2021 in review: The persistence of instability

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For many, the first months of 2021 were cause for cautious optimism. After almost a year of the pandemic, COVID cases started to trend downwards worldwide as the vaccine rollout began. Trump had lost the US election and, despite sinister soundbites, seemed incapable of overturning the vote. A world economic recovery was well underway, and in January 2021 the IMF revised its projections for economic growth upwards. 2020 had stretched the social fabric to the breaking point in many countries—anti-lockdown riots, the Black Lives Matter rebellion, fear of economic collapse—but now that pressure seemed to be easing, and talk of a return to normal flourished.

The story of 2021 is largely of how this sense of forward momentum at first plateaued, then fragmented, in the face of profound forces undermining the stability of the world capitalist system.

The first straw in the wind was on 6 January. Trump stood on a podium overlooking thousands of his…

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