State of the Union Address, March 1, 2022.
Joe Biden and congress have plenty of money for the military industrial complex, but only austerity for the people. The imperialist machine is always fed.
The following lyric in Tupac Shakur’s legendary 1993 track, Keep Ya Head Up, aptly describes the Joe Biden administration:
“You know it's funny when it rains it pours. They got money for wars, but can't feed the poor.”
Joe Biden has provided $14 billion in aid to Ukraine in a span of weeks, much of which will be used for military purposes. The U.S.’s lust for war with Russia has grown by many proportions since the rising power to the East launched its military operation in Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Joe Biden gave his first State of the Union address just a week later. In it, he assured ordinary working Americans that life has improved under administration and that the best has yet to come.
Of course, Biden was lying. U.S. sanctions on Russia have already sent shockwaves throughout the global capitalist economy. Working class people are being told to return to their offices amid a global pandemic while facing gas prices that are upwards of 50 percent higher than prior to the intensified U.S. sanctions regime against Russia. The failure to maintain tax credits for working class families has increased the rate of child poverty by 41 percent. Deaths from COVID-19 are approaching the one million mark and Biden has shown that both he and his corporate masters are ready to move on from a pandemic that has yet to end.
The U.S. role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict has sent chickens flocking home to roost in their imperialist nesting place. Sanctions, once a weapon of war thought to only harm poor and oppressed people in Global South countries such as Venezuela, are now having a direct impact on the living conditions of workers in the United States. Ceaseless war propaganda has bamboozled a majority of Americans into supporting a no-fly zone in Ukraine despite the risk of World War III that it portends. Yet this same majority also opposes a direct U.S. military intervention in Ukraine against Russia. While masses of people in the U.S. can certainly be convinced to support imperialist policies they don’t understand, they also don’t trust their government enough to cosign onto another endless war if it risks their lives or livelihoods.
Warmongers in Washington have attempted to push through this contradiction with a non-stop propaganda blitz that predictably weds the interests of humanity with that of their New Cold War aims. Stopping Russia at all costs, according to Biden, is a crusade for “democracy” against “autocracy.” Millionaire celebrities have repeatedly lectured workers at risk of homelessness and unemployment that they should pay higher gas prices to support Ukraine. But what about democracy in the United States? Who decides whether the U.S. wages war abroad or invests in the needs of the people at home?
The Biden administration would have us believe that militarism facilitates peace and “democracy,” and that Russia’s demise is a boon for the interests of masses of people around the world. This is simply not true. The never-ending increase of the U.S.’s military budget has occurred in the context of the neoliberal phase of U.S. capitalism. Stagnant wages and the rise of burdensome debt, homelessness, and poverty have all correlated with the expansion of militarism. Militarism drains public wealth in order to increase private wealth.
The last war to benefit the masses of working people in the United States was World War II. An increase in public spending, including in the military, indeed raised living standards. But this so-called “Golden Age” of U.S. capitalism was not brought about by the benevolence of the capitalist class. Increased living standards were dependent upon the strength of social movements at home and abroad. Millions of striking workers threatened the collapse of capitalism in the United States and the presence of the Soviet Union forced the ruling class to portion off some of its profits in the form of a “welfare state.”
Of course, the persistence of Jim Crow left many Black workers excluded from this arrangement and the “Golden Age” of capitalism was short lived as employers used their influence to strip all workers of their gains. This process continues forward in the current epoch of imperialism. Rampant racism against Black Americans and oppressed nations, including Asian America, is fueling state repression. Joe Biden has used his short time as President to call for more funding of local police and escalate the imprisonment and deportation of migrants fleeing nations that the U.S. destroyed. The rapid rise of attacks on people on Asian America due to the U.S.’s incessant scapegoating of China for COVID-19 has also led to renewed calls for stronger law enforcement.
Imperialism is a system and not merely another term for war. Under imperialism, monopoly and finance capital reign supreme. The U.S. is leading an imperialist system in decline. Joe Biden personifies this decline with his ailing mental capacity and furious commitment to the status quo amid a rapidly changing world. The so-called “Build Back Better” presidency has offered nothing to working people but more war and austerity. As the U.S. continues to pour gasoline on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, it will become increasingly clear that the pursuit of endless war only erodes the standard of living of the people who reside in the imperialist orbit.
The opportunity thus emerges for the question of war and peace to enter the realm of class struggle where it belongs. Whether radical and progressive forces seize the opportunity to resuscitate the left remains to be seen. As Frantz Fanon so poignantly advised, “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.” Our duty is not to side with a Joe Biden-led imperialist system in decline, but to sharpen and take the contradictions between its endless war agenda and the consequences they are reaping for humanity to their logical conclusion: the replacement of this system of exploitation with a socialist system designed and governed in the interests of the toiling masses and their allies, everywhere.
Danny Haiphong is co-author of the book “American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People's History of Fake News- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror.” You can follow his work on Twitter @SpiritofHo and on YouTube as co-host with Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report Present's: The Left Lens. You can support Danny on Patreon by clicking this link. You can contact him at [email protected].