back to e-flux.com

e-flux conversations

Michael Hardt on US Hegemony Trump-Style


#1

gettyimages-1008141508_wide-1c7836fed36bb83f0c061dfaf47538f3841ec2ca-s800-c85

At the Verso blog, Iman Ganji interviews Michael Hardt about the geopolitical implications of US’s recent threats against Iran and Venezuela, and more generally about how Trump has wielded US hegemony. Hardt suggests that despite his big talk, Trump remains constrained by the same circumstances that constrained his predecessors: an increasingly multipolar world in which US imperial power has been significantly diminished. Here’s an excerpt:

IG: Can we say, in light of the shift inalliances between the world-powers, the resurgence and reinvigoration of ultra-nationalism, and the deepening of already existing xenophobia, are we witnessing a substantial transformation in the dynamics of Empire? Are we entering a new era of imperialism, where we need to revive and reconceptualize the classical conception of imperialism?

MH: In my view, we are not seeing any return to classical conceptions of imperialism. The defeats of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan along with the 2008 economic crisis originating in the US demonstrate that the US is not capable today of unilaterally dictating global power relations. It is not able to create a stable hegemonic presence for profits, as a proper imperialist power must. The US does remain very powerful, of course, especially in military terms. But really it can only act successfully within the context of a global power structure, that is, within Empire.

I view the various manifestations of nationalism and calls for national sovereignty — America first! Prima l’Italia!, Brexit! — as the plaintive cries of those who fear being displaced from their positions of privilege in the global system. Like the conservative French peasants whom Marx portrayed as being driven in the mid-19th century by souvenirs of lost Napoleonic glory (and yearning to make France great again), today’s reactionary nationalists are aimed at not so much separation from the global order as such but rather moving back up the rungs of the global hierarchy to their rightful position.

Image via NPR.


#2

The US Empire does not stop being an empire because it is losing. It remains a decaying, warmongering empire and whether it goes down soon with missiles blazing against Iran and the Middle East, or this happens next year, or it happens with war on Russia, Turkey or Latin America is to do with the exact workings of history. But US (and all) capitalist imperialism has to go down, and given its enormous initial advantage in firepower and the way that monopoly-capitalist fascist desperation plays out, it seems likely that a new round of world war will be forced on this poor, suffering planet.
So political struggle has to move on from observing Trump’s obscene screaming fascism (and misery), and start to thrash out what is really difficult in politics - going beyond shallow “leftism” to scientific Leninism, which means breaking from decades of anti-communist, anti-Soviet Trot nonsense and also breaking from the block-headed “peaceful roads to socialism” and “peace campaigning” of both old Moscow revisionism (up to 1989) and the complacent, “No to War” middle-class “peace” movement.
Trump’s warmongering against Iran is more to do with getting war, any war, going before the 2008 global financial crisis breaks out again, except a thousand times worse, than it is to do with anything done by the Iranian regime, even though the US Empire fears the rising of the Arab world and the Middle East.
But can the Egyptian military dictatorship keep the lid on the people? How hammered is the Zionist invasion by heroic Palestinian revolution? How much is the Third World in rebellion (often using jihadist ideology, temporarily)? How well is Putin doing stopping a resurgence in proletarian class consciousness in the former USSR? These are all factors for serious discussion.
The key watchwords should always be: Defeat for the US Empire! For the world socialist revolution!