Sunday, July 1, 2018

Editorial: Trump - Will Trade Follow? (2018)

Editorial from the July 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

The so-called "special relationship" between US and British capitalism seems at times to resemble, for those who are old enough to remember, the portrayal by the 1980s Spitting  Image show  of the relationship between David Steel and David Owen. The former  would fawn over the latter, who would in return deliver a withering put down.

During the Northern Irish "peace process" in the 1990s, John Major's government had to grin and bear it when President Bill Clinton courted Sinn Fein. When Tony Blair was prime minister, he backed President George Bush in the invasion of Iraq and accorded him a state visit. He didn't receive much in return other than a "Yo Blair" greeting at a 2006 G8 Summit. Shortly after he assumed the Presidency, Barack Obama, returned the bust of Winston Churchill from the White House.

Not long after Donald Trump was inaugurated as President, Theresa May wasted no time in visiting him in Washington in January 2017. Despite the controversial nature of his presidency, May invited him to a state visit. His scheduled visit to the UK on 13 July will be a working visit and the Big Man will meet the Queen. There promises to be large demonstrations against him when he arrives.

In the meantime, in November 2017, Theresa May earned a rebuke from President Trump when she criticised him for retweeting anti-Muslim videos by the far-right Britain First Group.  In May, Trump ignored Boris Johnson's pleading and pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran. Early in June Trump slapped tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from the EU, which also apply to the UK. Then there are the distressing scenes from the Texas border with Mexico where migrant children have been forcibly separated from their parents. In spite of all this, Theresa May will welcome Donald Trump on 13 July. As if to further ingratiate herself with Trump, May supported the US bombing of Syria in April.

This apparent toadying attitude originated after the Second War when the US emerged as a dominant global power and the British Empire was in decline. The British capitalist class, by and large, believed they could retain most of their former global influence by allying themselves to the United States, and it was hoped that this would give them advantageous access to world markets. They also exploited their links to Europe, enticing US banks and corporations to base their European operations in the UK. However, as the UK is leaving the EU, there is the urgent need for a trade deal. No doubt this is one of the major reasons for the 13 July visit.

Theresa May's strategy of staying close to Donald Trump has not been entirely successful, for the latter has struck up a friendly relationship with the French President, Emmanuel Macron, who seeks to position French capitalism as the new link to Europe for US businesses, thus encouraging them to relocate from Britain to France.

This forthcoming visit could not illustrate more clearly the cynicism of Capitalism. Capitalist leaders are compelled by the cutthroat nature of competing world markets to make alliances with regimes, however odious, if their economic interests demand it.