The headline today from India to Hong Kong through Korea is that China is preparing its army at full speed for an invasion of Taiwan. Many analysts downplay the deployment to an intimidation maneuver, encouraged by the very course of the tension with the US in the China Sea and the climate of exalted nationalism during these anniversary weeks of the Korean War. But there is one more clue: the proximity of the US elections, which Chinese strategists have been considering for months as a potential setting for an American attack.
China is, of course, not the only power worried about the election and its potential results. The British confusion is striking and significant. Whichever candidate wins, it is assumed that the United States will not return to multilateralism and that protectionism and the goal of repatriating industrial uses of capital will be maintained. But what makes the British bourgeoisie nervous is that in the new game, the US has not finished giving the UK a role either, among other things because its strategy no longer involves creating big stable position frameworks and building institutions around them. With Trump, neither the climate pact, nor the WTO, nor the counter-terrorist military alliance have particularly flourished. He probably does not even invest too much in NATO. Under Trump, the US has become the great bargainer and the great renegotiator, and British capitals have not just found an accommodation in a strategy showing that they are not needed and leaving their dependence more obvious than ever.
Sawers, the former head of MI6, has described the damage that Trump’s style of leadership has already wrought to the UK diplomatic radar system. “The first instinct of the UK government is to work out the US position on any one subject and operate from there,” he has explained. “Four more years of Trump and the stabilising influence we have had for the last 70 years will not be there.” The British lodestar has gone missing.
It’s just a pout of spite. In the end UK dependency exists and asserts itself. If Trump wins, there will probably be a frontal assault on the EU from Washington, and Great Britain will obtain the desired trade agreement with the US, turning its productive structure into what is already its financial capital: an aircraft carrier. If Biden wins and tries to rebuild the Atlantic relationship, the British position risks being pinched between the continental powers and the US, with Ireland increasingly active in order to obtain a referendum and achieve an eventual annexation of Ulster. Johnson, in any case, continues to play his last card as if Trump were going to win, knowing that the system of deadlines he himself imposed leaves him a minimum margin of time if this does not happen.
In the EU the fear is very different. Most of the European bourgeoisies have put all their bets on a Biden victory. But it is increasingly unclear whether this will be the case. At this point, the electoral perspectives are so poorly defined that Russia has refused to sign the renewal of the START treaty on nuclear control until last November.
But in the EU, uncertainty is taking on a hysterical tone in some chancelleries. An analyst commented today that the upcoming US elections are by no means as important for any other European government as they are for the German government and the former Social Democratic foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, claimed that for Merkel and her entourage it is as if the fate of Europe depended on these elections. Among the numerous alarmist messages they have gotten from the Democrats and U.S. intelligence, is that Trump will not accept the election result. It is unlikely, but now they are worried about how a dispute over the results would affect Europe.
This is not so difficult either: the famous unity of foreign policy would blow up once again, reflecting the difference in imperialist interests and alignments of the different states and their different expectations towards the US. Fractures that, in different ways, are reproduced in every national bourgeoisie, even within Germany. Spiegel made an overview:
Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, deputy head of the German Marshall Fund and leader of the Berlin think tank representation, sees three European camps. “That of the French, who want strategic autonomy [from the United States], that of the Eastern Europeans, who are involved in a strategic embrace, and that of the Germans, whose commitment to strategic patience sometimes leads to strategic inertia. France is convinced that, due to structural changes in the world, the relationship between Europe and the United States is changing so fundamentally that the result of the elections will not have a decisive influence. Leaders in Poland hope for Trump’s re-election, but they could also live with Biden, who has had no qualms about reiterating his critical approach to Russia.
In reality, the European concern is not about a dispute that will end up in the Supreme Court with a Republican victory, as happened in 2000. The European, and specifically German, concern is that a Trump victory will accelerate centrifugal forces within the EU. In the strategic think tanks, scenarios are already being considered in which the free trade agreement with Great Britain is offered as a possibility to other countries if they leave the EU … and to more than one thrifty country the accounts do match.
Because the question from the workers’ point of view should be whether the victory of a candidate will affect the increasingly violent evolution of the great imperialist conflicts or the increase in exploitation with which capital wants to regain strength in the face of the global recession.
The truth is that when workers appear in the analysis of these elections in the media, it is in a marginal and deformed way. The old Minnessota syndicalist miners, who will vote for Trump precisely because he has created a situation of unprecedented commercial and military tension with China that is increasing the orders for coal from US steel mills, are paraded on TV and in the press. If this informs us of anything, it is how the trade union discourse which subjects workers’ demands to the company’s profits directly feeds the tendencies towards war. In case it wasn’t already clear to us after years of seeing the unions in action in the naval or the arms and aerospace industry in practically the whole world.
And the fact is that the propagandists of both candidates and of the various imperialisms no longer even intend to deceive their followers: China says that the electoral battle is between two hawks and that listening to Biden promise punishments againt China is enough evidence. The British left-wing press this time does not even aspire to raise expectations: the trade war – and thus its militaristic and warmongering drifts – cannot but continue under Biden and even, in its own external forms, become worse. The real debate between analysts and think tanks is centered on how the triumph of one or the other candidate would affect the alignment of the EU countries with China.
No one has the slightest expectation that in the coming years, with Biden or Trump, even the most dangerous and genocidal tendencies that we see today will ease up. The opposite is true. The outlook for workers is worse, whoever wins, as long as the workers’ struggles don’t spread even further.