousness frees us from this kind of guilt and dishonesty because it lets us understand that just because we were born into the center of an oppressive system, and we benefit from the super-profits extracted from the neo-colonies, doesn’t mean we’re not capable of rectifying the injustices we’ve been complicit in. We didn’t choose our role in imperialism, because imperialism wasn’t designed by us. It was designed by the bourgeoisie, who benefit from imperialism’s spoils vastly more than we do and who are as much our class enemies as they’re the enemies of imperialism’s victims.
Imperialism holds psychological and ideological control over those within the imperial center by giving them the sense that their best bet at prosperity is not to unify with imperialism’s victims, but to exploit those victims even more. What other conclusion can one come to when they’ve never been exposed to a societal model other than exploitation, cutthroat competitiveness, and obsessive militarism? Imperialism makes those within “the West” sick. It brainwashes them into an inhuman mentality where cooperation is unthinkable, because history’s only possible course is supposedly one where the “strong” side crushes the “weak” side.
This idea is a lie. There is another path. The existing socialist countries have shown us the way by ending colonial the occupations on their lands, building workers democracy, and forging a path of peace and prosperity.
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