Becoming a Leftist of any kind in the United States comes with the realization that you are living in the heart of the world’s largest empire. Following World War 2 the United States found themselves as the world’s largest economic superpower, with only the USSR as direct competition. Following the USSR’s collapse in 1991 the United States have had near free reign to use neocolonial tactics in order to maintain economic global supremacy. However, patriotism and nationalism in some form have been essential in every successful socialist movement. Anti-colonial socialist movements such as Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh have rallied behind nationalist ideals such as self-determination, and economic self-sufficiency. Given that Nationalism has been so important to socialist movements of the past, it is worth analyzing how it can be used to help the class struggle within the United States. Simultaneously we must consider how to prevent our national pride from morphing into racism, or what Lenin referred to during the Russian revolution as Social Chauvinism.
As one begins to study the history of United States foreign policy, it is natural to become angry and spiteful towards the country. Personally, I remember how my blood began to boil when I learned that the country I grew up in dropped 635,000 tons of bombs, and 32,557 tons of napalm on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Bombs which Air Force General Curtis LeMay estimated killed 20% of the North Korean Population. Learning about this war I was faced with the stark realization that my entire life I had been taught to both hate and fear the North Korean people, while never being told that my country had massacred a fifth of their population.
The Korean War is just one example of the brutal history of US imperialism. Studying the Vietnam War, US involvement in the Cambodian Civil War, or the invasion of Iraq can all be catalysts for US leftists to begin hating their own country. Not to mention the long list of CIA coups such as the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile, which installed the notoriously brutal Pinochet regime, all in the name of maintaining corporate control of Chilean natural resources. The more one learns about the brutal history of US Imperialism, the easier it becomes to develop hatred for the US, even if it is the country you call home.
I will never argue that pointing out the truths of Imperialism is a bad thing. If imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism, then anti-imperialism is also the highest stage of class struggle. However, I would make the argument that displays of hatred towards the US are counterproductive to the anti-imperialist struggle. Take the example of flag burning. While it is somewhat understandable that after reading about the mass civilian massacres perpetrated by the US in Vietnam that someone would want to burn a flag out of pure rage, the act is simply counterproductive to the overall movement. An abstract discussion of whether burning the flag is morally correct or not at this point is useless. In the real world flag burnings are used as fuel for Fox News talking heads to scare their audience into believing the left is hateful and unhinged. The goal of our movement is to organize the working class, and there are very few working class Americans who are going to identify with an organization whose members are burning the American flag. Whether you believe flag burning is justified or not is irrelevant. The material reality is that it will only serve to further alienate the working class from our movement, especially in the Midwestern United States.
Despite the atrocities of imperialism, there is still much for citizens of the United States to be proud of. The US has a long history of strong labor movements who made huge gains for American Workers. Leaders such as George Meany, known as the father of the AFL-CIO, who helped to elect FDR, and pushed him towards the pro worker policies which helped pull the country from the great depression. Americans should feel pride when learning about Mother Jones, the barely 5-foot-tall female labor leader who fought tirelessly on behalf of miners in the early 1900s. Mother Jones fiercely advocated for African Americans and women to join the labor movements fight. These are historical figures who often go overlooked by the American education system but should serve as a source of pride for anyone fighting for workers in the class struggle today.
American’s should also take pride in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. The revolutionary war was a fight against colonialism, which helped America move beyond the feudal mode of production into capitalism. When celebrating this event on the 4th of July, many leftists will mock those who celebrate the freedom which this day stands for. It is easy to understand the sentiment, given that in modern day the US war machine has become the oppressor of many other nations. However, the Revolutionary War should be celebrated, and on the 4th of July we should be encouraging the country to hold up to the lofty ideals which it was founded on. We should bring people together around the common cause of making our country truly great, rather than endlessly shaming and alienating those who choose to celebrate the day our country gained freedom from the British.
Similarly, the Civil War should be a source of pride for any person who truly cares about workers. Abraham Lincoln was pen pals with Karl Marx and stated at a Congressional session “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” Abraham Lincoln was a friend of workers and should be celebrated today for his role in freeing the slaves. The Civil War can be viewed as a second revolutionary war of sorts, which changed social relations for millions of slaves, as well as white sharecroppers. Black slaves were freed from the horrendous conditions of slavery. In addition, white sharecroppers no longer had to sell their labor in competition with slaves, who were paid nothing, and worked to death. Americans should take pride in the Union Soldiers who fought to destroy the Confederacy, which only existed to serve the rich plantation owners.
The Vietnamese hero Ho Chi Minh often read the Declaration of Independence and encouraged Americans to live up to the standards they had set for themselves. The rampant imperialism and dismantling of organized labor by the American ruling class, spits in the face of everything this country was founded on. We need not disparage our own country, but rather encourage our nation to live up to the ideals it was founded on. Providing all workers with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
 Mehdi Hasan, “Why Do North Koreans Hate Us? One Reason - They Remember the Korean War.,” The Intercept, May 3, 2017, https://theintercept.com/2017/05/03/why-do-north-koreans-hate-us-one-reason-they-remember-the-korean-war/.
 Adam Bensaid, “The Secret History of US Interventions in Latin America,” The secret history of US interventions in Latin America (TRT World, December 26, 2019), https://www.trtworld.com/americas/the-secret-history-of-us-interventions-in-latin-america-23586.