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Issue #1748      September 14, 2016

Taking issue: Rob Gowland

The capitalist establishment – Part 2

Nuclear “new war doctrine”

In the decades following WW2, the West actively prepared for war with the Soviet Union, camouflaging their war plans with a constant barrage of propaganda about the danger of an imminent invasion of Western Europe by the Red Army. Roberts has an ingenious theory about why that did not happen. “The Soviet Union suffered enormous population loss in World War II and required its remaining manpower for post-war reconstruction. It was beyond Soviet ability to occupy Western Europe in addition to Eastern Europe.”

Both Trump and Clinton take their orders from the boardrooms of the biggest corporations.

So that was the reason: not that they didn’t want war, but they just didn’t have enough people to do it? He seems to have forgotten that earlier in the article he admitted that the USSR “had no hegemonic ambitions.” Surely that is a more likely reason than a manpower shortage?

Roberts is fully committed to capitalism. But capitalism with a human face, not the war-mongering, government smashing, anti-democratic capitalism epitomised by Big Oil and the like. Unfortunately, he’s living in a fool’s paradise, for capitalism drops its human face whenever it inhibits the drive for profit. Nevertheless, he says some interesting things, especially in view of his position as a member of the capitalist establishment.

Trump and divisions

Roberts, like Malcolm Fraser did in Australia, reflects the viewpoint of the national bourgeoisie, the sector of capitalism that does not benefit significantly from globalisation. In fact, unlike the transnational corporations, the national bourgeoisie generally loses out from globalisation, sometimes badly.

For instance, Roberts’ attitude to Donald Trump reflects the serious divisions in the US ruling class over whether they should support Trump’s blatant fascism or Hillary Clinton’s more respectable, but still very dangerous, ultra-conservatism. It also reflects Roberts’ own confusion. “Donald Trump has said the only hopeful thing in the presidential campaign. He called into question NATO and the orchestrated conflict with Russia. [Hillary Clinton on the other hand] declared the President of Russia to be the Ultimate Threat – ‘the new Hitler’.”

Nevertheless, he has misgivings about Trump: “We don’t know if we can believe him or whether his government would follow his direction.” I think we know exactly if we can believe him. What he says on the campaign trail and what he would say once in office will have little correlation to one another.

Roberts has even less time for Hillary Clinton, however, referring to her exclusively as Hitlery. “Hitlery is a warmonger, an agent of the neo-conservatives, the military-security complex, the Israel Lobby, the banks too big to fail, Wall Street, and every foreign interest that will make a mega-million dollar donation to the Clinton Foundation or a quarter million dollar fee for a speech.”

No doubt, but how does he think Trump got to be a billionaire?

Roberts sensibly does not believe that Russia is a threat to the capitalist West. “The neo-liberal economic policy that Washington convinced the Russian government to implement was designed to keep the Russian economy in the role of supplier of raw materials to the West. Russia expressed no territorial ambitions and spent very little on its military.”

Class in politics

His explanation as to why the Cold War has been ramped up again is interesting if typically idiosyncratic (and free of any understanding of the role of class in politics): “The new Cold War is the work of a handful of neo-conservative fanatics who believe that History has chosen the US to wield hegemonic power over the world. Some of the neo-cons are sons of former Trotskyists and have the same romantic notion of world revolution, only this time it is ‘democratic-capitalist’ and not communist.”

Roberts says “the respective war doctrines of the nuclear powers have changed. The function of nuclear weapons is no longer retaliatory.” Well, frankly, Doctor, they never were. The US sought strenuously to achieve a first strike capability and the political opportunity to carry it out. However, the world’s people would not wear it; the UN wouldn’t wear it, even the USA’s allies baulked at it. It was the Soviet Union that made the US recognise the reality of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) which sort of guaranteed that nuclear weapons would not be used.

Nuclear threat

Until now. As Roberts says, “In the new war doctrine nuclear weapons have been elevated to first-use in a pre-emptive nuclear attack. Washington first took this step, forcing Russia and China to follow.”

He sees tensions between the West and the rest developing alarmingly. “William Perry, Secretary of Defence in the Clinton regime, recently spoke of the danger of nuclear war being launched by false alarms resulting from such things as faulty computer chips. Fortunately, when such instances occurred in the past, the absence of tension in the relationship between the nuclear powers caused authorities on both sides to disbelieve the false alarms. Today, however, with constant allegations of pending Russian invasions, Putin demonised as ‘the new Hitler’, and the build-up of US and NATO military forces on Russia’s borders, a false alarm becomes believable.” Scary thought. Very scary.

His curious belief that NATO is a defensive alliance that has “lost its purpose” leads him to posit a typically singular notion of what NATO’s purpose is today: “to implicate all of Europe in Washington’s war crimes. Since all are guilty, European governments cannot turn on Washington and accuse the Americans of war crimes.” I’m sorry, but that is not how international affairs work.

However, Roberts is right about one thing: “The West does not represent the values that the world has been brainwashed to believe are associated with the West.” But then he contradicts himself: “Despite its vast crimes against humanity, the West still retains the position of ‘a light unto the world’, a defender of truth, justice, human rights, democracy, and individual liberty. This reputation persists despite the destruction [in the US] of the Bill of Rights and police state repression.”

He should ask the people of the numerous countries from Central America to Libya, Ukraine to Afghanistan, that the US has bombed or where it has overturned a democratically elected government whether they see the West as a “a light unto the world”. Why does he think so many volunteers for suicide bombings come from countries the US has pulverised?

The summation to his article is the same mix of accuracy and confusion. “Could it be any more clear? A vote for Hitlery is a vote for war. [And a vote for Trump isn’t?] Despite this most obvious of all facts, the US media, united as one, are doing everything in their power to drive Trump into the ground and to elect Hitlery.”

Roberts is clearly terrified by the potential of a Hillary Clinton presidency to plunge the world into a nuclear war. And it is certainly a very real danger. But to assume that a Donald Trump presidency would not run the same risks is naive.

Both Trump and Clinton take their orders from the boardrooms of the biggest corporations. Roberts never even hints at the profit-driven willingness of corporate America to go to war. Instead, he writes off the American people as being “as dumb as shit”.

Which leads him to conclude: “What the Russians and Chinese see are a people too brainwashed and ignorant to be of any support for peace. They see war coming and are preparing for it.”

Typically, he sees no way of preventing war (other than, apparently, electing Donald Trump – not a prospect I would put much faith in). On the other hand, I find it very comforting to see that at all levels of American society, even within the capitalist establishment, there are people arguing for peace and democratic rights. In fact, I think putting our faith in that movement – and doing everything we can to support it – is our best bet for guaranteeing peace.

Next article – The dispossessed: a pressing question of our time

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