The USA: Superpower in the decadence of capitalism, today epicentre of social decomposition. Part II

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The first part of this article[1] described the rise to power of American imperialism which in the decadent phase of capitalism became the dominant imperialism, leader of the Western bloc that finally triumphed over the rival Soviet bloc in the late 1980s. In the introduction to this first part, it was already emphasized that "the collapse of the Eastern bloc marked the beginning of a terminal phase in the evolution of capitalism: social decomposition", which would not only accelerate the bourgeois system's descent into chaos and barbarism, but also lead to the decline of American leadership. The second part of this article will focus precisely on highlighting this process, which began in the 1990s: "In 30 years of rotting bourgeois society, the USAE has become a factor in aggravating the chaos, its world leadership will not be recovered, no matter how much the Biden team proclaims it in their speeches, it's not a question of wishes, it's the characteristics of this final phase of capitalism that determine the tendencies it is obliged to follow leading inexorably into the abyss if the proletariat cannot put an end to it through world communist revolution."[2] .


1. The implosion of the Soviet bloc exacerbates every man for himself and global chaos

The implosion of the Eastern bloc marked the opening of a period of decomposition for capitalism, a period in which there was a dramatic acceleration in the breakdown of the various components of the social body into "every man for himself", and a plunge into chaos. If there is one area where this tendency was immediately confirmed, it was imperialist tensions: "The end of the 'Cold War' and the disappearance of the blocs only served to exacerbate the outburst of imperialist antagonisms characteristic of capitalist decadence, and to aggravate in a qualitatively new way the bloody chaos into which the whole of society is sinking (...)"[3] .

In fact, the total disintegration of the Soviet bloc also led to the implosion of the Soviet Union itself, and, as a corollary, to the disintegration of the rival US bloc. The orientation text "Militarism and decomposition"[4] examines the impact of decadent capitalism's entry into its period of decomposition on the deployment of imperialism and militarism. It begins by pointing out that the disappearance of the blocs does not call into question the reality of imperialism and militarism. On the contrary, they are becoming more barbaric and chaotic: "Indeed, it is not the formation of imperialist blocs that is at the origin of militarism and imperialism. Quite the opposite is true: the constitution of blocs is only the extreme consequence (which, at a certain point, can aggravate the causes themselves), a manifestation (which is not necessarily the only one) of the sinking of decadent capitalism into militarism and war. (...) the end of the blocs only opens the door to an even more barbaric, aberrant and chaotic form of imperialism"[5] .

This exacerbation of warlike barbarity will be expressed more concretely through two major trends, which will mark the development of imperialism and militarism over the last three decades.

A first important feature of this is the explosion of imperialist appetites on all fronts, which will result in the multiplication of tensions and sources of conflict: "The difference with the period just ended is that these rifts and antagonisms, which were previously contained and used by the two great imperialist blocs, will now come to the fore. (...) as a result of the disappearance of the discipline imposed by the presence of the blocs, these conflicts are likely to be more violent and more numerous, particularly, of course, in those areas where the proletariat is weakest"[6]. This multiplication of antagonisms is also a major obstacle to the reconstitution of new blocs in the current period.

The second tendency resulting from the exacerbation of every man for himself is the explosion of bloody chaos and, as a corollary, attempts to contain it, both of which are factors in the aggravation of warlike barbarism: "The chaos already reigning in much of the world, and which now threatens the major developed countries and their relations with each other, (...) faced with the tendency towards generalized chaos characteristic of the phase of decomposition, and to which the collapse of the Eastern bloc has given a considerable boost, there is no other way out for capitalism, in its attempt to hold in place the various parts of a body which is tending to break up, than the imposition of the iron corset constituted by the force of arms. In this sense, the very means it uses to try to contain an increasingly bloody chaos are a factor of considerable aggravation of the warlike barbarism into which capitalism is plunged"[7] .

Indeed, in the face of this predominant historical trend towards every man for himself, the USA, as the only remaining superpower, pursued a policy aimed at countering this trend and maintaining its declining status, exploiting in particular its overwhelming military superiority to impose its leadership on the world and in particular on its "allies": "Confirmed as the only remaining superpower, the USA would do everything in its power to ensure that no new superpower - in reality no new imperialist bloc - could arise to challenge its 'New World Order'"[8] . Thus, the history of the last 35 years is characterised not only by an explosion of "every man for himself", but also by continual attempts on the part of the USA to maintain its hegemonic position in the world and counter the inevitable decline of its leadership. These relentless initiatives by the USA to maintain its leadership in the face of threats from all sides would, however, only accentuate the chaos and the plunge into militarism and barbarism, of which Washington is ultimately the main instigator. What's more, these initiatives would give rise to internal dissensions within the American bourgeoisie on the policy to be pursued, which will become more pronounced as time goes by.


2. A "new world order" against the spread of chaos

Faced with the disappearance of the blocs and the intensification of chaos, US President George W. Bush senior promoted the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces, to enable Washington to mobilise a broad international military coalition around the USA to "punish" Saddam Hussein.

2.1. The first Gulf War is aimed at countering the rise of "world disorder"

The 1st Gulf War (1991) was actually intended to set an "example": faced with a world increasingly gripped by chaos and "every man for himself", the American global policeman wanted to impose a minimum of order and discipline, primarily on the most important countries of the former Western bloc. The only superpower left standing wanted to impose on the "international community" a "new world order" under its aegis, because it was the only one with the means to do so, but also because it is the country with the most to lose from global disorder: "In 1992 Washington adopted a very clear, conscious orientation to guide its imperialist policy in the post-Cold War period, based on ‘a fundamental commitment to maintaining a unipolar world in which the United States has no peer competitor. No coalition of great powers without the United States will be allowed to achieve hegemony’ (Prof. G.J. Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, Sept/Oct. 2002, p.49). This policy seeks to prevent the rise of any power in Europe or Asia that could challenge American prominence and serve as a pole of regroupment for the formation of a new imperialist bloc. This was initially spelled out in the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance policy statement drafted by Rumsfeld in1992, during the last year of the first Bush administration which clearly established this new grand strategy"[9].

In truth, Bush Senior's policy, far from ushering the planet into a "new world order" under Washington's supervision, represented no more than a desperate attempt by the United States to contain the lightning expansion of "every man for himself"; it would fundamentally lead to an accentuation of chaos and warlike confrontations: only six months after the Gulf War, the outbreak of war in Yugoslavia had already confirmed that the "new world order" would not be dominated by the Americans, but by the creeping "every man for himself".

The bloody civil war resulting from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia (1995-2001) saw the imperialist appetites of the various "allies" of the former American bloc come to the fore and clash: France and England supported Serbia, Germany Croatia and Turkey Bosnia: "6) The conflict in the former Yugoslavia, finally, confirms one of the other major features of the world situation: the limits to the effectiveness of the 1991 ‘Desert Storm’ operation, designed to assert US leadership over the world. As the ICC asserted at the time, the main target of this large-scale operation was not Saddam Hussein's regime, nor even other countries on the periphery that might have been tempted to imitate Iraq. For the United States, the main aim was to assert and reaffirm its role as ‘world policeman’ in the face of the convulsions arising from the collapse of the Russian bloc, and in particular to win the obedience of the other Western powers who, with the end of the threat from the east, were spreading their wings. Just a few months after the Gulf War, the outbreak of fighting in Yugoslavia illustrated that these same powers, and Germany in particular, were determined to make their imperialist interests prevail over those of the United States"[10] . In the end, it was by increasingly encircling the whole world in the steel corset of militarism and warlike barbarism by intervening militarily, first alongside Croatia, then Bosnia against Serbia, that President Clinton countered the imperialist appetites of European countries by imposing the "Pax Americana" in the region under his authority (Dayton Accords, December 1995).

Far from suppressing challenges to US leadership and the various imperialist appetites, Operation Desert Storm exacerbated polarisation. Thus, the Mujahideen who had been fighting the Russians in Afghanistan rose up against the US "crusaders" (formation of al-Qaeda under the leadership of Osama bin Laden) and, inspired by the failure of the US intervention in Somalia (operation "Restore Hope" from 1993 to 1994), began a campaign of anti-American jihadist attacks at the end of 1998. After its army's failure to invade southern Lebanon, the hard-line Israeli right came to power in 1996 (the first Netanyahu government) against the wishes of the American government, which had supported Shimon Peres. From then on, the right did everything in its power to sabotage the peace process with the Palestinians (the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords), which had been one of the greatest successes of Washington's diplomacy in the region. Finally, the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda in 1994 during the war between local clans, each supported by Western imperialism, is a dramatic example of where the intensification of imperialist "every man for himself" leads.

One of the most obvious expressions of the contestation of American leadership was the dismal failure in February 1998 of Operation Desert Thunder, aimed at inflicting a new "punishment" on Iraq and, beyond Iraq, on the powers that support it under the radar, notably France and Russia. Saddam Hussein's obstruction of visits to the "presidential sites" by international inspectors led the superpower to a new attempt to assert its authority by force of arms. But this time, in contrast to the missile attacks on Iraq which it carried out again in 1996, it was forced to abandon its enterprise in the face of resolute opposition from almost all the Arab states, most of the major powers and with only the (timid) support of Great Britain. The contrast between "Desert Storm" and operation "Desert Thunder" highlighted the deepening crisis of US leadership. Of course, Washington doesn't need anyone's permission to strike when and where it wants (as it did at the end of 1998 with Operation Desert Fox). But by pursuing such a policy, the United States put itself at the head of a trend it wanted to counter - that of every man for himself - whereas it had momentarily succeeded in avoiding it during the Gulf War. Worse still: for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War, the American bourgeoisie (the Republican and Democratic parties) showed itself incapable of presenting a united front to the outside world, despite being in a war situation.

2.2. The emergence of explicit tensions within the US bourgeoisie

The erosion of the U.S. bourgeoisie's ability to manage the political game adequately became apparent at the end of the "Cold War", and as capitalism entered a period of decomposition in the early 1990s, particularly through Ross Perot's "independent" candidacy in '92 and '96. “This general tendency for the bourgeoisie to lose control of its own policies was one of the primary factors in the Eastern bloc’s collapse; this collapse can only accentuate the tendency:

  • because of the resulting aggravation of the economic crisis;
  • because of the disintegration of the Western bloc which is implied by the disappearance of its rival;
  • because the temporary disappearance of the perspective of world war will exacerbate the rivalries between different bourgeois factions (between national factions especially, but also between cliques within national states”.[11]

This tendency to lose control of the political game came to the fore in 1998, at the height of Operation Desert Fox. The impeachment proceedings against Clinton, which intensified during the events, highlighted the extent to which American politicians, immersed in a real internal conflict, lent credence to the propaganda of America’s enemies that Clinton had taken the decision to intervene militarily in Iraq because of personal motives (the "Monicagate" scandal), rather than disavowing it.


3. The crusade against "rogue states”

The 1998 RI Congress resolution, following the failure of Operation Desert Thunder, was prescient: While the US has not recently had the opportunity to use its armed might and to participate directly in this ‘bloody chaos’, this can only be a temporary situation, especially because it cannot allow the diplomatic failure over Iraq to pass without a response."[12] .

3.1. The 9/11 terrorist attack spawns the "War against Terror”

With the coming to power of George W. Bush junior and his team of "neoconservatives" (Vice President D. Cheney, Defense Secretary D. Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and J. Bolton), Washington focused its attention on "rogue states" such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq, which threatened world order through their aggressive policies and support for terrorism. The al-Qaeda attacks on American soil on September 11, 2001 prompted President Bush junior to call for a "crusade against terrorism" and launch a "War against Terror", leading to the invasion of Afghanistan and above all Iraq in 2003. Despite all the American pressure and the presentation of "fake news" at the UN aimed at mobilising the "international community" behind their military operation against the "Axis of Evil", the United States ultimately failed to corral the other imperialists against Saddam and had to invade Iraq virtually single-handed, with Tony Blair's England as its only significant ally. "If the September 11 attacks allowed the US to draw countries like France and Germany into their intervention in Afghanistan, it didn't succeed in dragging them into its Iraqi adventure in 2003; in fact it even provoked the rise of a circumstantial alliance between these two countries and Russia against the intervention in Iraq. Later on, some of its main allies in the ‘coalition’ which intervened in Iraq, such as Spain and Italy, quit the sinking ship. The US bourgeoisie failed to achieve any of its official objectives in Iraq: the elimination of ‘weapons of mass destruction’, the establishment of a peaceful ‘democracy’; stability and a return to peace throughout the region under the aegis of America; the retreat of terrorism; the adherence of the American population to the military interventions of its government."[13] .

Despite a colossal commitment of soldiers, weapons and financial resources, these ill-considered interventions by the "neocons" led to a stalemate and ultimate failure, underlined by the withdrawal from Iraq (2011) and Afghanistan (2021). In particular, they highlighted the fact that the USA's claim to play "world sheriff" has only intensified warlike and barbaric chaos: "The attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon by Al Qaeda on 11 September 2001, and the unilateral military response of the Bush administration, further opened the Pandora's box of decomposition: with the attack and invasion of Iraq in 2003 in defiance of international conventions and organisations and without taking into account the opinion of its main ‘allies’, the world's leading power went from being the gendarme of world order to the principal agent of every man for himself and chaos. The occupation of Iraq and then the civil war in Syria (2011) would powerfully stir up the imperialist every man for himself, not only in the Middle East but all over the world."[14] . This opening of the Pandora's box of decomposition was manifested in particular by the multiplication of terrorist attacks in Western metropoles (Madrid, 2004, London, 2005) and by an all-out increase in the imperialist ambitions of powers - China and Russia, of course, and Iran, who had become increasingly bold and aggressive - but also Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and even the Gulf Emirates and Qatar, leading to barbaric conflicts such as the civil wars in Libya and Syria as early as 2011, and in Yemen from 2014 onwards, the emergence of particularly cruel terrorist organizations such as Islamic State provoking a new wave of attacks, and the "refugee crisis" caused by the sudden, uncontrolled influx of undocumented, stateless people into Europe in 2015.

3.2. The adventurism of the "neocons" reveals the growing contradictions between bourgeois factions

While the obvious impasse in U.S. policy and the aberrant headlong rush into warlike barbarism underline the clear weakening of U.S. global leadership, they also reveal more than ever the internal contradictions and factional divisions within the U.S. bourgeoisie. Already, G. Bush junior had won the presidency through a "stolen election", which illustrated the unstable nature of the American democratic apparatus: his opponent, Al Gore, had obtained 500,000 more votes than him, but the decision concerning the final distribution of votes only came 36 days later, more specifically in Florida, where Bush's brother was governor. "A popular e-mail parody of the election began circulating throughout internet asking what the media would say if in an African nation, there was a controversial election in which the winning candidate was the son of a previous president, who had previously served as director of the state security forces (CIA), and where the victory was determined by a disputed counting of the ballots in a province governed by a brother of the presidential candidate"[15] The twists and turns of the 2000 elections were a clear indication of the bourgeoisie's difficulty in managing its political system in the face of increasingly obvious centrifugal tendencies.

This is all the more true as factions linked to Christian fundamentalism have begun to make their presence felt on the American political scene. Already present in the Republican Party during the Reagan era, they became stronger and more radical in the "rural states" as a result of the growing chaos and lack of hope for the future. Thus emerged the "Tea Party" which would play an important role in torpedoing the Obama administration's plans, accusing the president of being a "Marxist" and a "Muslim agent". The Tea Party was not only made up of Christian fundamentalists but also white supremacists, anti-immigrant activists, militia members, etc., a whole cocktail that infiltrated the Republican Party and increasingly threatened the stability of the political system. Federated around opposition to the "Establishment in Washington", these factions form the swell of the wave of populist ideology on which Donald Trump would later surf.

These centrifugal tensions within the American bourgeoisie were clearly manifested in the headlong rush into the catastrophic Iraqi adventure adopted by the feckless Bush Jr. administration to ensure the maintenance of American supremacy: "The accession [in 2001] of the ‘Neo-Cons’ to the head of the American state represents a real catastrophe for the American bourgeoisie. The question posed is the following: how was it possible for the world's leading bourgeoisie to call on this band of irresponsible and incompetent adventurers to take charge of the defence of its interests? What lies behind this blindness of the ruling class of the leading capitalist country? In fact, the arrival of the team of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Co. to the reins of the state was not the simple result of a monumental mistake in casting by the ruling class. While it has considerably worsened the situation of the US on the imperialist level, it was already the expression of the impasse facing the US given the growing weakening of its leadership and more generally given the development of the ‘every man for himself’ in international relations which characterises the phase of decomposition."[16] .

3.3. The Obama presidency: a vain attempt to restore multilateralism

The Obama administration tried to mitigate the catastrophic consequences of the adventurist unilateralism promoted by Bush junior. While reminding the world of America's absolute technological and military superiority through the execution of Bin Laden in 2011 via a spectacular commando operation in Pakistan, it attempted to put multilateralism back on the agenda by involving Washington's "allies" in the implementation of American policy. However, it was unable to truly counter the explosion of various imperialist ambitions: China implemented its economic and imperialist expansion through the unfolding of the "New Silk Roads" from 2013 onwards; as for Germany, while it avoided any direct confrontation with the United States, given Washington's overwhelming military superiority, it markedly strengthened its pretensions through a growing economic-energy collaboration with Russia. France and Britain, for their part, took the initiative of intervening in Libya to oust Gaddafi; Russia and Iran strengthened their positions in the Middle East by taking advantage of the civil war in Syria. Finally, in Ukraine, faced with the victory of pro-Western parties in the "Orange Revolution", Putin militarily occupied Crimea and supported pro-Russian militias in the Donbass in 2014. Faced with the rise of China as the main challenger threatening US hegemony, there was intense debate within the Obama administration, the state apparatus and the wider US bourgeoisie over a reorientation of its imperialist strategy.

In short: "The policy of forcing things through, illustrated during the two terms of Bush Junior, has resulted not only in the chaos in Iraq, which is nowhere near being overcome, but also to the growing isolation of American diplomacy … For its part, the policy of ‘co-operation’ favoured by the Democrats does not really ensure the loyalty of the powers that the US is trying to associate with its military enterprises, particularly because it gives these powers a wider margin of manoeuvre to push forward their own interests"[17] .


4. The "America First" policy breaks with the ambition to establish a new world order

At a time when the "world policeman" policy was squandering huge budgets, resulting in massive military deployments around the world ("boots on the ground") and consequent losses, and at a time when the working masses were not ready to be dragooned (cf. the huge difficulties in recruiting soldiers under Bush junior for the war in Iraq), Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 after a campaign centered on the slogan "America First". This basically expresses an official recognition of the failure of American imperialist policy over the past 25 years, and a refocusing of that policy on the immediate interests of the United States: "The Trump administration's formalisation of the principle of defending only their interests as a national state and the imposition of profitable power relations as the main basis for relations with other states, confirms and draws implications from the failure of the policy of the last 25 years of fighting against the ‘every man for himself’ tendency as a world policeman in defence of the world order inherited from 1945." [18]

4.1. The "vandalisation" of imperialist relations

The "America First" policy implemented by the populist Trump went hand in hand with a "vandalisation" of relations between powers. Traditionally, in order to guarantee a certain order in international relations, states based their diplomacy on a principle, summed up by the following Latin formula: "pacta sunt servanda" - treaties, agreements are supposed to be respected. When you sign a global - or multilateral - agreement, you're supposed to respect it, at least in appearance. The United States, under Trump, was abolishing this convention: "I sign a treaty, but I can abolish it tomorrow". This happened with the Trans-Pacific Pact (TPP), the Paris Agreement on climate change, the nuclear treaty with Iran and the final agreement on the G7 meeting in Quebec. In their place, Trump advocated negotiations between states, favouring economic, political and military blackmail to impose US interests (cf. the threat of reprisals against European companies investing in Iran). "The vandalising behaviour of Trump, who can denounce American international commitments overnight in defiance of established rules, represents a new and powerful factor of uncertainty, providing further impetus towards ‘each against all’. It is a further indication of the new stage in which capitalism is sinking further into barbarism and the abyss of untrammelled militarism."[19] .

Trump's unpredictable decisions, threats and poker tricks had the following effects. They:

     - undermined the reliability of the USA as an ally: Trump's boastful blustering, bluffing and sudden changes of position not only ridiculed the USA, but led to fewer and fewer countries trusting it. In Europe, Trump called NATO into question, openly opposed the EU and, more specifically, Germany's policy;

     - accentuated the decline of the only superpower: the impasse in US policy was vividly accentuated through the actions of the Trump administration. At the G20 in 2019, the isolation of the United States was evident on climate issues and the trade war. Moreover, Russia's involvement in Syria to save Assad set the USA back and reinforced Moscow's military aggressiveness and power to cause trouble in the world, while the USA has been unable to contain China's emergence from outsider status in the early '90s to that of a serious challenger, presenting itself as the champion of globalisation through the expansion. of the "New Silk Roads".

     - destabilised the global situation and increased imperialist tensions, as seen in the Middle East, where America's refusal to engage too directly on the ground exacerbated the centrifugal action of various powers, large and small, from Iran to Saudi Arabia, from Israel to Turkey, from Russia to Qatar, whose divergent imperialist appetites are constantly colliding. Washington's policy has become more than ever a direct factor in aggravating chaos on a global scale. As a result, "The current situation is characterised by imperialist tensions all over the place and by a chaos that is less and less controllable; but above all, by its highly irrational and unpredictable character, linked to the impact of populist pressures, in particular to the fact that the world’s strongest power is led today by a populist president with temperamental reactions."[20] .

However, under the Trump administration, an increasingly clear polarisation against China emerged in US imperialist policy, aimed at containing and breaking the rise of the Chinese challenger. Back in 2011, the Obama administration had already decided to attach greater strategic importance to confronting China than to the war on terror: "This new approach, called the 'Asian pivot', was announced by the American president during a speech to the Australian parliament on November 17, 2011"[21] . Although challenged by the emergence of Islamic State under Obama, the strategic reorientation of American imperialist policy towards the Far East clearly took hold under Trump, despite a last pocket of resistance from the proponents of the "crusade" against "rogue states" such as Iran (Secretary of State Pompeo and J. Bolton). The "National Defense Strategy" (NDS), published in February 2018, stated that "the global war on terror is suspended" while "great power competition" becomes a cardinal orientation[22] . This implied a major shift in American policy:

  • The trade war with China intensified, with the aim of slowing down its economic development and preventing it from developing strategic sectors that directly threaten American hegemony.
  • The US re-launched the arms race (calling into question the INF and START multilateral arms control agreements) in order to maintain its technological lead and exhaust its rivals (following the proven strategy that led to the collapse of the USSR). A 6th US Army component is created, designed to "dominate space", to counter China's satellite threats.

Be that as it may, "The defence of its interests as a national state now means embracing the tendency towards every man for himself that dominates imperialist relations: the United States is moving from being the gendarme of the world order to being the main agent of every man for himself, of chaos, of questioning the world order established since 1945 under its auspices. "[23] .

4.2. Centrifugal tendencies in the American political system intensify

Trump's arrival in power brought into full view the enormous difficulty the bourgeoisie of the world's leading power has in "managing" its electoral circus and containing the centrifugal tendencies growing within it: "The US bourgeoisie's crisis did not come about as a result of Trump's election. In 2007, the report already noted the crisis of the American bourgeoisie by explaining: ‘It is first and foremost this objective situation - a situation that excludes any long-term strategy on the part of the remaining dominant power - that made it possible to elect and re-elect such a corrupt regime, with a pious and stupid President at its head [Bush junior]. (...), the Bush Administration is nothing more than a reflection of the dead-end situation of US imperialism (‘The Impact of Decomposition on the Life of the Bourgeoisie’, a report to the 17th ICC Congress). However, the victory of a populist president (Trump) known for making unpredictable decisions not only brought to light the crisis of the US bourgeoisie, but also highlighted the growing instability of the political apparatus of the US bourgeoisie and the exacerbation of internal tensions."[24] . Trump's populist vandalism therefore only exacerbated already existing tensions within the American bourgeoisie.

A number of factors brought these tensions to a head: (a) The constant need to try and frame the unpredictability of presidential decisions, but above all (b) Trump's option to get closer to Moscow, the old enemy that doesn't hesitate to interfere in the American electoral campaign ("Russiagate"), a prospect totally unacceptable to a majority of the US bourgeoisie, and (c) his refusal to accept the electoral verdict, combine to highlight an explosive political situation within the American bourgeoisie and its growing inability to control the political circus.

(a) a relentless struggle to "contain" the president marked the entire presidency and played out on several levels: pressure exerted by the Republican Party (failed votes on repealing Obamacare), opposition to Trump's plans by his ministers (the Attorney General refusing to resign or the foreign and defence ministers "nuancing" Trump's words), a constant struggle for control of the White House staff by the "generals" (ex-generals McMaster and then Mattis). However, this policy of “containment” did not prevent "slippages", as when Trump made a "deal" with the Democrats to circumvent Republican opposition to raising the debt ceiling;

(b) Trump and a faction of the American bourgeoisie were considering a rapprochement or even an alliance with Putin's Russia against China, a policy that had various supporters within the presidential administration, such as the first Secretary of State Tillerson, the Secretary of Commerce Ross or even the president's son-in-law, Kushner. This orientation, however, met opposition from large sections of the American bourgeoisie and resistance from most state structures (the army, the secret services), who were by no means convinced by such a policy for historical reasons (the impact of the "Cold War" period) and because of Russian interference in the presidential elections ("Russiagate" again). While Trump never wanted to rule out improved cooperation with Russia (for example, he suggested reintegrating Russia into the G7 forum of industrialised countries), the approach of the dominant factions of the American bourgeoisie, embodied today by the Biden administration, has on the contrary always seen Russia as a force hostile to the continued leadership of the United States.

(c) During the presidential elections of November 2020, opposition between bourgeois factions took on an almost insurrectionary tone: accusations of electoral fraud were made on both sides, and finally Trump refused to recognise the election results. On January 6, 2021, at Trump's call, his supporters marched on Parliament, storming it and occupying the Capitol, the "symbol of democratic order", to overturn the announced results and declare Trump the winner. The internal divisions within the American bourgeoisie have sharpened to the point where, for the first time in history, the president up for re-election is accusing the system of the "most democratic country in the world" of electoral fraud, in the best style of a "banana republic".


5. The policy of provocation towards the Chinese challenger

Despite the vandalism and unpredictability of the populist Trump and the growing fragmentation within the American bourgeoisie over how to defend its leadership, the Trump administration adopted an imperialist orientation in continuity and coherence with the fundamental imperialist interests of the American state, which are broadly agreed upon within the majority sectors of the American bourgeoisie: to defend the United States' undisputed rank as the world's leading power by developing an offensive attitude towards its Chinese challenger. This polarisation towards China, described as a "constant threat"[25] , is undoubtedly becoming the central axis of J. Biden's foreign policy. This strategic choice by the United States implies a concentration of American forces for military and technological confrontation with China. If, as global policeman, the USA already exacerbated warlike violence, chaos and every man for himself, the current polarisation towards China is no less destructive - quite the contrary. This aggression is manifested:

- politically, through democratic campaigns in defence of Uighur rights and "freedoms" in Hong Kong, the defence of democracy in Taiwan, or through systematic accusations of espionage and computer hacking against China, with heavy retaliatory measures;

- on the economic front, through laws and decrees such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the Chips in USA Act, which subject exports of products from Chinese technology firms (e.g. Huawei) to the United States to heavy restrictions in terms of protectionist tariffs and sanctions against unfair competition, but which above all impose a block on the transfer of technology and research to Beijing;

- at the military level, through fairly explicit and spectacular demonstrations of force aimed at containing China: a proliferation of military exercises involving the US fleet and those of its allies in the South China Sea, Biden's pledge of military support to Taiwan in the event of Chinese aggression, the establishment of a cordon sanitaire around China through military support agreements (the AUKUS, between the USA, Australia and Great Britain), partnerships clearly directed against China (the Quad involving Japan, Australia and India), but also by reviving bilateral alliances or signing new ones with South Korea, the Philippines or Vietnam.

On the other hand, the considerable fragmentation of the American political apparatus has spread even further, despite the Democratic presidential victory and the presidential nomination of J. Biden. The mid-term elections in 2022, Trump's candidacy for a new term and the tensions between Democrats and Republicans in Congress have confirmed that the fractures between the parties are as deep and exacerbated as ever, as are the rifts within each of the two camps. The weight of populism and the most retrograde ideologies, marked by the rejection of rational and coherent thinking, far from being curbed by campaigns aimed at sidelining Trump, have only weighed more and more deeply and durably on the American political game and constantly tend to hinder the implementation of the offensive against China.

These two trends, the intensification of a polarised offensive aimed at provoking the Chinese challenger on the one hand, and the accentuation of the chaos and every man for himself that this provokes, but also the internal tensions between factions of the American bourgeoisie on the other, mark the two major events in imperialist relations in recent years: the murderous war in Ukraine and the butchery between Israel and Hamas.

5.1. War in Ukraine increases pressure on the Chinese challenger

The war in Ukraine may well have been initiated by Russia, but it is the consequence of the United States' strategy of encircling and suffocating it. With the outbreak of this murderous war, the US has pulled off a masterstroke in intensifying its aggressive policy against potential challengers. "In Washington, many had been waiting a long time for this: an opportunity for America to show off its great-power credentials in a duel with a major competitor, rather than in uncertain operations against poorly armed religious fanatics"[26] . Indeed, this war expresses more far-reaching objectives than a simple halt to Russia's ambitions: "The current American-Russian rivalry is not explained by any fear that Moscow might dominate Europe, but rather by Washington's hegemonic behavior"[27] .

Of course, the immediate aim of the fatal trap set for Russia is to inflict a major weakening of its remaining military power and a radical downgrading of its imperialist ambitions: "We want to weaken Russia in such a way that it can no longer do things like invade Ukraine" (US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin during his visit to Kiev on 25.04.22)[28] . The war is also intended to demonstrate the absolute superiority of American military technology over Moscow's rustic weapons.

Secondly, the Russian invasion tightened the bolts within Washington-controlled NATO, forcing reluctant European countries, especially Germany, to rally under the Alliance banner, since they had tended to develop their own policies towards Russia and ignore NATO, which until a few months ago French President Macron had claimed was "brain dead".

But above all, the Americans' primary objective was undoubtedly to send an unequivocal warning to their main challenger, China ("this is what awaits you if you risk trying to invade Taiwan"). This was the culmination of a decade of increased pressure on the main challenger threatening US leadership. The war weakened China's only partner of interest, the one that could in particular provide it with a military contribution, and furthermore put a strain on Beijing's economic and imperialist expansion project, the New Silk Road, a major axis of which passed through the Ukraine.

For the United States, the hundreds of thousands of civilian and military casualties, the extension of warlike barbarity into Central Europe, the risks of nuclear meltdown and global economic chaos are only negligible "collateral effects" of its offensive to guarantee its continued leadership.

5.2. War in Gaza intensifies every man for himself and disrupts American polarisation towards Beijing

After the surprise attack and barbaric massacres perpetrated by Hamas, and Israel's bloody retaliation, crushing tens of thousands of civilians under shells and bombs, the almost permanent presence of American leaders in Tel Aviv (President Biden visited in person, and Secretary of State A. Blinken and Defence Secretary L. Austin spend almost a week there) underlines the feverishness and perplexity of the American superpower about how best to handle the situation. By exerting permanent pressure on the Israeli government while maintaining contact with Arab governments, they are trying to limit the Israelis' thirst for barbaric vengeance in Gaza or the West Bank and avoid a general conflagration in the region.

Since the Obama era, when the United States began its "Asian pivot", it has not abandoned all ambitions for influence in the Near and Middle East. With the Abraham Accords in particular, Washington worked to establish a system of alliances between Israel and several Arab countries, in particular Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to contain Iran's imperialist aspirations, delegating responsibility for maintaining order in the region to the Israeli state. But this was without taking into account the dynamics of increasingly unstable alliances and the deep-seated tendency towards every man for himself. For the Israeli bourgeoisie no longer hesitates to put its own imperialist interests ahead of its traditional allegiance to the United States. While Washington favoured a two-state "solution", Netanyahu and the right-wing factions of the Israeli bourgeoisie, encouraged by Trump, multiplied annexations in the West Bank, leaving the Palestinians completely on the sidelines. They were clearly playing with fire in the region, but were counting on American military and diplomatic support should tensions escalate. As a result, the United States now finds itself backed into a corner by Israel, forced to support Netanyahu's irresponsible policies and to question the "Asian Pivot" strategy, which was precisely designed to extricate the United States from the endless conflicts ravaging the Middle East so that it could focus on containing the Chinese challenger. Today, however, they are obliged to send substantial naval forces to the Eastern Mediterranean, intervene in the Red Sea, and reinforce their contingents in Iraq and Syria.

The Biden administration's wilful reaction shows how little confidence it has in Netanyahu's clique, and how worried it is about the prospect of a catastrophic conflagration in the Middle East. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a new flashpoint for US imperialist policy, which could prove calamitous if expanded. Washington would then have to assume a considerable military presence and support for Israel, which could only weigh heavily not only on the US economy, but also on its support for Ukraine and, even more so, on its strategy to stem China's expansion. Moreover, the pro-Palestinian rhetoric of Turkey, an "incorrigible" NATO member, will also increase the risk of widening confrontations, as will the virulent criticism of Arab countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Washington is therefore trying to prevent the situation from getting out of hand ... a perfectly illusory ambition in the long term, given the disastrous dynamic into which the Middle East is sinking.

5.3. The explosion of contradictions within its political apparatus undermines US imperialist policy

Meanwhile, the United States is entering a period of electoral campaigning, and the destabilisation of the American political apparatus is accentuating the unpredictability of its political orientations, both internally and externally. Recurrent deadlocks in Congress have confirmed that the fractures between Democrats and Republicans are as deep and exacerbated as ever, as are the rifts within each of the two camps, as evidenced by the complicated election of the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives and the debate among Democrats over the impact of J. Biden's advanced age on his possible re-election. At the same time, campaigns aimed at sidelining Trump (e.g. the various lawsuits brought against him), have only served to divide American society ever more deeply and permanently, and make "The Donald" more popular than ever among a sizeable fringe of the American electorate.

Trump's new presidential candidacy for the 2024 elections, still favoured by more than 30% of Americans (i.e., nearly 2/3 of Republican voters) and widely considered the favourite for the Republican nomination, is already bringing a dose of uncertainty to U.S. policy and is playing a role in Washington's positioning in the two conflicts analysed above: in Ukraine, massive military support for Zelensky is now being called into question by the Republican majority's refusal to endorse budgets for Ukraine, and Putin is counting on the fact that a Trump re-election will change the situation on the ground; in Israel, Netanyahu and right-wing factions are counting on the unconditional support of the Republican religious right to counter the policies of the Biden administration, while they too are awaiting the return of the Trump "messiah".

In short, the unpredictable nature of US policy does not encourage other countries to take US promises at face value, and is in itself (in addition to its policy of polarisation) a factor in the intensification of chaos in the future.



Like the confrontation in Ukraine, the Gaza war confirms the dominant trend in the global imperialist situation: a growing irrationality fuelled on the one hand by the tendency of each imperialist power to act for itself, and on the other by the bloody policy of the dominant power, the USA, aimed at countering its inevitable decline by preventing the emergence of any potential challenger.

Whatever the outcome of these conflicts, the Biden administration's current policy of confrontation is far from producing a lull in tensions or imposing discipline between imperialist vultures. Indeed, the policy

  - accentuates economic and military tensions with Chinese imperialism;

  - exacerbates the contradictions between imperialisms, whether in Central Europe or in the Middle East;

   - intensifies the contradictions within the various bourgeoisies, in the United States, Russia, Ukraine and Israel of course, but also in Germany and China.

Contrary to the rhetoric of its leaders, the offensive and brutal policies of the United States are therefore at the cutting edge of military barbarism and the destructive tendencies of decomposition.

For over 30 years, the struggle of American imperialism against its inevitable decline has increasingly been a central factor in heightening tensions and chaos. The initial success of the current US offensive was based on a characteristic highlighted as early as the early 1990s in the ICC Orientation Text "Militarism and Decomposition"[29] , namely the US’s economic and above all military supremacy, which exceeds the sum of potentially competing powers. Today, the USA is exploiting this advantage to the full in its policy of polarisation. However, this orientation has never led to greater order and discipline in imperialist relations - on the contrary, it has multiplied military confrontations, exacerbated every man for himself, sown barbarism and chaos in many regions (Middle East, Afghanistan, Central Europe, etc.), intensified terrorism, provoked huge waves of refugees and multiplied the appetites of small and large sharks alike.

For over 30 years too, the growing political tensions within the US bourgeoisie have been exploited to mystify the struggle of the American proletariat, by attempting to mobilise it in the fight against the "ruling elites", by trying to divide it into "native" and "illegal immigrant" workers, or by trying to mobilise it in defence of democracy against the racist, fascist right. In this context, the workers' struggles of 2022 and 2023 in the USA are a clear expression of the American working class's refusal to be drawn into bourgeois terrain, and of their determination to defend themselves in a united fashion as an exploited class against any attack on their living and working conditions.


20.12.2023 / R.H. & Marsan



[2] Id.

[3] Resolution on the international situation, pt 6, 9th ICC Congress, International Review no. 67, 1991 (French version).

[4] International Review 64, 1991.

[5] Orientation  text Militarism and decomposition, International Review 64, 1991.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Resolution on the International Situation, pt 4, 15thInternational Congress of the ICC, International Review 113, 2003.

[10] Resolution on the international situation (1993), 10th International Congress of the ICC, International Review 74, 1993.

[13] Resolution on the international situation, pt 8, 17th ICC International Congress, International Review 130, 2007.

[15] The election of George W Bush, Internationalism 116, winter 2000-2001.

[16] Resolution on the international situation, pt 9, 17th ICC International Congress, International Review 130, 2007.

[17] Resolution on the international situation, pt 7, 18th ICC International Congress, International Review 138, 2009.

[18] Resolution on the international situation (2019), pt 13, 23rd International Congress of the ICC, International Review 164, 2020.

[19] Ibid.

[21] The American retreat will have lasted six months...", Monde diplomatique, March 2022.

[22] Statement by DefenseSecretary James Mattis on 04.26.2018 before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

[23] Resolution on the international situation, pt 10, 23rd International Congress of the ICC, International Review 164, 2020.

[24] Report on the impact of decomposition on the political life of the bourgeoisie, 23rd ICC congress, 2019, International Review 164, 2020. The quote in the excerpt is from the (unpublished) report on the life of the bourgeoisie from the 17th congress.

[25] Lloyd Austin, Memorandum for all department of defence employees, March 2021.

[26] The American retreat will have lasted six months...", Monde diplomatique, March 2022.

[27] "Pourquoi les grandes puissances se font la guerre", Monde diplomatique, August 2023.

[28] The Biden faction also wanted to "make Russia pay" for its interference in US domestic affairs, such as its attempts to manipulate the last presidential elections.

[29] Orientation text Militarism and decomposition, International Review 64, 1991.


Imperialism and decomposition