Opinion: Pittsburgh Bridge Collapse Exemplifies US Imperialism’s Decay

By Jakob Stein

The January 28 collapse of the Fern Hollow Creek Bridge in Pittsburgh is just another example of the decay of the US imperialist system, in this case with infrastructure literally falling to pieces as people drove across the bridge to work. Joe Biden, who was scheduled to visit Pittsburgh at the time of the collapse, used the opportunity to promote his $1.2 trillion infrastructure package which he has pushed as a ‘job creator’ and a public safety issue, when at its core the massive spending bill is merely a lifeline for a US imperialist system on its deathbed.

The bridge collapsed in the early morning as people commuted to work, causing five cars and a Port Authority bus to fall nearly 150 feet into a ravine. Ten people, including first responders, suffered minor injuries from the collapse, but no deaths were reported. After the collapse, nearby residents reported that a ruptured gas line was filling the air with natural gas for around 30 minutes until it was shut off.

Pittsburgh is no stranger to failures in its infrastructure. Over the past several years there have been many other catastrophic failures in Pittsburgh involving roads, bridges, rail lines, and pipelines, yet another sign of the deteriorating state of US imperialism.

Biden arrived just hours later as he was scheduled to speak about the ‘Build Back Better’ (BBB) infrastructure program, which includes $1.6 billion for the maintenance of bridges across Pennsylvania. When speaking to the press at Frick Park, the site of the collapsed bridge, he promised that they would “fix them all.” Pennsylvania has approximately 2,800 bridges that are rated as ‘structurally deficient,’ and while alarms were raised in 2017 and 2019 about the Fern Hollow Creek Bridge from engineers, money raised by a tax on gasoline for bridge maintenance was diverted to fund the state police. Biden inexplicably ended his statement at the site by mentioning that, in addition to repairing bridges, the administration would be providing increased funding for police.

Pittsburgh mayor Ed Gainey went on to declare a ‘disaster emergency’ on January 30 in order to expedite $25.3 million in federal funding and begin the repair process. He said that the collapse was a “a painful reminder of the condition of our bridges and a call to action to address our aging infrastructure,” going on to say that “with the support of our county, state, and federal partners, we will build back better.”

Opportunists such as the local Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have latched on to the bridge collapse and the reported diversion of funds to police to mechanically assert that if only the US State were to stop giving so much money to the police, then our infrastructure would not be crumbling. While the imperialist State drives huge amounts of money to its repressive police forces, simply rearranging its budget is no solution to either deteriorating bridges or racist police brutality. The opportunists’ focus on budgets is a diversion from the need to fight for a socialist revolution to overthrow the imperialist State, which is the only means to begin building infrastructure based on societal need, not for private profit.

The imperialist State itself has initiated a massive infusion into infrastructure with Biden’s BBB plan, but this is not for the people’s benefit. While the Biden administration’s infrastructure funding may temporarily fix some of these crumbling bridges and roads, it cannot fix the deteriorating economy they represent. Crisis after crisis, US imperialism is increasingly drawn toward a system where private monopolies reach for control of the State, using the power of the US government to intercede on their behalf into economic matters. Biden’s infrastructure plan will rely on private contractors, specifically the huge construction monopolies, in order to make these infrastructure repairs and compensate them with lucrative government contracts.

As US imperialism faces increasing challenges every day, it’s compelled to seek new solutions to its economic problems, especially in the face of the rising power of social-imperialist China. As the inter-imperialist struggle with China intensifies, the US must seek to reduce its dependence on Chinese manufacturing, including by shortening supply lines and expanding manufacturing within the US, which will rely more heavily on all the roads, bridges, and rail lines that the federal infrastructure plan seeks to strengthen. The Fern Hollow Creek Bridge itself was an important thoroughfare for people commuting to the Squirrel Hill and Oakland neighborhoods, as well as downtown Pittsburgh.

No matter the rhetoric used by blood-sucking politicians like Biden or Gainey, their intentions are never to improve the lives or safety of the US working class—only to improve the position of US imperialism. This is exactly why revolutionaries around the world boycott the elections of their oppressive governments.

These politicians and the massive monopolies that control them have no interest in the people’s safety or well-being, only in their continued dominance over the lives of working people around the globe. Their goal is nothing other than perpetuating the very system which exploits workers across the US and the rest of the world, and all of their talk of infrastructure and ‘building America’ are to this end.

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