“The future of humanity depends on the anti-imperialist struggle within the belly of the beast. A handful of individuals own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population.”
By Danny Haiphong
Published on BAR, July 3, 2019
Privatization, predatory lending, and endless war are all preconditions to finance capital’s hegemony.
“Any Democrat who dares to challenge the war machine is effectively marginalized.”
Black Agenda Report contributor Danny Haiphong delivered the following remarks at BAR’s Left Forum panel, “Black Liberation Strategies in the Empire of Exceptionalism.”
Black liberation strategies must arise from the self-determined political activity of Black America. In my experience as an activist and journalist, there exists a pervasive but peculiar political position which argues that Black people cannot take on the entire emotional burden of their own liberation. White Americans must “give up their privilege” and hand it to Black Americans. This is neither an analysis nor a strategy for liberation. It is, however, a good way for individuals like Kamala Harris to grow their political careers. Without a Black liberation movement, the left in the United States will remain in retreat, forever tailing the likes of Harris and the con of diversity. The question is, what is the role for those of us who are oriented toward the struggle of the working class and the struggle for peace; and who invariably take our political cues from the Black liberation movement?
There are many right answers to this question, and many wrong ones, but one of the most important tasks right now is the development of an anti-imperialist political consciousness. Anti-imperialism is a higher level of theoretical analysis than simply opposing war, as important as that is. New polls show that U.S. voters in the Republican Party camp are more anti-war or anti-interventionist than those in the Democratic Party camp. Anti-imperialism is a revolutionary political orientation that breaks through the limitations of the two-party duopoly. It serves as an ideological framework for political activity and is one that has been taken up by organizations such as the Black Alliance for Peace.
“One of the most important tasks right now is the development of an anti-imperialist political consciousness.”
Anti-imperialism is the only antidote for global, U.S.-led austerity. Bernie Sanders’ anti-austerity platform branded as “democratic socialism” has made him both the most popular politician in the U.S. and the politician most viciously attacked by the Democratic Party. However, his demands are not anti-imperialist in scope and thus fall short of a legitimate challenge to austerity. In many ways, they don’t fit the category of anti-war either. Sanders is indeed opposed to some wars, which include the potential invasion of Iran, the U.S.-backed Saudi war in Yemen, and his historic opposition to U.S. support of the Contras in Central America in the 1980s. The New York Timescalled Sanders the “foreign minister” of Burlington, Vermont in response to his anti-war history. The use of this anti-communist slur shows that the ruling class finds anti-war politics in all forms unacceptable regardless of how selective they may be.
Sanders is running within the belly of the War Party, so we won’t gain an understanding of imperialism from him. We also won’t develop such an understanding from the likes of AOC—whose speeches continue to invoke nationalist pride and American exceptionalism around the U.S.’ role in World War II. The leftish elements in the Democratic Party have little problem with the fact that U.S. military supremacy is the backbone of imperialism. Any Democrat who dares to challenge the war machine is effectively marginalized. Far from an anti-imperialist, Tulsi Gabbard has been blacked out from major polls and corporate networks for uttering the notion of anti-interventionism. When she has been discussed, it is to smear her as Putin’s puppet despite her long history of enlistment in the U.S. military.
“AOC’s speeches continue to invoke nationalist pride and American exceptionalism.”
Anti-imperialism is more than just anti-interventionism. Anti-imperialism is a materialist analysis of the central role of finance capital in the current epoch of U.S. decline. Finance capital has become the dominant force driving the world capitalist system. There are good reasons for why the IMF has warned against the effects of corporate debt , why the U.S. possesses 1.6 trillion dollars of student loan debt, or why the U.S. government itself carries such a large national debt. Monopolies rule, and the banks are king.
Finance capital has become fat from austerity and creates whole markets for itself out of the misery of capitalism. U.S. capitalism has become dominated by finance capital precisely because the inherent contradictions of the system have developed into antagonisms. Capitalists derive profits from labor and do so by increasing the rate of exploitation (paying a worker less) AND speeding up production through investments in technology. Competition between capitalists toward these ends has led to an unprecedented but inevitable level of capital concentration. Monopolization has driven the conditions of the vast lot of humanity into barbarity and has simultaneously increased the cost of technological investments in production and in the military to maintain the super profits for the super-rich. The parasites of finance capital have swooped in to pad the profits of major corporations and the ailing living standards of the poor with no shortage of debt schemes. Households, corporations, and governments worldwide have borrowed 43.8 trillion dollars of debt since the 2008 economic crisis alone. The sector of finance capital comprises of over forty percent of all corporate profits in the U.S , up from just ten percent thirty years ago.
“Without the complete and utter immiseration of the working class and oppressed, finance capital and Wall Street would wither away.”
What makes “democratic socialism” neither anti-imperialist nor socialist is that it does not center the proletariat and the oppressed in the making of history. Black America created the value and wealth of this Empire and workers all over the world remain at the center of the production of the immense but largely fiat-based profits of finance capital. Without the complete and utter immiseration of the working class and oppressed, finance capital and Wall Street would wither away. Privatization, predatory lending, and endless war are all preconditions to finance capital’s hegemony which help the banks devour the economic landscape. Anti-imperialism is not a narrow program that reforms individual aspects of the imperialist albatross. It is a spear in the heart of that albatross; the struggle for the complete transition of power from the exploiting to the exploited classes.
What is the most successful example of anti-imperialism in the world today? What is the most feared example of anti-imperialism in the world today? China. Leftists of many political persuasions in the U.S. claim that China is no longer a socialist country. Some claim that it is an imperialist country. Yet many of China’s most powerful industries such as the Huawei corporation are over ninety percent owned by a trade union committee. China has lifted 800 million people out of poverty since 1978 and real wages have risen by 401 percent for the bottom half of all income earners over the same period. Real GDP growth in China has averaged ten percent , well-beyond the sluggish one to three percent growth experienced by the U.S. since 2008.China is not merely an emerging world power; it is an ascendant alternative to U.S. imperialism.
Leftists criticize China for allowing capitalist free market forces to invest within the country. During the swelling global crisis of the late 70s and early 1980s, China had to decide: whether to become a fallen soldier in the war against socialism or adjust and protect not only the revolution but also the imperative of raising the living standards of the people. The People’s Republic has set its sights on curbing the predatory, volatile, and war mongering hostilities of U.S. imperialism by offering an economic development model to the planet’s most impoverished peoples. This is what the New Silk Road, also known as the One Belt One Road Initiative , seeks to accomplish with over a trillion dollars of public spending on infrastructure projects across the Global South. China’s respect for international law and its development goals offer a real-time example of anti-imperialist progress in a historical moment where the U.S. is waging war on the entire planet to contain the rise of People’s Republic.
:”China is not merely an emerging world power; it is an ascendant alternative to U.S. imperialism.”
The only path forward from austerity is anti-imperialism. This doesn’t mean that the Sanders-camp or the large majorities of Americans who favor reforms such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All should be negated, ignored, and condemned. What it means is that without a tireless struggle against the forces of imperialism, we lose sight of who and what is at the center of austerity. We end up falling into the politically suicidal and reactionary trap of national chauvinism, white supremacy, and American exceptionalism. The struggle to develop a Black liberation strategy is dependent upon not only the objective conditions of systemic failure but also in the subjective efforts of the left to defeat the forces of reaction that exist within its own ranks.
The future of humanity depends on the anti-imperialist struggle within the belly of the beast. A handful of individuals own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population. Julian Assange is being tortured behind bars. Key leaders in the Black liberation movements continue to experience what has been decades of torture within U.S. prisons. All the while oligarchs such as Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi display endless fake gestures of resistance to Donald Trump, their pied piper plan gone awry. Austerity lays at the root of these dire conditions. Reversing the course of political, economic, and social collapse will require a massive upheaval not yet seen in the history of the United States. While there is no crystal ball as to if or when such an upheaval will occur, we must understand that the Black liberation movement is our best hope for survival and that anti-imperialism is a key quality in the people’s antidote to austerity.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News — From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing). He can be reached at [email protected], on Instagram at danny_haiphong, and on Twitter at @SpiritofHo.