Anatomy of American Patriotism

Anatomy of American Patriotism

Rage Against Capital critiques American Patriotism

“That’s why the country that you live in is a fucking joke!”

-Vinnie Paz

In the United States the social convention dictates that we have a duty to “love our country”. We have to constantly acknowledge how uniquely great this Nation is. We have to constantly be concerned with what is good for “the country” as opposed to the people in it. We have to preface every criticism of our country by saying things like “I love this country, but-“, or “I am as patriotic as the next person”. We are whipped into support for wars that don’t benefit us at all in the name of “protecting our great nation”. A proposition that would be funny if it wasn’t so patently absurd, considering the United States is the most powerful and richest country on the face of the planet. Our “patriotism” is so ingrained in our dialogue and concept of reality that we refer to an “us”, or a “we” (in much the same way I myself am writing now) that is supposed to describe the millions of people that make up the US population as some kind of amorphous collectivity with a common interest. The heading for all of this is that we consider the United States to be a reflection of our general interests as the US population. This is the basic core of nationalism. The ideology of the nation. The population identify with the geographical location, government, and culture of the nation they live and thus place high priority to what is “good” for said nation.

So..what is a “nation”? A nation is simply a geographical line in the sand. The nation itself is pretty much meaningless without the thing it represents. Many people would say that it represents the common culture and population of a given area. This was even the opinion of the Marxist movement in the 19th century. This view, however, is incorrect. The nation does not represent a common culture and people. In fact it represents something very different and almost completely opposite. The nation, or the boundaries drawn in the sand actually represent the interests of a select few in that society. This select few are the capitalist class, or the owners of all production and industry within the nation. One might call this capitalist class the “national capitalist class” because this is the capitalist class that rules and exploits within specific national boundaries. Specifically it represents the structure that secures and enforces the power of the capitalist class within national boundaries and in the international arena. This structure is called “the nation state”.

The nation state exists to:

1. Enforce the boundaries that carve the nation out of an otherwise completely free and open stretch of landscape. This includes deporting people who aren’t legal citizens, setting up massive immigration bureaucracies that make people clear endless yards of red tape to get into the country, and having “border patrol”, or the army stand guard at the ends of this line in the sand we call “a nation” to ensure that nobody crosses these boundaries without legal permission from the state.

In the US, despite the complaining of the likes of president Trump and other Islamophobic and Latino hating xenophobes, we have a border patrol on steroids that repeatedly persecutes Mexican peoples trying to get across the border (mostly fleeing the economic disaster in Mexico which was in large part created by the American policy sighed off on by Bill Clinton, NAFTA). The terrain between the US and Mexico border is harsh and unforgiving making any illegal journey across the border extremely dangerous. Thousands of people die as a result of the harsh journey every year.

The US government and Border patrol use this to their own advantage in order to brutally persecute Mexicans trying to get across. Border patrol will fly in on helicopters and and corner border crossers from above, and then arrest them. At the border there are constant cases of police brutality where people are killed and beaten. Even Mexican citizens that were simply near the border and in the wrong place at the wrong time have been killed by border officers who typically get as much punishment for police brutality as police officers within the United State’s confines.

Those who are arrested trying to cross are detained without trial or charge, then given ad-hoc trials with no real democratic process and their legal rights as human beings ignored. The rulings of these “trails” usually either have them sent back to Mexico which remains in a terrible economic shape, or sent to prison miles away from contact with their loved ones.

Human rights groups trying to aid border crossers in their trek across the unforgiving terrain will lay out water and supplies along the border crossers’ path. Border patrol and the US military have been known to destroy these supplies, slash the water jugs so the water spills out, and use food coloring on the water so that those crossing the border can’t trust it to be safe to drink. Millions of dollars are blown on maintaining this oppressive border regime each year.

2. Represent the national capitalist class in the international arena. The capitalist class are an international class just as the working class is. This is because capitalism has become and international, and thus global mode of production. The capitalist class also competes with itself for the most profits. Individual capitalists have to compete on national and international markets in order to stay afloat. Those who compete well thrive and those who compete poorly fall by the waste-side. Competition is dictated by whomever can attain the most profits. This means that capitalists constantly have to strive to extract as much profit as possible and more than their competitors or face extinction.

Being that there is an international capitalist class capitalists compete with each other on a international scale for profits. The nation state represents the national capitalist class’s geo-political interests and aims to create the best geo-political climate for the maximum profits. This is is the impetus for wars in capitalist society and international skirmishes, conflicts, and tensions.

3. Enforce the rule of the national capitalist class at home. The nation is the squared off territory in which the capitalist class extracts profits and rules the working class. The nation state enforces this political and economic rule. It puts out policy that creates a favorable national polity for the profits of the national capitalist class. Noam Chomsky points out that many polls show that the majority of the population in the US has very little swing on policy. What mostly dictates policy are large monied interests that can buy off politicians, fund campaigns, and back policies using the the media, wealth, and status. Corruption in the sense of money buying politics exists in every nation of the world.

The nation-state also enshrines in law and then enforces private property. By private property I do not man your iphone, you’re room in your parent’s house, your car, your house, or even land which you own. I mean the property title that an individual or group of individuals have to the “means of production”. These means of production are the tools that we implore in social labor to produce the wealth of society. Means of production are vital to all advanced societies because they provide that society with the utilities they need to subsist such as shelter, clothes, and food. Private property is when by law a few individuals control these tools that all of use need to live. This allows these individuals to force us to sell our ability to work to them and give them the lion’s share of what we produce using those tools in exchange for being able to keep a marginal portion of it.

By doing all of these things the nation state enshrines and produces the exploitation of the majority of people on the planet. It exists to protect a minority of exploiters against the majority of exploited. It also forms the backbone of the global capitalist order of exploiters and exploited. Nationalism is the ideology of the nation state and thus the ideology of the local exploiters. Patriotism is simply an anglicized why of saying nationalism. When we talk about our patriotism we are essentially talking about our own loyalty to our exploiters and our rulers. People who only care about us in so far as we can enrich them and impoverish us by doing so.

Many people don’t internalize patriotism as a loyalty to the exploiters of the United States. They internalize it as appreciation for “how great this country is”. This runs so deep in American society that even right wingers who consider themselves against the establishment (the American Militia Movement and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for example) consider themselves to be patriots.

I would like American patriots to think about something at length. What makes this country so great? Most people will reply with something like “our freedom and democracy!”. It is true that the United States is one of the freest societies that exist, however, there are freer societies. It is also the case, as I illustrated above, that the United States, being a nation state, houses many institutions that run contrary to freedom and democracy. Many people think that we promote freedom and democracy around the world with our massive and historic military presence going back as far as when we first gained independence. This could not be farther from the truth. Our actions abroad have almost always been counter to these things. I can list example after example, but I will settle for the examples of Indonesia in the sixties through the nineties and the recent wars in the middle east.

In the late sixties the US and British government backed a coup that established the Suharto regime in Indonesia in order to secure western control of national resources. The ensuing Suharto regime massacred not only left-wing opponents, but masses of Indonesians. The regime had carried out a genocide against the Indonesian population. This murderous regime lasted all the way to the tail end of the nineties.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in which many western states took part were supposedly fought to counter-terrorism after 911. The problems with this narrative that persists to this day are numerous. The threat that the Bush administration was supposedly trying to combat was deliberately inflated by politicians and US intelligence. The master-mind of the 911 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, told US intelligence that Al Qaeda acted in conjunction with him and that this organization was an international network of terrorists. In fact Al Qaeda actually had basically no international significance and had nothing to do with the attacks. Never the less US intelligence and the US Government deliberately created the myth of Al Qaeda’s involvement in 911 and it’s status as an international terrorist threat. The very threat we were supposedly combating was a figment of the imaginations of intelligence officials and politicians. The real reason for going to war was to sure up oil resources. In doing this we have leveled the economies of both Iraq and Afghanistan, killed approximately 210,000 civilians, deformed generations of Fallujahans, killed millions of people in total, and ran up military spending by millions instead of providing funding for useful public utilities.

Is “our country” really that great compared to anyone else’s? As a US citizen there are many places I would rather live than the United States. All patriotism really does is keep us supporting the status quote and from efforts to make the world a better place for all creatures. This is not to single American patriotism out. Nationalism of all kinds is a direct hindrance to changing the world for the better. We need to move beyond nationalism, or “patriotism”, and adopt a revolutionary, internationalist world view which seeks radical global change and the complete abolition of the existing system in order to replace it with something better.

Posted By

Jul 1 2017 09:01


  • We need to move beyond nationalism, or “patriotism”, and adopt a revolutionary, internationalist world view which seeks radical global change and the complete abolition of the existing system in order to replace it with something better.

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Jul 3 2017 21:25

Nice piece. I'm not optimistic it will alter the thinking of many American "patriots," though.

Jul 4 2017 01:11

is that the guy's SSN?

Jul 4 2017 02:58
petey wrote:
is that the guy's SSN?

Probably not.
583-11: Puerto Rico, 1973

Jul 4 2017 03:04
zugzwang wrote:
Nice piece. I'm not optimistic it will alter the thinking of many American "patriots," though.

Yeah, unfortunately I don't think that any work of polemic is going to change anyone's mind significantly unless the reader is already thinking fundamentally along said lines.

Jul 4 2017 14:02
Sike wrote:
petey wrote:
is that the guy's SSN?

Probably not.
583-11: Puerto Rico, 1973

didn't know that site existed.
would have been a stupid thing to do, and a strange one, using your "socialist" ID number to mark yourself as a jingo.