Playing reckless politics on the edge of a volcano

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On July 23, 1939, Leon Trotsky, exiled in Mexico, meets journalists and gives his assessment of the international situation. Although confined within the walls of a villa in Coyoacan, Trotsky’s understanding of world politics was unmatched.

Speaking in English, Trotsky told the assembled journalists: “The capitalist system is at an impasse. For my part, I see no normal, legal, peaceful way out of this impasse. The result can only be created by a tremendous historical explosion.

“Historical explosions are of two kinds: wars and revolutions. I believe we will have both. All governments and established mass parties were overwhelmed by events. In a striking metaphor, Trotsky likened their actions to “child’s play on the sloping slope of a volcano before an eruption”.

Trotsky’s analysis was soon vindicated. The imperialist World War II volcano erupted five weeks later.

Trotsky’s description of the world on the very eve of World War II acquires extraordinary relevance in the current situation. All governments behave with astounding recklessness.

But the boldest of all governments is that of the United States. Its leaders have scaled the side of the volcano to its edge and are dropping explosives into the hot, bubbling core.

President Joe Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

After pushing Russian President Vladimir Putin to his limits with the intention of leaving him no choice but a disastrous invasion of Ukraine, US President Joe Biden set in motion military, economic, political and which he cannot control and whose outcome he cannot foresee.

This level of recklessness can only be explained as the action of a regime that resorts to war as a means of diverting attention and countering the buildup of extreme social tensions within the United States itself.

The United States is in the throes of a domestic crisis not seen since the Civil War era. There are four main elements of this crisis.

1) The COVID-19 pandemic, which has ravaged the country, with an official death toll approaching one million.

2) A political crisis on a scale equaled only by the civil war. On January 6, 2021, an attempt was made by the incumbent president to violently overthrow the Constitution and prevent the accession of the new duly elected president.

3) The growing fragility of an economic system maintained by parasitic speculation, fueled by the unlimited injection of liquidity by the Federal Reserve. At the start of 2022, price inflation could no longer be contained.

4) After four decades of suppression, the class struggle resurfaced in 2021. Major industrial strikes broke out that took the form of an insurrection against bureaucratic and pro-corporate unions. It is obvious that the working class is becoming radicalized.

The interplay of these crises produced a high level of anxiety and disorientation within the ruling elite. It’s a major factor in the Biden administration’s decision to provoke the Russian-Ukrainian war, hoping it will generate a sense of “national unity.”

But incitement to war will have precisely the opposite effect. This will intensify all elements of the American crisis and, above all, will accelerate and widen the class struggle. Relentless war propaganda has had little effect on the working class, which – in the midst of a social crisis in the United States – opposes the diversion of social resources and the expenditure of lives in yet another military crusade.

Anti-Russian hysteria is not an accurate barometer of social sentiment in the United States. It is rather a thermometric measurement of the war fever which seizes the wealthy and reactionary upper middle class.

The fundamental tendencies of social life will assert themselves as the workers are pushed into open struggle to defend their own interests. These struggles will take on an international character and form the social basis of an anti-war movement.

It is on this analysis that the Socialist Equality Party bases its opposition to the war.

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