Settlerism, Global Empire, and American opinions about Gaza
A new poll by the Pew Research Center was released on US opinion about the conflict in Gaza. The results were interesting. Only a quarter, 1 out of every 4, Americans believes that Israel had gone “too far.” The figure is basically unchanged since 2006 when Israel invaded Lebanon in its war against Hezbollah. This seems to indicate that much of the pro-Palestinian activism over the last decade has done little to shift US public opinion broadly. Even though it seems like there is more opposition to Israel’s actions now, this is probably more the result of a shift in the opinions of the elite, journalists, etc., not a shift at the grassroots. This may suggest agitation and propaganda aimed at First World media makers, intellectuals, and policy makers is more effective than aiming at the grassroots. The poll also suggest that youth and people who identified as Democrats are more evenly divided on the issue:
“Democrats split almost evenly on which side bore the greater responsibility for the current violence, with 29% blaming Hamas and 26% Israel and 18% citing both.”
“Among those who identify as liberal Democrats, 44% said Israel’s actions have been excessive, while 33% said they had been about right and 7% said they had not gone far enough. Among conservative Republicans, only 10% said Israel had gone too far, 51% said its actions had been about right, and 21% said Israel had not gone far enough.”
What is especially interesting is that 22 percent of whites responded that Israel had gone too far. And 36 percent of Blacks and 35 percent of Latinos responded similarly. The African diaspora and Spanish-speaking populations in the US were better on the question of opposition Israel’s genocide, but not that much better.
There is a myth amongst one segment of the First Worldist left that understanding the origins of the United States as a “settler society” is the most important aspect in understanding the United States today. The idea is that leftover social divisions from the origin of the United States as a settler society still run so deep that they are the key to making revolution today. This is connected to the view that the United States is a white apartheid state, that a white nation rules over all the others in the same way apartheid South Africa ruled over its African population or the same way Israel occupies Palestine. Revolution, according to this myth, is a matter of encouraging national liberation amongst the non-white “internal semi-colonies” or “captive nations” in order to topple the white nation. It is true that the United States originated as a European-settler invasion of North America, and it is true that white supremacy and its terror still afflicts the captive nations within the United States, as mass incarceration rates and police repression of Black and Brown people clearly indicate. What is not true is that this is the main thing in understanding US social dynamics, including the lack of revolutionary potential in United States or the First World generally. And it is also not true that national liberation of internal semi-colonies within US borders is playing or will likely play a significant role in the defeat of capitalism and imperialism under current conditions. It may be useful for traditional activists to agitate as through these myths are accurate, but the advanced will recognize that this kind of rhetoric is, at best, a “noble lie,” a front for more serious revolutionary work. At worst, the rhetoric is simply delusion or a front for opportunist gain or police work of various kinds. This kind of analysis, if taken seriously, is one of the last bastions of First Worldism.
These myth makers correctly point out proletarian consciousness does not exist amongst white laborers because they are not a proletariat. What they fail to point out is that national consciousness barely exists amongst most of the populations of the internal semi-colonies, and proletarian consciousness does not exist. Here it is important to point out that differences do exist amongst non-white populations. For example, national consciousness is much more a reality amongst many indigenous peoples than those of the African diaspora in the United States, where it is negligible. National consciousness remains more in force amongst the migrant Mexican population than the Chicano population, where it is also negligible. It is a kind of chauvinist outlook that reduces the diverse situations of non-white populations to a single analysis of internal semi-colonies as “people of color”. It is a kind of chauvinism, naivety, or both that fails to recognize the contradictions between various non-white populations, which, in everyday life, can be experienced more sharply than the conflict with the white population. Such an analysis is often more rooted in white guilt and the projection of a romanticized “other” than reality. Someone recently joked that such an analysis amongst white “anti-imperialists” is the revolutionary equivalent of “the magical negro” in film and literature who saves the day. (2) (3)
The poll numbers suggest that there is slightly more solidarity expressed by those in the African diaspora than whites in the US regarding Palestine. The Latino populations in the US also shows slightly greater solidarity. However, the degree of solidarity shown in the poll is not that much greater among the non-whites than the whites. One would expect it to be much greater if the myths were accurate. One would expect a much greater degree of solidarity if the relationship of non-whites to whites in the United States was basically the same as the relationship of Palestinians to Israelis. The poll numbers indicate self-identification as a “Democrat” and “liberal Democrat” are far better predictors of opposition to Israel’s actions than “race” or “nation” in these cases. Youth is also a better indicator than “race.” The reason so many Americans, white and non-white, support Israel is because they perceive it is in their imperial interest to do so.
The reality is that the United States has integrated many diverse populations into its multi-racial, multi-national society. There is a long history of this. At one point, Jews were migrants at the bottom of US society. Irish migrants too experienced terrible racism. So did other populations. These populations first “became white,” then they were allowed a privileged position within US empire. Some claim this transformation is seen in language itself. Some historians claim that the word “honkey” was originally a derogatory term for Hungarians and Eastern Europeans generally, who were not seen as properly white. Today, the term is aimed at whites generally. However, to share in the spoils of empire today, it is not necessary for a population to become white. Today, Asian populations within the United States have a higher per capita income than whites yet are still not perceived as fully white in the same way Irish-Americans are, for example. The people of the indigenous nations (latino and non-latino alike) and the African diaspora within the US, for the most part, share the spoils of empire, without being perceived as fully white. White national consciousness does not have anything like the power or influence it once did over white society. There is a residual idea of “race” that exists. This is based on phenotypical differences, stereotypes, some cultural differences, history, and speaking styles. Social and economic position still play a role, but not the role they once did. The United States has integrated many of its non-white populations into its multi-racial, imperial society. However, not every population has been equally integrated, which is why national consciousness amongst the Lakotah, for example, is greater than national consciousness amongst Chicanos or those of African descent. This is an ongoing process. And there is no guarantee every population will be integrated this way. For example, will the United States be able to absorb the massive migrant populations from Latin America? In any case, it is the massive exploitation of the Third World that allows for the integration of these populations into the United States and into the First World generally.
This process of the United States emerging as a multi-national empire should also be seen alongside the United States playing a leading role in an emerging multi-racial, trans-national First World, a kind of global empire. In any case, the old formulation of oppressor verses oppressed nation inherited from national liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s does not apply as it once did. Instead, what is happening is the development of a global imperial system, but at the same time the First and Third Worlds are still preserved, even if the borders of these spheres do not always correspond to the the borders of countries. Just as imperialism is globalizing, so too is resistance to it. As the Bourgeois World continues its barbarous brutality, the Proletarian World responds with new methods of resistance. Armed with all-powerful Leading Light Communism, the Proletarian World is beginning to organize a Global People’s War to liberate humanity and the Earth. Our sun is rising. Our day is coming.