In 1937, the storyteller H.P. Lovecraft wrote this about the direction that capitalism was taking:
“Capitalism is dying from internal as well as external causes, and its own leaders and beneficiaries are less and less able to kid themselves…The only avenue of survival for plutocracy is a military and emotional fascism whereby millions of persons will be withdrawn from the industrial arena and placed on a dole or in concentration camps with high sounding patriotic names. That or socialism—take your choice. In the long run it won’t be the New Deal but the mere facts of existence which will be recognized as the real and inevitable slayer of Hooverism.”
Since the end of Mussolini-style fascism in Europe, and the subsequent rise of welfare state liberalism throughout the core imperialist countries, the system has again proven itself to be unsustainable. When the welfare state became untenable for the capitalists in the 1970s, they turned to neoliberalism, the economic model designed to foist the costs of capitalism’s crises onto the lower classes. And now that neoliberalism’s self-destructive effects are combining with the climate crisis and the collapse of U.S. imperial hegemony to again make the system unstable, the capitalist world again finds itself heading towards the hellish scenario which Lovecraft described.
And unlike was the case after the depression of the 30s, this crisis won’t end with the U.S. and Europe moving towards increased living standards amid expanded social welfare programs. The inhabitants of the decrepit and increasingly dysfunctional U.S./NATO empire don’t have such a relatively bright future to look forward to this time. In the 21st century, capitalism everywhere can only move closer to a necro-political paradigm of economic deprivation, slave labor, militaristic nationalism, and concentration camps.
Such is reflective of the nature of capitalism, which is to reform in order to preserve itself in the face of crises. As Lovecraft concluded about capitalism’s perpetual relationship with crises, “Nobody is going to ‘destroy the system’—for it has been destroying itself ever since it evolved out of the old agrarian-handicraft economy a century and a half ago.”
In many countries, governments have been turning to social welfare as a momentary fix for the pandemic, as capitalist states have often done throughout the frequent crises of the last few centuries. But this won’t even necessarily lead to a more generous social welfare state, a fact which reflects the unprecedented magnitude of the crisis capitalism is now facing. And whatever social benefits the people of the imperial core receive will be minuscule compared to all of the poverty, suffering, and violence which the system’s responses to our crises will produce.
The World Bank estimates that already, around 100 million people worldwide have been driven into extreme poverty by events related to the pandemic. By the end of the year, it also estimates, the number could reach as much as 150 million. The additional 120 million or so who are anticipated to also become impoverished by 2030 as a result of climate change represent just a fraction of the masses who will experience severe economic deprivation in the coming years; it’s estimated that half a billion people could ultimately be pushed into poverty by Covid-19. And the global plutocracy is already working to make sure that this is what will happen.
We know this because the International Monetary Fund, the tool which Washington has long used to corral exploited countries into adopting brutally extreme neoliberal policies, is exploiting this year’s crises to vastly accelerate the rise of global inequality. The IMF is using Covid-19 to implement near-permanent austerity measures across the globe, with a total of 81 countries currently being compelled by IMF deals to adopt these types of policies. These neoliberal “solutions” the IMF has put into place consist of mass privatizations, cuts to pensions and the social safety net, and the freezing or cutting of wages.
Will the effects from these policies really be made up for by the attempts at good works projects that capitalist institutions are marketing to the public? The World Economic Forum recently put out a statement about how corporate executives can work with social justice movements to help address the inequities and systemic violence of our times, saying that “There is a need to accelerate both sustainability and social justice agendas—from both employees and consumers.” These kinds of cheery promises about how the good-natured capitalists can unite with activists to solve society’s problems are just a thin smokescreen for the brutal realities of capitalism in the 2020s.
Capitalism won’t lift the tens of millions of newly impoverished people back up, anymore than it will improve the conditions of the billions of people who were living in poverty before the pandemic started. It will leave these people behind while the wealthy retreat into fortified enclaves.
In imperialist neo-colonies like Ecuador and Colombia, the destitution and obscene inequality will continue to grow more blatant, with their police states taking Operation Condor-esque measures to crack down on class struggle. In imperialist countries like the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, the situation will be roughly the same, but with a greater machinery in place to carry out wars and to enact genocide against disfavored groups.
These latter facets are what will be used to establish the kind of fascism which Lovecraft described. We already see it in the endless military budget increases that the U.S. has been undergoing in recent years; in the military buildup against Washington’s rivals; and in the policies of discrimination, deportation, and forced sterilization which are being carried out in response to the influx of refugees.
As this goes on, more and more people will realize that proletarian revolution is a practical necessity. The only alternative is to allow the process of wealth consolidation, ethnic cleansing, and war-produced authoritarianism to continue. Just look at the additional dystopian qualities that our civilization keeps taking on: SpaceX is developing a war rocket that can quickly transport weapons for the U.S. military, global billionaires have collectively gotten $1.5 trillion richer during the pandemic, and so on. These are the kinds of absurdities that we face while capitalism eats itself. These are the truly Lovecraftian horrors that we’ll have to look forward to as the system moves towards its “great reset.”
The 2020 Election: The Latest Step In The Loss Of U.S. Stability
The sense of American stability which existed during the 1990s was based in such superficial and shortsighted definitions of what it meant for a society to be “strong.” The relative economic prosperity, and the sense that the post-Soviet world had reached an “end of history,” gave the country overconfidence about its own future. As author Will Leitch recently wrote, this overconfidence was so severe that everyone was initially laughing during the dispute of the 2000 election: “That the race ended up so close sure didn’t feel like an accident. If you ask 300 million people whether they’d prefer two nickels or a dime, you shouldn’t be surprised when the results are 50—50. The madness that followed the close vote felt not like a moment of democratic peril. It felt like the logical conclusion to an incredibly stupid process. You just had to laugh.”
It wasn’t until Americans were confronted with all the contradictions which had been brewing within their society throughout the 90s that they saw the dark historical context behind that election. Bush’s theft of the race through blatant voter suppression and a politicized Supreme Court exposed the severe weakness within our bourgeois “democratic” institutions. 9/11 exposed the extent to which America’s global imperialist projects had the potential to blow back. All the warrantless surveillance, erosions of civil liberties, and ultra-nationalist propaganda which ensued exposed the country’s potential to lose its air of being “free.” The Afghanistan and Iraq wars, which have been in the background of U.S. life ever since, exposed the rot of the American imperialist project. The 2008 crash exposed just how unstable our socioeconomic model is.
The election of Trump four years ago, along with all the far-right violence and anti-immigrant atrocities which have defined the Trump era, further signaled to Americans that the institutions and culture of their country are not as stable as they might have thought two decades ago. The more than 200,000 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, the exposures of racist police brutality, and the unprecedented 2020 explosion of unemployment have made this twice as apparent in the last year alone.
It was entirely predictable that the 21st century would bring this turmoil for the U.S. The U.S. is built upon the perpetual genocide of colonized peoples, the violent subjugation of foreign lands, and the rule of a plutocracy that’s embraced the highly necro-political economic model of neoliberalism. The exposures of these contradictions have shaken the 90s Americans who weren’t living in poverty, who weren’t being locked up because of Clinton’s mass incarceration policies, who weren’t having their families starve due to Washington’s sanctions against Iraq. With the falling away of that past facade of stability and optimism has come an increasingly tense and dire reality, one where people no longer feel secure about their futures.
Now that the U.S. is about to experience a modern equivalent of what happened in 2000, this tenseness is reaching a breaking point. The Democratic Party and its media backers keep assuring the country that Biden is going to win based off of the polls. But those polls could be wrong like they were in 2016, and regardless the aftermath of the election is going to be a chaotic descent into further institutional deterioration.
The most explosive potential scenario, one which keeps looking more likely, is a “red mirage” where it appears as if Trump has won on election night but where Biden gains the lead as votes continue to be tallied in the coming weeks. Trump has been preparing to declare the election rigged if the results show he loses, so under this outcome he’ll seize upon the news of his fading lead to tell his supporters that the Democrats are stealing the race from him. The narrative that will be put forth to the Proud Boys and the Kyle Rittenhouses is one where mail-in ballots—which are now highly common due to pandemic—have been used to perpetuate massive electoral fraud against the president.
It’s not guaranteed that a red mirage is exactly what will happen, but any other scenario than a substantial pro-Trump margin on election night will make Trump uncertain about his chances and prone to incite violence by crying fraud. The scenario where violence is least likely to happen would be one where Biden initially wins by an overwhelming margin, but like I said, this is a Democratic fantasy. Data from polling authorities more historically reliable than the mainstream ones indicates that the race is at the very least much closer than most think.
Given this fact, it seems most likely that either Trump or Biden will narrowly come out with the most electoral votes, with there being a high potential for a drawn out counting process that could flip it in the favor of the one who first looked like they lost. Trump, who’s desperate to stay in office so that he can avoid prosecution for his corrupt business practices, will not accept any uncertainty. After having told the white supremacists to “stand back and stand by,” he’ll mobilize them to bring unrest and bloodshed to defend from what he’ll portray as a “deep state” coup attempt against a sitting president. The paranoia that’s been rising among Trump’s base as the QAnon conspiracy has risen in the last year will find its logical conclusion: violence.
All of this—the prospect of governmental uncertainty during multiple major crises, the blatantly kleptocratic and criminal motives behind Trump’s hostility towards a peaceful transfer of power, the presence of emotionally charged misinformation within the crowds who will carry out the violence—epitomizes the collapse of American institutions that’s been occurring since the illusory 90s optimism was broken. The American republic, which itself is illegitimate and was built for the purpose of imperialist subjugation, is now imploding in on itself and giving way to something crudely dictatorial. Right-wingers are trying to rationalize this contradiction within their “freedom” rhetoric by endlessly shouting about how Trump is being cheated, even though the GOP is the one that’s been utilizing voter suppression to a vast extent.
During election night and the months following it, the system’s hypocrisies and self-defeating bugs will be fully revealed. As Leitch’s article says, “It sure seems less funny now,” because the fundamental flimsiness of American “democracy” now has to be confronted.
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