by Luis Arizmendi
(1/4/17 – Part 1 of a 7-part essay. Translated from Spanish by Jaime Amparo Alves.)
[Image: Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore via Flickr]
The new century has begun intensifying an epochal crisis of capitalism. This is a crisis much broader than the long and the great depressions of the 19th and 20th centuries. The crisis of financial surplus that hit the global economy at the beginning of the 21st century unveiled an international crisis of surplus production. No doubt this is a phenomenon that cannot be reduced to a mere cyclic crisis of capitalist overaccumulation. We are witnessing an epochal crisis that converges with multiple and globally diffused crises. The current crisis inaugurates a new era in global capitalism but its origins can be regarded as the result of cumulative crises that did not begin now, and that will not go away anytime soon. Convergence of crises: the worldwide food security crisis began in 2007; poverty became a global phenomenon in the 1990s; and a decade later when the World Bank introduced mechanisms of measuring and designing programs to fight hunger, the UN began to refer to the urban crisis defined as the “challenges of slums.”The current global environmental crisis began in 1972, if one takes as reference the Club of Rome’s report on economic growth. Finally, the ‘climate change crisis’ follows a historic pattern that indicates a serious and continuous destabilization of global production. If we want to understand the historic meaning of Donald Trump’s election, we must take into consideration such epochal crisis and its global trends.
At the turn of the 21st century, two different tendencies tried to make sense and intervene in the crossroads in which global capitalism finds itself. A trend, which can be labeled as truly representative of 21st century liberalism, has advocated for a global fight against hunger, poverty, environmental risks, energy and human rights crises with state interventions. This approach reasons that we have gone too far and that capitalist accumulation will face unimaginable destabilization if this trend continues. A second tendency challenges 21st-century liberalism. This neo-authoritarian tendency denies the seriousness of the planetary crisis and instead argues for the maximization of accumulation even at the expense of deepening the destruction of life and civilization.
Donald Trump’s project of capitalism is not liberal nor is it merely neo-Keynesian or protectionist. His proposal to increase the living standards of the American working class is built on the back of ethnic groups that include most of the international working class. His proposal for a peace agreement between the United States and Russia will generate a new geopolitical order to the 21st century. If on the one hand, this strategic proximity neutralizes the risks of a war between the world’s nuclear powers, on the other hand it indicates the triumph of the military nuclear power. Trump’s accession to power will negatively impact much beyond 2017-2020. It will affect life on the “blue planet” for the next ten thousand years. His preference for an energy model based on oil and gas will severely intensify global warming to the point of climate collapse. With this energy pattern comes wars to take control over fossil fuels, the devastation of the most environmentally vulnerable countries, and eco-migrations due to disputes over water and natural resources.
“Make America great again” is a slogan that represents an unquestionably confused and intransigent project of reconfiguration of the US-led capitalist system and the restructuring of US global hegemony. Trump’s aims are not only to integrate the US working class, but also to push forward an authoritarian integration of this group in the government’s efforts to maintain its global influence. He sponsors escalating political violence as response to the present economic crisis. Donald Trump’s capitalism personifies the neo-authoritarian tendency of capitalism in the 21st century.
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About the author: Luis Arizmendi is director of the international journal Mundo Siglo XXI.