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Austerity, war, & fascism are ruling class self-preservation tools amid capital’s contraction
Image from Inequality.org
Capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism are in contraction. The average rate of profit has been declining since World War II, and is now essentially the lowest it’s been during these decades. The imperialists remain unable to achieve regime change in any of their target countries, or to reverse the transition towards a China-guided multi-polar world. Consequently, settler-colonialism is in crisis as well, confronted with the growing contradictions of the socioeconomic system it’s based around. Neoliberalism, the tool the bourgeoisie devised to compensate for this decline in profits, is destroying the foundations of the U.S. economy, leaving tens of millions unemployed as trillions of dollars have gotten stolen by the billionaires throughout the pandemic. In the imperial center most of all, the disastrous capitalist response to Covid-19 is making society ever less functional. The record protests the country has seen so far during the pandemic are the start of an intensification for political tensions which our conditions will continue to exacerbate.
But these crises won’t in themselves lead to improvements in conditions. That depends on whether revolutionary movements can gain enough power to overthrow the settler-colonial capitalist state, and build a post-colonial proletarian democracy in its place. So for now, these crises are primarily producing exacerbations of the most outward evils of the current social system. Such is the qualifier for the news that the U.S. empire is in decline: the imperialist beast may be waning, but this is provoking an ever more destructive reaction from its benefactors.
All the facets of late-stage capitalist injustice—institutional neglect towards the poor, eroded workers rights, the privatization of essential services, wage stagnation, deregulation, governmental welfare for corporations and the rich, increases in consumer prices, police militarization, a growing carceral slave state, reduced taxes for the wealthiest and increased taxes for the working class—are getting expanded. Biden has underdone social spending as he’s overdone military spending, continuing Trump’s policies of corporate plunder and aggressive austerity. Biden is continuing Trump’s plan to let healthcare providers switch Medicare patients over to private insurers without their consent. He’s expanded the police state and the inhumane for-profit migrant detention centers.
As the livelihoods of the masses keep getting harder, what’s lacking is a clear alternative to the present order. Union membership and strike participation have recently exploded, but the country’s left remains deeply entrenched in a self-defeating dynamic of anti-communism, reformism, division, and complacency in imperialism.
The consequence is greater opportunities for the fascists to grow their influence, and perpetual expansions of crisis capitalism—the routes that capitalists can take towards exploiting the world’s growing catastrophes. The super-rich have gained trillions during the last couple years by carrying out a big tech takeover in response to the pandemic, accelerating the process of monopoly and solidifying surveillance capitalism. They’ve also intensified their war profiteering, more enabled than ever by Biden’s expansion of the military budget. Private military companies have profited from the empire’s messy Afghanistan pullout, and are now pivoting their activities into Ukraine under the guise of serving as military instructors for NATO’s troop buildup. The Pentagon has authorized private contractors to assist the Saudis in Yemen, perpetuating the atrocities of the Saudi coalition.
As capital leans more heavily onto war, and as the monopolies within the U.S. empire’s borders snatch up ever more—the big three fund managers BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street now own the equivalent of a third of the U.S. economy—capital mobilizes its footsoldiers within U.S. borders. The rise in settler-colonial militia culture we’ve seen since last year’s attack on the Capitol, with white supremacist groups like the Patriot Front growing their membership and recruiting Republican politicians, is a preparation for a fascist terror campaign. This campaign will ultimately amount to an attempt at preserving internal imperialism—the kind of imperialism that the U.S. empire has the best chance at perpetuating in the long term.
Internal imperialism being settler-colonialism, the subjugation model that the bourgeoisie on this continent were always fated to return to primarily relying on. Originally, the U.S. empire’s annexations and exploitation were mainly isolated between the coasts, where the settlers were snatching up Native land to build an empire of African slaves. Then to alleviate the depression that the country had fallen into by the turn of the century, the U.S. ruling class decided to appease the empire’s settler social base by expanding its imperial project globally. Half a century later, the U.S. had become the biggest empire in history. Combined with its settler-colonial nature, this made it the most anti-communist and racist country on earth, the central arbiter of global bourgeois repressive campaigns and the primary backer of colonial apartheid states. This didn’t end with South Africa, Washington is still committed as ever to assisting apartheid Israel’s war crimes and human rights abuses.
The success of this era’s Sinophobic propaganda campaign shows that the intense chauvinism Americans have absorbed from their conditions hasn’t gone away. But no propaganda is strong enough to negate the fact that when the conditions change, the people change. And as our conditions deteriorate with the decline of U.S. hegemony and the contraction of capital, the masses are getting more radicalized, with U.S. approval for socialism now being several times higher than during the Cold War (it’s remained at around 40% since the 2008 crash). So the empire is reacting by fanning the flames of bigotry in its own borders, scapegoating China for the pandemic as antisemitic conspiracy theories like QAnon abound from shadowy intelligence psyop sources. The “China virus” slogan and QAnon tap into the deepest facets of settler psychology, which has from the start been paranoid about whites getting conspired against. “White genocide” and the “Great Replacement” make these fears explicit.
The consequence has been horrors like last year’s mass shooting targeted towards Asians, and mainstream extremist trends like the cult that right-wing pundits have built up around Kyle Rittenhouse for his supposed heroism. As the empire keeps falling into disarray, the outbreaks of reactionary terror will get more frequent. The racist and pro-vigilante rhetoric will increasingly saturate our discourse. Whether or not the conditions prompt communits here to attempt a revolt, a purge against communists and suspected communists will be carried out, enabled through the deputization of the militias in helping the government kill the undesirables.
The goal of these counterrevolutionary forces is to not just terrorize liberation movements into submission, but erase the truths that form the basis for these movements. Reactionaries here deny the genocide against indigenous people, and even boast about how the settlers “conquered” (another word for stole) the continent. They invent fake forensic details about police killings and skewed law enforcement violence statistics to erase the racist atrocities of the police state, and to make out the African community as dangerously irrational for responding to these atrocities. They seek to make the U.S. during its era of imperial decline into a fascist silo, its masses informationally cut off both from the gains Chinese socialism is bringing the outside world, and from the colonial genocide that’s intensifying around them.
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