‘Nuevo Curso’ on the trade war, the imperialist tensions and the EU

Topic: the international Situation

The following three articles by ‘Nuevo Curso’ highlight the latest developments at the international scene at the level of the trade war that has been resuscitated by the US administration’s recent tariff measures on steel and aluminium trade; the discord that cuts through the European Union at different levels simultaneously, faced with the attempt the relaunch its French-German axis after the installation, after 6 months, of a new edition of the ‘grand’ coalition government under Merkel, and the subsequent ‘winter offensive’ by the German bourgeoisie to make up for the lost time and ground.


Commercial war: prologue of a generalized war

» The unfolding of war tensions over the last year is now evident. It began as an affirmation of a protectionist re-focussing of the American economy but soon transformed into the renegotiation of the entire scaffolding of international trade agreements. Renegotiation that was openly militarized in Trump’s new national security strategy. A trade war became recognizable when the US imposed tariffs on washing machines and solar panels… and as all states, from Asia to Europe through Mexico and Canada, had to face a combination of unilateral impositions and new dog faced negotiations with the USA.

But the new barrage of tariffs on steel and aluminum attacks the very nerve of large-scale industrial capitalism. Europe, Canada, China, India… receive a direct impact. Other regional imperialisms, such as Brazil, are facing even greater competition with Russia and China, (1) among other things because Trump soon ends any illusion of obtaining an “exception”. Others, like the capitalism of the Mexican state, redefined as an auxiliary economy for thirty years, find themselves in the ropes.

The first European reprisals are silenced by Trump with the advance of a new tariff on the automotive industry, the heart of German exports. Merkel warns Trump that the commercial war is a race to the bottom and seeks an accommodation. Trump responds that for the USA such wars are good and “easy to win”.

The problem of trade and currency wars is not who wins, but that so far they all have been the prologue to a generalized imperialist war. Capitalism no longer fits to national borders and any restriction of markets pushes it to assault the markets of its rivals, alternative markets, or simply strategic interests from which to try to gain a certain advantage, by force.

The first consequence of the commercial war is the rise of militarism. The new Russian nuclear missiles, presented with all the chauvinistic fanfare typical of the Putin regime have been only the tip of a sinister iceberg highlighted by the media. China, Iran, India, Australia… and of course the USA, Europe and everyone who has the capacity to develop new weapons have accelerated a new arms race.

Along with militarism, the authoritarian development of the state is not, as it is presented to us, a “Chinese phenomenon”, albeit the Chinese state bourgeoisie is the first to openly acknowledge the relationship between the two. (2) If China prepares for war by making its political and military structures more authoritarian, in the rest of the world it is exactly the same and they did not start yesterday.

The Turkish Path

Turkey is a good example. When it saw the doors of the EU closed, it reoriented the imperialist need to find new markets towards Central Asia. Politically, this resulted in the creation of bodies such as the “Council of Turkoman Countries” or the “Turkish Parliamentary Assembly”, but above all in abundant investments in communications, roads and gas infrastructures. Internally that was translated in the increasing power of a brotherhood, the Hizmet of Fethullah Gülen, an organization of the small industrial and commercial bourgeoisie that capitalized the expansion towards the Northeast… to the point of colonizing and trying to instrumentalize the Turkish state. The tensions led to an increasingly violent conflict with Erdogan, who conducted a whole series of purges using the Kemalist judicial apparatus. This internal conflict, spurred on by the US, ended with the coup attempt of 2016 in which the same Erdogan was saved by the minute thanks to Russian intelligence and was escorted through the air by two Russian fighters during the attempt.

The coup triggered the authoritarian tendencies of the state and the concentration of powers without which Erdogan could not discipline – as the coup showed – the own Muslim petty bourgeoisie, fattened by Asian expansion. But if he was so criticized by the global Anglo-Saxon press it was above all because it marked a turning point in the imperialist alignment of Turkey. Until then in Central Asia, Turkey had collaborated and competed at the same time with Russians and Chinese, but above all it had been promoted as an alternative to the European dependence on Russian gas with the support of the USA and Germany. It was the “Nabucco” project, an alternative to the famous “South Stream” to market the gas of the largest world reserves – those of Turkmenistan – without going through Russia… which obviously was not liked in Moscow.

The realignment of Turkey and the European response were accompanied by the discovery of gas in Cyprus and the development of the war in Syria, with the USA turning the local arm of the PKK into its main army in the field. It was a “perfect storm” for Turkish capital, which at times was locked and cornered in its borders. The response was immediate: increasing pressure on Greece (now Germany’s main regional ally), African expansion and direct participation in the Syrian war.

The Cypriot question is getting worse every time. Israel, Egypt and Cyprus with Greek-German and North American support, want to exploit the gas pockets that are under Cypriot territorial waters and send it directly to Europe… making both Nabucco and South Stream lose strategic importance.

Nabucco-vs-south-stream
Illustration 1: The two alternative routes of gas output from Asia to Europe: Nabucco, via Turkey and South Stream via Russia.

The sending of Turkish naval forces, the claim that “it will not allow gas exploration in Cypriot waters”; that it will sink the platforms if necessary and that it can afford a war on two fronts, (3) puts the entire region on the brink of war. A war in which Greece would also be directly involved, the USA, possibly France and Italy, and diplomatically and financially Germany, and through the latter the entire EU.

The Syrian front does not point to a relaxation of the war tensions either. Today [March 5, 2018] the news was leaking that Iran will leave its bases in Syria to the PKK to let them attack the Turkish army in Afrin from there. (4) Each step, each affirmation of the international interests of Turkish capital opens a chain of events that points to the direct confrontation between major powers. Turkey is the example of everything that leads to the development of the commercial war… throughout the world. «

Nuevo Curso, March 5, 2018.

Source: Guerra comercial: prólogo de una guerra generalizada Nuevo Curso https://nuevocurso.org/guerra-comercial-prologo-de-una-guerra-generalizada/

4 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/04/world/asia/chinas-leaders-meet-xi-jinping.html

 

The blocks at war under the European Union

» The Spanish, French and German press presents us again and again a picture of the world where Brexit and Trump accelerate the road to chaos and war, hand in hand with Putin and Erdogan, while a Europe personified by a “young Macron” and a sensible and humanitarian Merkel try to reason with each other while trying to promote a precarious “United States of Europe” to curb the development of the populist and xenophobic forces that grow within the Union itself. It is, evidently, a lie.

The German strategy is of course to support Macron and consolidate within a Germanized EU, without giving too much political initiative to France, while not consuming a deeper union, one that would require a merger and concentration of capital between the two powers. Much of the political initiative presented as more “Europeanist”, such as moving to a single corporate tax in the two countries, aims to accelerate and accompany this process. The development of the Union’s “defense pillar”, the military campaign led by France and co-financed by Germany to control the Sahel, the joint strategies in Syria, and with regards to Turkey, Russia and China, are subordinated to that process. A long-term strategic move that is subsequently sold through the discourse of “Europe as a global alternative to a senseless USA”. In reality however the Franco-German axis is far from being able to discipline Europe by imposing a reform of community institutions tailored to its imperialist needs.

The group of “Northern” countries

Today, the emergence of a “northern block” in the EU, whose nucleus would consist of the Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, was reported to the press. Countries that share a high degree of merger between their large capitals with Great Britain (Shell, AstraZeneca, etc.), that have historically been Germany’s geopolitical counterweight and that in majority were part of the British attempt to create an alternative to the EEC in the 1960s. To these the Baltic countries, have to be added, who were already born with a strong tie to the Anglo-Saxon powers.

This so-called “block” would be the continuation of British “Eurosceptic” positions, making the “Schäuble argument” itself that the German minister launched in his day against Greece and the Mediterranean countries. (1) They propose to maintain the euro by rejecting the mutualization of risks and the inevitable centralization of European finances around a set of rules and capital concentrations that would occur, in principle, around the European “fertile crescent (from Belgium to Northern Italy uniting France and Germany). It is a fragile position that reveals the own weakness, with which their national capitals have been confronted by the prospect of a Brexit, in which the bond that unites them to the City of London is increasingly being put in question. They resist the great movement of capital concentration that is about to come, but have no other alternative than to maintain the European institutional and financial framework “as is”.

The group of Visegrad

The Visegrad group consists of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. They stood up against Merkel’s refugees policy, refusing to admit the quotas and raising the flag of an increasingly authoritarian and ethnic nationalism. Poland and Hungary were the first countries to be questioned by the European institutions for their internal reforms. (2) Until recently they were to be disciplined by Brussels and Berlin. But if Poland and Hungary were already a difficult bite, the re-election of Zeman in the Czech Republic and above all, the election of the ultra-nationalist Sebastian Kurz in Austria, is a leap forward that resuscitates the danger of spreading the centrifugal tendencies of Eastern countries. The call for attention to Romania about its judicial reform is more than an anecdotal concern in Brussels.

The area of ​​Franco-German hegemony

The two main economies linked to the Franco-German axis, Spain and Italy, are going through a phase of political stagnation. If the Spanish stagnation worries the Spanish bourgeoisie, afraid of how it gets out of the wave of mergers that is about come, (3) the Italian case is even more stressful for the ruling classes, to the extent that Italy had been, until now, aspiring to be the third pillar of the European axis… and this condemns it to be left out. In spite of everything, nothing questions the loyalty of the Spanish capital to the voice of German command, or the exaltation of Macron by the media. When it has to put its shoulder in the Mediterranean or West Africa, the axis can count on Spanish capital and take for granted that Italian capital will remain aligned by the logic of their own imperialist interests in the Mediterranean. Spain also comes with a prize: Portugal has increasingly become an orphan of Great Britain, and has seen its financial system absorbed by the Spanish. Today, its state depends from Spain for such basic services like ensuring irrigation to the peasants or fighting fires, and can only aspire to “communitarize” all public policies, in order not to fall into an even greater dependence from their only terrestrial neighbor.

In the Balkans, Tsipras has converted into the great German herald. Not only internally, where he triumphantly appears as “liberating the country from the memorandum” and from the troika, even though the wages continue to fall in the name of capitals’ competitiveness and poverty is there to stay. Also in foreign policy: Raising the German project in face of Tusk when Merkel finds it difficult, approaching Poland when Germany’s relations with its neighbor get excessively stressed, and there is no European summit at which the selfsame Tsipras does not look like the right hand of the chancellor.

memorandum-griego
Illustration 2: Caricature about the “overcoming” of the memorandum and the European protectorate over Greece, the main triumph raised by Tsipras and his government

In reality Greek capital is discovering the opportunity to develop its regional imperialism in the German shadow while strengthening ties with China. Tsipras has already signed an AVE [high speed rail transport] with Bulgaria that will connect the Greek ports with the Bulgarian ones on the Danube and the Black Sea, linking up with the Chinese silk route project and receiving a good part of its financing from the Asian giant. Of course, Germany or China are not enough coverage in case the Turkish military threat materializes, but for those things France is always there. And at the moment the strategy could not be better: after organizing the “Balkan summit” with Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania, Tsipras is reinforcing the expansion of Greek capital. He does not save gestures with Serbia and organizes the latter’s candidacy to become member of the EU, while securing infrastructure contracts for Greek companies. The same happens in Macedonia, with Merkel acting as “bad cop”.

Today Europe, tomorrow the world

But if German imperialism has a weakness today it is first of all its haste. A haste accentuated by the rapid advance of the commercial war with the USA and China. “The world is not going to wait for us,” Merkel said in German parliament. She is right: to this day the great German capital disposes of a powerful European armature that goes beyond the institutional. But it is still far from being a viable block. What it has to do in order to construct one, will involve exacerbating the already existing trade, military and war tensions in the grand global imperialist game, but above all, as we well know in Greece, Portugal or Spain, attacking the living conditions of millions of workers across the continent. Merkel is not calling us to the “European dream”, she is calling all national bourgeoisies to battle. They will present us the 26 sides of the 26 national interests, that is, of the 26 European national bourgeoisies. Confronted with us, these 26 are one. Their “Europeanization” as well as their “renationalization” is our precarity. We can not forget this. «

Nuevo Curso, March 6, 2018

Source: Los bloques en guerra bajo la Unión Europea Nuevo Curso https://nuevocurso.org/los-bloques-en-guerra-bajo-la-union-europea/

2 http://www.dw.com/es/polonia-presidente-desaf%C3%ADa-a-la-ue-y-firma-polémicas-leyes/a-41882013

3 https://nuevocurso.org/el-capital-espanol-busca-comprador-en-alemania/

 

The great German winter offensive

» After agonizing negotiations that have bogged down the German bourgeoisie, Merkel is chancellor again. Meanwhile, the commercial war has become an undeniable fact. Today it is news that the USA is preparing a new tariff swath against Chinese technological products. In this framework, with the growth figures of the German economy the remarkable thing is not the figures themselves, but their dependence on exports, which forces a foreign policy to defend European markets and conquer non-EU countries.

The political stalemate in Italy with its inevitable anti-German turns, the growing pressure of the “Visegrad bloc”, the need to discipline the Balkans before a new enlargement [of the EU], the constant encouragement by the United States to put sticks in the wheel of the German project… (1) and the latter’s own internal difficulties to renew its political apparatus. Even the German bourgeoisie itself thought that this was too much to eat with a single bite.

The result was the announcement by Macron and Merkel of delaying the presentation of the reform plan for the euro, a key part of the federalizing reorganization of Europe, which is the central element of the French-German strategy.

But almost immediately, the correlation of forces changes again and the German state apparatus reacts with agility. In spite of the doubts, of the fragilities, the previous message is annulled and the French-German plan is announced again: this will be the month of the great German offensive. (2)

What has changed in Europe?

1. To the surprise of the German diplomacy itself, Macron achieved a historic triumph by opening the door for European funds to be distributed on condition of “compliance with European norms and values”. A torpedo in the waterline of the group of Visegrad – Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the countries with a legal development of the most marked authoritarianism – that simultaneously keeps them under surveillance of the European Commission. And of course this is a serious warning for the rebellious Austria as well, whose government of alliance between the right and the extreme right could burn if it comes too close to the ultra-nationalism of the Visegrad [group].

2. Juncker proposed a reform that will be key to the development of the Franco-German strategy of organizing a common block in Europe: the common foreign policy would be decided by a qualified majority of 15 or 16 countries, instead of unanimously as before. However, it [the outcome] is obligatory for everyone, regardless of what they would have voted for.

3. The Romanian Social Democratic Party, the former Stalinist CP, declared itself in favor of Romania adopting the euro in 2024. It would be the first Eurozone extension to an important country since 2009, when Slovakia joined, and will be a key element in the expansion of the Franco-German discipline to the Balkans.

4. And surely the most decisive event has been the Slovak political crisis. The political murder of an investigative journalist and his partner produced mass mobilizations against the government and the Slovak political apparatus, that have led to the latter’s practical collapse. Germany has been able to use the instability by managing support for the movement while offering help to the authorities, demonstrating that not only the Anglo-Saxon powers know how to use the “Maidan” or the “process as a bargaining chip.

The next phase of the German offensive will not be easy, of course. In the first place it will imply, as has already been pointed out in the new grand coalition government, an internal and external relaxation of the austerity policies (3) …which possibly reinforces the centrifugal tendencies of the “Northern” states. On the other hand, there is no other option but to maintain an increasingly ambiguous tone with Russia, which in turn will exacerbate the suspicions of the Visegrad countries. But there is no other option for German imperialism. The British isolation and its lack of maneuvering ability in the matter of the murdered spies clearly show that it is not in their interest to exacerbate the response to the constant Russian provocations and attacks while the front of the commercial war with the USA is open… and is not showing signs of closing soon. «

Nuevo Curso, March 14, 2018

Source: La gran ofensiva alemana de invierno Nuevo Curso  https://nuevocurso.org/la-gran-ofensiva-alemana-de-invierno/

Notes

 

Translations: H.C., March 18, 2018. Proofreading: F.C., March 19, 2018. Final editing: March 20, 2018.

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