The leaders of the imperialist powers are frenziedly denying the third world war has already started, while apparently already waging war on several fronts, writes Andrew Murray

Has the third world war already started? The leaders of the imperialist powers are frenziedly denying it, while apparently already waging war on several fronts.

Even as they bomb Yemen, shield Israel from the consequences of its aggressions and struggle to keep the war in Ukraine bubbling along, their main slogan is “no escalation,” like robbers shouting “Stop thief.”

Just as the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1932 and the Spanish civil war from 1936 marked the real onset of the second world war, conventionally dated only from September 1939, history may record that the third great conflagration is already underway.

But the trepidation of the aggressors in owning their work should be no surprise.

It is said that Viscount Halifax was such an ardent appeaser of Hitler because he gazed upon the time-honoured social hierarchy of the lands of the Vale of York, much of them owned by himself, and realised that a war, be it won or lost, would end this aristocratic idyll forever.

Probably the same concern actuates the Bidens, Camerons and Macrons right now. Their world order depends on force for its survival, yet a general conflict risks precipitating its demise.

So they sustain and prolong violence from Kharkiv to Khan Younis, while desperately urging their Israeli client to avoid further provocations, and order Ukraine to refrain from military actions against Russia which might trouble energy markets.

But if you want the truth, harken instead to the gold market, the most sensitive thermometer for the fever in world capitalism.

The price of the metal is rising, and may eventually all but double. The reasons speak to the core of the problem.

There is a move away from the obvious fiat currency alternative — the dollar — due to US economic weaknesses, itself a symptom of a passing hegemony.

But above all, investors — with the Chinese state in the lead — are looking for a stable store of value as the world order starts to collapse politically.

As an article in the Financial Times put it “the Washington consensus — which expected emerging nations to fall in line with free-market rules written by the West — and the post-war Pax Americana are over.”

When the politicians reach for guns, the financiers reach for gold.

The last sustained rise in the price of gold ended in 1982, after a period of considerable economic dislocation and international tension. Today, the situation is worse from the bourgeois point of view all in all.

Imperialist hegemony in the Middle East has become unhinged and a regional war has moved from possibility to likelihood following Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus and the inevitable Iranian response.

The extensive and expensive effort to keep Ukraine in the field against Russia is faltering, with some form of victory for Moscow looking more possible than hitherto, although not without more misery and destruction.

And China continues to strengthen, despite US-led efforts at military encirclement. US funds for all three theatres of conflict are presently held hostage by Trumpian factions in Congress.

Nor has the world economy recovered its equilibrium after the 2008 crash, compounded by the more recent pandemic.

Promiscuous US economic sanctions, including the weaponisation of the dollar as an instrument of imperial power, have only aggravated the situation.

Yet the US and Britain, above all, are invested to the death in preserving the present world order from which their banks and businesses profit so mightily. They have no Plan B, no more than the Kaiser, Asquith and the Tsar did in 1914.

Determined to keep Russia diminished they have kept the Ukraine war going when peace is at least possible.

Maintaining Israeli supremacy in the Middle East has been at least one of the factors behind the devastation and suffering spread by the multiple wars launched across the region this century and is key to the genocide in Gaza presently being green-lit by Washington and London.

And above all, there is the economic and political rise of China, which the G7 elite really do not know what to do about at all. The danger is that when they come to a solution it will involve bombers and warships.

China, Russia and Iran are at least to some extent diplomatically and militarily connected, offering mutual support in standing up to Western pressure.

And as in the 1930s the international “haves” manoeuvre to avoid the conflict becoming general because their position can hardly be improved by a major war.

Yet neither can they dial down their militarism and interference, since without these props the imperialist order would collapse completely.

The contradiction is worked out in the simultaneous firing of missiles and the issuing of homilies about “restraint.”

And in the gold market. The law of value tolerates no hypocrisies for long.

The labour movement, alas, is not so penetrating in its response to events. The Labour leadership merely echoes the Tory position at every turn, and joins the lobby for increased military spending.

This will be paid for through cuts to social spending, or higher taxes on workers, or both. That is the dystopian promise of today’s residual social democracy.

Nor is the union voice heard as loud and clear as it needs to be. Opposing one’s own state when it is at war takes a measure of political courage.

But that is what is required. Britain has no business bombing Yemen, arming and defending Israel, working to prolong the Ukraine-Russia conflict, or sailing aircraft carriers around the Far East.

It is not acting on behalf of international law, nor from humanitarian considerations. It is defending the systemic privilege of British finance capital — expending blood for gold, ultimately.

Peace is of course the essential first demand, including an end to British military adventurism in the Middle East.

But if there is war, the labour movement will be tested anew. Does it have its own programme for international relations? Does it stand alongside the British capitalist class?

Appeals to a narrow industrial interest butter no parsnips under these circumstances.

It is pleasanter no doubt to pontificate about the merits or otherwise of this or that regime around the world. But in an imperialist power at a time of war, the enemy is at home, and a socialist who forgets that is a fraud.

The massacres in Gaza, with full British collusion, have clarified that point for millions. Our problem is not Iran, nor Russia, nor China. It is the Sunak-Starmer gang of imperialists.

Defeating their policies is the best service the British left can render to humanity.

Andrew Murray is Deputy President of Stop the War and political reporter for the Morning Star

Source: Morning Star

17 Apr 2024 by Andrew Murray

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