As I’ve watched young people around the world take part in the climate actions of the last few weeks, I’ve gotten the sense that I’m watching a spectacle which has been orchestrated to create the illusion that we’re still in an earlier, more stable time for the planet’s climate. Legitimate as the passion and commitment of this generation of teen climate activists is, their efforts are being packaged by the political and media establishment in a way that encourages denial about our situation. These ruling institutions neither want us to recognize the real solutions to the crisis, nor to see the irrecoverable and massive damage that’s already been done to the climate.
The U.S. empire’s global influence projects, especially the ones in Iran and Hong Kong, have a different nature from the ones that were carried out when American power was still in a stable state. There’s now an aspect of desperation to what America is doing abroad, an unacknowledged but ever-present reality that the purveyors of Western imperialism are fighting a losing battle against the inevitable process of imperial collapse.
It’s no wonder why Bernie Sanders’ supporters are so loyal to him in spite of his pro-imperialist tendencies. He’s offering them universal healthcare and adequate social benefits at a time when neoliberalism has made half of the country effectively poor. Many Americans have gravitated towards Sanders simply out of the desire to attain adequate living standards, which his policies would indeed create for them. What anti-imperialists must do is shatter the illusion that Sanders’ agenda of bettering life for Americans equates to an agenda of bettering life for the world’s colonized people, which Sanders has shown he doesn’t want to do.
The story of how America became an empire is one where a group of ambitious and egotistical men rationalized implementing a governing model which would lead to massive death and suffering. Its main forerunner was Theodore Roosevelt, a narcissistic politician from an upper-class household who was determined to turn his childhood obsession with war into a foreign policy model which would make the United States into a conquering nation. He and the other political elites who supported the Spanish-American War and the subsequent rush to empire received support from William Randolph Hearst, the businessman who used his vast newspaper network to manufacture public opinion for war because war stories would help him sell papers better than the lurid gossip that he otherwise used to gain the public’s attention.
With this month’s burning of the Amazon as a result of the actions of the fascist Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, the first world has gotten a glimpse of the horrors that the world’s poor and indigenous people have long been experiencing at the hands of capitalism and colonialism. Because the Amazon’s existence is crucial for preventing climate apocalypse, the world outside of the region’s indigenous community now feels threatened by the consequences of profit-motivated white supremacy.
I’m very grateful for the fact that my ideological development as a socialist has lead me towards the principled anti-imperialist worldview which informs my opposition to the project for colonialist insurrection in Hong Kong. I could easily have gone in the opposite direction; for a while, I routinely sought out the authority of the World Socialist Website, the Trotskyist publication that’s given very sympathetic coverage to the anti-Beijing protesters. But my views on Hong Kong have developed the opposite way that the U.S. empire and its narrative enforcers in outlets like the WSWS have tried to steer me towards.
The American ruling class decided that it would be necessary to start a 21st century cold war with Russia and China when it became apparent that U.S. global hegemony was being replaced by a multipolar world. And even before this new level of warfare became the priority, it was apparent that a long-term era of tensions between great powers would require much greater government control over information than was previously the case.
In a fascist shift, the state always forms a paramilitary group so that political violence can be carried out without the government being held accountable. It’s predictable that when this process started to happen in America, our version of Hitler’s Brownshirts and Mussolini’s Blackshirts would originate from America’s instruments of imperialism.
In addition to all of the propaganda pieces that anti-communists use to legitimize their position, they often utilize a more general rhetorical tool, which is the denunciations of communism that have come from two of the last century’s most prominent intellectuals: George Orwell and Christopher Hitchens. These figures maintain large cult followings and are widely seen as moral authorities for their crusades against civilization’s evil and hypocritical aspects, which for Orwell was a crusade against totalitarianism and for Hitchens was a crusade against organized religion. Yet the cultural and ideological makeup of both of these men caused them to infuse their works with the anti-communist agenda, and to give this agenda’s followers the sense that they’re righteous upholders of honesty and virtue.