The USA’s coming perfect storm of crises

New York’s Times Square during lockdown

It is said that the Chinese character for “crisis” is a combination of the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.”

I don’t know whether that is literally true or not.  I do believe that the USA faces a historical turning point—a perfect storm of crises out of which something better just possibly may come.

The crisis is economic, political and cultural.

The economic crisis is the high rates of unemployment, bankruptcies and evictions.

Revolutions are typically led by unemployed intellectuals.  Nationalist rebellions are typically led by unemployed war veterans.  The USA has plenty of both.

Many of us Americans hate each other based on our political affiiation.

Neither party is trying to win over members of the other side.  Partisan Democrats regard Republicans as bigots; partisan Republicans regard Democrats as immoral.  These are character judgements, not policy judgments.

Both sides have factions willing to resort to armed force.

In some of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, factions invaded municipal and federal government buildings and burned police stations.

In the recent pro-Trump election protests, an armed faction invaded the Capitol and tried to prevent the certification of the winner in the 2020 elections.

I don’t make light of any of this, but the actual number of deaths—an estimated 25 in protests during 2020 and five in the Capitol invasion—could have been a lot higher than they were.  There is potential for things to get a lot worse.

Ammunition and firearms sales are at record levels.  I don’t think these sales are limited to hunters, sportsmen and people who want guns for home protection, nor do I think they are limited to right-wing Republicans.

Only a small number of Americans are actually ready to engage in organized armed violence.  But there are millions who think that violence by one side is excusable and violence by the other side is inexcusable. 

It is interesting that all the armed factions, with few if any exceptions, consist of white men.  That includes those who embed themselves in the Black Lives Matter protests. There is a certain number of individual hoodlums and looters, including whites as well as blacks, but there is as yet no armed black organization equivalent to the Black Panthers of the late 1960s.

The stage is set for a continuing low-level war.  I don’t predict such a conflict will happen.  I do say there is nothing in place that guarantees it won’t happen.

President-elect Biden, who has taken credit for the USA Patriot Act, is talking about new laws against “domestic terrorism.”  Silicon Valley is moving to silence Trump supporters

The result of this will be to convince the hard-core MAGA Republicans that the political system is so stacked against them that they cannot work within it.  The populist radical left is also being squeezed out of the political system and may come to the same conclusion.

There’s long been a vast repressive apparatus in place to deal with any uprising. It is almost as if the powers that be have long expected an uprising and have made advance preparations to prevent it from succeeding.

We also have a crisis of governmental administration, revealed by the ineffective response to the coronavirus pandemic and climate-related weather disasters.

All these crises are coming together and reinforcing each other.

Western democracies faced a similar crisis in the 1930s—an economic collapse and an elite fearful of revolution and Communism.

The United States, the Scandinavian democracies and others managed to reform the capitalist system, enough to make it acceptable to the working class majority. 

Germany, Austria and others, following in the footsteps of Fascist Italy, turned to an authoritarian, right-wing dictator, who crushed the radicals and liberals.

Great Britain in the 1930s never had an opposition that threatened the status quo.  The 1930s were a decade of poverty and stagnation for most Britons. 

France was caught in a deadlock between a right-wing and the left-wing who hated each other more than they loved their own country.  Many a Frenchman preferred Hitler or Stalin to their opponents in their own country.  They were unable to unify against a foreign foe or to deal with the economic crisis at home.

In the young Spanish republic, an attempted revolution and an attempted nationalist coup caused a civil war that took hundreds of thousands of lives, and ended in a dictator taking power.

I do not say that any of these things are inevitable for us today.  I do say they can’t be ruled out.

The best of these possibilities is a new New Deal.  It wouldn’t happen in exactly the same way because economic and political power is different from what it was in 1932.  But there are emerging tenants’ rights organizations, new labor movements and multi-racial movements for social justice that could bring about constructive change.

Who knows?  The Black Lives Matter movement may come to think they can accomplish their goals better if they acknowledge that all lives matter.  MAGA Republicans may come to advocate practical economic policies that actually would help make America great again.  Stranger things have happened.

G.K. Chesterton wrote somewhere that there is no such thing as a doom that will overtake you no matter what you do, but there is such a thing as a doom that will overtake you if you don’t do anything.


The Terror of Liberals in a Time of Insurrection by Ian Welsh.

The Conditions Now Exist for a Long-Term Right-Wing Insurgency in America by Ian Welsh.

Image via CNBC.

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One Response to “The USA’s coming perfect storm of crises”

  1. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    Sadly I will not be able to add to the record guns and ammunition sales. Being retired I don’t have that kind of money and guns and ammo have gotten too expensive for me.


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