The post-election landscape in the United States of America is an indecent spectacle. Once again the discrepancy between the discourse that propagates democratic values and actual political practice in that country is confirmed.
Various analysts have pointed out on many occasions how little objective relevance there is of the election result, given that the guidelines to be followed are usually devised and implemented by the real power—the military-industrial-financial complex.
This is why, in an unusual display of sincerity, the elected authorities are referred to as “administrations”. This fact admits a simple historical explanation. After the speculative crisis that plunged the American people into misery in the 1930s, economic recovery came about through a massive injection of state resources into the military apparatus, with defence expenditure accounting for 90 percent of the total budget in 1945.
Not for nothing, in his farewell address to the nation in 1961, Eisenhower—himself a hawk in command of the Allied forces in Europe—warned: “There is a risk of a disastrous development of usurped power and this will persist. We must never let the weight of this convergence threaten our liberties or democratic processes.”[i]
Events showed that this was not an unfounded warning. Militarism, which had previously shown its claws with numerous invasions and annexations, became the backbone of American politics and democracy has been hijacked ever since by that power in combination with corporate interest.
Nevertheless, the electoral defeat of Donald Trump—whatever delaying tactics are used to hide the fiasco—has a high symbolic content, both political and social. It signifies the healthy rejection by the majority of that people, now multicultural, of pride, racism and misogyny, the repudiation of irrational arrogance and contempt for otherness.
The Democrats’ victory reinforces in the imagination of the people—just as in the cases of Bolivia and Chile previously—the possibility of the will of the powerless triumphing over the cynicism and self-absorption of minorities, while weakening the extreme right-wing worldwide.
But Biden’s is a pyrrhic victory. He will be president of a fractured society, eaten away by a hedonistic individualism, whose internal violence has been projected onto the world with infinite destruction through invasions and scheming, fomenting fratricidal wars, developing, until today, an arms race whose only purpose is to increase the profits of the military industry.
If the United States continues along this path, Biden will probably be in charge of an empire in dissolution, and his mandate will therefore be beset by many contradictions and adversities. If the current conflict over the presidency escalates, it could even lead to a total institutional breakdown, now or during the course of the government.
Although empires are usually characterised in school books by their military superiority, this is not the only determining factor in their expansion, perhaps not even the most relevant one.
In its founding period, the imperial advance is generally welcomed by peoples who are in a position of servitude to local overlords or under the rule of another foreign power. In this way, the populations not committed to the power of the time collaborate or at least are neutral in the face of new colonisation.
Technological supremacy, a key issue in the emergence of a new power, often even constitutes a factor of admiration and even hope for a better life for those who have been conquered. In other cases, disputes over the domination of territories by one faction or another are viewed with similar dismay and far from the self-interest of the subjugated, who are keen to finally put an end to the destruction and conflict in their neighbourhood.
But the decisive aspect in the consolidation of a new empire is its civilising proposition, which lays the foundations for a stage of transformation of previous values, behaviours and customs.
The adhesion, voluntary or forced, to this common project marks the stages of initiation and development of any empire, constituting the glue that binds its components.
Hence the key element in the fall of empires is internal implosion. In addition to the erosion and corruption of the ideals that drove its rise, there is the decomposition caused by excessive expansion, internal power struggles and the impossibility of reintegrating the armed forces, something which in addition to being a useful tool of occupation serves as a valve for social depressurisation, providing something to do and a certain amount of prestige to socially excluded sectors.
At the same time, subjugated peoples begin to demand rights and sovereignty, in turn becoming a resistance to the new empire. Likewise, diversity and the affirmation of different values manages to cross the barrier of cultural imposition erected through the monopoly of communication and entertainment.
Such is the current situation of US imperialism.
Chinese cohesion in the face of American fragmentation
China has been an empire for some 22 centuries, with the violent unification brought about by what was the brief but deadly Qin dynasty (or Ch’in, to which China probably owes its name).
From its subsequent consolidation under the Han dynasty, which lasted for four centuries, the empire underwent civil wars, rebellions, was invaded and conquered, had periods of splendour, development and decline, accumulating a great historical experience.
One of the main objectives of Chinese culture and policy has always been, with greater or lesser success, to achieve internal cohesion. Although it is home to 55 ethnic minorities, most of them belong to the founding Han culture, a demographic weight that has favoured that purpose.
It is not for nothing that the centralist government is currently making the greatest effort to integrate the different cultures residing on the periphery such as the Tibetans and the Uighurs, whose resistance is being used by the West to try to fan the flames of dissent.
The case of Hong Kong is different, as its inhabitants are culturally homogeneous with the bulk of China’s population, but its experience within the British Empire, together with the airs and graces of autonomy and secessionism, encourage its nonconformity with the top-down directives of Beijing.
Despite everything, Chinese society is emerging strengthened by this unity achieved on the basis of a cultural mandate of harmony, but also by historically repressing what is different and divergent.
It is this cohesion that enables China to stand out on the world stage today in the face of the internal disintegration of the United States.
Will the emerging power displace the previous one, as has happened before? Will the fate of the world be a new colonisation, this time from the East?
Although the current credit and investment dependence of most countries, the multiplication of Confucius Institutes around the world, the increase in arms spending, the global infrastructure project of the Belt and Road Initiative, among other indicators, could be perfectly interpreted in that direction, there are internal factors that mitigate that possibility. Basically, the painful experience of millions of people killed in armed conflicts and the age-old tendency to look within their own walls, the Chinese Economic Reform and the Four Modernisations proclaimed by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 being merely a tactical factor characteristic of this era.
Furthermore, although the intentions of the current Chinese government to promote a “Community with shared future for mankind” as a central idea of its foreign policy may also be credited or mistrusted, it is good to know that this premise is anchored in its latest constitutional reform.
Thus, in the constitution’s preamble[ii], we read: “The future of China is closely bound up with the future of the world. China pursues an independent foreign policy, observes the five principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, mutual non-interference in internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence, keeps to a path of peaceful development, follows a mutually beneficial strategy of opening up, works to develop diplomatic relations and economic and cultural exchanges with other countries, and promotes the building of a human community with a shared future.”
In any case, the main resistance to the emergence of new empires is undoubtedly in the growth of the sovereign consciousness of the peoples and their need for emancipation.
Beyond empires, the Universal Human Nation
Today a planetary civilisation is being born, in which peoples and cultures are becoming interconnected. Cultural planetarisation is a different direction from the mean economic globalisation led by multinational corporations. This planetarisation, driven by increased migration and connectivity, involves the exchange of information, mutual learning, contact between different customs and practices. A new intercultural entity is slowly emerging, embracing the experience of all human history.
Besides the struggle against Western imperial imposition, the estrangement in front of this unprecedented phenomenon is the reason for the ongoing nationalist and fundamentalist reactions.
In this new multi-cultural web, a new empire is unlikely to find echoes or support.
Nevertheless, amidst so much fragmentation and dissolution of social and political structures, in the face of so much confrontation and mutual incomprehension, what cohesive project could give a direction of collective growth to Humanity at this historical moment? What is the image around which this “other possible world” could emerge, what is the utopia of no return, what is the goal towards new horizons not yet reached?
How could global problems be tackled from new structures based on real people’s power, replacing the outdated institutions in whose representatives nobody trusts anymore?
In this sense, it is necessary to value the idea of building a Universal Human Nation, in which all cultures converge, each with its own particularities, basing their convergence on the recognition of their common humanity.
The concept, coined by the humanist thinker Silo (pseudonym of Mario Luis Rodríguez Cobos), recognises successive steps in the process of regional integration, until a sort of multi-ethnic world federation of parity, collaboration and solidarity is reached, through which problems can be solved by the cooperation of the virtues historically established in different peoples.
The key to the proposal is that people recover their stolen sovereignty and take on the leading roles in decision-making bodies, placing human beings as the priority.
The utopia of the future will then demolish all imperial pretensions of homogenising, unifying and possessing. The humanist civilisation will be diverse, with decentralised power, and will be the fruit of the intention of human beings who act freely in solidarity. It will be a world “diverse in ethnicity, languages and customs; diverse in local and regional autonomy; diverse in ideas and aspirations; diverse in beliefs, whether atheist or religious; diverse in occupations and in creativity.
“But a wall has arisen between humanist aspirations and the realities of today’s world. The time has come to tear down that wall. To do this, all humanists of the world must unite.”[iii]
[i] Eisenhower, D (1961) Farewell Address https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/dwightdeisenhowerfarewell.html
[ii] Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (2020) https://www.basiclaw.gov.hk/en/basiclawtext/images/basiclaw_full_text_en.pdf
[iii][iii] Silo (1994) Letters to My Friends, Cardiff, CA: Latitude Press http://www.silo.net/system/documents/76/original/Cartas_en.rtf