[PEN-L:17654] Britain/US split?

Mark Jones mark.jones at tiscali.co.uk
Tue Sep 25 05:39:31 MDT 2001


At 25/09/2001 09:02, Michael Keaney wrote:

 > Previous posts with this and other subject headings have broached the
 > subject of Britain's dilemma vis a vis the US and the EU.

I've been following with great interest these postings by Michael
Keaney. One of the reasons why the talk about "Empire" and globalisation
generally was mostly baloney and why Huntington got it more right than
Castells for instance, is because the argument that there is now only
one, super-hegemonic and fully-internationalised ruling class, is simply
wrong.

We still do not live in a Kautskyan ultra-imperialism tending towards a
single world-state. The US is a hegemon but is still only first among
equals, still only one competing nation-state in a world-system of
nation-states and blocs. The fact that late capitalism tends to overgrow
the state-form and to vacate the level of the nation-state, capturing
its potentialities within webs of supra-national instances and
discourses and even usurping the traditional monopoly on the internal
use of force, does not mean that late capitalism (imperialism in its
most corrupt and decadent phase) is capable of COMPLETING the process.
Imperialism can never transcend its origins; however internationalised
the bourgeoisie might become, both culturally (sharing the same world
view etc) and in terms of the economic interconnectedness and
interdependencies which naturally develop in prolonged periods of peace,
the bourgeoisie can never become a truly international class-for-itself.

In 1914 the level of world trade and external investment was at least as
high as today; the level of interpenetration among European and
Anglo-American ruling elites was at least as deep and extended as far as
sharing a common royal family (the Russian Tsar, the German Kaiser and
the English king were all cousins), and the level of national
sovereignty was far lower than today, since most of Europe was still
trapped within the Tsarist and the Habsburg 'prisons of nations'. That
did not stop them going to war and it did not stop the swift
recuperation of national loyalties and the whole shoddy symbolism of
flags, hymn-singing and lachrymose public gatherings which are generally
the harbingers to bloodbaths and the destruction in battle of a
generation of young men.

Of course, there is no real future for a capitalist world-economy
organised at the level of a system-architecture of competing
nation-states, but that's been true for more than a century. The fact
that the question is still unresolved, that patriotism and crude forms
of national chauvinism are back on the agenda with a vengeance, tells us
only that the rot at the heart of capitalism, the utter institutional
corruption of the regime, its moral and political bankruptcy, are real,
are the most important facts we face. Edwardian society too had its
glittering veneer, the ostentatious consumption by the elites, the same
public displays of extravagant self-confidence and showiness. But the
Edwardian ruling class was just as incapable of resolving its problems.
'The lights are going out all over Europe', British Foreign Secretary
Lord Grey said in August 1914. An inexorable logic of unstoppable
military mobilisation in response to the terrorist actions of Balkan
recidivists, swept politicians and public alike into an engulfing maw of
the first world war. The only difference is that today the world is a
much more dangerous place. The cataclysm between 1914-1919 which
destroyed European colonial imperialism and produced revolutions in
Russia, China, India, Africa, Ireland, was wrought with more inadequate
means of mass destruction than the war  now beginning will be.

Among the questions this war may resolve will be the fate of the
Atlantic Alliance binding Europe and North America.

The hypertrophy of Nato, the most visible outward form of  the Atlantic
geopolitical architecture, began with the fall of the Soviet Union and
was one of the most dangerous aftershocks. A huge game is being played
out right now in the former Soviet space, and the stakes could not be
bigger. The Russians are now opening their front door to Nato to let its
troops pass thru and into the military graveyard of Afghanistan, and
President Putin is waving them on. For years, the Russians have bitterly
contested the process of Nato enlargement, while the Americans (George
Bush's administration in particular) have sought not only to include the
central European states, but a ring of former Soviet states too, from
the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia) to the Caucasus (Georgia,
Azerbaijan), and even Ukraine, in a Gulliver's web of constraints
intended to dismember the Russian-dominated Eurasian space. Is it
conceivable that 9/11 has completely changed Russian thinking or Russian
fears? Yet suddenly Putin is ready to receive American groundforces onto
former Soviet territory and handover former Soviet bases in Gudermes and
elsewhere. Does this mean that the Russians have finally accepted their
subordinate, colonial status, just at the moment of greatest American
weakness and danger? Do the Russians really buy into Huntingtonian
schematas of civilisational clashes? I personally do not think so. The
people in the Kremlin are as cynical a bunch of schemers and chancers as
you can find in any capitalist chancellery. They have not abandoned the
idea of revenge, and they have their eyes not only on the Ukraine, but
on Poland, too--not to speak of the mineral and oil wealth of Central
Asia. They are inviting Nato to fall on its own sword and even offering
to hold the sword themselves. There is nothing new in this. Below is
from a posting I made to Johnson's Russia List on 24.12.1996:

The NATO debate in JRL hinges on a false premise, that
enlargement may or may not be the solution to perceived
problems. Enlarge, or not? This is already a pre-
revolutionary question, because the question cannot be
answered or even intelligently posed in these terms and yet
no other question can meaningfully be posed other than the
dissolution of NATO. That is obviously unthinkable since it
would inevitably destabilise capitalist Europe and leave it
pervious to many threats - mass immigration from Africa,
Islam, eastern Europe, and all the other things we all know
about. Because it would make it difficult for Germany to
police its client states. Why is Helmut in such a hurry?
Because the inevitable is already visible, and Europe is on
another glacis like 1906-1914.

I am thinking exactly of clients like Poland which can hardly
be excluded from NATO/EU but whose inclusion is
extremely destabilising, since they are low-wage economies
whose integration into the EU is menacing to the German
working class even more than to the French. At some point
there will be an intersecting of downward pressure on
French and German wages with resurgent German
nationalism (this month's Foreign Affairs has an overly-
optimistic article on this).

People seem to think recessionary crises can be avoided
forever. It is pure philistinism. But to be concrete, once the
looting of Russia is complete, and unless they get Caspian oil
in time, there will be upward inflationary pressure on
commodities that can trigger savage politically-enforced
deflations. Then there will be no avoiding severe continuing
political and social shocks to the fabric of Europe whatever
burden NATO is asked to shoulder. But NATO is being and
will be asked to absorb these pressures, as it is doing e.g. in
Yugoslavia. And as the French like to ask, what are soldiers
actually for? Peacekeeping?

If NATO is not enlarged to the Baltikum, some more direct
form of colonial control will be necessary, because there is
no way that living standards and wages can be raised to EU
levels in the ex-CMEA -- they can't even manage it in the ex-
GDR, however much they spend.

But if NATO is enlarged than nothing can stop a fascist right
taking power in Russia, with Luzhkov or someone like him
at the helm. It will happen. It is inevitable. Then the
confrontation between NATO and Russia will not be
mediated as it was in the Cold War, by peaceful coexistence
and other behests of Lenin (in fact there is already a not-so-
secret offensive war against the West being consciously
fought by Russian organised crime which, let's face it, is
fronted by the Russian government. Call a spade a spade
while there's time).

In short, we're heading for another of those little blips which
The Economist elides on its graphs.
Nothing can stop it.

[Johnson's Russia List on 24.12.1996]

If the Americans lose their war in Asia, how will they prevent their
positions being rolled up right back across Central Asia and Russia, to
the borders of Poland itself? No-one is publicly thinking about these
things, that I can see. But there is obviously a fearful risk to Nato
and the Atlantic structure, if the US fails are is embroiled in an
unwinnable Vietnam style war. And at the same time that the American
presence in Europe unravels, the Europeans themselves will face new and
agonising problems about their own future. Hang together or hang
separately. Europe desperately needs oil and gas from Russia and from
Central Asia and the Caspian. If America cannot guarantee supplies, who
can?]

Michael Keaney is surely right that:

The truth of the matter is that New Labour is the ultimate triumph of
       the "liberal" wing of the CIA and US National Security State.

The policy of this wing has been to push the integration of British
state and British capital within the EU, since the alternative "punk
Tory" approach (join Nafta, leave the EU) would swiftly lead to the
disintegration of the Atlantic system, especially in a crisis as deep as
this. But it is precisely because Blair is the avatar of
America-in-Europe that his politics so clearly reveals the underlying
tensions between Europe and America. On social policy, environmental
issues and Kyoto, on energy policy generally, Europe has already split
with American finance and corporate capital and the neo-isolationist
Bush regime. Blair's desperate drive for 'coalition-building' had the
primary objective not of 'waging war on terrorism' but of controlling
Bush and avoiding military excesses, by 'bringing Bush back into the
fold', as the Guardian put it. The split between Europe and America is
already there, is the base-rock on which the postwar European system was
built. By rejecting the Thatcherite 'join Nafta' solution, and by
anchoring British national sovereignty firmly and finally in the EU
framework, the progressive wing of US imperialism and its allies in the
British Labour Party show that they know it is there, and know how
dangerous it can be. US hegemony was built in the 20th century on
European fragmentation and weakness and on the garrisoning of Europe
with American troops. The Atlantic Alliance is the keystone in the
structure of US hegemony. If that falls, the US will be reduced at once
to the status of a regional power.

Mark Jones

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