Economy João Romeiro Hermeto Opinion Russia

With Western Imperialism Decline, Capitalism Is in Crisis—a New Phase Is Emerging

The energy crisis in Europe, proxy war in Ukraine, rebellion in the Global South, and expansion of the BRICS reflect the decline of Western imperialism and growing cracks in the capitalist world system.
BRICS leaders in 2019. Alan Santos/PR, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By João Romeiro Hermeto / Multipolarista

The feeble and tired capitalist elites in the West, drunk with their own power, numbed to human pain, incapable of human empathy, have been shown to be naked – emperors with no clothes.

As the US and European empires are in decline, their collective ignorance has been exposed. And their attempt to erase past crises and crimes has become clear. The major imperialist wars of the 20th century appear for the ruling class to be simple phantoms of individual failures within a otherwise healthy system based on merit, pride, freedom, and democracy.

The horrifying acts perpetrated by Britain, France, and the United States are never emphatically condemned – only, when required, faintly and vaguely objected to.

In the ongoing proxy war in Ukraine, the West is avoiding peace negotiations at all costs, while pouring money into the weapons industry, in an effort to make a killing out of killing. It is another example of so-called disaster capitalism, and reflects the capitalist’s logic: “never let a crisis go to waste”.

Yet the lack of support in the Global South for the proxy war waged by the United States and its vassals – the Frankenstein’s monster of NATO – has shown that most countries in the world do not adhere to Washington’s binary insistence that “you are either with us or against us”.

This disentanglement of the previous forced alignment with the West has also revealed the NATO bloc’s own fragility.

The BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) together account for approximately 40% of the world population. And this bloc managed to keep itself unified during the conflict in Ukraine.

The bloc has begun expanding into BRICS+, moving to add new countries to the organization, such as Argentina and Iran.

There is even discussion of BRICS+ potentially including Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, a longtime Western ally, is precisely the power that made it possible for the US empire to keep running huge deficits since the 1970s, on the basis of the petrodollar. But Riyadh may be breaking its traditional position as a vassal.

Saudi Arabia has already maintained a firm position within OPEC+, which means keeping close ties with Russia.

Meanwhile, the United States has tried to convince Venezuela to provide oil to ease the West’s energy crisis, after decades of treating the Chavista government like a pariah. This a huge setback for the West’s brutal campaign of sanctions and blockade against Venezuela and its people.

Even more striking is the refusal by most countries of the world to adopt the unilateral sanctions that the West has imposed on Russia.

The once widespread willingness to follow Western biddings is now in marked decline.

Aligned with the United States are the usual suspects: the neoliberal European Union, Australia, Japan, a few more countries. Much of the rest of the world has rejected the West’s 500 years of colonial rule.

Decades of imperialist war on communism repressed anti-capitalist ideologies, making it difficult for alternatives to arise.

The crushing of the anti-capitalist left-wing movement (which now is slowly starting to re-emerge) gave capitalism a green light to impose itself on the peoples of the globe, leading to a colonization of their hearts and minds on a scale never seen before. This was the neoliberal phase.

At the same time, the lack of significant alternatives to capitalism also prevented capitalist elites from outsourcing the responsibility for the problems that they created and blaming competing systems or ideologies.

Today, the mainstream media and the political class tries to scapegoat immigrants, the “other,” China, and Russia.

Yet, among the masses of people, there is a general sense that what is needed is:

  1. social change;
  2. a stable future, where pain at social and individual levels does not become a constant normality;
  3. a sustainable world which can remain habitable;
  4. healthy social relations;
  5. job security, the ability to provide for your family without living pay-check-to-pay-check.

Such a life full of anxiety and despair is not just a problem of the Third World; it has become widespread in the imperial core in the West.

And it was not a foreign, alien ideology that created these problems; instead, it was Western governments’ own policies of egoism, destruction, domination, and profit-seeking, the very essence of capitalist ideology.

Capitalism acts like cancer. It grows unceasingly with complete disregard for humanity or nature.

While the historical rise of capitalism in the West had the production of commodities as one of its foundations, its nature of profit-seeking and expansion demanded the exportation of capital.

Thus, Western capitalism reallocated production elsewhere, on the outskirts of the world, so far away that its middle class could feel freed and purified from the toils and “filth” of manual labor.

Moreover, by controlling the flow of capital, the Occident could also control the dynamics of far-away industries. When local governments in the South tried to regulate industries and take back natural resources to the advantage of their populations, Western capitalist elites used their proxies – comprador politicians, court-workers, bureaucrats, ideologues, think tanks, militaries, and militias – to make sure that local national interests could and would not prevail.

This dynamic proved itself for many decades to be quite successful. The few Western failures, in countries like Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, were ostracized and denied social relations with the rest of the world through mafia-like maneuvers of blackmail, deception, threats, intimidation, and segregation.

Western weakness had always been latent, but there were several factors sustaining its hegemony:

  1. a lack of strong powers able to challenge Western imperialism,
  2. the risk of facing a brutal counteraction and being blockaded and ostracized, and
  3. the difficulty of coordinating among countries and organizing a collective alternative to Western unipolar world dominance.

The situation today, however, appears to contain something new.

The Global South’s overwhelming refusal to abide by Western sanctions on Russia amid NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine has shown that Western hegemony is seriously being challenged.

This growing systemic challenge has multiple dimensions.

First, the legitimacy of capitalism was shattered by the 2008 financial crisis – which for much of the world is still ongoing.

This crash made it clear that Western capitalist rule cannot provide anything beyond precarity for the 99%, while giving only the 1% a comfortable life.

Second, for more than a decade, Russia has been planning an alternative to the SWIFT financial messaging system, and since at least 2012 China began developing its own. This brought both countries closer together at the financial level.

The West’s exclusion of Russia from SWIFT in response to the war in Ukraine will majorly backfire, because it ends the Western monopoly on the global flow of financial capital and jumpstarts this joint Chinese-Russian project to create an alternative, while catalyzing it further among Third World nations.

The Western financial war on Russia has put cracks into the institutions that enabled the US empire to function since the 1970s on the basis of indiscriminately printing dollars and selling debt.

Given that the European Union has shown itself to act as a US vassal, these financial cracks will keep growing, until they are too big to be fixed.

Finally, the energy crisis that Western sanctions on Russia have unleashed in Europe has made everyone see clearly that capitalism requires great amounts of energy to produce a constant flow of surplus. This emphasized to the Third World the supreme importance of their natural resources, and highlighted the unequal dialectics between the master and slave.

While the Third World has neither the military nor the financial capacity to explicitly challenge Western imperialism, the resources it possesses grants it an extreme amount of power.

The West simply cannot function without the constant flow of resources extracted overseas – usually from Third World countries – which is then transformed elsewhere, under its rule, through capitalist production, into products that are sold. This process is what enables the West to realize such huge profits.

This dimension of the flow of resources is often taken for granted. But an attempt at coordination by energy producers in the South could put the West on its knees within weeks, or at least enable Third World countries to start conceiving of their own national and regional projects beyond the tutelage of capitalist imperialism.

The world is moving from Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “grand chessboard” to a new game with the complexity of Chinese Weiqi (known popularly in the West as Go).

And not only is King Capitalism naked, but there is no one on the helm as he sails the society-ship straight into a dreadfully wild storm.

João Romeiro Hermeto
João Romeiro Hermeto

João is a scholar originally from Brazil, where he studied engineering and then economics at the Universidade de São Paulo. During the upheavals of the financial crisis, he worked as an investment banker and then founded a company that produced and promoted art and culture. In 2013, he emigrated to Germany, studied philosophy and culture, and earned a doctorate in philosophy. His research focuses on the critique of capitalism.

22 comments

  1. I would love it if this country, the USA, would elect a President who always looked for resolutions through peaceful means. War is never an answer.

    1. Yet, among the masses of people, there is a general sense that what is needed is:

      social change;
      a stable future, where pain at social and individual levels does not become a constant normality;
      a sustainable world which can remain habitable;
      healthy social relations;
      job security, the ability to provide for your family without living pay-check-to-pay-check.”
      Do you really think that the BRICS+ are going to provide that????

      1. BRICS already is improving conditions in many nations while terrified anglos are attempting to bring conditions down to their uncivilized lowest common denominator. “world domination manifests itself as an intellectual or if you prefer a cultural diktat. this explains why americans are so zealously try to bring down the intellectual and cultural common denominatoriator of the entire world down to their own level. try to convince an american their values will destroy Russia, you will not be able” Alexandr Zinoviev–1999
        “it is not Russianism that may destroy Western Europe yet is the putrefaction of americanism that can” Martin Heidegger

      2. We are lead to believe they can’t, I guess we should take that on faith, always worked in the past.

  2. Articles like this one just make me sad. It’s 2022, and we’re still writing crap such as “Capitalism bad!” Plenty of information here, but nothing that readers of this site wouldn’t already know well, and no new ideas. None.

    But it’s worse than that. The author probably expects to be congratulated for his acute analysis of the human condition; however, his views are utterly banal.

    Consider this: he lists five things for which there is a general “sense” that we need to pursue. Sweet Jesus! A “sense”? Shouldn’t it be a certainty by, oh, decades ago?

    And who cares? Why not remind us what the key issues are, not what “most” people think? Most people are lazy and ignorant or utterly intransigent, and if you think that readers here are the exception, think again.

    And what of the list? “A sustainable world which can remain habitable” comes in at #3.

    I would laugh if it wasn’t so tragic.

    Seriously? Let me see if I can clear this up for the author:

    IF THE WORLD DIES, WE DIE. All of us.

    A “sustainable” world is not ON the list. It IS the list.

    As a friend once put it in a brilliant essay:

    “Western parliamentary democracies in willing coalition with assorted similarly barbarous states—what we have referred to elsewhere, for the sake of brevity, as ’empire’—are characterized by their eagerness to dream that the environment is an ‘issue,’ some kind of discrete entity, like a topic.

    “But the environment is everything there is or could be.”

    Everything there is or could be. The end of everything there is or could be — that’s the evolution we are currently expediting.

    Next to that, every other concern is trivial. Every moment we waste worrying about trivia such as job security or whose ox is being gored is a moment not spent saving all life on Earth.

    It is, as the cliché goes, rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

    There are at least three key mechanisms by which we might end the human experiment. I say “might” not because we might avoid that end, but only to indicate that we’re not sure yet which of these we will choose. We’re currently hard at work on two of the three, and strongly considering the third.

    The most devastating of these auto-genocidal mechanisms is nuclear war, which would end everything in a matter of hours, days, maybe weeks. Weeks if we’re unlucky.

    We have never been closer to nuclear apocalypse. The two biggest nuclear powers are at war with each other, and the other nuclear powers are all involved to some degree.

    There are two camps. Outside of the US and Western Europe/Israel, no one has any interest in nuclear conflict. Not even North Korea, despite what the shrill Western psyops media would have you believe. These nations have nuclear weapons for self-defense, understanding well that without them they would quickly become victims.

    But in the West there are many people in positions of “power” who not only believe that nuclear war is “winnable” — what’s a few billion dead? too many people out there anyway, right? — but also can hardly wait to start one. They’ve been spending more than a trillion US dollars “upgrading” their nuclear arsenals, which includes the production of “tactical” nuclear weapons — the ones most likely to be used to start a nuclear conflict.

    And let’s not forget that the US has been using nuclear weapons for decades in the form of depleted uranium. Or that every nuclear reactor is, in effect, a nuclear weapon, generating vast amounts of radioactive waste for which we still have no safe solution.

    New York state recently released a PSA explaining cheerily what to do in the event of nuclear war. Apparently, just go inside and stay away from the windows. Who knew?

    The chipper, young, ostensibly female of very deliberately indeterminate race is inserted, video-game-like, into a lovely, multi-million dollar Upper West Side flat. Because that’s where we all live, right?

    This attempt to normalize nuclear war and to sell it as something survivable should terrify us all. No doubt it will produce a collective yawn.

    The second likely extinction-level event is climate change. And we’re doing less than nothing about it. We keep talking about it as if it is coming in some not-too-distant future. Hello! We’re right in the middle of it. Look around!

    Capitalism is the problem? I don’t think so.

    Capitalism, socialism, and communism are all the same system. All depend on the creation of surplus value. The difference is who gets to keep it: private entities in the case of capitalism, the government in the case of socialism, and the people who created it (ostensibly) in communism.

    But all three promote a high-tech, high-energy, commodified, consumer economy based on the exchange of “money”, and THAT is what is killing us.

    Capitalism’s unique flaw isn’t that it is raping and pillaging the Earth. Humans have done that for millennia, long before capitalism reared its ugly head. Capitalism is about maldistribution of wealth, concentrating it in the hands of a tiny, über-parasite class.

    The only way we survive this century — if we avoid nuclear war and the third great menace below — is if we dial the clock back dramatically on technology and eliminate consumerism. Green energy is a joke. It is never going to replace fossil fuels and it ain’t really green either. Nuclear power is suicide, plain and simple.

    Build only what we need, build it to last, share it. Live simply in small groups and leave each other alone. This worked for hundreds of millennia.

    Think anyone is going to go for that? Me neither, so we’re utterly fucked.

    The third great menace leading to the destruction of the viability of the planet is the slowest: pollution. The slow, agonizing death of all life on Earth, already halfway complete.

    Radiation from nuclear waste. Plastics everywhere including in every animal and plant. PFAS chemicals accumulating. Holes in the ozone layer. Desertification and destruction of the top soil. Poisoned rivers and lakes and a water table filled with toxic chemicals. The list goes on and on.

    And on all three fronts, we are rapidly making things WORSE. We are accelerating to our doom. We can’t even slow the acceleration, let alone the velocity.

    But the worst is that we keep pretending that all this is the consequence of some “system”, such as capitalism, that apparently appeared as a sort of virus from outer space. I mean, it’s not like we built it and maintain it, right? Or maybe Satan did it.

    Or we blame the “elite”, the “1%”, the “oligarchy” who have all the power somehow. Perhaps they are sorcerers! After all, it’s not like we gave them that “authority” and those resources, or that we work assiduously to keep them in power and waste.

    Take Trump, the worse president in the history of the world according to those who don’t like Trump. By golly, how many people did he kill? Thousands? Millions?

    I can make an educated guess: zero. Or at least no more than you and I. Which would be the same number that Biden, Obama, Bush II, Clinton, and Reagan killed. Bush I served in WWII, so the jury’s out there. Bush II, to his credit, avoided going to Southeast Asia to kill innocents — something the “left” hates him for. You really can’t make this shit up.

    But wait! Didn’t Bush kill a huge number of people in Iraq? Didn’t Obama repeat that in Libya and Syria?

    If they did, then I must have missed it. What I saw was that Bush, Obama, Trump, and now Biden sat in an office and bloviated, and then a very large number of ordinary, unknown people went through a lot of effort to rob, rape, torture, and kill all those people and destroy their homes, their rivers and lakes, their farms and factories. their futures.

    People just like you and me. We — not the “system” we maintain or the scapegoats we push up onto pedestals so we can blame them for the evil we do — we were Just Following Orders, after all — are the destroyers of the world. We. All of us.

    You are either part of the solution or you are the problem. There is no middle ground. Not on this planet, and not for this species.

    Oh, but what can you do, you cry? But you know what to do. Stop supporting the system in every way. Work to demolish the system. Collaborate with others right now to build a sustainable world. Don’t rush to the streets to beg the scapegoats to make the change. That just reifies their “power”.

    Stop projecting your power onto others so you can pretend that you’re not accountable for how it is used. Everyone is always accountable. We are living in the hell we made for ourselves.

    Oh, but then you’ll lose your job, your house, your car, all the trinkets you’ve accumulated as blood money! You might suffer. You might even die.

    We all want change, but only at zero cost to ourselves, right? I mean, get real!

    We want to eat our cake and have it, too. And get a bigger piece, damn it. We can’t stop the hoarding of resources by the über-parasites because we desperately dream of being über-parasites ourselves someday. We’ll cling to that pipe dream to the very bitter end.

    Articles such as this one simply perpetuate the comforting delusion that someone else is responsible for this mess, and that someone else will fix it if we just beg them hard enough.

    Instead of engaging with our friends and family and calling each other out on our suicidal behavior, we embrace echo chambers such as this one, avoiding any honest discussion with those not similarly deluded.

    Sweet! And how’s that working out? I’ve been edging my way out of the system for decades — no easy feat — and encouraging everyone I know to do the same. No takers.

    And we coulda been a contenda!

    1. Thank you, Bob, for taking the time to write that excellent comment. All is One and every action matters.

    2. Learn to be concise. And lose the ostentatious fifty tiny paragraphs writing style, it’s buffoonery.

    3. dobbs moron— socialism communism capitalism same—-LSD is not good for you—-dribbling gibberish by dobbs tiresome

  3. US liberals so strongly believe in our “free market” capitalism that they believe the worst off any American can be, is a minimum wage worker — and they see that as a temporary situation. They are a long way from seeing how much the US overall has deteriorated, economically, socially, and politically in recent decades.

    1. Last I checked, compared to the 1980s (in America, anyway) violent crime was way down, people were slightly better off on the whole, human rights — especially for gays, women, transgendered — were very significantly better, fewer people were dying due to lack of health care, etc. In many ways, things are much better than they were. I remember the ’80s quite well. And the ’70s and ’60s weren’t all that great either.

      On the downside, there is the opioid crisis and COVID, though in the ’80s it was heroin and AIDS — I lost my best friend to AIDS — and there is the carceral state — probably the worst change for Americans. Thank you, Joe Biden! And there is the very mixed bag of the Internet and social media.

      The most important decline — and this is a great positive — has been the decline in American hegemony and the “unipolar” world, which has been a source of horrific violence, misery, and death since 1991. We should be cheering and hastening this decline. Our survival depends on it. If we can just complete the process without blowing up the world, that is.

      All this, of course, is trivial. Why bother, really? The only decline that matters is the decline in the viability of this planet, and we keep pretending that the problem has yet to manifest, but might at some future date if we don’t do anything about it (we won’t). In fact, it is way too late. That ship has sailed.

      So here we are rearranging those deck chairs and arguing about placement.

    1. The solution is obvious and everyone knows it. The problem isn’t lack of solutions, it’s lack of will.

      You want to save the world? Abandon your car, grow your own food, establish a small community and barter for services, turn off your electricity, stop buying commodities. If enough people do this, we will survive as a species.

      What’s that you say? You’d rather die than go that route? OK, then. And so you shall.

  4. It’s pretty mindless to keep talking about “the 1%” and “the 99%.” Think about it: many strata of the so-called 99% have comfortable lives. To say otherwise is to postulate that the entire population that isn’t part of the 1% is living in cardboard boxes under a bridge. The top 10% of the 99% believe that it’s only a matter of time before they move up into the 1%. The next 10% believe that they are as good as those just above them. “The 99%” isn’t a homogeneous mass: even the next-lowest stratum congratulates itself that there are those below them.

    And, please learn Modern Monetary Theory (MMT)! It’s an empirical description of how an economy with a fiat currency works. Talking about “printing dollars” and “selling debt” only shows how little you know in this regard. Look up Warren Mosler or William Mitchell. Watch The Rogue Scholar or Macro’n’Cheese on YouTube. Stephanie Kelton has several excellent videos on YouTube about it. You may be well-educated in your field, but you need to understand the monetary system better.

    1. This is one of the more astute comments I’ve seen here in a while.

      The upward motion of resources, concentrating more and more of them in the hands of fewer and fewer, is the result of efforts by essentially the whole of humanity. Everyone is on board this train. Virtually no one wants to redistribute resources fairly. As Mercurio points out, they just want to move themselves up the ladder. Then pull it up behind them.

      As for MMT, it is nonsense, as is all economic “theory”. Money isn’t real, and never will be. As with all such systems (law, property, etc.), what is real is the belief in money. Through that belief, we reify an abstract, fanciful concept into a reality that does real harm. But remove the belief (coming soon to a theater near you), and suddenly money is seen for what it really is: myth. Poof!

      The value isn’t in the money. It’s in us.

      The benefit of MMT is in its empiricism. Instead of telling us how money should work, it looks at how it does “work” given our beliefs about it.

  5. Senor Hermeto, it sounds like maybe a new united Assembly of Nations might serve the world better than NY based UN. BRICS would be a basis for a new movement.
    The dominant western powers must continue their imperialists ways or suffer the same expensive costs as the non west.
    The Europeans by shutting Russia out forever will stifle their own economy forever. The new world order will be likely transform into separate trading blocks. The future will be different, chaotic and expensive.

  6. A word on the text’s picture and the countries represented.

    China and Russia are authoritarian dictatorships with imperialist aspirations and actions. India and Brazil are currently controlled by two of the most conservative regimes in their (short democratic) history. All four also presently engage in one form or another of genocide – uyghurs in China, Ukrainians in Russia, Amazonian in Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Muslims in Modi’s India.

    All countries are also extreme ‘Neo liberal’ capitalist. Even China – the last bastion of Communism (more and more in name of its totalitarian CCP only) – is 60% privately owned, and its ‘miraculous’ economic marvel is entirely due to adopting capitalism to the full on the personal level, and to being the driving force behind the reviled (by left-ish, Neo Progressive pundits and flock) ‘globalization’.

    Just saying…

    1. your lies are funded by CIA or junkies in your trailer park—or are you merely suffering from ptsd

  7. We do.not have the time or inclination to.undo the damage done by the filthy Capitalists who have raped the.world for centurys.Mother Earth.is having her revenge.The people who invented the H Bomb gave us the ability to destroy the planet.I really believe some politicians or Generals are dumb and arrogant enough to.use these terrible weapons.

  8. Reality—China and Russia thrive culturally economically militarily….ukie denazification successful, Russia 100 billion $ added too reserve fund past 6 months. NS gas permantly severed by Russia—germany returns to Stone Age economy, Belgium bankrupt—leader announces that green p[olicies destroyed them , UK in crisis—EU dead, Poles in pre-soviet queues to buy coal yet Russian society stable economy trade increasing, senile biden driving US economy into contraction—new hard recession while billions sent to ukraine to repeat the taliban humiliation….now Argentina, Iran Bangladesh, Pakistan Turkey Saudis seek BRICS membership—anglo empire gone

    1. This winter will really, really determine the course of Europe, Russia and even China. No matter what ever happens, Europe’s economy will be impaired by lack of cheap Russian energy. High prices and shortages will plague Europe until they surrender to Russian demands. USA will not be able to influence Kingdom of SA as MbS is more likely to be aligned with Putin, and Xi to hedge against Iran.
      But Iran needs China’s oil money, so everyone needs to behave and be peaceful.

      Westerners no longer are the sole decision makers of others problems.

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