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Issue #1548      23 May 2012

Culture & Life

NATO moves to surround China

At an international conference of Communist and Workers’ parties some years ago, I was taken to task by two young guys from one of the countries on the fringe of Europe. They vehemently objected to my depiction of imperialism, especially US imperialism, as trying to encircle China.

“That’s the same nonsense the USSR was always saying”, they complained. “America would rather trade with China than fight with her!”

That flabbergasted me for the moment. This was long after Gorbachev had supervised the overthrow of socialism in the USSR and Eastern Europe, to universal acclaim from imperialist quarters, and yet here was pure Gorbachevism being spouted by a Party claiming to be “Marxist” (but not, significantly, “Marxist-Leninist”).

The notion that imperialism “would rather trade with a country than fight with it” ignores the basic realities of capitalist economics. Trade may give a capitalist power a share of the cake, true. But when was capitalism (let alone capitalism in its imperialist stage) ever content to settle for part of the cake, when what it always covets is the whole cake?

The notion also ignores the extremely profitable role played in capitalism by war and war preparations. We know that if the US military-industrial complex went out of business, the rest of the US economy would be able to function much better and for the benefit of all the people of the US, but the corporations that make up the military-industrial complex would not fare very well at all.

And while those US corporations (and others like them in the other imperialist countries) control the reins of government under capitalism, they will continue to intrigue and conspire to make it possible for them to seize the whole cake for themselves.

Wishful thinking that when they talk about peace and friendship they actually mean it will avail the people nothing except disappointment. Look at the chaos and travail that has befallen the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe since the overthrow of socialism.

Gorbachev, held up by the West as a “great statesman” is reviled and derided in Russia, only occasionally quoted by even the Western media that once hung on his every word. His co-conspirator Shevardnadze went back to Georgia to be President but got the heave from there and vanished into well-deserved obscurity.

Meanwhile, the people of the countries they helped to “liberate” from socialism, are having to cope with the effects of the pillaging of public property by upstart “entrepreneurs” eager to make their very own fortunes, and the wholesale plundering of enterprises and industry by predatory international capital seeking to improve their bottom line by adding the fruits of 50 years of socialist construction to their asset base.

While this process of robbery and neo-colonialism chugs merrily along, imperialism’s leaders are pursuing their long-term military goals. British PM David Cameron was in Japan last month to close an “unprecedented” arms deal with Japan, a deal clearly aimed at “containing” China, a perennial theme of Anglo-US diplomacy.

After Japan, Cameron went to Indonesia, which he described glowingly (and unrecognisably) as “one of the world’s great democracies”. He was there to sell the “great democracy” more weapons. More than ten years ago, the then Labour government in Britain ceased all arms sales to Indonesia after British-supplied aircraft were used to bomb the people of East Timor. But now, Tory leader Cameron wants to enlist Indonesia into the ring of countries opposing China.

This is in line with Barack Obama’s assertion that “this region is of great strategic importance to us” and his boast that “we will make sure that we are able to fulfil our leadership role in the Asia-Pacific region”.

With its economy in tatters and its bloated military spread all over the world, the notion that the US has a “leadership role” to play anywhere is fast becoming an illusion. Nevertheless, the Gillard government has signed us up for a role in this costly farce, with 2,500 US troops and accompanying weapons to be stationed in the north of our country.

They are not there to protect us – no one is threatening us – they are there as part of the encirclement of China, declaring our main trading partner to be our enemy. Clever, eh?

At the same time, the US has plans in the pipeline to build a new military base in South Korea (that’ll help lessen tension on the Korean peninsula, won’t it?), to station four combat vessels in Singapore, and station more US forces in the Philippines.

Along with the new missile sites being set up along Russia’s European borders and attempts by the US to get a toehold in the former republics of Soviet Central Asia, one can well understand why Moscow and Beijing both perceive themselves as in the process of being surrounded. It’s not make-believe, it’s not paranoia, it’s a simple statement of self-evident truth.

To think otherwise is to ignore reality. The US economy is faltering badly, in the grip of the kind of crisis in fact that capitalism usually resolves with a war to eliminate overproduction that the chaotic capitalist economy cannot profitably absorb or dispose of. The imperialist economies of Wester Europe (primarily France and Germany) are eagerly joining in the military adventures of NATO, in Asia and in North Africa.

Meanwhile, in the face of this growing militarism and bellicosity, the people of the world are clamouring for sanity and a new deal. The signs are everywhere: the Occupy movement in the USA, aimed squarely at the big banks and Wall Street. The protests in Europe, especially in Greece, rejecting the European bankers’ solution to the crisis – make the workers bear the brunt of it through cuts to pensions, health care and wages – and above all the growing recognition that capitalism as a system has no answer to the increasingly frequent economic crises.

The power brokers of capitalism, the great imperialist concerns, can also read the signs. They are preparing for war to keep the masses in line. As usual, it is up to the people to stop them.  

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