As Nathalie Graham reported in Slog AM, smoke from a Canadian wildfire might be heading our way this week. Last week, a combination of America's compensatory consumption of fireworks with "nearby wildfires" made the air around the South Sound "'unhealthy' and 'hazardous.'” Today, Seattle Times reported that the 2021 heat dome likely killed 567 people (441 more than the official 126). Also today, a flash flood in New York's Hudson Valley killed a 35-year-old woman ("She was trying to escape her flooded house with her dog, but she was swept away"). The floods will likely claim more lives, particularly among the missing. This weekend we watched epic floods in India. Last week, we saw Spanish people clinging to the top of cars captured by floods. And as fireworks exploded on the Fourth of July, our planet had its hottest day "in as many as 125,000 years." Modern humans are barely older than 125,000 years, and capitalism, the prime-mover of our times, and the source of these extreme weather events, has only been around for 400 years. As for fossil capitalism, the heart of the present darkness, it only exploded 150 years ago.

That is the present state of the world, and because capitalism continues to demand nothing but more growth—which comes down to increasing the social power of those who command its key social form, money—we can only expect extreme weather and the dead it collects to dramatically increase. Because capitalism will not loosen its grip (indeed, we can expect it to only tighten), we are entering a zone when capitalists will be forced to choose between democracy and the class system that keeps them in power. The key events in the first half of the 20th century make it clear they will choose the latter. 

Cambridge University's post-Keynesian school produced three brilliant and, predictably, grossly underappreciated, economists: Joan Robinson, Michal Kalecki, and Piero Sraffa. Though the last mentioned was Italian by birth, he made his name and career at Cambridge University during the period John Maynard Keynes, the most celebrated economist of the 20th century, rose to fame. Keynes was not a socialist, and it's generally agreed that his whole mission during his defining period, the Great Depression, was to save capitalism. And this, in his opinion, could only be done if the government increased social spending. The market offered no way out of the dangerous nightmare of sky-high unemployment. Indeed, it only wanted to "liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate. Purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. ... enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people." We call this approach austerity.

But just before Wall Street Crash of 1929 happened, Sraffa delivered an important lecture at a conference called the Keynes Club. And before you read it, it must be understood that the birth of the world-historical Benito Mussolini is found in the First World War. At the beginning of that catastrophe, he made a shift from socialism to fascism because he, unlike, Italian socialists, supported the war, which was at its root a capitalist war, a war of the top imperialist powers. Mussolini's transformation was realized by his replacement of class struggle with nationalism, patriotism, loyalty to the flag, that sort of thing. "The class struggle is a vain formula," he said in an early speech, "without effect and consequence wherever one finds a people that has not integrated itself into its proper linguistic and racial confines—where the national problem has not been definitely resolved." In 1922, Mussolini became Il Duce.

The core of what Sraffa said in his 1927 lecture:

If [fascism] really has represented the last line of resistance from which the present social order must fall back in order to defend itself against the attacks of organized labour, if in fact it is the only method of consolidating the basis of capitalism when it has reached a stage in which it is no longer possible to preserve it without breaking the forms of political democracy—then the developments of fascism [in Italy] will have a much greater interest in so far as they will perhaps represent an anticipation of the results to which capitalism may ultimately lead in other countries.

In 1933, capitalism chose Hitler over the socialists. He became the Führer. Fascism is really nothing more than patriotism in its purest state. And the problem patriotism confronted in 19th century Britain was, precisely, the rise of democracy, a socialist project—the "Ten Hours Bill," the "Education Bill," the "Health of Women, &c. Bill," and so on. The Crimean War birthed this powerful national feeling; the Boer War intensified it. Patriotism matched the rule by the people, democracy, by capturing the source of its very possibility, massification: in education, consumption, and communications. By these means, massification, it replaced allegiance from class (labor) to racial or national identity (the bulldog).   

We will eventually enter a zone where climate change threatens the core of capitalism. The deaths caused by COVID will be dwarfed by the deaths caused by extreme weather events and conditions. The system that maintains what remains of the post-war compromise between capital and labor, compensatory consumption, will really collapse. And the level of struggle this compromise buried—capitalism versus democracy—will be exposed. This coming conjuncture will not be overdetermined (having lots of determinations), but be as Hegelian as his dialectic of the spirit: negation against negation. In short, the choice for capitalism will be, once again, democracy or fascism. Yes, same as it ever was. And you already know the bad world-ending news: it will certainly pick the latter. Indeed, Florida is already in this future. (Newson's California, sadly, is in the past.)

In the Sunshine State, homeowners pay "private insurers about $6,000 a year, compared to a national average of $1,700." And it's going up ("Our home insurance premium is now $11,679") because climate change is not going away. When the American dream is completely unreachable, when no one of any color or ethnicity can afford it, then all of the present attacks on wokeness and the pride community will hit pay dirt. Capitalism will not survive this episode, but neither shall we.