Group: Super Administrators
Joined: May 2007
||Posted: May 26 2007,19:02
You are concerned to define the nature of the American empire, seeing this as a necessary step in order to develop a strategy to alter or defeat it.
In the article to which this discussion refers, Fidel Castro calls the US simply a "culture of domination." I am not so sure that we need to go beyond this definition, but let me take the question seriously.
One reason might be to search for historical precedents.
This is alluded to in the article by Professor Michael Hunt that you refer to. Hunt speaks of the American empire as having gone through several phases, a "continental empire," then an "overseas empire" and an "informal empire." In this regard, he makes comparisons to the empires of ancient Rome and China. He also speaks of a more recent American "hegemon" based on American penetration of economic and cultural practices and products, and he compares this to the British empire.
Michael Parenti, on the other hand, considers that that the globalization of capitalism has surpassed national boundaries, and he does not speak of any historical precedent.
But let's consider the proposition in our target article that an appropriate historical example is the most recent empire to crash - that of the Soviet Union. I am not sure whether we need to define it as an empire or a hegemon or an incipient globalized socialism.
More importantly, let us ask if the crash of the Soviet Union is a pertinent historical example.
Reading through the background data cited by the article, I am struck by two aspects of the Soviet crash:
1) A severe and irremediable export/import imbalance.
2) A loss of confidence of the population in the legitimacy of the state and its related institutions (press, academia, etc.).
As a result, when the unavoidable economic crash arrived, there was no political will to fix the system and so the entire system collapsed. Instead, people accepted a government supported and manipulated by the West and an economy seized by criminals, similar to the criminal accumulation of capital by the "robber-barons" that came to control the American economy at the end of the 19th Century.
The origins of the export/import imbalance of the Soviet Union can be understood from the texts referred to in the article. Most of the science, technology and quality materiel of the Soviet Union was devoted to the military in an ill-fated attempt to match the military force of the West. As a result they produced no industrial or consumer products that could bring good prices as exports. During the years of high oil prices in the early 1980's the Soviets used their oil exports to cover extensive imports. Then when the price of oil collapsed, the ruble collapsed with it.
Sound familiar? It does to me.
The US, relying on its military domination (call it empire?) and the globalized reach of the dollar (call it hegemon?), has so far managed to escape the consequences of a long-term growing chronic export/import imbalance. We just don't manufacture anymore, except for military goods. The imbalance is covered by borrowing, from the Chinese, the Japanese, and from the American people. But eventually, as Fidel says in the target article, the dollar will collapse. The collapse will be due to more or less the same reasons that the ruble collapsed.
Parenti is correct that globalized capitalism transcends national boundaries, but he does not point out that since it is based on the dollar, a collapse of the dollar would also be a collapse of the globalized economic system. The appropriate precedent is 1929. After the collapse of the global economy, the ships that had previously carried products across the seas now remained in port. All economies plummeted.
Johnson hopes that the American people will demand and succeed in reversing American militarism. But so far, the situation looks like that of the Soviet Union in the 1980's , with continuing erosion of public confidence in the government and all related institutions such as political parties and candidates, the media, academia, etc. Most likely, an economic collapse will only increase this alienation from existing institutions.
I tend to consider 1929 as the most appropriate historical precedent. But the global depression paved the way for Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Hirohito. In the US there was sufficient democratic force to avoid fascism, although a military coup involving Douglas MacArthur among others was planned in the early 30's. In the Soviet Union, it facilitated a consolidation of the authoritarian rule of Stalin. All of these can be seen as an extreme extension of the culture of war that was already at the base of all nation-states.
If we expect to arrive at a 1929-type crash in the next few years, how can we plan for a different kind of transition?
Let me stop at this point and wait for your reply and/or the replies of others before taking up the preceding question.