Thursday, December 31, 2009

US Workers’ Special Responsibility: End US Imperialism

Despite its current decline (most strikingly evidenced by its decreasing percentage of the world’s total GDP) US imperialism is still the most dominant political and economic force on the planet. Weaker imperialist countries, like Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan are mere satellites in US imperialism’s orbit. The US has nearly 1000 military bases in over 100 countries and controls a large, hostile military bloc (NATO) that seeks to encircle and destroy Russia. Understanding US imperialism’s nature, history, current activities, and probable future shows the US left a way forward to victory.

Imperialism’s Nature

Lenin’s important classic, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, explains that modern imperialism is more than simply territorial expansion or gaining control of other countries’ governments/economies but also the final stage in the development of capitalism. He reveals that, “Imperialism emerged as the development and direct continuation of the fundamental attributes of capitalism in general.” And also that, “The fundamental economic factor in this process is the substitution of capitalist monopolies for capitalist free competition.” In sum, “imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism.”

Lenin also, briefly, discusses how the British Empire, exploiting the world as a global power in the 19th century, resulted in a section of the British proletariat becoming “bought off” by the bourgeoisie. The result was political domination by the era’s two bourgeois political parties (Liberal and Conservative). We can see a clear parallel between the 19th century British Empire’s influence on British workers and of 20th (and early 21st) century US imperialism on US workers.

However, as the British Empire started to decline in the 20th century, working-class political parties arose – the Labour and Communist parties. Clearly, the US left needs to be prepared to take full advantage of US imperialism’s decline (from its current position as the top imperialist power) in the 21st century. The rise and decline of major capitalist powers is something that tends to occur gradually and not very frequently, which makes this upcoming situation too critical to be squandered by US progressive forces.

Historical Background (1890s-Present)

US imperialism’s quest for control of the world’s markets, resources, and labor power has inevitably led it to act aggressively on the world stage. Studying the history of this endless aggression reveals the monopoly capitalist system’s truly moribund nature, because it is being kept alive by ‘devouring’ other countries. Understanding the extent of US imperialism’s heinous crimes against other countries also shows US workers why our class has a special responsibility to end this reactionary system.

By the 1890s, US capitalism had reached its monopoly stage and began to compete with other imperialist powers for control of the world’s people and resources. The first significant event of which was the 1898 Spanish-American War. The “spoils” of that war included Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam. What followed, in the decades after, were numerous military interventions (mostly in Latin America) to establish US capitalism’s control.

World War I, the imperialist powers’ “Great War” to re-divide the world amongst themselves, brought US imperialism to Europe. Russia’s 1917 socialist revolution, which ultimately created the USSR, brought US invasion (many other imperialist countries also attacked young Soviet Russia, but all were ultimately expelled). World War I’s outcome increased the power of US imperialism and weakened British, French, and German imperialism.

World War II was not simply a war between imperialist rivals as World War I had been, but also a war between imperialism and the world’s first socialist country, the USSR. The Allied war effort also manifested itself as a worldwide popular struggle against fascism. Class conscious US workers realized the importance of defeating the fascist menace and were not simply fighting for “their” monopolists.

After World War II, US imperialism began a massive expansion as its imperialist rivals in the war (German, Italy, and Japan) had been conquered, while its imperialist allies in the war (Britain and France) were in decline. US imperialism increased its power in several ways, such as with the take over of capitalist Europe’s economies with the “Marshall Plan,” the establishment of a hostile military bloc (NATO) to dominate the continent, and the creation of various puppet regimes (e.g. West Germany and South Korea). US imperialism’s goal became the complete annihilation of socialism and global domination (likely taking the form of a fascist Earth).

The US capitalist class sought to achieve this goal by militarily encircling the USSR and brutally repressing national liberation movements in Europe and Japan’s former colonies. The latter was seen most dramatically in the Korean and Vietnam wars (that killed a combined 3-6 million people), and also notoriously brutal CIA-organized coups (that killed well over one million people), such as in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Indonesia (1965), and Chile (1973). Another aspect included funding counter-revolutionary movements in socialist countries, such as in Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968), Afghanistan (beginning in the 1970s), and Nicaragua (1980s).

As the 1989-1991 Western-backed counter-revolutions stole political and economic power from workers in Central/Eastern Europe and parts of Asia, US imperialism began to make its move for complete global domination. The 1991 Gulf War signaled this new era’s beginning, which was followed up with the Western-orchestrated breakup of Yugoslavia, the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe, and advances toward its long-term goal of conquering Russia and China. Between 500,000 and 1.5 million Iraqis were killed (mostly children) by US imperialism’s brutal sanctions on their country between 1991-2003. Madeleine Albright proudly stated that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqis were “worth it” (for US imperialism’s quest to control the planet). Thousands more Serbian civilians were murdered by Bill Clinton’s 1999 “humanitarian” terror-bombing campaign in Yugoslavia.

Current Events: “Democracy Promotion,” Color Coups, and War

Closely related to the Western propaganda about “humanitarian interventions” is what pro-imperialist hacks call “democracy promotion.” Washington’s much touted “democracy promotion” is nothing more than attempts to establish loyal client regimes that serve US imperialism’s economic and military interests. Before 1983, all of the “democracy promotion” was done either secretly via the CIA’s coups (e.g. Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Chile, etc.), or with open military force (e.g. Korea, Vietnam, etc.).

However, in 1983, Washington set up a number of sinister “non-governmental organizations” (organizations that were set up by the US government and have been continuously funded by it as well, making the “NGO” claim false). These were the “National Endowment for Democracy,” the “National Democratic Institute,” the “International Republican Institute,” and the “Solidarity Center.” They openly support US imperialism, while attempting to appear as independent “rights” organizations rather than simply another branch of the US government (which they actually are). Several years earlier, another related group (“Human Rights Watch”) was established by the right-wing billionaire George Soros.

All of these groups, ultimately, have the same objective: US global domination. They provide a support role to the US intelligence agencies and military. They were directly involved in all of the US-orchestrated “color revolutions” (color coups) in Yugoslavia (2000), Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004), Kyrgyzstan (2005), the failed attempt in Belarus (2006), and the currently on-going attempt in Moldova (2009).

Recent history has shown that Washington’s color coups have had most success in countries that have already made conciliatory moves towards US imperialism (e.g. Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan) before these governments were replaced by new completely subservient puppet regimes. On the other hand, in a solidly anti-imperialist country (Belarus) a recent attempted color putsch was defeated in 2006. Similar color coup attempts have also been defeated in Iran, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe, which also have governments committed to staying out of US imperialism’s control.

It should also be kept in mind that “old fashioned” US-organized coups still occur (i.e. coups that are not as reliant on pseudo-“popular” protest movements). Examples are the defeated coup attempt in Venezuela (2002) and the most recent US-backed military take over of Honduras (2009). The US bourgeoisie also, obviously, still use outright invasion and occupation of countries to bring them under US monopoly capitalism’s control (if coup attempts prove to be unsuccessful), the most notable recent example being Iraq.

Arrogant, overconfident US imperialism tossed aside the classic Clausewitzian understanding of the ‘atmosphere of war’ when it drew up its plans for taking control of Iraq. Carl von Clausewitz’s ‘atmosphere of war’ is composed of danger, hardship, uncertainty, and chance (grouped together as ‘friction’). Neocon ideologues (representing the most reactionary and aggressive section of the US bourgeoisie), on the other hand, fantasized that they (as the leading faction of US imperialism) “create their own reality.” They mechanically assumed that US imperialism could easily defeat Iraq because of US numerical/technological advantages in addition to Iraq having been crippled by 12 years of sanctions.

Iraq’s strategy caught US imperialism by surprise. Rather than having its military be swiftly destroyed in massive conventional engagements, as happened in the previous Gulf War (1991), they heavily utilized a different mode of warfare (i.e. guerrilla or “asymmetrical”). Iraq’s most elite troops (the Republican Guard and the Fedayeen Saddam) “melted away” into their civilian population, initially allowing the illegal invasion to seize Baghdad and all of their country’s other major cities. Despite Bush’s claim of “mission accomplished,” when he dramatically landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln’s flight deck in May 2003, the fighting never ended.

By the summer of 2003, even the US capitalist media could not ignore the reality of an endless armed resistance movement in Iraq. The successes of Iraq’s resistance are all the more stunning when one looks at the details of its operating conditions. The fighting mostly occurs in what is now known as the “Sunni Triangle,” an area of central Iraq where most of the country’s 4-5 million Sunni Arabs live. In addition, this area is largely flat, open terrain, lacking vast jungles or mountains for fighters to use as cover. These two conditions (operation amongst a small population and in poor terrain for a guerrilla war) make Iraq’s successes all the more significant. Finally, there was no major (or minor) foreign power funding and organizing their resistance.

Presently, the Iraqi resistance is taking a strategic respite while preparing for future national liberation struggles. Their determined resistance smashed the Neocon fantasy of “Pax Americana” (i.e. global domination). In sum, their resistance contributed towards quickening the pace of the development of a multi-polar world. However, this came at a price, US imperialism’s illegal invasion and occupation is responsible for the deaths of over 1.3 million Iraqis.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, is different in almost every way from Iraq. Geographically it is a larger country and is mostly covered with rugged, mountainous terrain (perfect for sustaining guerrilla warfare). Demographically it has a larger population, with the largest ethnic group (Pashtuns) having kin across the porous border in Pakistan. The country is also filled with arms caches, leftovers from what US imperialism provided to CIA-organized medieval terrorists (like Osama bin Laden) in the 1970s-80s, which were intended to be used in terror attacks on Soviet peacekeepers and progressive Afghans (mostly civilians, like schoolteachers).

It should be noted that there was never a "Soviet invasion of Afghanistan." The progressive Afghan government invited Soviet troops. Even when Afghanistan was a monarchy, it had friendly, neighborly relations with the USSR. US imperialism was the aggressor and was trying to gain ground by organizing a puppet "jihad." US imperialism's goal in Afghanistan then was the same as it is now: to control Central Asia (using bases in that region to further encircle Russia and China).

US Progressive Forces’ Current Responsibilities

Naturally, the US left has a responsibility to make immediate anti-imperialist demands and build a mass movement pressuring for their enactment. While this already exists and some basic demands are already well known (i.e. withdrawing from Iraq/Afghanistan and ending unworkable military programs like “missile defense”), other issues require more attention from these broad movements as well. Demands particularly important are to dissolve NATO, close all US military bases outside of US territory, cut off government funding for sinister “democracy promotion” organizations, rein in the massive spy bureaucracies, and nationalize the arms industry (and connected industries). Finally, communists (the most ideologically advanced progressive forces) must always explain that only socialism (i.e. public ownership of the means of production and distribution, combined with proletarian political power) will permanently end US imperialism as a system.

The US left must also always be on guard to protect its ideological health from the nefarious assaults of pro-imperialist, anti-communist propagandists posing as “leftists” and “socialists.” Right-opportunist elements on “the left” notoriously offer support to imperialism, while parroting imperialist propaganda. Presently, pro-imperialism can be seen amongst those “leftists” who have been relatively silent about Iraq/Afghanistan, those who try to peddle imperialist “humanitarian intervention,” and generally try to dupe progressive forces into supporting US imperialism (often by helping the capitalist press demonize socialist and anti-imperialist countries). Exposing the moral bankruptcy of pro-imperialist “leftists” helps ideologically steel the working class.

US imperialism’s decline will open up new opportunities for class struggle and working-class political power in the US, created by the already noticeable decline/stagnation of most workers’ wages (due to decent paying jobs being sent overseas). Internationally, multi-polarity (rather than US domination) will allow for a much more favorable situation for the world’s socialist countries (e.g. Cuba and the DPRK), which will have an easier time playing the capitalist powers off against each other. For these reasons, the US left needs to recognize the importance of building an ideologically strong Marxist-Leninist party to be able to take full advantage of the desirable world situation that we are approaching.

Sources and Further Reading:

Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, V. I. Lenin

On War, Carl von Clausewitz

Imperialism Today, Gus Hall

Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, William Blum

To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia, Michael Parenti

Afghanistan - Washington's Secret War, Phillip Bonosky

Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism, Michael Parenti

Against Empire, Michael Parenti

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