It was the bourgeois liberal, Hobson, who at the time of the Boer War put forward the theory of the joint exploitation by the leading imperialist powers of the rest of the world. This theory was dusted up, re-christened as the theory of ultra-imperialism by Karl Kautsky, the leading theoretician of the Second International, in his opportunist defence of imperialism and in a vain attempt to hide from the working class the contradictions inherent to imperialism, which inevitably lead to war. Although smashed to smithereens by the experience of the two World Wars, this theory is now being resuscitated by present-day opportunists in the working-class movement in the name of collective imperialism – for precisely the same opportunist purposes as those pursued by Kautsky and his ilk. I therefore consider it important to bring to the working class the hideous reality of the economics and politics of imperialism instead of lulling it to sleep by regaling it with stories about the peaceful nature of imperialism. The truth is that there will be no peace until imperialism is overthrown and replaced by socialism.
I find it all the more necessary to substantiate yet again Lenin´s thesis on this question, in view of some heated discussions I have had the occasion to participate in with some German comrades, who were convinced that imperialists will no longer fight against each other, and that their main interest was in jointly exploiting the oppressed peoples of the world. It is to be hoped that the theoretical arguments (not original to me) that I put forward and the facts and figures I allude to will help to convince these comrades of the correctness of what is stated below.
Division of the world among imperialist countries
“It is beyond doubt”, said Lenin, “that capitalism’s transition to the stage of monopoly capitalism, to finance capital, is connected with the intensification of the struggle for partitioning the world” (Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism).
It is undoubtedly the case that the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century (precisely the period which marked the transition of pre-monopoly capitalism to the monopoly stage of its development) saw tremendous intensification of the struggle among the imperialist powers for the conquest of those parts of the globe which had not yet been occupied by these powers. Once this partition of the globe was complete, there could only be re-division and re-partition, as a result of the change in the relative strength of the imperialist countries due to their uneven development. This alone explains both the first and the second world war.
Following the Second World War, for reasons which need not been gone into here, most of the colonies managed to gain political independence, yet imperialism was nevertheless able to devise mechanisms whereby these formally independent countries have been fully enmeshed in the net of financial, diplomatic and military dependence on imperialism. In other words, colonialism has made way for neo-colonialism. In fact, there is now, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a movement back from political independence to semi-colonial status – South Korea, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, many African and Latin American countries, the Balkans, and, last though not least, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Through a system of alliances, a network of military bases, the establishment of a string of client puppet regimes, and through its economic power, finance capital is able to enmesh almost the whole world in a net of dependence. In fact, one may say that there is barely an inch of the earth’s surface where it does not lay its heavy boot.
Thus, although there are not many formal colonies in existence, and although most countries are endowed with the accoutrements of political independence, all the same the characteristic feature of the present-world is in essence the same as at the beginning of the 20th century, namely, its partition into spheres of influence among the various contending imperialist powers. In fact, a frenzied struggle is already under way for the re-division of the world between the three imperialist blocs centred around the US, the European Union and Japan. The war in Yugoslavia, the occupation of the Gulf, the daily bombing of Iraq by the Anglo-American imperialist forces prior to the recent war, the war provocations on the Korean peninsula, the extension of the warmongering NATO alliance to the borders of Russia, the American bombing of the Chinese embassy during the Yugoslav War, the recent American spy-plane incident off the Chinese coast, the sale of sophisticated weaponry to the renegade province of Taiwan, the European Union’s attempts to build a European army, and the American decision to go ahead with Nuclear Missile Defence Programme in violation of the 1972 ABM Treaty, the proxy wars in Africa, the brutal war waged by American imperialism against the people of Afghanistan, the predatory war of aggression waged by Anglo-American imperialism against Iraq and the continued colonial occupation of that country, the attempts at building three economic blocs (in the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific) – all these can only be explained in the context of a complicated but furious struggle going on right before our eyes for the re-partitioning of the world. Sooner or later, unless prevented by proletarian revolutions, these imperialist blocs, or a combination of some of these, must come to blows against each other.
The war in Afghanistan has no more to do with the “fight against terrorism” than the war against Iraq has had to do with the elimination of “weapons of mass destruction”. These wars are merely to enable US imperialism to monopolise the oil resources of the vast region stretching from the Middle East to the eastern republics of the former USSR, to establish unchallenged U.S. dominance over all parts of the world. The U.S. ruling class insists on hegemony over, not just the oppressed peoples, but also over rival imperialist powers – partly through overwhelming superiority in all kinds of weaponry and partly through control over the vast oil resources of the Middle East and Central Asia.
Consequently, the U.S. military expenditure has risen dramatically. From $280 billion a year in 2001, the U.S. defence budget shot up to $329 bn for the fiscal year 2002 and $380bn in 2003. Not being content with this, U.S. imperialism is planning, in flagrant violation of the ABM treaty, to build a National Missile Defence (NMD – the son of Reagan’s star wars) so as to make the US. invulnerable to a nuclear attack. The NMD alone is estimated to cost between $150- $250 bn. The NMD is presently considered to be unfeasible technologically; besides other nuclear powers, for instance Russia and China, will take notice and adopt necessary counter-measures. The point however is that U.S. imperialism is engaged in this Hitlerite attempt at world domination and its military expenditure today exceeds the combined defence budgets of the next 14 biggest military spenders in the world – including Japan, Western Europe, Russia and China. The gargantuan U.S. military budget is a harbinger of the wars of aggression which U.S. imperialism has in store for the peoples of the world, for, in the words of a U.S. general, “you don’t think we are going to spend all this money on the military and keep it parked in a garage, do you?”
Thomas Friedman, reactionary journalist, spoke with equally rare candour when he wrote in the New York Times of 28 March 1999 thus:
“For globalisation to work, America can’t be afraid to act like the almighty superpower that it is. The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell-Douglas, the designer of F-15, and the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for silicon valley’s technology is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. ”
The US has hundreds of military bases abroad where more than a quarter of a million U.S. troops were stationed before the latest war against Iraq (254,783 according to the FT of 18 January 2002). Of these 88,105 are posted in Europe; 91,670 in East Asia and The Pacific (40,217 in Japan and 37,605 in South Korea); 26,878 in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa; and 14,015 in South America. Since the latest Iraq war, a further 148,000 US troops continue to be stationed in Iraq as a colonial army of occupation. With the planned defence budget increases, the U.S. is embarked on acquiring for its armed forces more ships, more equipment, air-to-air refuelling tankers, pilotless craft such as the Global Hawk and predatory spy drones, satellites, surveillance planes and aircraft listening to enemy communications, as well as precision weapons.
In addition, it will doubtless try to secure more military bases abroad, the importance of which has been reinforced by the use of Diego Garcia from where U.S. B-52 and B-1B bombers flew to shed their deadly load on the Afghan and Iraqi people.
The idea behind these high-tech schemes is that the U.S. should be able to wage a virtual war without endangering the lives of her military personnel. But the idea does not work in practice. It is one thing for the cowardly U.S. aircrew to bomb with impunity from a safe height of 15 kilometres people who have virtually no air defences. It is altogether a different proposition to control and subdue the people who are the targets of this neo-Nazi blitzkrieg. This is fully confirmed by the US experience in Viet Nam, Lebanon and Somalia. It is equally daily being confirmed in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the imperialist forces are the targets of daily attacks by the Iraqi national resistance. The recent devastating attacks on the Jordanian Embassy in Iraq, the UN Headquarters in Baghdad, as well as the elimination of the collaborationist Ayatollah al-Hakim, head of SCIRI (Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq), are a powerful message that the colonial occupation of Iraq is in deep trouble.
Sharpening inter-imperialist contradictions
At the same time, US bullying, aggression and arrogance are not only provoking resistance among the oppressed nations against it, but also sparking resentment, discontent and disintegration within the camp of imperialism, leading to protectionism in trade and fierce rivalry in every other field.
The deepening crisis of imperialism is sharpening the inter-imperialist contradictions to levels not seen since before the Second World War. The crisis of overproduction, which made its appearance in the guise of a currency crisis in Asia in 1997 and spread to Russia in 1998, before jumping continents and infecting Brazil, continues to do its destructive work. The Japanese economy, which has been in deep trouble for a whole decade, declined 3% in the first quarter of last year, with the decline accelerating to an annualised rate of 10% of the Japanese GDP in the second quarter; the U.S. economy, the engine of the growth of the capitalist global economy for a whole decade, has been in trouble for three years, with unemployment reaching 6.4% – the highest level since 1994 – growth in the European Union is just above zero and the European Union is expected to register negative growth this year.
The world capitalist economy presents a picture of saturated markets, excess capacity in industry after industry, dreary profits outlook, fragile financial institutions in Japan and Germany, gargantuan consumer debt hand in hand with a housing market bubble and depressing jobs and earnings prospects – factors which are a recipe for a double dip recession rather than for a healthy recovery. If this sounds scary, some analysts, with impeccable bourgeois credentials, present a truly apocalyptic scenario, which runs like this.
The US economy, the largest in the world, is characterised by serious imbalances, which have not been corrected during the slowdown of the last three years. The US trade deficit has reached an unprecedented 6% of its GDP. It is expected to be $623bn in 2004 – requiring the US to attract about a net of $2.4bn every working day. Its fiscal accounts, instead of showing surpluses, as forecast, of at least 3% of the GDP in 2003, will be in deficit this year and the next to the tune of 5% of the GDP. In the long run the picture is dismal. Instead of $5,000bn – 6,000bn surplus once forecasted for the decade ending 2013, the present outlook is for a $1,800bn deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Independent estimates put it as high as $4,000bn (see FT 10 June 2003, The unbearable expense of global dominance by Felix Rohatyn, former US ambassador to France).
US consumers are in debt up to their eyeballs at a time when unemployment has risen to a level (6.4%) higher than at any time since April 1994. In the two years after the recession of 2001, US private sector employment has fallen by 2.5 million (700,000 of this during the past year alone) and is two percentage points higher than two years ago. The military budget has risen dramatically and is set to continue to rise for the foreseeable future. These are hardly the conditions to inspire confidence in the American consumers, whose spendthrift habits have kept the US, and by extension the world economy, from plunging into an even deeper recession than the one experienced recently. All that is needed for this nightmare scenario of an economic meltdown to be realised is for the American consumers to zip their wallets. If this happens, a prospect all too likely, there is not a thing that the Fed, having already cut interest rates a dozen times, would be able to do to stimulate consumer demand. With this, the banks, already perturbed by the integrity of their borrowers balance sheets, are bound to slam the door on their corporate clients.
Furthermore, the US is increasingly dependent on foreign capital to finance its deficits, for its trade and budget deficits require ever-larger inflows of foreign capital. The US net foreign debt now stand at $3,000 bn (representing 30% of its GDP) and increasing. This requires ever-larger infusions of foreign capital. With the dollar under pressure (the dollar has lost 17% on a trade-weighted basis and by 25% against the euro during the last 12 months) such infusion must be in doubt. Foreign direct investment in the US shrank to less than $50 bn in 2002 from over $300 bn in 2000 (FT, 10 June 2003).
The train of events just described, with the US economy headed for a considerable period of weak growth, cannot fail to impress on the foreigners the thought whether they really want to hang on to their dollar assets accumulated to finance the US deficits. With a dim outlook for profits and capital gains in America, they may begin to repatriate investments by selling dollars – thus unleashing a flood the force of which the dollar would be powerless to resist. The resultant plunge in the dollar, while making American imports more expensive and exports cheaper and thus empowering American manufacturers with some pricing power, would be greatly inflationary in its effects, which the government will not be able to head off in view of its commitment to ever-growing military expenditure for its imperialist wars of aggression, which in turn have grown out of the imperialist crisis of over production. The Fed would find it next to impossible to raise interest rates to protect the dollar, for to do so in the face of slowing consumer demand, would push the economy further deeper into recession. The Fed would find itself between a rock and a hard place faced with the grim dilemma: “raise interest rates to protect the dollar and slow the economy further, or let the dollar slide further and run the risk of an international financial crisis” (see Mr Rohatyn’s article in the FT of 10 June).
If such a scenario was to come to take place, the consequences for the US and the world capitalist economy would be no less than awesome.
Since the above lines were written in the middle of June, both the US and the Japanese economies have shown signs of some growth, with both of them expected to grow by 2% this year. However, these predictions rest on doubtful premises as the US and Japanese economies, facing serious imbalances, are beset by horrendous problems. In the case of Japan, the last time such excited predictions of sustained growth were made was in 2000, when the Nikkei index stood at twice its current level. But quickly this talk about growth vanished as Japan’s worst post-war recession deepened further still.
Japan is suffering from a serious bout of deflation (which under the conditions of capitalism is as much a problem as inflation), with the GDP deflator reaching minus 3.5% in the first quarter of this year. Chronically falling prices pose difficult questions for the future of Japanese tax revenues, public debt and the health of the financial system. “When old debts grow in proportion to the future ability to service them, the burden eventually becomes unsustainable”, correctly observed the FT of 22 August 2003. And, continues the FT, “as long as this persists, Japan is likely to suffer from a dysfunctional banking system that is in constant danger of slipping into systemic crisis”.
Japan has been trying for years to spend its way out of the recession. As a result, it is running a fiscal deficit of 8% of GDP a year and its gross debt-to-GDP ratio stands at close to 150%. It has got to come down. Whether the gap is closed by spending cuts or increased taxation, its effects on future domestic demand and growth can only be negative. Most informed observers of the Japanese economy are of the view that it is in the grip of the three dreaded Ds – debt, deflation and demographics – as a result of which its long term potential for growth is no higher than a paltry 1% a year.
With the European economy stagnant and the Japanese economy struggling against entrenched problems, the recovery of the world-capitalist economy continues to be dangerously reliant on the one engine (that of US growth) on which it has been flying for years – something which cannot be realised in view of the serious imbalances on which the US growth has been built.
No matter what steps the major capitalist economies take, no matter what fine tuning the capitalist governments subject their economies to, in the end they are powerless in the face of the iron laws of capitalism, which periodically confront them in the form of the crises of production, each more devastating then the previous.
It is this incurable crisis of capitalism which is increasingly leading to trade disputes and protectionism, notwithstanding the grandiloquent phrases about the wonders of an open world economy uttered by the representatives of the rival imperialist camps and their ideologues. The duties imposed by the U.S. on imported steel are merely a tip of the iceberg and a harbinger of the disaster to come.
While from time to time expressing verbal commitment to an alliance with the U.S., its rival imperialists are most unhappy with the current state of affairs whereby U.S. imperialism pushes them around and treats them with contempt. At the time of the beginning of the Afghan war, Germany was most unhappy about the command of foreign troops, including the so-called peace force, and demanded the separation of the peacekeeping mission from the U.S.-led Enduring Freedom military mission.
Of course, the European Union under German leadership, and Japan, are not in a position to take U.S. imperialism on militarily, for one thing they do not possess nuclear weapons. But they do have the industrial, financial and technological ability to acquire these weapons. Their economic strength has grown enormously during the last 50 years. Whereas after the Second World War, while Japan and Europe lay literally prostrate, with their economies ruined and industry devastated, the U.S. emerged as the strongest imperialist power, accounting single-handedly for 45% of the global GDP. This, combined with the victories of the Red Army, the triumph of the Chinese Revolution, and the emergence of the socialist camp, put the fear of god into the hearts of the European and Japanese bourgeoisie and made them accept without questioning U.S. leadership as the only way to avoid collapse and ward off the spectre of communism.
The situation, however, has changed drastically. While the EU and Japanese economies have surged forward, the U.S. economy, relatively speaking, has declined. Presently it represents about 30% of the global GDP. In contrast, the economy of the EU is nearly equal to the size of the American economy, and Japan, for all her troubles during the post decade, alone accounts for 15% of the global GDP. Thus it is clear that both the EU and Japan, especially with the demise of the USSR and the eastern bloc, and the resultant disappearance of the socialist threat, are in a position to say no to the U.S. and are increasingly saying so. Both German and Japanese imperialism have insisted on, and secured, the right to deploy their armed forces outside of their respective national frontiers.
The inter-imperialist contradictions came to a boiling point in the period leading up to the Anglo-American imperialist war of aggression against Iraq, with France and Germany vigorously opposing the US and Britain in the UN Security Council. The serious problems facing the occupation forces in Iraq, the contradiction between some of the leading European imperialist countries, on the one hand, and US imperialism on the other hand, have become exacerbated further still.
Clearly three rival imperialist blocs are being formed – with the U.S. strengthening its grip on North and South America, Germany in central and eastern Europe, and Japan in Asia Pacific – as a prelude to encroaching upon each other’s patch and in the last resort fighting it out.
There is no way of telling at the moment if Germany and Japan will go nuclear, if so when. For its part U.S. imperialism is determined to prevent them from doing so. Alternatively, it is not beyond the realm of probability that either Germany, or Japan, or both of them make an alliance with Russia, which does have the weaponry to confront the U.S. In this context, it is worth taking serious note that chancellor Schröder of Germany has advocated Russia’s inclusion in the EU as well as NATO, both of which ideas are opposed by the U.S. for the obvious reason that they present a challenge to its hegemony within NATO.
Whatever the advocates of the opportunist Kautskyite theory of ultra imperialism, now rechristened as the theory of collective imperialism by bourgeois ideologues and reformists in the present-day working class movement, may say, the various imperialist blocs are limbering up for a fight not because of any malice on anyone’s part, but because the uneven development of capitalism and the crisis of imperialism are inexorably pushing them in that direction. It is inconceivable that either Japanese or German imperialism, neither of whom have any independent access to oil, which is the staple diet of imperialist industry and war machines alike, will allow U.S. imperialism to grab the oil resources of the vast region stretching from the Middle East to Central Asia, which the present Afghan and Iraq wars are all about.
At the beginning of April this year, Ichiro Ozawa, the leader of the opposition Liberal Party, stated that: “if Japan wishes, it can produce thousands of nuclear warheads overnight. Japan has enough plutonium at its nuclear power plants for three to four thousand of them. If that happens, we will never be beaten in terms of military strength”.
The Times of April 8, 2002, which reported Mr Ozawa’s remarks added that “Japanese politicians normally prefer to avoid reminding the world of their country’s undoubted ability to build up a nuclear arsenal speedily. The country’s nuclear energy programme has created large amounts of weapons-grade plutonium which is intended for its reactors. Japan has more than 30,000 kg of plutonium, which experts estimate is sufficient to build 6,000 nuclear weapons.”
Although Mr Ozawa’s remarks were overtly aimed at China and apparently to emphasise Japan’s concern at China’s growing military strength, Japan’s rival imperialist powers, especially the US, cannot have failed to take note, and grasped the significance, of these utterances.
During the 1990s, the fall of the dollar and the rise in the yen, with the resultant Japanese huge losses on their investments in the US, made the Japanese reluctant to invest in dollar-denominated assets. On top of this, mounting Japanese current account surpluses, hand in hand with the astronomical rise in the US current account deficit, has given rise to unprecedented trade disputes between the US and Japan during the past few years. Any sharp deterioration in the value of the dollar, which, to repeat, is very much on the cards in view of the fact that the US needs to borrow $1.3 billion a day to cover its trade deficit and keep afloat, causing Japanese and Europeans to withdraw their funds from the US, would set the stage for the breakdown of the international monetary system in which the dollar has served as the international reserve currency. And such a breakdown would merely be a prelude to a no-holds-barred trade war, which in its sweep is bound to be more fearful and devastating than any the world has seen before. There are sound reasons to believe that the conflict may not remain confined within the limits of trade war; that it may slip over into an armed conflict of unprecedentedly fearful proportions – for “finance capital and trusts do not diminish but increase the differences in the rate of growth of the various parts of the world economy. Once the relation of forces is changed, what other solution of the contradictions can be found under capitalism than that of force” (Lenin, Imperialism the highest stage of capitalism).
No wonder, then, that the 1990s witnessed the publication of at least half a dozen best sellers in Japan and the US written by respectable bourgeois authors, who harbour not the least sympathy for Leninism, predicting the next war to be between the US and Japan.
Thus it is clear from the foregoing that events are fast moving in a direction which makes an inter-imperialist trade war, as a preliminary to a real war aimed at the re-division of the existing spheres of influence, sources of raw materials, and markets for goods and capital exports, more and more likely unless STOPPED BY REVOLUTION. It is in this context that we must view all the imperialist-led and imperialist-inspired wars and armed conflicts raging all over the globe.
Spurred on by the loss of its dominant positions in its former colonies, the narrowing of the national markets and the fierce competition from US and Japanese monopolies, the European bourgeoisie, grouped in the EU, is intensifying its efforts to construct a powerful unified Europe, with a huge and powerful economy, a common currency (the euro), a common foreign policy, a common European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), and a joint Military and Industrial Complex (MIC).
In other words, the unified Europe that the European bourgeoisie is doing its best to create has as its prime object the creation of yet another – European – superpower, with its own ambitions and pretensions to hegemony and domination, just like those of the US.
In view of the collapse of the USSR, and the fact that the EU economy is now nearly as big as that of the US and that the EU accounts for 20% of world trade, EU finance capital sees very little reason to bend to the wishes and whims of US monopoly capital – the uneven development of capitalism and the emergence of the EU, as of the moment an economy rivalling that of the US, has seen to this. It is the duty of the European proletariat to struggle against all superpower domination and hegemonism, not just against that of the other imperialist powers such as the US.
The planned EU 60,000-strong Rapid Reaction Force (RRF), equipped with 400 aircraft and 100 ships, capable of being mobilised within 60 days and operating without replacements for periods of up to a year, having an independent (i.e., independent of NATO) capacity to project forces at long distances from its borders, will be nothing short of a unified European military force, irrespective of whether it is called by that, its proper description, or not. This force, sanctioned at a meeting of EU defence and foreign ministers on 20 November 2001 in Brussels, and since then endorsed by the Nice Summit, is to be endowed with such armaments and facilities as will do away with all those weaknesses revealed by NATO’s war of aggression against the Yugoslav people in the spring and summer of 1999,during which war US imperialist military dominance and European impotence alike were only too plainly, and for the European bourgeoisie only too painfully, revealed. Thus, the EU force is to be equipped with transport planes, cargo ships, guided precision weapons, electronic intelligence gathering, control and communications capabilities. It is an unprecedented departure from the military strategy of the countries of the EU and marks the beginning of the break-up of NATO. This is the reality, no matter how often, and howsoever emphatically, the EU leaders pledge that the NATO alliance remains the cornerstone of Europe’s defence, or that this new force is intended “to contribute to the vitality of a renewed link and a genuine partnership between the EU and NATO in the management of crises”, as the draft report on defence from the Nice Summit would have us believe. No one, least of all US imperialism, is fooled by such declarations. No wonder, then, that William Cohen, the then US defence secretary, publicly warned on the eve of the Nice Summit that NATO would become a ‘relic’ unless the EU’s defence plans were closely tied to NATO. US fears can hardly have been assuaged by the following statement of M. Chirac at the start of the Nice Summit:
“If Europe, for its own reasons, finds it wishes to intervene where the US would not be involved, then it has to have the means to do that.
“The idea is not to weaken but to strengthen NATO. It has to be co-ordinated with NATO, but it also has to be independent.”
The Nice Summit approved the establishment of a military committee, a military staff of around 100 and a political and security committee.
When Javier Solana, the EU high representative for the common and security policy, says that the planned Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) “is not a move to militarise the EU” and the EU is “not building a defensive alliance”, no one believes a word of it. No one is fooled by, what one analyst aptly described, “the terminally obsolete sentimentalism about superannuated cold-war relations” (FT 3 March 2003). Everyone knows that Mr.Solana will be listened to in Washington only to the extent that Europe can punch its military weight by backing its foreign policy with a credible military force. For obvious reasons, the EU, presently at least, faces two ways. On the one hand, it maintains that the creation of this force is of huge strategic significance, which would add vital military muscle to its hitherto ineffectual common foreign policy; on the other hand, it pledges that this force holds no consequences for NATO. All the talk by EU spokesmen about the RRF being an exercise in “burden-sharing bigtime” and an instrument for “balancing of defence burden from the US to Europe” in NATO’s 54-year history, is just so much hypocritical cant. Far from fooling anyone, it merely serves to emphasise the fact that the EU proposals conceal far more than they reveal – as indeed they are meant to.
Not surprisingly, the US administration, as well as the pro-US sections of the British bourgeoisie, oppose the creation of the RRF. They quite correctly see it as a project designed to end American domination of NATO, and European dependence on US military technology and capabilities – and perhaps eviscerate NATO.
The truth is that ever since the demise of the USSR, NATO has become almost irrelevant to Europe, just as Europe has become far less important to the US. Even before September 11th, 2001, events in New York and Washington, Richard Perle, former Reagan administration official and a right-wing specialist in national security questions, with rare candour, stated: “I would say one thing to our European allies. The sense of liberation because they no longer need us is a two-way street. We no longer need them in the way we once did. They are no longer vital to the defence of our interests in the world” (see Financial Times, 12 June 2001).
The US is determined to subordinate NATO entirely to its own interests – by-passing it by building “coalitions of the willing”, coalitions of the obedient some would say, and using it to frustrate European plans for RRF. The US is happy to be part of NATO or any other institution when it can lead and control, but ready to opt out of commitments that restrict or challenge its freedom of action – refusing to be tied down by endless military and political committees as, for instance, during the war against Yugoslavia.
France, Germany and many EU countries assert that if the US insists on treating NATO as a toolbox to pick and choose from, they can for their part no longer rely on it as a framework for their defence. They oppose US’ new doctrine of primacy without constraint, of pre-emptive wars fought by the coalitions of the willing – of the subservient, the bullied, the coerced and the bribed – under US leadership and command, by an EU common foreign and security policy at variance with US aims. To the recent calls of the US for UN support for the beleaguered Anglo-American armies of occupation in Iraq, the French and German answer: let the so-called coalition clean up its own mess; why should other countries bestow the cloak of UN legitimacy on the actions of Anglo-American imperialism.
Besides, US military spending at $380 billion a year – 4% of its GDP – is twice as much as that spent by all European NATO members combined. What is more, the European members of NATO do not pack the military punch proportionate to their defence expenditure as they presently lack precision attack weapons, electronic warfare and intelligence equipment, missile defence and strategic lift facilities.
No wonder, then, that the FT, in its editorial of 8 February 2002 correctly observed that the “…role and structure of NATO are in question as never before”, adding that recent months have seen “… an undermining of NATO’s relevance and humiliation of its European members. On September 12, they for the first time invoked the NATO treaty’s mutual self-defence article, only for Washington to treat their move as a symbolic gesture of solidarity. Then, efforts to build a stronger bridge between the alliance and Moscow were undermined by the US”.
While publicly putting on a brave face and saying that NATO “is the central pillar” of the transatlantic alliance, members of the EU are bitterly sceptical of NATO. “The mood among the policymakers and diplomats in Brussels”, wrote the FT of 10 May 2002, “has rarely been so glum. The glistening headquarters of the European Union sees the familiar currents of anti-Americanism flowing fast. Conversations on the state of transatlantic relations are liberally sprinkled with references to arrogance and unilateralism”.
Europeans for their part are equally determined to assert their independence. The sharp exchanges between Chris Patten, the EU’s External Affairs Commissioner, and Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, over Washington’s military strength and unilateralism have hastened the realisation that relations between the US and the EU are entering a new phase of mutual suspicion and distrust. During last September’s German general election, Herta Daubler Gemelin, a former German minister, likened US President Bush’s policies to that of Hitler. Chancellor Schroder’s coalition got re-elected on a platform of opposition to the US’s then-planned war against Iraq. Such things would have been impossible only a few years ago, when German foreign policy was characterised by total subservience to US wishes.
It was famously remarked by the first secretary-general of NATO that the military alliance had been created to keep the Russians out, Germans down and the American in. More accurately, the rationale underpinning NATO from its very inception, and throughout its existence, has been to maintain US dominance by keeping Europeans apart if not divided. To the extent that the US has lent any support for European integration, such support has always been conditional on its taking place within the framework of NATO, in which the US stood dominant. Never has the US wanted to see the emergence of a Europe, possessed of equal economic and military might, for such a Europe could exercise its power in ways which hurt American interests.
This arrangement worked while the various imperialist countries of Europe (and Japan for that matter) were economically weak and the very existence of the USSR forced them to seek US protection. With the rise in the economic might of Europe (and Japan), the demise of the erstwhile USSR and the relative decline of the US, the conditions for US dominance are fast disappearing. The earlier cohesion of the imperialist bloc around NATO is giving way to an accelerated disintegration.
The events leading up to the Anglo-American imperialist war against Iraq have only served to accelerate the disintegration of NATO. Although not the cause, the war in Iraq became the occasion and the pretext for the diplomatic chasm between the US and Britain on the one hand, and several countries of the EU, especially Germany and France, on the other hand. The different interests of the two imperialist groupings, not any point of principle, nor the love of peace, democracy and freedom on the part of one of these groupings, forced them to take opposing positions, with the resultant near-collapse of NATO in essence if not in form.
The spat between these two imperialist groupings over Iraq furnished incontrovertible proof that European and American security are no longer indivisible as they were prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Solid and prestigious bourgeois commentators no longer think in terms of the survival of the NATO alliance, merely in terms of damage limitation – entertaining the forlorn hope that the end of NATO will take the form of an amicable separation instead of a nasty divorce. These illusion-mongers ‘forget’, of course, that the guiding principles of the present-day US policy, a policy driven by the inexorable and incurable imperialist crisis of overproduction, have put Washington on a collision course, not only with the oppressed peoples and nations of the world, but also with its rival imperialist powers, in particular Europe.
The high-handed, arrogant and down-rightly rude approach adopted by the representatives of US imperialism, far from forcing the rest of the world to fall in line reverentially, has merely evoked resentment, resistance and opposition on the part of Europe. Writing in the FT of 13 August 2003, Mr Christopher Layne, visiting fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Chato Institute in Washington and the author of Casualties of War, refutes the Bush administration’s apparent belief that American hegemony is an unchallengeable fact of international life. It is not so, says Mr Layne, for it is breeding resistance. If that happens, he adds, the Bush administration will not be remembered “for liberating Baghdad, but for galvanising international opposition to American power. Mr Bush’s self-proclaimed ‘victory’ over Iraq may prove to have shattered the pillars of the international security framework after 1945: triggered a bitter transatlantic divorce; given the decisive boost to European political unity; and marked the beginning of the end of the era of US global preponderance”.
Not being able to fully comprehend the forces which have brought relations between the former imperialist allies to breaking point, but sensing that something has gone seriously wrong, bourgeois analysts express the foreboding that if Washington does not learn to exercise restraint and rediscover the virtues of multilateralism and partnership, estranged allies will become outright adversaries. While being fully cognisant of the fact that the Atlantic alliance now lies in the rubble of Baghdad, but being unable to grasp the true significance of the phenomena driving the imperialist groupings apart, these commentators desperately cling to their illusions, muttering pious homilies that the realisation of the death of the alliance might lay the basis for a more mature and balanced Atlantic relationship by making US leaders aware of their strategic ‘mis-steps’ and by forcing on the members of the EU, who were themselves so bitterly divided over the Iraq war, the urgent need for a deeper union and thus turning the EU into an effective and respected partner of the US.
One thing that all are agreed on, however, is that the Atlantic alliance is doomed and, that being the case, an Atlanticist Europe is no longer an option. The bourgeoisie of France and Germany fully realise it; that of Poland and other members of Rumsfeld’s ‘new Europe’, will do so too, for they cannot ignore reality much longer. They have little option but to opt for a strong EU, notwithstanding Washington’s formidable efforts aimed at hampering EU’s political unity and sowing divisions between its members.
The war in Iraq has galvanised the European bourgeoisie to back its economic power with military strength. Resting on the Franco-German axis, a counterweight to the US is emerging right before out eyes. In fact, just as the Iraq war was about to be declared at an end by US President Bush, France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, to the great annoyance of Washington, met in Brussels at the end of April to lay the foundations of an independent EU defence capability. While the prime minister of Luxembourg, Claude Juncker, asserted for public consumption that their mini-summit was “in no way anti-American”, Jacques Chirac, the French President, left no doubt that the clear and explicit purpose behind this move was the creation of a multipolar international system through the establishment of a powerful European military bloc independent of, and as a rival to, NATO. Similar ideas are enshrined in the draft constitution of the Convention on Europe, which makes provision for groups of members states to cooperate militarily as a means of creating a “commitment to mutual security, which will be open to all the members of the Union”.
Even for British imperialism and the imperialist Labour government, which is an ally of the US in the war on Iraq and which, along with the US, did everything to cause a rift in the EU along the lines of ‘old’ and ‘new’ Europe, the Iraq venture may turn out to be the last time that British imperialism sided with the US. The British ruling class faces a stark choice: either accept a relationship of total subservience to US imperialism or play a near-equal part with Germany and France in constructing a European pole of power as a counterweight to US imperialism. On a balance of probability, it is more likely than not that the British bourgeoisie will opt for the EU camp as an instrument for realising its own imperialist interests. Writing just one week before the commencement of the Iraq war, Martin Woolf, a thoroughly reactionary but perceptive commentator and analyst, wrote that “… European unity may in fact be closer than many suppose, as a result of Mr Blair’s strategy. The UK is no longer a bridge between the US and Europe but is now anchored, by Mr Blair’s choice, to the US end. If this decision, taken against the wishes of a large part of his own party and the country, is perceived to be a disaster, the UK’s long-standing policy of aligning itself with the US will be tested to breaking point. One outcome could be the end of Mr Blair’s career. Another could be a decision by the British elite [i.e. the British ruling class – LK] that safety now lies with the countervailing coalition. That, in turn, would greatly enhance Europe’s capacity and will to pursue an independent policy” (FT, 12 March 2003, America may not like the world it is about to create).
There is much thought and substance in the above observation of Mr Woolf. With Anglo-American imperialist forces under daily deadly attack from the Iraqi resistance, the war against Iraq is increasingly turning into a disaster and therefore only likely to provide the occasion for a fundamental shift in, and a realignment of, the cornerstone of the foreign policy of British imperialism, namely, its close alliance with, and subordination to, the United States – a policy which it has so doggedly pursued since the 1956 Suez crisis if not since the end of the Second World War.
The disputes between the US and the EU are not merely centred on NATO. They embrace a whole series of serious issues ranging from the US’ unilateral rejection of the Kyoto Accord on global warming, its rejection of the draft agreement on biological weapons, its refusal to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, as well as the Land Mine Treaty, its rejection of the International Criminal Court, to its determination to go ahead with the NMD, the situation in the Middle East, the US administration’s rhetoric about defeating an “axis of evil” – North Korea, Iran and Iraq – the EU’s embryonic security ambitions which, far from being tolerated, let alone warmly welcomed, are fiercely opposed by Washington, and a growing trade protectionism in US trade policy. Then there is such US domestic legislation as the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, and the Helms-Burton Act, which by seeking to punish foreign companies investing in Libya and Cuba, antagonise Europe and Japan. Increasingly, the European and Japanese companies are making investments in these countries in open defiance of the US and to the chagrin of US corporations which as a result lost $20 billion in 1995 alone (see FT editorial 27 March 1998).
Then there is the looming showdown over genetically modified crops, with the US, supported by a dozen other countries, initiating proceedings within the WTO against the EU’s ban on GM crops – an action which is bound to end in antagonism, inflame anti-American feeling in Europe, cause a further deterioration in relations between the US and the EU, and result in a spiral of tit-for-tat retaliations.
Add to this the WTO ruling against the Foreign Sales Corporations scheme – a tax break that benefits large US manufacturers like Boeing and Caterpillar – and the $4 bn worth of EU sanctions, affecting about 1,800 US commodities, that could hit US exporters. The US is presently in breach of 6 different WTO rulings.
Perceptive bourgeois analysts are increasingly commenting on the gathering movement towards protectionism, observing that economic warfare between the major powers had long preceded the Second World War. Multilateral trade liberalism is slowly but surely being undermined. The Doha round of trade talks is grounded because of a deadlock over agricultural subsidies, following similar earlier deadlocks over pharmaceuticals and terms of trade for developing countries. Driven to despair by these developments Philip Stephens wrote in the FT of 4 April 2003 that the superstructures on which “effective multilateral management” ultimately depends are being dismantled by the Bush administration. Confidence among the major powers, which is so crucial to trade and capital flows, is being destroyed, for we “now live in a world where the President of the US will not even accept the telephone calls of his counterparts in Germany or France”, laments Mr Stephens. Continuing, he writes, “put another way, we have been reminded yet again that the moving part of the international economic system require the constant lubrication of shared ambition and trust. Listening to Americans and Europeans shout past each other across the Atlantic leads me to fear that we are heading instead for a great crashing of the gears. The world economy is already facing the first synchronised downturn since the 1970s. The uncertainty promised by a go-it-alone US foreign policy could well tip it into recession”.
From the last sentence it’s clear that, like almost all bourgeois writers, Mr Stephens sees things topsy-turvy – upside down. Instead of the crisis of overproduction and the resultant recession leading to trade and other conflicts, it is the latter which are presented as the cause of the former. Be that as it may, Mr Stephens is absolutely correct in his observation that “we are heading … for a great crashing of the gears” – a wonderful euphemism for the most fearful trade and military confrontation among the leading imperialist powers in the time to come.
As if all this is not enough, the EU decided unilaterally to intervene in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, without involving NATO. According to the FT of 15 July 2003, “… Washington suspects that it was France that pushed the EU to get involved in Bunia, free from US influence”. Thus it can be seen that the EU is contending seriously with the US over the mineral rich Congo, whilst strengthening its grip in the Balkans where it accounts for 80% of the 25,000 NATO-led forces in Kosovo and the 12,000 troops in Bosnia. Alarmed at these developments, the US, on 3 June 2003, blocked the EU’s plans to take over the ‘peacekeeping’ in Bosnia next year, citing security reasons and continuing problems with war criminals as an excuse.
Behind all this, almost unnoticed, is taking place the most furious struggle between the Euro and the Dollar for the position of the world’ leading currency – a conflict which will not be solved amicably over a cup of tea. In the final analyst, such matters are decided by force, which is precisely why the EU is busy creating its own military and industrial complex.
The Creation of a EU Military and Industrial Complex
In the face of US bullying and domineering, the EU is taking a number of measures aimed at safeguarding the interests of the European bourgeoisie, reducing its dependence on the US and strengthening its position for the impending cut-throat struggle between the imperialist blocs, spurred on by the imperialist crisis.
In the field of armaments, just as the US has created, through a series of mergers during the last decade, three giant armament manufacturers – Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon – likewise Europe, for its part, also through rationalisation during the last five years, has created two giant defence corporations -BAe Systems in Britain and EADS in Europe, the latter created through the merger of the German Dasa, Spanish Casa and French Aero Spatiale. Each of these five monopoly armaments corporations have revenues in excess of $56 billion. BAe and EADS are in a position to compete with their US counterparts, and, if they were to merge, as could very well happen, they would be a position to give a jolly good run for money to their US rivals. They are already partners in the Airbus (with EADS owning 80% and BAe 20%) and collaborate with each other on a number of important civilian and military projects. EADS has 13,000 employees, it’s third largest, in Britain.
To match Lockheed Martin’s new C-13J Hercules and Boeing’s larger and more expensive transporter, C-17, the Airbus consortium is producing the A400M transporter. To match Raytheon-made Amram (advanced medium-ranged air-to-air missile) bought by 23 airforces including the RAF, the Meteor consortium is developing its own missile. More importantly, the British government, normally the most Euro-sceptic and most US-friendly, through a statement in Parliament on 16 May 2000 by the Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced a package worth £5 billion for equipping the Eurofighter, being developed by a European consortium, with the European Meteor missiles – all this in the teeth of pressure from the erstwhile US President Bill Clinton and his defence secretary, William Cohen, who were trying to persuade Britain to buy the Raytheon missile and offering all kinds of sweeteners into the bargain.
Remarkably, in the run up to the British government’s decision the Meteor consortium ran several advertisements. One of the ads, aimed at influencing the government’s decision, showed a pilot with the caption: “He risked his life for the Falklands, Kuwait and Kosovo. The last thing he needs is a threat from Arizona”. The message was clear: that a Eurofighter armed with Raytheon missiles manufactured in Tucson, Arizona, was no match for Meteor in combat. Such suggestions are rare in the arms industry, just as makers of civilian aircraft do not normally question their rivals’ safety for fear of eroding public faith in the industry.
Europe is producing three fighter planes of its own. In addition to the Eurofighter, there is the Swedish Gripen and the French Rafale. On top of the belief that a European aircraft should be armed by a European missile, there was the worry that dependence on US missiles would put paid to prospect of exports for the Eurofighter. Hence the decision to equip the Eurofighter with the Meteor.
The US has become so alarmed by the EU’s attempts to create a force independent of NATO that it has drafted its own counter plans for a NATO military unit, to be called NATO Reaction Force (NRF) to rival the EU’s RRF, with the main aim of relegating the latter to mundane peace-keeping duties. The proposal was put forward by the US at the November 2002 summit of NATO.
Thus it is abundantly clear that, through streamlining procurement and massive restructuring of its defence industry, the European bourgeoisie, grouped in the EU, is busy creating a formidable Industrial Military Complex (MIC) to match that of the US and busy modernising its armed forces, equipping them with precision weapons, making them easily deployable, and eliminating those weaknesses of which it was made so painfully aware during the war in Kosovo. In other words, it is busy giving teeth to its common security and foreign policy by backing it with an efficient defence industry and new technology. Despite the temporary setbacks caused by divisions with the EU over Iraq, this course of development is set to continue.
Fierce competition in other spheres
Parallel with this activity in the military field, the EU is putting up a furious fight in every other field and challenging US hegemony. The European Union’s Airbus is locked in a fierce battle for leadership of the $65 billion (£45 billion) a year global civilian jet liner market with Boeing of US.
At the end of March 2002, the EU decided to press ahead with the development of its Galileo satellite navigation system in the teeth of opposition from the US. The EU’s system, which will compete against the Pentagon’s Global Positioning System (GPS), aims to pinpoint objects on earth to within 10 metres from Antarctica to the North Pole, would ensure independence from the US system. Since the system has both commercial and military uses, the EU does not wish to rely on the goodwill of the US military, which suspended the GPS service during the first Gulf War. President Chirac of France has openly stated that without Galileo, Europe would be America’s vassal. Francisco Alvarez-Cascos, the minister who chaired the EU meeting which decided to proceed with its own satellite system, said: “What is really at issue is not whether this is a civil or military project but whether the EU is going to be fully sovereign or whether it will become a subordinated market of 350 million consumers”, adding that Europe “had no complex” about defending itself. (see FT 23 March 2002). The US, on the other hand, has voiced concerns that the European project could present “serious challenges for the NATO alliance”.
The combination of US unilateralism and the Afghan war provided the startling proof through the interrelated complex of predator planes, smart missiles and ground-based special forces – all using satellite technology – that space had well and truly come of age. This salutary lesson was not lost on the Europeans, for they realised that such was the significance of this technology that they must have independent access to it. And the only way they could acquire it was to combine their resources as no single European country has the means on its own to finance space technology. Apart from its obvious military uses, this technology will soon be, or rather, already is, crucial in air traffic control, road congestion management, tracking trains and rolling stock, and monitoring shipping lanes and the movement of ships on the high seas.
Such is the revolutionary potential of this technology that the US made every effort to eliminate all rivals in this area. It was in pursuit of this goal that in 1996, the then-US President Clinton decided to make available free of charge to anyone the radio signals from the US system, thus making it apparently futile for anyone else, in particular the EU, to create a rival network. The Europeans were not fooled, for if the GPS was to be the sole network all global positioning could only be effected by the US, with the result that if the US, for instance, decided to block a military or civilian aircraft sale by the Europeans, all it will have to do would be to forbid the use of GPS avionics in the aircraft’s positioning system. It would be tantamount to the Europeans and others being subjected to an economic, security and technological serfdom which unsurprisingly the EU are not prepared to accept.
The US failed to kill the Galileo project because of the existence of the rocket launching facilities that Europe had installed in French Guyana, and its own Ariane rocket and positioning technology, which is well in advance of America’s. These European facilities have methodically and painstakingly been built over three decades, just as the Airbus have been. Now that the Germans, the French and the British have given their backing to the project, the system can never be abused by the US.
At the end of May 2003, just one day after the final agreement by the EU governments to develop the Euro 3.4 bn Galileo satellite navigation network to rival the US GPS, the European governments unanimously decided the bail-out the Araine rocket programme with more than Euro 1 bn (£725 million) of funding over a five year period to guarantee Europe’s continuing independent access to space.
And so it is in every other field.
Further integration of the EU
28 February 2002 witnessed the inauguration of the Convention on the Future of Europe, which calls for a “constitutional treaty” and deeper integration to transform the EU into a global force equalling the US. The aim of this gathering is to reform the EU’s institutions so as to enable it cope with the entry of 10 new members (already agreed at the Copenhagen Summit, December 2002) in 2004, and make way for further waves of enlargement, which would include Romania, Bulgaria, the various countries which once constituted the Yugoslav Republic, as well as Turkey. At this rate it is hardly far-fetched to believe that Russia may apply for membership and be accepted as a member of the EU in the not too distant future. This is particularly so in view of Russia’s military might – one way in which the EU may easily match the US’ military strength. The leading actors in the unfolding EU drama are fully aware of the significance of the enterprise they are embarked upon.
Opening the proceedings of the Convention, which he chairs, former French president, Giscard d’Estaing, frankly stated that the Convention must knit Europe into a force which can stand up to the United States.
“If we succeed, Europe will have changed its role in the world. It will be respected and listened to, not only as the economic power that it already is but as a political power that will speak as an equal … with the biggest existing powers of the planets,” said Monsieur d’Estaing, adding “if we fail, none of us, not even the biggest, would have sufficient weight to deal with the big powers of this world”.
The idea behind the Convention is to create an EU with a single currency, its own military arm, diplomatic machinery, with a delimitation of the powers of the member states and the role of the Council of Europe, the Commission, the European Court of Justice and the European Parliament, assisted by a host of powerful regulatory bodies. The Convention builds on the launch of the single currency, the euro, which came into existence at midnight on 31 December 2001. At the time of the euro’s launch Romano Prodi, a former Italian prime minister and presently the president of the Commission, asked the rhetorical question: “Are we all clear that we want to build something that can aspire to be a world power – not just a trading bloc but a political entity?” Well, over a year later everyone ought to know, if they did not before, that this is precisely what the leading powers in the EU are aspiring to. Whether they will succeed in this enterprise time alone will tell.
Along with closer integration within the EU, far-sighted ideologues and representatives of the European bourgeoisie are urging the EU to get closer to Russia, while the US for its part is doing all it can to frustrate the EU’s attempts in this regard and to woo Russia to its own side. Christopher Langton, defence analyst at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, says that though the European Union bemoans its lack of military capabilities, it could easily lease from Russia airlift transportation, the key equipment it is short of. Whatever the present-day compulsions of the Russian bourgeoisie and its apparent desire to be on sweet terms with the US, its own long term interests and geographical position are bound to bring it closer to the EU rather than the US.
Three imperialist blocs being formed
Whether the above prognostication will come true, we have presently no means of telling with certainty for, in the words of J.A.Hobson “the situation is far too complex, the play of the world forces far too incalculable”, to render any single interpretation of the future a certainty. What is certain, however, is that since the demise of the USSR and the eastern bloc of socialist countries the basic incompatibility of interests between the various imperialist countries has come to the fore; that three powerful, and competing, imperialist blocs are emerging – that led by US imperialism grouped around the North America Free Trade Area (NAFTA), the EU states under the leadership of German imperialism, and the Asia Pacific rim under the leadership of Japanese imperialism – as a prelude to encroaching upon each other’s patch and in the last resort fighting it out. A furious and frenzied struggle is taking place between these three blocs for world domination, which presently expresses itself in forms peaceful, but which may, indeed must, assume forms far from peaceful, for “war is politics continued by other (i.e. forcible means)”, and “Peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars and in their turn grow out of wars; the one conditions the other, giving rise to alternating forms of peaceful and non-peaceful struggle out of one and the same basis of imperialist connections and relations within world economics and world politics” (Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, p.112).
Events are fast moving in a direction which makes an inter-imperialist trade war, as a preliminary to a real war, aimed at the redivision of the existing spheres of influence, sources of raw materials, and markets for goods and capital exports more and more likely, unless stopped by revolution. It is in this context that we must view all the imperialist-led and imperialist-inspired wars and armed conflicts raging all over the globe – from the murderous Gulf War, through to NATO’s genocidal war of aggression against Yugoslavia, to the present war against the people of Afghanistan, as well as the war by Anglo-American imperialism against the people of Iraq for the sole purpose of monopolising the fabulous oil riches of the vast region stretching from the Middle East to Central Asia. In all these wars not only are various combinations of imperialist countries fighting the peoples of these regions, but also each imperialist power is doing its best to secure for itself the most advantageous position.
In this context, it must be admitted that the US president George W.Bush, spoke like a Leninist, when he began his State of the Union message to the US Congress in January 2002 with the opening sentence: “Our economy is in recession and our country is at war”. There is more Leninism contained in this single sentence than in the millions of words poured out by bourgeois liberals and other apologists of capitalism, full of hypocritical cant and pious wishes, assuring us of a peaceful world under the conditions of imperialism. Driven by the incurable crisis of overproduction, imperialism is in the throes of once again resorting to armed conflict, with the hope that the war, which while devouring tens of millions of human beings, destroying colossal amounts of wealth and productive capacity, will enable monopoly capitalism to rake in gargantuan war profits and restore the profitability of capital at the end of the conflict. Things may not turn out as smoothly for imperialism, for on the morrow of such a war, and out of the ashes of such a war, might emerge victorious proletarian revolutions even mightier than those which followed in the wake of the First and Second world war.
What is important at the present, however, is that the crisis of overproduction is driving imperialism to war. Instead of being lulled to sleep by the fairy tales and lullabies of the advocates of the Kautskyian theory of collective imperialism, the international communist movement has a duty to inform the proletariat of the imperialist countries, as well as the oppressed peoples, of the hideousness of imperialist reality, of the impossibility of ending all war without putting an end to imperialism. It is the duty of the communist movement to prepare the proletariat in every country for the coming war, to prepare it to take advantage of such a war to overthrow imperialism. In the present circumstances, it is the duty of the proletariat in all the imperialist countries to oppose by every possible means the war which Anglo-American imperialism is waging against the people of Iraq, to demand the withdrawal of imperialist forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and to render all political, moral and material support to the forces in these countries fighting against the imperialist occupation regimes.
The fight against opportunism
Inseparably connected with the struggle against imperialism and imperialist warmongering is the question of the struggle against opportunism and the need to understand the economic roots of opportunism. Opportunism in the working class of the imperialist countries is no accidental phenomenon; on the contrary, it has deep economic roots, namely, in the super-profits received by the bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries from the plunder of the whole world, a part of which plunder could be, and is, used to bribe the upper stratum of the workers – the labour aristocracy – and thus engender a split in the working class; this stratum of “bourgeoisified workers”, thoroughly petty-bourgeois in their style of life, the size of their earnings and their world outlook, serve as the “principal social … support of the bourgeoisie … the real agents of the bourgeoisie in the labour movement, the labour lieutenants of the capitalist class, the real carriers of reformism and social chauvinism. In the civil war between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie they inevitably, and in no small numbers, stand on the side of the bourgeoisie, on the side of ‘Versaillese’ against the ‘Communards'” (ibid.).
Lenin adds: “Unless the economic roots of this phenomenon are understood and its political and social significance is appreciated, not a step can be taken toward the solution of the practical problems of the communist movement and the impending social revolution. ”
Let it be emphasised that ever since the First World War, the political representative of this labour aristocracy has been the Labour Party in Britain and Social Democracy in western Europe. It has been, is, and forever will be a counter-revolutionary force. Individuals from this trend may come over to the side of the working class, Social Democracy as a whole will always be on the side of imperialism on every single important question of domestic and foreign policy.
The Gulf and the Balkan wars, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the attitude of the opportunists, from trade-union leaders to leaders of social democracy, constitute an eloquent proof of the correctness of the above observation of Lenin’s. In our own country, in Britain, with the sole and honourable exception of Arthur Scargill and one or two of his comrades, not a single trade unionist of any note condemned the imperialist war against Yugoslavia or the daily bombing of Iraq over a ten-year period. Today while the British Labour bourgeois government, along with the US, is waging a brutal war against the people of Iraq, most of the leadership of the trade unions is busy giving at least tacit support to this barbaric endeavour. Any leadership, professing even a mild allegiance to the principles of proletarian internationalism, would be doing everything within its power to frustrate the waging of such a predatory imperialist war. But the labour aristocracy, which is in the leadership of the trade unions, owes all its privileges to the continued loot through imperialist exploitation and plunder of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Not surprisingly, therefore, this leadership is incapable of any anti-imperialist activity. The communist movement in Europe has a duty to bring to the working class the truth that social democracy, far from being a friend of the proletariat, is its deadly enemy.
In the light of the foregoing, imperialism is sharpening to an unprecedented extent all the major contradictions – those between the oppressed nations and imperialism, between labour and capital, and between various imperialist powers.
It is facing humanity with the choice: either revolution or war and barbarism. It is our bounden duty to spread among the proletariat “… the grim and inexorable truth that it is impossible to escape imperialist war, and the imperialist world which inevitably engenders imperialist war, it is impossible to escape that inferno except by a Bolshevik struggle and a Bolshevik revolution” (Lenin, 14 October 1921).
The Leninist theory of revolution and Leninist tactics and methods of organisation offer the only road to salvation open to the proletariat faced with the stark choice: “Either place yourself at the mercy of capital, eke out a wretched existence and sink lower and lower, or adopt a new weapon – this is the alternative imperialism puts before the vast masses of the proletariat. Imperialism brings the working class to revolution” (Stalin, CW6, pp. 74-75).
In its bid to maintain its profits, imperialism is confronting humanity with the dilemma: “either sacrifice all culture or throw off the yoke of capitalism by revolutionary means, eliminate the domination of the bourgeoisie and win a socialist society and lasting peace” (Lenin, For Bread and Peace, December 1917). At the same time as imperialism sharpens all the contradictions to their extreme, as it rides roughshod over the vast masses of humanity, it is surely spurring the working class and the oppressed people to effect its revolutionary overthrow.
Notwithstanding the colossal reverses suffered by socialism during the past three decades, notwithstanding all the zigzags of the struggle and the tortuous course of events, nothing on earth can stop the victory of proletarian revolution on a world scale.
“Imperialism is the eve of the social revolution of the proletariat” (Lenin, Preface to the French and German editions of Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism).