An imperialist power can't go on without access to the foreign markets that it exploits. This is the nature of capital; it can only solve its crisis of overproduction by perpetually expanding into more markets, making imperialism absolutely necessary for capitalism to continue. What happens when an empire in the capitalist era no longer has enough exploitable global resources and labor to maintain its internal economy? When the worst exploitation of capitalism can no longer be foisted onto the people of the exploited world, and must be fully inflicted upon the workers in the core imperialist countries?
Such is the scenario that Washington and its partnered imperialist powers seek to avoid as U.S. hegemony continues to crumble. All the time, it becomes more likely that they'll fail to prevent the breakaway of large parts of the exploited world from imperial control. And when this occurs, it will combine with environmental, financial, and social factors within the United States to place the country's existence in further jeopardy. Before focusing on those factors, I should review the U.S. empire's losses in global market and resource access and the systemic breakdown within the U.S. that this entails.
Washington losing exploitation access points while U.S. economy grows ever less able to sustain itself
More and more countries are building paths outside of neo-colonial subjugation. Peru's new socialist president Pedro Castillo is closing several mines in response to environmental protests, putting the country's mining companies--and U.S. capital by extension--in greater jeopardy. Xiamora Castro, one of the leaders of the movement to stop the 2009 U.S. coup in Honduras that ushered in an era of reactionary dictatorship, has won the Honduran presidential election. For a year following the reversal of the 2019 U.S. coup in Bolivia, the Movement for Socialism party has been building up the country's living standards and sustainable development, an alternative to its former status as a colony for extractive U.S. corporations like Tesla.
Washington has continued to fail at its attempts to sow counterrevolution in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. It's losing economic control over ever more of Eurasia and Africa due to the rise of China's Belt and Road Initiative. And the shifting towards a multi-polar world where the dollar has less relevance, along with the dysfunctionality of the neoliberal economy, are driving the dollar towards collapse. As was observed earlier this year by Gao Desheng, the senior executive vice president of the Bank of China's Johannesburg Branch:
The US government's excessive release of liquidity is highly likely to trigger a sudden plunge of the value of [the] dollar. Against the backdrop of mounting downturn pressure and the severe blow from the COVID-19 pandemic, the US government and Fed both agreed to take the stimulus measure supported by unlimited QE, which is widely deemed as [an] unbalanced approach. Excessive liquidity combined with a lack of the support from [the] real economy is bound to bring serious side effects. Even [if] the approach could help the US economy endure [the] current predicament, the following problems of recalling the liquidity from [the] market and to pay back the surging debts still requires [a] proper solution. It is still too early to give an optimistic forecast on the US economy prospects this year. The structural problems within the US economy for a long time are still not addressed, and the manufacturing has not been brought back to the US. The US' participation in [the] global economy is still not sufficient. A weak economy and poor employment are not conducive for the dollar to reverse current weakness.
When will this crash occur? There's little point in speculating about a date, as capitalism's collapse is unpredictable and chaotic by nature. But the intensification of the unemployment crisis, and the emergence in recent months of a "great resignation" where 11 million U.S. jobs are now open, have brought this unraveling closer. Capital has contracted so much that to keep profits up, the bourgeoisie have had to step up exploitation in the imperial center to the extent that many now see unemployment as a better option than being in the modern workforce.
The supply chain breakdown is the other big economic development from this year that portends to the dollar's further decline. Because the U.S. has come to depend on imperialist globalization, the pandemic has disrupted its ability to transport goods from the exploited countries. It's become so dependent because it's deindustrialized throughout the last half-century, another consequence of neoliberalism and its mission to streamline profit. And that deindustrialization is continuing, at least in the areas that matter the most to the conditions of the masses.
This year, the CATO Institute defended the U.S. economy's current state by saying "the most relevant data--on the U.S. manufacturing sector's output, exports, financial performance, and investment--show that the nation's total productive capacity and most of the industries typically associated with 'national security' are still expanding." But this ongoing growth in some areas comes with a cost. Those "national security" aspects are the military-industrial complex, which siphons resources into the bloated armed forces budget and thereby further impoverishes the people. This perpetuates the empire's internal cycle of debt and stagnation.
The weight of empire bears down upon our society ever more, while signs grow of the empire's essential external appendages being soon to get cut off. What about when this combines with the even larger catastrophes imperialism has created for itself?
Climate crisis as the U.S. military's greatest foil
I describe global warming as one of the crises imperialism has produced because, while no one talks about it, the U.S. military is the world's largest producer of petroleum. It's the single biggest institutional polluter, and that's without even counting the ways its actions perpetuate policies of climate degradation globally. Washington has been using its armed forces to illegally extract Syrian oil, military and CIA interventions are behind the continued existence of reactionary climate-denying regimes like Bolsonaro's Brazil, and militarism is what keeps the U.S. corporate oligarchy in place. The empire and its wars are what have enabled 100 companies to facilitate around two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions.
As Codepink has assessed, the U.S. empire's militarism is behind both its wild socioeconomic inequality and its exceptional complicity in the climate crisis, even compared to the other imperialist countries:
Why is the U.S. so far behind Europe when it comes to addressing global warming? Why do only 60% of Europeans own cars, compared with 90% of Americans? And why does each U.S. car owner clock double the mileage that European drivers do? Why does the United States not have modern, energy-efficient, widely-accessible public transportation, as Europe does? We can ask similar questions about other stark differences between the United States and Europe. On poverty, inequality, healthcare, education and social insurance, why is the United States an outlier from what are considered societal norms in other wealthy countries? One answer is the enormous amount of money the U.S. spends on militarism. Since 2001, the United States has allocated $15 trillion (in FY2022 dollars) to its military budget, outspending its 20 closest military competitors combined.
And the consequences of this will ironically be dire for the U.S. military. Last month, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks showed concern for this, mentioning these reasons for why the U.S. military is "not ready" for global warming: "It's something like $750 billion of investment worldwide going on in lithium-ion batteries. The challenge is most of that is happening in China. They dominate that supply chain. It's a significant national security challenge for us. If we don't follow and be part of the solution, we will be left behind, and our vehicle fleets won't be able to be supported."
This dysfunctionality that global U.S. forces will experience in the coming decades is tied in with the decline of U.S. imperialism. Bolivia was so important for the imperialists to hold onto because it's rich in lithium. Now that Bolivia is lost to them, and China has been able to make lithium deals with the MAS government, they're stuck without access to some of the resources they'll need the most for their global military occupations to survive the climate crisis.
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