US HEGEMONY ATTACKS --THE 21ST CENTURY WILL NOT BE AMERICAN: In this |
chaotic conjuncture, the US took the offensive once more to reestablish
its global hegemony and to organise the world system in its economic,
political and military dimensions according to this hegemony. Has US
hegemony entered its decline? Or has it begun a renewal that would make
the 21st century "America's"?
If we examine the economic dimension in the narrow sense of the term,
measured roughly in terms of per capita GDP, and the structural
tendencies of the balance of trade, we will conclude that American
hegemony, so crushing in 1945, receded as early as the 1960s and '70s
with Europe and Japan's brilliant resurgence. The Europeans bring it up
continuously, in familiar terms: the European Union is the first
economic and commercial force on a world scale, etc. The statement is
hasty, however, for, if it is true that a single European market does
exist, and even that a single currency is emerging, the same cannot be
said of "a" European economy (at least, not yet). There is no such thing
as a "European productive system"; such a productive system, on the
contrary, can be spoken of in the case of the United States. The
economies set up in Europe through the constitution of historical
bourgeoisie in the relevant states, and the shaping, within this
framework, of autocentric national productive systems (even if these are
also open, even aggressively so), have stayed more or less the same.
There are no European TNCs: only British, German, or French TNCs.
Capital interpenetration is no denser in inter-European relations that
in the bilateral relations between each European nation and the US or
Japan. If Europe's productive systems have been eroded, therefore,
weakened by "globalised interdependence" to such an extent that national
policies lose a good deal of their efficiency, this is precisely to the
advantage of globalisation and the forces that dominate it, not to that
of "European integration", which does not exist as yet.
The US's hegemony rests on a second pillar, however: that of military
power. Built up systematically since 1945, it covers the whole of the
planet, which is parcelled out into regions, each under the relevant US
military command. This hegemonism had been forced to accept the peaceful
coexistence imposed by Soviet military might. Now that the page is
turned, the US went on the offensive to reinforce its global domination,
which Henry Kissinger summed up in a memorably arrogant phrase:
"Globalisation is only another word for US domination." This American
global strategy has five aims: 1) to neutralise and subjugate the other
partners in the Triad (Europe and Japan), while minimising their ability
to act outside the US's orbit; 2) to establish military control over
NATO while "Latin-Americanising" the fragments of the former Soviet
world; 3) to exert uncontested influence in the Middle East, especially
over its petroleum resources; 4) to dismantle China, ensure the
subordination of the other great nations (India, Brazil), and prevent
the constitution of regional blocs potentially capable of negotiating
the terms of globalisation; 5) to marginalise the regions of the South
that represent no strategic interest.
The favoured instrument of this hegemony is therefore military, as the
US's highest-ranking representatives never tire of repeating ad nauseam.
This hegemony, which guarantees in turn that of the Triad over the world
system, therefore demands that America's allies accept to navigate in
its wake. Great Britain, Germany and Japan make no bones (not even
cultural ones) about this imperative. But this means that the speeches
with which European politicians water their audiences --regarding
Europe's economic power --have no real significance. By placing itself
exclusively on the terrain of mercantile squabbles, Europe, which has no
political or social project of its own, has lost before the race has
even started. Washington knows this well.
The principal means in the service of the strategy chosen by Washington
is NATO, which explains why it has survived the collapse of the
adversary that constituted the organisation's raison d'čtre. NATO still
speaks today in the name of the "international community", thereby
expressing its contempt for the democratic principle that governs this
said community through the UN. Yet NATO acts only to serve Washington's
aims --no more and no less --as the history of the past decade, from the
Gulf War to Kosovo, goes to show.
The strategy employed by the Triad under US direction takes as its aim
the construction of a unipolar world organised along two complementary
principles: the unilateral dictatorship of dominant TNC capital, and the
unfurling of a US military empire, to which all nations must be
compelled to submit. No other project may be tolerated within this
perspective, not even the European project of subaltern NATO allies, and
especially not a project entailing some degree of autonomy, like
China's, which must be broken by force, if necessary.
This vision of a unipolar world is being increasingly opposed by that of
a multipolar globalisation, the only strategy that would allow the
different regions of the world to achieve acceptable social development,
and would thereby foster social democratisation and the reduction of
motives for conflict. The hegemonistic strategy of the US and its NATO
allies is today the main enemy of social progress, democracy and peace.
The 21st century will not be "America's century". It will be one of vast
conflicts, and the rise of social struggles that question the
disproportionate ambition of Washington and of capital.
The crisis is exacerbating contradictions within the blocs of dominant
classes. These conflicts must take on increasingly acute international
dimensions, and therefore pit states and groups of states against each
other. One can already discern the first hints of a conflict between the
US, Japan, and their faithful Australian ally, on one hand, and China
and the other Asian countries, on the other. Nor is it difficult to
envisage the rebirth of a conflict between the US and Russia, if the
latter manages to extricate itself from the spiral Boris Yeltsin has
dragged it into. And if the European Left could free itself from its
submission to the double dictate of capital and Washington, it would be
possible to imagine that the new European strategy would be articulated
on those of Russia, China, India and the Third World in general, in the
perspective of a necessary multipolar construction effort. If this does
not come about, the European project itself will fade away.
The central question, therefore, is how conflicts and social struggles
(it is important to differentiate between the two) will be articulated.
Which will triumph? Will social struggles be subordinated, enframed by
conflicts and therefore mastered by the dominant powers, even
instrumentalised to the benefit of these powers? Or will social
struggles, on the contrary, conquer their autonomy and force the major
powers to conform to their exigencies?
Of course, I do not imagine that the conflicts and struggles of the 21st
century will produce a remake of the 20th century. History does not
repeat itself according to a cyclical model. Today's societies are
confronted by new challenges on all levels. But precisely because the
immanent contradictions of capitalism are sharper at the end of the
century than they were at its beginning, and because the means of
destruction are also far greater than they were, the alternatives, for
the 21st century more than ever before, are "socialism or barbarism".
Translated from the French by Pascale Ghazaleh
Title: Samir Amin on C20 (and C21?) #3