Whither America? Class and Politics in the Era of American Decline

Introduction—Financial Collapse and War

us global dollar suzerainty is in retreat, as world trade is undergoing “de-dollarization”; the bloc of classes underpinning Trump’s presidency permits him to fully engage in the one area of policy formulation where restrictions on presidential behavior are severely constrained, that is allows him a free hand in pursuing an array of tariffs, effectively constituting a trade war; while by no means an inexorable trajectory, trade wars lead to shooting wars, similarly “de-dollarization,” as the changing class structure in America portends a major class confrontation which will decide whether a shooting war, if its likely development unfolds, devolves into renewed imperialist world war.

Part I

It is not necessary to once again recount the litany of manufacturing industries that have disappeared and the corresponding loss of good paying, benefited jobs that have similarly vanished as a consequence of us industrial decline. For purposes of this account, we’ll begin in medias res with a discussion of the causation of this decline.

Industrial Decline and its Causation

We know Fordism now forms an era in the past history of capitalism: The mass production industries in the older regions of capitalist development and with them the big factory landscapes are gone.

Three explanations can be elicited, all causative moments of industrial decline and collapse in the older centers of capitalism (those dating back to the long nineteenth century). Consider all three, each in turn.

First, beginning in the late 1940s and extending into the early 1960s, larger us industrial capitals geographically diversified their operations. They both expanded operations and moved existing plant from the centers of union power in the Northeast and Midwest to the open shop, old Southern and southwestern states. This was done not just with the aim of seeking cheaper, unorganized labor, but with the intent of shifting the balance of power at the point of production in daily work and in struggles that broke out therein away from workers and their organizations (the major unions, uaw, umw, usw, Teamsters, uew, etc.) This regional movement was accelerated by, and a novel movement of capital abroad first appeared (though not systematically) in response to, the upsurge of wildcats in the last international cycle of class struggle (1964–1978) in the old centers of capitalism.2

Second, industrial decline in the United States is directly related to real domination, not so much by how we define it (the epochal moment in the history of capitalism at which production begins to undergo continuous transformation through machine inputs and, or, reorganization of the labor processes) but by what sustains it. The crucial feature permitting real domination to hold sway in global production (and as an epoch in the history of capitalism) is systematic, ongoing scientific and technological inputs to that production. Itself driven by competition between capitals, technical innovation generates more advanced (efficient, productive) labor processes. Competition may originate domestically or from abroad (or both), it makes no difference (though in the case of the United States foreign capitalists played the more important role in key sectors). Technical innovation on the basis of the modern science of nature, and its allied technologies, markedly increases per worker productivity leading to a corresponding decrease in the number of workers individual capitals require to generate the levels of surplus value necessary to valorize themselves as much larger individual capitals. Take the example of steel production, since it so forcefully instantiates the significance of technical innovation for worker employment. In 1900, it took slightly in excess of roughly a day of labor (14 man-hours) to produce a ton of galvanized steel. Production was carried out in, new then, the oldest form of open-hearth furnace. By 1950, improvements in this furnace had reduced production of the same ton to 8 man-hours, and by 1965, the most efficient open-hearth furnace allowed workers to form that steel in 6 man-hours of labor. By the end of the war in Indochina (1975), Japanese and Korean workers utilizing oxygen-burning furnaces could produce the same galvanized ton of steel in 4.5 man-hours.3 In the next twenty years, production times deploying the latest, most efficient oxygen burning furnaces had reduced this time to 2 man hours of labor. In 1988, an electric furnace-based form of steel production called the mini-mill first appeared in North Carolina. It melted existing scrap sourced from, for instance, local auto junk yards (that is it was not dependent upon raw ore, thus did not require a location astride a major waterway to transport the ores mined elsewhere). Relative to mills employing, say, oxygen-burning furnaces, it is vastly cheaper to construct a mini-mill, and abstract labor utilizing this technological achievement can produce a ton of galvanized steel in 3/4 man hours. Witness the outcome: In 1970, the steel industries in the United States employed about 600,000 workers, today they employ 75,000—80,000. Third, there is a more remote, theoretically paramount, mediate causation of industrial decline, the falling rate of profit. Modulated, and from 1965 down to the mid-seventies accelerated, by class struggle at the point of production, the rate of profit among large capitals was falling. In a strictly theoretical sense, expressed very crudely this can be set down to the increase in fixed capital (as a component of constant capital) relative to the decline in labor deployed in production, to the declining quantities of socially necessary labor time required in the production of commodities as they are averaged across whole industries, and thus to technical innovation. It means the technological innovation created by capitalist competition tendentially renders too much labor-power superfluous, makes it impossible for capitalists to valorize adequate amounts of abstract labor to sustain production at existing levels of development of productive forces.

The bourgeoisie, of course, recognized this profitability decline. It is from this moment, and this recognition, that we can date a shift away from investment in basic industry (production of the means of production, production of their inputs, production of consumer durables) toward the finance, entertainment and real estate sectors, which phenomenally at least appeared vastly more profitable.4 We might say the reorientation of investment was in the objective, historical sense capital’s response to the wildcat and the cycle of class struggle it largely defined: It inaugurated the entire historical process of the disintegration of domestically-centered mass production industries, beginning with initial stopgaps such as creation of nonunion subsidiaries, proceeding through deployment of subcontractors and the use of temporary workers. By 1984, the mass production international capitals in auto and related industries, joining hand with Sunbelt firms (in aerospace, agribusiness and oil, major elements of neo-Right power) had simply abandoned their “liberalism.” That is, these large capitalist concerns no longer accepted the social wage and supported the social welfare state. Instead, for starters they supported low-waged or worker-participation labor-capital relations with state subsidies and protectionist state support on the Japanese model. At that moment, the old liberal wing of the ruling class became largely nonexistent in a political sense as the neo-liberal program initially took shape. And it was from this situation that the primacy of speculative financial investment in the us economy, and the ensuing rentierization, arose.

So at this point (1984) in the history of capitalism, it was technical innovation (which extends into all spheres of activity including, today, increasingly the so-called “service sector” which has been built around cheap wages and precarious work from the start) that pushed de-industrialization forward: Mediated by the technological apparatus it sets in motion, it has been the gigantic growth in the productivity of abstract labor that had made de-industrialization a reality, makes a return to Fordism impossible and creates for capital its phenomenally decisive problematic, enormous excess capacity worldwide unmistakably evident and identifiable in the uninterrupted production of fallal, baubles and rubbish to alleviate some of that overcapacity. The upshot, though, may not be clear: Worldwide, both relative to global population today, and absolutely with respect to the total number of workers in manufacture, the industrial proletariat is smaller today than it was in 1965. It will continue to decrease numerically both relatively and absolutely.5

Part II—Contemporary Significant Classes

While retaining an analytic focus the following discussion, especially that of the second section, will be distinctively more polemical. We make no apologies.

Formation and Structure of a neo-Right, neo-Fascist Oppositional Culture at its Origins (1976–1984)

In 1974, Henry Kissinger engineered what would become known as the petro-dollar deal with the Saudis (military protection for pricing oil in dollars with some kickbacks from the Saudis to us weapons manufacturers for armaments purchases). The immense spike in the price of oil that followed not only exacerbated declining profit rates among great international capitals (other than the oil firms themselves), but the ensuing economic contraction narrowed the opportunities for waged work, put a permanent stop among organized workers to easily negotiated wage increases, and forced new considerations on all those in the social movements of the left who been able to preserve their radicalism: In the broadest terms, the oil shock brought everyone “to their senses” compelling recognition among far too many that all strategies had to be aligned to really existing capitalism.

At this moment, the street-oriented, explicitly political cadre as the dynamic element among the bloc of classes hegemonized by the great bourgeoisie launched a new series of initiatives: They included a property tax revolt in California led by Howard Jarvis, mobilizations to block the passage of the Equal Rights Amendments in state legislatures, and the first appearance of anti-abortion bigots and fascists in the streets. Aimed at capturing, these initiatives reached out to those middling groups who, constantly buffeted by the cyclical development of capitalism, had sought refuge in fundamentalist religion, going beyond and deepening its roots in Southern society and property through militancy around “single issue” rightist “social issues” struggles. Domestically, the core of the neo-liberal program had already begun to appear. It consisted in rolling back (with the aim of ultimately abolishing) New Deal reforms (minimum wage, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, social security; agricultural price supports; separation of investment from deposit banking; later additions to social security constituting a dimension of the social safety net such as food subsidies and aid to dependent children; a retirement medical program), and (another later development) public sector unions as well as liquidation of legislated and accrued business and environment regulations, elimination of progressive tax rates in favor of a flat tax, riddance of public funded education, and removal of the wall separating church and state through funding private schools and religious institutions. This was the neo-Right program at its origins, circa 1976.

Central to the dynamics of capitalist development over the past two hundred years has been increasing concentration of capital and centralization of ownership of the means of production. Previously economically independent strata have largely disappeared as a result of this development. Underpinned by growing financially speculative investment, and rentierization, the two periods of expansion (1983–1987, 1993–1997) following upon the end of the last cycle of workers struggle saw, to the contrary, layers of the middle stratum thicken as us-based, massive debt-supported consumption fueling global expansion has formed the other side of the abandonment of domestic industry (and, with it, domestic industrial employment) for sites abroad (primarily in East Asia), a development that characterizes industrial Europe as well, while, dialectically, overall global industrial employment has shrunk as productivity increased enormously. In and through this process, the us economy has undergone transformation from the world’s industrial dynamo to a rentier formation (based, most importantly, on financial services, insurance, real estate, and entertainment) for which middle strata consumption has been, at least up to the financial crisis (2008–2009), decisive.

In the vortex of these changes, a neo-Right oppositional culture germinated and grew. Consider its structure at its origins, much of which (though vastly expanded) survives to this day: At it origins and as it took shape it was as a multi-centered, decentralized mass political party of the right, neo-Right because it had abandoned the old right, isolationist, Midwest small-and medium-sized business based, pro-German and non-militarist Republican party which had opposed entry into the last imperialist world war. It has been characterized by overlapping, partially integrated organizations each at the core of one of those multiple centers. Each of these centers pursues a distinctive agenda, organizations and agendas overlapping in specific areas of activity, objectivity effecting a division of labor. If today Trump’s presence provides leadership, at its origins the institutions of this neo-Right oppositional culture lacked an overarching direction and formal connections.

Over forty years later almost all of these early institutions survive. In fact, there is a hierarchy of institutions, at the summit of which are corporate donors, fabulously wealthy individual contributors and private foundations. All largely operate through Washington DC-based think tanks and research institutes (the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute among the oldest), who are staffed by a well-paid, captive intelligentsia of free marketeers and rightwing libertarians, and which aim at shaping the policies of the federal executive, the Congress, the national network news programs, the large metropolitan newspapers, and increasingly the Internet. The think tanks and research institutes, then, constitute a subordinate ideological apparatus publishing the entire array of materials, periodicals, journals, newsletters, working papers and studies of specific problems which recurringly vex the bourgeoisie. These publications are intended for the consumption of Congressional members and particularly their staffs, those groups of individuals who by and large research and write legislation. That array of materials, moreover, includes a veritable flood of press releases and news stories so-called (many more of which than might be imagined end up reported and in print verbatim), as well as op-ed pieces, all of which are daily disseminated to the major us television, radio and newspapers, and, today, online. The purpose, it is dual, in all this is obvious but nonetheless requires and deserves stating. First, this entire ideological apparatus is oriented toward preempting and structuring the terms and contents of discourse on broad social, political, economic and cultural issues as well as specific events. This pursuit is primarily achieved in the provisions made for the major media (and through public contacts such as organized, scholarly and public conferences, and through the lecture circuit on college campuses and with community and business groups). Second, there is explicit intent to executively and legislatively (today more emphasis on the former) to shape, assure and maintain the legal and organizational principles of the capitalist system, returning it to its fabled “free market” foundations. This entails a push for deregulation of business activity and environmental safeguards, privatization of state services right down to the municipal level, the dismantling of affirmative action and the introduction of market principles in public education at all levels. These are, we note, policy orientations which in the past 30 years have been almost entirely successful in implementation. It is the ubiquitous character of the first activity which allows the terms in which the second is couched to appear reasonable, coherent and practically viable.

These institutions, the think tanks, are financially supported by foundations of the neo-Right as well as by large corporate grants. (By 1988, the corporate community provided a full 45 percent of its funding.) The major foundations include Adolph Coors Foundation, Fred C. Koch Foundation (energy, real estate), Samuel Nobel Foundation (oil and drilling), John M. Olin Foundation (agricultural chemicals), and Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation (Gulf Oil). Their mention makes clear who they are: Neo-Right foundations rest on trusts set up by wealthy Sunbelt capitalists. In this light, think tanks appear, then, as privately funded “research” communities pursuing a reactionary social and economic agenda with the support of individual members of an authoritarian, military-expenditures dependent ruling class social group.

A third center of power among the institutions forming the neo-Right oppositional culture is “political action groups.” The largest, most visible group is, of course, the institutional Republican Party membership in the Congress, particularly in the House of Representatives. Unlike other such neo-Right groups, however, this bloc is riddled with typically social class-interest group compromises which characterizes representative politics.

In and outside the Republican Party, explicitly political groups range from reactionary street cadre to those “respectable” groups operating on the terrain of formal bourgeois politics (such as the National Conservative Political Action Committee) and small legislative groups (such the “Freedom” Caucus in the House whose reverence for the Constitution is counterrevolutionary, the legal basis for its racism, and who is the historical analogue to the ultra-nationalist militarists, monarchists and fascists acting outside European parliaments in the immediate postwar period).6 So it is that at the top, neo-Right power rejoins nativists, fascists and neo-Nazis on the ground.

Today increasingly made up of those nativists, fascists and neo-Nazis, fighters among the reactionary cadre founding neo-Right power operate in the streets. By and away their largest component is middle strata refuse, i.e., economically precarious, behaviorally unstable elements. They are mostly white males. Precarity and instability has been generated by the absence of regular, well-waged and benefited work, thus loss of a work-based role that would permit of a “manly” identity, a loss which is the other side of the massive entry of women into the workforce, and a loss which that finds them fiercely resenting and fearing autonomous, working women. The same character defining emotions suffuse the consciousness of women who as non-working housewives are personally threatened by feminism. The connection tissue between this reactionary minority operating in the streets and the more stable bourgeois groups (e.g., middle stratum intellectuals) is obviously ideological. Of course, their respective behaviors are different: Street action involves undisguised fascist-terrorist intimidation and aggressive baiting, with reference to the early Munich-based nsdap what Martin Broszat called “provocative brutalities,”7 with the intent, for example, of shutting down abortion clinics; today, of bullying, frightening and demoralizing the soft left milieu such as Black Lives Matter; always, with the intent of using the media spectacle to build their own bases through rallies (celebrating antebellum monuments and the Confederate flag, affirming “free speech” for thugs and murderers); and, with the intent of occasional murder (Dr. Peter Gunn, Heather Heyer), though the latter hardly rivals the sheer numbers of cop executions which occur annually.

The evangelical Christian churches, the attached television ministries and organizations that have devolved from them (such as the Moral Majority now defunct) form the last center of neo-Right, increasingly neo-fascist power. There are literally thousands of small parishes (especially in the South) operating out of old houses, abandoned buildings, ancient church buildings, and even strip mall storefronts, connected only to the larger oppositional culture by ideological appetite; the larger fundamentalist churches, however, are highly organized and tied through personnel and activities to the other centers of power. The intent here is different (from that of the street scum). It is threefold. With no attempt to prioritize, they are, first, provision of a biblically grounded construction of all contemporary events, relations between social groups and states. This construction establishes an operative conceptual framework from with which the meaning and significance of national and world developments are to be understood. That framework, second, also ensures fidelity to and fortifies evangelical concerns, a modern version of patriarchy in family life together with visceral opposition to feminism, and individualism (which interprets socially mediated or determined “failure” in terms of personal shortcoming and justifies a commitment to bootstrap capitalism). Third, efforts are made to shape local affairs (and here among the small parishes a further connection is made to the other centers of power, for guidelines drawn up by the later are often utilized in) petitioning school board and state legislatures to permit school prayer, enact abortion prohibitions, de-secularize textbooks and teach creationism. As a whole, the evangelical Christian churches give direction to primarily middle stratum, especially its lumpen layers, mediating their aspirations, politics and existential concerns, activity entirely congruent and advancing the multiple agendas of the institutions of a neo-Right, neo-fascist culture.

Unlike traditional, denominational American churches the evangelical ministries elicits far greater religious commitment. They, for example, often provide the really hardcore among the single-issue fascists engaged in the kinds of actions described above. Their relations to other organizations and centers of power within the neo-Right milieu are much more distant since they function quite autonomously with respect to these other organizations. The same cannot be said of other organizations and centers of power in relation to one another: Organizations and generations of leadership interlock; strategies are often jointly planned; and the same politically authoritarian, militaristic and nationalist, patriarchal and unfettered capitalist vision animates their views of American society.

The entire direction of de-industrializing us development, and beyond it the financial crisis and its depressionary aftermath, has not only created a vast precarious proletarian mass, but simultaneously a dense lumpenized middle stratum layer that includes, above all, small owners (many Internet based) and “independent contractors” highly visible in residential construction (where they were once upon a time, “handy men”), in transportation (e.g., FedEx where drivers are forced to buy “their own” delivery trucks, Uber, etc.), in telecommunications among non-organized employees, and elsewhere.

The nuclear elements of the neo-Right oppositional culture present in the middle strata taxpayer and homeowner revolts of the latter half of the 1970s as well as fears of “white” working class layers about emerging feminism and black entry into high-paid wage-labor jobs were tapped into by Ronald Reagan in his 1980 Presidential campaign. These activities and sentiments were crucial to the formation of an alliance of classes that created the conditions for a dramatic rightward shift in the political culture of American society during the 1980s, and that with the electoral triumph of Donald Trump continues, deepening, to this day. The political culture that emerged in the ‘80s is what we have here characterized as “neo-Right,” nascently neo-liberal and, today, more or less openly neo-fascist. Opposed to the reformist, welfare-statist perspectives characterizing high capitalism in its Fordist phase and embodied in the historically liberal wing of the Democratic party, the neo-Right practices of the Reagan-Bush era objectively constituted recognition of the inability of declining mass production industries to form the foundations of renewed us capital accumulation, of the decline of mass consumption norms among the vast overwhelming majority of the wage-earning population (and increasingly now of numerous layers of the salaried middle stratum as layer upon layer is either proletarianized or lumpenized), and the centrality of a political mediation of the changing American economy and class relations, what we otherwise call the increasingly totalitarian, police despotic naked dictatorship of capital over society.

Class Struggle and Politics in the Age of Accelerating, Abrupt Climate Change

“Race” came into being as a historically formed, varying and changing ensemble (i.e., a logical, ordered complex) of culturally specific meanings that constitute an imaginary social relationship. The contents of these meanings (this imaginary social relation) form a socially constructed psychic topography of arcane fears, anxieties, fantasies, and sham facts and insights projected onto the libidinous body and otherwise unfathomable soul of a degraded Other. These meanings are, …the imaginary social relationship is, called into being by and serve Power. They at once structure Objective Spirit (e.g., law) and are embodied as the tacit purpose of any number of institutions. Hence, they are materialized and to this extent “real.” Accordingly, this imaginary social relation, a projection sedimented in the structure of personal identity, bestows petty privilege upon those whose daily social practice reproduces these institutions as congealed social relations of domination (and reproduces them in opposition to those who struggle against subordination and marginalization).8

What is effectively required is that the need and affect structures of the persons, groups, and class strata who would be bearers of free communities already be implicit in the old society, so that this community is already tacitly and pre-figuratively constituted as an actually possible alternative to existing social relations. The full emergence of these human beings remains on the horizon of the future.9

There is a storm on the horizon. Its character is social, political and productive. It portends the very real possibility of large-scale conflict and a major confrontation. In the Hegelian sense it is actual (i.e., immanent to the existing configuration of social relations), prefiguring gigantic class struggle.

Since classes only exist in relation to one another, to this moment the foregoing has for analytic purposes been abstract: Only one side in this confrontation has been identified, the classes and strata (small owners, independent contractors, the lumpen middle stratum and older, precarious and self-consciously “white” workers) that constitute a neo-fascist oppositional bloc.10

So who forms the other side of this contradictory social relation that encompasses the whole of society? It too constitutes a bloc of classes and strata, but its social reality is only possible (socially, not logically, possible). It consists in the large layers of Spanish speaking and black workers and much smaller ethnic-national layers as well, a stratum of white workers, and a vast number of youth, significant numbers of whom are and who will be proletarianized, engaging in precarious labor. Of paramount import here, there has not been a proletarian core among the working classes in the old capitalist zones for over a quarter century, as four decades of outsourcing, restructurings and downsizing destroyed the traditional industrial center; and with the appearance of these youthful strata, especially proletarians, that core is re-forming.11

How is this core to be identified? Let the other side speak to the issue. Steve Bannon tells us this core consists in “millennials,” for they are “socialists,” and he decries the increasing secularism among this demographical group, stating, “the overwhelming drive of popular culture is to absolutely secularize this rising generation.”12 There are several points we are required to address here. First, Bannon is a nativist, “white” and an economic nationalist, an ideologue who mediates a neo-fascist oppositional culture to the reactionary bloc of classes; in fact, since it is this bloc which supports (politically renders possible and sustains) right-wing power in the state, above all the Trump presidency, and since Trump is patently the leader, an idiotic spokesman, of this bloc, it also of import that, in the same way Trotsky was Stalin’s theorist, Bannon is Trump’s theorist.13 Second, in identifying “millennials” as the class enemy, far more savvy than Trump Bannon, like a few other Trump officials such as David Malpass, understands the nature of the struggle and its potential culmination in civil war and has said as much.14 Third, by “millennials,” Bannon is not simply designating a chronologically determined age coterie.15 And by “socialist” he surely does not mean “revolutionary.” Instead, he means and intends the demand for student loan forgiveness, support for universal, free health care funded from general revenues as well as public sector job creation, for legislation and action aimed at ameliorating climate change, and the further demand for far more rigorous nationally legislated gun control, in other words, he means all those youths who support (and existentially require) a vast expansion of federal expenditures largely of the existing tattered, minimalist social safety net. He means those who in the full (Weimar German) sense of the term might be called “social democrats.” Bannon’s determination of who constitutes the enemy in the ongoing and coming struggle, then, refers us in the strict sense to the contents of consciousness.

One may scoff. If so, the problematic nature of “consciousness” does not rise to the level of explicit awareness. Instead, it is blocked by the false conviction that it “the material basis of whiteness” which, having largely disappeared, underlines white working class racism.16 This problematic can only be transcended if it is recognized that the formation of a social subject is not just “materially” but, of greater significance, institutionally and pre-cognitively shaped.

Approach this somewhat obliquely.

Consider the woman recently (July 2018) harassed (gone viral) by some self-consciously white male who kept badgering her, alleging she did not have citizen status, all the while another (self-consciously) white cop stood by ignoring her pleas for assistance. (She is a resident of Puerto Rico which, whatever you think of this, is territorially part of the United States, i.e., she is a citizen and a national.) You don’t explain this behavior by reference to “whiteness” if by that all you mean is petty (”material”) privilege. Rather, what is at issue here is that “imaginary social relation,” that “socially constructed psychic topography of arcane fears, anxieties, fantasies, and sham facts and insights” and embedded in it, the one social fact, which “material” privileges (from waivers of tax payments and parish levies while participating in the slave patrol down in historical time to higher wages along with exemption from really difficult, backbreaking work) have been designed to affirm and which de-industrialization has largely destroyed, namely an experientially based three class model of society (the rich above “us,” “us” in the middle, and “them” permanently below us, a barbarous common sense elaboration of immediate experience), providing “us” with moral worth and human dignity by proving that “we,” “whites,” are better than “them,” “blacks,” or more generally people of color.

So what is at issue is not material privileges so-called, but the institutions which create a perverse, malformed identity on the foundations of a socially constructed psychic topography for which bigotry, racism and racialized awareness affirm moral worth and human dignity.

This brings us back to Bannon’s “socialist” “millennials.”

Whatever we make of institutions which shape the sensibilities of Bannon’s “millennials,” those sensibilities are not racialized. First, let’s understand the historical foundations governing institutions that impart a non-racialized, precognitive affective existence. These are multiple but the following elements are crucial:17 By the early 1970s a socially generalized opposition to the war in Indochina (recall that even those who voted for Richard Nixon were promised by the sitting president that he had a secret plan for withdrawing from Vietnam) and, in conjunction with this, opposition both popular and emanating from states themselves among the bourgeois democracies of the West compelled the us ruling class to seriously pursue efforts to recoup its authority. (It was after all experiencing a crisis of legitimacy): The requirement was reconnecting capitalism, American capitalism, to bourgeois democracy. It should also be kept in mind that backgrounding, if you will, the entire societal crisis, was the ever-present issue of capital’s outward problematic, overcapacity, overproduction and a surfeit of commodities. In this context, the public, spectacular sanctification of the murdered Martin King was pressing: the Achilles heel of American bourgeois democracy as formally democratic has always been the institutionally racist burdening of blacks. For instance, it was the one criticism that the state capitalist bloc, societies of the Soviet type, offered, and to which those engaged in the ideological defense of the political form of American capitalism could not forcefully respond. From the mid-1970s on, it was imperative to develop, then put in place, a program which, while consciously failing to touch key socially reproductive institutions (the family, the workplace), might offer a self-image to Americans and an image to the bourgeois world of America as a color blind society. A safe place to institutionalize that problem, so it was believed, was the school system. Core curriculum was transformed, textbooks rewritten, new faces, dark-skinned Americans speaking, playing and working with naturalized, “white” Americans appeared in elementary school workbooks, literature was carefully chosen (and in works in which bigotry was present and the teaching of which could not be avoided, educators went to great lengths to point out the vast gulf that separated the present-day from Jim Crow, Redeemed and Antebellum America). Policy makers at all level of the state down to its lowest, the school districts, municipalities and townships may have been cynically posturing, but educators, the teachers themselves, by and large took it all very seriously. Film capitals cooperated. More black actors appeared, and in good guy and gal roles; and, of course, in its own crucial way there was Sesame Street. De-industrialization with its falling wage rates and collapsing benefit structure was forcing women in droves into the workplace, thereby drastically restricting the role of the family in socialization of the very young. At the same time, the capitalist daycare center as a social phenomenon emerged as an alternative venue of socialization, but animated by same principles increasingly operative in institutions of education. With respect to the latter, what was taught? Equality, tolerance, and sensitivity to feeling and sentiment. Tolerance of difference, national, ethnic, racial and gender inclusivity, was not only taught but cultivated, not as intellectual content (though this was present) but as pre-reflective attitude, as practice and behavior. Ironically, implementation of the entire socializing project began as Ronald Reagan took office as the American state’s chief executive. And, indeed, in large measure it has been successfully carried out, primarily because since the time of Reagan the function of schooling had dramatically changed. Instilling a discipline commensurate with factory work, the underlying pre-cognitive aim of education until that moment was transformed into cultivation of a subjectivity which realizes itself in and through the consumption of commodities, commensurate with capital’s phenomenal problematic of overproduction and commodity excess.

To be sure, not all youth develop de-racialized sensitivities. But, then, not all school districts have systematically pursued this socializing project: Over the past four decades, it has been the large metropolitan school districts, with at least some financial resources, and at least a modicum of racial integration where the project has been successful. Thus, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (housing 8,000 students) in Parkland, Florida. Even if undertaken, it has decidedly not come to fruition in the small, rural and pervasively white school districts.

Evidence? Witness young people who gather at popular venues of mass consumption, note their inter-ethnic, inter-racial composition. Make a list (it would be exceedingly long) of the cop executions of black males in very recent years, and examine the media accounts (visual bytes in the network news media, newspaper photographs, online videos especially at YouTube) of the protests, spontaneous and otherwise, in response to these murders. Inter-ethnically, inter-racially constituted youth are best represented. In fact, you’ll find lots and lots of “white” faces. How do you account for this?

It may be retorted that this is not class analysis, which means: “Youth” is an amorphous, non-class category, while by and away the largest number of Bannon’s “millennials” are “white,” their concerns do not address pressing issues of immigration and cop brutality and murder.

Consider, however, that propelled by competition among capitals, the dynamic of technological innovation at the dead, mechanical heart of capitalism will insure vast numbers of these “millennials,” education and expectations notwithstanding, will be proletarianized and precarious, and deeply, very deeply in debt: (The whole situation itself has and will increasingly become a formula for lived and experienced immiseration.) Casualization is a universal, ubiquitous datum of proletarian life today here in the United States and in the whole capitalist world (the entire world) and will be, more so, into the foreseeable future. Consciousness in both its pre-cognitive and explicit aspects is, at any rate, constitutive of class.

The view put forth here is that, among proletarians struggling with the issue of power, an awareness that is non-racialized, and whose sensibilities embrace tolerance and equality will be far more disposed toward a just and equitable treatment of immigrants, and will, moreover, be capable of addressing the really thorny irredentist and revanchist questions that, dating to 1846, may still linger in popular awareness; such proletarians will also far more likely be ecologically sensitive; and, prior even to the assumption of power, in the conflicts to come replete with cop brutality, such awareness, notwithstanding bourgeois democratic and electoral illusions, will come to recognize (if only intuitively) the role and function of cops as the front line of ruling class power on the ground. From the high school student walkouts (22–25 February 2011) in eastern Wisconsin which initiated the mass strike culminating on the Sunday (27 February 2011) 100,000 person plus rally in Madison to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas led demonstrations and rallies of Florida high schoolers that compelled a right-wing legislature to enact, and a NRA sycophantic, atavistic governor to sign, restrictive gun legislative, this youthful proletariat in the making exhibits a capacity for acting in concert (in the tens of thousands) in a way in which workers in the us have not done since the 1970s. This is worth noting. Actually it is of utmost importance.

There is a final subterranean issue here, a question of whether the emerging proletarian core is too “white.” Millennials alone at 75.4 million individuals form the largest demographical group in us history. It may be believed they are largely “white” (where the term is not naturalized but refers to outward appearance, phenotype in genetic sense where it is taken as immediately given, i.e., observationally accessible, yet in a lengthy historical process formed by the human organism’s structures and functions), but in point of fact a full 42 percent in 2012 and 46 percent in 2018 of “millennials” are non-”white.”18 But more to the point, for non-racialized awareness the issues of “white,” “race” and “color” simply do not weigh heavily.

As we shall attempt to show in our conclusion, the whole trajectory of contemporary development tends toward a general crisis of capitalism: When seen in its broader context described below, this crisis, set down within planetary ecological and climatic transformation, portends a gigantic class confrontation that, though not fated, is most likely to transpire. Within this setting, there will be opportunity, undoubtedly fleeting, for revolutionaries to exhibit political weight without any relation to their tiny numbers.

So what are the requirements here? “Whiteness” cannot and will not be abandoned by those who are its bearers. Its impact, however, will lessen (not societally, but as an internal relation of the working class with itself) over time, but not as dramatically as we might wish, but lessen nonetheless; that is as large numbers of self-consciously “white” workers will “age up” and no longer be significant for the class relation. Perhaps not, but an eminently defensive sound position, and a rational hope.19 The requirement here is to fully comprehend the situation and its dynamic.

Part III—Problems of Revolutionary Communists

There are two very large blank spots in the thinking of revolutionary communists. They devolve on the crisis of society set down in local nature itself undergoing rapid deterioration and unraveling. The consequences of the failure to come to grips with this blindness are large-scale, even disqualifying.

Planetary Climate Change

We’ll forgo discussion of ongoing ecological collapse and mass species extinction and instead direct ourselves exclusively to planetary climate transformations.20

Examine three experientially manifest forms of changing climate, torrential rainfalls and flooding, heat waves, and wildfires. All these are very recent events, a snapshot of changes that are ongoing, occurring with more and more frequency with greater and greater intensity.

In the first week of April, flooding in North Yorkshire due to heavy rain occurred producing crop failure from waterlogged fields and the death of livestock (10 percent of all lambs) due to drowning; at the same time, there was flooding in Kauai, Hawaii where, after 24 inches of rain in 24 hours fell, mass evacuations by air were required; in mid-April, in Jammu and Kashmir heavy snows and rainfalls closed highways and caused avalanches and landslides; and, again in mid-April, along Red Sea coast Arabia (south of Mecca) storms produced hail so dense that in the aftermath nearly a foot of icy snow remained. All of these events were unprecedented, “weird” by historical standards.

On 5 July, the same day Denver reached 105 °F (40.5 °C) and central Pakistan 122.4 °F (50.2 °C), both all-time recorded high temperatures, the following cities across the northern hemisphere hit record daily highs: 98 °F (36.6 °C) in Montreal, 86 °F (30 °C) in Castlederg (Ireland) and 85 °F (29.5 °C) in Belfast, 89.4 °F (32 °C) in Glasgow and 92 °F (33 °C) in Motherwell (also Scotland), 107.6 °F (42 °C) in Yerevan (Armenia), and 108.7 °F (42.6 °C) in Quriya (Oman).

As we write, on 18 July, while 60 major wildfires are blazing in the western United States, 11 large wildfire rage inside the Arctic Circle in Greenland, Siberia, Alaska and Canada with the worst in Sweden. Those in Canada, still burning, reach down into southernmost British Columbia, thus creating a line of wildfires visible from space along the length of the North American Pacific coast. In Europe, Ukraine has been hit especially hard by wildfires.

All this represents the proverbial tip of the metaphoric iceberg.

Torrential downpours and flooding are regionally, not globally, connected; but the wildfires and the heat (and dryness) driving them are globally synchronized. That’s an indication of the trajectory of planetary change. Generated, exacerbated and accelerated by capitalist development, these changes now respond to a dynamic of their own: Shut down all power plant and industrial emissions, eliminate exhaust from vehicles of all sorts, stop all airline flights, and above all shut down emissions from military operations (perhaps the greatest carbon producer on Earth), put an end to all of it tomorrow, and atmospheric CO2 levels will continue to rise for the next quarter century, and the heat, drought, wildfires, downpours and flooding will continue to increase in lockstep while appearing in qualitatively novel ways. Does the technological means to alter this situation exit? No. Might it be created? Perhaps, but it is vastly more likely that the new Earth the formation of which the movement of capital has initiated will last several million years, a reality that in a practical way is beyond human comprehension.

Even without a runaway warming, the terminus of this ongoing transformation—the end of the interglacial and with it the onset of oppressively hot climates, reduction of built environments to a level well below that which existed 8,000–9,000 years ago and, above all, a resources famine in nature—renders genuinely communist designs emphasizing the suppression of work, opposition to a “transition,” and the effort to put abundance on a new non-commodified basis beyond technologies of capital no longer germane or meaningful.

Marxists have continued to celebrate nature mastery long after it passed over into resource plunder and ecological destruction, affirming that communism as a free human community rested solidly on the foundations of the “material achievements” of capitalism. Since circa 1998 and in particular beginning from the financial crisis, revolutionary communists have miserably failed to link climate change, mass species extinction and ongoing ecological collapse to capitalist dynamics, while the entire neo-Right, neo-fascist culture has tied their defense of capitalism to climate change denial. So here we are without a clue (much less programmatic direction) as to how to cope with these transformations.

Ask yourself as a revolutionary ensconced in a novel, proletarian organizational form holding power, call it a council or quasi-state, two decades from now what will you and your comrades, those here and abroad, do when the glacier melts are exhausted and winter snowfalls are so sparse that the flows of many of the major rivers feeding great cities of the world slow to a trickle or dry up? When the surrounding countryside of those cities is subject to intense heat and unrelenting drought, the cities dying for lack of water and food? When the Rockies and Sierra Nevada fall to this fate, and the thirst of Los Angeles, Vegas and Phoenix cannot be satisfied, or the heat is so intense that the same Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson and El Paso and cities like these are simply abandoned? As the first 5–6 foot rise in sea levels generates salination which kills all coastal crops worldwide, and an eighth of the world population (nearly a billion people) begins a forced migration into continental interiors that will not end until that rise exceeds 260 feet and roughly half the world population has migrated? (Salination has made rice farming impossible in Bangladesh as much as 60 kilometers inland from the Bay of Bengal; and it has forced a million peasant farmers to abandon rice cultivation and leave their homes in the Mekong Delta.) How do you anticipate dealing with the same as mass migrations move inland from the coastal eastern United States and the Gulf region? How will you deal with the collapse of infrastructure, ports and docks that fall under sea level rise, storm sewers backed up and overflowing in streams, lakes and rivers, highways, rail lines and runways that buckle under overwhelming heat, bridges and roads battered and destroyed by relentless storms, the overload and shutdowns of electrical power stations due to intense heat-based demand, and, accordingly, with the collapse of local, regional and global distribution systems? How will you cope with wet bulb temperatures of 35 °C and above, as people in the tens, nay hundreds of thousands incessantly undergo heat prostration, physiological shutdown and death?21

Crisis of State Legitimacy and Revolutionary Communists

The long aftermath of the financial crisis (2008–2009) includes the Occupy Movement, the February 2011 mass strike and following state house occupation in Madison, the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, and, as events shifted rightward, Trump’s election in 2016. Taken together, these events reveal a certain loss of naive faith in the state. Not merely diversionary, Trump’s conflicts with and the popular support he has marshaled against the FBI, the neo-con Congress, network news and the major national newspapers of record exhibit profound cynicism, albeit most of it coming from the right, toward the dominant ruling class faction. This speaks to increasing disenchantment. Yet specifiable convictions, beliefs and illusions put a break on just how deep this disenchantment can go.

The case in point is the events inside the United States on 11 September 2011.

In New York, highjackers with no commercial piloting experience carried out maneuvers experienced pilots would have had extreme difficulty accomplishing; airline crashes are said to have ignited and melted a complex of steel girders with a maximal intensity of heat that made such melting impossible; the collapse and free fall of the North and South Towers was consistent with controlled demolition; in Washington, the size of the hole, the extent of the damage inflicted on the Pentagon and absence of airline debris were all consistent with a hit by a guided missile; in New York and Washington, the failure of the entire NORAD based air defense gird was inexplicably unprecedented; near Shanksville, the debris pattern of the downed plane was also consistent, and only consistent with destruction by a missile (not to mention the impossibility of lengthy, coherent cellphone calls from above 8,000 feet in 2001). And on and on and on.

The official report of the 9/11 Commission is a sham with zero explanatory value. It is an absurd conspiracy theorization writ large. Yet it functions as a summation of a widely held, rationally unacceptable belief.

Now there is good reason why revolutionary communist websites and discussions forums do not take these events up (but, there is no good reason why the same often parrot the official line): Open up a site or forum to discussion of such events and there’ll be arguments whether the Queen of England and, or, the Vatican in pursuit of Satanic rituals control the world of great capitalist finance.

But there are two far more important aspects to whatever value discussions of this specific “conspiracy” possess.

First, among those workers who do not define themselves in terms of their “whiteness,” and additionally probably offer little or no support to Trump, and among the emerging non-racialized, youthful proletarian core, there is electoral allegiance if not to the Democratic Party, then to the state and, particularly, the country and “nation.” Belief in the official version of the events of 911 September 2001 not only paradigmatically exhibits a heart-felt chauvinism, it is the myth of our time binding the working class to “its” “nation” (i.e., to the ruling class, to its projects, and to capitalism). No revolutionary transformation is possible without breaking the back of this (among other) myth(s).

Second, even cursory consideration of the events of that day suggests (while serious examination of evidence compels) the conclusion that a rogue network of operatives housed inside the intelligence agencies, the military command structure and the Executive-based permanent bureaucracies purposively carried out these actions. The significance of this is that there is something very much like a “deep state” functioning within the structure of the bourgeois polity. Yet with the single exception of Wildcat, no forum of revolutionary communists pays attention to the reality and import of the “deep state.” Its importance is this: In the coming struggle, regardless of how widespread support for revolutionary change in the red hot heat of class confrontation, the presence of “deep state” operatives in support of a fascist oppositional bloc guarantee civil war and civil war which is long, bloody and, as with all civil wars, vicious.

Conclusion—Tariffs, Trade Wars and Shooting Wars

The Drift toward Renewed Imperialist World Becomes the Tendential Direction of Capitalist Development

There are currently two roads to renewed imperialist world war, de-dollarization and tariff wars. We’ll examine each in turn.

De-dollarization is the longer, slower road, but perhaps the more certain. Since the moment Kissinger engineered a deal with the Saudis as the world’s then largest oil producer and undisputed leader of OPEC, the petro-dollar has underlay the global system of trade.

For forty-four years, every central bank in the world has had to possess large dollar reserves (in the form of us Treasuries) or forfeit purchase of that fundamental commodity lubricating the world economy, oil. Furthermore, the us trade deficit, and thus the debt-based standard of living in the United States (without respect to stratum or class whether various layers of the property owning business classes, well-to-do adjuncts to capital and professionals of all sorts, or different strata within the proletariat), is financed by the petro-dollar: For the most part stemming from overseas, and largely from East Asia, the vast purchases of the various great and small retailers are paid for by presenting us Treasuries for imported goods arriving by container ship. The us Treasury Department prints dollars in order to cover both the trade deficit (which will exceed $600 billion in fiscal 2018), and the interest on the loans (this time the receipts from the sale of Treasury bonds) that finance the federal deficit. This printing is done without reference to American productivity in the full knowledge Treasuries backstop world trade (i.e., are sitting in the vaults of central banks across the world to meet the dollar purchases, most importantly oil, of their national capitals): This printing is inflationary, vastly so, and the inflation is exported abroad through central banks’ Treasury bond purchases. Taken, together, this is the basic meaning of dollar suzerainty.

Dollar hegemony, however, is troubled. De-dollarization proceeds on two “fronts” if you will.

First, a good portion (perhaps as much 40 percent) of world trade is now, and soon the largest part (perhaps 60 percent) will be taking place, outside the dollar zone. A simple enumeration is in order here.

China’s Xi’s signature project, revival of the Silk Road (the Belt and Road Initiative, which is far more than a highway stretching across central and western Asia), is reputed to have the dollar equivalent of 6 trillion in pending contracts, almost all in infrastructural development.

Since 2005, planned efforts have been ongoing in several areas of infrastructural construction that underlay and accelerate trade in east, southeast and east Asia. The Chinese state and a number of financial institutions (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, BRICS Development Bank, and the Chinese InterBank Payment System) have been and are funding these developmental projects. Across Eurasia the Russians have been similarly active.

Those projects include railways, highways, natural gas and oil pipelines, and ports.

The Kunming–Singapore Railway refers to a network of railways, under planning and construction, that would connect China, Singapore and all the countries of mainland Southeast Asia.22 In January 2015, the Beijing city government announced Russia and China will build a 7,000-kilometer (4,350-mile) high-speed rail link from Beijing to Moscow, a ten year partnership at a cost of 1.5 trillion yuan ($242 billion). The rail-link will bring travel time between Beijing and Moscow down from 5 days to 30 hours.

Revival of the old wwii Stilwell Road, a highway connecting China to India (Assam), is well developed. In 2005, Indian and Chinese survey teams began mapping out plans to rebuild the road. So far China has done all the reconstruction work, paving dozens of miles at a time with granite stones packed into dirt. When the monsoons end, the surface is watered, rolled and baked hard in the sun, making it almost as flat as asphalt.

A decision to construct a transcontinental highway was made back in 2007, a memorandum signed between the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan. The aim of the project is the construction of a motorway with a length of up to 8,500 kilometers from St. Petersburg to Western China through Kazakhstan, where it would connect with a network of Chinese roads. In the near future Chinese and Kazakh sections of the roads will be finished and the Russian part will be finished in 2020.

Natural gas and oil pipelines are under construction in Central Asia and China, as part of one unitary project. Thread by thread the pipeline project has been gathering all of the available gas resources of Central Asia. Now a fourth branch is being built, called Strength of Siberia which constitutes in two lines combined into one which will deliver gas from Eastern Siberia and the Far East to China: The East-West oil pipeline carries oil from fields in Kazakhstan to China. The Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean and Western Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipelines supply oil to China and further on to the Asia-Pacific region with oil from fields in Russian Siberia and Far Eastern fields.

China is also considering building a rail line to parallel a 1,100 kilometer pipeline connecting Kunming and the western Burmese deep-sea port under construction at Kyaukpyu.

Bilateral trade agreements (2014.05.21) between China and Russia in investment and finance have been formalized, with local currency settlement, and with the Chinese investing in development in housing, infrastructure, natural resources such as coal, iron ore and copper. The agreement includes a deal on the purchase of Russian natural gas for Chinese renminbi. In October 2014, China and Russia signed a 150 billion yuan currency swap deal. This underpins accords on energy, banking and technology that include the east gas pipeline route, a double-tax treaty, satellite navigation, high-speed rail and Rosneft-CNPX cooperation, with China indicating a readiness to export agricultural products and oil and gas equipment to Russia.

All these infrastructural projects and the trade pacts are conducted in local currency, thus accelerating the de-dollarization of commercial relations.23

The second “front” amounts to a direct assault on the petro-dollar. It involves non-dollar agreements made with respect to petroleum purchases. Qatar accepts Chinese renminbi for the purchase of oil, as do the Iranians and Russians. Nigeria, Venezuela, and yes Saudi Arabia sell thicker crudes to the Russians who refine it and market it, while the sellers thereby avoid us sanctions. These pacts are of very recent vintage, without any in place before 2017.

To facilitate developments on both these fronts, linked to the Chinese Interbank Payment system in early June (2018) the Chinese state began issuance of a gold trade note, a certificate that permits exporters who receive payment in renminbi for goods sold to or in China to exchange the rmb for the gold trade note. The note can be held by central banks, or redeemed for bullion at any time.

These developments, all of them and all ongoing, undermine global dollar suzerainty. Without the most unlikely of events, a vast reduction in the us trade deficit, sooner or later, likely later (in a five year time frame as a rough estimate), the refusal, especially by shipments coming out of East Asia, to accept Treasuries in exchange for container cargo at us ports will grow qualitatively, snowball, and precipitate massive shortages and runaway inflation inside the United States…

A tariff war sets us down another road to renewed imperialist world war, though this is less certain, filled, as this road is, with exits that fall short of what in the end we think is where the various dynamics operative in capitalism tend toward.

There is no way to avoid this: It starts with Trump.

On exhibit in his 2016 campaign rallies, Trump is a thug on the model of Mussolini. His plutocratic appetites make him a political leader on the model of Peron. Though his diminished and diminishing vocabulary suggest an early form of dementia, though clarity is largely absent and though he publicly contradicts himself with a regularity that is amazing, a singular consistency in behavior is apparent. It is nativist, xenophobic and racist. At the level of policy, these behaviors translate into an economic nationalist motif governing its formulation. Trump’s shorthand for this is the phase “America First,” ideologically expressed in the popularized slogan, “Make America Great Again.” It took Trump a frustrating year in office to learn that his kingly expectations and predilections could not be realized in domestic policy. Foreign policy offers a freer hand, and, currently, tariffs can be decreed on his authority alone.

Tariffs are important.

First, pursued doggedly by a powerful enough capitalist state for a long enough period of time, they can reconfigure the existing structure of capitalist social relations globally.

Second, they can accelerate a trajectory of development that is immanent to those social relations as they form the entire world system.

Trump’s supporters among workers (such as those at Harley-Davidson), a support which has grown dramatically since his 2016 election, and among the business classes (such as soybean farmers) believe, that is they fervently hope, the tariffs imposed on European and Chinese raw materials and finished goods constitute a negotiating tactic and they are temporary. It is further believed that within six months (by the beginning of next year, 2019), they will have achieved the goal of leveling the playing field (i.e., reconstructing the advantages in exchange which the United States with Bretton Woods enjoyed in the long aftermath of the last imperialist world war) and, accordingly, will be dropped. There is, however, evidence to the contrary. And, crucially, it concerns China with which there is much likely less chance (than with the eu) of some sort of accommodation.

Robert Lighthizer, a trade lawyer for larger steel capitals, is the us trade representative, the man (actually he has a group of subordinates) who is (are) drawing up the list of goods and materials against which the next $200 billion of tariffs against the Chinese are to be imposed. He has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal (2018.07.05) as stating that he does not think the tariffs will force China’s red capitalists to fall into line, which means that entire dollar amount of the Chinese surplus in exchange vis-a-vis the United States ($375 billion), actually the figure that is floated by his Administration and Trump himself is $505 billion, will be subject to tariffs. Like the Europeans (eu), the Chinese have and will continue to retaliate, though it will take a different form after the next $100 billion in reciprocal tariffs since Chinese purchases from the us do not exceed $130 billion. One form that retaliation will take is harassment of us capitals operating in China (slowing down requests for waivers on internal exchange regulations, on environmental restrictions, etc.), another is and will continue to be the slow, steady devaluation of the rmb and, still open to the Chinese, there is the really big “trump” card, dumping hundreds of billions of dollars in us Treasury bonds on world markets, taking gold or whatever currency they prefer in exchange. Tariffs, then, beget retaliation which, in turn beget further retaliation, and shifts in the form the latter take. It can lead to a vast contraction in world trade. After Smoot-Hawley (June 1930), retaliation was forthcoming from Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and India, and all the developed European nations.24 Generating a trade war, tariff retaliation was inadequate; it was followed by still higher duties on specific products or product categories, differential evaluations, exchange restrictions, and preferential treatment for domestic products. This led to capital controls, blocked accounts and currency devaluations. Bilateral trade was shortly the order of the day, but, it too was inadequate and was soon (by 1932) surpassed by trade blocs (uk Commonwealth “preferential treatment,” a customs union that included Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands).25 Among the more aggressive imperialist great powers, Germany and Japan, bilateral trade and trading blocs in basic ways were unable to support acquisition of necessary raw materials on suitable terms. Trade war led to shooting wars, starting with territorial aggrandizement. The German “Drang nach Osten” began with annexations of Austria and Czechoslovakia, and by way of Hungarian absorption aimed at a Grosswirtschaftsraum (Greater German Economy) that encompassed Romania, Bulgaria and Greece (and reduced the former two nations in particular to an agricultural hinterland with the Nazis dictating what crops were grown, their prices and what purchases could be made).26 The Japanese started from the military occupation of Manchuria in September 1931, which was industrialized on the basis of enslaved Chinese labor, and culminated in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (proclaimed in September 1940), which was a euphemism for military conquest (China, Singapore, Malaysia, the Dutch East Indies, Indochina and Burma) and organized plunder and pillage.27 Military conquest and shooting wars led to world war.

So there’s the pattern, and while history does not rescript itself by repeating event for event, past history and contemporaneity at this early stage are structurally similar: Tariffs, tariff retaliation, higher levies on specific products and categories of goods, preferential treatment (including subsidies) for domestic products, currency devaluations and capital controls have all appeared, though what the Trump Administration likes to say it aims at is bilateral trade. We’ll return to this.

Lighthizer has more to say on the matter of tariffs. He has also been quoted, pity Trump supporters, as saying tariffs could last for “several years.” (Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary, steel magnate and beneficiary of the steel and aluminum tariffs imposed on the eu, the Chinese, S. Koreans, Mexicans and Canadians, is on record as stating that tariffs should be imposed indefinitely.) In fact, Lighthizer and Ross, and the Koch brothers too, together with Trump embody the (domestic steel and oil) nationalist and protectionist and rentier interests of factions within the us ruling class who have been less successful in valorizing their capitals in an era of American de-industrialization. It is these capitals which have “lost the battle for modernization” in the face of global competition especially as conditions of their reproduction as capitals has worsened since the financial crisis.28 Yet they alone constitute a minor summit within that class: Whatever political conflicts, or circus as the case may be, rage in the media spectacle, Trump can pursue his tariff policy because he has garnered, retained and enjoys far more significant support in armament manufacturers, great bankers and large oil capitals: Adjusted for inflation, military spending today rivals that of 35 years ago under Reagan, Dodd-Frank has been legislatively repealed, and the world price of oil has doubled since Trump entered the White House. Thus, temporarily he also enjoys the support of Exxon-Mobil, BP and Shell, Rosneft and Aramco, i.e., international oil capitals, the Russians and Saudis (though conjunctural considerations rarely shape long-term geopolitical strategy and planning).

Infrastructural renewal has been abandoned as Trump Administration policy, and the windfalls reaped from a massive tax cut have been plowed back into stock buybacks, not into capital investments in plant and equipment so that re-industrialization policy has also miscarried. Actually accelerating continuing economic decline, these failures leave trade policy (together with racist and xenophobic demagoguery) as the only current means of maintaining faltering us hegemony in world capitalism. But the objectives of Trump and his Administration go far beyond bilateral trade, and will be pursued even if tariffs are followed by negotiations and agreements benefiting the us: Trump, and hemmed in by negotiated international rules and regulations, the ruling class domestic factions whose interests his presidency promotes are intent on dismantling global agreements and the centralized institutions of capitalist power that operate worldwide, without regard to whether they are financial (World Bank, imf, central banks including the Federal Reserve), exchange-oriented (gatt, wto, tpp, eu, nafta) or political (un, the Climate Change Accord).29 Make no mistake, the aim is not fair and equitable trade relations or a “level playing field” (whatever either might mean), but, patently, terms and conditions heavily weighted against us trade partners: Trump seeks one-on-one deals because us financial, economic and military power loom far larger in such negotiations. As long-term us decline deepens, as the case of Canada demonstrates the objective is to “stay atop” by using that power to push everyone else down (like a drowning man who keeps afloat by flaying his way on top, likely drowning, his swimming partner), using that power to extract the most onerous terms, and this without regard to long-term viability of the project or consequences.30 At some point in the near future it is a sure formula for a transforming a trade war into a shooting war.

But whether “trade wars are good” or bad (it is an evaluation made within capitalism, certainly without a view to its transcendence), they are not “easy to win.” No one but Trump and a couple of economists domiciled in the White House believe otherwise. They will not enhance world trade, and they will not overcome the structurally grounded economic weaknesses of the United States, most important of which are the absence of an industrial base (beyond the narrow capacity for production of armaments of all kinds), a burgeoning trade deficit, and a dollar suzerainty which not-so-slowly and inexorably is disappearing. To the contrary, even short of a shooting war a global trade war will inevitably lead to a dramatic contraction in that trade, to vast dislocations, economic collapse in large parts of the world, a global recession in the short term (within fifteen months), and, if pursued long enough (two-three years) it will result in renewed financial crisis and, likely also, global depression.

Rooted in de-industrialization, American global political and financial hegemony is in decline. Trump recognizes this. Rendering the neo-con policy wonks, media and politicians apoplectic, his effort to seek betterment of relations with Putin and the Russians is designed to remove the greatest military threat to the United States as the struggle for global hegemony grows, at the same time that he ratchets up tensions with the Europeans over their commitments to their Union, to the World Trade Organization and multilateral trade.

Understood as just that, as a fight for global financial and political dominance, that struggle, as Bannon has pointed out at in numerous forums and most recently in a bbc interview, is against China, a “mercantilist power” to which “the United States is a tributary state.”31 However, it is China which, as we suggested above, is actually positioned to win a trade war with the United States, accelerating its (China’s) global ascendancy.32

Trump, though, believes this war can be won because he believes that a return to post world war, American productive dominance, effectively a return to a us hegemonized Fordist regime of accumulation, is still possible; that against the technologically innovative dynamic governing capitalist development, the creation of 25 million new jobs is possible (well, maybe he only says this). Likewise, his supporters in the WVA coalfields believe that employment will return with $63.00/hour wages. Trump believes all this because he believes that the us economy has hidden autarkic strengths that will permit it to weather a trade war and its consequences. These beliefs are entirely congruent with the assault on environmental legislation and climate change regulations, and the effort to subsidize coal and nuclear in the name of “national security” (and through a general, national tax on popular consumption no less).

Ironically a grand beneficiary of the following developments, Trump understands nothing of the financialization and rentierization of the us economy, nothing of the fictitious accumulation of multitudinous and unsatisfiable paper claims to real wealth, and he understands nothing of the global supply chains which thickened throughout the 1990s and whose networks grew astronomically after 2000, that is after the Chinese joined the wto. That is crucial. He cannot grasp the blowback from tariffs: Any number of Ford sedans sport an engine of German manufacture, interior components (say airbags) made in Japan, electronic components manufactured in both Japan and China, and Canadian and Mexican steel, with assembly carried out in Mexico City. A single electronic component may contain a rare metal mined in China which has been transported to Malaysia where it become an element in a semi-conductor that is shipped back to China for final component construction whereafter it ends up in the German manufactured engine of an American sedan.

The potential for a prolonged trade war is real. Forcefully pursued, it will unravel existing levels of world capitalist integration. It will destroy crucial global supply chains. It will generate dislocations, disruptions, supply shortages and (already transpiring) accelerate domestic inflation. If this much comes to pass, the two roads to renewed imperialist world war will intersect: The precariousness of us dollar suzerainty will become apparent. Exporters will refuse to accept us Treasuries as payment from the Walmarts and Targets as container ships pile up at us ports of entry. And at this point, domestic inflation will skyrocket. Simultaneously in lessening global tensions, on the Korean Peninsula, in the effort at accommodation with the Russians (while exchanging them for others, above all with the Chinese), Trump brings class struggle back home. And though class struggle in the United States has a long history in which it has been canalized into racial conflict, and while said channeling will get much worse, the mystification, illusion and diversion will increasingly come to an end. Confronting this, it will be difficult for Trump, or whoever sits atop the us Executive at this moment, not to pursue war both to canalize growing domestic conflict and to seize raw materials, resources and goods that are no longer available in us markets. The outcome of the mammoth class struggle (below) will decide whether military confrontation of this sort devolves into renewed imperialist world war.

If we come this far, this will be the moment at which the work of the Steve Bannon’s comes to fruition or falters, exciting racist bigotry, xenophobia and jingoism, ratcheted up as nativists, fascists and neo-Nazis clamor for blood in the face of dislocations, disruptions and shortages that portend domestic collapse, with fascism as a highly possible outcomes.33 In the face of massive social crisis, large swathes of the population in the United States (the bulk of the business classes, middling adjuncts to capital, disguised proletariat layers in particular so-called independent contractors, and still other smaller layers), anti-proletarian, extremely nationalist, racist and illiberal (i.e., bearers of the neo-Right, neo-fascist oppositional culture), will accept the “leadership” of these, the most rabid elements. The struggle for the social totality will then sharpen: Ruling class social groups will tacitly, in some instances openly, support this counterrevolutionary bloc, the rest of the business classes will fall in line (and those in the middle stratum with politically liberal consciences and plenty of money will flee the country), the state will exhibit its essentially historical character as armed force as cops across the country mobilize to protect fascists and nativists in the streets, and the National Guard will be called up and the military brought home to impose de facto martial law where the cops are ineffective. The same unfolding events will push in the direction of consolidation of a counter-posed class bloc, youth with its proletarianized, precarious core, large layers of Spanish speaking labor, thin layers of other ethnic-national workers and a thick multi-class stratum of blacks. At this point it will, as a matter of life or death, be necessary to split the National Guard, and the enlisted soldiery from the military leadership and those in their midst who are special forces, while making this consolidation of our forces real.

It will be at this moment, and those leading up to it, that a withering critique of the primacy of profitability over need, of ruling class imperatives and bureaucratic administrators over the development of community-mediated individual competencies, of direct democracy over all form of representation above all over capital’s police despotic dictatorship, and of the inanity and deleterious character of capital’s media spectacle will increasingly receive a hearing. Reaching all the way back to abstract labor and the value-form, such a critique will become increasingly meaningful, concrete and real. On this basis, it will be at this moment, and those leading up to it, that, even as all the dauntingly intractable problems of an accelerating climatic transformation remain, masses of men and women can and perhaps will, however messy and even chaotic, find a practical alternative to capitalism. If from perspective of history itself, this moment, and those leading up to it, are fleeting, they will nonetheless be our opportunity.

15 September 2018

  1. A version of this article will shortly appear as the afterword to the collection Climate Change, Social Revolution and their Imaginary Representations in Late Capitalist Popular Culture.

  2. The decisive sector in which wildcats broke out was in autos, the core of capitalism in the Fordist era. Take the United States. In Detroit, wildcats occurred at Dodge Main (1968), Chrysler Sterling (1969) and Dodge’s Eldon (1969–1970), at GM in Lordstown (1972), in Detroit at Jefferson Assembly, Chrysler Forge and Mack stamping (1973). The other major wildcat strike was nationwide by postal workers (1970). The flight of capital offshore, of course, has never been limited to the United States. Before China ever entered the field, offshoring had become a global phenomenon, perhaps occurring at a later moment but nonetheless occurring: Since the early nineties, German auto manufacturing is conducted as much in the German East and the Czech Republic as in Bavaria, while Japanese electronic components are produced in Malaysia and Thailand in as great a quantity as in Honshu.

  3. The war in Indochina bore directly, even if not obviously, on steel manufacture. Based on the antiquated open-hearth furnace, us steel capitals could not keep pace with us military demands for those steels used in construction of the machinery of war (munitions especially automatic weapons and their ammunition, artillery shells, bombs of all sorts; helicopters, jet fighters and strategic bombers; utility vehicles and convoy trucks; smaller watercraft such as PT boats). As a result, the Pentagon undertook purchases of steel in sheets and bars from Japan and Korean plants (operating with modernized, integrated oxygen furnaces). By 1969, steel sourced from East Asia amounted to a full 10 percent of the American market. This was the point of entry of Japanese goods, followed by a whole array of commercial (non-military) products (most notably autos) into the us market, and an entry which would shortly become a floodgate, a movement in which, as we are relating, technical innovation within global capitalism virtually destroyed the us steel industry during the 1970s.

  4. Business Week (17 October 1977) noted that between 1966 and 1976, a “stunning decline” occurred as “the return on investment for US industry… shrank to 9.2 percent from 13.4 percent” (cited by Milton Fisk, “The Roots of the Stagnant Economy,” Cleveland, 1978: 17.) Fisk produces two tables, “Ibid,” 34–35, one detailing a year by year (1964–1976) summary of the declining rate of profit of us industry as a whole, the other for the same period quantitatively relating an increasing fixed capital (and inventory) to a declining rate of worker exploitation and an increasing organic composition of capital for us industry as a whole.

    In the boardrooms, the very upper layers of management running the great industrial firms were acutely aware of falling profitability. The shift from industry to finance, real estate and entertainment begin in earnest in about 1980 and really took off in 1983. See Steve Massey, “Who Killed Westinghouse” (1998), chapters 2 and 3. This piece can be found online searching for it by title.

  5. There is actually a further thread intertwined with this account of de-industrialization. It is important to be sure, but will be only acknowledged here. It concerns the globally shifting class structure of capitalism manifested in the establishment of industrial work in East Asia. Relative to global capitalist development today, it is in East (and South) Asia where an industrial proletariat is housed and concentrated. This includes not just China, but S. Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam (Saigon), Malaysia and Thailand (Bangkok). According to the World Bank (World Development Report 1995: Workers in an Integrating World. New York, 1995: 170), eighty percent (80 percent) of industrial workers in the world were found in East Asia by 1995. That concentration may be far greater today.

  6. That is, they recognize only the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, considering the 13th, 14th and 15th (not to mention the 19th) amendments as usurpations. The 13th, 14th and 15th amendments legally embodied, codifying in fundamental law, the only revolution in American history, the overthrow of planter property in slaves.

  7. Hitler and the Collapse of Weimar Germany. New York, 1987 (Munich, 1984): 4.

  8. Will Barnes, Civil War and Revolution in America. St. Paul, 1999: Preface, Part IV, “The Meaning of ‘Race’ and its Relation to Class."

  9. Will Barnes, Community and Capital. St. Paul, 2001: §240.

  10. Forming the largest part of a surplus population thrown off by the movement of capital, there are still other social layers which, as decline deepens, far more or far less tend to be swept up into this bloc: They consist in the strictly lumpenized elements who live from theft, swindling, scamming, etc. (far less); pensioners entirely dependent upon a shrinking social wage institutionalized in Social Security (far more); structurally unemployed living from family and relatives (far more); a still thin but growing layer of addicted (opioids primarily) in certain enclaves (e.g., rural West Virginia) whose forms and means of socially reproducing themselves vary and overlap to some extent with lumpenized and structurally unemployed (far less); and a vast prison population (far less, many of whom may line up with our side).

  11. The Spanish speaking proletariat is clearly Central American and Mexican centered, but just as obviously includes Guatemalans, Nicaraguans and Salvadorans (now with little fanfare being deported by the Trump Administration). Then, as indicated, there are other ethnically-national components depending on locale. Thus, for instance, in the coastal West cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle), this proletariat includes Filipino and Vietnamese workers; and, in Minneapolis-St. Paul (actually on the edge of Shakopee, Minnesota – a small town, not a suburb, just southwest of Minneapolis) where Amazon built its Twin Cities metropolitan area distribution center, twenty percent (20 percent) of the employees, over one thousand workers, are Somali, the majority of them young women).

    According to the investigative Internet journalist, J.P. Sottile, among other reasons (a largely successfully implemented agenda for dismantling environmental and workplace restraints on capital), Trump’s big financial backers, Robert Mercer (see fn. 14, below) and the Koch brothers (protestations to the contrary notwithstanding), see in Trump a barrier raised against a hysterically feared “brown flood” that will flow north from the tropics as climate change refugees in the coming decades. See the discussion for 22 August 2018 on the “The Ochelli Effect" (audio).

  12. Remarks made before the 2014 International Conference on Human Dignity, organized by the rightwing, Catholic Dignitatis Humanae Institute (video).

  13. "Trotsky was Stalin’s theorist. This lasted as long as Stalin had yet to come to grips with the deteriorating situation in the countryside and until the time at which he had fully assimilated the Left’s program and, on the basis of his 1928 experience, elaborated a course of action the would indicate the way forward, i.e., the manner of overcoming the crisis. A single example will suffice. Lewin recalls that in summer 1928 Trotsky, in internal exile in Alma Alta, wrote an analysis of the situation inside the Soviet Union for the VIth Comintern Congress held in Moscow in July. Entitled ‘What Now?’ the piece was, of course, suppressed, but ‘Stalin, naturally, read every word. … [He] was in agreement with Trotsky’s reading of the situation’ [Moshe Lewin, Russian Peasants and Soviet Power. Aylesburg (Eng), 1968: 254, 255]. This assessment is in the strict sense objective, i.e., can be made repeatedly by anyone who compares Trotsky’s analysis with the course of action Stalin, as head of the party.” Will Barnes, Bolshevism and Stalinism (Ur-Geschichte). St. Paul, 2014 (posthumous): Part II, “Primitive Accumulation.” His departure notwithstanding, Breitbart serves up a form of political garbage dear to Bannon: One only need to cursorily examine the swill and pap printed there to get a distinct sense that is written at a level that even Trump fully grasps (and even if its contents are only summarized for him). Between Fox News and Breitbart Trump gets the politico-ideological guidance he requires.

  14. Similarly, the truly rabid Trump mega-donors, the Mercer bigots, father and daughter, Robert (billionaire hedge fund financier) and Rebakah (whose fingerprints one finds all over Breitbart). For Malpass’s awareness much like Bannon’s, see the former’s “Upheaval to Reinvent us Politics,” Forbes, 10 May 2016.

  15. Namely, those born between 1980 and 2004. Gordon Long, Macro Analytics, “Millennials: A Menacing Metamorphosis,” 2017.04.17 (video). In such a schema, those born from 2005 to the present are termed the “Homeland” generation ("Ibid"), and to the extent those among them, now just entering high school, have been publicly educated for up to eight years, they too will tend to fall under Bannon’s designation. See the textual discussion which follows for a more precise determination.

  16. Noel Ignatiev, writing in the Comments section of Insurgent Notes, 2017.08.03. Ignatiev is responding to remarks by Amiri Barksdale.

  17. Here we are relying on Will Barnes, Race, History, Production, “A Sea Change May Be Occurring, But If It Is, It’s Passing Us By” (2008). We, however, do not accept his, albeit tacit, appraisal of these individuals whose awareness and behavior has been shaped by this, their historical formation: They are not simply passive objects, consumers of commodities.

  18. Long, “Ibid"; “The Ochelli Effect,” “Ibid” (discussion with Michael Swanson, a historian and market analyst, during first half of the program). According to Long, in 2012 that 42 percent was broken down into 21 percent Spanish speaking ("Hispanics"), 14 percent black, 6 percent Asian and Pacific Islanders, and 1 percent “others."

  19. This is difficult terrain. As a rule, it should not be discussed quantitatively. Put differently, numbers are only a point of departure, so here are the numbers that underline our textual assessment.

    As we indicated, so-called millennials marginally form the largest demographical group in us. Those born from the end of the large imperialist world war until the onset of the last international cycle of class struggle (1946–1964) numbered 74.9 million in 2015; those born at the moment bearers of neo-liberalism first assumed state power until the long period of global working defeats devolving into dormancy finally came to a close (1980–2004) numbered 75.4 million in the same year (2015). [The period closed as an explosion of working class strike activity along the “Asian industrial arc” brought it to an end in spring 2005 with huge strike movements in India, then Vietnam and in the following year Bangladesh.] By way of contrast, the generationally based demographical group in-between totals roughly 59 million (Gordon Long, “Ibid"). Empirically, Long also agrees with Bannon’s ideological characterization of “millennials” as “socialist.” More importantly, Long ("Ibid") also indicates that this demographical group, today 36 percent of the workforce (waged and salaried), will form a full 75 percent of those employed in 2026.

    Finally with respect to numbers, basing himself on a survey conduct in January 2018 Anthony DiMaggio ("Fascist Nation: The ‘Alt-Right’ Menace Persists, Despite Setbacks,") states that it is “the 30–45 age group [which admittedly contain millennials at the bottom of the age bracket], not the 18–29 group,” which we identified as generationally-based demographical group in-between, “who are disproportionately more likely to support the [alt-right] movement."

  20. As in so much of the rest of the world, there are no streams, rivers, ponds or lakes in the United States containing water which is drinkable without extensive treatment. Pollutants include pesticide, herbicide and insecticide runoff; gas and oil spills from ships, and leakage from boat and other marine motor craft; toxic chemicals used in manufacturer as well as in other applications; runoff of nitrogen and phosphorous used as agricultural and lawn fertilizers; excess antibiotics drained from the blood of humans and livestock leaving the body in urine and flushed away; and unreported daily radioactive emissions from nuclear power plants and radioactive particles with longer half-lives released in above ground weapons tests. Some chemical components of pesticides, some chemicals (e.g., MTBE), antibiotics and radioactive elements are not filtered by treatment plants.

  21. Internal heat is a byproduct of human metabolism, about 100 watts for a resting human body at any given moment. To maintain an internal equilibrium against outside temperature fluctuations, core body temperature in humans averages, given or take a coupe tens of a degree, 37 °C (98.6 °F). So that the internal heat generated by metabolism, not to mention that generated by dramatic local atmospheric warming, must be carried away by conduction and evaporative cooling (perspiration). When temperature hits 35 °C/100 percent humidity and above, internal body heat can no longer be carried away (and one can no longer perspire), for with outside heat exceeding interior warmth that internal heat has nowhere to go. Without radiative cooling (cooling outside air as in air conditioning), or retreating to underground or cave life conditions, at rest in the shade an otherwise healthy individual (we are not speaking of the very young, the elderly or the infirmed of whom all are much more vulnerable) dies of heat exhaustion in about 6 hours.

  22. The proposed network, parts of which are under construction, consists of three main routes from Kunming, China to Bangkok, Thailand: The Eastern Route via Vietnam and Cambodia; the Central Route via Laos, and the Western Route via Myanmar. The southern half of network from Bangkok to Singapore has long been operational, though a high-speed line has been proposed.

  23. Currently under construction, NordStream2 is a underwater pipeline traversing the Baltic that connects Russian natural gas fields to Germany near Rostock. Its completion, too, will not see Germany paying for Russian natural gas in dollars. Further, there will be growing internal pressures to base exchanges following upon the trade agreement signed by Japanese and eu political leaders 17 July 2018 on yen and euros, not dollars.

  24. Two important works here, the latter of particular importance for Germany, are Joseph M. Jones, Jr., Tariff Retaliation. Repercussions of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff. Philadelphia, 1934, and Antonin Basch, The Danube Basin and the German Economic Sphere. London, 1944.

  25. John A. Garraty, The Great Depression. San Diego, 1986: 15, 24; Charles Kindleberger, The World in Depression, 1929–1939. Berkeley, 1986: 123–124.

  26. Basch, Ibid, 165–184.

  27. Saburo Ienaga, The Pacific War, 1931–1945. New York, 1978 (Tokyo, 1968): 57–75, 130–131, 153–180; also Sterling and Peggy Seagrave, Gold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashito’s Gold. London, 2002.

  28. A correspondent relates this can be seen in a number of Koch facilities. She points to, for instance, the large complex in Rosemount, Minnesota which refines oil for the entire Upper Midwest retail gasoline market. Even though expanding its activity to accommodate (North Dakota) shale and (Alberta) tar sands, most of which has been accomplished with new chemical inputs, it has not fundamentally modernized for the past twenty-two years. It can also be grasped quantitatively in a critical examination of the information put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics: From 1995 until 2003, years of the social generalization of the information technology “revolution,” productivity gains averaged 3.2 percent annually; while in years following to the present (through 2017), the annual increase with marginally in excess of 1.4 percent. See the various alternative indices at John Williams’ website, Shadow Statistics.

  29. Its members firmly entrenched in the State Department for decades, the leading body of the old, internationalist wing of the us ruling class, The Council on Foreign Relations, fears and is convinced that this is just what Trump aims at. See the in-house journal article by Adam Posen, “Post-American World Economy; Globalization in the Trump Era,” Foreign Affairs, Mar-Apr 2018.

  30. "us President Donald Trump took office demanding renegotiation of” nafta, “but rather than making deals, he has just made threats. Canada is supposed to ‘cave to a series of hardline us demands’ or get hit with 25 percent tariffs on autos ‘that could plunge much of the country into recession.’ …the negotiations are manifestly in bad faith. In an off-the-record comment to a reporter, which was leaked last week, Trump admitted that he had no intention of compromising on anything with Ottawa but that he couldn’t say so, because, in his words, ‘it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal.’” Summary (with internal quotes) of Barrie McKenna writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail, cited in The Week, 14 September 2018: 15.

  31. "We send them, you know, natural gas and soybeans and hogs and beef… We send virtually no high-end value-added manufacturing. That can’t continue.” (From a bbc News interview reproduced on YouTube.) In other words, the historical role of metropolis to periphery has been reversed. The interview is recent, probably recorded in late May of this year. Accessed on online through a search under the heading “Steve Bannon interviews."

  32. This struggle is not just being played out in a tariff war but linked to this struggle for global hegemony also in geopolitical conflicts over the role of militarily, regionally and demographically significant third party countries, a case in point being Pakistan. With Pakistan, it is a question of to what extent this southwest Asian state’s military and intelligence services are funded by the us especially with respect to their contradictorily role in relation to American operations in Afghanistan. Starting with the Obama Administration, military funding has been cut. Under Trump, funding it been dramatically scaled back. What is at issue is not just, and not primarily, Pakistani covert support to the Taliban but Chinese inroads in West Asia in the form of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a large component of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative. See the insightful article, “The us-China Cold War is Now Playing Out in Pakistan,” 3 September 2018.

  33. Here, fascism is best grasped in its active aspect as a social movement, one aimed at obliterating the concentrated power of workers, which historically appears in the context of an unfolding, enormous social crisis at the center of which is an impasse in capital accumulation (phenomenally, impairment of profitability portending ruin), and programmatic paralysis at the level of the national state. That assault objectively constitutes an effort to unblock the impasse, and resolve the crisis, by destroying that concentration (we said concentrated, not organized or union, power), atomizing workers, vastly reducing historically achieved standards of living, and seizing full control of the state apparatus for purposes of a massive campaign of murder of the militant proletarian minority, where upon a policy of “liquidation” of political, ethnic and, or, national groups as objects of fascistic bigotry is pursued.


2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Anonymous,

    “us global dollar suzerainty is in retreat, as world trade is undergoing “de-dollarization”;”

    Heard this before; wasn’t accurate then, isn’t accurate now. India for example prices 86% of its exports and imports in dollars, while only 5% of its exports and 15% imports are from/to the US. India’s imports from China are transacted in dollars.

    According to SWIFT’s (the network for international banking exchanges) 2015 report:

    ” In order to determine the top currencies used in international trade, SWIFT first examined financial flows covering all international cross-border
    transactions on SWIFT (figure 2). In terms of value, the US dollar is ranked first, and its share of worldwide currency usage has grown from 47.6%
    in 2012 to 51.9% in 2014. The euro ranks second with a 30.5% share in 2014, compared to 33% in 2012. The British pound ranks third with a 5.4%
    share in 2014, compared to 5.9% in 2012. The Japanese yen has a smaller share and is ranked fifth with 1.8% and the Chinese yuan is at 0.5%
    ranking eleventh in 2014. ”

    The EU’s statistical office, Eurostat reported that in 2016 more than half the goods imported into the EU were invoiced in dollars

    An IMF working paper in 2017, “Global Trade and the Dollar,” reported:

    “We document that the U.S. dollar exchange rate drives global trade prices and volumes. Using a newly constructed data set of bilateral price and volume indices for more than 2,500 country pairs, we establish the following facts: 1) The dollar exchange rate quantitatively dominates the
    bilateral exchange rate in price pass-through and trade elasticity regressions. U.S. monetary policy induced dollar fluctuations have high pass-through into bilateral import prices. 2) Bilateral non-commodities terms of trade are essentially uncorrelated with bilateral exchange rates. 3) The strength of the U.S. dollar is a key predictor of rest-of-world aggregate trade volume and
    consumer/producer price inflation. A 1 percent U.S. dollar appreciation against all other currencies in the world predicts a 0.6–0.8 percent decline within a year in the volume of total trade between countries in the rest of the world, controlling for the global business cycle.”

    It’s deja-vu all over again Yogi. Back in the day, dollar hegemony was collapsing and the yen was going to replace the dollar, and then dollar hegemony was collapsing and the euro was going to replace the dollar– why don’t you know, that’s the real reason the US invaded Iraq– , and once even the real, but that was when Brazil was supposed to be the previous China, was going to supplant the dollar and we would all learn to samba (not a bad thing); and now, the dollar hegemony is collapsing and….. and forget it. It’s the same old, same old. “The US is a parasite. The US trades colored paper for real goods. The US is on the downside of history. Etc etc etc.

    Of course, when push came to shove, after the 2008 meltdown, the Fed stepped in to rescue the whole universe of pretenders to the crown when it created open-ended currency swap lines with central banks across the globe to insure that dollars were available to guarantee international trade, because only dollars were accepted for guarantees on the exchanges.

  2. Anonymous,

    Another notion promoted in this piece is the myth that the US occupies some sort of hybrid role as an advanced 3rd world country, exporting natural resources, hogs, soybeans, and other “primary products.” Floris even quotes Steven Bannon approvingly on this.

    The facts are a bit different. In 2018, the top 6 exports from the US were:

    Machinery including computers: US$201.7 billion (13% of total exports)
    Electrical machinery, equipment: $174.2 billion (11.3%)
    Mineral fuels including oil: $138 billion (8.9%)
    Aircraft, spacecraft: $131.2 billion (8.5%)
    Vehicles: $130.1 billion (8.4%)
    Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $83.6 billion (5.4%)

    Mineral fuels received a boost with the relaxation of the prohibitions on exporting crude oil, and advances in LNG transport and delivery, but lest anyone think these are “primitive exports”– the reason these products can be exported at all is due to the high technical component involved in their extraction, generating large quantities at relatively low costs.

    Bannon’s bullshit is exactly that, bullshit designed to obscure and confuse; intended to feed the belligerent nostalgia for a mythical eclipsed greatness.

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