Because capitalism depends on creating and profiting off of a cycle of crises, the only time a crisis endangers its existence is when this crisis is coupled with an additional factor. A factor that’s already threatening the system’s stability on a more fundamental level than the routine upsets do. The failure of Washington’s geopolitical gamble in Ukraine represents such an exceptional circumstance, a circumstance which makes this latest economic downturn capable of bringing revolution closer.
It’s been apparent since the start of the last banking crisis that an even larger one was sure to come. When the government responded to the disaster not by undoing our economy’s financialization and deregulation, but by doing a bailout that made the banking system even more concentrated and unstable, it was only logical that there would be proportionate consequences. Therefore ever since I learned about the reality of the new banking bubble, I’ve been anticipating that an upset like this one is coming. Basic knowledge of American history makes one aware that a downturn is always soon to come, since our economy has been going through the boom and bust cycle every decade or so for many generations. What’s been highly unusual about this latest manifestation of the cycle is that because it’s followed the 2008 catastrophe, it’s naturally held the risk of turning into an upset even bigger than that one. And because of the greed of the elites, this worst-case scenario has been assured.
Our era represents the stage in the system’s decline where the economy’s functionings can no longer return to “normal,” where we can no longer have the types of downturns that are small compared to the Great Depression or 2008. We can now only have ones of an apocalyptic scale. From a Marxist perspective (which is different from an accelerationist perspective in that Marxists don’t seek to contribute to the worsening of the conditions), this means the system has more potential to end than it ever has. After the Depression, the ruling class could still afford to increase the bribery of the imperial center’s people, and maintain the social base of labor aristocrats that their rule depends on. In this century, where social democracy is no longer viable due to how much the overall profit rate has fallen, all that can happen is ever-expanding crises. Which in itself creates greater potential for revolution, as a social order needs to have at least some balance between crisis and stability to keep the people’s support. The climate crisis, the pandemic, and other capitalist catastrophes like the urban toxic spills have added upon this destruction.
The difference between the accelerationist view of these events, and the Marxist view of them, is that Marxists know destruction in itself doesn’t make revolution guaranteed. Without work by the revolutionaries to guide and educate the people, whatever revolts the crises provoke will fail to overthrow the state. That’s why I’ve paid special attention to Washington’s geopolitical miscalculation in Ukraine. Because even though this event doesn’t innately represent a strengthening in revolutionary politics anymore than the economy’s collapse does, it does represent an opportunity for revolutionary politics to rise. An opportunity that’s unparalleled in America’s history, as not until this moment has the U.S. empire been this close to falling like past empires have.
The proxy war’s failure is important not only because it’s sped up the empire’s collapse, but because this destabilizing impact it’s had has enabled the anti-imperialist movement to gain influence. More influence than it would get if the maneuver were successful, and Washington could reverse the transition to multipolarity.
The resistance against the Vietnam War failed to lead to revolution both because U.S. imperial power wasn’t yet at the stage of decline where it was highly vulnerable to internal sabotage, and because the revolutionaries of the time were too vulnerable to the state’s warfare. The Panthers made the mistakes of adopting an outwardly militant practice when they couldn’t yet win against the state, and of concentrating too much authority into one individual. The state’s infiltrators were able to effectively convert it into a gang, getting its leader addicted to drugs and thereby furthering the institution’s process of corruption. The experiment which was the Panthers failed, and the imperial project could continue for generations without again fearing a revolutionary upsurge.
By starting this proxy war, the ruling class has provoked another anti-imperialist mass mobilization. Except this one comes at the same moment when the people are experiencing the devastating impacts of multiple crises added on top of each other, the foremost one being massive structural inequality from fifty years of neoliberal attacks upon the working class. By accelerating inflation through yet another militarist project, a militarist project that’s being argued in the mainstream to be wasteful, absurd, and even criminal, the elites have made the pro-imperialist stance intellectually indefensible. It’s obvious to any working class person who’s been substantially exposed to the arguments against Ukraine aid that their government is sacrificing their material wellbeing for the latest profit-motivated war.
If the sanctions were successful, and Russia and China could be subdued in the new great-power competition, the elites could still truthfully promise the workers that an end to this ordeal is coming, and that their imperial extractive benefits will at least partially be restored. Because the Ukraine maneuver has failed, no such restoration of imperial stability is possible. All that can happen is an acceleration of our social collapse, ironically because of the same warfare scheme the imperialists undertook to try to bring the system back to its former strength.
Due to the system being so far along in its breakdown, the proletarian movement has an opportunity that it didn’t have half a century ago. With the increased normalization of anti-imperialist ideas, we’re overcoming the initial part of the state’s counterinsurgency, which is narrative control. We’re breaking the monopoly that the intelligence-backed, imperialism-compatible “left” has over organizing spaces, making this element’s pro-Ukraine ideas able to be challenged. To overcome the counterinsurgency’s next part, which is sabotage against revolutionary cadres, we must avoid the errors of the Panthers. This means ensuring our organizations against being corrupted by the lumpen values which the three letter agencies seek to push onto us. We can’t squander this opportunity. That the system’s crises are unprecedented means nothing if we don’t respond to our situation correctly.
Should we fail to act, and to learn from the mistakes of those who’ve been defeated by the forces of reaction, barbarism will be the only thing this crisis leads to. Should we advance the struggle with a principled anti-imperialist stance, a vigilance towards threats, and the other practices of a serious Marxist, we’ll win. Only then will the ruling class truly be unable to avoid the consequences of its excesses and crimes. The class struggle’s decisive point is closer than ever, this is apparent from how much the elites have been expanding their repressive state. Our victory is imminent, if we only navigate this period of chaos properly.
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