It’s long been obvious that the biggest and most powerful wing of capital, that being finance capital, wants a massive new war; a war of proportions that potentially rival World War II. When the embodiment of the modern Democratic Party Hillary Clinton advocated for a no-fly zone over Syria—a policy that would have made direct U.S. confrontation with Russia inevitable—it became apparent how perilous of a situation our ruling elites are creating. The higher levels of capital, represented by their political tools the intelligence agencies, the legacy media, big tech, and the politicians who’ve backed military aid to Ukraine, are again working to escalate global tensions on the biggest possible scale.
These ultimate purveyors of destruction are needing to confront a growing amount of obstacles towards this goal, though; and their response to these obstacles is bringing the perils from imperialism’s peripheries closer to the core.
Even though the U.S. military buildup against China is still happening, and not just in China’s own hemisphere but in Africa as well, Washington’s defeat in Ukraine has revealed how limited the empire’s strength now is. It’s showed that Taiwan is not a viable location for the next proxy war, and that if the hegemon were to try to use Taiwan as such, it would backfire even worse than Biden’s failed effort at destroying Russia. Taiwan is being relegated to a role as a reserve for the hegemon, while Washington’s strategists are being forced to take on a defensive posture when it comes to their neo-colonies; Africa is becoming a more likely location for the next imperialist psyops and war mobilizations, perhaps of same the nature as the campaign to destabilize Syria.
Africa’s anti-imperialist forces are accelerating their gains, with France recently having been forced to announce a troop withdrawal in Niger; which means the empire must mobilize soon if it wants to survive. International monopoly capital can only come to a secure point again if it successfully subdues China; which is a reality that the imperialists don’t want to fully confront, but are increasingly doing so out of necessity.
While the liberal narrative managers try to salvage their situation after Canada and Ukraine honored a World War II Nazi this month, the empire’s military strategists are reviewing ways to make victory over China possible. And the “solutions” they’ve come to so far are extreme; they’re proposing policies that would benefit finance capital in certain areas, while coming at costs which the system potentially couldn’t handle.
When the U.S. Army War College’s academic journal was prompted this month to respond to the combined crises of 1) declining U.S. power that can only be restored by defeating China, 2) a China which has grown strong enough that Washington’s present armed forces soon wouldn’t be able to replenish themselves in a fight with it, and 3) recruiting rates for the U.S. armed forces which have declined to a historic low; they presented the option that at first seems obvious: bring back the draft. “Large-scale combat operations troop requirements may well require a reconceptualization of the 1970s and 1980s volunteer force and a move toward partial conscription,” concludes the journal. The sacrifice such a policy would come with is that the empire would lose the big thing it’s gained due to halting the draft: a young population which lacks the same incentive to resist the war machine that used to have.
A majority of the U.S. population has come to dislike the idea of sending more aid to Ukraine, and young people especially are being impacted by the inflation the war effort has exacerbated; the only reason why we’re not (yet) seeing a repeat of the mass antiwar mobilizations from the Vietnam era is because conscription isn’t here anymore. This shows how compromised of a situation our ruling class is now in; it needs to choose certain disasters over other disasters, hoping to be able to perfectly manage an ultimately unmanageable dilemma.
That’s the consequence of trying to hold back the progression of history: finding that the system you’ve invested in can’t be sustained, and encountering ever-more complications as time goes on. We’re no longer in the first few years after World War II, when respect for the military and the government were perhaps at their strongest in U.S. history; Vietnam represented the moment when popular faith in our institutions was weakened in an irreparable way. The empire can’t turn back time to when it could fight a total war, while keeping the loyalty of the USA’s people.
Given this limitation on what the empire can do, it’s possible that there will be no new draft and no third world war; the empire could instead choose to invade Mexico. Or to simply continue on the present path, where Washington is shifting towards hybrid warfare against the BRICS countries. Regardless of which way the hegemon next decides to inflict damage abroad, it’s certain that at least one big war is coming: a war against the American people themselves.
Even if World War III doesn’t happen, the fact that reinstating the draft would provoke Vietnam-level mass backlash is an indication of a population that has growing revolutionary potential; which means the state urgently needs to neutralize the population in order to save the liberal order. Whether our near future includes something as extreme as a draft and a total war; or merely consists of further policies to degrow the economy; the state, and its dominant finance capitalist wing, need to do all they can to prevent successful resistance towards their next maneuvers. And that much of this resistance can be found within the less powerful elements of the ruling class itself means finance capital doesn’t just need to neutralize the communist movement; it also needs to make sure that the lower levels of capital are unable to further interfere with the wars.
This is an essential thing for Marxists to understand: we’re not on the side of industrial capital and its right-wing agents, yet we can recognize that small capital and big capital are not fully unified. As our class conflict escalates, the rivalry between these two sides is getting more intense; and that was shown this week, when they had an unprecedentedly huge confrontation over whether to continue aiding Ukraine. As figures like the libertarian-leaning Republican senator Rand Paul have become willing to shut down the government for the sake of ending Ukraine aid, the neocon-aligned politicians have been reacting by pulling ridiculous stunts, like setting off the fire alarm to prevent a vote. Which reveals how much the side of finance capital; with its total control over intimidating forces like the intelligence agencies; has been failing to coordinate a response to the crises it’s encountering.
Don’t be fooled by any attempts by the government to appear in control over over present tumultuous situations. If the arbiters of the new cold war weren’t scrambling at the moment, none of them would be pulling fire alarms in a panic; our ruling institutions would be actually unified behind what they want to do, and far better coordinated in their efforts.
The ideal outcome for finance capital during the new cold war’s post-Ukraine stage is that all the political forces challenging liberalism get successfully suppressed; that the lawfare against Trump gets used as a precedent which allows for the repression of all the anti-imperialist orgs, a project already underway with the Uhuru indictments. And this could happen, but only if the country’s communist movement fails to sufficiently build a coalition with the broader forces that oppose NATO.
We don’t need to embrace a right deviation, and start assisting in the rightist parts of what anti-NATO conservatives believe; for that reason, this coalition-building project has tended to be detached from the kinds of conservatives who prioritize the culture war. Where anti-NATO political actors are compatible with one another, we must start working towards our shared goal of ending the war machine’s narrative dominance. As this is how we can obstruct finance capital’s next war plans, and render the national security state unable to crush civil liberties.
By Rainer Shea
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