A hundred houses have been left abandoned for many years close to my Los Angeles home. The city purchased the houses through eminent title in the late twentieth century to make room for an extension to the 710 freeway. This would have allowed the city to build a new neighborhood called El Sereno. However, opposition from wealthy communities further east ended up destroying the project and leaving the houses vacant. There were 130,000 homeless people living in the city at any given time in 2020, and a thousand of them died on streets in the first ten month of the year.
You might think that the homeless crisis was caused by a shortage in housing. But in 2020, there was a surplus luxury homes to the point that 93,000 housing units were left vacant. The problem was not a lack of housing units. It was the inability of corporate realty developers to find enough high-income people who would rent or purchase their speculative investments properties. These corporate developers and investment firms owned almost seventy percent the residential units of the city. They also owned seventy-six per cent of all vacant lots, which accounts for twenty-two miles of land.
Los Angeles was hit by the coronavirus in 2020. Many families were losing their jobs as a result of pandemic closures. As a result, many homeless and housing rights activists intensified their struggle to find shelter. They were concerned that the virus could put people living on the streets at high risk. Organized into a “Reclaim and Rebuild Our Community” movement, twenty unhoused families who were living in cars and encampments, with the support of several hundred peaceful community activists, removed the boarding in a number of the empty state-owned houses one cold winter day on the eve of the 2020 Thanksgiving holiday and settled in. The comfort of having a roof over their heads did not last very long. The homes were surrounded by at least fifty police cars on the night before the holiday. They were used to violently expel the mothers and children. The police used battering drums to knock down doors and hogtying and dragging anyone who refused to be moved. They also arrested sixty-two people for burglary and trespassing.
The cruelty and violence shown by city authorities towards its most vulnerable residents is representative of what took place in the world during the Covid-19 outbreak. History will likely look back on the pandemic as a turning point in human history if humanity survives to the twenty-second Century. Within a matter of weeks, the global economic system plunged into chaos, with losses of more than $8 trillion in the first six months. The pandemic was devastating for the world’s poor majority, as hundreds of millions faced unemployment, poverty, hunger, and death. Contrary to popular belief the pandemic was not responsible for the crisis of global capitalism. It was already here. However, it did increase the crisis by many times, further accelerating trends and processes that were already underway before the outbreak. While the pandemic was a time when many billions were suffering and in great need, it also provided an opportunity for the ruling classes to increase their wealth as well as to increase their control and surveillance. It sparked civil and political strife across the globe as governments were exposed as corrupt and wealthy as they struggled to cope with the fallout.
The pandemic is, therefore, only a stage in a larger story. Global Civil War: Capitalism Post-PandemicThis article is about the new world that has emerged in the wake the plague. The extent of polarization of wealth and power, of deprivation and misery among the world’s poor majority, already defied belief prior to the outbreak. Only 17 global financial conglomerates managed $41.1 trillion dollars in 2018, more than half of the world’s GDP. That same year, the richest one percent of humanity led by 36 million millionaires and 2,400 billionaires controlled more than half of the world’s wealth while the bottom 80 percent – nearly six billion people – had to make do with just five percent of this wealth. This has caused devastation for the majority. Half of the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 per day, while another 80 percent live on less $10 per day. One in three people suffer from malnutrition. Nearly one billion people go to sleep hungry each night. Two billion more suffer from food insecurity. Already hundreds of millions of refugees are fleeing from war, economic collapse, climate change, political repression, and war.
These inequalities are explosive. They fuel mass protests by the oppressed, and lead to the ruling groups to deploy an omnipresent global police force to stop the rebellion of the global working-class and popular classes. The pandemic is causing global capitalism to enter a new phase. The system’s contradictions have reached breaking point, putting the world in a dangerous situation that borders on civil war. There are greater stakes than ever. The battle for the world after the pandemic is underway. Global Civil War provides the “big picture” synthesis of a global capitalism mired in deep crisis, cascading social and political conflict, and the breakdown of the post-WWII international order. This “big picture” helps us contextualize the current worldwide political conjuncture as we tumble towards global civil war and step into an unknown future.
The Digitalized Dictatorship
The heart of Global Civil WarThis article presents a unique analysis of the radical restructuring of global capitalism. It is based upon a much more advanced digitization of the entire global economy and society, and of the social- and political struggles that have been triggered by this digitalization. The new wave of global transformation that was occurring at the time of the outbreak of the virus accelerated the process while also generating new waves in popular struggle. The twenty-first century system of capitalism is quite different from the systems that existed in previous centuries. The backdrop to today’s most pressing political issues is the transformation of world capitalism, which began with late twentieth-century globalization.
Global Civil WarThis article outlines in broad strokes the post-pandemic global capitalism world we are entering. It is racked with conflict, contradictions, suffering, struggle and hope. The crisis of global capitalism is both a structural or economic crisis of stagnation and also a political crisis for state legitimacy and capitalist power. It is also a matter of existential concern due to the possibility of ecological collapse and the reemergence of nuclear war. We must also consider the possibility of future pandemics, which may involve more dangerous microbes than coronaviruses. The pandemic lockdowns provided a chance to see how digitalization might allow the dominant groups of people to accelerate their restructuring and exercise greater control over global workers. The system is now pushing toward expansion through militarization, conflicts, wars, and further plunder of state.
Infected people have historically had a profound impact on the political and economic landscape. They have been a force for change and upheaval throughout history. Between 1347 and 1352, Europe was hit by the black plague. This killed between thirty-six percent and fifty-six percent of its entire population. The plague greatly reduced the labor supply for European feudalism, inflated the labor cost, and strengthened serfs in the struggle against landlords. The plague’s aftermath caused European feudalism to experience a severe crisis, which eventually led to the rise of capitalism.
Globally, the Covid-19 epidemic is also altering the landscape. It has triggered a new round in restructuring and transformation that is based on a more advanced digitalization and exploitation of the fourth industrial revolution technologies. The changes in social and economic conditions caused by the pandemic, and the aftermath of it, are accelerating this process. These conditions have enabled a new bloc transnational capital, led and interwoven with finance and pharmaceuticals, to increase its power and consolidate control over the topmost rungs of the global economic system. As the process of restructuring continues, it increases the concentration of capital around the world, worsens social inequalities and aggrave international tensions. Digital applications allow the ruling groups to increase the global police state in order to control social upheavals.
Finally, let’s turn our attention to the global revolt. The proliferation of conflicts arising out of the ravages global capitalism as alternatives futures are disputed. Capitalist crises are times when there are intense social and class struggle. Global society has seen a rapid political polarization since 2008 between an insurgent extreme-right and an unrelenting left. Popular revolts have been sparked by the ongoing crisis. Strikes and protests have broken out across the globe, involving workers, farmers, and the poor. From the Sudan to Chile, France to Thailand, South Africa to the United States, a “people’s spring” is breaking out everywhere. The global revolt faces many challenges and dilemmas in advancing an emancipatory project. The crisis is also animating far-right and other neofascist groups that have risen in many parts of the world and tried to take advantage of the global health crisis and its aftermath. As democracy collapses, the rise of neofascist and dictatorial movements has been a catalyst for the proliferation of dictatorial and authoritarian regimes around the world.
While we typically associate dictatorship with strongmen and military rule — and sadly, these types of dictatorship are spreading — it is clear that the world’s people live under a new type of dictatorship, that of transnational capital. In recent decades transnational capital has subordinated virtually the entire world’s population to its logic and its domination. I am referring to dictatorship in its literal sense, transnational capital. dictatesIt becomes more powerful, omnipresent and deadly than any other dictatorship ever. Transnational capital holds all the economic power. This creates a concentration political power that reinforces the dictatorial reach, or transnational capitalist class.
The struggle of humanity against the dictatorship is the global civil war. Global capitalism will continue on its current course and the vast majority of people will die. Digital transformation mayTo further determine the terms of economic and social life, transnational capital can be multiplied many times. I italicize mayThe intractable crisis caused by global capitalism creates social strife, political conflict, and resistance that could push back against it. We must remember that the future is not fixed and that we can all take action to make it possible. This dystopic digitalized dictatorship, while one possible future, is only one that is quickly becoming visible at the moment. This book is both a warning and a contribution to understanding the current global society.