In his work The Foundations of Leninism, Joseph Stalin wrote that imperialism has a set of contradictions. He concluded that while the first is the contradiction between the interests of the workers within an imperialist country and the interests of the monopoly capitalists who’ve gained extreme power under imperialism, the second is:
The contradiction among the various financial groups and imperialist Powers in their struggle for sources of raw materials, for foreign territory. Imperialism is the export of capital to the sources of raw materials, the frenzied struggle for monopolist possession of these sources, the struggle for a re-division of the already divided world, a struggle waged with particular fury by new financial groups and Powers seeking a “place in the sun” against the old groups and Powers, which cling tenaciously to what they have seized. This frenzied struggle among the various groups of capitalists is notable in that it includes as an inevitable element imperialist wars, wars for the annexation of foreign territory. This circumstance, in its turn, is notable in that it leads to the mutual weakening of the imperialists, to the weakening of the position of capitalism in general, to the acceleration of the advent of the proletarian revolution and to the practical necessity of this revolution.
What does this have to do with NATO? Well in the last four years, the unusually isolationist and nationalistic foreign policy approach of President Trump has made this contradiction of imperialism apply greatly to the NATO powers, much to the horror of the liberal imperialist elite. He’s started trade wars with not just China, but the E.U. and Canada. His actions have mirrored an additional inter-imperialist conflict that’s been flaring up in recent years: the diplomatic dispute between Japan and south Korea, the latter of which has turned into an imperialist power in recent decades and has evidently become subject to imperialism’s contradictions in turn.
Biden’s election won’t undo these self-destructive trends among the imperialist powers, because they’re bigger than Trump and they started well before he became president. They’re a symptom of the selfish disunity that these powers have been falling into amid the decline of Pax Americana, and amid the broader post-2008 crisis of global capitalism. And what’s insured the continued escalation of this inter-imperialist conflict is the fact that the U.S. imperialists are determined, no matter who’s in charge of the White House, to wage a cold war against Russia and China.
This cold war has been causing Washington to become increasingly isolated not just from its rivals, but from some of its closest allies. This July, the U.S. demanded that Germany cut off its pipelined gas from Russia and replace it with gas from U.S. fracking companies, which would be far costlier. To try to make this power play succeed, Washington threatened to apply sanctions to the German companies which were building the pipeline. For the first time, the U.S. became so desperate to crush Russia that it was willing to endanger its alliance with Germany, which is ironically a crucial ally in Washington’s effort to build an anti-Russian military buffer within Europe.
These strained relations with Germany have also stemmed from a difference in their approaches to Iran, with Germany vocally opposing Trump’s sabotage of the U.S.-Iran nuclear agreement and deadly sanctions against the country. Iran has served as a major issue of contention with Washington when it’s come to Europe in general, with two of Washington’s other closest European allies France and Britain opposing Trump’s perpetual push towards more Iran sanctions. For now, of course, these kinds of foreign policy disagreements are mainly just verbal objections from U.S. satellite states. But they’re indicative of the growing trend towards very real economic warfare between these imperialist camps; just last month, the E.U. imposed $4 billion in tariffs against the U.S., which will be a major blow to the U.S. spirits industry at a time when it’s struggling to recover from the Covid-19 shutdowns.
These problems are far too big for Biden to fix, and they’ll ultimately be made worse by the Biden administration’s continuation of the anti-Chinese and anti-Russian cold war escalations. The pro-imperialist intelligentsia, as well as the world leaders involved in these inter-imperialist rivalries, clearly agree that these rifts in the imperial alliance are just getting started. As the neoconservative magazine The Atlantic has written:
“The old politics is over,” one senior aide to a European leader told me before the election. It was a message that was repeated back to me again and again, particularly by those more skeptical of the transformative powers of a Biden presidency. Over the past four years, a muscle memory has developed in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, and London of how to work not just with American power, but against it, on issues such as climate change and trade. Less antagonistically, but just as important, I was told that America’s allies had also learned how to work in the space left open by Washington’s indifference, whether dealing with the crisis in Belarus, facing up to Turkish maneuverings in the Mediterranean, or managing the devastation in Lebanon. Where once the U.S. might have played mediator or imperial savior, today it is often absent, disruptive, or simply unclear in its goals and commitment. A new president may soon reside in the White House, but confidence that any American decision is secure is all but nonexistent. What can Biden achieve with an angry, prowling Trump menacing his every move for the next four years?
These trends will only grow more severe as Biden builds upon all of the belligerent policies towards Russia and China that Trump has established. Biden won’t end Trump’s trade war with China. He’ll make the U.S.-Russia tensions surrounding Ukraine even worse by solidly aligning with Ukraine’s regime amid its proxy war against Russia. He’ll engage in anti-Russian military buildup in the Arctic while continuing with the arms buildup surrounding China. He’ll continue the U.S. propaganda war against China and the slanders about China putting Muslims in “concentration camps.” The U.S. will continue to be drawn closer towards war with the two superpowers that become ever more valuable economic partners for Washington’s allies.
And while Washington’s allies are mostly willing to go along with these hybrid warfare tactics against Russia and China, the practical necessity of their economic alliances with these two powers will remain. It will grow even stronger as the economic deterioration of the U.S. makes Russia, China, and Iran into more appealing trade partners.
The NATO technocrats are trying to fix the strained alliances which have resulted from these cold war tensions by pushing towards forced unity among the imperial powers. NATO’s leadership has been calling for the imperialist countries to refrain from confronting countries like China through Trumpian nationalistic means, urging cooperation between the empire’s players on foreign policy matters. And by 2030, NATO plans to assimilate south Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand into its membership list, which it will then use to try to enforce a uniform series of internal policies and anti-Chinese military buildup actions within these Pacific countries.
But I get the sense that as the 2020s go on, imperialism’s contradictions will keep getting bigger in spite of the technocracy’s best efforts. Imperialism’s 21st century descent into disunity and weakness is as inevitable as capitalism’s 21st century descent into declining profits and rising class struggle. Which makes sense, as the collapse of these two systems goes hand in hand.
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