In the past two decades, the U.S. grip on global power has been slipping, and new nations and organizations have begun to emerge that challenge American dominance. One of these is the BRICS, an economic and increasingly political bloc of emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Argentina, Iran and others have expressed an interest in joining this alliance, which has now laid out plans for its own bank and international currency, two moves strike at the heart of American economic hegemony.
The mass shooting of 19 children and two teachers, and the wounding of 17 more people, at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday was a genuinely horrific event. The students killed were 9, 10 and 11 years old, in the second, third and fourth grades. The adults killed, both women, were fourth-grade teachers. The perpetrator of the crime barricaded himself inside a classroom and opened fire with a lightweight semi-automatic rifle that he had obtained a day after his 18th birthday, one week earlier. In the most immediate and direct sense, hundreds if not thousands of people will never recover from the damage done in this one incident alone. The American ruling elite, its politicians and its media outlets, have nothing insightful or useful to say about this most recent calamity.
Why has the United States already become so heavily invested in the Russia-Ukraine war? And why has it so regularly gotten involved, in some fashion, in so many other wars on this planet since it invaded Afghanistan in 2001? Those with long memories might echo the conclusion reached more than a century ago by radical social critic Randolph Bourne that “war is the health of the state” or recall the ancient warnings of this country’s founders like James Madison that democracy dies not in darkness, but in the ghastly light thrown by too many bombs bursting in air for far too long. In 1985, when I first went on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, a conflict between the Soviet Union and Ukraine would, of course, have been treated as a civil war between Soviet republics. In the context of the Cold War, the U.S. certainly wouldn’t have risked openly sending billions of dollars in weaponry directly to Ukraine to “weaken” Russia.
The United States has all but declared the COVID-19 pandemic over and done with. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advised 230 million Americans, 70 percent of the population, to no longer wear masks in most cases, including indoors. Cities, counties, and states across the US have lifted their mask mandates. Restaurants, shopping malls, movie theatres, and grocery stores have dropped mask and physical distancing requirements. Even school districts have gone mask-optional since the end of February. This is despite more than 55,000 Americans contracting the disease and nearly 2,000 dying from it and the complications it causes every day through early March. As the US approaches one million dead from COVID and 80 million sickened from this pathogen and its variants, it is clear that whiteness, capitalism, and narcissism have prolonged the pandemic, and horribly so.
This question of what we do doesn’t exactly feel like it gets at the heaviness that’s in me, that’s in us. I’ve spent the last three years asking, in the face of enormous difficulty, “What do we do now?” and I’ve learned that coming up with a smart answer to that question may offer some high for a period of time, but it’s pretty clear it can’t sustain us. I think that’s because the significance of what we’re staring down doesn’t just beg questions about potential shifts in strategic emphasis, it also raises much deeper questions about what we do when hope is scarce. What do we do when it’s quite reasonable to believe that things will get harder? When we assume that more of our campaigns will fail? When the suffering around us keeps increasing?
Regardless of the outcome of COP26, one inevitability is that the rich and powerful celebrate whatever the conference produces as vital progress. Only a disaster on the level of COP15 in Copenhagen might put a stop to the self-congratulatory triumphalism. Already, though, most observing the negotiations with a critical eye are highlighting how inadequate their product will be. Ed Miliband has said we’re ‘miles from where we need to be’ and Greta Thunberg declared COP26 to be a ‘failure’. These condemnations are backed up by analysis from Climate Action Tracker (CAT), assessing governments’ short-term commitments for the next decade. Its study reveals that our trajectory coming out of COP26 would take us to a devastating 2.4oC warming by the end of this century.
Donald Trump was the convenient scapegoat for the first year of the Covid-19 crisis. Austerity, low wage work, housing insecurity, and the profit driven health care system were problematic issues before anyone heard the word Covid-19 or indeed before Trump’s presidency. Every failing of the United States already in existence came into sharp relief when the pandemic struck. Joe Biden has done nothing to alleviate these many crises. Temporary unemployment benefits end in September, and millions of people were denied these funds when republican state legislatures decreed that they wanted people back at work. The Supreme Court struck down the eviction moratorium and 90% of the funds allocated to pay for rent relief remain unspent. Millions of people face the prospect of becoming unhoused.
Like all previous economic systems in recorded history, capitalism is on track to repeat the same three-step trip: birth, evolution, and death. The timing and other specifics of each system’s trip differ. Births and evolutions are commonly experienced as positive, celebrated for their progress and promise. The declines and deaths, however, are often denied and usually feel difficult and depressing. Notwithstanding endlessly glib political speeches about bright futures, U.S. capitalism has reached and passed its peak. Like the British Empire after World War I, the trip now is painful. Signs of decline accumulate. The last 40 years of slow economic growth have seen the top 10 percent take nearly all of it. The other 90 percent suffered constricted real wage growth that drove them to borrow massively (for homes, cars, credit cards, and college expenses).
Scores of ordinary Lebanese citizens participated in a massive protest demonstration in the Lebanese capital, Beirut on Sunday, March 28, 2021 to express their disapproval and anger over the worsening socio-economic situation in the country. The situation has resulted in severe uncertainty about the future and extreme hardships in the lives of the common Lebanese people, a report by the Middle East Monitor stated yesterday. The demonstrations organized by the Lebanese Communist party also railed against the administrative vacuum existing in the country because of the dominant political parties not being able to reach an agreement on government formation. The interim government has been more or less powerless to make any significant governmental decisions towards improving the citizens’ lives and to rescue the failing economy.
On this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we speak with participants in autonomous groups across Texas, including Cooperation Denton, Stop the Sweeps in Austin, Mutual Aid Houston, Houston Tenants Union, and North Texas Rural Resilience. The first in a two part series, this episode discusses the devastating storms which rocked Texas and the Southwest and the context that the “big freeze” happened within: from anti-Black police violence and attacks on the homeless community, to widespread neoliberal policies that left infrastructure and housing stock dilapidated and on the verge of collapse.
As winter storms rocked Texas and others across the South last week, Southern organizers waited for no one to do what they do best: stepping up to make it happen. Volunteers signed up to phonebank for wellness checks, and mutual aid networks continue to expand their capacity to intervene where policy has failed. The government failures may continue to pile up while Southern communities are left to resolve multiple crises on their own, but people are building collective power across the South—people committed to making sure our communities not only survive, but thrive. Mutual aid—along with regional action and local policy change—is just one of the tactics central to the People's First 100 Days, a regional organizing campaign to grow Southern movement power.
On the day he was inaugurated, Joe Biden halted the construction of Trump’s Mexican border wall. A few days earlier, 1500 miles to the south, a new ‘caravan’ of at least eight thousand Honduran migrants had set off northwards, partly in the hope that by the time they tried to cross into Texas, Biden’s promised softening of immigration policy might have taken effect. Obstacles left by Trump still stand in their way. Agreements he made with Honduras and Guatemala led to police attacking and dispersing the refugees. Scattered groups are still heading towards the Mexican frontier at Chiapas – according to one Trump-era official, ‘now our southern border’ – where they will face Mexican troops.
As the fight amongst the oligarchs heats up over Trump's 2nd impeachment, one must wonder what ever happened to the days when the poor and the working class were clear-eyed enough to see their real struggle was against the rich? Wall Street banksters, the weapons warlords, Hollywood moguls, oil barons, real estate developers and the like. Instead we see the Lumpenproletariat on their knees scratching and clawing each other - defending one side of the elite mobsters who are armed against the other in Washington's usual sideshow that distracts the nation from the ever present reality of capital accumulation.