A little over a month ago, in a room of uniformed military commanders and the press eager to catch a glimpse of the new presidential aesthetic, Trump referred boastfully to a “calm before the storm” that their meeting represented. Characteristically coy, and perhaps uncharacteristically restrained, Trump bid the press wait and see what would happen. Media speculation ran wild for days, suggesting that it could be a planned strike on the DPRK or an end to the Iran deal; perhaps some other imperial plot, hatched between the various blood-suckers populating the room. But so far no such “storm” has yet materialize at the behest of the orange menace. In any case, as those words are lost down the memory-hole there remains a very real unease spreading among the media and people. The unease cuts a bit deeper than the potential for an end to a nuclear agreement, or the fear of a new war between amerika and the DPRK (although such a thought does evoke serious anxiety).
This anxiety cuts to the core of the project of empire in amerika, as the people are coming to see the writing on the wall: a new, deeper crisis is coming. European finance ministers can sense it, economists in the united $tates have warned about it. Although gas prices are—for the moment—reasonable and the standard of living is going up in the united $tates, this unease concerning the potential for an political and economic sinkhole persists. Consumer confidence may have peaked in the united $tates on halloween, but the confidence of average people in the political situation is sinking like a stone. Things like “this country won’t exist much longer” are more common than ever. A statement that we never thought would be uttered in the 1990’s, when the world seemed to be truly falling apart as we knew it, is now treated as absolute fact. Trump is right, this is the calm before the storm, and we have no idea how long it may last.
The worldwide tension that existed throughout the cold war, with people wondering when things would come to a head, abruptly ended with the collapse of the socialist bloc. However “socialist” we may believe it was by the end, nobody can deny that it has had a poisonous effect on the state of geopolitical affairs for the communist left since then. The decline of the world into an amerikan unipolarity, along with their NATO allies in Europe, was a disastrous climax to the decay of socialism in the East. However, such a crisis had not been seen in decades up until that point, and then after an 18-year party in the west, we had the first global micro-crisis. The “great recession” caused by the amerikan housing market collapse would seriously upset the post-Soviet boom in the First World. We say “micro-crisis” because ultimately the economic effects, though politically and psychologically profound, were soon more or less patched up. It lingered, but it did not explode the world order; it ignited an accelerated decay.
We are now entering the decade post-collapse, and in the First World things appear rather normal. There are still lingering effects of austerity measures introduced by the imperialist governments, partially reversed by the stubborn working classes who have now found themselves, for the first time in decades, forced into a kind of political action. However, no revolutionary movement has arisen, parties have collapsed rather than coalesced, and we are no closer to a genuine international class consciousness than 10 years previous. That is not to be defeatist, or to assume that nothing can be done, it is simply meant as a critical reflection on the shortcomings of the spontaneous actions lead by the labor aristocracy following the first collapse. Conducting such an autopsy on the long-dead occupy movement, and those that sprung up in the years following, is necessary to prepare for what is to come. It is clear that another crisis is on its way, and we have no idea what will serve as its impetus.
That is not to say that the people have not been spurred to political consciousness, or even to a kind of rudimentary class consciousness. Certainly a great degree of this tension and unease that we currently feel burning slowly in our stomachs is the fact that it is, to a great degree, a political tension. However, this consciousness has been largely petty bourgeois and labor aristocratic class consciousness, which lurches rightward to protect its historical political-economic position in the First World. The alt-right, a movement that existed solely online and whose membership and ideas were virtually unknown until 2016 despite having existed for more than a decade, now cannot hold a simple march without instant international news coverage and top-trending on social media. That said, and to the credit (and hope) of the left, revolutionary Maoists are now periodically featured by local as well as national news agencies, despite having no party or national organization. This is no doubt provoked by the burning debate over antifa tactics in dealing with fascist and conservative movements, but even in considering this we must recognize that we are far behind the mobilization on the right. However, this looks only at the united $tates.
If we zoom out and take a look at the world situation as it is currently developing, we see an existing—not just looming—conflagration in the Third World. One that has excited all manner of anti-imperialist forces both left and right, with perhaps one of the most promising world-scenarios for communist revolution we have experienced in decades. We have seen the decline of supranational authority—Negriists be damned—and the aggressive rebirth of multipolarity threatening to tear the world apart at the seams. Of course we have also witnessed the decline of some of the most prominent revolutionary armies, fighting for the rebirth of Marxist socialism, but they also seem to be on the cusp of a second wind, this time without the trifling unipolarity that made even small slights against empire nearly impossible in the past. To avoid an endless and unproductive optimism, we must also be aware that it is only because of the extreme danger that we now face that such exciting developments have come into being.
With the degradation of supranational power has come the aggressive multipolarity previously mentioned, wherein the UN has now taken a backseat to the “big persons” discussion and brawling. Just as the League of Nations was eventually stripped of all the laughable authorities it was given, in a practical (rather than legal) sense so too has the UN become a toothless entity, incapable of legally mediating global conflict—a condition that preconditions a great intensification of inter-imperialist warfare. Where competing powers once made demands, they now simply take. Such is the case in the various territorial disputes between amerikan imperialists and China, which now utilizes its status as a world power to simply take what it wants. That is not to justify amerikan claims or that of its puppets, but simply to demonstrate that the emerging world powers no longer need to utilize the UN when something must be settled. The same is true of the Crimea and Russia. Albeit with the support of the people, the Russian government decided to simply take what they considered theirs, and to promote its authenticity post facto.
This is not to equate the power and criminality of Russian and Chinese imperialists with that of the amerikans and the west. Rather, this is an observation of the flimsiness of international law, which has decried the obvious land-theft of nations that held internationally recognized sovereignty. This is without even touching upon Israel, which has done the same to the Palestinians first by consent of the UN and then in spite of it. This degradation has only accelerated with the departure of world leaders from the International Criminal Courts, the amerikan condemnation and subsequent departure from UNESCO, and the nearly 30 years of begging by UN human rights watchdogs to prevent and intervene in the very real genocides that have gone on at the behest of various imperial actors. Most recently, the UN committee designated to investigate and lead the challenging of Saudi and Western war crimes in Yemen, that has lead to the literal hands-and-knees begging of human rights investigators from the UN commission on human rights itself, resulted in a shrug and a nod from UN leaders that could affect absolutely no change. It is no longer a performance, it is an outright disintegration.
The only time that the UN can pass any kind of meaningful decisions that are truly enforceable is through the consensus of the imperial multipole. Primarily, this has been aimed toward the DPRK, which has been hit with an increasing load of sanctions every single time it lifts a finger toward independence—evidence still of the fragility of the world system. This is the UN we are speaking of, not the petty international agreements made to be broken. The sole purpose of the UN was to prevent a war between rivaling powers, and to preserve world peace in regards to the nations that “matter”; i.e. imperialist ones. It is the bulwark that prevented the metastasis of hostilities between the global powers in the Cold War, which operated through the rather explicit causeways of political discourse built around the very clear bipolar world system. Now we lack even this. We lack the clarity of a bipolar system, or a tripolar system, or even a quadripolar system for that matter. It is a rat race of all the aspiring and veteran imperialists looking to make their countries “great” again.
This is such an exceedingly dangerous moment that any serious crisis could spill over into global inter-imperialist warfare. That is at once a blessing and a curse, as it threatens the lives of hundreds of millions, if not billions of people if it were to burn up in a toxic gas fire. The Blessing, however, comes with the promise that even the small become powerful, and even the fringe can now move to the center. While socialism was thought to have gone down with the ship, so to speak, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, here we are. We have a powerful resurgence of diverse social revolutionaries that all coalesce around some kind of Marxism, however twisted their individual interpretations may be. It may seem like a situation just as bleak as ever to any left-communist or phony Marxist-Leninist, who seeks only the purest and most refined kool-aid to drink. However, let us remember that the Third International was brought into its founding congress with a majority of those in attendance being quasi-social democrats and anti-authoritarians.
It was nearly 30 years after the success of the Bolshevik revolution before a socialist bloc was established. It took two world wars to consolidate a world wherein just 1/3rd was socialist. We are not looking to jump from 1905 to 1949 in just a few years, and we should not delude ourselves with the idea that such reckless and haphazard progress could be sustained until final victory. That said, we are certainly no longer alone in our ideas, and the world has broken out of the post-Socialist spiral into something that we can salvage as we move into the next great crisis. For this reason all optimism is warranted, but practicality is paramount. Things will get much worse before they get better, and our jobs are going to become far more dangerous. That said, our work is all the more important, as we have very little time to prepare in the First World, where fascists, identitarians and the alt-right are quickly outpacing us.
We must accept the possibility that we may lose, but not resign ourselves to it as reality. This possibility must inspire us to make difficult decisions and accept greater responsibilities both individually and collectively. What we need now more than ever are high-agency comrades who are willing and ready to take real initiative in building the revolutionary center. Oftentimes it is easy to get caught up in the hopelessness of a situation and find yourself unable to gain a sense of what to do, but it is necessary that we act deliberately. The neoliberal husk wherein we currently reside is quickly crumbling, and is set to fall in on us. We cannot stand on a platform of exceptionalism wherein we purport we have the right to lead before we have proven ourselves capable. The struggle of the world proletariat is on the march, in unity with all progressive movements aimed at rooting out imperialism as the primary human anguish of this era. We must step in line, and build with the primary intention of entering this great conflagration alongside the world proletariat.
We cannot shelve our international responsibility, and, in fact, we cannot succeed without it. The success of any First World revolutionary movement is dependent upon the development of the world proletarian movement. We are trapped by the hegemony of the hostile middling classes that predominate in the First World, and who have lead the fascist resurgence we are now experiencing. It is only through anchoring ourselves to the world proletarian movement that we can effectively build and focus our own hegemony against that of the reactionary petty bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy. Any revolutionary center we put our minds and our bodies to work in creating must be integrated with this emerging worldwide struggle, and we must accept that we are in but the first stage of a grand reawakening. The fire rises, let us see it consume the world.