Will this next “recession”—which is truly going to be a depression of potentially unprecedented proportions—become the crisis that finally brings revolution to the imperial center? No doubt it will be the one that breaks the U.S. empire. It comes in the midst of, and was made possible by, a combination of crises that have strained our social order to an unprecedented degree.
For twenty years, since Washington invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq, the U.S. international order has been in a spiral of decline due to the reverberating consequences of these decisions. For fifteen years, the country has been in an effective depression, one that the bourgeoisie have only been able to pretend no longer exists because its impacts are concentrated within the working class. An adventuristic proxy war in Ukraine is accelerating the economy’s destruction. Our government’s willingness to sacrifice lives for the sake of profit has produced over a million U.S. Covid-19 deaths, and rendered several million disabled. These developments are a prelude to what will come from the climate crisis, which has already been damaging enough to drive up inequality both domestically and globally.
This economic crisis combines the worst aspects of the 2008 and 1973 downturns, making for a shock that’s going to be too big for the ruling class to handle. The U.S. will come to experience the equivalent of what it’s been subjecting Europe to, forcing its people into an additional stage of neoliberal living standards decline right after they’ve recently experienced several such upsets. 64% of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck, around 5% more than was the case only three years ago. Three years from now, this trend will be shown to have continued.
The president is still acting like there’s little to worry about, and is pretending he’s made substantial progress in addressing the people’s needs. To lend credibility to the Democratic Party’s narrative of recovery, he’s given the working class some token concessions, letting his narrative managers claim he’s some hero to the workers. But these reforms have largely involved replacing Republican labor policy officials with neoliberal Democratic ones, more bourgeois agents who won’t reverse the decades of austerity that the working class has been targeted by. And he’s quietly facilitated the further build-up of the police state, in preparation for when a revolt will need to be crushed.
One of his first decisions was to funnel Covid relief funds to police departments. He hasn’t recalled the military equipment that’s been given to law enforcement throughout the War on Terror, even though he’s easily been able to do so. With Trump gone, and there no longer being a mobilization of liberal outrage, the Democratic Party has been refunding the police departments that it gave temporary penalties to. Biden has further expanded the inhumane migrant camps for the Central American victims of U.S. imperialism, and has allowed for ICE contracts that encourage forced labor within these facilities. The Democratic Party has intensified colonial violence, as per the nature of the U.S. empire during its decline: displace the crises the ruling class is experiencing onto those the system has already harmed. The working class, the internal colonies, and the continentally indigenous peoples who’ve been forced to flee their homes are expendable to both of America’s ruling parties.
Under a state that can only respond to capitalism’s catastrophes by furthering its war against the people, the tensions between oppressors and oppressed can only heighten. The U.S. empire is going to be broken by this economic unraveling, forced to contract so much that it becomes no longer an effective global player. The question is whether a revolutionary party will be able to guide the discontent of the people towards victory against the state. The extent of the U.S. empire’s decay, and the empire’s compensating for this decay by making the subjugation ever more severe, makes it apparent how close we are to the confrontation described by George Jackson’s Blood in My Eye:
There will be a fight. The fight will take place in the centra] cities. It will be spearheaded by the blacks of the lower class and their vanguard party, the Black Panther Party. Real union activity will eliminate the corporative ties between the regime-ruling class and labor. People at the top will be removed and the guy with the programmed mind will have no union boss to think for him. He will remain neutral or join us in our fight to liberate him. We will work this attack at the productive level indirectly by first building our central-city communes, which will revolutionize the all too conservative black laborer. We will build these communes against all resistance, the pamphlet in one hand, the gun in the other. In blacks authoritarian traits are mainly the effects of terrorism and a lack of intellectual stimulation. They have been choosing the less dangerous and complicated mode of existence, survival. All classes, all people are subject to the authoritarian syndrome. It requires only the proper set of eco-sociological circumstantial pressures to turn blacks around and reawaken their revolutionary consciousness. We’re hungry.
The equivalent applies to the other internal colonies besides the black community, and to the working class more broadly. The subjugated are complacent until they reach their breaking point, and they erupt in revolt. To understand how to turn this revolt into revolution, one must grasp the thesis of Lenin’s analysis on spontaneous uprisings. Which is that without the guidance of a communist party, such an uprising will by default be guided by the bourgeois ideas that the existing conditions have instilled within it. That’s what’s so far happened to the last decade’s movement against police brutality for the most part. The Black Lives Matter organization has been another Democratic Party front, diverting popular passions into reformism.
The writings of black Marxists like George Jackson are a powerful rhetorical weapon against these Democratic attempts at co-opting the liberation struggles. Blood in my Eye provides a highly persuasive argument against the appeals the Democratic Party is making, which is the argument that “reform” is another word for “fascism.” More than that, Jackson writes that “reform” is the best definition to encapsulate what fascism means.
It’s through reforms that capitalism is able to survive, to continue the legacy of colonialism and the exploitation of the proletariat, to keep the death machine of militarism running. The police militarization, carceral state expansions, censorship, and surveillance that our government is carrying out are 21st century versions of the internal changes that the empire underwent the last time its crises were this severe. As Jackson explained about the fascist nature of those changes, which are romanticized as unambiguously good developments by today’s social democrats:
The United States was not existing in a vacuum when fascism first swept the Western world on the heels of two great depressions. My reading of history indicates that the U.S. was in greater economic, social, and political crisis after the 1929 stock market crash than any other Western country excepting possibly Germany. The same trends, the same experiments, the same internal battles were fought by the same forces for the direction of the nation’s economy. The extreme economic crisis of the early thirties brought working-class revolutionary consciousness to its very peak. All serious commentary on this period reflects a profound lack of confi- dence in the workability of capitalism. This avalanche of criticism came from sectors of the middle- and right-oriented thinkers as well as the left — just as it did in Italy, Germany, Rumania and the other fascist storm centers. But of course the middle and rightist intellectuals were thinking in terms of a new direction for capitalist growth, not in its abolishment — a “New Deal,” much like those of Nazi, Fascist, and Falangist Europe. No serious or honest student could miss the likeness. F.D.R. was a fascist. His stated, documented congratulatory messages to Mussolini were not simply diplomatic gestures. Joseph Kennedy’s advice to England to surrender to German expansion did not necessarily originate in Kennedy’s mind. He was official ambassador of the U.S. to England.
The reason why today’s liberal fascists are responding to capitalism’s crises almost entirely by expanding the state’s repressive apparatus, rather than by meeting the material needs of the imperial center’s people, is because at this stage in capitalism’s decline such generous measures are no longer compatible with keeping profits up. Neoliberalism was implemented because to stop capitalism from collapsing in the wake of the 70s crisis, the bourgeoisie had to progressively redistribute wealth upward. The worse capitalism’s decline gets, the truer this becomes. The only direction the capitalist state can go in is one of forcing its people into ever deeper poverty, and acting ever more violently towards the people. The New Deal’s class compromises are no longer possible. The bourgeoisie can only escalate its war against the proletariat.
Such is the dilemma that the ruling class faces: it has no choice but to take away the facade that makes the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie appear “democratic,” and to be increasingly open in its opposition to the people’s interests. The Democratic Party’s appearance of sympathy towards the liberation struggles is nothing more than branding. Its immediate betrayal of these struggles following Trump’s ouster has made this apparent. When our revolutionary organizations get strong and influential enough, the state will find itself under serious threat during the next moment that an uprising occurs.
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