A Bernie Sanders-Led Party Would Still Be an Imperialist, Pro-War Party
By Glen Ford / Black Agenda Report
The United States is a predator nation, conceived and settled as a thief, exterminator and enslaver of other peoples. The slave-based republic’s phenomenal geographic expansion and economic growth were predicated on the super-exploitation of stolen African labor and the ruthless expropriation of native lands through genocidal wars, an uninterrupted history of plunder glorified in earlier times as “Manifest Destiny” and now exalted as “American exceptionalism,” an inherently racist justification for international and domestic lawlessness.
Assembled, acre by bloody acre, as a metastasizing empire, the U.S. state demands fealty to its imperial project as a substitute for any genuine social contract among its inhabitants — a political culture custom-made for the rule of rich white people.
The American project has been one long war of aggression that has shaped its borders, its internal social relations, and its global outlook and ambitions. It was founded as a consciously capitalist state that competed with other European powers through direct absorption of captured lands, brutal suppression of native peoples and the fantastic accumulation of capital through a diabolically efficient system of Black chattel slavery — a 24/7 war against the slave. This system then morphed through two stages of “Jim Crow” to become a Mass Black Incarceration State — a perpetual war of political and physical containment against Black America.
Since the end of World War 2, the U.S. has assumed the role of protector of the spoils of half a millennium of European wars and occupations of the rest of the world: the organized rape of nations that we call colonialism. The first Black U.S. president, Barack Obama, was among the most aggressive defenders of white supremacy in history — defending the accumulated advantages that colonialism provided to western European nations, settler states (like the U.S.) and citizens — having launched an ongoing military offensive aimed at strangling the Chinese giant and preventing an effective Eurasian partnership with Russia. The first phase of the offensive, the crushing of Libya in 2011, allowed the United States to complete the effective military occupation of Africa, through AFRICOM.
The U.S. and its NATO allies already account for about 70 percent of global military spending, but Obama and his successor, Donald Trump, demand that Europeans increase the proportion of their economic output that goes to war. More than half of U.S. discretionary spending — the tax money that is not dedicated to mandated social and development programs — goes to what Dr. Martin Luther King 50 years ago called the “demonic, destructive suction tube” of the U.S. war machine.
The United States does not have a national health care system worthy of the name, because it is in the war business, not the health business or the social equality business. The U.S. has the weakest left, by far, of any industrialized country, because it has never escaped the racist, predatory dynamic on which it was founded, which stunted and deformed any real social contract among its peoples. In the U.S., progress is defined by global dominance of the U.S. State — chiefly in military terms — rather than domestic social development. Americans only imagine that they are materially better off than the people of other developed nations — a fallacy they assume to be the case because of U.S. global military dominance. More importantly, most white Americans feel racially entitled to the spoils of U.S. dominance as part of their patrimony, even if they don’t actually enjoy the fruits. (“WE made this country great.”) This is by no means limited to Trump voters.
Race relations in the U.S. cannot be understood outside the historical context of war, including the constant state of race war that is a central function of the U.S. State: protecting “American values,” fighting “crime” and “urban disorder,” and all the other euphemisms for preserving white supremacy.
War is not a side issue in the United States; it is the central political issue, on which all the others turn. War mania is the enemy of all social progress — especially so, when it unites disparate social forces, in opposition to their own interests, in the service of an imperialist state that is the tool of a rapacious white capitalist elite. Therefore, the orchestrated propaganda blitzkrieg against Russia by the Democratic Party, in collaboration with the corporate media and other functionaries and properties of the U.S. ruling class, marks the party as, collectively, the Warmonger-in-Chief political institution in the United States at this historical juncture. The Democrats are anathema to any politics that can be described as progressive.
Bernie Sanders is a highly valued Democrat, the party’s Outreach Director and therefore, as Paul Street writes, “the imperialist and sheep-dogging fake-socialist Democratic Party company man that some of us on the ‘hard radical’ Left said he was.” Sanders is a warmonger, not merely by association, but by virtue of his own positions. He favors more sanctions against Russia, in addition to the sanctions levied against Moscow in 2014 and 2016 for its measured response to the U.S-backed fascist coup against a democratically elected government in Ukraine. Rather than surrender to U.S. bullying, Russia came to the military aid of the sovereign and internationally recognized government of Syria in 2015, upsetting the U.S. game plan for an Islamic jihadist victory.
Back in April of this year, on NBC’s Meet The Press, Sanders purposely mimicked “The Godfather” when asked what he would do to force the Russians “to the table” in Syria:
“I think you may want to make them an offer they can’t refuse. And that means tightening the screws on them, dealing with sanctions, telling them that we need their help, they have got to come to the table and not maintain this horrific dictator.”
Of course, it is the United States that has sabotaged every international agreement to rein in its jihadist mercenaries in Syria.
Sanders is a regime-changer, which means he thinks the U.S., in combination with self-selected allies, is above international law, i.e., “exceptional.”
“We’ve got to work with countries around the world for a political solution to get rid of this guy [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] and to finally bring peace and stability to this country, which has been so decimated.”
During the 2016 campaign, Sanders urged the U.S. to stop acting unilaterally in the region, but instead to collaborate with Syria’s Arab neighbors — as if the funding and training of jihadist fighters had not been a joint effort with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies, all along.
According to Politico, “As late as 2002,” Sanders’ campaign website declared that “the defense budget should be cut by 50 percent over the next five years.” But all the defense-cutting air went out of his chest after Bush invaded Iraq. Nowadays, Sanders limits himself to the usual noises about Pentagon “waste,” but has no principled position against the imperial mission of the United States. “We need a strong military, it is a dangerous world,” Sanders told voters in Iowa, during the campaign.
Like Paul Street said, he’s an “imperialist … Democratic Party company man.”
At last weekend’s People’s Summit, in Chicago, National Nurses United executive director RoseAnn DeMoro endorsed Sanders for a mission he finds impossible to accept: a run for president in 2020 on the People’s Party ticket. Sanders already had his chance to run as a Green, and refused. He is now the second most important Democrat in the country, behind the ultra-corrupt Bill-Hillary Clinton machine — and by far the most popular. On top of that, Sanders loves being the hero of the phony left, the guy who gimmick-seeking left-liberals hope will create an instant national party for them, making it unnecessary to build a real anti-war, pro-people party from scratch to go heads up with the two corporate machines.
Sanders doesn’t even have to exert himself to string the People’s Party folks along; they eagerly delude themselves. However, a Sanders-led Party would still be an imperialist, pro-war party.
The U.S. does need a social democratic party, but it must be anti-war. Otherwise, it commits a fraud on social democracy. The United States is the imperial superpower, the main military aggressor on the planet. Its rulers must be deprived of the political ability to spend trillions on war, and to kill millions, or they will always use the “necessity” of war to enforce austerity. The “left” domestic project will fail.
For those of us from the Black Radical Tradition, anti-imperialism is central. Solidarity with the victims of U.S. imperialism is non-negotiable, and we can make no common cause with U.S. political actors that treat war as a political side show, an “elective” issue that is separate from domestic social justice. This is not just a matter of principle, but also of practical politics. “Left” imperialism isn’t just evil. It is self-defeating and stupid.
Black Agenda Report executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected]