Contradictions sharpen between Washington and its European ‘allies’
Maestro represented the United Left (IU) in the Spanish Congress, elected in 1989, 1993 and 1996. She is a militant in Red Roja. This article, first published on redroja.net (Red Network, an organization in the Spanish state) on Dec. 27, was translated by Workers World Managing Editor John Catalinotto.
Some apparently surprising events have recently erupted on the international arena. As the World War I armistice centennial was being celebrated in Paris last November, U.S. President Donald Trump, in an attempt to confront France and Germany and remind everyone of Washington’s dominant role in Europe, said that when Americans landed in Normandy in 1944, “the French were learning to speak German.” (British Daily Mail, Nov. 14)
Trump’s comment should be interpreted as a further broadside in the escalation of clashes between the U.S. and the EU — rather than a clumsy attempt to get European countries to increase their economic and military contributions to NATO. For the time being, these clashes have culminated in the EU’s decision to create an independent European army.
Are these momentary outbursts from Trump his usual loose cannon, or have major changes been occurring in interimperialist relations for some time?
Confrontations at the summits of power
Red Network has long focused its analysis of the current phase of capitalism precisely on the interimperialist contradictions between the European Union — above all the hegemonic power, Germany — and the United States. This interest stems from the need to know as much as possible about the confrontations that take place among the summits of power, which are sharpened in such times as the current general crisis of capitalism.
In the struggle for the conquest of political power, the decisive fact that defines the correlation of forces is the weakness of the enemy.
The strategic objective that has prevailed in all the plans of imperialism from the victory of the October Revolution in 1917 to the collapse of the USSR in 1991 has been the defeat of communism. The common purpose of destroying the first proletarian state made it possible for all the capitalist powers that had fought against each other in the two world wars to wage a joint struggle against the USSR.
In the face of this higher objective, interimperialist contradictions were buried and Washington’s hegemony was assured.
After World War II, Washington’s interest as a great victorious power and heir to British imperialism was focused on controlling Europe. The Marshall Plan and NATO were its tools for building a Western Europe coupled to U.S. interests and totally dependent on the U.S. in the military arena.
The historic goal of the White House, which is now collapsing, was to control the Eurasian continent, the “pivot of the world.” To do so, it was necessary to prevent the emergence of a European power with its own will, with sufficient economic and military power to oppose Washington and with the ability to establish relations with the USSR (or with Russia today) in a sovereign manner against U.S. interests. The procedure was to repeatedly promote confrontations between the countries of the Continental Heartland, so that none could emerge strong enough to become an obstacle to North American/British hegemony.
The confrontation between the two great socialist powers, the USSR and China, the subsequent disappearance of the USSR and the placement of China within capitalist parameters seemed to ensure a bright future for U.S. plans. Additional positive developments for U.S. imperialism were the integration into the Atlantic Alliance of a good part of the countries of the extinct Warsaw Pact and the establishment of NATO bases in most European countries (the main ones in Germany and Kosovo, after the liquidation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia).
‘And yet it moves’
The defeat of the communist movement, and the enormous general crisis affecting capitalism since the early 1970s — the latest shock of which began in 2007 — are having economic, political and social consequences. These imply qualitative changes in the world order established after 1945.
The political and trade union organizations of social democracy in the Spanish state — Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), United Left-Communist Party (IU_PCE), Workers Commissions (CC.OO.), General Union of Workers (UGT) and now United Podemos), have always been ready to assist the capitalist system.
These organizations’ analyses of this crisis have been to contrast “social and humane” European capitalism with “savage and brutal” U.S. capitalism. This discourse of a “return to the welfare state” has provided enormous advantages to the bourgeoisie here and abroad. [Because capitalism is in a systemic crisis — at a dead end — it is impossible to revert to the period of capitalist expansion when limited class struggle could win reformist demands; no other form of capitalism is possible now. — WW]
Now this attempt to give capitalism a botox facelift is cracking and leaking, unleashing a flood of different forces that grow more radical and occupy the institutional stage with increasing force. The existing political superstructure is crumbling along with the discredited system.
The powerful eruption of Chinese industry and its occupation of major markets in virtually every sector has led to a sharp drop in the U.S manufacturing economy. The White House’s response has been to impose significant tariffs on Chinese imports and to establish new sanctions on Russia. This economic siege has been followed by a military siege — the expansion of U.S. military bases in Asia and greater NATO harassment of Russia along all its European borders.
A new interimperialist economic confrontation has been developing with the defeat in Syria of the U.S. and the EU (especially France and Britain). This took place at the hands of the Axis of Resistance — Hezbollah, Syria, the Palestinian resistance and Iran — supported by Russia.
A nuclear agreement with Iran and the lifting of sanctions in 2015 had been painstakingly prepared by Germany. Immediately after that was signed, Berlin established trade relations with Tehran, making way for other EU countries. The White House was relegated to the sidelines in the competition to turn the territory of the “Shiite” enemy into a field of business.
In November 2018, pushed by its Israeli and Saudi Arabian cronies in the region and already in open withdrawal from Syria and Iraq, Washington imposed new sanctions on Iran and any company or country that negotiates with Iran. This was a poorly concealed attempt to prevent EU competitors from taking commercial advantage of the powerful new Iranian market.
‘Insubordination’ from U.S. satellites
The outcome of this whole complex process could not be more damaging to the U.S. From Turkey to the Spanish state — to give the clearest examples of states historically under U.S. influence — the declarations have been emphatic and unusual.
Turkish President Erdogan declared, “We do not accept impositions of U.S. imperialism.” Spain’s foreign minister, the lackey Borrel, suddenly abandoning his usual servility, asserted: “That of ‘you being with me or against me’ belongs to another era, and Spain is not going to allow that kind of approach.”
If satellites express themselves in this way, it is not because of a sudden spasm of sovereignty and independence, but because they are changing their sun.
On behalf of the EU, German Chancellor Merkel addressed Iran, saying bluntly: “Keep your commitments. We will keep ours.”
The threat of sanctions by the U.S. has resulted in a growing list of countries declaring themselves insubordinate to Washington and deciding to carry out their transactions in currencies other than the dollar. The repercussions for the United States, only just beginning to be evident, are serious and affect its entire framework of domination.
Imperialism is a relationship of power that can be exercised as long as the subordinate countries accept it. Everything indicates that the U.S. cocktail of sanctions, plus advancing de-dollarization, threatens the Yankee empire with a shot, not in the foot, but higher up.
The seeds of the new European army
This escalation of tension between the U.S. and the EU tends to grow because it is based on conflicting economic interests. These, in turn, favor the EU’s rapprochement with Russia. The latest episodes deepen the confrontation: the U.S. support for Brexit to weaken the EU and its attempt — condemned to failure — to prevent the EU from purchasing Russian gas through Nord Stream [pipeline transport from Russia to the EU that avoids Ukraine — WW].
The long period in which Euro-American contradictions were reconciled under NATO’s umbrella seems to be coming to an end. The collapse of the USSR cancelled out the need for “protection from the communist threat.”
Now the general crisis of capitalism manifests itself as a fierce struggle for markets and raw materials in an attempt to control the fall in the rate of profit.
The interimperialist economic confrontation will have its military consequences. Merkel proclaimed in May: “The time when we could trust the U.S. to protect us is over. Europe must take its destiny into its own hands.” (bloomberg.com)
The PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation in Security and Defense) project [introduced in 2007 and begun in 2017 — WW] has been created by the EU with an initial budget of 12 billion euros. This initiates the creation of a strictly European army and a base for the production of armaments and technological innovation based exclusively on European companies and explicitly independent of the U.S.
Class struggle and interimperialist relations
The relative economic decline of the U.S. may also have consequences for the maintenance of its enormous military structure with nearly 1,000 military bases on the planet. This does not mean, however, that Washington’s aggressive capacity will diminish.
The EU’s relative independence from the U.S. and NATO has not yet been achieved. But, if completed, that would not mean that European imperialism is “good” or “humane.”
The European rulers are guided by exactly the same objectives as the U.S. in the struggle to the death to compete under more favorable conditions in the jungle of capitalism. These objectives are built on the exploitation of the working class and of nature, without any limits other than those imposed by the class struggle.
There is no other way out. The dilemma remains: socialism or barbarism. The conquest by the working class of political power is the only possibility for destroying the capitalist monster that can annihilate humanity. That conquest requires knowing capitalism’s weaknesses and, above all, its divisions and contradictions.
- These aspects have been analyzed in Maestro, A. (2016) “The Contradictions Between U.S. and European Imperialism. Controlling the “world pivot.” (In Spanish: tinyurl.com/ycmu3bqp)
- Red Network’s document titled “The Myth of the Return to the Welfare State. Another capitalism is impossible” written at the beginning of the shocks of the crisis (2012), was aimed at undoing the umpteenth attempt to place the “reform” of the EU and the return to the “Welfare State” as an objective of the popular mobilizations that arose to protest the brutal unloading of the consequences of the crisis on the working classes. After the 15M [May 15, 2011 movement of spontaneous seizures of public spaces to protest massive youth unemployment — WW], a so-called Social Summit that encompassed CC.OO., UGT, PSOE and IU and their satellites tried to impose these proposals on the workers. This time they failed to achieve the objective. The Marches for Dignity emerged a year later, placing the Non-Payment of Debt and the questioning of the Euro and the EU, among other things, at the centre of their programme. (In Spanish: tinyurl.com/yb9s62jm)
- The list of countries and companies trading in currencies other than the dollar is growing. The purchase of arms from Russia by countries such as India, Pakistan, Qatar and Turkey, unconditional allies of the United States for decades, is noteworthy.
- On Dec. 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution against the entry into operation of Nord Stream 2, threatening Russia with new sanctions and urging the EU to do the same. Nord Stream 2 is a 850-mile-long pipeline linking Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea, i.e. without passing through Ukraine. In addition to the Russian Gazprom, the German energy groups Uniper and Wintershall, the Austrian OMV, the French Engie and the Anglo-Dutch giant Shell are also involved.