9 October 2006
If Queen Victoria was on the throne today I’m sure she would find the current situation comfortingly familiar and no doubt would be issuing proclamations about ‘our brave boys over there’ and the usual crop of medals would be flying out of her very royal hands along with all the usual platitudes about defending ‘civilisation’ against the heathen hordes ‘over there’.
Of course today it’s Tony Blair shovelling out the shit about a global war against ‘terror’ and with the front line not surprisingly still in Afghanistan. That these hi-tech dinosaurs can still get away with the same old shit after a century or more speaks reams about just how backward our society is in spite of all its pretensions to being the wave of the future.
Today of course it’s not PC to talk about the ‘fuzzy-wuzzies’ but strip away the PR newspeak and that’s exactly what we have, isn’t that what all this crap about veils is really all about. In other words not a damn thing has changed since the days when the sun never set on the empire. We still have dead men walking and talking. What a disgusting bunch of hypocrites they are!
You’d be right to ask (which I hope you do, and often) how come, after all these years the same bunch of crazy baldheads in the Foreign Office hold power. These grey, faceless dead souls who sit around and pontificate in wood-panelled offices and plan extermination and talk about a resurrected imperialism and even describe it as such.
I am of the firm opinion that the ruling classes of the UK and US in particular are deadly viruses not only because they practice and support genocide on a global scale but because they have also destroyed our humanity by disconnecting us from the rest of the human race. They have achieved this through addicting us to a life of endless consumption fueled by debt, thus we are trapped in a vicious cycle that as with all addictions is very difficult break, so much is at stake, at least that’s how it seems to those of us imprisoned in what passes for civilisation.
In past essays I have quoted from the writings of one Robert Cooper, former Foreign Office ‘crazy baldhead’ and Tony Blair’s principle guru and once more I find myself returning to this ‘post-modern’ dinosaur’s thoughts on empire. Thus he writes:
“Empire and imperialism are words that have become a form of abuse in the postmodern world. Today, there are no colonial powers willing to take on the job, though the opportunities, perhaps even the need for colonisation is as great as it ever was in the nineteenth century.”
There, you have it but Cooper doesn’t stop here, he continues:
“What is needed then is a new kind of imperialism, one acceptable to a world of human rights and cosmopolitan values. We can already discern its outline: an imperialism which, like all imperialism, aims to bring order and organisation but which rests today on the voluntary principle.”
Unlike the ‘Project for the New American Century’ which is crude and all brute force and ignorance by comparison, Cooper’s writings are considered and low key, one might even call this caveman an intellectual. Cooper continues:
“The second form of postmodern imperialism might be called the imperialism of neighbours. Instability in your neighbourhood poses threats which no state can ignore. Misgovernment, ethnic violence and crime in the Balkans poses a threat to Europe. The response has been to create something like a voluntary UN protectorate in Bosnia and Kosovo. It is no surprise that in both cases the High Representative is European. Europe provides most of the aid that keeps Bosnia and Kosovo running and most of the soldiers (though the US presence is an indispensable stabilising factor). In a further unprecedented move, the EU has offered unilateral free-market access to all the countries of the former Yugoslavia for all products including most agricultural produce. It is not just soldiers that come from the international community; it is police, judges, prison officers, central bankers and others. Elections are organised and monitored by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Local police are financed and trained by the UN. As auxiliaries to this effort – in many areas indispensable to it – are over a hundred NGOs.”
Of course Cooper’s description of the re-colonisation and Balkanisation of Yugoslavia is dressed up in the words of a PR release, but buried in there is the raison d’etre, “free-market access”, which is what it’s all about.
Elsewhere in this re-invented world of Victoriana, Cooper is less coy about the motivations of the reheated Anglo-Saxon empire:
“The challenge to the postmodern world is to get used to the idea of double standards. Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era – force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself. Among ourselves, we keep the law but when we are operating in the jungle, we must also use the laws of the jungle. In the prolonged period of peace in Europe, there has been a temptation to neglect our defences, both physical and psychological. This represents one of the great dangers of the postmodern state.”
Ah the irony of Cooper’s words is not lost on me when he talks of those who “still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself,” a statement that describes the actions of the USUK down to a tee.
Why is it that I find myself returning to the words of Cooper? Largely because although couched in language which masks the underlying economics of Cooper’s ‘New Imperialism’, he sums up the dilemma of post-Soviet capitalism, namely how does one continue to justify the existence of capitalism in a world of plenty, when the rationale for the much of the actions of the West for the past century had rested on the struggle between the ideologies of capitalism and socialism.
Thus the defeat of socialism has, in theory anyway, removed the impediment to the spread of capitalism to the four corners of the world. For over seventy-five years the socialist world denied the West access to the markets and resources it needs for its existence and continued expansion, without which it would undoubtedly collapse without any ‘help’.
However, access to markets does not in and of itself solve the fundamental contradictions of capital, indeed awash in surplus capital, it needs to consume it. Under post-war Keynesian capitalism, aside from the vast amounts spent on weapons dictated by the Cold War, the state became the major consumer of surplus capital, funding public spending on capital projects drawn largely from taxes. This dealt with one aspect of the contradictions of capitalism—the over-accumulation of capital which given the fact that it was denied access to new markets in which to invest, the state took over the role.
The so-called neo-liberal agenda put a stop to all that nonsense. Instead, vast amounts of wealth was clawed back from working people—the biggest transfer of wealth from poor to rich—in history. The cuts in social spending, to health, housing, education and so on were transferred to the already—but not rich enough—rich.
There are two sides to this process, one economic, the other ideological and in fact, the ideological aspect is crucial as the capitalist market needed to be justified as the writings of Cooper so aptly demonstrate.
And once the ‘neo-liberal’ agenda was accomplished in the belly of the beast it was the turn of the former colonies of the old imperial empires to feel the wrath of capital unleashed. The onslaught on the poor of the planet predictably produced resistance, though without the ‘balance’ of the former Soviet Union, there was little they could do, at least in the short term.
The last remaining hold-outs of social ownership existed largely in the former colonies, all of which had adopted some form of socialist ownership and still retained many aspects of pre-capitalist relations in the form of collective ownership of key resources.
David Harvey’s book The New Imperialism, offers some real insights into the process. He says:
“Assets held by the state or in common were released into the market where overaccumulating capital could invest in them. New terrains for profitable activity were opened up, and this helped stave off the overaccumulation problem, at least for a while. Once in motion, however, this movement created incredible pressures to find more and more arenas, either at home or abroad, where privatization might be achieved.
“Privatization … is essentially ‘the transfer of of productive public assets from the state to private companies. Productive assets include natural resources. Earth, forest, water, air. These are the assets that the state holds in trust for the people it represents … To snatch these away and sell as stock to private companies is a process of barbaric dispossession on a scale that has no parallel in history.”
It is within this context that we see just how important is was to destroy the ethic of social ownership and it also demonstrates just what a catastrophic setback the end of the socialist projects really were, no matter how incomplete and flawed they were.
The failure of socialism set the scene for the rise of fundamentalisms of many kinds as some kind of replacement for socialism, as they appeared to offer a solution to the ravages of the neo-liberal agenda.
Worse still, they offered a ready-made excuse for the ‘war on terror‘ as a replacement for the war on socialism revealing the fact that the defeat of socialism did not in any sense solve the fundamental contradictions of capitalism.
“What would have happened to overaccumulated capital these last thirty years if these new terrains of accumulation had not been opened up? … If capitalism has been experiencing a chronic difficulty since 1973 [the first oil ‘crisis’], then the neo-liberal project of privatization makes a lot of sense as one way to solve the problem.”
As I have pointed out before, the creation of crises is central to the nature of capitalism.
“Crises may be orchestrated, managed, and controlled to rationalize the system …. Limited crises may be imposed by external force upon one sector or upon a territory or whole territorial complex of capitalist activity …. The result is the periodic creation of a stock of devalued, and in many instances undervalued, assets in some part of the world, which can be put to profitable use by the capital surpluses that lack opportunity elsewhere.”
Thus the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan whilst not achieving everything they set out to do, cannot be regarded as failures.
“Regional crises and highly localized place-based devaluations emerge as a primary means by which capitalism perpetually creates its own ‘other’ in order to feed on it. [my emph. WB]”
This is the context for the demonisation of Islam. It’s why the periodic utterences of barbarians like Jack Straw are intrinsic to capitalism and point to the ideological role of racism as a means of creating crises upon which capitalism can feed. And unlike some of my ‘lefty’ brethren, I see no positive aspects to Islam as a solution, if anything it is, to paraphrase Lenin, a strange bedfellow of capitalism, providing the ideal pretext for the creation of a perpetual state of crisis.
1. The new liberal imperialism by Robert Cooper, Observer Worldview, Sunday April 7, 2002
5. The New Imperialism by David Harvey, Oxford University Press, 2003