At recent gatherings of the major powers (from the D-Day celebrations to the G8) a lot of noise has been made about more cooperation between the major powers, in particular between the USA and Europe. What lies behind this? Is there really a common position developing? Yossi Schwartz explains why any idea of unity between the major powers is a mere pipedream.
On Tuesday, June 8, the UN Security council voted by 15 vote to zero in favour of a resolution endorsing "the sovereignty of the new Baghdad government". The hypocrisy of these people has no bounds. In spite of the opposition of some of them over a year ago to the US adventure in Iraq, they are now endorsing a puppet government put in power by the occupier to serve their interests.
What kind of sovereignty they are speaking about we can see from the fact that Tuesday's vote also gives a mandate to the US-led occupation forces until the end of January 2006! It authorises them to "use all necessary measures" to retain control, namely to kill and torture the Iraqis in the name of democracy while continuing to rob Iraq. The vote of these bandits came as President George Bush opened a three-day summit of the G8.
"The vote today in the United Nations Security Council was a great victory for the… Iraqi people," Bush said after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is amazing Newspeak. Give something a nice new glossy name; making sure the name is actually the opposite of the actual content! What is a victory for imperialism is presented as a victory for the Iraqi people.
Putin on his side welcomed the deal, "Without any exaggeration I would state that it is a major step forward." However, since he has some experience and is fully aware of the fact that to repress even a small nation, like Chechnya, may take a very long time and without there being any guarantee of success, he added, "Naturally, it will take quite a long time before this adoption of the document will have any impact on the real change on the ground in Iraq."
Similarly German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who poses as an opponent of the war - especially since the US imperialists excluded the German imperialists from any possibility of exploiting Iraqi oil - said the resolution would bring "more stability" to the country and give the Iraq people "more of a chance." At the same time he rushed to add that, "[The resolution] has to be judged on its capacity to create a new situation with respect to the chaos, not necessarily tomorrow morning but reasonably soon."
So why the sudden change of heart? Why are imperialist countries like Germany France and even Putin's Russia are supporting this resolution? Are we witnessing the beginning of a new transatlantic imperialist honeymoon?
A new honeymoon?
During the month of June the imperialist leaders are meet no less than four times. First, on June 6, George Bush visited France for the D-Day commemoration ceremonies. The G8 summit of the world's richest countries took place in America June 8-10. A joint US-European Union meeting in Ireland is planned for June 25-26, and a NATO summit in Istanbul is taking place two days later.
NATO is preparing some minor concessions for the Arab leaders. It will offer limited military cooperation to some Middle Eastern countries. This is especially aimed at helping those Middle Eastern countries that are facing social unrest. This is part of the so-called "Istanbul co-operative initiative". It is clear that imperialism sees the Middle East as the main source of instability in the world. The above measures are therefore aimed at curbing the dangers to imperialisms vital interests. Back in April, Colin Powell, had already asked NATO to take on a "a new collective role" in Iraq. He even considered NATO taking a leading in the coalition's operations in south-central Iraq.
At the D-day celebrations Bush tried to appease the French and Germans in particular. He suggested that they should forget about the past. By which he meant they should forget about their little differences over the invasion of Iraq. At the G8 the European powers responded politely to Bush's request by signing up to his plans to encourage so called "democracy and reform" in the Middle East. They can thus hide behind this smokescreen. This way it appears that they are not supporting US occupation but the introduction of "democracy". What this means is that Bush needs help. He needs the military support of the Europeans in Iraq. Even this obtuse President has realise that the most powerful nation in the world cannot hold down a people against its will, and is thus crying for help. His tune has indeed changed since last year!
The Bush administration is clearly in trouble. Things have not gone according to plan in Iraq. This has woken up a wing of the US ruling class, that already had doubts. They are beginning to question the idea that American imperialist interests are best served when the United States goes it alone. This means that the idea of "winner takes all" isn't always the best policy. A burglary is best carried out with friends who can back you up. On the other hand the European capitalists and their political representatives are equally worried about the situation. Faced with growing unrest around the world and particularly in the Middle East, they feel the need to cosy up to the big guy, the United States.
They are all well aware of the fact that the Middle East is becoming increasingly unstable. It is an area of vital interest to both the US and the European imperialists. They cannot afford to lose control of it. And it isn't the only source of instability. They are also looking to the growing unrest in Latin America, and they cannot afford to open too many fronts at the same time. That is why the so-called handover of "sovereignty" in Iraq seems such a good idea to them. On the one hand they hope it means they can have more of a say in future developments in Iraq, and on the other they hope it will serve to calm the situation down. This explains why the UN Security Council voted unanimously for this resolution.
There is a growing sense in both the ruling classes of the United States and of Western Europe that they are facing a common danger. They know that the increasing economic and social instability can lead to their worst nightmare: the uprising of the working class and the masses throughout the Middle East.
Reactionary pipe dream
However, we should have no illusions. Their attempt to build a new imperialist common front is no more than a reactionary pipe dream. Although they may have common interests in the face of the threat of a mass revolt of the workers, they have deep and conflicting interests when it comes to who should control what resources and strategic areas around the world.
For example, Michel Barnier, France's foreign minister, has clearly stated that France is not going to send troops to Iraq, neither now or in the future. In spite of the superficial unity, the US is finding it hard to convince its European "friends" (Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Romania) to stay in Iraq. The Spanish experience has set a "bad precedent" for them. The Czechs seemed poised to withdraw their forces early next year. The only loyal lapdogs of Bush remain the British leaders. While the rest of the Europeans are having serious second thoughts, and the Spanish have already gone, Tony Blair is preparing to commit even more troops. This explains why in Spain the Socialist Party won a surprise victory at the elections, while the popularity of Blair is in serious decline.
The European bourgeois is also very worried at the developments taking place in Israel/Palestine. The fact that Bush is seen as indulging Ariel Sharon and his brutal attacks on the Palestinians is worrying them even further. They feel that this can only serve to destabilise the Middle East even further. They would prefer some measures that would serve at least to curb the excesses of Sharon. Again, it is mere hypocrisy. They do very little for the Palestinians. In fact what they are worried about is a possible uprising of the Palestinian people that could spill over into the surrounding countries. What they want is some cosmetic measure that might serve to calm the situation down
At the UN council they may have shown a degree of unity that was not there a year ago, but this cannot hide the fact that in the Middle East the USA and the EU are travelling in different directions. America recently imposed trade sanctions on Syria. The EU has just finalised a trade and co-operation agreement with Syria. The same conflict of interest is clearly visible in Iran. The American policy is one of confrontation (although even there different wings of the US ruling class are moving in the opposite direction), while the Europeans have a softer policy based on so-called "constructive engagement." In reality what this means is that powers like France and Germany are trying to make up in Iran for what they lost out on in Iraq.
However, the position of the European imperialists is not determined by these factors alone. It is not easy for the European bourgeois and their political representatives to be seen to be too friendly towards Bush because of the popular opposition in Europe to the US administration. This was clearly seen in Italy a few days ago when 100,000 turned out to protest against Bush when he arrived there on a state visit.
A poll carried out by the Pew Research Centre published in March revealed a sharp turn around in the attitudes of Europeans to the United States over the past two years. In the summer of 2002 63% of the French people had a positive attitude towards America, but by March 2004this had shrunk to 37%. In Germany the same process can be seen, with the figure falling from 61% to 38% in the same period. All this took place before the news of the widespread use of torture in Abu Ghraib prison. We can imagine what the figure must be now.
The European workers and poor understand that that big business controls the agenda of the American government. This outlook has led Michael Moore, a polemical American film-maker and write, to become very popular in much of Europe. Moore's film, "Fahrenheit 9/11", received the top prize at the Cannes film festival. When he went to pick up his prize he received a 19-minutes long-standing ovation. His book "Stupid White Men" has sold 1.1million copies in Germany alone. The same Pew poll confirmed that 60% of Germans and 58% of French are convinced that the so-called "war on terrorism" was being fought "to control Middle East oil".
Some bourgeois commentators have hopes for a common imperialist front. These hopes are based on the growing investments of Europe in the USA and of the USA in Europe. A recent study by Dan Hamilton and Joseph Quinlan of the Centre for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins University noted that "Corporate America pumped $87 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) into Europe in 2003 that represented a jump of 30.5% from 2002." Meanwhile the Europeans accounted for 65% of FDI into America last year.
However, these economic links are likely to increase the economic tension between the US and European capitalists, rather than alleviate them. They will also serve to further exacerbate the tensions between the European powers, as investment levels will be unequal. Because of this, some serious bourgeois analysts are openly raising the prospect that the transatlantic relationship could evolve from partnership to strategic rivalry.
Thus the four summits taking place this month are unlikely to improve things much. The Europeans are wary s they are still waiting to see the results of America's presidential elections in November. Some of the European bourgeois are placing their hopes in Kerry. If John Kerry wins - for there is no guarantee that he will as he has no real fundamental differences with Bush - some Europeans capitalists will be delighted. The Democratic candidate has stated that he will put ties with the US's traditional allies (read Europeans) at the heart of his foreign policy. That explains why they would much prefer John Kerry.
However these illusions are ill placed. If Kerry does win the US presidential elections the "honeymoon" will not last long. A new President does not change the fundamental economic and strategic interests of US imperialism. After a very short period the real relationship between the USA and Europe would appear as it really is. It will vanish very quickly. What Kerry wants from the Europeans is to put more money and troops into Iraq. He wants to share the burden with them. This is his main "solution" to the problem of instability in Iraq. In reality it amounts to the Europeans having to solve the problems for the Americans. This they cannot do, for they cannot remove the real problems on the ground. The Iraqis do not want to be oppressed by any form of imperialism. They will resist the Europeans as much as they have been resisting the Americans (and their minor ally, the British). At the same time the Americans do not seem to be keen to give up the profits they are planning to make out of Iraq. Thus the Europeans would get the worst of both worlds - having the burden of trying to stabilise Iraq, but no profits in exchange.
Thus the recent spate of friendly noises coming from the US and European imperialists reflect merely their growing problems worldwide. They cannot reconcile their conflicting interests. Anyone who has illusions that somehow through these differences, the European bourgeoisie or the Kerry wing of the American bourgeoisie can be forces for peace are clearly living with their heads in the clouds and refuse to see reality.
The only real lasting peace can come when the interests of all the imperialist powers are removed. For this to happen the workers have to come to power in the USA, in Europe and across the world. Only then can there be peaceful cooperation between the workers of the world.