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Issue #1740      July 20, 2016

Culture & Life

US OK with Brexit?

Here’s a question for you: Did Britain’s Brexit vote really upset the USA? Yes, I know US Secretary of State Kerry shot off to Europe in a hurry immediately after the vote, ostensibly to mend fences but there could have been a much more serious reason.

The EU is essentially an imperialist construct. Its original purpose was to enable post-WW2 European capitalism to more rapidly regain the imperialist stage. This was particularly important for the two major European powers France and Germany. To negate the influence of socialism represented by the USSR and the countries of Eastern Europe, the USA poured money into Western Europe through the Marshal Plan. US intelligence agencies, backed by their European counterparts and the Vatican, engaged in subversion and terrorism to prevent the ascendency of left-wing governments in Western Europe.

Over the years, as capitalism regained its strength in the main European countries, the goal of integrating them into a single economic bloc was advanced, step by step. US imperialism supported this development as strengthening Europe’s anti-Soviet role. The assumption that European imperialism would be content to play second fiddle to their American “partner” was naive but with NATO to keep everyone in line, what could possibly go wrong?

The trouble began with Europe’s actual colonial empires. France was booted out of Indo-China and then lost a long struggle with national liberation forces in Algeria. The US moved into the colonial vacuum in Indo-China left by the French departure but eventually they too suffered an ignominious defeat. The attempt by the long-serving fascist regime in Portugal to crush the national liberation movements in its colonial empire resulted in revolution in Portugal itself. Bourgeois democracy weathered the storm but US and European capitalism was badly rattled. The push to turn Western Europe into a global power in its own right was given more impetus by the imperial ambitions of French and especially German corporate heavyweights.

The USA looked on approvingly as Germany fostered the destruction of Yugoslavia, bastion of the anti-imperialist non-aligned movement. The break-up of Yugoslavia into a cluster of tiny countries accorded with US policy of fracturing troublesome states into a number of impotent “statelets” whose resources are nevertheless still available for exploitation. That the destruction of Yugoslavia brought fascism to power again in the former German puppet state of Croatia did not unduly concern the US. Only Left-wing governments worry the White House.

Left-wing governments like that of Slobodan Milosovic and the Socialist Party of Serbia. His attempt to maintain the Non-Aligned Movement and to promote even a modest form of socialism led first to his country being bombed by NATO and then to he himself being kidnapped and taken to the Hague where he was treated to a farcical “trial” while his health was systematically undermined until his heart gave out and he died.

The destruction of Yugoslavia benefited both German and US imperialism. It was begun by a resurgent German imperialism but finished by combined British and US imperialism. Inter-imperialist rivalry is an inevitable concomitant of the development of capitalism to the stage where profits are being invested abroad. British imperialism initially stood aloof from the attempt by European capitalism to form a common market, but soon realised it would have more influence in it than outside it.

Once Britain became part of first the Common Market and then the EU, it became a stalking horse for its powerful ally, the USA. Just as Britain is an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” for the US and NATO off the coast of Europe, so British imperialism is an unshakable ally of the US and NATO within the forums of the EU.

At least, that was the perception. The Brexit vote however raises the very interesting question of whether US imperialism really wants that situation to continue. Europe is a developing rival to US imperialism. German and French imperialism, in particular, protect their own interests regardless of US wishes. Germany, for example, co-operates with the US on some things, such as the overthrow of the elected government in Ukraine, but does not co-operate on things like imposing sanctions on Russia, where the action the US wanted would have inconvenienced German businesses.

French armaments corporations similarly refused to cancel their sales of specialist warships to Russia, despite specific urging from the US to do so.

As a consequence, the US is obliged to pursue a two-pronged approach to the EU. On the one hand, it is feverishly strengthening NATO’s capabilities, conducting massive joint military exercises combining US and European forces while simultaneously expanding the aggressive alliance eastwards into former socialist countries of Eastern Europe and placing US missile systems right up to the borders of Russia.

On the other hand, the US, supported by Britain, tried to restrain European companies from developing trade with Russia. The US is trying to inhibit the growth of its rival, European imperialism, to keep it under America’s thumb. However, German, French and Italian companies found trade with Russia very lucrative and were understandably resentful of US efforts to interfere with their profitability.

The trade union-based “Lexit” (Left exit) campaign in Britain was concerned with regaining British national sovereignty and defending British jobs and working conditions. The “Brexit” campaign on the other hand, which was backed by many of the reactionary forces, was all about surrendering UK sovereignty to the US.

As far as the capitalist media is concerned, the vote in Britain to leave the EU is a victory for Brexit, a view that accords with US interests. The severing of Britain’s ties to the EU simultaneously weakens European imperialism and allows Britain at least to be tied even more closely to the United States. Removing Britain from the EU significantly lessens the financial clout of the EU.

US Secretary of State John Kerry went post-haste to visit the EU leaders to reassure them that the US was still their devoted supporter, but US/European rivalry is a fact of capitalist life. It will become more significant as the economic centre of world trade shifts eastward with the development by Russia and China of the extraordinary energy and transport super-route they are establishing through Central Asia.

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