Why Certain Left-wing European People Are Suddenly Criticising American Policy
By Karl Müller, Germany
Socialist criticism of the United States on the part of Europe’s top politicians from France, England and Germany, as well as similar voices from Russia and the United States, has increased dramatically in recent months. At first glance these voices arose in reaction to George Bush’s announcement that he planned a long-term continuation and expansion of the war ‘against International Terrorism.’ He also spoke of waging war on ‘an axis of evil,’ naming in particular countries like Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Upon closer examination, however, it looks as if the agenda behind the voices out of Europe and Russia is no different than the common path trodden by the ruling powers in the United States. The difference is that the Europeans formulate their own designs on power more clearly.
We’re not talking about doves here. People like the French government officials, Jospin, Vedrin and Richard as well as the Germans Schroeder, Fischer, and Volmer and the Britons Straw and Blair, like the Russian Putin and the Americans Gore, Holbrooke and Albright are all outspoken hawks. Similarly the fact that the United States is waging war is not the main issue, but rather the heart of their criticism has to do with the unilateral approach of the United States government, and its failure to consult with its ‘allies’ when they do. The Europeans are upset, by what they say is deficient multilateralism, meaning of course that Bush failed to first clear his actions with the United Nations.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is particularly two-faced in this regard. On the one hand he supports his Foreign Minister Straw in his criticism of the United States while at the same time he is one of Europe’s biggest warmongers.
Part of this criticism is based on a materialistic analysis of the problem of terrorism , tracing its source to widespread poverty in the third world. In doing so these critics ignore the fact that international terrorism was deliberately created for political purposes. People like Osama bin Laden are rich and they have extensive contacts with key figures in American, British and Arabic politics. To connect people like this with poverty is a misuse of the term. The poor people of this world are not terrorists. The poor people of this world are rather the victims of both the big powers and terrorism.
No humane voices
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, one of the leaders of the revolution of ‘68 and now a delegate to the European Parliament, expressed his criticism of the United States and formulated his perspective on the future as well. April of 2002 will mark the third anniversary of NATO’s announcement of its new doctrine, according to which the formerly defensive alliance is now empowered to wage war beyond their traditional sphere of influence. This expansion of NATO’s theatre of operations is the cornerstone of their new policy. Shortly thereafter, in a propagandistic article in Welt am Sontag on ‘the Islamic enemy,’ they explained that the new policy was focused on a ‘region of crisis’ which stretched from Turkey over the Near East and all of Northern Africa to the Atlantic and into the heart of Africa to the south as well, including the oilfields of the Sudan. Cohn-Bendit was strangely silent on the plans emanating from NATO head-quarters, having held for three years that no peace movement was necessary to oppose the expansion of NATO’s role. To this day he is still unconcerned about peace in the world; like Tony Blair he contents himself with changing sides. In his current ‘Perspective on the Future,’ which he presented in the February 18 edition of the Spiegel, he begins by sweeping all of the goals of the old left from the table while at the same time distancing himself from neoliberalism. This being the case, the question arises of how he and his ilk have felt so comfortable since 1989 being in bed with international big capital as promoters of globalization and why Cohn-Bendit and Co. have been so avid in attacking the nation state and the common good on the local level. Even today he formulates his ‘values’ as if they somehow applied to the entire world: ‘Democracy, constitution, and the repudiation of violence; the recognition of general rights and individual freedoms, including equality of the sexes; discourse, irony, ambivalence tolerance.’
Cohn-Bendit does all this in the manner of modern manipulators: He uses terms with positive meanings open to fill them with new content. Then he describes the device which will now be responsible for the imple-mentation of these new values: ‘We consider the United Nations, which has long codified universal norms in its charter, as the most urgent project of the West.’ He then goes on to justify the wars of recent years, ‘even the most minimal reading of the concept of human rights … would justify the military interventions in Afghanistan (or before that in Kosovo or Bosnia).’ And the policies that got implemented there are really only ‘the conditions of basic civil decency.’
So ‘civil decency’ according to Cohn-Bendit means that the people of Bosnia will live in neo-colonial dependency. According to Cohn-Bendit’s view, civil decency means that Kosovo and Yugoslavia get bombed back into the middle ages and that thou-sands lose their lives in the process. ‘Civil decency’ means that the already much-abused people of Afghanistan get bombed even further back into the stone age, and that thousands more lose their lives, after for years the USA have been building up the very people they now want to do away with.
What is going on here? It’s obvious that the critical voices of these European, Russian and American politicians which take up the space in innumerable headlines are in no way voices for humanity.
Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution
Those who are criticizing the policies of the US government from within the vari-ous European governments are all practically without exception representatives of the international, Trotskyite left. It would be foolish to downplay their statements as merely campaign rhetoric.
In 1993 the Workers’ Press in Essen brought out a new edition of Leo Trotsky’s book ‘The Theory of Permanent Revolution’. In the foreword to that book, we read that the theory of permanent revolution is in no way obsolete. It presents rather ‘the only coherent conception of socialism for our time”in contrast to the numerous nationalsocial democratic or syndicalistversions of socialism. Only the theory of permanent revolution bases ‘on the fun-damental fact of modern economy, namely, its international, trans-border character.’ The socialist revolution can’t ‘be realized in a nation-oriented framework.’ Rather it must be part of the socialist global revolution. ‘The final fate of the revolution can only be decided on a global scale.’ The notion of national independence has no future. All attempts to find an independent national path to social progress reveal themselves as illusory upon closer inspection. The desire for national independence in places like, for example, the Third World are, therefore, a historical anachronism and should be resisted as a form of degeneration.
An ideological picture of the globalized world emerges by the end of the foreword. ‘Based on revolutionary technological innovations in the realm of microelectronics, transportation and communications technology, commerce, the movement of capital and the means of production have taken on global characteristics.’ The nation state, as a result, has shown itself to be incompatible with ‘the global character of the means of production.’ ‘The concept of permanent revolution takes on a special relevance under these conditions. A new orientation in the workers’ movement is only possible in light of this understanding. The Bourgeoisie can’t tame the productive powers which they have brought into existence.’ New wars and Fascism are distinct threats. The working class can counter them however, only ‘by breaking with every sort of nationalism and by uniting under the banner of an inter-nationalist socialist strategy.’
Fischer favors forced internationalism
In 1998, just a few months before the elec-tions in Germany, soon-to-be Foreign Min-ister Fischer touched on Trotsky’s ideas, even if he didn’t mention his name, in his book ‘For a new Social Contract: A Political Answer to the Globalist Revolution.’ Fischer reminds his readers that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels ‘came up with the most compelling explanation of the globalization revolution in their Communist Manifesto.’ In this context Fischer criticized the old left for its attachment to the achievements of the national social state. Globalization is not only unavoidable; it is necessary for the left’s project of world hegemony. ‘As Marx put it, a social formation doesn’t pass away before all productive forces have been developed which are necessary to it, and new higher conditions of production never come into being unless the material conditions for existence have been bred in the womb of the old social order.’ The globalization revolution will, as a result, ‘not only bring about the collapse of the old world order; it will create the foundation of the new world order as well.’
According to his views in 1998, the globalization which Fischer wants to promote and which he has promoted during the last four years, will be anything but ‘harmonious, socially just and free of violence’ when it comes into being. Rather the societies of the west will be shaken by violent changes, which ‘in terms of the economy, politics and culture will hardly leave one stone upon another.’
The main cause of the global problems in the future, will be, again according to Fisher in 1998, ‘the wealthy western economies, led by the superpower USA.’
And the solution? ‘Given the inexorable globalization of the economy, a return to the re-nationalization of the politics of the left would be disastrous. … What is needed in light of economic globalization is rather a mandatory internationalism. […]’
The institution which the Trotskyite left wants to use to achieve this end is the United Nations. This has been obvious for years now to anyone who has attended UN conferences, at which the representatives of the socialist European states and the UN give vent to their dogmatic ideology and authoritarianism.
The Role of the UN
‘The UN is the most important vehicle for the solution of global problems,’ that’s the way the red-green government in Germany put it in their coalition contract. This government considered it its most important task to ‘support the UN both politically and financially, to reform the UN and to expand its ability to function as an instrument for the solution of international problems.’ Are the Brahimi Report, Global Compact and other manifestoes the result of this commitment? The ultimate goal of the Red-Green government was to ‘preserve’ the ‘monopoly of force which the UN possesses.’
In the past few years the socialist governments of the European states have behaved more capitalist than the capitalists themselves. In the United Nations they have abolished one national right after another promoting globalism all the while. The goal which they have set for themselves is a society in which 20 percent of the population (reaping the benefits money invested in the stock market) is the super rich while the other 80 percent remains below the poverty level, thereby eliminating the entire middle class economically. These people have happily wallowed in the trough of Big Capital and the Stock Market Boom and are still doing the same thing today. Honesty is not their strong suit. The picture of the left-wing internationalists Blair, Jospin, Schroeder and Fischer standing shoulder to shoulder with George W. Bush, the lackey of the big multinationals, was both obscene and unreal at the same time. Do they have the impression that their moment has arrived to take over the leadership and to bring about a new era of world-wide hegemony?
A few days ago, Germany’s foreign minister Joschka Fischer explained how a world of six billion people can’t be led into the future by anyone, not even the world’s most powerful superpower, indicating that what really bothers him is the idea that America wants to do this alone. He is evi-dently not disturbed by the idea that someone is supposed to lead all these people. Are the computer networks and offices of the present day Trotskyites simply another form of the Moscow party university and the KGB? In terms of their theory and political analysis, it is the current understanding of Trotsky’s internationalist ideas that gives the best explanation for the phenomenon of Globalization, including its implications for the future and possible negative effects. That means, of course, that the ‘revolution in one country’ is no longer possible; it has to occur simultaneously across the globe. And that means that the market has to continue to grow in order to enable the Revolution, and that means that this growth can only take place on a global, which is to say, not a national level, and that means that its promoters must be willing to implement this revolutionary process all the way to its ultimate bitter end with violence and war if necessary. Tony Blair fired the opening shot in this war when he issued his statement on Zimbabwe in the Times on January 9. Blair justified his imperial policies in Africa by saying that he wanted to transform Great Britain into a ‘global power for the Good.’ His trip to Africa in February had as its purpose the implementation of his vision of a globalist order in which Great Britain will play a ‘central role.”
And what’s the alternative? The globalist ideology, whether of the Marxist-Trotskyist or internationalist capitalist variety suppresses certain facts. This ideology does not exist to serve the needs of humanity in general. Rather this new world order serves the interests of a terrifying world-wide expansion of power and a widespread and ruthless form of exploitative capitalism, of a sort the world has never seen. The anonymity, completely dissociated from any social reality, which world-wide capital enables will have a devastating effect on the world by fostering humanity’s basest instincts.
As in the past, the non-negotiable basis for a life of human dignity, freedom, constitutional government and democracy is the integrity that can only come from a comprehensible form of direct democracy. In order to deal with issues like political representation and any other concrete issue which the voters have to deal with, the people at the lowest rung of the political ladder have to be given a civil instrument which they can manage, something like referendums or local initiatives through which they can manage the most necessary details of everyday life. It’s only on terms like this that people can realize the goal of political autonomy. This way is much more effective than anything else that humanity has tried in the post-1989 era, and it gives these people more satisfaction because they can take an active part in determining their political destiny. The social state, which ensures the basic necessities of life for all of its citizens according to the principle of subsidiarity, is a non-negotiable alternative to the state which hands the common good over to the care of private corporations or, in some instances, multinational concerns. This is not the time to abandon the spiritual, social and political achievements which have come about as a result of the general enlightenment which brought about the recognition of human rights, their protection and promotion, under the tutelage of the modern state. At a time when the world’s big powers wage war in increasingly ruthless fashion and are already preparing for the next war, true neutrality and a neutral engagement for the victims of global politics take on a new existential meaning for the conscience of humanity.
If we had to name one example of a centuries-long successful attempt to provide an alternative to political control and the politics of war and power, then it would have to be the example of the Swiss Confedera-tion. The fact that Switzerland has been on the receiving end of a massive attempt at intimidation and corruption and co-optation should not blind us to the fact that this is also an attack on the achievements of humanity which go far beyond the borders of Switzerland.
translated by E. Michael Jones