Research for this document has been conducted collectively for over a year and has received contributions from many scholars and socialist practitioners. This document was compiled with data and charts provided by Global South Insights (GSI), with editing and coordination by Gisela Cernadas, Mikaela Nhondo Erskog, Tica Moreno, and Deborah Veneziale. The data and charts for Part IV of the document rely heavily on published research by economist John Ross.
It has been a scant 30 years since the ‘end of history’ was declared by bourgeois ideologists in pantomimes of wish-fulfillment for sensing the inviolability of United States imperialism. For peoples’ struggles and movements feeling the boot of imperialism on their necks, no such end was in sight.
In the face of violent repression, such as Brazil’s Carajás Massacre in 1996, the Landless Workers’ Movement led the reclamation of land for popular agrarian reform through occupation and production, challenging agribusiness behemoths, such as the U.S. multinational Monsanto. A ‘soldier who shook the continent’, Hugo Chávez won the popular vote in 1999, a sharp left turn that was followed by others in Latin America. This included a wave of mass mobilization of millions of workers, peasants, Indigenous, women, and students that defeated the proposed U.S. Free Trade Areas of the Americas in 2005, a direct challenge to nearly 200 years of the U.S. Monroe Doctrine.
In subsequent years, changes—sometimes small and imperceptible, at other times volatile and explosive—unfolded. These involved both popular movements and state actors, in some cases extremely powerful ones. The U.S. was confronted by a rising economic powerhouse in China, growing economies in the Global South (which overtook the Global North’s GDP in PPP terms in 2007), years of domestic capital investment neglect, the financialisation of the economy, and the loss of manufacturing superiority.
The rise of the Tea Party in 2009 signalled internal fracturing of U.S. domestic politics. Internationally, the U.S. failed to achieve soft regime disruption in China and de-nuclearisation or regime change in Russia. After a temporary reduction in military spending with the end of the disastrous war on Iraq (2003—2011), the U.S. shifted to the use and threat of military power as a central pillar of its response to these changes.
Hegemony is historically lost in three stages: production, finance, and military. The United States has lost hegemony in production, though it still has some remaining areas of technological hegemony, including those related to the military. It is seeing its financial hegemony challenged, though still in the very early stages and revolving around the status of the U.S. dollar. Even though the economic and political aspects of its decline might be accelerating, it still retains military power—creating a temptation for the U.S. to attempt to overcome the consequences of its economic decline by military or military related means.
The U.S. has defined China as its strategic competitor. The minimum program of the U.S. is the containment and economic diminishment of China, sufficient to guarantee the U.S.’s own perpetual future economic hegemony.
From its own point of view, U.S. capitalism is rational in its attempts to limit China’s rise. Failure to do so would erode the relative advantage the U.S. has in controlling higher levels of productive forces and the resulting monopoly privileges that control entails. There is almost complete alignment amongst the U.S. state actors to continue to manage decoupling from China (despite the near impossibility of fully re-modernising U.S. productive forces domestically) and to advance military preparations against China.
The February 2022 movement of Russian troops into Ukraine—a result of the continued violations of U.S. assurances on the non-expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the continuing civil war between Kyiv and Donbas—marked an explicit new phase in world military alignment for the U.S. In a series of rapid-fire moves, the U.S. openly subordinated all the Global North countries and, in so doing, further subordinated the military apparatus of those states. It established itself as the open military hegemon of what is euphemistically called NATO+, which includes all but three members of the former Eastern Bloc. Those who attended the 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, as a member or observer—including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the Republic of Korea—are de facto members of NATO+. Only Israel (excused from attendance for political expediency) and a few smaller countries of the Global North did not attend.
Beginning in October 2023, Israel began a campaign of displacement, ethnic cleansing, collective punishment, and genocide of Palestinians with the full and shameless support of the United States government. The developments in Ukraine followed by the recent escalations in Gaza are significant markers reflecting that there has been a qualitative change within the imperialist system. The U.S. has now completed its economic, political, and military subordination of all the other imperialist countries. This has consolidated an integrated, militarily focused imperialist bloc. It aims to maintain a grip on the Global South as a whole and has turned its attention to dominating Eurasia, the last area of the world that has escaped its control.
It is not a matter of exaggeration to say that the Global North has declared a state of open hostility and war on any section of the Global South that does not comply with the policies of the Global North. This is seen in the joint declaration on EU-NATO Cooperation published on 9 January 2023:
We will further mobilise the combined set of instruments at our disposal, be they political, economic, or military, to pursue our common objectives to the benefit of our one billion citizens.
The Palestinian people in Gaza are certainly feeling the palpable barbarity of NATO+ and the forced ‘mass consensus’ of which the Global North is capable. As Palestinian liberation leader Leila Khaled put it recently:
We know that they speak about terrorism, but they are the heroes of terrorism. The imperialist force everywhere in the world, in Iraq, in Syria, in different countries… are preparing to attack China. All of what they say about terrorism turns to be about them. People have the right to resist with all means to it, including the armed struggle. This is in the Charter of the United Nations. So, they are violating the rights of people for resistance because it’s their right to restore their freedom. And this is, and I say it always, a fundamental law: where there is repression, there is resistance. People will not live under occupation and repression. History taught us that when people resist, they can keep their dignity and their land.
Imperialism has begun its transformation to a new stage: Hyper-Imperialism. This is imperialism conducted in an exaggerated and kinetic way, whilst also subject to the constraints that the declining empire has foisted on itself. The spasmodic quality of its exertion is felt by the millions of Congolese, Palestinians, Somalis, Syrians, and Yemeni living under U.S. militarism, whose heads instinctively jerk for cover at sudden sounds.
Yet, this is not the full-blooded march across the globe that the Cold War initiated, fought in proxy battles that were followed by economic imperialism through the World Bank and other development institutions. It is the imperialism of a drowning billionaire who firmly believes he ought to be back on his yacht. It flexes the muscles of power that are still strong—the military. However, absent productive power and knowing that financial power is at a tipping point, the full suite of imperial technologies of control that the U.S. once had is no longer at its disposal. It, therefore, channels its efforts through the mechanisms it has most at hand: culture (the control of truth) and war.
The tactics of Hyper-Imperialism are shaped partly by the modernisation of hybrid warfare, which includes lawfare, hyper-sanctions, seizure of national reserves and assets, and other manners of non-military warfare. New technological tools of surveillance and targeted communication characterising the digital age are deployed to wage imperialist control of the battle of ideas. This has involved implementing more perverse and covert methods against the truth, such as the political imprisonment of WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange, who exposed numerous crimes against the Global South.
The Global North is an integrated military, political, and economic bloc composed of 49 countries. These include the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, and secondary Western and Eastern European countries. In the military arena, Turkey (as a NATO member), the Republic of Korea and the Philippines (de facto militarised colonies of the US) are included in our definition of the ‘U.S.-led Military Bloc’, even though they are part of the Global South.
Over the last twenty years, the Global North has endured a significant relative economic decline, along with a political, social, and moral decline. Its false ‘moral’ claims of civil rights and ‘press freedom’ are now complete mockeries as they seek to make illegal the public (including online) support for Palestinian rights. This full-on support for the humiliation and destruction of the darker peoples of the world is reminiscent of past centuries, exposing what can be described as collective ‘white fragility’.
The Global South countries comprise former colonies and semi-colonies, a few non-European independent states, and current and former socialist projects. The struggles for national liberation, independence, development, and total economic and political sovereignty still need to be completed for most of the Global South.
Despite the limitations of the terminology, we will use the term ‘Global North’ and occasionally ‘the West’ (an often-used hollow phrase) interchangeably with the more accurate term of the ‘U.S.-Led Imperialist Camp’. We will analyse the Global North in four ‘Rings’. The rest of the world is currently known as the ‘Global South’, much of it was previously called the ‘Third World’. We will analyse the Global South in six ‘Groupings’ that are determined by the relative degree to which a country is a target of regime change and the role its government plays in publicly advancing international, anti-imperialist stances (both in Figure 1). The Global North is engaged in much higher levels of generalized conflict with the rest of the world, the Global South.
Read the full article at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research