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Table of Contents - Num. 184 May 2017

 

1)  Paris and London Seek a Political Coalition for the European Strategy in Globalisation

 2)  Political Figures about Recovery and Protectionist Gesticulations

 3) Words and Missiles

European News
4) Europe Goes to The Ballot in France

5) Armed Diplomacy in Syria and Korea

1917-2017. One hundred years since the October Revolution
6) The April Theses

7) The Influence of the USA in South America and the Apprenticeship of Donald Trump

8) Bukharin a Criticism of Bourgeois Sociology

The Asian Giants
9) Flag and Trade along “The Silk Road”

The world car industry battle
10) PSA-Opel

The world car industry battle
11) RENAULT NISSAN   MITSUBISHI MOTORS

The world battle of the shipping industry
12) Fincantieri STX France

13) Publications

 

Paris and London Seek a Political Coalition for the European Strategy in Globalisation 

The recovery of the global economy is growing stronger, but the crisis in global relations after almost a decade has left irreversible consequences. As we discuss in other pages of this newspaper, the relative weight of almost one seventh of global production has shifted from the old to the new powers. Half of this variation, about 7 percentage points of the world product, benefits China alone, which becomes the leading power. 10 points have been lost by the United States and Europe, understood as the euro federation alone: they were the first and second world powers, now they are the second and third. China has almost 18 percent of world GDP, the US more than 15 and the euro zone almost 12. If we calculate the whole EU-27 confederation, with all the unknowns of its political centralisation, Europe has about 14%; including Britain it would be well over 16, overtaking the United States as the world’s second power, and this gives an idea of how much Brexit weighs in the global power relations.

In any case, these are figures in which one can see a summing up of the objective base of the political cycle of European decline and of the new strategic phase. The shift in economic weights is very swift and huge, but can this be said about political weights?

We certainly believe not: this is the object of the struggle that has begun among the powers and it is precisely because of this that we do not think of a confrontation that has already concluded with the end of the crisis, but of a strategic phase and a political cycle that is beginning, in which those who have gained weight economically will try to count politically. Just like and more than the new contention of the 1980s, which followed the restructuring crisis of the 1970s, it will be a covert, no holds barred struggle. No one can say beforehand how alliances will come out of it transformed, weakened, strengthened or swept away, or what crises and wars will test and sanction the new power relations.

In the meantime, we record that Donald Trump’s new American presidency is rapidly taking on the characteristics of the new cycle. With a 59 Cruise missile air attack in Syria, a mother of all bombs in Afghanistan and fleet movements in Asia, Trump has sent his message not only to the powers involved, such as Iran, North Korea, Turkey or Pakistan, but also to Russia, China, India, Japan and Europe. In his administration men tied to the consensus of the foreign policy and defence Establishment are gaining weight: Vice-president Michael Pence, General Herbert McMaster, the National Security adviser, General James Mattis, Secretary of Defence, and also the president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, whose mentor is Henry Kissinger.

Alongside diplomacy in the world of power relations one speaks with missiles, bombs and nuclear-deterrent-armed aircraft carriers. “I’m learning,” repeats the new president and, paradoxically, it seems to be Trump who is re-establishing in the American capital the ‘Washington playbook’, the rules of the bipartisan foreign policy consensus, from which Barack Obama openly distanced himself when he refused to strike Syria. Trump as the maker of political rebalance: not only in comparison with his own uncontrolled rantings in the election campaign, but also with respect to Obama, whose retrenchment line had, according to Kissinger, become too precipitate and predictable.

The lesson needs to be noted down, in order to avoid the opposite errors of subjectivist or purely economic interpretations of political swings. There are objective political dimensions of the contention – the balance dynamic, the historical guidelines of foreign policy, the role of political-military power and the action of the states and state systems – that weigh in any case, and make their crucial role felt sooner or later. Emphasis on each subjective gesture of political leaders is misleading, especially in an era in which TV democracy has found its hyperbola in the social media, in which every political act has to be tweetable, i.e. translated into a few sentences that will strike mass opinion as in a TV commercial. But it is also a mistake to seek in every swing the direct stamp of the basic trends: these reveal themselves in times that cannot be established beforehand, regularly proceed in imbalance and political non-correspondence, and need to be evaluated with strategic patience and dialectical method.

The political analysis of the imperialist contention starts from uneven economic development, but needs to be «rebuilt on the state system», as our Marxist science of international relations lays down. At the same time, the powers’ internal dynamics need to be rebuilt on the analysis of political imbalance and rebalance, in which social changes and swings are reflected. This is why the new cycle is, for us, also the political cycle of the crisis of social-democratisation.

In the spring of 2001 ‘Does America Need a Foreign Policy’ seemed a kind of handbook in which Kissinger addressed the presidential candidates, especially the Republicans John McCain and George W. Bush. One chapter – ‘The Political Issues of Globalisation’reread sixteen years later is of great interest because it gives an in-depth reflection on what we defined, after the 2008 crisis, as the «ideological crisis of globalisation».

As is characteristic of his conceptual vision, Kissinger writes about the risks of a «crisis of legitimacy» of the international system that presides over globalisation, favoured by political leaders «guided by short-term electoral pressure» and hence «reluctant to take on problems the existence of which is not yet apparent» and the solution to which is tied to long times that go beyond the «electoral cycle».

Written when the echo of the 1997 Asian crises - «crisis of internationalisation» according to our scientific definition – was still strong, much of Kissinger’s text is centred on ‘political risk’ in the emerging powers, starting from the counterblows of the disintegration of the peasantry:

«All developing countries have faced the challenge that industrialization, by drawing people from the countryside to the cities, brings with it the weakening of traditional political and social support systems. The urban working and lower middle class becomes a fertile recruiting ground for radical politics or religious fundamentalism. This phenomenon was familiar even before globalization; it contributed to the emergence of Marxism in the nineteenth century and to the Iranian revolution in the twentieth. Even when material conditions of the poor and lower middle classes improve in absolute terms, the migrants become increasingly conscious of the gap between rich and poor, which the early stages of modernization magnify and which television and other media bring graphically into the homes and consciousness of nearly everyone. Political and economic indices therefore frequently slip out of phase with one another. Even when the aggregate economic data indicate growth, benefits may not reach the urban population sufficiently rapidly, or on a large enough scale, to remove the sense of rootlessness and dependence at the core of contemporary unease».

Kissinger recognises that these phenomena are a regularity of capitalist development, but sees as a «unique» characteristic of our age «the scale of the global impact» of the transformation and the «rate of technological change», which makes the challenge of «humanizing» the process «unprecedented».

Many passages refer to the intrinsic combination between development and crisis, observed from a big bourgeois point of view. «For the first time in history, a single worldwide economic system has come into being» but, by basing growth on interdependence, globalisation has «served to undermine the role of the nation-state as the sole determinant of a society’s well-being—though this is far less true in the United States than in many other regions». In the meantime, the process itself, which has allowed a never-before-seen development in most of the world, «may also provide the mechanism for spreading an economic and social crisis around the world», with the irony that the main acquisition of the new millennium turns out to be unprecedented «vulnerability». «When vast amounts of capital move around the world in response to individual decisions, periodic crises of disequilibrium will almost inevitably occur».

For Kissinger, the extreme versions of «globalism» tend to ignore the hiatus between the world’s economic and political systems. «Unlike economics, politics divides the world into national units»,

and if, to a certain extent, the political leaders can accept economic growth being hit, «they cannot survive as advocates of near permanent austerity, especially if their policies can be presented as imposed from abroad». The temptation to invert policies of austerity can become irrepressible; certainly «protectionism may prove ineffective or even backfire in the long term», but the party leaders respond in the short term to what appears to them as «their political necessities».

With his attention on the emerging powers while what would become the crisis triggered by the technology ‘bubble’ in the early months of 2001 was looming ahead, Kissinger warned that, with the end of expansion and even more «were it to reverse» in the United States, «the tensions between economic realities and what is politically sustainable» could «shake both the economic and the political systems around the world. What would be «the reaction of a generation that has never known economic crisis» - much less a «political one» - and that has failed to prepare for it?

For Kissinger, «few in the booming 1920s expected the Depression of the 1930s, and no government prepared for it». In the end «no democratic public accepted orthodox methods for overcoming the Depression». Then the conclusion: «no economic system can be sustained without a political base». The protests that were beginning to spread against globalisation were a warning that  the system might find itself facing a «crisis of legitimacy»; the results of the global economy could be preserved only «with a political construction of comparable sweep and vision».

Let’s make three observations. The first. As we have said, Kissinger was writing close to the 1997 Asian crises and his attention was fixed on the developments in such powers as Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia or the Philippines, to the point of criticising the International Monetary Fund’s lack of political sensitivity with its plans and conditional loans that forced the internationalisation of the new areas. Kissinger describes the emerging powers as though they were crossed by a division into two circles, between the big business groups and globalised social strata and the groups and population groups still tied to internal conditions. What he describes are the contradictions of modernisation, and what he envisages is the need for a reformist line of big capital that would accompany it and meet with the consensus of the institutions presiding over the international order and the liberist cycle. His alarm at the social and political consequences of a modernisation shaken by the inevitable development cycles and crises is similar to the theses of  Zbigniew Brzezinski about the «global political awakening» of the world masses, which has accompanied the process of capitalist development for two centuries up to the present globalisation.

Kissinger fears the counterblows in the new areas, but in 2001 he did not go so far as to conceive the reversal of the roles precipitated by the 2008 crisis: it is the old powers of the West, in America and Europe, that are seeing doubts grow about the liberal order. And it is the new players in Asia, starting with China, which claim they are defenders of globalisation, however much it may be revised and more «inclusive» with respect to the old order imposed by the Western powers. These are certainly tools in the imperialist contention; it is still not true that there is a lack of liberist consensus in the West, and China itself denies it can act as the guarantor of the international system. But the image of the reversal of roles, favoured by the excesses of a Trump in apprenticeship, leaves the analysts of the ‘Financial Times’, the ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’, ‘Le Monde’ or the ‘Wall Street Journal’ stunned, while it is being knowingly cultivated in China by the ‘Global Times’.

The second observation. The question posed by Kissinger – the need for an economic system to have its «political base» and the risk of the adversities of the cycle leading to a «crisis of legitimacy» of the institutions and ideologies that preside over the political order of globalisation – remains valid. This is valid in every condition, we may add, as much for the contradictions of the first modernisation which became the rising phase of social-democratisation and the West and which are now being repeated in the East, as for the unknowns of the decline of the old powers that risks no longer guaranteeing the old social compromise. It is the question of the «hegemony» of the ruling class, a conundrum that Antonio Gramsci resolved in idealist, non-Marxist terms, and that we, instead, face with the materialist tools of the analysis of the classes and the class strata, as a question, for big capital, of the mass power base and social coalition in the petty bourgeoisie, between the intermediate strata and the wage earners.

The third observation. In the Old Continent, the factors underway or only potential of a «crisis of legitimacy» of globalisation affect the European Union, since those powers and institutions have presided over the relations between the national states and the European market, and between this and the world market, for decades. It is easy to observe that the description made by Kissinger in 2001 of the protectionist temptations retraces the oscillations of the Eurosceptic currents that today, albeit minority, are ending up setting the agenda for the European political cycle.

We have already written about the real social consequences of the crisis, and we will return to them. The vast intermediate strata of imperialist maturity, the traditional petty bourgeoisie and the wage-earning strata combined in the multi-income family in the final balance of the last ten years have been barely affected in their real living conditions. And yet, in societies infiltrated by parasitism and ageing in the demographic winter, even the mere prospect of stagnation of wages and assets, together with socio-cultural-identifying fears about migratory collisions, has been enough to stoke up the mass fears seized upon in the new political cycle.

In France, as well as in Britain, this has become the subject of decisive political-electoral battles. The analyses of Emmanuel Macron’s attempt can be grouped into two main threads: those that look to the political cultures of the French tradition – in its different variations of centrism – and those that underline a «realignment» according to the European divide. It goes without saying that the two interpretations are not alternative: a realignment hinging on the different centrist versions of liberal, Catholic and socialist splinter groups is plausible, precisely because those political cultures in France have been the most Europeanist and the least tied to sovereignism and statism.

This introductory statement can be made: while the crisis of the old political orders is evident, it would be rationalism to think that its outcome in itself will therefore be a new order centred on the European divide, with an adaptation that would rebalance a previous condition of imbalance. That is certainly the trend, in the sense that it has been the basic line that has united the crucial political battles of the last seventy years. We need only think of the birth of the ECSC , the European Coal and Steel Community, in 1950, the Treaty of Rome instituting the EEC in 1957, the Franco-German Treaty signed by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer in 1963, the presidency of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing  and the Franco-German axis with Helmut Kohl in the ‘70s, the European realignment of the ‘second’ François Mitterrand in 1982-1983, the Single European Act promoted by Jacques Delors in 1986, the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, adhesion to the euro federation in 1998, the Convention and the Treaty of Nice in the early 2000s, and the political resistance of Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder to the war in Iraq in 2003.

However, almost all of those battles of French Europeanism were accompanied by counter-movements, crises and defining moments, which sometimes coexisted within the same presidency. Between the 1950 ECSC and the 1957 ECM there was the failure of the EDC, the European Defence Community, triggered precisely by the French rejection. De Gaulle sanctioned the birth of the Franco-German axis with Adenauer, but he also always sought to balance Germany, moreover divided by the Yalta division; he also conflicted with Jean Monnet’s Euro-federalist line, in the name of a «Europe of Nations», which was a sovereignist vision of European unity. Again, de Gaulle, with his «empty chair» policy, long held the EEC hostage in the name of the defence of French farmers. In 1982, Mitterrand himself literally staged the dilemma between a more Atlanticist line of uncoupling from the Deutschmark and the Rhineland line that defended the tie to the EMS, the line that, in the end, he let prevail by giving room to Delors. In the autumn of 1992, the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty was approved by a whisker, at the price of a political crisis over currency that sent the lira, the peseta and the pound sterling out of the EMS. In 1989, when the possibility of German unity began to take shape, Mitterrand joined Margaret Thatcher in dragging his feet, demanding guarantees and quid pro quos; federal currency sharing in the euro was the price asked of Helmut Kohl, even if the ECB was built on the German model of monetary power independence. The Franco-German strategic core was preserved in their opposition to the 2003 Iraq War, but in any case the division froze European defence for fifteen years; moreover France has clung to a sovereign national interpretation of defence and the nuclear deterrent. Finally, the first solution of the Constitutional Treaty put forward by the European Convention was rejected precisely by France in its 2005 referendum, and its content was decanted into the Lisbon Treaty only after very laborious negotiations.

As can be seen, it cannot be said that Europe has not already been the «clivage», the divide, of French politics, in the sense that the European and Franco-German strategic choice has certainly taken root over the decades, but through fights, countertrends and sudden realignments. In the new battle of Paris that is underway, if the crisis of the old balances is certain, we do not know fully if a rebalance, a long crisis or some intermediate solution will come out of it, even if after the first round Macron’s victory seems the most probable.

Can the rapid process of political restructuring in France offer indications for the ongoing battle in Britain? Here, too, paradoxically, the political battle over the real Brexit terms is actually a confrontation over the extent to which it will be possible to hang onto the link between London and the EU. Theresa May has brandished her prerogative as prime minister to dissolve the House of Commons and call for an early political election, in an offensive that has multidirectional aims.

One of her intentions is that the state of great weakness of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party should allow the Tories to win a great majority of seats in the House of Commons. Theresa May would have stronger bargaining powers in the negotiations with Brussels, a full five-year mandate ahead of her to manage both Brexit and the beginning of the inevitable successive transition period and, above all, more elbowroom in the confrontation within the Conservative Party. A pragmatic compromise with the EU that would save relations with the single market and the European customs union as best as possible, the aim towards which Theresa May seems to leaning, needs to be able to avoid the blackmail of the Tory Party’s more Europhobe minority.

The early election also aims to wrong-foot the currents that in the Labour Party, the Lib-Dems and the Conservative Party itself have begun to work for a ‘European’ realignment of the political forces, flanked, among others, by the ‘Financial Times’ and City circles. The potentialities of the 48% that voted Remain in the referendum are the object of undercurrent activity involving, among others, Tony Blair, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Lib-Dem exponent Nicholas Clegg. George Osborne, the former Secretary of the Treasury under David Cameron, has renounced standing as an MP to attempt an unprecedented operation as editor of the ‘Evening Standard’, a popular daily that, in London, can counter Rupert Murdoch’s Eurosceptic press with its pro-Europe positions.

A British Macron may emerge from these operations, but unless there is a real chemical precipitate, it seems unlikely that a realignment will take shape between now and the June election. If in France Macron has worked from the outside on the voting pool of a worn-out Socialist Party, in Britain the precondition seems to be that the Labour Party should spiral into a terminal crisis.

One thing is sure, amidst imbalances and rebalances. Since the upheaval in the social psychologies brought about by the social-democratisation crisis rests on the basic trends of the new strategic phase and Atlantic decline, and since the responses in Europe can no longer limit themselves to the degree of national power, the question of a mass power base for the strategy of the ruling fractions cannot but characterise the European political cycle in its DNA, and for a long time.

 

Lotta Comunista N° 560 April 2017



 

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