Friday, January 31, 2020

The Counter-Revolutionary Nature Of Anarchism

Throughout the Western world, the strain of radical politics that many people initially get enamored with is anarchism. This is because at first glance, anarchism can easily look like an adequate tool for fighting oppressive power structures. But support for it is in fact based on a myopic view of class dynamics, and on a misunderstanding of what revolution entails.

I don’t judge anyone for being drawn towards anarchism, because it’s the standard gateway to radicalism within the imperial core. In the environment where Americans have grown up, communism-especially communism that aligns with actually existing socialist nations-is made to feel inherently suspect. We’re taught that China, the DPRK, Cuba, and their predecessor the USSR are unambiguously tyrannical, warranting one to distance oneself from these countries if they want to call themselves a socialist. Anarchism reflects the type of socialism that most leftist Westerners initially feel comfortable with embracing: detached from America’s enemy states and highly focused on the freedom of the individual.

I’ve talked in person with an anarchist who’s thoroughly thought through their ideology, and they’ve told me understandable reasons why they embrace this model over Marxism-Leninism. They say that anarchists can successfully defeat the power of the bourgeoisie if they create strong enough communes, and that this route is better than trying to build socialism through a state apparatus. Governmental apparatuses are so imperfect, anarchists figure, that they should be avoided altogether in favor of merely building non-governmental community institutions.

Yet this reasoning unavoidably stems from the same fallacious attitude behind libertarianism and “anarcho-capitalism”: that government can’t be trusted to solve anything, and that any alternative is therefore better. The alternative that anarchists offer isn’t corporate dictatorship, but upon honestly assessing it, it’s incapable of giving material help to the billions of people who are suffering amid poverty, imperialist wars, and environmental degradation.

The last century’s history of class struggle has shown how far anarchism can realistically go in a world dominated by imperialism. The short-lived anarchist enclaves in Spain and Ukraine have been the main anarchist attempts at seizing territory, with anarchism otherwise largely consisting of small-scale collectives. The idea that anarchist-run territories can be expanded much more substantially than this lacks compelling evidence; not only does the history of anarchism show it to be ineffectual at gaining land, but the core ideals of anarchism are at odds with the goal of winning vast amounts of territory from the bourgeoisie.

There’s a reason why no anarchist revolution has been able to make itself anywhere near as large-scale as the communist states, and why anarchist-run territories are more often than not conquered: anarchism’s focus on individualism prevents anarchist movements from taking the “authoritarian” route of wholly replacing capitalist regimes. By this, I mean anarchist revolutions always only partially deprive a capitalist state of its land, making the capitalists able to either stop the anarchists from gaining much more land or retake the anarchist territories.

This is what we’ve seen once again with the anarchism-oriented enclave that the Zapatistas have formed. The Zapatistas have been unwilling to expand their fight to the broader Mexico, instead making a compromise with the bourgeois Mexican state that will likely make their egalitarian community unable to significantly grow in the coming decades. While the Zapatistas deserve respect for freeing their people from brutal colonial exploitation, they’ve consciously chosen to limit the scope of their revolutionary project.

And while the Zapatistas’ anarchist admirers wouldn’t like to admit it, they’ve chosen this isolated path because of their narrow focus on achieving individual autonomy. Modern anarchists might imagine that as the current global worker-peasant backlash against neoliberalism continues, more and more people will take up the anarchist mission of forming fortified communes, eventually creating a socialist-dominated world order without the messy business of forming new governments beforehand. But history has shown that when socialists try to avoid forming states, and try to overcome capitalism and imperialism through isolated attempts at achieving utopia, they sacrifice effectiveness for ideological purity.

And the ideal that anarchists view as so crucial-which is the rejection of hierarchy-isn’t even an ideal that necessarily corresponds to the needs of class struggle. As Mao assessed, a state apparatus is crucial for defending the interests of the masses during an era of imperialism and capitalist reaction: “Our state is a people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the worker-peasant alliance. What is this dictatorship for? Its first function is internal, namely, to suppress the reactionary classes and elements and those exploiters who resist the socialist revolution, to suppress those who try to wreck our socialist construction, or in other words, to resolve the contradictions between ourselves and the internal enemy…The second function of this dictatorship is to protect our country from subversion and possible aggression by external enemies.”

Some anarchists have taken the rejection of this disciplined approach for revolution a step further, becoming suspicious not just of government but of cohesive organizing. These strains of postmodernist anarchism say that people should abandon organizations and structures because they’re “authoritarian,” advocating “de-recruitment” from these groups. This is where anarchism’s philosophy of individualism ultimately leads to.

More often, and even more dangerously, anarchism’s desire to tear down social structures has resulted in anarchists supporting U.S. imperialist narratives against states that anarchists dislike. The 1999 NATO war against Yugoslavian social democracy gained support from anarchists because it was seen as a blow to Stalinist communism. In 2014, when the Western imperialists persuaded one of the co-presidents of the YGP that he would become head of a new state if he were to re-create Kurdistan in Syria, many anarchists cheered on this underhanded project to form anarchist NATO brigades. As the National Endowment for Democracy has incited fascistic and often violent protests in Hong Kong with the purpose of recolonizing the island, anarchists around the world have praised these CIA destabilization efforts as a righteous blow to Chinese “authoritarianism.”

Do Marxist-Leninists never struggle with disorganization, Western chauvinism, or ignorance of revolutionary theory? Of course not. But unlike anarchism, which essentially gets its ideas from individualism, Marxism-Leninism is founded upon the idea that the people deserve to run their own democratic state. Instead of reinforcing the reactionary argument that human beings are naturally selfish and aren’t able to function as a collective, Marxism-Leninism affirms that we’re capable of determining our own destiny as a cooperative organism. Juche, the Korean strain of Marxism-Leninism, articulates this belief by asserting that “Man is the master of everything and decides everything.”

It’s no surprise that as the class struggle develops in 2020s neoliberal America, Marxist-Leninist parties have already gained a better foothold than the scattered anarchist organizations. The Party for Socialism and Liberation, among the best established communist parties in the country, has been inserting its principled anti-imperialism into the American socialist movement.

When America’s potential for unrest comes to a head, as it has in France, Iraq, and other neoliberal countries throughout the last year, the anarchists very likely won’t be the faction that begins to guide the protest movement towards overthrowing the bourgeois state. As has been the case in many of the recently unstable countries (especially France and Iraq), one of the emerging strains will be the communists. How far they get in their goal of creating a proletariat dictatorship will be for us to decide; will we join the communists in carving out a strong new nation for the victims of capitalism and colonialism, or will we let anarchism weigh down the movement with its liberal ideas?
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If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here:

Monday, January 27, 2020

When Civil Unrest Breaks Out In America, Communists Must Steer It Towards Proletarian Revolution

The class struggle in the United States is in limbo. So many Americans are struggling amid declining living standards and are angry at the system, yet they aren’t rebelling like the people in France, Chile, and other deteriorated neoliberal countries have recently been doing. Where are the mass protests? Where are the general strikes? Understanding why an American class revolt still hasn’t manifested is key to understanding how it can be brought about.

One of the factors behind the absence of an American general strike is that unlike France, the U.S. has very constraining labor laws that typically make the consequences of not showing up to work too great for people to feel like striking is worth it. Strikes can still happen in the U.S., and in fact they’ve been happening in America in the last two years at a decades-high rate. But strikes are illegal for federal workers, and the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 has prohibited numerous forms of strikes. So far in this last century, the American bourgeoisie has been able to intimidate people into not carrying out any strike big enough to truly threaten the power structure.

In addition to this especially severe American situation of capitalist coercion, America’s political culture has been systematically deprived of class conscious thought and revolutionary organizations. The country’s unions have diminished to near irrelevancy throughout the neoliberal era, the communist and anti-imperialist movements have long been pushed to the margins by America’s capitalist two-party system, and socialism has been thoroughly demonized or co-opted by bourgeois politicians. The constant war propaganda and media distractions that Americans are exposed to serve to politically paralyze ordinary people, diverting their attention towards manufactured foreign enemies and trivial issues.

In this environment, American class struggle in the 21st century has almost exclusively taken the form of reactive experiments in activism that aren’t focused on mounting a serious opposition to the bourgeois state. Anarchist collectives and single-issue groups have typically taken the place of what would otherwise be communist organizations which focus on abolishing the bourgeois state. When populist movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Bernie Sanders campaign have appeared, they’ve represented messages about reforming the system rather than an agenda for proletarian revolution. People haven’t had the means nor the will to mount a real resistance to bourgeois power, instead gravitating towards whatever reformist or “anti-authoritarian” options become most visible to them.

The United States, being the primary imperialist country for the last several generations, has naturally been the capitalist country that’s most resistant to revolution. Its identity as the most powerful country on the planet, as well as its foundations of settler-colonialism, have been exploited towards solidifying the rule of its capitalist class. This is why out of all the countries which have transitioned into neoliberalism in the last half-century, the U.S. has gone especially far in dismantling its social safety net and has become among the most unequal.

The success of this American campaign to crush revolutionary momentum has also been its undoing. After decades of austerity, falling wages, and deregulations that have led to an ongoing massive recession, Americans have grown dissatisfied. Apathetic voting patterns, decline for the Republican and Democratic parties, high public support for expanding social programs, and growing support for socialism indicate that the country’s people by and large desire a major change to make the economy more equal.

Until the movement for proletarian revolution can be meaningfully strengthened, this is the extent of the good news for class struggle in America. The fact that most Americans don’t like the status quo doesn’t mean that they intend to join a revolution, or that those who say that they’re for “revolution” truly grasp what this would mean. America’s colonial mindset runs so deep that even among many of those in the country who say they favor socialism, many of them believe that socialism would mean a Bernie Sanders-style social democracy where imperialism and the settler state continue.

But none of these obstacles to revolution are surprising. They’re simply the material reality of what living in a core imperial nation is like. Che Guevara said that “I envy you. You North Americans are very lucky. You are fighting the most important fight of all — you live in the belly of the beast.” Our task is to defeat the beast, and in the 2020s this task will be easier than ever.

It’s become easier because while the United States’ colonial culture hasn’t gone away, the American economy and the Western imperial power structure have greatly declined. The disaster of neoliberalism has discredited the ruling class ideology, and Washington is facing a widespread decline in its influence while protest movements develop within the neoliberal regimes it’s installed. The American bourgeois state is facing an array of threats to its stability, ones that will be exacerbated when civil unrest inevitably breaks out within the United States.

To translate this unrest into an effective movement, we’ll need to guide the anti-establishment energy of the masses towards building a communist movement-not just one that sloganeers as communist, but one that builds a cohesive revolutionary structure. As the Maoists Cajeme Iniciado and Kike wrote in an essay from last year: “Anyone can say they’re a Communist, but are they a Communist? Are they serving the people and organizing for People’s War? Are they part of the movement to reconstitute the Communist Party under Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism, in their country?”

Despite most Americans’ lack of familiarity with terms like Leninism and Maoism, it’s easy to build popular support for the idea of forming an organization that fights for the interests of workers and poor people. This is what communist institutions like the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the African People’s Socialist Party are doing, at least within their limited reach. If people who are serious about proletarian and anti-colonial revolution continue to build organizations and spread their messages, they’ll be able to leverage a situation of social upheaval in the United States.

By this, I mean these revolutionary strains should make themselves instrumental in the general activism efforts around specific issues, getting their members involved in whichever worker rights disputes, anti-austerity struggles, and civil liberties battles that emerge. This is basically what France’s communists have been doing. Left Voice wrote this month that “the CCR [Revolutionary Communist Current] is intervening prominently in the ongoing strike against pension reforms that has lasted for over 40 days. Members of CCR are leading the struggle from within their unions, workplaces, and universities, pushing for class independence as union officials meet with the government. In the workers’ assemblies breaking out across the country, they advocate for a broadening of the strike’s demands to draw new sectors into the struggle, as well as for a generalization of the strike to paralyze France’s economy.”

If we cultivate a similar situation in the U.S., we’ll be able to not just grow revolutionary institutions but exacerbate the strength of the mass civil disobedience efforts that emerge. As Rosa Luxemburg wrote, a general strike becomes easy to realize when class struggle comes to a head:

The mass strike is not artificially “made,” not “decided” at random, not “propagated”… it is a historical phenomenon which, at a given moment, results from social conditions with historical inevitability. It is not, therefore, by abstract speculations on the possibility or impossibility, the utility or the injuriousness of the mass strike, but only by an examination of those factors and social conditions out of which the mass strike grows in the present phase of the class struggle… that the problem can be grasped or even discussed.

When we get to such a point in this country, a point where mass civil disobedience breaks out and the communist parties are on the rise, then we’ll be able to manifest the stage where the revolutionaries take power through occupying territory and overthrowing governments.
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If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here:

Thursday, January 23, 2020

As Washington’s Middle Eastern Influence Wanes, So Does The Power Of Its Propaganda About Syria

As I’ve noted, the Syrian war and the entry into a 21st century cold war with Russia and China created a great expansion of Washington’s propaganda power. In 2013, right before the Western media propagated a major story about Assad having supposedly committed a chemical attack, the U.S. repealed a ban on domestic government propaganda. The full potential for covert CIA messaging in the media was unleashed, letting the U.S. carry out a proxy jihadist war against the Syrian government, replace Ukraine’s democratically elected government with a fascist anti-Russian regime, and impose a myriad of sanctions against Russia and its allies.

Yet despite the empire’s best efforts, its lies about key geopolitical issues have been exposed as false, and its efforts to dominate Syria and other Middle Eastern powers have either failed or experienced setbacks. This is what the fall of the American empire looks like: a superpower that’s losing its influence while the narratives that have maintained its reputation unravel.

At the center of much of the empire’s perception management around Syria, and around the new cold war in general, has been the claims about Bashar al-Assad committing gas attacks. The multiple reports of such attacks over the years, which have largely originated from the Syrian White Helmets, set up the empire’s cinematic portrayal of a heinous dictator being resisted by brave “moderate” rebels and heroic “humanitarian” White Helmets members. The propaganda has at times literally taken the form of a movie, with 2016’s film The White Helmetsreceiving great critical acclaim for its portrayal of what’s made out to be an inspirational group. Similarly, the film Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World, which praises Bellingcat even amid its multiple instances of distorting facts to advance Syria regime change narratives, won an Emmy last year.

Despite all of these efforts from the media and other powerful institutions to legitimize the sources of Western propaganda around the Syrian war, the atrocity stories these sources have put out keep falling apart. The Western media of course hasn’t amplified these revelations about Syria, but the information they consist of has become very much open to the public, and it’s forced the Syria narrative managers to try to cover their tracks or distract people with new sensational claims.

Fairly quickly after the supposed Assad-created chemical incidents in 2013, 2014, and 2017, undeniable evidence emerged that the White Helmets and other Western-aligned entities had lied about these events. Weapons experts found that the missile that delivered the sarin in the August 2013 chemical attack had a very short firing range which placed its origin in rebel territory. Throughout April 2014, several alerts about imminent government chemical attacks were issued even though no incidents with chemicals took place. A testimony from two people has shown that anti-government aircraft spotters didn’t show an early-morning warning of a flight leaving the Shayrat Syrian military base on April 4, 2017, contradicting claims from Al Qaeda allies who sought to confirm accusations of a government gas attack.

Since the supposed Douma gas attack from April 2018, the propagandists and their claims have faced more intense scrutiny. Immediately, the Western account of the Douma incident was challenged by the journalist Robert Fisk, who provided an explanation for the fact that the White Helmets were shown handling supposed gas attack victims without protective gear. Fisk quoted doctors who said that the victims on the scene had suffered from dust inhalation instead of gas exposure, and that a White Helmets member had deliberately caused panic by falsely shouting “gas!” This account was supported by Douma witnesses who testified that they hadn’t experienced gas poisoning.

Since then, there’s been a series of reckonings with the lies, corruption, and atrocities that the White Helmets have engaged in to carry out their goals for proxy warfare. In December 2018, two experts who’d conducted numerous interviews with people who’ve interacted with the White Helmets testified at the United Nations and said they’d gathered ample evidence of organ theft and strategically staged attacks by the White Helmets. The imperialist media responded to this simply by declining to run any coverage of it.

Managing the Syria narrative became a little harder when in May, the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media published an internal document from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that showed the official account on Douma didn’t scientifically hold up. It concluded about the materials which had supposedly been debris from a government chemical attack: “In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.”

Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins could best respond to this revelation by making a series of fallacious arguments to cast doubt on the document’s creator while not addressing its substance. Regime change propagandist Idrees Ahmad did the same. Otherwise, pro-imperialist figures didn’t mention anything about the OPCW report. So the empire’s propaganda machine went basically unharmed, and it could easily divert attention towards 2019’s upcoming series of cold war hit pieces on China.

What’s made things still more difficult is when last month, Wikileaks published multiple documents that proved the OPCW’s efforts to suppress findings from researchers in its organization who challenged what the U.S. government wanted the group to say. This leak confirmed that the symptoms of the supposed chemical attack victims were inconsistent with chlorine poisoning, that the OPCW’s team found that the victims were either poisoned with something different from chlorine or they weren’t poisoned at all, and that OPCW inspectors couldn’t find evidence that the gas cylinders had been dropped from a plane. This week Ian Henderson, a member of the OPCW’s Douma team, spoke at the UN and corroborated these findings by saying there was a “complete turnaround in the situation from what was understood by the majority of the team.”

Higgins and Ahmad have again been lashing out against the story’s reporters, but their tweets can’t stop the decline of U.S./NATO imperial power in the Middle East. All hope for Syrian regime change disappeared years ago, with Washington having resorted in recent years to mainly using sanctions to try to weaken the Syrian state. Aid from the rising superpowers Russia and China has stopped Syria from being economically or militarily defeated, and in the last few years the country has been largely rebuilt. Trump’s partial withdrawal of troops from Syria, despite its follow-up of an illegal move to steal Syria’s oil, has let Assad’s forces regain control of northeastern Syrian towns and villages. It’s also cost America its Kurdish allies in Syria.

These events reflect an uneven, but still massive, decline in American influence over the Middle East. Iraq’s government, once an American proxy state, has reconciled with Iran and become one of the avenues for Iran’s exponentially growing regional influence. As Russia has begun to fill the vacuum from America’s lost troop presence in Syria, anti-imperialist movements have been gaining strength within Syria’s neighboring countries. The Palestinian resistance movement and BDS have put Israel’s settler-colonial project under stress, and in the last year the Iraqi communist movement has been rising amid vast protests against the country’s neoliberal regime.

In the last month, Washington has displayed a series of reactions to these developments that have only backfired. After the U.S. falsely accused the Iran-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah of firing missiles at an Iraqi air base, the U.S. launched airstrikes against the militia. Furious Iraqis then descended on Washington’s embassy in Baghdad, damaging the building while chanting “Death to America!” The U.S. then tried to leverage this by blaming it on Iran, and by using it as justification for its illegal assassination of the Iranian general Soleimani.

After Iran retaliated by firing missiles at Iraqi air bases containing U.S. forces, the Iraqi government voted to remove all American troops from the country in response to Trump’s provocation. This has prompted the U.S. to effectively invade Iran again by refusing to remove its troops, further damaging Iraq’s relationship with Washington and inflaming further anti-U.S. sentiment.

Washington’s efforts to retain its control over the Arab and Persian worlds can’t ultimately succeed, whether they consist of propaganda campaigns, economic warfare, resource grabs, support for genocidal apartheid regimes, or grand displays of military aggression. Let’s wish a swift death for the American empire, and let’s keep trying to put its narratives to rest.
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If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here:

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Next Economic Crash Will Be The One That Ends Capitalism As We Know It

When America next experiences an economic downturn, it won’t be like the relatively small recessions that the country used to regularly undergo before the 2008 crash. It will be a collapse of such magnitude that the global economy won’t ever be able to recover, like it eventually did after the Great Depression. It will likely be the end of the growth period of capitalism, and the beginning of an unprecedented contraction that leaves civilization dramatically changed.

There are several factors behind this uniquely perilous precipice that the economy is teetering on. I’ll first focus on the one that will set off the process of collapse, then examine how the other factors will exacerbate the damage.

What will start the crash: the capitalist world’s concentrated and unsustainable financial system

Stalin observed that “Imperialism is the omnipotence of the monopolist trusts and syndicates, of the banks and the financial oligarchy, in the industrial countries.” This quote was in the context of an essay where Stalin illustrated how imperialism creates a self-destructive problem with how modern capitalism functions; he concluded that because imperialism makes corporate power dominant over the institutions of society, people aren’t able to defeat corporate power through reforms but rather through overthrowing the system.

This contradiction of imperialist capitalism, as Stalin described it, has grown more pronounced than ever. After the 2008 bailout, the big banks gained even more power over the economy than before, making them impossible to adequately regulate without breaking them up. The five biggest banks now own around half the industry, and in 2013 it was estimated that the largest 0.2 percent of banks control 69 percent of bank assets. This has happened while Wall Street and the government have become one, with the Obama and Trump administrations both going out of their way to put bank executives in high positions.

Naturally, the experience of the workers and the unemployed has gotten more filled with hardship in the last decade. Most Americans haven’t recovered from the Great Recession, and global inequality has continued to rise. Debt, both within the households of struggling proletarians and within the financial system, has risen since 2008 and has so far surpassed its 2008 levels. People aren’t able to make a living like they used to. The contradiction between labor and capital, as Stalin called this issue, is becoming ever more severe.

This reality, that monopolies and slowing economic growth have driven down living standards, undercuts the narrative that capitalism has recovered from the recession and is undergoing a “boom.” What good is a healthy stock market when the world’s economy is sitting on financial bubbles that are similar to the ones which led up to the 2008 crash? What good are low official unemployment numbers when many working people are still poor and sinking ever deeper into debt? The current “prosperity” is built on borrowed time. As Marshall Auerback wrote in his article from last year The Global Economy Is a Time Bomb Waiting To Explode:

If you thought the near-breakdown of the global economy in 2008 was enough to make global policymakers and regulators rethink their persistent accommodation of financial innovation and deregulation, think again. Regulators have continued to accommodate this complexity, rather than minimizing it. Complex financial systems beget yet more complex (and ultimately ineffective) regulation. It is better to simplify the system in order to improve the quality of the regulation and the ease of oversight (which the complexity is designed to avoid).

Unfortunately, that’s not what our policymakers have done. Instead of redesigning the system, the monetary authorities have simply inserted themselves in the chain of intermediation that included an ever-evolving variety of books of business without actually considering whether there were too many weak links in the credit chain in the first place. Rather than shorten or redesign the economy’s credit structures, and curb the risks accordingly, central banks instead have simply acted as the ultimate guarantors in a supply chain from money-like instruments to longer-term and riskier credit. Absent any kind of sanction for undertaking more systemically dangerous activities, our policymakers have therefore made the same mistakes that were made in the early 2000s: they are establishing perverse ongoing incentives that increase risk, punishing the timid (prudent?) with low returns. It’s a classic illustration of Gresham’s Law, whereby bad money drives out good.

So sometime this decade, most likely within the next two years, the economy is going to contract again, and this time there won’t be a stable enough financial structure to keep it from turning into a depression. The banks, being more powerful than ever in a paradigm of neoliberalism and corporatized imperialism, have made themselves politically impune from consequences for the damage they wrought in 2008. As a result, the unsustainable system they’ve created is going to crash again, this time even more severely.

What will exacerbate the crash: the fall of U.S. imperialism and the decline of the dollar

It’s no coincidence that the great crash of the 2020s is approaching at the same time when the American empire is in a rapid state of decline, and when global capitalism is collapsing. The United States, which is the epicenter for global imperialism, was naturally the country whose deregulatory policies triggered the last global recession. So its internal economic crises throughout the 2020s will have similar global ripple effects, ones which will be exacerbated by the worldwide decline in capitalist growth.

These falling dominos of bourgeois economic power will ultimately be offset by the collapse of the American empire, which factored into the 2008 crash and will have an even bigger impact on the next downturn. The unraveling of America’s financial system, which is so concentrated and dangerous because of America’s role as the core imperial country, is inseparable from the unraveling of Washington’s geopolitical influence.

Having noted these connections between the capitalist world’s financial, economic, and imperialist structures, it’s easier to understand why the financial crash will happen around the same time as a key part of the U.S. empire’s collapse: the fall of the dollar. The increasing abandonment of the dollar by world powers in the last two decades has so far provoked an anxious reaction from the empire; Washington has recently threatened to militarily attack Iran and Venezuela because of these countries’ shifting away from the dollar in international trade. The increasingly heavy-handed U.S. sanctions on these and the other nations that have forsaken the dollar, which in recent years have been accompanied by trade wars and blatantly illegal military interventions, are destroying Washington’s global reputation and speeding up the worldwide move away from American currency.

It’s likely that at some point this decade, American currency will lose enough of its global reinforcement that this will take a severe toll on the country’s economy. Chris Hedges has observed that:

The dollar, because of astronomical government debt now at $21 trillion, a debt that will be augmented by Trump’s tax cuts costing the U.S. Treasury $1.5 trillion over the next decade, is becoming less and less trustworthy. The debt-to-GDP ratio is now more than 100 percent, a flashing red light for economists. Our massive trade deficit depends on selling treasury bonds abroad. Once those bonds decline in value and are no longer considered a stable investment, the dollar will suffer a huge devaluation. There are signs this process is underway. Central-bank reserves hold fewer dollars than they did in 2004. There are fewer SWIFT payments — the exchange for interbank fund transfers — in dollars than in 2015. Half of international trade is invoiced in dollars, although the U.S. share of international trade is only 10 percent.

When the country’s financial system unravels, the dollar will become even less stable, prompting further international efforts to shift to other currencies, more economically motivated belligerence from Washington, and so on. The reality that America’s economy will be not just internally vulnerable during the next crash, but also lacking in support from the other biggest superpowers, is apparent from America’s uprecedentedly strained relationship with China. Unlike last time, China isn’t going to bail out the U.S. economy amid this next downturn.

The U.S. will soon be more economically weak and globally isolated than it’s ever been throughout its existence as an empire. And I say that with the Great Depression in mind, because the economic collapse we’re about to face will consist of more than the traditional financial factors. It will also be tied in with the collapse of the climate.

What will make the damage from the crash irreversible: runaway climate change

Here my analysis grows even broader. In its imperialist stage, capitalism has not just expanded corporate power so much that it’s strangled the economy’s ability to sustainably function. It’s exploited the natural world too much for civilization to continue to exist on its traditional scale. Over 70% of carbon emissions are made by the top 100 largest corporations, and the U.S. military is the world’s single largest polluter. These institutions, which are perpetuated by U.S. imperialism and its bombings, drone campaigns, occupations, and global proliferation of neoliberalism, have driven the planet to an ecological and climatic breaking point.

The current consensus is largely that global temperatures will likely warm by around three degrees Celsius by 2100. This will make oceans at least a meter higher by that point, displacing over 700 million people through floods. In such a scenario, many of the world’s arid regions will also become unlivable, prompting unprecedented mass migration as the world is beset by conflict and resource shortages. In the next ten years alone, this process will already be very far along, with over 120 million additional people estimated to be driven into poverty by 2030 because of climate change. This number gives a rough idea of the amount of fires, floods, agricultural failures, storms, breakdowns of infrastructure, and water shortages that will have happened by 2030 in order for these many people to lose their livelihoods.

Yet it’s not even inevitable that these many people will enter into such privation. If they do, it will be the result of a system that prioritizes the safety and comfort of the rich over that of the lower classes. The UN report from last year that estimated this will happen to 120 million people goes by the assumption that these disaster victims will be neglected by capitalism, creating what the report describes as a situation of “climate apartheid.” In this respect, capitalism will make its own crisis even worse in the years during and after the next economic crash.

During the mid-2020s, which is likely when the economic disaster will be in full force, the people struggling with home foreclosures, unemployment, and unpayable debts will also be experiencing heightened versions of the natural disasters from the last decade. In the U.S., hurricanes will be pounding the Eastern and Southern coasts, fires will be ravaging the West, and drought will be intensifying throughout the continent’s West and center. The climate’s destabilization will of course be impacting the rest of the world, perhaps most severely through the future fires in Brazil and Australia-which alarmingly are two countries that have aggressively embraced neoliberalism. Unlike in socialist countries like China, the capitalist world will be hit hardest as climate change continues, because capitalism leaves the poorer people behind in situations of crisis.

The climate-related crises that poor people in the U.S. alone have recently faced shows how much worse the economic crash will make their plight. Amid rapidly declining living standards and a new wave of austerity, poor people will less likely be able to find nourishment and shelter in the aftermath of a superstorm. It will become harder for lower class people in the Southwest to afford water. The Californians who will have their electricity regularly cut off in the coming years because of the power grid’s exacerbation of fire risks won’t easily be able to manage the financial damages from these events. Given how costly recent hurricanes have been, tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars will be lost each year due to damages from climate change, making the coming depression even more severe.

Ultimately, climate change will cause an irreversible contraction of markets and commerce by shrinking the amount of habitable space and reliable agriculture. Capitalist markets are about to overall enter into an era of rapid decline, and their potential for a rebound will be made harder by the fact that socialism is going to gain great economic power throughout this century. China’s Belt Road Initiative is reorienting the center of global markets, and a wave of anti-capitalist uprisings has begun around the globe. The fall of the American empire will precipitate the decline of global bourgeois bargaining power, eventually putting the main economic leverage into socialist forces like the Communist Party of China.

In the business world, capitalists are looking to adjust their efforts for obtaining profit amid an unstable future. “Investors increasingly are asking companies to disclose the steps they are taking to prepare for a warmer planet,” reported a Wall Street Journal article this week. “‘Climate risk is investment risk,’ Laurence Fink, chief executive of BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, said in his annual letter earlier this month.”

In the political world, the current anxieties of the ruling class involve threats more alarming than “investment risk.” The near term stability of capitalist society is in question. The system has consumed too much of humanity and nature, so now the system is eating itself. Mass surveillance, censorship, militarized police, the erosion of civil liberties, and border militarization are how the imperial core has dealt with the destabilizing events of the last two decades. When things really start to unravel, these tools for maintaining control will be put to the test.
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