About the creation of a Chinese-Russian bloc
The following article attempts to contribute to a discussion on the danger of the present imperialist tensions, conflicts and regional wars escalating into a world war. It criticizes positions taken by some internationalist groups who, while fully acknowledging the historic disintegration of both imperialist blocs of the “Cold War” period, tend to deny the possibility of an effective (counter-) tendency towards the formation of new imperialist blocs in a course towards a third world war, and/or fail to identify the latter.
Against the ICC’s theory of “decomposition, the highest stage of capitalism’s decadence” (1990), the author argues that a tendency towards “re-composition” of imperialist blocs is expressed by the formation of a new anti-US bloc around the axis Moscow-Beijing, strongly involving Iran as a regional power in its stand-off with the USA. It is claimed that this view is compatible with the approach of the question by the ICC’s proclaimed political ancestor, the Gauche Communiste de France (GCF) in 1946.
The article highlights some confusion in the joint declaration recently issued by the GCCF and Internationalist Voice, which has been inspired by the particular theory of capitalism’s “decomposition”. Last but not least, it calls for an open discussion at international meetings among “organizations from the communist Left” that need to be “invited on the basis of clear criteria”.
After the mysterious attacks on Saudi oil installations, the media once again focus their attention on the Persian Gulf. It had been quiet for some time now around Trump’s display of power at Iran’s front door. The United States have not succeeded in getting EU countries, such as Germany and France, which are always reluctant, or even the previously loyal allies Great Britain and the Netherlands, to support their plans to further isolate Iran. At the G7 summit in August, Macron unsuccessfully brought the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif to Biarritz in an attempt to start talks between Tehran and Washington. According to Macron, the G7 wanted to prevent further escalation (in the Persian Gulf) and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (1) In addition, it is in the interest of EU countries to … restart trade with Iran, which has been affected by US sanctions since the exit of the US from the nuclear deal with Iran. The different and often conflicting positions of the G7 countries are an indication of the imperialist tensions between the major powers. This is in addition to the increasing tensions between the US and Russia and China, which are not members of the G7.
Thus, the ‘joint declaration’ by the two internationalist groups GCCF and Internationalist Voice (I.V.) against the risk of an escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf rightly pointed to the American “desire to maintain their hegemony, which is underlined as the US reminds its rivals, the European Union, China and Russia, of its hegemony”. (2) These two groups, as well as most of those invoking the communist Left (3), seem convinced that the world domination that the US seemed to exercise with certain results after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is crumbling. The world is collapsing into growing regional conflicts that Washington can no longer control. The growth of local wars, in addition to the environmental disasters of our time, can just as well drag humanity to ruin as a Third World War could have done in the period 1945 -1990. But does that also mean – as the ICC claims – that a global war between two imperialist blocs of nations, a “world war is no longer an issue” ? The latter idea comes from the ICC, which claims that capitalism, on the contrary, would have entered a phase of decomposition, which would prevent the formation of imperialist blocs for a Third World War. (4) The joint declaration of GCCF and I.V. is clearly aimed at proletarian internationalism, but it is insufficiently clear about the dangers of a possible world war and the tendency to rebuild imperialist blocs. For a number of weak and unclear wordings, see the box following this article. GCCF and I.V. are influenced in this respect by the ICC-idea of decomposition. The ICC inherited this idealistic prediction of decomposition from its cult leader, Marc Chirik, who is considered to be its organic link with the history of the labour movement back to the Communist Manifesto of 1848. In this article I will show how the frame of decomposition serves the ICC to distort reality with its many tendencies into only one of the possible outcomes of history, namely the outcome that fits the predictions of the ICC. I will also show that this approach is in conflict with the method of the French Communist Left, which the ICC considers as its predecessor, because Marc Chirik was part of it.
A few examples.
In thesis 8, on the Middle East, the ICC concludes: “The centrifugal action of the various powers, small and large, whose divergent imperialist appetites constantly collide, only fuels the persistence of current conflicts, as in Yemen, as well as the prospect of future conflicts and the spread of chaos.” (Idem)
In 1946, the French Communist Left, which the ICC considers as its origin, saw clearly that there were conflicting interests between the states and the tendency of the stronger states to dominate the weaker states:
“(…) in the decadent period of capitalism, we no longer find ourselves with only contradictions of interests of national bourgeoisies among themselves but, in addition, we find the constitution of imperialist blocs and the sometimes complete hegemony of imperialist countries over many smaller ones.
The constitution of the big imperialist blocs presupposes the complete subjugation of the satellite nations. The internal contradictions of the capitalist regime do not in any way give up their rights: the contradictions between the different nations composing the geographical puzzle of the world subsist and even aggravate; the constitution of the imperialist blocs only come about by super-interest, only in overbidding the contradictions by creating another one; they do not suppress the former in any way, but adjoin them in their entirety, in order to turn them into the game of their powerful interests.” (5)
In the developments at Iran’s front door and back door, we see the pressure on the weaker Iranian imperialism of US imperialism on the one hand and Russian imperialism on the other, both of which aim to integrate Iran into their respective alliances.
In thesis 9, the ICC claims: “Russia’s current rapprochement with China on the basis of the rejection of American alliances in the Asian region has only a weak prospect of creating a long-term alliance given the divergent interests of the two states.”
As we have seen above, in 1946 the French Communist Left acknowledges the existence of conflicting interests between imperialisms, but does not rule out the possibility of forming alliances, in this case between China and Russia, or, in the case of Iran, an alliance with Russia (and China) or with the USA.
The conclusion of thesis 10 is characteristic: “This ‘strategic battle for the new world order between the United States and China’, which is being fought in all areas at once, further increases the uncertainty and unpredictability already embedded in the particularly complex, unstable and shifting situation of decomposition: this major conflict is forcing all states to reconsider their evolving imperialist options.”
Also in this case the French Communist Left demonstrated in 1946 how instability in the world order and changing possibilities for alliances within “decadence and decomposition” do not exclude centralization and even more contradictions at a higher level:
“These bloc formations, this centralization, are actually created under the pressure of more violent antagonisms and they burst and dissolve as soon as these antagonisms are resolved in one way or another to be posed again on a larger scale. In a word, this apparent centralization hides an anarchy never equaled before; it marks the decadence and decomposition of the capitalist regime.” (6)
Our times are indeed those of “uncertainty and unpredictability”. In 1946, with the defeat of the Germany-Italy-Japan axis, the world became more and more divided into the two blocs that the former Allies USA and Russia as the strongest imperialism in the world build to prepare for the Third World War. Now, thirty years after the falling apart of the Russian bloc, we see a new trend to the formation of imperialist blocs, in which this time – to put it simply – Russia as a military power and as an exporter of raw materials, and China as an economic power, find each other as allies. (7) At the same time we see a tendency to break old alliances and form new ones, even constantly changing ones, especially at the level of regional imperialism, such as Iran and Turkey in the Middle East.
Back to Iran, what about Russia, China and the European Union? Developments at the back door of Iran – at the Caspian Sea – do not attract the attention of the media, but are indicative of the advance of a Sino-Russian imperialist bloc. Iran and Russia have strengthened their ties, as demonstrated by a meeting of foreign ministers, Zarif and Lavrov, held in Moscow on 2 September. Iran praised Russia’s (vague) proposal to guarantee security in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Moscow and Tehran announced joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean. Russia offered Iran the sale of new, modern jet fighters to replace the mainly old Soviet jet fighters of the Iranian Air Force. (8) And finally, to ease the American oil embargo, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Crimea, Georgi Muradow, offered earlier that Iran use his back door, the shipping route through the Caspian Sea, over the Volga and Don, via the Crimea towards the Black Sea. “This step, which was born out of necessity, could prove to be a further component of the Chinese New Silk Road, for which the Crimea plays an important role. There are already plans for closer cooperation between the peninsula and the southern Chinese province of Hainan.” (9) Of course, as a smaller imperialism, Iran, under pressure from American sanctions, has had to pay a price for … the help of the superpower Russia. In the negotiations on the redistribution of the rights of neighboring countries in parts of the Caspian Sea, Iran got off scot-free, as the ‘democratic’ pro-American and pro-Shah group of Iranian capital, Radio Farda, complains: “The Caspian Sea, which was shared by Iran and Soviet Union before the latter’s fall in 1992, has been divided in the new regime between Iran, Russia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. According to some unofficial estimates Iran’s share of the Caspian has been reduced from 50 percent to as little as 11 percent. One of the most vocal critics of the new legal regime for the Caspian Sea, is Prince Reza Pahlavi, the heir to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi whose reign was terminated by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.” (10)
Developments at the Iranian back door are just one of many developments that show that there is not only a tendency to dissolve alliances, to increase tensions between states and even to disintegrate states. There is a very real trend, not only of increasing power of the regional imperialisms, but also towards the formation of a Sino-Russian bloc that could oppose an American bloc, whatever the composition of that bloc (with what parts of Europe). At the same time, we see that Europe and the Atlantic are no longer the central theater of a possible world war. With the rise of Asia within world capitalism, a future world war will devastate this continent and the Pacific even more than the First and Second World Wars did. (11)
Organizations such as the ICC that do not see these historical changes in the international situation and deny the dangers of World War condemn themselves as worthless to the world proletariat: unable to explain the tendency towards the formation of imperialist blocs, unable to warn of the tendency toward large-scale wars and even world wars, they will not be able to resist the bourgeois ideological campaigns of war and ‘peace’, and – more importantly – they will not be able to contribute to the workers’ struggle in response to the deteriorating living conditions that result from crises and wars. Finally, they will not be able to call for the fight of the international proletariat against all national capitals and all forms of imperialism. The relatively small groups of GCCF and Internationalist Voice that have the merit of publishing such an internationalist call, demonstrate in a number of weak and unclear formulations (see the Annex on page 2 of this article) that they have been influenced by the ICC-idea of decomposition. From this we can conclude that internationalist appeals against the dangers of an imperialist war would better not be the result of bilateral contacts between groups and individuals. Only an open discussion at international meetings, to which organizations from the Communist Left are invited on the basis of clear criteria, can lead to a clarification of the dangers of the current situation. A new Zimmerwald (12) is necessary.
Fredo Corvo, September 19, 2019.
Revised version: September 23, 2019. Proofreading: H.C.
2 Gulf Coast Communist Fraction (GCCF), Southwest Florida-based organization of the International Communist Left, Joint Statement With Internationalist Voice: Escalation of Imperialist Tensions, Capitalism Means War!
3 Nuevo Curso, 3-5-2018, What is the Communist Left? The Spanish original has been replaced with a text that suits the recent idea of Emancipación that its origins, or organic links, are not in the German-Dutch or Italian Communist Left, but in the “IV. International”: https://nuevocurso.org/diccionario/izquierda-comunista/
4 Resolution on the International Situation (2019): Imperialist conflicts; life of the bourgeoisie, economic crisis, quotation from thesis 5. This idea of decomposition has older origins. In December 2015 Paul Mattick published an article that recognizes the same tendency towards ‘barbarism’, which by the way did not explicitly deny the possibility of the formation of new blocs. See The World Wide War – A Contribution by Paul Mattick jr. With a critique by “Arbeidersstemmen”. On 8-11-2017 Sander in the ICC-split Internationalist Perspective denied the dangers of war around North Korea, saying “There isn’t a danger that any time soon a war could start between the US and North-Korea”. Relatively new is that the ICC has given up its idea that the rise of worker’ struggles since 1968 prevents WW3. This subject of the relationship of forces between capital and labor is outside the scope of this article. See for a critique in defense of the ICC old position on the historical course: IGCL, Balance-sheet and Perspectives of the 23rd Congress of the ICC: To Introduce the Poison of the Opportunist and Destructive Theory of Parasitism among the New Revolutionary Forces.
5 The national and colonial problem (1946) in ‘Internationalisme’ (Gauche Communiste de France), N° 13, September 1946, translation from A Free Retriever’s Digest, Vol. 3 Issue #2, April – June 2019 April 28, 2019, p. 15.
7 Of the many analyses on this subject, see: ICT, China Openly Declares its Imperialist Ambitions; Loren Goldner, US-China Relations in the Era of Trump; Arbeidersstemmen, De Derde Wereldoorlog: van de Nieuwe Zijderoute tot de as Rusland-China.(Dutch language)
9 From a source financed by Russia: RT-Deutsch, 2-9-2019, Russland bietet Iran Nutzung des Wolga-Don-Kanals für Ölexporte an.
10 Radio Farda, 4-8-2019, Iranians Suspect Their Government Has Sold Out Iran’s Rights In Caspian Sea. This radio station propagates the son of the dictatorial and his population terrorizing Shah as a ‘democratic’ alternative to the Ayatollah regime that came to power after his overthrow.
11 The ICT has published a series of articles on the rise of China, f.e. China: Long Held US Fears Becoming Reality? For an extensive work (in French), inspired by Bordigism: L’océan pacifique ring principal d’affrontement du monde entier. (A summary presentation can be found in ‘AFRD’ Vol.1#6 (Nov. 22, 2017).