I always remember that America was established not to create wealth—though any nation must create wealth which is going to make an economic foundation for its life—but to realize a vision, to realize an ideal. America has put itself under bonds to the earth to discover and maintain liberty now among men, and if she cannot see liberty now with the clear, unerring vision she had at the outset, she has lost her title, she has lost every claim to the leadership and respect of the nations of the world.
Woodrow Wilson, “The Coming On of a New Spirit”, speech to Chicago Democrat’s Iriquois Club (12 February 1912)
As the one hundred anniversary of the October Revolution approach, critics right and center decry and disparage Lenin and his revolution while advocates on the left try to rehabilitate socialism for a new generation. While these debates rage on, another question relates not to the merits of Lenin and the Soviets or the efficacy of Communism but instead how the United States, the clear victor of the Cold War, can enact a more egalitarian socialist model than the failed Soviet experiment. The left today needs today to learn from many strains and traditions offered throughout history, not solely Marxist-Leninism, and offer a new model for equality and justice that speaks to all people from across the political spectrum. One of the lessons from the Russian revolution is that desperate people in desperate times will do desperate and mean things. The United States is at a crossroads. A toxic xenophobic right is on the rise again in the heart of a modern democracy. The liberal center is powerless to stop it or is outright collaborating with the klpetocrats. The left alone stood against the rise of imperial war of 1914-18 and against the brown shirts in the thirties. In their time the liberal center and the capitalists could not stop their respective historical catastrophes of the trenches and Hitlerism, but appeased them or colluded with them outright. The Soviet Union was born in the ashes of a broken and autocratic Czarist monarchy, while the National Socialists grew and festered in the heart of the time’s most progressive liberal democracy. Which country does the United States today more closely resemble? And when we are faced with mean and desperate circumstances and mean and desperate people, will we do any better than the societies of Europe one hundred years ago?
Book jacket, 1939
New York Public Library Digital Collections
When will we feel safe? As a society, how do we decide when we are legally and physically secure? With the deaths of four Green Berets in Niger many in the media are asking questions about the ‘mission’ in Africa or how Trump is ‘responsible’ for their deaths. The current inglorious media circus began with the four soldier’s deaths at the hands of suspected ISIS militants on October 4. It escalated with President Trump’s call to Myeshia Johnson, widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, where Trump said to a grieving widow that her husband, “knew what he signed up for … but I guess it still hurt.” John Kelly’s press conference was chock a block with lies and platitudes about sacredness and honor. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, meanwhile, declared that it would be “highly inappropriate” to debate a “Marine four star General”, a sentiment more comfortable in Wilhelmine Prussia than a twenty first century democracy. Trump also published many tweets during this time. What this toxic sideshow highlights, aside from the fact that there is no real low in our political discourse, is that the Unites States is unwilling to fathom or explain its unending need for violence as a solution to our insecurity. The U.S. would rather be entertained by our buffoon king than explore why soldiers died in a country we are not at war in against an enemy we helped create.
The United States’ fetishization of ‘national security’ is in practice a chief purveyor of violence around the world. Global Capitalism has created a practice that intertwines state control through violence and state finance in multinational corporations. The State Department facilitates the sale and disbursement of weapons, large and small, to governments around the world, including Saudi Arabia who has used them to terrorize the people of Yemen in a bombing campaign. The Department of Defense and Justice facilitate the transfer of military material to municipal police departments, including the St. Louis County Police Department, used against demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri while protesting the death of Michael Brown.
The media attacks, rightly, Trump’s racist and dishonorable smear against Myeshia Johnson but is incapable of even beginning to question the nature of the imperialist mission that her husband was ordered into. It is easier to attack Trump’s racism and dishonor as a personal symptom of a buffoon and a liar than to question the imperialism that is at the heart of U.S. foreign policy. Trump’s racism and dishonor are symptoms of a larger pathological need for control and domination that is the heart of our politics. Trump is merely the incompetent executor of preexisting policies, policies that will live long after Trump slinks off stage.
Removing Trump from office will not end military engagements overseas like the one that killed Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39 and Sgt. La David Johnson, 25. Nor will his removal bring back the countless victims, civilian and otherwise, of our foreign wars. Impeaching Trump will not close the roughly 800 military bases around the world. President Pence or President Ryan will authorize force, covert or otherwise, in countries to remote and little to warrant attention on the cable news. These fictional Presidential saviors will allow their State Departments to sell and transfer weapons to government around the world; Secretaries Clinton and Kerry certainly did under President Obama. The two current political parties are not the cause of violence; one is not ‘worse’ than the other. These parties are merely the vectors of the violence that is embedded in our economic system. Capitalism is the violence. To counteract this violence a militant working class must stand in solidarity with working people the world over and demand the eradication of capitalism and state violence. We the people must stand united and declare that no violence in our name done overseas is ever justified. Because under our current system, no one is safe.