Friday, September 21, 2018 EDITORIAL

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WHERE THE PRESS IS FREE, ALL IS SAFE
Much-debated Digital Security Bill passed

Venerated as distinguished scholar of his time, the Father of the Declaration of Independence, the third and twice elected President of the United States, and admired by succeeding U.S. presidents—-notably John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan—-founder of the University of Virginia in letter and spirit, Thomas Jefferson (1743 –1826) most treasured and held in highest regard the press now broadly designated as the news media. To be precise and laconic, he preferred newspapers to even the government.
Over two centuries ago American statesman, president and scholar Thomas Jefferson in his letter to Edward Carrington dated 16 January 1787 observed, “The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them”. He was of the opinion: “I am ... for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents”.
Jefferson also said, “The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves, nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe…The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary to keep the waters pure.” [Vide the mast online.  com/2017/05/09/even-dictators-say-they-are-for-press-freedom-but/] Warning that suppressing the free press was “how dictators get started,” US Senator John McCain at the opening of the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Munich, on February 17, 2017, defended the media against the latest attack by President Donald Trump.
Junior to him by a quarter century, journalist and publisher of the largest newspaper in America Joseph Pulitzer  (1847 –1911), whose phrase “every reporter is a hope”  became an epigram of journalism, had an uncanny knack for appealing to the common man. Pulitzer gave the posterity a unique oft quoted maxim: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together,” Pulitzer wrote. “An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations.”
Ignoring serious concerns of the news media persons, rights activists; opposition MPs’ objection; widespread fear over free speech and independent journalism, the much-debated Digital Security Bill 2018 was passed in parliament the day before yesterday with a harsh provision allowing police officials to search or arrest anyone without any warrant. The bill was rubber-stamped, i.e. got through by voice vote amid opposition from a number of Jatiya Party lawmakers, ignoring concern of journalists, owners of media houses and rights activists over some of its sections.
Journalists and rights activists have expressed worries over the new law, saying it was passed without addressing their concern. Section 43 of the new law says if a police official believes that an offence under the law has been or is being committed at a certain place, or there is a possibility of committing crimes or destroying evidence, the official can search the place of any person there. As per section 32 of the law, if a person commits any crime or assists anyone in committing crimes under Official Secrets Act, 1923, through computer, digital device, computer network, digital network or any other electronic medium, he or she may face a maximum 14 years in jail or a fine of Tk 25 lakh or both. The act was passed without addressing journalists’ concern over sections 8, 28, 29 and 31 that deal with hurting religious values, disrupting public order, dishing out defaming information and causing deterioration in law and order by publishing anything on a website or in electronic form.
To look back, during the trial of the Agartala Conspiracy Case in 1969, Sheikh Mujib personally requested journalist Ataus Samad of the then Pakistan Observer to go to Mujib’s former mentor Moulana Bhashani at Shantosh in Tangail to do something. The Moulana acted in no time and organised a countrywide violent movement against the Pakistan government headed by Field-Marshal Ayub Khan, asking him to withdraw the Agartala Conspiracy Case. And the rest is history.
Poet John Milton’s Areopagitica eloquently protested censorship 375 years ago. The Article 39 of the Constitution of Bangladesh has explicitly guaranteed press freedom along with recognising citizen’s freedom of thought and conscience with regard to freedom of expression and speech. While Khaleda Zia’s first term (1991 – 1996) saw publication of some 250 daily newspapers, Sheikh Hasina in her first term (1996 - 2001) closed down two dailies and a weekly, the Dainik Bangla, The Bangladesh Times, and Saptahik Bichitra.
Where the press is free and every man is able to read, all is safe.  And it needs no elaboration what might be the ramifications if the situation is otherwise.

Comment

Venerated as distinguished scholar of his time, the Father of the Declaration of Independence, the third and twice elected President of the United States, and admired by succeeding U.S. presidents—-notably John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan—-founder of the University of Virginia in letter and spirit, Thomas Jefferson (1743 –1826) most treasured and held in highest regard the press now broadly designated as the news media. To be precise and laconic, he preferred newspapers to even the government.
Over two centuries ago American statesman, president and scholar Thomas Jefferson in his letter to Edward Carrington dated 16 January 1787 observed, “The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them”. He was of the opinion: “I am ... for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents”.
Jefferson also said, “The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves, nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe…The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary to keep the waters pure.” [Vide the mast online.  com/2017/05/09/even-dictators-say-they-are-for-press-freedom-but/] Warning that suppressing the free press was “how dictators get started,” US Senator John McCain at the opening of the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Munich, on February 17, 2017, defended the media against the latest attack by President Donald Trump.
Junior to him by a quarter century, journalist and publisher of the largest newspaper in America Joseph Pulitzer  (1847 –1911), whose phrase “every reporter is a hope”  became an epigram of journalism, had an uncanny knack for appealing to the common man. Pulitzer gave the posterity a unique oft quoted maxim: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together,” Pulitzer wrote. “An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations.”
Ignoring serious concerns of the news media persons, rights activists; opposition MPs’ objection; widespread fear over free speech and independent journalism, the much-debated Digital Security Bill 2018 was passed in parliament the day before yesterday with a harsh provision allowing police officials to search or arrest anyone without any warrant. The bill was rubber-stamped, i.e. got through by voice vote amid opposition from a number of Jatiya Party lawmakers, ignoring concern of journalists, owners of media houses and rights activists over some of its sections.
Journalists and rights activists have expressed worries over the new law, saying it was passed without addressing their concern. Section 43 of the new law says if a police official believes that an offence under the law has been or is being committed at a certain place, or there is a possibility of committing crimes or destroying evidence, the official can search the place of any person there. As per section 32 of the law, if a person commits any crime or assists anyone in committing crimes under Official Secrets Act, 1923, through computer, digital device, computer network, digital network or any other electronic medium, he or she may face a maximum 14 years in jail or a fine of Tk 25 lakh or both. The act was passed without addressing journalists’ concern over sections 8, 28, 29 and 31 that deal with hurting religious values, disrupting public order, dishing out defaming information and causing deterioration in law and order by publishing anything on a website or in electronic form.
To look back, during the trial of the Agartala Conspiracy Case in 1969, Sheikh Mujib personally requested journalist Ataus Samad of the then Pakistan Observer to go to Mujib’s former mentor Moulana Bhashani at Shantosh in Tangail to do something. The Moulana acted in no time and organised a countrywide violent movement against the Pakistan government headed by Field-Marshal Ayub Khan, asking him to withdraw the Agartala Conspiracy Case. And the rest is history.
Poet John Milton’s Areopagitica eloquently protested censorship 375 years ago. The Article 39 of the Constitution of Bangladesh has explicitly guaranteed press freedom along with recognising citizen’s freedom of thought and conscience with regard to freedom of expression and speech. While Khaleda Zia’s first term (1991 – 1996) saw publication of some 250 daily newspapers, Sheikh Hasina in her first term (1996 - 2001) closed down two dailies and a weekly, the Dainik Bangla, The Bangladesh Times, and Saptahik Bichitra.
Where the press is free and every man is able to read, all is safe.  And it needs no elaboration what might be the ramifications if the situation is otherwise.


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Vostok 2018: Russia’s biggest ever military exercises with Chinese troops

Barrister Harun ur Rashid

RUSSIA on 11th September launched the biggest military drills in its history involving 300,000 troops as well as Chinese soldiers, in “exercising large-scale conflict”. The  move North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) denounced.
The week-long deployment alongside Chinese and Mongolian armies dubbed “Vostok-2018” (East-2018) started in eastern Siberia on 11 September. The Russian army has compared the show of force to the USSR’s 1981 war games that saw between 100,000 and 150,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers take part in “Zapad-81” (West-81) — the largest military exercises of the Soviet era.
Defence minister Sergei Shoigu reportedly said this time would be even larger, with 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 planes and 80 warships taking part in the drills. “Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles — and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible.”
The Russian army rolled out all of its latest additions for the event: Iskander missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, T-80 and T-90 tanks and its recent Su-34 and Su-35 fighter planes. At sea, the Russian fleet will deploy several frigates equipped with Kalibr missiles that have been used in Syria.
Russia’s previous military exercise in the region, Vostok-2014, was almost half the size, with 155,000 soldiers participating. The country’s war games in Eastern Europe last year, Zapad-2017, saw 12,700 troops take part according to Moscow. Ukraine and the Baltic states said the true number was far bigger.
Hosting an economic forum in Russia’s far eastern city Vladivostok, Russian President Putin invited his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said the games were a “preparation for a future world war.” He said: “The army’s general staff believes this will take place after 2020 in the form of either a global war or a series of conflicts with magnitude... The enemy is the United States and its allies.”
According to Felgenhauer, China’s participation — although modest with only 3,200 men — will be a key factor in the drills. “It’s not just about a sign or a message, but about a preparation for a real-life war of great magnitude,” he said.
This opinion was shared by NATO, which said that Vostok-2018 “demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict”. Alliance spokesperson Dylan White said, “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time — a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence.”
Russia has denied the drills are a cause for worry. “Vostok-2018 is far from NATO’s area of responsibility and does not affect the security of its member states,” the Russian foreign ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Relations between Russia and the West declined sharply in 2014 with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and the subsequent conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since then, Moscow has increased the number of its large-scale military exercises in the Caucasus, the Baltic and the Arctic. At the same time, the Kremlin has accused NATO of expanding westwards and threatening Russian national security.
This week, Russia held military exercises in the Mediterranean. More than 25 warships and around 30 planes took part in the drills, as Russia increased its military presence in Syria where it intervened to help the Bashar al-Assad regime in 2015. Around 2,200 Ukrainian, American and other NATO soldiers took part in military exercises in western Ukraine in early September.
Last month, the Kremlin’s spokesman said Russia’s “ability to defend itself in the current international situation which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country is justified, essential and without alternative”.
This opinion was shared by NATO, which said that Vostok-2018 “demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict”. Alliance spokesperson Dylan White said, “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time — a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence.”
Relations between Russia and the West declined sharply in 2014 with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and the subsequent conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since then, Moscow has increased the number of its large-scale military exercises in the Caucasus, the Baltic and the Arctic. At the same time, the Kremlin has accused NATO of expanding westwards and threatening Russian national security.
This week, Russia held military exercises in the Mediterranean. More than 25 warships and around 30 planes took part in the drills, as Russia increased its military presence in Syria where it intervened to help the Bashar al-Assad regime in 2015. Around 2,200 Ukrainian,
Russia has denied the drills are a cause for worry. “Vostok-2018 is far from NATO’s area of responsibility and does not affect the security of its member states,” the Russian foreign ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Last month, the Kremlin’s spokesman said Russia’s “ability to defend itself in the current international situation which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country is justified, essential and without alternative”.
Moscow said the weeklong manoeuvrers Vostok (East) 2018 would span vast expanses of Siberia and the Far East, the Arctic and the Pacific Ocean and involve almost a third of Russia’s million-strong military. They would feature more than 1,000 aircraft, about 36,000 tanks and other military vehicles and 80 warships.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has described the drills as even bigger than the country’s largest Cold War-era exercise — Zapad 1981 — that put NATO allies on edge.
A retired Russian general said the giant war games come as a warning to the US against ramping up pressure on Russia.
“The manoeuvrers are aimed at deterring the aggressive intentions of the US and NATO,” retired General Leonid Ivashov said.
He was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that the drills were “also a response to the US sanctions”.
China has sent about 3,200 troops, 900 combat vehicles and 30 aircraft to join the drills at a Siberian firing range — a significant deployment that reflects its shift toward a full-fledged military alliance with Russia.

Presidents meet in the course of war games
The start of the exercises coincided with a bilateral meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping at a forum in Valdivostok, where they vowed to fight attacks on their economies.
Moscow and Beijing have forged what they called a “strategic partnership,” and expressed their shared opposition to the “unipolar” world — a term they use to describe perceived US global domination.
However, the military drills they had until now were far smaller in scale, reflecting China’s caution about alliances.
Some experts pointed out the US helped spawn closer Russia-China military ties by labelling them strategic competitors.
[The writer is a former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva]

Comment

Barrister Harun ur Rashid

RUSSIA on 11th September launched the biggest military drills in its history involving 300,000 troops as well as Chinese soldiers, in “exercising large-scale conflict”. The  move North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) denounced.
The week-long deployment alongside Chinese and Mongolian armies dubbed “Vostok-2018” (East-2018) started in eastern Siberia on 11 September. The Russian army has compared the show of force to the USSR’s 1981 war games that saw between 100,000 and 150,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers take part in “Zapad-81” (West-81) — the largest military exercises of the Soviet era.
Defence minister Sergei Shoigu reportedly said this time would be even larger, with 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 planes and 80 warships taking part in the drills. “Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles — and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible.”
The Russian army rolled out all of its latest additions for the event: Iskander missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, T-80 and T-90 tanks and its recent Su-34 and Su-35 fighter planes. At sea, the Russian fleet will deploy several frigates equipped with Kalibr missiles that have been used in Syria.
Russia’s previous military exercise in the region, Vostok-2014, was almost half the size, with 155,000 soldiers participating. The country’s war games in Eastern Europe last year, Zapad-2017, saw 12,700 troops take part according to Moscow. Ukraine and the Baltic states said the true number was far bigger.
Hosting an economic forum in Russia’s far eastern city Vladivostok, Russian President Putin invited his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said the games were a “preparation for a future world war.” He said: “The army’s general staff believes this will take place after 2020 in the form of either a global war or a series of conflicts with magnitude... The enemy is the United States and its allies.”
According to Felgenhauer, China’s participation — although modest with only 3,200 men — will be a key factor in the drills. “It’s not just about a sign or a message, but about a preparation for a real-life war of great magnitude,” he said.
This opinion was shared by NATO, which said that Vostok-2018 “demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict”. Alliance spokesperson Dylan White said, “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time — a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence.”
Russia has denied the drills are a cause for worry. “Vostok-2018 is far from NATO’s area of responsibility and does not affect the security of its member states,” the Russian foreign ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Relations between Russia and the West declined sharply in 2014 with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and the subsequent conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since then, Moscow has increased the number of its large-scale military exercises in the Caucasus, the Baltic and the Arctic. At the same time, the Kremlin has accused NATO of expanding westwards and threatening Russian national security.
This week, Russia held military exercises in the Mediterranean. More than 25 warships and around 30 planes took part in the drills, as Russia increased its military presence in Syria where it intervened to help the Bashar al-Assad regime in 2015. Around 2,200 Ukrainian, American and other NATO soldiers took part in military exercises in western Ukraine in early September.
Last month, the Kremlin’s spokesman said Russia’s “ability to defend itself in the current international situation which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country is justified, essential and without alternative”.
This opinion was shared by NATO, which said that Vostok-2018 “demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict”. Alliance spokesperson Dylan White said, “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time — a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence.”
Relations between Russia and the West declined sharply in 2014 with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and the subsequent conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since then, Moscow has increased the number of its large-scale military exercises in the Caucasus, the Baltic and the Arctic. At the same time, the Kremlin has accused NATO of expanding westwards and threatening Russian national security.
This week, Russia held military exercises in the Mediterranean. More than 25 warships and around 30 planes took part in the drills, as Russia increased its military presence in Syria where it intervened to help the Bashar al-Assad regime in 2015. Around 2,200 Ukrainian,
Russia has denied the drills are a cause for worry. “Vostok-2018 is far from NATO’s area of responsibility and does not affect the security of its member states,” the Russian foreign ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Last month, the Kremlin’s spokesman said Russia’s “ability to defend itself in the current international situation which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country is justified, essential and without alternative”.
Moscow said the weeklong manoeuvrers Vostok (East) 2018 would span vast expanses of Siberia and the Far East, the Arctic and the Pacific Ocean and involve almost a third of Russia’s million-strong military. They would feature more than 1,000 aircraft, about 36,000 tanks and other military vehicles and 80 warships.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has described the drills as even bigger than the country’s largest Cold War-era exercise — Zapad 1981 — that put NATO allies on edge.
A retired Russian general said the giant war games come as a warning to the US against ramping up pressure on Russia.
“The manoeuvrers are aimed at deterring the aggressive intentions of the US and NATO,” retired General Leonid Ivashov said.
He was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that the drills were “also a response to the US sanctions”.
China has sent about 3,200 troops, 900 combat vehicles and 30 aircraft to join the drills at a Siberian firing range — a significant deployment that reflects its shift toward a full-fledged military alliance with Russia.

Presidents meet in the course of war games
The start of the exercises coincided with a bilateral meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping at a forum in Valdivostok, where they vowed to fight attacks on their economies.
Moscow and Beijing have forged what they called a “strategic partnership,” and expressed their shared opposition to the “unipolar” world — a term they use to describe perceived US global domination.
However, the military drills they had until now were far smaller in scale, reflecting China’s caution about alliances.
Some experts pointed out the US helped spawn closer Russia-China military ties by labelling them strategic competitors.
[The writer is a former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva]


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The implications of US-China trade war

Nick Beams

IN THE aftermath of the global financial crisis ten years ago, the leaders of the world’s major powers pledged that never again would they go down the road of protectionism which had such disastrous consequences in the 1930s—deepening the Great Depression and contributing to the outbreak of world war in 1939.
China has threatened retaliatory action including tariffs and other, as yet unspecified measures, against the US, meaning that the world’s number one and number two economies are locked into a rapidly escalating trade war that will have global consequences.
Announcing the decision, Trump called on China to take “swift action” to end what he called its “unfair trade practices” and expressed the hope that the trade conflict would be resolved.
But there is little prospect of such an outcome because, while the US is demanding that the trade deficit with China be reduced, the conflict does not merely centre on that issue. China has made offers to increase its imports from the US, all of which have been rejected. The key US demand is that the Chinese government completely abandon its program of economic development and remain subservient to the US in high-tech economic sectors.

The most severe economic restrictions
On 17 September US President Donald Trump announced tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods in what the Washington Post described as “one of the most severe economic restrictions ever imposed by a US president.”
A levy of 10 percent will be imposed starting from September 24 and will be escalated to 25 percent in 2019 if the US does not receive what it considers to be a satisfactory agreement. The new tariffs, which will cover more than 1000 goods, come on top of the 25 percent tariff already imposed on $50 billion worth of industrial products. Trump has threatened further measures on the remaining Chinese exports to the US totalling more than $250 billion.
As the position paper issued by Washington in May put it: “China will cease providing market-distorting subsidies and other types of government support that can contribute to the creation or maintenance of excess capacity in industries targeted by the Made in China 2025 industrial plan.”
In other words, China must completely scrap the foundational structures of its economy so that it presents no threat to the economic dominance of US capitalism, a dominance which the US intends to maintain, if it considers necessary, by military means. This was made clear earlier this year when Washington designated China as a “strategic competitor,” that is, a potential military enemy. This is the inherent, objective, logic of the latest trade war measures.
Their full significance can only be grasped when viewed with the framework of the historical development of the global capitalist economy.
After the disastrous decade of the 1930s, and as the world plunged into war, leading figures within the Roosevelt administration recognised that this situation was due in no small measure to the division of the world into rival trade and economic blocs which tariff and other trade restrictions had played a major role in creating.
Post-war planning centred on trying to overcome this contradiction between the global economy and its division into rival great powers and blocs through the development of a mechanism that ensured the expansion of world trade. This was the basis of the series of measures set in place in the immediate aftermath of the war: the Bretton Woods monetary system which tied major currencies to the dollar in fixed exchange rates, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade that sought to bring down tariff barriers and the establishment of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to ensure international economic collaboration.

Inherent contradictions of capitalism
These measures, however, did not overcome the inherent contradictions of capitalism, above all between the global economy and the nation-state system. Rather, they sought to contain and mitigate them within a system based on the overwhelming economic dominance of the US.
But the growth of the world capitalist economy and the strengthening of the other major powers undermined the very foundations on which they were based—the absolute dominance of the US. Within the space of a generation, the weakening of the US position was revealed in August 1971 when it scrapped the Bretton Woods monetary system declaring that the dollar would no longer be redeemable for gold.
The period since then has seen the ongoing weakening of the position of the US, which was graphically revealed in the financial meltdown ten years ago when the US financial system was shown to be a house of cards based on rampant speculation and outright criminal activity. This situation has continued in the subsequent decade, threatening, another, even more disastrous, financial crisis.
The US is now not only confronted with the economic power of its European rivals but a major new one in the form of China. It is striving to reverse this situation. As Leon Trotsky explained some eighty years ago, the hegemony of the US would assert itself most powerfully not in conditions of boom but above all in a crisis when it would use every means—economic and military—against all rivals to maintain its position.
The trade war measures against China are only one expression of this process. The US has already carried out protectionist measures against Europe and Japan through the imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminium and has threatened tariffs on cars and auto parts, which will be invoked unless they join its push on China.

European Union will discuss
And as the China tariffs are imposed, top officials of the European Union are meeting to discuss how they might overcome the financial sanctions the US will impose against European companies if they maintain economic ties with Iran after November 4 following the unilateral abrogation of the Iran nuclear deal.
The deal was not overturned because Iran had breached the agreement—international agencies found that it had fully complied. Rather, the United States unilaterally abrogated the treaty in order to strengthen the strategic position of the US in the Middle East by countering the influence of Iran, and because European corporations stood to benefit from the opening up of new economic opportunities in that country at the expense of their US rivals.
Now the State Department has warned that European companies are “on the railroad tracks” if they defy US sanctions and firms that deal with the “enemy” will be barred from access to the US financial system.
Writing in the 1930s, Leon Trotsky explained that the interdependence of every country in the global economy meant that the program of economic nationalism, of the kind now being practised by the Trump administration, was a reactionary “utopia” insofar as it set itself the task of harmonious national economic development on the basis of private property.
“But it is a menacing reality insofar as it is a question of concentrating all the economic forces of the nation for the preparation of a new war,” he wrote five years before the outbreak of World War II.
This “menacing reality” is now once again expressed in the fact that the trade war measures against China, as well as those against Europe and Japan, have all been invoked on “national security” grounds.
Just as the US prepares for war, so too do all the other major powers. This drive does not arise from the heads of the capitalist politicians—their actions are only the translation into politics of the objective logic and irresolvable contradictions of the capitalist system over which they preside.
But there is another more powerful logic at work. The very development of globalised production, which has raised the contradiction of the outmoded nation-state system with its rival great powers to a new peak of intensity, has laid the foundations for a planned world socialist economy. And it has created in the international working class, unified at an unprecedented level, the social force to carry it out.
The latest Trump trade war measures underscore the urgency for the political and theoretical arming of the working class with the program of world socialist revolution, fought for by the International Committee of the Fourth International, if civilisation is to go forward and the plunge into barbarism averted. — WSWS

Comment

Nick Beams

IN THE aftermath of the global financial crisis ten years ago, the leaders of the world’s major powers pledged that never again would they go down the road of protectionism which had such disastrous consequences in the 1930s—deepening the Great Depression and contributing to the outbreak of world war in 1939.
China has threatened retaliatory action including tariffs and other, as yet unspecified measures, against the US, meaning that the world’s number one and number two economies are locked into a rapidly escalating trade war that will have global consequences.
Announcing the decision, Trump called on China to take “swift action” to end what he called its “unfair trade practices” and expressed the hope that the trade conflict would be resolved.
But there is little prospect of such an outcome because, while the US is demanding that the trade deficit with China be reduced, the conflict does not merely centre on that issue. China has made offers to increase its imports from the US, all of which have been rejected. The key US demand is that the Chinese government completely abandon its program of economic development and remain subservient to the US in high-tech economic sectors.

The most severe economic restrictions
On 17 September US President Donald Trump announced tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods in what the Washington Post described as “one of the most severe economic restrictions ever imposed by a US president.”
A levy of 10 percent will be imposed starting from September 24 and will be escalated to 25 percent in 2019 if the US does not receive what it considers to be a satisfactory agreement. The new tariffs, which will cover more than 1000 goods, come on top of the 25 percent tariff already imposed on $50 billion worth of industrial products. Trump has threatened further measures on the remaining Chinese exports to the US totalling more than $250 billion.
As the position paper issued by Washington in May put it: “China will cease providing market-distorting subsidies and other types of government support that can contribute to the creation or maintenance of excess capacity in industries targeted by the Made in China 2025 industrial plan.”
In other words, China must completely scrap the foundational structures of its economy so that it presents no threat to the economic dominance of US capitalism, a dominance which the US intends to maintain, if it considers necessary, by military means. This was made clear earlier this year when Washington designated China as a “strategic competitor,” that is, a potential military enemy. This is the inherent, objective, logic of the latest trade war measures.
Their full significance can only be grasped when viewed with the framework of the historical development of the global capitalist economy.
After the disastrous decade of the 1930s, and as the world plunged into war, leading figures within the Roosevelt administration recognised that this situation was due in no small measure to the division of the world into rival trade and economic blocs which tariff and other trade restrictions had played a major role in creating.
Post-war planning centred on trying to overcome this contradiction between the global economy and its division into rival great powers and blocs through the development of a mechanism that ensured the expansion of world trade. This was the basis of the series of measures set in place in the immediate aftermath of the war: the Bretton Woods monetary system which tied major currencies to the dollar in fixed exchange rates, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade that sought to bring down tariff barriers and the establishment of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to ensure international economic collaboration.

Inherent contradictions of capitalism
These measures, however, did not overcome the inherent contradictions of capitalism, above all between the global economy and the nation-state system. Rather, they sought to contain and mitigate them within a system based on the overwhelming economic dominance of the US.
But the growth of the world capitalist economy and the strengthening of the other major powers undermined the very foundations on which they were based—the absolute dominance of the US. Within the space of a generation, the weakening of the US position was revealed in August 1971 when it scrapped the Bretton Woods monetary system declaring that the dollar would no longer be redeemable for gold.
The period since then has seen the ongoing weakening of the position of the US, which was graphically revealed in the financial meltdown ten years ago when the US financial system was shown to be a house of cards based on rampant speculation and outright criminal activity. This situation has continued in the subsequent decade, threatening, another, even more disastrous, financial crisis.
The US is now not only confronted with the economic power of its European rivals but a major new one in the form of China. It is striving to reverse this situation. As Leon Trotsky explained some eighty years ago, the hegemony of the US would assert itself most powerfully not in conditions of boom but above all in a crisis when it would use every means—economic and military—against all rivals to maintain its position.
The trade war measures against China are only one expression of this process. The US has already carried out protectionist measures against Europe and Japan through the imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminium and has threatened tariffs on cars and auto parts, which will be invoked unless they join its push on China.

European Union will discuss
And as the China tariffs are imposed, top officials of the European Union are meeting to discuss how they might overcome the financial sanctions the US will impose against European companies if they maintain economic ties with Iran after November 4 following the unilateral abrogation of the Iran nuclear deal.
The deal was not overturned because Iran had breached the agreement—international agencies found that it had fully complied. Rather, the United States unilaterally abrogated the treaty in order to strengthen the strategic position of the US in the Middle East by countering the influence of Iran, and because European corporations stood to benefit from the opening up of new economic opportunities in that country at the expense of their US rivals.
Now the State Department has warned that European companies are “on the railroad tracks” if they defy US sanctions and firms that deal with the “enemy” will be barred from access to the US financial system.
Writing in the 1930s, Leon Trotsky explained that the interdependence of every country in the global economy meant that the program of economic nationalism, of the kind now being practised by the Trump administration, was a reactionary “utopia” insofar as it set itself the task of harmonious national economic development on the basis of private property.
“But it is a menacing reality insofar as it is a question of concentrating all the economic forces of the nation for the preparation of a new war,” he wrote five years before the outbreak of World War II.
This “menacing reality” is now once again expressed in the fact that the trade war measures against China, as well as those against Europe and Japan, have all been invoked on “national security” grounds.
Just as the US prepares for war, so too do all the other major powers. This drive does not arise from the heads of the capitalist politicians—their actions are only the translation into politics of the objective logic and irresolvable contradictions of the capitalist system over which they preside.
But there is another more powerful logic at work. The very development of globalised production, which has raised the contradiction of the outmoded nation-state system with its rival great powers to a new peak of intensity, has laid the foundations for a planned world socialist economy. And it has created in the international working class, unified at an unprecedented level, the social force to carry it out.
The latest Trump trade war measures underscore the urgency for the political and theoretical arming of the working class with the program of world socialist revolution, fought for by the International Committee of the Fourth International, if civilisation is to go forward and the plunge into barbarism averted. — WSWS


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