I The September 11 attacks and the ensuing “war against terror” have opened up a new situation worldwide. We are witnessing an increased aggressiveness and warmongering on the part of imperialism; new alignments among the big powers and also between them and the semi-colonial countries, a systemic crisis of the world economy and also increased class polarization and tension.
II The break down of the 90s unstable equilibrium
The present situation means the unstable equilibrium of the 90s has broken down. During that period, the US regained -to a certain extent- their hegemonic position with regards to rival imperialist powers and expanded their political and economic rule over both peripheral countries and the so-called “second periphery”, as shown by the inroads of capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe, the former USSR and China -in a drive that also involved their Japanese and European counterparts. The demise of the USSR gave the US an enhanced room for manoeuvre that allowed expanding the frontiers of capital to new geographical regions and also deepening the neoliberal offensive all around the world- the so-called “globalisation”.
However, if during the early 90s there was the illusion of a “harmonious and peaceful” expansion of their rule, a whole series of contradictions and antagonistic forces surfaced in the last few years of the last century, which dissipated such illusions. These forces at work are: the 1997 South East Asian slump and the ensuing crisis in the so-called “emerging markets” that plunged most of the countries in the periphery into a deep crisis; the emergence and development of the anti-capitalist movement in the imperialist heartlands after the “battle of Seattle” in late 1999; the failure of the neoliberal agenda in Latin America and the resistance that went hand in hand with it and grew apace in the year 2000; the outburst of a second Intifada in Palestine in September 2000 and the increasing anti-American mood in the Middle East and throughout the Islamic world; the rejection by both the Russian and the Chinese bureaucracies and also the European imperialist governments to the Bush administration in his first six months in office; the end of the American “boom” that has dragged the whole world economy into recession.
Given this situation, the September 11 attacks have fuelled and sped up the developments in the world situation, pointing to a break down in the unstable equilibrium of the last decade.
III Historical vulnerablity, increased interventionism and warmongering
The September 11 attacks exposed the increased historical vulnerability of the US. The growing economic, political and military domination of the peoples of the world by imperialism has brought an increased intermingling of the contradictions and the turmoil in our planet with US capital, eroding its foundations.
A most telling proof of this has been the failure of imperialism in preventing the flare-up of regional conflicts or else civil wars in zones or states far away from its territory from affecting its security at home (e.g., Afghanistan).
That is why, all things considered, the demise of the Stalinist apparatus worldwide has ultimately increased its historical vulnerability.
The collaboration of Stalinism when it came to pinning down the working class and the national liberation movements was a key leverage to keep the status quo in the wake of the Second World War. The loss of such counter-revolutionary ally-adversary means the US shall deal alone with all the contradictions at work in the world arena, which means it is increasingly exposed to the blows coming from the “hotspots” of the planet.
Isolationism, which could have been a valid option at the time of their rise to world power, has now -given the present circumstances-, become not only inadequate but even unthinkable for the US due to their massive commitments abroad. The turn in Bush’s foreign policy speaks volumes about this. No matter he was preparing for a “retreat” in the early days of his presidency with the aim of focusing on those spots deemed vital for their national interest, Bush has now become the standard-bearer of a “new interventionism”: the presence of the US army is probably now at its peak ever since the end of the Second World War, spreading its tentacles in more than 140 countries.
IV US imperialism has responded to this unprecedented situation by a display of aggressiveness both at home and abroad, with the purpose of rebuilding its façade as an imperial power. By resorting to their overwhelming military muscle, they try to make a bold display of force in order to keep instability at bay and also go for a tightened surveillance at home and a new international security system. Will US imperialism be able to succeed in its undertakings in the period ahead? Or else, will they fail to match their military supremacy with an according political might? The answer we give to such questions has to do with the likelihood of the US making further progress to rule the world, thus prolonging their hegemony, or else -should they fail to do so- a quantum leap in their historical decline that commenced in the early 70s.
V A renewed unilateralism reliant on force and the central role of the imperialist state
In pursuit of their most precious purpose, i.e. the consolidation of their rule, the US have resorted to the huge political and military resources they have at hand, thus overriding all the obstacles standing in their way. This supreme aim presides over the other aspects of their war against terror: the reservations posed by the international alliance backing them, the reluctance of the Muslim countries in the sphere of foreign policy, or else the constitutional guarantees for the democratic rights and the scope of the state power at home. Such is the actual content of the “Bush doctrine”: a massive concentration of power in the hands of the presidency to go for a renewed “unilateralism” on the world arena. The way the war was led bears testimony to this: exclusively Washington, without any consultation whatsoever, took all the major political and military decisions, even on the level of tactics. On top of this comes the US denunciation of the ABM Treaty in order to beef up its polemic national defense space shield, in late 2001. The White House has recently unveiled plans to store, not destroy, more than 4000 nuclear warheads that should have been destroyed under the auspices of the disarmament treaties signed by Russia and the US. Such decision, which is intent upon reassuring a strategic supremacy for the US in the long term, has meant a snub to their most fervent ally in the war against terror: the government of Putin. They have thus stripped Russia off any vestige of its superpower status.
In the present situation, the “multilateralism” that came after September 11 is nothing but a cover-up for this agenda, or more precisely a “multilateralism a la carte” -as some commentators brand it.
VI The central role played by the imperialist state, both when it came to leading the war as well as in the face of the recession; above all when it came to restoring the investors’ confidence in the invincibility and solidity of the imperial power gives the lie to the think-tanks of the anti-globalisation movement, who claimed there is an “autonomy of multinational corporations” (MNC). The ongoing war against terror sponsored by Washington highlights that, regardless of the increased integration of the world economy in the last decades, such change has not eaten away the sovereignty of the nation-state, transferring it into the hands of a “supranational” entity -a postulate of those holding the view of a “Empire” or a post-imperialist world.
The main thrust of the US actions -never mind they are wrapped up in the robes of the defence of universal values (“infinite justice”/ “long-lasting freedom”)- is to pursue their own national interest and to consolidate their domination. This is what shapes the aims and the means for the military operations. The US did not even bother this time to resort to the umbrella of the UN, as in the Gulf War back in 1991, or else that of their NATO allies, such as in the 1999 War against Yugoslavia. Although both the UN and NATO voted and passed resolutions supporting the general aims of the war against terror, both have been left behind when it came to the politico-military purposes of the retaliation drive.
VII The concepts of leadership/hegemony on one hand, and domination/coercion on the other can be applied to appraise the forms of the US supremacy and the way in which it is exerted. This comes and goes down to alternative paths. The first path is the one used in their links with their closest allies -NATO and Japan. The second path is the one used in the links of Washington with the periphery, in which the ratio of consensus/coercion is hinged upon both economic relevance of, and also the strategic interest in any given allied or client state.
Although the crusade against terror has enabled Washington to enhance its hegemony over the rival big powers, this relies, in the main, in a discretional use of force. This determines the nature of the anti-terror coalition now backing and giving legitimacy to Washington’s agenda. In this respect, the alliance of big powers behind them is different from the anti-communist alliance that Washington led during the so-called “cold war”. Back then, its unrivalled hegemony empowered them to preside over a bloc made up of the Western powers and Japan, which rallied behind its aims, while it ruled on the nations of the semicolonial periphery -in the wider framework of mutual influence and propaganda between a US-led capitalist world and the Moscow-led “socialist” bloc. Today, with the “cold war” long gone, the US is not in a position to gain an unconditional acceptation of the rival powers to their diktats, which means that the consensus/coercion ratio will shift to increasing levels of coercion.
With regards to the semicolonial countries, the rule exerted by Washington has become stronger. Bush’s ultimatum -“either you are with us or with the terrorists”- has narrowed the room for manoeuvre for this countries, forcing them into an almost total support for the US if they do not want to call forth a diplomatic and/or military retaliation. The US are today resorting to a political, diplomatic, economic and (in some cases) even military blackmail or extortion to wrestle support from the oil-producing countries in the Gulf, Egypt, Turkey and even countries like Argentina -in stark contrast to what happened with the coalition against Irak, when such countries enthusiastically collaborated with the US. Back in 1991, the downfall of the USSR meant that Washington could cover up its rule with a relative dose of consensus, which was codified in the “Washington Consensus” espoused by most peripheral countries. Today, the aggravation of the social and economic situation in the wake of the increased imperialist take-over of the periphery in the last decades, makes the alignment with Washington will come by as a by-product of pressure, rather than being considered a strategic option in itself.
The increased american rule is the main source of tensions worldwide
VIII In the short term, Washington’s influence over the various countries in the world has been enhanced. Nevertheless, this enhanced US rule is the main source, in the medium term, of massive tensions building up within the international state system, which might burst into the open as a result of any sudden turn-about of both political and military developments. On a more strategic level, such tensions stem from the uncontestable division of the world in three imperialist economic blocs with a relatively equal power. This, at a time when the process of capitalist restoration in the old “communist giants” has not transformed them into full-blown semi-colonies -notwithstanding the major inroads of capitalism there. On top of these we should add the unheard-of exacerbation of combined and uneven development in the semicolonial countries provoked by the neo-colonial drive there.
These systemic conditions account for the historical inadequacy of every attempt by Washington at turning its regained hegemony -which all in all is a defensive response to the September 11 attacks- into an offensive line aimed at establishing a new order tailor-made for the US -what some analysts call a “hyperpower”.
IX From here flows a tension running through the strategic orientation of the US foreign policy in the wake of September 11, which has underpinned two strands within the US politico-military establishment. After the major initial successes achieved in the first phase of the war against terror in Afghanistan, such rift has resurfaced now in the debates surrounding the politico-military targets of the second phase, and also impinges on the discussions on how to deal with the vast zone of instability in Eurasia -the legacy of the demise of the USSR.
The “Powell fraction” poses a continued line of regional balances of power (India-Pakistan, Iran/Iraq), the main leverage through which Washington kept its tutelage in those strategic regions -using for its own benefit the regional dynamics of power. The other wing, represented by vice-president Dick Cheney and the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld seeks to rely on a reactionary alliance of nations that, through all-out military intervention or else tough diplomatic pressure, wipes out or isolates those countries regarded as a threat against key national interests of the US.
What runs through such stand-off is a different view around the US global mission. On one hand, we see a more cautious wing inclined to the preservation of the world status quo, since they are more aware of the historic limits bearing down on the US hegemony; their main purpose being to put down those regional destabilizing hot-spots threatening the US security. On the other hand, we see a more adventurous and aggressive wing who wants to uproot the symptoms pointing to a secular US decline -which the September 11 attacks merely exposed in the light.
The second alternative is, from the standpoint of the established balance of forces, extremely dangerous for the long-term interests of imperialism and can lead to a further destabilization of the whole planet, if implemented. Although the first phase of crusade against terror has shown that both wings are far from being antagonistic to each other, but rather can peacefully coexist within Bush’s cabinet, the victory in Afghanistan has tipped the balance strongly in favour of the axis Cheney-Rumsfeld, the more unilateral-prone sector.
The defeat of the taliban and the onset of a reactionary conjuncture
X The ousting of the Taliban regime and the establishment of an interim government in Kabul has reinforced the grip of US imperialism and president Bush, who is enjoying top popularity thanks to the military victory. These factors have turned the present-day situation in a reactionary one. The swiftness of the military intervention and the low numbers of American casualties evidenced the overwhelming US military might, which boosts the self-confidence of the imperialist chief-of-staff.
On top of this, another major reactionary element at work today is the military deployments by the big powers that have rallied with Washington and its crusade, fuelled by the drive against terror and the fact that it has become a top priority for the US foreign policy. Such powers are seizing upon the opportunity to further their own national interests under the umbrella of the dominant power. Thus, both Japan and Germany have deployed major contingents abroad for the first time ever since the end of World War II -Japan in the Indian Ocean and Germany in the African horn. England is leading the peace corps on the ground in Afghanistan, a reaffirmation of London’s will to be the main ally of the US, which has given them an important role in shaping the fate of Afghanistan. Such increasing warmongering in the international arena is a major aspect of the present reactionary conjuncture.
The reinforcement of reactionary regional agencies
XI Another reactionary feature of the reactionary conjuncture can be seen in the drive of some minor powers to push ahead with local or regional demands by jumping on board the train of the US crusade.
The regained legitimacy of the two year-long Russian crusade against Chechnya is a point in case. In the past, the brutal military intervention there and the violations of human rights by the Russian army rose international attention. In the new atmosphere worldwide, full with Washington’s war against terror, Putin’s government has been able to persuade the West in holding back any kind of political or financial support for the Chechen rebels.
In turn, India has also seized the opportunity and tries to wipe out the Muslim fighters active in Kahsmir, in a drive to undermine Pakistan, its regional competitor, by means of troop deployments at the border and the implicit threat of a nuclear war. While trying to prevent a regional war there, Washington uses his leverage with a two-fold purpose: on one hand they want to get Musharraf to control or else smash the Muslim terrorists, which have been formed or else encouraged by the Pakistani secret service -as they did with the Taliban in the past. The Pakistani president caved in to this pressure mounted by India and the US, thus bringing about a turn-about in Pakistan’s domestic politics. As many as five Muslim extremist parties have been banned, while hundreds of supporters of Islamic fundamentalism have been thrown into jail.
Never mind that the Washington was able to keep India at bay during the first phase of the war in Afghanistan with the aim of upholding the anti-terrorist coalition in the Muslim world, the anti-terror agenda has fuelled the reactionary appetites of India as a key strategic ally of Washington in Asia.
Sharon’s escalation against the palestinian masses
XII Washington, right at the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, proclaimed it stood for the recognition of a Palestinian state. But as days went by, the US policy veered towards an open support for Sharon’s tough line and war moves. The latter tries to turn the tables in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to force the Palestinian people into giving up on their national aspirations. In other words, he wants no more discussion around the issue of the status of Jerusalem, to push ahead with Israeli settlements and also bury the issue of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.
In pursuit of his political purposes, Sharon is ready to resort to any means at hand, even going for the military re-occupation of all the territories now controlled by Palestinian National Authority -handed over to it under the auspice of the Oslo Agreements. Such political and military escalation seeks, in the short term, to blackmail Arafat into dismantling the Intifada and also push him to wipe out the Palestinian “extremists” such as Jihad and the Hamas. However, it is unlikely that Arafat succeeds in this, being cornered by both the Israeli escalation and the increasing domestic opposition to his leadership. That is why the government of Israel also contemplates replacing Arafat as head of the Palestinian National Authority, while still recognizing its legitimacy as a spoke-person of Palestinian interests. The die-hards in Sharon cabinet want to go beyond that, smashing the whole PNA structure built in 1993 at the onset of the peace process. On top of this enormous pressure has come, in the last few days, the Bush administration that has practically isolated Arafat and is now considering a wide range of alternative policies, some of which go as far as cutting off diplomatic links with the PNA.
An increasing military interference
XIII In turn, the war against terror has led to increased US involvement in domestic conflicts and civil wars raging in some countries. Washington has given political support for them, and even sent military assistance and equipment to the armies of such states.
This is the case of Colombia, where the government of Pastrana has taken a tougher stance in the negotiation with the FARC, jeopardizing the peace process and threatening to unleash a bloodbath if the guerrillas do not cave in to his demands. This tougher stance by the Colombian government is also a by-product of Washington’s reactionary offensive in our continent. It is also the outcome of the Plan Colombia, which laid the basis for the re-armament and better training of the Colombian army, which has also built closer ties to the US army. The US is poised to set up a political control of a highly destabilized zone, namely the north of South America, that is affected by drug smuggling, the thirty year-long war of the FARC against the Colombian state and the deterioration of the links with Venezuela ever since Chavez became president.
But this reflects a deeper-going tendency: the US is about to send Marines to Mindanao in the Philippines to launch joint actions with the army there against Muslim extremist linked to Al Qaeda. Such deployment of the US army is the biggest outside Afghanistan and hallmarks the onset of the second phase in the war against terror. In turn, the US have rebuilt their links with the Indonesian army, and are funding the army of this vast country, after an interruption in the wake of Suharto’s downfall and the human rights violations in East Timor.
Such increased military interference in the domestic affairs of these countries might lead to a destabilization of the governments in such countries, fuelling an anti-American mood that will become a major hindrance in the future.
The ‘revolutionary days’ in Argentina are a conter-tendency to the reactionary conjuncture
XIV The “revolutionary days” in Argentina provoked the revolutionary downfall of De la Rúa’s government and ushered in a revolutionary phase, offsetting the tendencies at work in the reactionary conjuncture signed by imperialist warmongering.
Although the new Peronist government is trying to defuse them, these revolutionary developments might impinge on South American countries and boost the resistance of the workers and the masses in the region, which are now suffering a harsh recession, imperialist greed and the austerity drives sponsored by the IMF and the local governments.
The revolutionary developments in Argentina take up the path initiated by the mass upsurge in South America that kicked off with the fall of Mahuad’s government in the wake of the aboriginal peasants and people’s uprising in early 2000 -although in a changed international situation after September 11. The revolutionary nature of the mass backlash is reflected in the fact that two governments were ousted in Ecuador in 1997 and 2000. It also nourished a semi-insurrection in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba in April 2000, and some months later, a peasant upswing ensued that cornered Banzer. Then came the demonstrations against Fujimori in Peru, the protests against Cubas’ government that also defeated the military pronouncement by General Oviedo in Paraguay -among the most important events.
All these developments in the region have transformed it in the vanguard of the fight against the neoliberal onslaught that swept through the semi-colonial world in the 90s. The slump in Argentina, which used to be the pride and joy of neoliberalism both in our continent and worldwide, is a quantum leap in this tendency. This has fuelled enormous concern in the imperialist circles, which fear “political contagion” might deal a deathblow to the beleaguered “Consensus of Washington”, the rallying platform for factions of the native bourgeoisie. The internecine fights within the bourgeoisie have grown deeper because the region is a field of competition for the US, the hegemonic and historically dominating imperialist power, and the European imperialist powers, particularly Spain, that gained ground in the last decade via privatization. The world recession has heightened the frictions among them, not only in the economic terrain but also in the political arena, as shown by the European intervention in the Colombian peace process.
The inter-imperialist rivalries, the internecine rifts in the ruling class and the revolutionary emergence of the masses might all fuel destabilisation in the US imperialism’s “back yard”. This, in turn, might turn out to be a stumbling block in the US reactionary crusade.
Will Washington’s present stregth be transformed into a new relative stability?
XV The mass popularity of Bush, the swift demise of the Taliban regime, the lack of mass protests across the Muslim world in rejection of the US aggression in Afghanistan and the acquiescence of the international community to the war aims of the US, have all boosted warmongering amongst the politico-military establishment in Washington.
Right now, the US has stepped up the fight to smash Al Qaeda as an international network operating in different countries. That is why it has formed new political and military alliances with Ethiopia, Kenya, Yemen and Sudan to have them as local allies to succeed in its fight. They have taken a leaf out of Afghanistan’s book. The failure of their 1994 intervention in Somalia, in which they chased a “war lord”, has taught them the lesson also in the hard way.
But it was only after the victory in Afghanistan that they started to speculate with big scale military interventions, even bigger than the recent campaign in Central Asia. This is what the most belligerent wings of imperialism are demanding -the so-called “hawks”. They see they have a historic opportunity to set the terms of the US foreign policy in the forthcoming period, by launching strikes against Iraq, this time ousting Saddam Hussein, thus tipping the tables in their favour in that strategic region of the planet. On a global scale, the US want to appear tough and assertive through a coup de main and thus reestablish his military invincibility in such a way so as to consolidate a reactionary situation worldwide, a new period of relative stability for the next five years.
Apart from the mass opposition that such initiative would meet in the Islamic world and also the imperialist countries, such perspective comes up against the following obstacles:
-The failed attempt at capturing both the Al Qaeda leaders and Bin Laden himself. Bush has smashed the Al Qaeda havens in Afghanistan, but has been unable to prevent its upper echelons, and also Bin Laden, from running away. This remains one of the top objectives of the war against terror -a drawback the first phase has not yet resolved. Furthermore, since the US government focused the crusade on Bin Laden’s persona, seizing him is a major issue for the it, hence the massive pressure is mounting on Pakistan, where he might be hiding. If they fail to capture him, the confidence in the Bush administration might falter.
-A thinly veiled crisis has opened up with Saudi Arabia. Ever since September 11, the war against Islamic fundamentalism has fuelled a thinly veiled crisis between the US and Saudi Arabia. The roots of such crisis lie deep in the historic motives for the strategic alliance between Washington and this top oil power in the Gulf area. This has been a mainstay of the US policy in the Middle East -along with the state of Israel and the Iranian Sha’s regime right up to 1979-, but the common grounds for such alliance have been massively eroded. Such a conservative alliance came to life as a bulwark against the bourgeois nationalist tidal wave initiated by Nasser in Egypt, which was supported by the USSR and impinged on both Iraq and Syria, leading to significant transformations there. Such alliance was reshaped to act against the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and they went for support of Iraq in its crusade against Iran, and later switched to opposition against Hussein when the Gulf War came. But Iraq today is massively weakened, the USSR no longer exists and the main present-day enemy of the US has become Islamic fundamentalism, which has strong roots in Saudi Arabia itself. The Islamic factions, in spite of their fierce opposition against the Saudi royal family, have links with it and there are also Islamic sympathizers within it. That is why the US attempt at spreading their crusade against terror to the Persian Gulf is not regarded with sympathy by Saudi Arabia -which might even lead to it leaving the US-led coalition altogether. Such move would have enormous strategic consequences, jeopardizing any attempts at striking against Iraq in the first place.
-Growing tensions between Iran and the US. Iran is concerned about the US military build up in the Middle East, what might be an obstacle for a renewed military intervention in the region -in stark contrast with the Gulf War. Iran concerns flow from the fact that the US has clinched solid alliances with Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and also several small Gulf states such as Oman. Furthermore, the US have beefed up their military presence on Afghan soil -American troops are deployed just 100 km away from the Iranian eastern border- and also central Asia. On the other, the all-embracing “war against terror” gives the US an unprecedented free hand in the Middle East, targeting the Palestinian Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the Lebanese Hezbollah -all of them closely linked to Iran. This is fuelling new tensions between the US and Iran, which have flared up in the recent incident of the ship loaded with weapons for the Palestinians and Iran’s hostility towards Afghanistan’s interim government.
-The Enron collapse and the implications for the Bush administration. So far, a blend of renewed patriotism at home and military victory abroad have rallied the US population behind their president, in spite of the impact of the recession. The Enron affaire, i.e. the biggest bankruptcy in the US corporate history, might smear the presidency in an electoral year. This case of corruption involves the managers of Enron, big bankers and also notorious members of the American establishment, the Republican Party in particular -including the cabinet and the president himself. If all the attempts at separating the Bush administration from this scandal fail, it might seriously impact on the presidential institution, thus confirming the view of many Americans who think the president gives the rich and the big corporations a preferential treatment. But never mind this scenario never comes true, the impact of the recession on the US masses might potentially tear apart the domestic front, as the full brunt of the crisis is being born by the working class.
Bush’s tough stance and threatening tone in his “State of the Union” speech reflected such tendencies at work. The mention of Iraq, North Korea and Iran as “axis of evil” signals that Bush has sided with the die-hards of his cabinet in the second phase of his war against terror -although he failed to propose yet any concrete course of action.
The inclusion of Iran as a state supporting terrorism means we are in for a re-shaping of the alliances in the Middle East, since this pushes Tehran in the direction of Baghdad. Now, both have the common goal of refraining the US might in the region -no matter their enmity. The emergence of such regional entente is impinging hard on Saudi Arabia that is now demanding a reduction of the US troops presence on its soil, since this -given the changed scenario- might have negative consequences for the Saudi royal family at home.
The US aim in this strategic region is to clearly separate the “rogue” states from their allied ones. This is the case with Egypt, which is more concerned now with Islamic fundamentalism rather than the consequences of the Intifada in Palestine. Egypt, along with Israel, might provide an axis against the Iran-Iraq bloc. Syria, on its part, should side with one of the two camps.
XVI The widespread consensus that Washington rallied during the Afghan campaign, itself the byproduct of the horrified reaction to the brutal attack on the WTC and also the worldwide rejection of the Taliban regime, will hardly come by in the second phase of the war against terror. There is a heated discussion now going on among the US allies around what targets should be attacked next. The issues of the legitimacy and the operational drawbacks of launching interventions against the so-called “failed states” such as Somalia grow much bigger when it comes to striking at the so-called “rogue states” such as Irak. If Washington stroke against the latter, it can be seen as acting in a too “unilateral” fashion.
In turn, pursuing intelligence, security or police actions by the US security forces, both on US soil and abroad requires a certain trust in the “good intentions” and the competence of the US. But this might fuel tensions with the members of the coalition. Already the US plan to take strangers suspected of terrorism to the military courts, with the likelihood of any terrorist suspect being sentenced to death, on top of the harrowing conditions of Al Qaeda prisoners in Guantánamo have fuelled a big concern in Europe, which demands that “human rights” should be observed in the crusade against terror -or else another legitimating cover-up. Keeping the coalition in place in the current circumstances will be much harder than at any time during the war in Afghanistan.
A synchronised world recession
XVII The successful imperialist offensive and the break-throughs in the diplomatic and military agenda go hand in hand with the unfolding of a recession in the world economy. For the first time ever since the years 1973-75, the world is undergoing the first synchronized world recession engulfing the three imperialist blocs (the US, Germany and Europe and Japan) and also affecting the countries in the capitalist periphery. This recession is not merely the conclusion of a cyclic recovery. It was not sparked off by a correction of the stock market, but it was rather triggered by a real fall of profits. It is a systemic crisis pointing to the exhaustion of the neoliberal onslaught that the world bourgeoisie -the US bosses in particular- resorted to try and snap out of the crisis of accumulation bogging down the world economy since the 70s -when the postwar boom passed away unceremoniously. In spite of all kind of monetary and fiscal policies implemented by both the central banks and the governments of the imperialist powers to kickstart the economy, the systemic nature of the crisis prevents the world economy from taking off, unless a massive destruction of capital is brought about first. That is why the most likely perspective is a deepening and a prolongation of the recession next year, and we cannot rule out a generalized economic depression.
XVIII The roots of the present recession are to be found in the changes that took place in the world economy in the last few decades. The increased rate of exploitation in the imperialist heartlands and the re-location of capital in those areas with cheap labour, along with the technological advances and the ensuing increased productivity in some branches, all fuelled a recovery of the rate of profit -although it was not restored to postwar levels. As a result of this, the accumulation of capital was re-launched, in a drive that went hand in hand with an increasing weight of finance all throughout the economy, fuelling the emergence of the so-called “speculative bubbles”. Those dynamic geographical regions and branches that absorbed the surplus capital displayed high rates of growth -in stark contrast with the slowdown in most countries and the rest of the industrial branches- as long as the boom lasted, giving place to a massive over-accumulation when the boom went down. Such was the case in South East Asia in 1997 first – followed then by the crisis in the “emerging markets”- and the high tech sector in the US underpinning the 1995/2000 boom there at last. In a world economy growing increasingly dependent on the US as a last-resort market, and given the lack of an alternative powerhouse for growth, the world economy rapidly plunged into a synchronized recession. On top of this, we should add the unprecedented growth of world trade that has come to represent a 24% of the world GDP.
XIX There is no easy way out of such vicious circle of a synchronized recession. This is so due to the lack of new powerhouse set to replace the ailing American economy.
In early 2001, Europe boasted about being such alternative to the American powerhouse. But, higher unemployment and a decreased investment and also the constrictions imposed on active fiscal and monetary policies by the provisions of both the Maastricht Treaty and the Stability and Growth Pact leave Europe with little chances to play such role.
Japan is hardly in a position to drive the world out of the synchronized recession. The yen depreciation shows that Japanese policymakers see the currency stimulus as fuelling demand abroad as the only solution in the short term. The domestic demand is dead in the water, amid record levels of unemployment and a growth of industrial and commercial bankruptcies seriously affecting the banks, which threatens to spark off a financial crisis this year. This perspective sends shivers down the spine of many worldwide.
The countries in the capitalist periphery are neither in a position to kickstart the world economy. The imperialist onslaught in the last few decades meant opening up their economies and a subsequent crunch of their domestic markets, which have done away with any possible autonomous source of domestic demand. These countries have come to rely on a world trade-driven external demand on a scale never seen before. As a result of this, those countries are no longer able to cushion the advanced world, as they did in previous recessions since the early 70s.
China might be an exception to this tendency, since it still shows high indexes of growth in spite of the deep recession worldwide. But this is clearly inadequate with regards to the world economy, since the Chinese economy accounts for an extremely small fraction of the world’s GDP yet.
Given the lack of alternative powerhouses in the world economy, everybody is turning their eyes in the direction of the US economy. However, the future does not look very rosy there, either. The fragility of its economy does not guarantee a vigorous recovery. China is plagued by a massive productive over-capacity, with a level of returns that some commentators deem the lowest ever since the big Depression in the 30s, so it is not likely that capital investment should lead to recovery. It is least likely that the upturn should come from external demand, given the synchronised recession and a high dollar. The only remaining leverage is a continued level of consumption, but this is at best a short-term source of growth. All the more so when the conditions reigning in the last decade allowing for high levels of corporate and private borrowing, along with the rapid hike of the value of assets (the so-called “wealth” effect) have gone for good. Today, the high levels of debt are a heavy burden bearing down on consumers, aggravated by the income loss fuelled by the recession and the sackings. The neo-Keynesian styled measures of Greenspan try to ameliorate this by cutting interest rates to boost demand. But this cannot be sustained for long. The perspectives, thus, are a weak recovery -we cannot even rule out this variant a short-lived one (one or two quarters)- and then the economy might plunge further into recession. But regardless this last scenario comes true or not we do believe that the world economy will not see a renewed impetus of the US economy, such as that of the late 90s. These factors are looming in the horizon, and the world economy can be left without any powerhouse at all.
XX The peripheral countries are the weak links in the chain of the world capitalism. Heavily indebted and affected by a massive deflation of the prices of raw materials, their economies might as well implode, thus triggering off a new debt crisis that will hit the imperialist banks and the finance system worldwide very hard. This has already happened with the default in Argentina which, no matter it had been long forecasted, massively eroded the position of the Spanish banks and corporations that had grown massively in the last decade. The crisis is so deep-going that no zone of the periphery has been left untouched. There are some exceptions, like Russia, China and India, all countries that combine relatively high levels of protectionism. This has enabled them to buttress the effects of the international recession, although they have endured a fall in those branches linked to foreign trade.
The export hubs of South East Asia, the main zone of accumulation in the world economy in the last three decades, have been hit the hardest. Their economies are profoundly affected today because of the end of the high tech cycle on which they largely depended on one hand, and the changes operated in the world division of labour due to the rise of China -the main destination for foreign direct investment seeking cheap labour- on the other.
In the Middle East, the fall oil prices and the massive reduction in the incomes generated by tourism might fuel a new economic shock that might send shock waves across this volatile region.
This is also the reality of the old semicolonies in Latin America, and even in Eastern European countries such as Poland. In the face of the reversal in capital inflow -a significant flow in the 90s- they have failed to infuse dynamism into their economies. The Argentine default is proof positive of this. The devaluation and an export boost do not provide an easy way out today, given the recession in the world economy. A continued deflation and recession combined with spurts of sluggish growth is the likely scenario for such regions for the whole decade ahead.
Commercial wars, protectionism and the spectre of the 30s
XXI The slowdown of the world economy is nourishing future stand-offs and economic disputes between rival imperialist powers that might trigger off a commercial war and a protectionist spiral hitting world trade very hard. The WTO dictum against US subsidies to their exports, which empowers the EU to impose economic sanctions on US exports should the US not abide by it, is a point in case. Imposing such sanctions could trigger off a commercial war that would throw transatlantic links into disarray, a dire perspective that none of them wants to come true. However, the room for manoeuvre to work out this conflict has narrowed a lot. The chances that the Bush administration could get to persuade a reluctant congress to change the legislation equal zero. Still worse, an attempt at pushing ahead a vote might raise voices demanding the US withdrawal from the WTO, something that might damage the system of world trade beyond repair. All this comes amid a vitriolic atmosphere of distrust between both blocs as a result of the US threat to impose import quotas on steel imports coming into the US market.
This commercial dispute is not an isolated case, however. Japan’s decision to devalue its currency threatens to unleash a wave of competitive devaluations in the region that will jeopardize the inter-state relationships in South East Asia, particularly China, thus exerting deflationary pressures on both the US and Europe. Japan’s policy aimed at unloading its crisis on the shoulders of neighbouring countries and also the rest of the world in order to seize a bigger share of the world market can further embitter the relationships between the main imperialist powers, undermining the frail foundations underpinning the system of world trade -the US pressure on Japan is already showing this.
This might indefinitely mire the coming round of WTO negotiations, which the US succeeded in launching at Qatar in late November, two years after the fiasco of the Seattle summit. On top of this, the increased fetters on world trade, themselves the by-product of the security measures adopted in the “war against terror” along with the criticisms leveled at the IMF for its management of the crisis in semicolonial countries like Argentina can all throw back the tendencies to integration at work in the world economy in the last few decades. The myth of globalisation, portrayed by the pundits of capitalism as an inescapable thrust, might come undone if the synchronized recession becomes a full-blown depression, fuelling tendencies to rely on regional blocs.
XXII The synchronized recession, the massive debt worldwide and the danger of default in many countries, the strong contraction of world trade -the fastest ever-, higher unemployment and increased corporate bankruptcies, deflationary tendencies and the heightened commercial and monetary disputes threatening to unleash commercial wars and a spiral of protectionism -all these infuse the world economy with an atmosphere more and more resembling that of the 30s.
Thus, we cannot rule out the ominous perspective of a stock market crash, given all the abovementioned factors, plus the high price of stocks combined with the four year-long fall of corporate profits as a percentage of the national income. The speculative bubble nourished by the massive liquidity injections by the Federal Reserve in the wake of September 11 and reliant on an expected quick and vigorous recovery -above all the widespread belief of investors that the US could again endure a 90s-styled boom- might blow up very rapidly if the American economy remains in recession for a longer period.
Still worse, the Enron collapse has put a question mark on the strength of the assets in the US. Far from being an isolated case, it could well speak volumes about the how sound the American finance system really is. This might smear the gleaning appeal exerted by the US markets on international investors.
This would be very dangerous indeed, because it has been the inflow of capital that underpinned the massive current account deficits of the US. This has reached record heights and it has kept growing, in spite of the recession at home, because exports fell more rapidly than imports in response to the recession abroad. Some analysts forecast it will stand at 6.2% of the GDP by mid 2003 -660 billion-, a groundbreaking record that will require the US to get 2 billion a day in order to pay for it. In other words, the US is running an untenable current account deficit. Its sudden undoing might precipitate the dollar into free fall, unleashing a massive flight of capital with disastrous consequences for the US financial markets, still blinded by their recent “glory days”. This massive current account deficit is an expression of the unevenness in the world economy, which has grown largely dependent on the American powerhouse as the main spring of growth and economic vitality. Regarded from this angle, doing away with the US current account deficit might further still more the depressive tendencies, thus pushing the rest of the world down a road leading to protectionist measures, in the quest for self-sustained growth.
China and Russia after september 11
XXIII The September 11 attacks and the US response to them are provoking great changes in the inter-state relations. The most striking shift has been president Putin’s turn in the direction of the West, particularly towards the US.
In the wake of Russia’s default back in 1998, which signaled the failure of market reforms, the rise of Putin consolidated a Bonapartist regime relying on the security forces as its main prop, with the aim of salvaging the process of capitalist restoration as a whole. In the domestic front, its advance brought about an increased centralization detrimental to the autonomy of the regions and a tougher stance towards the oppressed nationalities, as shown in Chechnya. Placing himself as an arbiter of the different restorationist factions, it checked and suppressed some factions of the oligarchy and, favoured by the ruble devaluation and the rise of oil prices, it launched a process of capitalist accumulation -after years of destruction of productive forces, lack of investment and capital flight.
In the external front, Putin tried to establish a more favourable balance of forces to negotiate with imperialism -particularly the US- Russia’s position as an emerging capitalist power. It tried to do so by seeking reliance in his nuclear muscle, in the links with “rogue” states and, above all, by forming a rather informal bloc with Beijing’s restoranists against the US-hegemonic “unipolar world”.
The turn that came after the September 11 attacks means that such policy has been dropped altogether, shifting to a temporal (shall we say strategic?) collaboration with the US. Russia has now placed itself as one the best pawns of the US to upkeep the status quo in the world, especially against a common enemy-Islamic fundamentalism. The economic grounds for such new role lie in Russia’s new role within the international division of labour. It has gone from being an industrial goods and machinery producer for the third world to being an oil, gas and mineral-oriented exporter. Such new place within the world market can be seen in the “price war” that Russia unleashed against the OPEC countries, violating all the quotas imposed on crude production.
Putin’s new orientation in foreign policy has come on top of such economic transformation, in an attempt to woo and regain the trust of world finance capital, which so far has been reluctant to engage in business in Russia, with the aim of completing the process of capitalist restoration. We are now confronted with the likelihood of Russia becoming a semi-colony -a quantum leap in the imperialist take-over of the country that would have massive consequences worldwide. The proposed entry of Russia into the WTO in next 2003 might be an anticipation of this.
The next few years ahead will be decisive for the course of the restoration in Russia. We cannot rule out the vicissitudes of war against terror nourishing new stand-offs, short-circuits or reversal in its flirtation with the US. The question mark placed on the permanent deployment of US troops in the former soviet republics of central Asia could well flare up the tempers. We cannot either rule out a strong backlash at home -where major reforms such as the elimination of the subsidies to the households at still in wait. That is why, in spite of his rallying with the US and the concessions he might be willing to give to imperialism, nothing reassures Putin that he will not end up as Gorbachev in his flirtation with the West -thus fuelling a tide of anti-American mood that might eventually turn against him.
XXIV China’s entry into the WTO in November 2001 is a major event. It hallmarks a significant break-through in China’s integration into the world capitalist economy. This will lead -in the next few years ahead- to bringing down the main barriers blocking a take-over by the multinational corporations (MNCs) of its economy (and domestic market). This, in turn, will result in millions of sackings, on top of the already high levels of unemployment.
Although lower than its previous records, China’s growth of around 7% is still really surprising -given the recession bogging down the world economy. China remains today a major attraction for foreign direct investment (FDI) worldwide -not only as an assemblage base, but also increasingly as a full-blown producer in some industrial branches. Chinese “sweatshops” have muscled in, replacing neighbouring countries as a source of cheap labour, and even loom in the horizon of their distant counterparts -the Mexican “maquilas”.
But in spite of such resounding political and economic achievements and also its low-profile involvement in the coalition against terror, the restorationist bureaucracy in Beijing fears that they could be left out of Bush’s “new order”.
The inroads of capitalist restoration have brought about a big economic growth, but also have widened the gap between the coastal zones linked to the world market and the hinterland, in a drive potentially threatening for its national unity. Such economic growth has increased China’s appetites to be respected and considered a regional power aspiring to gain leverage on the world arena. Its rise is coming up against the interests of the imperialist powers presiding over the world market. Far from being able to put up with the emergence of a new rival power, they rather need to further stabilize and deepen their take-over and domination in those areas of the world, which provide markets, cheap labour and raw materials for world capitalism. Standing in utter opposition to this are the material interests of the oppressed and the exploited that are reluctant to pay for the massive cost of the restoration-semicolonisation. It also runs against the appetites of the restorationist bureaucracy that does not want become a new bourgeois class doomed to play a secondary role on the world arena.
This is what the Beijing bureaucracy fears the most. Although the war in Afghanistan eclipsed them, the US-China disputes -which in April 2001 ended in a diplomatic stand-off- will remain a major source of tension in the next period ahead. The suspicions of the Chinese bureaucracy towards Bush maoeuvering with Putin herald renewed conflict. Right now, it has cooled down the links with their strategic ally, Rusia. On top of this came Bush nuclear shield initiative, which threatens to render China’s nuclear weaponry obsolete.
The euro and the drive to european integration
XXV The introduction of a common currency -the Euro- is, no doubt, a major break-through for European imperialist powers. Its launch will spurt the growth of intra-European trade and might also give momentum to the investments by big European MNCs. In spite of the fact that the dollar remains overwhelmingly the world’s reserve currency -with the economic perks this entails for the US-, the launch of the Euro means Europe will be likely to compete with the US in this terrain also, with massive geopolitical consequences. In this sense, it represents a major break-through for the project of European integration.
However, the ongoing recession will put it to a hard test. Given the world recession is set to continue, unemployment is set to grow, and the fight for markets will also become harder. Against such background, the rigid conditions dictated by the Maastricht Treaty will deepen the crisis and fuel the contradictions among the various European states. The harsh fiscal tightening imposed by the European Central Bank, aimed at keeping inflation down is paramount. Such measures were used in the past to prevent weaker currencies from undermining the stability of the almighty deutschmark, but today are running against Germany’s interest since its economy is undergoing a serious recession and needs a more expansive monetary policy and increased state spending. Schroeder, the German chancellor, might be faced with defeat in the forthcoming elections this year. He took office and promised he would cut down on unemployment, but it stands at exactly the same level than it was for years ago when he took office -4 million jobless.
The war in Afghanistan, in turn, and the disputes around subsidies and the arrangements aimed at rejuvenating European institutions to match the expansion to the east have all highlighted major differences between the smaller European states and the main powers in the region -with the former feeling overridden by the latter in the process of decision-taking. Among the big powers, France -which right into the early 90s had provided along with Germany an axis for the EU- sees its grip is being weakened due to the expansion towards the east and also the increasing weight of Germany in the world arena. Last but not least, the launch of the Euro has already provoked a crisis in the Italian government.
“Democratic reaction” is running dry
XXVI The “war against terror” has brought in its trail an unprecedented curtailment of democratic rights and also a centralization of the executive powers of the imperialist countries. The US is where those changes are all the more evident. A largely discredited Bush had taken office after the electoral scandal/fraud, but he is now enjoying 90% popularity. The past two months have witnessed the rise of an “imperial-styled presidency”, shaped by the unilateral law-enforcement powers of the administration. The new USA Patriotic Act just passed by the Congress has deprived the judiciary from any faculty to check or monitor the electronic surveillance carried by the intelligence agencies or else the FBI. It also introduces long-term -and likely indefinite- detainment of strangers without any formal charge against being laid against them. But the presidency has also taken on new judicial faculties that do not require the approval of the Congress, such as the presidential decree dictating those people suspected of terrorism must be judged by a military court, or else a new regulation enabling the federal agents to record the conversations between the prisoners and their lawyers without having to request the permission of any court at all. Due to the thin line separating intelligence surveillance from delinquency control, the new powers bestowed onto the presidency are not limited to those cases involving terrorism, but can rather be extended to ordinary criminal investigations. All these show that there is long-term reactionary crusade at stake here seeking to impose new mechanisms of social surveillance fundamentally aimed against immigrants, but potentially targeting the whole population. This drive has gained momentum in the wake of September 11, but it has been intensified for some years now. They seek to curtail the legal rights conquered through great fights by the racial minorities, women, the gay community and other sectors throughout the century.
XXVII In the semi-colonial countries, both the world recession and the US-sponsored diplomatic (and sometimes military) onslaught are creating an enormous social and political polarization there. This is manifest in the weakness of the some governments and also the erosion of the social basis and the bulwark of bourgeois democracy, under the double pressure of imperialism’s economic and political pressure on one hand, and the demands of the workers and the people, on the other.
Argentina is a paramount example. It is a highly industrialized semi-colonial country with an overwhelmingly urban population, and also the highest incomes in the region. For the first time ever, the masses brought down a democratically elected government. Bourgeois democracy was unable to contain the tensions that had bottled up, thus being replaced by both a beleaguered government and regime that are now busy trying to hoodwink and derail the masses’ offensive. Both the political awakening of the masses and their revolutionary mobilizations run against the likelihood of the old ruling regime being restored in a peaceful fashion. It is most likely that new unstable governments will follow, seeking reliance in one of the fundamental struggling forces -the imperialist bourgeoisie or else the working class movement and the masses. Given the mounting imperialist pressure and all the conditions mentioned above, we cannot write off a sui generis Bonapartist government taking office. This might as well try to rely on the mass demonstrations to go for the nationalization of some major assets today in the hands of multinational corporations and the imperialist banks. This might well be an attempt at preserving the bourgeois regime as a whole, thus blocking the development of a proletarian revolution.
Such tendencies are inchoately at work in Venezuela right now. There, Chávez has passed new legislation timidly undermining the property rights of the landowners and increasing the share of the national state in the oil revenues. This had led to a head-on collision with the most powerful bosses’ chambers and the landowning organizations.
XXVIII The centralization of power in the hands of the presidency, the reactionary backlash against the democratic rights in the imperialist countries, and the weakened semi-colonial regimes are all highlighting the limits of the democratic reaction (or democratic counter-revolution) agenda. This was a top leverage used by imperialism, hand in hand with military interventions. Such policy became a top priority for imperialism in the wake of its defeat in Vietnam. It was first implemented in a defensive fashion, and later on, in the 80s and 90s in a more and more offensive way. It was preemptively implemented in many semi-colonial countries, in most of which bourgeois democracy had been by and large absent throughout the XX century as a result of the massive political and economic instability and also a heightened class struggle in them.
Such policy was a weapon the US resorted to buttress the decline of its hegemony. In the 90s, it went along with “humanitarian” military interventions in some hotspots, like the Balkans or else Indonesia/East Timor and also reactionary pacts such as the Oslo Agreements or else the Peace Process in Ireland.
Already before September, the enormous contradictions at work in the world arena and the rise of Bush to power were heralding an erosion of such policies aimed pinning down the contradictions both at home and abroad.
The war on terror has fuelled this. In the next period ahead, then, the works of bourgeois democracy, “humanitarian” interventions and regional pacts will be rather exceptional. The openly reactionary nature of the war against Afghanistan, the failed attempt at restarting Arab-Israeli negotiations, and the military escalation by Israel are all sings of this. To these, we should add the support of imperialism to reactionary regimes (what Marxists call Bonapartist regimes).
A transitory situation
XXIX The deep going systemic recession has wreaked havoc on the neoliberal “paradigm” -as well as the slowdown in the 70s torpedoed the Keynesian orthodoxy. The dislocation of the inter-state system, along with the ailing “superpower” profile of the US, the tensions and the polarization between the classes in the wake of September 11 all speak of a new world situation.
This change is no short-term shift. The depth of the contradictions listed above point to the opening of a transitory situation that will usher in a new balance of forces between the classes, tipping the tables either in favour of imperialism or else the mass movement. Its nature will take on a definite shape only when the instability in the economic, social and political spheres of the world system is worked out. This will fuel great national struggles, such as the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, inter-state clashes (India and Pakistan) and also great class combats. Either the world working class and the oppressed peoples in the world step up their resistance -opening up revolutionary processes or situations in some semi-colonial countries and/or the advanced countries- or else imperialism will be able to impose a new reactionary outcome through a combination of setbacks and defeats.
September 11 marked the end of the preparatory phase, in which the neoliberal offensive was losing ground in a piecemeal fashion. It opened up a period of heightened class tensions, one in which both revolution and counter-revolution will take on a more definite shape -in contrast with the lower levels of class struggle of the last few decades, the byproduct of the derailed revolutions in the imperialist heartlands and a combination of bloody coups with low-intensity wars in the periphery that closed down the 1968-81 revolutionary upswing.
XXX From the standpoint of inter-imperialist relations, this new period is not as yet characterised by an open fight for world hegemony. The overwhelming political and military superiority of US imperialism writes off a short-term challenge to its domination on the part of its rival powers. Such imbalance of power between the US and its allies is to account for the rallying of the latter behind the politico-military goals of the US -this in spite of the big contradictions in the economic sphere, and to a lesser extent in that of politics and military affairs.
In the short term, the biggest threats to its hegemony come from the massive costs that go hand in hand with the role of the only superpower in a position to safeguard the status quo. A mishap in his quest to rebuild the imperial power profile might open up a strategic vacuum that might fuel a dispute with rival powers, thus pushing them in the direction of a bigger role in up keeping security and putting down the flare-ups in their spheres of influence. They might also be forced to get a leading position in international affairs, which might collide with the US long-term interest.
The class struggle
XXXI From the standpoint of the mass movement, the response of the working class and the oppressed worldwide to the new situation of a combined recession and imperialist warmongering is lagging far behind.
The workers, the unemployed, the urban poor and middle class layers that were the key actors of the “revolutionary days” of December 19 and 20 in Argentina are, no doubt, the most advanced sector, the vanguard of the working class and mass struggles worldwide. The downfall of De la Rúa’s government is the last example in a whole series of mass uprisings that have brought down hated dictatorships and governments pushing ahead with the IMF agenda -Albania 1997, Indonesia in May 1998, Ecuador in 1997 and 2000, Serbia in 2000. In the Argentine case, the urban nature of the process might herald a new wave of struggle in Latin America, overcoming this time the peasant and popular nature of those struggles that have influenced the Latin American vanguard since the mid 90s -Chiapas, Ecuador, Bolivia.
The workers and the mass movement in the US are now placed in the opposite, conservative pole. They have rallied with their government pushed by the war hysteria and the patriotism cranked up by the chauvinistic AFL-CIO union bureaucracy. This is to account for the unchallenged wave of sackings -one the biggest and fastest ever in US history- that has hardly hit many immigrants and illegal workers, the first victims of a recession that is right now reaching out to the core of the industrial proletariat, the car industry workers.
The European working class, especially the Italian and French workers that were the vanguard in the mid 90s when it came to fighting back neoliberal governments, even resorting to political general strikes has been put on the defensive by and large -although we still see many partial strikes. It is still on the defensive, after socialdemocracy went into office, given the recession and the reactionary atmosphere now reigning in the advanced countries. The likelihood exists that Italy, where the Berlusconi government is pushing ahead to bring in more flexibility in terms of jobs and pensions for the benefit of corporations, a drive that has led the unions to break negotiations with it, will be first place where the social truce comes tumbling down.
XXXII From the standpoint of the oppressed nationalities, the most determined among them is the resistance being put by the Palestinian masses. Their fight for national liberation has grown from a mass revolt in the first months into a war combining terrorist and guerrilla attacks that has seriously affected the security of the Zionist state. Both the political and military pressure exerted on Arafat and other Al Fatah leaders aimed at getting them to check and jail the guerrillas might fuel a civil war there, aimed against the discredited Arafat’s leadership in the first case if this seeks to put up with the demands of Israel. On the other hand, a military escalation by the Zionist state might spark off a mass national liberation war against Israel. Such perspective might destabilize the moderate Arab governments and also has the potential for provoking a regional war. So far, however, the masses in the region have remained by and large passive in the face of the Afghan war -partly because of the little enthusiasm that the police-styled regime of the Taliban inspired and also the preemptive repressive measures of the governments in the region. A new humiliation of the Palestinian case, or else renewed intervention against the beleaguered Iraqi people, might provoke an explosion of anti-American mood that might be also addressed against their own governments.
XXXIII The anti-capitalist movement, which had become a major political actor in the developed countries, has now been thrown into disarray in the wake of the reactionary September 11 attacks and the ensuing crusade and anti-democratic drive that accompanied the attacks on Afghanistan. Capitalising on the reigning reactionary atmosphere, the reformist wing of the movement has gained the upper hand. They separate the fight against corporations from the anti-imperialist struggle and seek to turn the radicalized youth away from the movement -the latter being the main actors of the vanguard actions in the “Battle of Genoa”. The policies pursued by the European socialdemocracy -for example Jospin has publicly endorsed the so-called “Tobin Tax”- have led to the cooptation of important leaders of the anti-capitalist movement.
Although the quick denouement of the Afghan war prevented it from growing into a mass movement, an anti-war movement sprang up -in which sectors of the anti-capitalist movement participated. The main protests took place in Britain and Italy. In Italy, this movement came together with the first major struggles waged against Berlusconi. These precedents in two key US allies show that in the forthcoming second phase of the “war on terror” such movements might radicalize dramatically in a collision course against their own imperialist governments.
Winther the world situation?
XXXIV In the short-term, the situation seems to be heading in the direction of an unrivalled US domination -at least if one buys into the rampant triumphal mood of the US chief-of-staff and only sees the apparently unlimited scope of the unchallenged “crusade against terror.” Such is the aim being pursued by the main policy-makers of the politico-military establishment in Washington. They are convinced that once their credentials of military invincibility have been restored, the world economy will recover and the US will be in an invulnerable position once again.
But this is not a likely scenario, however, if one adopts a long-term perspective. Such perspective should take into account the massive accumulation of economic contradictions, the inter-state system and the class struggle. Blinded in its crusade against terrorism, Washington has now become oblivious to the dangers in the world situation. The worsening of the recession worldwide -shown by Japan’s slump- the strong inter-imperialist rivalry and also mass upheavals such as Argentina’s all show that, notwithstanding Washington and its overriding prowess, it can not deal with the whole contradictions and tensions coming from the world situation. We cannot rule out that the US might try to turn things over by resorting to a big scale political and military intervention. Otherwise, the tendencies to increased instability will grow unchecked in the first years of twenty first century, with new atrocities and upheavals looming ahead, and also open clashes between revolution and counter-revolution -all these typical of the twentieth century. The revolutionaries are getting ready for such perspectives, leaving behind us all the nonsense and mumbo-jumbo of the last decade promising us a globalised, harmonious and peaceful world -which has revealed itself as a wretched lie after the September 11 attacks.