Both China, with a strong growth in the service sector, and the US, where 2.5 million jobs were created in May and unemployment dropped to 13.3 percent are delivering unexpectedly good numbers. But far from easing tensions, the figures have encouraged a general sense of outrage this week in both rivals. And not only that. The drastic turn of the war in Libya brought about by the Turkish military intervention is turning into an offensive that aims at Sirte and threatens to trigger a civil war in the Cyrenaica. And this progress is encouraging Turkey to take the first steps towards militarizing the Eastern Mediterranean with its navy to contest the new hydrocarbon discoveries under the waters that Greece claims as its own. There is no doubt: we are experiencing a general clarion call throughout the world that threatens to produce a proliferation of armed conflicts.
U.S. offensive against China and the role of Latin America and Europe
The US is campaigning against China. We’re past the stage of pure trade warfare. Although more tariff waves will follow, which will also affect Europe and possibly, attacks on the exchange rate between currencies, the conflict has now taken on a blatantly strategic turn: the US wants to form an anti-China bloc at all costs and everything is being mobilized accordingly. Moreover, lthe competition between Trump and Biden does not put such anti-China campaign into question , both candidates are competing not over the policy to be pursued against China but over who can carry it out more effectively.
The fact that we are facing a pre-war positioning of American capital as a whole has been made clear by the formation of a bipartisan anti-Chinese lobby of deputies and senators that in less than a week has spread from the United States to Japan, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Australia.
The first high-flying move has been the proposal to extend the G7 to Australia, Russia, South Korea and India. In other words, a G11 as a basis for a new alliance against China. The list is not innocent: it reinforces the Anglo-Saxon bloc by strengthening the pillar of the old allies in Asia… and includes Russia, the military power without which China could hardly project a global response capability.
But it’s not that easy. To begin with, seducing Russia takes more than the will of Trump, it means overcoming the reluctance of the American bourgeoisie itself , not to mention the Canadian and the British ones.
On the other hand, to assume that Germany and France will automatically team up, after three years of trade pressures and diplomatic attacks, around the reinvention of a G7 blown up by the US itself and to do so openly against China is little less than delusional. Macron claimed to be available, but conditioned it on the German presence. It was Merkel who gave her rejection. The European absence was enough to force Trump to postpone the event.
It wasn’t very well received. Trump’s immediate response was not long in coming. Against France, he challenged its strategy in the Sahel and the prospect of opening a base in Tunisia, the historical monopoly of French imperialism. On the German side, the plan to immediately reduce US troops on German soil by almost a third… which means spending a few billion less and breaking the colonial heart of the German right wing. A clear statement of what allies can expect from the US in the coming year: instant retaliation for any dissent over its Chinese strategy.
Because even though India and Korea have agreed to participate, both they and Japan are caught between a rock and a hard place. Just participating in this G11 makes it difficult to play the game of balance between the two powers. Both the United States and China are moving from “he who is not against me is with me” to “he who is not with me is against me”.
Not a single piece will be left unmoved, not a single “ally” will be left unchecked. Starting with the Middle East, but continuing with Europe, the objective is that all countries should perceive as a danger the arrival of Chinese capital to their companies. This is especially dangerous for an Ibero-America in brutal recession that only finds a foothold in China. The Asian power is beginning to discover “the opportunity of the century” in the withdrawal of the United States from the front line of investors and is considering getting involved in politics and “social movements” as an inevitable part of the development of its investments.
This is one of the factors contributing to the forced resuscitation of the trans pacific trade pact. For Chinese imperialism the Pacific is what the Atlantic was for the Anglo-Saxon powers: the first circle of their global power. In a way identical to Japan, the world map that adorns Chinese schools has its axis in the middle of the Pacific, not in Europe. Ibero-America is the new East and Europe is the far West.
This feeling of distance from the global centre is very present in the European ruling classes. Germany arrived at its rotating presidency of the EU strengthened internally in the EU and presenting itself as the only power capable of promoting a new relationship with China. Merkel’s promise, which sums up the aspirations of a good part of the continent’s bourgeoisies, was that “balancing” China and the US would put the world back on the old map: Europe in the middle, acting as a balance between America and Asia. The plan began by bringing together in Leipzig, for the first time, the heads of state of the European Union with a foreign visitor at a summit. But by this week it was already evident that:
Germany’s most important goal, to sign the investment agreement, does not seem achievable by September, despite seven years of negotiations that have already taken place. The agreement is to replace the bilateral agreements on mutual investment protection. Berlin has even begun to threaten to cancel the summit if Beijing does not demonstrate its willingness to commit.
The day after the news was published, the summit was postponed indefinitely… China is discovering that even bourgeoisies as pro-American as the Greek are already too dependent on Chinese investments… and need more. Bilateralism allows them to extract a little more by proceeding one by one with the European bourgeoisies. It’s the same strategy as Trump’s one. China does not see clearly what it could gain by consolidating the power of a Franco-German axis in the EU that looks askance at China and shoves sticks in the Chinese wheel where it can, but is powerless against the US.
A note on militarism
In recent weeks we have highlighted the global rise of militarism in both its relation to the political apparatus of states and to the trends towards a new nuclear arms race.
Today it is clear that in the two major powers the two trends inevitably go hand in hand. China is taking its private technology sector to work for the military. Seen from Europe or the US it would not be surprising, but in China, where the army is actually the largest corporate holding company in the country, it means a change in the very composition of the ruling class. The movement runs parallel to the growing leadership of the military in designing the government’s economic strategy, from which they were historically excluded. In other words, the economy is being militarized and military production privatized at the same time, or in other words, the military bureaucracy and the corporate bourgeoisie begin the typical marriage of a pre-war period.
This is the framework in which one should read the message of the “Financial Times” to Trump: “a fractured USA cannot face China”. The newspaper, which is the spokesman for the City, agrees with the US military who do not want to be used as riot police. Everyone fears the loss of public support for the military … because it can only become increasingly important in the effort to confine China to its borders. Especially when they are already measuring up with the PLA day in and day out in Chinese waters.
Libya: from African war to war for the Mediterranean
Thanks to the aviation, drones, navy and thousands of mercenaries deployed by Turkey the government of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tripoli first retook control of the capital and its airport; then the areas controlled by Russian mercenaries in the West of the country and finally advanced eastwards. To this day it seems that Haftar’s army is in practice scrambling in the center of the country and that the Tripoli army has every intention of continuing to advance towards Sirte in the hope that defeats will accelerate the decomposition of the ruling factions of Cyrenaica.
Egypt has proposed a new peace process and a ceasefire with the support of the Anglo-Saxon powers, but no one interprets it as anything other than an attempt to gain time to rebuild forces. They even wonder whether Haftar still has enough internal support and strength to negotiate anything at all.
This is the worst possible scenario for the powers that 2011 orchestrated the military intervention that led to the war: a peace tutored by Russia and Turkey. With France unable to win the war in the Sahel and the Russians as an alternative, the map of influences of the whole of Africa risks being turned upside down. As noted above, the US military command in Africa wants to send troops and advisors to Tunisia in a first attempt at a “cordon sanitaire”… that would displace the French from one of the countries where their imperialist influence has been virtually unchallenged until now… except by Turkey, which supports one of the Islamist parties in the governing coalition that is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood (Ennahda). Both France and the United States will do everything possible – and have already begun to do so– in order to stop the turmoil generated by the change of sign of the Libyan war.
Italy, an ally of the Tripoli government for its own reasons, is not happy with the result either. Turkey’s leadership in the Tripoli triumph prompts it to involve itself further in eroding Ankara from within. And Germany cannot see the result as anything more than a “catastrophe”… that actually reveals the different imperialist priorities of France and Germany. The German discourse argues, in the words of an analyst from the “Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik”, one of the most influential German think-tanks, that:
Europeans can only act in unison if the French position moves away from its relative tolerance towards Russia and its confrontational stance towards Turkey. Russia’s military presence in Libya represents a much greater threat to Europe than the Turkish intervention.
But the truth is that Turkey is the big winner of the war in Libya… and is willing to enter into an entente with Russia if it abandons Haftar. For the time being it has already instructed the Tripoli government to send representatives to Moscow and made it clear that its priority in setting up the Tripoli government is to recognize the maritime borders agreed between Tripoli and Ankara that would give Turkey waters that it intends to drill immediately for oil and gas. The only problem is that these waters are on the continental platform of Crete and Greece considers them its own… hoping to exploit them in alliance with Egypt, the USA, France and Italy. And although Brussels and the group of Mediterranean countries of the EU, the MED7 (Greece, Cyprus, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain) aligned statements in support of Greece, the reality is that nobody expects them to stop the expected Turkish military deployment in the Eastern Mediterranean. So the “real” conflict here, too, has only been raised indirectly.
The workers and the new wars that are brewing
The crisis of accumulation, with its immediate consequence of plant closures, unemployment and attack on the most basic needs of the workers, goes hand in hand with the development of the imperialist conflict and the threat of ever more murderous wars. It is not something that happens on a different plane and far from the everyday class struggle. It is not something that we can wipe out by thinking that it doesn’t concern us or that “we can’t do anything”… because at the center is again and again the same contradiction: the needs of capital imposing itself on blood, fire and hunger, against human needs. Human needs that only the workers can develop to their ultimate consequences because they are the only ones who do not get any privileges in today’s society.
Any movement, however “cool” it may seem, however “righteous” it may be against what it claims to rebel against, that dissolves the workers in the people or divides them into “races”, categories, sexes… like those that we are seeing in the US – which has suddenly stopped the strikes in that country – cannot lead to anything other than the reinforcement of nationalism – however “alternative” and inclusive it claims to be – and with it what it really represents: the primacy of national capital, “sacrifices” in the name of profitability, imperialism and… war. The path is elsewhere and is within our reach. It can only be done by our hand.