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 combating 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 bound to 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.
The Growing Ruling Class Fears of a Communist Resurgence
The more the popular backlash against neoliberalism develops, the more apparent it becomes that American society is heading towards a resurgence in pro-communist sentiments and organizing. The current presence of this Red revival is hard to see on the surface, since Bernie Sanders’ FDR liberalism is still the main American political faction that’s associated with the term “socialism.” But as the class struggle continues, an actual manifestation of socialism and communism will begin to enter the mainstream.
The rise of communism in a highly unequal, post-recession American economy will be inevitable because whenever discontent grows around the miseries of capitalism, communism enters the conversation to some degree. There’s a lasting power to an idea that’s based in an irrefutable analysis of how capitalism perpetuates oppression and inequity, and that presents a tried and proven solution to capitalism.
From my perspective as a fairly well learned Marxist-Leninist, the only reason why not all poor and working class people embrace this idea is because of how good capitalism is at marketing “solutions” which reinforce the current system. Over 40% of Americans now favor socialism over capitalism, but the first political strain they encounter that associates itself with the word “socialist” isn’t Leninism, Juche, or Maoism. It’s Bernie Sanders’ vision for a capitalist welfare state that continues the American imperialist project under a vaguely “socialist” banner. One doesn’t encounter actual socialism until they enter the somewhat fringe realm of anti-capitalist organizing, and they aren’t willing to embrace factions like Marxism-Leninism until they’ve unlearned the propaganda about the existing socialist states.
Yet the more these disaffected people grope for answers to our capitalist crisis, the more accessible communism becomes. “People are willing to listen and they ask what socialism is,” the American Marxist leader Gloria La Riva said in 2016. “This year we have seen the fog of anti-communism being lifted from the minds of many, after more than 70 years of exclusion.” The factor behind this cultural shift in communism’s favor wasn’t so much that Sanders had brought socialist terminology into the mainstream, but that widespread angst over inequality had led many people to question old narratives.
Again, it was inevitable that this opening for communism would appear in the 21st century, because our neoliberal order was designed from the start to create major contradictions within capitalism. The last half-century’s paradigm of privatization, austerity, deregulation, and regressive taxation has been possible only through thoroughly dismantling the centers of social cohesion and pro-labor organizing. The crushing of unions throughout this time, precipitated by the decades-long American campaign to suppress and malign communists, pushed the left to the margins during the 1980s and onward. In the 90s, the Democratic Party was turned solidly towards a corporatist agenda, correlating with the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent weakening of the global socialist movement.
It was because Western society had committed itself to growing highly unequal that this post-Cold War capitalist triumph would soon be undone. The income gap in America has since risen to its highest level ever recorded, and the eight richest people now own as much wealth as the bottom half of the global population.
The latter statistic relates to the development of neoliberalism in the other core imperialist countries, and in the Third World countries where the U.S./NATO empire has carried out neo-colonialism. This extreme global inequality is why poor and working class people in Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Lebanon, Chile, Ecuador, and Argentina have been protesting against neoliberalism during the last year. It’s why anti-austerity protesters in France have been sustaining civil disobedience efforts since October of 2018. Despite the relative apathy of Americans so far, there’s also been a vast uptick in American strikes during the last two years. After decades of declining living standards, the backlash from the masses is growing.
In America and abroad, the capitalist power establishment is responding to this social discontent by trying to divert its energy away from class struggle. The efforts from Washington to turn the Lebanon protests into an anti-Hezbollah campaign are an example of how bourgeois propaganda is seeking to distract people from actually moving towards revolution. Something similar has happened in Hong Kong, where the recent protests that have gained traction because of economic discontent have been turned into violent anti-communist demonstrations by relentless U.S. propaganda and organizational manipulation.
This is how the capitalist state has long strangled the emergence of an effective class revolt: co-optation, infiltration of movement leadership, and narrative management. During the era of the Black Panthers, which is arguably the last time communism entered the American mainstream, the government went so far as to assassinate the Black Panther Party’s leaders. The capitalists will do anything necessary to safeguard against a revolution, including mass executions of communists like the ones that took place under Pinochet.
In recent years, the ruling class has been waging a war on dissent in response to the last decade’s rise of class consciousness and online alternative media platforms. There have been unprecedented censorship measures from tech companies, the U.S. government has been forcing outlets like RT to register as foreign agencies, and an atmosphere of McCarthyism has re-emerged amid paranoia about foreign agents and “Russian propaganda.” In the last year, the president of Veterans for Peace has been violently arrested for aiding anti-imperialist protesters at the Venezuelan embassy, and the anti-imperialist journalist Max Blumenthal has been detained on false charges. These attacks on dissent, as well as the anti-BDS laws and the campaign to prosecute Julian Assange for exposing government crimes, show how the system will respond when communism gains further prominence.
BDS, the journalism of WikiLeaks, the efforts of anti-war activists, and the other recent sources of opposition to global capitalism and imperialism represent seeds for the coming Red surge. While communism and its staunch anti-imperialist principles aren’t supported by everyone involved with these anti-establishment strains, there’s a potential for a lot more people to join the efforts of the most committed class insurrectionists. This is why the political and media class recently made a hysterical effort to vilify Cuba, and why Trump vowed in his second state of the union address to defeat socialism in Venezuela and elsewhere. There’s more cause for ruling class alarm the more that class consciousness advances around the globe.
At least among the liberal capitalists, there’s a desire to return society to its post-Cold War state so that the neoliberal order will become stabilized again; this is what the Bloomberg/Biden faction of the Democratic Party is frantically trying to accomplish by beating back at the populist Sanders faction. But the center was never meant to hold, because neoliberalism is designed to perpetuate a cycle of increasing inequality and inequality leads to instability. Some individual capitalists seek to reverse this process of inequality by adopting Sanders’ vision for a welfare state, but the capitalist class is overall determined to preserve the neoliberal order.
They’re determined to preserve neoliberalism because it’s the system that’s for so long allowed the corporatocracy to produce meaningful profits. Neoliberalism was adopted because capitalism was experiencing a recession during the 1970s, when the welfare state was last in a dominant form. Since then, neoliberalism has bought the capitalist class four decades of stability.
Yet in accordance with Marx’ prediction about capitalism being destined to consume itself, that orderly period is now on the verge of ending. The looming economic crash could be the catalyst that makes anti-capitalist civil unrest break out not just in France and much of the Third World, but throughout the rest of the imperial core. Welfare statists like Sanders won’t be able to turn this collapse around; the political future of the capitalist world is fascism, where the state cracks down in a desperate attempt to prevent revolution.
The more traction that communism gains, the more the capitalist class will resemble Jair Bolsonaro, the fascist Brazilian president whose state of mind Eric Nepomuceno recently described as follows:
“The basic mission of the Brazilian right-wing extremist [Bolsonaro] is to give final combat to a communism that he detects, hiding everywhere even in his fridge every time he looks for cold water, and that makes him sleep very few hours every night, and always with a gun on his bedside table.”
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