The Wolf at the door by William Bowles

23 March 2005

‘I’ll huff and I’ll puff and then I’ll blow your house up’

The Western media have, to put it mildly, been somewhat dismayed with the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to be head of the World Bank. How to explain to the public that the architect of the invasion of Iraq, arch-Zionist and mass murderer, has been put in charge of the Bank that has been charged (in theory at least) with the challenge of developing the ‘developing world’?

Quoting World Bank critic Allan Meltzer, the BBC’s Website told us:

“We don’t need a development person, there are plenty of people at the bank who do that,” Mr Meltzer told the BBC News website.

“What the bank needs is focus: how many children are inoculated against measles every year? What have we done to bring water to the villages?

“Those are not development questions, those are administrative questions,” he said.

The Website article went on:

His nomination has been welcomed by International Monetary Fund head Rodrigo de Rato and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Both men praised Mr Wolfowitz’s experience and said they were looking forward to working with him.

You bet they are! The Washington Post was more forthright:

The announcement was an aggressive move to put the administration’s stamp on the World Bank, the largest source of aid to developing countries, by installing at the bank’s helm a leading advocate of the U.S. campaign to spur democracy in the Middle East.

The Post’s article ended with:

Wolfowitz would assume command of an institution that lends about $20 billion a year to developing nations and often plays an enormously influential role in shaping their policies because of the conditions it sets for aid.

No doubt! The key phrase being the “conditions it sets for aid”. This is the bottom line and the last ditch short of more military adventures to knock the poor of the planet into line. Nothing could be clearer than the message of nominating Wolfie. The Wolf is at your door and knocking loud and clear; either let us in or we’ll blow your house up.

In effect, Bush has thrown down the gauntlet to the poor of the planet in what can only be regarded as an overt threat to toe the line, or else! But will it work? Given that Wolfowitz was one of the key planners of the Iraq invasion, I’d say that based on the failure of the ‘cakewalk’, the nomination of Wolfowitz could be viewed as largely bluff and bluster. This doesn’t mean however, that we should ignore it, far from it because along with the appointment of Bolton as ambassador to the UN, they represent a frontal assault on the two main opponents to the imperium’s plans for the future of the planet.

Wolfowitz’s nomination has to be seen in the context of the growing (and increasingly organised) opposition to the imperium’s economic assault led by Venezuela, India, Brazil and to a lesser degree, Russia.

Two aspects are, I think of importance here; the shift of manufacturing to countries like China and India that in turn, is leading to a radical realignment of economic power, especially as technology gets transferred and the new manufacturing centres, initially viewed as cheap production centres compete directly through the ownership of the intellectual capital that powers it. In other words, the newly industrialised countries start to innovate in their own right.

Second, although the media are not making a big song and dance about it, there is a slow but inexorable shift from dollar holdings to the Euro. Slow, because to do it in one go would destabilise the entire shebang. The US claims that the falling value of the dollar makes its exports cheaper but this ignores the fact that much of the actual production has already been shifted abroad, hence the falling value of the dollar does nothing to improve the fundamental problems of the domestic US economy.

So whilst US military threats remain real and dangerous, it is important not to lose sight of the underlying economic reality, that of a capitalist system in crisis. If it can’t find new markets in which to invest the flood of devalued dollars that the Federal Reserve has been printing in an ever-increasing volume, an economic crash is inevitable.

It is within this context that the nomination of Wolfowitz needs to be viewed. For the World Bank and the IMF are the other side of the coin. Thus it is the twin forces that have to viewed, that is, military force used to back up the economic muscle. As ever, the two work hand-in-hand.

And increasingly, the EU is being forced to recognise that either it faces up to the economic threat posed by the US or risk the wrath of its domestic populations. Hence we are back to the classical clash of capitalisms but in an entirely new context for it is unthinkable that the competition posed by the newly emerging economic blocks can be removed by military means. It is one thing to pick on a country like Iraq (and even a country like Iran has given the US pause for thought). This is why the petro-dollar is so important to the USUK alliance and explains why the Blair government is so ambivalent about its relationship to the EU. The UK is the second biggest owner of oil distribution and marketing companies on the planet, hence its fortunes are tied directly to the US, as its holdings are all dollar-denominated. On the other hand, the UK’s biggest trading partner is the EU, so the UK is caught between a rock and a hard place. And having thrown in its lot with the US imperium it is faced with a real dilemma. For it cannot afford to pull out of its economic relationship with the EU, hence it is forced to try and drag the EU countries with it into a military alliance with the US. And so far, it has failed to persuade the major powers of the EU to go along with the ‘plan’, after all, they’re not stupid.

In addition, the major source of the economic ‘boom’ of the UK is largely based upon two elements; its position as the number one centre of financial services from which it derives enormous profits (just look at the vast increase in profits just announced by the handful of banks much of it made through its foreign earnings) and by the debt-financed consumer spending that exists on a knife-edge (consumer spending accounts for one-third of the entirely misnamed gross-domestic product of the UK), all of it made possible by cheap credit. As it is, the UK’s population is already up to its ears in a debt of £1 trillion owed to the banks, and it lives on the edge of insolvency, barely covering credit card repayments. Even a small increase in the interest rate (over and above the three that have already occurred over the past year) would burst the bubble. Should that happen it would be an economic disaster, fuelled as it is by the illusory value of the boom in house prices that has supplied the collateral for the £1 trillion credit card debt. It is in other words, a veritable house of cards held together by the most fragile forces.

Over the past year an additional 194,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the UK. In the US, the figure is even higher as a per capita percentage of the population.

It is important to note that the leading European powers, especially France are not keen on the idea of Wolfie as head of the World Bank. Everything points toward a widening gulf between the competing capitalisms. Currently, countries like France, Germany and Japan are tied via the petro-dollar to the US but over time, this position will alter radically, hopefully without destabilising the entire system. In other words, US military might not withstanding, a radical realignment of global economic relations is taking place.

The US game plan, with the nomination of Wolfowitz (and his appointment is by no means a ‘done deal’ as it has been in the past, another sign that the ‘times they are a-changin’) is thus clear. Backed by its military muscle, it is hoping to enforce its continued control of the global economic system through the major lending institutions of the World Bank and the IMF and the continued rule of the petro-dollar. Frankly, I view it as a last-ditch attempt to maintain its hegemony in a rapidly changing world.

So how does Bolton’s appointment as ambassador to the UN fit into this scenario? My feeling is that the US hopes to use the UN to ‘legitimise’ its actions by getting the UN’s ‘blessing’ for its actions as it initially did over Iraq. The US recognises that increasingly, countries like India, China and Brazil are pushing for a radical alteration of the role of the UN in international relations. The pressure is already on to expand the membership of the Security Council and for an abolition of the veto. It is yet another sign of a radical realignment of forces and points to the fact that removal of the Soviet Union as a counter-balance to the US was at best a stop-gap measure and in the longer term, did nothing to alter the basic contradictions of capitalism.

The US knows that slowly but surely, countries that since the days of the Non-Aligned Movement have been either demonised as ‘communist sympathisers’ or ‘persuaded’ to go along with imperial plans, are at last flexing their collective muscle, and many see the way to do it as two-fold; through the creation of rival economic blocs, led in the East by China and India and in the West, the leading economies of Latin America and finally, through the UN.

I also sense that the ‘war on terror’ strategy has run out of road (short of another 9/11 and even here, I think something on the scale of 9/11 in a Western country would be viewed with much suspicion as being entirely too ‘convenient’).

The battle lines have been drawn and they consist of two major elements; in the West, the construction of police states with which suppress domestic dissent and through the continued use of the ‘war on terror’ with which to terrorise domestic populations into accepting the reactionary policies and a direct confrontation with those countries that between them control primary resources necessary to the continued profit-making of the USUK and who collectively are filling the power vacuum left by the collapse of the Soviet Union as they realise that they have only one option; collective defence through the increasing strength of their economies to challenge the power of the handful of big corporations that now directly control the state through the political parties of the US and the UK.

Thus the way forward for progressive forces in the West is clear. We must throw in our lot with the developing world and support the movement for global justice in every way we can and on the domestic front, make resistance to the construction of the police state a central plank of a broader strategy in exposing the strategies of the capitalist state.

This can only be done by adopting a principled stand on the key issues, especially during the coming ‘elections’, elections that have effectively been reduced to a sham, given that the electorate have been given nothing in the way of a real choice.

As the latest Media Lens piece puts it:

The ‘choice’, now, is between a right-wing, warmongering party of big business and a right-wing, warmongering party of big business. One real difference does remain, however – the leader of one of the parties is a war criminal responsible for major crimes against humanity.

Let us not be fooled by the spurious and to my mind, cowardly, ‘lesser of two evils’ argument. There is only one evil and that is a desperate capitalist state. (In an aside to this, it’s interesting to note how the media have completely sidelined the Liberal Democrats, airbrushing them completely out of the ‘debate’ on the run-up to the ‘election’, dismissing them as spineless, leaderless and wishy-washy, all of which is more or less true but not really the point. What is important for the corporate/state media is that it matters little whether it’s the Tories or Labour who get elected as long as the current programme is maintained and the odds are on Labour being more successful at doing it than a washed-up Tory Party, whose major function is to make sure that Labour adheres to its right-wing, corporatist agenda, much as the Democrats performed a similar role in the US ‘election’.)

This then, in my opinion, is the setting for the future. Let’s not worry about an election that is already a ‘done deal’, we need to get on with the business of building an alternative future – before it’s too late.

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