As Washington’s global influence rapidly diminishes, I’m picking up on a trend in how the U.S. imperialists operate: sporadically attempting to snatch up resources from other countries in desperate efforts at regaining what the empire has lost. This contrasts with the way that the U.S.-centered corporatocracy very smoothly exploited other countries when the empire was at its peak around the mid-20th century. In many cases, it was as easy and concealable as pressuring a poor country into becoming part of the corporatocracy’s business circle through some aggressive business deals.
In the modern world, this invisible type of imperialism is getting harder for them to pull off. They’ve still been able to carry it out to a certain extent in recent years, like when Washington has pressured Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno into intensifying the country’s neoliberal austerity policies. But in a world where China is quickly rising, U.S. influence is waning in the Middle East and most other regions, and class conflict is rising amid decades of growing global inequality, the imperialists are often resorting to blatant theft. Not the seizing of foreign productive forces, like was the case during the earlier era, but the piracy of any wealth or resources that they can possibly grab up.
One example is when the UK High Court blocked Venezuela’s attempt to access over $1 billion worth of gold this June, with the court having weakly argued that Nicolas Maduro has no right to the gold because the UK recognizes Guaido as the rightful president. This act of naked imperialist kleptocracy is becoming representative of how the empire functions: with resource-snatchings that are unsupported by any feasible plan for imperial expansion. It’s like micro-militarism, the historical phenomenon where dying empires lash out with desperate military adventures.
The Bolivia coup is another example. Washington’s effort to turn Bolivia into a neo-colony has been unstable from the start, with the coup leaders having failed to assassinate the leader they ousted and the new far-right regime having been met with widespread militant resistance. Despite extreme repression from the coup regime, large parts of the country have come under the jurisdiction of the armed indigenous movement, and this movement has continued to sabotage the regime’s policies.
This great obstacle to multinational corporations’ goal of stealing Bolivia’s lithium shows the limits to the empire’s ability to recolonize the region. Elon Musk may be acting as South America’s neo-conquistador, but the attempts at resource-grabs from him and other imperialists aren’t nearly as easy as past neo-colonial projects have been. This has forced the coup regime to mobilize the military and utilize death squads in the hope that these drastic acts of violence will bring balance to a less-than-ideal situation.
Another one of these late-stage imperialist heists is Washington’s recent oil grab in Syria. After Trump made a show out of supposedly pulling out of Syria last October, Trump announced that “We’re keeping the oil” in Syria while insisting on using force to protect the troops who were securing the oil for the U.S. This was a blatant war crime, but the U.S. seemingly doesn’t at all care how it looks anymore. All that matters is pure international kleptomania.
Since then, Washington has used its proxy forces in the Autonomous Administration (better known as the YPG) to illegally exploit oil that rightfully belongs to Syria. After signing an agreement with the YPG to split control over the oil, a process of theft has been set in motion whose logistics are described by Voltairenet.org as follows:
“Production is expected to start at 60,000 barrels/day and could quickly rise to 380,000 barrels/day… Crescent Energy Services, which penned the agreement, is a CIA front registered in the tax haven of Delaware, but based in Louisiana. According to our sources, the profits of the Autonomous Administration will be divided in two: half for itself, and the other half for the CIA, which will use the money to finance its covert operations throughout the world without having to submit a budget request to Congress.”
Not even social media apps are exempt from this American campaign of petty thievery. Trump’s threat to ban TikTok has amounted to modern day piracy, as Trump’s goal with it is to force the sale of the app to a U.S. company. This has the purpose of stealing the profits from TikTok’s U.S. users away from the company’s origin country China.
But even if this scheme goes completely successfully—and the same happens for the attempted lootings in Bolivia, Syria, and elsewhere—the direction of the global economy will keep shifting away from Washington’s favor. The intensified U.S. exploitation of Bolivia’s lithium—which could very well be stopped by the indigenous movement—won’t undo the recent 32.9% drop of the U.S. GDP. The theft of oil in Syria won’t end this year’s dramatic shale downturn. The pirating of an app won’t stop China’s GDP from continuing to grow, or most of the rest of the world from shifting its economic allegiances towards China.
In this increasingly post-American world order, the U.S.-centered corporatocracy’s long-term strategy is to profit from the instability of our era. Exploiting the pandemic in various ways is how U.S. billionaires have been able to collectively gain hundreds of billions of dollars this year in spite of the economic crisis. The plutocracy’s maneuvers to exploit this month’s enormous urban explosion in Lebanon represent a very literal example of how the rich are profiting off of destruction, as is explained by Pepe Escobar:
“Lebanon—boasting assets and real estate worth trillions of dollars—is a juicy peach for global finance vultures. To grab these assets at rock bottom prices, in the middle of the New Great Depression, is simply irresistible. In parallel, the IMF vulture would embark on full shakedown mode and finally “forgive” some of Beirut’s debts as long as a harsh variation of “structural adjustment” is imposed. Who profits, in this case, are the geopolitical and geoeconomic interests of US, Saudi Arabia and France… This is happening amid a massive global asset grab characterized in the larger context by American GDP down by almost 40%, arrays of bankruptcies, a handful of billionaires amassing unbelievable profits and too-big-to-fail megabanks duly bailed out with a tsunami of free money.”
Sporadic acts of theft and the scavenging of what’s left behind after disasters—this is what the capitalist machine is turning towards in order to keep itself running. Marx’ theory about the declining rate of profit under capitalism is being proven on a mass scale, forcing the system to eat itself.
The New Cold War Is Motivated By Fears Of Capitalist Collapse
Right now, the U.S. ruling class is trying to carry out a color revolution in Belarus, the only remaining former Soviet state that retains socialistic policies and a state-run economy. The imperialist propaganda machine is manufacturing consent for this regime change effort through the same propaganda approach that’s been used against Syria, Venezuela, and Bolivia: stoke dissension within the targeted country, and paint the opposition as an unambiguously noble force (even though the opposition in Belarus has praised Hitler).
This latest U.S. attempt at replacing a disobedient government with a neoliberal, pro-Washington regime comes at a time when Western imperialism is escalating its military buildup and hybrid warfare against all the global powers which challenge it. The U.S. is expanding on its military encirclement of Russia and China through Eurasian war games and navy buildup in the South China Sea. The U.S. has been tightening sanctions on Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Yemen, and other countries during the pandemic with the goal of causing harm to more of their people.
Lebanon and Thailand are also being targeted with color revolutions. The imperialists have formulated a new plan for a neoliberal coup in Nicaragua, the Trump administration remains committed to regime change in Venezuela, and last month Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even declared that regime change is Washington’s goal for China.
The mission of the foreign policy strategists behind these moves is a long-term “great-power competition,” one that ends with the U.S. re-securing its hegemonic global position. But such a goal isn’t realistic at this point, nor are many of the regime change objectives that this scenario of restored U.S. influence would require. If the U.S. still hasn’t managed to overthrow Venezuela’s Chavista government, it definitely can’t accomplish this in China. And Bolivia, which the U.S. carried out a coup in last year, is experiencing an indigenous uprising that’s making it harder for U.S. corporations to use the country as a neo-colony. The regime that Washington has installed in the country can’t even hold control over much of the lands within its borders, since they’ve been turned into strongholds of the indigenous militias.
For the U.S. ruling class, this means that their machine of global capitalism will for the most part have to continue to contract in the coming years. The depression that America and the rest of the capitalist world has entered into will be exacerbated by increased U.S. economic isolation from China, the collapse of the dollar, and other economic symptoms of imperial decline.
So the new cold war that the imperialists are waging—as well as the war of repression that they’re waging internally—is taking on a desperate nature. This war is about staving off the unraveling of the capitalist-dominated world order, and the collapse of the capitalist hierarchy that would result from this shift in geopolitical power.
As Michael Parenti said, there can be no such thing as capitalism in one country. Corporations must expand in order to maintain a positive rate of profits-European colonialism was largely brought on by the demands from the region’s new capitalist ruling class to broaden their operations. This is why the imperialists have been taking such drastic measures to subdue Syria, Iran, Russia, and China in particular, and why they’re now attempting regime change in Belarus and Lebanon; if these countries forever slip from their grasp, they’ll mostly lose control over the crucial market territory of Eurasia. China is treated as the West’s greatest enemy because it’s at the epicenter of the shift towards a multi-polar world, and thus towards a future where Africa, the Indo-Pacific, and South America break away from U.S. hegemony as well.
It’s also why the U.S. and its proxy states have been increasing austerity and repression during the pandemic and the new global depression. Trump’s recent reduction of unemployment benefits and plans to defund social security, the Bolivian coup regime’s refusals to provide vulnerable people with the means to feed their families during the pandemic, the austerity measures that have been imposed throughout much of Latin America in the last year at the behest of Washington, and the recent EU bank bailout package that imposes austerity throughout Europe are all part of the effort to foist the costs of the crisis onto the lower classes. Gestapo-style arrests in U.S. cities, violent repression of pro-democracy protests in Bolivia, and the decline of civil liberties throughout NATO countries during the pandemic are also necessary to preserve the existing order.
This is an order where the world’s wealthiest billionaires have been collectively getting hundreds of billions of dollars richer this year despite the economic and social deterioration that surrounds their comfortable bubbles. To keep the capitalist economic machine running amid the decline of U.S. imperialism, they’re intensifying the exploitation of Washington’s Latin American neo-colonies, and of the proletariat within the imperial core. And to prevent revolution, they’re making their police states more brutal. The imperialist-controlled capitalist world is hurting due to its economic isolationism from Russia and China and its profound neoliberal inequalities, so its ruling class is taking reactive measures to stop things from falling apart.
The Cold War 2.0 and all of its related foreign interventions are part of this reaction. The brutal attempts to secure capitalist rule over Bolivia, as well as the campaigns to expand imperial control into Mexico, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Belarus, Lebanon, and Thailand, are the empire’s most feasible current efforts at growing its reach. It’s doubtful that the empire’s endeavors will succeed in any of these countries, and Washington’s rival superpowers will continue to rise in any case. So endless military buildup, authoritarianism, and cuts to poor and working people’s benefits are the best long-term strategies for preserving the wealth of the plutocrats.
But if the capitalist world’s economic conditions keep getting worse in the coming decades—which climate collapse is making inevitable—the system’s contradictions will grow too great for their order to continue. Especially as it keeps growing more isolated from the rising economic power of China. At some point, a new wave of socialist revolutions will sweep the globe, further shrinking the territory that the capitalist class can use to profit from.
The remaining capitalist-controlled countries will respond by becoming isolated, paranoid fascist states that turn to their nuclear arsenals for protection, and that try to cut their people off from the rest of the world. At that point, the world’s last capitalist ruling class will have the global economic machine that they’ve depended on shattered, and they’ll consequently be at war with the lower classes who they’ve treated so terribly.
What would follow such a scenario is too terrifying to the current ruling class for them to want to contemplate it. All they prefer to focus on at the moment is the task of imposing neoliberal domination onto countries like Belarus, which they like to think will be as successful as past imperialist operations. Nothing desperate about this, they want us to think as the color revolutions continue. It’s all business as usual.
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