Friday, February 28, 2020

The fall of the U.S. empire and the coming economic crash

Haruki Murakami said that “Everyone, deep in their hearts, is waiting for the end of the world to come.” It’s with this self-awareness of my attraction to the apocalypse that I confront the converging crises of our era. These crises point towards an outcome that’s not as dire as the literal end of the world, but that still conjures the sense of fascinated suspense which Murakami described.

Particularly in the last two months, the facets of the global capitalist and imperialist order have been rapidly approaching a breaking point. The systemic collapse that we’ve entered into has numerous layers; the environment, the economy, the geopolitical situation, the political atmosphere, the social sphere, and now the global landscape of human biology and disease. All trajectories point to a gargantuan economic collapse in the short term, and to a sustained upset for civilization in the long term.

In addition to the collapse of the climate, which has exacerbated the Coronavirus and led to the unprecedentedly destructive fires in Australia from this year, the capitalist world’s fundamental economic structures are moving towards collapse. And the factor behind this looming financial meltdown is the same one that ultimately pertains to the climate crisis and the Coronavirus: the decline of the American empire.

The climate crisis, which is being reinforced by the vast pollution from America’s ever-increasing military expenditures, threatens American hegemony. Increased storms, resource scarcity, and sea level rise have already damaged American military infrastructure, and it’s estimated that over a hundred global U.S. military bases will become untenable to operate after the sea level rises by a meter. The cost of repairing American electrical grids and roads in the coming decades will be so great that the Pentagon estimates the U.S. military will come under great strain, if not become completely overwhelmed. Climate change is in the process of making U.S. military dominance over the rest of the world too expensive to sustain.

This ties in with the fact that climate change, the decline of American global power, and the economic imbalance created by neoliberal capitalism are collectively about to produce a more short-term type of collapse: the coming of a new economic crash which will be even bigger than the one from 2008. Since the bailing out of Wall Street and the concentration of financial power into a largely un-regulatable series of super-banks, the global economy has been accumulating all of the bubbles that produced the 2008 crisis. If this next crash doesn’t start with the popping of the new housing bubble, it will likely start with the current meltdown of the stock market, which is being set off by the many factors that have lately been alarming investors.

It’s no surprise that the Dow has tumbled by over three thousand points during this last week, which is when the CDC has said the Coronavirus will likely spread throughout the United States amid infections throughout dozens of other countries. Rising tensions with China and Iran, widespread uncertainty over the integrity of the voting process in the Democratic presidential primaries, and the overall presence of the current market bubbles could also upset the financial world’s arbitrarily maintained stability.

In the longer term, the collapse of the climate will be the factor that triggers an economic downturn like we’ve never seen before. Investors have so far massively failed to account for the damages that climate-related disasters are going to cause in the coming years; UC Davis Graduate School of Management accounting professor Paul Griffin has written that “Despite these obvious risks, investors and asset managers have been conspicuously slow to connect physical climate risk to company market valuations. Loss of property is what grabs all the headlines, but how are businesses coping? Threats to businesses could disrupt the entire economic system.” When they’re forced to confront the discrepancy between capitalist illusion and material reality, their system won’t be able to function.

The Coronavirus, which is currently the biggest source of alarm for investors, is as heavily related to the fall of the U.S. empire as the other economic collapse catalysts I’ve mentioned. The U.S./NATO media propaganda apparatus has sensationalized the severity of the virus in order to advance Washington’s current #1 foreign policy goal, which is to undermine the Communist Party of China. The CPC’s management of the crisis has been widely portrayed as incompetent or “authoritarian,” even though China’s socialist government has managed to mobilize resources around combatting the disease far better than America’s healthcare system would be able to do. And xenophobic media attacks against China in relation to the virus have led to a general rise in anti-Asian racism.

In addition to these ways the U.S. empire has exacerbated the effects of the virus, there’s also the possibility that the entire problem is the result of a Washington biological warfare operation against China. The U.S. has proliferated diseases to further its foreign policy goals before, such as when the CIA deliberately introduced the African swine fever into Cuba in 1971 (among the many other types of biological warfare that the Cuban people have suffered through). So it’s predictable that Dr. Francis Boyle, international law professor at the University of Illinois, has said he’s convinced the virus is an “offensive biological warfare weapon.” It’s also unsurprising that U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in January that the virus “will help speed the return of jobs to America,” demonstrating the strategic usefulness which the Trump administration explicitly sees in the virus.

This all supports the hypothesis that the CIA has pulled a trick similar to its Cold War-era attacks on Cuba by planting the virus which appeared in Wuhan in late December 2019. However this disease originated though, it’s one of the crises that’s being helped by climate change, and therefore by the capitalist military/industrial machine that’s destabilizing the climate. The virus’s geopolitical ramifications are a symptom of America’s imperial decline as well, because all aspects of Washington’s hybrid war against China are a response to the growing global power of the CPC.

This overlapping tapestry of catastrophe-rampant American militarism, climate collapse from neoliberal industrialism, unsustainable financial structures created by wild profit schemes, reckless acts of global warfare-is soon going to blow apart global capitalism.

The American ruling class will keep trying to manipulate the narratives and policies surrounding these events, but they’re really trying to do damage control. When the inevitable financial meltdown comes, whether it starts within this next month or sometime later, chaos will plague the centers of power. China isn’t going to bail out America’s economy again like it did during the last recession, and the increased consolidation of the banking system has made the U.S. economy boundto fail on an even greater level than it did the last time. The bottom is about to fall out from under Trump’s superficially “prosperous” economy.

The neoliberal system will only know how to respond to this by slashing at social programs and letting more people go underemployed and underpaid-which is to say the system’s only response will be to eat itself.

These reactive measures to the financial crisis will reflect the ways the system has been reacting to other recent crises; the Washington political establishment has reacted to the shrinking of American power by raising the military budget, the U.S./NATO powers have reacted to China’s rise by launching a hybrid war, and the corporatocracy has reacted to the Great Recession by making the banking monopolies more extreme and allowing wealth inequality to keep increasing. All of this has been a short-term fix that’s made the system more brittle and less able to cope with disruptions. With the emerging economic collapse, the different ramifications of these ruling class decisions are working to produce one explosive event.

When this event comes fully into fruition, the system will be weakened. And that’s when it will be our time to strike at it. The United States is a social tinderbox, and a catalyst is all that’s needed to ignite a class uprising in this country. Just look at the last year’s anti-neoliberal protests in France, Chile, and other deteriorating neoliberal countries to see America’s near future.

But don’t expect this movement to emerge automatically when the crash comes; it will come when we decide to make it come. Work to organize strikes. Get people together for anti-neoliberal protests. Coordinate civil disobedience efforts, like the storming of the subway that New Yorkers carried out this January. Build the organizations that we’ll need in order to replace the capitalist state with a socialist new nation. We can tear down their imploding empire and build something beautiful in its place.
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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:

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Socialist Revolution Can Defeat The Rich, Not Higher Taxes

When liberal politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders say that we can solve inequality by taxing the rich, they’re trying to make it seem like the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is a legislative dispute instead of a class war. They’re proposing that the interests of the ruling oligarchs can be reconciled with our interests, and that all this will take is a rearrangement of the tax system.

But this won’t rectify the situation, both because it wouldn’t take the rich out of power and because modern capitalism gives the rich too many loopholes for avoiding paying taxes. As the Twitter account of the socialist Hampton Institute recently observed: “The days of ‘taxing the rich’ are likely long gone. Even if such laws are passed, who's gonna collect? Anything short of deploying heavily-armed *people's recuperation squads* won't cut it. And even then, the rich have international networks of wealth havens that are untouchable.”

In a globalized neoliberal world where traditional borders no longer exist, and where plutocrats can use a borderless global network of corporate power to fortify their wealth, the heavy taxes on the wealthy from the Eisenhower era can’t effectively be reimposed. And it’s unrealistic that in the American political system as it now exists, such social democratic policies will be allowed to pass. Far-right ideologues have dominance over Washington, with the Republicans holding control amid a deeply rigged electoral process and a Democratic Party that‘s too enamored with corporate power to carry out meaningful change. The attempts from the Sanders wing to change the Democratic Party won’t lead to an upheaval either, because the DNC will be able to steal the primary from Sanders even if he overcomes the slanted primary contests.

Politicians like Sanders continue to promise that American social democracy  can be enacted because this is the limit to the kinds of changes they’re willing to imagine. They don’t want to replace capitalism, they want to save it. And the political systems that have replaced capitalism are invariably vilified by these politicians as “tyrannical.”

I’m talking about the systems of Cuba, the DPRK, and the other socialist states. The DPRK’s approach towards running its economy is a particularly good option to emulate when it comes to the question of taxation, because in socialist Korea there are officially no taxes. The DPRK’s state gets much of its resources directly from the labor of those in the proletariat, who make up the government-employed workforce that would otherwise work for corporations if they were in a capitalist country. 

Because this ideal of total state employment hasn’t been able to practically work in the DPRK’s isolated post-Soviet era economy, many private enterprises also exist in the country, which give part of their profits to the state. But despite this tax-like arrangement for the relatively few private businesses within the DPRK, the country has no tax system and hasn’t had one since 1974. The country has an arrangement where the people, rather than being taxed for the work they do, are compensated for their work with a robust social safety net and a system where workers get special food rewards.

The DPRK’s economy isn’t perfect from a communist perspective, since it still has a (disempowered) bourgeois class and it isn’t totally able to provide its people with material necessities. But this is because it’s struggling against capitalist economic sabotage, whicg has promped it to adapt by partly utilizing private business. The same is essentially the case for Cuba, and for the other socialist nations Vietnam, Laos, and China. These places haven’t achieved communism’s goal for a classless, stateless society, but they’re all workers’ democracies where the state is controlled by the proletariat rather than the bourgeoisie.
Among them, the DPRK has achieved an especially advanced level of Marxist social development by moving beyond taxes. They’ve demonstrated a solution that social democrats like Sanders won’t consider, because they don’t want to move towards socialism but towards a “fair” version of capitalism.

Oligarchs like Mike Bloomberg have tricked people, even leftists, into thinking society relies on wealthy people like him. The idea that we should try to solve poverty by getting the rich to pay out more of their money perpetuates our dynamic of dependency on the ruling class, and it advocates for the opposite of putting ownership over the means of production into the hands of the workers. This is why while Sanders decries Bloomberg’s antics in the Democratic primary, Sanders ultimately wants to perpetuate Bloomberg’s role in society. No politician in the two major capitalist parties wants to do what must really be done, which is to take people like Bloomberg out of their roles as members of the bourgeoisie.

How can this be done? Not by voting for Democrats, or by claiming the welfare capitalist states in Scandinavia are “socialist,” or by doing the other things that the social democrats say are revolutionary. Our priorities need to reflect the ones of those who created the existing socialist states, which were: educate the masses about the need for seizing the means of production, build the communist organizations that can carry out the revolution, and overthrow the capitalist-controlled state before replacing it with a proletarian-run democracy.

Raising taxes on the rich, like establishing monopoly trusts, raising the minimum wage, and expanding social programs, has in the past served as a band-aid for the inequality caused by American capitalism. FDR used it to save capitalism amid a time of rising class tensions, and Sanders hopes to do the same. The idea of trying to raise taxes on the rich is naturally appealing to the economically disenfranchised, and it’s understandable that so many people have decided to support Sanders due to his desire for this and other social democratic policies. But our interests really lie with the forces of class war-not the illusion of “class war” that Sanders represents, but the goal of ridding the country of the exploiting class.

The possibility that millions more people will start working towards this goal in the coming years, perhaps as a result of Sanders’ supporters further developing their political consciousness, is what truly terrifies oligarchs like Bloomberg. Oligarchic media sychophants like Chris Matthews are terrified of it as well, which is why they’re now disingenuously attacking Sanders as if he were actually a radical. They know that as the proletarian outrage over neoliberalism continues in the coming years, enough people might join the communists for a real revolution to get going.

So join the class war. Overthowing America’s bourgeois state is our only route for defeating capitalism. And in an America where democracy has deteriorated too much for even an FDR liberal like Sanders to be effectual, overthrowing the government may also be the only way we can end neoliberalism.
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:

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Fall Of Socialist Bolivia Shows How Crucial It Is To Create A Dictatorship Of The Proletariat

After four months of racist terror campaigns, illegal seizures of power, and violent intimidation tactics from the police and the military, Bolivia has become a far-right dictatorship. Amid months of propaganda from U.S. regime change agents who were determined to tarnish President Evo Morales’ public image, Bolivia’s U.S.-backed right-wing opposition responded to the October re-election of Morales by inciting political violence. Indigenous people were targeted with racialized terrorism, Morales’ family and top officials were threatened, and the imperialist media manufactured sympathy for the white supremacist factions which were falsely claiming electoral fraud. Morales was forced to resign a few weeks after the election.

Morales was coerced into leaving by the far-right paramilitary forces of the racist millionaire Louis Fernandez Camacho, who helped compel Bolivia’s military officials to recommend Morales step down. He was replaced by Jeanine Añez Chavez, a Christian fundamentalist who’s called indigenous people “satanic.” In the chaos following the coup, the new regime used violent intimidation tactics to target the indigenous socialists who were mobilizing against the illegitimate new government. The police and the military were given legal impunity to shoot those resisting the government, protesters were massacred, and groups of indigenous people were attacked with pogroms as an example to others.

The allies of the exiled Morales weren’t able to overcome this, even as they gathered into militias and won some police personnel over to their side. The “transitional government” was solidified, and it’s since become a dictatorship. It’s privatized the water, expelled many foreign nationals, closed down the Bolivian TV networks of RT and TeleSur, detained foreign journalists, and created a squad of masked, armed death squads that terrorize resisters. To help ensure that it won’t be voted out in May’s election, last month the regime publicly mobilizedthe military in order to intimidate the population. Candidates from Bolivia’s socialist party have been forced to organize abroad amid an atmosphere where opposition leaders have repeatedly been detained, and where critical journalists have been found dead under suspicious circumstances.

For all who care about indigenous rights, poor people’s rights, democracy, and the environment, what’s happened in Bolivia has been a tragedy of incalculable proportions. Morales cut poverty in half and reduced extreme poverty even further, and he was creating an eco-socialist Bolivia by giving the environment equivalent rights to human beings. His move to continue running for re-election was entirely legal and supported by the dominant facet of of Bolivia’s voting population, and the U.S. media’s disingenuous outrage about him “undermining Bolivia’s democracy” has led to the creation of a genocidal dictatorship.

What is the lesson that the opponents of fascism, imperialism, and capitalism can learn from this? It’s that socialists should always approach revolution with the goal of dismantling the structure of the capitalist state, as opposed to working around the power of the state.

It’s not an absolute rule that socialists who’ve gained power through elections are overthrown, but it is a notorious trend. The Marxist Chilean president Salvador Allende was stormed by Chile’s own armed forces in the 1973 coup that began the Pinochet regime. The rest of the history of CIA interference in Latin America shows numerous other elected socialist leaders who’ve been removed through what the scholar Steve Kangas described as “propaganda, stuffed ballot boxes, purchased elections, extortion, blackmail, sexual intrigue, false stories about opponents in the local media, infiltration and disruption of opposing political parties, kidnapping, beating, torture, intimidation, economic sabotage, death squads and even assassination.”

These methods for destroying socialism are relatively easy. In the cases of fallen Marxist-Leninist states like the USSR and the GDR, the imperialists have more often had to resort to larger-scale and more difficult types of attacks. Defeating the USSR and its dependent socialist states required decades of military encirclement, economic warfare, and nuclear threats, which prompted the USSR’s leadership to heavily invest in the military and make concessions to the imperialists through pro-capitalist reforms. This compounded the rightward ideological shift away from Marxism-Leninism that had been taking place in the USSR’s bureaucracy, which could be considered a slow coup on the part of the imperialists. 
It culminated with the traitor Gorbachev, who sold his people out to neoliberalism.

And this long struggle to overthrow communism in Russia was far from the end of the threat to imperialism from Marxist-Leninist states. The People’s Republic of China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which both came to power with help from the Soviets, are now arguably stronger than ever in the face of frantic imperialist attacks against them. The U.S. lost the Vietnam War to Ho Chi Minh’s Marxist-Leninist state, and Vietnam has remained socialist since then. The socialist governments in Cuba and Nicaragua, which both resulted from efforts to overthrow the capitalist dictatorships that had previously ruled these countries, remain undefeated after decades of imperialist sabotage.

It’s no surprise that Muammar Gaddafi, one of the few socialist leaders who the U.S. has had to remove through an outright military invasion, took power through a coup instead of an election. History shows that socialist revolutionaries who’ve gained power through overthrowing the bourgeois state have had firm control over the state apparatus, making them nearly impossible to remove without a regime change war or decades of difficult cold war.

Venezuela’s Chavistas are rare in representing perhaps the only decades-long surviving socialist government that came to power electorally. And the methods they’ve used to gain and maintain power resemble how Marxist-Leninist states have fortified control. Hugo Chavez was able to overcome neoliberal Venezuela’s rigged political process by building a network of support within the military, which helped allow him to win the 1998 election with relative security against a coup. Chavez and his successor Maduro have been able to retain power after all the CIA’s coup attempts foremost by maintaining control over the military.

I think that many factors beyond the control of Morales prevented him from creating such a solid power structure (like the strength of the Bolivian bourgeoisie compared to the relative weakness of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie), while he can also be blamed for it in other respects (such as his decision not to create an armed revolutionary defense wing like Maduro has). But judging Morales as an individual isn’t the point of this essay. It’s to point out that in a capitalist-run electoral process, the capitalists have the upper hand, so they can remove a leader they don’t like fairly easily.

If Bolivia’s socialist candidates are prevented from winning May’s election, it will prompt the country’s proletarian movement to take a route towards socialist revolution that’s always been its most realistic option for victory: overthrowing their capitalist government and creating a dictatorship of the proletariat. The same is the case for the socialist movement in every other capitalist country in the world, especially in the countries whose democracies have deteriorated in ways comparable to Bolivia’s.
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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, February 20, 2020

The Twisted Climate Equation Of The Ruling Class

Five years ago, an investigation from InsideClimate News confirmed what one might have intuitively suspected: that the leaders of Exxon Mobil were well aware of the science of global warming before it became a public issue. The investigation showed that as far back as the 1970s, Exxon had engaged in research that determined carbon dioxide was heating up the planet, corroborating observations about the effects of fossil fuels on the climate that scientists had been making since the 1890s.

At first, the response to climate change from Exxon and the rest of the corporatocracy was to stay silent about the situation. Then in the late 1980s, when climate change became news for most people outside of this elite circle, the American ruling class for the most part tried to convince people that it was nothing to worry about. Exxon and other oil companies mounted a multi-billion dollar campaign to spread disinformation about climate science, and they were joined by virtually the entire Republican political and pundit class.

But the denial about the situation that the capitalist oligarchs continue to perpetuate extends beyond the traditional conservative attitudes towards the climate, which are declining as the crisis becomes more obvious. It extends to the belief among neoliberals and progressives that the crisis can be solved with attempts to reform capitalism, that carbon taxes or a corporate-oriented Green New Deal will sufficiently bring down greenhouse gasses and create a bright future for capitalist society. These beliefs stem from the fundamental unwillingness among all these facets of pro-bourgeois politics to abandon the system, to want to destroy imperialism and the machine of global capital.

This certainly isn’t what Jeff Bezos is doing when he donates to pro-capitalist climate groups while having Amazon provide invaluable logistical support to the fossil fuel industry. Or what fossil fuel executives are doing when they portray themselves as important resources for fighting climate change. Or what the heads of the U.S. military industrial complex are doing when they try to rebrand their war machine as an environmental asset even though it’s the largest polluter on the planet. They’ll continue to keep the capitalist machine running, and a full-on class war will need to take place before a new system can be established throughout the territories the capitalists control.

The ruling class won’t let emissions be reduced enough to avoid the catastrophic threshold of 2 degrees Celsius of warming, and they won’t give humanitarian aid or adequate social programs to the billions of poor people who will be threatened by the crisis. Even if social democrats manage to come to power in the First World countries, the global paradigm of economic sanctions, neo-colonialism, and NATO bombing campaigns won’t stop, because social democrats in imperialist countries don’t oppose imperialism. So barring widespread and effective revolt, the bulk of humanity will keep experiencing poverty, social instability, and violent surroundings while the collapse of the climate progresses.

The more these developments unfold, the clearer it becomes that the ruling class is playing out a great equation. It’s an equation of how much human life and nature will need to be sacrificed for the class hierarchy to be maintained amid climate catastrophe. Bezos is fully aware that he’s making this trade-off between contributing to the planet’s destruction and securing the personal resources he’ll need to stay at the top of the system. While he’s made billions from aiding the fossil fuel industry and the military/intelligence complex, he’s bought up expansive territory in the American heartland so that he can move to an isolated and fortified new home in the event of a major catastrophe.

Other millionaires and billionaires are taking similar measures. Silicon Valley tycoons have been buying multimillion-dollar survival bunkers in New Zealand, plutocrats like Bill Gates have built luxury survival bunkers at their properties, and figures like Elon Musk have been preparing to settle on Mars in the event that the Earth becomes too ruined to inhabit anymore. In 2018, media theorist and futurist Douglas Rushkof described his experience with speaking at a private event for super-wealthy hedge fund managers, who had ostensibly invited him to speak about the “future of technology” but were really hoping to have him help with their doomsday preparedness projects:

They had come with questions of their own … Which region will be less affected by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? … Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked: ‘How do I maintain authority over my security force after the Event?’

The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr Robot hack that takes everything down … They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader? The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew. Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for survival.

How do we counter the logic of the capitalist climate equation? By carrying out an eco-socialist revolution. Capitalism’s answer to climate change is eco-fascism, where refugees and disfavored ethnic groups are treated as enemies and the poorer victims of the crisis are neglected by a brutal corporatist state. We’re seeing an early incarnation of eco-fascism develop in Brazil, where the climate authoritarian Jair Bolsonaro has caused last year’s massive Amazon fires through deliberate mismanagement, destroyed public education at all levels through relentless privatization, and put 11 million people out of work with his hyper-capitalist policies. This kind of neoliberal, ecologically ravaging fascism, which is also taking shape in Bolivia’s new far-right dictatorship and in Trump’s America, isn’t a sustainable model for capitalism to function in. It harms material conditions so much that the climate equation of the ruling class is exposed as destructive, and eco-socialism becomes the obvious alternative.

In Venezuela and Bolivia, the horrors of neoliberalism have made it apparent to most people that eco-socialism is worth militantly fighting for. Those among Bolivia’s indigenous majority, who voted overwhelmingly for the eco-socialist Evo Morales before he was overthrown by the fascists last year, have formed militias that make up a resurgent indigenous resistance movement. Venezuela’s eco-socialist Chavista government has been gathering and training a militia of over three million people, who are ready to defend their democracy if the U.S. invades them.

In most other places, the proletariat isn’t as ready to overthrow the bourgeoisie. The last year’s vast anti-neoliberal protests throughout Latin America haven’t so far resulted in any socialist revolutions, and in the core imperialist countries aside from France, mass civil disobedience movements aren’t in motion. But this is merely the result of material conditions throughout the capitalist world, and the goal of Marxism-Leninism is to circumvent the obstacles to revolution that these conditions present.

Among all people who agree that capitalism isn’t working, there needs to be an effort to mobilize towards defeating imperialism and the bourgeois governments. In Chile or Bolivia, this primarily means getting the revolutionaries armed and organized with the goal of sabotaging these countries’ fascist regimes. In France or the U.S., this primarily means educating people about revolutionary theory and getting them involved in communist organizations. Different places are in different revolutionary stages, and we in the core imperialist countries especially must recognize that the masses will need to first be acclimated towards an anti-colonial, socialist agenda. Only then will we be able to build the structures to usurp bourgeois power.

If we fulfill the demands of this alternative equation-the equation of revolution-we’ll negate the plan that the ruling class has for the 21st century. All that oligarchs like Bezos have to offer is a burning planet where only people like him live in comfort. We, the people, must invade their enclaves and create a future where the rest of humanity survives.
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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, February 17, 2020

Categorically Debunking The Claim That China Is Imperialist

The idea that China is an imperialist power is a very useful ideological tool for the propagandists of the U.S. empire. It morally justifies Washington’s attempts to continue dominating the world through invasions, coups, and economic warfare by presenting Beijing as an equivalent or worse imperialist oppressor. It also turns many American anti-imperialists away from supporting China by convincing them that this rising anti-U.S. power is just another empire.

Rebukes to the “China is imperialist” meme are usually met with incredulous dismissals, because the people who hold this position usually have deep-seated ideological reasons for treating China as imperialist. One can point to how China doesn’t carry out regime change or use its military to illegally occupy sovereign countries like the U.S. does, but this can be countered by (rightly) arguing this alone doesn’t prove China isn’t imperialist. One can point to how China has a pattern of forgiving foreign debt in contrast to Washington’s strategic manufacturing of debt, but this can be countered by pointing out the (unsurprising) fact that China’s loans are initially given out in similar ways similar to Western loans. The impulse among Western chauvinists and “anti-authoritarian” leftists is to view a rising non-U.S. aligned power like China as an unambiguous villain, so the debate goes in circles.

To convincingly prove that China is not imperialist, I’ll need to move beyond the rhetorical quips about individual aspects of the issue and show how when it comes to the core definition of imperialism, China doesn’t fit the criteria.

What is the definition of imperialism?

Lenin defined imperialism as “the monopoly stage of capitalism,” clarifying that “Such a definition would include what is most important, for, on the one hand, finance capital is the bank capital of a few very big monopolist banks, merged with the capital of the monopolist associations of industrialists; and, on the other hand, the division of the world is the transition from a colonial policy which has extended without hindrance to territories unseized by any capitalist power, to a colonial policy of monopolist possession of the territory of the world, which has been completely divided up.”

As Lenin acknowledged, this briefest possible definition of imperialism is only adequate when the specifics around it have been also articulated. For an economic relationship to be imperialist, he concluded, there are five requirements: that monopolies play a decisive role in economic life, that bank capital and industrial capital have merged to form a financial oligarchy, that the export of capital as opposed to the export of commodities takes special importance, that international capitalist monopoly institutions share the world among themselves, and that the biggest capitalist powers decide the divisions of the world.

But the definition we’re looking for is even more complex than this. His caveat was that “imperialism can and must be defined differently if we bear in mind not only the basic, purely economic concepts — to which the above definition is limited — but also the historical place of this stage of capitalism in relation to capitalism in general, or the relation between imperialism and the two main trends in the working-class movement.” The trends he referred to are what he called “the Marxist and the opportunist” movements, which as we’ll both see have great relevance to the current debate over China.

I quote Lenin’s definition of imperialism because it included acknowledgments of the historical circumstances that must factor into whether a power can be judged as imperialist. As we’ll see, the view that modern China is imperialist stems both from an exaggerated perception of how much China fits the economic criteria for imperialism, and a failure to consider the historical context which defines China’s foreign policy and internal economic system.

Does China fit this definition?

At least within the leftist circles that view China as imperialist, the core argument is that China’s inclusion of large corporations within its economy makes it dominated by monopolies, and that this makes it fit the kinds of criteria for imperialism which Lenin mentioned. But in terms of the country’s overall economic structure, it’s hard to argue that these corporations make up a decisive role. Nearly 70% of the 119 Chinese firms featured on the Fortune Global 500 list are state-owned, and the twelve biggest Chinese companies are government-owned. The state maintains control over heavy industry, energy, finance, transport, communications, and foreign trade, which are the most important aspects of the economy. Private production is encouraged by the state only because it spurs technological development, employment, and modernization.

China also can’t be considered a financial oligarchy. The Chinese government’s propensity for imprisoning and in many cases executing wealthy industrialists reflects the fact that despite its capitalistic market reforms, the PRC is still a workers’ state. The Communist Party of China is extraordinarily popular among the people it governs, because as mandated by China’s democratic process, the CPC primarily serves the interests of the people. Its vast social safety net has all but eliminated Chinese poverty, and China has become the global leader in environmental protection due to its socialist state intervention.

These facts about China’s internal governmental structure are relevant towards proving why China is not imperialist, because they show that its role in the world isn’t driven by a desire to serve bourgeois interests. This is apparent because China’s internal prioritization of public economic control is reflected by its external prioritization of state socialist loans. The vast majority of China’s foreign loans are not capitalist investments, but rathergovernment funds that have in many cases been used to free countries from the grip of imperialism. In addition to China’s having provided Laos with the equivalent of $32 million in interest in free credits in 2013, which has helped Laos overcome its debt slavery to the International Monetary Fund, China has forgiven nearly $10 billion in debt. Cuba accounts for over half of this forgiven debt, a development which has made the country better equipped to overcome Washington’s economic embargo.

In a 2005 presentation to the Congressional U.S.-China Commission, U.S. State Department official Princeton Lyman assessed how China’s model of socialist state loans don’t serve the function of profit:

China utilizes a variety of instruments to advance its interest in ways that western nations can only envy. Most of China’s investments are through state-owned companies, whose individual investments do not have to be profitable if they serve overall Chinese objectives. Thus the representative of China’s state-owned construction company in Ethiopia could reveal that he was instructed by Beijing to bid low on various tenders, without regard for profit. China’s long term objective in Ethiopia is in access to future natural resource investments, not in construction business profits.

Despite recent claims that China has been using its companies to engage in neo-colonialism throughout Africa, the situation Lyman assessed has continued to be the case throughout the last fifteen years. As I’ve mentionedin past writings, China’s investments do not meet the definition of neo-colonialism; Chinese enterprises help the job markets abroad rather than only employing Chinese workers, China hasn’t been engaging in “land grabs” in Africa, and China isn’t working to trap African nations in debt. In accordance with China’s not engaging in regime change, China has also never favored any government for its form or ideology.

Charges of imperialism and neo-colonialism have been used to delegitimize numerous other facets of Chinese foreign policy. Anti-China commentators have claimed China is seeking imperialist domination over the South China Sea even though China has only been protecting its own commercial lifeline from U.S. imperialism; some pro-Western figures have accused China of “neo-colonialism” in Hong Kong even though essentially all that China has done to Hong Kong in the last several generations is free it from British colonialism; similar claims have been made about China’s efforts to influence Tibet and Taiwan even though China hasn’t suppressed the religious freedom of Tibetans, and even though Chinese socialism would be the perfect replacement for Taiwan’s bourgeois “democracy.”

Whatever criticisms of China’s foreign policy that can be made, they don’t amount to proof that China is imperialist. The fact that China makes efforts to ensure that its companies are profitable abroad doesn’t equate to a colonialist project, and certainly not to an imperialist one. The country doesn’t fit Lenin’s five criteria for imperialism, and the one that it arguably does perpetuate-which is the prioritization of exporting capital over exporting commodities-isn’t used by China to subjugate the countries which it gives funds to and invests in.

One of the key distinctions between China and America’s foreign economic involvement is that there’s no evidence of China wanting to secure resources for profit. The other key difference, as demonstrated by the former, is that China doesn’t artificially raise prices through monopolies to attain super-profits. This all makes apparent a line between the world’s imperialist powers in the U.S./NATO alliance, and between China and its ally Russia-which are both independent countries that are merely trying to trade and invest.

If China isn’t imperialist, how should we view it from a Marxist perspective?

Not all communists and leftists will ever agree that modern China is worth supporting. In spite of all of the facts I’ve mentioned, it’s easy for an anarchist, social democrat, or traditional Maoist to make the argument that China is revisionist or “state capitalist.” Yet while not everyone can ideologically support China’s incorporation of private industry, at the very least we must get rid of the perception that China is imperialist. Because if this myth is dispelled, China’s true role in the world will be wholly recognized by the anti-imperialist movement.

Rather than being a moral equivalent to the United States, China has been furthering the Palestinian cause, militarily protecting socialist Venezuela from invasion, helping rebuild Syria amid nine years of Western imperialist assaullt, financially liberating countries from imperialism, and weakening Washington’s former primacy in the Indo-Pacific. China may not be directly fomenting socialist revolutions, but its efforts to drive the U.S. out from the world are helping make future revolutions more likely. As are China’s economic maneuverings.

As the columnist Saikat Bhattacharya has written, China’s Belt Road Initiative is an operation to shift economic leverage away from the West, and therefore away from colonialism itself:

BRI is best understood as the antithesis of colonialism. While colonialism was a Western response to its trade deficit with Asian kingdoms and also to the supremacy of Asian mode of production over Western pre-industrial revolution era production, BRI is the response of trade surplus China to the fact that US share of global GDP is becoming too small to generate demand for Chinese products…BRI is about sharing resources of rising China with the rest of the world. Before the rise of the West, China was the top global producer and that period is not associated with colonialism. So China reclaiming back its old position cannot be termed as colonialism rather BRI is the antithesis of colonialism.

Therefore from a Marxist perspective, China is the greatest current engine of change away from imperialism. After the U.S. empire has declined enough, China will emerge as a dominant world power that functions as a peacekeeper rather than as a conqueror. Its successful socialist model will set an example for developing nations, and its reshaping of the global economy will empower these nations to act independently from the declining old imperialist powers.

China may be a participant in the machine of global capitalism, but any truly nuanced view of it places it as an anti-imperialist presence. This is the Marxist analysis of China’s role in the world, as opposed to the opportunist one that treats China as an unambiguous menace. In 2020 more than ever, siding with China is the position that reflects knowledge of how material conditions shape the potential for socialist revolution.
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