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Opinion

With Western imperial decline, capitalism is in crisis – a new phase is emerging

The energy crisis in Europe, proxy war in Ukraine, rebellion in the Global South, and expansion of the BRICS reflect the decline of Western imperialism and growing cracks in the capitalist world system.

BRICS expansion

The feeble and tired capitalist elites in the West, drunk with their own power, numbed to human pain, incapable of human empathy, have been shown to be naked – emperors with no clothes.

As the US and European empires are in decline, their collective ignorance has been exposed. And their attempt to erase past crises and crimes has become clear. The major imperialist wars of the 20th century appear for the ruling class to be simple phantoms of individual failures within a otherwise healthy system based on merit, pride, freedom, and democracy.

The horrifying acts perpetrated by Britain, France, and the United States are never emphatically condemned – only, when required, faintly and vaguely objected to.

In the ongoing proxy war in Ukraine, the West is avoiding peace negotiations at all costs, while pouring money into the weapons industry, in an effort to make a killing out of killing. It is another example of so-called disaster capitalism, and reflects the capitalist’s logic: “never let a crisis go to waste”.

Yet the lack of support in the Global South for the proxy war waged by the United States and its vassals – the Frankenstein’s monster of NATO – has shown that most countries in the world do not adhere to Washington’s binary insistence that “you are either with us or against us”.

This disentanglement of the previous forced alignment with the West has also revealed the NATO bloc’s own fragility.

The BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) together account for approximately 40% of the world population. And this bloc managed to keep itself unified during the conflict in Ukraine.

The bloc has begun expanding into BRICS+, moving to add new countries to the organization, such as Argentina and Iran.

There is even discussion of BRICS+ potentially including Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, a longtime Western ally, is precisely the power that made it possible for the US empire to keep running huge deficits since the 1970s, on the basis of the petrodollar. But Riyadh may be breaking its traditional position as a vassal.

Saudi Arabia has already maintained a firm position within OPEC+, which means keeping close ties with Russia.

Meanwhile, the United States has tried to convince Venezuela to provide oil to ease the West’s energy crisis, after decades of treating the Chavista government like a pariah. This a huge setback for the West’s brutal campaign of sanctions and blockade against Venezuela and its people.

Even more striking is the refusal by most countries of the world to adopt the unilateral sanctions that the West has imposed on Russia.

The once widespread willingness to follow Western biddings is now in marked decline.

Aligned with the United States are the usual suspects: the neoliberal European Union, Australia, Japan, a few more countries. Much of the rest of the world has rejected the West’s 500 years of colonial rule.

Decades of imperialist war on communism repressed anti-capitalist ideologies, making it difficult for alternatives to arise.

The crushing of the anti-capitalist left-wing movement (which now is slowly starting to re-emerge) gave capitalism a green light to impose itself on the peoples of the globe, leading to a colonization of their hearts and minds on a scale never seen before. This was the neoliberal phase.

At the same time, the lack of significant alternatives to capitalism also prevented capitalist elites from outsourcing the responsibility for the problems that they created and blaming competing systems or ideologies.

Today, the mainstream media and the political class tries to scapegoat immigrants, the “other,” China, and Russia.

Yet, among the masses of people, there is a general sense that what is needed is:

  1. social change;
  2. a stable future, where pain at social and individual levels does not become a constant normality;
  3. a sustainable world which can remain habitable;
  4. healthy social relations;
  5. job security, the ability to provide for your family without living pay-check-to-pay-check.

Such a life full of anxiety and despair is not just a problem of the Third World; it has become widespread in the imperial core in the West.

And it was not a foreign, alien ideology that created these problems; instead, it was Western governments’ own policies of egoism, destruction, domination, and profit-seeking, the very essence of capitalist ideology.

Capitalism acts like cancer. It grows unceasingly with complete disregard for humanity or nature.

While the historical rise of capitalism in the West had the production of commodities as one of its foundations, its nature of profit-seeking and expansion demanded the exportation of capital.

Thus, Western capitalism reallocated production elsewhere, on the outskirts of the world, so far away that its middle class could feel freed and purified from the toils and “filth” of manual labor.

Moreover, by controlling the flow of capital, the Occident could also control the dynamics of far-away industries. When local governments in the South tried to regulate industries and take back natural resources to the advantage of their populations, Western capitalist elites used their proxies – comprador politicians, court-workers, bureaucrats, ideologues, think tanks, militaries, and militias – to make sure that local national interests could and would not prevail.

This dynamic proved itself for many decades to be quite successful. The few Western failures, in countries like Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, were ostracized and denied social relations with the rest of the world through mafia-like maneuvers of blackmail, deception, threats, intimidation, and segregation.

Western weakness had always been latent, but there were several factors sustaining its hegemony:

  1. a lack of strong powers able to challenge Western imperialism,
  2. the risk of facing a brutal counteraction and being blockaded and ostracized, and
  3. the difficulty of coordinating among countries and organizing a collective alternative to Western unipolar world dominance.

The situation today, however, appears to contain something new.

The Global South’s overwhelming refusal to abide by Western sanctions on Russia amid NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine has shown that Western hegemony is seriously being challenged.

This growing systemic challenge has multiple dimensions.

First, the legitimacy of capitalism was shattered by the 2008 financial crisis – which for much of the world is still ongoing.

This crash made it clear that Western capitalist rule cannot provide anything beyond precarity for the 99%, while giving only the 1% a comfortable life.

Second, for more than a decade, Russia has been planning an alternative to the SWIFT financial messaging system, and since at least 2012 China began developing its own. This brought both countries closer together at the financial level.

The West’s exclusion of Russia from SWIFT in response to the war in Ukraine will majorly backfire, because it ends the Western monopoly on the global flow of financial capital and jumpstarts this joint Chinese-Russian project to create an alternative, while catalyzing it further among Third World nations.

The Western financial war on Russia has put cracks into the institutions that enabled the US empire to function since the 1970s on the basis of indiscriminately printing dollars and selling debt.

Given that the European Union has shown itself to act as a US vassal, these financial cracks will keep growing, until they are too big to be fixed.

Finally, the energy crisis that Western sanctions on Russia have unleashed in Europe has made everyone see clearly that capitalism requires great amounts of energy to produce a constant flow of surplus. This emphasized to the Third World the supreme importance of their natural resources, and highlighted the unequal dialectics between the master and slave.

While the Third World has neither the military nor the financial capacity to explicitly challenge Western imperialism, the resources it possesses grants it an extreme amount of power.

The West simply cannot function without the constant flow of resources extracted overseas – usually from Third World countries – which is then transformed elsewhere, under its rule, through capitalist production, into products that are sold. This process is what enables the West to realize such huge profits.

This dimension of the flow of resources is often taken for granted. But an attempt at coordination by energy producers in the South could put the West on its knees within weeks, or at least enable Third World countries to start conceiving of their own national and regional projects beyond the tutelage of capitalist imperialism.

The world is moving from Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “grand chessboard” to a new game with the complexity of Chinese Weiqi (known popularly in the West as Go).

And not only is King Capitalism naked, but there is no one on the helm as he sails the society-ship straight into a dreadfully wild storm.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Eric Arthur Blair

    2022-09-01 at 18:55

    Neoliberal economics = Neocolonial exploitation. Generals Smedley Butler and Eisenhower warned against the perpetual war economy driven by the MIC many decades ago. The chickens are coming home to roost. Washington’s military expenditure, now >US$800 billion per year has, by opportunity cost, caused the defunding of US public institutions including social welfare, public health, education, libraries, infrastructure maintenance (collapsing bridges etc), public transport and so on. Average Americans are facing increasing pain which will only worsen. There is an epidemic of homelessness. Bail out the billionaire bankers but evict mortgage defaulters who were suckered into predatory loans. Privatize profits but socialize losses. Well boohoo, too bad, so sad. Let us not forget that the US permanent war economy has caused at least 6 million deaths in other countries over the past 20 years
    https://leecamp.com/u-s-has-killed-6-million-people-over-20-years/
    and that does not even count the multiple millions killed in Vietnam and Korea before that.
    There is only one solution. AmeriCANs must rise up against and get rid of the AmeriCUNTs. Get rid of the Neocons and their ilk.

  2. C K Hui

    2022-09-03 at 03:55

    Not mentioned is internal entrophy of US caused by ever-widening gap between rich vs poor, haves vs have-nots, aggrevated by economic recession coupled with spiralling inflation, leading to internal chaos and conflict, possibly spiraling towards civil unrest…

  3. Les

    2022-09-14 at 23:21

    “The horrifying acts perpetrated by Britain, France, and the United States are never emphatically condemned . . . ” – in The West that is, subjected as we are to that constant drip feed of Mainstream Media populist and racist propaganda where Westerners truly believe they are The Whole World.

    The US-NATO-UK Ukrainian Proxy War over Ukrainian lives to weaken Russia has failed and represents the last civilizational error of Washington Planners, the prior civilizational error being the deindustrialization of The West in favour of China. The Chinese have other ideas.

    Examined here Joao in complementary detail . . . https://les7eb.substack.com/

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