WHERE DO WE GO FROM KOSOVO?
by Erna Bennett
THREE AND A HALF HOURS OF INFAMY
A short extract from a CHRONICLE OF SHAME
April 6, 1999 (exactly two weeks after the launching of the NATO attack on Yugoslavia)
||Yugoslav Government announces a unilateral suspension of all military actions.
||US rejects Yugoslav communication. Clinton orders an intensification of bombardments.
||Pope admonishes NATO: “To continue the violence now would represent a grave obstacle to peace.”
||The Italian Government announces that it will adhere to NATO’s directives.
||An avalanche of missiles on Yugoslavia: civilians targets hit in Belgrade and in the rest of the country. A night of inferno.
The NATO war from the air continued, with massive loss of life and destruction, in spite of similar peace offers, for another 66 days.
The air attacks launched by US-NATO forces on Kosovo and Yugoslavia on 24
March, 1999, mark more than just another infamous milestone in the history
of modern imperialism.
In spite of the long-drawn-out theatricals of discussions by diplomats and
“contact groups” that preceded the war and, it was claimed, were intended
to prevent it, these, instead, paved the way for NATO intervention. They
were phases of a carefully stage-managed, step-by-step preparation for a
What is new, however, in the guided succession of events leading to the war
is that it has been directed and executed by aggressors no longer subject
to the constraints formerly imposed by the presence on the world stage of
the USSR and other socialist countries, and their vigilance.
The Cold War, or at least a major phase of it, is over. Its objectives have
The Soviet Union and a great part of the socialist world, which were
powerful enough to challenge the might of the United States, have been
defeated and reduced to economic and political chaos.
In passing, it should be noted in this connection, that those who speak of
the “collapse” of the socialist world rather than its defeat lend a helping
hand to those who still wish to cultivate the impression that an entire
social system has “failed”.
Such views also overlook the abundant evidence of the price socialism’s
enemies are prepared to pay and the extent to which they are prepared to go
to overthrow it.
Quite apart from the major role played in the overthrow of the Soviet Union
and the socialist countries by a motley assortment of internal enemies who
aspired, and conspired, to defeat them from within, it is revealing to note
that the published part alone of the CIA budget for activities in the
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe for 1991 amounted to US$15 billion.
No major systematic challenge to US economic, political and military world
domination any longer exists.
The US and its allies may now concentrate on their task of proceeding with
the continued marginalisation and impoverishment of a Russia struggling
for its very survival, the dismemberment of those few socialist states as
still remain, the encirclement and containment of China and, finally, the
absolute control of the world’s energy resources.
Inevitable questions such as “why Kosovo?” reflect a widely disseminated
notion created by NATO’s media control machine that the present military
intervention in the Balkans is a humanitarian exercise. But questions like
this also express an urgent and much-felt need for an attentive analysis of
the origins of this latest act of aggression by the US-NATO alliance.
Why Kosovo, indeed? Why Yugoslavia? To which we may logically add, when we
have taken the time to reflect on other dramatic events of the past decade,
“why Bosnia?” And “why Croatia?”, “Why Iraq?”.
And we may also ask, “Why Panama, why Grenada?” — for behind this series
of repeated and apparently unrelated aggressions runs a single connecting
strand of imperialist purpose.
Since 1990 the US has rampaged through the constraints of established
international law like a bull through a china shop. It has done so on the
slenderest and most unconvincing of pretexts, many of them transparently
false even to the friendliest of its most faithful allies.
But from the 1964 Tonkin Gulf incident that precipitated the Vietnam War
(or the even earlier June 27, 1950 Truman declaration ordering US military
cover and support to South Korean troops that launched the Korean War and
was put to the UN Security Council as a fait accompli only a few hours
later1) to the Rambouillet meetings and ultimatum of 1999,2
it is possible to trace a common ancestry and a common purpose.
The NATO attack on Yugoslavia of March 1999 is seen not only by those who
have opposed it but by its protagonists also as a watershed in
A few weeks ago the Sydney Morning Herald reprinted an article by the
former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger which first appeared in the
Los Angeles Times.
Kissinger is apparently still at a loss to understand the European Union’s
mixed reactions to the 80-day war and its consequences, but he does not
hesitate to express his opinion that “the allied leaders are correct in
treating Kosovo as a watershed.”3 We need to be very clear, however, about
the kind of watershed we are speaking about.
What kind of milestone have we passed? What new conditions now face us? How
have they changed? In what way does history now present a new face and
raise new problems? Are these different problems, or simply bigger ones?
And to confront them and resolve them, what now needs to be done? What
might we learn from the ample warnings of the past decade?
Warning bells have been sounding for a long time. The attack on Yugoslavia
over the “Kosovo question” is not a recent, last minute invention. It has
been carefully prepared over many years and it is the natural sibling of
many similar aggressions. It is neither humanitarian in scope, as it is
claimed, nor is it a trial of strength.
How can destruction of the homes of millions of people in Kosovo, who are
then ordered to return to them, or sent to camps in the farthest corners of
the earth, be described as humanitarian?
How can the hi-tech slaughter of thousands of unknown and innocent people
be presented as anything other than it is — mass murder?
And how, in so grotesquely unequal a conflict as this between the earth’s
most powerful military machine and the already critically weakened and
fragmented remnant of a small Balkan state sick from the effects of years
of harsh blockade, can a massive and unprovoked attack on Yugoslavia be
seen as a trial of strength — if not as a bully’s demonstration to his
cronies that he’s tough and that they, too, had better watch out.
This war is, rather, a trial of legitimacy and a blatant and deliberate
display of defiance of national and international laws. Treaties,
constitutions, laws have been torn to shreds while the world watches, and
without even the least attempt to conceal or excuse such behaviour, if not
behind the ever more threadbare screen of “humanitarianism”.
But with what ultimate aim?
Certainly the massive attacks on the Yugoslav Federation, or such of it as
remains, and Yugoslav citizens, have little if anything to do with Serb-
Albanian relations in Kosovo or the sufferings of ethnic minorities in the
Balkans or elsewhere, and have little or no meaning if not measured against
more distant and much more ominously ambitious horizons.
The roots of contemporary imperialism
NATO’s attacks on Yugoslav cities and their populations mark the
consummation of a process which, if we wish to construct a coherently
reasoned account, can trace its earliest stages as far back as the 1940s,
clearly identifiable as parts of a grand strategy for world domination.
In 1945 the United States emerged from World War II as the world’s most
powerful economy, enjoying a degree of hegemony comparable to Britain’s
during its age of imperial grandeur in the 1800s.
[The US] virtually monopolised or controlled the three sources of power in
the modern world: nuclear weapons, monetary reserves and petroleum. [They]
alone had the atomic bomb and the knowledge to produce what at that time
was called the absolute weapon. American factories produced more than 50
per cent of the world’s output, and America held approximately 50 per cent
of the world’s monetary reserves. With respect to petroleum ... American
companies controlled the world’s supply of oil.4
Unlike Britain’s in the 19th Century, however, the US dream of world
supremacy was inhibited, even threatened, by the presence and the challenge
of the USSR and an increasing number of socialist countries.
These moreover, formed a vast and coherent landmass that stretched, without
interruption, from Central Europe to the Pacific coast.
With a deeply-rooted class hostility towards communism, and in full accord
with the Cold War launched in 1947 by Truman and Churchill at Fulton,
Missouri, the US ruling class met what it saw as a socialist threat to its
power by building a global network of military bases and alliances, armed
with nuclear and other high-tech weapons, backed by high-altitude aerial
espionage and satellite surveillance, and equipped with sophisticated
electronic communications and weapons guidance systems.
The network was backed up by economic and military aid to numerous corrupt
and complaisant regimes.
The first trial of this strategy came the same year with the implementation
of the Marshall Plan and, later, the Truman doctrine.
In Greece, EAM, the national resistance movement led by a broad alliance of
communist, socialist and other smaller parties, enjoying an overwhelming
degree of popular support, drove the Nazi occupation troops from the
country in 1945. EAM’s victory was interpreted by Britain and the US as a
communist threat to their imperial supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean.
Even while World War II was still ravaging Europe, Britain launched a
savage military campaign against its Greek ally. The US entered the fray in
1947. Greece became the testing ground for weapons which would be used
later in Korea and Vietnam.
More than US$2,500 million (as high as US$ 2,950 million according to some
estimates), the bulk of it for military aid, were pumped by the US into
Greece from May 1947 to June 1956 — “the highest per capita aid to an
underdeveloped country in the post-war period”5 — to restore the fascist-tainted pro-US status quo ante.
NATO, founded in 1949, and the US-Japan Security Treaty of 1960, saw formal
global consolidation of US-dominated and explicitly anti-communist
alliances, definitively replacing Britain’s “Pax Britannica” of the 19th
But unlike British hegemony, which was based on empire and an unchallenged
naval supremacy, the US world system which now emerged was constructed on
technical, economic and, above all, military supremacy.
Already in the 1930s, when the socialist economy in Soviet Russia was
developing rapidly, the same problem of US global power had engaged the
attention of the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a highly
influential industry “think tank” with important government connections.
It asked, “was the [capitalist] western hemisphere self-sufficient, or did
it require trade with other world areas to maintain its prosperity?”
In the 1940s, the same question urgently surfaced again, and while World
War II was raging and Europe lay under the Nazi occupation, the CFR wanted
to know, “how self-contained was the western hemisphere compared to German-
“How much of the world’s resources and territory did the US require to
maintain power and prosperity?”6
Following a minutely comprehensive study it concluded that, “as a minimum,
the US national interest involved free access to the markets and the raw
materials of the British Empire, the Far East and the entire western
Subsequently, a CFR recommendation to President Roosevelt and the
Department of State, in October 1940, set out the results of detailed
surveys by panels of experts on “the political, military, territorial and
economic requirements of the United States in its potential leadership of
the non-German world area, including the United Kingdom itself, the western
hemisphere and the Far East.”7
The realisation of plans based on this recommendation was frustrated by
Japan’s own ambitions to control the south-west Pacific and foiled by the
Japanese pre-emptive strike on Pearl Harbour which precipitated a state of
war between the US and Japan.
The projected US-controlled non-German bloc was given the title of the
“Grand Area”. Initially, it was regarded as a temporary measure, but the
early recommendations were then followed, in June 1941, by a memorandum
outlining a plan for a “world economy dominated by the United States”.
This led, in turn, to CFR proposals to establish an International Monetary
Fund and World Bank. These were made public in February 1942.
Here, then, we can trace the beginnings of the US drive for global economic
and military supremacy. Certainly, if plans for US world domination ever
founder, it will not be for want of long-term planning!
The distant roots of the present crisis which are traced here in the
patterns of a grand strategy for capitalism in search of world supremacy
coincided at the same time with other developments within the capitalist
In keeping with its inherent propensity for generating gross inequalities
in the distribution of the social product, leading to the concentration of
capital in fewer and fewer and larger and larger enterprises, already
described by Lenin in his 1917 study on imperialism, post-World-War II US
capitalism saw this process greatly accelerate from 1945 onwards.
In the first two post-war decades, between 1945 and 1965, the US Federal
Trade Commission recorded more than 11,600 mergers in the mining and
manufacturing sectors alone, the rate of concentration accelerating rapidly
year by year.
The concentration of capital has occurred in every capitalist state but its
rate and extent have varied from country to country, though invariably at
an accelerating pace.
Value added holdings of the top 100 US companies increased from 30 per cent
of total holdings to 33 per cent from 1954 to 1970. This has continued to
Corresponding data for Britain showed an increase from 1953 to 1972 from 26
to 41 per cent.8
In the US, “merger activity was concentrated among the largest
corporations, the largest 120 corporations being responsible for 50 per
cent of the mergers,” affecting two-thirds of the total assets involved.
Other changes were taking place. War profits saw the US economy emerge
greatly enriched from World War II, having suffered none of the physical
damage that war brought to Europe, the USSR, China and Japan.
It was awash with the accumulated wealth of four years of war trading, the
great bulk of it held by giant corporations with little interest in
investing in the already saturated US economy. High wartime wages and still
relatively high corporation taxes were a further disincentive.
Corporate interest turned to countries where tax concessions and low wages
offered a better investment climate, and “the weakening of the Western
European economies and the creation of Atlantic security ties after World
War II ... opened up the European economies themselves to American
By the end of the 1970s, the total sales of US subsidiaries abroad exceeded
by four times the value of exports from US-based industries.
By the mid-1980s, total foreign capital under the control of mostly US
transnational corporations amounted to more than $600 billion, six times
more than in the late 1960s, and US foreign direct investment in
corporations of this type by the end of 1990 amounted to $1.5 trillion.
The growth of foreign direct investment and the TNCs led to a massive in
crease in inward capital flows, without effect, however, on the economic
instability, unemployment, poverty and idle factories that plagued the
The TNC-based economy’s need for free trade stimulated a US drive to
liberalise world trade relations, even though this favoured America’s
European and Japanese competitors. The economies of underdeveloped
countries depending on exports of primary products, however, suffered
In these conditions military capacity to impose and maintain “stablity”
for US investments, and to guarantee the secure control of strategic
resources, such as oil, came to assume a growing importance. Economic
supremacy alone was no longer sufficient to protect US “national
As strategic resources grew in importance, military and political factors
came to play at least as decisive a role in the maintenance of US hegemony
as economic and technical supremacy, and were maintained through a global
network of bases, institutions, and corporations.
The interaction of economic and political factors “ushered in a period of
unprecedented economic growth and affluence that proved to be a fertile
environment for the expansion of the multinational corporation [an entity
now more generally known as a transnational corporation, or TNC].
“In short, dramatic overseas expansion of American corporations and of
American political influence reflected political, economic, and
technological forces at work within the United States itself, and in the
larger international system.”10
Corrupt and docile governments, tax concessions, a plentiful supply of low-
paid and poorly organised labour boosted the outward investment flow. By
the 1960s the flow had become a flood.
Gilpin summarises the process:
... growth [brought] a variety of changes
in the core [economy] — rising wage rates, diseconomies of scale, the
exhaustion of resources or their rising cost, or both, the shift to a
service economy, and a falling rate of profit due to capital accumulation —
encouraging industry and economic activity to migrate.11
The decisive shift from a manufactures-based to a services-based economy
coincided with the flight of US investment abroad. By the 1970s twice as
many were working “in services (such as transport, commerce, education,
health services, and government) as were employed in the production of
goods (manufacturing, construction, mining and agriculture).
“This is a remarkable shift when one compares these figures with the
situation prevailing at the end of World War II when, in 1947, the American
work force was divided equally between these two sectors.”12
The transformation was paralleled by an increasing shift of US exports to
managerial services, capital and technology.
Part of this shift saw an increasing share of US foreign investment
directed and controlled by transnational banking corporations. Lenin
described, in his 1917 study on imperialism, a similar trend to the
increasing dominance of finance capital under imperialism.
As a result of these developments, therefore, “by the early 1970s the
United States had become more a foreign investor than an exporter ... ”
Also, “ ... a substantial proportion of American exports of manufactured
goods were really transfers from American branches of MNCs to their
overseas branches. In 1969 American multinationals alone produced
approximately $140 billion worth of goods, more than any national economy
except those of the United States and the Soviet Union.”13
In 1971, estimated world stocks of foreign direct investment (FDI) amounted
to $165 billion. Four countries accounted for 80 per cent of this, but more
than half of it was US-owned.14
Contrary, too, to the common belief that most FDI goes to underdeveloped
countries (UDCs), much of it is directed to developed, industrialised
countries, and almost half of US foreign investment went to the European
In the immediate post-war years, fully half of US FDI went into
manufacturing, much of this high-tech and electronics. Already by the end
of the 1960s, however, 30 per cent went to oil.
Even more pertinent to our present discussion, 90 per cent of the petroleum
produced in the Middle East was US-controlled, as was also, directly or
indirectly, almost the entire capitalist world's oil production.
And here we come to the heart of the matter. To control the flow of
petroleum is to control the most vital processes of modern industrial
Oil is an essential resource for transport and the generation of
But it is also the raw material for a whole range of multi-billion dollar
industries of primary importance, such as the manufacture of fertilisers,
herbicides, pesticides, detergents, explosives, paints and, not least,
plastics and synthetic fibres.
Oil’s strategic as well as economic importance is immeasurable. More than
any other resource, it has aroused imperialist armies to mass murder in
many distant corners of the earth.
It is a Banquo’s ghost that is never absent from the ardent discussions of
“humanitarian” problems that appear so much to trouble contemporary
gatherings of western warlords.
Some suggest that Yugoslavia’s mineral wealth was a motive for the US-NATO
attack in the Balkans. Certainly, Serbia and Kosovo possess important
reserves of coal, lead, chromium, copper and other metals, but it would be
a great mistake to assume that these have played a significant role in NATO
or US calculations. Their sights are set on more lucrative and distant
targets in the extensive oilfields of former Soviet Central Asian
Certainly, Yugoslavia, fragmented though it now is thanks to the
secessions of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia provoked and assisted by NATO
member states, still sticks in the gullet of imperialism, even if
Yugoslavia today is but a shadow of the state that once, in spite of its
imperfections, managed to unify the Balkans for half a century.
But its dismemberment and destruction serve a wider purpose than the simple
elimination of a last remaining “socialist example”.
The re-balkanisation of the Balkans into a number of small, squabbling
client states where a non-aligned state once hindered imperialist expansion
eastward is, for the US and NATO, an essential step towards strategic
control of the ex-Soviet oilfields of the Caucasus and Central Asia, the
value of whose deposits has been estimated to be between US$1,500 and
It is equally important that the break-up and occupation of the discordant
fragments that now make up the Balkans allows the US and NATO to deploy
their armed forces more closely around Russia’s borders.
However passionately the capitalist world may sing the praises of Russia’s
market economy, it is still a potentially enemy economy. This is no
surprise; in the capitalist world all countries are competitors, whether
capitalist or not, and so are potential enemies.
Subjugation of the severed and battered centre of the once powerful USSR
does indeed mark an important watershed in the US search to impose global
hegemony, and a Russia tamed and on its knees has a special flavour. The
enormity of so momentous an event is only now, belatedly, being realised
both in Russia and elsewhere.15
While NATO’s purpose in the Balkans has been and remains that of gaining
access and establishing control of Central Asian oil, the separation of a
totally demoralised Russia from the energy resources without which it can
never hope to regain major industrial status is also a cardinal factor in
NATO and US calculations on the attack on Yugoslavia.
Russia has been catastrophically destabilised. It is down, but not yet out.
If the US and NATO get their way, it will now be kicked to death on the
The US-NATO attack in the Balkans serves yet another purpose — NATO
imperialism’s much hoped-for final destruction of Russia.
The gap between the predominantly NATO investment of US$50 billion in oil-
rich Kazakhstan and the considerably smaller US$39 billion invested in
Russia is a telling one, and reflects NATO’s real priorities.
Imperialism’s aim in the USSR was, and still remains, the destruction of
communism, not the restoration of capitalism. There are already too many
competitors in the capitalist world.
We have become too accustomed to thinking of war as originating in
ideological difference to remember that all the major wars of the past two
centuries, and the scores that have been fought overtly or covertly since
1945, have been imperialist wars, in the last analysis for the control of
The constantly present tensions between the US, European and Japanese
economies are profound enough without the additional complication of a
The fate reserved for Russia by the US and its NATO “allies” is not a
Their aim is that Russia will become, rather — as it is in the process of
becoming — a vast and underdeveloped territory for colonial penetration,
greater even in extent and potential than the territories that were “opened
up” in Africa and Asia in the 19th Century by the imperialist powers of the
Russia, in other words, is undergoing an enforced process of de-
industrialisation and colonisation.
And a final bonus conferred by the break-up of the Balkans is that it puts
US anxieties of wider European unification at rest. Balkanisation and US-
dominated protectorates in the Balkans, hopefully, will finally eliminate
any possibility of such a development, feared since 1990 by the US.
Corridor 8 and the Golden Road from Samarkand
Till now, Central Asian oil has been carried by pipelines to the industrial
centres of the USSR by way of the Caspian Sea and Baku. From there it has
been piped to the Black Sea port of Novorossisk, and then north, mainly
through the Ukraine.
Since the defeat and breakup of the USSR, systematic efforts have been made
to divert these supplies south by opening new terminals at Supsa on the
eastern coast of the Black Sea and others at Pakistani and Turkish ports,
As part of this plan, Pakistan armed and financed, with US assistance,
Taliban and other counter-revolutionary forces in Afghanistan to
destabilise and overthrow the country’s communist government, already
weakened by the activities of feddayin groups operating from bases in
Pakistan and armed and financed by CIA-organised arms-for-drugs deals.
Turkish and Iraqi campaigns against the Kurds have been encouraged and
supported in the same way.
In Albania, at the western end of this projected southern oil route,
Berisha, darling of the west, the president of post-communist, “democratic”
Albania until ousted in 1996 after the collapse of the pyramid “investment”
schemes which saw US$2 billion of small savers’ money disappear,16 is still
active behind the scenes.
It was he who stirred the dreams of greater Albanian nationalism that led
to the formation of UCK (the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army), financed
from the profits of arms, drugs, petrol and clandestine labour deals run by
the Albanian mafia in association with, among others, the Shquiponja cartel
that is directed by Berisha’s Democratic Party.
During his presidency, harsh anti-communist legislation was introduced,
air bases and port installations were put gratis at the disposal of US
forces, military treaties were signed with the US and Turkey, public
services were privatised and a flood of mainly US and EU investment swamped
The massive US military presence there and in the adjoining former Yugoslav
republic of Macedonia was a decisive element in the success of NATO’s
Years of such activities have prepared the southern Balkans for their role
in US oil strategies. They form a background to what is known as the
“Corridor 8 Project” which provides for a major oil supply route to Ceyhan
on the Mediterranean coast in southeast Turkey and the Albanian ports of
Durazzo and Valona in the Adriatic.
A major strategic west-east highway running from Durazzo in Albania through
the southern Balkans to Asia Minor, still known as the Egnatian Way, was
begun by the Romans in 145 BC.
It branches south to the sea at Thessaloniki in northern Greece. It still
provides an arterial link between the Black Sea and the Adriatic. Greece
has invested heavily in its modernisation. Greece, however, is one of the
less reliable members of NATO, suspect because of its generally slavophil
sympathies and its “political instability”.
Consequently, what is known as the Egnatia Bis, which will run through
politically more reliable territories, is the subject of enormously heavy
Running parallel to, and often only a few kilometers distant from the Greek
section of the Egnatian Way but outside Greek territory, it is intended to
provide a high-speed rail link and arterial highway as well as a route for
gas and oil pipelines that will link oil terminals in the Black Sea with
the Albanian ports in the Adriatic.
According to US and NATO strategic plans, the Corridor 8 oil supplies will
reach their western terminal at the Albanian Adriatic ports of Durazzo and
Here lies Albania’s importance in the wider imperialist picture. Here, too,
a reason for the political, economic and military control that will ensure
investment stability there.
Here, again, lies the explanation for the powerful economic presence of US
and TNC interests in the Balkan micro-states that have been created on the
ruins of the former Yugoslav Republic.
In Albania, some 25 US corporations and TNCs, many of them petrochemical,
are operating. The corresponding data for Croatia show the presence of 22
such corporations, while 60 are operating in Slovenia.
Here, responding to the call of mammon rather than that of humanitarian
concern, is the real reason for the US-NATO intervention in Kosovo,
Yugoslavia and the Balkans.
Here, too, the global significance of this and the many other wars that
have marked the past decade.
“Contained” or “local” as these wars may be described, their significance
is global, an indispensable part of imperialism’s New World Order. They
also point ominously to what will almost certainly become an intensifying
The Changing Face of Hegemony
Since 1990 more than 20 countries have experienced civil war and internal
Among these were Algeria, Angola, Ruanda, Somalia, Democratic Republic of
the Congo, Sudan and Congo-Brazzaville in Africa, Colombia, Peru and Mexico
in Latin America, and the Philippines, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Cambodia,
the Caucasian republics and Tadjikistan in Asia, and Yugoslavia, Turkey and
There is a tendency for these conflicts to become endemic, involving armed
groups, often ethnic in origin, often drug and criminal cartels, contending
for a monopoly of violence and beyond the reach of the law.
In many ways they resemble the wars between the barons of late feudalism.
Most of these conflicts are a product “of economic crisis and a model of
development that reflects sharpening global competition, a debt crisis, the
disastrous policies of ‘adjustment’ imposed by the World Bank and the IMF,
and relentless devaluation of the only resources these countries possess —
raw materials and unqualified labour.”17
All this has led to a frightening degree of social marginalisation and an
intense sharpening of political, ethnic and religious differences.
Whole countries and regions have become, in UN-ese, “chaotic non-governable
entities” under the care of the Red Cross, UN agencies and NGOs. Some are
not only non-governable but are without governments. Among them are Ruanda,
Burundi, Liberia, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Afghanistan, Cambodia, Tadjikistan and some other former Soviet Central
Asian republics, as well as Bosnia and Albania.
These are symptoms of a global crisis in which US hegemony is floundering
out of its depth. The dream of a US-dominated world order is already out of
The post-war economic supremacy of the US lasted only a few decades. It is
already threatened by world-wide instability and the rapidly growing
European and Japanese presence on the world economic stage.
US hegemony was already in decline by the late 1970s.
accumulation far exceeding the political capacity to regulate its rhythm,
the US economy entered a long series of crises which have lasted to the
present day ... Its imposing trade deficit has become structural, tending
to increase ... With the lowest rate of savings in the world, the US
consume all [and more than] they produce. As a result, in the past two
decades, in order to finance their public debt, acquired in great part
during the Reagan era ... they have amassed the largest foreign debt in the
world of approximately $1,200 billion.18
This disequilibrium in their external accounts is only in part financed by
an inward flow of interest capital from US FDI in the rest of the world.
This comes not only from Japan and Europe, but also in great part from the
underdeveloped countries. The flow has continually increased, amounting in
1995-1997 to about $600 billion a year.19
But at the same time, domestic production has remained sluggish or
stagnant, financial and social instability are largely out of control, and
foreign trade deficits have soared disastrously.
It reveals a major and very significant trend that while in the mid-1970s,
the “securities listed on American exchanges constituted 61 per cent of the
world total, fully five times as much as the 12 per cent share represented
by Japan”, by 1981 this had fallen to 55 per cent “and by 1987, Japan had
“In mid-1988 the Tokyo market's share of world equity capitalisation was
about 42 per cent, while New York's was roughly 31 per cent.”20
By late 1988, both Japan and Germany had overtaken the US as top foreign
investors; “nearly 20 per cent of bank assets in the United States were
already foreign-owned and roughly 14 per cent were in the hands of Japan
Driven by an economy consuming more than it produces, and increasingly
dependent on income from foreign investment and the nature of the dollar as
a “reserve currency”, the US saw FDI-derived income fall below outgoing
investment income in 1987.
It was clear, said some observers, that the US economy was suffering from
The economic foundations of the US-dominated New World Order rest on the
activities of TNCs whose profits serve, in part, to counteract the growing
national debt and hold it within controllable levels.
Foreign direct investment which drives them is disincentived by political
and economic instability, but TNC operations are, in themselves, a source
of political tension and instability such as frequently to require direct
political, and often military intervention or, at the very least, indirect
support for repressive regimes. Such are the problems that are inherited
from the increasingly insoluble contradictions of the US New World Order.
British global hegemony lasted half a century before it had to yield to its
accumulating contradictions; that of the US has lasted barely 30 years, so
rapidly have the many internal contradictions within the world’s richest
capitalist society matured.
Immense wealth lives side by side with widespread, extreme poverty, idle
factories with a runaway consumerism, reductions in public spending on
health, education and other services with astronomical and rapidly
expanding spending on what, in our age of double-talk, is called defence
The US economy, notwithstanding many protestations to the contrary voiced
by optimists and apologists, is undeniably in decline.
Clearly this will have consequences at a level of US global strategy that
it is important to understand if effective responses to that strategy are
to take form and gather strength.
The NATO “Alliance” and the EU
No longer in a position to assert economic hegemony without the added need
for the use of military force, the US faces a double dilemma.
On the one hand, it encounters increasing dissension and pressure from
“allies” whose economic power now equals and surpasses its own. On the
other hand, there will be (indeed there is already evident) a growing
tendency to assert leadership of the “New World Order” by recourse to
costly and risky military expedients.
The same dilemma is reflected in contrasting US attitudes to Russian
economic recovery, discussed in the April 1999 issue of Le Monde
As far as the US is concerned, there are two possible approaches to this
question. One, by denying economic assistance to Russia, would create the
same dangers of chaos and nationalist resentment that followed the 1919
The second option, to integrate Russia into a Europe progressively more
unified as was the case with Germany after World War II, could have the
effect of restraining excessive German influence within Europe but it would
also certainly limit external (that is, US) influence on the region.
The US, in the early 1990s, had already rejected this latter option. It
would undermine US control of NATO and therefore, through NATO, of
NATO allows the US to maintain a high military presence in Europe; 300,000
US troops are stationed in Germany, dramatically highlighting how US world
economic supremacy is dependent to an increasing degree on its military
supremacy, whatever the risks associated with this.
For reasons of their own, neither France nor Germany share this US view of
the issues at stake.
To begin with, France is “particularly interested in achieving more co-
operation in defence and security. For decades its key objective had been
to diminish US influence in Europe and gain more French and European
autonomy ... In particular France wished to reduce the central role of NATO,
which in the French view was a mechanism for US dominance in Europe, and
replace it with European-controlled structures ... ”
In a series of meetings “beginning in 1989, Paris sought to bind Germany
more firmly to French-influenced European institutions”.23
For its part, Germany, occupying the eastern frontiers of Europe, is
particularly sensitive to the consequences of social and economic chaos in
Russia and the former socialist countries
German trading relationships are concentrated heavily on Europe, west and
east, and Germany has very good reasons to be both fearful and critical of
US and NATO policies that endanger European stability.
Italy, too, and for similar reasons, is less than enthusiastic about NATO
policies that they see to be charged with many dangers.
To Europe’s frontline states, among which Greece must also be numbered,
US-dictated NATO policies carry serious risks of escalation of so-called
“contained” local conflicts into serious crises of much more dangerous
dimensions which could flare into open conflicts.
These states therefore represent an increasingly fragile component of the
NATO alliance — a fragility that became glaringly evident during the
Yugoslav-Kosovo adventure, with intra-governmental discord in France,
Germany, Italy and Greece leading to the resignation of a number of cabinet
ministers and the public rebuke of others.
Not by chance did Secretary of State Baker choose Berlin in December 1989
to make a major policy statement that called for a new architecture for a
new era, which hoped to see NATO become a more general alliance which, in
addition to its security role, should increasingly concern itself with
wider political and economic issues that would “ensure a continued role for
NATO, and therefore for the US, in Europe.”24
Now, a decade later, in spite of growing signs of unease in the NATO
alliance, the Washington meeting marking NATO’s 50th anniversary, which
took place at the height of the 80-day war, radically revised its 1949
founding principles under heavy US pressure.
These principles, already negated by the decision to attack Yugoslavia,
stressed the defensive nature of the NATO alliance.
It now assumes the right to act “non-defensively”, that is, as an
aggressor, and to do so on a global scale. In a document presented to but
not discussed at the meeting, NATO is to become an instrument of “global
policy ... particularly towards the Middle East and Eurasia.”25
It cannot now be excluded that future actions such as the Gulf War may be
conducted under NATO rather than a UN cover.
And immense consignments of military equipment to Turkey, at first supplied
gratis, and now sold to the tune of more than US$1bn every year for use
against the Kurds, extend NATO’s reach as far as Turkey’s eastern
frontiers, where they are used against Kurdish villages.
Nor is it by mere chance that both US air-raids on Iraq and Turkish attacks
on the Kurds intensified during the attack on Yugoslavia under cover of the
screen provided by the intensely publicised Balkan war.
Within such a context, therefore, it is not surprising that US military
spending has rocketed to unprecedented levels.
Since World War II it has averaged more than US$300 billion annually, at
1997 values, and totalled US$ 1,600 trillion. In 1997 the US exported
US$23.5 billion worth of arms, or 45 per cent of the whole world’s arms
The same year the US arms industry spent US$49.5 million on “lobbying
And since the admission of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic into
NATO, these three countries have spent US$653 million on arms.
A further indicator of the danger of militarism in search of global
hegemony is Clinton’s proposal to increase “defence” spending over the next
six years by US$112 billion, a figure that awakened so much domestic
opposition that it has been trimmed and re-trimmed downwards in search of a
political consensus to support it so as to reach levels that are no longer
believed by anyone.
Will Any Other Consensus Please Stand Up?
What other forces are in a position to exercise constraint on US-NATO
The only body with formal power to do so, the United Nations Organisation,
has been conspicuously reluctant to do anything, and the US and its NATO
allies have equally conspicuously sought, or given their consent to, the
overthrow of the UN and the rule of law.
They have ridden roughshod over international law. They have flaunted their
own constitutions. They have by-passed their own legislatures. They have
chosen to overrule NATO’s own founding principles. And they have done all
this with only the merest ripple of protest from the offended institutions
of government of its often lukewarm but obedient allies.
As for the UN and the Security Council, it has never been a secret that the
UN has been a thorn in US imperialism’s side for many years. US
intransigence in opposing the re-election of the sometimes weak, but
principled Boutros Boutros Ghali in favour of the candidature of Kofi Annan
was nothing but a logical stratagem in a consistent policy of interference
in UN affairs.26
In the UN’s earliest years, the US fought vigorously against the proposed
ruling of “one nation, one vote”.
The Security Council’s permanent “great power” members’ right of veto, so
long portrayed as a cynical instrument employed by Soviet or Chinese
representatives to curb the Council’s effectiveness, first saw the light of
day in a proposal presented by the US delegation to the Three Power Yalta
Conference, in February 1945.27
It has been exercised by both the US and Britain on many occasions but
adverse publicity has always been reserved for its use by the Soviet Union
Again and again, the UN have been manoeuvred by US diplomacy into lending
their name to military actions and to sanctions that serve US but not UN
Again and again the US has sought to impose its own hegemony supported by
an “official UN seal of approval”, as in Iraq, Somalia, and Bosnia. This
has precipitated a growing crisis within the United Nations Organisation
The NATO attack on Yugoslavia was made without even the pretence of
consultation with the UN. NATO claimed that it was enforcing resolutions
1160 and 1199 of the Security Council, though the latter had already
notified NATO, in June 1998, that any resort to force in the Balkans would
need authorisation from the UN.
By attacking without consultation, much less authorisation, NATO has
effectively usurped UN powers.
The UN has long been the fly in imperialism’s ointment. In General Assembly
debates opposition to US policies has often been fierce, and wherever and
whenever it has been possible to circumvent the UN or exclude it, the US
has not hesitated to do so. This it has now successfully achieved once
again, with the help of its NATO allies.
The acquiescence of NATO’s European member states before its blatant
disregard of national and international institutions and laws has surprised
and confused some observers, but this too has a consistent logic of its
In the first place, a protectorate such as that planned by NATO can, they
believe, serve their significant economic interests in the new Balkan
NATO’s European member states, in search of stability in the Balkans, hope
to see this provided by US-NATO control of oil supplies and the imposition
of a military occupation by NATO forces.
Albania, a major source of tension in the area, but essential to US-NATO
oil supplies, must, according to NATO plans, remain the immense military
base that it is.
It can be stabilised, says NATO, by conceding to “Greater Albanian”
ambitions that demand the annexation of Kosovo.
Stability is further guaranteed at the same time by the creation there of a
This sort of reasoning, with its shift from considerations of the defence
of common territory to those of “defence of common interests” has, for the
present, apparently convinced the US’s European allies that the plans to
set aside the UN and to provide NATO with enlarged, global powers are
worthy of their support.
Lacking the military might to assert their own power, they are prepared to
accept a US-dominated New World Order that is “stabilised” and policed by
NATO, with all the risks that this involves.
They bring to mind an observation made by Ilya Ehrenburg in the 1950s at
the time of the Stockholm Peace Appeal to which some noted western figures
had declined support. Of these he said that their eyes are fixed so
fervidly on the palaces of the mighty that they are prepared to do anything
that will give them a place there — if only as fleas in the tails of the
For now the NATO alliance holds, in spite of the many cracks that have
appeared and the reservations its members refrain from voicing too
ardently. But reservations persist.
They are numerous, and reflect fundamental contradictions within the
alliance itself. They are held only temporarily in check by purely
The EU have hitched their fate to the NATO star, but it is a declining
star, because US hegemony is in decline. The US, in their bid to retain it,
show themselves to be ready and willing to resort to an increasing degree
to the state terrorism they like so much to accuse others of.
This has been all too evident in the slaughter of the Gulf War, the
immeasurable inhumanity of the Iraq blockade, and the appalling extent of
the war on the Kurds that has seen 6,000 villages destroyed, created two
million refugees and claimed 30,000 lives, of which the media tell us next
to nothing. To which must be added NATO’s use of cluster and graphite bombs
and depleted uranium.
All this speaks of a force which, if it cannot earn the loyalty of actual
or potential allies or enemies, will not hesitate for a moment to ensure
their submission by whatever means. This, however, is the argumentation not
of hegemony, but of crisis management.
None of this comes without very heavy budget commitments, as is clear from
Clinton’s problems with his proposed military spending increases. Necessity
is, as always, the mother of invention, and one solution is the ancient one
of passing a large part of the burden of war costs on to its minor (or
defeated) contestants, a tendency which is already evident and growing in
NATO. This, in itself, lies at the roots of a great deal of dissatisfaction
within the NATO alliance.
Another is the use of so-called “access agreements” between governments,
which call for only minimal permanent military deployment.
They are made possible by the availability of rapid mass transport
facilities and of small but specialist, highly-trained counter-insurgency
groups in strategically located areas. Significantly enough, these groups
are mostly located in Third World countries.
While reducing its presence in Europe, Washington has increased its pre-
Gulf War military presence in the Gulf more than ten times from 2,000 to
23,000 troops, has concluded or expanded defence co-operation agreements
with three Gulf countries (Kuwait, Oman and Bahrein) and is currently nego
tiating with three others.
The same report also notes that the deployment of US Special Forces Units
in Africa has tripled in 1991.28
Is this global deployment of strategic forces an omen? Will it fall to NATO
to carry out these global tasks, and when?
And whether it does or not, to what extent will the conduct of “managed
warfare” in the four corners of the globe be a commitment to be decided by
Or will it be decided, as the attack on Yugoslavia was decided, behind the
backs of elected governments?
The mere need to ask such questions provides a measure of the degree to
which government of the people by the people has given way to “managed
Real life has become a spectator sport. Summit discussions, as often as not
with unpublished agendas, have taken the place of participatory democracy,
which has been reduced to the status of a mere catch phrase of the New
Now Where? And How?
Tellingly, the study on trilateralism already referred to reveals some
In a report, The Crisis of Democracy, a group of Trilateral Commission
experts state a case to support their view that the crisis of which they
speak comes not from too little democracy, but from too much.
The report’s sub-title — Report on the Governability of Democracies —
gives the game away.29 What is needed at the present time, according to its
authors, is a greater degree of moderation in democracy. More democracy,
they say, is not the answer: “applying that cure at the present time could
well be adding fuel to the flames.”
And how do these savants propose to make democracy a more governable
They home in with some insistence on the crucial role of the media in
making society governable. The media, they say, must reach the “hearts and
minds” of the people.
Indeed! But the media they have in mind is clearly something less than the
journalism that needs courage and honesty, and in return usually earns
official censorship and condemnation.
In search of governability, these experts and ruling class ideologists
clearly hope to reach the hearts and minds of the people through something
more like the US-NATO media machine which operated with such notable aplomb
and such precarious honesty in the Gulf War and Yugoslavia.
Far from the reality of life and war, media representatives were briefed by
US or NATO representatives, who in turn had been briefed by officials who
in their turn (though they did not need to know what the facts were) knew
exactly how much they were permitted to say — it was all very entertaining,
complete with moving pictures and diagrams, but truth, and the possibility
of truth, were edged farther and farther off stage and into the shadows.
The lessons to be learned from the NATO war on Yugoslavia are few but
clear. The interests of aggressors are served by the managed democracy and
summit politics that have become a part, and a dangerous part, of the
cultural climacteric of late imperialism.
Its ideologists would like to bend minds to a distorted reality, but
politics is people and its only place is where people are — in the streets,
in workplaces, in the schools and universities, in the homes. Politics has
been displaced from its realm by a universal spectatorism and dis
There is evidence of a growing awareness of the need to return to former
values assumed destroyed by the cultural decadence of consumerism and
During the NATO war on Yugoslavia, the newspapers were filled as they
rarely were before with letters from thousands who had never before written
to the press.
Many thousands of names below hundreds of passionately reasoned statements
of political opposition to NATO actions filled the newspapers. The numbers
of these, and their unequivocal stance, created a deep impression of a new
sense of involvement, and re-awakened debate on issues that had been long
Calls for an end to summit politics stood side by side with appeals to
intellectuals that they, too, should debate issues of universal concern.
Debate enjoyed a fiery renaissance.
How long, people were asking, can imperialism’s new world order survive
before it irreversibly destroys human society? How long before the cracks
on its facade open wide and the whole structure crumbles?
Will it disintegrate from within, or must it be dismantled from outside?
When it goes will it go quietly, or will it drag the world with it? Will it
add war to the disasters already set in motion by the ecological maelstrom
that capitalism has created?
Is there still time to avoid the destruction of both the contending classes
in modern society? How can imperialism be fought? How defeated? Can we
destroy it before it destroys us?
Everything depends on the extent to which popular forces can be mobilised
and overcome the cynicism and disunity that the capitalist system has
A new situation exists. It is a situation full of dangers. It poses great
problems, and new problems, that call for a new, and urgent approach. In
other times, time was on our side. It no longer is.
A final comment is in order. NATO aggression in the Balkans
institutionalised international illegality. State terrorism was enshrined
as a norm.
Most of the governments that have given this their support are labour and
social democratic governments.
The situation reminds us of the parties of the Second Socialist
International which, in 1912, spoke out so strongly against working class
participation in ruling class wars. The working class should make such
wars, they argued, the opportunity to strike decisively against capitalism.
When it came to the crunch, however, and war broke out in 1914 between
Europe’s ruling classes, the labour and social democratic parties (with a
few but honourable exceptions) betrayed their earlier declarations and gave
their support enthusiastically to patriotic campaigns that conceded them
seats in governments and mercilessly devoured millions of workers’ lives in
the most barbarous conflict the world had seen until that time.
Workers killed workers at the bidding of their masters in a bloody struggle
which had the single aim of establishing imperialist hegemony over as much
of the world’s economy as possible.
Some socialists refused to be drawn into the universal slaughter. In
Ireland, Connolly saw the imminent war in 1914 as a signal.
“The signal for war”, he said, “ought also to be the signal for rebellion”.
Lenin, in The Collapse of the Second International, observed in 1915 that
“every crisis in history, every great disaster and every sudden turn in
human history stuns and shatters some, enlightening and hardening others”.
History once again repeats itself. Today, social democrats are, as in 1914,
once again among the fiercest supporters of war. They are the fiercest
defenders of NATO aggression in the Balkans.
They are false to socialism because they have never understood it, nor
wanted to. Wretchedly, they have sold themselves and the class they claim
to represent for “a handful of silver”.
They are among the most feverish of NATO’s sabre rattlers. They are among
the most abject of Clinton’s faithful followers.
History repeats itself both as tragedy and as farce.
As NATO’s dirty war unfolded, mirroring whole generations of earlier
imperialist aggressions, it reminds us of those earlier social democratic
betrayals that sent millions of workers to their death.
Once again they have given their support to a war that has sown death and
destruction among the innocent to serve the interests of their imperialist
With this final betrayal they have forfeited social democracy’s last
remaining claim on history. That claim has lost all credence in the eyes of
Their page in history has closed. New forces are waiting to take their