All the workers and the oppressed in the United States know first hand the depth of the crisis happening in the country. Without even seeing the statistics, most people know that unemployment has doubled. While officially reported at 10%, reflecting only those who are still collecting unemployment insurance, in the real world it is actually about 20%.
Social services have been cut drastically (by 18% according to official figures) as education, health services, housing, bridges and roads (but not limited thereto) are all crumbling in plain sight.
The big economic bailout and rescue plans for the economy, pushed by the Obama administration, has all gone down the sewer with the ‘plumbing’ assistance of big bankers and businessmen in the country. At least half a dozen major banks sucked up 50% of the funds.
The situation has heightened the worst tendencies of society. Today there is more racism directed against communities of color and immigrants. This is motivated by the outdated and false theory that they are responsible for the decline of the US Empire.
Another theory, strongly advocated by blatantly reactionary elements of society, is the belief that everything should be solved at the expense of the weakest in society.
For example, reactionary politicians like Newt Gingrich advocate putting more children to work as part of a process of undoing historic child labor laws.
These people are taking a relentless stand, arguing that there is just not enough for everyone, that only the strongest have the right to survive or more realistically, that only those with more power have the right to survive.
On the other hand the angry, frustrated, occupiers of public space demand of the powerful their apostasy, a recant of their greed and the adoption of policies mending the fabric of the social safety net.
The Occupiers clamor, more or less powerfully, to return to the good old days — or what was — before the current economic crisis. In this they resemble the Spanish, Greek, English and Irish upheavals, that is all those who have been neglected by the international crisis.
This movement is so powerful that has already shaken the bourgeoisie in half a dozen central countries around the world, including the USA, even though they have yet to shape their initial and/or final objectives, build organizations and determine an order of battle.
Disgust And Social Demoralization
Do not put much faith in the reliability of official statistics because in most cases, they are manipulated to support a pre-determined outcome.
Sometimes however, even the manipulated data is so strong that it contains an element of truth. Almost all statistics now say that a large majority of the population, somewhere between 60-70%, expect a future of decadence and hopelessness, or a situation worse than what is being experienced today.
One might think that the other 30% of the population, if they were optimistic and determined, could have an impact on improving current conditions.
The statistics themselves show that such a thought would be naive. Half of them do not want to openly express any opinion at all and among the other half, many think that there is no solution to the situation, especially if it requires sacrifice on their part.
Disgust with the system is a positive feeling because it continues to draw a large mass of people to confront the system they rightly hold responsible for all their current problems and the social disease surrounding them.
The opposite of disgust would be the demoralization that works to undermine the energies of those who fight, like the Indignados (as they are called in Spain or literally, the outraged) and “Occupy Wall Street” in the belly of the beast, the USA.
The bourgeoisie wants the movement to sink into demoralization. It is responding in many different forms. It resorts to repression, expects the time will wear it out, or maneuvers to try to co-opt it.
The Occupy movement, the Indignados in Spain, the Greek, Irish, and English strikers and the many other demonstrators around the world all are the antidote for the moment, because they keep the morale of social disgust against the system high.
A Crisis with no Solution
The truth, which may be hard for ordinary people (and not so for the higher ups, who deny it publicly but acknowledge it amongst themselves) to believe is that the current crisis has NO possible solution for the country; not with the same system, not if they more or less maintain the course of the past. There are no more FDRs or New Deals in the back pocket of the declining US Empire.
The US Empire may come out of the crisis in very bad shape, poorer and with a lost hegemony or it may end up splintered into a thousand pieces.
In any case the USA, will only be a shadow of what it once was. The Romans had a hard time getting used to it when their empire collapsed.
The Germans, after two world wars and the privileged citizens of the British Empire took even longer. However every empire has its turn to take a fall.
It would be much more progressive if the US populace began to determine what they want their future to be rather than search for a return to the past. Such determination would save them the work and the failure of a lost cause.
“Occupy Wall Street”, “Occupy Oakland” and “Occupy” so many other city movements (even occurring in the Southern USA, which is fast becoming a major manufacturing center) express this feeling of not going backwards, but moving forwards towards something new, another system, or at least breaking away from the chains of the worst of what brought on the crisis.
The radicalization of the movement, the search for the types of organization that can bring into action the broader networks and organizations of the workers, communities, multiple ethnic groups and the oppressed is the only guarantee against a precarious recomposition of the old status quo.
That would result in the same people who brought us the current crisis maintaining their position of power. It would in the end only prepare a future of social disaster, while the pillars of their dominance crumble around them.
The Change of Guard in the International Financial Oligarchy
US imperialism has, until now, had control of the international financial oligarchy, one of its main pillars of support. This is coming to an end. US total debt has risen from $5.8 trillion to $14.3 trillion in the last decade. The largest creditors or holders of US debt ($4.4 trillion) abroad are China, Japan, Hong Kong (back in Chinese hands), Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, of course Europe, including a piece in British hands, Brazil and other countries.
In addition, the domestic debt, which is the difference between the total debt and the foreign debt and amounts to about US $9 trillion, is also mostly in the hands of foreign corporations and finance capital. Some of these countries are in the midst of their own economic crises like Japan (in free fall after the nuclear disaster) and the majority, but not all, of Europe including, however the crucial economies of Britain, France, Italy. They will use US debt to try to slow down their own terminal crisis. Countries with large amounts of speculative capital like Thailand and Singapore will try to swap their debt bonds for other more profitable financial instruments or less profitable, but safer, investments.
The emerging imperialist countries, China and Brazil among them, will use the debt leverage in their power to control or replace the international currency, the US dollar, and subdue the productivity and the market place of the USA for their own financial gains.
The combination of the use of the US debt to cure the crisis in Europe, its financial swap for other instruments in the East and the pressure from countries like China and Brazil may end up displacing US finance capital. The dollar as international currency is approaching its end and will result in the emergence of a new international financial oligarchy not controlled by the falling old imperialisms, but by the emerging ones.
The three main banks in the world are Chinese: 1. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, which holds US $170 billion in capital and has 381,000 employees worldwide. 2. China Construction Bank with US $130 billion in capital and 295,000 employees. This bank also owns 16.6% of Bank of America. 3. Bank of China is one of the fastest growing (in 2007 it was among the 20 largest banks in the world) with US $120 billion in capital.
If, as it is feared, the following banks go bankrupt or are acquired with capital of Chinese, Brazilian or other origins, the disaster for the USA and European countries would conclude their cycle as imperial super-powers. HSBC, with US $70 billion in capital, having once been among the three largest banks in the world, has now fallen to fourth place in ranking. It has over 312,000 employees and is targeted to be acquired or absorbed by other banks.
JPMorgan Chase (the result of a merger of JP Morgan & Co. and Chase Manhattan) has a capital of US $60 billion. However, it received a $25 billion bailout from the US government, but has not stabilized and is in the yellow zone.
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial accumulated US $48 billion in capital and has 85,000 employees and some experts expect will be the next Japanese ‘nuclear’ explosion, but a financial one this time.
Banco Santander is the only European bank in this crew, with US $45 billion in capital and 140,000 employees worldwide. Its fate however is tied to the deep economic crisis of Spain, Greece and the Euro.
Goldman Sachs, with a US $10 billion bailout from the US government has a capital of US $40 billion and 30,000 employees. It’s showing the same dynamic that Lehman Brothers had a couple of years before its bankruptcy.
Wells Fargo has US $38 billion capital (another bank subsidized by the US government) with US $25 billion and a workforce of 282,000 employees. It is the mainstay of the economy of the West and Central USA and hangs in the balance for foreign purchase or a crisis.
From behind these banks others are emerging, like the three major Brazilian banks led by the National Development Bank (BNDES) and additional Chinese banks that are expected to join the top three from this country in the more or less near future.
The rest of the US and European economy is vulnerable to the collapse of one or more of these banks: JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Santander, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Goldman Sachs, etc. No one speculates whether they will or will not collapse, but when it will happen. It is quite possible in the coming months or years.
With the changing of the guard of the international financial oligarchy, comes the end of the old imperialisms (USA and Europe) and the consecration of new ones; only they are weaker and have feet of clay. Among them are Brazil and China which are sustained primarily by the BRICS, an economic block consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. They are on top of regional economies in Latin America, parts of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and parts of Western Europe.
The End of the Hegemonic Market
Until now, the US has dominated the world, along with the other leaders of international finance capital. Despite its increasing deindustrialization, because of the power of its own domestic market it assured the appetite for sales of all the other countries of the world. Its more than 300 million people consume half of what is made in the world, from energy to manufactured goods, food and tourism.
This market attracted investors, allowed it to extort money from other countries for political or economic advantage and force the use of its currency, the dollar, as an instrument of international exchange. This is playing out now, thus causing the collapse of the second pillar of support for the US Empire.
The combined population of the BRICS countries numbers 3 billion people. Within this block the products manufactured by them are dominant and consumption of products from Europe and the US has declined substantially.
However economic inequality is high within the BRICS. About 60% of people among those countries live on the edge of poverty with some social sectors at a mere subsistence level. However the rise of this block in the international economy has been accompanied by a rise in consumption of about 1.2 billion people who could potentially exceed or soon will exceed US consumption.
Gradually, the BRICS block will become the center of world consumption or at least will become its engine, aided in part by the growth of their own markets and the decline of consumption in the USA due to the economic crisis.
This is of great concern to US imperialists. The USSecretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, speaking at a US weapons factory said, “We face threats from emerging powers: China, India and others of whom we have always been aware. We try to ensure that we always have enough protection force in the Pacific so they know we’re not going anywhere.”
Later, for diplomatic reasons he tried to turn down the volume of this aggressive discourse and change the meaning of the words he had clearly expressed to others. He indicated he was not talking about a US concern but the concern of those countries for themselves. The attempted correction emphasized even more the fear of the US in relation to these “emerging powers”.
On the day that the market of the BRICS and their subsidiary regions of influence exceed US consumption, which may be occurring soon, the second leg that sustains the US Empire will have collapsed. With the loss of this geopolitical playing card, along with the loss of its military supremacy and with its financial capital dominance also coming towards its end, it will have lost the things that have kept the US at the epicenter of global hegemony during the post World War II period.
The Third Leg: The Empire cannot continue to Lose Wars
Setting aside their propaganda value, wars have concrete military goals. If they fail to achieve these goals, they lose the wars, even if they seem to win some battles.
According to official figures the attack on the TwinTowers in New York caused 2,752 deaths. By comparison, data collected by the Watson Institute for International Studies at BrownUniversity shows that for every single person that died on September 11, 2001 in the USA, almost 100 people have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan or more than 225,000 in total.
A conservative estimate, when compared with the London-based Opinion Research Business estimate that indicates, according to the company, that in Iraq alone between, March and August of 2007, the number of deaths exceeded 1 million.
Although it is reported that only 6,000 US troops have died in these two wars, there are more than 550,000 members of the military who were disabled and that deaths among the personnel of military contractors, like Blackwater, who also participated in the war, have not been recorded.
At least 137,000 civilians have died in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan as “collateral damage” in the armed conflict. This figure could be much higher than the one reported by BrownUniversity. In addition to the dead and wounded, many people, at least 7.8 million, have lost their homes in these countries of the Middle East.
The Cost Of The Wars – Stolen From The Pockets Of Workers in the US and World-Wide
While many of the economic costs of wars are almost untraceable, being buried under cover in different budgets many of which escape public scrutiny or are beyond the capacity of being accounted for, the total cost of war expenditures have now reached US $3.2 trillion.
The cost of these wars will reach at least US $4 trillion in the next year. Among the absurdities of the war expenses are the US $20 billion spent on air conditioning (AC), particularly for the fuel used to power the AC to make climatic conditions bearable for US troops stationed in the parts of Afghanistan and Iraq where temperatures reach over 122° Fahrenheit.
That this total war spending is four times the annual budget of the United Nations shows the total insanity that is war. In addition, the US war has caused serious damage to the environment of these countries. Iraq, a country with one of the world’s greatest histories of cultural wealth, has been virtually destroyed.
Add to those previous figures the almost $30 billion, the US government has invested in “security measures” to protect itself from terrorist attacks, building prisons in 20 countries, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to imprison and torture suspects. These numbers account for another root cause of the current economic crisis that shakes the USA.
Only Pyrrhic Victories
Pyrrhus reigned in Epirus in the year 281AD, when the Greek city of Tarentum (in what is now southern Italy), asked for help against Rome.
Pyrrhus came with an army of more than 25,000 men and confronted the Roman Consul Valerius Levine. Elephants, which the Romans did not understand how to defeat, were decisive in the battle and the decimated Roman legions abandoned their positions by the end of the day. At dawn, when Pyrrhus checked his own casualties he found over 4,000 men and their top commanders were dead and his cavalry were in flight.
“Another such victory and I am lost,” he complained bitterly to his generals.
Since then, a “Pyrrhic victory”, indicates a similar contradiction. It applies to any success in which the cost is so high that it amounts to a failure. Pyrrhus eventually had to withdraw from Italy and was later defeated several times in other battles.
While in combat inside the Greek city of Argos, he was hit by a tile thrown by an old woman. He was killed while unconscious from the blow.
The US military did not find and destroy any of the “weapons of mass destruction” they were sent to capture in Iraq or complete the “mission to destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda”, which they announced at the onset of the invasion of Afghanistan.
The only thing the US and its partners were able to accomplish was to sink themselves into two bloody quagmires.
Even though they dominated Iraq, they failed to effectively utilize its oil potential and in Afghanistan they could not even ensure through their occupation the exclusivity of transcontinental gas transportation.
These objectives, clearly strategic, were not achieved.
The imperial propaganda also said, as a consolation for fools, that the invasions were made to ensure the triumph of “Western democracy” in these countries.
The only result was the creation and rise to power of a set of puppet governments without a shred of autonomy and reactionary to the bone.
This also expanded the influence of theocratic governments and movements into North Africa, the Middle East and the East of Russia – all supposedly enemies of the type of “democracy” promoted by the USA.
The US cannot win fighting asymmetrical wars (simultaneous wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, the fight against terrorism, etc.), but instead, has strengthened the strategic sense of their enemies.
They cannot declare wars against competitors such as Europe or the “emergent” powers because that would liquidate the little geopolitical capital they have left, and also set themselves definitely apart from the rest of the world.
Needless to say, for the first time, all the police actions in foreign lands have been so costly for the US that the famous slogan, “if you want to earn money, make a war”, has been reversed.
They did not even dare to lead operations against Libya recently. It had to be done by France, Italy and Britain.
Thus the third leg of support of the US Empire, world military hegemony and police power over human civilization, is suffering from paralysis, both intractable and chronic.
The US Empire can still strike and kill, bleed entire villages and commit genocide. What it cannot do any more is win in a historic sense.
The Loss of “National” Hegemony,
The historical basis for the existence of the US Empire, first as the ascending imperialist country and later as hegemonic imperialism in the post-World War II era, were based on the iron postulate, engraved everywhere as the national motto: “One Nation under God”. The USA became a unified and powerful nation responsible only to God for its actions, that is to say, no one.
Since its inception it sought by fire and sword, along with the crumbs from the exploitation of other countries (when it could) and at all times with the powerful ideological machinery of the bourgeoisie, to achieve discipline, social brainwashing and the support of all its inhabitants. These are the people it subdued as it grew under the concept of “manifest destiny” to become the “No. 1” power on the planet.
The US is enveloped now in a terminal crisis. It is threatened with disintegration, via separation of all its component parts, the parts that were joined together in the past with the glue of the empire: violence and co-optation.
The US was founded on the conquest of native peoples and their systematic slaughter. Great wealth was accumulated by the importation of African slaves and their super-exploitation in the fields and later in the early factories.
The import of immigrants from Europe (most of whom first came in the late 1600s and early 1700s as indentured servants, essentially enslavement), Asia, Latin American and elsewhere (throughout the 1800s and the 1900s) in order to chain them to the mines and factories, and work in the construction of railroads, agricultural production and other services. All of them were forced to speak English, adopt the Christian religion, and serve in the armies of imperial expansion.
While its settlers and soldiers marched west robbing the natives of their land and Mexico of half its territory, the USA also grew with the purchase of huge territories from the Spain, France and Russia at bargain prices which included Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, California, and Alaska. None of them would be part of the USA today if it were not for the Manu militari*, high stakes land grabs, all methods used by the rising dominant class of the country.
Through all these social components, from “imported” to captive natives, the bourgeoisie “Americana” imposed assimilation, cooptation, murder, repression, super-exploitation, social control over democratic rights, cultural influence, ideology and a minimal distribution of the crumbs from the plunder of resources, owned by themselves or taken from others.
It maintained national “homogeneity”, “common” culture and the influence of a simplistic and brutal imperialist conscience that dictates, “Here we all benefit in some way, from those we dominate and crush … over there.”
This was called by different names at different times: manifest destiny, leaders of the free world, carriers of the carrot and the stick, and last but not least America for Americans (USA). Disputes hidden behind two centuries of US ideological domination have returned to the scene. They are the result of a negative reactionary synthesis: we must get rid of Blacks, Latinos, immigrants, wayward youth, and trade unionists.
The answer they are getting back is a re-valorization of the values of the former slaves (rebellion after rebellion), immigrants who want to be anything but serfs, workers who think it is better to fight this time before losing everything, and young people without a future who are willing to build one for themselves. Still acting more on an individual basis, not quite yet united as a class in society, they join together and occupy public space.
However the psychology of this revolt is more social than the ruling sectors of society have imagined, even if they do not understand it completely or say it out loud, and the demands put forward are a long list of complaints without clear focus or priorities, even if they show a desire to return to what appears as a better past (a now impossible road because of the economic crisis) instead this propels the movement forward … it is a powerful social force that tends to break up those who currently rule and unite those who are pushed into submission, although the establishment says exactly the opposite.
The far right, the Tea Party, and the big bosses of the financial world will pour enough gas onto the process of discontent in order to provoke a conflagration.
The “moderates” of the system will also be victims of the advance of the right, because, in the view of all totalitarians, in confronting the “disintegration” , there will be no room in the middle or for those who doubt.
Mexican immigrants will revive their dreams of a homeland of their own in the stolen territories of the US Southwest and California. Millions of illegal immigrants will take a path of struggle for their recognition so that their invisibility disappears.
They will take what they have requested for too long to no avail. African Americans will find in the social rebellion their revenge for the suppression of their culture and their confinement into ghettos.
Workers will look at social property as the salvation of the workplace that capitalism fails to provide them. Young people will realize that their own destiny should not be left to the powerful and has to be forged by them through the struggle.
In Every Crisis there is a Dangerous Polarization
It is clear that the base that supports the empire will crack or break apart or potentially do so in a short historic period. However the empire needs to be pushed hard to make it fall and to raise a new society from the ashes of the old.
In a crisis of the magnitude that now afflicts the USA and Europe, it is out of the question that each class, with a few exceptions that only confirms the rule, will fight to the death to avoid being the one who pays the bill.
In this fierce and relentless dispute between classes, those who control the state apparatus have an advantage over the others. They control its coercive power, repressive forces, its judicial system and political organizations are like well-oiled machines ready for action.
The bourgeoisie controls the governments and seeks to have them serve at their disposal against other classes whom they then can blame and take measures to force them to pay for the crisis. Here in the USA, this crisis is not different in any respect, except that it is much more dangerous than in other countries, such as those in Europe.
Here there are only a few unions with a current fighting tradition, no worker’s reformist parties, or leftist political leaders seeking to gain mass support. Even worse there are no – and it’s the same in Europe – revolutionary organizations with significant following and influence.
The polarization is between a very well organized and disciplined social layer, the forces of conservatism and the far right that have built a base in the Tea Party, partially in the Republican Party and even in the Democratic Party, where they operate the organizational levers necessary to take the offensive against workers, youth and the oppressed sectors of society.
Those of us at the other end do not have any apparatus of a similar sort, just a massive will demonstrated by those who fight and occupy. The powerful refusal to accept the fate the system wants to impose upon us is commensurate only to the weakness of our organization to express it. It is always an uneven struggle, but this time it is even more so than others. It is like a fight conducted between a well conditioned and well-trained heavyweight and a flyweight with his feet tied together at his shoestrings and one arm tied behind his back.
All the individuals who today protest and rebel against the inequities of the system, also tend to distrust all types of organizations, particularly political parties, most clearly the parties of the left.
We are familiar with this cynicism and skepticism on the part of workers, youth and intellectuals because we have lived through similar experiences. However we understand this as a message from them saying that there is an alternative to demoralization and surrender. However they still have yet to understand that it is not “parties” in general that failed them, but “certain” parties in particular. Thus, the task remains of building new, more legitimate ones.
The powerful and progressive movement that has occupied ports and towns has shut down different commodity transport systems and has made our voice heard. Yet it is still working hard to construct its message, still needs to find its voice, agenda and democratic fighting organizations to be able to respond to the polarization occurring, the polarization from the far right that is already confronting them.
Any progress will depend on the ability of the movement to move from a collection of individuals with individual messages into an organization of the class or classes exploited by the system. It is not just a matter of discarding organization based on past experiences, but of taking them into account to create something new.
The movement should seek a path less dependent on individuals and more oriented towards organizing in diverse social settings, like schools, workplaces, and communities.
That means striving to participate not just as individuals, but also as group leaders seeking to involve others in organizing efforts or as facilitators for the organization of others.
The efforts of the whole should not get scattered by following the thousands upon thousands of goals from as many individuals, but choose carefully the objectives, program and demands that indeed take into account the needs of workers and the oppressed and turns them into their priorities. That takes organization.
It should not depend on who yells more or who can endure the longest meetings over discussion or which individuals have initiatives already on the ground. It is necessary to put in place a democratic decision-making process and the means to act in conjunction with strategies and tactics for specific purposes that bring us closer to group goals. For that, you need organization.
Demonstrating in the public space has its purpose, but that by itself is not enough to advance a strategy of radical change. Those at work should organize to control the production and be able to stop it when a collective decision is made to do so. Those studying at the universities and colleges should organize ever-growing layers of students, and in communities the struggle is to strengthen their neighborhoods.
Only an organized movement that controls the forms and spaces of intellectual and industrial production may in the end have a lasting impact on national and international politics. Doing all the above will show the rest of society that there is an alternative to the demoralization and surrender.
The wear and tear, the gradual decrease of public interest or media coverage are the enemies of the actions that do not seek the objective of gaining influence in a growing number of social networks.
It is useless to demand the system to democratize and reform, because it is the system itself that has brought us to the current crisis. An alternative type of government of the workers has to be created from those who resist and fight. For that it is absolutely necessary to develop forms of organization.
To turn the situation around and make it unfavorable for the organized right and for the center that wavers and doubts we need to strengthen our pole of the polarization. For this, organizing is a matter of life or death for the movement. Without it we work in favor of the strengthening the opposite pole.
Above all else, we should not repudiate or abstain from politics, because if we do not take politics as the vehicle for change, politics will assuredly take care of us with the hands of the right and in the worst way, fascism or military dictatorship.
So, let us advance the movement as quickly, efficiently and radically as possible. Let’s turn the movement from only being a relentless critic that only scares the system by what it says into its gravedigger. Let’s organize to build new revolutionary organizations that will lead the way forward.l