The world situation is much worse than the liberals and some socialists think.
We saw this through a recent meeting of the socialist “Peace and Freedom Party” featuring a speaker who is a supporter of Putin – Rick Sterling – and a long time Marxist – GS – who is caught in a time warp. They were talking about the attacks on Trump by the CIA, the Democrats, and others.
“Trump Wants Peace”
For Sterling and co., the issue is that “Trump wants peace” and the military industrial complex doesn’t so they’re trying to undermine him. Thirty seconds of reflection will completely disprove that view. Trump wants a $54 billion increase in military spending. He’s stepped up bombing in Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and who knows where else. He’s given the US military even greater license to murder civilians. This is peace?
Listening to the likes of Sterling is like listening to the global warming deniers. They have lots of assorted facts that they string together, without any coherent story. We wouldn’t have to listen to them at all, except that they represent some powerful forces (Trump, Putin, etc.)
Trump’s Financial Ties
The reality is that Trump’s deep and widespread financial ties with Russian capitalists are at the heart of the matter. He’s seeking to use his administration as an outgrowth of Trump Company. That’s what he’s brought his daughter and son-in-law into the White House for – to manage that connection. He’s willing to sacrifice the global interests of US capitalism to the financial interests of the privately held Trump Company. This is strictly a no-no for US capitalism. (Here is an article that documents this, and here is another one.)
Capitalist World Order Breaking Down
This is happening at a time of heightened inter-imperialist rivalry, a time when the old capitalist world order is breaking down. This was the world order that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world order in which US imperialism was unchallenged around the world. Now, new capitalist powers are rising to challenge that domination. One is Chinese capitalism, and the other is Russian capitalism.
World War I
The world has seen a situation similar to this before, for instance at the start of the last century. Then, newly rising German imperialism was demanding its “place in the Sun”. This meant they wanted their share at the dinner table where the world imperialist powers were carving up and devouring Africa in particular, and Asia. Another old, doddering imperialist power was in its death throes — the Ottoman Empire. A new world order was demanded by the imperialist powers.
Such a new world order can only be achieved by war.
It was achieved by war — WW I, which was the most devastating war up until its time. Over 17 million were killed and 20 million wounded. Countless millions of others had their lives turned upside down.
Today, with the modern killing machines, such a world war would be many, many times more devastating, even if nuclear weapons were not used, which is certainly not guaranteed. If they were, the survival of the human species would be threatened.
New “Cold War”?
That is why it’s so important for the already-tiny forces of Marxism to seriously consider the present situation. Unfortunately, some like GS, who spoke at the forum, are caught in a time warp. A comrade of his claimed that we’re facing a “new Cold War.” That was the threat that world capitalism felt by the Soviet Union, which was a rival economic system, the economy based on (bureaucratic) state ownership and planning. GS likened the capitalist attacks on Trump to a “new McCarthyism”. Those were the attacks of the US capitalist class on Communists and other socialists within the US. He even denied that Russia today is imperialist as if nothing had changed since the Soviet Union collapsed.
In other words, both GS and Sterling are saying that the danger we face is just a matter of policy, and that policy can be changed. No, it’s a danger that springs from the very inner workings of world capitalism – of imperialism – and it cannot be changed, no more than the fact that animals need oxygen to survive can be changed.
All the calls for “peace between nations”, all the calls for “upholding international law”, all the claims that “we are all in the same boat”, all of which were made at the meeting — these are nice-sounding appeals to “reason” and “good will”. They are meaningless pacifism; they are attempts to make a serial murderer behave rationally.
Equally mistaken is hiding behind the (correct) call to focus on the enemy at home – our own capitalists – when that call is made in order to ignore the death and devastation other capitalists are wreaking on workers around the world, such as in Syria. Of course we have to fight the fight at home, but if the working class movement is not internationalist, it is nothing.
Today, as May Day – international workers’ day – nears, our starting point has to be that of Karl Marx: Workers of the world, unite! The threat we face has never been greater. Nor has the potential for the world socialist revolution and a socialist world.
Update: We have had some doubts about whether Russia is imperialist. The main aspect of imperialism is the export of capital – direct foreign investment. Here are some statistics on that for Russian capitalism.
Categories: socialist movement, Uncategorized, war, world relations
Germany before WW I was the expanding capitalist power. The real obstacle was not the Ottoman Empire but Great Britain and in second place France. That is a better fitting analogy to China and the U.S. today, which is economically far more important than any contradiction with Russia.
Doc Severnson misses the point, which is not to draw analogies between specific countries, but to compare the two general situations. In both cases the old world order was collapsing, and a new world order can only be settled through war
Ignore “specific countries” – what kind of materialism is that? Lenin was correct about the era: monopoly capitalist powers could only settle things by war. Look which powers Germany fought: Britain and France; the Ottoman empire was secondary. Today, China needs what Germany needed, its place in the imperialist sun, while the U.S. now like Britain then lwill not give up its top-dog place and profits quietly.
Good analysis, except I’m not convinced that Russia is imperialist, at least nowhere to the degree that the US is. Also, I think the situation with China is complicated. It is still socialist to a large degree, but of course it can’t be denied that there are strong capitalist elements in its economy.
According to the UN, in 2015 Russian capitalists exported a net surplus of nearly $17 billion in capital. This is the classic definition of imperialist. In any case, EVERY capitalist class is or tries to be imperialist. Then there is the other aspect: Imperialism always goes along with foreign oppression, or tries to. What the representative of the Russian capitalist class – Putin – is doing in in Syria is a most brutal example of this.
As for China: While there is still a lot of state intervention and possibly even state planning, there is no doubt that there is also a growing capitalist element to the economy. There are all sorts of reports of the export of Chinese capital to both Latin America and Africa. I also have a socialist comrade who is in Pakistan who reports something similar there.
Even Iran — an Afghan refugee I know who lives in Germany reports that there are all sorts of Iranian capitalists swaggering around in that country.
Imperialism is an inevitable part of capitalism in this stage of its development. It’s simply a matter of one imperialist power being stronger than another. The key issue is that the #1 imperialist power – US capitalism – is weakening on a world scale, which means that the old world order cannot stand, and a new order – a different balance between the major (and minor) imperialist powers can only be worked out through war.
And all this time I thought imperialism was the exploitative extraction of resources and wealth from colonies. This exploitation will leave the colonized or otherwise dominated countries impoverished, except for a comprador elite class collaborating with the imperial power. I don’t see Russia or China doing this. Also, I see Russia’s intervention in Syria as a good thing!
I see some parallels with the onset of WWI happening today, but I don’t think it is exactly the same situation. Yes, before you had competing imperial powers, but today you have the most powerful and far-reaching imperial power the world has ever seen, the US, dominating the globe while regional powers and smaller colonized or neo-colonized states begin to resist and push back.
I don’t think we’re going to see eye-to-eye on this, but I strongly feel that whatever misgivings you may have about Russia or China, etc., we have to keep the focus on the primary enemy of U.S. imperialism.
If you’re at all interested, this article of mine lays out pretty well how I see the state of the world:
Lenin’s classic definition is direct foreign investment — export of capital. Read his “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”. And you might see capitalist Russia’s intervention in Syria as a good thing, but those families of the hundreds of thousands who died in the rain of bombs by Putin and Assad – bombs on hospitals, public markets, residential neighborhoods — they might feel a little differently.
And as far as keeping a focus: My focus – first, las and always – is solidarity with the working class, regardless of whether it’s here in the US or in Syria. (By the way, in Syria Trump had made it perfectly clear that his goal is the same as Putin’s — to keep Assad in power.)
It’s been a while since I read Lenin’s treatise on imperialism; I’ll take another look at it. However, a lot of the money flowing out of Russia has been capital flight by what are called the Russian liberals who align themselves with US imperialism.
As far as Putin and Assad dropping bombs on civilians, you should be careful where you get your information. The US puts out a lot of propaganda. I think that if Syria falls that will be bad for the entire international working class; same goes for the DPRK. Also, the information I am receiving indicates that the vast majority of the Syrian working class supports Assad.
I get a lot of my analysis on Syria from Stephen Gowans of the blog “What’s Left.” He just wrote an article that I would love to get your take on:
Oh, please. I’ve heard this stuff over and over. On the one hand, we have video after video of bombings of hospitals, markets, residential areas, etc. We have reports from Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International. Those who deny it are just like the defenders of Stalinism back in the ’30s and ’40s who claimed that all the reports of Stalin’s crimes were just capitalist propaganda. They are like the Trump supporters. They have their world view and if the facts don’t fit the view then the facts are wrong and they’ll find their “alternative facts”.
Then we have Putin, the ruler over a capitalist country that, according to Credit Suisse is the most unequal country in the world, and not simply because of low wages, but mainly because of massive corruption. This is the same Putin who is close to the leader of the fascist Night Wolves Russian motorcycle gang, who supports every far right, chauvinist and racist group and political party in Europe (except for Ukraine), who bases his rule on Great Russian chauvinism and support from the far right Russian Orthodox Church. This is the ruler to whom you give credibility?
As for Assad, sure he has the support of the overwhelming majority in Syria. So much so that the first time he got elected, after his father died, he got 99.8% of the vote. You believe that sort of thing? At this point, after helping the growth of the Islamic fundamentalist Sunni, Assad might have the support of some Shia, who see him as the only protector against the Sunni terrorists. But he’s the one who created this situation. In any case, after he has tortured many thousands to death, what sort of possibility is there for any real opposition to develop? And let’s not forget that he was a neoliberal stooge of the World Bank and his economic policies could have been torn out of a page of Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine”.
As for US capitalism: In the first year or so after the rebellion in Syria, Obama took the position that Assad should step down, just as he did regarding Mubarak (after having supported Mubarak for many, many years). That’s because he saw them as the center of capitalist instability. When it became clear that Assad was not leaving so easily, Obama switched his position, but unannounced. The overwhelming recipient of US military aid under Obama was the Kurds, who have a de facto military alliance with Assad. In the South, the Obama administration prohibited the Southern Army from attacking Assad’s forces.
Shortly after he won the election, Trump gave an interview to the NY Times, in which he openly advocated what Obama was doing in practice — support for Assad. The US bombing of the airfield? The very next day it was up and running, and on April 9, just a few days later, the Wall St. Journal carried a story saying that the goal of the US remained the same – to defeat ISIS. As they wrote: “The Trump administration said its focus in Syria is the defeat of Islamic State, not pushing President Bashar al-Assad from power.”
So, please, let’s get real here. Rather than some far out conspiracy theorists, I prefer the view of the Alliance of Iranian and Syrian Socialists. See: https://oaklandsocialist.com/2017/04/09/alliance-of-syrian-and-iranian-socialists-statement-of-purpose/
Note: We got a follow-up note from “Prole Center” which we trashed. We welcome serious debate on this blog site. However, those committed to the Trumpsters method of fitting facts to a world view, rather than developing a world view from the facts only fill up time and space. There is no debating with them. “Prole Center” fits that description.