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Crossing the equator of Trump’s reign

8 February, 2020 · News> Global situation> Weekly Report

People take part in a demonstration called by several representative workers unions on January 29, 2020 against French government pension reform plans that have raised many protests and multi-sector strikes since early December 2019. / AFP / Thomas SAMSON

In Europe, the opening of trade negotiations between Great Britain and the EU, worldwide the economic and social consequences of the Wuhan pneumonia epidemic, and in Spain the bad employment data as well as the mobilizations of farmers were the focus of headlines and news. But there was much more to the week than that.

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The “impeachment” against Trump went by without any major consequences, and although the last “State of the Union Address” of this term reflected the distance between the Democrats and the Republicans, the fundamental differences within the American bourgeoisie -and even between both parties- on the imperialist strategy to1 be followed seem to be getting increasingly smaller.

The Iowa primaries -which open the race for the presidential election- were an organizational disaster, but above all they showed that the protectionist and interventionist discourse of the left wing has a greater capacity to reach and frame the voters than that of the “center” and the party apparatus, which is collapsing inexorably. If the democratic left were to put a president in office, it would certainly embellish its foreign, trade and security policy with other narratives and take other forms and gestures, but it would essentially follow in the wake of Trump’s, measuring its success by the result on the trade balance and promoting the re-nationalization of the most sensitive parts of the production chains that have been internationalized in recent decades.

In fact, from what we have heard so far, it is more than likely that even the main “innovation” of these years will not change: the national security doctrine that conceives the army as an asset in trade warfare and advocates the deployment of low-power nuclear weapons. It does not seem foreseeable for the US to renounce the current doctrine regarding this type of weaponry which considers it useful to de-escalate a conflict by “nuclearizing” it in advance.

On the other hand, everything points to Trump winning a new term in November. He can boast about having fulfilled his election promises: the number of migrants arriving via the Mexican border has been reduced by 75%; private job creation continues to rise strongly; and both the percentage of Americans who say they are doing better economically than last year and those who feel they are doing better and will do even better next year are the highest since Gallup began conducting these polls in the early 1970s.

Even when it seemed that the difficulties imposed by the control of the Wuhan pneumonia epidemic could jeopardize China’s compliance with the “phase 1 trade agreement“… China announced a mutual tariff cut by half that was only now found to be part of the agreement. Needless to say, the stock exchanges, especially the American ones, are happy.

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A second Trump mandate would be bad news for the European powers. The U.S. is encouraging the “conflicting goals” of the trade talks with Britain with the promise of a trade agreement that would not only make a “tough Brexit” viable for the British, but would also burden the EU countries with its most negative consequences… which fuels the aggravation of imperialist differences and conflicts among them.

Signs are not lacking at the moment. To begin with, Germany and Austria staged their rejection of the new EU budget as being too high. As if that were not enough, Germany is promoting a rate increase by the ECB as never before, arguing that governments and companies should not get into any more debt. Such a rise would be fatal for the southern states … starting with France, which is putting more and more spokes in the German wheel, now holding the key to EU enlargement towards the eastern Balkans.

In the military field, Macron not only opposes the creation of a Franco-German or European nuclear command for French atomic power in a structure more or less dependent on NATO, but he wants an independent European army and “bypasses” Germany by seeking to incorporate Poland. All this while reinforcing itself in the Sahel by sending six hundred more soldiers on the ground to “increase the operational pace“.

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The alliance between Russia and Turkey is breaking down. Its origin lies in Idlib. Turkey, which arms and supports the “Syrian Free Army”, deployed “observation posts” and reinforced the “de-escalation zone” on the other side of its border, moving ever closer to open confrontation. Among other things, to reinforce borders and contain the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the advance of Al-Assad, but also the Syrian army itself, which it is demanding, in compliance with the ceasefire agreements, to move away from Idlib. As a result of the tension and military movements, a clash occurred that cost the lives of five Turkish soldiers and three civilians. Turkey blamed Russia, claiming that it had warned the Russian command of the situation of its troops. Russia refused to accept responsibility. Turkey retaliated by intensely bombing positions of the Moscow-backed Syrian army while demanding that Putin stay out of it.

Shortly thereafter, Erdogan sent a signal to Putin from Ukraine: he greeted the soldiers with a nationalist slogan of the Ukrainian army (taken from the nationalist militias under German command in World War II), took a stand against the annexation of the Crimea, and agreed to finance the Ukrainian army with 200 million in a Turkish arms purchase.

However, a new turn towards the US does not seem feasible either. Just this week the US was restricting military collaboration with Turkey in Syria. Explaining what had been the object of such collaboration so far, sources in the US government, which supported the Kurdish PKK-YPG in Syria, made it public that they had shared with the Turkish army information from their drones on the location and movements of what were theoretically their allies and which Turkey was pursuing.

Turkey’s difficulties in Syria – with Al-Assad already controlling the immediate crossroads to Idlib – have given a temporary and apparent respite to the conflict in Libya, where Haftar and the Tripoli government were keen to negotiate a “lasting ceasefire”. The rapprochement between Greece and Saudi Arabia, Turkey’s main rivals in the East and West, does not, however, bode well for avoiding new tensions and armed clashes in the near future. The Mediterranean remains on the brink of war.

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In France, massive demonstrations against the pension reform still continue. The growing effort of union control goes hand in hand with the combativeness of the workers that this week also materialized in strikes of the garbage treatment workers all over the country. The employers asked the government for a civil requisition law to break it up, in line with the Senate’s approval of a law to impose mandatory requisitioning in transport and to put an end to the already long strike of the sector’s workers against the pension reform.

The lull before the storm

The consequences of the unexpected pneumonia epidemic in Wuhan, the entry of the Brexit into “phase 2” and the election year in the USA, but also the difficulties in Turkey and the constitutional changes in Russia, contribute to a strange and false “peace” built on the temporary impotence of its protagonists, who have every intention of blowing it up. Behind the fog, both war and crisis continue to rage. We must not delude ourselves. The new “anti-crisis” policies, as we are already seeing in Spain or France and as soon as the summer ends in South America, are purely and simply massive direct transfers of income from labor to capital. And the mobilizations of the petty bourgeoisie -as is evident with the farmers revolt– not only do not serve to confront these income transfers, but demand that they be stepped up to save the middle classes at the expense, once again, of the workers.