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Year 2009 No. 56, August 4, 2009 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

The Party’s General Line and Britain’s Role in the World

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The Party’s General Line and Britain’s Role in the World

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The Party’s General Line and Britain’s Role in the World

1. In 1994 the Party stated in There is a Way out of the Crisis that this is a period of the retreat of revolution although within the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolution. The capitalist system is in last dying phase but the forces of reaction are on the offensive, attempting to forestall history and turn back the clock, not only attacking communism but also everything progressive including the advances made during the 20th century, including those made as a result of the victory over fascism in 1945.

            In this and in other documents it pointed out that international affairs are conducted on the medieval principle that might makes right and the big powers are refusing to accept that the people have any rights, or that they should fight to guarantee them. It was pointed out that in this period the big powers and especially the Anglo-American alliance has attempted to impose on the whole world its values, those of the monopolies, the Eurocentric values of neo-liberal globalisation enshrined in the Paris Charter of 1990, the free market economy, representative democracy, multi-partyism, etc. In this connection, they utilise the UN Security Council and other means and openly proclaim that the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries and the peaceful co-existence of different social systems no longer apply. At the same time, it is clear that globalisation and its impact, the growing contention between the big powers is also leading to growing opposition from many countries and peoples that are asserting their right to sovereignty and their own path of development, as well as from millions of people in Britain and the other imperialist countries. Everything points to the need to resolve the contradictions in the world in favour of the people and establish a new society that places them at the centre.

            The Party pointed out that the end of the bi-polar division of the world and what was referred to as the Cold War, after the demise of the Soviet Union, did not usher in a period of peace nor a stabilisation in international affairs but rather increasing contention between the big powers for a re-division of the world. It was pointed out that the ruling class in Britain has of necessity committed itself to competing in the global market and making Britain "great" again. The whole economy and Britain’s role in the world was therefore geared to this aim to the detriment of the national economy, and the well-being of the people of Britain and those of other countries. Successive governments (since 1994 we have had both Labour and Conservative governments) have positioned Britain as the greatest ally of US imperialism for this purpose. Britain’s membership and role in the EU is also in the interests of the big monopolies and the EU itself contends with other monopoly blocs creating greater instability in the world. The bourgeoisie also remains a member of the warmongering NATO alliance, under the leadership of US imperialism, which is itself engaged in military intervention throughout the world on behalf of the big monopolies. As part of its commitment to NATO and its other military alliances and warmongering activities, the government spends billions each year on weapons of mass destruction and other armaments.


2. In recent years we have seen time and again that the Anglo-American alliance and the other big powers are fully prepared to wage war for strategic and economic reasons and in order to take revenge on those that refuse to follow their diktat. The Party has explained that great dangers exist in the world as a consequence of the reactionary offensive of imperialism and the economic crisis that underpins it and because the contention between all the big powers is intensifying. At the same time, the oppressed people and nations are continuing to struggle for their rights, even in the most difficult circumstances. The working class too is striving to play its historic role and refusing to accept monopoly right; in regard to the destruction of national economy and Britain’s warmongering and bullying abroad, increasingly it is coming to the fore. The system is ripe for the creation of a new society in which the workers take centre stage, empower themselves and become the decision makers.

            One of the key features of the recent period has been not just the global domination of the monopolies but also the defence and promotion of this globalisation by the British government. At the present time, for example, it is claimed that globalisation is the only way forward but that, since the current crisis cannot be ignored, globalisation needs to be more organised, and that national sovereignty should be further curtailed under the guise of the need for global rules and governance. This is to be one of the main themes in the coming G20 summit in April [2009]. Thus globalisation, the exploitative economic system and the conditions that have produced the current economic crisis, including the widening gap between rich and poor at home and abroad, as well as the environmental crisis, global food and other shortages, etc., is presented as its solution. In this way, the bourgeoisie hopes to block the forward march of society. Globalisation is presented as civilised, democratic, progressive and so on, and the values of the monopolies and neo-liberalism are promoted as universal and fundamental.

            The defence and justification of the global domination of the big monopolies and an economy geared to paying the rich has been one of the characteristic features of recent Labour governments. They have attempted to provide Britain’s foreign policy, or rather Britain’s interference around the world, with a moral imperative and justification. Indeed Blair and Co. became the ideologues of Anglo-American imperialism and attempted to justify the imposition on the world of the Old, of so-called universal or global values. Initially the moral justification was presented as an "ethical foreign policy". Then Blair developed the “doctrine of international community”, or what came to be called “liberal interventionism”, or just the “Blair doctrine”. Blair’s main aim was to attack the right to national sovereignty and non-interference enshrined in the UN Charter and post-World War II agreements and to make a case for greater intervention in a changed and no longer bi-polar world. Globalisation he argued had created a new form of interdependence and internationalism and new approaches and international machinery were necessary to deal with it – this was the doctrine of the "international community" and it was an early call for a global alliance, led by Anglo-American imperialism in defence of so-called global values.

            Intervention around the globe as the closest ally of US imperialism or in contention with the other big powers could be presented as dealing with failed and failing states, as those countries are labelled that are poor and often former colonies, where the state, as recognised by Britain and the other big powers, has ceased to exist, or for a variety of reasons is weak. In such states, it is necessary, so it is claimed, for the big powers to intervene under the guise of good neighbourliness. Of course, it was the Eurocentric criteria of the big powers that determined whether a state has failed or is failing. At the same time, it was asserted that that such failure is only likely to occur in those states where it is advantageous, for geo-political or economic reasons, for the big powers to intervene. The concept of failed and failing states was specifically used to justify intervention and invasion in Afghanistan and the Balkans.

            In some regions of the world, such as Africa, the British government presented itself as being concerned with “good governance”, or “conflict resolution”. Africa was referred to as the “scar on the conscience of humanity” as if such a scar had developed without the blows of British and other imperialism. The government spoke of its “humanitarian concern”. Here again the British government sought to argue that Africa’s problems, which had been created by Britain and the other colonial powers and the continued neo-plunder of the continent by the big powers, could be solved by more enslaving “aid”, increased penetration of the continent by foreign and especially British capital, more privatisation and more globalisation. Indeed the government actually used taxpayers' money to facilitate privatisation of the water and other utilities of poorer countries on behalf of the big monopolies. The opening up of Africa to globalisation and a new scramble for the continent’s resources remained the objective but a climate was created so that intervention by the big powers around the world could be justified in different ways – for humanitarian reasons, for regime change, in the “war against terrorism”, against “Islamic fundamentalism” or failed states and in order to defend global values. For the British government such “universal” or “global values” stemmed from globalisation itself and every country had the responsibility to uphold them. In the run up to the invasion of Iraq Jack Straw, then Foreign Secretary, even argued that there was a “globalisation of values” and that “the global community has the right to make judgements about countries” internal affairs, where they flout or fail to abide by these global values. Any opposition to such values created the conditions for threats, bullying and further intervention. Indeed, only those who accepted the values of the Paris Charter could be said not to have failed. It was Anglo-American imperialism which would decide what kind of state should exist in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, etc., and not the people of those countries.

            Here was the logic of the colonialism and the Eurocentrism of the 19th century, of the white man’s burden and civilising mission. What is clear is that governments who care nothing for the well-being of their people at home present themselves as the great humanitarians abroad, those who are exporting democracy, etc. Here there is the aim of trying to get the people to support the intervention of the government and to present the view that Britain is a leading force in the world with an ideal political and economic system that not only should be exported but should not be challenged at home.

            The government has attempted to establish a unique role for Britain, as the junior partner in the Anglo-American alliance, and as both a major player in the EU and NATO, the pivot or bridge between both sides of the Atlantic. As the ideologue seeking to defend the indefensible in terms of neo-liberal globalisation, the invasions of the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., and the great crimes committed there and countless other illegal acts in Palestine, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and elsewhere. However, as opposition to Anglo-American imperialism and neo-liberal globalisation has intensified the government was forced to deal with the world as it is. Increasingly it was forced to admit that not just abroad but also at home there was little support for the notion of “universal values" nor for the need to wage war over such values. There was then more attention, or rather more lip service paid, to global poverty, Palestine and other wrongs in the world. As Blair said in his speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council: “Unless we re-appraise our strategy, unless we revitalise the broader global agenda on poverty, climate change, trade, and in respect of the Middle East, bend every sinew of our will to making peace between Israel and Palestine, we will not win. And this is a battle we must win.” In other words, there should be more big power intervention. Blair would argue there should be no “double standards”, that it was wrong to only intervene in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, and not Sudan and Zimbabwe.

            Here again there is an attempt to turn truth on its head. What is reactionary is labelled progressive; warmongering is presented as peacekeeping. The government claimed that what was going on in Iraq and Afghanistan was “not to change regime but to change the value system” and that what was now required was to solve the problem of Palestine and defeat “reactionary Islam” which was the cause of war and bloodshed around the world.

            For the government there is no history and legacy of British colonialism, no history of the peoples and resources of the Middle East being bartered and exchanged by Britain and the other big powers according to their own selfish interests. In this world, there is no arbitrary removal of unco-operative regimes and imposing of reactionary ones. It is not the history of colonialism and big power machinations that is presented as the problem, but rather “reactionary Islam” and those who allegedly wish to prevent “democracy flourishing in Arab and Moslem countries”. Of course the solution to all this is more intervention, the need to establish a Palestinian state as part of an “arc of moderation and reconciliation”, part of a Middle East and Islamic faith that is “open to globalisation”. Such positions presented the justification not only for further intervention in the Middle East and the means to deny the Palestinians right to self-determination but also justification for continued support for Israeli Zionism, as we have seen only too recently, as well increased bullying, threats and attacks on Syria and Iran.


3. The coming to office of Brown’s government in 2007 in no way ended the British government’s continued defence of “universal values” in “the second wave of New Labour’s foreign policy”. David Miliband has for example been entirely unapologetic about sending “young men and women to fight for our values”, and now speaks of a “democratic imperative” and the “great progressive project” of “spreading democracy”, while Gordon Brown speaks of “hard-headed internationalism” and “timeless values” that must be defended by backing “soft power” with “hard power”. The British government has more recently also publicly lectured the government of China, warning against what it calls the “Chinese doctrine” of non-interference! Indeed Anglo-American imperialism has continued its marauding around the world, and continues with its occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and its threats against Iran, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Cuba, the DPRK and other countries. What is more it seeks revenge against all those peoples that dare to stand up against its dictate and adhere to their own values and have fidelity to their own cause and convictions. The role of the British government and Anglo-US imperialism in the electoral process in Zimbabwe, for example, is in clear violation of the principles of the UN Charter but is justified on the basis of upholding values and advancing democracy.

            But what has become clearer is that the opposition to the imposition of so-called global values is growing, in the international arena, in many countries around the world and not least in North America and Europe, including the US and Britain. If the values of Anglo-American imperialism were in reality universal or global, there would be no need to impose them or export them. What is being imposed is precisely that which represents retrogression and the past that has already been rejected. It is increasingly being opposed because it is out of keeping with the needs and requirements of the times.


4. However, the severe economic crisis has forced the government to rethink some of its earlier pronouncements if not to entirely change its policies. The economic crisis is precisely an indictment of the whole imperialist system, neo-liberation globalisation and the orientation of successive governments both at home and abroad. It is a consequence of the plundering of the world by the big monopolies and all the arrangements related to globalisation, of gearing the economy to suit their needs, rather than those of the majority, the wealth producers. It is fundamentally a consequence of the contradiction between the highly socialised economy and the outmoded property relations, a contradiction that can only be avoided by the working class empowering itself and establishing an economy that put the needs of the class and people in first place.

            At this time, however, the government is re-stating its defence of neo-liberal globalisation even if this now includes more state intervention. Brown now talks of the need for “sustainable and inclusive globalisation”, and that the present period is an opportunity to re-order the world in favour of the big monopolies once again, in other words to do nothing to resolve the contradiction which produces the worst crisis since the 1930s. Brown, Miliband et al have therefore placed more emphasis on the re-fashioning and development of global institutions and rules that they claim are required to make neo-liberalism work in the 21st century. This emphasis has become even more sharply defined as it has become clearer that neo-liberal globalisation has exacerbated existing contradictions both between and within countries, that the world remains extremely unstable as the big powers contend, as new powers emerge and as the resistance of the people increases to the dire effects of globalisation and the diktat of the big powers.

            Brown claims that the very severe problems that neo-liberal globalisation has exacerbated require global solutions and all countries working in concert and harmony. This again will be the theme of the G20 summit. He claims that modern interdependence means that no country can act alone and therefore that multilateralism is the order of the day, and that all countries have to take common action not only in regard to the economy and financial matters but also in regard to climate change, conflict prevention and resolution and poverty reduction. He asserts that this will inevitably lead to a new “hard-headed” and “progressive” internationalism in which Britain will play a leading role. In other words, the new imperialism must be strengthened and made to work and any problems that it produces must be addressed by renewed determination to make it work, indeed more of the same. In particular, Brown continues to stress an adherence to representative democracy, while also pointing to the need for a new global financial system, low carbon economies and a new public-private-voluntary sector partnership that will allegedly address poverty reduction and other problems. All this is to be overseen by new international institutions, in which the G20 may come to play the role of the G8 and where there is a need for a reformed IMF and World Bank, indeed for a whole new Bretton Woods-style agreement.

            As in the past the Anglo-American alliance is to be the leading force, supported by the partnership between Europe and the US – which must lead, not apparently to impose rules of the new global order but to “lead and broaden” global efforts to establish the new machinery. Brown, who has presided over and championed everything that has produced the calamitous crisis, presents himself as an economic guru and the world’s saviour and envisages not less intervention but even more.

            Britain is still presented as vital to the alliances headed by the US, while the EU is increasingly seen as “global Europe” able to expand, to contend with other blocs but also to act outside its borders. Brown demands new international means to impose democracy in failed states, renewed efforts to win hearts and minds in the battle of ideas against terrorism; more resources, civilian and military to rebuild areas of conflict and fragile states, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, to refashion the world according to the Eurocentric values of the Paris Charter. Here the UN might be the means to intervene in such places as Darfur, Zimbabwe and Burma, but other means and devices are not ruled out in order to “defend” Georgia and Ukraine, and so contend with Russia, and to continue to interfere in the DR Congo, where the government is attempting both to mask the plunder of the resources of that country by the big monopolies and secure the continuation of that plunder.While in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, what is envisaged are neo-colonial states entirely dependent on the Anglo-American alliance and based on its values and denying the right of self determination of these countries. The promotion of these values as well as hypocritical phrases about arms reduction and human rights will continue to be employed to issue threats against Iran, Cuba, Burma, Zimbabwe and the DPRK.

            At the present time the government seems to be putting particular emphasis on a the need for new economic and financial machinery, bearing in mind that others, especially the smaller countries, the G77, non-aligned movement, etc., have very definite view about reforms in the UN and because the economic crisis requires some action. Indeed Brown continually suggests that the current crisis presents a great opportunity for multilateral action and rules to be instituted now rather than later when the rising powers of China and India might have rules of their own. Brown demands a new IMF to monitor all economies and tie them more firmly to the values and interests of the big powers. In this regard too the government speaks of the need to reform the global financial system and monitor its operation. Brown actually speaks of the IMF operating as a global independent central bank – perhaps like the Bank of England – and the World Bank as a bank for the environment as well as development. What is key about the “new Bretton Woods” is that it must be under the hegemony of the Anglo-American alliance.

            The approach is allegedly to prevent the world and particularly the big powers moving towards protectionism and war by more intervention in the economies and therefore the politics of other countries. But as long as the big monopolies dominate the world, contention between the big powers, which represent them, is inevitable. Even now, splits have appeared between the big powers over how to re-order the world, with the EU countries and Russia at odds with the Anglo-Americans.

            Brown also speaks of the need to regulate more closely the markets for oil and food. On the one hand he claims that the oil market is in fact a cartel and a problem that needs to be addressed, while claiming that what is required are alternative energy sources, not least nuclear power. On the other hand he claims that the free market has not produced the kind of Africa that is required in terms of food production, although here he appears less concerned with the fact that Africa cannot feed itself and although 70% of its population is based on the land it needs to import food, than with the fact that if properly organised it has the potential to feed the world – a phrase which has now taken on a new meaning. It is a graphic illustration of what so-called “aid” has produced – a continent that is now poorer than it was 40 years ago.

            This orientation of Britain's providing leadership, “leading the debate” especially in economic matters has been considerably strengthened by the coming to office of the Obama government, which despite its hesitant acceptance of the special relationship has clearly given the Anglo-American alliance a new credibility, which Brown et al promote at every opportunity.

            Nevertheless, the government stands exposed by the economic crisis, which is a reflection of both its domestic and foreign policies and glaring evidence that neo-liberal globalisation can provide neither economic security nor meet any other needs of the people of Britain or other countries. Britain is now a country where military spending continues to increase. It has risen by at least 11% from 1997 – at least £35bn this year although most of this is siphoned off by the monopolies – including the building of two new aircraft carriers, the biggest vessels ever used by the navy. Britain has the biggest military expenditure after the US, more than is spent individually on culture, housing and transport. Also worth mentioning in connection with the government’s concern with arms control is that BAE, which is the country’s largest arms trafficker, and the second in Europe, is not only main supplier to the MoD but has just been awarded a £360m contract with the US military (in addition to scandalous links with Saudi Arabia, South Africa, etc.).

            National debt is now said to be £2.2 trillion or 150% of GDP, the worst since war debts following 1945. Britain is a country that cannot provide its people with employment or housing, where a third of children live in poverty and similar numbers leave school with few or no useful qualifications. It is a country which is increasingly oppressive at home and abroad, and which has carried out systematic attacks on human rights. In short, the times cry out for an alternative, a modern society, a way out of the crisis which only the working class made conscious by the Party can provide.


Paper submitted to the Seminar “There Is a Way Out of the Crisis”, March 14, 2009, organised by RCPB(ML) to mark the 30th anniversary of its founding and the 15th anniversary of the launch of its general line for this period. For a report of the Seminar, see WDIE of March 23, 2009.

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