by Danny Haiphong
Imperialism is stuck in a rut, and can’t get out. “Every time the imperialist system attempts to expand economically, the sheer impoverishment of the exploited classes ensures that such maneuvers will lead to a loss in the overall rate of profit.” War used to be the answer, but no more: “US imperialism’s expansion of the war apparatus no longer brings economic tranquility. Rather, war is just another agent of chaos and crisis.”
US Imperialism is at a Dead End, But Why?
by Danny Haiphong
“The crisis of legitimacy plaguing US imperialism is an expression of a larger crisis of the system's economic base.”
There is no better way to explain it. US imperialism has hit a dead end. The desperation of the system is evident in all facets of its rule. From the state to the corporate media, US imperialism has been on a non-stop assault to bury the roots of the crisis underground. This makes it of utmost necessity to explain to the people what exactly is causing the breakdown of US imperialism.
The never ending nightmare otherwise known as the 2016 elections has been perhaps the most visible expression of US imperialism's dead end. Trump's surprising victory has led to the intensification of a neo-McCarthyist war consisting of many parts. As was the case in the first Cold War, Russia has been the primary target of the attack. The myth of Russian infiltration in the US electoral system has been peddled as fact by the Obama Administration, the corporate media, and even Jill Stein's recount campaign. So-called secret "revelations" (i.e. lies) by the CIA have been paraded as evidence that Russia conspired to plant Trump in the White House. Some corporate media outlets have even gone so far to claim that there now exists legal grounds by which to impeach Trump before his inauguration.
The neo-McCarthyist attack has been directed at both independent voices and crude elements of the ruling class. The corporate media has labeled left journals such as Black Agenda “fake news” and has called for Washington to investigate their connection to Russia through the Espionage Act of 1919. Furthermore, a large section of the ruling class residing in US intelligence and the Department of War view Trump as a problem due to his proposals to disarm the jihadists in Syria and warm relations with Russia. Trump wants nothing more than to enrich both him and his casino capitalist partners from the vast untapped wealth of an emergent Russian economy. But finance capital and the US military see a destabilized Russia as the best chance to maintain hegemony. So, Trump has to go, at least for the time being. The suppression of the left would be an added bonus.
“Russia possesses little interest in undermining a political process that is already thoroughly corrupt.”
The Electoral College took a gamble on Trump not only because of the voter suppression that occurs every four years. Trump also won because Hillary Clinton lost. Clinton received broad support from billionaires in every sector of society. She was the presumed winner up until the final results were tallied. Clinton's loss revealed a deep crisis of legitimacy for the Democratic Party, as millions of voters decided not to huddle alongside the corporate sponsors of her big tent.
This fact has been covered under a blanket of lies about Russia's involvement in rigging the US elections and peddling "fake news" to undermine the so-called democratic process in the US. The reality is that Russia possesses little interest in undermining a political process that is already thoroughly corrupt. It is Russia that has been militarily and politically provoked into war during Obama’s tenure as commander in chief of US imperialism. Russia has as much interest in meddling in US affairs as the Syrian government has in slaughtering its own people. Both of these lies, if hypothetically true, place Syria and Russia in the cross hairs of US imperialism.
Such realpolitik matters little when the crisis of US imperialism is largely misunderstood. That is, the crisis of legitimacy plaguing US imperialism is an expression of a larger crisis of the system's economic base. The numbers do not lie. A New York Times op-ed recently referred to the death of the "American Dream," citing that only fifty percent of those born in 1980 have a chance of making as much as their parents over a lifetime. Furthermore, Market Watch reported that there are currently more than six million car loans over 90 days late in payments in the US. These economic indicators are a reflection of US imperialism's global, and permanent, economic crisis.
“Finance capital and the US military see a destabilized Russia as the best chance to maintain hegemony.”
The economic crisis can be attributed to the logic of imperialism described in Fred Goldstein's Capitalism at a Dead End: Job Destruction, Overproduction, and CRISIS in the High-Tech era. In this text, the global imperialist crisis is placed in the context of a shift in the productive forces of capitalism. For over three decades, global capitalism has sought expansion through its usual means of intensifying the rate of exploitation. This has led to a mad race to develop high-tech means of production, which have replaced a significant portion of necessary labor in the United States. The resultant rise in the cost of production (or the organic composition of capital) and the significant drop in wages over this period has precipitated a slowdown in economic growth.
Technological growth has both increased productivity and engulfed the system into a permanent crisis of joblessness and overproduction. The system is dragging along because workers are so poor and overworked that only financial instruments of debt can temporarily ease the burden of survival. However, these debt instruments have exacerbated the crisis of overproduction. The housing crisis of 2008 was a direct result of financial speculators lending credit cards, mortgages, and other debt instruments at such a rate that there was no possibility of return. In other words, every time the imperialist system attempts to expand economically, the sheer impoverishment of the exploited classes ensures that such maneuvers will lead to a loss in the overall rate of profit.
Traditional means of alleviating economic crisis have been exhausted. Imperialist war at one time saved US capitalism from collapse, but it too has become engulfed by high-tech production. The number of jobs produced by war is minimal at best. War is now a costly venture which requires the coordination of destruction between many players such as NATO members, the Gulf States, Israel, etc. However, since war does not reap the same economic benefits to the toiling masses of the imperialist countries, selling full scale invasion domestically has become an impossible task. In other words, US imperialism’s expansion of the war apparatus no longer brings economic tranquility. Rather, war is just another agent of chaos and crisis.
“The system is dragging along because workers are so poor and overworked that only financial instruments of debt can temporarily ease the burden of survival.”
Imperialist war historically served two purposes: to expand capitalism's market share and to preserve the political dominance of the capitalist state around the world. However, the combination of internal economic crisis and external popular resistance has given way to further stagnation. Imperialist have offered nothing but destruction since the stagnation of capitalism began over three decades ago. Their primary purpose remains to clear the way for capitalist expansion. However, the conditions of war can no longer fulfill this purpose. Iraq, Libya, and Ukraine are but a few examples of how US-led warfare transforms prosperous nations into landfills of chaos.
US imperialism is trapped within the contradictions of its own system with no way out. The ruling class's most consistent response to the system’s dead-end has been to intensify state repression against oppressed people. US imperialism inflicts daily police state terror on Black America, for example, to the point where militarized police forces murder a Black American nearly every day. The US has spent billions of dollars on the development of the largest prison and police state in human history in order to suppress the potential of rebellion among the most oppressed sections of the population. However, if 2016 is any indication, state repression alone is rapidly losing effectiveness.
There will be some who mourn the decline and death of US imperialism, but not revolutionaries. Revolutionaries will seize the time. The Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements have only been a taste of the resistance to come. Another economic collapse looms on the horizon. There is a stirring among the masses, a growing despair that must develop into a revolutionary rage. US imperialism's dead-end has already created the conditions for such a rage to materialize. It is the task of revolutionaries to build a movement capable of turning this rage into revolutionary organization.
Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at [email protected]