Many readers of this blog are U.S. citizens, and are appalled and horrified at many of the actions of the U.S. Government. Many of you who live outside of the United States have, perhaps, similar feelings about the actions of the government where you live. Many of you speak out against these things, here or elsewhere: the wars of aggression in the Middle East, drone killings of civilians, illegal spying at home and abroad, federal funding to militarize the police, torture as official policy, persecution of whistle-blowers, conspiracies to overturn governments such as Ukraine, and so on. I have often heard clear statements from many you, in discussing one or more of these issues, saying, “I hate that we’re doing that,” or, “We shouldn’t be a country that does that,” or, “We need to stop doing that.”
I am asking you now to consider that “we.” There are, in general, two reasons for someone who hates the actions of his or her government to say, “we did that,” instead of “they did that.” Some of you have never thought about it; you identify with the government which, after all, governs the nation in which you live. Others have thought about it, and feel that by using the word “we” you are accepting responsibility for these actions, and you see it as, perhaps, a spur, a reminder that you have a duty to try to stop these things.
I can respect that attitude, but I don’t agree.
The state is the executive committee of the ruling class. It is called the ruling class because it rules–it makes the decisions about where the resources of the nation should be directed. To be sure, there are elections; but these only give us the chance to pick which one of our enemies will carry out the decisions of the ruling class, or, as the song says, “choose the brand of razor blade you’d rather cut your throat with.”
Their interests are not ours. It is not in my interest for the police to be militarized, for my Afghan brothers and sisters to be shot, for my friends and neighbors to die in defense of profit, for anyone who tells the truth to risk prison or worse.
They are creating an atmosphere of terror by shooting unarmed innocents in our own streets; I’m not doing that, and neither are you. They, not we, are running this country to maximize their profit. They, not we, are propping up Israel in its war on Palestinians. They, not we, are using racism as a tool to set us against each other. They, not we, are driving more and more people into poverty. They, not we, are running the factories that are ruining our climate. And here’s one: they, not we, are spreading the lie that, because there are still certain democratic forms, it is we that are doing these things.
I do not say “they” as an excuse to shy away from responsibility; I say “they” because you can’t fight a war if you don’t know who the enemy is. And that is what they are: the enemy. The enemy of peace, the enemy of shared wealth, the enemy of progress, the enemy of simple human decency.
When there is a workers’ government, I will refer to it as “we.” Until then, when speaking of the actions of the American ruling class and its government, I am speaking of the actions of an enemy. I say “they.” You should too.