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Saturday, Jul. 29, 2006 at 10:31 PM
Sooner or later the competing bourgeoisies will attempt to free themselves, to unite, to escape from America’s more and more choking dominance.
The Planetary War of the United States of America
Let’s see which kind of a war would be the USA’s possible next one, whereby huge military credits are approved and far away countries are given orders and strategic dictates. It’s not only a conjectural war because it is already happening as a close continuation of the two world wars. After all it’s the completion of gathering together a huge and destroying strength in an ultimate centre of domination and defence of the current class-regime. Such processes may develop even without an open war between the USA and Russia, if the latter’s vassallage could be secured by bringing the former’s prevaling economic forces to bear on it, instead of with military means. However, the fact is that the bullyings of the European aggressors in history, who scrambled for a province or town within cannon-shot, are laughable in the face of the brazenness of those debating publicly – and it’s easy to deduce what kind of plans should be the secret ones – if the safety of New York and San Francisco is best defended on the Rhine or on the Indus, on the Alps or on the Himalaya. The United States conquerors’ vital space is a belt running around the world (See "Aggressione all’Europa" [Aggression upon Europe] Prometeo 1949).
Politics, terrorism and war
When it first happened, we immediately situated the attack against the USA and their ensuing military reaction within a historical span comprising linked events of one process. That’s why we handed out a leaflet with the same title, when the USA attacked Afghanistan last October 7th .
Defining something is always a risky operation, since in the field of complex phenomena there is always something escaping the logic either of classification or grouping. Notwithstanding, we use (without hesitation) the word "war" in a strict sense to define the deeds of 9/11, even if they aren’t usually given that meaning, as we’ll see. It’s a war, not "terrorism", because we’re not facing a bilateral confrontation between the USA (the open society, civilization, etc.) and their enemies, but with an inter-action, with events happening "as a function of", in a scenario encompassing the whole world, where no State and no lobby imagines their interests aren’t at stake. It’s a war, because militarism is no longer particular to the military, to armies and their chiefs, to Frederick the Great or Napoleon; nor is it particular as well to that of the satirical columns of some socialist journals which at the outbreak of world war one represented cannon-mouthed and bullet-toothed fat capitalists smashing skin-and-bones proletarians. Now more than ever all society is militarized, when it is falling out of control and needs to be deeply controlled in all its parts. Finally, it’s a war because, as nobody can marshal troops against the USA, so nobody can compete with the in-depth militarization of their imperialism. And you must never fight an enemy on his own ground, as everybody knows.
Therefore, we’ll only hint towards bin Laden, the "Twin Towers", the Pentagon, even to the war in Afghanistan, simply dealing with them as items of a wider process. It’s useless to pay attention to particulars that moreover come to us through an information system "embedded" in what we are analyzing: it would be like putting our observation-point inside the thing being observed, which is always something better not to do. The chronicle has to be read with one rationale, now more than ever, when mass-communication is a weapon, just like aircraft carriers, missiles and troops: to try to understand which is the material subsoil where these deeds take their roots and above all what is to happen accordingly.
First of all, it’s useful to make it clear we won’t go into a political debate, which is totally alien to us. We don’t support Hutchinson’s thesis of the clash of civilizations, or else Fukuyama’s "End of history"; we aren’t going to deal with Eco’s "professorial" and "unbiased" theses, nor with Fallaci’s violent outpourings of what the petty-bourgeois think but daren’t say; we won’t discuss extensively if we’re coping with an aberration of Islam, nor waste our tears worrying if western democracy is going to the dogs in the face of the required war-time measures; it doesn't matter if torture is to be officially sanctioned at middle-class America's will, or else if instead of a local therapy there will be a global prophylaxis; if the satellite spy-network "Echelon" is grabbing political rather than commercial information; or if mankind is being infiltrated by commandos of imperialistic intelligence agencies. All of the above is a matter we leave willingly to "public opinion".
Analyses and verifications
We live in a world which isn’t discrete but continuous, which doesn’t obey linear laws but chaotic and complex ones, which can’t be described, like the media does, event after event, personage after personage, where the titles in capital letters of the various bigwigs’ comments are more important than an historical clash between competing imperialisms. Sure, history is studded with landmarks, but they don’t stand in a straight line, they lay out like nodes in a network instead. That’s why the most careful historians have noticed that history as such is an illusion, and that they indeed make it , by creating conventional sequences of facts, set in a certain, subjective order. By the way, this is one of the reasons why our school mocked those who used to draw their great analyses from the latest newspapers. You can’t find out the laws of social development this way, nor understand something like 9/11; where it comes from, and where it is leading to.
We know communists are blamed for not having made any predictions with their materialist method. We'll forget about criticizing this ideological silliness and simply stay at the level of the empirical facts. Just to mention only some of them that matter today, we say that: 1) capitalism can’t tolerate old modes of production and the ideas that reflect them, so tends to destroy them and to shape the whole earth according to its needs; to obtain this, rather than equalize world development to that of the countries of the old accumulation, it can’t help bringing about a relative over-population massively larger than is useful to capital for its valorization; 2) this fact, that others call globalization and we call imperialism, stirs up the need of a more and more in-depth control of the economic processes, earlier within the national territories (fascism, keynesianism, stalinism), later over the whole earth; this obviously provokes local reactions both in the countries from where globalization has started and in the countries where it has recently arrived: laissez faire capitalism is going to die out, even if seemingly this isn’t so; 3) along with this process, competition among states is becoming more and more fierce, and an increasingly lower number of states control the world; the states that won’t be won will be bought (as our school was saying of the USSR, which we defined as capitalist, when most people believed it was a socialist country); 4) the march of communism can’t be stopped: even if the counter-revolution works, it is forced to work for us (as Engels pointed out while the Prussian army was marching towards Paris in 1870); it does so in its way, but in this way it writes off problems the future revolution would run into otherwise.
As soon as we deal with events from a different viewpoint than the bourgeois one (which again and again the bourgeois themselves have to do while trying to understand these events ), we can see that every matter the marxist current has dealt with, has an experimental verification. Particular and local facts may happen either in one fashion or another, a war may burst out in such and such country, local balances between states and bourgeoisies may be upset, a corrosive peace destroying more resources than a war may drag on. Contingent facts and their predictions are meaningful only within the overall process of the becoming of this society, which shed light on them.
As early as when Marx lived, it was evident England was already decaying, as he himself pointed out, and that the USA would take over, exactly like in the past centuries, when imperialisms were ousting one another. This is a prediction we all can verify in the facts, and allows us to ask the same question: who’ll take over from the USA? The answer also implies what will take over from the domination of the strongest and unrivalled imperialism; will it be a defeat of the USA by an imperialism to come (or by two or more allied imperialisms)? The Russia-lovers would have easily bet that the USSR was going to win the race, whether in a peaceful competition or in war. Instead we were persuaded that the real clash wasn’t going to break out between the USA and USSR, as they weren’t competitors at an economical level, but it would have happened among the same actors of World War Two, without any winner of the race toward imperialistic gigantism in the long term. The point we called the "crisis of the decreasing outputs" had already been reached, the same that can also be called "historical diminishing of the relative increment rates" in industrial production. As it should be known, this is the index showing the tendential decrease in the rate of profit, which made it clear that the increment rate wasn’t going to last so long as to allow any country to reach the previous advance of the USA and their power. Therefore, there couldn’t have been the century of the Russian or Chinese imperialism, nor of any other country.
The roman empire, when it didn’t have any more foes to worry it, became its own enemy: capitalism is a live and active social form, and like all living beings has grown, developed and will die. Today, after conquering the world, it no longer has the vital force to produce a new capitalism, more powerful and globalized than the US one, a more modern one able to assimilate to itself the whole world. We’re at the apex, at the last phase that is going to put an end to all phases, right now the biggest contradiction of capital is capitalism itself. In short, there won’t be seven daughters from Brasil, Chinese coke won’t be drunk, 95% of the films we’ll see won’t be from India, and the European "Big Mac" never will be eaten, just to mention some countries economically developing and demographically strong.
War won’t be waged on a frontline of typical arrays, but will be intestine to the dying imperialisms. It’s what is happening: to use Lenin’s well-known image, mankind-larva has died and the new chrysalid, a higher living form, is getting ready to fly away after destroying the cocoon.
This is the situation where a force pinpointing the USA as an enemy to strike has taken shape, so daring as to challenge their power by knocking down their main military and commercial sites. This force is organized as a network so that, when a node is hit, the rest of the framework is safe, and looks, with its mass of capital and mode of functioning, like a rapacious multinational corporation. Who there is inside or behind this organization, if single men, states or interests, doesn’t matter. The point is that it has been born from the apparatus of imperialism itself as its legitimate creature while the latter was trying to adapt itself to a non-traditional war. The paradox is striking: "traditional" war is dead long before and a new type of war has already become traditional, the same that was earlier deemed as "atypical". This one has replaced the frontal clash of armies, navies and airforces, but is much more efficient at facing the senile crisis of imperialism, being able to infuse it with new oxygen in the accumulation cycles.
You can’t simply say: "There are terrorists hating Americans because of their misdeeds!"; "Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind!"; "Neither with the terrorists nor with the USA!". And so on with the commonplaces.
Four big airliners, fully fueled because of their faraway destinations, real flying bombs, were accurately choosen to be hijacked at the same time and used against meaningful symbols of power, so as to cause an unprecedented disaster to the USA. To obtain this, you need many things: the backing of a logistics made up of many items; several months activity; hundreds of persons willy-nilly involved therein; a great deal of money; and above all a series of activities that couldn’t help setting off some alarms in the network of the intelligence of several countries. Herein we won’t deal with the technical oddities, with the four airplanes hijacked without an alarm, with the attack certainly attributed to a specific organization almost immediately, with the freakish details such as the finding of an Arab-language flying manual, whereas even a coffee-pot manual is by now in English. We’re going to deal instead with this military action in the heart both of Washington and New York and with the similar bombings to come somewhere else in the world, which all belongs to one war, which didn't just begin, obviously, on 9/11.
Those attacked and the attackers
When did this war start? But is it so important to look for its beginning as though we were writing a school-book? Since capital has become a huge repository into which single capitals stream and act as a nameless and indistinct force that is able to put gigantic investments into motion, the single capitalist has been swept away, he is no longer useful. In his place it has been necessary to build forms of international control, legislative and executive apparatuses that could measure up to the needs of a capital of such social power as we can see now. But frontiers still exist, bourgeoisies are still divided into nations, which contradicts the internationalization of capital. It was unavoidable that the bougeoisie of the strongest country should take upon itself the task of directing the world traffic of capitals. And one is an incorrigible daydreamer, if one thinks that it's possible that someone won’t pursue both his own interests and those of his country while accomplishing it.
No private bourgeois can enforce the law, which should be firm and mandatory for all, and instead is often infringed; so the modern State was created. It isn’t above the classes, but the tool of a certain class; if this class is by now superfluous, the State becomes the main tool of capital. The latter would have no advantage in using more states, whether in competition or in league: it would rather use one of them, the most powerful and efficient at controlling the cycle of production of surplus-value going on. That’s why economical and social control inside the frontiers, so vital in the 30’s, has gone beyond them. And it continues being strict class control, apart from slogans such as no to globalization and for fair and stable commerce. Besides, capitalism itself was born global and imperialistic: imagine Venice and the other sea Republics arising and developing through exchanges between them and their close neighbours! And try and imagine any of those early imperialisms developing without waging war both against the Turks and among themselves!
War and society divided into classes are complementary to each other. In the overall process leading mankind from primitive communism to its developed form, it can’t be said if the former spring out of the latter or vice versa. So, war has stirred up the development of these societies, and has contributed mostly to forward the much-worshipped idol of progress. But since capitalism has developed sufficiently and given rise to the modern world market (imperialism), war isn’t any more an event building nations nor an event settling quarrels between nations, yet it remains a regulating item at the disposal of international capital in order to enforce its rules, obviously on behalf of the strongest countries. Once the eve of the colonial conquests is over, as well as that of the conquest of the territory-bound markets, now, in the age of so-called globalization, that is of generalization of capitalism and the world market, the struggle occurs for the sharing out of the surplus-value which the proletariat of all zones has produced. That’s why the USA needn’t physically conquer a territory they control, it’s enough for them to have a firm grip on the flow of capital, that is, the flow of goods, the flow of values. That’s why, as we’ll see, it’s wrong to think the USA unleashes wars for oil in the same way as wars for colonies were unleashed. The function of oil is only one of transfer of value.
Therefore, modern war hasn’t any more as its main objective the conquest of a physical entity (a territory, a population, some resources, safe frontiers, etc.), but the conquest of value flow which allows capitalism development or even its survival in the belligerent countries. Most of the people of the world, the Japanese included, are persuaded that Japan attacked the USA at Pearl Harbor, which is certainly true, if we only look at who bombed who. But, before that attack, there was an embargo that was choking Japanese economy, and earlier Japan expanded so widely as to endanger the expansion the USA had accomplished over the Pacific to the detriment of Spain. Bombing had to be the necessary outcome of a long process, where looking for who attacked whom, is nonsense.
In a context like this (that now is by far more intricate because of capital’s very swift and complex movements) it’s evident that all the population of the belligerent countries are directly involved in war. A government’s economic manoeuvres, for instance the Maastricht parameters by the EU, are performed so that all society is involved, first of all the producing class; it is studied in order to improve Europe competition against the other competitors in the world, who are the target of a real act of war. If, as Clausewitz says, war is nothing other than the continuation of politics by other means, it’s clear that, when the economical manoeuvre escalates into a bomb dropping, the population, exactly like before, will be involved in the bombings. There is no longer a difference between fighters and civilians. An open war is waged as well by blocking the enemy’s communications and factories, that is by bombing them, killing workers therein, destroying cities and terrifying the population, which becomes a heavy logistical problem, with the wounded, homeless, refugees, and starving to care about. Since World War Two onward, the civil population has become a target, an item to study on the way to victory, as well as all other parameters.
In that case: Washington and New York as an act of a war that doesn’t start today, and won’t have an end with an act of reprisal.
Structure and idle chatter
Going back to the question: "when did this war start?", we may answer: when capitalism started. Or else, when a remarkable movement of capitals through oil rent started. It depends on how we want set the problem. If we want to study it in the context of the formation of imperialism in order to understand how it reacts, we have to start with the trasformation of mercantilism into capitalism. If we want to understand US imperialism specifically, we have at least to go back to the colonial nature of the original settlements of white populations in those lands, to the early need for wide-spread settlements to the West and South, to the need to control the two oceans and the lands overseas. If, finally, we want to understand who is bin Laden, where he comes from and why he is involved in the attack on the USA, we have to take into consideration that capitalism, at its top, has surely made capitalists useless, but hasn’t abolished private property, and so has to transfer a part of the profit, that is of the produced surplus-value, to rent. Since most of the oil lies in the subsoil of countries where Islamic peoples live, they have viewed that mass of surplus-value as their untouchable property. As if oil and surplus-value were the same thing. We don’t speake of trifles: the world consumes about 30 billion barrels of oil a year, which, on the basis of the september price, amounts to 800 billion dollars. These populations have only the crumbs, most of the rent is being "employed" through the western bank system, that, in turn, employs it in the overall surplus-value production. Oil is constant capital, an essential one, like raw material and (other sources of) energy, to form the profit rate: in a period when the latter is going down and little variations of a fraction of a point up or down are viewed as "boom" or "recession", it can be understood that the control of oil rent becomes vital. All that counteracts the fall of the profit rate is vital to imperialism: constant capital value reduction; increase in the exploitation of the working class; lowering of wages; increased competition among workers; widening of the world market; extremization of financial means. The above list is the same that Marx drafted in the relevant chapter of the third volume of Capital.
Therefore, in our discourse about war these all are pertinent: The general nature of capitalism, its peculiar phase of imperialism, and any possible breakdown of balance as regards main sources of energy for creating surplus-value.
Usually, when we make such statements, our critics rise up blaming us for being abstract and never coming to the point: they want us to tell them what has really happened and first of all what is to be done against imperialism and for the oppressed masses. Now, inside the existing system, it’s always possible to find something "to do"; there is room; for instance, for a good committee against the intervention in Afghanistan, a united demonstration, a debate among political forces, etc. But war is precisely one of those situations that erase any nuances: either you bind yourself within this space or jump out of the system. All the rest is a great lot of chatter that pours out of the parliaments and parallels and amplifies their parliamentary cretinism.
We're bothered a lot by such a passive way to put the questions, since this means dealing with the problems on the terrain of the mainstream ideology. We’ve read a great lot of leaflets about the current war. They are texts reflecting the work of generous militants whom, unfortunately, decades of pseudo-revolutionary commonplaces have mislead. Let’s take one randomly: "War Against War"; it’s a fine title, synthetic, both concise and immediate, and accords with what the Italian workers’ movement was writing in World War One. Here is another one: "Fight without faltering against the war"; a really "leninist" slogan. Except for the fact that it’s lacking something essential: a factual content; it lacks any link to the material reality of the facts. So, the exhortation to be factual would boil down to making statements without a practical content. "War Against War" and all the same slogans, if words have a sense, not only a rhetorical effect, means at least organizing an international strike while trying to stop the bombers, it needs either persuading or constraining soldiers not to embark, that is to desert, it needs to reply to the governments’ obvious reactions, with an escalation looming as a civil war. This is what Lenin said, isn’t it? But during World War One, there was in the biggest countries a strong proletarian movement, well organized and lead by class parties, that, even if they were largely avowedly reformist, we can’t even imagine now. Today, there is only petty-bourgeois shit warmongering, or else hypocritical pacifism. At the time, certain slogans had a factual sense, and could be exhortations to effectively organize strikes, defeatism, etc. Today, impotent sloganeering should be avoided, at least a minimum of empirical understanding should be shown while assessing the gravity of the situation and what are the real ratios of force; even if it isn’t quite understood what has effectively happened in New York and Washington or else what is happening in Afghanistan and elsewhere where the war is certainly developing in a latent way.
The problem is not of the Americans, who know well how to reply. On the contrary, what has happened is fine for them, since it allows them to act all over the world without giving account to anyone. The problem is not even of the so-called oppressed islamic masses, who in their way react against imperialism, often arms in hand, unifying themselves under a religion, even if the belligerent bourgeoisies manoeuvre and use them as partisans. The true problem is ours, of the western proletariat. The problem of imperialism can be solved only in the context of revolution, not by the islamic masses or of another faith, but here, where the two sole factors of revolution exist: the non-stop production of surplus-value more that encreasingly strengthen the social forces of production, and the programme forged by the past revolutions. The masses of the third or fourth world must join the western proletariat, because it’s here that the breakdown of imperialism from the inside will happen, the one condition for revolution to win, the one, without fanciful alternatives.
Imperialism and vital space
While there’s social peace in the west and passivity among the populations which are becoming increasingly impoverished (apart from hotbeds like Palestine), on 9/11 someone hijacked four airplanes, flew one into the Pentagon and two into the most symbolic skyscrapers in the world in New York. Once again, long after England’s attack in 1812, the USA have again to lament thousands of civilian victims on their own land owing to a military action. The evidence of an international network and not of "private" people having planned this action highlights the military side. And, like in the past, an act of war becomes a factor of further war. How come the USA needs to wage a war? They already control the world. Now, a country’s need of war, expansion and control can’t be measured on the terrain of ideas but facts, put into motion in spite of ideas. During the mid-1800's the USA took away a territory almost the size of Europe from Mexico within seven or eight years with a fully aggressive war. Yet, they didn’t "need" it, having immense spaces still to explore; by the way, they had just managed to reach the Pacific coast overland. On 1898, the sinking of the battleship "Maine" gave occasion for waging a war against Spain and taking away Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines . Yet, even then the US didn’t "need" to conquer the Pacific materially; the Monroe Doctrine had established long before that the Americas were the USA’s space of conquest. And effectively all those lands were a privileged market to the new rampant imperialism. It takes little to link the facts: it’s from there that the USA have made their way to Europe, Japan and ... Afghanistan.
In 1915, the passenger ship "Lusitania" incident (Germans had sunk it because it was loaded with arms, after their warning not to depart had been ignored) brought the USA to the edge of war, but they prefered to intervene in 1917, when all the belligerents were near the breaking point. For the occasion they send as many as two million soldiers. Their way of fighting was despised by the old European militarists, but they had few causalties and above all they won hands down with their superiority of means, that is of the social force of production of modern capitalism.
In the time after the war, taking advantage of the situation owing to the Versailles treaty and to the belligerent’s mutual debts, America, through its president Wilson, took the stance of middleman regarding the countries that had fought, which was the same as saying: "watch out, we're not a nation of the same kind as you are". This was true. In fact, they started their campaign against English imperialism, laying the foundations for definitively controlling global economics and finance on their own. This campaign ended by sending parachute troops to block the Anglo-French landing at Suez: here’s the inglorious end of colonial imperialism. It’s clear that, straddling between the Pacific and Europe, the US would hold the war to come on both fronts, using their usual caution by stepping in when the others had already slaughtered one another to a great extent. Again, the case for war was the sinking of ships, this time at Pearl Harbor, where, opportunely, only obsolete old battleships were anchoring as prey for a quite expected Japanese attack, certainly not modern aircraft carriers. As compared with the other belligerent’s technique and means employed in 1941-45, deployed US power was such a explosion of production, arms, machines, men and capitals the like of which the world had never seen. Its culmination was the maximum destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki: one order, two bombs, two destroyed cities, two hundred thousand dead people. Here, again, they didn’t "need" that, by then Japan was already defeated.
It’s clear we have a problem, a serious one, that no exorcizing leaflet can solve. Try and cry out "Turn imperialist war into a revolutionary war!", after 9/11 has made it clear to everybody that modern war is very different than the one fought only by marshalled armies. Imperialistic war will turn into revolutionary war, we’re sure, but not how it’s being taught by mechanistic readings of the classics. Already World War Two had changed the dynamics of the past wars. Now things have gone beyond. The Maine, Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, and Tonking Gulf incidents and their aftermaths are quite different. Now there’s no foreign power to be blamed for aggression. There’s a power grown out of the womb of imperialism (stop, please, speaking of the Islamic masses bin Laden is ensnaring) rebelling against imperialism itself to cut out its part of vital space. The German-bound lebensraum question is an invariant, but is solved in quite different ways. Imperialism tends to fill all spaces: Germans advanced until occupying Stalingrad, and the Japanese until they reached India’s boundaries; Americans just fill spaces, without occupying territories and enforcing their laws on the local people so far. The 800 occupation installations scattered all over the world are meant to occupy the whole world rather than the local space, where they stand as "guests".
Modern imperialism absolutely needed to expand from a closed system to an open one. Production, at a certain moment, had before itself the world market, and, as it’s known, "goods are artilleries that pull down any Great Wall of China". And since there’s no movement of goods without the movement of capital, the world market has turned into the world of finance capital. The latter has begun to reproduce on its own, going on creating, multiplying and annihilating ficticious capital in a closed circle, but no capital can produce interest without passing through production giving rise to surplus-value. Many times we have reminded readers that every day 1500 billion dollars are moving through the world network of communications, that the investiment funds alone are 25 trillion dollars (almost three times as much the value produced yearly in the USA), and that all this money can fly at once across the world. In the face of such a huge movement of money or rather of signs representing money, the movement of goods as compared with produced value miserably sticks to the level of 1913. The point is that imperialism is a crowded space, since it is not alone but rather there are many of them, the same as capital, which is many capitals and has many holders entitled to claim their property.
Now, many of us have realized that the events of 9/11 are very useful to the kind of policy USA "needs". Maybe, it’s less clear what is really looming, since our perception is blurred about what is going to happen. We don’t believe at all the attack on the USA has changed the world, it’s the changing world that provoked the attack; that’s why the reply was already prepared, accurately adapted, even described in the Pentagon documents. Therein, categories such as territory, nationality, ideology or religion, or country are fully unfit to describe what is happening. America was previously preparing itself to meet this challenge, as we wrote when dealing with globalization and the anti-globalization movement. The new world order will be imposed and stir up repercussions, whatever they may be.
But, let’s go back some years, so that we can discern the difference between another country’s military doctrine and the USA’s. The German military doctrine was grounded on the literal interpretation of Clausewitz’s most famous sentence: in ’39 politics had brought about a stalemate and war propelled Germany's aims "with other means". The blitzkrieg, the flash-war, was thoroughly compatible with the previous policy; the fast conquest of the western lands was a weapon to be used in the post-war talks to officially sanction the conquest of the eastern lands. The peace would have reversed the sentence, according to Clausewitz’s statement: politics would have been the continuation of war with other means. The vital space was still judged as a territory along with its cities, inhabitants, railways, etc., according to an old colonial mentality.
Neither German and also Japanese politicians nor military had understood what kind of foe they had to face. Within a few days France was rendered harmless, and England too risked a great deal at Dunkirk. America instead risked nothing, waiting for the old military doctrine to bear fruit, then stepped in against the Axes and the allied old powers. America didn't need to conquer vital space from some neighbour, but rather to prevent everyone from trespassing its vital space, that by then circled the planet. As in Aesopus’ fable, whoever drinks in the planetary stream muddies the water for the wolf, even if he stays upstream. End of the alliances. By now the USA, like a real multi-national of anonymous capital, has no more allies, it has either clients or dependents. Since then a series of international agreements have sanctioned these tools of dominance: Bretton Woods and the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the GATT (later, World Trade Organization), the UNO, everything is structured around American power.
The word imperialism was used to describe the English policy of the late 1800's analogous to the Roman empire that kept on expanding over the lands of other peoples. In early 1900's Hobson, Hilferding and above all Lenin made it clear that the essence of modern imperialism was its industrial-financial-military nature, which mirrors the international socialization of labour involving more and more countries. Today everything is driven to the maximum consequence. The Roman empire, at its apex, had huge troubles controlling its borders, but as long as its legions managed to keep the Barbarians off the limites, things were going well enough. If instead the empire has no more boundaries, it’s totally useless to have fortresses, ramparts or entrenchments; another kind of control is needed such as no central authority can exert because of the enourmous task and necessary means to carry it out. In short, the current imperialism would need a world society that could self-organize around US interests. It’s evident this is impossible.
We’ve seen that in ’56 US paratroopers occupied Suez not so much to contrast the Egyptian policy as to neutralize the French-English one. In ’58 the landing in Lebanon definitively pulled France out of the Middle East. Even before, in ’48, the USA had caused Israel to be born against the English policy in the area. That’s the end of the marine and army imperialism and the start of the airforce and the imperialism of economic control . If, in the early 1900's, a Kautsky could still think imperialism was the result of the states’ political will, today it’s more than ever crystal clear that imperialism is instead the very economic structure of modern society. States are only the stuctural reflection and function as a tool of Capital. As the socialization of work goes out from the factories and penetrates into all parts of a society, thus obliging the "holdings" or the State to coordinate single factories as if being one great factory department, so the socialization of work itself, once internationalized, obliges all states to take on a global coordination. That’s "real" imperialism, the one Lenin described in the last pages of his book.
Obviously, some reactions against this situation took place. France, for instance, with a re-discovered colonial mentality, believed it could bypass the dependance on oil (oil flow was–and is–under control of the USA) by hurling itself down the nuclear path, because of the many uranium mines laying in several French-speaking African countries, or in other countries with which France was on good terms . But within a few years any remnants of the French sway on Africa was swept away. The reaction towards independence once reverberated upon its proud force de frappe and its determination not to join NATO; today France is an Atlantic country like anyone else and the French grandeur is no more heard. The same applies to England, that, moreover, to stay ahead of the rest of Europe, has resolutely taken the direction of symbiosis with the USA, like a remora with its shark. This is the situation: either they are allies of the USA (that is clients-dependents) or they are foes. There’s no alternative. There never has been one in the empires enclosing different peoples within their boundaries. The Gauls attemped to free themselves against Rome, but Julius Caesar tell us what happened to them.
Reactions are unavoidable, and that’s why, although being inside the same system and apart from regular competition (which is a mortal fight anyways), whoever orbits around the USA winds up getting angry with their "exuberance", and can’t help running into conflicts. These cases may range from protectionism (giving rise to spaghetti or soya wars) to real fights, exerted more or less diplomatically, for the selection of important equipment and armaments, as in the case of the Airbus. If, in such a context, the violent action of some lobby is triggered off, we must realize at once that it intersects one of many nodes in a network of interests. When there was the Trieste question here in Italy, it was clear that the so-called "irredentism" was only a phenomenical aspect, while the motor of the clashes was the USA and USSR’s strategic interests, as well as those of Yugoslavia (whose existence was itself a result of the super-powers clashes) and of Italy (that didn't want to displease the USSR too much, though being the USA’s client alone); and maybe of Germany too, troubled by the historical need to have an outlet from the Brennero pass to the Adriatic sea. In the following years Italy's international policies expressed themselves both by means of mass participation (street demonstrations, repression, trade-union "splits", "popular" fights against legislative "swindles") and of the so-called "strategy of tension" (coupist organizations, bombs, hidden lobbies of power). The harsh level of the clashes stirred up a spasmodic search for ideological explanations of the facts, with blame attached now to the "reds", now to the "blacks".
Without considering the international plot that accounts for blatant inner facts, one could as well set forth an interpretation of the attack on the USA, (the widespread dissemination of anthrax included) as something wanted by the pharmaceutical firms, eager to sell tons of antibiotics and analgesics. "Terrorism" is a widespread phenomenon involving both individuals and even more so states: such events as the bomb at the Bologna station, the "dirty" war in Nicaragua, the Waco slaughter and Oklahoma City retaliation, airplanes crashing into skyscrapers are not silent: there’s always some situation whereby you can actually prove that politics turns into war by using other means. Any means.
Terror at all levels
We don’t subscribe at all to the "evil persons" theory, accounting for the slaughter of thousands of americans with the hatred of their way of life. Nor do we believe terrorism of any kind can be accounted for "materialistically" as a result of a sick society bringing about some happy-to-kill crackpots. There’s something rotten in the society, not only in Hamlet’s ancient Denmark, but there are those who can use this something very well: for an electoral campaign, for worldwide blackmail or else for dominating the world. The romantic age of the demonstrative actions, of the bombs upon the kings, of dynamite's "redeeming blast" is over forever. Now there’s war, and to see a miniature of it, just look at Palestine. Both opponents’ acts are termed as "terrorism", but neither side means to pursue a demonstrative action to create terror for deterrence; both of them pursue instead a political, territorial, ideological purpose. These are war ingredients, and this one has been lasting more than half century without any end in sight. That means the fighting forces, however they’re influenced from inside and outside, are balanced. We know Clausewitz gave much weight to the question of balance or imbalance in war-time; well, although the Palestinian slaughter may seem very unbalanced, nevertheless there are balance conditions allowing it to last fifty years without a winner. At the most, temporary imbalances have taken place, the ones Clausewitz defines as "combat suspensions". But forces able to fight haven't disappeared. In Ireland there’s a situation going back even farther. In the Caucasus there are forgotten wars, deadly ones, risking becoming endemic. Cechnya is only as large as the Italian region of "Abruzzo" and has half the number of inhabitants yet Russia has to mantain 90,000 soldiers there to cope with the so-called Islamic guerrillas.
It’s easy to understand why US experts are worried about the situation becoming global. A worldwide Palestine with the USA acting as Israel. But without a protector higher up. A real nightmare. In our continuous conception, the real situations don’t work like computer algebra: war no-yes, zero-one. Society is more nuanced, and when war assimilates all society to itself, war too becomes more nuanced. Engels used to give the example of the parallel evolution of the relationship "bullet-armour" to prove not only the adaptation of war to society and production, but also the continuity "production-war". Bullets become more powerful and armour becomes thicker, while chasing each other endlessly. It’s a Darwinian evolution of armaments, not going from invention to invention, but keeping a relation between forces tending to destroy each other.
The same happens with the economic war among competitors: a line of products tends to overwhelm another and vice-versa in the pursuit of technical innovations, marketing, mergers, dumping, until the weakest capitalists succumb, monopoly gets the upper hand, and the state must step in with suitable laws enforcing the "free" market. Neither war as a system nor terrorism can skip this Darwinian law: there’s always a relation, an inter-action among many factors, linked in turn to the environment.
The modern concept of terror-terrorism is born along with the French Revolution, and the Jacobins related it to their power: after winning at Valmy, politics was a continuation of the revolutionary war with other means. Trotsky, in his book about terrorism, applied this concept to the Russian Revolution. But the use of terror is much older: in the bible and in the holy or mytical texts of ancient societies, the use of terror is described as a regular option, it’s not morally tainted, and always depends on the interaction of forces searching for balance in the clash. Yahveh terrorizes the Pharaoh in Egypt with not-very-humanitarian means. The Assassins, an Ishmaelite organization, took shape in the eleventh century, when they realized they were not able to fight their enemies in the battlefield, but rather with planned and continuous commando actions by super-trained and ascetically united groups. By adapting themselves to the enemy (that is by refusing to fight it on its own ground), they played a remarkable role at upsetting the network of dominion of the crusaders and muslims for as long as two centuries. They disappeared only after the Mongol invasion came bringing even greater terror. The likeness to the Special Corps and some phenomena of the current terrorism is striking.
In Ireland, where a national issue drags along without a solution, as an open war has no chance of coming up, this one takes a shape that is improperly called "terrorism". Even less militarized shapes, like populist terrorism (the one described romantically by Dostoievsky and ironically by Conrad) are engendered after all as a result of the interaction of social forces tending to a balance. US history is scattered with acts of terrorism owing to the government bloody repression of trade-union struggles. (the Molly Maguires and the Western Mineworkers). In general, therefore, whether it’s King David’s slaughters, Jacobins’ wide use of the guillotine or Bresci’s bomb, so-called terrorism is a social phenomenon springing out of forces adapting themselves to the war game they act in. Not even the destruction of the temple of Diane may be ascribed to an incendiary’s crazy will to "inscribe" his name in history. As Clausewitz says, every clash has a polarity principle, where one side tends to shut out the other, adapting itself to the means that prove to be suitable to the aims, or however that are supposed to be. Clausewitz’s principle refers not to things, but rightly to the relation being established between the sides.
The sequence of determinations leading to capitalism and its highest phase, imperialism, encompasses the genesis of modern terrorism. Historians as well have realized this. Laqueur, for instance, in his book History of Terrorism, while trying to outline an acceptable origin of the phenomenon, noticed some interesting aspects of terrorism , such as the historical "waves", the loss of the ideological background and its borrowing structures from production (organization, capitals, logistics, etc.). If we’re able to draw whatever diagram of Laqueur’s waves and single out a regularity, an order to them, that means we have to deal with the same kind of phenomenon as bullet-armour, missile-antimissile, or, if you want, predator-prey in a Darwinian habitat, the one the mathematician Volterra formalized in cyclical schemas. Laqueur denies we can have recourse to mathematical criteria to find out a law accounting for terrorism, and vows to cling to a mere exposition of the historical facts. Nevertheless his attempt lets us read between the lines that ideology and psychology have nothing to do with it, and that this society stirs up reactions, whatever they are. That’s why it’s not possible to find out a rational principle of terrorism, based on its "output". Seemingly, terrorism is useless, on the contrary, most of the cases prove empirically that it rebounds against those employing it. Why then is a part of mankind devoted to it? What material force causes half century wars to happen in Ireland, Palestine and the Basque region? Which similarities and differences can we distinguish among the several terrorisms, such as to allow us to outline a force capable of attacking the USA and their more prestigious symbols with causalties more numerous than in any single bombing since World War Two?
War issues out of society itself, puts on specific features, produces military doctrines changing over time, uses different methods and tools. Every new war begins with the features the last war finished with, but, as battles go on, itself upsets the old knowledges and imposes new ones. The USA have been preparing themselves over years with World War Two and Cold War schemas, and just when they were setting themselves to cope with the new situation a dozen years later, they have been struck so that the huge global spy-system couldn't have prevented it. If, as some have said, US intelligence knew about it and allowed it to happen because it was sure to suffer limited harm and would be able to take advantage of it like in the Pearl Harbor incident, that would be even worse.
Every revolution upsets the old military doctrines
Sometimes also in the social field a disjunction happens between the ripeness of a real situation and its "military" perception by those living in it. In past revolutions, this happened many times: Marx records the defeat of the proletarian forces in 1848, judging it positive, because there was by then a contradiction between proletariat’s means and aims. In fact in ‘48 the era of democratic revolution in France ended and the era of proletarian revolution began; only out of the defeat of the bourgeois party with its democratic attires, could the insurrectionary party rise up and head towards the new society. The latter party didn’t exist yet, not even in embryo, but was already imposed with the necessity to get rid of the old military doctrine, made up of barricades and parliament, of old muzzle-loaders and democracy. Every practical experiment, Marx said, can be swept away with the cannon, but the revolutionary theory can’t be destroyed by anyone. In this establishment of the theory, we see the historical party of revolution acting ahead of its militants, the men destined to give life to the formal party. Unfortunately, the Paris Commune burst out full of contadictions, and continued to incorporate not only barricades but also democracy. While the material facts required a contrary action, political debate was indulged in instead of marching militarily upon Versailles before the reactionaries could re-organize themselves. Revolution was going on, and the Proudhoniists and Blanquists kept on debating as to how it was to be done rather than how it was to be lead, with which programme. Unfortunately, the revolution of ’71 was headed by men whose military mindedset was left back in ’48.
The Russian Revolution managed to tune in on the historical dynamics, and to break off the military tradition that situated a whole world war with attacks upon barbed wire-and-machine-gun-defended trenches (a frightful butchery resulted, although this strategy had displayed it's effectiveness as recently as the Russian-Japanese war of 1905). By upsetting the old social relations, the revolution upset the old military doctrines as well. The Red Army was attacked on five fronts by the white armies allied with the major imperialisms and was confined to a very small part of Russia. The Red Army counter-attacked continuously with a mobile war based on fast troop transport rather than trench defence and won. It was in this kind of action that a young officer of the red army, Tukachevsky, drew a lesson that would upset the war administation for ever: the binomial man-machine created in production would become a dynamic factor of war, which thereafter would be based on the fast movement of men and machines rather than on static fronts. The armies would become mobile as well as the front and the lines of supply. The old concept of logistics was overturned along with the need to gradually occupy a territory, putting off this task to a strengthening phase following the partial victories.
In 1920 Poland, along with a white army, attacked in the Ukraine, trying to take this country from the Union. The Red Army counter-attacked and in a short time routed the slow invasion because it was tied to an endless umbilical cord of logistics. The Ukraine was reconquered and in addition the Tukachevsky-led counter-attack went deep into the enemy territory right up to the gates of Warsaw.
The Polish bourgeoisie fleed as well as the embassy attachés, panicking all the European bourgeoisie. But old-minded commanders’ worries about this new form of warfare which they hadn’t yet understood hindered the military machine. Stalin too, who wasn’t old, didn’t understand this offensive technique. The Polish and the French, who came to Pilsudski's assistance, took advantage of delays and prevented the conquest of Warsaw and the workers’ insurgency in support of the revolutionary troops.
The Red Army wasn’t an army. It was a huddle of workers and above all paesants under the command of veterans of the war against Germany and of former czarist officers. Such troops couldn't stand up against professional troops, so they fled and attacked continuously, digging very few trenchs. Necessarily, they had to invent the war of movement, based on the few railway axes they controlled. After the march upon Warsaw, it was clear that the revolution had taught everyone a new way to administer the war, even if the bourgeois armies didn’t listen to their best technicians who had grasped the point at once.
We can call the 9/11 events what we want, either terrorism or war, provided that it’s understood that the nature of the clash is asymmetrical, as people say, only if one thinks of a regular war. War itself bring about its symmetries, otherwise it can’t be carried on at all. A huge disparity of forces can’t give room to a clash, because of the stronger’s potential violence annihilating the weaker. But, if war becomes necessary (or is supposed to be, which is the same), the enemy field is infiltrated through hidden ways, just as commandos do,with all the secret logistics that are needed. In short, a local symmetry is given room by using the factors shifting the established balance. For instance, by means of a weapon the enemy doesn't have: the will to suffer a sure death for reaching an aim.
This balancing tendency, or symmetry, is, as usual, an argument of Clausewitz, but is within reach of a child’s mind. Let’s come back, therefore, to the relationship between bullet and armour, predator and prey, that is to the Darwinian adaptation of the complex social system and its manifold contents. The traffic experts know that there was a shift from the railway to the road, then more, wider, better highways were built. And they know also that to make them any wider, with even more lanes is useless for easing traffic, once eventually roads get blocked. That just would call up more of the same. In the end traffic itself reaches a new balance at a determinate flow. It’s known that in this flow of moving objects the given number of accidents tends to stabilize, whereby we can say there are such and such accident chances per number of cars, per number of kilometers travelled. The highway patrol knows with near certainty in advance, the tolerance is minimal, how many accidents will happen in a given week-end. However strange it may seem, this applies also to the number of robberies and suicides: there’s a striking statistic stability in almost every human activity, so it becomes foreseeable. Why is this statistic law applied to almost all fields and seemengly shouldn’t apply to the fields of war, of so-called terrorism and, of course, of class struggle?
The point is that it does apply all the same, even if we’re not able to catch the determinations in advance. All Laqueur can tell us is there are some "waves" we can record a posteriori; that it’s possible to make a structural analysis; that the cases can be catalogued and divided into more or less homogeneous sets; that one can try to make a phenomenology of the social tension and schemas springing out of it.
Wars are never "asymmetrical"
Fortunately, facts themselves bring us solutions supposed to be mistaken or remote formerly, like in the case of the Russian capitalism from which marxism had already removed the mask . Communism is good for that: it proves things by way of the facts and buries the chatter. We’re told communism can’t predict, it foresaw wars and starvation and instead we’re going through a very long time, almost half a century, of peace. Stop there, We're going through? The American peace means war and starvation for the five-sixths of the world. It’s not a propaganda formula: we’re speaking of official data reporting 250 open wars with hundreds of millions people killed directly or indirectly and one billion humans in this or that way forced out of their native lands. When in such a system a determinate threshold of contradictions is reached, potential forces become kinetic and war issues out of the standard control schemas: the planet’s "Palestinization" is no longer just a likely fact, but is becoming a certain one, the one unknown factor being time. That’s why the US defense department itself had foreseen this, proposing suitable measures. That’s why nobody, in the secret services, army or US administration thinks of solving this war by dropping a few bombs in Afghanistan: that would be like kicking a hornet's nest, "terrorists" will scatter all over the world even more than now.
This doesn’t mean bin Laden has declared war on the USA, that a man with a few thousand followers in a desert hideout wages war on the planetary super-power; that Islam has rebelled against western civilization, that there’s a clash of cultures. All of this arises inside capitalistic relations and remains there, as in the most classic of wars. All the actors of the drama, no one excluded, were preparing themselves. Whether little or big, the powerful or the wanna-be's, they’re all parts of the nervous system laying beneath the finger on the kalashnikov trigger, on the button of Afghan wargame, tightening on the controls of the airplane bound for the skyscraper. Armour is linked to bullets, and even the pope goes around with a glass-armoured car since he has been shot with a pistol. That means the next attempt will need to have recourse to a bazooka. But if the race becomes stalemated or the immense gap of power can’t be stopped, a way around asymmetry is sought and the impact of a thousand bombs will be obtained with cheaper arms whose "output" is much higher. Armour plating is useless if bacteria are put into the air-conditioning and a flight of aircraft bombers can’t stop a nuclear bomb carried within an ice-cream tricycle inside the City.
On the other hand, the response strategy need not be invented, it exists right now, because all parameters of the clash are known, apart from the odds of the individual case and lack of information about enemy’s moves, like in every war. If we see the world as a system, which it is high time we learned to really do, we must see its contents as parts interacting with the whole and not as discrete categories. Haven't we learned that railways aren’t only steel and tracks, but also a social relation; that a flight of aircraft bombers is not only a bombing machine but also a tool of class preservation, that the internet is a development of the social brain forseen by Marx in the products of socialized work? If we’ve understood this, it won’t be strange to us that the longer the current mode of production endures, the more war is becoming one with every-day life. Whoever wrote Bush’s speeches, has grasped three substantial points: 1) it’s war, 2) we must learn to live together with it, 3) let’s get ready to face other attacks.
The media chronicles show us the Hamas militant as a single suicide bomber burdening his body with TNT in the site of his sect and going off to blow himself up in the oppressing foe’s discoteque. It isn’t so. Chains of determinations surround such an act and start from far: since the last war, even earlier, since the powers as "liberators" drew up the boundaries not giving a damn about entire peoples, simply slaughtering them or instigating them into disastrous wars.
The habit of running after the latest make us lose sight of the Marx’s main lesson: just to see capitalism as a system and not to care what the representatives of bourgeoisie say about themselves and their class. In this system the relation bullet-to-armour as well as shark-to-fish can be seen as an energy exchange: a bullet unloads kinetic energy upon armour, that in turn has to absorb it, apart from the fact that both of them require energy to be produced. The same applies to the shark-fish relation: predator eats prey, that in turn takes its energy out of the environment – in the end, out of the sun – until predator itself leaves its carcass to the environment which metabolizes it.
Physics of the social magma
The capitalist doesn’t eat the workers directly, but absorbs their energy little by little, taking surplus-value out of them. From a physical viewpoint there’s no difference at all in comparison with the previous examples. Now, if we wanted to represent graphically the energy exchange regarding the above-mentioned cases, we could use the diagram of Volterra, the aforesaid mathematician, where the shark population swings in function of the fish they prey on, and naturally vice versa. The outcome is a sinusoidal wave-shaped double diagram that disjuncts over time. If you want, you can use this argument for Greenspan’s lowering of the interest rates: an injection of energy (liquidity) into the economic system in order to modify the energy-curve trend of the system itself (GDP). In Volterra’s diagram there’s not a point where sharks unleash war against fish, even if each eating act can be seen as separate (for instance, by a photographer catching the moment), but there’s a continuous action over time, just like in a Clausewitz’s hypothetical diagram there wouldn’t be politics or war, but a continuous turning of each into the other. In fact, the Prussian officer warns us that the basis of a theory of war can be laid out only from the totality of mankind’s military history, where in the chain ... politics-war-politics-war ... a start and an end can be established only arbitrarily. But this is the capital cycle too (...M-C-M'-C'...) isn’t it?
If we observe capitalism as a system, we see that in the competition game the energy exchange doesn’t happen between capitalists and workers alone, but also between capitalist and capitalist, in that they dispossess one another in the process of concentration and centalization of capital. The premises we made don’t allow us to make ethical tirades on those who get rich and those who become poor, but let us point out a very important phenomenon: fewer and fewer capitalists-predators represent a bigger and bigger mass of capital (accumulated value, dead labour), while more and more proletarians-prey will represent a relatively smaller and smaller mass of value (salary, living labour). This is a paradoxical situation: as long as value is concerned, a huge mass of predators will need a tiny mass of prey in order ... to get more and more energy (surplus value). That’s a physical absurdity unavoidably bound to bring about massive turmoil. To begin with, the relative decreasing of workers’ number as compared to the capital mass they can animate is a contradiction engendering relative over-population: this surplus of people can’t be systematically killed, they have to be either sustained somehow or let starve. Besides, if less and less predators have to take in more and more energy, Volterra’s diagram blows up, because more surplus value can’t be taken out of fewer workers than is taken out of many. One can't work more than 24 hours, and a wage can’t go down under the sustenance level.
In such a situation, conflict is certain . At the beginning, it bursts out between those who have something to lose, that is the capitalists and middle classes (individually within the same class, and collectively against the other one). Then the conflict breaks out between these social layers and the class who has nothing to lose but wage-slavery, which it won’t be possible to paint in rosey hues eternally. Those who starve, you know, they just need to get some food first; the workers who losing the few conquests they made, initially react to defend their own interests; the bourgeois feel their huge interests threatened and having at stake what they own or think they’re entitled to own, descend into war between themselves. That’s why sooner or later airplanes crash into enemy’s skyscrapers, troops, warships and aircraft bombers are set in motion, one begins fighting and makes the others fight.
It’s not important to know exactly when large irregularities have begun creeping into the syst
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