International Perspectives: The nature of the epoch

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17/08/2018 by socialistfight


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With the imperialist epoch, beginning in the last quarter of the 19th century, capitalism exhausted its progressive potential. Since 1914, capitalism has, again and again, demonstrated that it can assure its survival as a system only through misery for the great majority of the world’s population, through the destruction of countless numbers of workers and poor peasants (by war, famine, disease etc), and through the destruction of nature by environment disasters like the plastic pollution of the oceans and man-made climate change, which threatens global disaster. But, with its creation of a world market, capitalism also brought into being a worldwide class of workers whose objective interests remain to overthrow capitalism internationally, as the first step towards the building of a world socialist federation.

The imperialist epoch remains ‘the epoch of wars and revolutions’ (Lenin), in which the objective conditions for world socialist revolution have matured. But capitalism will not collapse automatically or be overthrown spontaneously. Socialism can only be the result of conscious revolutionary leadership of the international class struggle. Socialism is both possible and necessary, but it is not inevitable. Setbacks and defeats, some of historic significance, have also occurred. The development of society does not proceed in a straight line, and its outcome is not pre-determined.

The death agony of capitalism has been far more protracted than Trotsky envisaged in 1938. In the decades since the Second World War, the growth of the productive forces has been accompanied by a higher degree of the socialisation of production and massive new proletarianisation has taken place worldwide. We would mention the enormous expansion of the working class in China, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil as just some examples. The opposite side of this combined development has been the exacerbation of the unevenness of world economy. China’s spectacular rise has been mirrored by the devastation of large parts of Africa and Asia.

On the plane of history, the alternatives are still those posed by Marx: Socialism or Barbarism! Because this new working class is housed in urbanisations which typically take the form of vast shanty towns (South and South-East Asia), townships (Africa), barrios, villas miseria, and favelas (Latin America) pitched on the outskirts of old cities. These are typically full of the very poor workers and are often extremely violent places, dominated by drugs gangs who frequently execute rivals and their own dissident members to maintain domination. Often, they operate with the tacit agreement of the central state as a ‘state within a state’, running many of the services themselves and extracting ‘protection money’ form all business. The Philippines might seem an exception; the homicidal president Duterte has unleashed a violent crackdown on drug dealers that has killed more than 7,000 in the year after he was elected in June 2016. But such ‘solutions’ only spread random terror and leave the social causes of drug addiction; poverty, unemployment and alienation, intact. The proportion of urban dwellers to rural ones in the world has risen from 33.5% in 1960 to 54.2% in 2016 (30% India, 56% China, 74% Russia, 80%+ UK/USA).

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The causes of the post-war imperialist boom

Capitalism owed its survival after the Second World War to the active help and support of social democracy and Stalinism. Faced with war-shattered economies and the extreme weaknesses of the bourgeoisie, they applied themselves to rebuilding the capitalist order. The weakness of revolutionary leadership and the legacy of the political atomisation of the working class under fascism greatly assisted this task. The onset of the Cold War in 1947 split the workers’ movement throughout much of Western Europe, enabling the bourgeoisie to use social democracy and Stalinism to divide and rule.

The hegemony of US imperialism at the end of the war as the world’s banker and creditor and its ability to finance reconstruction through the Marshall Plan, the international Monetary Fund and the World Bank was the prime factor in the stabilisation of the metropolitan countries. To a far greater extent than either the First World War of the world crisis of 1929-33, the Second World War had caused an enormous international destruction of productive forces. In the absence of significant revolutionary opposition, conditions were created for a new period of growth on a higher scale. The rapid expansion of armaments expenditure, the creation of welfare state reforms and large service sectors, the opening up of colonial and former colonial markets to international competition and the founding of the Common Market (EEC) all served to prolong the boom.

With the launching of the Cold War and Marshall Aid, Stalin was forced to consolidate the ‘buffer zone’. The bourgeoisie and its political parties were suppressed by bureaucratic methods backed, in some cases, by a limited mobilisation of the workers. Deformed workers’ states came into being. Stalinist repression in every sphere of life, and in particular the crushing of independent workers’ activity, fuelled from the outset anti-communist moods among large sections of the population, including workers, both east and west.

Revolution and negotiation in the colonies and semi-colonies

The Second World War – an inter-imperialist war – had weakened the imperialist world system, especially in the colonies and semi-colonial countries. The relations between the great powers and their colonial possessions were shaken to their foundations. The weakness of the old colonial empires was compounded by the destruction caused by the war (China, Indo-China and in many countries of the Pacific) and by the ‘open door’ to the colonial market demanded by US imperialism in return for bailing out Western Europe.

Stalinism reacted as it had done in Europe – it fought alongside the national bourgeoisie to stabilise social relations. (Social democracy, an openly imperialist force, played little or no role in these countries). In many cases Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands were compelled to retreat and hand over power to the embryonic local bourgeoisie as the guarantor of future interest after military struggle had proved impossible. In the other cases, where the imperialist boom lessened the political risks, the colonial powers opted for ‘peaceful’ negotiated settlements within the framework of continued economic dominance.

In China and Vietnam, Stalinist parties were compelled, by the imperialist offensive in 1946-47 to take up armed struggle, based largely on the peasantry, in order to preserve themselves. Far from breaking with Stalinism these parties imposed their own schema of ‘stages’ upon the struggle, remained tied to the theory of socialism in one country and did everything possible to prevent the working class fighting for its own independent class interests. The creation of deformed workers’ states not qualitatively different to other Stalinist regimes, gave the lie to Mao and Ho Chi Minh’s alleged ‘break with Stalinism’.

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The subsequent evolution of the Castroite movement far from proving the unconscious triumph of permanent revolution, demonstrated the necessity of political revolution in Cuba and of an internationalist Bolshevik-type party.

The unique nature of the ‘Cuban road’ in fact lay only in the non-Stalinist political origins of the forces which led the Cuban revolution. In its reliance on guerrilla warfare based on the peasantry and the intelligentsia, Castro’s July 26 Movement closely paralleled the Chinese and Vietnamese experiences. The extreme weakness and corruption of the Cuban bourgeoisie made it unable to reach a compromise with this ostensibly petty bourgeois democratic movement.

On the other hand, under the pressures of the international situation and the threat of American intervention, Castro was compelled to break with and expropriate the bourgeoisie, implement a planned economy and create a deformed workers’ state. With the merger of the July 26 Movement and the Cuban Stalinists, the new Cuban Communist Party was proclaimed in 1965, bringing Cuba into conformity with other Stalinist regimes.

Nuclear Holocaust threatens

2018 sees the deepening of the threat of WWIII primarily from the USA. The main trends of the world class struggle in 2018 point out that the empire struck back and regained a part of the planet lost to the Eurasian bloc after the economic crisis of 2008. The US has declared a trade war against China and imposed new sanctions on that country, Russia, and Iran. In recent years, through various mechanisms of hybrid warfare, coups, media bombings, fraudulent elections, the US regained neo-colonialism in Latin America (Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, Honduras). Stabilizing relations at its core with Europe, between the United States, England and France, imperialism once again has the main target of the dispute in the Middle East, refusing to accept defeat to the Eurasian bloc in Syria (Russia, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah) and they are set to break the agreements signed by the Obama administration. Allied with Israel, it resumes hostilities against Iran, threatening to nullify the agreements signed in 2015; it supplies heavy weapons (including missiles) to Ukraine, breaking what was established in the 2015 Minsk peace agreement.

Similarly, imperialism wage the asymmetric warfare called Lawfare, internal agents of imperialism use the legal system against their national bourgeois enemies in, as it has been used against Brazil, Zimbabwe (though this combined was clear aspects of a coup), South Africa, and Armenia. And Venezuela Afghanistan, Bangladesh/Myanmar, Cameroon, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, and Ukraine are all instable semi-colonies where the CIA and the agents of imperialism are working overtime to secure regime change or defend regimes already installed against revolts of the working class and poor.

The imperative is to secure imperialist domination over not only Syria but also over Iran and ultimately over Russia and China by balkanisation and regime change. This involves the crippling of all and every Arab and Middle Eastern regime, whether autocratic or democratic, that shows the slightest potential to stand up to Israel in the Middle East and North Africa.

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The New York Times commented that with the dismissal of the more moderate H.R. McMaster and the appointment of the warmongering John Bolton on 21 March, just a week after dismissing the more moderate Rex Tillerson and the appointment of CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Trump now has “the most radically aggressive foreign policy team around the American president in modern memory.” The torture advocate Gina Haspel, Trump’s nomination as the new CIA chief, yet to be approved by Congress, makes up the trio of reaction.

The supposed rapprochement with Kim Jong-un and North Korea is merely a temporary tactical retreat in that arena whilst war is prepared in the Middle East and Ukraine. The world stands in imminent danger of nuclear holocaust stemming solely from the desperation of US imperialism to preserve its economic and political position as the global hegemonic imperialist power. Trump tells us that U.S. nuclear power is, “now far stronger and more powerful than ever” because he has taken steps to “renovate and modernize” it. “Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!” he asserts.

And here lies the source of the current rapprochement/stand-off with Kim Jung UN and North Korea, with Bashar al-Assad in Syria, with Iran, with Putin’s Russia and with Xi in China. This is the reason behind the terrible slaughter inflicted on the population of Mosul, the monstrous assault by US and UK backed and funded forces on Yemen and the whole Middle East crisis now over Qatar, involving Israel (covertly for now), Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Bahrein and the Maldives on the one side and Iran, Turkey, Syria, Hezbollah and Russia on the other signifies the real target here is Iran. Can Turkey and Russia remain aloof whilst the US asserts its total power in the region?

Trump has ratcheted up trade war on China and the Senate and House of Representatives have forced Trump to initiate new sanctions of Russia which has upset the EU greatly and Germany and France in particular. These sanctions will wreak havoc on European energy companies and, so they are obviously not just aimed at Russia but at the EU as well. It is aimed at the huge natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany across the Baltic called Nord Stream 2. It is owned by Russia’s Gazprom but also has European investors. With the unilateral abandonment of the Iran Nuclear Agreement by Trump sanctions are due to hit that country hard; Europe is itself threatened with sanctions if they do not sanction Iran and Russia and China are unreliable allies. China, for instance, will continue to import Iranian oil but will not increase its imports to assist Iran economically, capitulating in part to US pressure.

The current split in the US ruling class between the Democrats and assisted by the deep state of the CIA/FBI vs Trump and his far right Republican backers is not about whether on not to initiate WWIII, but about whether to attack Russia or China first.

EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker warned in late July that: “If our concerns are not taken into account sufficiently, we stand ready to act appropriately within a matter of days. ‘America First’ cannot mean that Europe’s interests come last,”.

Trump imposed tariffs on EU imports to protect the American steel industry and trade tit-for-tat quickly followed. Canada and Mexico are also targeted by his trade war.

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