Cuts, socialists and international politics in Europe

Obama and Cameron

By Bryan Connor

During the international financial crisis US imperialism has succeeded in striking further blows against its European and Japanese capitalist competitors. Data on the US economy to be published later this week will probably show US GDP has regained its pre-crisis level. That means an average zero percent US growth for three years – a terrible performance. But Japanese and European production are even worse, remaining below their previous levels four years into the crisis. The US, however, has been pursuing policies that worsen the economic position of its European and Japanese competitors – pushing Japan to engage in confrontational policies with its largest trading partner, China, and in Europe both cheering on every step of belt tightening in countries such as Greece and Ireland and trying to break up the Euro.

In contrast not only China but a whole series of developing economies, led by India and Brazil, have continued to grow strongly.  Trade between Europe and developing countries, which means jobs for workers in Europe, is far more dynamic than its trade with the US. China has become as large a trading partner for Germany as the US. China is buying bonds from Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

An evident conclusion from this is that Europe should be “decoupling” itself from the US and moving closer to developing countries. This would require two key policies: refusal to participate in US imperialist aggression, such as against Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, and seeking to expand trade and economic ties with China, India, Brazil and other developing countries.

The US administration, of course, is determined to prevent both. It insisted on British participation in the war in Iraq, has pulled as many European countries as possible into its war in Afghanistan, and is now pursuing confrontation with Iran.

In the past a fashionable, and wrong, theory in parts of the left was that “inter-imperialist competition” would lead to the European capitalist classes standing up to the US. This was promoted by writers such as John Palmer in his book “Europe without America – the Crisis in Atlantic Relations”.

This was an illusion. As Lenin put it, “politics comes before economics, that is the ABC of Marxism”. In the end the European capitalist classes will subordinate their economic interests to their political dependence on the US. That political dependence flows from their need to have the support of the stable bastion of the US military forces to defend their own international imperialist interests – and if necessary to confront their own populations.

While the European imperialist powers will occasionally distance themselves from the US, as the German and French governments did in refusing to explicitly support the US invasion of Iraq, in the end they will give in to it. Left to the imperialists of Europe far from the situation becoming “Europe without America” it has become “Europe even more subordinate to America” – both governments of Germany and France (the SPD and the Chirac wing of the Gaullists) that opposed the war in Iraq were removed from office and replaced with governments more supinely subordinated to the US (the CDU and Sarkozy). In Japan the US administration is actively attempting to persuade both the present government and a future LDP one to pursue a more actively anti-China policy despite the fact that China is now Japan’s largest trade partner.
The population of Europe has no interest in confrontation with either Iran or China but, if that is what the US administration wishes, then the governments of Europe will pursue such policies.  Such confrontations, of course, will worsen the economic burden being placed on the population of Europe due to the international financial crisis and austerity measures.

Only the working class and its allies among the oppressed in Europe will oppose US imperialism. Furthermore the economic crisis in Europe makes it even more imperative they do so. Opposition to US imperialist aggression, closer economic links with developing countries including China, are an integral part of the struggle against cuts and economic austerity programmes in Europe.