Biden’s United Nations Speech – Nice Words, No Solutions

President Biden presented what we are told is an “ambitious global agenda” at the U.N. General Assembly on September 21st. His speech laid out three issues that he promised the United States will address: the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency, and a third promise: “managing the shifts in global power dynamics; shaping the rules of the world on vital issues like trade, cyber, and emerging technologies; and facing the threat of terrorism as it stands today.”

So far, the United States government, whether helmed by Democrats or Republicans, has done very little regarding the first two emergencies. Biden now promises 500 million more COVID vaccine doses to be delivered to developing countries next year. Unfortunately, the world needs about 11 billion doses to mitigate the pandemic by raising the vaccination rate from the current 30% to the 70% recommended by scientists. Not to mention, the U.S. has delivered only 160 million of the promised 580 million doses so far. Even if we expect the Biden Administration to deliver on its promises, these promises are not nearly enough.

What about the climate emergency? Biden promised very little on that. He patted himself on the back for rejoining the Paris Agreement – a symbolic gesture with no teeth: it has “neither legally binding national emissions reduction targets nor legally binding national finance targets.” He promised to “work toward achieving a clean-energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050.” This is way too little, way too late.

The reality is that the U.S. government, Democrat or Republican, cannot stop the climate catastrophe. Although the scientists usually avoid the scary “c” word (capitalism), they are very clear that an “economy of growth” (a popular code word for capitalism) is environmentally unsustainable. Even if all cars were electric and energy renewable, the capitalist economy would continue to grow and pollute more and more. Capitalism cannot survive without its industries growing and producing more each year, and that means more pollution. We are already in an era of mass extinction, and more pollution just means our species will go down with countless others. Whatever politicians like Biden may say, it is not they who run the show. It is the capitalists who own and control the polluting industries who are the real bosses, and they will never shut down their profit-making machine.

What about “managing the shifts in global power dynamics”? On this point, Biden promised to shift away from the proud tradition of U.S. wars to protect the investments of its biggest capitalists, relying instead on “relentless diplomacy.” But so-called diplomacy is nothing new for the U.S. ruling class. The real cause of U.S. wars has always been the same: the ruling capitalists cannot get other governments to agree to their exploitative terms. The U.S. capitalists want workers abroad to work hard – for them – and they want to reap the profits from their investments abroad, leaving as little wealth as possible in the hands of other countries. If the U.S. bankers, oil tycoons, and other capitalists are not satisfied by the results of diplomacy, they send us to war. No amount of good will on the part of so-called “peace-loving” presidents can change the rules of the game when the profits of billionaires are at stake.

Referring to the international wave of protests in 2019, Biden remarked: “People have taken to the streets in every region to demand that their governments address peoples’ basic needs, give everyone a fair shot to succeed […] The United States is committing to use — committed to using our resources and our international platform to support these voices.” And how is Biden “committed” to all that? The usual way under capitalism – letting corporations take over. As he put it: “together with the private sector and our G7 partners, we aim to mobilize hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investment.” The capitalists always pose as benefactors – they say their investments will provide prosperity for all. But under capitalism, the wealth of a few always comes at the expense of poverty for the many. The capitalist “solution” to poverty, hunger, lack of healthcare, and other crises has always been the same: enriching a minority at the expense of the working-class majority.

Biden is presenting his administration as pursuing a new course for U.S. politics. But there is nothing new about opening the door for corporations to increase their profits. We have seen this play out in many countries for over two centuries – always with the same result: inequality, environmental devastation, and war. Biden is right about one thing: the urgency of the crises he mentions. But with the climate emergency threatening to wipe out much or all life on the planet, we have no time to put our faith in these false “solutions,” which amount to slightly shifting profits from one group of corporations to another, while leaving their system intact. The only solution is to completely remove this system based on profit and replace it with a system based on human need. And this is not a transition that capitalists or their politician can accomplish, no matter how good they say their intentions are.