Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested. V. I. Lenin Economic & Philosophic Science Review No 1163 December 03 2002 Subscriptions (£25 p a.) & circulation: 078679 96074 www.epsr-marx-lenin.co.uk
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The rotten swindle of capitalist-dominated Britain, which is what is really sickening workers, will still be there no matter how 'sensibly' and politely conciliatory the FBU are at ACAS. The firemen's political instincts to stuff Blairism are the BEST thing about them, not the delusion that a ‘reasonable enough' wage negotiation will transform working-class happiness in 2003. But the real significance of standing up to New Labour stooping for monopoly capitalism lies in its reflection of the international warmongering disasters seen coming out of the West’s sordid cover-up attempts to blame imminent economic collapse, before it has arrived, on "foreign evil-axis powers", and to prepare to bully a way out of “free-market” catastrophe. This degenerate arms-race stunt is FAILING, and worldwide forces of anti-imperialist revolution, taking many bizarre initial forms, grow irresistibly. More emphasis on the stinking class-elitism Blair's vicious muddleheads represent, 'masterminding' the approaching greatest economic crisis in history, and less on 'Real Labour' illusions would do nicely, but class-war emerges nevertheless. The potential political challenge to Blairism surfacing via the firemen's dispute (see below) fits EPSR expectations of a new centrist movement developing shortly but needs to be seen in its international context to be properly understood and worked with. And it is a deeper issue than merely linking the government's shabby propaganda against the FBU claim while approving Blair and the MPs 40% salary increases and even more lucrative moonlighting second incomes; setting 1 billion aside for the depraved, needless, and illegal slaughter of Iraq; and generally condoning the ludicrous glitzy lifestyle of the grossly overpaid and useless tycoons and celebrities New Labour loves to surround itself with. The fawning petty bourgeois trade-union mentality would stick with Blair IF NEW LABOUR IMPERIALISM WERE WORKING. The decisive issue, well beyond the fake-'left' consciousness of Gilchrist & Co, is that western imperialist global domineering IS IN DEEP TROUBLE. The 'free market' economy is collapsing towards slump everywhere, despite all denials, and with no possible remedy. The ‘over-production' crisis will soon not merely be paralysing ALL the major monopoly capitalist economies, as Japan has been for the past 12 years without cure, but will rapidly force such huge balance-of-trade debtors (failures) as the USA and Britain to ruthlessly start putting MILLIONS on the dole queues from every walk of life. But far more significantly than even that, the West's warmongering blitzkrieg programme against "foreign enemies" in the "axis of evil" (as the diversionary cover-for and excuse-for the catastrophe of imperialism's own economic management) is ALSO FAILING. In unfathomable roundabout ways, the sickness now becoming evident in NATO imperialism (and always there in reality) is beginning to affect the working classes who have traditionally usually gone along with the arrogant trampling domination of the world by the West. If the aggressive NAZI mentality of the Bush/Blair warmongering plans remained a surefire winner in a world, now, of just one superpower, then mass opinion would continue to go docilely along with such NATO blitzkrieging. But as when Cold War anti-communism started seriously being given the bird following US imperialism's humiliating defeat in Vietnam (in spite of inflicting holocaust destruction on the entire Indochina region via bombing, napalm, blockade, and savage, defoliating chemical warfare), so are workers now doubting a successful outcome for failing Western economies to be able to crush anti-imperialist resistance, (now dubbed "terrorism' rather than "communism" all round the Third World.) Still too nervous and politically naive to denounce "capitalist freedom" outright, now being so wholeheartedly embraced by New Labour, workers have certainly been sensing that enough is going wrong with the pensions scandal; the stock market collapse; the ludicrous housing market; more unsolved problems than ever in schools, higher education, and the health service; hopeless road congestion and public transport chaos; and now the beginnings of unemployment fears and falling living standards which are agitating all the public service professions (firemen included); -- enough to raise doubts about this "enemies abroad" scam, and wonder why such expensive and dangerous foreign military adventures are so suddenly "urgently needed". Workers confidence in Western propaganda will then have taken a hammer blow from Chancellor Brown’s astonishing and abrupt casual confession that all his rosy economic forecast figures were totally wrong after all (as the ESPR's alternative collapse outlook, always taken from capitalism's own sources and admissions, as again below in this issue, has consistently demonstrated, for years, would prove to be the case). But the even more corrosive suspicion of a global system failure in economic, political, military, and philosophical domination has now started merging in with the fears that the whole "New World order" lifestyle aspirations are nothing but utterly deceitful garbage. Workers will fully grasp this (and its revolutionary consequences) last of all. But it is an interesting speculation how much the mood of petty bourgeois intellectual doubters starts to affect attitudes throughout the West, including in the ruling class itself, where damaging hesitancy and splits are already well established (see last EPSR) and where the real knowledge of imperialism's difficulties obviously begins. Here is the view from the Foreign Affairs editor of the traditionally Foreign Office-linked Observer, mouthpiece of capitalist interests: Anyone who tells you the war against terrorism is being won is lying. It is the great heresy of free societies, so speak it softly, but the accumulating evidence of the past four years is that terrorism can - and does - work. And it is working on a global scale. It is a simple fact that is more terrifying than any of the attacks themselves, 11 September included. Strip away the millenarian agenda and its language of apocalyptic struggle - the Great Satans, the enemies of God, references to the Crusaders. Strip away, just for a moment, its extreme religious aspects and what you are left with is a non-negotiable political agenda. That aim is to remove - or neutralise - American and Western influence from large areas of the globe, including states that are not exclusively Islamist. It is a tension that was in part foreseen by Benjamin Barber in 1992 in his essay 'Jihad versus McWorld', which predicted that the greatest threat to democracy would be the clash between the spread of a homogenising American culture - paradoxically indifferent to what was happening in the world it touched on - and a new kind of anti-political tribal politics which, he predicted, would see ‘the breakdown of civility in the name of identity; of comity in the name of community'. For the time being at least, it seems it is the terrorists who are winning. It is a pessimistic outlook, but an easy case to make. Let's start with the most obvious economic impact. The fear engendered by a spate of attacks by Jihad International -- al-Qaeda and groups that share its agenda -- is crippling the long haul tourist industry; threatening the West's airline industry and has almost shut down tourism outside of the US. That cost is likely to amount to billions of pounds in the long run, its impact being felt as keenly in countries such as Indonesia and Kenya which are heavily dependant on tourist dollars. What is less quantifiable is what John Stevenson, senior fellow in counter terrorism at the International Institute for Strategic Studies describes as al-Qaeda's aim of 'neutralising' America and the West's influence in large areas of the world. Already the US and other countries have reduced embassies in vulnerable areas of the world, like other nations - Britain included - closing down missions at times of threat. But it is not just diplomats who carry our message into the world. Business too is supposed to fly the flag for our values. And as businesses become more wary of operating in threatened areas, they too will withdraw to safer areas of operation. AND IN OUR withdrawal from exactly those places where the kind of Islamist extremism we fear most is at its most threatening, we give up the intellectual and psychological space to those who most threaten our values. Because the real war with al-Qaeda, as James Thomson, president of the Rand Corporation think-tank, pointed out in the organisation's summer review, is not simply one of missiles, snatch squads and bullets. It is quintessentially one of ideas. And it is in the war of ideas that we are most notably failing in the war on terrorism. As Thomson's overview points out, even a year after 9/11 America and its allies still have little idea of the roots of the discontent that has made Jihad International so attractive to so many young Islamist men, or the etiology of the hatred of America. Not only is the message not getting across, but there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of where the real sophistication of Jihad International comes from. It is not in its ingenious and despicable skill in butchering innocent civilians, or even in its apparently formidable organisational skills, which in reality may be far less formidable than assumed, but in syndicating and marketing its brand of terror. This is not the old terrorism of the IRA or ETA, with structures, doctrines and pseudo-military organisation. What Bush and Blair and all their allies do not understand is that it is the idea of al-Qaeda, not its physical reality, that is the key, an idea which has taken deep root in countries from Afghanistan to South East Asia and Africa. At the centre of that idea is an oppositional discourse that seeks to drive the west - particularly America - out of what Osama bin Laden has claimed as the wider Islamic nation. That misunderstanding is represented at its worst by George Bush who - it is said - keeps a list of 12 names of the top al-Qaeda terrorists in his desk and ticks them off as they are captured or killed. But al-Qaeda is less a hierarchical organisation out of James Bond led by a sinister mastermind, than a dynamic dialogue between like-minded radicals conducted via mosques, radical publications and the internet. A specific order is almost redundant as individual groups know exactly what must be done and when, adapting themselves to new security constraints and to new targets. And what appears to have been 'understood' before the attack on Mombasa was that it was the right time to polarise the war on terrorism. Just at the moment Bush and his allies had constructed a grudging consent from the Arab world for its tough line on Iraq, Jihad International brought in Israel. In his belligerent threat to hunt down the perpetrators of the Mombassa attacks, Israel's right-wing prime minister Ariel Sharon has threatened to upset the delicate consensus between America and its allies on the issue of the war on terrorism, and on the Security Council over Iraq. FEW OF SHARON'S friends among the hawks that surround George Bush are unaware of his motto- 'Always escalate' - and his long history of ill-conceived military responses from the Gaza raid, the invasion of south Lebanon to his handling of the al-Aqsa intifada, that have delivered a quick political or military fix at the cost of long-term disaster. By bringing Israel explosively into the mix a week before the deadline for Iraq's weapons declaration, Jihad International has shown a political and operational astuteness that is quite terrifying. What is more terrifying still is the notion among the West's political classes that it is an organisation, not an idea, that they are fighting. With each new arrest, each new targeted killing, we congratulate ourselves that we are winning - until the next atrocity takes place. All the while, we fail to tackle the ideas that replace each arrested or dead terrorist with a new recruit.
For a bourgeois ruling class whose 800 year reign is notoriously founded in part on its seemingly inexhaustible enterprise optimism, this does not sound very confident at all. But what could be more damaging for relations with the working class than this, an establishment whose whole class rule runs on effortlessly-assumed (and deferred-to) notions and networks of superiority and privilege, suddenly and unexpectedly not sure of itself in what should have been a pushover, knocking six bells out of assorted 'daft towelheads' all round the world. Kicking your own working class in such circumstances is very dangerous indeed, and in fact is what revolutions are made of. In these newly developing conditions where all manner of glib fake-'left' nonsense-programmes of centrist confusion (talking 'revolution' but still basically relying on reformist pressure to sort imperialist crisis out), will flourish, - it is important to keep on reviewing all the crucial sources of Western monopoly capitalism’s breakdown. First and foremost, the imperialists CANNOT make their economy work any better once it has reached a stage of global 'overproduction' crisis (the endless greed of all the giant arrogant multinational corporations, endlessly investing in slicker production, so as to capture world market leadership off each other, using the profits of sweated-labour to do it, thereby creating more products in the end than can be bought back by the ever more scrimped on wages of the world's workers). The anti-Marxist 'left' posturers (Socialist Alliance, etc) hate such science because of its unavoidable revolutionary communist implications (dictatorship of the proletariat, etc), and so try to dismiss the consequences of such analysis as "catastrophism" or "crisisism". But Marxism is unashamedly a philosophy of history moving ONLY in class-war revolutionary upheavals, when the old way of ruling has run into a total CRISIS of no longer being able to satisfy everyone’s ever growing aspirations because of that very class domination screwing everything up. The steady growth in towns of bourgeois workers and entrepreneurs could ultimately no longer tolerate being restricted by the landed aristocracy, and the monarchical feudal systems all eventually had to be overthrown. The steady growth of working-class aspirations and anti-imperialist aspirations has been challenging Western monopoly capitalist world domination for a long time, with ever-increasing dimensions and success (Paris Commune; Bolshevik Revolution; national liberation triumphs post-1945; etc; etc). Imperialist rule has now reached a stage of economic, political, social, and cultural rottenness, decadence, and plain failure, protected by ever more vicious arms-race bullying, that the system’s greatest-ever CRISIS now looms, and is fully to be expected by even the faintest grasp of Marxist science. For economic evidence of the crisis, the EPSR follows a good tradition in relying on the evidence and admissions from capitalism's own sources, such as the bourgeois press: The boom in the US at the end of the 1990s thus took place in a new environment. Despite the longest post-war expansion, inflation kept on falling because capacity grew at an even faster rate than the economy overall. America's bust was much more like the collapse of a business cycle in the 19th century, when periods of debt-fuelled over-investment led to long periods of stagnation or retrenchment as the boom's excesses were purged. Lower interest rates helped, but were not a complete cure. As a result, the quite substantial easing of economic policy over the past couple of years has not had the potency it had in the past. US interest rates have come down by 5.25 percentage points, those in the eurozone by 1.5 percentage points and those in Britain by 2.0 percentage points. Yet all three economies have been stuttering along this year and, according to the OECD, will not grow much faster in 2003. In countries such as China and Singapore, prices are already falling, and in the G7 inflation is running at little more than 1%. Inflation falls when economies are operating below trend - when there is a gap between actual and potential output. The OECD is expecting that every
G7 country apart from Canada will have an output gap next year, leading to downward pressure on inflation. There are also plenty of early warning signals of deflationary pressure. In the US, inflation as measured by the consumer price index is running at 2% but half of the goods and services that make up the index are falling in price. Ian Harwood, global head of economics and strategy at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, last week said that Japan was in a similar position in the 1990s, where prices of goods started falling four years before outright deflation set in. The country most imminently at risk of deflation is Germany. DKW say that there is historically a close link between the output gap and the change in the inflation rate in the euro area. "Based on an unchanged exchange rate, we see euro area inflation falling to around 1% by the end of next year and only 0.5% in 2004. Given the dispersion of national inflation rates inside monetary union, that spells major deflation risk for Germany and France." Poor profitability America is not immune either. Three years after the peak of the hi-tech bubble, the US remains saddled with a glut of capacity and the corporate sector's profitability is poor. Profits are what makes capitalism tick: they determine how much companies invest and how many people they hire. The state of corporate profitability in the US is not good news for the global economy and will intensify deflationary pressure. Mr Harwood identified five reasons why deflation is a problem: wages fall more slowly than prices, thereby squeezing profits still further; expectations of further price declines mean spending is postponed, creating a deflationary spiral; rising bankruptcies hit banks and their willingness to lend; falling prices mean rising real interest rates - even if the latter are reduced to zero; and a falling price level raises the real burden of debt. It is the last that could be the real killer. Modern western economies have been built on an ever rising quantity of debt. In the 1970s and 1980s, borrowers could rely on rising prices to inflate away the real value of their debts; now for the first time since the depression of the 1930s there is the looming threat of debt deflation, where the burden of debt grows bigger rather than smaller. Policy makers are not about to repeat the mistakes of the 1930s (at least, let's hope not), but if the global economy fails to respond to the stimulus, they don't have an awful lot left to offer.
This ends with the typical bourgeois illusions that the 1930s need never have happened (if only there were cleverer-clogs like the writer around) but this typical conceited optimism looks immediately doomed by such daft blatant nonsense as Chancellor Brown, fresh from admitting that all his previous forecasts were wrong "because international developments cannot be predicted", then bizarrely going on to claim that his future forecasts would be fine because of world trade profitability going back up again in two years time!!!! No wonder the firemen are starting to question exactly what nonsense they are dealing with in government. Capitalism's achilles’ heel has long been its relentless monopolisation process which eventually forces it to exploit the entire world for its profitable survival, - but thereby only rapidly expanding by the billionfold the numbers of victims of Western economic imperialism, really mercilessly exploited and full of nationalist hatred to bring the domination down as soon as it goes badly wrong. EPSR 1158 reported the huge (and hugely damaging) boycott movement around the Middle East (and beyond) against such well-known US monopoly representatives as McDonalds, Burger King, and Coca Cola, etc, etc, (including restaurants, stores, and bottling plants firebombed, etc). The hatred is spreading, as recorded in this fascinating essay which the Guardian reprinted (in its need to maintain its ‘liberal' posturing) in the aftermath of last week's Mombassa bombings:
Thirty years ago, this predominantly Muslim and ethnically mixed town was a model of communal harmony and co-existence. Western visitors to the Old Town were almost forced to stop by and share a cup of tea. Today, they need armed police escorts to guide them around the old alleys and sites. I grew up surrounded by mosques full of imams and scholars who oozed wisdom and dignity. Their discourse was love-based and God-centred. Today, the sermons echo a message of anger, frustration and hate. As president of the Muslim Students Union at the University of Nairobi, I was obsessed with so many local concerns that Palestine never made it to the top five. Today, Israel and the plight of the Palestinian people is on the tongue of every Kenyan Muslim you speak to. Then it was only us young people who admired the Islamic revolution and the Ayatollah Khomeini: today, young and old, men and women, they all adore Osama bin Laden. The transformation is total. Tourists are no longer seen as friendly neighbours who have come to share. A young man outside a mosque told me they were the "vanguard of western cultural decadence and exploitation". Despite the massive growth of the tourism industry, only a limited number of local people have a stake in it. It is not only seen as a way of exploiting the local people - all tourist-related industries are either owned by foreign multinationals or non Muslims - but also a way of corrupting society. Perhaps western tourists by themselves could be tolerated, up to a point. But US soldiers visiting town, most seeking "entertainment", have become particularly unacceptable. They are associated with gambling, prostitution and excessive alcohol. Especially detested is the Americans' attitude towards the local population. Over the years the neglect of the coastal province by the central government has not helped in the process of alienation and marginalisation. The fact that the Kenyan regime, one of the most corrupt on the continent, has close relations with Israel, has not helped. Many people told me that the existence of several Israeli hotels in Mombassa was a provocation, with their high security fence and policy of not employing local people. However, the most volatile ingredient in the cocktail is the changing nature of Islam itself. Local institutions that used to produce the core of Islamic leaders have long ceased to exist. Most imams in Kenya today are now graduates of universities in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan and Egypt. The result is the emergence of a brand of Islam dramatically different from the traditional one. The new community-based faith being propagated is modernistic in outlook, highly politicised and extremely confrontational. Mombassa has always had strong links with the rest of the Muslim world, particularly the Arabian peninsula. But the arrival of satellite technology, combined with the impact of migrant workers returning from the Middle East, has helped spawn a new world view. Most households in Mombassa - where substantial numbers are of Arab ancestry and understand Arabic - are keen followers of events through the al-Jazeera satellite channel. The effect has been to focus discussion on the Palestinian issue above most others. The activities of the American intelligence services following the Nairobi bombing in August 1998 and September 11 have also greatly contributed towards the pervasive anti-American and anti-western feelings. People have been infuriated by the habit of CIA and FBI agents, accompanied by Kenyan intelligence officers, to barge into people's homes and search them. To date, the whereabouts of at least 20 people arrested by the intelligence services remain a mystery. Mombassa will not be the last lost paradise. The cocktail of local grievances; doctrinaire Islam, insensitive western attitudes and the festering wound of Palestine is too intoxicating, too seductive for any Muslim people to ignore. Add the notion of suicide bombing and paradise and you really have a war on your hands.