The “Democracy Summit” organized by the US was intended to develop an ideological argument underpinning a “bloc ideology” amid the escalating imperialist conflict. The narrative of an increasingly polarized world between an authoritarian China and a democratic US nevertheless floundered, showing the difficulties of the US in rallying its own allies around an ideology that would commit them beyond their immediate interests.
Table of Contents
- Who were the guests at the Democracy Summit?
- What was discussed at the Democracy Summit?
- What did China and Russia say about the Democracy Summit?
- Why is the EU singled out as a loser of the Democracy Summit even more than the US?
- What lessons can be drawn from the Democracy Summit
- Does the failure of the Democracy Summit push away the horizon of a war?
Who were the guests at the Democracy Summit?
The guests were 110 states. And right away problems appeared on the list: incorporating Taiwan, a state which theoretically all participants recognize only as part of the People’s Republic of China, could only increase Beijing’s anger. But the main frictions came from Europe – where neither Hungary nor Serbia were invited- and from South America, where Guaidó represented Venezuela and Bolivia was left out to the discomfort, among others, of Argentina.
What was discussed at the Democracy Summit?
The difficulties in agreeing on a common discourse were already apparent in the program of the event. The heads of state and government had their slot. Predictably, they repeated well-known and diplomatically uncontroversial platitudes underscored with a notable and probably intentional lack of emotion. The result could not but be unsatisfactory for the White House.
That’s why the spotlight fell on State Department-supported NGOs, which are not exactly mass movements, and friendly companies like Google, well concerned with marking distance from rivals like Facebook associated with the rise of Trumpism.
In fact, the message was confusing from the outset because it mixed the particularities and anecdotes of the U.S. political crisis with ideological alignments against China, Russia and, to a lesser extent, Turkey, Venezuela, Nicaragua or Burma.
What did China and Russia say about the Democracy Summit?
Only China seemed to take Biden’s Democracy Summit seriously. Instead of enjoying the failure of its rival, recognized by the U.S. Democratic press itself, it jumped into the fray as soon as the call was made public, to rehearse a response that, in a paradoxical parallelism with the Americans, held more internal propagandist logic than universalizing capacity.
Russia, on the other hand, preferred not to make a big deal of the event, opting as usual for a response more likely to find support within the US itself.
Peskov, the Russian foreign ministry spokesman noted that “an increasing number of countries prefer to decide on their own how to live” and accused Biden of “trying to privatize the term democracy”…something the Trumpists could sign on to as their own.
Why is the EU singled out as a loser of the Democracy Summit even more than the US?
If anything was clear from the Democracy Summit, it is that every US move towards the formation of a bloc aggravates intra-European imperialist tensions, as already seen with the launching of AUKUS.
This time the trigger was the exclusion of Hungary. The Orban government demanded that the EU not participate as such with a joint voice… a position that was supported by the Commission’s legal services which prevented the EU from submitting a written contribution as it did not represent all members. Von der Leyen had to settle for a minor slot lost between the interventions of the presidents and prime ministers.
What in principle would be no more than a matter of protocol anecdote is nevertheless relevant because in 2022 the Commission and France are planning a summit that would launch a European army. They are trying to overcome for this the resistance of the US and NATO who are relying on the Eastern countries to prevent it from being capable of giving a real “strategic autonomy” to the Franco-German axis such as the one proposed by Borrell and the Commission.
The fact that the Commission does not even have the capability to have an overarching and unifying presence among EU member states even when asked to do so by the US is certainly not a sign of competence and will not help Brussels, Berlin or Paris to move forward on a joint rearmament and intervention strategy.
What lessons can be drawn from the Democracy Summit
Today, the political crisis in the United States, which reflects deep divisions in the bourgeoisie of that country, makes it impossible for it to create a global discourse capable of ideologically influencing the positioning of its allies.
During the course of the event’s keynote speeches it was never clear whether the main goal was to associate the internal rival with the external enemy or to define new axes that would boost the confrontation with China. Moreover, within the US, those who manage to best assemble the discourse that associates external autocracies with Trumpism deny the centrality of the confrontation with China.
And so, if the attack on Trumpism and the references to BLM-style racialism remained hopelessly one of the many and increasingly frequent corny parochialities in the U.S. foreign message, the second was frustrating even for the most willing European media to adopt the ideological campaigns coming from the Democratic wing of the American bourgeoisie.
Does the failure of the Democracy Summit push away the horizon of a war?
This ideological weakness, which, as we note, is also seen in the Chinese response, does not mean that both powers are in any way prevented from continuing to escalate their tensions toward war week after week.
If ideological enlistment of workers is fundamental for any state when entering a war, ideological enrollment of allies is only a minor tool in the mechanisms of internal disciplining within the military and economic blocs.
Not even during the cold war, when the US first turned democracy and “human rights” into the figurehead of its bloc ideology, can it be said that it managed to make that discourse adopted as its own by its “pillars” in most of the world, from Chile to Taiwan through most of pro-US Africa. However, with one or the other, it retained different flavors of more or less crude or sophisticated “anti-communism” that served to keep at bay any commercial and strategic temptations that might arise.
The difference between the US confrontation with the stalinist USSR and today’s China is that then, in the great majority of cases, for the local bourgeoisies a possible “Russian turn” meant losing power and ceding it to those sectors aspiring to become a state bureaucracy. Today, on the other hand, the sectors of the exporting agrarian bourgeoisie, powerful in almost all the semi-colonial countries, are very tempted by the Chinese purchasing and investment capacity.
These sectors, the same ones that were behind the rise of Bolsonaro in Brazil for example and now cheer the american events of Vox, however much they have also supported a Guaidó or clamor against the masista government of Bolivia, are not going to be too compelled by the bidenist discourse: China offers them gigantic contracts and investments without asking them for sacrifices or restructurings in their political apparatus.
Biden is trying to establish an ideological competition typical of the cold war, when the imperialist game orients both the sectors in power as well as the most militant groups of the national bourgeoisies to encourage nationalism at home and not to align themselves exclusively with any of the great powers in contention, neither economically nor ideologically. Neither economically nor ideologically.
That is to say, the underlying currents that hinder the formation of economic-military blocs of global dimensions are the same ones that bring us closer to war every day and at the same time also disable the power of ideological conditioning factors to promote the discipline that defines them.