Recession, inequality and war

23 November, 2020

1 Week after week Spain demonstrates with increasing clarity the reorganization of capital brought about by the current recession and its consequences. This week’s announcement of a new macro-bank merger is the latest example of the acceleration of capital concentration and the fortification of monopolies. The fact that the banks are heading these tendencies is not accidental: the fear that a record increase in the default rate of companies will generate a financial crisis accentuates the logic of recovering absolute profits by increasing scale and reducing staff.

Mergers and concentrations are a European phenomenon, although not a trans-European one. They occur exclusively within the borders of each country. The difficulty for a unified European capital to emerge only underlines that although the crisis and continuous quarrels within the EU can be settled punctually with last minute agreements, the organization of states is actually going through a process of decomposition. A process driven by the clash of imperialist interests between the states, whose capitals are unable to unify their interests and form a single base from which to lead the continent.

2 This wave of mergers, like all waves of capital concentration, leads to a transfer of income from labor to capital. And not only through dividends -which are the central element and the goal- but also through remuneration. The average wage increase of 1.2% was not due to workers’ salaries, which are falling, but to what they now call VIP salaries, that is, the salaries of the bourgeoisie and the corporate petty bourgeoisie. At the other end of the distribution, the average income of working families falls sharply and it is estimated that 26% of the population already finds itself or will find itself before the end of the year in poverty.

Back in Spain, unemployment is felt in the neighborhoods. Capital is intensifying the exploitation of those who are still employed, but it does not have the capacity to exploit more work. Many of the migrant workers who already had documents, the group of workers with the lowest salaries, have stopped contributing to the social security system. Scholarship holders, apprentices, young people in their first job, have a market wage at zero or negative price, even in official calls of the ministries. The whole governmental plan for the thousands of migrants arriving from the African continent to the Canary Islands consists of returning them to their countries of origin and paying the latter so that they can curb the migratory flows before they reach Spanish waters.

3 At the heart of the migration crisis lies the disaster of the French war in the Sahel and the crisis of the sweatshops in the Sahara. … which is inseparably linked to the imperialist conflict between Algeria and Morocco over the control of the former Spanish colony. Morocco uses migratory pressure to push Spain to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara. And Algeria pushes the Polisario to a necessarily sterile offensive in order to force a negotiated exit in the fear that France and Spain will end up tipping the balance against Algerian interests.

But the potential for conflict in the Sahara has global repercussions and forces impossible and dangerous decantations and divisions. Jordan and the Emirates have opened consulates in Laayoune as a form of support for Morocco against Algeria, but also as a sign that the Makhzen has been reconciled with the Arab alliance led by Saudi Arabia against Turkey and Qatar. His interest was to achieve this before Algeria did, and Morocco seems to have succeeded. This move falls within the framework of the secret talks of the Alaouite monarchy with Israel, but also the blockade of Turkish companies in Morocco, the first demand of Saudi Arabia on all its allies.

4 Turkey, once again, is in an increasingly uncomfortable position in the region. It is considered by some NGOs to be the main backer of the Moroccan occupation of the Sahara over the past few years, but Turkey is being pushed to take its investments to Algeria, where it controls for example the country’s main metallurgical plant. But Algeria is not an overly comfortable ally either: it demands support for the Polisario if Turkey wants to sell drones and military equipment, does not want to hear about a confrontation with France and is the first to ally itself with France against the Muslim Brotherhood sponsored by Erdogan.

5 About this, the week offered us an important turn: in an interview with Jeune Afrique, Macron charged against the ideological campaigns of Russia and Turkey in Africa and France. Apart from the identity between the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey, he directly accused many of the commentators, video makers, and French-language media of being financed by Russia or Turkey. This is a crime within France and changes the status of the European military forces and the troops they coordinate in the Sahel. That is to say, it is not an idle threat.

And it is not an exclusively French phenomenon either. This week the CNI, the Spanish intelligence service, presented ELISA, an artificial intelligence dedicated to the monitoring of publications on the Internet considered by the state to be dangerous and disinformative. The tool appears in parallel to the creation of a government committee dedicated to the monitoring and control of what the government considers fake news.

Both the French and Spanish cases indicate that the room authorized for free expression is narrowing. In both cases the consequences point primarily to more or less violent sectors of the petty bourgeoisie (Islamism, bannonism) and to their relationship with external powers. But we should not deceive ourselves, when the state creates new automatisms of control its effects are universal, lasting and always accompanied by an implicit threat of repression with wider ambitions. Among the classifications with which the CNI identifies the internal enemy are: erosion of the legitimacy of state leaders and the rejection of the market economy.

6 But let’s go back to North Africa and the Mediterranean, today a continuum in conflict and crisis from the Canary Islands to Somalia and the Greek-Turkish border. In Libya, European participation in the peace process did not succeed in ending the negotiations with a single consensus government, but it achieved an important success: to unify the military forces occupying the oil facilities … euphemism and excuse for expelling Russian and Turkish mercenary troops from controlling the main wealth of the country. However, it seems that both Turkey and especially Qatar, are trying to reverse the agreement by continuing the military agreements signed with the Tripoli government, in which the Muslim Brotherhood participates. Egypt’s strategy and the government of Benghazi, which it supports, seems to be attacking them with increasing violence in order to separate them from the rest of the forces to which they are allied.

But in reality the game takes place on a much wider board. Greece, Emirates and Egypt are consolidating an anti-Turkish front, both military and diplomatic, which is French-sponsored and which is being joined by the Palestinian National Authority, confronting on its own the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas. Further south, Egypt is forging a military alliance with Israel on the one hand and Sudan on the other, to curb Turkey’s growing influence in Somalia from its Red Sea base (ceded by the former Sudanese regime) while reorganizing and rearming its army to make it a force with almost continental projection capacity.

7

After the frustrating gains that the Nagorno Karabakh adventure finally gave Turkey, Erdogan, increasingly cornered, by the economic crisis and with the national bourgeoisie demanding results again, is trying a withdrawal. He asks for dialogue with Brussels, tries to lower the tension with Saudi Arabia and returns to a pre-2000 speech of rapprochement with the EU and the US. He does not deceive anyone. That game is a race against time between the devaluation of national capital and the policies of attacking workers’ conditions. And it does not look like it will be successful, so before it falls, it will return to pursue rapid market expansions and applications of capital in which to profitably allocate accumulated capital in the short term, that is, it will put military pressure back on the table. Another thing is that it will get results. The one that has been his most faithful ally up to now, Qatar, seems to doubt this and seeks ways of reconciliation with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

8 But, even if Turkish imperialist pressure in Africa and the Mediterranean were to be temporarily relaxed, the imperialist tensions will keep growing. The announced opening of a Russian base in Sudan threatens to shatter all power balances in the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa between China, the US, the Europeans, Turkey, Israel and the Arab countries, all with military bases on the ground. And also at a critical moment, when many see in the Ethiopian war in Tigray the first act of implosion and disappearance of the Ethiopian state. Even Egypt, which historically has always supported every disruptive force in the country and which recently has not stopped playing all its negotiation trump cards in the Renaissance Dam conflict, seems to be restraining Eritrea from entering the war.

For the moment, the anti-human disaster is already brutal. Even if it were to be confined within Ethiopian borders, the UN estimates that the war would lead to over 200,000 people seeking refuge in Sudan.

9 From the Sahara to the Red Sea a war and death belt is being lit. No power can be expected to deactivate it or turn it off. However this does not mean that there is no alternative. The protests of workers on both sides of the front in Libya brought the fighting to an end. And today, one need only look at the teachers’ strikes in struggle against the management of the Covid in Algeria, which erupted city after city, from district to district, to realize that, the working class still has a lot to say in all the Maghreb and in all Africa.

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