25 January, 2008
Dumping on China by the usual horde of Western pundits seems to be de riguer these days. Hardly a day goes by without some scary headline that either warns of the dangers of billions of Chinese getting a car, refridgerator, microwave or whatever and hastening on Climate Change and/or ‘swamping’ Western markets with an avalanche of cheap goods.
Amazing that for half a century the Cold War was all about ‘Red China’ rejecting the ‘market’ and the capitalist way of life and now they’ve got it, the self-same pundits are all whinging about the ‘threat’ from Chinese capitalism. Obviously you can’t win if you ain’t a white European or American (well at least that’s what they say for public consumption). The reality however is very different and it goes to the very core of the nature of capitalist economics, ‘expand or die’. The problem for Western Capitalism is that the new boy on the block, China, is just too big to take on and what’s more it now produces most of everything we buy in malls across the land.
This essay was triggered by a document I came across, which although not phrased as to reveal the real nature of the current situation, nevertheless spells out what is really going on with the ‘war on terror’, the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia and no doubt, with their eyes on the next prize, Iran, and that’s the ‘return’ to the bad old days of intra-capitalist rivalries over resources, principally energy and of course markets, which is what it’s always been about. All else is bullshit propaganda.
The document in question is NATO’s ‘Toward a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World Renewing Transatlantic Partnership’ (PDF), it’s big but thankfully a couple of other writers have ploughed through it; ‘NATO Must Prepare For Nuclear First Strike, Report Urges’ By Bill Van Auken, and ‘The New New World Order: A First-Strike NATO Uber Alles’ by Chris Floyd.
To give you an idea of where the desperate Centurians of Capital are coming from, here’s a couple of tasters from the NATO doc:
“…escalation dominance, the use of a full bag of both carrots and sticks and indeed all instruments of soft and hard power, ranging from the diplomatic protest to nuclear weapons.”
“Nuclear weapons are the ultimate instrument of an asymmetric response and at the same time the ultimate tool of escalation.”
And just in case you still don’t get it:
“Iran could become immune to international sanctions [if it acquires nukes]. Furthermore, it would dominate the region, which possesses the world’s largest oil and gas reserves.
But this is what it’s really all about:
“The lack of cooperation indeed, at times, the rivalry between the EU and NATO is something that must be rectified … For the USA to play its role as effectively as possible, the transatlantic bargain between the European countries, Canada and their American ally must be renewed.”
The document of course never mentions the underlying economics of these’rivalries’, that would be a step too far. It has to be presented as the struggle between ‘civilisation’ and the ‘heathen hordes’ hammering on the gates of the house of plenty.
NATO, borne out of the Cold War, was the teeth of of the now defunct alliance between European and US capital in their struggle with the Soviet Union, a situation where the traditional rivalry between the two competing capitalist blocs, had been suspended.
Once the Soviet Union was out of the way, NATO, under its US leadership became a tool of US capital, at least that was the plan, but of course we know all about US ‘plans’ for global domination, they work only where military supremacy can be backed up with overwhelming economic dominance. Lose the economic edge and effectively the’great game’ is lost.
This explains in part at least, why the US is resorting to threatening to use the only stick that still works, nukes (and anyway it’s run out of carrots).
“It is the drive by US imperialism to offset its economic decline in relation to rivals in Europe and Asia by exploiting its military superiority to seize hold of vital natural resources and markets that poses the threat of a world conflagration. It is in this context that the recommendations of the former defense chiefs in relation to nuclear first strikes and wars of aggression assume their full menacing significance for the future of mankind.” — ‘NATO Must Prepare For Nuclear First Strike, Report Urges’ By Bill Van Auken
So this brings us back to China as a rival on par with (and even surpassing) the EU and the US. And to further mystify the relationship, it couches the dilemma as that of the ‘rivalry’ between the EU and NATO, whereas the real rivalry is between competing capitalist blocs. It’s back to business as usual, except of course, there is no more ‘business as usual’. Everything has changed and they’ve changed directly as a result of capitalism’s desire to maintain the rate of profit by seeking out ever cheaper sources of labour.
But surely, you must be asking, those who manage Capital must have known that by exporting production to countries like China and India, especially production based on the latest revolutions in production and with an endless supply of cheap, non-union labour, it would end up ‘biting the hand that fed it’?
Well, whether they knew it or not, it makes no difference, they had no choice. It was reduce the cost of labour or transform the nature of the economy, itâ’s as simple as that. It’s (conveniently) forgotten in all the talk about ‘cheap’ Asian products that they are largely destined for (and owned by) Western corporations who have immiserated their own working (consuming) classes and in doing so, destroyed the very markets they depend on for survival (once the credit ran out).
The Brits knew better in the ‘good o’ days’; make sure that your colonies (or neo-colonies) never become your competitors, make sure they never develop a rival industrial, and especially an export economy of finished goods. Grab their raw materials and cheap labour and keep the production of finished goods safe and secure in the ‘mother country’ where they can be sold back to the ‘natives’, at a vast profit of course. As ever, dependency is the name of the game.
Thus, the NATO document is an ‘appeal’ to its capitalist rivals to suspend the rivalry (for now) and crush those damn Asians before it’s too late to do anything about it (short of blowing up the planet).
The forces of capitalist production are inexorable unless halted by (socialist) revolution or total economic meltdown aka the ’29 Crash, the bosses on the Beltway and in the boardrooms of banks know this, which is why they are risking everything (of course those with Capital can sit out the storm in style, at least that’s the theory, well it worked during World Wars I and II and every other damn war the bastards have started).
Whilst not wanting to come across as a doomsayer, I think it’s accurate to say that we have reached a capitalist ‘tipping pointâ’, it’s an all or nothing struggle over markets and given the dire state of the US economy, it’s a struggle they’ve already lost. The question once again is, will they destroy what they can no longer possess?
For a somewhat different view of the NATO document see ‘The New Atlantic Century‘ by Paul Rogers. “A valuable but flawed report on Nato’s future highlights the real 21st-century security agenda”, is how Rogers describes it.