American Decline

After 20 Years: A Lot Has Happened Since 2001

I recently wrote about how January has been the 20 year anniversary of the founding of Attack the System. It is interesting to reflect on what has happened in the subsequent two decades. In 2001, the US empire was arguably at its apex, firmly in control of a unipolar world ten years after its only rival had collapsed. Then the seemingly unthinkable happened. The empire was attacked in its political and financial capital by a gang of ragtag Third World ruffians in a way that caused major humiliation, and with massive collateral damage. The strategy of those responsible for 9/11 was to lure the imperialists into a Middle Eastern war which the Islamists were hoping would be the new Soviet-Afghan war, and would be a prelude to the collapse of the USA in the same way the Afghan war was a prelude to the collapse of the USSR.

The strategy of the Islamists was largely successful in the sense that the impact of 9/11 was to embroil in the USA in a series of wars, every one of which was an abject failure, and which are still going 20 years later. Consequently, the empire has begun to lose legitimacy. Even the overlords seem to be at least partially aware of this and are trying to hold their position by either outsourcing the empire’s functions to client states (the unilateralist approach) or desperately trying to “rebuild relationships with allies” (the liberal internationalist approach) with the neocons having their hands in both approaches.

Back in 2005, I wrote the following controversial passage regarding international relations:

Ideally, a block of nations would emerge, comprised primarily of “rogue states”, that would serve as sponsors of the international insurgent forces. Preferably, a future revolutionary Russia, perhaps led by the National-Bolshevik Party, leading a confederation of anti-NWO regimes from North Korea to Venezuela, would to some degree play the same role as the old Soviet-sponsored Warsaw Pact as a bulwark against Western imperialism and military, financial and diplomatic backer of local and regional anti-imperialist struggles.

Such events have largely since transpired with the rise of the BRICS and the Axis of Resistance. The Putin regime is essentially Nazbol and Eurasianist in its approach to geopolitical strategy, at least on a de facto if not a de jour level, although actual multipolarity has yet to be achieved, and it may be doubtful as to whether the BRICS/Resistance Axis alliance is sustainable in this regard. It is more likely that the future retreat of the Atlanticist world order will result in a series of regional conflicts for the purpose of filling the power vacuum with a proliferation of failed states in the process. A return to the 18th or 19th century is probably more likely than a return to the bipolar or tripolar order of the Cold War. Either way, having reached its decadent stage, the empire seems to be dying.

Meanwhile, the domestic wealth gap has widened, with dozens of causes, and has been accelerated by two depressions, and the growing size of the lumpenproletariat, lower proletariat, and the ongoing sinking of the middle class.

In 2001, the US police state was already massive due to its previous 30-year buildup through the war on drugs in the 1970s and 1980s, which was expanded into a general war on crime in the 1990s. Of course, 2001 saw the police state expanded once again into the war on terrorism,  with another expansion in 2020 due to the COVID-19 lockdowns and now the pending war on domestic terrorism. Interesting, however, is the fact that the police state has become so large that even middle-class people are turning against it, as evidenced by protests, riots, calls for “criminal justice reform,” growing resistance to the war on drugs, and anti-lockdown protests.

The Red Tribe/Blue Tribe polarization was only beginning in 2001, but polarization has escalated to the point that the two sides view each other as existential enemies, with the rise of extremists engaged in mini-Weimar, low-level fourth-generation warfare.  As the Red Tribe has declined in size and power,  it has become more militant and extreme. As the Blue Tribe has risen,  it has become more co-opted, with its tribal morality being incorporated into the state’s ideological superstructure in the form of “totalitarian humanism.”

Shifting class dynamics continue to take place, with the rising tech-oligarchs and professional-managerial class eclipsing the old bourgeoisie and post-bourgeois proletariat as the dominant socioeconomic sectors, but with all of these continuing to be subordinated to the upper strata of the power elite (the military-industrial complex and adjacent sectors).

At present, “Bidenism” represents an attempt to establish a ruling class unity regime, which amounts to a “popular front” ( a neocon-neoliberal-progressive-social democratic-SJW-Antifa axis) against Trumpian low-rent Nixonianism.

The “ten core demographics” that I identified a decade ago as the likely source of political dissent or civil unrest have each engaged in revolt in their own ways, but a political realignment pitting these sectors against the ruling class has not occurred.

The original idea behind ATS was the establishment of an anarchist vanguard for the purpose of creating an anti-state front, which would then use pan-secessionism, anti-imperialism, lumpenproletarianism, core demographic theory,  fourth-generation warfare, and related concepts as the foundation of revolutionary struggle ( a kind of 1776/1936 hybrid).

The problem with this idea is that it underestimated the intensity of tribal conflict in the USA. It is clear enough that the tribes, including most anarchists and libertarians, hate other tribes worse than they hate the state, the more recent efforts by a few commenters at Anarchist News, Jimmy Dore, or a few Boogaloo Boys notwithstanding.

A brief and fleeting opportunity for an anti-state front emerged during the Ron Paul era, with a growing interest in anti-state philosophies, but which soon fractured into tribalism. An interest in “anti-state solidarity” may exist on the periphery but not enough for a substantially sized and sustainable movement. Instead, different tribes will resist in their own way.

The present interest in anti-capitalism, inspired in part by Bernie Sanders (the Ron Paul of anti-capitalism),  is not surprising due to present economic conditions and class relations, but it is likewise true that just as the tribes hate each other more than they hate the state, they also hate each other more than they hate the capitalist class. An interest in “class solidarity” may exist on the periphery but not enough for a substantially sized and sustainable movement. Once again, different tribes will resist in their own way.

Additionally, there is clearly zero interest among Americans in anti-imperialism outside of fringe sectors (e.g. Marxist-Leninists, pacifist Christians, isolationist libertarians), although imperialist war has been delegitimized if it requires any sacrifice on the part of Americans (which is certainly a partial victory). The best bet for anti-imperialists is to encourage domestic political fractiousness with the effect of preventing the ruling class from formulating any consistent or sustainable foreign policy. Some evidence that this is happening already exists, as the Red Tribe and Blue Tribe seem to be divided between Chinahate and Russiahate.

The USA is similar to the former USSR and Yugoslavia in the sense of being a multicultural empire with an overarching state supposedly committed to a universalist ideology. The USA has a Third World electoral system and a society fracturing into warring tribes like Lebanon and Syria. However, collapse is still a long way off. The USA still hasn’t become nearly as bad as Mexico, which continues to survive as an intact nation and is considered to be an upper-middle-income country, despite its domestic instability. But the precedents of the former USSR, the former Warsaw Pact, former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Syria, and Mexico all provide interesting examples of where things might go in the future, and in multiple ways.

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