Thursday, 3 March 2011

A Marshall Plan For MENA?

In the aftermath of WWII, the USA established a plan for the economic reconstruction of Western Europe. Of course, the proposal was not simply a matter of idealism, or morality or altruism, on the part of the USA. The USSR had rolled into Eastern Europe, Communist Parties were significant forces in Greece, Italy, and France, and even in Britain Labour had won a landslide election victory.
The USA had very good strategic reasons for wanting to promote economic stability and prosperity in Western Europe. But, it had economic reasons too. The USA had become the world's global hegemonic power. During the War, it had been able to build up its industries. It suffered no attack on its mainland, whereas the War destroyed masses of prductive potential in Western and Eastern Europe, particularly in the USSR. The USA also lost very few people during the War – just 300,000 as opposed to the 30 million Russians who died – and on demobilisation, it needed to find them jobs. Although, the US economy boomed after the War, it had been feared that might not be the case, once War production ceased. By providing finance to Western Europe, it helped quickly develop the European economy, which in turn became a source of demand for US consumer goods, for the Capital goods needed to rebuild European industry, and as a location for US multinationals to set up themselves in order to exploit relatively cheap European labour power.

As democratic revolutions sweep the Middle East and North Africa, the idea of a new Marshall Plan for the area is being discussed by the EU, US, Japan and others. The motivations are similar to the original Marshall Plan.
Twenty years ago, faced with instability on its borders, the EU alongside the US went to War in the Balkans, to prevent the area collapsing into instability and civil war. It has backed up its actions with the investment of large sums of money to develop the economies of the area, most of which have now been incorporated into the EU itself. The US, EU, and Asian economies have a powerful and similar incentive to act to prevent instability in MENA, and to promote economic development. It is not just the US that faces problems with Islamic terrorism. The spread of the influence of Political Islam into Central Asia, also poses threats to Russia, and top China, both of which have been subjected to attacks from Islamic terrorists, and which face the growth of Islamic regimes on their borders. The most effective answer to such threats comes not from military action, but through the establishment of stable, prosperous, democratic regimes, which offer a decent future to their peoples, and undermine the the basis of Political Islam.

Moreover, the cost of such a solution is very cheap compared to the cost of military action. In 1948 the US spent $13 billion over four years. Its currently being discussed that a Plan for MENA would be around $10 billion - Europe's Historic Moment. The final cost would probably be many times that, but compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, that would be very cheap. Moreover, just like the original Marshal Plan, the broader consequences of such a plan would more than repay that cost. In 1995, the Barcelona Process, in fact, began to put in place the basic framework for such a development.
At the same time as drawing in new Eastern European economies into the orbit of the EU, it established the Union For The Mediterranean, which drew various Middle Eastern and North African economies into the orbit of the EU. The first stage was to create a new Free Trade Area between the EU and MENA. From MENA it brought in:

Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.

Libya as an observer state.

The League of Arab States.

It is partly on the back of this that a number of countries in MENA, such as Egypt have been increasing their economic growth in recent years. Liberal ideology believes that bourgeois democracy is a necessary corrolary of Capitalism and Free Markets. Marxists believe that there is no such necessary corollary.
German Capitalism, just as Italian Capitalism, soon swept away the facade of bourgeois democracy when it felt its interests threatened by the power of the working-class. However, as Marx described, the demand for bourgeois democracy did grow side by side with the growth of the economic and social power of the bourgeoisie. As he writes in the Communist Manifesto,

“Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the medieval commune(4): here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany); there taxable “third estate” of the monarchy (as in France); afterwards, in the period of manufacturing proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”

The Revolutions of 1848, were an expression of this historical truth set out by Marx, that at a certain stage of its economic development, in any country, the bourgeoisie will seek to establish its own political regime, the regime of bourgeois democracy manifest in the “modern representative State.”
Everywhere throughout the globe in the period since the same truth has found expression, and the revolutions in Egypt and the other countries of MENA, are the latest confirmation of Marx's theory. That the US and the EU and other Capitalist States should seek to support that process by encouraging the kind of economic development, and establishment of bourgeois democracy that it has found best reflects its interests is not at all surprising. The only people who could be surprised by such a turn of events are those who continue to operate with a false and often disproved concept of “Imperialism”, which insists that it everywhere seek to reproduce a system of “dependency” and “underdevelopment”, which keeps “non-imperialist” states in a condition of penury and subservience in order to meet the needs of the “Imperialist Power.” The fact that in the last 30 years, the economic power of states like the US has declined, whereas former colonies and dependencies such as Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil and so on have become very developed economies is simply ignored by those who have their dogma and will stick to it come what may.

Of course, this is not to say that these “Imperialist” powers such as the US are actively involved in trying to promote bourgeois democracy for altruistic reasons. Before WWII, the Palestinian Trotskyists looking at Fascist Germany and Democratic Great Britain, argued that Marxists should, therefore, support democratic Great Britain.
Trotsky outlined why this was wrong in this response.

He argued,

“Just how is a military victory of decaying democracies over Germany and Italy capable of liquidating fascism, even if only for a limited period? If there were any grounds for believing that a new victory of the familiar and slightly senile Entente (minus Italy) can work such miraculous results, i.e., those counter to socio-historical laws, then it is necessary not only to “desire” this victory but to do everything in our power to bring it about. Then the Anglo-French social-patriots would be correct. As a matter of fact they are far less correct today than they were 25 years ago, or to put it more correctly, they are playing today an infinitely more reactionary and infamous role.”

In fact, after WWII, under the auspices of US domination, bourgeois democracy was established in Germany, Italy and Japan. Did that mean that the Palestinian Trotskyists were right, and Trotsky was wrong? Absolutely not. Firstly, the bourgeois democracy established in Japan was done under the considerable control of the US Military, and its massive presence in the country. The democracy that arose, was one that was heavily dominated by a single party, the Liberal Democratic Party, which ruled, essentially a one party state for more than 50 years. In Italy, the occupying powers also acted to contain the power of the Italian Communist Party, and Italian workers, in order that Italian bourgeois democracy could be established to fill its function of serving the interests of Capital, and when in the 1970's it looked as though the reformist, Eurocommunist Italian Communist Party might actually form the Government, the US made no secret of its intention to undermine it, should that happen. In Germany too, the W
estern occupying powers turned a blind eye to all those industrialists who had backed the Nazis, whilst introducing legislation that limited the operation of German Communists. There is nothing altruistic about Capital's support for bourgeois democracy. It adopts it as Trotsky describes as a convenient mask, its best proven form of government in normal times. As Nicholas Taleb put it,

“Karl Marx, a visionary, figured out that you can control a slave much better by convincing him he is an employee.”

That is absolutely correct, and as Marx, Engels and the other early Marxists understood, the development of bourgeois democracy is a fundamental aspect of that. In The State & Revolution, Lenin explains this.
He writes,

“In a democratic republic, Engels continues, “wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely", first, by means of the “direct corruption of officials” (America); secondly, by means of an “alliance of the government and the Stock Exchange" (France and America).

At present, imperialism and the domination of the banks have “developed” into an exceptional art both these methods of upholding and giving effect to the omnipotence of wealth in democratic republics of all descriptions. ...
Another reason why the omnipotence of “wealth” is more certain in a democratic republic is that it does not depend on defects in the political machinery or on the faulty political shell of capitalism. A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell (through the Palchinskys, Chernovs, Tseretelis and Co.), it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.”

In other words, as Lenin sets out it is no Idealist or Altruistic quest that Capitalism undertakes in promoting bourgeois democracy, but its own self-interest, as lenin puts it bourgeois democracy is “ the best possible political shell for capitalism”. In Germany in the 1930's, where it fears the loss of its own power it may resort to fascism, but it is a last resort. The same is true for the operation of Capitalism on a global scale. Whether any particular country can sustain a bourgeois democracy at any particular time, depends upon its degree of economic development, and on the extent arising from that of the development of a national bourgeoisie, of a sizeable middle class, and of the development of those ideas and culture necessary to sustain it. In reality, this development also requires the development of a sizeable working-class, because it presupposes a significant degree of industrialisation. Moreover, as Engels argues, the experience of the 19th Century showed that “the middle class can never obtain full social and political power over the nation except by the help of the working class.”
It was this realisation which led the Big Capitalists to adopt the programme of Social Democracy, to abandon all of those penny-pinching measures of their childhood, and which still characterised their small capitalist brethren. They found that by incorporating the working-class, by addressing some of their concerns, allowing them the appearance of being able to improve their condition through collective wage bargaining, through the periodic election of Social-Democratic Governments, and the establishment of a Welfare State, the working-class could be pacified and socialised, and that it thereby provided it with far more stable conditions over the longer-term in which to undertake the large-scale Capital investments that characterise modern, Monopoly Capitalism.

The US, EU and other major Capitalist blocs have a vested interest in the development of stable democracies throughout MENA, because it will provide it with a massive new area in which to invest and exploit large reservoirs of labour-power, just as it has done with the Asian Tigers, the growing Latin American economies such as Chile, Brazil and Argentina, and as it has done over the last 20 years in Eastern Europe.

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