Europe, America and imperialism

There are periods in history that represent a fundamental change in the whole world situation. We are now living in just such a period. Just over ten years have passed since the fall of the Soviet Union - ten years that seem to be a hundred years! For in that very short space of time the world has lived through a fundamental transformation.

It would be highly instructive to reread today what the strategists of Capital wrote ten years ago. They were euphoric. They spoke about the end of communism, the end of socialism. One of these gentlemen - Francis Fukuyama, even wrote about the end of history!

The bourgeoisie at that time placed before us a brilliant future of peace, prosperity and of course democracy, under the free market system (we are no longer supposed to use the word capitalism - it is not considered polite…).

At that time they spoke of a "peace dividend", and a "new world order". But the ink was not dry on the page before they launched a war against Iraq. This war was launched by George Bush senior. There is a difference between George Bush senior and his son. The father had a little bit of understanding (not too much…) whereas George Bush junior has nothing but a blank space between his ears!

Ten years later we stand on the brink of yet another war in the Gulf, which will have the most serious repercussions for the whole world. The so-called New World Order stands exposed as a New World Disorder. Globalisation manifests itself as a global crisis of capitalism. That is the real balance sheet of the world ten years after the collapse of the USSR.

Wherever you look now there is the most colossal instability: economic, political, social and military instability. It is the most characteristic feature of the world situation at the present time.

One crisis follows hard on the heels of another: Bosnia, Kosovo, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea. Instead of a Peace Dividend, there is a general tendency in the direction of militarisation and increased arms expenditure. The arms expenditure of US imperialism alone makes Hitler's rearmament programme seem insignificant by comparison.

Instead of being more peaceful, one war follows another. Instead of being a more secure place, the world has never been more insecure, unstable and dangerous.

Power of US imperialism

The present world situation is really unprecedented in history. Never before has such colossal power been concentrated in the hands of a single state. After the Second World War, the USA and the USSR balanced each other out to a great extent. For half a century there was a kind of relative equilibrium on a world scale. That is why a world war was avoided, although "small wars" took place all the time, like the Korean and Vietnam wars.

At that time there could be no question of the Americans behaving as they are behaving now. There was no question of their intervening militarily in the Balkans or Iraq, because that would have immediately brought them into conflict with Russia. But now all that has changed.

The domination of US imperialism is really unprecedented. Not even Rome in its high point enjoyed such colossal supremacy. Never in the past 300 years has there been just one super power. There were always at least two or three great powers, jostling for supremacy - Britain, Germany, France, Spain and so on.

With colossal power comes colossal arrogance. Bush and the ruling clique in Washington now believe they can intervene anywhere in the world with no restrictions. It is a return to the old gunboat diplomacy pursued by British imperialism in the past.

The USA, with just 4 percent of the world's population, possesses more than a quarter of the world's wealth. It accounts for 37 percent of world military expenditure and 40 percent of world arms production - including the most modern and technologically advanced weapons of mass destruction.

No other power comes anywhere near this military power. To put things in their context: Germany, Britain and France account for 5 percent of world arms expenditure each, and Russia a mere 6 percent. This partly explains why Putin is slavishly following Bush. It is a reflection of the real correlation of forces.

September 11

The eleventh of September provided Bush and the most reactionary circles in Washington with the perfect excuse to launch on a huge programme of arms expenditure, although in fact this programme was already decided upon in advance. American arms spending has experienced the biggest increase in 20 years.

The Pentagon has been given $250 billion to build 2,800 new joint strike fighter planes. The combined budget for the Pentagon over the next five years is about $1.6 trillion. These are fabulous sums that, if they were put to productive purposes, could transform the lives of the peoples, not only of the USA but of the world. But the slogan of imperialism is "guns before butter."

In this context it is quite amusing to read the hypocritical denunciations made by Bush against Iraq for its alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, the USA currently holds by far the biggest arsenal of such weapons, including 22, 827 nuclear warheads, and unknown stocks of chemical and bacteriological weapons also.

In 1990 the USA had an excuse to wage war on Iraq - the invasion of Kuwait. Now it has no such excuse. It claims that Iraq is a threat to its security - to the security of the USA! Poor battered, hungry Iraq, a threat to the USA! This is a joke.

The real meaning of the actions of the USA in relation to Iraq is merely this - that America now claims the right to intervene militarily anywhere it chooses, to interfere in the internal affairs of any state and to overthrow any government that is not to its liking. It is saying, in effect: "Do as we say or we will bomb you!" "Do what we want, or we will invade you!"

In this way the USA has torn up the whole system of world relations and diplomacy that has been in place since the Treaty of Westphalia in the seventeenth century.

Some naïve people deplore this behaviour, which they consider illegal and immoral. But Solon of Athens long ago answered these arguments when he said: "The law is like a spider's web: the small are caught and the great tear it up."

It is useless reading the imperialists lessons on morality and law. It is like trying to teach a man-eating tiger to eat salad instead of grass. Of course, I have some very good friends who are vegetarians and they have all my respect. But unfortunately if you try to teach a tiger to eat lettuce, you will not succeed but will most likely end up in the belly of the tiger.

A giant with feet of clay

Despite its huge power, US imperialism is really a colossus with feet of clay. Almost every day bush fires are breaking out everywhere. They cannot deal with all of them!

We see the limits of the power of imperialism in Afghanistan, where despite having overthrown the Taliban and invaded the country, nothing has been solved. To date they have not realised a single one of their declared aims. They have not killed or captured Bin Laden or Mullah Omar. They have not destroyed Al Qaida, which is constantly engaged in new terrorist attacks (Bali, Mombassa…). The risk of terrorism is not less but more than before.

As for Afghanistan, the situation is even worse than before. There is a weak puppet government in Kabul, which is entirely dependent on the US army and would not last 24 hours without it. They do not control the rest of the country, which is in a state of indescribable chaos. They cannot withdraw from Afghanistan without provoking an immediate collapse.

Instead of stabilising the situation in the region, they have completely destabilised it. The chaos has now spread from Afghanistan to Pakistan, and in turn has enormously exacerbated the tensions between India and Pakistan, which, let us recall, are both nuclear powers.

Less than a year ago, in his state of the nation speech, Bush promised to make nuclear proliferation his priority. He spoke of an "axis of evil" and named Iraq, Iran and North Korea, "The USA," he said "will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

In fact, the most dangerous regime in the world is the USA of George W. Bush, which is hell-bent on war everywhere. The UN arms inspectors who were sent to Iraq for the purpose of finding a pretext for war, have found precisely nothing. But this does not matter. The Americans and their British puppets are already sending large numbers of troops to the Gulf. The impulse to war is now irresistible.

A war in Iraq will have serious consequences in Europe. But Europe has not been consulted about the war, but dragged into it.

Europe and America

The crushing dominance of US imperialism is causing grave concern in the European Union (EU). It was made painfully obvious to the rulers of Europe during the war in Kosovo, when the Americans showed off their most advanced weaponry. They took the leadership of the whole operation into their hands, leaving the Europeans mere spectators in their own house.

Of course, not all the Europeans were unhappy about this. We have the great lion of US imperialism, the hungry wolf of French imperialism, and then the lousy little dog of British imperialism. And as everybody knows, little dogs make a lot of noise, but nobody is really afraid of them.

Britain has long ago lost its industrial and military supremacy and has been reduced more or less to the position of a satellite of US imperialism. Hence its ambiguous position, with one foot in Europe and one foot in the Atlantic.

The other Europeans were shocked, especially France, which has always had ambitions to a world role and also to dominated Europe. They would like to build up Europe as an alternative power to the might of the USA.

The process of European integration has already gone very far - further than we had originally anticipated. The introduction of the euro was without doubt an important step in the direction of economic integration, although Britain and some others remain outside. There is talk about a constitution, and last but not least preparations are underway to form a European defence force.

In reality, what all these measures show is that the old nation states of Europe have outlived their usefulness. They are too narrow to contain the potential of the productive forces. The old states are too small to compete with the might of US imperialism. Therefore they must somehow club together to survive.

But despite the moves in the direction of unity, the old contradictions still exist, and the old national antagonisms have not been overcome. It is essential to bear this in mind.

In theory, all the European nation states are now friends and partners. But in fact, this is not the case. There are very sharp contradictions between France, Germany and Britain, and all the other states. What has so far held them together is their common fear of the USA.

In theory, Europe and America are allies - one big happy family of democratic nations, united in the common interest of defending "western civilisation". In practice, the antagonism between Europe and America is growing all the time. The struggle for diminishing markets on a world scale has led to s sharp increase in protectionist tendencies, as we see in the actions of the Bush administration over steel, textiles and agriculture.

The Seattle talks broke down, not because of the demonstrations, but because of the severe conflict of interests between Europe and America. Since then, these conflicts have not decreased but steadily increased. The movement towards greater economic and even political unity in Europe is a recognition of this fact. However, on the basis of capitalism, this movement is necessarily limited and produces new contradictions.

Britain, France and Germany

What is the rationale behind the proposal for a European military force? The European bourgeoisie needs to build up its own military force because it does not trust the Americans to defend European interests. And they are quite right to think this. But there are many contradictions between the ruling classes of the main European powers. This means that a real common foreign and military policy is impossible to realise.

When trying to analyse the different tendencies involved we must always be careful to distinguish between the public propaganda about the so-called European ideal and the interests and cynical manoeuvres of the different national capitalist classes that are constantly seeking to gain an advantage at the expense of the others.

It is necessary to recall that the European Union was originally the result of the attempts of France to arrive at a joint domination of Europe together with Germany. Having had the experience of two world wars, France thought it could tie Germany into a relationship in which France would dominate.

However, things did not work out like that. Germany rapidly recovered from the war and built a powerful industrial base. As a matter of fact, Germany has long ago established its position as the main economic power in Europe, with France in second place.

The French bourgeoisie accepted this position reluctantly, but still aspired to political and military domination. But this cannot last forever. Sooner or later, Germany's economic power must express itself in military and political terms.

The unification of Germany was undoubtedly a turning point. Here we have the formation of a powerful nation of 80 million people with a formidable industrial base in the heart of Europe. The French and British applauded politely, but in reality they are deeply worried.

The German bourgeoisie, the most powerful in Europe, has its own ambitions. We saw this in the break-up of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, both of which were encouraged by Germany, which has now established a big influence in Eastern Europe.

Germany has a powerful army but as far as I remember it is forbidden by the Constitution to fight abroad. But this will inevitably change. Thus we have seen a series of manoeuvres by Britain and France to combine against Germany. In the Kosovo war, for instance, Germany was excluded from all important decisions, which led to serious frictions with France and Britain.

Limits of unification

The unspoken question at the heart of the process of European unification is: "Who will dominate Europe?" Naturally, in public nobody asks such a question. We Europeans are supposed to be all part of one big happy family. The proof of this is the euro and the fact that work has already begun on a European constitution, which is supposed to prepare the way for a future European federal state.

But a Constitution, as old Solon knew very well, is only a piece of paper. In itself, even if it is written, it resolves nothing. Once we move on to the concrete questions, however, all the cracks will start to appear. On such questions as taxation and foreign policy, subsidies and agricultural policy, it will immediately become clear that deep antagonisms continue to separate the states of Europe.

America enjoys complete domination, not only militarily but also economically. This economic giant for the last ten years has had an average growth rate of 3 percent, which means that the gap between America and Europe has grown. The reaction of the European capitalists has been to try to imitate the USA by introducing "American methods" into Europe, starting with Britain.

The Lisbon Summit of 2002 approved a resolution advocating a "more competitive and knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010". What this means in practice is more measures of privatisation, downsizing, cuts in social spending, part-time working, and all the other measures associated with "liberalisation", that is, the law of the jungle. Throughout Europe there has been a wave of attacks on wages, living standards, jobs, health and pensions, which is now provoking a counter-offensive of the workers in Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, France, Germany and Britain.

The introduction of the Maastricht treaty was really an attempt to carry out a policy of permanent austerity and cuts under the flag of "economic integration". Under conditions of world economic crisis, there will be an even greater struggle for markets and an even more ferocious struggle between the classes for the division of the surplus value.

As the economic crisis intensifies, so will the antagonisms: the delicate balance between the small and large states, France's agricultural interests, Britain's entanglement with the USA, Italy's budget deficit, Germany's interests in Eastern Europe - all these will be put to the test.

Let us take Germany as an example. It is the strongest of the European economies and until recently was the motor force of the European economy. But now it is struggling in a deep crisis. From the point of view of the German bosses, the answer is easy: more cuts, lower wages and pensions. In other words, the answer is to place the burden of the crisis on the shoulder of the working class. But the German workers will not accept this without a fight. Therefore, Germany will enter into conflict with the other European capitalists. The same is true of all the others.

In principle, all are in favour of a stronger Europe. But the question is: who will pay the bills?

A European defence force?

In the last analysis, the idea that Europe could rival the USA on a capitalist basis is absurd. The answer was given in advance by Henry Kissinger, when he said: "When I want to speak to Europe, who do I telephone?"

This fact has once again been exposed by the unilateral decision of the USA to attack Iraq. On this issue, yet again, there is no united policy in the EU. Britain, as usual, is backing the USA. France is opposed, but changes its mind when confronted with a fait accompli. Germany is opposed, but we will see what happens when it is isolated. One can already imagine Schroeder's speech on television: "Nobody was more opposed to this war than I, but now we have seen the evidence…"

In reality, the USA has forced Europe to accept its dictates, as it did in the war in Kosovo, without the slightest regard for its European "allies". Of course, it is not difficult to get Blair to agree to everything, since a ventriloquist's doll does not tend to argue. But France, which wishes to pursue its own interests in the Middle East, is a most reluctant partner, who has only agreed to participate because if is refuses, Bush has made it clear that it will be excluded from participating in the division of the booty afterwards.

As for Germany, the people of this country have had enough of wars and do not wish to be dragged into new ones. But on the other hand, if the German capitalists want to play a role in the "new world order" they will be compelled to do so, "to meet their international obligations" as the Americans will delicately put it.

For Washington, it is useful for the Europeans to send more "peacekeepers" to Macedonia and Bosnia in order to free American soldiers who have been tied down there and whose services are now urgently required in Iraq. This despite the fact that in Yugoslavia itself no definitive solution has been found and the truce between the warring factions in Macedonia is very fragile and might break down at any time.

Since the European capitalists will be compelled to participate in foreign military adventures anyway, would it not be better to do so under their own flag, instead of constantly being blackmailed and bullied by Washington? Such is the rationale behind the idea of a European defence force.

Who controls?

The decisive questions relating to a European defence force are never stated. First, for what purpose will it be used? And second: Who will control it? But these questions need to be asked.

Some people have apparently tried to argue from a "left" point of view that a European defence force would be progressive since we Europeans are more civilised than the American imperialists and would use military force to uphold peace and democracy, or words to that effect.

Old Clausewitz was a very profound thinker, who was much admired by Lenin. He pointed out that war is only the continuation of politics by other means. And the bourgeoisie will wage war only to further its own selfish interests in any country, whether that is America, Germany or anywhere else.

It is rather strange to argue that "we Europeans" are more civilised than the Americans. Such an argument leaves out of account the conduct of British, French, German, Dutch or Belgian imperialism in the past. History hardly provides much evidence of our supposedly "civilised" conduct! The only difference today is that the European imperialists are too weak to show their teeth as they did in the past.

As a matter of fact, one of the reasons for the creation of the EU was for the purpose of the joint exploitation of the former colonies in Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean. A European defence force would undoubtedly be used for the purpose of maintaining this domination, and not at all for "peacekeeping" purposes. It would be a poor imitation of the policy pursued by the USA, but for the purpose of defending European interests instead of American ones. That is all.

The force itself is still only an embryonic project. It is supposed to consist of 60,000 troops with Britain and Germany paying 15 percent each, and France slightly more. Its role is supposed to be confined to "peacekeeping, crisis management and humanitarian operations." Naturally. These days virtually all armies are supposed to be engaged in such activities, just as in George Orwell's 1984, the ministry of war was called the ministry of peace. But as Kosovo showed, a "humanitarian" "peacekeeping" mission can be very effective as a means of bombing and occupying territory.

But here we arrive at yet another contradiction. The notion of "European interests" is itself an abstraction. The interests of the German, French and British capitalists do not necessarily coincide We already see this in the fact that France, despite its long colonial involvement in west Africa, has not lifted a finger to help Britain or the UN "peacekeeping" mission in Freetown.

Since a standard army is not envisaged, but each country will be asked to provide troops as and when required, there is plenty of scope for future quarrels. In fact, they have tacitly recognised this by stating that no country will be obliged to contribute soldiers to a mission whose objectives it does not support! This does not auger well for the future of the force as an effective fighting operation.

Change in balance of forces


Trotsky pointed out long ago that the centre of world history had moved from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, and that from the Atlantic it would move to the Pacific. Now this prediction has been brilliantly fulfilled. The Pacific Basin will undoubtedly be the most important area of the globe in the next few decades, with Europe increasingly relegated to second or even third place.

Recognising this fact, a growing faction of the US ruling class would like to reduce its military presence in Europe and concentrate on Asia and the Midler East. They complain that the Europeans are "not pulling their weight" (that is, they would like the Europeans to pay more money to NATO). But on the other hand, whenever the Europeans pose the question of a more independent role, they start to complain loudly about "European ingratitude".

In fact, although Europe may no longer occupy the central place in America's global calculations, yet it still has a great strategic importance and will continue to do so for some time still. The Americans want to continue to dominate Europe and Europe is getting restive. Only Britain remains as a reliable ally and semi-satellite, and even this relationship will be sorely strained in the next period, as opposition grows to the war in Iraq and the servile pro-Americanism of Blair and co.

Although they publicly applaud Bush for his "war on terror" the European capitalists realise that the colossal power of US imperialism is a potential threat to themselves. They resent the high handed way in which Washington decides to go to war and then drags them with it in any direction it chooses to go. The staggering American arms programme is calculated to achieve an even greater superiority over the rest of the world. Against whom is America arming itself, and to what purpose? These questions are being asked in Paris and in London.

The move towards a European defence force is an expression of the growing tensions and rivalry between Europe and America that came to a climax after the Kosovo war. But this logically leads to the next contradiction. If the European defence force gets off the ground, what role will be left for the US-dominated NATO?

The Americans, fearing loss of control, are insisting that the new force must only be used in situations where NATO (i.e., the USA) does not want to get involved. They are also concerned about the inevitable duplication of planning, intelligence and procurement. But the Europeans are determined to pursue their own interests. Already, it seems, Lord Robertson has warned Tony Blair that the new force could spark off a transatlantic crisis.

The French, pursuing their old ambitions, want to loosen America's influence in Europe. Britain, and to some extent Germany, have resisted this in the past, but this may now change. If the new force does get off the ground it will inevitably lead to a crisis, and even a split in NATO at a certain stage. This is an expression of the growing tensions between Europe and America.

For an internationalist policy!

Should we welcome this development? There is nothing progressive about either NATO or the proposed European defence force. From the standpoint of the European working class, the attempt of the European bourgeoisie to place their armies on an equal plane with those of the USA can only signify one thing: new and deep cuts in living standards. Such a policy would be ruinously expensive and, in the context of a world economic crisis, could only signify further attacks on social spending.

The first problem is that a European defence force, if it is to be effective, must be properly armed and equipped, at least up to the latest American standards. Who will pay for this? At a time when the working class is being told there is no more money for schools, hospitals and pensions, we are also told that more money is needed for bombs, tanks, satellites and warplanes. But it is clear that one thing excludes the other.

The working class must oppose wasteful arms expenditure, counterposing a programme of useful public works: not more guns and tanks but more hospitals, houses, schools and nursery schools are what are needed.

Our policy must be that of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, those great leaders and martyrs of the German and international working class: that is to say, a class policy, an anti-militarist and anti-imperialist policy. But such a policy can only succeed if it is firmly linked to an anti-capitalist policy and the perspective of socialism, nationally and internationally.

Socialism is internationalist or it is nothing. Socialist internationalism is not an utopian dream but flows inevitably from the development of capitalism itself. This was explained in advance in the pages of The Communist Manifesto. The formation of the EU was, as I have said, a tacit admission by the bourgeoisie that the old national states have outlived their usefulness and become transformed into reactionary barriers to the free development of the productive forces.

Like Luxemburg and Liebknecht we stand firmly for the policy of proletarian internationalism. We are in favour of the unification of Europe, but we recognise that on the basis of capitalism, as Lenin explained, a united Europe is only a reactionary utopia. We are opposed to the Europe of the big banks and monopolies that represents a future of unemployment, cuts and misery for millions.


The alternative to the Europe of the banks and monopolies is the Socialist United States of Europe. On the basis of a common plan of production and the nationalisation of the banks and monopolies under democratic workers' control and management, it would be possible really to unite the productive forces of the whole of Europe, thus mobilising a colossal productive force.

At present the population of the EU is 370 millions, compared to 270 millions in the USA. But the combined GDP of Europe is $7.9 trillion, as opposed to $10.1 trillions for the USA. With the proposed expansion the population of Europe would amount to a staggering 460 millions and reach the frontiers of Russia. The combined productive capacity of Europe would greatly exceed that of the USA - potentially.

But the huge productive potential of Europe is being held back by the narrow limitations of the capitalist system. In Germany alone there are four million unemployed that act as a heavy burden on the economy. A socialist planned economy would eliminate this appalling waste and lay the basis for a rapid development of the productive forces and an unparalleled increase in living standards. Instead of discussing how to cut pensions and wages, we would be in a position to introduce a programme of social reforms that would put all the gains of the past in the shade.

On the basis of a democratically administered planned economy, unemployment would be a thing of the past. The working day could be reduced immediately to 30 hours a week without loss of pay. The basis would be laid for an enormous flowering of art, science and culture, drawing on all the rich cultural heritage of all the peoples of Europe. Democracy would no longer have its present restricted character but would be expressed in the democratic administration of society by the whole population.

Does this seem so difficult? But it would not be difficult if we convince the majority that it is necessary to fight for their own interests. And in any case, is it not far more difficult to accept the present situation of unemployment, cuts, wars, mass starvation and all the other horrors that capitalism has prepared for the peoples of the world?

On this glorious anniversary, we must pledge ourselves to continue the struggle that was begun by Marx and Engels, Luxemburg and Liebknecht and carry it through to the end.

The victory of socialism in Europe would transform the entire world, laying the basis for a socialist world federation. That is the only perspective worth fighting for in the first decade of the 21st century: the perspective of a socialist Europe and a socialist new world order.

Join us

If you want more information about joining the IMT, fill in this form. We will get back to you as soon as possible.