The Primary and Secondary Contradictions of the American Empire

To understand what I mean by contradictions, let me offer some recommended reading:

Mao's Essay On Contradiction

What exactly are the contradictions in our rotting empire? To begin with, our economy can't survive without the very things we claim to abhor such as imperialism, various means of exploitation, exceptions that maintain the rule, and that's just three.

These contradictions go back many years, but they weren't as obvious as they are today. One reason for this is that during the post-WW2 era, work was plentiful and labor in the United States had the means to make sure they had their piece of the pie. How they got that pie in the first place was another matter.

This brings us to one of our primary contradictions: War as a means of sustenance. War is entered into because capital must find more markets to control or, like a vampire that does not feed for a time, it withers and eventually dies. Since World War 2, the US Empire has decimated many countries worldwide while making client states of others in order to maintain capitalist profits. From east Asia to the Middle East to Central and South America and Africa, the Empire has left quite the graveyard in its wake, and we have all benefited from said destruction to varying degrees.

Many have spoken out against this over the years with one of three results:

1. They are absorbed into the very system they fought against. Examples of this include Gloria Steinem, John Lewis, Howard Dean and Coretta Scott King.

2. They are assassinated, or they simply die, and their achievements are whitewashed to the point where they defend the capitalist narrative. Examples include Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Cesar Chavez, Helen Keller, Rosa Luxemburg and Rosa Parks.

3. They are slandered, jailed or otherwise marginalized to the point of irrelevance. Many examples I mentioned above have had this happen, but let's include a few more for clarity's sake: Occupy Wall Street, Eugene Debs, Cornel West and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

As easy as it is to blame individual actors or groups (i.e. Israel), doing so ignores this basic fact. When you hear about congress looking to silence the BDS crowd, for instance, they aren't looking to protect Israel necessarily, but American capitalist interests in the Middle East, of which Israel is a client along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

With that, I feel the need to bring up another bit of reactionary nonsense, this talk of "Deep States" or "Illuminati" somehow controlling government officials from the shadows. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our government has openly served the interests of capital since the days of the founding, and until we actually do something about it, always will. You don't need fundamentalist religious symbolism or any other reactionary nonsense to tell you that.

Better yet, let's address another falsehood: "(Insert president here) wants to stop the intervention in (insert target of capitalism here), but the 'Deep State' would kill him if he did." Many also point to folks like JFK as 'proof' of this. JFK was killed because he went against capitalist interests in such a way that would have drastically reduced their power and influence, not because the 'Satanist Illuminati' needed a blood sacrifice or because he was going to 'expose' the window dressing we refer to as 'secret' societies.

The other primary contradiction is the class antagonism that has always been present in the United States. As I mentioned above, the post WW2 era is pointed to as the greatest time in American history for most, yet the contradictions and class antagonism were present then as well. Capitalists allowed unions to exist in some areas while severely limiting or outright eliminating them in others via Taft-Hartley and Right-to-Work, for example, out of which arose a labor aristocracy of sorts, a buffer in the relationship between capitalist and worker.

Out of these primary contradictions, secondary contradictions can also be seen. First being the methods through which capitalists keep workers in antagonistic relationships with each other. One of the methods used goes all the way back to when colonial higher ups offered white indentured servants a couple of acres and a mule to keep them from working with the slaves and native folk in order to sabotage Bacon's Rebellion.

This practice has continued in many forms since those days, with varying tactics. One need look no further than Lee Atwater's Southern Strategy. Make the angry white folks angry at those below them for what the capitalists actually did to them and employ a strategy of benign neglect so that things continue to gradually get worse. It makes the election of demagogues a hell of a lot easier and the capitalists have an army of angry people at their beck and call to take out the undesirables ala Germany's Night of the Long Knives.

The reverse of this stratagem is one in which the exception maintains the rule. It's actually quite common for imperialist societies to elevate one or two people from marginalized groups in order to keep capitalist economies looking competitive while not actually improving or outright decimating the lot of the marginalized. In this way the system remains in place and the workers still fight among themselves over largely trivial bullshit like identity politics, ignoring the real issues and still keeping the majority of the marginalized largely invisible as intended.

With that, there are two more contradictions that should be discussed: The myth of free speech and the belief that a better system can be elected or legislated into being.

Firstly, the only folks who actually have free speech, are the capitalists and those who serve them, and that speech only goes as far as the capitalist allows. They may allow only a cursory discussion of alternatives to that which makes them profitable, but folks are always propagandized into dismissing them outright.

Second, even though some individuals claiming to be 'socialist' or 'left-wing' have been allowed to enter into the mainstream, it should be obvious that none of the policies that they claim to support, be it Green New Deal, Single Payer, a real living-wage, higher marginal tax rates or an end to the Empire, these things will never be legislated into existence because in the end, the capitalists have the final say, no matter what the controlled opposition window dressing calling itself Bernie Sanders or Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez may tell you.

What will it take to snap people out of this crap and recognize the contradictions of our empire for what they are? In this wood rat's opinion, nothing short of total collapse. Whether it's a few years from now or twenty years from now, it isn't far off. The ruling class have seen the writing on the wall and have been ratcheting up the antagonism in such a way that the contradictions are laid bare and there's not much time with which to act.

Recognizing the contradictions and antagonism mentioned above is a good first step.

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Bisbonian's picture

Every paragraph: Truth.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

polkageist's picture

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Greed is not a virtue.
Socialism: the radical idea of sharing.

studentofearth's picture

climate. From the link you provided Mao did not consider climate change an influence on societal change.

Changes do take place in the geography and climate of the earth as a whole and in every part of it, but they are insignificant when compared with changes in society; geographical and climatic changes manifest themselves in terms of tens of thousands of years, while social changes manifest themselves in thousands, hundreds or tens of years, and even in a few years or months in times of revolution.

Climate change may be a bigger factor than we have historically considered. Looking forward to seeing the full results of this study.

Nakatsuka, a palaeoclimatologist at Japan’s Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, along with a diverse team of 68 collaborators, has spent the last decade developing a novel method to reveal bygone precipitation patterns and interpret their effect on society. The results offer unprecedented insight into 2,600 years of Japanese rainfall patterns. By teasing out information locked inside the preserved wood of ancient forests, they are able to reveal just how much rain fell around the country over the past two and half millennia. It is an extraordinary record.
-----
Collaborating with archaeologists and historians, Nakatsuka has been able to unravel what effect these changes in rainfall had on the people who lived at the time. Rainfall patterns over shorter and longer timescales corresponded, for example, to medieval ceremonies led by celebrity priests who prayed for rain. The development of irrigation systems and cooperative groundwater technologies meant to protect against drought also occurred at times when his record showed rainfall was low. As did the creation of government policies designed to rescue subjects from starvation during periods of famine. Most importantly, multi-decadal rainfall fluctuation neatly bookended major epochs in Japanese and Chinese history.

When the contradictions of society wobble a push one way or another can cause a significant change. It is during this rebalancing that we need to be ready to act. The key is to know where the where the new balance point is located. Then thoughtful skills needs to be applied to achieve and maintain the new balance of contradictions.

Mao is interesting because he became a leader during the rebalance phase in China and the major leader during the reshaping of their society. thanks for the thought provoking diary.

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Still yourself, deep water can absorb many disturbances with minimal reaction.
--When the opening appears release yourself.

The Aspie Corner's picture

@studentofearth And he would have addressed it if he had (essay On Practice).

China was still dealing with the Japanese occupation of Manchuria and other areas in the region at the time he wrote many of his essays, so it's understandable he would see that as the most immediate threat. US capitalist interests also had Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalists in their pocket and China as a whole was probably still dealing with effects from Opium addiction compliments of the British East India Company.

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Modern education is little more than toeing the line for the capitalist pigs.

Guerrilla Liberalism won't liberate the US or the world from the iron fist of capital.

mimi's picture

... but what do you want these two to tell you?

these things will never be legislated into existence because in the end, the capitalists have the final say, no matter what the controlled opposition window dressing calling itself Bernie Sanders or Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez may tell you.

They have to say something or otherwise not run for an office.

PS: I remember having carried around Mao's bible and never read it. Now I guess I have to read your recommended reading ... sigh. I wonder what was the reason I bought it fifty years ago and then never read it. Too complicated ? Too lazy ?

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I agree with much of it and disagree with some of it. However, whether I agree with every particular is not my standard for evaluating an essay. I enjoyed reading this one.

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I think Mao said that too, not sure. Thanks for this essay, all the reading.

Because of Max and Stacy, I am pretty sure I like capitalism, but not like this is now. Some other fantasy time past, like the 70s when Unions were biglier. But that gave us NUMMI workforce out of control, which ended up in hands of TSLA or whatever Musk's stock symbol is. Just had a round of layoffs they did, F those Bay Area capitalists with a hot poker. Billionaires burning through investor cash until it crashes, that's California. uber meh

Zuma ruined the name Cortez for me a long time ago, thanks a lot Neil Young. AOC is a fine TLA, easy.

Bernie Sanders or Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez should get busy and do actions, that's what I think. Put on a gosh darned yellow vest and interrupt somebody's busy day for once. BE SAND IN THE GEARS don't just cog along with the rest of them. Tulsi too, and I'm sure there are more but who is leading? NOBODY

NOBODY 2020
third fourth fifth party
bring it on
break plutocracy
peace

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The Aspie Corner's picture

@eyo that revolution is impossible without women. Contrast that with Hitler's Germany, Franco's Spain and Vichy France where women were all but subjugated.

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Modern education is little more than toeing the line for the capitalist pigs.

Guerrilla Liberalism won't liberate the US or the world from the iron fist of capital.

Wish I could write that clearly.

War is diplomacys unspoken threat. It's always on the table. Most of our governments function is in tariffs, diplomacy, taxes, military and law at both domestic and international levels. All to serve the interests of wealthy. We spread our diseased form of capitalism by co opting other governments through bribes or threats, spreading corruption down through our allies national governments. Or we kill them and back a corruptible dictator.

I feel mostly,the wealthy don't care about methods to accumulate wealth. They care about indulging their whims. Maybe, just maybe it's how their lackeys methods are used in their service. All those Harvard MBAs focussed on one goal, free of morality handcuffed to the religion of capitalism.

From your ending paragraphs question, I'm not sure what will snap people out of it, but the mythology is wearing thin. I'm seeing a lot of people questioning what they are seeing, and what they are told. Maybe what you say about Bernie and AOC is true, but leaders come to realize the army they lead could turn into a mob chasing them, if they betray them. Sometimes they have no choice but to do the right thing.

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@Snode Ther's another book out coming to the conclusion that the CIA was behind the killing of RFK.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2019/02/09/cia-may-have-used-cont...

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Lookout's picture

unlimited growth is simply impossible on a finite planet. Sadly, I suspect our species will be collateral damage.

It is indeed catch-22. Thanks for the well stated essay.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

the idea that capital has goonish friends in the CIA, NSA, and many other such organizations, both public and private, and that they do their work of intimidation and blackmail in private, at least in part, is such anathema to you. It certainly doesn't contradict any of the rest of your excellent argument. You seem to think that seeing these influences somehow equates to excusing the rotten system. I don't see why. Every mafia needs enforcers, and the differences between the current capitalists and organized crime don't seem that significant to me.

We're not going to agree on this one, despite the fact that I agree with everything else you said.

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Actually, the issue at stake is patriotism. You must return to your world and put an end to the Commies. All it takes are a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

The Aspie Corner's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal But you can't just look at the goons or individual capitalists by themselves and think that if we just got rid of this one or that one, things would be fine. That's what I take issue with, among other things. It's no different than ignoring the forest because you're fixated on a single tree.

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7 users have voted.

Modern education is little more than toeing the line for the capitalist pigs.

Guerrilla Liberalism won't liberate the US or the world from the iron fist of capital.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@The Aspie Corner

You're seeing talk of the Deep State as basically focusing social critique on only the CIA, NSA, DHS, possibly the FBI, etc, and you have the same objection to that as I do to a focus on Trump: it narrows the focus too much and potentially gets the rest of the system off the hook.

Thanks, because you just revealed one of my own assumptions to myself, one I was unaware of previously: I assume that one focuses on the goons because they are preventing system-wide change, not because they are a tumor, which removed, will make everything else in the system hunky-dory. I focus on the goons because, like in other situations, it's the enforcers who hold the status quo in place. That's their job, and it makes them key to maintaining the rotten system. They aren't the only thing that maintains it, of course, but without somehow resolving the obstacle they place in our path--well, let's just say I don't see a way to work around them.

Well, maybe I see one way to kind of work around them, but it's not precisely political.

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Actually, the issue at stake is patriotism. You must return to your world and put an end to the Commies. All it takes are a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

ggersh's picture

http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2019/02/regime-change-part-one-how-its-done/

One could point to the fact that amerika falls under
the category of regime change and has in fact occurred.

So let’s do a quick run down of what Regime Change typically involves. This, by the way is from the Grand Daddy of Regime Change specialists’ play-book, the NED, the National Endowment for Democracy.

So, first find your regime. One you don’t like – obviously. It’s important there be something, preferably several things about the regime that you can point to that are genuinely nasty or at least not as good as they should be and not like they are at home. This is important. You have to be able to frame your actions as morally justified and that what you are aiming at is ‘better’. Especially if the regime you want changed happens to be sitting on valuable resources, have markets they weren’t letting your corporations in to, or were just generally ideologically ‘dangerous and wrong’. Having actual ‘bad stuff’ to point at is vital for keeping the whole story feeling and looking positive.

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trump amerika's last president

Caitlin Johnstone

Anyone who's sure they know what humanity is and where we're headed is suffering from a psilocybin deficiency.

arendt's picture

Please write these longer pieces more often. They display your knowledge and passion so much better than the one liners.

Regarding the Deep State, I certainly agree that the rich have always run the country. But I think that Joe Sixpack is just waking up to that fact, and "the Deep State" meme allows him to wake up slowly, without having to instantly jump to "the rich have been screwing us forever". Given the 100 year propaganda campaign against class awareness and Marxism, you have to wake people up slowly or they will go into shock and denial. The Deep State calls out the rich without naming them. I mean, is anyone in the Deep State not filthy rich?

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The Aspie Corner's picture

@arendt

Given the 100 year propaganda campaign against class awareness and Marxism, you have to wake people up slowly or they will go into shock and denial. The Deep State calls out the rich without naming them. I mean, is anyone in the Deep State not filthy rich?

Though I don't think we have another century or so to wake people up to what's going on. The internet has sped up the process somewhat for some while others have simply doubled down. The privatization of the internet by telecom monopolies have also hindered our ability greatly.

How we get to the root of the problem is uncertain but we certainly don't have the time to wait.

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Modern education is little more than toeing the line for the capitalist pigs.

Guerrilla Liberalism won't liberate the US or the world from the iron fist of capital.

Anja Geitz's picture

still seems to have the power to persuade people even after everything we saw during the last election. Had a debate here the other day over Bernie Sanders "political agency" within an electoral system that the oligarchy control. Confounds rational thinking.

Second, even though some individuals claiming to be 'socialist' or 'left-wing' have been allowed to enter into the mainstream, it should be obvious that none of the policies that they claim to support, be it Green New Deal, Single Payer, a real living-wage, higher marginal tax rates or an end to the Empire, these things will never be legislated into existence because in the end, the capitalists have the final say, no matter what the controlled opposition window dressing calling itself Bernie Sanders or Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez may tell you..

Nicely written essay.

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If we surrendered to earth's intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees
~ Rainer Maria Rilke