Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 5 Num. 25

("Quid coniuratio est?")

THE GLOBALIZATION OF CAPITALIST PRODUCTION [From The International Workers Bulletin, 10/25/93] [Excerpts]


(5.1) The impotence and treachery of the old labor organizations lend to political reaction the appearance of overwhelming mastery. The working class appears almost powerless to intervene as an independent force. From this state of affairs, skeptics and middle class opportunists draw the most pessimistic conclusions, generally to justify their own capitulation to imperialism. It is necessary, however, to examine the economic and political situation more carefully and probe its underlying dynamics.

(5.2) The present state of political reaction has definite limits. Despite its appearance of strength, capitalist reaction is ultimately the expression of unsolved and intensifying economic, political and social contradictions. World capitalism has not, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and other setbacks to the working class, been able to establish a new world order. It has not forged a new equilibrium, on the basis of which it might consolidate itself and sustain a new period of organic growth. Rather, capitalism remains at the stage of the dissolution of the old postwar order, and the prevailing disequilibrium has unleashed all of the historical contradictions of the imperialist epoch, which in the first half of this century produced two world wars and a series of revolutions. Imperialism is driven to establish a new equilibrium on the ashes of the old postwar order. But history has demonstrated that the conflicting interests of rival nationally-based gangs of imperialists cannot be settled peacefully. The former vanquished powers, Germany and Japan, cannot and will not continue to accept a position of political and military inferiority to American imperialism under conditions in which their relative economic power has been drastically altered. Within this volatile and unstable situation, American imperialism plays the role of the chief catalyst of crisis and upheaval around the world, as it seeks to restore its former position of global hegemony at the expense of its imperialist rivals in Europe and Asia. The most insightful representatives of world capitalism recognize the unstable state of international relations, and admit in the various think tank journals of the bourgeoisie that no observer can predict what the face of world politics will be like five years from now.

(5.3) Shattered is the system of international economic, political and military relations established at the end of World War II, where American supremacy together with the counterrevolutionary services of Stalinism, social democracy, the American trade union bureaucracy and the national bourgeoisie in the backward countries provided the basis for a growth of world trade, relative political stability and a lessening of interimperialist antagonisms. The breakdown of the postwar capitalist equilibrium has produced the first global depression since the 1930s. The world today is dominated by economic stagnation, rising unemployment and deepening social crisis; sharpening trade battles among the imperialist powers; an explosion of ethnic and communal conflict; and a resurgence of imperialist militarism and colonialism.

(5.4) The Cold War conflict between the two "superpowers" was, in the final analysis, a stabilizing factor in world affairs. American hegemony was based on a combination of economic and military supremacy. The former has been eroded by America's economic decline and the emergence of powerful rivals in Germany and Japan. As for the latter, paradoxically, the demise of the Soviet Union has undermined the unquestioned dominance of the United States over its former imperialist allies, which no longer feel obliged to rely on U.S. military might against a potential conflict with the Soviet bloc.

(5.5) Under conditions of world depression and the weakening of the international position of the United States, the interimperialist conflicts pitting American, Japanese and European imperialism against one another have taken on a fundamental character. Even within Europe, sharp differences over monetary and trade policy have put an end to the dream of a single European currency and exposed the proposal for a united capitalist Europe as a reactionary utopia.

(6.1) Imperialist war and reaction, as Lenin explained, are not simply the preferred policies of capitalism. Imperialism is rather an objective and historic stage of capitalist development, or, to be more precise, capitalist decay. Notwithstanding the claims of Marxism's demise, the basic features of modern capitalism which Lenin outlined in 1916 are in full display on the world scene today: the monopolization of the economic life of the planet; the colonial carve-up of the world by the great powers in a scramble for markets, raw materials and cheap labor, leading inexorably to war and revolutionary upheavals.

(6.2) It is the growth of the contradictions of world imperialism and the crisis of American imperialism that, in the final analysis, dictate the policies of the Clinton administration. After decades of boom, during which these contradictions were to a certain extent contained within the framework of the postwar settlement between U.S. imperialism and Stalinism, they manifest themselves today with explosive power.

(6.3) U.S. imperialism resorts with increased frenzy to the methods of economic blackmail and military violence. While America has undergone a sharp decline over the past 30 years and is no longer the rising economic power it was when Trotsky wrote his critique of the draft program of the Comintern in 1928, the basic thrust of his characterization of the role of the United States in that period applies to the present situation:

In the period of crisis the hegemony of the United States will operate more completely, more openly, and more ruthlessly than in the period of boom. The United States will seek to overcome and extricate herself from her difficulties and maladies primarily at the expense of Europe, regardless of whether this occurs in Asia, Canada, South America, Australia, or Europe itself, or whether this takes place peacefully or through war... the general line of American policy, particularly in time of its own economic difficulties and crisis, will engender the deepest convulsions in Europe as well as over the entire world.

Since these prophetic words were written, the United States has lost its hegemonic position. But the weakening of the economic base of American imperialism, in combination with its residual military supremacy, has rendered its international role even more convulsive and heightened its destabilizing impact on world affairs. America's attempt to utilize its military might to offset its declining position on the world market and achieve economic advantage over its rivals leads inevitably toward a new world war. America has no monopoly on military technology, and, in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse and amid growing economic and political tensions, Germany and Japan have already taken significant steps toward rearmament.

(6.4) The Bush and Clinton administrations have followed the assault on Panama with the slaughter in Iraq, the colonial-style occupation of Somalia and the deployment of troops in Macedonia. With or without the cover of the United Nations, the United States is targeting for further military adventures countries as far flung as Haiti, Liberia, Sudan, Iran and Korea. The United States has revived the colonialist methods of gunboat diplomacy of the nineteenth century, only it has supplanted warships with high-tech forms of mass destruction, such as missile-firing helicopters and laser-guided bombs.

(6.5) Despite, or more accurately, because of its economic decline, the imperialist and colonial appetites of American capitalism have grown enormously. America views as targets for plunder large parts of the globe which were either fully or partially closed for an extended period to U.S. exploitation as a result of the expropriation of the local bourgeoisie or limits to imperialist penetration imposed by national bourgeois regimes in India, Latin America and elsewhere. Despite the many complications arising from the collapse of the USSR, America cannot help but see in the fall of the Soviet Union its chance to finally realize the untrammeled domination of the world which it anticipated as its rightful legacy after World War II.

(6.6) Writing in the Spring 1993 issue of World Policy Journal under the title "Rejuvenating America: the International Economy and the Clinton Administration," David P. Calleo of Johns Hopkins University described the initial reaction to the collapse of the Soviet Union as follows: "Old visions of 'One World' or the 'American Century' quickly revived -- ideas that had beguiled the American political imagination in the 1940s before Stalin's brutal intransigence established that we were not omnipotent."

[ be continued...]

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