The week closes with an overwhelming conservative victory in the British elections immediately greeted by speculative markets. Labour has lost seats where the brexiters won the referendum while Boris Johnson has an absolute majority in Parliament allowing him to lead the EU’s exit from a position of strength after three years of tug-of-war and truces. But these elections alone will not heal the fractures within the British ruling class. The political apparatus has been damaged and the triumph of the nationalists in practically every Scottish constituency forebodes an internal front no less tough than Brexit itself.
But with global industry in recession and world trade nosediving, this week’s focus has not centered on the British campaign but on the “green new deal” concocted in parallel at COP25 in Madrid and at Brussels. It doesn’t really matter that the Madrid UN conference ends today in the vaguest generalities. That the Chilean presidency did not have the ability to plot anything more sound. This “failure” makes it clear that “the ecological transition” is an objective of great global capital and that only the central countries have both diplomatic and economic resources to impose it globally. After all, the greatest transfer of income from labor to capital since the last world war having no unequal consequences according to the world’s regions would be simply unbelievable. It is no coincidence that the main “resistances” have come – in different ways and for different reasons -from China, the Arab countries and Africa.
Such a transition is not even going to be automatic within Europe. The EU has presented its “green deal” to be “climate neutral by 2050” as its development plan. It does make sense: it involves recapitalising agriculture, transport and industry. But the joy of the totality of capital is not shared equally between individual national capitals. Each individual capital has its own strategy for getting the most out of the total capital, and competition is not only not weakening, it is actually intensifying, thereby aggravating the imperialist frictions even within the EU itself. First example: the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary are throwing Germany’s nuclear plan under the bus, encouraged by France, which wants to sell its nuclear power stations and technologies to the East.
Germany, having turned the shutdown of nuclear power plants into its flagship eco-industrial reform, depends more than ever on Russian gas to supply its industry at acceptable costs. U.S. gas, which arrives by sea through France and Poland, is much more expensive. But Russian gas enters Germany via only two routes: Ukraine and the Baltic. This is why Germany and France this week presented themselves as mediators between Ukraine and Russia. Beyond a new exchange of prisoners and a new ceasefire, what is at stake in the negotiations is the land-based gas supply, its continuity and its stability.
Nord Stream 2 was the fuse that primed the bursting of the Franco-German axis and is becoming an increasingly violent dispute between Germany and the US. The Americans understand that this is both a trade balance problem -they want to sell their gas- and a geostrategic question: they cannot allow Russia to hold the key to the gas supply of the main European industrial centre.
The result has been something that until very recently would have been unimaginable: the US Congress imposing sanctions on Germany as if it were fighting against North Korea. The pressure is not only harmful by closing US markets and freezing assets of German companies directly involved in the construction of the pipeline. If Germany backs down, its “ecological transition” would be called into question and with it that of the EU… that is to say, German capital would be called into question in what represents its only medium-term plan for survival and revitalization.
The importance of gas supply in the “ecological transition” is not only generating tensions in the North. In the Mediterranean it threatens to extend the war now confined to Syria into a war involving Northern Africa and the Aegean. The key: Cypriot gas, Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian deposits and the exclusion of Turkey and its satellite state in Northern Cyprus from the gas business.
In a last and dangerous installment, Turkey, after quite a few tensions and threats, reaches an agreement with the sorry remains of the Libyan government -confined in Tripoli – on the demarcation of maritime borders. This agreement allows Turkey, in theory, to claim a wide maritime area that includes the main offshore fields explored by Americans and Italians under Greek, Israeli and Egyptian protection. The Libyan government besieged in Tripoli could not care less. The Egyptians are part of the international support of Marshal Haftar, there is no way Israelis would break their alliance with the Emirates and Saudis for the Libyan government’s sake, and the new Italian government remains unconcerned. On the other hand, Turkey, as Erdogan has said, “is ready to send troops”.
A Turkish military intervention in Libya -another province of its former empire- would be simply disastrous, accelerating the imperialist conflict on Europe’s borders and kicking a new hornet’s nest of interposed armies and forces. The Greek government’s pressures against the EU, of Tsipras against the European Socialist Party and in general of the Greek bourgeoisie as a whole to achieve a new wave of sanctions against Turkey only manage to douse the powder keg with gasoline.
The first country where the “ecological transition” turned into a social revolt was France. The “yellow vests” appeared just over a year ago in response to the fuel surges of Macron’s plans. However, from that petty-bourgeois and patriotic grassroots revolt in which class claims barely emerged to the current climate of struggle, a decade seems to have passed. According to our comrades in France, the maturation brought about by the struggles against precariousness and above all the strike of the high-speed railroaders have left a mark on the class. Not only have hundreds of thousands of workers taken part this week in a continuous series of mobilizations, the discussions around the demonstrations and workplaces revolve around the extension of the strikes and the need to form assemblies to lead such strikes without trusting the unions. The magnitude of the situation certainly deserves it. And the strategy followed by the bourgeoisie in the rest of European countries will depend to a large extent on the outcome of the clash.
The reverse side of the “green new deal”
The “green deal” not only involves a massive redistribution of rents in favour of capital, it also increases the pressure of imperialist conflicts. The “ecological transition” is unfeasible without natural gas and very difficult without uranium. The same capitals that are threatened to be left out of the trading inside the biggest markets if the “ecological footprint” begins to be fully used as a non-tariff barrier, turn out to have within reach the key of the “transition” energies that make possible the same game excluding them. Or at least they have the opportunity to fight for them. If the cataclysms that accompany trade wars and drive them towards their militarization were not dangerous enough, the “exit” imagined by capital will accelerate them even more.
The scenario is no longer just one of global industrial crisis and recession, trade war, imperialist tensions and increasingly direct attacks on living, retirement and working conditions. In addition to all this, there is now an industrial and transport reconversion -the “green new deal”- and its immediate consequence: a new global impulse towards imperialist conflict. All in all: impoverishment and war. Pushing against such tendencies, only our capacity for organization and affirmation of the most basic human needs stand in their way.