wsws

US extends economic war on Russia to China
Peter Symonds, WSWS, Jun 8 2022

Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin meeting in Beijing, Feb 4 2022.
(Photo: Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik)

An article published in the NYT on Tuesday, entitled “US aims to expand export bans on China over security and human rights,” explicitly linked Washington’s escalating economic war on China with the US proxy war on Russia in Ukraine. Citing administration officials, the article declared:

The Biden administration is applying lessons learned from controls on Russia during the Ukraine war to try to limit China’s military and technological advances.

It noted that the White House has declared China to be the “greatest long-term rival” of the US. US Commerce Dept official Alan Estevez told an event organised by the Center for a New American Security:

We need to ensure that the US retains technological overmatch. In other words, China cannot build capabilities that they will then use against us, or against their neighbours for that matter, in any kind of conflict.

Estevez is head of the Commerce Dept’s Bureau of Industry and Security, which oversees export controls. Significantly he is also a former Pentagon official, underlining the direct link between economic and military warfare. Estevez told a Commerce Department policy conference last week:

My goal is to stop China from being able to use that technology to advance their military, modernize their military.

The fact that the Biden administration is targeting China with the measures being used in its war against Russia is highly significant. Increasingly openly, the US is treating the military war against Russia and the mounting confrontation with China as part of a far broader conflict to weaken and subjugate potential rivals. Just as the US goaded Russia into invading Ukraine by refusing to rule out NATO membership, so it is strengthening ties with Taiwan and boosting arms sales to the island. Washington knows full well that any move by Taipei to declare independence could provoke Chinese military intervention. As with Russia in the Ukraine war, the US would use conflict over Taiwan to undermine and destabilise China. All of these war plans are hypocritically dressed up as the defence of democracy and human rights. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told the same departmental conference that export controls were “at the red-hot centre of how we best protect our democracies.” She boasted that global export controls on Russia had led to a 90% slump in its semiconductor imports and could soon decimate its fleet of commercial aircraft.

China is also in the crosshairs. The Biden administration announced another round of bans last week against five Chinese companies, claiming that they were continuing to support Russia’s military-industrial complex and that their activities were “contrary to US national security and foreign policy interests.” The Commerce Dept provided no evidence for its allegations. The companies added to the export blacklist (Connec Electronic, King Pai Technology, Sinno Electronics, Winninc Electronic and World Jetta Logistics) are all in the hi-tech sector. The bans, the first on China for allegedly aiding Russia, were implemented even though US officials acknowledge that the Chinese government and most Chinese companies have complied with US-led sanctions. These are just one element of the battery of bans and tariffs imposed on China under Trump and now extended under Biden in an effort to weaken its economy.

Whatever the pretexts, which range from connections to the Chinese military to allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the measures are particularly aimed at crippling China’s efforts to compete in hi-tech fields. Not only do the bans apply to US companies and investors, but the Biden administration is seeking to extend them to foreign companies using the threat of economic penalties. The US has blocked foreign companies from exporting certain items if they are made with American technology to listed entities including the Chinese hi-tech telecoms giant Huawei. Bans are also in place over the export of goods containing specific amounts of American-made content. Washington has marshalled its allies in Europe and Asia in the proxy war against Russia to join in the economic bans on Russia. However, its efforts to do the same against China have met with some resistance in American and global business circles fearful of the economic impact of such measures and of Chinese retaliation. Myron Brilliant, executive vice president at the US Chamber of Commerce, told the NYT:

While business supports sanctions against Russia, views on China are more complex and nuanced. The business community has deep concerns about China’s policies, yet we must also recognize that the two largest economies are very integrated, so the impact of broad decoupling or extensive sanctioning of China would be much more destabilising.

Nevertheless, the Biden administration is proceeding with its efforts to tighten the economic noose around the Chinese economy. Bloomberg reported this week that the White House “is expanding its campaign to curb the country’s rise” by seeking to block the Dutch corporation ASML Holding NV from selling chip-making technology to China. The Trump administration had already bludgeoned the Dutch government into barring the export of the most sophisticated chip-making technology to Chinese firms. ASML is the world’s top maker of lithography systems, machines that perform the crucial step of etching the microscopic circuitry essential to the manufacture of semi-conductors. Now US officials are in talks with their Dutch counterparts to prevent ASML from selling older mainstream technology, known as deep ultraviolet lithography (DUV), required to produce the less advanced chips used in a broad range of devices from cars to computers, phones and robots. As Bloomberg explained, such a ban would significantly broaden the range and class of chip-making gear now forbidden from heading to China, potentially dealing a serious blow to Chinese chip-makers from Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp to Hua Hong Semiconductor Ltd.

Just as the Trump administration set out to destroy the Chinese tech giant Huawei by cutting off its global access to advanced computer chips and technology, so the Biden administration is seeking to block China from developing its indigenous chip-making capacity that is vital across a broad range of commercial and military applications. According to Bloomberg, American officials are also pressuring Japan to ban the export of chip-making technology to China. Along with US propaganda over Chinese “human rights” abuses, unsubstantiated allegations of threats to invade Taiwan, the strengthening of US military alliances in Asia and the boosting of the American military in the region, the escalating economic war is another warning of US imperialism’s advanced plans for conflict with China. Far from being an isolated episode in Eastern Europe, the US proxy war in Ukraine is rapidly morphing into a global conflagration between nuclear-armed powers.

Citing Europe’s “cohesion” against Russia, Norway’s government bans oil workers strike so imperialist powers can continue to wage war
Jordan Shilton, WSWS, Jul 8 2022

Norway’s Labour Party government stepped in on the first day of a strike by oil and gas workers Tuesday to criminalise their job action. The move demonstrates how governments in every country are illegalising working class opposition to the spiraling cost of living so that the imperialist powers can continue waging war with Russia. The strike involves 74 mainly senior oil and gas workers on the North Sea platforms of Gudrun, Oseberg Sør and Oseberg Øst and was set to have expanded to include a further 117 workers on the Heidrun, Aasta Hansteen and Kristin fields on Wednesday. Under conditions of inflation of over 5% and bumper profits for the oil and gas giants due to high energy prices, workers are demanding wage increases. Despite the relatively small number of workers involved, their strategic position in Norway’s oil and gas production would have seen total gas output drop by 25% and oil by 15% by the weekend. This prospect was intolerable for the Norwegian government and the major European imperialist powers in Berlin, Paris and London, which are increasingly reliant on Norwegian natural gas to replace supplies from Russia. The government therefore announced just hours after the strike that the job action had been banned and all outstanding issues would be submitted to a compulsory wage board, a government-appointed body that will make a final determination on the pay dispute. Labour Minister Marte Mjøs Persen said in a statement:

When the conflict can have such great social consequences for the whole of Europe, I have no choice but to intervene in the conflict. It is unjustifiable to let gas production stop to such an extent.

Underlining the explicitly political character of the decision, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released its own statement declaring:

Norway must do everything in its power to help maintain European energy security and European cohesion against Russia’s war.

The logical conclusion to be drawn from the government’s action and this chilling statement is that any job action or protest by workers that threatens the imperialist powers’ war will be declared illegal and prohibited by using the full force of the state apparatus. A regime that resorts to “everything in its power” to crush popular opposition and “maintain cohesion” ought to by rights be called a dictatorship. The oil workers’ union rushed to give its stamp of approval to the government’s draconian action. Audun Ingvartsen, leader of the Lederne union, vowed that workers would return to their jobs as soon as possible. Asked if the strike was over, he told Reuters, “Yes.” Norway’s trade unions are among the most important backers of the Labour Party. They preside over a heavily regulated and centralised collective bargaining system designed to suppress workers’ struggles. Norway’s trade union confederation (the Landesorganisasjonen) counts approximately 1m members out of a total population of just over 5m and a working population of around 3.5m people.

Far from being exceptional, Tuesday’s events in Norway are increasingly the norm across Europe and North America as deeply unpopular governments, sitting atop unprecedented levels of social inequality, trample basic democratic and social rights under foot at home and wage war abroad. Late last month, the Biden administration intervened to ensure that a threatened strike by over 20k dockers at the port of Los Angeles was called off before it had even begun. The workers were determined to fight for wage increases and an end to a brutal regime of casual labour that has left many workers sleeping rough in their cars in a desperate effort to secure a shift. But for the American ruling class, any disruption to the key trade route is unthinkable because it would disrupt its war aimed at reducing Russia to the status of a semi-colony. Spain’s Social Democratic-led government intervened last week to criminalise a strike by Ryanair pilots and cabin crew for improvements to wages and conditions. In Germany, the Social Democrat-led government met Monday for the first session of a corporatist dialogue with trade union and business leaders to determine how to suppress workers’ wage demands to fund the war effort. The “Concerted Action” called by Chancellor Olaf Scholz aims to impose the full burden of Germany’s massive €100b rearmament programme on the backs of working people.

Norway is a major gas supplier to Britain and Europe, and its role has increased still further following the US-NATO-instigated Russian invasion of Ukraine. In 2021, Norway accounted for a quarter of gas supplies to Britain and Europe. In March, Equinor, the state-owned oil and gas firm, confirmed that it received permits from the Norwegian government to increase gas production at the Oseberg and Heidrun fields by 1.0 bcm and 0.4 bcm respectively by Sep 2021. It was no mere coincidence that this announcement came as German Deputy Chancellor Robert Habeck visited Oslo to sign an agreement with the Norwegian government for increased gas supplies to Germany, which already depends on Norway for 30% of its natural gas needs. Der Spiegel reported at the time that the German government would supply Norway with specially equipped ships capable of converting liquified natural gas into gas off the German coast in order to facilitate Norway’s export of an additional 1.4 bcm of natural gas to Europe this summer. Habeck also announced during his visit the creation of a bilateral working group to consider the building of a gas pipeline between Germany and Norway.

In addition to supplying energy for the imperialist powers’ war effort, the Norwegian government is more than a willing partner in the massive military build-up against Russia. Sharing a short Arctic border with Russia, Norway has played host on several occasions over recent years to major NATO exercises. Stoltenberg, who has overseen a vast expansion of the aggressive military alliance’s presence in Eastern Europe and has initiated the creation of a 300k-strong rapid reaction force, served twice as Norway’s PM, between the late 1990s and 2013. During Stoltenberg’s second term in office, Norway’s current PM and Labour Party leader Jonas Gar Støre served as his foreign minister.

The banning of the Norwegian oil workers’ strike by a government claiming to be “left-wing” underscores how workers in Norway and internationally entering into struggle against the intolerable increase in the cost of living and dangerous working conditions, including the threat from the pandemic, confront a political fight against imperialist war. Behind the backs of the population, the major powers have decided that everything, including workers’ democratic and social rights, must be sacrificed to a war aimed at carving up Russia and seizing control of its rich natural resources. But they will not succeed with this mad plan. The oil workers’ strike also revealed, if only briefly, the immense social power of the working class. If less than 200 Norwegian oil and gas workers can reduce energy exports to Europe by a quarter in a few days, a mass mobilisation of the international working class on the basis of a socialist programme could rapidly bring the imperialists’ war machine to a grinding halt. It is for the development of such a global anti-war movement led by the working class that the World Socialist Web Site fights.

The US-NATO war in Ukraine must be stopped!
Andre Damon, WSWS, Jul 8 2022

On the basis of lies, propaganda and subterfuge, the US and its imperialist allies in Europe have launched and are escalating a war with Russia that threatens to trigger a nuclear third world war. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions have been displaced. The economic consequences of the war, including soaring inflation and fuel and food shortages all over the world, have been catastrophic for working people. The US-led war against Russia is unfolding as a monumental conspiracy against the populations of the world. It has been organized behind the backs of the people and is being presented to the public as a fait accompli. Not one of the crisis-ridden and despised governments leading the war effort, whether that of Biden, Johnson, Scholz or Macron, campaigned on the basis of starting a new world war. In the torrent of propaganda aiming to demonize Russia, the public has never been provided with a serious explanation as to its causes, aims and implications. The war is justified with lies, because its aims are indefensible. If Biden were to give an honest speech explaining US involvement, this is what he might say:

My fellow Americans: As POTUS, I think it is my responsibility to provide you with an honest explanation as to what I meant when I said that the US was determined to continue its intervention in the Ukraine war for “as long as it takes.” First, let me explain the background to this decision. In 2014, the Obama administration, of which I was the vice president and point-man for Ukraine affairs, funded and organized a coup in Ukraine. Our aim was the removal of a government deemed too friendly to Russia. We carried out this coup by allying with and funding far-right paramilitary forces. In response to the coup, Crimea voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia. Separatist, Russian-speaking enclaves in the eastern Donbas region sought to secede from the government in Kiev.

While we claimed to accept the Minsk agreements aiming to broker a ceasefire in the war in the Donbas, we were working behind the scenes to arm Ukraine with billions of dollars in weapons, all the while encouraging it to seek to regain the Donbas and Crimea by military means. In Mar 2021, we urged Ukraine to codify the reconquest of these territories, and three months later we signed a strategic partnership document pledging the US to “support Ukraine’s effort to counter armed aggression.” During the last eight years we have massively armed and trained the Ukrainian military, utilizing fascist forces as its backbone, with the aim of provoking a war between NATO and Russia. Our efforts succeeded in Feb 2022. Our aims in instigating this war are as follows:

  1. In 1991, the US proclaimed that the end of the Soviet Union would herald in a “new world order” of US global hegemony. We see Russia as an obstacle to the domination of the Eurasian landmass, which we believe is key to establishing this hegemony.
  2. China is on track to eclipse the US economy in size within 10 years. We seek to contain the rise of China by economic and ultimately military means, but dominating Russia is the first step in a war against China.
  3. Russia sits atop the world’s largest deposits of hydrocarbons, rare earths, metals and other key minerals, valued at $75 trillion, to which US corporations want access in order to dominate the world market.
  4. Finally, in the name of the war effort, we seek to suppress domestic political opposition, criminalizing strikes and social protests in the name of the “national interest.” I know that many of you are concerned that a war against the country in possession of the world’s second-largest nuclear arsenal may provoke a strategic nuclear exchange in which many of you will die. This is true. To use an old phrase from Dr Strangelove, “I’m not going to say we won’t get our hair mussed.” But the achievement of the goals outlined above are certainly worth the lives of 50 million to 100 million of you.

Such a declaration of the war aims of the US and NATO would instantly trigger mass protests in the streets. For this reason, all public discussion of the war has consisted entirely of pro-war propaganda. In a desperate effort to create popular support for the war, the US and European media has for months conducted a systematic campaign designed to make their populations hate Russia. Any facts or opinions that contradict the pro-war narrative have been labeled as Russian propaganda, and those who question the war are labeled all but treasonous.

The eruption of the NATO war with Russia takes place against the backdrop of an immense social, economic and political crisis, with every urgent social need met with the declaration that there is no money. Amid a raging pandemic, funds for vaccines and COVID-19 treatments are running out, while states and municipalities are slashing education budgets. And yet an unlimited amount of money is made available for the war effort. Every day, the US alone is spending $420m on the war, and $2b on the military as a whole. NATO intervention in the war was sold to the public with the declaration that an urgent infusion of resources into Ukraine was necessary to stop mass death and a humanitarian catastrophe in that country. But what is the response of the architects of the war to the disaster they have created? Asked last week whether Russia was “taking over” significant sections of the country, Sec State Antony Blinken declared:

Let’s not confuse the tactical with the strategic. What’s really important is the strategic proposition that Putin will not succeed in what he’s tried to achieve. He’s also tried to divide NATO. We’re about to go to a NATO summit where the alliance is going to show greater unity, greater strength than in my memory.

In other words, the actual fate of the people of Ukraine, the nominal cause of the war, is a matter of total indifference to the strategists of American imperialism. In the name of the war, every effort at social resistance by the working class is to be declared illegal. In Norway, where a powerful strike of gas workers broke out this week, the government imposed “compulsory arbitration” on workers, citing the “geopolitical situation we’re facing with war in Europe.” A new world war will be the graveyard of all social and democratic rights for the working class. Such a war cannot be prosecuted outside of dictatorial forms of rule. Despite the unanimous support for the war within all factions of the political establishment, polls consistently show broad popular opposition. This opposition, however, remains latent and unarticulated. There is an urgent necessity to build a mass movement against war. The feverish determination of the ruling classes to drag humanity into a nuclear third world war must be opposed by the building of a powerful anti-war movement in the working class on the basis of a socialist perspective.

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