From Ukraine to the South Pacific, Capitalism is in a More Dangerous Phase of Imperialist Confrontation

China-Solomon Islands Accords

Following the outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine, the recent security pact between China and the Solomon Islands has put American imperialism on edge, making the whole Indo-Pacific area volatile.

In early April preliminary talks for a "security agreement" were held, intended to come into force in May of this year. Formally, the treaty provides that the prime minister of the Solomon Islands archipelago breaks off all relations with the island of Taiwan and recognises China as its rightful historical owner.(1) In return, Beijing will give economic and financial support to the Solomons, which are destitute of almost everything, and military protection in case of external danger.

In reality, these agreements also allow China to exploit the few mineral resources that exist (copper, bauxite, some gold, lead and nickel), and to establish a military base as soon as possible, even if formally the government led by prime minister Manasseh Sogavare had not anticipated this. In short, money in exchange for everything else. It is the soft power policy that China has been adopting for years wherever its imperialist interests take it.

Normal practice for an imperialist power in search of economic advantages, it would seem, but there is more to it than this.

The significance of the agreement between the Chinese giant and this small archipelago in the Indo-Pacific should be seen in terms of three strategic aspects of great importance. The first is Beijing's attempt to have a military presence in a maritime zone that has always been considered the "home waters" of Australia and New Zealand, i.e. United States’ allies in the southern hemisphere. (This objective has already been partially achieved with the island of Tonga, which has been under Chinese patronage for some years now.) Second, the accord sends a clear and strong signal to Washington that Beijing will never give up its aims, starting with its claims on Taiwan which challenge the "QUAD" — the key alliance between Australia, Japan, India and the USA, set up specifically to counter China's expansionist aims in the South Pacific. The third key aspect is the overall framework of permanent crisis of world capitalism which fosters, if not imposes, war tensions in every strategically important part of the world. Tensions that produce "isolated" wars, but which directly or indirectly involve a plethora of imperialist powers, acting according to conflicting alliances which are destined to loosen, if not break, as in the case of the war in Ukraine. Such episodes can end in a more or less short period of time, but there is also the risk that they become the prelude to a generalised war with catastrophic consequences.

On Russia’s invasion of Ukraine itself, China has ostensibly taken a third stance — i.e. to work for a negotiated solution, no arms to Russia, but, at the same time, use of the right of veto within the UN Security Council to prevent a condemnation of Putin for crimes against humanity, plus no sanctions that threaten the internal stability of Russia, and beyond. In his politically adroit speech of 21 April on the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasised that Russia had been forced to respond militarily in order to break the encirclement by NATO. Moreover the US should stop considering itself as the only world imperialist power because, in addition to using NATO to take on Russia, it should beware of Beijing's "legitimate interests" in Taiwan, not to mention the European embargo on Russian gas which is weakened by hesitation, notably from Germany, but also France and Italy. All this is tantamount to saying that US imperialist monopoly is over, that the world can no longer be under the sway of US economic and financial, much less strategic, interests. Translated into even more explicit terms, Xi Jinping's speech was a not-so-veiled declaration of war on the US if it should interfere in Beijing's strategic plans, ranging from the construction of the new "Silk Road" to defence of its allies, in this case Russia (and its gas — supplies of which have doubled to China recently). Last, but certainly not least, Xi warned against interference in the reunification of Taiwan with the "mother country" and the need for a military as well as an economic presence in the Indo-Pacific, starting with the islands of Tonga and Fiji, where ten thousand Chinese already live as entrepreneurs, financiers and military advisers and finishing, for the moment, in the Solomon Islands.

The tension is sky high. Upon hearing of the signing of the "security pact" between China and the Solomon Islands, an American delegation went to the archipelago's capital, Honiara, to unsuccessfully dissuade President Manasseh Sogavare from withdrawing the agreement. In response, Beijing, through the voice of Foreign Minister Zhao Lijian, immediately took measures to protect "the sovereignty and integrity of the nation". In addition to these verbal declarations, the Chinese "people's" army suddenly started holding naval surveillance and patrolling manoeuvres around the island of Taiwan and throughout the East China Sea, complete with deployment of warships, aircraft carriers, destroyers and six jets to assist.

In the East as in the West, in Europe as in Asia, the crisis deepens. Economic exploitation and nationalistic brainwashing go hand in hand. The fault lines of the war are dangerously lengthening. Kyiv and Taipei are thousands of kilometres apart, but their fate could be very close in time. The scenario that could dramatically unfold would make the war between Russia and Ukraine appear like a drunken brawl. The tensions between China and Taiwan, the penetration of Beijing into the islands of Tonga, Fiji and Solomon, could trigger other conflicts. The sides are established and the objectives identified.

Russia openly wants Donbas, control of the western shores of the Black Sea, from Mariupol to possibly Odessa; informally it aims to annex Transnistria and prevent Ukraine, now or ever, from joining NATO and it wants to continue to be the energy supplier for Europe. China wants at all costs to "take back" Taiwan, to play a military role in the Indo-Pacific. NATO against Russia, QUAD against China, but with one substantial difference. While the US can afford the usual "luxury" of using NATO to fight the Russian enemy on Ukrainian territory, dragging along the reluctant European countries and financing those who fight for them with money and weapons, in the Indo-Pacific area it would be more difficult. Although the QUAD, or NATO of the Pacific, is made up of countries who are opposed to Chinese development in ​​their sphere of interest and who are disturbed by China’s presence in Tonga, Fiji and the Solomon Islands, there would be more abstentions than in Europe. Despite having serious disagreements with China, India receives gas and oil from Russia and it’s far from certain that it would completely align with American diktats, since Moscow is allied with Beijing. Furthermore, India, like China, has declined Biden’s request for sanctions on Russia. New Zealand would love neutrality, in which case only Australia and Japan would remain. That would not be insignificant. However, in the event of a military confrontation with China, the US would be forced to take direct action and not delegate to others by feeding them with arms and money — always assuming that its allies in the QUAD are willing to go to war on behalf of third parties.

Then, yes, the bogey of a generalised war would take shape, bringing into the field, in the first person, the most important international imperialist centres, Russia, China and the USA, with their respective strategic and occasional allies.

How to avoid the possibly tragic scenario that capitalism is preparing as a way to overcome its crises? By means of pacifism which has never stopped any war and in the unlikely scenario of it doing so, it would leave capitalism with all its contradictions still in place, at most temporarily delaying the war event? Obviously the answer is NO. Capitalism has always resorted to wars to conquer commodity markets, to be able to dominate foreign exchange markets (today a clash between the euro, rouble, yuan and dollar), to destroy capital values, to gain the space to rebuild and restart the profit machine, to perpetuate itself and its exploitation of the workforce. The only possible solution is for a across-the-board movement of wage workers against capital and its wars. But for this to happen it is vital that the international proletariat equips itself with a revolutionary compass, to steer it away from nationalistic conditioning, from the dominant ideas of the bourgeoisie and not to be deceived by the false myths of a state capitalism disguised as socialism.

From Moscow to Kyiv, from Beijing to Taipei, from Washington to the four corners of the world, the motto "either war or revolution" has never been more relevant and it can and must be seen to make sense again. Only the class that is oppressed by capital can fulfil this historic task. Otherwise the maturing of the crisis will produce more and more devastating wars and the fate of proletarians over the whole world will be to die for their own bourgeoisie, lined up on one imperialist front rather than another, and never for their own interests which are quite the opposite of those they are obliged to fight for.

Against war, for the class struggle.

Against capitalism, for communism.

Against all nationalisms, for proletarian internationalism.

Old slogans? Old watchwords? Yes, but always valid, as long as capitalism is still around with all its harmful consequences.

Battaglia Comunista
25 April 2022


Image: USS Edsall (DD-219) under fire and sinking on 1 March 1942

(1) This is not exactly out of the blue, already, “in 2019, just a few months after Solomon Islands switched their diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, China Sam Enterprise Group comes out of nowhere and proposes a 75-year lease on Tulagi, which is a small island in the Solomon Islands. From transcript of a Financial Times podcast, ‘China’s moves in the South Pacific, podcast April 27, Marc Filippino, Peter Foster and Kathrin Hille.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022