Photo: UN General Assembly hall. Credit — Patrick Gruban
The speech today by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the opening of this year’s UN General Assembly starkly reflected a world in crisis. “Let’s have no illusions,” Guterres said, “We are in rough seas. A winter of global discontent is on the horizon. A cost-of-living crisis is raging. Trust is crumbling. Inequalities are exploding. Our planet is burning … We have a duty to act. And yet we are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction.”
“Colossal global dysfunction” is an apt way to describe the present condition of world politics. But Guterres, former Prime Minister of NATO member Portugal, could not or would not identify the culprit behind this state of affairs: U.S. imperialism.
Guterres devoted much of his speech to the war in Ukraine and the global economic ramifications of the conflict. The United States masterminded the expansion of NATO towards Russia’s borders in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, creating an existential security concern for Russia and making conflict all but inevitable – an outcome many warned of at the beginning of the NATO enlargement drive. And in the more immediate sense, the Biden administration has moved to turn the conflict into an all-out proxy war by offering essentially unlimited financing to the Ukrainian military, providing advanced weapons systems, and imposing massive sanctions on Russia.
The U.S. government refuses to take the decisive action necessary on climate change, even though it was the U.S. capitalist class that by far contributed the most to global carbon emissions since the industrial revolution. The planet-killing fossil fuel industry is anchored in the United States, enjoying the backing of Wall Street and the protection of Washington.
In region after region of the world, the mark of U.S. empire can be found where the suffering is the worst and the situation most dangerous.
In Latin America, the people of Cuba and Venezuela are faced with unrelenting economic war. The U.S. blockade of Cuba has now been in place for over 50 years, and has become even more air-tight since the Trump administration imposed 243 new measures targeting the island. This has caused severe problems in all sectors of the economy, including the critical electrical sector. Venezuela too is a top target for regime change, with Washington intent on preventing the country from using its vast natural resources for the benefit of its people. The Biden administration has maintained Trump’s absurd policy of recognizing Juan Guaidó as the official president as opposed to the internationally-recognized and democratically-elected head of state Nicolás Maduro.
Fighting is flaring again in northern Ethiopia as the TPLF armed group fights government forces in its attempt to reestablish its stranglehold over the country. The TPLF brutally ruled Ethiopia for nearly 30 years with U.S. backing, faithfully following the dictates of Washington in international affairs. Now, Washington is beginning to impose sanctions on the Ethiopian government on the pretext of human rights violations, but with the true intention of stifling any move towards greater unity and independence in the Horn of Africa region.
And in its campaign of “great power competition” against China, the United States is imposing on the world a New Cold War environment where peace and international cooperation is imperiled as the U.S. government desperately tries to hang on to its dominance of the globe. Nancy Pelosi’s recent trip to Taiwan, facilitated by the Biden administration, raised the prospect of catastrophic all-out conflict.
In the coming days, world leaders will address the General Assembly and lay out their perspective on this “colossal global dysfunction”. This annual gathering can be an important opportunity for the governments targeted by Washington to make their voices heard, but it is ultimately powerless to reshape world affairs in a more just way. For that, only a resolute and sustained struggle against U.S. empire can prevail – a struggle that the U.S. working class has every interest in joining.