Library:History is Marching
History is Marching is a feature-length documentary by Prolekult analyzing the rise in tensions between major powers across the globe over the course of 2018.
The 2 hour long film can be viewed on YouTube here.
The following script has been modified to read like prose, to make it more consistent with our library style. The unmodified original script is available here.
What we May be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.
This is a film about crisis, war and revolution.
Since Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016, all that was certain in world politics has evaporated into air. The political relationships between major western nations are becoming antagonistic, with disagreements over trade between the US, Canada and the European Union resulting in increasingly aggressive political confrontations. The belligerence of US foreign policy under Trump threatens to shatter the long-standing alliance between these nations.
Even as these tensions play out, the west is openly preparing itself for confrontation with Russia and China. Along Russia’s western border, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation — or NATO — has a military line running from Estonia to Poland under the name Enhanced Forward Presence. Described as a deterrent, this line is the largest force stationed in Europe since the end of the so-called “Cold War”, armed to the teeth with the latest military equipment and primed for a rapid attack. China is similarly encircled, with over 400 US military bases surrounding its borders. These military nooses are complemented by an ongoing campaign of diplomatic and economic aggression, with Russia and China the target of sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.
To put things bluntly: we stand upon the precipice of a global confrontation. In economic and political terms, the world cannot be maintained in the way that it has been. In this film, we will look at the causes of this confrontation and the political strategies of those western powers that stand at its heart. This is not an idle task. Rather, it is intended to pose a question. As the world heads closer and closer toward the kind of inordinate bloodletting that characterized the first and second world war, we must ask how it May be prevented.
Part One: Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism
In order to make sense of the events shaking world politics, we first need to understand something fundamental about our society. Our world is dominated by the social system of capitalist imperialism.
What is imperialism? Many of us would recognise its more visible symptoms as naked attempts to secure power or resources for wealthy nations — for example, the 2003 Iraq war. However, observing this power grab is not enough to get to the heart of the matter. No society can be understood simply in terms of the blood it has spilt, no matter how deep those rivers May run. If we wish to understand the essential and defining characteristics of a social system, we must look beyond its appearance and attempt to understand the basis of how it functions.
Imperialism is a form of capitalism, thus we must begin by approaching how capitalism functions in general. This is precisely the task undertaken by the revolutionary philosopher Karl Marx, most clearly in his famous Das Kapital. Whilst capitalism is often described as the existence of a free market, this definition tells us nothing about how it functions. The scientific and historical approach offered in Capital provides a far more complete picture than this. In Marx’s analysis, capitalism is commodity production at its highest stage of development, when even human labour-power itself becomes a commodity. Crucially, this production is organised through the relations of private property. The bourgeoisie (or capitalist class) who own machines, factories, land and wealth invest in production to gather commodities they May sell at a profit. In contrast, the proletariat (or working class) have nothing to sell save for their own ability to work, known as labour-power. As such, the working class sell their labour-power to the capitalist class in the form of waged labour.
This relationship is one of exploitation. In examining the commodity, Marx asks a very simple question which reveals this. To paraphrase, “why is it that a certain number of candles are worth the same amount as a coat, or several pairs of socks the same amount as a chicken? What do any commodities hold in common?” The answer cannot be found in the properties of the commodity itself. Candles are not comparable to coats in how they are used, nor can one of these uses be said to be more valuable than the other. In fact, the only thing that these commodities hold in common is that they are all products of human labour. As such, the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of socially averaged labour it takes to produce. For profit to be derived from commodity production, the capitalist class must pay the working class less in wages than their labour produces.
This exploitation is not necessarily achieved by a sleight of hand or by underpaying the workers but, rather, by the logic of commodity exchange itself. As the working class sell their labour-power as a commodity, its value is determined by what it takes to reproduce. In other words, the value of a worker’s ability to work is determined by the food, shelter, transport etcetera required to get them back to work the next day. What is unique to labour-power as a commodity is that it produces more value than it costs to reproduce. This is the source of profit. The relationship of exploitation between proletariat and bourgeoisie is what Marx terms productive or industrial capital. It is the only form of capital which produces new value.
As capitalism develops, it tends toward periodic crises in industry and in politics. This is a result of what Marx terms the historical tendency of the rate of profit to fall. To expand production and remain competitive on the free market, the capitalist class are forced to attempt to increase the productivity of the workers they employ. This is achieved by investing in more and more productive machinery. However, these increases only provide temporary competitive benefits to individual capitalists or firms. As productivity averages across an industry the value of the commodities being sold declines as they require less socially averaged labour-power to produce. As such, an ever-greater proportion of the capitalists’ investment is taken up by investment in machinery and its maintenance, and an ever-smaller proportion rendered as profit. As the amount of profit relative to capital invested declines, investments no longer appear profitable. This leads to the hoarding of money, known to Marx as overaccumulation, and a breakdown in production as no profitable investments can be found. Crises follow. This is an absolute process: the rate of profit has an historical tendency to fall toward zero.
To Marx, therefore, capitalism is a class society organised to meet the needs of profit accumulation. The stratification of society into the extortionately wealthy and the dispossessed is not an accident or a mistake of policy, but a fundamental need of capitalist society. Whilst competition between capitalists leads to advancements in technology, these same technological advances cause it to break down, leading to economic deprivation, gross inequality and enormous violence. This cannot be controlled or fixed whilst capitalism continues to exist.
By the beginning of the 20th Century capitalism had clearly developed beyond the parameters of the free market. Rather than the competition between individual capitalist enterprises which had, in general, characterised capitalism’s development previously, the major capitalist nations tended toward economies dominated by monopoly. Many authors and theorists began to discuss this development under the term “imperialism”, notably the English economist J.A. Hobson in 1902 and the Austrian Marxist Rudolf Hilferding in 1910. However, these explanations failed to grasp the full significance of imperialism’s development. It fell to the Russian Marxist and revolutionary Vladimir Lenin to provide a clear and concrete definition of the phenomenon in his 1916 pamphlet, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism.
Lenin begins his definition of imperialism by an analysis of the formation of monopolies. After describing the emergence of monopolies in the US, Germany and Britain, Lenin develops Marx’s understanding that the free market leads toward an ever-increasing concentration of production. As capitalism develops, production concentrates in the hands of those capitalist enterprises which have managed to compete successfully. Over time they become larger and their influence greater. Due to the enormous amount of capital employed by these industries, it becomes ever more difficult to gather the resources necessary to launch new enterprises capable of competing with them. This scale also allows for the combination of different industries, so one capitalist enterprise May deal in both the processing of raw materials and the production of manufactured goods. Cartels form between the largest enterprises, enabling them fix prices and the quantity of goods to be produced, or to divide markets and profits between themselves. Competition between small and large industries vanishes. Instead, the monopolists asphyxiate those that do not submit to their will. Competition thus grows into monopoly.
The emergence of monopoly has a specific relevance to the role of the banks in capitalist society. In the earlier stages capitalist development, the banks were but humble middlemen for the making of payments. However, just as competition leads to a concentration of production in the hands of individual capitalist enterprises, so too does competition produce a concentration of capital in the hands of the banks. As more and more capital is deposited in the banks, their power increases. The industrial capitalists are made reliant upon the banks in order to gain access to capital. In turn, the banks can ascertain exactly the financial position of various capitalists, control them and, ultimately, entirely determine their fate. Lenin describes this as the coalescence, or merging, of banking and industrial capital, transforming them into finance capital. As such, the epoch of imperialism is one in which the domination of society by capital in general is replaced by the domination of finance capital. In class terms, this means that the dominant class of imperialist society is no longer the bourgeoisie in general, but specifically those who own the banks — a financial oligarchy.
The development of monopoly in industry and monopoly associations in the banks leads to a change in the form of exports produced by a nation. Whereas the earlier stages of capitalist development typically relied upon the export of goods in international trade, imperialist nations typically export capital — that is, investment. This is a consequence of overaccumulation in the imperialist nations. Put simply, the development of enormous industries in the imperialist nations leads toward a falling rate of profit and, consequently, a lack of profitable investments within these nations. The resulting surplus of capital is then exported and invested in less developed nations where wages and land prices are lower. As the owners of this investment, the imperialists are generally able to agree loan terms that favour the investors. As such, the relationship between oppressed and oppressor nations under colonialism is transformed only superficially. Instead the “old” form of exploitation, under which the capitalists used their empires to secure raw materials for production at home, imperialism favours a form of exploitation based upon usury capital. This is known as superexploitation.
The consequence of this export of capital is simple: over time the world is entirely divided between capitalist associations. International cartels form and negotiate the division of territories and profits between themselves. Once enough capital has been exported, this results in the complete division of the world between great powers — that is, those imperialists dominant in the world economy. Once such a division of the world has been achieved, capital stagnates, unable to find profitable investments across the sphere of the globe. Now, only a redivision of the world between competing imperialist powers is possible. The consequences of such a redivision were revealed to the world in a torrent of blood during the first and second world wars.
Times Square, New York. A labyrinth of glittering billboards rises into Manhattan night, forming a delirious canopy. Here, the domination of monopolies is not only evident, it is exalted in a never ceasing dance of light and image. The gaudy cathedrals of US imperialism hold this space in thrall. At their feet, a river of humanity is cast in shadow.
Though many claim that the analysis of capitalism offered by Marx and Lenin is outmoded or incorrect, it is increasingly relevant. Today, the system of capitalist imperialism is much the same as it was in Lenin’s time. The world wars did not secure lasting peace between the world’s great imperialist powers, but merely a temporary reprieve.
Part Two: The Post-War Boom, "Globalization" and Great Power Competition
Jack Campbell: Now, I’m talking about 1914 and the winter of 1914–15. You couldn’t say we were living in the sense of the word. It was sheer punishment.
Richard Tobin: You don’t look, you see. You don’t hear, you listen. Your nose is filled with fumes and death. You taste the top of your mouth. [Inaudible.] The veneer of civilisation is dropped away.
Ray Wilton: We were told it is expected 50% casualties.
Part of your thoughts is self-preservation and unfortunately self-preservation is always at a cost of somebody else.
There’s always a memory of a couple of lads who hit the beach of just… They’d gone down. Whether they got up I don’t know.
Lydia Tishla: We arrived in the middle of the night. In Auschwitz you could smell the fear. You really could smell it. And we had to go through selection, I mean we didn’t know it was selection but that’s what it was. Mengele, whom you May have heard, was standing there and he looked at you then sent you to the left or to the right. The left was the side for living and the right was the side for gas.
Mr. Kronefeld: I must admit, as an ordinary man, that I’m glad that’s behind us. And I’m sure that the generation or generations that follow us will never again do something so utterly pointless, because now we know what it’s like. We’ve waged war twice now, particularly France and Germany. We have no reason to be proud of that. I sincerely hope, when I at last close my eyes, that there will never again be such a conflict.
The political and economic alliances that characterised the beginning of the 21st Century grew from the blood, rubble and ashes of the world wars. The redivision of territories between great powers was complete, with the United States taking the mantle as the dominant power of the imperialist world. As a direct consequence of the wars’ destruction, capital found new life.
The exceptional economic period following the war is known as the post war boom. The crisis of overaccumulation and profitability that had predicated the wars was temporarily undone by their violence. Across Europe and Japan, huge swathes of crisis-ridden capital were destroyed in an avalanche of bombs and bullets. This allowed for profitable reinvestment in the construction of new factories, new machinery and new enterprises. Technologies developed in the process of redividing the world allowed for a far higher rate of productivity than those that had been destroyed, increasing the amount of value produced and profit derived from reinvestment. The immense devaluation of currencies during the war ensured that the money capital required to invest in these areas was cheap and a steady flow of investment possible. Just as a flower grows best in the compost of its dead brothers, capital grew well among the graves of its former self.
Fascism also aided in the construction of the post war boom. Whilst it claims to be many things, the political meaning of fascism is very simple: it is the raw, uncloaked barbarity of capitalist society. In Germany and Italy this is very clear. Rather than coming to power upon the basis of its own energy or class, fascism was aided into power by the capitalist classfor the purpose of suppressing the powerful workers’ movements which arose in these nations during the inter-war period. It obliged to this purpose dutifully, destroying trade unions and violently dispersing working-class organisations. The consequences of this repression for the post war period were low wages and a working class so exhausted that resistance to such an increased rate of exploitation was all but impossible.
The dark clouds that encircled the earth between 1914 and 1945 were not, however, immovable. Light first pierced their canopy in 1917, with the victory of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and the formation of the Soviet Union — the world’s first socialist state. By 1945, socialism had spread far into Europe. Whilst the USSR was by no means perfect, and its excesses of violence and mistakes of political economy must be learnt from, it represented the most powerful force of resistance to imperialism that the world had ever seen. The political threat posed by the communist world was not simply that of the destruction of one imperialist nation’s capital, but the destruction of capital entirely. Further, it gave enormous support to anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist movements across the globe, which directly threatened the ability of imperialist capital to expand into oppressed nations.
The combination of these factors led to the formation of an alliance between imperialist powers, with the US at its head. Economically this formation was of the same substance as the international capitalist associations which had formed during the initial division of the world between imperialists. Using a combination of capital exports and financial aid to European states, the US both secured its dominance and brought about a general increase in the rate of profit. Profits were divided between the imperialists according to their relative competitive positions in the world market. The alliance gained a military expression with the formation of NATO in 1949.
However, competition between these powers continued to operate even through this alliance. The most significant expression of this was the formation of the European Economic Community — or EEC — in 1957. Introduced by the Treaty of Rome, the EEC brought Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the German Federal Republic into a common market and a customs union. Although these moves were initially supported by US imperialism, they were brought about by the collective need of mainland Europe to band together in order to remain able to compete with the US. As such, it laid the basis for what would become one of the US’ largest competitors — that is, the European Union.
As the post war boom was brought about by the destruction of the wars, it clearly could not last forever. The destruction of masses of capital during the war laid the ground for new capital investment and a return to profitability. However, as this new capital accumulated, it laid the basis for a future crash. Sure enough, by 1974 the post war boom had ended and capitalism returned to crisis, with Britain, the US and Japan all recording negative GDP growth — a trend that continues to this day. This return to crisis conditions marked the beginning of an economic period known to many bourgeois academics as “neoliberal globalisation”. Its promises were nothing less than the creation of one global, borderless, stateless market.
This was a lie.
Thatcher: Where there is discord, May we bring harmony; where there is error, May we bring truth; where there is doubt, May we bring faith; where there is despair, May we bring hope.
Reagan: The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we as Americas have the capacity now, as we’ve had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom. In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem: government is the problem.
Pinochet: The armed forces have acted today solely from the patriotic inspiration of saving the country from the tremendous chaos into which it was being plunged by the Marxist government of Salvador Allende. The Junta will maintain judicial power and consultantship of the Public Accounts Control. The Chambers will remain in recess until further orders. That is all.
This is the National Stadium in Santiago de Chile. For nearly two months after the CIA backed coup against the anti-imperialist, socialist-leaning Allende government on 11 September, 1973, it served as a concentration camp. Over 12,000 working class people, trade unionists and immigrants were interned here over those two months. They were beaten, integrated, tortured and shot whilst Chile’s capitalist class celebrated with champagne parties. Though the official statistics say that only 47 people were murdered, truly, it is unknown how many died here. It is said that many people were shot and wounded, then dragged away to be murdered elsewhere. And so it is that they rest, forever entombed in anonymity. The economic policy of Pinochet’s rule was not designed in Chile but here, in the Economics Department of the University of Chicago. During the 1950s, the Department operated not only as a school, but self-consciously as a school of thought. The school was vehemently opposed to the state welfare systems that had formed in most of the world’s imperialist powers after the end of the second world war. Though these structures were far from socialist, funded by the breadcrumbs of colonial and imperialist exploitation, they prevented certain areas of the economy from being opened for private investment. The Department’s students and graduates — known as the Chicago boys — marched as an intellectual army, arguing for a “pure capitalism” free of any government regulations, trade barriers or entrenched interests. At the head of this army was the economist Milton Friedman. Chile was his test lab.
Montage of Friedman speaking on his relationship to Pinochet:
Friedman: Chile was a case in which a military regime, headed by Pinochet, was willing to switch the organisation of the economy from top-down to a bottom-up performance. And in that process a group of people, who had been trained at the University of Chicago in the Department of Economics, who came to be called the Chicago boys, played a major role in designing and implementing the economic reforms.
Friedman: So, I was not an advisor to Pinochet, I was not an advisor to the Chilean government, but I am more than willing to share in the credit in the extraordinary test job that our students did down there.
Friedman not only believed dogmatically in the sanctity of the market, he thought he knew how to get there: shock therapy. The idea behind this term is that by stimulating an economic contraction by mass privatisation, sell-offs and the removal of trade barriers, it is possible to change the behaviour of a nation, forcing wages and prices to stagnate. Then, the logic of “pure” capitalism asserts itself, creating a “nation of owners”. Pinochet’s dictatorship allowed Friedman a chance to test this theory. The result was dire for the Chilean working class, with unemployment increasing tenfold and Chile’s industrial sector contracting to a size around that it had been during the second world war. For US imperialism, however, Pinochet and Friedman succeeded in the objective of destroying the gains made by the Allende government and opening Chile to superexploitation. It was a “success”. The economic rationale underpinning Friedman’s theory — that is, the destruction of the state to open new markets — found its chance to shine in the imperialist nations with the election of Margaret Thatcher as the Prime Minister of Britain in 1979 and Ronald Reagan as President of the US in 1981. More than 40 state-owned businesses employing over 60,000 workers were sold and Britain’s council housing opened up to private purchase by the Thatcher government before her departure in 1990.
Reagan: The homeless who are homeless you might say by choice.
Reagan created two million homeless with his decision to cut the budget of the Department of Housing, fired 11,359 striking air traffic controllers and smashed their union, and cut the top tax rate from 70% to 28% in seven years. This strategy of austerity, privatisation and union smashing became known as neoliberalism. With the defeat of the miners’ strike in Britain in 1985, it had steamrolled any opposition. A hungry, crisis-ridden capital sustained itself upon the carcass of the state.
Carol Walton: I seen all riot police, I seen ’em all come over the walls when miners weren’t doing nowt and they had ’em penned in down there. I was stood here talking and them miners weren’t even saying a word. And they got a bloke down there and he must’ve been 40 year old like I’ve just said. And they wouldn’t let him up, there were six of ’em kicking the lights out of him and other coppers scattered the rest of the pickets. Anchor: The red flag came down over the Kremlin tonight as President Gorbachev resigned and brought an end to seven decades of communist rule in the Soviet Union.
With the overthrow of the Soviet Union in 1991, imperialism was again able to expand across essentially the whole sphere of the globe. Whilst the ransacking of the state continued, capital exports and the expansion of credit drove imperialist development in this period. For example, in 1995 Foreign Direct Investment outflows increased by an enormous 38% to $317bn, with a record $100bn going to countries in the so-called “Third World”. This investment was concentrated in three blocs: the US, Japan and Europe. 76% of the investment in “Third World” countries between 1993 and 1995 brought dividends to only ten imperialist nations. Far from the promised ‘global, borderless, stateless market’, this process more resembled that seen in Chile — that is, the violent ransacking of oppressed nations by imperialist capitalism.
For Europe, and particularly a re-unified Germany, the significance of this process was enormous. Previously haemorrhaged by the Soviet Union, German capital was now able to expand into Eastern Europe, whilst France further expanded into Southern Europe. It should come as no surprise that, over the same period, the EU began to make moves to consolidate itself as a bloc capable of combating US imperialism. The Treaty of the European Union was signed at Maastricht in December 1991, leading to the creation of a European central bank by July 1998 and a common European currency by January 1999.
The economic period of “neoliberal globalisation” represented nothing more and nothing less than the rapid division of the world between imperialist powers. The alliance between US, European and British imperialism that had developed during the post-war period could be sustained, and even formally deepened, throughout this due to the relatively open field left in the wake of communism’s destruction. However, as Lenin wrote, under imperialism ‘peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars’. This period of expansion could not continue forever: the world is no more infinite now than it was in 1914. Once the earth runs out, nothing is possible but a redivision of territories by the test of strength.
Over 2015 and 2016, the G20 countries introduced a record number of trade restrictive measures, undoing the foundation of “globalisation”. The earth had run out.
Imperialism today is on the verge of the largest crisis in its history. As Marx predicted, the rate of profit has fallen and continues to reach toward zero. This is an observable reality: in the 1870s the general world rate of profit stood at around 43%; by the 2000s, this had fallen to around 17%. This, combined with the all but complete division of the world between imperialist powers, means that imperialist capital is increasingly unable to find profitable investment. In consequence, overaccumulation is at an all-time high. This is expressed in ever increasing inequality and rising global debt, as capital that is unable to find profitable investment is hoarded. The rise of the so-called “developing” nations — particularly Russia and China — has further exacerbated this problem, with these economies accounting for 60% of global GDP in purchasing power, compared to 44% before the 2008 banking crash. The overaccumulation of capital and barriers to investment have, in fact, become so great that the only way to restore the accumulation process is by launching the largest and most destructive war in humanity’s history. On 19 January, 2018, it fell to the US defence secretary — James Mattis — to give this process toward world conflagration a clear political expression.
Mattis: Today, America’s military reclaims an era of strategic purpose and we’re alert to the realities of a changing world and attentive to the need to protect our values and the country’s that stand with us. America’s military protects our way of life and I want to point out it also protects the realm of ideas. It’s not just about protecting geography, this is a defence strategy that will guide our efforts in all realms. Mattis: The world, to quote George Schultz, is “awash in change”, defined by increasing global volatility and uncertainty with great power competition between nations becoming a reality once again. So, we will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists that we’re engaged in today but great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security.
Part Three: The Star-Spangled Frontier
Since the end of the second world war, the history of the United States has been the history of its dominance. Such power has been bought by the blood of the world’s working class and oppressed. Today, that dominance is waning and the threat posed by the US to the overwhelming majority of the world’s population increasing in consequence. The clearest expression of both the US’ dominance and its increasing inability to sustain it is this:
It is the US’ most powerful weapon without question.
However, this power is coming to an end.
Prior to the world wars, currency operated as a receipt for gold, which could be traded in at any bank. However, the requirements of the war economy in Europe meant that consumer goods had to be imported. As the US was a latecomer to both wars, it traded consumer goods to Europe for gold and, by 1944, it had accumulated two thirds of the world’s reserves and flooded Europe’s marketplace with dollar loans. As such, the decision was made at the Bretton Woods conference of the same year to tie almost every currency in the world to the dollar at a fixed rate and only the dollar to gold. This enshrined the economic dominance of US imperialism in international monetary policy. Yet under this system, there was no reserve ratio for how much gold the US had to have relative to dollars. As such, the US continued to print dollars to expand the capital available to it for imperialist exploitation. By the mid-1960s, it no longer held anywhere near enough gold to back up this expansion of the dollar. The French President Charles de Gaulle pointed this out in 1965, triggering a run on the dollar, with countries trading the currency in for gold en masse. Between 1965 and 1971, the US lost over 50% of its gold. This forced the US President Richard Nixon to end the Bretton Woods system and introduce a fiat money system on 15 August, 1971. This kept the dollar as the world’s currency Anchor but removed the need for gold and any fixed exchange rates. Currencies now fluctuate in value according to their nation’s relative competitive position on the world market.
The role played by the dollar as the world’s currency Anchor is what gives it its power. As currencies are tied to the dollar, US imperialism can sanction countries unilaterally, essentially removing their access to the world economy. However, this circumstance is becoming increasingly untenable. With the rise of the Russian and Chinese economies and the increasing size of the EU’s economy, the US is unable to retain for itself an unquestionably dominant position in the world market. Indeed, moves are already underway to bring an end to the dollar’s use as a financial weapon, with Russia, China and the EU all seeking to reduce their reliance upon the currency. The consequence of this is that the US is increasingly unable to maintain the dollar as the world’s currency Anchor. Though no currency is yet able to replace it, this signifies the coming end of the US’ dominance. If it wishes to maintain its position in the world economy, it will necessarily need to resort to aggression on a scale hitherto unseen. Come the hour, come the man.
Trump interview on Oprah:
Oprah: You took out a full page ad in major US newspapers last year criticising US foreign policy, what would you do differently Donald?
Trump: I’d make our allies — forgetting about the enemies, the enemies you can’t talk to so easily — I’d make our allies pay their fair share. We’re a debtor nation. Something’s gonna happen over the next number of years with this country.
Oprah: This sounds like political, Presidential talk to me. I know people have talked to you about whether you want to run. Would you ever?
Trump: I just probably wouldn’t do it, Oprah. I probably wouldn’t, but I do get tired of seeing what’s happening with this country and if it got so bad I would never want to rule it out totally because I really am tired of seeing what’s happening with this country — how we’re really making other people live like kings and we’re not.
Anchor: Who’s your biggest competitor, your biggest foe, globally right now?
Trump: Well, I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe. Russia’s a foe in certain respects. China’s a foe, economically certainly, they’re a foe.
Trump: We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy. America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.
Trump: We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first,
Trump: America first!
The 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, is commonly understood as a fascist. What is less often understood is his approach to US foreign policy. The objective of Trump’s approach to the world is singular: to maintain the dominance of US imperialism. This, he intends to achieve by a combination of strategies, which broadly fall into two categories. The first, which can be seen in his actions toward China, is a simple and straightforward campaign of economic aggression and military intimidation. The confusion over his intent arises from the second strategy, which plays upon the tensions between the transatlantic alliance and Russia to wage a campaign of economic intimidation against all those involved. In watching this second strategy unfold, many commentators have said that Trump views the world as a place in which the US has neither friend nor foe. A more accurate expression of his attitude is that the US has no friends, only foes.
The rise of the Chinese economy has unfolded with staggering rapidity. In 2003, China’s production accounted for 4.2% of world output. In the thirteen years between then and 2016, this had more than trebled to 15.1%. In the same year, the nation’s banking assets surpassed that of both the Eurozone and the US, standing at $33 trillion, compared to $31 trillion and $16 trillion respectively. With China’s GDP expected to surpass that of the US by 2033, it is clear to see why US imperialism views its expansion as an economic threat.
On 1 March 2018, Trump announced his intent to impose a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminium imported into the US. After they raised concerns, the EU, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and South Korea were temporarily exempted from these tariffs, allowing Trump to focus on China. He followed this up with further tariffs on $60 billion of Chinese goods on 22 March, citing a Chinese law which requires foreign investors to hand over technology and intellectual property rights when they invest in the nation as justification. China has responded in kind and, over the course of 2018, the number of tariffs imposed by nations has increased steadily. China has stated that in pursuing this course of action, Trump has started ‘the biggest trade war in history’. The near collision of a US warship with a Chinese vessel in early October is a pertinent reminder of how such economic combat tends to escalate, with Trump clearly intending to use the US military as his bailiffs.
Trump’s policy on China represents merely a particularly aggressive iteration of prior US administration’s approach to the nation — following the lead given in 2011 by Barrack Obama’s “pivot to Asia”. However, his attitude to Russia and Europe is definitively new. Strategy here is murky, difficult to understand and riddled with misdirection.
To understand Trump’s relationship with either Russia or Europe, it is crucial to grasp both the framework of prior US policy and the reality of the EU’s relationship to Russia. The economic isolation and military intimidation of Russia has long appeared as a point of agreement within the US-led imperialist alliance. This first erupted into daylight with the 2014 CIA and EU backed coup in Kiev, which led to the expulsion of Russia from the G8 — now the G7 — with its annexation of Crimea. The Enhanced Forward Presence line on Russia’s western border and the conflicting objectives of the western imperialists and Russia in Syria serve to further highlight this antagonism. However, if the EU wishes to further consolidate itself as an imperialist bloc capable competing with the US, it is imperative that its relationship with Russia does not deteriorate any further. Russia is the EU’s fourth largest trading partner, following the US, China and Switzerland. Further, it is the EU’s largest gas supplier and this role is expanding. The importance of this relationship was clearly expressed by the German Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, in 2017 when he stated that any further sanctions on Russia were both unacceptable and contrary to Germany’s interests. Trump has repeatedly played upon this conflict of interest to advance the position of US imperialism within Europe. This is clearest in considering his interventions at the 2018 G7 and NATO summits.
Trump at G7: Whether you like it or not, and it May not be politically correct, but we have a world to run. And at the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table. Trump at NATO: I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you’re supposed to guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.
Although these interventions May seem to contradict one another, they are two prongs of the same attack. The first intervention, at the G7, was intended to draw ire from the EU over Trump’s position on Russia. In this, it succeeded, with the French President Emmanuel Macron stating that ‘we don’t mind becoming six’. The second intervention, at NATO, was intended to point toward the EU’s hypocrisy over Russia, highlighting the economic relationship between the two. Both interventions are intended to force the EU into a corner, exacerbate splits within it and, ultimately, to sever its economic relationship with Russia and any competitive gains it derives from this. Trump’s evocation of the planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany is pertinent in this respect, as it highlights the splits forming within the EU over its relationship to Russia. Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia all offered their support for Trump’s statements in the immediate aftermath of the NATO summit.
This speaks to a further element of US imperialism’s present strategy toward Europe. Unlike the US, the EU is not a nation but an alliance. This presents significant political difficulties in its ability to successfully manoeuvre through a period of competition as the interests of its member states frequently conflict. The US is attempting to exacerbate such splits by the overt and covert consolidation of the far-right in Europe. This can be openly seen in the case of Poland, which vehemently opposes any friendly relationship between Russia and the EU at all. Since the election of the far-right Law and Justice Party in 2015, the US has secured for itself a clear ally in Poland with an agreement that the US military presence there should now be permanent, a commitment from Poland to begin constructing methods for the import of US gas and a planned referendum on the future of its relationship to the EU. Similar attempts at subversion are underway across the EU, with the US ambassador to Germany stating that he wishes ‘to empower other conservatives’ on 5 Juneand Trump’s former strategist, Steven Bannon, openly attempting to consolidate a fascist alliance across Europe.
Trump’s strategy of using Russia as a lever by which to attack Europe is further complemented by more overtly antagonistic moves. Having initially exempted several of the US’ traditional allies from the steel and aluminium tariffs applied to China, Trump announced that these tariffs would apply to Mexico, Canada and the EU on 31 May. As in the case of China, this move was the prelude to a trade war. In a more overt iteration of his strategy around Russia and Europe, Trump launched yet another campaign of aggression against EU interests on 8 May, with his withdrawal from the Iran deal.
Trump: I am announcing today that United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
His cited reason — that Iran is attempting to produce nuclear warheads — is nonsense, with ten separate checks by the International Atomic Energy Agency confirming that Iran has stopped uranium enrichment since the deal was signed in 2015. His purpose in backing out of the deal is to end EU trade with Iran and to further escalate US imperialism’s disastrous campaign to secure dominance in the middle-east.
Since his electoral victory in 2016, an enormous section of the US ruling-class has attempted to present Trump as a Russian puppet. There is not a grain of truth in this. Irrespective of any election interference, Trump is pursuing the most aggressive campaign to defend the interests of US imperialism that the world has ever seen. Claims to the contrary express only a tactical split within the US bourgeoisie, with the anti-Trump faction favouring the maintenance of the transatlantic alliance, further escalation with Russia and a slightly softer hand at home. This deliberately misses the essential significance of Trump’s Presidency. In every element, he is the authentic expression of the US’ quest for complete dominance as an imperialist power, as American as apple pie.
Part Four: A European Twilight
These aged spires and ruins stand today in a surreal twilight. Dark clouds are again gathering across the continent. Ancient cities, which know well the bloody tread of empire’s decline, quiver under a fast-moving wind. As the storm grows ever closer, it feels as if they May tumble.
Will Europe fortify herself before it hits?
Juncker and Trump press conference:
Juncker: Mr President, ladies and gentleman. When I was invited by the President to the White House, I had one intention. I had the intention to make a deal today, and we have made a deal today.
Juncker: We have decided to strengthen our co-operation on energy. We will build more terminals to import liquefied natural gas from the US.
Juncker: As far as agriculture is concerned, the European Union can import more soy beans from the US and it will be done.
Juncker: This, of course, is on the understanding that as long as we’re negotiating — unless one party would stop the negotiations — we hold off further tariffs and reassess existing tariffs on steel and aluminium.
Prior to his meeting to discuss tariffs with Trump on 25 July, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker promised that he would stand firm against the President’s demands. The results indicate that he did anything but. The EU had committed to purchase US gas and soy beans. In return, it had received nothing but Trump’s word that the US would not impose further tariffs and those already implemented could be discussed further. For all intents and purposes, Juncker had sounded the horn of retreat.
This indicates a simple reality: the EU is not yet able to engage in an open trade war with the US. The US is its largest trading partner and, more importantly, its most profitable. In 2017, the EU had an overall trade surplus of €19,729 billion, with an enormous amount of this surplus derived from trade with the US. If it were to lose even 17% of the surplus it gains from US trade, it would fall into a trade deficit. To recoup such a loss, the EU would need to increase the surplus it derives from its next most profitable trading partner by almost 50%. As such, the EU has little choice but to demure to the US’ demands on trade, as it stands to lose more by opposing them.
Therefore, Juncker’s retreat was a prudent and tactical step. It does not indicate that the EU imperialist bloc lacks the will to confront the US. Quite the opposite is true and nowhere does this emerge more clearly than in the case of Iran.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran deal, was signed in 2015 by the permanent members of the UN Security Council — that is, Britain, China, France, Russia and the US — alongside Germany and the EU. It was intended to curb Iran’s nuclear programme, offering greater financial investment and a reprieve from sanctions in return for incredibly stringent regulation of any Iranian nuclear development. Since the deal was signed EU trade with Iran has more than doubled, reaching €21 billion in 2017.
Following Trump’s withdrawal from the deal and the reinstatement of sanctions on those trading with Iran, the EU has acted swiftly and resolutely in attempting to defend this trade. On 18 May, the European Commission proposed that EU governments make transfers to the Iranian Central Bank in euros for oil purchases, thus avoiding any consequence from the US’ sanctions. Despite concerns from the French President Macron, the plan was passed by the Commission. On the same day, the EU also approved measures that forbid member states from complying with the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions and protect them from any consequences within the EU. This, however, was nowhere near enough.
The first significant blow to the EU’s attempts to maintain its businesses in Iran came on 7 August, when the German carmaker Daimler AG announced that it would be suspending what it described as ‘very limited’ activities in Iran. An even greater blow followed on 20 August, with the French oil giant Total announcing that it too was withdrawing. Total is the fourth largest energy company in the world, with assets at around $242.63bn. The significance of this is twofold. Firstly, it highlighted the enormous problems facing European monopolies in investing in Iran. Although the European Commission’s plan to transfer funds to Iran via EU governments could potentially protect individual transfers from US sanctions, these companies have enormous trade in dollars. To continue to trade with Iran, therefore, is to risk all their trade in dollars. Secondly, the withdrawal of Total demonstrated that the US strategy was succeeding in beating out Europe’s larger players. Sure enough, Total was followed by more EU monopolies, with British Airways, Air France, Allianz and Maerskall announcing their intent to withdraw from Iran by 24 August.
This withdrawal led the EU to consider alternative methods which would allow European businesses to continue trade with Iran. In early September, the bloc concluded that it would need to focus upon smaller businesses, with less trade in dollars. To do so, it would need either smaller banks or its states’ central banks to manage money transfers to Iran, with central banks preferred as a US sanction would not destroy them overnight. After concerns were raised by the European Central Bank, this strategy was thrown out. This lead to Germany, France and Britain announcing that they would set up a “special purpose vehicle” to manage oil trade with Iran on 14 September. The initial idea was that this could operate as an accounting firm within the EU, to manage trade between nations and Iran. However, this would still risk US sanctions on those using the currency. As such, the conception of the “special purpose vehicle” was changed. On 26 September, the EU announced that the vehicle would be operating under a kind of bartering system. No cash would change hands and, instead, European, Chinese and Russian companies would exchange goods for oil. Even this was not sufficient, with Italy’s Eni and Spain’s CEPSA oil companies announcing their intent to follow Total and withdraw from Iran on 4 October.
The torturous difficulties that the EU has faced in attempting to maintain its trade with Iran highlight the realities of attempting to confront the US, even via a proxy. Though the dollar is not able to maintain itself as the world’s currency Anchor for much longer, its power is still incredibly vast. To date, the dollar accounts for 44% of the world’s daily turnover in foreign exchange, in comparison to 13% of daily turnover for the euro and 2% for the renminbi. On top of this, the US is still the world’s leading supplier of both bonds and equities. In 2016, it accounted for 43% of the $90 trillion worth outstanding globally in bonds; in the same period, the US accounted for 39% of the $70 trillion worth of global equity stock outstanding. To face a sanction from the dollar is, therefore, to lose access to nearly half of the world marketplace. Whilst the political will to challenge the US in Iran clearly exists within the EU, it cannot command its business to obey such a will. For these businesses, the prospect of losing access to that much trade for the sake of a single market is simply not worth it. The EU is definitively on the back foot.
However, the EU’s experience in Iran has not weakened its resolve but strengthened it. Understanding that the root of the EU’s inability to manage its own interests stems from the dollar, Juncker used his State of the Union speech before the European Parliament on 12 September to argue that the time had come to make the euro the world’s currency Anchor. The first step toward doing this is to increase the amount of trade that the EU does in euros and to decrease the amount it does in dollars. Juncker provided one way of doing this in his speech, arguing that the EU should cease the aid payments it provides to nations in the African continent and convert this to trade. This would represent an enormous deepening of Europe’s exploitation of Africa, whilst strengthening the euro and open new avenues for capital accumulation. However, it also runs the risk of opening another front in the EU and the US’ confrontation, as the US is making plans to consolidate its presence on the continent to head off Chinese investment. A second measure under consideration is equally risky. The suggestion is that Europe could bolster the flow of the euro by paying for its energy imports in the currency. With Russia as the EU’s largest provider of gas and oil, this would integrate Europe’s relationship with the nation as a fundamental pillar in its plan to challenge the dominance of the dollar and US imperialism. Though Russia is more than willing, as it planning to reduce its own dependency on the dollar, the political problems of making such a move are obvious. In strengthening its relationship with Russia, the EU would risk further splits, further antagonism from the US and perhaps even a drastic escalation in the conflict between Russia and NATO.
Whilst the EU’s actions in Iran and the ambitions of the European Commission to achieve a euro domination of the world economy demonstrate that a faction of the European imperialist bourgeoisie feels its time has come, this attitude is not shared across Europe. Its counterpart:
Footage of Italian fascists giving Nazi salute. Montage of contemporary European fascism. Include Bannon in montage. Bannon: Every day, every day it is gonna be a fight.
The imperialist crisis has summoned up the ghouls of Europe’s past. Encouraged and doted upon by the US, the resurgence of fascism as a serious political force in particularly Italy, Hungary and Poland presents a severe obstacle to the EU imperialist bloc. Among the manifold flags, cries and salutes of this resurgence, there is one striking political commonality. Fascism has come to destroy the EU. For that faction of Europe’s imperialists dreaming of a dominant euro, this must be dealt with swiftly and brutally. The example of Viktor Orbán’s Hungary provides a striking example of how.
To understand the EU’s actions against Orbán’s Hungary, we first need to understand something of its context. Though the European Union is an imperialist alliance, this does not mean that every nation within it is imperialist. To the contrary, Hungary, the Baltic states and sections of south-east Europe serve as incredibly lucrative investments for Europe’s imperialists. This produced substantial tensions following the 2008 banking crash, with the EU imposing austerity upon many of its smaller states, including Hungary. Further tensions can be seen in the EU’s handling of migration. In 2015, took in the sixth largest number of migrants across the EU. Whilst Germany, Sweden and France took in more migrants than Hungary, distribution wasn’t proportional, placing greater financial and infrastructure pressure on poorer states. In consequence, Hungary rejected the EU’s migrant quota. This has continued to escalate, with Hungary and Poland rejecting new quotas at the beginning of 2018. Orbán’s fascism has been allowed to flourish in this context. In the last three years he has created an armed force of “border hunters”, limited Hungary’s refugee intake to five asylum seekers a week and introduced indefinite detention.
The continued rejection of the EU’s laws has lead to the formation of clear fractures and disruption within the imperialist bloc. Europe’s imperialists find this untenable. Acting purely out of a desire to prevent the EU from fracturing further, an EU vote on 12 September saw the bloc apply what has been termed the “nuclear option” to Hungary — that is, article seven of the Treaty of Lisbon. This provision allows the EU to retain Hungary as an EU member state and to continue to derive profit from it, whilst stripping it of voting rights in the European Council. In other words, Europe’s approach toward the problem of anti-EU fascism is simply to deprive of it of any ability to influence the bloc’s policy. Whether this will be successful or simply galvanise the forces of fascism remains to be seen.
Ultimately, the question facing Europe is one of two extremes. The imperialists at the head of the EU bloc are attempting to bolster its power and achieve dominance over the world market. At the same time, the resurgence of fascism in Europe threatens to split the bloc, leading to its collapse. Whether the EU will rise or fall is an open question but neither result benefits the mass of humanity even remotely. Within this twilight, only one thing is certain. Night is coming.
Part Five: The Fall of the British Empire
Britain is the oldest imperialist nation in the world. Once the world’s dominant power, the British empire is today in its death throes. Decay haunts every street, every home and every hall of power. Across the globe, the tendrils of British capital grasp feverishly at anything they May find, sucking it dry as a vampire might. But the monster is running out of meat. It is starved, moribund and soon it will die.
At the end of the world wars, Britain’s position in the imperialist world had definitively changed. Now the world’s dominant imperialist power, the US was enthusiastic about the prospect of European unity as a manner by which to shape the European economy to its interests and wanted Britain to be fully involved. This would both facilitate the process of the US’ dominance replacing Britain’s and allow the US greater control over the cultivation of the European economy, with Britain acting as its agent. Britain was ambivalent toward the process. It was ultimately in favour of European co-operation but only to the extent that it did not impact on British plans to retain itself as major imperialist power and the City of London as one of the world’s leading financial centres. Although its membership of European Economic Community was deferred until 1973, the role suggested by the US is ultimately that which Britain adopted. On the one hand, it was a member of the EEC and, then, the EU; on the other, it had a “special relationship” with US imperialism. The role of British imperialism was as a diplomatic and economic bridge between US and European imperialism.
This role could not last forever. With the EU evidently making moves to consolidate itself as an imperialist bloc capable of competing with the US following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the British bourgeoisie sensed that lines were hardening. Sooner or later they would be forced to choose between one of these blocs. Britain’s particularly parasitic nature as an imperialist power ensured that the third option — retaining itself as an independent imperialist nation — was impossible. British financial assets stood at 560% of GDP in 2015, whilst its national economy is incredibly unproductive and stagnant. This renders it particularly vulnerable to shocks in the world economy and means that confrontation with either the US or the EU could destroy it. With the emergence of clear political divisions between the EU and the US in the wake of the 2003 Iraq war and the increase in global instability following the 2008 banking crisis, the hour of decision was coming. However, Britain’s bourgeoisie were split on the question. This split, felt particularly within the Conservative Party and exacerbated by the emergence of UKIP, rendered it unable to decide. With great power competition growing ever nearer, a hand was forced.
Cameron: On Monday I will commence the process set out under our referendum act and I will go to Parliament and propose that the British people decide our future in Europe through an in out referendum on Thursday 23 June. The choice is in your hands.
Johnson: The last thing I wanted was to go against David Cameron or the government, but after a great deal of heartache I don’t think there’s anything else I can do. I will be advocating vote leave or whatever the team is called.
Cameron: I say, if you are making a decision this big, you really need to think through the economic consequences.
Cameron: The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected.
Cameron: I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months, but I do not think it would be right for me to try and be the captain that tries to steer our country to its next destination.
May: Strong and stable.
May: Strong and stable.
May: Strong and stable.
May: Strong and stable government.
Corbyn: Strong and stable leadership.
May: I have just been to Buckingham Palace where Her Majesty the Queen has asked me to form a new government and I accepted.
Dyer: So what’s happened to that twat David Cameron who called it on?
Hammond: Brexit means Brexit.
May: Brexit means Brexit.
McDonnell: Yes, a chaotic breakfast that will damage our economy.
Dyer: Who knows about Brexit? No-one got a fucking clue what Brexit is, yeah?
May: It’s the only credible and negotiable plan on the table that delivers no hard border in Northern Ireland and also delivers on the vote of the British people.
Anchor: Before we talk about the impact of breakfast, er Brexit.
Anchor: Were you no clearer when Jeremy Corbyn –
Dyer: No, I ain’t got a clue, no one knows what it is. It’s like this mad riddle.
May: Brexit means Brexit.
Anchor: Brexit means breakfast — Brexit.
Grady: So if Brexit means breakfast in the UK then er… means Brexit not breakfast.
Johnson: Do not believe that we can somehow get it wrong now, bodge it now and fix it later. Get out properly… That is a total fantasy!
MORGAN: Pe}ople do feel that –
REES-MOGG: A proper Brexit.
Translator: And I think that you will regret this as well if I might say.
Anchor: After breakfast…
Trump: Well I think the deal she is striking is not what the people voted on, exactly. It’s a much different deal than the people voted on. It was not the deal that was in the referendum.
Javid: And I think the Honourable Gentleman should first of all just accept that Brexit means Brexit –
May: means Brexit –
Anchor: means Brexit –
Sturgeon: means breakfast –
Corbyn: hard, soft, clean, red, white blue.
Presenter: Well, she tried it last night and it didn’t work. Tonight they came out at the press conferences and in various statements saying that her chequers plan still wasn’t acceptable.
Anchor: Export drives saying breakfast — Bre — oh my Lord!
Rudd: And we must move on, Brexit means Brexit.
May: And I have always said, no deal is better than a bad deal.
The victory of the leave faction of the British ruling class, brought about a propaganda campaign of intense and despicable racism, did not succeed in uniting either the British bourgeoisie or the Conservative Party. Rather, it deepened the splits within them considerably. The chaos resulting from their split has meant that, even at the time this film was put together, Britain has not been able to secure a Brexit deal. Even if a deal were negotiated, its terms would necessarily advantage the EU imperialist bloc and damage Britain, as the European bourgeoisie attempt to send a message to those opposed to the EU throughout the continent.
On 13 September the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, provided a window into the extent of British imperialism’s crisis. He predicted that if Britain were to leave the EU without a deal, then its housing market would fall in value by up to 35%. By July 2018, the total value of British housing stock stood at £8.2 trillion. A fall in value of 35% would mean that around £2.8 trillion would be wiped of the market. By contrast, Britain’s GDP currently stood at just over £2.6 trillion in 2017. To put this in simple terms: if Britain leaves the EU without a deal, it could lose more wealth than the sum total of everything it produces from but one of its financial markets. This would mean the end of British imperialism.
The consequences of this fight over the best course for British imperialism hold only one certainty. Whatever happens, the working class will be made to pay for the crisis. This can be seen in the British government’s attitude toward maintaining a supply of food and medicine in the event of a no deal Brexit. EU imports account for 31% of Britain’s food supply and 37 million packets of medicine a month. Though the government claims it is stockpiling these resources in the event of a no deal, it has merely instructed private industry to do so. Not only is this impossible, it leaves the working class at the mercy of rising prices as shortages and an inevitable fall in value of the pound bite. Widespread starvation May become a reality in Britain once more.
Prior even to the moment that the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced the EU referendum, British imperialism has been driven entirely by crisis. Its bourgeoisie see and understand the significance of the hardening of relations between the US and the EU, but they do not know how to respond. They are afraid, they are divided, and they are desperate. As the old adage goes, the most dangerous animal is that which is wounded and backed into a corner.
Fade in on police in hazmats in Salisbury. Slowly begin discolouration to emphasise hazmat colours and cast all other colours in shadow. This image will be repeated through the segment and the discolouration should be a consistent process. May: They have provided no credible explanation that could suggest they lost control of their nerve agent, no explanation as to how this agent came to be used in the United Kingdom, no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law. Instead, they have treated the use of a military grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance. So, Mr Speaker there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter.
Since the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal on 4 March, the story surrounding the incident has gone through countless iterations. It will doubtlessly go through several more. Through these variations, Britain has maintained that Russia is guilty and that it has proof of this. On the other hand, Russia denies any responsibility in the poisoning, has sent over 70 requests for information to the Home Office — most of them unanswered — and has repeatedly requested and been denied a joint investigation into the case. Though the temptation to wrench some truth from the narratives spun by Britain, Russia and, now, the Atlantic Council backed website Bellingcat is indeed alluring, such efforts are bound to run into a dead end. Britain has the monopolised the evidence, something clearly indicated by its purchase of Skripal’s house and all his belongings. This means that the flow of information surrounding the case is all but controlled by the British state. Though it is known that Skripal was an active MI6 agent as late as 2016, Britain has forbidden the media from commenting on his handler, releasing two D notices to such effect in the wake of the poisoning. Likewise, the two men accused of poisoning Skripal are supposed as Russian GRU agents.
Anchor: You are being accused by British law enforcement. They say you work for the GRU.
Petrov: This is the worst.
Though they denied this in an interview with the Russian state broadcaster RT, the truth of the matter is impossible to derive from anything accessible by civilians.
Anchor: When you arrived in the UK, when you were in London or in Salisbury, throughout your whole trip did you have any Novichok or some other poisonous agent or dangerous substance with you?
Petrov: It’s absurd.
The truth of the Skripal poisoning is the domain of states and states exclusively. More importantly, the quest for truth misses the political point of the incident. What is important here is simple: British imperialism is using the Skripal poisoning as a pretext to warmonger against Russia. NARRATOR: That this is so is evident in numerous elements of the British state’s actions. The most egregious example can be seen early in the story’s development. On 20 March, the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claimed that Porton Down’s researchers had told him, categorically, that the nerve agent was of Russian origin.
Johnson: Look at the evidence. I mean the people from Porton Down, the laboratory.
Anchor: They have the samples.
Johnson: They do. They were absolutely categorical. I asked the guy myself, I said, “Are you sure?” and he said “there’s no doubt”.
This was a categorical lie and Porton Down’s scientists confirmed it as such on 3 April, stating that they had been able to identify the type of the nerve agent but not its origin. The basis of May’s claims that Russia is responsible contain a similar distortion. In her first Parliamentary statement on the matter, May claimed that Novichok — the nerve agent used against Skripal — could only have been produced in Russia. This, the initial basis of Britain’s claims against Russia, is also a lie. Not only are samples of Novichok held by most laboratories in the world, its composition is publicly available information. So zealous were both Johnson and May in their attempts to paint Russia as the culprit that they failed to pay attention to either their own governmental bodies or publicly available information.
What is more pressing even than the fact that Britain has used the incident as propaganda is what this propaganda has already achieved. Under cover of this propaganda campaign, Britain has been able to dramatically escalate the scope of its military and cyber warfare campaigns against Russia, as well as increasing diplomatic tensions with the nation. Within seven months of the poisoning it had expelled 23 Russian diplomats, agreed to establish a new chemical weapons unit, created a new joint area of operations in the North Atlantic, authorised cyber warfare actions against Russia and floated plans to increase defence spending from around 2% of GDP to levels comparable with at least the so-called “Cold War”. Beyond this, Britain is developing the foundation for a rapid and vast censorship campaign, presenting dissent against its position on Russia on social media as the result of “Russian bots”. These are not the actions of a nation seeking a diplomatic solution. They are the actions of an aggressor preparing for war.
There is no resistance to this process within Britain. Although the so-called socialist and anti-war leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, initially expressed quibbles over the evidence used to associate Russia with the poisoning, he has since accepted the British state’s line on Russia entirely.
Corbyn: We are entering a new, fast-changing and more dangerous world — including the reckless attacks in Salisbury, which the evidence painstakingly assembled by the police now points clearly to the Russian state. Corbyn: We commend the police and security services for their diligence in investigating this appalling crime and we will support any reasonable to bring those responsible to justice and to take further action against Russia for its failure to co-operate with this investigation.
Among the ranks of Corbyn’s Labour, the cry of war is even louder than that in the Conservative Party. At the 2018 Labour Party conference the deputy leader of the Party, Tom Watson, used his platform to argue that Theresa May had been too soft on Russia. Similarly, after May refused to confirm if she would release enough funding to maintain Britain as a tier one military power, Labour’s shadow Defence Secretary bragged that, under a Corbyn government, Labour would provide whatever fund required to do so. Just as the Labour Party supported the barbaric role played by British imperialism in the world wars, it is dead set on carrying out the criminal campaign against Russia.
The economic shock therapy applied in Chile under Pinochet has an ideological equivalent. The notion is that by overwhelming a population with shock, one can seize the opportunity and put in place policies that May otherwise have been opposed. It matters not if the shock is created by a staged or an authentic event, merely that one seize the moment. This is precisely the tactic that British imperialism is using in its handling of the Skripal incident.
The reason that Britain is doing this is rooted in the international crisis of imperialism. Unable to properly orientate itself as the reality of a confrontation between US imperialism and the EU imperialist bloc grows closer, it is making a desperate push to maintain the transatlantic alliance. To maintain Britain as an imperialist power, the British bourgeoisie need to maintain their alliances in both Europe and in the US. As the predatory NATO campaign against Russia appeared to serve as point of unity between these powers, Britain is determined to lead this campaign. Thus far, the project is working, with both the US and the EU supporting Britain at key moments. However, how long this can go on remains to be seen. As the EU consolidates ties with Russia as a component of its strategy to confront the US, Britain’s zealous interventions May well simply deepen the splits between it and Europe’s imperialists.
The trajectory of British imperialism serves as a microcosm for the trajectory of imperialism in general. The monstrous force analysed by Marx and Lenin those many years ago has today grow to a delirious scale. Racked by crisis and driven deeper into desperation by mutual animosity, imperialist society is reaching toward the abyss. The Trumpets of war are blowing. And here we are, crawling toward ruin and a horizon bleached white by fire.
Footage of “Who killed Hannibal?” sketch:
Andre: Uh, so everybody’s talking about climate change these days right?
Caption: THE TOP 100 COMPANIES IN THE WORLD PRODUCED OVER 70% OF GLOBAL EMISSIONS SINCE 1988
Part Six: The Sixth Mass Extinction
This is the Great Barrier Reef. It is dying.
In the summer of 2016 an invisible fire cut across the reef. This majestic place was overcome by decay, with the corals that have served as home for marine life since the beginning of recorded memory bleached white by the boiling waters that encircled them. In consequence, huge swathes of the reef were transformed irreparably. Its northern third, previously its most immaculate section, lost more than half of its coral. Though the coral was able to recover to some degree in the autumn, spring and winter, the summer of 2017 saw the liquid flames return. This time, they hit the reef’s middle third. The result of these back-to back bleaching was catastrophic. In 2015, the reef was home to 2 billion corals. Three years later, half of them had died.
The brutal death of the Great Barrier Reef has not been brought about by a freak occurrence. The cause of the hot waters which suffocated half of its beautiful, irreplaceable corals was not the anger of gods, nor a temporary fluctuation in the earth’s environment. They were brought about by human createdclimate change.
In the process of developing their analysis of capitalist society, Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels recognised a peculiar feature of the development of capitalism. The immense technological and productive advances brought about by capitalist industry did not only produce an increase in the wealth of humanity, but an impoverishment and destruction of nature. In his book The Dialectics of Nature, Engels formulated this into a clear theoretical principle. He wrote: ‘Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human conquest over nature. For each such conquest takes its revenge on us.’ This was in 1883.
Today, the immense growth of capitalist industry under imperialism has heightened this contradiction to an apocalyptic scale. A UN report issued on 8 October highlighted the scale and immediacy of this problem clearly. At our present rate of pollution, we will see a temperature rise of 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2040, leading to environmental catastrophe across the sphere of the globe. In other words, we have but 12 years left before the environmental crisis grows to such a scale that it could very well lead to human extinction. The report argues that to prevent this will require changing the world economy at a scale and speed that had ‘no documented historic precedent’, with greenhouse gas pollution reduced 45% from its 2010 level by 2030 and eliminated by 2050.
Many critiques of global warming suggest that the problem is rooted in consumption. In other words, they argue that global warming is down to individuals and that each of us has a responsibility to manage our own carbon footprint by recycling, using less electricity and water, or driving less. Whilst doing these things is by no means a bad suggestion, this fundamentally fails to get to the heart of the problem. Take, for example, recycling. Whilst in theory this process could scale back plastic pollution of the soil and the ocean, or even offset the impact of producing plastic, reality tells a different story. In August 2018, councils in Britain revealed that two-thirds of the plastic they receive is unrecyclable, with particularly black plastic being all but impossible to recycle. As such, the intent of individual consumers does not matter here. Whether they recycle or not, two thirds of plastics in Britain necessarily go to landfill. It is clear, therefore, that critiques focusing upon the individual cannot solve the question as it confronts us. What is required is a systemic approach.
Climate change is both caused and driven by the organisation of production under capitalism, with just 100 companies responsible for over 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions. These industries hold immense influence and power, which makes tackling the pollution resultant from their actions essentially impossible under capitalism. An example of this can be seen in the responses offered to the 8 October UN report on climate change. The report’s conclusion that coal use must be eliminated was immediately disputed by the World Coal Association, with its interim chief executive, Katie Warrick, stating that it will continue to campaign for the use of “carbon capture technology” to allow the continued use of coal. Rather than preventing climate change, this technology is intended to reverse its impact, lowering temperatures once they have passed the 2.7 degree threshold. Dr Drew Shindell, one of the UN report’s authors, stated that this option is preferred by governments, despite the fact that it would lead to the death of all coral reefs on the planet, shortly after the report’s release.
That capitalism is fundamentally unable to resolve the environmental crisis is because it necessarily organises production exclusively in the pursuit of private profit. As Marx understood, profit is derived from the exploitation of human labour-power — the only commodity capable of producing new value. As renewable energy sources only require labour-power in the construction of solar panels, wind turbines or wave energy technology, they do not produce new value in the long-term and, as such, they are not profitable. In contrast, carbon energy sources require labour-power to acquire through mining, drilling or fracking and more labour-power to process. They are profitable. As such, the logic of capitalist production dictates that renewable energy sources do not receive masses of investment, whereas fossil fuels and carbon producing energy sources are worth billions.
Not only is capitalism unable to solve the problem of climate change, the reaction and terror brought about by its crisis is significantly deepening the problem. This is indicated by the US’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords on 1 June, 2017.
The United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Thank you.
Though the Accords are by no means sufficient, a point well acknowledged within scientific literature, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement signifies that he will not allow the profitability of US imperialism to be curbed even to an insignificant degree. The construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the beginning of fracking in Britain and the intent of the newly elected, US-backed fascist President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, to privatise the Amazon rainforest indicate much the same process. Resistance to this rampant exploitation of the earth is everywhere met by the iron fist of the capitalist state, something clearly indicated by the US response to protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the British response to demonstrations against fracking. Rather than address the problem of climate change, imperialist society is seeking to deepen its exploitation of the earth. Profit comes first, no matter its demands.
Though this is, itself, enough to bury our species, the tendency toward war analysed throughout the rest of this film must also be acknowledged. War between any of the nations discussed in this film today quite literally means doom for our ecosystem. Aside from the more evident implications of direct confrontation, even the continuation of proxy wars threatens to dramatically speed up the environmental crisis. This is obvious from a simple observation: the US military is the largest polluter on the face of the earth. As it further builds its forces and those it threatens are forced to do the same, this pollution will only increase. The implications for our planet our staggering.
Though the UN report cited here makes clear the scale of the problem facing our species, it fails to communicate precisely the extent of capitalist production’s impact upon the natural world. For every moment that we allow imperialist capitalism to continue, our planet is impoverished, losing some of the light of its splendour. If the agonising death of the Great Barrier Reef serves as one example of this, we must know that there are many, many others.
The summer of 2018 set all time heat records across the whole planet.
This was entirely the result of climate change produced by human industry.
As a result, wildfires spread across the globe, reaching even the Arctic circle.
The oldest sea ice in the world had never melted before 2018.
Over the course of this year, it melted twice.
This damage to the ice caps threatens to destroy the polar vortex, which regulates the earth’s temperature.
An example of this is the gulf stream, which is at its weakest in 1,600 years.
This will mean that weather systems linger longer, destroying ecosystems.
Marine heatwaves have doubled between 1982 and 2016.
Around 87% of these were caused by human activity.
Humanity, which represent 0.01% of all life on earth, has destroyed 83% of wild mammals.
The lowest estimates predict that between 200 and 2,000 species are becoming extinct every year.
This is known as the sixth mass extinction.
It is between 1,000 and 10,000 times faster than any previous extinction event.
There can be no doubt:
capitalism’s existence poses an existential threat to life on earth.
“Where the Establishment sees individual human nature and technological progress as the engine of destruction, the [Marxist] looks on the ecological spoilation and traces the poisonous spoor back to the strongholds of reaction and capital; calls the pollution for what it is — war against nature, against people, against the race itself, against the unborn.”
-- Huey P. Newton, Dialectics of Nature (1974).
Part Seven: Socialism and War
Here in Syria, world war is not a possibility or a theory. It is reality.
Since the beginning of the war on Syria in 2011, the nation has seen the armies of around 62 countries. To place this in context, the landmass of Syria is but two thirds that of Britain. Though the US-led alliance in Syria, which notably includes Britain and France, entered the war claiming that it was merely there to oppose Islamic State and their various counterparts, its real intentions are today very clear. Not only is there evidence which reveals that the US is, in fact, arming and funding the terrorist groups it claims to be in Syria to oppose, its role in the war has increasingly been revealed as that of conquest. This is very clear in both policy and action.
Russia joined the Syrian war in September 2015, after an official request from the Syrian government. Despite the US and Britain’s claims that they are in Syria to combat the same enemy, both of these imperialist powers turned down Russian attempts to start discussing co-operation in October 2015. Since then, tensions between these powers have escalated steadily. The reason for this is simple: the US and its allies are in Syria to further expand their influence over the middle-east; Russia is in an alliance with the Assad government, which they must overturn in order to do so. As Russia’s interventions have tipped the war in favour of the Syrian government, these contradictions of interest have only sharpened. This is made clear by the near escalation of airstrikes by the US, Britain and France into open conflict with Russia in April. With the US’ illegal presence in Syria now to be permanent, this antagonism could flare into open conflict at any moment.
Viewed in context of the analysis developed throughout the rest of this film, it is clear to see that the war on Syria is an expression of a broader process. It is a live front in a world confrontation. Moreover, there are other such fronts, with the war today still raging in eastern Ukraine serving as a similar expression. These are the blistering wounds of the crisis, where masses of humanity are already being wiped out in pursuit of what the US terms “great power competition”. Unless the causes of these wounds are attended to, they will simply spread. Reality is demonstrating this.
Whilst writing, recording and editing the rest of this film, the crisis has picked up pace considerably. In late October, Trump announced that the US would be withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, with the intention to station mid-range nuclear warheads in Europe. Though Russia maintained that it was willing to continue discussion with the US to resolve the question, it stated that it would have no option but to respond to a US withdrawal. Sure enough, Putin revealed that Russia now possesses hypersonic weapons capable of evading any air defence system on 19 November. With the US’ plans to station its warheads in Europe, this move has also served to escalate tensions between the EU and the US. Shortly after Trump’s announcement, on 6 November, the French President Macron called for the creation of an independent European army. Just as world leaders were set to assemble to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1918 armistice, he reiterated this call, significantly listing the need to face down the US as one reason for his proposal. The German Chancellor Merkel has since joined his call.
It is clear to see that US imperialism is pursuing a strategy of aggressive competition and confrontation against Russia and China. However, sober analysis reveals that a further confrontation — that between the US and Europe — is today a reality of imperialist society. The centrality given to this conflict in this film is intended to demonstrate the depth of the crisis facing this society. That this alliance, which has subsisted since 1945, is today falling into ruin is a clear indication that the imperialist crisis is forcing a third redivision of the world between great powers. The conditions for world war are clearly forming. Whilst it is uncertain how the alliances of such a war May fall, its fundamental basis is today undeniable.
That the US is already treating this as a living reality can be seen in several elements of its military approach. The National Defence Strategy announced early in 2018 is already being implemented in US military training for what is termed “multi-domain combat”. This includes both space and cyberspace as active realms of combat between what the US calls “peer adversaries”, ending any notions of the kind of military parity which subsisted during the Cold War. Beyond this, the US is openly discussing the likely reality of a third world war in military theory, with a collection of papers entirely devoted to this subject published by the US Army Command and General Staff College Press in 2017. The introduction to this collection clearly demonstrates that the US understands fully its relationship to the EU imperialist bloc.
The United Kingdom’s Brexit in summer 2016 vote shows the likelihood for more strain in the EU and NATO as well. That new important development would potentially meet the objectives of the anti-American economic and strategic agenda in Europe, would diminish US influence among its traditional allies, already affected by Europe’s pragmatic considerations of close trade and economic relationships with Russia and China.
Dr Mahir J. Ibrahimov, “Introduction”,
Cultural Perspectives, Geopolitics & Energy Security of Eurasia:
Is the Next Global Conflict Imminent? (2017)
Put together, this indicates a reality. We must see and face it.
Midnight is staring at us plainly.
Just as Marxism is able to understand the causes of this confrontation, it is also able to grasp the solution to it. That solution is simple. It is us — the working class.
The revolutionary role of the proletariat in Marx’s work is not a result of moral reasoning, but of scientific historical analysis. The organisation of capitalist production requires that the working class possess nothing to sell, save for our own labour-power. This means that we have no material interest in the maintenance of capitalist society whatsoever. Its existence as a social system is predicated upon the mass of humanity being disenfranchised. This is an historically unique phenomenon, as the oppressed classes of previous social systems often still held a material interest in the systems they existed within — for example, small land holdings were granted to peasants in exchange for the labour they did on a landowner’s estate. The significance of this unique condition to the proletariat’s existence is enormous. As we have no interests remotely in capitalism, nor can history be rolled back, the only possible political expression of the working class’ material interests is the end of class society itself.
Not only does capitalism create its grave diggers in the working class, it furnishes humanity with the tools by which to organise a new society. The productive forces produced by capital accumulation undeniably represent an enormous step forward for humanity. Crucially, the various new productive forces created by capitalist development create a change in the way that people work. The precise nature of this change is identified by Marx in Capital. The way in which capitalism organises production leads to what Marx terms the socialisation of labour. This more and more eliminates individual, artisanal or handicraft forms of labour, replacing them with industrial labour, which requires the labour of groups. This means that it is possible to organise production collectively and rationally, rather than according to the irrational dictates of private profit.
The concentration of production under monopoly capitalism and imperialism has heightened this contradiction further. To put this simply. The cartels formed between monopolies can fix the quantity of goods to be produced between them. If they can do this, then it must also be possible to organise production in accordance with need. What prevents this is merely that capitalism is socially organised to produce profit. Its development has opened up the possibility of a classless society, with the forces of production owned collectively and production organised rationally — that is, socialism or communism. Humanity already possesses the resources.
Whilst the history of the communist movement is beyond the scope of this film, it is worth highlighting that this history demonstrates that Marxism can attend to the most pressing questions of our age. It is unquestionable that the threats of imperialist war and the environmental crisis are the most are the most pressing urgent political tasks facing our species. Two examples are required to demonstrate that they can be overcome.
The October revolution of 1917 ended not only Tsarism and capitalism in Russia, but also the first world war. The victory of the revolution on 11 November set in motion a revolutionary wave, with mass desertions in the French army, a one million strong general strike, the Sparticist uprising and the mass mutiny of sailors in Germany, and the rise of Red Clydeside in Britain. In Russia itself, the fundamental question underpinning the Bolshevik’s victory was their steadfast opposition to the war, as both the Tsarist monarchy and the capitalist Provisional Government refused to end the it. The world’s first socialist state was won with a simple slogan: “bread, land and peace”. Its impact was such that the imperialists were forced to end their war of conquest and plunder. As the then British Prime Minister Lloyd George said, ‘Our real danger now is not [Germans], but Bolshevism.’
Today, the legacy of the Bolsheviks still lives on. In Cuba, socialism is demonstrating that it is capable of solving the environmental crisis. In 2006 the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Living Planet report pointed to Cuba as the only environmentally sustainable nation on the planet. It has continued to improve its sustainability and living standards since. This is a stark proof of a simple fact: capitalism is unable to solve the environmental crisis; socialism can.
The imperialists are holding the world to ransom. We gain to benefit nothing from the war and destruction that stands ahead of us. We have so much to win by objecting to it. Today, we are upon the verge of exploring space on a scale comparable to seafaring. The emergence of space war as a sincere promise of the imperialist counter-revolution illustrates something immensely powerful, if we dare only to think what might be achieved if this technology were put to its opposite use, in service of reason and not the defence of profit. Not only is space exploration possible, but we possess the technology today to eliminate disease, to ensure a sustainable energy future and reconcile ourselves with the earth as a species properly. Poverty can be eliminated. That is simply a fact.
And this truly is the most important lesson of Marx and Lenin’s work for our present moment. Today, imperialism is sounding out a war cry and it will not simply go away. It can, however, be stopped, and something far greater built in its stead. As a class and as a species, we must answer but one question. Luckily, it is simple.
Socialism or extinction?
CAPTION: HISTORY IS MARCHING