by Jahan Choudhry
This year there was political turmoil in the heart of imperialism as the ruling elite struggled to continue their war policies while new possibilities for a multipolar world were seen in the continued rise of Russia, China, the struggle for sovereignty on the African continent and even the FIFA World Cup. A serious reckoning with this year’s events reveals new possibilities for the world order to move into a more progressive direction.
Midterms in the US: Escalating Crisis
November 2022 saw the US midterm elections. Held every two years (marking the halfway point of a four year presidential term), it is usual for the party holding the White House to lose seats. Polls prior to the elections were predicting a “red wave” in favor of the opposition Republican Party. The election results bucked many established trends. Biden’s historic low approval rating did not lead to the expected disaster. While the Republicans picked up respectable gains, including a record amount of minority voters and a record number of Black Republicans elected to the US House in a century, it was far from a Democratic Party wipeout. However, this better than expected performance is linked to severe voting irregularities. For the second time since the 2020 election, mail in ballots played a major role and NGOs and trade unions were mobilized by the Democratic Party to encourage mail in ballots in their favor. A nexus of well funded pro-Democratic NGOs engage in this process of “ballot harvesting” and “ballot curing” to “help” voters fill out ballots. This is unprecedented and has changed election dynamics in the US in harmful ways that we do not fully understand yet.
The mainstream media itself tried to portray this as a defeat for the Trump movement. However, what the election and subsequent media narrative revealed is the Trump movement’s conflict with elites in both parties. Trump refused to back down in his challenge to the elites with a defiant speech announcing his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election in which he raised the issue of nuclear war and inflation among others. Trump’s campaign along with pro-Trump House Republicans promises to audit the Ukraine War spending will be an obstacle to the ruling elite’s war agenda. The ruling elite has anticipated this, with the lame duck Congress’s final spending bill, which gave Ukraine $40 billion in military aid, bringing the total amount of military aid to Ukraine since the start of the war to $100 billion which is more than Russia’s total 2022 military budget of $75 billion, and astronomically higher than average annual US spending on the Afghanistan war which was $217 million.
Relatedly, maverick entrepreneur Elon Musk purchased the social media platform Twitter. Musk has promised to restore free speech to the platform which has been accused of suppressing dissenting voices on issues ranging from the Ukraine War to the Covid 19 pandemic. Musk has released a number of Twitter files exposing the collaboration of Twitter with powerful elements in the US deep state. Among Musk’s revelations about Twitter’s previous management has been the release of documents concerning Twitter’s collaboration with the FBI during the 2020 election to suppress tweets about the Hunter Biden laptop scandal as well as criticism of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s Covid policies. Musk’s revelations are fueling discontent about the 2020 elections and actions of the deep state in swaying its outcome. The public will likely be shocked by the level of deep state involvement in social media, especially as it pertains to the 2020 presidential election. Americans will see clearly that the election manipulation was to oust Donald Trump, a president opposed to military confrontation with Russia, and to engage in a war that will take money out of the pockets of the American working class.
FIFA World Cup Qatar: Reflecting Multipolarity
Fall 2022 marked the Fifa World Cup in the gulf emirate of Qatar. The decision to give hosting duties to the gulf nation was made in 2012 at a time in which the world was very different. Donald Trump was an eccentric reality show host, Russia had yet to be ejected from the G8, Xi Jinping was only the vice president of China and the people’s republic had yet to announce the Belt and Road Initiative. Fresh off a regime change operation in Libya, it is fair to say that Washington did not believe its hegemony would weaken so quickly. By this Fall, the collective West began a hysterical campaign against Qatar. Though Qatar’s record on labor rights, not to mention its historic partnership with the West, is not ideal, the Western media campaign was full of double standards. It seems the real fear was that a world cup in Asia would reflect an increasingly multipolar world. Morocco’s historic run became a phenomenon for fans in the Third World especially due to its successive upsets of Iberian giants Spain and Portugal in which fans referenced historic revenge for the Reconquista and Spanish inquisition. Despite the Moroccan kingdom’s pro-Western policies, the Arab-African team’s confidence on the pitch and displays of Islamic piety and familial affection won the hearts of darker humanity. The ubiquitous displays of Palestinian flags, including by the Moroccan team after wins, showed a strong Third World consciousness among players and fans. A spectacular final between a French team composed heavily of players of African descent and South American powerhouse Argentina sealed the most representative world cup ever. Despite racist coverage of Qatar’s “hijacking” of the award ceremony, the tournament was symbolic of the direction the world is moving in with the FIFA president himself pointing to the fact that Europe must apologize for 3,000 years for colonialism before condemning anyone else.
China’s Continued Challenge
While the US state delves deeper into a crisis of legitimacy, China’s state illustrated its consolidation via the 20th Party Congress. President Xi Jinping gave a comprehensive address covering the need for the development of socialism, civilizational rejuvenation, and peaceful co-existence and sovereignty. Coupled with this were Xi’s first two post-pandemic foreign trips to Uzbekistan for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with heads of Arab states.
The SCO summit produced resolutions to encourage trade between member states in their own currencies. The Islamic Republic of Iran formally applied to join the grouping. This is significant given Iran’s 25 year treaty of friendship with China as well as its military assistance to Russia during the Ukraine war. Similarly it was reported that Saudi Arabia, Argentina, and Algeria applied to join BRICS, now tentatively renamed as BRICS+.
Although November 2022 also marked the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia it was notable most for its lack of coherence between Western and non-Western powers. The summit produced a face to face meeting between Biden and Xi as well as a tepid criticism of Russian operations in Ukraine. Commentators such as Pepe Escobar have noted the ways in which the G20 is hobbled by Western pressure and how BRICS+ with its new additions will serve as a more effective economic forum for non-Western nations. BRICS+ expands its heft with the addition of Saudi Arabia, responsible for nearly half the world’s oil production; Argentina, the second largest economy in South America after BRICS founding member Brazil; and Algeria, whose president reiterated his country’s continuing commitment to the New International Economic Order. It is also significant to note Lula Da Silva’s victory in the 2022 Brazilian presidential election due to Lula’s pioneer role in the establishment of BRICS as well as his public commitment earlier this year to establishing a pan-Latin American currency.
It is in the context of all of this that one must analyze the recent protests against the hijab mandate in Iran and covid lockdowns in China. Though there may be real frustration in the minds of many of the participants, the pattern of recent protests supported by the Western media shows the likelihood of their being attempted color revolutions aimed at overturning or at least weakening uncooperative regimes. The Iranian or Chinese masses have nothing to gain from a regime change or even a regime weakening in the face of US imperialism’s policies in Asia. The anti-hijab protests have come in the wake of what Iranian authorities have alleged is Western disinformation about the death of Mahsa Al Amini. Chinese protests are happening at a time in which prominent intellectuals such as Jeffery Sachs have argued Covid 19 is a lab leak and in the same year in which Russia called for a probe into an alleged US funded bioweapons facility in Ukraine. In this context it must be remembered that scientists such as Joseph Needham in the Korean War that US and allied forces used biological weapons against Korean and Chinese troops and civilians.
Saudi Arabia: A Turn Away from Western Imperialism?
The US is doubling down on a strategy of organizing its allies around imposing a “price cap” on Russian oil in order to hit oil revenues for the Russian government. However, this is becoming difficult due to Saudi Arabia’s move away from its traditional alliance with the US as evidenced by its application to join BRICS+. Following Saudi Arabia’s application for BRICS+, Xi received a festive welcome in the kingdom’s capital. Commentators noted the contrast with the cold reception crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman afforded to US president Joe Biden earlier this year following his refusal to accept Biden’s request to increase oil production to reduce Russia’s strategic advantage in the current scenario. During the summit with Bin Salman and other Arab leaders Xi publicly called for moving China’s import of oil away from the dollar to the yuan. If this move is followed it will be devastating for the dollar’s role as a global reserve currency and will likely increase the economic crisis within the United States. This in contrast to 2014, prior to Bin Salman’s rise to power, Saudi Arabia increased oil production on the Obama administration’s direction in order to lower oil prices to hurt Russia, Iran and Venezuela. In contrast the current Saudi has coordinated with other OPEC+ members to cut oil production which means rising revenues for itself as well as the same US foes of Russia, Iran, and Venezuela. The last attempt by Saudi leadership to defy Western dictates on oil production was the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo in protest of Western support for Israel, which was followed by the assassination of Saudi King Faisal by his nephew in 1975.
Though Saudi Arabia continues its multi-year war on Yemen with US support and continuing tensions with Iran, it is logical to ask how long this will be sustained given the kingdom’s embrace of China which is a close partner of Iran and Bin Salman’s own attempts to distance himself from the Biden administration. Fulfilling these moves by the Saudi leadership must necessitate moving out of coordination with US military strategy which would be welcome news to the people of Yemen. The Houthi leadership in Yemen has publicly advised Bin Salman to implement further cuts in oil production to pressure the West, despite being at war with the Saudi government.
Africa: A Struggle for Sovereignty
The world situation has had a great impact on the African continent as well. States are resisting Western infringement on their sovereignty in a way that can open up a path away from neocolonialism. For example, Washington is unhappy with Ethiopia’s prime minister Abhiy Ahmed, despite the fact that he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in normalizing the bitter relationship with neighbor Eritrea, for pursuing an independent foreign policy and transitioning Ethiopia’s state structure away from ethnic politics. The former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, failed to return to power following which the US supported an separatist insurgency by the TPLF in November 2020. The insurgency was put down by Ethiopian troops, possibly with Eritrean support. Despite the Ethiopian government’s success and peace treaty mediated by the African Union, the US goal is to maintain a wedge between Ethiopia and Eritrea to prevent peace and development in the Horn of Africa and to maintain AFRICOM troops in the region.
Western media has also been on a campaign against the Central African Republic for its relations with Russia. The CAR’s president hired the Wagner group, a private military contractor from Russia, to regain territory lost to Islamist rebels simultaneously removing French troops from separatist regions. Western media is upset with the CAR president’s sovereign relationship with the Wagner group and Russia, his expulsion of Western forces, and his regaining the diamond rich countries territorial integrity. The Western media is also upset at similar examples of Russian influence in the West African nations of Burkina Faso and Mali with independent governments establishing relations with Russia as a counterweight to Western, especially French hegemony over their countries.
It is in this context, as well as the refusal of the majority of African governments to condemn Russian actions in Ukraine in the UN, that the Biden administration held a US-Africa summit in December 2022 with the heads of 49 African states. Although Biden promised $55 billion in American commitments to Africa with the hopes of regaining ground lost to China, the New York Times reports that the African heads of state who attended are skeptical of the promises being fulfilled. This indicates Washington’s sense of desperation in losing hegemony over the African continent. African states, mired in various forms of neocolonial instability since the end of the Cold War, have the opportunity to regain sovereignty over their lands and pursue serious development to meet the needs of their citizens. The examples of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Central African Republic are evidence that African leaders are taking this historic shift seriously.
The end of 2022 shows the world moving closer to a just world order with a strengthening collaboration of states and social movements opposed to Western hegemony. From Russia to China to Africa and Latin America there is reason for optimism undergirded by a continued struggle. However, US war policy remains the greatest threat to humanity as evidenced by US policy in Ukraine, attempts to stir up conflict in the Taiwan straits and ongoing attempts at regime change and domination throughout the world. The US ruling elite is facing a crisis of legitimacy perhaps even greater than the US Civil War. Yet a growing basis of unity between a populist movement of the American people and the anti-imperialist forces in the world is becoming more possible. The new year will bring new challenges but this gives the forces of peace a direction for serious work.
Jahanzaib Choudhry is a graduate student at Carnegie Melon University and a member of the Saturday Free School.