On 9 November 1989 the world was shaken. With the Berlin Wall, the curtain fell on the Soviet experience and the bloc of nations in Eastern Europe that had cultivated, with light and shadow, a centralist socialism was unravelling.

On the Western side, triumphalism dominated the scene and, in a gigantic attempt at manipulation, a supposed end of history and ideologies was spread, taking for granted the definitive victory of capitalism, under the aegis of its flagship country, the United States of America.

Already in the death throes of that brief neoliberal mirage, the humanist thinker Silo asked: “How will the fall happen in the other half of the world?”[1] That fall is happening now.

That fall is happening now.

The rivalry of the opponents

With different signs, but with similar tools, China is today disputing in all spheres the pre-eminence that the United States had during the last century. The Eastern giant is taking advantage of its demographic power – a virtue and at the same time its main concern – to ascend to the podium of the world’s socio-economic indicators.

Although its gross domestic product still places the North American power at the top of the scale, with more than 19 trillion dollars compared to China’s 14.7 trillion, the level of exports of the Eastern power is already double that of the former in 2021.[2] Thus, while the Asian country’s trade balance shows a surplus of 572 billion, that of its Western adversary exhibits a crushing deficit of almost 1 trillion (in Spanish notation, millón de millones).

The same is true of debt, which in the case of the US amounts to 134% of GDP (2020), while China’s is 68%, despite its sustained investment.

China’s progress in energy production is also significant. Despite the rise in its overall consumption (50% more than that of the US), China exports twice as much in this area and imports more than 10 times less.[3]

Beyond the economic figures, China’s progress in terms of the socio-economic improvement of its population is impressive. According to the data on the site consulted, the risk of being poor in that country has fallen from 50 to 0% since 2000. Meanwhile, in the US, this percentage has fluctuated over the last twenty years between 11 and 15% of the population. In other words, with a population four times smaller, more than one American in ten is facing severe survival difficulties, which is a clear sign of systemic decline.

Another indicator of the decline of the once dominant model is the widespread physical violence and fear suffered by the people of the United States, where an average of 45 murders occur daily. On the other hand, constituting less than 5 percent of the world’s population, it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners, thus exhibiting an explosive mix of criminality and legalised repression. China slightly outnumbers the US in absolute numbers (some 2.5 million prisoners), but in terms of population size the ratio of incarcerated people is 170 to the North’s 670 per 100,000.

The subjugated space

Beyond these brief, almost scholarly comparisons, the shadow of the decline of the once hegemonic power extends over the spaces that it managed or pretended to turn into vassals. The so-called “Western Hemisphere” in US foreign policy jargon is in the throes of a severe crisis, with inflation, indebtedness, inequality and misery as its main components.

Thus, in these territories located in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the target of the neo-colonial project, popular revolts against the alignment imposed by imperial policy and the legions of NATO abound.

While the peoples of Europe, with greater or lesser awareness of their causes, rise up against the situation produced by the post-war status of occupation – which at the time brought a measure of welfare and stability, central to the cultural mandate of its Nordic components – their weak rulers continue to be vocal in paying tribute to a world that no longer exists.

Strikes in the UK, France, Germany and Belgium, the grounding of flights at the beginning of the summer season, protests by farmers in the Netherlands or health workers in Greece, mass demonstrations in Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Italy, are threaded into a necklace of growing anti-government unrest, claiming resignations such as those of Mario Draghi, Boris Johnson or Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas. Likewise, the impetuous advance of France Insoumise led by Melenchon, but also the growth of Marine Le Pen’s extreme right in the last parliamentary elections in France, which were also marked by a high abstention rate, show the anti-establishment political mood that prevails in Europe.

The war in Ukraine, brought about by the US’s militaristic insistence on expanding the borders under its domination and preventing Europe from increasingly turning eastwards, has only exacerbated the situation, the structural factors of which had already been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Moreover, banks and investment funds around the world are bracing for an unprecedented upsurge in civil unrest in the US, UK and Europe, as rising energy and food prices push the cost of living to astronomical levels, says Nafeez Ahmed, quoting a senior Wall Street executive on condition of anonymity.

The same signs of rebellion are also surfacing on the Latin American and Caribbean front. The social mobilisation in Panama, Ecuador, Colombia and Chile, countries that have suffered from the social insensitivity of neoliberalism as a state policy, are clear proof of this. Thus, the brief revenge of capital after the wave of progressive governments in the first decade of the 22nd century once again brought with it popular weariness.

However, the framework of systemic crisis is taking a heavy toll on the new emerging governments, which, if they do not open up to new directions, suffer the scourge of being anchored, voluntarily or involuntarily, to the established power, ultimately generating popular dissatisfaction in places that generated hope, such as Argentina and Peru.

In this region, the misalignment of the US collapse is paramount and seems to be possible only through the acceleration of supranational integration with strong participation of the peoples.

Imperial implosion

As with various diseases resulting from disproportionate growth, empires, whether pretended or consolidated, tend to collapse under their own weight. The difficulty of maintaining order in increasingly distant territories, the disproportionate cost of supplying and sustaining their military power, internal power struggles and the failure to adapt to the advent of new ideas and practices are some of the frequent causes of the dismemberment of empires that once seemed invincible.

But before being overtaken by adversarial powers, their centres collapse by implosion.

Such is the case of the US, a country that sustained an expansionist policy in military, economic, diplomatic and cultural terms since its very creation. Today, entropy rages in its own territory and despite its persistence in exporting its violent schemes through cinematography and digital technology, it has long since ceased to be a model to imitate. The death that its legions brought to the entire planet is now raging in its streets and schools against its own population.

The supremacist glorification continues, today as yesterday, to segregate blacks and Latinos, whose share of the population is growing, especially among the young and most battered by unemployment and precariousness. According to the 2020 Census, 53% of the country’s under-18s said they were of a non-white-Anglo-Saxon origin. In states such as California, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Maryland and Hawaii and, of course, in the colonised territory of Puerto Rico, non-Hispanic whites are already in the minority.

At the same time, the same census figures reveal that, despite population growth of 7.35% between 2010 and 2020 (from 308.7 million to 331.4 million), there was a population decline in the interior counties and an increase in the big cities.

In this transition to a multiracial, more diverse, less rural and more metropolitan nation, it is understandable that the emergence of such remnants as Trumpism, finding followers among those nostalgic for an increasingly non-existent past, is understandable.

This resistance to the new realities, together with the lack of health and educational support, the lack of job prospects, existential emptiness, addictions, widespread criminality and internal arms build-up, make for an explosive mixture that could spill over into a new civil war.

Contradictions are exacerbated. At the same time that an important sector of the population is making loud and clear that “black lives matter” or feminist proclamations, armed ultra-nationalist militias and the infiltration of extreme right-wing ideology into the police are proliferating. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court eliminates the constitutional right to abortion and one of its justices, Clarence Thomas, calls for a review of the ruling that enshrined the right to same-sex marriage and contraception, in a clear conservative crusade that encourages those who promote the backward-looking discourse.

The US political system, co-opted to the core by corporate corruption, no longer has the support of the majority of the population. The assault on Capitol Hill and Trump’s disavowal of his electoral defeat only inflames a large sector that is already disowning the sinking ship of a non-existent democracy.

Overcoming the old with the new

There are those who, with well-meaning but ultimately naïve faith, are led to believe in the inexorability of futures produced by mechanical forces. In doing so, they only weaken, at least conceptually, the agent power of the intentionality of human groups in the development of history, and many of them withdraw from any action that contributes to the shaping of new models of social relations and organisation, assuming that this will happen anyway.

Applying a humanist approach, it must be affirmed that there are no such determinisms, but rather conditions of possibility and opportunity. From this point of view, Silo points out, it is necessary to distinguish between revolutionary process as “a set of mechanical conditions generated in the development of the system”, and revolutionary direction, whose “orientation in question depends on human intention and escapes the determination of the conditions that originate in the system.”[4]

Thus it was that the emancipatory movements of the Americas, carrying the fires of liberty that the winds of enlightenment had poured into their foremost consciences, took advantage of the conflicts between the European powers to make their way towards their independence.

This was also the case a few years after the end of the war in 1945, when many peoples in Africa and Asia, after difficult and unfinished processes of unity, saw the possibility of regaining a certain degree of autonomy and the emergence of national identities.

The fall of “the other half of the world” and the living hope of another possible world in which many worlds can fit, represent today a strong window of opportunity for overcoming the old with something substantially new.

In this interregnum, the “monsters”[5] are indicators of the resistance to transformation, not only external but also of the people, who are torn between the need for change and old mistakes, between the vital uncertainty that attracts old dogmas like a magnet and the need for new horizons.

The new world will then have to assume a paradigm of inclusive transformation on the basis of shared human essentiality. A radical transformation that requires individual and collective commitment in the construction of the new reality, both in social organisation and in the internal landscape and modes of interpersonal relations.

[1] On the occasion of the Inauguration of the Parque Latinoamericano, La Reja, Buenos Aires, 7/5/2005.

[2] Data from https://datosmacro.expansion.com/paises/comparar/usa/china

[3] According to the website DatosMundial.com https://www.datosmundial.com/comparacion-pais.php?country1=CHN&country2=USA

[4] Silo. Letters to my friends. Seventh Letter. The revolutionary process and its direction. Collected Works vol. Editorial Plaza y Janés.

[5] In Gramsci’s own words