Something isn’t adding up about what we’re experiencing. About the deterioration of our socioeconomic conditions, and all of the intertwining miseries which this deterioration is making worse. The government and the media say prices are soaring because Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. But this narrative feels oversimplistic, even to those who haven’t absorbed the complex knowledge about capitalism and imperialism necessary to fully understand what’s behind the current economic disaster. If it’s all because of Putin, why were we already feeling the economic pinch long before the Ukraine conflict? Will things simply return to normal if Russia is defeated? Blaming it on Russia makes it seem like our situation is temporary, a fluke that will end as soon as the designated “bad actor” gets subdued. Which simply doesn’t seem realistic.
Everything about what we’re being told regarding the origins of our crisis is indeed propaganda, propaganda designed to try to cover up the reality of U.S. imperialism’s decline. Russia did not “invade” Ukraine in the aggressive sense, it intervened to prevent Ukraine’s U.S.-installed fascist regime from carrying out a repeat of the Western aggressions Russia has historically been a victim of. As well as to prevent further Ukrainian ethnic cleansing of Russian speakers in the Donbass. Putin hasn’t exacerbated your economic insecurity, Biden has by imposing sanctions to try to weaken Russia for a geopolitical chessboard maneuver. Your intensified financial precarity won’t go away, because the U.S. intends to continue harming its own people so that this economic war can continue indefinitely.
The Western narrative of a Ukraine that’s sure to recover from its losses and beat Russia is an illusion. All the Kiev regime can do after its loss of Mariupol and its broader defeat in conventional military terms is keep endlessly using up NATO aid, perpetuating a war that the U.S. military-industrial complex will do everything possible to keep going. Ukraine is a defeated imperialist proxy state, its economy practically cut in half in contrast to the surprisingly resilient internal situation of its opponent. Washington intends to continue using the Ukrainian people as human shields in its quest to destabilize Eurasia, a quest that looks increasingly futile. The war is not meant to be won, but to be continuous, whether it takes the form of CIA-backed neo-Nazi guerrilla terrorism or a ceaseless effort by sacrificial troops which will never gain victory.
This war’s victims are not just the thousands dead or the millions of refugees, but the disproportionately marginalized people within the imperial center who are being pummeled by the economic fallout. The U.S. empire’s internal colonies, as well as the impoverished LGBT community which is increasingly targeted by the government, have been suffering the most from the depression the sanctions have exacerbated. The broader poor and working classes are seeing their prospects disappear as well. The great majority of the population has been having its living standards drop for years, if not decades. We’ve been seeing inequality steadily rise since the 70s, we’ve been in a depression since the 2008 crash, and we’ve been in a heightened version of that depression since the pandemic began, with Ukraine only being the event that’s acted as the tipping point for many people. With inflation worsening food insecurity after 38 million are already food insecure, and causing rents to rise after the pandemic has already pushed millions to the brink of homelessness, more people are being faced with the truth about our conditions.
This truth is that our ruling class is seeking to sacrifice our livelihoods, and our survival in the context of climate collapse, to keep profits up. Neoliberalism, the system of consolidated corporate control and eroded workers rights, was adopted in response to capitalism having reached a stage in its decline where it was no longer optimal to have widespread prosperity. Not even in the core of imperialism. The economic crash of the 1970s provoked a panic among the capitalist class, alleviated only by an ongoing campaign to siphon wealth to the top. Now that we’re seeing the worst inflationary crisis since that time, the ruling class is doubling down on this approach of sacrificing those below to keep capital intact.
Faced with this new level of crisis, it’s not like capital can replicate the social welfare policies which worked for it in the past. A New Deal is never happening again, because the bourgeoisie can no longer afford to implement social democracy. The only direction they can take society in, and hope to maintain their decaying system, is a dystopia where the wealth gap never stops getting bigger. This is the recipe for the extinction of a social order, and the elites who run the system can’t confront this fact. They have no option other than to continue the neoliberal downward spiral. The system is being forced to eat itself.
We’re seeing evidence of this everywhere, from the baby formula shortage, to the rise of all-encompassing monopolies like Amazon and BlackRock, to the government’s refusal to cancel student debt. Wealth and power must become ever more concentrated, and the needs of the people must be neglected, in order for profits not to plummet. Our government has admitted this, with Biden officials stating that the people’s economic hardships can’t be avoided simply for the reason that we live under capitalism. They know that as long as the system which enriches them continues, the rest of us are going to have to pay.
This banal evil of capitalism, where it’s always treated as a given that certain parts of society are going to suffer, is now harder than ever to reconcile with the idea that capitalism represents the best system. If this system is pushing an ever-expanding section of the masses into misery and destitution, how can it possibly be defended on the basis of the collective good? The only way to defend the social order in its present form is by saying it’s necessary for protecting the world from some greater evil. We’re told that U.S. imperialist military adventurism, which springs from capitalism’s demand for global market access, is crucial for fighting against the Russian and Chinese bloc. Washington’s adversaries are portrayed as the “authoritarian” side, conjuring a sensationalist vision of a foreign social order that’s always supposedly worse than our own. Millionaire celebrities tell us that higher prices are the cost of fighting for “freedom,” and expect the average person who’s living paycheck to paycheck to accept this as an explanation for further indignities.
The U.S. war propaganda machine shouts down all voices of skepticism, constantly confronting us with some new atrocity story about the enemy. We’re always being demanded to care more about these stories than anything else, even if they turn out to be false flags. We’re never told it’s alright to be concerned about the egregious things that we’re experiencing, to be angry at the bosses, landlords, and executives who are waging class war against the masses. It’s only alright to be angry at Putin, or at whatever other figure has been cast as the villain during a given moment.
If we comply with what the cultural hegemony demands, believing geopolitical lies while ignoring the truths about our own situation, we’ll remain in a state of collapse. We’ll be paralyzed, unable to address poverty, mental illness, violence, and the other evils that our social order is multiplying.
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