The forces pushing towards new blocs

14 August, 2020 · News> Global situation> Weekly Report

Trump presents the peace agreement between Emirates and Israel.

In the international media this week has been dominated by the Belarusian crisis… although they have been very careful to forget about the appearance of the workers on the scene. However, the military escalation in the Mediterranean has discreetly passed to the inside pages in almost all countries. And it was difficult to find references to the background movements that are reordering the map of global imperialist alliances, despite the fact that this week has been full of relevant milestones from Latin America to the Chinese coast.


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The increasingly violent Mediterranean chess game

The French Tonnerre helicopter carrier is escorted by Greek and French ships.

After fulfilling its mission, imposing for a moment the map of the erdoganist Blue Fatherland, the Oruç Reis withdrew to port. The first reaction of the Turkish government seemed almost conciliatory, appeased after having asserted itself by force. But it was short-lived. The next day they announced that Turkey would soon be issuing licenses for the extraction of hydrocarbons in the disputed waters.

The security with which Ankara is pressing for a new water demarcation against Greeks, Cypriots and Egyptians is no mere bluff. They feel relatively sheltered from a wave of EU sanctions. On the one hand, Germany cannot break the game if it wants to resurrect its negotiating table on Libya, rescued by Erdogan to get away from the threat of Egyptian invasion of the African country. On the other hand, Turkish diplomacy won two important trump cards this summer: the first, Malta, which has moved on to support the Tripoli government and has already begun to curb French, Cypriot and Greek retaliation proposals in Brussels.

And above all… The United States: today, it was made public that the United States and Turkey are negotiating the establishment of a demilitarized zone in the center of Libya which would be accompanied by the return to oil production and the withdrawal of mercenary troops brought by Turkey itself… and by Russia.

The American attitude could only infuriate Turkey’s main European rivals. This morning, Nathalie Loiseau, former French minister of European affairs and advisor on geostrategic issues to Macron was complaining about the prospect of

a partition of Libya between a Russian and a Turkish controlled area (…)Such an outcome would mean that Turkey, a member of NATO, would partner with Russia and share the spoils of another weakened and war-torn country in Europe’s neighborhood. (…)

The Europeans, however, are surprised by Washington’s continued silence on Turkey. Ankara’s provocations against other NATO members such as Greece and France go unnoticed, as do its violations of a UN arms embargo and the obstacles it has placed in the way of the fight against terrorism. Even Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile defense system did not cross a red line for the Trump administration: not long ago, the Pentagon announced that it would continue to buy Turkish-made F-35 parts until 2022.

No red lines, just green lights: this is the way the Trump administration has handled its relationship with Erdogan so far. The approach has only emboldened an illiberal regime and increased the risks to the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the transatlantic alliance. With friends like these, benign neglect is not an option.

The article, which of course does not mention either the internal battle of the French state against the Turkish sponsored Muslim Brotherhood or the economic value of the gas fields in dispute and of which the French company Total would be a partial beneficiary, serves to give legitimacy to the mobilization of French military resources to Crete, where they will reinforce the Greek army.

Egyptian tanks in a joint exercise between Arab countries in El Hamam, by the Mediterranean coast.

But let’s not fool ourselves, it’s not a game of two. In fact, the change that has taken the pressure off Erdogan these days comes from a completely different front. The US has encouraged the recognition of Israel by the Emirates in exchange for abandoning all plans for expansion in the West Bank. The agreement consolidates the formation of a regional bloc aligned with the United States between Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Jordan, Egypt and Israel. Calling it a “bloc” is evidently exaggerated since the main cohesive element is none other than the common rivalry of its members against Iran and Turkey. But the truth is that if we add to French pressure that of the Arab-Israeli coalition, Erdogan’s leeway becomes much narrower… and on all fronts. Even Qatar, the traditional pivot between Tehran and Ankara, had to bend over backwards this week and sign a Gulf Cooperation Council declaration supporting the extension of UN sanctions against Iran.

Reinforced by the map of emerging alliances, it did not take long for Egypt to involve Morocco and Algeria in a joint strategy to expel the Muslim Brotherhood from the government of Tripoli and Turkey from North Africa. And it didn’t stop there. This week Egypt announced that it will establish a military base in Somaliland, an unrecognized country that emerged from the breakup of Somalia. Ethiopia sees it as a direct threat to its security amidst tensions over the Renaissance Dam. But Turkey as well, because it would be a direct threat to its bases in Sudan and Somalia … established in order to pinch the Saudi army with the help of Qatar.

Overall, we are seeing the forces driving the formation of imperialist blocs thrust the old regional powers trying to assert their own imperialist policies (Turkey, Iran, Qatar, Russia itself) into short-term accommodation with each other. In the medium term, however, this will not be enough and they will have to place themselves under China’s wing. China, on the other hand, has already taken its first steps towards a bloc by bringing Russia into its agreement with Iran.

Semicolonial countries in a fractured world: the example of Argentina

Workers at a Foxconn electronics factory in China

These trends towards bloc formation are not merely political or politico-military. The trade war has already profoundly changed the international division of labor. The president of Foxconn told the Indian press the other day that the days when China was the factory of the world are now a thing of the past. And he said that in the near future there would be manufacturing ecosystems in every region… and in every bloc.

A world in which global capital is not only in crisis but is fractured and becomes less interdependent, is a world in which international financial mechanisms are less interested in rescuing bankrupt states. And that’s the new discourse we see on the rise for the IMF. Hedge fund spokespersons criticize the Lagarde era for worsening the debt fiasco and call on its new president to be less generous from now on.

This means that if the trade war had already led to attempts to compensate with sales in China in more than a few national capitals, this trend will increasingly move towards financing. The battle between Argentina and the USA for the election of the new director of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) is a collateral development of this. The IADB is the American branch of the World Bank; it finances large infrastructure projects and a good part of the fabric of NGOs and local development organizations, tourism, etc. A more austere IADB regarding the states’ development projects, as the USA wants, would push practically all of South America even more towards China… and would place them in a worse negotiating position at a time when the economic and social crisis has accelerated wildly, the governments are moving toward more cutbacks and direct attacks on workers, and national capitals need more than ever to push for major works to take a breather.

At this point, China is already Argentina’s largest trading partner. And soy weighs less and less in the basket. The lemons and pigs and their derivatives, to the horror of the British press, are taking on a role that is measured in billions of dollars in investment. And of course, China now wants to enter into public works and finance them, the historical ground of the IADB.

Hugo Sigman, head of an Argentinean capital group associated with Carlos Slim (Mexico) to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine for Latin America.

Of course, Argentine capital does not want to go into the Chinese orbit in exchange for a few billion in sales. But the forces leading to bloc formation are not going to stop operating because of that. The slogan is to look for clients at all costs among the still called emergent countries and that is the reason behind the change of orientation on the new commercial agreements of Mercosur, but the truth is that in a world in which markets are closed and fractured into proto-blocs, the lion’s share of what is accessible to national capitals like Argentina, ends up passing through Beijing.

This does not mean that, on the long road ahead, unusual connections of capital that translate politically may not appear as a reaction. This same week Argentina and Mexico announced the agreement to produce the AstraZeneca covid vaccine (the so-called Oxford vaccine) in both countries. What lies behind this gigantic business – Argentina alone has already ordered 22 million doses at 4 dollars each– between two capitals that lie at the same geographical distance as Washington and Moscow, is no special ideological affinity. The Mexico City-Buenos Aires vaccine axis is actually the Sigman-Slim axis. And it is these collusions between well-known capital groups in telecommunications, cement, laboratories, automobiles or hydrocarbons that encourage what lies beneath the “Puebla group” and other continental initiatives. If Argentina now joins the EU’s contact group on Venezuela with Mexico, it is not only because it is distancing itself from the implosion of Chavism – its rival the Lima group of Piñera and Bolsonaro is not there to set an example either – but also because saving the Mercosur-EU treaty is more vital than ever for Argentinian capital.

What about our class?

This week, the @huelga channel has given almost daily news of new strikes in Iran and, during the last two days, in Belarus. But these have not been isolated outbreaks. We continue in the trend of the development of workers’ struggles around the world which we already observed in June and July. And August still holds a great deal to give. The acceleration in imperialist movements and tensions that we are seeing still has a potential counterweight in the development of the workers’ response.

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