Stephen Sefton, January 17th 2021
Ever since at least the Iraq War of 2003, the fundamental alternatives facing North American and European elites have been constant. One alternative might have been to accept a certain loss of global power so as to share global influence peacefully in a multi-polar world with China, Russia and other regional powers. Instead, the Western elites chose the other alternative: an ultimately futile, globally destructive effort to defend their accustomed power and privilege.
Accompanying that abject, absurd strategic failure, the self-evident decline of their power overseas bears an inverse relationship to the clear and increasing repression and exploitation of their own peoples at home. The traditional motto of Western foreign policy and diplomacy has always been “do what we want, or else...”. Now, domestically, the underlying, unspoken but still extremely clear variation on that message Western elites now offer their own peoples is “don't worry, our sadism is good for you...”
Large numbers of people in North America and Europe are being denied adequate health care, in some countries like the US, even completely. In other countries, years of austerity cutbacks have meant hospitals struggle to attend to numbers of patients very similar to those they would have treated in earlier years with little difficulty. Financially, North American and European corporate elites have benefited from yet another unprecedented upward transfer of wealth, the most egregious example being the CARES Act in the United States.
By contrast, the current, mostly self-inflicted, global crisis has seen payments of various kinds being made to large numbers of people very similar to a pauperizing universal basic income. The official pandemic narrative has served to suppress debate on the far more equitable and democratic policy choice of a jobs guarantee. Despite official affirmations of a uniquely deadly global pandemic, North American and European governments are generally failing to commit to radical reform and investment to improve their public health systems.
Similarly, those same governments refuse to cooperate internationally with other major regional powers to ensure equitable treatment for vulnerable populations elsewhere. The US and its allies continue imposing illegal coercive measures against the peoples of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Yemen and Iran, for example. Even tiny Nicaragua is subject to similar illegal unilateral measures despite being recognized by international bodies for its model social and economic policies. Those illegal coercive measures represent the unmistakable shadow of imperial decline.
In 2008-2009, the European and North American ruling classes patched up a phony resolution of their economic crisis, transferring, until then unprecedented wealth from their populations in order to rescue their corporate elites. Shortly afterwards, they undertook a desperate global offensive aimed at firming up their control and influence in resource rich regions around the world. In 2011, the Western powers allied with terrorist proxies to overthrow vulnerable governments in Libya and Ivory Coast regarded as threats to their control in Africa.
They also allied with similar diverse terrorist proxies in Syria, in Thailand and in Ukraine, for example, seeking to stymie perceived threats to their control in those countries' respective regions. That desperate offensive failed in various ways, especially perhaps from the point of view of the European Union. In any case, essentially, those years confirmed the decline of US and allied power and influence. Internationally, the murder of Qasim Soleimani set a cruel, sinister, criminal seal on that decline. Domestically, this year's brief, contrived, tragicomic January 6th occupation of Washington's Capitol has served as a pretext for the US ruling classes to drop their masks and openly acknowledge their well established fascist union of corporate and State power, applying selective censorship with the general approval of most progressive opinion.
For over 200 years, US elites learned from their European forebears how to exploit crude racism to co-opt revolutionary class resistance. A central feature of European and North American politics throughout the 20th Century was how Western ruling elites traded modest socio-economic concessions in exchange for their peoples' complicity in genocidal conquest, domination and exploitation of the majority world. Now ruling class driven identity politics manipulates both race and gender to cloak the savage class realities of contemporary Western societies and culture, signaling that imperialism's long standing material class trade off with their own peoples is over.
Its replacement is a post modern ideal-virtual identity trade-off denying an increasingly pauperized majority basic material rights but assuring them that this economic sadism will transform their lives with virtue. It will be an anti-racist, gender equitable, alert-to-climate-change virtue, rendering material needs crass and deplorable. By apparent coincidence, environmental destruction of the planet is revealing with ever more urgency the limits of economic growth driven by corporate consumer capitalism.
Currently, Nicaragua is commemorating Nicaragua's national poet Ruben Darío, who practically single-handed dragged Spanish literature into the modern age. Last week, President Daniel Ortega noted Darío's analysis of how the US initially presented the Monroe Doctrine as intended to defend the integrity of Latin America's newly independent republics from European intervention. President Ortega also noted how Darío pointed out the way the US ruling elites' very quickly manipulated the Monroe Doctrine into a continent wide mechanism of systematic extortion.
Similarly, in his remarks on Rubén Darío, Daniel Ortega also recalled that, after all, it was highly cultured European elites who invented and implemented the genocidal horrors of imperialism. Subsequently, the world's imperialists and fascists extended those horrors both to their own peoples in Europe and to even more nations around the world. Now that world domination by the US elites and their allies is practically over, increasingly they are imposing on their own peoples the shock of domestic post-imperial conquest. All the time they tell people in the West not to worry, they mean well and their sadism is good for you.