US imperialism sets flame to the Silk Road

By Tom Castle

The world political situation is characterised by increasing chaos and wars, which are concentrated in a large geographic area that runs eastwards all the way from West Africa to the borders of China.

The main focus of the world has rightly been drawn to the murderous assault of the Israeli forces on Gaza. But thousands are also dying as a result of civil wars in Syria, and in eastern Ukraine and lower intensity conflicts in countries such as Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. At either end of this vast swathe of territory political turmoil in Pakistan has now joined the long-running imperialist intervention in Afghanistan. In West Africa, France, the US and the other imperialist powers have been unable to deliver a knockout blow to Islamist insurgents. Meanwhile, thousands are left to their own fate in the West African countries facing the Ebola crisis, with the scandal that the West is barely lifting a finger to come their aid.

In each specific case, the imperialist powers are clearly to blame for the political crises and military conflicts, either directly or through proxies like the Israeli armed forces, the Kiev government and its alliance with openly fascist militia or the Saudis and their ISIS private army. But the imperialist powers are also fundamentally responsible for the widespread chaos. Led by the US, the Western economies remain unable to accelerate out of the long crisis. This economic stagnation is combined with a continued exaction of surplus value from the rest of the world, which is also hobbling economic prospects in the semi-colonial world.

The new Silk Road

It is no accident that the turmoil in the world political situation is concentrated in this geographic area. The Middle East and North Africa provide the greatest concentrations of the world’s easily available natural resources that are vital to production. Over decades the leading imperialist powers have repeatedly used all means to maintain their grip on the region’s raw materials, oil included but also many others.

A new factor is the Chinese project of creating two new ‘Silk Roads’ which would allow it as the newly-emerged largest industrial producer in the world to build firmer trade alliances with the raw material-producing countries. This is entirely reasonable and offers the potential for a mutually beneficial new trading a relationship. It is a world away from the unequal terms of trade imposed by the imperialists, often at the end of a barrel of a gun, or a missile launcher. Unlike the US and its allies, China has no forces in the region to intimidate or invade any country. Its only means of securing access to raw materials is to offer better terms than other potential buyers.

In fact a restoration of the Silk Roads would be to reset the world economy on its more natural axis, where China and India were the world’s largest economies before the imperialist plunder and African living standards were two-thirds of the world average, rather than less than a quarter currently.

But the US and its imperialist allies have set a flame to the Silk Road. Unable to offer increasing trade because of its own economic weakness, the US resorts to political destabilisation, civil war by proxy and outright bombardment and invasion. There is no conspiracy at work, it is simply how decrepit imperialism is currently operating. Yet, as Libya and the US indirect sponsorship of ISIS shows, they would prefer destruction, war and chaos rather than a viable state that was not following every US instruction.

This situation is likely to persist for some time. Prolonged conflicts in Gaza, in the Ukraine and Syrian look to be unavoidable. New military and other conflicts look set to arise. The fundamental source of this instability is the vampire-like way in which imperialism is sucking the life-blood from the rest of the world combined with its savagery when faced with any opposition. This is likely to be a protracted struggle, with new upheavals, catastrophes and radicalisations.