No 1565 26th October 2019
Pro-and anti-Brexit continues to hoodwink workers, each pretending a “better way forwards” but covering up the giant capitalist crisis tearing away everyone’s future. There is no way forwards at all while its system lasts. Already it slides ever further into austerity, hardship and redoubled exploitation for the majority (in Europe or out). Full devastation from QE delayed Crash has yet to hit bringing “economic nuclear winter”. But international bosses and bankers are warning of just that - utter Catastrophe as credit meltdown returns. Ruling class plans are for huge conflicts to come as escalating trade war turns to all out hate and hostility -– WW3 – the real purpose behind “America First” and whipped up chauvinism and Little Englanderism. Only revolution is the answer; no fanciful speculation but already bursting out across the world in riots and turmoil as well as anti-imperialist “terrorism” and “insurgency”. But spontaneous outburst, sometimes backward, desperately needs clear scientific Marxist leadership. That means building the Leninist Party
The spread of street revolts into Lebanon and Chile, Trump’s pullout from Syria “betraying” the US’ Kurdish stoogery, and gobsmacking viciousness of ruling class infighting in America, (echoed in Britain) all tell the story of breakdown and collapse for the imperialist system which is unprecedented.
The world is on fire with revolt against the tyranny of capitalism and its ever more gross inequality, non-stop repression and brutal exploitation with street rebellion bursting out across a dozen countries from Haiti to Iraq (EPSR last week) now joined by these two new upheavals - despite all being brutally and barbarically repressed.
Jihadist and Islamic eruptions continue too in Africa and the Middle East, with the Houthis in Yemen striking major blows against their mafia-feudal Saudi Arabian oppressors (armed and guided in their civilian slaughter by the British and US industry and military).
The anti-fascist war in east Ukraine fights on doggedly despite 13,000 deaths against swastika-toting Kiev repression; anti-imperialist defiance continues across Latin America.
The Palestinians’s struggle against the nazi-Zionist colonial landtheft occupation of their country is even more dogged, despite the ever more inhuman and barbaric genocidal oppression of this eight million strong people, leaving the Jewish supremacists paralysed with corruption and uncertainty in their election, itself a desperate repeat of an earlier stalemate this year.
And while all these disparate upheavals are yet a long way from united class war to overturn this foul and festering system and establish socialism, and are often trapped in backward religiosity, and sectarianism, they all underline the enormous difficulties facing the ruling class as its interlocked world exploitation system heads for the historic buffers, entangled in contradictions.
The very extent and number of these eruptions is now a major story in itself.
It answers the typical middle class complacency which asks “but how will you get people to make a revolution?” implying that “nowadays” such things are no longer possible, or “your little tinpot group will never persuade anyone”.
But as Lenin long ago said of the Bolsheviks, it is not we who make revolution nor persuade the masses.
The greatest Catastrophic breakdown in history will teach them by the pain it imposes, driving the struggle, as is clear from all this spontaneous rebellion (which itself is only yet sporadic early symptoms of the giant upheavals to come).
But the need then is for the clarity and grasp of revolutionary understanding, providing leadership so that the masses everywhere can fully comprehend what is the source of their agony and what is the way forwards, both long term and minute by minute as events unfold and the balance of class forces shifts and changes.
The revolutionary overturn of capitalism is the answer, bringing an end to its vile profiteering, ever greater degeneracy, inequality, unfairness, its brute oppression and tyrannical exploitation.
The greatest ever class war in history is coming, defeating and smashing its rotten callous domination, the first step towards its complete overthrow to establish socialism.
That can only be done by the serious, deliberate, conscious building of a revolutionary party of highly trained and disciplined cadres, studying and the already deep theoretical science of Marxism and developing it further by constantly engaging in the polemical battle in the party for understanding at the highest level of all aspects of current society and the unfolding crisis which is tearing it apart.
It must be a fight for leadership held in front of the working class and constantly drawing in the best and most advanced to train, and to carry the understanding into the class in unceasing dialectical interchange.
The core aspect is a mass confidence in communism, and the workers states (proletarian dictatorship) needed to achieve it, all of which has been shattered by endless Western anti-communist brainwashing facilitated by the great retreat from Leninist grasp by decades of Stalinist revisionism and the liquidation it led to of the Soviet Union, and by the even more hopeless “opposition” of poisonous Trotskyism, filled with petty bourgeois fear and loathing of working class rule and discipline.
It needs to be done now, to prepare for what is coming.
But the ignorance and opportunism of the fake-“left” circus across the board continues to trap the working class behind illusions in “democracy” and class collaborating “national interest”, even as the Trumpites and Borises demonstrate their complete contempt for it (or rather are forced to do so, because its threadbare hoodwinking lies no longer serves ruling class needs).
The entire endless argument about Brexit demonstrates exactly this.
It is the wrong discussion and dangerously misleads with its illusions that there is a path forwards to “prosperity” one side or the other.
It is part of the giant deliberate ruling class pretence that “an upturn” is underway, and austerity can be ended.
It is a huge lie diverting workers from the huge crisis collapse and the war it is unfolding which is the only future, and mostly trapping them in the chauvinism which the ruling class needs for just that war path.
The constant drumbeat of “the British people” which is the chauvinist prelude to the gigantic conflicts and one of the main tools for cowing class collaboration politics, grows louder by the day.
The only “national interest” there can ever be in capitalism is that of the bourgeoisie which “owns” everything and those who service them.
Workers’ interests are class interests and they are international.
Brexit is a purely a ruling class dispute by an ever more moribund British has-been power, over which giant monopoly bloc of capitalists to side with as trade war and inter-imperialist rivalry, (now ramped up further by Trumpism), intensifies.
Neither leaving Europe, nor staying in it, offers workers a future of any kind because the whole world capitalist system is going down.
The world is heading for total disintegration and turmoil, with the already endless warmongering, eventually erupting into world wide conflict between the very biggest powers as it did three times before (Franco-German war, First World War, and Second World War) always more widespread, devastating and horrifying than the time before.
It is that which needs to be focussed on, and even more importantly, the revolutionary implications of such a perspective.
None of the “left” groups get anywhere close to explaining this, even those who have stood aside from the Brexit issue, like the Revolutionary Communist Group, or the disdainful Weekly Worker CPGB, which pretends to advocate abstention but in fact continues a Remainer line built around sub-Trotskyite pie-in-the-sky cross-European simultaneous struggle, to be achieved by coordinated “democracy”.
Yet the devastating economic crisis which erupted in 2008 was has not gone away as austerity hammered workers know only too well – in Europe and America and even more in the Third World.
It underlies all these eruptions.
And this is only the start.
The world is heading back to total economic breakdown as the massive credit crutch of Quantitative Easing also inevitably implodes.
The Marxist-Leninist science of the EPSR has been warning of this disaster for decades against the mockery, complacency, sneering and hostility of the “left” deriding “old hat cranky Marxism” or “hysterical catastrophism”.
And it continues to stand alone in its warnings even though some “left” groups at least now mention the crisis (which has been glaringly clear since the 2008 global credit breakdown) or will even occasionally even give a good enough summary of Marx’s discoveries in a special article to uphold their “left” credentials.
But this is always kept separate from other issues or might perhaps be mentioned in passing as “making things worse” for the ruling class. It might be academically debated to and fro, agnostically, in the letters columns.
But never is its entire perspective made the core of all understanding (hence Karl Marx devoting his life to it in the three volumes of Capital and even more notebooks) without which there can be no analysis about anything in capitalism, from Middle East blitzkrieg, or coup attempts against Venezuela or Bolivia, nor grasp of non-stop eruptions of “jihadism”, Islamic resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the giant street revolts from the Arab Spring onwards culminating in the endless blitzing and starvation horrors imposed on Yemen by the mafia-killer-thug Sheikhdoms of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia.
It is this oncoming Catastrophe which is driving the ruling class to increasingly trample all over the pretences of democracy as both Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are doing, playing on populist chauvinist delusions, and both defying the “liberals” to do anything about it (who are terrified of the revolutionary class war action that alone that could challenge such contemptuous game playing – just as they were when Hitler and Mussolini twisted and manipulated “democracy” with plebiscites, before shutting it down).
It is a high risk strategy, abandoning the great parliament racket which has served the ruling class so well in keeping the masses fooled – the best weapon ever devised for its class dominance.
But consciously or viscerally, the Trumpite wing knows that the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (EPSR No 1563) will have to be asserted ever more directly and especially when the temporarily QE deferred collapse comes back and inter-imperialist conflict really kicks off.
So while the “lefts” keep the working class disarmed with their parliamentary “left pressure” complacency (fearful of revolution), the ruling class knows exactly what is coming (even if the bourgeois press accounts don’t grasp the full implications of what they are reporting).
The latest warnings are hair raising, particularly when it is obvious their full import will be revealed only behind the closed doors where all serious ruling business goes on:
They were all there. Mario Draghi, in his last few weeks as president of the European Central Bank before handing over to Christine Lagarde; Mark Carney, who will be leaving the Bank of England in January provided the UK government ever finds the time to appoint a new governor; and Jay Powell, the man Donald Trump now deeply regrets ever choosing to run the Federal Reserve.
Yet all these members of the financial elite were upstaged by someone who retired from the central banking fraternity six years ago. Lord Mervyn King showed up in Washington to give the Per Jacobsson lecture, a showcase occasion at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund.
King’s argument was simple. The synchronised slowdown in the global economy identified by the IMF’s new managing director – Kristalina Georgieva – is more than a temporary phenomenon. Instead, it is a reflection of how the failure to address the reasons for the financial crisis of 2008-09 has left the world economy stuck in a permanent low-growth trap.
Policymakers have patted themselves on the back for the way in which their emergency action at the height of the banking meltdown in 2008 prevented a repeat of the 1930s. By cutting interest rates, creating new electronic money and bailing out the banks, governments ensured there was nothing like the loss of output or the increase in unemployment seen during the Great Depression.
But look at it another way, King said, and the comparison is not quite so flattering. In the US, the economic horrors of the 1930s were followed by stupendously rapid growth in the 1940s. There was a big drop in activity in the years after the Wall Street Crash, but by 1950 the US economy was back to where it would have been had the economy continued on its pre-Great Depression growth trend of 2% a year.
Now take the 20-year period between 2008 and 2028. Assuming the US economy grows in line with the IMF’s forecasts of just below 2% a year on average between now and 2024, the world’s biggest economy would need to grow by 5.5% a year between 2025 and 2028 to regain its pre-2008 growth path. That looks like a tall order given that the US has not even approached those rates of expansion on a sustained basis for half a century. What’s more, the US has performed a lot more strongly than other developed countries: recovering more quickly and growing faster than the eurozone, for example.
But the Great Depression led to big changes in economics – the Keynesian revolution – and this paved the way for a political rethink. The same applied to the mid-1970s, when the shift to the political right was made possible by a group of economists who challenged the Keynesian orthodoxy.
King’s view – and he is right – is that there has been nothing remotely comparable since the financial crisis of 2008. Economies have been kept ticking over by monetary easing – low interest rates and quantitative easing – but none of the fundamental issues have been tackled.
This is not just a question of the law of diminishing returns, with each dollop of stimulus proving less effective at boosting activity than the last. It is also, as the IMF noted last week, creating the conditions for the next financial crash. Why? Because when central banks send out the message that interest rates are going to stay low for ever, it encourages individuals and companies to load up on debt. This is fine until a recession arrives, causing individuals to lose their jobs and companies to see product demand collapse. In those circumstances, the debt becomes unpayable, and a wave of bankruptcies amplifies the initial economic shock.
Most central bankers are aware of the limitations of monetary policy. Carney said in Washington that there was the risk of a global liquidity trap – where people hoard cash and even rock-bottom interest rates are ineffective. Draghi would agree with the IMF that countries such as Germany and the Netherlands should run down their budget surpluses to take some of the pressure off the ECB.
In the short term, policymakers are going to shift towards a more active use of fiscal policy, cutting taxes and increasing public spending. The UK chancellor, Sajid Javid, said in his flying visit to Washington last week that it made sense to borrow money for infrastructure projects when the government could borrow money at such cheap rates, and he is absolutely right about that.
But with debt levels high, governments are going to be quite cautious about deploying the sort of fiscal stimulus that would really make a difference. In any event, the global deficiency of demand is a structural problem that requires a structural response.
Both King and his successor have their solutions. Carney says one big problem is that the dollar is too powerful a reserve currency given that the US share of global GDP is shrinking. He says changes in technology make it possible to envisage a new digital currency that could be provided through a network of central banks and would eventually rival the dollar.
King says there need to be country-specific changes so that, for example, China and Germany become less export-dependent while other countries become less reliant on commercial property.
The petty bourgeois “solutions” touted in this account are hopeless reformist fantasy of course larded with bullying – why are Germany and China to be picked on? (Answer – because one is the heart of major trade rival Europe, outcompeting US industry, and the other is still a workers state, which has been using capitalist economic methods under the planned overall development imposed by an (albeit heavily revisionist) workers state, and which also outcompetes the West – even more).
More to the point, capitalism anyway cannot “stop exporting” i.e expanding and competing for world markets and profitable sales, because it would not be capitalism if it did so. You might as well ask for diseases that “don’t infect people” as an approach to medical science.
And printing yet more credit (via tax breaks or “helicopter money” etc) only worsens the problems, massively accelerating inflation and the dollar collapse (an issue the EPSR has often mentioned and which underlies all the speculation about “new crypto-currencies” – which would protect a minority as the dollar was abandoned, it is hoped).
Furthermore the great unmentioned “elephant in the room” is that the 1950s boom was only possible because of the unbelievable devastation and savagery of the Second World War, destroying half a dozen entire countries (including the whole western part of the huge Soviet Union, Germany, parts of France and Italy, Japan, and eastern Europe) and tens of millions of lives.
It was the critical factor in clearing away the great “surpluses” of capital and credit which had led to the worldwide domino toppling of banks and Stock Exchanges in the 1930s and the subsequent Depression agony (which alone destroyed tens of thousands of lives and livelihoods).
Post-war “Keynesianism” spending was nothing but the mechanism whereby now dominant US imperialism took control after destroying the great rival powers of Japan and Germany, and then filled the vacuum with renewed investment to head off the otherwise certain communist revolutions they would have seen and to hold back Soviet advances; and the Reagan/Thatcher “neo-liberal watershed” equally was just part of that, the opposite side of the coin when the postwar boom inevitably failed (because once more surplus capital began to clog the whole system repeatedly threatening crisis and collapse eg the “oil crisis” onwards) and the “generous” reformism of the boom period had to be reined in again with a new bout of classwar repression.
But these changed nothing about the relentless accumulation of “surplus” capital and ever intensifying world monopolisation, which is the real problem.
And their supposed neo-radicalism, born of desperation as the boom faltered was always a desperate compromise anyway.
The dominant US (and sidekick British) ruling class was always panicking at the implications of its “austerity” class war (despite the brutal miners strike suppression, retreating over the polltax riots etc which saw Thatcher toppled) and continuing to print money or create electronic credit, so that it could maintain its well-bribed world network of stoogery, corrupt governments and tinpot dictators to head off and brutally suppress any rising ideas about communism and keep ruthless neo-colonial exploitation going, while not forcing too much unemployment and speed-up domestically.
The windfall luck of the idiot 1989 Gorbachev liquidation of the Soviet camp by a by-now thoroughly cretinous Moscow bureaucratic leadership (reaching the “logical” philosophical endpoint of Stalin’s “permanent peaceful coexistence” mistakes), which fondly imagined the turn to inter-imperialist trade war and part diversion of resources from the Cold War, somehow meant imperialist hostility to communism had diminished - see EPSR book on Gorbachevism – and that it could embrace the West and its supposed “free market” advantages did not help for long.
The US debts just kept on mounting as its major imperialist competitors increasingly outcompeted the Anglo-Saxon supremacy, steadily undermining the credibility of the dollar.
By the turn of the century the US was already bankrupt with an increasingly obvious unrepayable debt burden.
Even then it was clear that:
The further implications of deliberate dollar devaluation could be truly cataclysmic.
The entire Cold-War, anti-communist, post-1945 world has basically only been kept going by the 1944 Bretton Woods imperialist warmongers’ fatwa that henceforth, the paper dollar would be internationally regarded as being “as good as gold”. Creating an economically successful “free world” (free from the otherwise inevitable communist revolutions which were sensibly sweeping the planet following the monstrous death and destruction from capitalist warmongering that the planet had just had to suffer (WWII) to get the imperialist system out of economic crisis (the 1930s) yet again), - was relatively easy when all Washington had to do was to ‘manufacture’ ever new billions and trillions of dollar credits for propping up any and every ‘anti-communist’ regime that could be invented (military dictators, fascist nutcases, feudal despots, and farcical corrupt ‘democracies’ of every description), while simultaneously bribing mercenaries and opportunist turncoats to undermine, denounce, or defect from every socialist revolution or progressive government that mass revolt against capitalism had thrown up.
The result now is that trillions and trillions of ‘surplus’ dollars from all this endless anti-communist political racketeering, ‘legal’ and illegal, currently slosh around the world’s markets at frightening speeds and in incredible volumes, all still looking for a profitable investment or two.
All the time that Washington still agrees to stand by these (effectively) huge debts on the US Treasury to the rest of the world, then the dollar’s ultimate collapse is delayed. This requires the USA to continue to run these unbelievable balance-of-payments deficits and government budget deficits (which keep the rest of the world trading more or less profitably).
But once the accumulative consequences erupt from this sustained false USA living standard (in reality), and the whole illogical, unstable, corrupt, and blatantly fraudulent “capitalist economic miracle” starts to totter, - then there could commence the long-feared rapid chain reaction of scores of unviable economies going bankrupt all round the ‘free’ world, - with the giant US economy itself at the very heart of the degenerate catastrophe. (EPSR Perspectives 2003 No 1166 07-01-03).
That in turn led to the barbaric blitz-and-torture shock-and-awe lashing out of the George W Bush presidency against Iraq, long planned before the chance excuse of the relatively minor 9/11 attack on New York’s WTC, to try and restore US authority and dominance by war, using a suitably unpleasant regime as its almost random target, ruthlessly made an “example” of, as a means to impose universal intimidation on growing Third World revolt and simultaneously on major imperialist rivals who might challenge it or even withdraw their dollar holdings.
But it failed, either to assert any new easy and comfortable stooge authority, seeing only a quagmire of morale shattering and hugely expensive military defeat in Iraq and in Afghanistan which it had been obliged to take on too, or to stop the great economic collapse of 2007-8, instead almost certainly accelerating it.
In fact it compounded US problems, driving huge recruitment into the ranks of insurgency and “terrorism” worldwide, accelerated by the crisis and the now never ending blitzkrieging and warmongering of imperialism (which is far more ruthless, horrifying, inhuman and widespread than anything even the ISIS ever managed (in Afghanistan and Yemen for example, blitzing one wedding party or village gathering after another and currently leaving 12 million people on the edge of famine).
The quagmire stalemate with its stream of homebound, flag-draped coffins almost toppled the US presidency.
The “liberal” PC pretence of Obama-ism had to be installed to rescue things by pretending a military withdrawal (though US droning and killing went on – particularly in Afghanistan) and by pumping hundreds of billions of valueless dollars into the world system.
The QE credit has worked temporarily, particularly with the aid of the by now giant Chinese economy’s “stimulus” package (itself raising multiple questions about Beijing’s revisionist illusions in “stability”) but only at great cost in austerity measures imposed on workers, compounding resentment and hatred everywhere.
And it has not stopped the growing discontent in the world population, particularly in the Middle East where anti-Iraqi occupation revolt deepened – labelled “terrorism” naturally, – and then as the economic crisis worked through, the gigantic eruption of the 2011 Arab Spring in Egypt, terrifying Washington with the possible loss of all control over the strategically important Middle East and its oil (not because of “greed for oil” alone as the shallow-“left” “knowingly” analysed, but to control access to oil, and to the region in general, by other powers, – the much deeper trade war contradictions driving the conflict now confirmed by the huge growth in fracking making the US self-sufficient and no longer needing ME oil, able to at least survive without it.)
Egypt was headed off by the deliberate provocation of counter-revolutionary uprisings in Libya and Syria, bogusly dressed-up as “more of the Arab Spring” (in fact its opposite).
Far from revolt against US stooge repression these were upheavals against long hated “rogue state” targets for Washington (and its local Zionist attack dogs) where invasion plans were in preparation and intelligence skulduggery had long been recruiting local petty bourgeois hostility, now prematurely activated to prevent Gaddafi or Assad joining the revolutionary side in Egypt, at least for long enough to organise the 2013 counter-coup in Cairo (now one of the most brutal US funded stoogeries around, under General Sisi’s torture and mass execution regime).
Even that was a near disaster forcing Washington to step into Libya, (Obama sneakily pretending hands-off involvement under cover of a “Europe-led” NATO intervention), and leaving civil war chaos and horror ever since, – and backfiring badly in Syria.
Despite initial success in stirring up Sunni-Shia sectarian hatreds (already well inflamed in adjacent Iraq to divide and rule the anti-occupation forces) and using assorted “jihadists” to try and topple Assad, “blowback” produced the ruthless insurgency of the ISIS, which rapidly merged with the anti-occupation forces in Iraq (Sunni, ex-Saddamist) becoming a huge anti-Western anti-imperialist force which nearly toppled the corrupt Shia stoogery installed by the US in Baghdad and threatened to takeover Syria too.
Of course the barmy Caliphate ideology of the ISIS was a million miles from Marxism, reactionary and fostering a ruthless nihilism that is counter-productive, and ultimately self-defeating in its sectarianism.
But it was/is another expression of the growing Third World wish to get imperialist domination of its back, not a new (or very old) form of reaction as the treacherous fake-“left” have deemed it, lining up across the board with their “anti-terrorism condemnations” as they have ever since 9/11, using assorted sophistries and specious moralising to justify themselves – from declaring that “terrorism” is “unacceptable” (presuming therefore that revolution will be fought by some set of abstract “Queensbury rules” mediated by...(God??? - or more likely the big bourgeoisie these little people are secretly in thrall to)); or against Marxist “principles” (not remotely true as repeatedly explained by the EPSR (see issue 1248 eg) and by Lenin in such works as Guerrilla Warfare); or, where they know such excuses will not wash, by ever more convoluted extensions of the barmier end of conspiracy theories alleging that ISIS, and terrorism in general, are nothing but a bunch of “headbanging mercenaries” and a tool of American imperialism.
It has all added up to a capitulation down the whole line by the craven fake-“left” to the meaninglessness of the “war on terror” which has become the mainstay bogeyman threat for imperialist ideology to justify the warmongering that it alone is causing, (arising from the contradictions and “necessities” of its crisis collapse), the best it can come up with to replace the alleged “totalitarian nightmare of communism threatening us all” to sustain armsrace militarisation and warmongering.
It gets the “lefts” in huge tangles however. Is all “jihadism” to be condemned?? What about the (Sunni) Hamas leadership for the Palestinians, or just as religious albeit Shia, Hezbollah when it attacks “Israel”? Iran itself, a fully fledged sharia law state (meaning a Caliphate)?
The Islamic insurgency in the Philippines against the brutal capitalist deathsquad regime of Duterte (and many before?)
The anti-Sisi jihadists in Egypt??
And how is it to be explained why American imperialism would go to such lengths to create and then fund multiple such organisations as “tools” for its domination purposes and then use them against various Western supported or stooge regimes (Nigeria, Chad, Mali, Somalia, Egypt’s Sinai desert, and to some extent in Yemen against Saudi Arabia – disparately evolved jihadism, now all ISIS affiliates)?
Or why it would then also spend years and vast resources fighting against them, either directly or through proxies like Sisi, the Zionists, and etc the Baghdad Shia government in Iraq, and via the Kurdish YPG, recruited to act in conjunction with US special forces, American bombing missions and artillery, taking their money and arms to suppress ISIS?
It is clearly a nonsense - reflecting the evasion of any understanding that all this upheaval, including ISIS and now the great wave of more obviously “ordinary” street rebellion (see EPSR last issue, Chile, Lebanon) is the symptom of a breakdown in the imperialist network of control of the planet.
In other words it is an evasion of the revolutionary developments, seen through the broadest perspective.
Only orientating all understanding around imperialism and its crisis drive to war can any assessment be made of events.
That is now well illustrated by Trump’s withdrawal of US support from the Syrian Kurdish YPG and the Turkish attack on them across the border.
There is a lot to untangle in this – not least the confused and reactionary stance taken by the fake-“left” in supporting these Kurdish stooges working alongside US special forces, and calling in US airstrikes – but first is to see the light it throws on the way imperialism’s deepening crisis is further shaping up.
The ascent of Trumpism and the intensification of its reactionary America First isolationism (brewing throughout the last decades) are sharply shown up by this event for the further retreat they are.
Contradictorily the belligerence and aggression of Trumpite racist populism is as much an expression of weakness as Hitlerism.
But the difference this time is that post-WW1 Germany was still a rising power, weak because of the hamstringing measures imposed by its rivals in the Versailles Treaty, but bursting at its constraints, whereas despite similar rhetoric from Trump, America is in steep decline like all imperialism.
The US under Obama was already pulling in its horns and the Syrian civil war demonstrated its failure, unable to intervene directly and forced to play all kinds of proxy games attempting to use local sectarianism (as it had successfully managed in Afghanistan) to create mayhem and topple Assad.
It got “blowback” and was forced to recruit, or even set up itself, other “jihadists” (declared “good”) even while trying to push ISIS further against Assad.
But with two contradictory enemies in ISIS and Assad, it has floundered since deciding which it has to go for, events forcing its hand as the ISIS threatened to topple its Iraqi stooges too.
But now Trumpism declares it will pull back even further, full of blustering threats but refusing to continue policing the world on behalf of all imperialism. As the EPSR has attempted explain this is a giant shift in the world framework, with the enmities already visible around the time of the Iraq war with other imperialist powers, now dominant.
It signals a great shift in the post-war order under which the “great powers” accepted topdog status for the US, under the pretence of a new international framework of the “rule of law” and United Nations treaties with “civilised” agreements banning war crimes etc “forever ending” fascism, and while restraining supposed “totalitarian” communism with Cold War encirclement.
It was a great hoodwinking lie from top to bottom (as quickly apparent from the horrifying Greek civil war, Malaysia’s anti-communist suppression and the bloody partition of India (all run by the Labourites) the UN sanctioning of the just-as-bloody colonial theft of Palestine by Jewish-Zionist settlers, and nuclear threats against the USSR, establishment of Gladio secret counter-revolution in Europe etc etc) but stable enough with the class collaboration of reformism and Stalin’s “peaceful coexistence” errors and revision of basic Leninist principles (see Unanswered Polemics EPSR Book Vol 21).
Some commentaries like that from visceral anti-Trump Simon Tisdall in the Guardian have noted some of this, albeit from a thoroughly anti-communist perspective and without grasping the underlying crisis collapse, pinning things on the actions of leaders in the usual “great men” subjective idealist approach:
The US troop withdrawal from Syria, the betrayal of the west’s Kurdish allies, and subsequent advances by Russian, Iranian and Syrian regime forces have been widely interpreted as a dramatic “watershed moment” both for the Middle East and for American global influence.
Excited analysts claimed that last week’s Syrian upheaval foreshadowed an end to US regional leadership, even to Washington’s international dominance. A commentator for The Hill, a website reporting on American politics, compared the withdrawal to another famous turning point – Britain’s “east of Suez” retreat in 1968.
Syrian developments were also taken by some observers as proof that an increasingly isolationist America is turning in on itself and giving way – as failing empires inevitably do – to a successor world order shaped by emerging global powers, principally China.
But is the Syrian crisis really a watershed moment? And if it is, who are the contenders for America’s crown as no 1 global superpower – and what are their own strengths and weaknesses?
By general agreement, 1945 was a watershed year, marking the final defeat of fascism and the creation, through the UN, of what is known as the “rules-based international order”. In much the same way, 1989 is seen, in the US at least, as the year when the west “won” the cold war with the Soviet Union.
Yet it can be argued (as Russians do) that the battle of Stalingrad, which concluded in 1943 with a decisive Red Army victory over the invading Nazis, was the true turning point of the second world war. Likewise, some say the cold war merely paused in 1989, only to resume a decade later in a different guise.
Looking back in time, the true significance of other big moments, trumpeted as critical turning points when they occurred, appears similarly open to question. For example, Britain’s post-imperial “east of Suez” retreat was initially triggered by India’s independence in 1947. By 1968, it was already long under way.
In the Middle East, the “historic” 2011 Arab spring pro-democracy revolts, source of much instantaneous hope and joy, proved to be a cruelly deceptive mirage – precursors of a new epoch of intensifying, region-wide conflict and repression, typified by Syria.
The early rebel failure to topple Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, when combined with Donald Trump’s 2016 pledge to end US involvement in “endless” foreign wars” and age-old Turkish-Kurdish enmity, arguably predetermined events that led predictably, if not inevitably, to last week’s ultimate strategic crunch.
Nor do the Syrian regime’s advances represent a sudden, unexpected twist. Assad has been steadily re-establishing control over the main populated areas in recent years. Neighbouring Arab leaders have been mending fences in the belief that Assad has won the war. European governments mostly share this view, though they do not say so publicly.
The bigger claim – that the latest developments amount to a pivotal moment for expanding Russian influence in the Middle East – is also contentious. Since intervening in Syria in 2015, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has ably exploited ambivalent and confused US policies. While Trump has recklessly stoked confrontation with Iran, Putin has cautiously cultivated cordial working relationships with the main regional actors and adversaries, including Israel, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, based on shared interests in counter-terrorism, arms sales, and oil and gas production.
In other words, Russia’s influence across the Middle East has been growing for some time. That is partly the result of US strategic incoherence, partly of Putin’s diplomatic acuity. Russia’s latest success in Syria follows this trend. While it’s significant, it probably does not amount, by itself, to a “watershed moment”. What the Syrian upheaval does do, however, is provide additional, confirmatory evidence that the global balance of power is slowly and incrementally shifting in ways that are not yet fully understood and with consequences not yet glimpsed.
This process resembles not so much a sudden earthquake as a long-drawn-out series of tremors and shocks. And while it’s clear that the grip of the old, post-1945 US-dominated international order is weakening, it is unclear what will replace it – and who will come out on top. The main global contenders – the US, China, Russia and Europe and their respective allies, dependents and satraps – remain the same. But the relative ability, and desire, of each power bloc to shape and lead the 21st century by outmanoeuvring and outperforming rivals may be fundamentally changing.
Although the US remains, by most measures, the world’s most influential and powerful country, the advent of Donald Trump has encouraged talk of an end to its global dominance. Yet if this is indeed happening, the change began not with Trump but as far back as the 1989-93 presidency of George HW Bush.
By declaring victory in the cold war and promising a domestic peace dividend paid through reduced military spending, Bush helped nurture a delusional mindset that believed US global hegemony and the newly found status of the US as sole superpower were forever set in stone. The idea gained ground that America could, and should, do exactly as it pleased. Such complacent thinking was given superficial intellectual weight by Francis Fukuyama’s much-mangled thesis, The End of History?, first published as an essay in 1989. Part of its attraction lay in its connections to the original isolationist, unilateralist “America First” era that died a sudden death at Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The illusion that the US could stand apart, and stand above, the world was shattered for a second time on 11 September 2001. But since then, unlike in the post-1945 period, US foreign policy and war-making have been essentially defensive, self-interested and reactive in nature. The proactive, exemplary global vision of democracy, prosperity and freedom, delivered to the world from a “shining city upon a hill”, as Ronald Reagan put it in 1989, has been obscured. With its perspectives and instincts fatally distorted by the “war on terror”, America has lost its sense of mission. Swingeing cuts to foreign aid budgets, hostility to the UN and multilateralism in general, and an ideologically driven, post-Iraq aversion to “nation-building”, symbolise this change.
In this respect, Trump is but the crude, know-nothing legatee of a regressive process long in the making. Relative US economic decline arising from globalisation, deindustrialisation and increased competition for resources and markets have helped narrow US horizons. Trump’s dislike of costly “foreign entanglements” such as Syria oddly echoes the Founding Fathers and White House predecessors such as James Monroe. All the same, he is a modern aberration whose vow to “make America great again” is having the opposite effect.
The US still leads, mostly, in key areas such as digital, cyber, AI, medical science, tech innovation and space exploration. Its wealth is unmatched. It recently became the top global producer of oil and gas. And it remains the foremost military power. It is said that Trumpism has permanently changed America’s outlook. That may be true but it’s a fair bet that his successors, whoever they are, will try to halt America’s retreat. Future presidents will not cede global leadership to others, as he has done, and may move aggressively to restore America’s reputation and leading role in the 21st century world.
The piece goes on to look at “possible contenders” to fill the leadership vacuum, Europe, Russia, and China notably, noting their alleged weaknesses “too authoritarian” being the obvious anti-communist criticism for China, too split and divided for Europe and too corrupt and economically dependent on mineral exploitation for Russia.
These are all further symptoms of the crisis turmoil tearing everything apart in fact, and writing Putin off for his “lack of vision” is beyond fatuous in its shallow idealism. He does of course have a lack of vision, that produced by a revisionist education in the former Soviet Union become idiot religious anti-communist who cannot see the crisis and the necessity to re-establish Soviet relationships, and plays idiot bonapartist/imperialist games in Syria, as barbarically hostile to “terrorism” as imperialism itself and even working in tandem with its “war on terror”.
Obviously Tisdall plays up the ludicrously inflamed “democracy” protests still persisting to some minor extent in Hong Kong (grossly exaggerated by the Western media) which are anything but “peaceful protest”, being instead deliberate counter-revolutionary stunts of outrageous violence against the Hong Kong authorities, using Molotov cocktails, baseball bar lynch mobs, acid throwing and rock projectiles, and increasingly with outright racist attacks on Chinese bystanders.
All of this was, not accidentally, timed by Western intelligence agencies to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen “protests” and the continuing Goebbels lies of “the massacre of thousands” still repeated as if fact, despite the Western media variously admitting at the time and subsequently that no such atrocity occurred and no “killings” at all in the great Tiananmen Square (see EPSR Book 16 on China).
Those demonstrations were equally lyingly misrepresented as “peaceful” protests when they were anything but - instead being pro-American anti-communist “democracy” calls deliberately instigating the violence which tragically saw only a couple of hundred deaths (once violence had begun with lynch attacks on police and soldiers around the square, which then had to be suppressed.)
Tisdall does not want to come near the real problem with Hong Kong which is that Beijing has given too much space to this counter-revolution.
Nor does he want to talk about the only real path to “freedom” there can be, the overthrow of capitalism and building of socialism, possible only through the class war to defeat and smash capitalist rule, and keep its non-stop counter-revolution under the thumb of working class rule, possible only by establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat.
There are encouraging signs that firmer measures are gradually suppressing this reactionary-anarchist violence and even some reports that Beijing might remove the conciliatory chief executive Carrie Lam, whose prevarications have given unnecessary energy to the weeks of demonstrations and space for poisonous western propaganda.
It would be better to hear more from Beijing about a world perspective.
But at least this bourgeois account is teasing at the titanic shifts being caused by the unfolding crisis.
Not so the fake-“lefts” who have rushed to make the Syrian Kurd issue just a question of isolated “self-determination” rights.
It is obviously the case that imperialism has brutally mistreated the Kurds for at least 100 years, not least in the arbitrary boundary drawing imposed at the end of the First World War which cut their traditional lands in four and divided them between the newly established territories dominated by Western interests, notably Britain and France, in Iraq and Syria but also the new bourgeois-nationalism in post-WW1 Turkey and Iran.
This people with its own language, historical links to the territory and its own cultural tradition has been cruelly suppressed ever since - despite much Western posturing elsewhere about “self-determination rights” when it suits imperialist interests - in trying to break up the Chinese workers state by stirring up throwback feudal Buddhism in Tibet for example or taking up the “cause” of the Albanians in Serbia’s Kosovo region in order to “justify” the brutally murderous NATO blitzkrieg on Serbia in 1998 which warmed the world up for the renewed bout of non-stop warmongering got fully underway with the carpet bombing of Afghanistan and the Goebbels justified Iraq invasion.
Or currently in fostering a reactionary breakaway from Spain by the Catalan bourgeoisie.
The Trotskyist fake-“left”’s rush to “support” the Syrian Kurds because of a “right of self-determination” (including those who were previously more dubious like the Weekly Worker) gets everything wrong, compounding the reactionary position many of them have taken for some years, hailing the YPG in the Rojave area as virtually a socialist state, because of its communal kitchens and women’s brigades.
Apart from this eulogising running completely against the usual cretinous Trot mantra of “you can’t build socialism in one country” (let alone a small province of Syria surely then?) – notionally an anti-Stalin “principle” but actually just petty bourgeois hostility to the giant Soviet Union and its vast achievements by pretending it could only ever have been “a form of (repressive) capitalism” – this was a further extension of the “left” capitulation to the “war on terror” rationale for imperialist blitzing and warmongering which has included the horrific total razing of Falluja, Tikrit and Raqqa, at a cost of thousands of civilian lives.
It is completely unMarxist to take such an issue out of context in the interconnected world class struggle.
The overriding factor in Rojave was that the Kurds were working with the US special forces (and British and French) in the blitzing of ISIS and even now are calling for “international support” (ie from imperialism and particularly from America) demanding they be rewarded for the “sacrifice“ they have made.
But this service, rendered alongside US military and backed by imperialist air blitzing and artillery firepower, has been entirely to the benefit of imperialism, helping it extract itself from the mess it has made in Syria, and further playing to the “war on terror”.
They are essentially stooges for the Americans and their warmaking, and willingly at that, a fact which overrides all other aspects.
Much more needs to be explored around this question (in the next EPSR) which exposes not just the Trots but also the wooden Stalinism still outright supporting the bourgeois nationalist flakiness of Assad and the oligarch capitalism in Russia (instead of limiting the issue to a call for defeat of US skulduggery and warmongering in the region without fostering illusions that either Assad or Putin offer any kind of path forwards for the working class).
In the meantime the point to make is the further evidence it gives of Trumpism abandoning the entire post-war order, not in order to “withdraw” American interventions (in fact he has already sent tanks back into the stolen oilfields in north Syria).
The complexities of the Syrian civil war have already shown the inability of the American imperialism to continue playing the world policeman on behalf of the entire imperialist order - instead it is the breakup of that post-war structure under the pressure of the greatest Catastrophic meltdown in history which is the critical understanding.
And that signals the much greater inter-imperialist conflict to come - ending in war.
Only revolution can finally transform the slide to utter chaos ending capitalism.
And getting there means exploring all the difficult questions including most of all the great achievement of the workers states which were/are 99% brilliant, and only let down by the philosophical errors and mistakes of Stalinist revisionism and the poisonous “opposition” of Trotskyism.
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