Interview with American Marxist on Bush in Belgium

The Belgian Marxist organisation Vonk interviewed John Peterson of the Workers International League on the reasons for Bush’s arrival in Belgium. (February 2005)

Q: Bush is coming to Belgium together with his new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They are going to pay a visit to the leaders of the European Union and NATO. How do you think we should understand this visit?

A: Bush’s first presidential term was a foreign policy disaster. He alienated nearly all of US imperialism’s traditional allies, broke all the traditional diplomatic conventions, tore up or rejected treaties and agreements that did not suit the interests of the US multinationals, and pursued an aggressive unilateral policy on a world scale. But despite the colossal might of the US, its power is limited. It simply cannot force its will on all countries all of the time. Therefore Bush is forced to seek points of support, especially in Europe.

However, the very appointment of Condoleezza Rice as his Secretary of State confirms the real attitude of the US ruling class toward the rest of the world. Her worldview is even narrower and aggressively imperialist than former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s. Bush and Rice would like nothing better than to dispense with diplomacy altogether, but the reality of the situation does not allow this. They are stuck in a quagmire in Iraq costing hundreds of lives and billions of dollars. This is having an effect here in the US. That money does not come from nowhere. Cuts are being made across the board in health care, education, pensions, infrastructure, etc. It is the sons and daughters of American workers who are dying halfway around the world in a war for corporate power and profits. The war and its cost directly affect millions of workers here in the US.

Therefore, Bush is compelled to find points of support, especially in Europe. His visit to Brussels is an attempt to re-strengthen the ties between the US and the European capitalists and their respective governments. It is to be a meeting between the rich and powerful in the interests of the rich and powerful. Despite the Belgian authorities’ public rejection of Bush’s policies, they also would like to have better relations with the US, which is after all the most powerful economic force on the planet – it pays to have powerful friends.

Q: Some people on the left see this visit as a new chance for ‘multilateralism’ in international relations. Do you think this is what Bush is aiming for and does this approach represent an alternative to American imperialism?

A: Yes, as I said earlier, this is an attempt – forced on Bush by economic and political necessity – to at least give the impression of a “multi-lateral” world. What this means in practice is that Bush and co. would like other countries to help pay for the mess in Iraq – in exchange for part of the plunder. The reason some European governments opposed the war in the first place was not due to moral outrage or a principled position on the question of imperialism and war. It was simply that the US, as the biggest bully on the block, made it clear that it was not going to share the spoils of war with anyone. Capitalists do not go to war for the fun of it, but in order to make a profit. So why should the Belgian ruling class spend millions, risk the lives of their soldiers, and incur the rage of their citizens if they are not going to get anything in return? Now, with the failed unilateral policy in Iraq, Bush is coming to offer a few scraps from the reconstruction of Iraq to those who will now join him in that swamp. In a situation of world economic crisis, even these scraps are a temptation to the corporate interests in Belgium. This does not represent an alternative to unilateral American imperialism. Take NATO for example. It is a military association of several capitalist powers in defense of their mutual interests around the world. It serves to defend the interests of the rich and powerful, not of working and young people. An “alliance” between US and the Belgian ruling class would be the same thing. A “multilateral” occupation and plundering of Iraq is no alternative to US “unilateralism”.

Q: In Belgium there will be many demonstrations and actions aimed at protesting against this visit of Bush. Some of the demonstrations have been called by the antiwar committees and the Marxists of Vonk. What do you have to say to them as an American Marxist?

A: As an American Marxist I send my heartiest fraternal greetings to the workers and youth of Belgium in their protests against Bush and war. Millions around the world have come out on the streets against the war in Iraq. Here in the US, there were unprecedented protests in hundreds of cities. This movement fell dramatically once the war began, but it is beginning to pick up again, as the effects of the war are felt more and more here at home. The opposition in Belgium serves as inspiration to the millions of Americans who did not vote for Bush and who reject his policies as strongly as you do.

It is clear that Bush’s visit offers nothing to Belgium’s working people and youth (tomorrow’s workers). But opposition to Bush and his policies should not take an anti-American attitude. It is not “Americans” in the abstract who are pursuing the policies of US imperialism, but its ruling class. The real enemies of the workers and youth of Belgium and the world are the capitalists of all nations, including of course the capitalist class of Belgium. Capitalism means war. Until the for-profit system is ended, there can be no peace.