"American Insurgents" by Richard Seymour offers a valuable theoretical and narrative history of the domestic resistance to U.S. imperialism from its founding to 2012. Mr. Seymour is the author of numerous articles and books on the political economy. This concise, insightful and accessible book should appeal to everyone interested in the American people's struggle over war and peace.
I found Mr. Seymour's application of Marxist theory to the problem of U.S. imperialism to be very helpful. Simply put, its founding as a capitalist state requires the U.S. government to continuously find new productive uses for its accumulated capital. From this perspective, we can easily see why virtually all major U.S. conflicts ranging from the War of 1812 to the present have been waged with the objective of opening up new material resources, labor and markets for capitalist expansion. We also learn how these attacks were often justified by the supremacist views of U.S. leaders who have frequently used military power to deny the right of self-determination by people of color, both at home and abroad.
On that point, Mr. Seymour explains why opposition to U.S. imperialism has been most effective when contrasted against Enlightenment ideals. Mr. Seymour discusses the long tradition of critique against official U.S. policy and rhetoric by those who pointed to the American citizens of color whose rights were being systematically denied in the southern states. In fact, the African-American community as a whole has consistently been the least supportive of U.S. bellicosity and has produced some of its most articulate critics, including Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In a similar vein, we learn how the anti-slavery, feminist and labor movements have frequently risen up to challenge the projection of U.S. power overseas. From organizations such as the American Anti-Imperialist League and the Socialist Workers Party to individuals including Jane Adams, Samuel Clemens, William Lloyd Garrison and dozens more, we learn about the many courageous people who have been unafraid to speak truth to power about the unfulfilled promises of American democracy.
Another valuable aspect of Mr. Seymour's work is how he connects these disparate struggles over time, demonstrating how American democracy has evolved. For example, we learn how the experiences of African-Americans and women in the two World Wars laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights movement which later found expression in the Vietnam War protests. More recently, the Seattle anti-globalization campaign grew into an international movement of activist networks that have proven useful in leading protests against the Iraq War, supporting the democratic aspirations of the Arab Spring, and the Occupy movement. The author sees hopeful signs that these movements are articulating the kind of comprehensive, systemic critique of capitalism that might eventually open a path to a more just, humane and peaceful world.
I highly recommend this important book to everyone.