How should we see the efforts of France’s Emmanuel Macron, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Israel’s Naftali Bennet to negotiate a truce in Ukraine with Putin? Or any peace treaty among capitalists, for that matter? We can get a hint from the life of famed American gangster and bootlegger, Al Capone:
In 1926 in Chicago after a particularly bad outbreak of shootings by the three different main gangs of bootleggers (sellers of illegal alcohol), the three gangs negotiated a truce. According to Jonathan Eig in his biography of Al Capone, the three gangs agreed which gang would get which part of Chicago to sell alcohol.
“Each gang would bear responsibility for manufacturing, importing and distributing its own products [within their agreed-to territory]. Small bands of bootleggers would be allowed to operate within the large territories as long as they didn’t push their luck. And if one gang received an order to cater a wedding or banquet in another territory, it would decline the order and make a referral to the appropriate organization. Any conflicts would be settled by a board of semi-independent arbiters. Malicious gossip passed from one gang to another by meddlesome cops would be disregarded. And leaders of the gangs would be held personally responsible for any violations of the pact…. [Capone] declared the dawn of a new era.
“‘Gangland killings have come to an end in Chicago,’ he [Capone] proudly announced…. ‘Now, for the first time in two years, I will sleep without a gun under my pillow. I believe it’s peace to stay. I know I won’t break it and I don’t think they will… I’m so happy…..
“‘And now we’re going to forget all those old grudges and start over…. They’ll stay in their backyard and I’ll stay in mine. If anything ever should come up that makes us mad, we’re going to call each other on the phone and make a date to talk it over.'”
This truce worked… until it didn’t. Is it any different regarding peace treaties among the capitalists? One bootlegger who’d been killed, Dean O’Banion, once summed up the bootlegger’s situation clearly: “We’re big business without high hats.”
As far as the negotiation process itself, Capone explained it very clearly: “You can get a lot farther with a smile and a gun than you can get with just a smile.” Shades of Nixon’s former Secretary of State George Shultz, who explained: “If the shadow of power doesn’t pass across the bargaining table, negotiations are just a euphemism for capitulation”!