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America Will Likely Experience a Social Breakdown in the 2020s

The United States, like the other parts of the world that have been ravaged by rampant economic inequality and corporate despotism, is headed for a social breakdown.

This gets more apparent every time wealth disparity is shown to be at a decades-high level, every time the military budget is expanded by billions of dollars to fight endless wars, every time the country’s militarized police shoot an innocent person. Ten or twenty years from now, our society’s current form will have taken on an extreme version of itself: no real freedoms, basically no semblance of democracy, and conditions for the majority of people that are either in or approaching squalor.

You can get a sense of where the country is headed by looking at how bad things have already gotten for much of America’s population. Around a third of American households can’t afford food, water, or shelter without at the least going deeper into debt, and around two-thirds have been able to save little or no money. Over 40 million Americans aren’t even making enough money to have a reliable supply of nutritious food. So many in the former middle class are living on the edge of a major upheaval, struggling to navigate a situation where no amount of working and saving will bring down their ever-increasing debt.

Nearly ten million Americans lost their homes as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, and when the even worse upcoming crisis hits the impact will no doubt be even bigger. The United States will come to resemble Chile, which we typically think of as a much poorer country than the U.S., but one that also has an official poverty rate of around 10%. What’s caused the broad masses of Chile to take to the streets is that while most Chileans aren’t technically in poverty, half of Chilean workers make $550 or less every month. The next crash will make a similar situation materialize in the U.S., one where most people in the country can no longer sustain their relatively comfortable living arrangements.

This process of economic collapse as a result of inequality and financial oligarchy is going to make the 2020s a lot more violent for the United States than the 2010s were. And given the frequent police brutality, numerous mass shootings, and multiple riots that have happened throughout the country in the last ten years, that’s saying a lot. When people no longer feel like they have anything to lose by rebelling against the system, great unrest will appear.

When this unrest starts—which will likely be during the early 2020s, given that the economic crash is estimated to very likely happen within the next two years—the government will likely crack down, suspending liberties and confronting protests in the same brutal ways that Chile’s government has been doing. We’ll see America’s militarized police (who have become more empowered than ever during the Trump era to use army-level weapons) fulfill their anticipated purpose of killing dozens or even hundreds of protesters.

Just as it’s been the case in Chile, the army will likely get involved in the efforts to suppress the protests. It became legal for the U.S. president to use the military as a domestic police force with the passage of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, and Trump has already utilized this power by sending troops to the border. The fascist paramilitaries that Trump has emboldened will join the side of this police/army junta, carrying out operations to protect reactionary political interests. This will be a more extreme and widespread version of when right-wing militias partnered with fugitive Oregon Republican senators earlier this year.

The economic collapse will be just one part of the breakdown. As the country’s climate change-created crises continue to escalate, so will the process of militarization and the disappearance of freedoms. And so will the advancement of crisis capitalism, where corporations profit from disaster and resources are privatized as a result of an emergency. We’ll see more scenarios like the one in Puerto Rico during the 2017 hurricane season, where masked and armed members of the private military contractor Academi roamed the streets of Puerto Rico’s capital while a series of privatizations were unleashed throughout the territory.

As this chaos develops, the fascists and their centrist enablers will blame the poor for stepping out of line. The protesters will be characterized by the corporate media as hooligans who are asking too much from the government. The remaining social services will be cut while the big banks get another vast government grant. Politicians will try to shift the blame for the crisis onto immigrants and onto foreign powers like China. But as hard as the capitalist reaction to the crisis will be, those who want revolution will be able to carry out great change.

Part of what we’ll need to do to overcome the capitalist state is sustain the protests and strikes amid government repression. The anti-austerity protests in France have gone on for over fifty weeks despite bans and police violence, an achievement we’ll be able to emulate in America by building strong revolutionary institutions. Another part will be guiding the protest movement towards anti-capitalism, instead of letting it be co-opted by pro-capitalist leaders who pose as radicals.

Like happened recently in France, where hundreds of Communist Party of France flags have been lined up during the country’s largest strike in a century, we’ll need to make proletarian revolution the cohesive goal of the uprising. When the crisis of capitalism comes to a breaking point (a potentially violent one) in the United States, the upper classes will try to say the lower classes are immoral if they begin using violence and other tools for creating political change. But the fact is that the upper classes are the ones who are already using numerous forms of violence against the lower classes. And as the country seems to be heading in a violent direction, it makes sense that regular citizens may be pushed to the point of violence as well.

The types of institutions we build now will make all the difference.

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Rainer Shea

Rainer uses the written word to deconstruct establishment propaganda and to promote meaningful political action. His articles can also be found at Revolution Dispatch
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