Thoughts on hurricane season
Hurricane season started yesterday and continues through to November 30. Fortunately, the predictions for this year indicate that we are in line for a relatively average season, with between 12 and 17 named storms, of which five to nine may form actual hurricanes.
Away from the meteorological storms, there are more figurative storm clouds forming on the horizon that we need to consider. What are these storms I warn of?
1, Escalating risks of war
The proxy war between the West and Russia in Ukraine is seeing the risk of escalating into a formal global confrontation, including the risk of nuclear war. Additionally, we are looking at increasing risks of a confrontation between the West and China, with Taiwan the most obvious trigger.
2, Impacts of climate change
In the past few years, we have seen increased realities of climate change, with extreme weather events, mass heatwaves, mass wildfires, collapses of glacial systems, food crop failures, the pandemic, etc. And indications are things are only going to get worse. The world’s governments are intent on putting profit over people and planet, continually kicking the proverbial can down the road to the point where climate change is essentially irreversible and cascade events risk mass ecological collapse. Governments spend a lot of time talking to disguise their inaction, while large firms pump huge amounts of money into disinformation campaigns and funding far-Right groups to oppose any moderate attempts to address the problem.
3, Global recession
After years of failing to address the structural problems of the 2008 economic crisis, and instead using cheap credit through qualitative easing and low interest rates to paper over the structural crisis of neoliberalism, the consequences are beginning to show, accelerated by the challenges of the pandemic. Attempts to reverse course through interest rate hikes have already initiated the beginning of a banking crisis and we can expect — at best — recessions with global consequences in the United States, Britain and Germany, and generally stagnant economies in France and Italy. To a degree, this may be mitigated by arms sales and post-conflict reconstruction, along with the new drive for supply-chain resilience, the latter nominally a reaction to the pandemic, but also doubling as part of the new Cold War with China.
4, Ongoing financial crisis of the state
Neoliberalism has, if not initiated, then at least accelerated the financial crisis of the state. It has seen the state largely starved of funding, through tax cuts to the rich, and funding crises — just look at the attack on welfare from the US debt-ceiling agreement — for social welfare programmes, while increasing economic inequality and precarity, increasing demand for the same social welfare programmes. The state has its own problematic. However, inasmuch as it represents the balance of class struggle, it can and is used as a key tool in the perpetual class war. For almost 40 years, the capitalist class has been on the offensive and the working class has seen not just its defensive organisations on the retreat, but also its real wages and quality of life. And as the state is confronted with the risk of war and the war of attrition that climate change threatens, combined with global economic instability, the financial crisis of the state will only deepen.
5, Rise of artificial intelligence
Many have heard about ChatGPT, and there are many similar such artifical intelligence initiatives happening at the moment. If we lived in what the Marxist psychoanalyst referred to as a “sane society” that prioritised people and planet over profit maximisation, AI would not be overly problematic. It would see humanity increasingly freed from the realm of necessity and allow us to fully develop our individual selves through reducing workloads while not affecting productivity — giving workers more free time to be fully realised humans. Under the existing system, however, it threatens economic insecurity for workers, increasing the reserve army of labour — and thus depressing wages — while reducing the complexity of work itself into more and more mind-numbing labour. In the Bermuda context, the primary risk is the impact on international business. As AI develops, it is likely that it will threaten the job security of many international business workers, reducing the need for so many workers, with a domino effect on other job sectors that support or otherwise depend on IB — and further deepening the crisis of the state.
6, The fascist threat
It should be no secret to anyone who has paid attention to global developments in the past decade that the West is seeing a resurgent fascist movement. Fascistic governments are already in power in Hungary, Poland and Italy. Strong fascist movements are growing in Spain — see the recent advances of Vox — Germany and France. The British Conservative Party and the US Republican Party have largely or are mutating towards becoming fully fascist parties. In the US, this is being driven by Trumpism — itself an outgrowth of the Tea Party movement — and in Britain this has been triggered by United Kingdom Independence Party forcing the political Centre to the Right, to the point we saw recently in the launch of the National Conservative Conference, replete with anti-Semitic trappings.
None of these storms operate in isolation; they are all interconnected. And in the face of the storms ahead, we must all keep informed, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. At least with these storms, we still have a chance to take action and prevent the worst-case scenarios.
• Jonathan Starling is a socialist writer with an MSc in Ecological Economics from the University of Edinburgh and an MSc in Urban and Regional Planning from Heriot-Watt University