"Even more than in the economic sphere, the chaos that characterises the period of decomposition exerts its effects on the political relations between states. At the time when the eastern bloc collapsed, ending the system of alliances that emerged from the second world war, the ICC pointed out:
- that, even if this was not realisable in the immediate, this situation put on the agenda the formation of new blocs, one led by the USA, the other by Germany;
- that, in the immediate, it would unleash all the conflicts which the "Yalta order" had kept in a framework "acceptable" to the world's two gendarmes.
Since then, this tendency towards "every man for himself", towards chaos in the relations between states, with its succession of circumstantial and ephemeral alliances, has not been called into question. Quite the contrary. Very soon the tendency towards "every man for himself" predominated over the tendency towards the reconstitution of stable alliances that could prefigure future imperialist blocs, and this was to multiply and aggravate military confrontations" (Resolution on the International Situation from the 12th congress of the ICC, published in International Review no.90).
This is how the ICC, at its 12th congress, defined its vision of the world situation at the imperialist level, a vision which has been illustrated and confirmed on numerous occasions in recent months. The growing instability of the capitalist world has been expressed in particular through a multiplication of murderous conflicts all over the planet. This aggravation of capitalist barbarism is above all the work of the very same great powers who never stop promising us a world of "peace and prosperity" but whose increasingly acute and open rivalries are costing humanity more and more dearly in terms of death, poverty and terror.
Because" since the end of the division of the world into two blocs, the USA has been faced with a permanent challenge to its authority by its former allies" (ibid), it has had to wage a "massive counter-offensive" against the latter and against their imperialist interests in the past period, notably in ex-Yugoslavia and Africa. Despite this, its former allies continue to defy the US, even in its private hunting grounds like the Middle East and Latin America. We cannot deal here with all the parts of the world which are suffering the effects of the tendency towards "every man for himself” and the exacerbation of imperialist rivalries between the great powers. We will only look at a few situations which clearly illustrate this analysis and which have latterly seen some significant developments.
Black Africa: French interests under fire
In the resolution quoted above, we asserted that the world's leading power "has managed to inflict on the country which has defied it most openly, France, a very serious reverse in its own "hunting ground" of Africa". This assertion was based on the evident fact that "after eliminating French influence in Rwanda, it is now France's main bastion on the continent, Zaire, which is about to slip from its grasp with the collapse of the Mobutu regime under the blows of the Kabila "rebellion ", which has received massive support from Rwanda and Uganda, ie from the US".
Since then, the Kabila's hordes have ejected the Mobutu clique and taken over in Kinshasa. In this victory, and in particular in the monstrous massacres of civilian populations which accompanied it, the direct and active role played by the American state, notably through the numerous "advisers" it put at Kabila's disposal, is today an open secret. Yesterday it was French imperialism which armed and advised the Hutu gangs who were responsible for the massacres in Rwanda, in order to destabilise the pro-US Kigali regime; today Washington is doing the same against French interests, through Kabila's Tutsi "rebels".
Zaire has thus passed exclusively into the hands of the US. France has lost an essential pawn, which signifies its complete eviction from the region of the "great lakes".
Moreover, this situation has rapidly led to a chain-reaction of instability in nearby countries which are still under French influence. The authority and credibility of France has suffered a major blow in the region and the US is trying to draw maximum profit from this. Thus, for several weeks, Congo-Brazzaville has been ravaged by the war between the last two presidents, even though both of them were creatures of France. The various efforts to mediate by Paris have met with no success. In the Central African Republic, a country which is now falling into a state of bloody chaos, this same impotence is being revealed. Thus, despite two very muscular military interventions and the creation of an "African Intervention Force" under its control, French imperialism still hasn't managed to impose order in the region. Even more serious is the fact that the Central African president Ange Patasse, another creature of France, is now threatening to run after American aid, an act of defiance towards his current patron. This loss of credit is now starting to spread throughout black Africa, including France's most faithful pawns. More generally, French influence is waning all over the continent, as can be seen for example by the recent annual summit of the Organisation of African Unity, where the two major French initiatives were rejected:
- one concerning the recognition of the new power in Kinshasa, which Paris wanted to delay and submit to various conditions. Under the pressure of the US and its African allies, Kabila has not only won immediate recognition but also economic support in order to "reconstruct the country";
- another concerning the nomination of a new leadership of the OAU: France's candidate was abandoned by his "friends" and had to withdraw his candidature before the vote.
French imperialism is currently suffering a series of reverses at the hands of the USA, and this is a decline of historic proportions in what was once its backyard. "This is a particularly severe punishment for France (...) and it is intended to serve as an example for all the other countries tempted to imitate the latter's stance of permanent defiance"(ibid).
However, despite its decline, French imperialism still has cards to play to defend its interests and reply to the American offensive. To this end it has begun a strategic redeployment of its military forces in Africa. If on this level, as on many others, France is a long way from equality with Washington, this in no way means that it will simply fold its arms. At the very least, it is certain that it will make a real nuisance of itself in order to create difficulties for American policy. The African populations have not sacrificed the last of their blood in the interests of rival capitalist gangsters.
Algeria: behind the massacres, the great powers' sordid interests
Algeria is another country hit by the full force of world capitalism's decomposition, another battleground for the ferocious rivalries of the great powers. For over five years this country has been sinking into an ever more barbaric and bloody chaos. The endless reprisals and massacres of the civilian population, the innumerable outrages which have now reached the country's capital, keep Algeria in a daily state of horror. Since 1992, the beginning of what the media hypocritically call "the Algerian crisis", there is no doubt that the figure of 100,000 killed has been exceeded. If ever a population, and thus a proletariat, has been taken hostage in a war between bourgeois cliques, it's the population of Algeria. It is clear today that those who carry out the daily assassinations, those who are responsible for the death of all these thousands of men, women and children, are the armed bands in the pay of the different warring camps:
- on the one hand, the Islamists, whose hardest and most fanatical faction is the GIA, recruit their forces from a decomposed youth deprived of any future (owing to the dramatic economic situation in Algeria which has thrown the majority of the population into unemployment, poverty and hunger), and then pushes them into the most profound criminality. Al Wasat, the journal of the Saudi bourgeoisie which comes out in London, recognises that "this youth was at first a motor used by the FIS to scare all those who stood in the way of its march to power", but is now more and more escaping its control;
- the Algerian state itself, which is more and more clearly being exposed as being implicated in many of the massacres it attributes to the "Islamic terrorists". The testimonies gathered after the massacre in Rais, a suburb of Algiers (between 200 and 300 deaths) at the end of August are proof, if proof were needed, that the Zeroual regime is anything but innocent: "This lasted from 22.30 to 02.30. The butchers took all the time they needed (...) No help arrived. The security forces were, however, very close by. The first to arrive this morning were the firemen" (quoted in Le Monde). It is clear today that a good part of the carnage perpetrated in Algeria is the work either of the state security forces or the "self defence militias" armed and controlled by these forces. Contrary to what the regime would have us believe, these militias do not have the job of "ensuring the safety of the villages"; they are a means for the state to patrol the population, eliminate opponents and impose order through terror. Faced with this frightful situation, "world opinion", ie that of the big western powers, has begun to express its "emotion".
Thus, when the general secretary of the UN Kofi Annan tried to encourage "tolerance and dialogue" and called for "an urgent solution", Washington, which claimed to be "horrified" by the massacres, immediately gave him its support. The French state, while also manifesting its great compassion, stressed that it" could not interfere in Algeria's affairs". The hypocrisy exhibited by the great powers is staggering but it is less and less capable of masking their responsibility for the horror that has descended on this country. Through various bourgeois Algerian factions, France and the US have been waging a ruthless war since the disappearance of the great imperialist blocs. The stakes in this sordid game is for Paris to keep Algeria in its sphere and for Washington to take it over, or at least to undermine its rival's influence. In this battle, the first blood was scored by American imperialism which secretly supported the development of the Islamist FIS, to the point where, in 1992, it had reached the portals of power. And it was the veritable coup d'etat carried out by the Algiers regime, with the support of its French patron, which warded off this danger, since it went against the interests not only of the bourgeois factions in power but also of the French. Since then the measures taken by tile Algerian state, in particular the banning of the FIS, the hunting down and imprisonment of many of its militants and leaders has led to a reduction in the latter's influence. But while these measures were successful at this level, they are also responsible for the current chaos. They have pushed factions of tile FIS into illegality, guerrilla war and terrorist actions. Today, the frequent and abominable atrocities carried out by the Islamists have discredited them. We can therefore say that the Zeroual regime has achieved its aims and also that French imperialism has managed to resist tile offensive of tile world's leading power and maintain its interests in Algeria. The cost of this "success" is being paid for by the blood of the population. And there will be more to pay. When the US spoke recently about giving all their support to tile "personal efforts" of Kofi Annan, this was an announcement that they are not prepared to give up their interests; this is why Chirac immediately responded by denouncing in advance" any policy of interference in Algerian affairs", making it quite clear that he will defend his backyard tooth and nail.
Middle East: growing difficulties for the Pax Americana
While second-rank imperialisms like France have a hard time conserving their authority in their traditional spheres of influence, and are even suffering setbacks under the hammer blows of the USA, the latter are themselves not spared from problems in applying their policies, even in their own traditional hunting grounds like the Middle East. Since the Gulf War the Americans have maintained an almost exclusive control over this region, but it is now experiencing a growing instability which is calling the "Pax Americana" into question. In our resolution quoted above, we had already underlined a certain number of examples of the increasing challenge to American leadership by some of its vassals in this region, in particular "the almost unanimously hostile reaction towards the US cruise missile attack on Iraq" in the autumn of 1996, even from hitherto "loyal" states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Another significant example was "the coming to power in Israel of the right, which has since done everything it could to sabotage the peace process with the Palestinians, which had been one of the great successes of American diplomacy". The situation which has developed since then has strikingly confirmed this analysis. From last March onwards, the "peace process" has been going backwards, with the ending of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations due to the Netanyahu government's continued policy of colonising the occupied territories. Since then, tension has mounted more and more. In the summer it was raised by a number of murderous suicide bombings, in the center of Jerusalem. Attributed to Hamas, they gave the Israeli state the opportunity to reinforce its repression of the Palestinian population and to impose a blockade on the "autonomous territories". In addition, a series of raids by the Israeli army have been launched against Hizbollah in southern Lebanon, leading to more death and destruction. Faced with this rapid deterioration of the situation, the White House dispatched its two principal emissaries, Dennis Ross and Madeleine Albright, one after the other, but without great success. The latter even recognised that she had not found "the best method for keeping the peace process on the rails". And indeed, despite strong pressure from Washington, Netanyahu has remained deaf and is continuing his aggressive policy towards the Palestinians, which is putting into question Arafat's authority and thus his ability to control his own forces. As for the Arab countries, more and more of them have been expressing their displeasure at American policies, accusing the US of sacrificing their interests for Israel's benefit. Among those currently standing up to the US boss is Syria, which is beginning to develop economic and military relations with Tehran and has even re-opened its borders with Iraq. At the same time, what would have been inconceivable not long ago, is happening today; Saudi Arabia the Americans' "most faithful ally" but also the country which up till now has been most opposed to the "regime of tile Mullahs", is renewing its links with Iran. These new attitudes towards Iran and Iraq, two of the main targets of American policy in recent years, can only be seen as acts of defiance, even a slap in the face for Washington.
In this context of sharpening difficulties for their transatlantic rival, the European bourgeoisies are throwing oil on the fire. Our resolution already underlined this point by asserting that the challenge to US leadership is confirmed "more generally [by] the loss of a monopoly of control over the situation in the Middle East, a crucial zone if ever there was one. This has been illustrated in particular by the return in force of France, which imposed itself as the joint supervisor in settling the conflict between Israel and Lebanon ...”. Thus, during the summer, we have seen the European union shadowing Dennis Ross and creating difficulties for US diplomacy. Its "special envoy" proposed the setting up of a "permanent security committee" to enable Israel and the PLO to "collaborate in a permanent rather than intermittent way". More recently, the French minister of foreign affairs, H Vedrine, blew a little bit more on the flames by calling Netanyahu's policies "catastrophic", which was an irnplici t attack on US policy. He also declared loud and clear that "the peace process has been shattered" and "has no perspective". This is to say the least an encouragement to the Palestinians, and all the Arab countries, to turn away from the US and their Pax Americana.
"This is why the success of the present US counter-offensive cannot be considered to be definitive, to have overcome its crisis of leadership". And even if "brute force, manoeuvres aimed at destabilising its rivals (as in mire today), with their procession of tragic consequences, will thus continue to be used by this power" (ibid), its rivals have by no means exhausted their capacity to undermine the USA's hegemony.
Today, no imperialism, not even the strongest, is free from the destabilising actions of its rivals. The old exclusive hunting grounds are tending to disappear. There are no more "protected" zones on the planet. More than ever, the world is being subjected to unbridled competition and the rule of "every man for himself”. And this will only widen and deepen the bloody chaos into which capitalism is sinking.
Elfe 20. 9. 97