Revolution and American Empire

The American preference for ideological, or ideologically based, explanations of world events frames them as both self-generated and inexplicable– self-generated because causal relations recover history and thereby clutter ideology and inexplicable in that ideology didn’t exist until it did, again recovering history. Through an ideological frame the American Revolution was driven by the desire for ‘freedom’ and the Russian and Cuban Revolutions were driven by Marxist ideology, the desire for socialist or communist political economy. When history is recovered the Russian and Cuban Revolutions were rejections of intolerable– factually unlivable, circumstances whereas the American Revolution was a plutocratic rebellion intended to formally install unlivable circumstances– slavery and genocide against indigenous populations, into local rule against distant colonial (British) economic extraction.

While three centuries of racist chatter leave some ambiguity around when kidnapped Africans (local societies, Africa is a continent, not a people) forced into slavery were considered human beings by White settlers, the political question was answered in 1787 with three-fifths a ‘political’ person assigned to slaves to accrue to the political representation of slaveholders. The indigenous population was excluded from Constitutional political representation entirely. This brief and greatly simplified history is presented for three reasons: 1) American ‘freedom’ as political privilege is the opposite of its generalized form as freedom from it; 2) its political meaning is tied through history to Western imperialism–U.S. history is of overthrowing democratic regimes to support U.S. economic interests and 3), ‘globalization’ presented in the present as historically unique is tied through this history to Western imperialism.

America. The American individualist conception of freedom finds both the largest number of incarcerated persons and the largest percentage of the population incarcerated in the world. Here a teenager is shackled as he is held in solitary confinement for an indeterminate period of time in an adult prison. In contrast to Western economic theory, individuals realizing themselves individually, as in by themselves, don’t do very well. Solitary confinement is 1) widely used throughout the U.S. penal system, 2) considered torture by most of the ‘developed’ world and 3) known to cause psychosis and other severe mental health problems. Original image source:

Western history ties politics, the freedom to dominate other people, to economics through the reasons for domination. Slavery was / is the politics of economic extraction– it is ‘personal’ imperialism, the taking of personal economic production through its social realization in socially engineered circumstance. Genocide against indigenous populations applied the European concept of property as it developed through the ‘political’ European enclosure movement to ‘American’ lands. ‘Ownership’ was / is an imperial claim, a ‘right.’ As with other rights, it only has meaning through the capacity to enforce it. Slaves were political ‘persons’ whose existence conveyed a right of political representation to slaveholders, not to themselves. As with the lands (link above) upon which indigenous peoples depended for their existence, the claim of ownership applied to it was imperial taking.

Globalization is put forward in the present as an economic process, as the progress of economic freedom through increasingly liberal ‘free-trade’ agreements. A question not often asked is why multi-national corporations– economic entities that exist beyond national boundaries; are the intended beneficiaries of ‘national’ negotiations. Why would U.S. politicians care about the intellectual property ‘rights’ of Apple Computer that (avoids) pays taxes in Ireland? Why can BP (or whatever its name is this week), a nominally British corporation, destroy the Gulf of Mexico, and with it the livelihoods of tens of thousands of U.S. citizens, and have the destruction covered up by U.S. politicians? And more pointedly, what possible effect could ‘political’ elections have on the political actions of these multinational corporations whose interests are served by the U.S. political establishment?

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