The development of British foreign policy under Cameron

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jk1921
The development of British foreign policy under Cameron
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: The development of British foreign policy under Cameron. The discussion was initiated by jk1921.
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jk1921
Interesting piece. I continue

Interesting piece. I continue to have strong reservations regarding the idea that there is some kind of "shift" in the balance of imperialist/economic forces going on at the global level. The article is right to point out that whatever changes are occurring today take place in the context of decadence, but it doesn't seem to integrate a full appreciation of decomposition into its analysis. I continue to be skeptical that there is a serious threat to U.S. hegemony from another power (China), even if there is a threat to U.S. hegemony from decomposition, which leads to an everyman for himself tendency on the global level, and an increasing difficulty for the U.S. to impose its will (although there seem to be some signs that the gravity of this under Bush has been attentuated to a certain degree by the Obama administration's approach to foreign policy, at least in regard to Europe). Nevertheless, the U.S. is likely to continue to be the world's only military superpower for the forseeable future and while it may be true that the site of global production has shifted eastwards, this has only occurred as a result of U.S. state captialism's strategic decision to continue to play the role of the global "consumer of last resort,"even through the recent crisis. To see some kind of global "shift" of economic power today would be, I fear, to cede too much ground to the BRICS hype and to call into question important aspects of decadence and decomposition.

The article does raise an interesting point about British captial's material need to "lower the cost of labour," but it curiously avoids making any connection between this need and the British bourgeoisie's approach to the unions and union busting. Do the British unions get in the way of pursuing the need to "lower the cost of labour"? Another interesting subject the article raises connected to this is the current nature of German capital as it compares to Anglo-American capitalism. Why/how has Germany been able to retain important features of Fordist captialism, while the Anglo-American countries have embraced neo-liebralism? Is this a strategic/political/policy decision or is there something more structural about it? Does German/European capital face the same material necessity to reduce the cost of labour as Anglo-American capital? If not, why not? If yes, why/how are they dealing with it differently?

Specifically on the question of British imperialism: A lot is made in American leftist circles about the massive cuts the British goernment has made to the military--particularly the size and scope of the Royal Navy--as a way of criticizing the continued irrationality and wastefulness of the U.S. military-industrial complex. How real are these cuts? Do they reflect a growing acceptance of the British bourgeoisie of its secondary role--a giving up of the illusion of being able to independently project power--or do they reflect more of a strategic/technological retooling underway? Concretely one could ask: is the British military in any position to defend another Argentine invasion of the Falklands-something it barely pulled off last time when its navy was much bigger?

 

baboon
imperialist/economic

I think that there's a difference in the economic and imperialist spheres in relation to British and other capitals. I tend to agree with jk's opening in relation to this.

For example, while India is a very important economic factor for British interests, and while there's a certain imperialist quality to this, then on a strictly imperialist level Britain's role in Pakistan is much greater. This was a role "ceded" to Britain by the United States a year or two ago and it's one that it has vigorously pursued since. Enormous amounts of British "aid" goes to propping up the Pakistani state (as it does India) and it is heavily involved in manoeuvring the next Pakistani ruling clique in, ie, the Bhuttos with whom it has a long and sordid interest in. The recent Afghan, Pakistan (and Taleban) "summit" in London again emphasises this role.

Another role on the imperialist level that Britain has played in relation to the "Arab Spring" is its backing of the Muslim Brotherhood across the whole region (Syria, Egypt, etc). Details of this are very hard to come by given that the British state is giving out hardly any information. But it looks to me that it has convinced the US that the MB in Egypt is the card to back. Britain is also maintaining the fiction that it is not directly arming the Syrian "rebels" when special forces - along with French and US equivalents - have been  on the ground since the beginning of this war. The British have a history of dealing with aand using the MB and various radical Islamists.

I think that the cornerstone of British foreign policy is the same as it always was and that is to counter German imperialism. This is one of the main reasons why the Anglo-French military "entente" persists and I think that the US - not for specifically anti-German reasons - is insisting on this as a way of rationalising forces. The British state sees its national interests very much in that of aligning with US imperialism. That doesn't mean there are not tensions here, as there are with France.

jk1921
Agree

baboon wrote:

I think that the cornerstone of British foreign policy is the same as it always was and that is to counter German imperialism. This is one of the main reasons why the Anglo-French military "entente" persists and I think that the US - not for specifically anti-German reasons - is insisting on this as a way of rationalising forces. The British state sees its national interests very much in that of aligning with US imperialism. That doesn't mean there are not tensions here, as there are with France.

Yeah, I think I agree with this. The Obama administration seems to have had some success in rejuvenating an Anglo-French alliance of convienience and getting it to operate under a broader U.S. umbrella, even if the level of discipline is far from what obtained during the Cold War.

commiegal
I thought that this was such

I thought that this was such a great and informative article and it was clear and very easy to understand. My only criticism was that I wish it was longer and some of the points were gone into in more depth. Will you be publishing a follow-up article to it? I showed some people I know and they were very impressed with it too.

Demogorgon
I don't think there's an

I don't think there's an immediate plan for that, as it's not flagged as part of a series. Maybe you would like to expand on the points that interested you, and perhaps we can answer them here, in correspondence or via another article.

jk1921
Longer articles

commiegal wrote:

I thought that this was such a great and informative article and it was clear and very easy to understand. My only criticism was that I wish it was longer and some of the points were gone into in more depth. Will you be publishing a follow-up article to it? I showed some people I know and they were very impressed with it too.

 

I knew longer articles weren't always a bad thing.

commiegal
I found the point about the

I found the point about the EU and also about how Cameron is going to all these trade fairs and wanting closer links with places like India very interesting especially when you consider about how they're always going on about how we "can't compete" with india so wages have to be brought down. It's interesting because the links with these countries aren't well publicised in the mainstream media.

In addition the point about the tory party's euroscepticism and how there are different wings of the bourgeoisie and of the tory party all wanting different things. Do you think that this is done for purely ideological reasons like a reactionary fear of foreigners etc or do they think that by encouraging cameron to leave the EU they can get some economic benefit out of it? In general the public hate a divided squabbling party so I just wondered what people's views were!

Demogorgon
On Euroscepticism, the

On Euroscepticism, the divisions have their basis in the historic situation of British imperialism. Basically, the British bourgeoisie is caught between the US colossus and the EU dominated by Germany. It doesn't really want to submit to either so attempts to play one off against the other, while making itself "indispensible" as a bridge between the two. It also wants to contain the rise of Germany - in the 90s, in tandem with France it attempted to prevent Germany from gaining ground in the Balkans by trying to prevent the breakup of Yugoslavia through de facto support for the Serbs. They also - again with France - did their best to exclude the US from the arena as well, although were eventually forced to submit as the US began backing Muslim factions in Bosnia against both the Serbs and Croats.

The principal reason behind Blair's decapitation was that he tacked too closely to the US, especially after 9/11 (he was otherwise remarkable successful for British capital).

The Eurosceptics thus represent a very real faction that loathes Germany and thus sees the future in US hands. Cameron, Hague, etc. are all part of this faction but they also know the majority of the bourgeoisie has a more nuanced view - hence the tightrope they walk with the right of the party.

The Euro crisis, however, has transformed the debate and strengthened the hand of the Eurosceptics, but it must noted that not even the most extreme factions really want to abandon the free-trade advantages of Europe. What they want is to be able to abandon all the different provisions that control the exploitation of workers in the EU, an attempt to regulate competition. Given that these provisions are the only thing that prevent a complete implosion of the EU economy through beggar-thy-neighbour economic and social policies, the rest of the EU aren't too keen. The other irony is that by abandoning the EU, the UK would weaken a key element in their usefulness to the US, i.e. being a more-or-less pro-US voice in the Union.

There is no easy way to resolve these contradictions, which ultimately stem from Britain's historic status as a declining, second-rate power. Hence the permanent conflict around Europe in the ruling class.

jk1921
SNP?

Demogorgon wrote:

 What they want is to be able to abandon all the different provisions that control the exploitation of workers in the EU, an attempt to regulate competition. Given that these provisions are the only thing that prevent a complete implosion of the EU economy through beggar-thy-neighbour economic and social policies, the rest of the EU aren't too keen.

Can you explain this point a little more? Also what is the role of the SNP, and the row about Scottish independence, in these factional fights within the British bourgeoisie? Hasn't the SNP taken a more resolutely pro-EU tack?