The will is a beast of burden. If God mounts it, it wishes and goes as God wills; if Satan mounts it, it wishes and goes as Satan wills; Nor can it choose its rider… the riders contend for its possession. — Martin Luther
Part One: The Beast is Healed by the Dragon
Only two months have passed since US President Donald Trump assumed office, and already the machine of American imperialism has wasted little time in continuing its course.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) began his usual routine of making baseless accusations against Tehran’s recent ballistic missile tests, which are used for regional defense, in a bid to derail the Joint Comprehension Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran Nuclear Agreement.
“I think it is now time for the Congress to take Iran on directly in terms of what they’ve done outside the nuclear program,” he chided at the 2017 Munich Security Conference.
Although Trump is the Commander-in-Chief, America’s Chief Executive Officer is Secretary of State and oil magnate Rex Tillerson, who reaffirmed his stance on the Diaoyu Islands, without the pretense of ‘national sovereignty’.
“[Tillerson] considered China’s South China Sea activity ‘extremely worrisome’ [and] a threat to the ‘entire global economy’ if Beijing were able to dictate access to the waterway, which is of strategic military importance and a major trade route,” the Japan Times mentioned.
In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang cautioned him and US Secretary of Defence James Mattis on undermining regional stability by using Article 5 of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security as a ruse to sell Tokyo more armaments.
“No rhetoric or actions, from whomsoever, will change the fact that Diaoyu Dao belongs to China or waiver China’s resolve and determination to uphold its national sovereignty and territorial integrity”, Geng sternly warned.
“It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” he or she stated.
The ruling class has once again passed the torch of imperialism to the new administration, setting the stage for another explosive collapse of the capitalist system.
The public, however, lingers on the Trump media circus, trading political consciousness for entertainment and stubbornly ignoring the material conditions that brought him into power.
The Beast with Many Heads (of State)
Wounding the Beast’s heads—the American bureaucracy and its transatlantic network of vassals states—only temporarily incapacitates US imperialism without significant changes to its trajectory.
The Syrian-Russian-Iran coalition landed the most significant blow, after resisting Western attempts to unseat Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and install a hardline Sunni ‘caliphate’ to oversee construction of the coveted Saudi-Qatari-Turkish pipeline.
Fortunately, two rounds of Astana peace talks have facilitated dialogue between warring factions.
“[The] next round of the talks will be held in less than a month”, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari stated optimistically in February.
In recent years, several grotesque heads have emerged, crowning themselves and speaking blasphemies through political coups in attempts to control foreign oil markets for the Beast.
In 2015, Brazil’s former Vice President and CIA asset Michel Temer usurped power from Dilma Rousseff to prevent her from rescuing the Brazilian economy by selling off Petrobras USD holdings.
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras’ remains at am impasse between Gazprom’s TurkStream pipeline and the European Union’s costly (pun intended) Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project.
With very little successes, US-backed dictator Petro(leum) Poroshenko continues to brutalize the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in order to gain control of Ukraine’s Soviet-era Drubzu pipeline, as well as break a crippling coal blockade from the regions.
“[The] country’s reserves of coal for energy-generating power plants may be depleted in up to 45 days if the blockade is not lifted,” Ukrainian Energy Minister Ihor Nasalyk lamented.
Under the Obama administration, these attempts to extort geopolitically strategic oil markets have proven fruitless for America’s oligarchs, prompting a significant change in their political strategy.
The new strategy is Donald Trump; ‘Plan B’ for the ruling class.
The New Beast Exercises the Power of the First Before Him
The nature of Trump’s presidency was established in a previous article for The Duran, which aims to ensure the primacy of American finance capital through privately funded infrastructure projects.
It was also highlighted that democratic republics can easily mask their material contradictions by manipulating society through identity politics; the most important asset of liberal democracy.
One should reaffirm that the current material conditions of the West follow the Three Stages of the General Crises of Capitalism, defined by A. Leontiev as:
1. The sharp disintegration of the entire capitalist system and fierce struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, going over in a number of countries to open civil warfare.
2. The period of the gradual advent of partial stabilization in capitalist countries (reconstruction).
3. The sharpening of the basic contradictions of contemporary capitalism.
At the start of Obama’s presidency, Stage 1 materialized as the subprime mortgage and finance capital collapse of 2008-2011, initiating the deadliest economic crisis since the Great Depression. The Occupy and Arab Spring movements followed, but the bourgeoisie quickly appropriated them.
The era of Western financial austerity has exacerbated Stage 2, institutionalizing austerity rather than making tactical concessions with the working class.
Stage 3 has manifested as a surge of imperialist interventions throughout the Middle East-North Africa, Ukraine, and NATO aggression in the South China Sea and Baltics, in efforts to save the petrodollar, remove opposition, expropriate finance capital, and control foreign markets.
Conversely, bourgeois democracies such as France have normalized blowback from transatlantic imperialism (terrorism), shifting the cost to the taxpayer in both dollars and human lives.
Again, Donald Trump was selected by the Electoral College, the hall monitor of suffrage, in order to diffuse these crises; thus, the bourgeoisie returns to Stage 2.
To understand the College’s decision, one must conceptualize the 2016 US elections as the ruling class’ 4-year plan, with Trump representing a greater command of the base (material) and Clinton the superstructure (cultural, social, and immaterial).
In his essay, “On Contradiction” Mao Zedong notes that between two contradictions:
[…] one must be principal and the other secondary [with] one playing the leading role in the contradiction. The nature of a thing is determined mainly by the principal aspect of a contradiction, the aspect which has gained the dominant position.
America’s primary crisis is the petrodollar (Trump), with social engineering ambitions (Clinton) playing a subordinate role; therefore, material concerns are a greater existential threat to the US.
Additionally, Clinton’s entire platform was based on superstructure (identity) politics, which backfired not because of Wikileaks, but due to her inexperienced managerial skills, which she proved in Benghazi and pay-to-play foreign policy; notwithstanding her personal email accounts.
This is precisely why Donald Trump, who personifies naked monopoly industry, won the election.
However, Trump only represents a shift in priorities within the bourgeoisie. His MAGA plan will partially stabilize American capital, which is concentrated in the oil, construction, technology, and military monopolies, which operate seamlessly and interdependently through vertical integration, defined this as “the merging together of two businesses that are at different stages of production”.
However, Trump is still an inextricable part of American finance capital, as Marx lucidly defines the role of the capitalist in Capital, Vol. III:
[…] the capitalist is merely capital personified and functions in the process of production solely as the agent of capital.
In his ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844’, Karl Marx elaborates this theory:
To widen the market and to narrow the sellers’ competition is always the interest of the dealer […] This is a class of people whose interest is never exactly the same as that of society, a class of people who have generally an interest to deceive and to oppress the public.
With a meaningless popular vote, one should note that most modern presidential candidates in capitalist democracies are capital personified, empowered by the bourgeoisie to further centralize and concentrate wealth for the benefit of the bourgeoisie.
Lenin clarifies this further in State and Revolution:
In capitalist society […] democracy is always hemmed in by the narrow limits set by capitalist exploitation, and consequently always remains […] a democracy for the minority, only for the propertied classes, only for the rich. Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners.
Trump’s victory is a tactical retreat for the bourgeoisie and nothing more, and his limited popularity is no obstacle to the ruling class’s survival.
However, if Trump deviates in any meaningful way, the Beast will devour him whole.
The Heart of the Beast: The Petrodollar
The Beast has many Heads but only one black heart—the petrodollar—whose every beat expropriates surplus value from foreign oil markets and cements US imperialism worldwide.
However, several rising powers have become the precise targets of the Trump and Obama administrations because they pose the greatest existential threat to US hegemony.
F. William Engdahl mentions the following:
[The] petrodollar system […] has been eroding as Russia, China, Iran and even the EU challenge the role of the dollar as reserve currency [whom] have agreed to energy trade for oil and gas paid not in dollars but in own currencies. Iran recently announced it will accept only Euros for its oil.
However, a new contradiction in US capitalist production emerges—increasing domestic production versus declining petrodollar dominance and value.
In order to stave off its own collapse, Saudi Arabia could (and probably will) turn to China.
[…] we must now turn our attention to China, which is well positioned to act as white knight to Saudi Arabia. China’s SAFE sovereign wealth fund could easily swallow the [5%] Aramco stake […] A quick deal would help stabilise a desperate financial and political situation on the edges of China’s rapidly growing Asian interests, and keep Saudi Arabia onside as an energy supplier. China has dollars to dispose, and a mutual arrangement would herald a new era of tangible cooperation. The U.S. can only stand and stare as China teases Saudi Arabia away from America’s sphere of influence.
The Trump administration has been feverishly attempting to open domestic oil reserves as foreign markets increase trade in other currencies, in addition to rising petrol demands in the US.
To do this, the US Congress introduced H.Res 71 to rescind Cardin-Lugar regulations within the Dodd-Frank Act, in order to exploit domestic oil consumption, transition more of the global oil supply to the US shale industry, and mitigate the adverse effects of a collapsing petrodollar market.
Vermont-based journalist Nick Cunningham explains the role of rising US production rates:
If OPEC took 1 mb/d off the market in January, why are prices struggling to move from the low- to mid-$50s? […] Rising U.S. production is part of the story. The latest weekly EIA data puts U.S. output at 8.978 mb/d, a touch below 9 mb/d, which is up more than 400,000 bpd from a few months ago. In addition, the EIA’s Drilling Productivity Report estimates that production from the major shale basins will rise in March by nearly 80,000 bpd, the largest increase in five months. Nearly all of that increase is expected to come from the Permian Basin.
The Bretton-Woods System’s demise inseparably binds the means of production and petrodollar for one purpose: to monopolize global oil reserves so that countries cannot buy or sell oil without the Mark, let alone industrialize.
Trump and Co. will centralize and concentrate oil sold in USD within the US in order to survive. Ultimately, domestic production is the best way to do this, which will require astronomical levels of new infrastructure to transport raw materials, with people as a secondary concern.
Meanwhile, America and NATO will continue their gunboat diplomacy, and anyone that attempts to break the American oil racket will become a threat to their neoliberal ‘democracies’. While Trump is in office, this will continue unabatedly as the ruling class will not accept substantial profit losses.
The lake of fire? It is merely the American Heartlands after H.Res 71—the inevitable conclusion of an oil-addicted economy.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.