Full spectrum dominance is dead. On March 1, addressing the Federal Assembly in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin announced Russia had achieved overwhelming military superiority over America. He said the US had wasted trillions of dollars of taxpayers money on defence systems that were useless against a new generation of Russian missiles. The US leadership had irresponsibly rejected overtures to reopen arms limitation talks and it was time to remove the war-mongers.
We did our best to dissuade the Americans from withdrawing from the (Anti Ballistic Missile) treaty. All in vain. The US pulled out of the treaty in 2002. Even after that we tried to develop constructive dialogue with the Americans. We proposed working together in this area to ease concerns and maintain the atmosphere of trust. At one point, I thought that a compromise was possible, but this was not to be. All our proposals, absolutely all of them, were rejected. And then we said that we would have to improve our modern strike systems to protect our security. In reply, the US said that it is not creating a global BMD system against Russia, which is free to do as it pleases, and that the US will presume that our actions are not spearheaded against the US…To those who in the past 15 years have tried to accelerate an arms race and seek unilateral advantage against Russia, have introduced restrictions and sanctions that are illegal from the standpoint of international law aiming to restrain our nation’s development, including in the military area, I will say this: everything you have tried to prevent through such a policy has already happened. No one has managed to restrain Russia. Now we have to be aware of this reality and be sure that everything I have said today is not a bluff ‒ and it is not a bluff, believe me ‒ and to give it a thought and dismiss those who live in the past and are unable to look into the future, to stop rocking the boat we are all in and which is called the Earth.
In a piece for Consortium News, Gilbert Doctorow describes the US reaction to Putin’s declaration.
He scored a direct hit in the Pentagon, where senior generals were left dumbfounded. But, as is normally the case, when these gentlemen need time to collect their wits, we heard first only denial: that the Russians were bluffing, that they really have nothing ready, that these are only projects, and that the U.S. already has all of the same, but is holding it back in reserve.
Then on March 8 a group of senators, including vehement anti-Putinists, Dianne Feinstein and Bernie Sanders, wrote an open letter to then Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson urging him to open arms control talks with the Russians ASAP.
This was a story that died before publication everywhere except in Russia, where it had been a featured news item within hours of the letter’s release. The American and world public knew nothing about it, although the letter was there for the reading on the home pages of the Senate websites of the respective co-authors. The American and world public know nothing about that letter today, nearly two weeks after its release, apart from readers of Consortium who were properly informed at the time. In the meantime, the U.S. propaganda machine moved into high gear, producing diversionary issues to draw the attention of the U.S. public away from what had been the subject of Putin’s speech of March 1. And so we have been getting saturation news coverage of the “Skripal nerve gas attack,” of the alleged cyber attack on the US energy grid and water systems. Both are pure “Russians did it” stories. And we read about the repositioning of U.S. naval forces in the Mediterranean to within cruise-missile range of Damascus for a possible punitive blow in response to a chemical attack on civilians by Assad’s regime that still has not happened, all with intent to humiliate Assad’s backers, the Russians.
I began this piece some weeks ago, largely to support the absolute sensibility of a socialist – and communist- alternative to capitalism proposed by Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA). His comments followed a swell presidential purge in the Rainbow Nation. The new incumbent sports an off-the-peg halo while the neoliberal coterie jostles for space at the feeding trough. The ruling African National Congress, rebranded as the party of revival and redemption, declares war on corruption. The commentariat has another blindfold to embroider for the masses.
Here’s Daily Maverick columnist, J. Brooks Spector:
And now, of course, the country’s incoming president, Cyril Ramaphosa, must take on the task of healing a battered national reputation and its tarnished international standing…He will have to argue that the nation must somehow come together across divides that so many organisations and bodies have been stoking and feeding. And, crucially, that those who still have very little must put aside their real grievances in the face of yet a new national need for patience, forbearance and tolerance, where there has been very little of these values on display in recent times. And he will have to do this in a world where there are so many other places for investors to weigh carefully in their plans.”
More than a century ago in his essay The Soul of Man Under Socialism Oscar Wilde said:
Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion. Sometimes the poor are praised for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less… I can quite understand a man accepting laws that protect private property, and admit of its accumulation, as long as he himself is able under those conditions to realise some form of beautiful and intellectual life. But it is almost incredible to me how a man whose life is marred and made hideous by such laws can possibly acquiesce in their continuance.
No surprise then that patience, forbearance and tolerance don’t wash at NUMSA, the country’s biggest trade union and an affiliate of the militant South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU). Irvin Jim says workers have no reason to celebrate changes in the ANC’s leadership.
For the last two decades, the ANC government has waged an all-out assault on the African working class in order to defend White Monopoly Capital…These policies have resulted in massive job losses and long-term mass unemployment. They have created a society of extreme inequality. The majority suffer as they did under Apartheid, living crammed together with cockroaches and rats in townships and shacks, without sanitation, water and electricity. NUMSA shares SAFTU’s view that “Cyril Ramaphosa is a deeply compromised capitalist billionaire, with hands stained with the blood of the 34 victims of Marikana who were shot in cold blood by the state to shield White Monopoly capital in general and Lonmin in particular”. Furthermore, it is naïve to believe that the cronyism and corruption which is a hallmark of the ANC will disappear. The very same people who stood by quietly whilst the state was actively looted by various factions of capital including the Gupta and the Rupert families are the ones who make up the top leadership structures of the ANC, and this includes Ramaphosa himself. They cannot extricate themselves from the corrupt tendencies of the party. Furthermore the ANC has been enabled in its corruption by the leadership of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and trade union federation COSATU who actively continue to mislead members of the working class into supporting their worst butchers, for their own selfish narrow political agenda.
The left’s post-apartheid embrace of neoliberalism is repulsive – and bitterly ironic as the ideology crumbles. The claim that capitalism is the most efficient system for allocating resources, satisfying social needs, realising human potential and guaranteeing freedom and democracy has been trashed by global reality; spectacular inequality, ecological devastation, mass poverty, unemployment, dispossession, forced migration, destitution, disease and lawlessness.
In Britain the opposition Labour Party held a special conference to consider strategies for nationalising key sectors like health and education and the water, energy and transport utilities – if it wins the next election. The plan is to restore properly-funded and resourced public services and reverse past privatisations. That could include the free provision of health and social care, education, transport and communications.
Michael Roberts says this is inspiring but will not break the stranglehold of capitalism.
If public ownership is confined to just the so-called natural monopolies or utilities and is not extended to the banks and financial sector and key strategic industries (the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy) capitalism will continue to predominate in investment and employment …and markets will still rule…There was no talk of taking over these sectors at the conference. That was not even talk of taking over the big five banks… Without control of finance and the strategic sectors of the British economy, a Labour government will either be frustrated in its attempts to improve the lot of “the many not the few” (Labour’s slogan), or worse, face the impact of another global recession without any protection from the vicissitudes of the market.
The strategy is flawed but it’s worth noting such proposals were off-limits in the Labour Party just a couple of years ago – before a management miscalculation gave members a chance to elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader.
American’s have learned little from their history says Richard D. Wolff.
Not only the Republican Party, but also the Democratic Party support, serve and reinforce the capitalism that stands as a basic obstacle to economic equality and democracy. Because those goals are never achieved they have long served as objectives to which both Parties offer lip service. The absurd contradiction of their shared position is now giving way to the recognition that the necessity for system change is the lesson of US history. If, in place of capitalist enterprise structures, a transition occurred to worker cooperatives with democratic organizations and procedures it would have removed a key obstacle to a broader social movement toward equality and democracy… it is capitalism that must be overcome to solve its inherent inequality problem.
Irvin Jim’s call for the overthrow of capitalism, the implementation of socialism and the establishment of communism as the ultimate goal is perfectly reasonable. Control of the means of production allows capitalists to exploit people; extracting a profit by underpaying workers who produce the wealth of society. But the competition is brutal and unceasing. The result is a remarkable concentration of wealth, power and influence in a core network of global corporations. Those enterprises unable to hold their ground are absorbed by their rivals or ejected from the market. Survivors must continue to accumulate or face the same fate. That means bringing ever more goods to market until the inevitable crises of overproduction invites creative destruction.
There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks, and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificate- died of malnutrition- because the food must rot, must be forced to rot. The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quick-lime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck’s indictment of American capitalism and the social costs of its inherent crises was published in 1939. But memories of the Great Depression were swiftly buried in a post war boom that would last until the mid 1970’s. Crucially, capitalism’s ‘Golden Age’ – ushering the rise of the affluent society in the West – was an era of substantial reform subordinating the market to public planning. A swift return to free-wheeling capitalism – the essential and inexorable cause of the war in which some 70 million people had been killed – was inconceivable.
Technical innovation, cheap oil, capital intensive industry, pharmaceuticals, immigration, reconstruction aid and the continued looting of Third World resources contributed to the unprecedented surge in global economic growth achieved by the mixed economy. South Africa’s black miners played a vital role says Sam Williams.
One major factor working in the direction of prolonging the boom was the bestial system of South African apartheid. Apartheid rule made normal trade union activity for the African gold miners in South Africa—then by far the world’s leading gold producer—impossible. .. As a a result, it took a relatively long time before rising prices finally reduced the rate of profit sufficiently in the gold mining industry to begin to reduce total global gold production. Just like African slavery had played a crucial role in the “rosy dawn”—to use Marx’s ironic words—of capitalist production, the slave-like system of apartheid helped prolong the life of the vampire-like capitalist system during the “cold war” struggle against the Soviet Union and its allies. While the postwar boom and the Keynesian policies that accompanied it were doomed to collapse in the long run, the success of capitalism in maintaining capitalist prosperity for the two decades after the war played a crucial role in undermining the class consciousness of the European workers—in Western Europe, in Eastern Europe and finally in the Soviet Union itself, as well as preventing the growth of class consciousness in the United States. We must never forget the role that South African apartheid played in this success, whose disastrous consequences we are forced to struggle against today.
The reason for this exceptional phase of capitalist expansion was a high rate of profit – stimulated by the destruction of accumulated capital during the war and massive levels of US military expenditure – which kept capitalists investing. The real lesson of the slump that followed was the impossibility of reforming a protection racket masquerading as ‘the economy’. To restore profitability a theology of purified markets was conjured as scripture for a crusade to crush labour and asset-strip the state. Jason Hirthler writes:
The neoliberal economic model of deregulation, downsizing, and privatization was preached by the Reagan-Thatcher junta, liberalized by the Clinton regime, temporarily given a bad name by the unhinged Bush administration, and saved by telegenic restoration of the Obama years. The ideology that underlay the model saturated academia, notably at the University of Chicago, and the mainstream media, principally at The New York Times. Since then it has trickled down to the general populace, to whom it now feels second nature. Today think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, Stratfor, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie Endowment, the Open Society Foundation, and the Atlantic Council, among many others, funnel millions of dollars in donations into cementing neoliberal attitudes in the American mind.