Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

George Owens

U.S. Scrambling in 80s World Alignment. Part I

First Published: Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 6, No. 37, October 14-21, 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Barely nine months in office, Reagan is already being challenged both at home and abroad. Tens of thousands demonstrated their opposition to U.S. intervention in El Salvador. Hundreds of thousands more marched on Solidarity day in the biggest showing by the unions against the budget cuts and union-busting this decade. International, the Ottawa summit meeting exposed sharp differences between Western European countries and the U.S. over questions of high U.S. interest rates and views on disarmament. The U.S. veto of the United Nations resolution condemning South Africa also further jelled world opinion against the U.S.

Reacting to constantly erupting contradictions from all corners of the globe, Reagan has so far been unable to come up with a comprehensive foreign policy. He is beating on a hollow war drum with a splintered stick – a lot of noise without any substance. With new political developments and sharp twists and turns occurring almost daily, what is the balance of forces in the world today? What are the emerging trends’ and lessons that affect the task of revolution here in the U,S.?

Europe – Old Alliance Cracking, Revolution Brews

Although the advanced capitalist countries of Western Europe share many common interests with the U.S., new contradictions are threatening to crack the seams of this alliance. The high U.S. interest rate is plunging Western Europe into a deepening recession as capital pours out. Traditionally, the summit meeting between the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Japan has been a time to reaffirm common goals and interests. But the Ottawa summit this year continued the recent trend of the meeting becoming a forum for airing grievances against the U.S.

Forced to scramble for markets and resources themselves, European countries are increasingly cultivating independent political relations with the developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. From rejecting the Camp David accord and de facto recognition of the PLO to the barely paid lip service on the Iran economic blockade, Western Europe is finding itself on opposite sides of the fence with the U.S. on a whole spectrum of issues. While the U.S. pushed for stepped up war preparations with Europe assuming a larger share of the cost, country after country announced plans to cutback military spending because of the economic crisis. As the U.S. put all their backing behind the fascist military dictatorship in El Salvador, Europe was leaning the other way towards support of the Democratic Revolutionary Front.

At the same time, the deep economic crisis has also precipitated a deep political crisis as the people begin to challenge the capitalist systems in their own countries. The clashes between the youth and police over jobs, squatter rights etc. have become increasingly sharp and intense in Holland, Switzerland, Germany and England. These trends offer a preview and valuable lesson for the crisis that will confront the U.S.

England offers the best glimpse of this crisis at this point. Not even the pomp and pageantry surrounding the royal wedding can hide the stark and grim reality of England. Thatcher, Reagan’s mentor in supply-side economics, has pursued her policy to its logical conclusion. Britain’s unemployment rate has soared to the level of the Great Depression while every major industry sinks deeper into the red. Thatcherism has been exposed and all the queen’s horses and all the queen’s men cannot put Britain’s economy back together again. Her vicious strike-breaking actions and cuts in social services caused a temporary disorientation but the resistance is once again flaring up. The youth, tired of empty promises of jobs, vented their anger a few months ago with full scale riots throughout the industrial cities of England. While England burned, Thatcher called for law and order and blamed the parents for not restraining their children. In response, dozens more cities lit up that night. The traditional prestige and authority of the friendly, neighborhood “bobby” was shattered as the people entered into pitched battles with these symbols of authority.

This crisis came at a time when Thatchers government was paralyzed with the continuing conflict in Northern Ireland. The hunger fast by IRA member Bobby Sands focused world attention once again to the cause of Irish national liberation. As the hunger strike continued, and with the victories at the polls by the IRA members and sympathisers, Thatcher got backed into a comer. Unable to come up with solution to the Irish national question, she relied on a hard line stand that became increasingly unpopular. Losing the political initiative as world opinion became increasingly sympathetic to the IRA, Thatcher is unable to devote time to the domestic economic crisis.

This domestic crisis is looming ever larger. The labor unions have finally been stirred into action after three years of relative inaction. A series of nationwide strikes is planned to symbolize “a winter of discontent” against Thatcher’s policies. The miners, electrical and transportation workers have vowed to spearhead this strike wave. It was these same militant workers that brought all England to a standstill and toppled the Labor Party government before. The same fate may await Thatcher.

As Thatcher’s government crumbles, the Labor Party is still recuperating from splits and divisions that had wrecked the Party. After three years of internal struggle and turmoil, the right-wing of the Labor Party formed their own splitoff. The remains of the Labor Party were forced to adopt a radical platform by militant caucuses that include demands for no nuclear missiles and disarmament. If they are to pose as an alternative to Thatcher, the Labor Party might have to adopt transitional demands into their program like Mitterand did in France. Unable to deliver on these promises without overturning the whole capitalist system, the exposure of the bourgeois parliamentary system will be accelerated.

Events are moving so rapidly and the traditional layers of social props are being torn away faster than they could be replaced that another scenario is possible. Dissatisfied with the Labor Party alternative, the British workers could reject it and develop into an independent political force similar to Solidarity movement in Poland. Yet the capitalist government in England is not as resilient as the socialist system in Poland and the imperialists would be forced to put it down with force of arms, probably with U.S. help. This could well trigger off a crisis that will bring about the collapse of the whole imperialist finance system.

The situation on the European continent itself is just as bleak for the imperialists. In France, the Socialist Party of Mitterand just took power with Communist Party members in government. Mitterand’s election platform of nationalizing the banks and opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan shows the French people’s stand against both U.S imperialism and Soviet hegemonism. Whether the Communist Party of France will be able to break with their revisionist positions and use their position in the government to lead the masses forward or remain as the loyal opposition and retard the movement remains to be seen. In foreign affairs, Mitterand has already exerted his independence from the U.S. by signing a joint declaration with Mexico to recognize the Democratic Revolutionary Front in El Salvador and calling for negotiations. At the same time, his Foreign Minister flew to the Middle East and met with the PLO, hoping to come out with a new political initiative for the Middle East to challenge Camp David. Both moves aid the liberation struggles and deal a blow to U.S. imperialism.

In Germany, the anti-nuke and disarmament movement are a mass issue. The Social Democratic government had to back down on their pledge to deploy nuclear weapons for the U.S. Reagan’s announcement to go ahead with deployment of the neutron bomb further added fuel to this fire of protest. Anti-U.S. sentiment is at an all-time high. So far, there have already been five cases of bombings and attacks against U.S. military installations and personnel in Germany. While Germany is moving away from the U.S., they have increased their economic ties with the Soviet Union. Germany recently closed a deal to develop a pipeline from Siberia to Germany in return for a steady supply of natural gas. This would alleviate the pressure of steadily rising oil prices and help the German economy. As the western imperialist economy steadily stagnates and pressure from the U.S. to dump the inflation on Europe, this type of economic cooperation with the Soviet Union would only increase. If this situation develops, Germany could become another Finland, economically dependent on the Soviet Union and neutralized, lessening the danger of war.

Due to these crisis within their own country and the contradictions they have with the U.S., the possibility of a land war in Europe has decreased. At the same time, any cracks among these countries could threaten to topple the whole imperialist finance system.

A more significant factor lessening the danger of world war is the weakness of the U.S. imperialists themselves, particularly the depths of the economic crisis. Reaganomics sought to slow the rise in inflation as a basis to build up the U.S. military muscle. But the supply-side tax cuts, coupled with greater military spending, threaten to widen the canyon between Federal income and spending. And this is in spite of massive cuts in social programs. The depressed state of the bond and stock markets show how little faith Wall Street has that Reaganomics will work, as well as the effects of high interest rates.

The depth of the economic situation will force Reagan to hold down military spending, thus undermining the attempts to project a tough U.S. image such as the violation of Libyan territorial waters and the shooting down of that country’s planes. At the same time, the crisis forces the U.S. to move to arms limitation talks with the Soviet Union, greatly furthering the cause of world peace.

Middle East: Dilemma for the U.S.

Due to the recession in the European and U.S. economies, demand for oil has decreased while oil supplies and prices have stabilized. Yet OPEC still controls the oil lifeline. This combined with their leverage of petrodollars to gain political concessions has stymied U.S. foreign policy. At the same time, the ever present threat of an abrupt cutoff in oil supplies, as in the 1973 boycott or the Iranian revolution, makes the Middle East one of the most volatile areas for U.S. foreign policy.

U.S. policy in the region is summed up in the Carter Doctrine which concludes that the Middle East must be placed on the same strategic parity as Europe. The U.S. is willing to go to war to preserve this oil lifeline. But being willing and being able are two separate questions. Until the U.S. can militarize and establish the Rapid Deployment Force with supply bases throughout the region, Israel must continue its role as the U.S.’s main policeman in the region. At the same time, U.S. must try to win new friends in the region and divert the Arab-Israeli conflict to focus on isolating Soviet influence. Carter’s Camp David treaty between Israel and Egypt was this attempt to split Arab unity and gain initiative against the Soviets.

But Camp David failed to recognize and address the PLO and only managed to woo Sadat of Egypt. The rest of the Arab world rejected Camp David and stood solidly behind the PLO and its platform. OPEC, especially Saudi Arabia, has demanded the recognition of the PLO by the International Monetary Fund as a precondition to larger contributions This combined with the diplomatic and political offensive by the PLO has won them de facto recognition in many European countries. Without any support from the rest of the world, Camp David became a political liability rather than an asset. The U.S. has been forced to admit that they have no alternative but to recognize the PLO and negotiate with them directly. Former National Security Advisor Brzezinski openly declared that the U.S. must*go ahead and recognize the PLO now.

Yet when Andy Young met with the PLO before, the hue and cry raised by the bourgeois press forced his resignation. Until the U.S. can whip their own media and public opinion into line, all they can do is maintain a tough talking, war mongering attitude as a warning for the Soviet Union to stay away. The Sixth Fleet war games in Libyan waters and shooting down of Libyan jets are part of this get-tough image. This policy of aggression not only drew a round of condemnation and added to the distrust of the U.S. by the Arab states, but it also further emboldened Israel. Trying to cover-up their domestic problems through military expansionism, Israel saw the U.S. policy as a green light for repeated raids into Lebanon and bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor. These moves made the Arab country unite even more firmly against any political settlement with Israel. It confirms the Saudi position that Israel, not the Soviet Union, is the main threat to peace in the region. Reagan’s special Middle East envoy tried to repair the diplomatic damage by conducting a round of shuttle diplomacy in the region to resolve the Lebanon conflict, but was repeatedly denounced at every stop. Jordan, which was considering a U.S.-sponsored negotiation with Israel for a West Bank settlement now won’t touch the issue.

As the U.S. policy backfired, Alexander Haig fired the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia for his inability to improve relations between the two countries. One example of the chill in U.S.-Saudi relations is the current debate over the sale of AWAC planes. The sale of this military hardware to Saudi Arabia is crucial to maintain U.S. credibility in the region and a firm U.S. promises to defend the region against attack. After delaying the issue for five months, the sale is still stuck in Congress through the tremendous lobbying effort by Israel and diehard reactionaries with their anti-Arab chauvinism. Failure to go through with the sale would put U.S. efforts to maneuver in the region all but out of reach.

Even if the sale is successful, U.S problems in the region have only just begun. The U.S.’s policeman in the region, Israel, is collapsing under its own weight as inflation and unemployment run wild due to decades of war economy. Contradictions among the Zionists themselves are sharpening an Begin just barely managed to form a coalition government with a one-vote majority in parliament. The U.S.’s other partner, Egypt, is also faced with a political crisis. Sadat had to disband the opposition parties and take over the mosques to quell increasing nationalism and unrest at home.