By: Raúl Zibechi
Even US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen admitted that the dollar’s hegemony is in danger, as sanctions on countries such as China, Russia and Iran can undermine the role of the greenback and, therefore, of whoever holds the power to print it (https://bit.ly/41lj8MA).
For more than a year, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the end of the unipolar world dominated by Washington has been proclaimed, and the bells have been rung on the fly that the dollar would be replaced by local currencies, such as the yuan or a basket of alternative currencies.
However, the erosion of the role of a currency such as the dollar will not happen in a short time if we stick to what happened in history, because there is no alternative currency ready to replace it. In the past, this has been possible after devastating wars that sank the economic system, dethroned the gold standard or the pound sterling, to refer only to what happened in the last century.
From Athens and Rome to the present day there have been various hegemonic currencies in trade and as a global or regional reserve, which lasted the time that elapsed until the end of the hegemony of that nation. Apparently, it was the Spanish coins that remained for the longest time in the role of reserve currencies and commercial exchange, between 1530 and 1641.
The great systemic crises promoted the replacement of reserve currencies, with wars playing a very prominent role in the collapse of hegemonic nations. In short, there are no economic laws that explain the exchange of reserve currencies, but armed force as the ultimate reason for the rise and decline of the dominant nations. The existence of nuclear weapons does not change this reality.
The recent European Global Anticipation Bulletin (GEAB) argues, after detailing the numerous ongoing crises: “At the heart of this earthquake is the end of the dollar’s global hegemony […] which constitutes a reversal of unprecedented violence, for which the BRICS has been preparing for 15 years, without the erratic efforts of Europe and the United States to follow the movement have achieved much” (https://bit.ly/3GPAzfS).
But the central issue for those of us who are not only anti-imperialist, but also anti-capitalist (and therefore reject colonialism and patriarchy), is what happens to peoples in hegemonic transitions.
First, peoples have always been “cannon fodder” in wars between powers. They shed blood to raise a new ruling class.
The second thing is that the new class is no less oppressive than the displaced one. Proof of this is what happened with peoples like the Mapuche under the Republic of Chile, which was more aggressive and violent than the Spanish crown. The same can be said of indigenous peoples in general, as well as the oppressed of our continent: although black peoples were “liberated” from slavery, very violent military police were created to keep them at bay.
Third, something similar is happening now: opprobrious U.S. imperialism can be succeeded by something even worse. Yes, worse. “In 15 years, we will be missing the gringos,” José Mujica told the newspaper El País when asked about the advance of China (https://bit.ly/3mFnqiB). I quote the former Uruguayan president only because the progressives hold him in high esteem.
It is therefore very likely that history will repeat itself in the immediate future. Unless the peoples, particularly the native and black peoples, and the rebellious women, make decisions for themselves, put autonomy at the helm of command and resist both the decadent and the ascendant empires, the old bourgeoisies and those that are being formed.
About these, it is necessary to understand that they are interwoven with drug trafficking and the armed forces, giving rise to narco-military mafia ruling classes, because the “mode of production” has these characteristics. The export of illegal gold, with its tremendous social and environmental destructive logic, replaces drugs as the main export item in several countries of the continent.
Can anyone think that allying with such mafias can bring something positive to the peoples? From them we can only expect more femicides and genocides, not only because of the attitude of the rulers but because, structurally, the system works like this.
Finally, the exchange of hegemonies and currencies is hardly a window of opportunity for those at the bottom. Better, a narrow hatch that does not guarantee any progress and can be the repetition of genocides such as the occupation of Araucanía in Chile or the conquest of the desert in Argentina by the new bourgeoisies. It is no longer the right-left logic, but the below-above, that can provide emancipatory meanings.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, April 21, 2023, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2023/04/21/opinion/014a1pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee