The almighty dollar as a weapon of war
US struggles to renew its supremacy
A capitalist economy is much more like a living system than a piece of machinery.
Marx argued that capitalism would age and decay and that the chief mechanism that gave it an arrow in time was the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.
But a tendency can be resisted, and Marx laid out a series of counter-tendencies by means of which profit can be restored.
The chief among these is increasing the productivity of labour by ramping up hours, depressing wage rates and by greater mechanisation. In the US since the 70s wage rates have remained static as costs soar. Many workers hold multiple low wage jobs. At the same time there has been a reduction in the social wage. Public transport and infrastructure are in decay. Housing, education and health are the focus of relentless privatisation and outsourcing of services. Tent cities bloom and many live and sleep in their cars.
A major focus of legislation is the subsidy of Wall Street through ever greater tax breaks, often used by companies to buy their own shares and inflate their value. Health insurance takes up a bigger and bigger slice of the national income and big pharma has brought about its own health crisis through promoting addiction with a bill of billions for those dealing with the consequences. A series of financial and property crises have seen a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.
Alongside increasing the productivity of labour the right fights to drive down the costs of inputs and outputs. Deregulation drives down the costs of mineral extraction. Climate denial wipes out any responsibility for the ongoing and increasing pollution of air and water and accelerating climate
change. Suppression of science leaves the final word about our survival as a species in the hands of the capitalists themselves.
Growing opposition to a decaying system has led to the expansion of an already very repressive state system. The police have been armed with military grade weapons and are largely independent of political control. They can operate with impunity as the local administration and judicial system are set up to ensure that the cops are rarely charged with their crimes. They work openly with heavily armed white vigilantes who are issuing ever more public threats.
Class division is a well tested tool in demobilising resistance and endemic state supported racism has been a staple of US society since native genocide and the introduction of slavery.
Democratic structures that have been available in other countries are not available. There is no workers party and this sits alongside the absence of an alternative capitalist policy in the Democratic Party.
Outside the shores of the United States the struggle to retain world dominance is even more extreme. One principle weapon is debt. Under Reagan the US swung from being a debtor to a creditor nation. Debt in the trillions is both a weapon and a mortal weakness.
The use of debt means that the military budget becomes a central focus of imperialist concern. The military industrial complex was the mechanism for technical progress and led to the computer industry, but was a complex and wasteful road for innovation. Now the military is being used to keep
creditors in line, again at enormous expense.
Almost unnoticed, there has been a turn towards nukes. Long standing arms control treaties are torn up and replaced with a drive towards battlefield weapons that the US believe can be used without provoking a general conflagration.
The military can blitz much of the globe at will. What it does not seem able to do is occupy and hold territory or find credible puppet governments to operate on their behalf. Now they use their control of the banking system as a weapon of war, denying use of the system to their enemies and also putting pressure on imperialist allies to fall into line or be sanctioned in turn.
History tells us that gunboat diplomacy, no matter what weapons are deployed, is a losing game. The more bullying and erratic US behavior is, the more both friend and foe will look to alternative mechanisms that will protect themselves and the weaker the US hand will become.
It would be a mistake to think that at some point US imperialism will gracefully accept decline. Rather it will become more vicious, dangerous and desperate. The task of socialists is to prepare for growing class war and inevitable working class resistance.