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Monday, February 8, 2016
The Coming War.
War and Peace
by Dan Armstrong
The US ruling class has, as we all know, been busy trying to finalise a wave of counter revolutions in regions outside the old communist bloc but where US capitalism had not held complete sway. Thus throughout the Middle East and North Africa destablising uprisings were initiated and had the aim of opening direct control of state-owned oilfields. As we know most of these went so badly wrong that far from gaining more control, the US ended up with expensive military campaigns, less political control and is now coming under threat by new cancerous fundamentalist forces with metastases establishing themselves from west Africa through to Indonesia, from Northern Europe to Australia. American military expenditure in and of itself has not been able to impose American capitalism's will on those regions where armed conflict has been the norm for over a decade. The giant has political feet of clay.
On another front, the western powers have defied international agreements reached after the collapse of the USSR in relation to nuclear disarmament that they would not seek to extend NATO's membership and territories in return for the destruction of Ukraine's stock of atomic weapons; instead NATO has crept further and further eastwards aided by staged calls by the Baltic states, by Georgia and more recently by Ukraine to join NATO and / or be covered by NATO's military shield. Except for the Baltic states, in the other two cases, the US so far failed to get its own way. Each reaction by Russia to counter the expansionism has been characterised as Russian "imperialism". At the same time, Putin's own ambitions to re-establish Russia's power have been well served by the West's behaviour, allowing the government to raise the military budget from ca. 20 billion US dollars in 1999 to 90 billion in 2012. Although a steep rise, the US spent ca. 300 billion dollars in 1999 but 680 billion in 2012. This last figure is the same amount as spent by the next TEN nations added together.
For comparison China's recent military budget was 155 billion US dollars (CIA World Factbook - https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/).
These two fronts in Europe and the Middle East are highly problematical for the US and its western allies (or vasall states). In both areas the US military has not been able to impose its rule easily. But there is a larger, strategic problem facing US capitalism. As a hugely important economic power, the US has been able to develop technology and productive capacity as well as military strength expressed in state of the art hardware. But rivals have appeared on the scene to challenge US hegemony in all of these areas. We saw the Asian Tiger economies ride the growth wave before 2000, producing cheap electronics, cars, etc, although Japan's strength has been sapped by over a decade of internal debt. And Korea has for objective reasons in the size of its population not been able to build beyond a certain point. But as we all know, China's tremendous growth was based on a flood of credit linked into objective backwardness internally and its ability to undercut prices abroad for consumer goods and some commodities to sell to western and other markets. It has actually raised its status to the second largest economy on the planet. This is well enough known but what consequences can be drawn?
Up until recently, China was mainly an export-led economy. But now, economic growth rests on an internal consumer market, selling to newly prosperous workers and the middle class with much less need to export. A consumer credit bubble in housing and share price speculation have caused wobbles in growth which have reverberated around the world economy. The US ruling class may have invested in Chinese manufacturing but it cannot control the actions of the government. It also regards with displeasure the drive of Chinese enterprises into acquisition of vast areas of arable land in Africa and of water resources, copper deposits, rare earths and much more. Of late US imperialism has been condemning the growth of Chinese naval strength and the creation of artificial islands as future bases in the Pacific.
Taken all in all, a comparison of this present rivalry between not primarily the US and Europe but between the US and China is irresistible. The last important period when new capitalist powers arose to challenge the world's superpower was 1880 to 1913. All the above indices were paralleled then by the challenge of the new industrial powers of the USA and of Germany to the giant Great Britain. The productive forces were pushing the US into expansion southwards and westwards; Germany was blocked by its continental geographic position. It was clear that conflict was inevitable but unclear as to who would clash with whom. Germany almost engaged in hostilities with France in north Africa. A clash between the US and the UK could easily have erupted. As we know, Germany's government decided on a war of aggressive to paralyse Belgium in order to dominate the Channel ports and begin a conflict with the British Empire, wholly dependent on sea power. This decision was taken in spite of the fact that Germany, Britain, France and the US all had financial investments in each other's economies and their respective ruling classes all foretold a disastrous future if a new war were to break out. And yet, the forces at work were so powerful that the conflict did occur. In 1913 a deep economic recession pushed the parties over the edge and within a year war broke out. And the consequences were probably more disastrous even than foretold, even threatening continent-wide social revolution and the end of great empires.
The next world recession will reveal more the weaknesses of the old powers, may well kill off the dollar as the single reserve currency, the same factor which effectively ended Britain's status as a super power when the pound was replaced by gold and then as a coup de grace by the dollar. Given the present balance of forces, given the vulnerability of the US share of markets, the cost of its foreign military bases, the astronomical national debt of 19 trillion dollars only viable as long as the dollar holds its present status , its erosion status as reserve currency - in these circumstances can we expect that the US ruling class will stand by and watch China continue to move towards the world's number one economy, the pacific and Indian ocean prime naval power, the possessor of vital resources and commodities?
Is it not much more likely that the US will move against China before it is too late?