The purveyors of capital and empire have reached an impasse with the forces of history. The imperialist plans for regime change in Syria and Iran have failed. All the attempts to overthrow socialist Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela have failed, and the U.S. coup in Bolivia is on its way to being undone. The rise of Russia and China is making Washington lose its economic and geopolitical hegemony. Destabilizing factors like the pandemic, the climate collapse, and the new global depression are weakening global capitalism, with U.S. capitalism taking some of the biggest damage.
How can the engineers of the liberal order respond to these crises? How can their model of neoliberal corporatism survive when its foundations are coming undone, and when geopolitical tensions are making it more and more isolated from two of the biggest rising economic powers? The actions that the leaders of this crumbling empire have taken during the pandemic have made their solution clear: concentrate their economic machine into an intensified campaign of warfare and military buildup, while cutting benefits to the poor so that the rich can continue to increase their profits.
In this situation where the U.S. can’t realistically subdue or overthrow its biggest rival powers, a relatively compromised approach towards advancing these goals is looking attractive to much of the pro-imperialist intelligentsia. By “compromised approach,” I mean an effort to cooperate with all the other countries in the imperial core. Trump, with his “America First” policy of protectionism and isolationism, doesn’t maneuver in the pragmatic way that’s favored by the wing of the ruling class which supports this reserved geopolitical approach. His occasional willingness to compromise with Russia (which much of the U.S. political class sees as unacceptable) also makes him seen as an unreliable arbiter of empire.
Which is why this more pragmatic wing of the ruling class-represented by the Democratic Party and by neoconservative Republicans who oppose Trump-has been fomenting rumors of Trump being a Russian asset in order to pressure him into being tougher on Russia. This practice of Russia-baiting, which was recently revived through unsubstantiated media claims that Russia is paying Taliban members to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, serves the additional purpose of manufacturing the public’s consent for the new cold war.
As we’re seeing during the campaign to elect Biden, these efforts at getting Americans to oppose Trump for jingoistic reasons are preparations for making the foreign policy moves of a Biden presidency run smoother. This is an extension of the war propaganda campaign that was
described two years ago by the Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford, who titled his article about the subject The Real Goal of “Russiagate” is to Prepare for Endless Austerity and War. He wrote:
The ruling circles of the imperial superpower set out to destabilize and call into disrepute the sitting government of the home country. They have inflicted great trauma and anxiety among the public in the process, but thanks to the corporate media component of the cabal, most of the blame has accrued to the targets of the campaign: Trump, “the Russians” and those defamed as “dupes” and “co-conspirators” with the fictitious Putin-Trump axis. It is quite evident that this campaign of self-inflicted chaos is a project of the global corporate class, manifesting elsewhere in the “West” in remarkably similar fashion, but with local characteristics.
If Biden wins, this faction of the ruling class hopes, U.S. imperial decline will begin to be reversed due to a return to Washington’s Obama-era emphasis on maintaining ties with allies. Leopoldo Martínez, a Democratic National Committee member and the founder of the Center for Democracy and Development in the Americas, recently explained why he and others believe that removing Trump would make Washington better connected internationally, and therefore better able to overthrow disobedient governments:
As [Miami Herald editor] Andrés Oppenheimer has well said, Trump weakens the international coalition essential for a positive outcome in Venezuela with his rhetoric, unilateralism, and lack of commitment to the great global democratic causes. Here is a differentiating point between Biden and Trump, which adds to our conviction that Biden would be the best option to achieve change in Venezuela. Biden has the necessary credibility in Europe and Latin America to spin effectively in solving the problem. On the other hand, he has no personal debts with Vladimir Putin, who speaks into Trump’s ear (as Bolton, his former National Security adviser denounced), even to sow distrust of the leadership of Juan Guaidó and the Venezuelan opposition. This is a central point. In addition to maintaining bad relations with Europe and Latin America, Trump has weakened the coalition by not focusing on multilateral pressure and incentives.
In other words, Trump’s ultra-nationalism and lack of diplomatic finesse are counterproductive to the quest to expand neoliberal hegemony to countries like Venezuela. With Biden, who would likely reinstate the Iran nuclear deal, put the abandoned Trans-Pacific Partnership back on the table, and not continue Trump’s protectionist tactics that alienate U.S. allies, the empire will be able to run more smoothly. No wonder neocons like Bolton are glad to provide statements which confirm liberal suspicions about Trump being a foreign asset.
For these reasons, anti-Maduro pundits have recently been expressinghope that a Biden victory would be the beginning of the end for the Chavista government. This fantasy that these ruling class factions have been entertaining among themselves, where Latin America’s biggest thorn on the side of the empire is finally removed, would correlate with the other parts of neoliberal realpolitik.
In the 2020s, this realpolitik will entail a great amount of internal austerity and repression for the imperial core, as well as an expansion of cold war operations against Russia and China. The policies of the core imperialist countries since the start of the pandemic has made this abundantly clear; the EU countries recently passed a bailout which imposes austerity across Europe, surveillance and censorship have been increasing within the NATO countries, and the U.S. has been expanding its anti-Russian war games while partnering with Australia to build up NATO’s anti-Chinese military presence in the Indo-Pacific.
It’s not hard to see why these neoliberal and imperialist machinations, even if they involve a return to the Obama doctrine and the successful overthrow of the Chavistas, will inevitably continue to make the empire less stable. The neoliberal world’s perpetually deteriorating living conditions will encourage further civil unrest. The endlessly expanding military budget will contribute to this internal economic destruction, however much the imperialists try to get people to support the military buildup by demonizing Russia and China. Capitalism’s crises-whether economic, social, or environment-will keep getting worse. And if Venezuela undergoes a neoliberal coup that forces it to share in this capitalist collapse, its armed proletarian masses will mobilize towards revolution, just like the masses of Bolivia have done after the U.S. overthrew their democratically elected president.
Faced with these incurable contradictions of capitalism and imperialism, the heads of the liberal order can only turn to fascism. Biden’s suggestion earlier this year that U.S. police officers should shoot people in the legs, his call to prosecute protesters based on their political ideology, and his decision to pick a running mate who’s fought to keep nonviolent prisoners locked up are symptoms of a sinister bipartisan trend. This is the trend of disregarding liberties in order to enforce “law and order,” which the ruling class sees as increasingly vital amid growing class conflict. Their hope is that if anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist sentiments are successfully suppressed, they’ll have no trouble with pursuing the militarism and austerity of the coming years.
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