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America’s “New World Order”— The historical and social roots of US plans for war with Russia and China

The following is a report given by Andre Damon to the Seventh Congress of the Socialist Equality Party (US) in support of the resolution titled “Mobilize the working class against imperialist war!”

Damon is a member of the national committee of the SEP. Read the full report on the Congress and the resolutions adopted at it.

There is a peculiar correspondence between congresses of the Socialist Equality Party and turning points in world history. The Founding Congress of the SEP, held in August 2008, took place just two months before the collapse of Lehman brothers during the 2008 financial crash.

Now, as the party holds its Seventh National Congress, and we turn to the discussion of the US war against Russia in Ukraine and its preparations for war with China, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has at this very moment touched down in Taiwan, in a deliberate provocation intended to precipitate a military conflict between the United States and China.

To understand the significance of this event, it is necessary to review the historical context within which the current eruption of US militarism is taking place. This entails an appraisal of the International Committee’s analysis of world history over the past half century.

It’s precisely in times when the tempo of events seems overwhelming that we must rely on a historically grounded perspective all the more. Navigation is never so important as during a storm.

August will mark six months since the beginning of the war between the US and NATO and Russia over Ukraine, the largest land war in Europe since the Second World War.

The eruption of this war did not come as a surprise to the International Committee of the Fourth International. The IC had been warning since the early 1980s that the United States was preparing a global war to reconquer the territories lost to imperialist exploitation as a result of the Russian and Chinese revolutions and the anti-colonial uprisings of the 20th century.

As one reviews the writings of the International Committee on geopolitical events, one is struck by how rapidly the IC was able to produce accurate and detailed analyses of contemporary events that have stood the test of time.

That is because, with every new development, the IC was not “winging it.” We were able to rapidly and accurately analyze contemporary events because we work on the basis of a historically grounded analysis of the 20th century and the 21st. We have a theory of contemporary history and contemporary geopolitics.

The daily analysis of the WSWS derives from and extends this historical analysis, which is rooted in the theories of imperialism of the great Marxists of the 20th century: Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, and numerous of their comrades and co-thinkers.

In the daily work of the WSWS, we seek to extend and deepen this theoretical tradition, to view contemporary developments through the lens of a historically grounded perspective and at the same time to constantly develop and extend this perspective in light of new events.

This report will seek to concisely present the IC’s analysis of the eruption of US militarism, as articulated in reports, lectures, speeches and resolutions over the past half century and to frame the United States’ current war with Russia and conflict with China within this analysis. Many of the documents to which this report refers are available in the book A Quarter Century of War.

The resolution “Mobilize the Working Class against Imperialist War!” presented for adoption at this Congress, characterizes the escalating US conflict with Russia and China as follows:

With extreme recklessness, American imperialism is risking a nuclear war that could result in the extinction of human life on the planet. The destruction of Russia and control of the Eurasian landmass, a longstanding geo-strategic goal of US imperialism, is viewed by the Pentagon and CIA as essential preparation for and part of an onslaught against China. What was referred to by Lenin during World War I as a “redivision of the world” is now underway. US imperialism intends to redraw the map of the globe…

The real driving forces behind the war are: 1) The geopolitical interests of American imperialism and its drive for global hegemony; 2) The effort by US and European imperialism to gain direct access to Russia’s immensely valuable and strategically critical raw materials; and 3) The attempt by the ruling class to resolve its intractable domestic crisis through war abroad.[1]

In the course of this report, we will review the historical antecedents of this analysis, as articulated by the IC over the past half century.

The IC’s analysis of the eruption of US imperialism

In 1990, responding to the eruption of the Gulf War, the Workers League, the predecessor of the Socialist Equality Party, published a resolution describing the essential characteristics of a revolutionary period:

World events are once again moving at a blinding speed, and the vastly accelerated tempo is itself the mark of a revolutionary period. The extended time span in which molecular changes in the economic base of society accumulated, and politics appeared to move at a glacial pace, has given way to an era characterized by frenetic changes and upheavals, in which the profound subterranean shifts have broken through the surface of political life. Fundamental class antagonisms, contained for decades beneath various political and state structures, have exploded into the open, and all of the contending social forces entering into battle have begun to advance openly the programs that correspond to their economic interests. This open clash of antagonistic class forces is the essential characteristic of a revolutionary period.[2]

In many cases, the great works of Marxism reveal essential characteristics of the historical epoch that become only truer as time goes on. This is certainly the case with this resolution.

In order to make sense of this open clash of class forces now bursting to the surface, it is necessary to examine the very “molecular” changes, taking place over decades.

On October 4, 2002, just days before the US invasion of Afghanistan, Comrade David North delivered a report entitled, “The war against Iraq and America’s drive for world domination.” This report summarized the entire arc of American imperialism in the 20th century:

For nearly three-quarters of a century, the fate of American imperialism and the Soviet Union were inextricably linked. The October Revolution that brought the Bolshevik Party to power followed by only a few months the April 1917 entry of the United States into World War I. Thus, from the earliest days of its emergence as the principal imperialist power, the United States confronted the reality of a worker’s state that proclaimed the advent of a new historical epoch of world socialist revolution. Despite the Stalinist bureaucracy’s subsequent betrayal of the revolutionary internationalist ideals initially proclaimed by Lenin and Trotsky, the political aftershocks produced by the overthrow of capitalism in Russia continued to reverberate for decades—in the growth of the social consciousness and political militancy of the working class in the advanced capitalist countries, including the United States, and in the wave of anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggles that swept across the globe, especially in the aftermath of World War II.

Though it emerged from World War II as the leader of world capitalism, the United States was not in a position to organize the world as it saw fit. The initial expectation that the possession of the atomic bomb would enable the United States to intimidate and, if need be, destroy the Soviet Union was shattered by the Soviet production of a nuclear device in 1949. The victory of the Chinese Revolution that same year represented a devastating blow to America’s expectation that it would exercise unchallenged sway over Asia.

Throughout the early years of the Cold War a bitter battle raged within the ruling circles of the US government over how to deal with the Soviet Union. … A substantial faction of the ruling elite advocated a “rollback” strategy—that is, the destruction of the Soviet Union and the Maoist regime in China, even if this entailed the use of nuclear weapons. Another faction, associated with the State Department theorist George F. Kennan, advocated “containment.”

…During the remaining decades of the Cold War, the real meaning of “deterrence” was not what the United States prevented the USSR from doing, but what the possibility of Soviet retaliation prevented the United States from doing.[3]

In March 2003, two days after the start of the US attack on Iraq, Comrade North published an essay entitled, “The crisis of American capitalism and the war against Iraq,” which continued and developed this analysis:

[The years 1945-2003] can be bisected into two eras. During the first 30 years, between 1945 and 1975, the predominant tendency in American domestic policy was that of liberal social reform. In its foreign policy, the American bourgeoisie championed a version of liberal internationalism, rooted in various multilateral institutions.…

But under conditions of the immense expansion of the post-World War II economy, American capitalism considered social liberalism at home and liberal (and anti-communist) internationalism to be the most advisable policy.

The end of this liberal era was foreshadowed in the weakening of the world economic order that had been established in 1944 (the Bretton Woods system). Its collapse in 1971 with the end of dollar-gold convertibility ushered in a period of mounting international economic instability—manifested especially in unprecedented price inflation—and a protracted decline within the United States of corporate profitability.

The deterioration in the general world economic climate provoked a fundamental change in the domestic and foreign policy of the American ruling class. Within the United States, social policies that had been oriented toward limited wealth redistribution and somewhat reduced levels of social inequality were thrown into reverse. The election of Reagan to the presidency in 1980 was followed by major reductions in tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, massive cuts in social spending to alleviate the plight of the poorest Americans, and a general assault on the trade unions.

The international component of this policy was the repudiation of “detente” with the Soviet Union and the general intensification of military pressure against national movements in the “Third World” that were seen as harmful to America’s global interests.[4]

These developments form the context of the letter sent by Comrade North to Michael Banda, the former general secretary of the British Workers Revolutionary Party, in 1981, on the development of a global perspectives document for the International Committee.

This letter gained renewed significance following the ICFI’s 1985 split with the Workers Revolutionary Party and the development of the 1988 perspectives resolution.

Comrade North’s letter is striking in the clarity with which it stated fundamental processes that would be at work over the coming decades and which are now bursting to the surface. It began by noting:

The insoluble economic crisis of world capitalism is driving the ruling class of North America, Europe and Japan irresistibly toward the launching of a nuclear Third World War. The essence of such a war would be an attempt by world imperialism, spearheaded by the United States, to restore the world position lost through the October Revolution of 1917 and the titanic struggles of national liberation throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and to maintain, at all cost, the enslavement of Latin Amer­ica. This would be a global war in the truest sense: A struggle by the oppressor nations against the Soviet Union and the oppressed nations…[5]

It continued:

The conception that the existence of nuclear weapons has made war unthinkable or impossible is a pacifist delusion. Imperialist war is a product of imperialist economics. Every imperialist power has arrived at a complete economic and political impasse.

The spearhead of imperialist war preparations, and the center of all the world economic and political contradictions, is the United States. …

Imperialism sees no way out of the crisis except through the violent redivision of the world; But this redivision assumes a different form from that of the previous world wars. It is not a matter of imperialist states attempting to seize each other’s colonies. But of regaining lost positions through the destruction of national revolutionary movements, the reestablishment, in one form or another, of colonial slavery, and the destruction of the workers states—above all, the USSR.[6]

The US’s efforts to destabilize the Soviet Union led to the massive military buildup of the 1980s, including the Star Wars program and the fomenting of the US-backed Islamist insurgency in Afghanistan.

But with the dissolution of the USSR, US imperialism erupted in the form of a series of global wars, beginning with the Gulf War of 1990-91, aimed at securing US hegemony through military force. The Defense Planning Guidance, drafted by the Department of Defense in February 1992, asserted the willingness of the United States to use military force to secure global economic hegemony:

There are other potential nations or coalitions that could, in the further future, develop strategic aims and a defense posture of region-wide or global domination. Our strategy must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential future global competitor.[7]

The 11th Plenum of the International Committee, held on March 5, 1991, warned:

For all the problems of American capitalism—the decay of its industrial base, the loss of its overseas markets, the massive trade deficits and budget deficits, the collapse of its banking system, the gangrenous growth of social ills—the bourgeoisie believes it has found an answer: Force!

In January of 1991, President George H.W. Bush announced the launching of a “new world order” with the initiation of the Gulf War. Announcing the war, Bush declared, “Five months ago, Saddam Hussein started this cruel war against Kuwait. Tonight, the battle has been joined. We have before us the opportunity to forge for ourselves and for future generations a new world order.”[8]

In a report to the Special National Congress of the Workers League, convened to discuss the Gulf War, Comrade North concluded:

[The Gulf War] marks the beginning of a new imperialist redivision of the world. The end of the postwar era means the end of the postcolonial era as well. As it proclaims the “failure of socialism,” the imperialist bourgeoisie is, in deeds if not yet in words, proclaiming the “failure of independence” as well. The deepening crisis confronting all the major imperialist powers compels them to secure control over strategic resources and markets. Former colonies which had achieved a degree of political independence must be re-subjugated. In its brutal assault against Iraq, imperialism is giving notice that it intends to restore the type of unrestrained domination of the backward countries that existed prior to World War II.[9]

The eruption of American imperialism following the dissolution of the USSR had fundamentally economic aims, both internationally and within the United States. The United States sought through war to secure cheap sources of raw materials, accompanied by a supply of low-wage labor internationally that would serve to depress wages domestically, creating a low-inflation economic environment in which stock values and corporate profitability soared.

In the 2002 lecture, “The war against Iraq and America’s drive for world domination,” Comrade North described the economic goals of America’s global military offensive:

The aggressive policies of American imperialism produced the desired consequences: within the United States the living standards of the working class either stagnated or declined; within the so-called “Third World” there occurred a horrifying deterioration in the conditions of hundreds of millions of people. For the ruling class and the wealthiest sections of the upper-middle class, these policies produced benefits of which they could have only dreamed. Depressed wage levels within the United States, an inexhaustible supply of low-cost labor overseas, and the availability of cheap commodity prices, produced the ideal environment for the massive stock market boom of the 1990s (which, it should be recalled, began in the aftermath of the first Gulf War of 1991).

The economic stability of American capitalism and, with it, the vast fortunes accumulated by its ruling elite in the course of the speculative boom on Wall Street became dependent, or, one might say, addicted, to depressed wage levels in the United States and the continuing supply from overseas of cheap raw materials (especially oil) and low-cost labor.[10]

Comrade North developed these themes in his analysis of the US-NATO war in Yugoslavia:

The stock market boom has been fueled and sustained, above all, by the deflationary (or disinflationary) environment that has depended on the protracted decline of commodity prices for raw materials. The decline has not been simply the product of objective economic processes, but of ruthless policies pursued by the major imperialist powers to undermine the ability of ‘third world’ producers to raise commodity prices. The successful destruction of the pricing power of the OPEC oil cartel—in which the Gulf War of 1990-91 played a major role—is the most significant example of the relationship between the accumulation of wealth in the imperialist countries and the intensifying exploitation of the less-developed countries. Those in the advanced countries whose wealth is based on rising share values have benefited directly from this process.[11]

The report continued:

The social structure and class relations of all the major capitalist countries have been deeply affected by the stock market boom that began in the early 1980s. Perpetually rising share values, especially the explosion in market valuations since 1995, have given a significant section of the middle class—especially among the professional elite—access to a degree of wealth they could not have imagined at the outset of their careers. …

The reactionary, conformist and cynical intellectual climate that prevails in the United States and Europe—promoted by the media and adapted to by a largely servile and corrupted academic community—reflects the social outlook of a highly privileged stratum of the population that is not in the least interested in encouraging a critical examination of the economic and political bases of its newly-acquired riches.[12]

But while the eruption of American militarism proved to be a bonanza for America’s financial oligarchy and affluent sections of the upper-middle class, these wars have been a disaster not only for the countries subjected to US invasion, but for broad sections of the American population.

They have killed millions of people all over the world, destroyed entire societies, and involved the most horrific war crimes since the second world war. These wars led the institutionalization of torture, kidnapping, and illegal warrantless government spying.

In its report exposing the US torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, “60 Minutes” described the evidence of US war crimes:

Some pictures show Americans, men and women in military uniforms, posing with naked Iraqi prisoners. There are shots of the prisoners stacked in a pyramid, one with a slur written on his skin in English. In some, the male prisoners are positioned to simulate sex with each other… In most of the pictures, the Americans are laughing, posing, pointing, or giving the camera a thumbs-up.[13]

That video is just one piece of documentary evidence showing the criminality of and brutality of the wars launched by the United States in the name of the so-called “war on terror” and the eruption of US imperialism over the course of the past 40 years.

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