The declines of U.S. capitalism and of its imperial position provoke fear among its mainstream politicians. Their response, in large part, has been to deny that any such decline is happening. These politicians do this partly by acting as though the U.S. remains in the globally dominant position it occupied in the second half of the 20th century. Thus, to maintain this illusion, they start wars in the Middle East, maintain military bases in dozens of countries, intervene in other countries at will and describe the U.S. as the global guarantor of peace, security, and democracy. Yet these U.S. politicians also sense what the population feels: that decline of capitalism and U.S. hegemony is actually happening. So repeated denials, while comforting the citizens of the country, do not suffice to control popular opinion and thereby common sense.
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The death by starvation of Etwariya Devi, a 67-year-old widow from the rural Indian state of Jharkhand, might have passed without notice had it not been part of a more widespread trend. Like 1.3 billion of her fellow Indians, Devi had been pushed to enroll in a biometric digital ID system called Aadhaar in order to access public services, including her monthly allotment of 25kg of rice. When her fingerprint failed to register with the shoddy system, Devi was denied her food ration. Throughout the course of the following three months in 2017, she was repeatedly refused food until she succumbed to hunger, alone in her home. Premani Kumar, a 64-year-old woman also from Jharkhand, met the same demise as Devi, dying of hunger and exhaustion the same year after the Aadhaar system transferred her pension payments to another person without her permission, while cutting off her monthly food rations.
Latin America has been one of the regions worst-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, in every sense. Not only are countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Peru suffering epidemiological catastrophes, the result of right-wing neoliberal policies, but the World Bank and other financial institutions have reported that the region has suffered the most serious economic crisis as a result of the pandemic. The 2020s in Latin America are set to be a “lost decade,” with little social, economic, or political advancement in a number of nations. The failures of capitalism have become glaringly obvious during COVID-19, even though they were already apparent prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. And while there has been an overwhelming focus on the deaths, violence, and instability wracking numerous Latin American states, far less attention has been paid to the three countries that have, against all odds, defied this norm: Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.
The sort of capitalism on which the United States was originally built has been called mom-and-pop capitalism. Families owned their own farms and small shops and competed with each other on a more or less level playing field. It was a form of capitalism that broke free of the feudalistic model and reflected the groundbreaking values set forth in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights: that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including the rights to free speech, a free press, to worship and assemble; and the right not to be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process.
International Women’s Day was founded after 15,000 women marched through New York City in 1908 to demand three things: better hours, better pay, and voting rights. In most of the world, the last of these has been cemented – but the pandemic has thrown the former two into jeopardy. In summer 2020, the McKinsey Global Institute reported that around the world, women were at 1.8 times the risk of Covid redundancy compared to the risk facing men. Research from the University of Exeter also found that women in the UK were twice as likely to have lost their job during the first wave of the pandemic. Around 133,000 more women were furloughed during the first wave, too, meaning more are likely in line for redundancies when the scheme ends. In the UK, as redundancies have proliferated, men’s employment has now fallen more than women’s – but that women were often first in the firing line indicates qualitative divisions in work.