However, the real point of this post is to examine what is happening now in the USA and how it compares with its once great rival the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union collapsed in about 1990. Some Americans, known as the neo-conservatives, would like us to believe that that the USA was responsible for bringing the Soviet Union down.
Its important to distinguish between the neo-conservatives and neo-liberals. The neo-liberals were a group of economists from the 'Chicago School'. Starting in the 1970s they advocated an extreme form of free market capitalism in which the state, and democracy, is subjugated to the market. They have been very influential and have succeeded in creating the current free market paradigm which we are all now being subjected to. The economist Milton Friedman was one of the chief originators of neo-liberalism. The neo-conservatives were a small but powerful group of American right-wingers influenced by the academic Leo Strauss. Strauss advocated the idea of a 'noble lie' - the idea that society needed a myth to make it cohesive - that, for example, religion should be promoted even if it was untrue because it brought society together. The neo-conservatives who included people like Paul Wolfowitz and William Casey, Director of the CIA, used the mythology that the Soviet Union was a threat to the USA - which it wasn't - to bring about social cohesion in the US, and influenced the Reagan government to spend billions supporting Islamists in Afghanistan to fight against Soviet occupation in the 1980s. If you want to find out more about how this came about and why the so-called 'clash of cultures' is happening at the moment watch the excellent documentary 'The Power of Nightmares' by Adam Curtis. It is essential viewing. This is bit of a digression, but bear with me because its crucial to understand the distinction between these two groups and the massive influence they have had on world politics.
The real reason the Soviet Union collapsed was because nobody believed in it anymore. It had failed economically and socially. It was rotten to the core. Its decay may have been hastened by the Afghan war but it was already a house of cards just waiting to be knocked down. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, recognised this but his reforms, which were intended to save the Soviet Union, came too late.
So what has this got to do with the USA today? My view is that the USA is rotten to the core also. Why? Because its democracy has been completely subverted by capitalism. It may have a fine constitution, but you can't get elected without millions of dollars, and those dollars come from Wall Street and the corporations - the mega-rich. The corporations are in control. The political system is utterly corrupt. That is why Barak Obama is impotent - he is funded by corporations. That is why Wall Street was bailed out in the recent economic crash whilst Main Street was being screwed.
But there is something more important going on, something fundamental. American politics has been corrupt for a very long time - but as long as people were getting richer it didn't matter. That is the American Dream. That is what has sustained the USA for more than two centuries. Now, the American Dream is dying. Real incomes for working Americans - many of whom regard themselves as being 'middle class' -haven't risen since the late 1970s. Recent 'prosperity' was fuelled by cheap credit and mis-selling of dodgy mortgages. The truth is that many Americans at the bedrock of society are getting poorer.
That is what the Tea Party is all about. Millions of Americans are angry, bewildered and frustrated at the recent crash and the fact they aren't getting richer anymore. But there is a huge problem here - they are directing their anger against the wrong enemy. The people who caused the crash - the financial capitalists and corporations of Wall Street aren't being blamed. Instead, the anger is being directed at the government. Why is this happening? Partly, it's a result of political ignorance on the part of ordinary Americans who refuse to blame capitalism for any of their problems, but the key factor takes us back to the rottenness at the heart of the USA - the Tea Party is being organised and funded by the very people who brought about the crash. How else would cranks like Christine O'Donnell be able to spend millions running for office? If the American Dream dies, as I suspect it will, the core idea behind the USA will die with it, and Americans may well decide they don't believe in America anymore. The USA could become a house of cards like the Soviet Union.
There is a great irony here - the founders of the USA and the Soviet Union both wanted to create a better society. Their methods and ideology may have been different but their aims were the same. The Soviet Union was brought down by the lust for power of ruthless bureaucrats like Stalin and a failed economy. Now the lust for money of the rich and the failures of unbridled free market capitalism threaten to bring down the USA. The consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union were much more serious for people in the West than they could ever have imagined. The major consequence was that the free marketeers and corporations were given licence to dominate Western democracy and impoverish the rest of us. The consequences of the collapse of the USA, if it happens, will probably be even more severe.