Crisis Theory [CT] was drafted to arm New Black Nationalists with a predictive model of the causes and outcomes that occur when countries spiral into an existential crisis; namely governmental collapse, partition, civil war, revolution, and counter-revolution.
Toppling ruling classes and creating new nation-states are events conceived in the fog and heat of extreme crisis moments. It is the maturing of unforeseen circumstances in a compressed timeframe that sets the stage for revolutionary battles for power.
From the French and Indian War to the Civil War, free Blacks and slaves devised exodus liberation strategies to outmaneuver France, America, and England, while thwarting the intrigues of the American Colonization Society. Blacks leveraged these crises to establish free colonies in Nova Scotia and Buxton, Canada, Trinidad, Sierra Leone, Haiti, and Liberia.
In the 2020's, the Black Commons will likely be presented with their first opportunity to win full self-determination and create an independent Black nation--this time on the landmass of America's settler state.
The storm clouds gathering over American Empire foreshadow a reckoning unlike any other era of the American experiment. The signs of an impending cataclysm are ubiquitous and preparations for a convulsive civil conflict are in train.
The acceleration of events began when Donald Trump weaponized race-based cultural warfare in his gallop to win the presidency. Once in the Oval Office, his administration probed the boundaries of authoritarian rule, adopting draconian measures and operational contingencies foreshadowing a White Nationalist-led seizure of power. On January 6, 2021, Trump gave the green light for an assault on U.S. Capitol, to stop the transfer of presidential power to Joe Biden, and initiate a process by which he would be installed as an autocratic ruler for life.
Civil war and race war are no longer dismissed as adolescent carnival conjured by revolutionary romantics engaged in the heavy lifting of armchair philosophy. The rise of Trump and White Nationalism raised serious concerns that America was entering the uncharted waters of a fascist state. Biden's victory in 2020, didn't settle the question of whether fascism or the threat of autocratic rule has been averted: it merely postponed it. Oligarchy could be one general election away, and a battlefield tested blueprint now exist to impose an authoritarian regime.
Crisis Theory (CT) explores how America's settler state could buckle and collapse under the duress of a governing crisis. It also identifies critical crisis indicators, and maps future crisis scenarios.
New Black Nationalist Crisis Theory is anchored in the following constitutive elements.
1) The United States is no longer the world's peerless imperialist superpower. The sustainability of American Empire requires managing the economic imperatives of international capitalism, while enforcing the designs of Global North's security architecture.
2) Crisis Theory represents a synthesis of the laws governing the workings of imperialism and the historical lessons dictating the rise and fall of empires. Thousands of years before the advent of capitalism and the rise of Westphalian nations in the 1600s, empires dominated the planet. New Black Nationalists hold that empire remains the dominant corporeal entity encasing the international capitalist system.
3) The strategic vulnerabilities of American Empire are multiple and interlocking, i.e. wars, economic crisis, pandemics, cyber attacks, catastrophic climate change, racial conflagration, biological warfare, political gridlock, and imperial overreach. Any of these vulnerabilities can usher American Empire to the precipice of collapse. A slow, inept, divided, or flawed governmental response to any of these crises or a contingency in which one crisis bleeds into another could push Washington, D.C. over the edge and in the Potomac.
4) The phenomenon of imperial decline is not simply a process of slow and incremental decay. Existential crisis moments emerge when a quantitative buildup suddenly explodes into a qualitative leap. Consider that Tunisian street vendor Mohammad Bouazizi self-immolated after Tunisian officials spat on him and confiscated his vegetable cart. That incident ignited the "Arab Spring" risings across the Middle East. The COVID-19 pandemic metastasized with blinding speed in the U.S., killing 325,000 people in nine months, while traumatizing the national economy. The Berlin Wall suddenly came tumbling down to the complete surprise of the CIA and everyone else. Disbelief in the possibility that American Empire could suddenly collapse in the space of a month or a week, is the strategic blind spot that inhibits movement radicals and the masses from envisioning revolutionary possibilities on the horizon.
5) In every existential crisis, the inability of critical institutions to respond to the moment due to confusion, obsolescence, dysfunction or the lack of broad-based legitimacy, triggers a tipping point. Divided parliaments bicker but cannot act; presidents and prime ministers propose emergency measures that fail to hold the center, troops are ordered to fire on the opposition, but their guns fall silent. Instead, the soldiers pass over to support the opposition or remain neutral. In Chinua Achebe's words, Things Fall Apart.
6) Fast-moving, chaotic crises draw all of societies' forces into the revolutionary fray, many against their will. But it is usually a small, unified, and determined force that dictates the outcome of the crisis.
7) When an existential crisis emerges, revolutionary Black Nationalists will need allies, but they don't have to be the largest force in the streets. Black Nationalists must be a highly influential, determined, and disciplined force. The argument for creating an independent Black nation or other forms of self-determination, must generate sympathy among a large section of the population, and neutrality among other sectors to prevent them from going over to the counter-revolution.
The ability of Black Nationalists to maneuver in space and time will likely decide the outcome of an existential crisis. Above all, Black Nationalists must act with the understanding that revolution is both a science and an art form.
8) All empires come with an expiration date. Every empire in human history has collapsed or been overthrown. There is no American Exceptionalism to this fundamental law of empire. It's not a question of if American Empire will fall, but when. As this brief holds, New Black Nationalists believe the objective conditions are ripe for the collapse of American Empire in the 2020's.
Imperialism in the throes of decline, is a nuclear explosion in search of a magnetic force field. It's moving parts, both domestically and internationally are fluid, dynamic, and unpredictable. It takes an experienced, disciplined force armed with theory to convert the complex terrain of an existential crisis into a revolutionary victory.
Since our inception in 2018 as a network committed to rebuilding Black Nationalism's theoretical arsenal, NBN has always sourced its analysis from a diverse menu of theories and constructs. In the following section we background the historical source codes underpinning our crisis theory.
Origins and Some Thoughts Concerning Crisis Theory
Crisis theory is rooted in Karl Marx's analysis of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall in capitalist systems. The relentless exploitation of the working class to increase surplus value/profits results in repeated boom and bust cycles of economic crises, and ultimately revolts by the working class to overthrow capitalism. Despite attempts to counteract the tendency of profit rates to fall by capitalist switching to alternative markets, finding cheaper sources of labor, or developing more productive machinery, crises of overproduction, and periods of massive overextension of credit and speculation pushed countries into multi-year recessions and depressions. Thus, on the one hand, crisis theory developed to explain when and how stabilizers stopped working for capitalist systems. On the other, crisis theory became a critical tool of analysis for rising revolutionary forces to act on dramatic changes in objective conditions to prepare to seize power.
Russian leader Vladimir Lenin applied Marx's analysis of capitalisms to its highest stage of development: imperialism. In 1916, Lenin theorized that European countries' global scramble to plunder and divide colonies among themselves, led to World War 1, and its unparalleled destruction that caused 15 million dead bodies scattered across the killing fields of Europe. As Lenin predicted, World War 1 ignited revolutionary uprisings of workers and peasants against their own oppressive ruling classes.
In 1917, when Russian Tsar Alexander's government collapsed, Lenin led an armed revolution to establish the first workers and peasants' socialist government. Notwithstanding the breakthrough of the Russian Revolution and Germany's squandered attempt to siege power in 1920, Marx's analysis that focused primarily on Europe and the advent of mass-scale industrial capitalism could not fully anticipate the system's multifaceted ability to adapt, expand, and remake itself. Both in intensive contact with the global markets via its colonial venture, and through innovating and creating new markets within its own national economy. Capitalism proved to be remarkably agile in its ability to mitigate economic crises and fend off potential existential financial collapse through a variety of means.
Two decades later in the aftermath of World War 2, Mao Tse-Tung ushered in a majority peasant-based communist revolution in China that became a model for future revolutionary movements in colonialized countries.
By the mid-1950's the Black Martinican psychiatrist cum revolutionary theorist Franz Fanon, "stretched" Marxist doctrine on the National Question into an alternative decolonial theory of Third World armed revolution. Fanon's revolutionary force: the wretched of the earth, would be led by Black, brown, and yellow peasants, not the proletariat. Fanon joined the National Liberation Front of Algeria, but died one year before the NLF overthrew French colonial rule in 1962.
Contemporary Marxist-Leninists, Social Democrats, and decolonial theorists continue to uphold the doctrine that imperialism is the dominant international system of capitalist exploitation. But the bi-coastal left almost uniformly rejects Lenin's analysis that the contradictions of imperialism will lead to existential crises and revolutionary possibilities in "advanced capitalist" countries.
Instead the left and admittedly some Black Nationalists continue to recycle spent nostrums asserting that imperialism can peacefully evolve into socialism. Among left-wing millennials, ersatz notions of Ernest Mandel's theory of "late capitalism" are a variant of this school of thought that has gained currency.
In truth, however, Lenin never argued that revolutions in advanced capitalist countries could only happen during a world war. Some groups like the Revolutionary Communist Party's in the 1970s and 80's insisted with religious fervor that a revolutionary situation would arise when the U.S. and the Soviet Union commenced World War 3. The Soviet Union collapsed under its own dead weight in 1991.
New Black Nationalists believe the steady erosion of American Empire's political, economic, and military power is leading to its own undoing. Although ongoing limited wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen are draining resources and the American people's tolerance for endless wars, absent a larger conflict with mass casualties, war will not be the determining factor triggering an existential collapse.
Ironically, if one is looking for a historical prototype that might closely resemble American Empire spiraling into freefall, Russia's 1993 Constitutional Crisis provides rich context.
The U.S.S.R's dissolution in 1991, was followed two years later by Boris Yeltsin ousting Mikhail Gorbachev as the new Russian republic's president. At once, Yeltsin encountered an intransigent Russian parliament that blocked every "reform" initiative he put forward. That standoff led to a constitutional crisis in December 1993.
The subsequent sequence of events after Yeltsin became president sketches the outline of a revolutionary path that could unfold in America's settler state. For months Gorbachev's old guard Communist Party apparatchiks with their rigid state control over the economy, engaged in a tit for tat struggle with Yeltsin's open democracy, freewheeling "go-go" capitalist camp.
The issues were aired out in intense debates and pitched street battles across Russia. In Moscow, 143 people were killed in street fighting between the two factions. President Yeltsin's moved to resolve the constitutional crisis with Russia's parliament by illegally dissolving the body by force. The Russian army that had remained neutral throughout the crisis, finally entered the power struggle and sided with Yeltsin.
The argument by some that the events in 1993 didn't represent a revolution because one group of state-capitalists displaced another group of free market capitalists is a literalist interpretation that essentially misses the point.
It diminishes the mass struggle of the people, the events that compelled divergent forces to openly vie for their interests, take sides and form unexpected alliances. That argument also ignores the drastic economic changes and upheaval that ultimately led to oligarchy and Putin's restoration of dictatorship. The struggle was marked by fast paced developments, sharp turns of events, and the whole of society being thrown up for grabs. That's hardly describes a palace coup of one set of bureaucrats playing musical chairs with another.
Moreover, the multiple causes of Russian constitutional crisis could easily be replicated in an existential crisis in the United States. Russia's constitutional crisis unfolded amid political exhaustion caused by Gorbachev's perestroika campaign that failed to give the people a real voice in the affairs of state. The weariness and pain of losing sons and daughters in the brutal genocidal war against Chechnya was widespread. Russia's economy that went from bad to worse, and the incessant scandals of Communist Party leaders lining their pockets with dirty money engendered deep hatred for the Gorbachev regime.
Russia's slow quantitative decline that occurred on so many levels finally exploded when Yeltsin's faced off with the Russian parliament. Similarly, looking back at 2020 in the United States, we can see a similar pattern of how the steady drumroll of decline could spin out of control.
In January, the U.S. was invaded by the COVID-19 pandemic. An inept response turned the pandemic into a national catastrophe. No one initially anticipated that the COVID-19 pandemic would tank the economy, throwing 10 million people out work. Mass unemployment combined with the persistence of the virus, turned the national education system upside down. Then came the unprecedented Black Lives Matter revolt, followed by the wildly contested 2020 elections.
Now imagine if on January 5, 2021, House of Representatives and Senate Republicans decide to challenge Biden's electors and instead seat Trump's electors; giving the self-styled autocrat a second term. Where would America's settler state find itself?
Another way of envisioning crisis theory is to look back at the revolutionary upsurges of the 1960's. The U.S., France, and the U.K. (all seats of empire) were battered in the 1960's by nationalist and revolutionary youth movements. However, these countries were never on the brink of financial collapse or an existential political crisis. At the height of the anti-Vietnam War protests and 200 Black urban rebellions in 1967 and 1968, the national unemployment rate in the U.S. was 3.6%, one of the lowest in history.
These contradictory trends in the 1960s of a strong U.S. economy and widespread political discord underscore the fact that America's ruling class had sufficient maneuvering room and financial reserves to co-opt the mass revolt.
Nevertheless, these battles brought new issues and new forces into an expanded body politic. While the anti-war, student, feminist, environmental, and Black Power movements of the 1960's challenged the status quo ante, they were largely radical formations seeking progressive reforms and increased democratization of America and Europe's political domain.
Notwithstanding the reformist nature of these movements, the ruling classes treated them as a subversive challenge to their continued rule and brutally suppressed them. The nationalist based movements in the U.S. and the U.K., were especially singled out for draconian measures. In the U.S., electronic surveillance, counter intelligence black ops, and targeted assassinations of revolutionary leaders were all conducted in the name of keeping society safe for democracy.
At the same time the U.S. government was "neutralizing" the Black Liberation Movement, the political establishment was also granting far reaching concessions to co-opt demands for participation in decision making processes. Job markets, multi-cultural initiatives, and affirmative action programs were thrown open to create a Black middle-class buffer group, and Black and Latinos were elected to public office in record numbers.
That Western capitalist countries have managed to maintain relative economic and political stability since World War 2, speaks to the surprising resiliency of the imperial order under American Empire. The ability of capitalism, to expand and recreate itself with new markets in the core competencies of electronics, green technologies, interactive media platforms, medicine, cultural products, and high-speed financial transactions is precisely what Marx alluded to when he said that capitalism was the most revolutionary system man has created.
The expansion of capitalism in Eastern Europe, Russia and Asia, from the 1990's to the 2020's, even under the constraints of autocratic governments provided powerful reserves that sustained American Empire's international dominance.
Nevertheless, American Empire cannot defy the laws of gravity. It cannot escape the basic laws of the declining rate of profit, the suffocating alienation of humankind in its ravenous social production process, the irrationality of markets, the violent periods of economic contraction, expansion and attendant crisis, and competition with other rising capitalist powers like China.
Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's admitted as much in a 2017 Foreign Policy Quarterly article. The chief architect who reverse-engineered the 2007 Sub-Prime Mortgage Financial Crisis didn't speculate about whether a financial crisis is coming, but what could happen when it comes.
Geithner concluded the U.S. will be "even less prepared to deal with a crisis" than in 2007, because the Dodd-Frank financial reforms crippled Washington's ability to defuse a financial crisis. He argues that the Federal Reserve, the FDIC and the Treasury Department's emergency powers to quickly inject massive government funds into the private sector have been curtailed. Worse still, those processes must be approved by Congress.
It is the potential delays in the process of getting Congress to act, that could lead to financial runs on banks and lending institutions, in effect repeating the 2007 scenario when Lehman Brothers went belly up. If Congress could barely pass a stop gap COVID-19 bill at the height of the pandemic, what are the odds they could unwind a financial crash in the middle of a comprehensive crisis?
In New Black Nationalists view, a financial crash is a high probability, high impact event that could trigger an existential crisis because American Empire is already a debtor's prison. The U.S. national debt currently stands at $21 trillion. In addition to a $1.3 trillion deficit, the U.S. trade deficit with the European Union is $140 billion and $375 billion with China.
Washington's weakened financial position means it can no longer set the global economic agenda on its own terms, nor is it the only destination for countries seeking capital, resources, and influence.
Moreover, as leader of an Empire, should a few European or South American economies go bust, or a sudden energy crisis paralyzes Europe, Washington would be forced to bail them out or risk a wider global crisis.
Technology and globalization have also proven to be digital albatrosses, increasing Global South's dependency on Global North's imperialist eco-system, instead of engendering independence and reducing disparities. In addition, one of American Empire's greatest vulnerabilities in from cyber attacks on its strategic infrastructure. Russian massive 2020 cyber attack on the federal Commerce, Treasury, and Homeland Security departments for months was a phenomenal breach of security.
Bluntly stated, the old post-World War 2 international order organized by American Empire is disintegrating. All the institutions it created to dominate the global system: the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the United Nations and NATO have diminished in power.
So too, the tenants of liberal empire: open markets, expanded democracy, rule of law and accountable governance is faltering. Left and right-wing populism is flourishing, authoritarian powers flout long-accepted rules, and failed states like Yemen are radiating new threats. Meanwhile, the gap in power and influence between the United States--the leader and guarantor of the existing order--and the rest of the world is closing.
In this sense, Trump's "America First" foreign policy hastened the steady erosion of U.S. power. Despite Trump's downgrading America's role in NATO, coddling Russia's Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jung Ung, and reducing U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan against his generals advice, the center of America's foreign policy portfolio held.
If there is a significant internal foreign policy dispute among American Empire's elites, it's whether Russia or China constitutes the most significant threat to American Empire. Republican's have united around taking a hard line against China on trade, currency manipulation, and military expansion in Asia. Of course their motivation is partly driven by attacking Joe Biden for his son's grifting on bribes from Beijing. For the moment they also want to stay in Trump's good graces by mimicking his anti-Chinese rhetoric.
Democrats continue to focus on Russia and Putin's aggressive cyber war attacks on America's technology infrastructure and the continental threat he poses to Europe. Moscow role is also expanding in the Middle East, backing the Iran-Syria-Lebanese Hezbollah axis.
What is striking about this partisan dust up regarding Russia and China is that since World War 2, American Empire has pursued a grand strategy of triangulation to keep Russian and China at each others throat. The policy to prevent Russian-Chinese condominium opposed to American Empire's geo-strategic interests was for all intents and purposes abandoned during Trump's presidency.
Whether China deliberately spread the COIVID-19 pandemic or not, the outcome is clear. China recovered relatively quickly: the United States and Europe's economies and health care systems have been pummeled with millions of coronavirus cases and hundreds of thousands of deaths. As we move into 2021, the U.S. is bracing for its worse months of COVID-19 outbreaks, and several European countries are reinstituting shutdowns as new strains of the virus surface.
In the meantime, China's economic muscle is expanding while Europe and the United States economies are looking at two to three year recoveries once the COVID-19 crisis ends.
While the U.S. grapples with bringing the pandemic under control, China is clamping down on Hong Kong and extending its military build up in the South China Sea to challenge U.S. military superiority. Increasingly Chinese soft-power is on full display across Africa, Latin America and Europe.
In the short-run, the danger of a hot war between the U.S. and Russia or China seems remote. Slowly but surely, however, they are reducing American Empire's global footprint and economic interests.
Russia and China are civilizations that are thousands of years old. Their histories' of dealing with arrogant upstart nations and empires is extensive. They are playing the long geo-strategic game--one that American Empire doesn't have the patience or the fortitude to withstand. They too are waiting for American Empire to encounter its existential moment.
Some Concluding Thoughts
In concluding this thought document, it's helpful to return to a core element of New Black Nationalist Crisis Theory articulated earlier: "The strategic vulnerabilities of American Empire are multiple and interlocking, i.e., wars, economic crisis, pandemics, cyber attacks, catastrophic climate change, racial conflagration, biological warfare, political gridlock, and imperial overreach."
On January 1, 2020, New Black Nationalist issued a statement saying the decade of the 2020's will be one filled with war, revolution, and the collapse of American Empire. Over the past 12 months we have witnessed a presidential impeachment, a unprecedented pandemic, a near depression economy, 15 million protestors condemning state-sanctioned violence against Black people, and an attempted coup by the president to overturn the results of his own election defeat. Such are the times we live in.
Deeping our understanding of Crisis Theory as a vital component of Black Nationalism's corpus of works is an important task. To encourage critical and unconventional thinking in this area, we have included an article in the sidebar on "Game Theory" from strategist Thomas Riker. The article articulates an alternative method to assess the strengths and weaknesses of empires, focusing on the superpower contention between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union.
Events are accelerating towards an existential crisis, and a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity for Black people to win total liberation if we prepare for the moment. That "liberation moment" may arrive sooner than we think.