Consider the following two quotes, one of them from Mao Zedong…
The socialist system will eventually replace the capitalist system; this is an objective law independent of man’s will. However much the reactionaries try to hold back the wheel of history, sooner or later revolution will take place and will inevitably triumph.
And the other from Karl Rove…
*We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
These statements reflect the conviction from these two men that the class interests they respectively represent will be ultimately victorious. By declaring that the arbiters of imperialism and the masters of capital can endlessly perpetuate their system by inventing new realities, Rove was effectively promising that the rule of the bourgeoisie is eternal. His grandiose and ahistorical leading statement (the United States has been an empire from its inception, not since Bush decided to invade Afghanistan and Iraq) reflects this idea that U.S. capitalism’s dominance is everlasting, that the imperialists are going to forever remain history’s foremost actors.
This sense of impunity from the progression of class conflict, this implicit dismissal of Mao’s proposal that the transitional towards socialism is unavoidable, has throughout the 21st century been tied to the idea that perpetuating imperialist warfare will keep the existing socioeconomic order permanently in place. This was the idea which Rove was hinting at; that since the perpetual presence of war creates such a strong avenue for propaganda, and since the activity of the war machine provides so much strength for the engines of capitalist repression (with excess War on Terror equipment being used to militarize police in these last two decades while the wars have been used to justify creating a digital surveillance state), the imperial core can never undergo a revolution as long as the wars continue.
This is a very Orwellian concept, that of a necro-political system being eternally reinforced through making war perpetual. And it seems to provide comfort for strategists of U.S. imperialist machinations like Rove, who want to view history not as the wheel which Mao described but as a straight line where the capitalists will never lose their position at the top. But remember that Orwell’s vision of a tyranny that could be forever kept in place through endless war was based in the idealistic and immaterial understanding which Orwell had of class conflict. An oppressor class can’t keep itself in power forever, no matter how much it declares that war has allowed it to “invent new realities” or other such nonsense. At some point, contradictions in the system will arise that give way to openings for revolution.
As opposed to Orwell’s misanthropic and nihilistic view of class struggles, where a revolution against the bourgeoisie will inevitably result in tyranny because of some innate evil within human nature, a dialectical analysis tells us that oppression is anything but unavoidable. The old feudal ruling class was overwhelmingly overthrown after supposedly having been an eternal fixture of society, and in many places-China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, the northern half of Korea-the capitalist ruling class has already been replaced by the proletariat as the ruling group. As much as the anti-communist camp that Orwell helped ideologically reinforce tries to paint these existing socialist states as tyrannical dictatorships, the fact remains that they’re workers democracies, and that they’re running a system in opposition to that of the imperialists.
Amid looming environmental collapse, economic and health catastrophes throughout the capitalist world, and a rapid decline for U.S. hegemony, the imperialists are now trying to leverage the power that war grants them to stop the wheel of history. The Biden team plans to carry out further military buildup against Russia and China while justifying censorship and government propaganda under the guise of “defending” from these powers. Biden’s future secretary of state Antony Blinken aims to replace Bush-era ground invasions with “discreet, small-scale sustainable operations, maybe led by special forces, to support local actors,” meaning Washington’s wars will lean even more heavily onto drone warfare, private mercenaries, proxy wars in places like Syria and Ukraine, and troops whose activities are hidden from all mainstream discourse.
They’ll be building on the Trump administration’s advances in using wars to invent new realities. Under Trump, the old rule about reporting drone strike deaths was revoked, allowing the drone program to operate without transparency. The White House came to lead a network of neoconservative propagandists who’ve worked to spread anti-China sentiment in the media. And this last week, Pompeo claimed that Iran is now the “home base” of Al-Qaeda, as well as designated Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the government of Cuba as terrorists. Biden’s administration of war-hungry liberal technocrats will use these precedents to their advantage, including the ones that justify continuing the genocidal war against the Yemeni people; Biden and his team clearly aim to have Washington continue treating Yemen as a ground for proxy warfare with Iran, hinting at the atrocities that the Biden team’s proxy war plans and great-power competition agenda will both lead to.
This comes along with a “Great Reset” agenda where the incoming administration plans to expand the high-tech sector both to build up the industrial base for the war machine, and to enact further surveillance and censorship. More and more, the imperialists are tying in their social control mechanisms-the manipulation of information and language, the suppression of disfavored speech, the monitoring of the population, the demonization of revolutionary thinking-with the paradigm of perpetual war. But when the U.S./NATO empire has reached a point where ever-expanding warfare is its only means for sustaining itself in the face of its decline, the system’s contradictions are going to become more severe, despite the alternate reality the system’s technocrats attempt to create where the system remains stable as ever.
Outside the war machine’s invented realities where Washington’s imperial comeback is just around the corner, and the technological advancements of the “Great Reset” are about to revitalize capitalism, the system is bleeding. The tens of millions of jobs lost in this last year largely aren’t coming back. The austerity of the neoliberal era, which Biden aims to expand, is going to keep perpetuating the pandemic and its social ills. Washington’s attempts to keep the dollar from collapsing through waging regime change warfare against disobedient nations are on the verge of failing, simply because of the success of these nations at fighting off U.S. aggressions.
What will the U.S. proletariat do when these factors take the empire’s internal conditions into an even more dire state? They won’t simply accept the false reality that the imperialists have spun, they’ll act according to Mao’s vision of the future. They’ll move closer towards overthrowing the capitalist state and replacing it with a socialist workers democracy.