"Capitalism, as (Walter) Benjamin observed, called on human societies to embark on a ceaseless and futile quest for money and goods ... It enslaves nearly all its adherents ... The suffering visited on Native Americans, once Western expansion was complete, was soon endured by others, in Cuba, the Philippines, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. The final chapter of this sad experiment in human history will see us sacrificed as those on the outer reaches of empire were sacrificed. There is a kind of justice to this. We profited as a nation from this demented vision, we remained passive and silent when we should have denounced the crimes committed in our name, and now that the game is up we all go down together."
The above is the final paragraph of an article by Chris Hedges that appeared in Truthdig and other online publications. At first glance it has a radical ring to it, but on closer inspection it omits some salient facts and thus leads to an erroneous conclusion.
First fact: The Western expansion of U.S. capitalism rested not only on the genocidal practices directed at Native Americans, but also on the enslavement of 4 million people of African descent, the unbridled exploitation of immigrant labor from Europe and Asia, and the theft of land and labor of peoples of Mexican and Amerindian origin. My point isn't to diminish the horrific atrocities visited on Native American peoples, but to underline the exploitative, criminal, and racist sweep of capitalism in its infancy.
Second fact: People didn't simply "endure" imperial expansion on the edges of empire. They resisted it in a thousand ways and continue to do so to this day. What is notable about the present moment is the difficulty that U.S. imperialism encounters at every turn.