Costa’s triumph in Portugal, the revolt in Ecuador, the Turkish offensive in Syria and the antisemitic attack in Germany have made headlines in the international press this week. Under the noise of cheers, gunshots and bombs, some important news has gone unnoticed. This week we will compose our weekly summary with them.
Global economy in slowdown
The week began with the first conference of the new director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, who said she expected a reduction in growth in 90% of the world. The OECD finished by predicting a quasi-stagnation of world trade. And shortly thereafter we learned that August was the tenth month in a row in which the volume of total cargo transported by air in the world fell.
It is obvious that in a climate of commercial war and stagnation of international trade, exporting countries are the first to suffer the blow. It is not just among the big exporters of agriculture and raw materials. The other way around. In Britain, Dyson renounces the production of its long-awaited electric car. In Germany, which moved from third to eighth place in the “competitivity” ranking, 1,300 layoffs were announced in the car industry this week. Apparently, Brexit already reduced its total exports by 3.5 billion euros.
Europe in political decomposition
Inevitably, the nervousness spreading through the European bourgeoisies further undermines the prospects that the EU will be able to use its political weight to dodge further blows from its rivals. A diplomatic response to the Turkish military offensive in Syria could not even be approved this week because of a new Hungarian veto. It is not just the Visegrad countries. The fact is that the former “Franco-German axis” follows the quarrel. Just yesterday, Macron blamed the new chairwoman of the European Commission, von der Leyen, for the fact that the European Parliament defenestrated the French candidate for the committee. France, which wants to involve more European states in the war in Mali, knows that it will be difficult to maintain German funding for its eternal war in the Sahel.
But the new -and clumsy- German impetus was not only shown in von der Leyen’s tricks and pouting at Macron’s African policy. This week Merkel wanted to make it clear that it is Germany that dictates the Brexit conditions. Headlines about the supposed impossibility of an agreement, spread like wildfire through the news agencies after a conversation between the British premier and the German chancellor. Obviously they did not like them in Ireland, the supposed protagonist of the negotiation. Yesterday, after a meeting with Johnson, Varadkar showed the style of play of the islander bourgeoisie: he predicted “agreement” -denying Merkel- but after the deadline for Brexit deal, increasing the pressure on Britain.
China Loses Economic Power, Gains Political Strength in Asia
As things stand, the prospects of a convergence of imperialist interests between France, Germany and China, capable of articulating a common front in the face of the US tariff offensives, are getting further and further away. The EU and the Beijing government may even sign an investment agreement, but it is difficult to expect a broader alignment. Among other things because Chinese imperialism is losing strength if we measure it by its capacity to export capital and its main effort is now in Asia.
Before the announced “informal summit” that begins today between Modi and Xi, China wanted to reassure Pakistan, its old ally. The play in two acts aims to place Beijing as a regional judge. Its cards: Kashmir, the object of discord between the two nuclear powers of the Hindustan is a ruin for India… but also an internal risk for Pakistan, as well as a permanent threat for both.
U.S.: Infidelity and Retaliation
On the other hand, the United States does not cease to retaliate against any of its partners. Its objective seems to be to discipline its historical partners. Against all odds and breaking the promises made months ago, it finally did not support Brazil’s membership into the OECD. And by now Washington has not accepted the credentials of the new South Korean ambassador for two months, in retaliation for Seoul’s departure from the military information exchange agreement. These are relatively “symbolic” measures, but a glance at Japan is enough to realize that any step beyond the symbolic will have serious material consequences for any hesitant «ally».
The working class in the face of crisis and wars
In this context of rising economic crisis and growing imperialist tensions, the most important of the open struggles, far from advancing, seem to be exhausted under the iron grip of trade union control. It is so in Chubut and it is so in the USA, where the reopening of negotiations between General Motors and the union advances that, with a staff exhausted and confused, the union already feels free to propitiate an agreement that responds more to shareholder’s profit than to the material causes of the mobilization.
The problem is that the crisis is synonymous with the profit crisis, that is, the unions are laying the foundations for the “sacrifices” that they will sell us shortly. In Brazil, the OECD urged Brazil to accelerate Bolsonaro’s “reforms” in the labor market (more precariousness, more haste to dismantle pensions and public services) in the face of data that speak of an already exhausted accumulation cycle. The OECD will have no problem making itself heard. If it were up to the ruling classes, even the right to strike would be suspended. Modi, that supposed incarnation of the Indian popular classes in nationalist prime minister, fired 40,000 public workers this week with the stroke of a pen for having made an strike what resulted to be painful to the state and national capital.
It is not an exclusive problem of the peripheries of global capital or of the “in crisis” industries. It is the whole capitalism that is in crisis. In Spain the expectations of growth were cut one more week down and Sanchez did not have a better electoral message than to promise a “fair distribution” of the burden of the crisis. We know this “fairness” well. In Greece Mitsotakis is already about to apply it preventively with a “growth law” that incorporates, among other attacks, a labor reform… and “reform” means here massive precarization
This week’s general picture is that of the beginning of a real general offensive… not on the Syrian-Turkish border, but all over the world. A recession is coming and every national capital wants to arrive with the best possible cards. That means with the greatest capacities both to face its external rivals, and to increase our exploitation in absolute terms. And those capacities go through convincing us of a sad argument according to which the cause of our sufferings is not the crisis of capitalism and the national bourgeoisie but its competitors -China according to the trade unions in the USA or the IMF according to the so-called “indigenous” Ecuadorians. Since according to that we would be “in the same boat,” that of national capital, we must save its results by “distributing the burden with fairness” -as Sanchez says in Spain or Fernandez says in Argentina- that is, by accepting more exploitation and hoping to recover something if capital recovers a freshness it lost a long time ago. But the logic of sacrifices only leads, as the workers of General Motors or Chubut can count, to more sacrifices. And the gentle acceptance of sacrifices, sooner or later, leads to mobilization for war.