The Axis against evil
The US is generally perceived as the central pillar of capitalism, yet US hegemony is increasingly losing favour with people around the world
The double standards operated by the US are plain for all to see: the US has a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons, yet will not allow Iran and North Korea to develop their own. The lies about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction were followed by a brutal war there, with ever-increasing numbers of casualties. Moreover, the US uncritically supports Israel, and at the time of the recent invasion of Lebanon the US actively delayed condemning Israel’s actions in the hope of giving them time enough to destroy Hezbullah. Behind all this lies the need to control oil supplies. After 9/11, the new Patriot Act and the heightened profile of Homeland Security resulted in dissenters at home being portrayed as traitors.
Bush and co propagate a picture of “us and them”, “us” being the US and its allies and friends and “them” being anyone remotely in opposition to their idea of world order. But who, more particularly are “us and them”? According to received opinion and Cold War propaganda it used to be simple. It was “us”, the capitalists who loved freedom and “them”, the Communists (USSR), who were under state control. With the fall of the USSR the Cold War was over and a new threat had to be manufactured to fill the gap. So now “them” is the Axis of Evil, terrorists and dissenters, all standing against “democracy” and therefore against the “free” market.
However, the Axis of Evil or what’s left of it – Iran, Syria, Sudan, North Korea – aren’t in opposition to capitalism. Their rulers are merely in favour of running it their own way, in their own interests, which appear to be directly opposed to the wishes of the US. It is also a challenge that Iran and Syria are believed to sponsor terrorism, i.e. have a different view of and vision for the Middle East. External dissenters will have pressure brought to bear by the various trade organisations using economic sticks and carrots, by threatened withdrawal of aid and even by the (deliberately) weakened UN.
The newest “them” is of a different order, spreading across Central and South America, including the Zapatistas of Mexico; Bolivia which refused to privatise gas and water and now has Evo Morales pushing the social agenda further; Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, the Bolivarian circles and the new People’s Constitution; Argentina and the Unemployed Workers’ Movement; Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement. All these reject the idea of being underdogs in a US-dominated world order.
These movements do not aim at the overthrow of capitalism but they are standing together against its symbols in the shape of the WTO, IMF, World Bank, and transnational corporations. Add to these movements the anti-globalisation, anti-capitalist forums, which have led, for instance, to US students fighting to ban Coca Cola from a growing number of campuses. This is because in certain countries unionised workers have been ditched and even murdered, and in India village water has been seriously contaminated by Coca Cola bottling plants. Another example is the ongoing “Nestles Kills Babies” campaign against the policy of promoting baby formula mixed with (often contaminated) water in favour of mother”s milk. The “Fair Trade” movement attempts to provide more than a subsistence wage to farmers around the world and give a guaranteed price even when prices on the world market fluctuate.
World poverty is the subject of a myriad of movements present at the World Social Forum, like the Brazilian Landless Movement and the anti-Big Pharma Brigade which campaigns against the big pharmaceutical companies which lock poor farmers into the buying their seeds, fertiliser and insecticides. Other well-known campaigns are those such as are fronted by celebrities like Geldof, Bono and Clinton. These latter campaigns raise the profile in a large part of the world with many people who would otherwise remain ignorant of the problems, widening awareness, interest and questioning.
The US home front
On the home front in the US divisions are widening too. It’s one year after the destruction and loss of life from Hurricane Katrina when most of the residents who fled the destruction are still living “in exile” with little opportunity to get back home and scant prospect of work. Almost half of the demolition and construction workers in the area are now imported “Latinos” rather than the formerly resident “Afro-Americans” because, surprise, surprise, the contractors find the immigrants more easily exploitable.
Outsourcing of jobs continues to drive down wages and living standards for the majority. The crisis in the high price of oil raises the level of discontent. It may be nearly the cheapest petrol in the world at the pumps but if you can’t afford to fill your tank you can”t get to work. Control of the oil can be seen as a prime motivation of the White House and the Pentagon, high prices being good for them and their cronies personally. However the US public want to see their soldiers “home” and the price of gas down.
All of the above, the Axis of Evil, the terrorism, the dissenters, the thousand-and-one movements across the world seeking to “make a difference”, the discontent at home, are threats of differing degrees to the current position of the US. While they are not socialist, more and more people are rejecting the idea of a world ruled by US capitalism. And that makes them more open to listening with an open mind to the case for socialism.