The Primary and Secondary Contradictions of the American Empire
To understand what I mean by contradictions, let me offer some recommended reading:
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.