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Issue #1549      30 May 2012

Culture & Life

The empire in trouble

Did you see the lengthy TV interview last week with the CIA whistleblower talking about how the US government has become increasingly enamoured of the use of torture, which the CIA of course is expected to administer? Many, perhaps most, CIA agents would not hesitate to use torture. And of course, the Pentagon’s notorious School of the Americas actually trains interrogators – military, security and police interrogators – from South and Central America in torture techniques.

For others however, torture is not what they joined the CIA for. They joined to “protect American values” and democracy. It must be a fearsome shock to their ideals and their consciences to learn the sordid truth.

The USA’s infamous record however does not even put a dent in Hilary Clinton’s composure as she lectures the world about the rule of law and her government’s determination to “defend democracy”. I believe that condition is called moral bankruptcy and she is by no means the only imperialist leader to suffer from it.

All the major imperialist powers – USA, Britain, France and Germany – backed up by their junior partners including Australian imperialism, are shamelessly intervening in the internal affairs of other countries, initiating assassinations (and now blatantly using pilotless aircraft to publicly carry them out) and funding and arming mercenary armies of “insurgents” to foment civil war.

It may appear at first sight, especially after the catastrophe that NATO inflicted on the people of Libya and its continuing efforts to do the same in Syria, that the world’s progressive forces are powerless against imperialism’s ruthless determination to reorder the world for its own benefit. But I believe that view is deceptive.

Imperialism in fact has been forced onto the back foot. It is still very powerful, of course, but it is also in deep trouble. Its global economic system is in disarray. Even if the capitalists’ dire predictions of financial disaster manage to frighten enough people to secure victory for the Right in the Greek elections, economic distress and financial turmoil is now endemic in Europe. There will certainly be more demonstrations, protests and riots.

In the meantime there has been a seismic shift in the alignment of economic powers that would not be at all to the liking of imperialism. The richest capitalist economies display very little growth in their gross domestic product (GDP). Nil or even negative growth in the GDP is a sign of economic stagnation. This year, the top seven capitalist economies, the so-called G7, secured only 9.5 percent of world GDP growth. On the other hand, the so-called BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) – usually treated as also-rans by their major capitalist rivals – provided a whopping 56 percent of world GDP growth.

True, the BRICS countries have a long way to go to reach the level of economic development of their G7 rivals, but at the rate they’re going it won’t take too long. Meanwhile, the G7 countries are falling into recession. The richest of them, the USA, once the world’s industrial powerhouse, is actually becoming de-industrialised. Vast swathes of closed and shuttered factory towns litter the US country-side.

President Obama boldly declares he’s going to rebuild American industry. But it’s not there anymore. The bosses of global capitalism have no interest in the welfare of the American worker, only in their own wellbeing. Globalisation meant they could boost their profits by shifting production from countries like the USA, with a unionised workforce and a high standard of living (at least in the industrial part of the country) to Brazil, India or China, where labour is cheaper and tax and other legislation is much softer.

This is good news for the BRICS countries’ economies, but leaves the G7 countries high and dry, more victims of the chaotic unplanned system known as capitalism.

The volume of trade within the BRICS bloc grew almost tenfold from $27 billion in 2002 to $250 billion in 2011. More worrying still for imperialism, it is predicted that by 2035, the BRICS countries will outrun the G7 in terms of their economic potential.

No wonder the imperialist powers are trying so hard to get their hands on everybody else’s energy reserves!

If the Left can successfully unite the people behind the working class and strengthen the movement for socialism, now is the time to do it. At the same time the bourgeoisie is undoubtedly looking for a demagogue who can become a potential leader for their traditional response to developing working class power: fascism. The bourgeois media’s promotion of the female French fascist (accompanied by hypocritical expressions of shock and horror) who briefly threatened to run for President was a warning of what could be forthcoming there.

Changing the subject entirely: did you see where Meredith Alexander, the environmentalist who had been appointed with much fanfare to be “ethics Tsar” of the upcoming London Olympics, resigned that post in protest at the ethical position of a number of the Games’ corporate sponsors. These sponsors include Rio Tinto, Dow and BP.

BP is famous for its massive and ecologically disastrous oil spills, Rio Tinto is known all over the world (and not just in Australia) for ripping up the environment and polluting the planet’s atmosphere in its ruthless quest for black gold and other stuff dug out of the ground. Dow is infamous for developing and making lots of money from the hideous Agent Orange; it owns Union Carbide but will have no truck with the idea that it somehow should compensate the victims of Union Carbide’s Bhopal poison gas disaster when 15,000 were killed and tens of thousands injured.

Meredith Alexander told a meeting in London last month: “The modern Olympics were founded here in the UK to promote peace and understanding between the peoples of the world. The Olympic values are all about celebrating our common humanity.

“But the Olympics is also big business. There is an expensive machine behind the Games that is funded by corporate sponsors. Sadly, when these sponsors are selected, money talks much more loudly than values.”  

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