Trade war and the political independence of the working class
7 July 2018
The decision of the United States to proceed with the imposition of tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, coupled with threats from President Trump to impose an additional $500 billion in tariffs, marks a further stage in the breakdown of the post-World War II capitalist order.
The fact that the measures against China—along with the earlier imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminium impacting Canada, the European Union, China, Japan and Mexico, together with the threat to impose tariffs on auto imports—have all been invoked on “national security” grounds is deeply significant.
It is an unmistakeable sign that the trade war measures have an essential military dimension and are a major component of the preparations by the US to launch war against its rivals—that is, a world war—should that be considered necessary to maintain Washington’s global dominance.
In April 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial meltdown, the most significant crisis of the global capitalism since the Great Depression, the leaders of the major industrialized countries pledged, hand on heart, that they would never resort to trade war and protectionist measures. The lessons of the disastrous decade of the 1930s and the role of such measures in creating the conditions for world war had been learned, it was universally declared.
What is the situation today? The United States has launched what the Chinese Commerce Ministry has rightly described as “the largest trade war in economic history,” or, as others have noted, the most sweeping measures since the infamous Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930.
In 1938, on the eve of the outbreak of World War II, Leon Trotsky wrote that that the bourgeoisie “toboggans with…