Capitalism stands at its zenith peering through the thick swirling mist over the path of its ultimate demise. Or does it? It now occupies almost the entire world with variants of its political-economic system. The developing world is displaying sporadic collapses of its members: a symptom of having nothing more that can be taken.
The dominant capitalist powers find themselves vying for expansion anyway / where they can. But the IMF/WB/WTO have been very successful in bringing Africa, Latin America, India and the rest of the world into the ‘world market' already. The rich pieces of the USSR were hungrily devoured a decade ago and China's betrayal of its people has yielded most of its silver already (W. Bello, 11.2.2009).
The USA has all but absorbed its immediate northern and southern neighbours and is the strongest of the great powers, but is having to accept more and more limits to its hegemony. Its extension of market access into the southern continent has been thwarted by ALBA. Germany and France want their slice increased (through a reform of the financial system) and under Putin, Russia's bourgeoisie have seized back much of the booty that fell to the US after the breakup of the USSR, including increasingly significant oil and gas and coal and nuclear resources.
Russia also occupies a position that will enable it, along with China and Iran and the rest of the Shanghai co-op (SCO), to exclude the US from the world's second biggest concentration of oil resources (Afghanistan and Georgian ventures are turning out to be costly ‘over reaches'). China has turned over its immense population to capitalism and threatens to emerge from the depression stronger due to its ability to resort to Keynesian economics and put its population to work improving the infrastructure of its under-developed west (Bello, 09). China is also using its currency reserves to buy up energy infrastructure at knock down prices, at a time when investment is sorely needed.
Obama seeks to manage or ‘off load' the crisis. Where? Other than taking more from the working class already under capitalism (at home and abroad) which a) is a given and b) has its limits, the alternatives are Cuba, Iran, N.Korea, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and some failed states. He doesn't have the political capital to invade Iran and bombing it won't help anything. North Korea is not surrendering and even if it did, China may have dibs.
That leaves ambitions in Latin America left on the list (and some have noted that after defeat in Vietnam the Americas got it good). Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador have been squeezed dry in recent decades and have hence rebelled with disastrous impacts on profitability. Cuba is a nut that has evaded cracking for half a century and its ability to supply trained professionals to these new allies is formidable.
But China wants latin american oil too, as does Brazil, and Russia benefits from high oil prices and always needs customers for its weapons industry. Russia has participated in naval exercises with Venezuela and two of china's top diplomats have toured the region simultaneously.
This multi-polar world with limited room for expansion could allow for the formation of a socialist block around Columbia (a vital link in the chain due to large border with Venezuela, large resources and lots of military). The significance of this is that any revolution that is successful (as capitalism continues through its crisis) will have outside assistance to look forward to, as opposed to a blockade like that Cuba has endured.
Such a socialist block would undoubtabley have advantages that the USSR lacked during the interwar period. Namely: vastly more developed productive forces both within the block and world wide. Also a more globalized world with freer information, as well as ice free ports and satellite TV.
It may even benefit for a while from alliances with the lesser capitalist powers, but unlike the interwar period, there is a global leader of the capitalist world.
Even with a superior economic system a socialist block cannot stand and fight a war with capitalist powers and expect to win. War needs arms related technology races and this needs secrecy. Secrecy undermines accountability and hence democracy and so threatens the very existence of true socialism. The longer the war the greater this threat becomes.
So, the only way for the worker controlled economy to emerge triumphant is for revolutions to happen within the capitalists borders rendering their armies unable to continue (as in the end of ww1, Marxist.com). If these were to happen in isolation in Europe or the west Pacific Rim they would face immediate isolation, even if a socialist block existed, due to the might of the US economic power and navy blockade. It would seem imperative that the US itself undergoes a revolutionary transformation.
Furthermore, a socialist federation in of ‘Gran Columbia' would inevitably pose a mortal danger to US imperialism. Its natural course would be to spread to encompass all of south and central America (although the bourgeoisies of Brazil, Chile and Argentine may have good capabilities to resist this) and, crucially, the Caribbean and Mexico. From here the pressure on US capitalism would be irresistible and hence the US elite realizes the show-down must come even before this point.
Mexico has been under severe domination for centuries but its insurrectionary spirit is alive and kicking(). It shares a huge border with the US and many of its nationals reside within US territory. This is true also for Latin America as a whole and, because of this, events in Latin America will directly impact upon the paradigm of the working class north of the Rio Grande.
The US cannot hope to maintain hegemony in the face of wide spread disobedience in its ‘back yard' and options look set to diminish, other than direct military intervention. (This will first and foremost take the shape of protecting its oil supplies.) At this point the situation is unfortunately comparable to Hitler's predicament. The Soviet Union, as a none capitalist entity, could never be reconciled with permanently and hence would have to be defeated, so that he could then negotiate from a position of strength for the end of World War 2 (with the other capitalist powers).
Likewise US capitalism (and its allies) will have to defeat the socialist block, subjugate its population and reestablish unlimited access to its resources if it hopes to maintain its hegemony as it is challenged by other powers. The ability of the working class to limit the aggressive capabilities of each and every state participating in this confrontation will be crucial. Of course that of the US working class will be most crucial of all.
African (despots and otherwise) are being aggressively courted by China which claims sympathize with their undeveloped predicament.
China seeks broader Africa role:
Walden Bello, 11.2.2009 The coming fury:
Japan must reconcile with its past:
Cuba slowly emerges from isolation:
Brazil casts long shadow
German revolution ends WW1