No 1539 24th July 2018
Trump’s belligerent rampage through Europe and trade war escalations on China reflect the desperation and bankruptcy of American topdog imperialism, forced into open fascist crudity and xenophobic scapegoating to try and bully the world into paying for the great crisis collapse of monopoly capitalism. His “maverick” aggression is needed because two decades of New American Century “establishment” war bullying have failed to restore US dominance, instead stirring “jihadist” and “terrorist” revolt everywhere, – not revolution yet but the sign of mass discontent, as even more was the mass street rebellion of the Cairo Arab Spring, suppressed only by restored Washington fascist stoogery and the further destruction in Iraq, Syria and Yemen (themselves stirring even more Third World hatred). Now the deepest contradictions of all, between the major capitalist powers are sharpened as the relentless cutthroat trade war, for crisis-hammered markets, deepens – with conditions ripening for unstoppable inter-imperialist world war. Only revolutionary overturn of all capitalism can change it
The “maverick” rampaging of Donald Trump’s latest foreign trip, bloodcurdling war threats on Iran, the horrors of the Yemen war, Zionist blitzing on Gaza, Europe-wide rise of xenophobic nastiness and the astonishing bitterness of panicky British ruling class infighting over Brexit all demonstrate yet further the need for a Marxist world crisis perspective – and the total failure of fake-“leftism” to get anywhere close to one.
The “austerity” ridden disintegration of the capitalist world into non-stop warmongering and fascist-minded scapegoating hatred, is revealing once more the true Nazi face of this vile, unequal greed-based system, and confirming daily that it must be brought to an end.
That is possible only through thoroughgoing class-war to defeat this hateful and hated exploitation system and to establish the firmest working class rule (proletarian dictatorship) in order to build socialism along the workers state lines of the last century but done better.
It needs the clearest scientific leadership, developed by a purpose built disciplined party of trained and competent cadres, constantly making an input to the open polemical struggle for theory and addressing all the difficult questions of the great achievements of the past, particularly the USSR as well as the errors and mistakes they made.
At the centre is the understanding of the catastrophic breakdown of the international production-for-private-profit system and the cutthroat conflicts surfacing between the great monopoly trading blocs, without which no sense can be made of events.
But the deep-down fear of the revolutionary implications of such a world view, despite much posturing and pretence about “Marxism”, drives the fake-“lefts” of all shades into ever greater evasions.
Either they bury themselves in Labour entryism to drag workers back into the deadly trap of bourgeoise Parliamentary “reforms” (and grovelling capitulation to “British” nationalism, Zionist “left anti-semitism” lie campaigns, etc) while also diverting attention with ever more ludicrously diversionary “identity politics” (single-issue non-class reformism from feminism and LGBTQ rights, to narrow black nationalism and environmentalism) or they foster useless “No to War” social-pacifism and “step-by-step” alleged advances against capitalism by supporting flaky bourgeois nationalist regimes in their “left” reformism, leaving decades-old revisionist complacency and errors still holding things back, not only unchallenged but covered-up.
None of them put the cataclysmic failure of the world economy at the centre of all analysis, nor explain the revolutionary challenge which it presents the working class, as the only possible way out of oncoming Slump (far worse to come than seen so far and far beyond the 1930s Depression) and the inevitable world war it engenders (also potentially the most devastating yet).
And, incidentally, none explain that this is anyway the only way to build a rational society, eliminating all the double or multiple oppressions that capitalism creates against women, different race identities and so forth wherever it sees an extra exploitation opportunity or a chance to divide and confuse workers (particularly with anti-communism).
Beyond this vacuum in understanding, many “lefts” are outright contemptuous in their philistinism and hostility to theory, deriding any such crisis perspectives as “just catastrophism”, through a fear of being out of kilter with complacent public bourgeois dominated opinion, taken in by the Quantitative Easing superficial “recovery” propaganda, and in petty bourgeois awe of the ruling class and the belief that it will always manage to stay on top, combined with their fear and detestation of workers state discipline increasingly expressed as outright anti-communism (particularly, but not only by Trot groups).
Their failures leave the working class open to the monstrous chauvinism being deliberately fomented everywhere, blaming “others” (countries or scapegoated migrants) for the problems that come from capitalism alone, and its total breakdown.
But surely the shallowest minds will argue, the crisis is “over”?
Apart from the mountain of dire bourgeois economic warnings about oncoming total dollar collapse (see recent EPSRs) once the artificial QE credit inflation works through (which alone “salvaged” the 2008 world bank crash), the evidence is of a reality of deepening austerity and cuts savagery that goes on hammering the working class everywhere, often below the radar as some bourgeois reformism sometimes describes:
‘We cannot survive as we are beyond this next financial year. There is no money. I am not crying wolf. I never cry wolf.” So says the Conservative leader of Torbay council, in Devon: a local authority that delivers the full range of services but can no longer function at even the most basic level.
After years of bone-crunching austerity, by 2020 it will be faced with another £12m of cuts – so the most obvious option is to downgrade itself to a district council, hand over its most essential work to the bigger Devon county council, and hope for the best. Whether this will improve anything is an interesting question: since 2010, in real terms, Devon’s funding from government has been cut by 76%.
Northamptonshire’s council has already effectively gone bankrupt. Somerset, Norfolk and Lancashire are reportedly faced with comparable problems. And in our big cities, similar stories have been unfolding for years, as the great cuts machine set in motion by George Osborne in 2010 continues to grind away, while both costs and demand for basic services increase.
Bristol faces a £108m funding gap by 2023, and is cutting services accordingly. Having already hacked well over £200m from its budgets, Leeds is in the midst of making £38m of savings in a single year. In Newcastle, by 2020, insiders reckon that over half the city council’s spending will in effect have been slashed within a decade. Many authorities are putting up council tax, but that doesn’t come close to easing the economies they have to make. And the results are obvious: less comprehensive child protection, less dependable care for older people, fewer children’s centres, more rubbish in the streets – and yet more dire damage to a social fabric that has been pulled apart for nearly a decade.
Why is this national calamity so under-reported? Some of the answer is about the continuing tragedy of Brexit. Political journalists who work themselves into a lather about this or that item of Westminster gossip hear the dread phrase “local government” and glaze over. It is some token of Whitehall neglect that confusion still surrounds the Tory plan to abolish the core grant given from central government to local authorities and make them completely dependent on business rates and council tax. All told, senior politicians routinely treat non-Westminster people as a mere annoyance: last week, for instance, it was revealed that though the government has commissioned an updated official assessment of the likely effects of Brexit on Greater Manchester, it will not let the people who run that part of the country see it.
The “decentralise” and devolution “answers” put forwards in the (edited out) second half of this article do not begin to address the real causes of the problem, capitalist collapse, but it at least spells out how lives are being pushed to the edge.
And the impact is about to be intensified much further with far deeper cuts and giant tax rises to come in the UK eg, even before the artificial Quantitative Easing money-printing “boost” implodes (as it must).
But the greatest evidence is precisely the apparently erratic fascistic nastiness of Trumpism, (or Brexit) and the rise of rightwing xenophobia and nationalism in Europe.
This belligerence by the US and openly escalated trade war is the expression of the total disaster facing the monopoly capitalist order and the degeneration of its inherently antagonistic “competitiveness” into ever more desperate and cutthroat battling for markets.
And the extraordinary hostility displayed against Europe particularly, on Donald Trump’s recent visit declared to be “America’s foe”, makes clear a basic fundamental repeatedly stated by Marxist-Leninist theory – that it is these great conflicts between the enormous monopoly blocs of capitalism itself which are a central expression of the contradictions inherent in capitalism, periodically arising and intractable, “solvable” only by gigantic inter-imperialist war turmoil to wipe out accumulated “surplus” capital and force rivals to pay the price.
It is the pattern of two great world wars already.
Iraqi, Libyan, Yemeni and Syrian destruction using the nonsensical “war on terror” whipped-up hysteria, “left anti-semitism” lies, Russia or North Korea bogeyman lies and universal scapegoating, are all preparing the ground for even greater conflict, extending the initial World War Three skirmishing of Serbia and the horrors already underway in the Middle East and Ukraine.
The shocking reality of a plunge towards all-out war is beginning to dawn on some in a world left in ignorance and confusion by generations of saturation anti-communist propaganda (through education, medias, books, TV, politics) and the deliberate suppression of all serious thought by a deluge of celebrity following, consumerism and transient fashion, magnified by the attention span reduction of the Internet and its relentless trivia.
Deep seated prejudices about “democracy” are being shaken.
The great pretence post-WW2 was that a new international consensus had been established, first as the Cold War “against a monstrous communist threat” and when revisionist liquidationism proved that to be nonsense, as a “New World Order” of sweet reason and “democracy”, the “end of history”.
It was so much stinking horse-do but a pretence gone along with by the rich Western powers more or less in the interests of policing the world against ever fermenting and maturing anti-imperialist hostility and to drown out all communist sympathy.
But deeper economic antagonisms always eventually overwhelm and override even the class solidarity between the members of the bourgeoisie internationally, and their united front against the working class and especially the exploited slave-driven or semi-slave driven masses of the Third World.
Some major bourgeois opinion is becoming disturbed, as in this New Yorker analysis:
When President Trump walked out early from the meeting of the Group of Seven in Charlevoix, Quebec, on June 9th, he left the group’s collective statement without an American signature. It was hardly a controversial document—the language was G-7 boilerplate, affirming “our shared values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and our commitment to promote a rules-based international order.” U.S. officials had negotiated a change in that last phrase from the definite article to an indefinite one—apparently, “the rules-based international order” threatened American sovereignty. But Trump still refused to sign. A spat with Canada over steel and aluminum tariffs had fouled his mood, and as he was leaving Canadian airspace the President insulted his host, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling him “dishonest” and “weak.” Air Force One flew on to Singapore, where Trump lavished time and enthusiasm on the North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un—“a very talented man” and a “funny guy” with a “great personality.”
Dean Acheson, President Truman’s Secretary of State, called his autobiography “Present at the Creation.” The title referred to the task that confronted American leaders at the end of the Second World War and the start of the Cold War, which was “just a bit less formidable than that described in the first chapter of Genesis,” Acheson wrote. “That was to create a world out of chaos; ours, to create half a world, a free half, out of the same material without blowing the whole to pieces in the process.” A network of institutions and alliances—the United Nations, Nato, the international monetary system, and others—became the foundation for “the rules-based international order” that the leaders in Charlevoix saluted. It imposed restraints on the power politics that had nearly destroyed the world. It was a liberal order, based on coöperation among countries and respect for individual rights, and it was created and upheld by the world’s leading liberal democracy. America’s goals weren’t selfless, and we often failed to live up to our stated principles. Power politics didn’t disappear from the planet, but the system endured, flawed and adaptable, for seventy years.
In four days, between Quebec and Singapore, Trump showed that the liberal order is hateful to him, and that he wants out. Its rules are too confining, its web of connections—from trade treaties to security alliances—unfair. And he seems to find his democratic counterparts distasteful, even pathetic. They speak in high-minded rhetoric rather than in Twitter insults, they’re emasculated by parliaments and by the press, and maybe they’re not very funny. Trump prefers the company of dictators who can flatter and be flattered. Part of his unhappiness in Quebec was due to the absence of President Vladimir Putin; before leaving for the summit, Trump had demanded that Russia be unconditionally restored to the G-7, from which it was suspended over the dismemberment of Ukraine. He finds nothing special about democratic values, and nothing objectionable about murderous rulers. “What, you think our country is so innocent?” he once asked.
Kim Jong Un is Trump’s kind of world leader. Instead of condemning Kim’s brutal consolidation of power, Trump admires and identifies with it, as if Kim were the underestimated scion of a family real-estate business who’s quickly learned the ropes. “When you take over a country—a tough country, with tough people—and you take it over from your father,” Trump told Fox News, “if you can do that at twenty-seven years old, I mean, that’s one in ten thousand that could do that. So he’s a very smart guy.”
Trump, with his instinct for exploiting resentments and exploding norms, has sensed that many Americans are ready to abandon global leadership. The disenchantment has been a long time coming. Barack Obama saw that the American century was ending and wanted to reduce U.S. commitments, but he tried to do so within the old web of connections. In pulling back, he provided Trump with a target. Now Trump is turning retrenchment into rout.
What would it mean for the United States to abandon the liberal order? There’s no other rules-based order to replace it with, which is why the definite article in the G-7 communiqué was appropriate. The alternative to an interconnected system of security partnerships and trade treaties is a return to the old system of unfettered power politics. In resurrecting the slogan “America First” from prewar isolationists who had no quarrel with Hitler, Trump was giving his view of modern history: everything went wrong when we turned outward.
Power politics favors regimes accustomed to operating outside the liberal order. Asked about Trump’s desire to see Russia restored to the G-7’s good graces, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was dismissive—“We never asked to be allowed back”—as if Russia were happy not to have to answer to democratic scolds. After Quebec, the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, placed the United States among the rogue regimes: “Donald Trump’s egotistical politics of ‘America First,’ Russia’s attacks on international law and state sovereignty, the expansion of gigantic China: the world order we were used to, it no longer exists.” Europe is rapidly pulling away from the United States, but the European Union is weak and divided. The liberal order always depended on American leadership.
Trump imagines that America unbound, shaking hands or giving the finger, depending upon short-term interests and Presidential whims, will flourish among the other rogues. After his meeting with Kim, he flew home aglow with wonder at his own dealmaking prowess, assuring Americans that they could now sleep in peace. In fact, Trump had secured nothing except the same vague commitment to dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program which the regime has offered and routinely betrayed in the past. Meanwhile, he gave up something real—joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which he called “provocative,” the language of totalitarian and aggressive North Korea. Without allies and treaties, without universal values, American foreign policy largely depends on what goes on inside Trump’s head. Kim, like Putin, already seems to have got there.
Power politics is not a system that plays to American strengths. For all our lapses, we thrived for seventy years by standing for something. It wasn’t boilerplate at all, and we are present at the destruction. When the next global economic crisis or major war or terrorist attack happens, America will be alone. ?
This piece nervously puts its finger on the great crisis breakdown of the established balance between the major powers now surfacing, albeit without spelling out the underlying raw reality of cutthroat competition for world markets spiralling into collapse, with only valueless Mickey Mouse QE dollar and Euro credits keeping the plates spinning.
Its liberal fantasy about “world democracy” etc is so much garbage of course in a world of brutal exploitation for two-thirds of the planet, and so therefore too its blaming of Trump as some “aberration”.
The entire capitalist order has never been anything but brutal exploitation and the effort to dominate the world by colonialist expansion.
And the post-war period of “civilised” world order has been nothing but non-stop suppression of revolt and rebellion by US-led imperialism throughout seven decades using every vile and barbaric method in the book, from manipulated rightwing revolts and coups, assassinations, and assisted overthrows to install fascist tinpot tyrants from Baby Doc in Haiti and Mobuto in the Congo to the monstrous Marcos in the Philippines, and the torture and butchery of Augusto Pinochet in Chile; from outright butchering massacres in Indonesia 1965 (possibly 3 million communists and “suspected supporters” grotesquely killed by often psychopathic methods) or hundreds of thousands of peasant and worker rebels in Latin America (notably Guatemala and El Salvador), to outright war blitzing to try and destroy Korea’s national-liberation and communist rebellion in the early fifties, costing 4 million lives and pulverising 98% (!!!) of capital Pyongyang and to suppress the Vietnamese with at least as much high explosive plus massive use of Agent Orange “defoliant” (in reality chemical warfare producing horrible birth deformities to this day) and the gruesome sticky flesh burning napalm.
Over 400 incidents of the most barbaric tyranny have been carried through by the US, to keep the Third World under the thumb of the great monopoly corporations with ultra-cheap shirts and shoes in production in the 16-hour day sweatshops, the coffee, tea, bananas and chocolate etc slaved out of the plantations and the minerals pulled out of the ground whatever the cost in poverty, fatalities, humiliation and human misery - all to maintain the “Western way of life” of rampant consumerism, philistine “fashion” and “decent standard of living” (for the middle-class and some better off workers anyway).
And its “international community” pretences of a rule of law and mediated finance through the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and bodies like NATO and the United Nations were only ever a cover for the overwhelming dominance of the USA, a gigantic extension of the bogus and hoodwinking bourgeois “democracy” fraud, to keep in place a new great powers pecking order established by America’s victories in the Second World War (which like WW1 was primarily a battle between the great plundering powers to divide the spoils of world exploitation -see multiple works by Lenin.)
But it “worked” to cover up with liberal pretences, the realities of the only principle that really prevails in all capitalist interactions, that “might is right” whether wielded by financial power conferred by the “ownership” of ever greater and more concentrated conglomerations of capital, or when necessary by total violence, domestically and in international relations (subversion, sabotage and war).
America came out as top imperialist power in the giant shoot-out made necessary by the last great Catastrophic collapse in the 1930s Depression and established its top-dog dominance “right” to the lion’s share of neo-colonialist exploitation with the remaining powers granted enough of a share to keep them in line, and “happy” to go along with the whole arrangement if the US could keep the lid on the growing revolutionary ferment (communist and anti-colonialist) - even to the extent of paying a share of the US military costs via NATO (as Trump is now bullying them to increase again).
And the whole racket was cemented by the revisionist errors in Moscow which despite the titanic and heroic Soviet victories achieved at huge sacrificial cost by millions over imperialism’s German Nazi-fronted efforts to wipe out the USSR - sank further into a retreat from revolutionary understanding post-war, built on complacent illusions in Soviet strength and a misjudgment of imperialism’s ability to re-expand (as spelled out in Stalin’s 1952 Economic Problems revisions - see EPSR Book Vol21 Unanswered Polemics).
A whole strategy of “peace struggle” containment of what were anyway declared to be less aggressive “good imperialists” (those forced into alliances with the USSR during the war for fear of being overrun by powerfully re-assertive Germany and Japan) was evolved, which led to widespread parliamentary road and “democratic path” programmes by revisionist communist parties everywhere as notions of revolutionary struggle were put on ice (essentially abandoned).
Ironically it was the rising inter-imperialist competition from the vigorous newer Japanese capitalism and efficient Germany which tipped this revisionism into the 1989-91 liquidation: both had been revived as Cold War anti-communist bulwarks by fearful US imperialism post-war despite early plans to destroy their remaining industrial capacity and wipe then out as competition forever.
Their bourgeoisies immediately made huge competitive headway.
Thatcher-Reagan were forced to divert resources to face this new capitalist rivalry, and eased off the Cold War pressure (temporarily), leading the Gorbachevites to take revisionism’s deluded permanent “peaceful coexistence” mindrot to the limit, insanely liquidating the still viable workers state in favour of the “free market” and a “common European home.”
It is looking pretty sick now after decades of restored capitalism, inevitably taking the crudest counter-revolutionary form as Russian oligarch gangsterism, still only partly held in check by Putin’s bonapartist balancing act with the historical legacy of communism (still not gone).
That growing rivalry has deepened into inter-imperialist conflict, with Trump making explicit what is the real underlying issue driving things – collapse of profits and aggressively stepped up trade war.
Europe is a prime target, as another dismayed capitalist press commentary reflects:
European members of the [NATO] alliance are pondering their biggest conundrum since its creation almost 70 years ago: is the US a friend – or a foe?
Only 18 months ago, the question would have been dismissed as absurd. But the globally destructive impact of Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency has shattered conventional wisdom and left strategic and geopolitical certainties in ruins.
The problem is not only that Trump will again insist on the other 28 Nato members increasing their defence spending, on the specious grounds the US is being “ripped off”. It’s not merely that he has queried the founding treaty’s article 5 commitment to collective defence, or that he may close US military bases in Germany.
The more fundamental problem is that the US president is questioning the purpose of Nato, despite it having advanced US security and economic interests since 1949, undercut efforts to forge greater European unity that could have challenged US dominance, kept the Soviet Union/Russia at bay, and (mostly) maintained peace in Europe.
This myopic, isolationist view, consistent with his “America First” outlook, reflects Trump’s hostility to multilateralism in general. He scorns the UN, and has cut its US funding and boycotted its human rights council in Geneva. He repudiates World Trade Organisation rules, adopting unilateral, protectionist tariffs that spark trade wars and threaten European jobs.
Trump tore up the Paris global climate change treaty, pulled out of the UN-endorsed 2015 Iran nuclear deal so beloved of Europe, and recently urged France to follow Britain in abandoning the EU – an organisation he treats with contempt. He singlehandedly wrecked last month’s G7 summit of leading democracies in Canada, petulantly rejecting its conclusions and insulting his hosts.
More gallingly, Trump treats old friends worse than ostensible enemies, personalising political interactions and resorting to bullying, rudeness and open misogyny. Angela Merkel has been singled out for special abuse. At the G7 meeting, he tossed two Starburst sweets at the Germans chancellor and said: “Here, Angela, don’t say I never give you anything.”
Ever since he grabbed Theresa May’s hand at their first White House meeting last year, Trump has treated the British prime minister with patronising disrespect. His crass interventions in British life, for example via tweets promoting the far-right group Britain First, and attacking London’s Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, were extraordinarily insulting. The Queen’s famous sang-froid may be tested to destruction when his visit to Britain begins on Thursday.
If Trump’s crude, nationalistic policies and uncouth persona were the only problems, the European allies might just cope. But in recent months, as he has jettisoned experienced advisers and his belief in his own infallibility has grown, Trump has moved from difficult partner to potential enemy.
The question grows ever more pressing: whose side is Trump’s America really on?
Trump’s sycophantic courting last year of the Saudi royals and China’s authoritarian president, Xi Jinping, were early indications of his preference for dictators over democrats. His recent summit with Kim Jong-un did nothing to curb North Korea’s nuclear arms buildup. But it did reveal Trump’s almost indecent love of raw power and ostentation.
This ugly trait will be on show again when he meets Vladimir Putin, Russia’s he-man president, ....
A more likely prospect is more crapulous fawning over an autocratic leader who exercises a mysterious hold over Trump and, most Nato members believe, threatens European security.
As with Kim in Singapore, Trump’s big day out with Putin in Helsinki will be noisily declared, by him, to be an outstanding success contributing to global harmony. If, as is suggested, the two men agree to extend the New Start nuclear arms treaty, that will be a rare plus.
...In an augury of worse to come, Trump will also seek Putin’s support over Iran. US efforts to force regime change in Tehran are gathering pace, principally by halting Iranian oil sales and trying to starve out the mullahs. Even as European diplomats struggle to sustain open lines to Tehran, the US navy is gearing up for confrontation if Iran’s revolutionary guards retaliate, as threatened, by closing the Strait of Hormuz and blocking all Gulf oil exports.
Here, in a nutshell, is why Trump’s US increasingly poses a threat to Britain and Europe. In a reckless bid to impose his will on a sovereign people,he is risking a global energy crisis, a new war in the Middle East and the safety and prosperity of all America’s allies. With friends like him, who needs enemies?
And following days later, even more bourgeois Eurobile:
All of which invites the question: how far will Trump be allowed to go before leaders of the western democracies finally draw the line? How long until they recognise him as an antagonist, not an ally, contemptuous of their countries’ values and interests – and act accordingly? Germany’s Angela Merkel tried firmness. May tried flattery. The EU has tried fulmination and retaliatory trade tariffs. Others, wishfully, dismiss Trumpism as an aberration, not a strategic shift. But nothing stops him as he rampages on, malignly flattening all in his path.
It is plain what a US president should be talking to Putin about: Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, its cyber attacks, information warfare and election meddling – in the latest development, 12 Russian intelligence officials were indicted for hacking emails during the 2016 election campaign. Then there are the chemical weapons atrocities in Syria and Salisbury, Russia’s treaty-busting nuclear build-up and its sanctions-busting in North Korea. But topping Trump’s personal agenda, it seems, is something entirely different, presaging a whole new world of misery: Iran.
European countries tend to forget Washington’s enduring post-1979 vendetta with Iran. They also underestimate the depth of American ignorance. US diplomats have not worked in Tehran for almost 40 years. American politicians, businesses and media have scant knowledge of the country. It has been far too easy, in such a vacuum, for its enemies, notably the paranoid Sunni Arab dictatorships of the Gulf, to unfairly portray Iran as pariah and international bogeyman.
For John Bolton, Trump’s veteran national security adviser, and others of his ilk, Iran is unfinished business, a part of George W Bush’s infamous “axis of evil”. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was bloodily subjugated; Kim Jong-un’s North Korea is being brought to heel, too, or so they believe. That’s two down and one to go. Eager for a clean sweep, Bush’s more incompetent heir is taking his accelerating campaign against Iran to Putin’s door. There is very little Trump would not do to win Moscow’s support for his coming offensive.
As Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s national security adviser, has noted, Trump’s one-on-one Helsinki session with the vastly more experienced, cannier Putin – with no officials or note-takers present – is a “recipe for disaster”. Given his bottomless need for validation, the rumoured “grand bargain” on Iran, however costly, could be too much for Trump’s ego to resist; witness his fake news “triumph” at the North Korea summit in Singapore.
Western allies fear that Trump, egged on by the Saudis and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who conferred with Putin in Moscow last week, may privately offer de facto US recognition of Crimea’s annexation and an easing of Ukraine-related sanctions. In return, he would seek Putin’s agreement to push Iran out of Syria, thereby safeguarding Israel’s border and weakening Tehran’s influence in Lebanon and the wider region.
Any such deal would spell survival for Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s Russian-backed war criminal president, while confirming Moscow’s Middle East ascendancy. It would mark a historic betrayal of pro-democracy, anti-Assad forces that helped battle Islamic State. It would be a possibly terminal calamity for Nato, splitting the alliance and potentially destroying its credibility in eastern Europe. And it would wreck Britain’s efforts to punish Putin after the Salisbury nerve gas attacks.
But Trump cares nothing for such fallout, for his ultimate, undisguised objective far exceeds the mere stifling of Iranian ambitions. It is nothing less than all-out regime change. Anybody who recalls the build-up to the Iraq war can read the signs: Trump’s incitement of a national uprising during last December’s street protests, his evisceration of the 2015 nuclear deal, sweeping new sanctions, hypocritical protests about human rights and relentless attempts to demonise and isolate Iran’s leaders. It all points one way. So, too, does the unilateral US global embargo on Iranian oil exports, beginning this autumn.
America’s allies cannot duck this looming storm. White House pressure, direct political interference, the use of US financial and currency levers, bogus intelligence, public scaremongering, egregious disregard for democratic norms, the UN and international law and aggressive hostility to bridge-building and diplomacy – these are among the familiar methods Trump is employing to bully individual European governments into supporting his anti-Iran attrition and penalise them if they refuse. Yet in Putin’s case, kowtowing cravenly before imagined strength, he offers carrots, not sticks, plus large dollops of crapulous fawning.
It is by no means certain that Russia will play along. The Helsinki summit, by merely taking place, is a second bankable breakthrough for Putin following his World Cup public-relations coup. Ali Akbar Velayati, chief adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, received a warm welcome in Moscow last week, where he was assured of Russia’s continued friendship. Nor is it clear Putin has the power to eject Iran from Syria even if he wished.
But rational considerations will not deter an out-of-control Trump and his willing coalition of rightwing ideologues, unelected dictators and Israeli hawks from picking a fight if, for example, Tehran blockades the Strait of Hormuz and halts all Gulf oil exports. Is the prospect of war with Iran sufficient reason for the western democracies to stand up to Trump at last? Is this emerging new “axis of evil”, linking Trump, Putin and Assad, the ultimate abomination that finally forces our leaders to say enough is enough? War with Iran could make Iraq look like a walk in the park.
Buried away in this agonised and reactionary vitriol is the dimly perceived recognition also expressed in the New Yorker piece, of the breakdown in the postwar “order” in which the US is now asserting its own interests at the expense of its rivals - the threats against Iran equally impacting on Europe which has lucrative trading relations there.
How far Trump will be “allowed to go” begs all the questions about “who will stop him?” or rather, stop the crisis rampaging of US imperialism.
It is a nervousness even inside the US ruling class, from a wing of the ruling class that wants to cling on to the old ways of doing things, and fearful that this crude aggression is “giving the game away”.
The fretting and fearfulness is that Trump/Hitler “goes too far” and burns the “democracy” boats, the best weapon the ruling class ever developed for holding onto to power by “fooling just about all of the people all of the time” (until the day they turn to revolution).
The shallowness here about “tyrants” and “strong men” expresses the same fears; it is the opposite face of continuing pretences/illusions about “democracy” and an international “rule of law”.
As already said, this was only ever a hoodwinking cover for imperialist diktat and the suppression of any rebellion against the West – no surprise for example that it is the West’s demonised and often 3rd World enemies only who get hauled before the International Criminal Court, like Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic (a dire revisionist nationalist but picked on as a personification of the former Western-hated Yugoslav workers state – albeit not deserving such an “honour”) or Charles Taylor from Liberia, while outright lying warmongers like Tony Blair, and George Bush go scot-free, as do the Ustashe nationalist Nazi-flag-waving leaders despite their breakaway ethnic cleansing slaughter of thousands of Krajina Serbs which triggered the Yugoslav Balkanisation wars – and the question never even arises of trying, let alone punishing, the Jewish colonialist occupation of Palestine for its non-stop genocidal butchery and oppression of the 8 million strong native population, fresh from killing or deliberately permanently maiming thousands of unarmed Gazans, protesting at the inhuman cattle conditions they are kept in by Zionist siege.
But these “international community and world order” pretences are breaking down.
Their laughable Goebbels propaganda Big Lies, to keep going assorted bogeyman stories built around the hung-over aspects of the Cold War, get more threadbare anyway as some more rational bourgeois commentary points out:
I seem to be the only person alive with no clue as to who has poisoned four people in Wiltshire. I am told that only Russians have access to the poison, known as novichok – though the British research station of Porton Down, located ominously nearby, clearly knows a lot about it. Otherwise, I repeat, I have no clue. I suppose I can see why the Kremlin might want to kill an ex-spy such as Sergei Skripal and his daughter, so as to deter others from defecting. But why wait so long after he has fled, and why during the build-up to so highly politicised an event as a World Cup in Russia?
Four months on from the crime, the Skripals have been incommunicado in a “secure location”. Barely a word has been heard from them. Theresa May has persistently blamed Russia. She has called the incident “brazen and despicable”, and MI5 condemned “flagrant breaches of international rules”. But I cannot see the diplomatic or other purchase in prejudging the case, when no one can offer a clue.
As to why the same person or persons should want to kill a couple, unconnected to the Skripals, on an Amesbury housing development, the questions are even more baffling. It seems a funny sort of carelessness. Did the couple pick up the infecting agent nearer the original site, eight miles away? Might the new poisoning be an attempt to divert attention from the earlier one? Could it be a devious plot, to make it seem that novichok is available on every street corner, from your friendly neighbourhood drug dealer? Or perhaps one of the victims, Charlie Rowley, has mates in Porton Down? Perhaps someone is showing off, or panicking, or behaving like a complete idiot. Who knows?
Since I have not a smidgen of an answer to any of these questions, I feel no need to capitulate to the politics of terror and fear. I can open my front door without cleaning my hand. I can visit Wiltshire in peace and safety and marvel at the spire of Salisbury Cathedral. I can revel in the remains of the bronze age Amesbury archer – whose death from bone disease has finally been resolved by the scientists. Where knowledge is nonexistent, ignorance is bliss.
That clearly does not apply to government ministers, for whom ignorance is not a sufficient condition for silence. The home secretary, Sajid Javid, said it was time “the Russian state comes forward and explains exactly what has gone on”. His security minister, Ben Wallace, had earlier reached the same conclusion, given that the Russians “had developed novichok, they had explored assassination programmes in the past, they had motive, form and stated policy”.
Like Javid, he asserted “to a very high assurance” that Russia was to blame, and spoke of “the anger I feel at the Russian state. They chose to use a very, very toxic, highly dangerous weapon,” and should “come and tell us what happened”. Since Moscow vigorously denies any involvement, it is hard to see how the Russians would now “explain”.
Surely, three months after the poison attack on the Skripals, ministers could have produced some evidence for all these accusations? I am at a loss to see what motive the Kremlin might have to commit murders on foreign soil during the buildup, let alone the enactment, of a sporting event that is of mammoth chauvinist significance to Russia.
Clearly it is possible that freelancers, wildcats or private contract killers could have operated at many removes from the Kremlin. But who knows? The most obvious motive for these attacks would surely be from someone out to embarrass the Russian president, Vladimir Putin – someone from his enemies, rather than from his friends or employees. But once again we have no clue.
As it is, all we can see are the devious tools of the new international politics. We see the rush to judgment at the bidding of the news agenda. We see murders and terrorist incidents hijacked for political gain or military advantage. Ministers plunge into Cobra bunkers. Social media and false news are weaponised. So too are sporting events.
Sport is the most flagrant. The plea that “politics should be kept out of sport” is as hopeless as demanding the exclusion of corruption and fraud. The very phrase, “international” sport, drips with politics. Why else do politicians shower sports festivals with taxpayers’ cash? As the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz would say, such events are the continuation of war by other means. Witness the obscene glee with which the British tabloids greeted Germany’s ejection from the World Cup last week.
Any politicians or heads of state who grace an international sporting fixture – not least one as self-congratulatory as an event hosted by Russia – cannot pretend their presence is apolitical. Hence the pressure on Theresa May to boycott the World Cup because of the Wiltshire poisoning – assuming that she ever intended to go, that is.
If nothing eventually emerges to implicate Moscow in the poisonings, more fool the politicians. If they were indeed a Russian plot, then the time to get justifiably angry is when this has been proved. Until then, I recommend the tennis.
Donald Trump’s ascendancy personifies the collapse and breakdown of capitalism, and the turn to outright aggression much in the way that Hitlerism did, as the Depression bit, and the patrician establishment finds it uncomfortable.
But Trumpism expresses the desperate reality that the old way has failed.
So they go along with it and are not about to challenge it, just as they first fostered and then encouraged German Nazism (like Trump, put in place by “democracy”).
That could only be done through a complete overturn of this ruling order.
In that sense Trump is not something new, but is only an extension of monopoly capitalism’s constant aggression and belligerence.
The essence of its “competitiveness” which has shown brilliant flashes of “incentivised” technological and industrial advance historically, dragging humanity forwards, is always corrupted with dirty dealing, cynical cheating, mafia-methods, and monopoly bullying even at the best of times.
That finally becomes the overwhelming tendency, when the dynamic progress of capitalism more and frequently is swamped by its negative characteristics and the social relations of such “private production” become a deadweight dragging down all its possibilities - a fetter as Marx and Engels described it in the still brilliant explanation of the Communist Manifesto.
Environmental degradation, pollution, species extinction, resource waste and the monstrous ever growing brutally unfair inequality, with its cynical and indifferent squandering of human capabilities, health, dignity, decency and lives are many of the obvious disastrous negatives reaching crisis levels.
But the most extreme “fetter” is the destructive trade war competition coming back to the surface in its most vicious form now because of the bankruptcy of the entire profit system and above all of its dominant power, the US.
Set aside the blustering and contradictory showmanship “style” the ultimate in Wild West snake-oil sales patter magnified (America’s version of Hitlerite theatricality) -, and the new Trumpite White House line is not very different to the New American Century policy established by the “W” Bush administration (on warmongering foundations already set in place by Bill Clinton with attacks on Sudan, blockade of Iraq killing half a million children alone, and the NATO blitzing of Serbia, etc).
Knowing that disastrous economic collapse was coming Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld et al set out to bully and intimidate the rest of the world into paying the price, by launching the demented “war on terror” and its ruthless “shock and awe” destruction of suitable semi-random victims like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Third World revolt and rival capitalist powers were both to be intimidated, openly warned off by Bush’s Pentagon, told not to even think about developing any challenges.
The splits in the imperialist world were already apparent between the Anglo-Saxon axis and the European “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” particularly, over the Iraq war.
But it failed. The great quagmire of revolt and insurrection in Iraq and Afghanistan proved that far from re-establishing US imperialist authority, with “liberated” populations welcoming the “new order” with flowers, the Third World was stirred into a hundredfold deeper anti-imperialist hatred, with anti-occupation “jihadism” erupting into full blown street revolt by 2011’s Arab Spring, once the underlying economic crisis had broken surface in 2008 and its disastrous worldwide impact was working through.
The need for international big power “cooperation” to stop the immediate haemorrhaging of the world credit system, and the war-wearied plunge in morale domestically, reined in the impossibly expensive Bush/Blair war “solution”, with the discredited “democracy” rescued for a while by playing long cultivated black and feminist PC cards to elect the opportunist Barack Obama/Hilary Clinton presidency (aided by fake-“left” reformist delusions and PC moralising).
However, under its “liberal” guise of pulling troops back, this was just as barbaric, carrying out more drone attacks than ever seen before, increasing Afghanistan’s troop presence and eventually instigating the Libyan NATO onslaught under the pretence of supporting an extension of the Arab Spring.
That was nothing but CIA provoked counter-revolution to topple Gaddafi - as initially was the civil war set going by US-Zionist intrigue in Syria (more successfully tapping local sectarian hatreds) to remove a “rogue state”.
Both were desperate measures to hem-in the shock impact of the millions strong Egyptian revolt which threatening to unseat imperialist control in the largest Middle East country and therefore control of the whole region.
But while that successfully manipulated some of the local sectarianism (Shia-Sunni) into horrific destruction initially, it has failed to pacify the region and solves nothing of the great underlying contradictions.
The secondary longterm aim of toppling the Assad government has failed too with the support of Russian Putinite Bonapartism, (partly looking after its own interests to prevent increasing Western encirclement and maintain its Mediterranean base).
Just how to understand and analyse this chaos has been made more difficult by the universal failure of the fake-“left” to see the great wave of terrorism, insurgency and jihadism as a mostly a response to imperialist tyranny, trying to get it off its back despite its confused and even reactionary ideology.
Instead it is denounced as reactionary or “all created by the CIA”.
That monumentally misses the point.
While some of this turmoil is clearly set up or manipulated (or tries to stooge for imperialism like the Libyan “rebels” calling for intervention) it is a treacherous misreading of things to write it off as either a new form of reaction or a “mercenary tool” of imperialism.
It is first and foremost an expression of the failure of Washington to get a grip on the world.
Even in Syria where clearly US/Zionist and reactionary Gulf manipulation of some sectarian elements was attempted, to topple the detested bourgeois nationalism there, for its failure to comply with imperialism’s needs, it has failed.
Imperialist skulduggery has been defeated which is good.
But much of this desperate proxy warmongering “blew back” in the form of the ISIS revolt and the “jihadism” which continues to erupt elsewhere (Nigeria, Philippines, Sinai, Somalia, Mali, eg), an ongoing turmoil against imperialist domination in the main which then required a split in efforts to suppress it (with Washington’s strategy going in two directions).
Massive and barbaric blitzkriegs were needed finally to utterly destroy several great cities in Iraq, where the ISIS revolt spillover from Syria almost toppled the US-stooge Shia regime in Baghdad.
To “condemn” this jihadist upheaval and declare it all “headbanging reaction” or simply “terrorism” without very careful concrete analysis of all these different eruptions and where they stand in relation to imperialism, is not Marxism but shallow woodenness, that ends up on the side of imperialism and its warmongering.
Is the Sinai revolt against Zionism and the reestablished Cairo Washington stooge dictatorship just “headbanging too”? - or in fact the Hamas Palestine revolt in the Gaza strip (also Sunni Islamic militancy)??
Failure to see all this upheaval as the great world revolt coming to the boil, however confusedly and lacking in a scientific Marxist perspective (the result of decades of revisionist confusion (temporary), stems from the same retreats by the fake-“left” as their reluctance to understand and explain the crisis - and the shallowness of their grasp of Trumpism.
This is not some inexplicably “morally repugnant” phenomenon (though it is too), to be judged by shallow PC principles offended by “pussy grabbing”, which can be stopped if there is enough “protest”, nor even the ascendancy of Nazism somehow supplanting “ordinary democracy” - it is the relentless degeneration of capitalism itself.
It is heading into inter-imperialist war against all its rivals to make them pay.
But the establishment wing of the US ruling class is right to be fearful; tearing up the status quo will clarify the world.
It is already focussing the competition and forging new alliances, albeit just as reactionary:
The EU and Japan say approval of the world’s largest bilateral free trade deal shines a “light in the darkness” of global political uncertainty.
Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and the EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker sought to establish themselves as the flag-bearers of the free world, in response to Donald Trump’s show of apparent solidarity with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.
The leaders promoted the benefits of a free trade deal that is set to eliminate nearly all tariffs on products traded between Japan and the EU.
Tusk, the president of the European council and an outspoken critic of the Trump administration in recent months, was particularly keen to celebrate the shared values of the signatories, not only in terms of trade but also foreign policy.
Coming just 24 hours after Trump backed the Russian president over his own intelligence services at a summit in the Finnish capital, Tusk pointedly highlighted the continued support of Japan and the EU for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, whose Crimean peninsula was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.
Tusk said Japan and the EU were firm in their support of the Iran nuclear deal, the joint comprehensive plan of action, which lifted economic sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear expansion. Trump reneged on the deal earlier this year.
Tusk said: “Politically, it’s a light in the increasing darkness of international politics. We are sending a clear message that you can count on us. We are predictable – both Japan and [the] EU – predictable and responsible and will come to the defence of a world order based on rules, freedom and transparency and common sense. And this political dimension is even more visible today, tomorrow, than two months ago and I am absolutely sure you know what I mean.”
He continued: “Let me say that today is a good day not only for all the Japanese and Europeans but for all reasonable people of this world who believe in mutual respect and cooperation ...We are putting in place the largest bilateral trade deal ever. This is an act of enormous strategic importance for the rules-based international order, at a time when some are questioning this order.”
Asked how he would respond to concerns that free trade could threaten jobs, Tusk responded: “Political uncertainty, tariff wars, excessive rhetoric, unpredictability, irresponsibility; they are a real risks for our businesses, not trade agreements.”
Trump has been condemned at home and abroad after failing to denounce Russian meddling in the US presidential election during a joint press conference with Putin, during which he appeared to side with the Kremlin over his own intelligence services. The Republican senator John McCain has claimed that “no prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant”.
Abe, an early visitor to Trump’s Mar a Lago resort after his election, did not address the Helsinki summit directly but told reporters that the trade agreement with Brussels “shows the world the unshaken political will of Japan and the EU to lead the world as the champions of free trade at a time when protectionism has spread”.
Juncker, the president of the European commission, added: “As far as we are concerned there is no protection in protectionism, and there is no unity where there is unilateralism.”
The commission has announced that Juncker will visit Washington and meet Trump at the White House next Wednesday to discuss trade.
Once ratified by parliaments on both sides, the EU-Japan trade deal will eliminate about 99% of tariffs on Japanese goods, including on cars, from the eighth year after the deal is implemented, with tariffs scrapped on car parts immediately.
Japanese consumers will enjoy lower prices for European wines, pork, handbags and pharmaceuticals, should it come into force in 2019, as is expected. The two parties also signed an agreement to allow data to flow between the EU and Japan, creating “the world’s largest area of safe data flows”.
Even more interesting could be the responses from China, Trump’s other major target for trade war hostility now facing multi-billion tariff impositions.
Whether this will shake its complacent revisionist leadership back towards more revolutionary perspectives, or push it in the wrong direction like Gorbachevism, is an open question.
Use of capitalist methods to develop the economy was not ruled out - in fact was advocated by Lenin as a means of transforming a backward country by acquiring skills, capital investment and technology, as long as everything remained under workers state overall control.
And China continues as a workers state still with the majority part of the economy in state hands.
But capitalist consumerism has gone a long way in China without any great signs of its corrupting influence - constantly reviving “all the old shit” as Lenin also said, - being fully countered by Marxist leadership and firm philosophical perspectives.
Xi Jinping’s new leadership and its anti-corruption campaigns, particularly in the People’s Army, insistence on party loyalty, and on study of Marxism are positive signs recently.
But the absence of any public international perspectives on the crisis - and worse still the capitulation to American pressure to vote for UN sanctions on North Korea is potentially a dire expression of revisionist illusions in “not rocking the boat” as anything else.
Standing up for North Korea’s right, and highly sensible decision, to develop nuclear and other weaponry for its defence (as other counties including China have done) should be the perspective, and all the more as the crisis deepens.
Whatever behind-the-scenes diplomatic deals may be at work influencing things, what the world working class (which includes billion of Chinese too) requires is understanding and clarity on the revolutionary necessities imposed by capitalism's uncontainable plunge towards fascist bullying and war.
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