Today’s news is that China is willing to meet the conditions for a truce in the trade war. This seems to be nothing more than a reaffirmation of what was agreed a few months ago, but it is taking place in a context of such an escalation of war tendencies that this truce is being interpreted with the relief of a larger event.
Actually, there’s more going on underneath. China gave clear signals of its willingness to engage in economic warfare, reducing its stock of US debt if the US did not ease the pressure, and the US publicly stated its implicit condition: technology transfer to American companies from Huawei’s 5G infrastructure business.
In truth, it is difficult to call it even a truce when military pressure increases. China is running ahead in its military space race and the US is accelerating its missile program to surpass China’s capacity in the shortest possible time.
In the midst of a brutal recession, the willingness to stay the course for increasingly violent clashes for regional/global hegemony is clearer than ever as it can only be financed by putting some of the cost on allies who, like South Korea, are trying to evade it. Slipping away not only from contributing but above all from the direct economic consequences of the transformation from a “world factory” to an imperialist armed “conflict zone”.
So there is no step back or slowdown. On the contrary. Never have the forces that are tearing at the fabric of commercial interests and causing the first trials of new military blocs to emerge been so strong or so successful.
The US and Britain began negotiations this week on their free trade agreement, the very foundation of the project for a new “Anglo-Saxon alliance”. Despite being in the midst of the worst recession in British capitalism’s history, the Johnson government immediately began to look at the Brexit agreement from a new angle and refused to open an EU office in Belfast to monitor transit and customs. Not only was the European presence in Belfast part of the Brexit agreement, it was fundamental for Ireland because, for the first time, it made effective a portion of sovereignty in Ulster.
And if in Europe the American magnet allows Britain a tougher attitude towards the EU, in the Pacific it leads Australia to an increasingly aggressive attitude towards China. The goal: to move national capital towards less dependence on Chinese markets when selling its products and ” accelerate the decoupling” between the two economies.
In Europe, the “brutality” of the German constitutional’s attack on the treaties and institutions of the EU, affirming the primacy of its local institutions over those of the Community institutions, has left the entire European structure shaking overnight. The context is important. The origin is a complaint by German savers that the policy of low rates and injection of money into the market (the famous “quantitative easing”), developed by the ECB after the financial crisis of 2009, had made them lose money. The message is really only formally about laws. What the German state is calling into question is the very existence of EU-wide targets above the immediate interests of German capital. And this has clearly not been overlooked either in the European institutions or in the governments. “Le Monde’s” editors wrote:
An ultimatum for Europe. It would be difficult to see the scathing sentence issued by the German Constitutional Court on Tuesday 5 May in any other way. Beyond an attack on monetary policy in the eurozone, the decision by the judges in Karlsruhe calls into question the cornerstone of the European Union, its Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, the supreme guarantor of the uniform application of European law in all member states. In other words, the Union itself […]
Instead of applying the opinion of the EU Court of Justice, which it had requested and which had found the ECB’s interventions legal, they mocked their colleagues in Luxembourg, considering their decision incomprehensible’ and beyond [their] abilities’. Without recent precedent, such an attack constitutes a threat to the cohesion of the EU. Thus the Karlsruhe court is questioning both the independence of the European Central Bank and the pre-eminence of the EU Court of Justice. … By ‘teaching a lesson’ to the ECJ, the German judiciary has compromised its authority to maintain democratic standards at risk from authoritarian regimes in Poland and Hungary, which could be encouraged to challenge its rulings. Poland’s deputy foreign minister is already delighted with the opening of the “debate” in Karlsruhe on the control of European institutions by national judges.
The judgement comes, and not by chance, at a critical moment when the ECB has embarked on a policy of massive purchase of debt from France, Italy and Spain to prevent the price range between German debt and that of the countries of the South – the famous ‘country risk’ – from opening up excessively by adding a disproportionate financial cost to the Mediterranean countries. With the promised anti-crisis programme undefined by pressure from Germany and its nordist partners who want it to take the form of credits – which would again push the southern states into “austerity” policies – and with the ECB in existential crisis, the entire EU is reeling in the midst of what can only be considered a real German economic war offensive.
The situation is close to panic in Paris, Rome and Madrid, where the employers’ organisation is demanding that the Sánchez government at least double its programme of guarantees. But responses are still barely visible in the face of the fear of a definitive implosion of the EU. France is keeping up the pressure on Brussels by blocking the integration of the Balkan countries – except Serbia – and Guindos, vice-president of the ECB who was Rajoy’s finance minister and the implementer of the austerity policies from 2009 onwards, is walking around in every forum he has available to ensure that the “ECB is still ready” to deploy its expansive monetary policy. But in reality the capitals of the South cannot accept the German diktat, nor can they oppose it to the point of further endangering their economies and seeing their jewellery bought at a discount by Anglo-Saxon or Chinese capitals which they are trying to curb despite the situation.
The result: in less than two weeks the EU has become a zombie with no guidance other than the resolve of the Netherlands and Germany to use the covid to make the ‘green deal’ more than proportionally paid for by the southerners in an accelerated strategy led by Brussels and aimed at transferring mass income from labor to capital.
But the real “red line” of the radicalization of imperialist conflicts in this decade lies in South America. This week an Associated Press report finally gave details of the new “Bay of Pigs” operation organized by Venezuelan opponents with the help of a U.S. mercenary company and the collaboration of Trump’s entourage. A delusional plan, an open secret and chaotic implementers ended up once again in fiasco and denial of all responsibility by the White House. At this point, after Katrina and Covid, the botched deal and the mafia methods of financing are almost one more finger pointing at the White House. It is very likely that the role of one of Trump’s personal bodyguards in securing private funds for the operation points to broader responsibilities. Trump, who doesn’t want to entrust the most sensitive things to a CIA he distrusts, has long been pushing Cuban and Venezuelan émigré circles in Florida into autonomous action.
More interesting are the ramifications of the coup in Brazil, where the STF (Supreme Federal Court) overturned the president’s order to expel Venezuelan diplomats. That Bolsonaro tried to resume the offensive against the neighboring state in the week before the invasion attempt could indicate that the plans of the focoist group were known at Planalto. The silence of the Brazilian military was again as significant as the judicial belligerence. Moreover, coinciding with the paramilitary operation in Venezuela, the commander in charge of the units stationed on the border of Roraima could not think of anything better than to encourage the spread of covid “to encourage the immunization of the troops”. The number of sick soldiers in the operation, designed to take in Venezuelan refugees, has increased this week by 350%.
Truces and attempts that feed wars
The false trade truce between the US and China, the impasse in the conflict within the EU, the endless struggle between the state and Bolsonaro and between the military and pro-US economists within the Brazilian government, the failure of the craziest military adventures… are all moments of relief in the context of a tension that keeps growing. The whole thing can only end in fragmentation and open conflict. The only force that can restrain and reach a certain level of development, stop the process that points towards the generalization of war, the workers’ struggles, despite coming up all over the world, are still on a local level. It is more urgent than ever to contribute to their development. And there are no shortcuts.