Multipolarity, as an existent term, is a signifier of the current global economic conditions of the world in regards to the current dominant powers that own and transfer capital within and without their borders. Instead of a singular global hegemon influencing global affairs or a dual power struggle between two superpowers, the world is in a condition of being divided amongst multiple powers influencing global affairs/capital/the market. At an existential level, to be for or against it is the equivalent of going out in the street and declaring yourself as being pro-summer or anti-winterist. Its silly. Multipolarity is just like the changing of seasons and people have to adapt to it.
When its freezing outside, you change into something warmer. But even the hardiest winter clothing is not going to keep one warm against the coldest winter, and we are heading into a long hellish winter; a capitalist winter twilight.
One thing many who attach themselves to multipolarity as if it is an ideology tend to forget (or just outright refuse to acknowledge) that this new multipolar world we are heading towards is a capitalist-centric multipolarity. History has shown that last time this world went through a capitalist-led multipolar age, it unleashed two world wars and countless dead. This is not to say that having a unipolar or bipolar world is any better. During the Cold War, the champion of capitalist hegemony, the United States, through proxy wars as well as actual wars, coups, and assassinations/subterfuge helped/directly committed atrocities and war-crimes that make WWII pale in comparison. During the unipolar reign of neoliberalism after the USSR fell, the atrocities continued: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the list goes on and continues to this day. All to reinforce capitalism and sustain imperialist expanse.
This is why one cannot attach themselves to concepts such as multipolarity, or unipolarity, in terms of a normative stance. Rather, we must observe, strategise and find ways “through” these dynamics not within them. Multipolarity is an empirical observation in planetary power dynamics, but thesedynamics are not intrinsically anti-capitalist. The problem is not how many powers there are in the world. The problem is the global economic system that those powers exist under. Nations or precisely the national bourgeoise of that nation compete for capital. They do not grow together in peace under capitalism as many proponents of multipolarism tend to espouse as a benefit. They head towards conflict, because this is capitalism’s driving logic. There is no multipolar peace under capitalism, only the prelude to war and destruction as nations compete for power.
Multipolarism does not care for the working class of those nations. It is just a changing of task masters. Nothing more, nothing less. Any boon for the workers borne from breaking away from the global hegemon is the equivalent of a heavy boot slightly being let off their collective necks. The fact is that they are still under the boot of their national oppressors. It is up to them and we as socialists to use that slight aside to break free from under the weight of that boot.
Many “multipolarists” love to reference the how many of these budding capitalist nations have seemingly good standings with the few socialist nations of this world, most predominantly Cuba and the DPRK, as if that is a justification that multipolarity is a net positive. They tend to forget that this does not wash away the fact these growing countries are still capitalist and oppress their own working class. If anything this does not justify multipolarity at all, it only reinforces that we still currently exist under a unipolar hegemony front-manned by the United States. This is because most of these countries are aligned due to the economic pressure (sanctions and blockades) put forth by the United States as well as the EU NATO-bloc (which is by in large an extension of American power). When that pressure eventually fades only time will tell if that alignment of those interests between worker-led nations and the nations run by power-hungry capitalists continue or (as history has shown us many times) inevitably clash.
And what of the old lion in the room? The United States. It is a waning power there is no doubt of it. But let’s be careful of any framing that there is an imminent world order where the United States is practically a nonentity where new orders that rise in its stead. Iridescent foolishness. Capitalism breeds conflict and the United States has sustained itself off conflict, colonialism, and imperialism from its inception. The capitalists who run that country will be anything but docile when their grip on global power is threatened.
We see it today with the arming of Ukraine and the powder keg that is Taiwan. Global war is brewing, a prelude to the birth of a new multipolar world. If we even survive to see it. And all for what I ask you? Another capitalist-led world built on the ruins of the last? This is not even capitalist realism at this point. It is just capitalist reincarnation. A continual recycling of the capitalist system reinventing itself at the expense of everything; our entire existence put to flame just to try and keep the old ways alive. That is the multipolar world we are heading towards.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. The global workers movement has been gutted and kept down for decades especially in the west. This has led many to adopt a form of campism to cope with lack of a united global movement. Anti-Americanism, eastern/western dichotomy, and multipolarism are offshoots of this void. It allows one to feel that are a part of something bigger than ourselves that, in our minds, can lead to something different. A capitalist multipolar world will not change or fix the problems that affect this world (which are born from capitalism) only the amount of hands that hold power in it (hands which are almost all attached to the arms of each respective nation’s capitalist class).
This does not mean there is no global proletariat or that workers movements have gone extinct. Capitalism proletarianizes the populace. Workers currently toil in hellish conditions all around the globe and they are aware of their position. They know they are mistreated. They are striking and protesting for better conditions all around the global south. Workers are fighting against their oppressors. There is class consciousness among the working class. We must push towards socialism. Not some distant idealist dream of a multipolar world which only continues the corrupt system of the past. We should not just want a multipolar world in the yolk of capitalism (unipolar, bipolar, or multipolar it must be socialist). We must demand and bring forth a socialist world run by the workers not the national capitalist class of warring nations. Global polarity feels like the changing of seasons and it seems we are heading towards a deadly winter.
The best winter clothing may not protect one, but if we all get together for warmth, we’ll persevere.
And, if there is enough organization, maybe, just maybe, we’ll realize that we are actually not in some freezing wasteland and at the mercy of the elements. We are actually inside a constructed economic bubble (or cave if you prefer Plato) and the capitalists set the AC on way too high and its about time we set the temperature ourselves or better yet just pop the bubble (or leave the cave).