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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