Two wars are racing toward us. Each will be global in scale. Each will bring unimaginable waves of suffering and destruction down upon the world’s people. One can be seen approaching now in the lightning of the protests in France, the massacre of teachers in Mexico, and the separation of Britain from the European Union. The other is heard in the thunder of bombs in Syria, NATO war games on the Russian border, and U.S. naval ships in the South China Sea.
The first of these wars, already underway and gathering destructive force like a storm over the ocean, is the war of capitalism against us ourselves. This is not simply the steady-state opposition of the war of ownership against worker, the characteristic antagonism of capitalism as a system. Rather, it is the desperate struggle of capitalism to survive and the the nascent struggle of ordinary people around the world to throw off the bonds of a system that has failed them.
In Oaxaca, Mexico, last Sunday, at least thirteen people were killed and dozens wounded when federal police opened fire with automatic weapons on a crowd of protesting teachers and their supporters. The teachers, who had blockaded a highway with strong local support, were striking in protest of education “reform” measures imposed upon the country by the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto. The thrust of these reforms is ultimately the privatization of education. It should come as no surprise that Pena Nieto and his education reform have the approval and support of the United States, where the privatization of public education is a priority of the Obama administration and will continue to be a priority of a Clinton or Trump administration. The savage massacre of Oaxaca is only a more violent instance of the same struggle that has seen recent fronts in Detroit and Chicago.
The attack on public education, in Mexico and in the U.S., serves two purposes for the wealthy elite. First, it transfers public money directly into private hands. With the erosion of consumer purchasing power and the descent of ever more layers of the middle class into poverty and near-poverty, public funds in the form of tax money represent one of the last bonanzas available to banks and corporations. Hence the charter school movement, for-profit universities that bilk students of state and federal financial aid money, and the privatization of prisons and water systems.
Second, the attack on public education shifts control of curriculum from democratic processes to private hands. One of the most passionate points of protest for the Oaxaca teachers has been federal determination of teacher qualification.
The connection between the Obama administration and the Oaxaca massacre may well be more than just ideological. According to the World Socialist Web Site, “It is likely that the federal police who opened fire in Nochixtlan were US-trained officers using weapons provided by the Obama administration. Through the Merida Initiative, the US has spent over $2.3 billion arming and training Mexico’s police and armed forces since 2008, providing them with deadly weapons, drones, surveillance equipment and airplanes.”
In France, despite police repression, tens of thousands have been in the streets protesting the Hollande government’s proposed labor law, a law the vast majority of the French population oppose. For the time being, Hollande has backed off from his threat to outlaw all street protests, but the conflict between the government on one side, tools of the European elite and their program of austerity, and the people on the other is an intractable one, and as economic conditions worsen, the conflict can only intensify.
Even Britain’s recent decision to quit the European Union, a decision sold and bought at the popular level on the basis of a regressive nationalism, forebodes the impending crisis of capitalism. Although the motives of the electorate may have been protectionist and even xenophobic, they are spurred on by the very real damages felt by the British public as a result of the same austerity that plagues the rest of Europe. Whether expressed in support for false leftist organizations such as Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain, or in the rise of nationalist and outright fascist elements across Europe, popular discontent is on the rise and will not be contained much longer by mainstream political structures. What is coming is popular rebellion on a scale unseen in Europe since the political combustion of the twenties and thirties, and the reaction it draws from Europe’s police states, with the help of right-wing popular elements, will, if successful, be brutal and permanent.
That is one war, the war of the state against the people. Its battles are already breaking out across Europe and, this summer, threaten break out in Philadelphia and Cleveland as the two big-business parties, utterly contemptuous of the will of the people, prepare to nominate the two most despised presidential candidates in modern history. It is a war that threatens us with the dissolution of civil society, with the open rejection on the part of power of civil and human rights and of any pretense of democratic process.
The elite hope to avoid this conflagration by employing another one. That is the second war that stalks us. It is the familiar war of imperialist adventure, but with the very survival of capitalism at stake, the elite of the world are setting their sights on each other. U.S. imperialism, facing the demise of American economic hegemony, appears ready to lash out with the only persuasive force it has left at its disposal, devastating military might.
This month saw NATO hold its largest war games in Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War. With its meddling in the Ukranian coup of 2014 and its bolstering of forces in Poland and Estonia, the war games can only be seen by Russia as provocative and an indication of Washington’s intent to encircle and intimidate that country.
The pseudo-scandal of the so-called “dissidents’ memo” that was leaked recently from the State Department points up the likelihood that the U.S. will unleash a direct air assault on the Assad government in Syria. It may not happen during the remainder of Obama’s administration, and it will not be a plank in the Democratic or Republican platform, but the plutocrats of the U.S. have long been determined to remove Assad from power and, in so doing, remove Russia’s Middle Eastern ally. Syria has already served as a theater for a U.S.-Russian proxy war, and with Washington’s proxies in the form of its “moderate” rebels falling into shambles, and with Russia having exposed the U.S. war on ISIS as a sham, the U.S. may see a direct attack on Damascus as its only remaining alternative to surrendering Syria to Moscow. Should such an attack take place, the chances of an incident involving U.S. and Russian forces exponentially increase.
At the same time, the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” has become increasingly belligerent toward China. In the past year, the U.S. has conducted a series of three naval incursions into Chinese-claimed waters in the South China Sea under the pretext of defending the “right of navigation” from Chinese aggression. With the promise from Washington that such provocations will continue, the chance of an incident triggering war between the U.S. and China is high. Certainly those making these decisions are aware of the risks they run and are prepared to engage Russia and China militarily. It is difficult to imagine how the escalation of such an engagement would not lead to a nuclear exchange.
President Obama’s recent visit to Hiroshima, ostensibly a gesture symbolic of a renewed global commitment to a world free from fear of nuclear war, was in fact a pointed signal to China that the U.S. is a country willing to use nuclear weapons. After all, Obama’s appearance at Hiroshima came after his administration had announced that it would dedicate$1 trillion to upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Earlier this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a joint session of Congress, receiving a warm bipartisan reception as he cemented a U.S.-Indian alliance that serves Washington’s purpose of encircling China, providing assistance in shutting down the shipping lanes necessary to China’s economy. With strong diplomatic and military ties with India, Australia, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, the U.S. poses the same threat to China as it does to Russia.
Each of these wars—the war of capitalism and capitalism’s war of imperialism—pits enormous force against an enemy who is no other than us ourselves. We can follow the news, though such news is not easily found or explained in the corporate media (The New York Times has published only one short article on the Oaxaca massacre). We can feel ourselves tiny and voiceless. But the times demand more from us. Because each of these wars is preventable. There is a reason the plutocrats see us as enemies and have arrayed such forces of larceny, death and propaganda against us. We are powerful. Not alone, but together.
It is cliché, it is worn, but it is no less true for all that to say that there is strength in our numbers. That strength is not the strength to destroy. It is not the strength to fight fire with fire. Rather, we need only deprive the masters of what they use to oppress us—our own work. Our own obedience. A few thousand citizens in France have that country’s government stammering in helpless fury. What could a few million Americans do? A day or two of general strike would shake the system to its core. It is what they fear. It will bring their violence, but that we cannot wholly avoid. We can only prevent their frightened wars with our nonviolence and our noncompliance. With our courageous peace.
Photo source: rt.com