The eruption of populism in the world’s most powerful country, which was crowned by the triumph of Donald Trump in 2016, brought four years of contradictory and erratic decisions, denigration of international institutions and agreements, intensifying global chaos and leading to a weakening and discrediting of American power and further accelerating its historic decline. The situation is becoming more serious and internal divisions in American social life are appearing openly. The pandemic can be added to this, the management of which has shown the great irresponsibility of the populist approach, ignoring preventative measures proposed by scientists to the point that the United States has the most deaths in the world. State terror, violence in the anti-racist (BLM) demonstrations, the growth of armed supremacist groups, the increase in criminality; and within the framework of this ferocious escalation of events, on 6 January 2021, Trumpist gangs took over the Capitol, the ‘symbol of democratic order’, to try to prevent the ratification of the result in favour of the Biden faction. The pandemic has accelerated the tendencies to the loss of control of the social situation; the internal divisions of the American bourgeoisie were sharpened in an election where, for the first time in history, the president and candidate for re-election accused the system of the most democratic country in the world of “electoral fraud” in the style of a “banana republic”. The USA is now the epicentre of social decomposition.
In order to explain, through a marxist analysis, this “new” situation of the old superpower, we need an historical approach. First of all, we must explain how it was that the United States became the major world power, the country which dominated trade, politics and war, and how its money became a world currency. In the first part of this article we will examine the historic journey undertaken by the United States, from its founding to its highest point, its rise as uncontested world policeman, that’s to say that we will look at events from the end of the eighteenth century to the fall of the Eastern Bloc in 1989. This is the historic period which has been marked by the supremacy of American capital at the world level. The collapse of the Eastern Bloc marked the beginning of the final phase in the evolution of capitalism: social decomposition. With this phase also begins the decline of American leadership and the slide of the bourgeois system into chaos and barbarity. The second part of this article will deal with the period from 1990 to today. In 30 years of the decomposition of bourgeois society, the United States has become a factor of aggravation of chaos, and its world leadership will not be recovered whatever the Biden team proclaims in its speeches. It is not a question of wishes; it is the characteristics of this final phase of capitalism which determines the tendencies it is obliged to follow, leading inexorably into the abyss if the proletariat cannot put an end to it through world communist revolution.
1 – The formation of the United States: from the American dream to the reality of capitalism
When Marx wrote Wage Labour and Capital, and above all Capital, those great classic of marxism, he examined the internal workings of the most developed capitalist country of the time: Britain, the home of the industrial revolution and birthplace of modern capitalism. In the 18th century, the United States had barely begun to consolidate itself as a country on the new continent. The Declaration of Independence by the 13 colonies on 4 July, 1776 and the drafting of the Constitution of the United States would push forward the dizzying development of capitalism in North America.
In this article we are not going to elaborate on the history of the 13 British colonies. However, we would like to stress that one of the great complaints of the colonies came about because of increases in taxes and the lack of “representation”, that is why the slogan was “One Man, One Vote” or “No taxation without representation”. Democracy began to appear as the best framework for the development of “free enterprise and private property” and it wasn’t a coincidence if the United States began to consider itself as the guarantor of democracy throughout the world.
The 18th century was dominated by the great colonial powers: Britain, France, Spain and, to a lesser extent, Holland and Portugal. That is why the recognition of the independence of the United States happened in a climate of rivalries and territorial conflicts between these powers. The Treaty of Paris of 1783 recognised the independence of the United States and their territorial rights up to the Mississippi. France owned Louisiana; Spain dominated Florida and had absolute control over the Vice-Royalty of New Spain, which later became Mexico.
In 1787, the Constitutional Convention decided to create a Constitution for the 13 new states, thus eliminating the confrontations between them (between New Jersey and New York for example). The aim was to resolve the problem of empty coffers in order to face up to invasion from the west by Britain and Spain. At the same time as the endorsement of the Constitution in 1789, the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” was also approved. As the growing bourgeoisie was a new exploiting class and capitalism was a system based on the extraction of surplus value from the working class, all these declarations about “rights” as in the motto of the French revolution “Liberté, égalité et fraternité” were only ideological covers to justify the modern relations of capitalist exploitation, a programme to achieve the consolidation of capitalism against the old feudal regime and its aftermath. These grandiose “declarations” would soon become just a cover for a fierce exploitation without any semblance of humanity: slavery, racism and the fight for civil rights in the United States are a demonstration of the chasm between the “affirmations” of democracy and the reality of life under capitalism.
Ships arrived at the East Coast ports filled with immigrants aspiring to the new and fertile territories and wanting to create their own businesses; in other words, the “American dream” was a possibility for millions of migrants to improve their situation. The law permitted migration and numerous Europeans left to colonise the American West. The American population increased enormously thanks to immigration. In 1850, there were 23 million inhabitants and by 1910 there were 92 million, or more than the population of Britain and France put together. In the ascendant stage of capitalism emigration was different to emigration today. At the time of the expansion of capitalism, the possibility of better living conditions was real whereas today it’s simply a matter of a blind and suicidal flight, a real dead-end. Thus today, the caravans of thousands of migrants leaving Central America and trying to get to the United States overland are confronted with hunger, trafficking gangs and state repression, the majority of them finding only unspeakable suffering or death pure and simple.
The expansion of capitalism towards the West was known, in a phrase coined in 1845, as “Manifest Destiny”. Capitalism spread and opened up through the barrel of a gun, with Winchesters in hand; indigenous people were displaced or exterminated and the survivors of this violent and forced expropriation were confined to reservations. “The frontier” was extended throughout the 18th century in the name of a so-called predestination with “a mission dictated by divine will”. “Manifest Destiny” expressed the ideology of the first colonists, Protestants and Puritans, who saw themselves as a “chosen” nation destined to spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This expansion accompanied the arrival of the railways and the growing need for the supply of merchandise. It seemed as if capitalism had undergone an unlimited expansion, based on the idea of permanent progress in an almost autonomous state. This “internal expansion” continued until the early 20th century.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the young American republic adopted a doctrine that would mark its history: the Monroe Doctrine. Elaborated in 1823 by Quincy Adams and presented to the US Congress by James Monroe, this doctrine was a cornerstone of American foreign policy which could be summed-up in the phrase “America for the Americans”. It was already clear from the Doctrine that the United States was not only proclaiming its will to put an end to the presence of Europeans on American soil but also that the base of this doctrine was in fact insufficient in relation to the territories that the United States were going to dominate on the planet.
This mythical “frontier” underwent a dizzying expansion in the 19th century. Napoléon Bonaparte had re-sold Louisiana and all the Mississippi Basin, and then the Americans brought Florida from Spain (1821) and won the war against Mexico in 1846, gaining more than half of Mexican territory and thus reaching the Pacific Coast. Later, in 1898, the war between the United States and Spain was concluded with an American victory, which took control of Cuba, other Caribbean islands and the far-off Philippines. This already demonstrated the decline of the Spanish Empire and the growth of the United States as a regional power . “The same year that George Washington became president of the United States, fifteen ships loaded with silk and tea arrived from the exotic and legendary Asiatic port of Canton, while ships from New York, Boston and Philadelphia boldly penetrated the zone monopolised by the East India Company. And in less than fifteen years American-flagged vessels, armed with their valiant marines, were stopping over in Calcutta, the Philippines, Japan, Turkey, Egypt and Morocco. The history of the foreign trade of the United States began in a spectacular manner. In the Pacific, from the middle of the 19th century, the United States began to make its presence felt in contributing to the “opening” of Japan to capitalism. At the same time, Britain penetrated China and established its relations with this Asiatic country. However, at this stage, the United States did not have enough power to spread its presence and defend its possessions, which came about above all at the beginning of the 20th century.
The long process of the incorporation of the States of the Union began in 1787 up to the last additions in 1959. Alaska was brought from the Russians in 1867, but it was only in January 1959 that Alaska became the 49th state and Hawaii became the 50th in August of the same year. We’re talking about more than 170 years, a period during which the territory extended up to the conquest of the “final frontier”, that’s to say up to the Pacific coast of California. In the frenetic advance of capitalism over the immense lands of North America, it was necessary to confront the slave states of the South for two reasons: first, to consolidate the unity of the national state by putting an end to Southern secessionism which constantly threatened independence and, on the other hand, to eliminate the archaic system of slavery which then allowed the existence of “free citizens”… free to sell their labour! This was a more necessary undertaking given that right up to the First World War, the United States suffered from a shortage of labour.
In the 19th century, the United States became the greatest importer of slaves. The labour of these agricultural slaves was concentrated in the states of the South. On the other hand, the industrial North was based on the development of the exploitation of wage labour, which posed a problem to capitalism: industry dominated the country and labour had to “circulate freely” so that capital could use it indiscriminately. The slave owners resisted this logic of capital and detached themselves from the industrial North. The bloody civil war (1861-1865) was a total victory for capitalism and gave a harsh lesson against separatist temptations. This advance of capitalism had been saluted by marxism because the relations of bourgeois production brought with them their gravediggers: the modern proletariat. That’s why “In a congratulatory address to Mr. Lincoln on his re-election as president, we expressed our conviction that the American Civil War would prove of as great import to the advancement of the working class as the American War of Independence had proved to that of the bourgeoisie.”
While the United States was engaged in its war of secession, in Mexico, France had imposed a member of the House of Habsburg as the Mexican Emperor. Napoleon III intended to fight over the backyard of the United States. It wasn’t a question of the “compliance” of Uncle Sam or because the Monroe Doctrine was a fantasy, no; it was simply occupied by Civil War, but once that ended, the US was able to expel France from its natural zone of influence. So as to teach the Europeans a lesson and keep their future pretensions in check, the United States shot the Emperor Maximillian despite appeals from the European aristocracy and writers such as Victor Hugo. It was an episode that was to give the tone of future global policy.
At the beginning of the 20th century “the United States constituted the most vigorous capitalist society in the world and had the most powerful industrial production (…) Productivity increased more than ever before, the same for profits, wages and national revenue.” “But when Marx died in the 1880s, US capitalism had caught up with British industrial production, and then passed it for good and all, to make the United States the leading industrial power in the world (…) The First World War resulted in a considerable drop in European production and an increase in US production, until by the time of the Russian Revolution the United States produced almost as much as the whole of Europe”.
For the American bourgeoisie and all its ideologues, it seemed that capitalist manna was something like a “natural characteristic” of the system; however, the reality was based on the conquest of a vast territory in which, as the “frontier” advanced towards the west, the demand for all sorts of supplies and goods increased, a process which was also capable of absorbing a great number of immigrants; and, while growth figures climbed, the borrowing which supported this expansion came from Europe. In 1893, Chicago became the site for the World’s Fair, which put the United States in the top rank of industrial powers. But the “American Dream” was in fact reaching its limits; the beginning of the 20th century and the First World War announced the entry of capitalism into its historic decadence and new conditions were appearing, accounting for the evolution of the United States as it began to emerge as a world power.
2 – The First World War and the Great Depression of 1929
The First World War showed the need for a “new division of the world”. Industrial powers like Germany arrived late to the division of the world market. Whereas France and Britain had gained much through the extent of their colonial conquests, and the United States dominated the American continent having consolidated its expansion from East to West, Germany had almost nothing and wanted a new carve-up of the world. Under capitalism there is no other means to find additional territory than from war and from 1914, war became the mode of life of decadent capitalism.
The “Great War” dragged all of Europe into destruction, massacres and barbarity pure and simple. Germany unleashed hostilities. It was the first time in the modern era that Europe had experienced so dramatic a situation.
The United States maintained its “neutrality” up to 1917. There was an enormous weight of illusions about the unlimited development of capitalism in a country that was far from the problems of Europe. Despite the sinking of the RMS Lusitania by a German submarine in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson maintained “neutrality”; a very useful neutrality as the United States increased production in a remarkable fashion, becoming the great provider of munitions to the Entente: military provisions of all sorts, food, etc. American ships went back and forth across the Atlantic loaded with goods and material in order to supply the war front. That’s why Germany knew that it would have to declare war on the United States in order to put a stop to this logistical support to Britain and France. In 1917, Germany renewed its submarine attacks without limitations. Added to this, Germany interfered in Mexico, profiting from the social upheavals in this country. Berlin asked the Mexican government to declare war on the United States and added that victory for the German camp would see Mexico regain its lost territories. In order for the US to maintain its role as major supplier and to protect its ships, its Panama Canal and a “back-yard” prey to convulsions, “neutrality” was already useless and entry into the war was an imperious necessity for the American bourgeoisie, despite the attempts of Wilson to block this route. In the final analysis, the logic of capitalism prevailed against puritanical and sincere intentions for the maintenance of peace.
“America’s entry into the war decisively changed the relation of industrial strength between the combatants, and, in consequence, the relation of military strength. Without the United States the industrial strength of Britain and France on the one hand and of Germany and her allies on the other was at least comparable, but with the United States the relation of strength changed to approximately three-to-one against Germany. With this the prospect of a German military victory became hopeless”. The United States sent a million men to the Western Front, the main theatre on war, their industry was the great strategic arm that forced Germany to surrender, and the Treaty of Versailles established the conditions for the vanquished to pay war reparations. The United States pushed for the creation of the League of Nations on the basis of the “Fourteen Points” put forward by Woodrow Wilson. However, the United States never joined this organisation in order to maintain its “neutrality” in the event of future conflicts.
Whereas the industrial centres of Europe and their populations were badly hit by destruction and massacres, the United States, situated thousands of miles away from the battlefields, maintained industry at full growth and a population far away from the direct suffering produced by the war. France and Britain, the “victorious” countries, did not regain their industrial strength. In 1919, all the European belligerents had over 30% lower growth, while the United States came out of the war strengthened and with a concentration of more gold in its coffers than ever before. In the middle of the 19th century, Britain was the uncontested world power and its Empire, over which “the sun never sets” was there to prove it, but after the First World War it had to reluctantly accept its position behind the Americans. The United States passed from the status of debtor to that of a major creditor and lender to Europe during the period after the war. The decline of capitalism inaugurated a new organisation within the imperialist constellation.
“The plight of the once powerful British economy was typified by the situation in 1926 when it resorted to direct wage cuts in a vain attempt to restore its competitive edge on the world market (…). The only real boom was in the USA, which benefited both from the sorrows of its former rivals and the accelerated development of mass production symbolised by the Detroit assembly lines churning out the Model T Ford. America’s coronation as the world’s leading economic power also made it possible to pull German capital from the floor thanks to the injection of massive loans”.
In reality, after the war, there was neither a recovery of the economy nor any expansion of new markets. For the United States, it was thanks to the war that it massively increased its exports to Europe, and the fact of having kept intact its industrial strength which reinforced the idea within the American bourgeoisie of “unlimited growth”. However, 1929 and the Great Depression shattered this ideology and reminded everyone that capitalism had entered into its decadence and crisis and war would henceforth be its modus operandi.
The Great Depression hit America like a biblical curse. Massive unemployment, bankrupt businesses, hunger in the streets… the images of desolation were repeated across the whole country and the ravages spread to the rest of the world. The American state, under the direction of Franklin D. Roosevelt, decided to intervene. State capitalism, which had been taking shape since the First World War, became omnipresent and stepped in to save the economy. The “New Deal” was nothing other than Keynesianism; the state must invest in infrastructure in order to revitalise the whole of industry. The implementation of this plan was delayed and the expected positive effects took time to arrive. Thus, in the 1930s, the world’s bourgeoisie looked for a way out of the situation and the only way out that the bourgeoisie could come up with was – a new world war, that was only possible through the crushing of the proletariat. This time the war would be more devastating and deadlier and the United States would come out of it still better positioned as the uncontested world power.
3 – The Second World War
Once again it was Germany that had to question the status quo. The annexation of Austria and the blitzkrieg invasion of Poland in 1939 opened up new hostilities. The United States, whose territory was sheltered from the battlefields, again maintained its neutrality. While France was invaded by an army of occupation and Britain suffered German bombings, the United States re-activated its role as supplier for the front; unemployment was re-absorbed and American industry again took on its frantic production. It wasn’t the New Deal but rather the war which enabled the recovery of the American productive apparatus.
Germany seemed unstoppable. Within the United States there was strong resistance to any entry into the conflict, the “isolationist” wing normally concentrated in the Republican Party wasn’t in agreement with America’s entry into the war, and there was strong sympathy from sectors of American society towards the Axis powers and particularly towards Germany. The American bourgeoisie knew that Germany would take control of Europe if it didn’t intervene. Contrary to the First World War, this time Japan, which had already spread its imperialist ambitions to Manchuria and occupied great parts of China, immediately came into the war on the side of the Axis (Berlin-Rome-Tokyo) and tried to dominate the Pacific.
To be able to enter the war it was necessary for the American bourgeoisie to break the isolationists but also to convince the population and neutralise the working class behind the Star Spangled Banner. An attack was necessary in order to justify its entry into the war without resistance. Increasing provocations against Japan bore fruit and in December 1941, the Empire of Hirohito took the bait and attacked Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. The Machiavellianism of the American bourgeoisie is worthy of study: the loss of life and material destruction are secondary when it’s a question of imperialist objectives. Once again, America’s entry into the war tipped the balance in favour of the Allies and all the industry of the former was given over to the furnishing of arms and other material to the Allies. The New Deal hadn’t fulfilled its promise of full employment: in 1938 there were 11 million unemployed and in 1941 it was still more than 6 million. It was only when the whole of the industrial apparatus had been established in order to respond to the demands of the war that unemployment finally fell. And with that the mirage of having surmounted the economic crisis reappeared on the American horizon.
The American bourgeoisie had built a modern army capable of intervening throughout the world and scientific research had already harnessed nuclear fission. Its peace-loving “neutrality” was armed to the teeth. To be an economic power is intimately linked to the capacity of the nation state to defend its interests and to spread them throughout the world.
“Under capitalism, there is no fundamental opposition between war and peace, but there is a difference between the ascendant and decadent phases of capitalist society and, consequently, a difference in the function of war (and in the relationship between war and peace) in the two respective phases. While in the first phase war had the function of enlarging the market with a view towards a greater production of consumer goods, in the second phase production is focused essentially on the production of the means of destruction, i.e. with a view towards war. The decadence of capitalist society is strikingly expressed in the fact that whereas in the ascendant period wars led to economic development, in the decadent period economic activity is geared essentially towards war.
This doesn’t mean war has become the goal of capitalist production, which remains the production of surplus value, but it does mean that war, taking on a permanent character, has become decadent capitalism’s way of life”.
The Second World War was clearly much more destructive than the First. Globally more than 50 million died, which included a great number of civilians. The destruction of factories and workers’ districts in enemy countries introduced a new element because, in order to weaken the adversary’s capabilities, it was essential to destroy the centres of the workforce and munitions factories and facilities for producing food and medicines etc. The destruction of Europe enabled the rise of a second-rank power, the USSR, whose imperialist appetites seemed insatiable. The United States had to use its new power, the atomic bomb, in order to negotiate with Stalin from a position of strength. That’s why at Yalta, in February 1945, while the Americans had not yet completed the building of their atomic weapons, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill had left the Russians guessing on the question, the latter wanting to invade Japan before May. Under Harry S. Truman, the Potsdam Agreement was completed by the beginning of August 1945, but Truman received telegrams confirming the success of atomic bomb tests over New Mexico and was able to put more pressure on the USSR knowing that they already had the weapon that would put them on top of the Russians. The United States dropped their atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on a Japan that was already beaten and no longer representing a threat to the Allies, in order to impress the Russians. The atomic bombardment put an end to the ambitions of the USSR. The Second World War was not yet finished and the Cold War had already raised its head.
4 – The Cold War: a consequence of the “American Century”
The United States secured global control at the end of the Second World War. The creation of the UN, the Bretton Woods Agreement (in 1945, 80% of the world’s gold was in the United States), the World Bank, the IMF, GATT, NATO… represented a whole organisational architecture which assured American world superiority at the economic, political and, above all, military levels. American bases multiplied around the planet, 800 of them plus the secret bases probably existing in countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia. During the war the US, with over 12 million men under arms, had doubled its Gross National Product, and by the end of the war it accounted for “half of the world’s manufacturing capacity, most of its food surpluses, and almost all of its financial reserves. The United States held the lead in a wide range of technologies essential to modern warfare and economic prosperity. Possession of extensive domestic oil supplies and control over access to the vast oil reserves of Latin America and the Middle East contributed to the US position of global dominance” (D. S. Painter, Encyclopaedia of US Foreign Policy).
Thus, “American strength was favoured by advantages accruing from America’s relative geographic isolation. Distant from the epicentre of both world wars, the American homeland had suffered none of the massive destruction of the means of production that the European nations had experienced, and its civilian population had been spared the terror of air raids, bombardments, deportations, and concentration camps that led to the death of millions of non-combatants in Europe (more than 20 million civilians in Russia alone) “.
From 1945 the major axis of American Cold War foreign policy was the “containment of the USSR” and of the falsely-named “Communist” bloc. The ambitions of the USSR were soon seen openly: Russia swallowed up the Baltic States, installed its government in Poland, negotiated access to the Black Sea with Turkey, fuelled the civil war in Greece, and did not hide its claims towards Japan and the Kuril Islands with which it would strengthen its power from Europe to the Pacific. The United States conceived its “Marshall Plan” strategy in 1947: more than $12.5 billion for urban reconstruction, for hunger relief, and to supply goods across Europe. In short, a great part of the Marshall Plan was to enable the Europeans to continue buying American goods. Otherwise, the main objective was to prevent the development in Europe of the conditions that allowed the USSR, and the Communist parties faithful to Moscow, to stir up the socially volatile situation and integrate new members into the Russian bloc, the case of Czechoslovakia being an eloquent example that could not be repeated.
At the end of the war, George Marshall arrived in China in order to try to form a coalition. However Mao Tse Tung of the CCP and Chiang Kai-Shek of the Kuomintang, advised by Moscow, put their rivalries to one side and made a common front against the Americans and broke off negotiations in Spring 1946.
At the end of the Second World War, the USSR and the United States met to divide up Korea from the 36th parallel, but in 1950, the North, supported by the Russians, invaded South Korea which was under American control. The horrors of the Cold War had come into macabre fruition: the war lasted 3 years and cost 3 million deaths, with families divided and long-lasting distress for the population of Korea. The United States succeeded in gaining the upper hand and pushed the North Korean forces towards the initially agreed frontier. This war marked the beginning of a situation in which the United States was the first and uncontested world superpower for the next 40 years.
Europe was divided by the “Iron Curtain”. NATO was created in 1949 for the military protection of Western Europe, and in 1955 the USSR responded with the Warsaw Pact. The world was plunged into a permanent threat of conflict, missiles and all sorts of armaments appeared on the landscape as capitalist “peace” became a new Sword of Damocles.
Little by little the United States imposed its authority. In 1956, when the UK and France, with the connivance of Israel, acted impulsively in trying to take back the Suez Canal, the Americans imposed their discipline and relegated France and the United Kingdom to a secondary role behind the USA.
The only direct confrontation between the two bloc leaders, USA and USSR, was the “Cuban missile crisis” in 1962, which ended in a secret agreement between the Kennedy administration and Nikita Khrushchev. Other confrontations of this period were made through the means of intermediaries.
The most important stumbling block for the “American century” was the war in Vietnam. Vietnam was divided between North and South, the South being under the influence of Washington and the North under the USSR and China. This war led to numerous divisions within the American bourgeoisie and the idea of being “bogged-down in the Vietnamese swamp”, as well as the progress of Moscow in the Middle East, contributed to the Americans ending this war and re-orientating their foreign policy. Although more than 500,000 men had been sent to Vietnam in 1968, they had to abandon this former French colony and, in 1973, the “Paris Accords” were signed stipulating the departure of the Americans from South Vietnam. That soon resulted in the taking of Saigon by North Vietnam in 1975 and a reunification under the “Communist” aegis with the grandiose name of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1976.
Apart from this fiasco, which was not insignificant, the Americans succeeded in reaching the Moon and leading in technological and scientific research in the military domain. In the rivalry with the “Communist” bloc they were successful in containing the USSR across the whole American continent. Cuba was an exception which Washington guaranteed would not be repeated: the Monroe Doctrine was applied to the letter. Cuban influence was limited to the romanticism around the revolution of the men with beards which nurtured the guerrilla leftism symbolised by Che Guevara. In the Middle East the United States made Israel its bridgehead in order to contain Arab flirtations with Moscow. In the Far East however, the failure of the Vietnam War brought something positive for Washington: it succeeded in drawing China into the Western Bloc and there was a definite break by the former with the Russians. Naturally, the United States would have to abandon its previous position recognising Taiwan as the government of China; imperialism has no remorse or shame, such sentiments do not exist for it and what prevails is the cold calculation of the most sordid interests so as to assure power and control over others. The Cold War saw four decades of manoeuvrings, “containment” and finally the encirclement of the USSR.
The United States did not intervene in the Hungarian uprising of 1956 but when the USSR invaded Afghanistan at the beginning of the 1980s it was forced to support and underwrite the “resistance” against the Soviet invasion, thus giving birth to the mujahideen and what later became al-Qaida, led by Osama Bin Laden, who served alongside the Americans. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, all these “allies” had started to play their own games to the point of daring to rebel against and attack their old master.
From the end of the 18th century the establishment of the United States allowed it to conquer an immense territory and welcome a constant flow of emigration. The industrialisation of the North won out over the anachronistic system of slavery in the South and, with it, capitalism consolidated the basis of its expansion. At the end of the nineteenth century the United States was already a country whose territory spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific. We should note here that the United States is literally the sum of states which generates a national unity maintained under constraints. But the “Manifest Destiny” was that the United States would spread through the entire world; after all, this “destiny” was that of American capitalism, expressed in the dreams of the first pioneers. The end of American expansion on its home territory and the Monroe Doctrine’s demarcation (in the face of the European powers) of the US zone of influence throughout the American continent coincided with the opening of the 20th century and the beginning of capitalism’s decadence. The First World War was the open expression of the end of the progressive phase of capitalism and of the beginning of its historic decline.
The United States came out of the First World War much strengthened, with the lenders of yesterday becoming debtors; in contrast to Europe, where even the victors Britain and France were unable to resume their former place in the concert of nations, the United States positioned itself as the world’s first power and became the great provider of the Entente. Being geographically distant from the battlefields, its industrial production and its population remained intact and concentrated on production in order to supply the front. The Great Depression showed to what point state capitalism had already taken over economic, social and military life. Although the New Deal didn’t resolve the crisis it did show the role of the state. The Second World War more than confirmed the role of the United States as a world power. This time its role as provider was greater, reserves of gold were concentrated in American coffers and its army was present over the whole planet: sky, sea and land. All its productive and scientific apparatus was subordinated to the needs of war. At the end of the Second World War, we saw the crowning of the great victor of two world wars: the United States. The Cold War was completely dominated by the Americans, the Russian bloc imploded in 1989 without a shot being fired or a missile launched from the West. But American domination was founded on shifting sands as its empire was gangrened by the cancer of militarism. Whereas the Soviet bloc, with Russia at its head, was exhausted and dislocated through the depletion of its productive apparatus after decades of trying to keep up with the arms race, the United States itself undermined its supremacy under the weight of an economy subject to the demands of war. The position of the world’s first power isn’t defended by poetry but by the maintenance and expansion of a powerful army. It’s the same in this period where the “American Century” ends. The weight of military expenditure had driven the USSR into the ground, but the armaments industry is a domain of waste pure and simple for world capital, for capital as a whole, and so the USSR is not alone in suffering from this weight. We will analyse in the second part how these developments have also had a negative effect on the competitive capacity of American capital.
The United States can be considered as the classic country of the decadence of capitalism. If Britain and France were the powers of capitalism’s ascendency, the United States has become the greatest power through the conditions created by the decadence of capitalism, in particular war as “a way of life” of a system in decline. This decadence has opened up its terminal phase, social decomposition, which, since the end of the 1980s, has marked a qualitative accentuation of the contradictions of this mode of production. Thirty years of social decomposition have led the central countries of capitalism, and above all the United States, to become the motor force of chaos.
 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act in 1862. This law authorised the building of a transcontinental railway by two companies, Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad.
 The pretext for this war was the sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana Harbour on 15 February 15. Spain refused to sell Cuba to the Americans and the operation sending in the battleship without notice was an open provocation. There’s still speculation today over “who sunk the Maine”. What is sure is that the crime benefitted the United States and after the war against Spain it controlled Cuba, Puerto Rica and even the Philippines. The Machiavellianism of the US bourgeoisie has a long history.
 Eugenio Pereira Salas: Los primeros contactos entre Chile y los Estados Unidos. 1778-1809 (Santiago: Ed. Andres Bello, 1971.) (In Spanish)
 Capitalism and Socialism on Trial Fritz Sternberg
 See “War, militarism and imperialist blocs in the decadence of capitalism” in International Review 52 and 53. On the basis of the analyses of the Gauche Communiste de France, this article explains the different nature of wars in the period of ascendant capitalism and of those in its period of decadence.
 Capitalism and socialism on trial by Fritz Sternberg.
 International Review 113, “History of US foreign policy since World War II”.
 The Yalta agreements (1944) united the Czechs and the Slovaks into a single republic with the government under Edouard Benes approved by the Allies. The idea was that the USSR would allow Czechoslovakia to act as a buffer, but Stalin acted to radicalise the Czech Social-Democratic Party (CSK), they took the Interior Ministry and the post of Prime Minister (Gottwald), among others. They organised a legal coup d’état, there were intrigues, “suicides” (Jan Masaryk, Minister of Foreign Affairs), militias, etc. and finally, in February 1948, the Stalinists took total control. The United States didn’t react in time, which is what Churchill complained about.
 The tonnage of atomic bombs was already greater than that of the Second World War, and the use of chemicals such as napalm in Vietnam was a dramatic confirmation of a Cold War of increasing barbarity.