As this is written, the war in Iraq is raging. Its real goal of course is neither the 1iberation of the Iraqi people nor the defence of America against the military threat of Iraq. This threat was destroyed ten years ago, when the previous Gulf War brought this country to its knees. Since then, its population has been starved and its territory regularly bombarded by Anglo-American planes, without drawing much attention from our' free press'. The real goals of this war sprout from the very logic of capitalism. It compels the US to reinforce the system of capitalist exploitation and consolidate its geo-strategic hegemony in this crucial region. The stakes are both geo-strategic (imperialist) and economic, and they are closely linked and sometimes difficult to separate.
THE IMPERIALIST STAKES
American domination and its virtually total freedom of movement in regard to the UN or any other opposition, is a result of the collapse of the Russian bloc, which left a vacuum that wasn't filled by a new imperialist entity that could challenge the American bloc. Even though there is opposition, even though there are candidates for the role, the vacuum gave the US room to deploy its domination over the world. [ts strategy has two aims: to strengthen its domination (by multiplying its military bases and tightening its grip on regions that are strategically important, both economically and militarily) and to prevent the rise of potential imperialist rivals.
This double, economic-political strategy was already visible during the war in Afghanistan: it allowed the US to implant itself more firmly in southeast Asia and to control the transport routes of oil and gas, isolating Russia and surrounding potential imperialist rivals such as China and India. The war in Iraq is not a passing folly of Bush junior but a continuation of this process. The control over Iraq will allow the US to:
- surround Iran between an Afghanistan and an Iraq controlled by the US;
- surround Syria between Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Iraq;
- put pressure on Saudi-Arabia through its firm control over Kuwait and Iraq;
- extend the Atlantic Alliance, by incorporating Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia in it and through military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and later in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan;
- to top off the encirclement of this region by reinforcing its control over Yemen.
Looking at a map, one can sec clearly how this strategy extends the are a firmly dominated by the US to the doorsteps of its potential rivals and assures its direct control over the oil and gag resources and supply lines of the Caspian basin, the Caucasus and the Arab region. This is clearly a well- planned policy and a global strategy serving its economic, political and imperialist interests.
The try-out of new armaments and tactics is an additional benefit on the military level. The presence of permanent military bases in Iraq after the war will also allow the US to act swiftly in the region, without the logistical difficulty of having to move troops far away, and to use very mobile small intervention forces.
THE ECONOMIC STAKES
As we said, it would be artificial to disconnect the imperialist drive from its economic foundations. The world economy is in deep crisis and American capitalism doesn't escape this. Despite the bourgeoisie's attempts to explain the current situation as an unfortunate result of the attacks of 9111, we know that this crisis is global and results from the deep contradictions of the capitalist system, which lead to a permanent overproduction in the developed countries, an expulsion of ever larger numbers of workers from the global chain of production, a swelling and bursting of a speculative bubble fed by fictitious capital, the failure of the policies imposed by the IMF on countries such as Argentina and Brazil, a global storm brewing since the Asian crisis...
Faced with this deep crisis, the ferocious competition between capitalists pushes them to an ever more desperate and ruthless struggle. Global industry is very dependent on the supply of oil and gag. The control of these resources is therefore crucial and provides a definite advantage in the competition between economic rivals. As a recent leaflet of IP pointed out: Bush invaded Iraq "because the US economy is sitting on a mountain of 31 trillions dollars of debt, because the stock market bubble is bursting, because the dollar is plunging, because foreign capital owners are seeing investing in US assets increasingly as a risk. That's what males this project so urgent. Iraq's oil could be a huge cash crop for US capital. The American occupation would give the US control over oil prises (paid in dollars, thank you) and where would the new Iraq invest ils profits but in the US stock market?"
Even though the US is already very much present in the region through its oil companies and American participation and investment in this sector, OPEC still has a grip on the exploitation and management of this wealth. It's still OPEC which fixes the prise of a barrel of oil and which can thereby put pressure on industrialized countries. And while the British, the American oil companies are firmly established, the French (TotaIFinaEIf) are fighting for their share too, as are the Russians. Time for the strongest wolf in this hungry pack to affirm his domination. The tightening of its control over the production and circulation of hydrocarbons will allow the US to:
- gain a powerful weapon against potential rivals (in particular China, whose economic development increases its consumption of energy and therefore its dependence on foreign oil);
- break the grip of OPEC, so that the US can control the prise of oil;
- become invulnerable to tensions in other oil producing countries (Russia, Saudi-Arabia) whose commercial interests might not always coincide with those of the US, so that it can count on a stable supply of oil.
The diplomatic tensions between the warring coalition (the US and the UK) and the "pacifists" of the hour (France, Germany and Russia) neatly coincide with the economic rivalries in the region. For France and Russia it will be a serious loss to be cut off from investment and control of this juicy part of the oil business.
The conflict has provoked a surprisingly strong reaction throughout the world. This reflects several trends:
-an unrest and a vague questioning about our global future;
- the recomposition of classes and of the working class in particular;
We saw already in the workers struggles of 1994-95 a tendency to raise questions about the global perspectives of capitalist society. Since then, this discontent has expressed itself in frameworks as different as the "anti-globalization" movement and the opposition to the war in Iraq. On February 15, as man y as 10 million people demonstrated simultaneously against the war throughout the world. This was probably in part a result of the growth of the global organization of capitalism itself, and thug of a tendency to perceive problems and reactions to them on an international scale from the outset.
Even if the ideological discourse of the warmongering bourgeoisie was roughly the same as in the case of the wars in ex- Yugoslavia and Afghanistan (the liberation of a people from its tyrant and the prevention of a menace from an aggressive country), its impact was considerably smaller. It's clear that the patriotic poison is losing potency -even in the US. The economic and hegemonic goals of the US were already denounced in the first protests.
Even within the American armed forces, doubts were raised. There were graffiti and slogans against the war in some military quarters, like during the Vietnam war. ln March, there was a second wave of demonstrations in which some trade unions also participated. Their presence raises the question of the position of the working class on this war. We know from experience that the unions tend to act preventively to be ready to contain reactions from the workers when they might be coming. Even if the working class did not manifest itself on a terrain of opposition to the war, this does not necessarily mean thant the atmosphere in the class is one of indifference. So where des the working class stand in regard to the war and what did the anti-war movement represent ?
Even though workers participated in this movement, they did go, as far as we know, as individuals or in small groups. We can't say that the class as such participated. The profound transformations of capitalism in recent decades has redefined the boundaries of the social classes and made it more difficult for the working class to sec the links that unite it as a class. This recomposition has brought more atomization and even though strike movements continue to occur throughout the world on a daily basis, they are expressions of a punctual resistance against capitalist exploitation; the working class does not manifest itself as a class when global stakes of society are posed. Yet we also sec in these movements a strong presence of groups of young people, often excluded from production, unemployed or proletarianized. They have few illusions in the traditional ideological discourses and tend to see their revolt on a radical, even violent terrain from the outset. But as long as this radicalism is not linked to the struggle of the working class, it remains punctual and more an expression of the destructiveness of the existing society than of a constructive perspective of a new society. While these young people express the rejection of the current functioning of society, they also express their own situation of being socially excluded and robbed of a future. Their protest is an immediate reaction to their conditions of existence.
The recent anti-war movements were very important gatherings but they were also heterogeneous, without a class base. Crucial questions were raised in it about what this society is based upon and where it is going, but it remained at the level of questions. The fact that they were raised in movements that gathered very diverse people not linked by a common class interest, implies that they could not be brought together in a common reflection process and lead to a common perspective. While these questions help to unmask capitalism, only the struggle of the working class tan show how they fit together and place them in an historical perspective of changing society through the collective political reflection that is part of the development of class consciousness.
The variegated components of the protests (pacifists, anti-globalists, radical marginalized young people, unions worried about workers' discontent) indicate that we are in a contradictory situation in which the questioning of capitalist society continues without really advancing. Georg Lukacs, in his book "History and Class Consciousness", emphasizes the dialectical link between partial struggles and final goal and points to a seemingly contradictory phenomenon: the more the stakes of daily struggles become clear, the more obscure the global stakes become. That is what we are witnessing today: every punctual reaction (against exploitation, against the war, etc.) makes it possible to question capitalism as a social relation more precisely, but the very importance of the unmasking of the functioning of capitalism in these partial struggles creates a tendency to fixate on them without pushing the questioning of the totality further. That also makes the development of class consciousness so difficult today, because it must advance to an understanding of the totality of the capitalist social relation in order to open a new historical perspective.
Finally, a word on the anti-Americanism in the antiwar protests. It raises indirectly the question of what revolutionary fractions can do to clarify what at stake in the war. Even though the arrogant imposition of American supremacy and the fate of the powerless civilians submitted to the murderous bombardments of the American war machine provoke disgust, ifs important to identify the real enemy. The immediate danger may seem Bush (like Sharon, or Hitler in his time) but the real danger is not this or that leader or faction of the capitalist class but the very logic of capitalism. Driven by the unrelenting search for profit, this logic implacably follows its course towards more struggles between imperialist rivals, more massive destruction of human beings and material wealth. Several articles in IP have analyzed this destructive aspect of capitalism. They make clear that supporting a "more liberal" faction, or a "more democratic" regime, or any kind of territorial "autonomy", will not save humanity from destruction, war and misery. The only way to escape from this destructive machine is to stop capitalism itself, the ruthless exploitation and death it sows ail over the planet. More urgently than ever, the alternative "socialism or barbarism, War or revolution" is being written in blood in the daily history of human beings. The only social class which has no privileges to preserve in the existing society and which has the potential power to overthrow it, the only class that has no stake in maintaining the capitalist system, is the working class. Only this class, the living representative of the negation of capitalism within il, united by ils common interest, can link the questions which are posed today to a general perspective that opens the door to a new society.
The speed of the American military triumph in Iraq is extremely disturbing, not because of the destruction of the Ba'athist regime, but because it will embolden the US to consolidate its global hegemony and to use its military might in a possible series of wars to consolidate its position as the "New Rome" of the epoch of "low capitalism," of capitalism in ifs phase of decadence. That, and not the specifies political configuration that emerges in Iraq should be the primary concern of revolutionaries (in Iraq, as in the US or elsewhere). That consolidation of the global hegemony of the US may involve new military undertakings against "rogue" states, permanent military bases in Iraq, and attempts to use ils success on the battlefields of Iraq to reign in those European states (France, Germany, and Russia)that u for their own geo-political and economic interests -- sought to block the unleashing of the war.
The only hopeful sign that has yet emerged from this debacle is the unwillingness of the mass of Iraqi conscripts to tight for "their" nation, for the Ba'athist regime. The sight of thousands of Iraqi conscripts abandoning the battlefield, throwing clown their weapons, tearing off their uniforms, refusing to make Baghdad into a latter-clay Stalingrad (1942) or Berlin (1945), means that however powerful the hold of Arab nationalism on certain middleclass American anti-war activists may have been, it did not have that power over Iraqis. And that, despite Sadaam Hussein's desperate effort to link the Arab nationalism of the Ba'ath party to Islamism. The problem now is to counteract the upsurge of patriotism that the war may generate in the US -- a formidable task indeed. Whether in the Arab-Islamic world, in the US, or in France, Germany and Russia, the nation, and nationalism, remains the indispensable framework for capitalism; and any concession to it ("peace is patriotic" or anti-Americanism) constitutes a betrayal of the struggle to overthrow the capitalist system.
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