As we have seen in South America, inter-imperialist conflicts are projected along the fracture lines of the national bourgeoisies, to the point of becoming a key point to understand even the most modest local elections.
We have seen it in Uruguay, where the National Party, the run-down machine of the landlord classes and the Catholic agrarian bourgeoisie, finally won by a few votes against the candidate of the Frente Amplio and former mayor of Montevideo. The classical interpretation would have spoken of the differences between “the hinterland” and the capital, of the emergence of an urban ultra-right beyond the traditional right wing or the growing weight of evangelical churches. However, as if these issues did not provide enough clues by themselves about the underlying tension between Argentina and Brazil, what grabs the headlines is Bolsonaro’s assertion that “Brazil and Uruguay partnership will become tighter” and that Lacalle Pou’s first greeting was for the sad Guaidó.
It could not be otherwise. It reveals the chronic lack of sufficient markets and investment destinations -what we call imperialism- that marks the global situation and drives it towards a generalized conflict between capitals. And that conflict reproduces itself, in a less subtle way, the more strategic the region and the weaker its national capital, within each bourgeoisie. But South America is far from being the main dividing line today.
The seismic faults of a new block tectonics
It has become clear this week that the US strategy will not give a single day of truce to the Chinese state and its unity, feeding its centrifugal elements from Xinjiang to Hong Kong at the same time as it openly feeds the frictions with the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, which have become the new hot border between the two powers. The crossroads of this strategy lies in the Taiwan Strait, an area which is today more volatile than North Korea and its missile developments.
In Europe, Brexit continues to be the vector directing the main movements. As far as the British bourgeoisie is concerned, the electoral campaign turned towards the direct discussion of the consequences of a realignment of national capital towards the US with the accusation that the brexiters are secretly selling the NHS to US capital. Corbyn’s breaking of a taboo that at this point was more about volume than substance has opened a “anything goes” phase revealing the extent to which the British bourgeoisie is far from even beginning to heal its internal wounds.
But Brexit is not just an internal British divide; it is not even limited to a dividing line between the continent and Britain. As the new President of the European Council pointed out today, its development can only be expected to lead to greater confrontation between EU states and their bourgeoisies. Although Germany and France presented a minimal agreement for the reform of the Union, their divergences are only widening, driven by opposing strategic outlooks. Faced with a tendency towards polarization of the imperialist scenario between China and the US, France is increasingly betting on an “opening up to Russia” at the regional level and a common front with China in the trade war.
For France, the inclusion of South Africa on the Moscow-Beijing axis – staged during the first joint exercise this week – adds urgency to this strategy, given the Sahelian disaster and the costly withdrawal of the metropolis from Françafrique. Germany, which is late in the race to invest capitals in Africa and whose interests clash with those of China on the continent with increasing violence, is being pushed in the opposite direction by the African imperialist game, despite French efforts to “Europeanise” its own military interventionism.
In this context of a real “trench warfare” with France, the proximity of the NATO summit is giving Germany an opportunity to a movement towards the US that goes beyond the trade tug of war. Germany does not want to lose its “nuclear protection” against Russia and does not want to depend on France in a strategy of atomic deterrence against Moscow.
What’s more, with the move of the Santiago Climate Summit to Madrid, it is taking advantage of the momentum of the green discourse – including the “climate emergency” declaration – to fire against Chinese expansion in Europe, now presented as an ecological danger.
In the European scenario, moreover, there is no lack of even sharper fracture lines. The main fracture line lies in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean. Just this week, as the agreement between Greece and Italy to supply gas from Cyprus, Israel, Gaza and Egypt to Europe was being concluded, tension with Turkey was once again on the rise. And today it turned into a problem of border recognition between Libya-Turkey on the one hand and Greece on the other. The eastern Mediterranean is the Taiwan Strait of this part of the world.
This multiplication of frictions, threats and positions covers the whole continent, encouraging conflicts that, although often remain relatively quiet, show the growing difficulties to find stable balances between states in a general framework of imperialist realignment and global capitalist crisis. Example: Spain and Portugal.
Traditionally dependent on British capital, the Portuguese bourgeoisie is one of those who has suffered the most with Brexit. The long crisis has strengthened the role of Spanish capital and the Portuguese attempt to balance it with Chinese capital has proved to be, to say the least, counterproductive. However, the political crisis created in Spain by the independentist drift of the Catalan petty bourgeoisie led, in principle, conservative strategists, traditionally Hispanophobic, to openly raise whether it would not be possible to fuel the flames burning its neighbor:
Although it is true that Spain will do everything possible to prevent the internationalization of the conflict and to avoid its international dimension, the known evidence shows its inability to tackle the problem. Inevitably, it will fall into the international sphere. And it would be good, at that time, if Portugal had a firm doctrine on the subject. For us, as a state and nation, it should not be indifferent to have only one neighbor in Iberia or to have that same neighbor in an accelerated process of decomposition. It is definitely not the same.
Meanwhile, since the fake independence referendum, the manifestos of “personalities” and politicians in support of the independentists, generally promoted by the Bloco de Esquerda and the Stalinist PCP, followed one another. Televisions and newspapers, regardless of their party sign, hammered during these years against “the violence used against the ballot boxes” by the Spanish government and other beloved issues of the independentists, creating a social consensus that reflected what had been cooking in the ruling class.
It sufficed for the incompetence of the Spanish administration to control the flow of the Tajo river, a typical and increasingly recurrent border problem, for “the Catalan question” to leap from private manifestos to institutional declarations, first of them propounded by the Lisbon City Council. Today the PSOE made a formal complaint to the Portuguese socialists. In Spain no national media gave it special relevance, a way to play down the question and try to fake a normality that no longer exists.
Fault lines and earthquakes
We are not facing an imminent war between Brazil and Argentina, the United States and China, not even between Turkey and Greece, let alone between Spain and Portugal. But the use of militarism, media wars, media consensus… are accompanying and reflecting an aggravation of inter-imperialist conflicts around the globe that normalize new “hot spots” and “borders”. To the extent that inter-imperialist conflicts are supported and reproduced in the internal conflicts of each bourgeoisie, the language of threats and interference should not be undervalued. The scenario that is being drawn is that of a generalization of the frictions between states feeding internal “civil conflicts”, generally led by sectors of the discontented or drifting petty bourgeoisie (Hong Kong, Catalonia, Chile, Lebanon…). For the workers this means that the “popular revolts” are becoming increasingly mined land. If the working class fails to assert itself quickly in front of these “popular revolts”, the internal dynamics of these revolts will lead to their “spontaneous” framing in the imperialist conflict (as we see in Iraq).