The Anatomy of Crisis and the Decline of US Empire

by Danny Haiphong

There are multiple dimensions to the crisis that afflicts U.S. imperialism. The latest election is evidence of a crisis of legitimacy for the ruling parties. Americans are estranged from a government that spies on every one its citizens – and on the rest of the world, too. “Unemployment, poverty, racist state repression, and war are all the system has to offer.” Unable to escape a 40-year economic slump, the U.S. instead plots the destruction of its rivals.

The Anatomy of Crisis and the Decline of US Empire

by Danny Haiphong

The vast majority of oppressed communities, particularly Black workers, have seen their labor become disposable in a post-industrial society.”

Whether one analyzes the economic, military, or political spheres of US imperialism, one thing is abundantly clear. The very fabric of the United States is in deep crisis. The crisis is largely misunderstood by the vast majority of working and oppressed people living under it. But a specter haunts the US and it isn't anything like Hollywood's scary movies. That specter is the possibility that the people will become a conscious force of opposition to the crisis and seek to dismantle the system of capitalist empire that governs it.

Crises are genuinely thought of in economic terms. The economic base of capitalism is indeed suffering from protracted economic crisis. The US capitalist economy, and thus the world capitalist economy pegged to its hip, entered a period of stagnation in the mid to late 1970s. What followed was a slowdown in production facilitated by the increased monopolization, financialization, and increased technological capacity of the system. Capitalism's source of profit, labor, was now being exploited by an apparatus too big to expand the profits of the system without intensified exploitation. The aftermath of capitalism's periodic collapses from overproduction and under consumption have been characterized ever since by a complete and total assault on all workers.

“Wages have declined or remained stagnant for nearly four decades.”

The conditions of the crisis speak for themselves. Workers in the US, and the entire Western world for that matter, have seen conditions rapidly deteriorate as the capitalist system has sought to maximize profits in the face of productive slowdown. Free trade agreements such as NAFTA have given corporations the freedom to eliminate production domestically in order to seek a better deal internationally. Wages have declined or remained stagnant for nearly four decades. Unemployment has become a permanent fixture of life for millions and nearly one of two people in the US are considered poor or "near poor."

At this time, the US is a low-wage capitalist economy dominated by service oriented, precarious employment. Racism has played a large part in the disparity inherent under these conditions. The wealth gap between Black America and White America is larger than it was in the Civil rights era. Not only has Black America been the target of racist housing policies from predatory lenders leading up to the 2008 crisis, but the burden of privatization and austerity has been directly aimed at Black families. Hedge funds, for example, have used working class Black communities as the guinea pig to test the effectiveness of massive school closures and teacher layoffs as well as the expansion of charter schools. Thousands of Black teachers have lost their jobs as a result to the mostly white demographic of Teach for America corps members.

The wealth gap between Black America and White America is larger than it was in the Civil rights era.”

However, it is not enough to understand the crisis of capitalism through an economic lens. The crisis possesses many forms. Repressive state activity has become more pronounced, especially in the aftermath of the War on Terror. Racist repression in particular has intensified as the vast majority of oppressed communities, particularly Black workers, have seen their labor become disposable in a post-industrial society. Nearly 1100 Black Americans are killed every year by law enforcement all over the country. The war on Black and indigenous peoples that laid the foundation of the United States has only become more severe, as evidenced by the fact that one of every eight prisoners in the world is a Black American. The Dakota Access Pipeline struggle has shown that not even the concentration camps forced upon indigenous people are safe from the profit-seeking tentacles of the crisis-ridden system.

And every American can guarantee that civil liberties are a thing of the past. The NSA, FBI, and the rest of the intelligence community possess access to the entire population's mail and phone devices. A massive surveillance dragnet accountable to no one but the ruling class allows the US state to keep tabs on whoever resists the conditions of the crisis. War at home is ultimately a reflection of the broader war being waged around the world. The US capitalist system is a global system with the largest military state in human history. War has thus played a critical role in the response to system crisis.

The US military acts as the enforcement arm of neo-colonialism and capitalist exploitation around the world. It has expanded into nearly every African state through the US African Command (AFRICOM). The US military state continues to support fascism in Ukraine and fundamentalist Islam in places like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It has destabilized a number of nations in the last decade alone, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. The US has collaborated with NATO, Israel, and Turkey to militarily encircle Russia and China militarily and sponsor terror groups responsible for the massacres in Syria.

“The US imperialist system is predicated on the expansion of global capital by any means at its disposal, including the use military force to clear the way for corporate plunder.

But the US military is in crisis too. It is plagued by a disillusioned rank and file and the inevitability of a global confrontation with Russia and China if it continues on the current course. The demands of a stagnating global capitalist economy and the ever-increasing exploitation of masses of working people offer no potential for a reversal of fortune. The US imperialist system is predicated on the expansion of global capital by any means at its disposal, including the use military force to clear the way for corporate plunder. The US military state has grown both in size and in violence in order to prevent the global shift of power currently underway. 

Russia and China have become the number one challengers to US global hegemony. China's economy will soon surpass that of the US and Russia's recovery from post-Soviet collapse has propelled the Putin-led nation back onto the global scene as a major factor in world affairs. These two powers are becoming increasingly close both economically and militarily. This has made the US ruling class increasingly nervous in the midst of economic decline. To maintain hegemony, the US military state set the world ablaze through endless war in every region of the world that dares to seek ties with Russia and China. 

At this point, the US imperialist system cannot peacefully compete in any way with its so-called rivals to the East. The contradictions of the system have become unmanageable. Unemployment, poverty, racist state repression, and war are all the system has to offer. Another economic collapse is on the horizon. Crisis is built into the global capitalist system's constant drive to accumulate profit in the face of global misery. The decline of US imperialism and empire will not change regardless of the election. What is sure to change is the mass reaction to the decline as life becomes more and more unbearable under the grip of empire. 

Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at [email protected]




Dear Mr. Haiphong,
Thank you for writing about the crisis in Capitalism in the USA. You write: "Nearly 1100 Black Americans are killed every year by law enforcement all over the country." I think you have mistaken the total number of USAers killed by law enforcement and the number of Black Americans killed by law enforcement which is a bit more than 25% of the total number. I empathise with this mistake and wonder, why did you make it? Law enforcement kills almost entirely poor and pretty much poor people. There are about twice as many poor White people as poor Black people and about twice as many poor White people killed by police as poor Black people. That statistic doesn't disprove the existence of White Supremcism in killings by law enforcement, but it elevates the primacy of the class nature of killings by law enforcement. Obviously, in relation to the general population the number of Black people killed is extremely disproportional to the number of White people killed. Among those people killed by law enforcement, unarmed poor Black people are much more common than unarmed poor White people. Interstingly, poor White people armed with "toy" weapons (bb guns and air rifles are also toys) are much more common than poor Black people with "toy" weapons to be killed by law enforcement.

Again, many thanks for writing on this and related topics.


the culture of poverty

Mr. Haiphong, all of the crisis you mentioned, caused another very serious crisis, that will make a solution to "Black" problems much harder to come by; it's the cultural problems caused by poverty.  No one has brought attention to this problem in a cause/ effect sort of way.


Poverty always precedes depravation.  Deprived people become depraved people, no matter what color. we primarily see black people in deprived communities carrying out acts of depravity, and consequently those acts are considered factors of race; but when the "lower middle class" becomes poverty stricken, the culture of the "hard core ghetto" takes over their neighborhood; this culture glorifies crime.


Big city neighborhoods all over this country where "lower middle class" Black people lived; neighborhoods with well kept homes that had been in families for generations, went down, when the "artificially inflated" prices of food and gas cost an estimated $200 more a month for a family to live on.  While everyone had to pay that estimated price for a family to live.  The harm it did to people just making enough to live on, was catastrophic, that was the same as a $200. a month pay cut.


The first thing that occurred was lack of maintenance to those homes in Black neighborhoods, because that $200. pay cut (inflated food and gas prices) did not leave any money for roof repair, or house that needed painting, or any one of the multitude of things that fall under "maintenance".  That resulted in home values going through the floor; no body wants to buy a run down house.


This was happening all over the USA; "Black" people were affected "catastrophically", not because they were Black, but because they were "Lower middle class".  This "website" explains how those prices were inflated, and who profited. 



Crime, drug use, alcoholism, fatherless homes, illegitimacy, and delinquency become a raging flood that destroys everything in it's path.  Those are the effects of extreme poverty, and poverty is no respecter of race.  That is what happened all over this country; the culture that existed before poverty, was replaced by the culture of "The hard core Ghetto", which is not the culture of "Black" people, but the culture of poverty.


The proof of what you have just read can be found in big cities all over this country; Black neighborhoods that once had nice, well maintained homes are now deserted.  That began in 07 when the price of food and gas first went up, and continued through 2012 when they went even higher.