July 4th and the Crisis of US Exceptionalism—BAR Report

July 4th and the Crisis of US Exceptionalism



by BAR contributor Danny Haiphong


U.S. imperialism has finally found the enemies it has been searching for all these years. Most of the world’s people are already in some form of resistance to Washington’s bullying. Love of war is what makes the U.S. truly exceptional. Domestically, “only an opposition that fights for a potential world war with Russia is acceptable to Washington.”


Last week, a large number of people celebrated the origins myth of the US nation-state. The US government grants workers the day off every July 4th. And every July 4th, millions of people give thanks to the slave owners and traders who led the charge to separate from the British Empire. The date of July 4th, 1776 is celebrated each year as the initial marker of the “freedom” and “liberty” that supposedly shaped the nation thereafter. However, in 2017, the crumbling state of the US ruling system has made it increasingly difficult to propagate the big lie that is US exceptionalism.

Of course, any discussion about the lie of US exceptionalism must begin with Black America. Frederick Douglas’s famous speech is starkly relevant today. Although Black America is not under the regime of formal chattel slavery, the system that enslaved Black America remains the dominant one. US imperialism continues to resign the majority of Black Americans to a life of economic insecurity and state terror. Black Americans die nearly every day at the murderous hands of the police and make up nearly half of the inmates residing in the largest prison system in the world. And the majority of Black American communities in the US possess a net worth of zero.

“US imperialism continues to resign the majority of Black Americans to a life of economic insecurity and state terror.”

The legacy of slavery and white supremacy affects each and every part of the US social structure. An enormous empire built by African slaves not only brings super profits to a new generation of slave owners, but also super crises. Nearly eighty percent of the entire population is mired in a state of imminent poverty while seventy percent of all wealth is siphoned to just 1 percent of the population. Washington spends trillions of dollars each year waging war abroad. These conditions have created a perfect storm where at any moment the US capitalist economy could become engulfed by a crisis worse than 2008.

The myth of US exceptionalism maintains that the “American” nation-state governs the most civilized and advanced society in the world. A lie as deep as US exceptionalism, then, can only be upheld by a steady dose of force and deceit. The US military state provides the force, keeping tabs on every living person in the world and leveling the most brutal forms of state terror against oppressed nations. The corporate media and political class provide the deceit. These organs of misinformation hide truth from sight and create convenient narratives devised to distract the population, the most popular today being that Russia “hacked” its way into the US elections to help elect Donald Trump.

“Seventy percent of all wealth is siphoned to just 1 percent of the population.”

The ruling class must protect the myth of US exceptionalism at all costs. It has always trembled collectively at the prospect of the myth being exposed for the lie that it is. In the 20th century, socialism and national liberation throughout the colonized world presented such a dire threat to the sanctity of the rule of capital that the US was compelled to wage a bloody “Cold War” on every nation that sought to overthrow the yoke of colonialism and capitalism. The US supported brutal, fascist movements all over the world to ensure the spread of socialism was muted and destroyed. Domestically, Black liberation, national liberation, and radical labor movements were systematically repressed. Labor union and Black political leaders were divided along class lines, with an opportunist section given privileged treatment in the Democratic Party while revolutionary leaders faced imprisonment, exile, or death.

Yet the suppression of revolutionary resistance in the US has not stopped the decline of US exceptionalism worldwide. The US-led system of imperialism is crumbling under the gravity of its own contradictions. Economic stagnation and political illegitimacy constrain the ability of the rulers to maintain their grip over the world at large. The US share in global GDP continues to decrease while China’s share has increased exponentially over the last two decades. Nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America — regions historically seen as US property — have opted to economically develop their societies along the path of Chinese integration. And Russia’s ground-breaking cooperation with China in recent years means that there are now two big powers in the world willing to provide alternatives to US political and economic dominance.

“The US share in global GDP continues to decrease while China’s share has increased exponentially over the last two decades.”

Such dramatic shifts in the global body politic have required the US to spend more and more on the military to maintain dominance. This has also meant that fewer resources are devoted to the needs of workers and oppressed people in the US mainland. The 2016 elections revealed the widening cracks in the armor of US imperialism’s domestic project of austerity coupled with enormous military spending abroad. In 2016, polls showed low approval ratings for the corporate media and even lower ratings for Congress. A majority of people have become sick and tired of corporate politics. The populist messages of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders thus attracted more voters than the ruling class expected during the Presidential elections.

Donald Trump’s victory further exposed the decrepit state of US imperialism to the world. Not only did a racist billionaire make his way to the most extolled seat in the White House, but the US ruling class also made a conscious decision to oppose Trump for his position on war and peace. The US ruling class has opposed Trump on the basis of his unproven ties to Russia while failing to provide any alternative to war, austerity, or racist immigration policy. That’s because the US ruling class has no interest in fighting these policies at all. Doing so would invalidate their existence as a class. Only opposition that fights for a potential world war with Russia is acceptable to Washington. Trump’s success has thus hastened the demise of US exceptionalism.

“A majority of people have become sick and tired of corporate politics.”

US imperialism has reached a dead-end in all facets of its rule. Capitalist economic decline has led to a condition of mass misery in its US and Western power centers. New formations such as Jeremy Corbyn’s rise in the UK Parliament signal that working and poor people will not take unmitigated exploitation and theft without a fight. US imperialism is losing its grip over the oppressed beyond its borders and nothing short of nuclear annihilation can stop China and Russia from replacing it. Washington’s uncontrollable chaos since Trump’s elections only further proves that any solution to the crisis will have to be formulated independently of the institutions and ideologies of the ruling class.

That is where the people come in. US imperialism’s current state is bleak and its future bleaker, but only the people can change the course of history. The general condition of the system has given much cause for workers and oppressed people all over the US to be suspicious and resentful of the very notion that the US is above the rest of humanity. An idea based in the enslavement and genocide of entire peoples and nations now has little to offer anyone outside of the rich, let alone the most oppressed sectors of society. But resentment and suspicion alone cannot transform the political and economic landscape. Active and organized leaders imbued with revolutionary ideas and sustainable organizations are needed to finish the job of laying a system of oppression to rest, especially one as expansive as imperialism. Just how this will occur is up for urgent discussion. What is certain is that the ruling class will continue to dig its grave until the people are prepared to choose the only path capable of burying it: revolution.

Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at wakeupriseup1990@gmail.com

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