Caleb Maupin has written an article for New Eastern Outlook that takes a dive into the ongoing hostilities between the US and Russia. His post can be seen here. Since he and I are friends I’d like to add some thoughts of my own to his work here.
Here’s my thoughts:
You’re right energy resources are a major factor in the situation, imperialism and all the rest. When you talk about the new advancements in the extraction of natural gas you’re talking about an increase in the efficiency in constant capital. This in turn requires less living human labour now replaced with dead labour. The result of this is a decrease in the value of gas via a rise in the organic composition of capital. This has forced the price (or monetary expression of value) to decrease leading to a decline in profitability. A lack of sufficient profitability is certainly a threat to the global markets. Its big part of what leads to a falling rate of profit, this is what they’re trying to avoid. They’re trying to avoid over production. In the case of oil there is no particular new innovation; more producers are simply entering the market increasing the supply without a corresponding rise in demand.
Your point about “The rule of the capitalist market is “expand or die,”” is correct. Capital must constantly expand finding new markets in order to avoid that same falling rate of profit. However Wall Street’s drive to avoid it is coming up against the BRICS countries desire to avoid it. Corporate profits have come out of the Great Recession quite nicely (leaving the rest of us behind) and are starting to see the signs of the limits of expansion. It’s now a matter of who is going to take whose market share. This of course causes contradictions among various capitalists.
Striving to get as much of the market share as possible (in many things but energy resources importantly) is the very essence of the drive of imperialism. As you pointed out this is what lead to the over throw and destruction of Libya. The oil exports dropped to 11% of what they were allowing the remaining producers to snatch up Libya’s now former market share. The destruction of Libya’s oil infrastructure was the primary goal. This is why the capture of its oil refineries was such a priority in the insurgent military campaign, in addition to reducing Libya’s ability to purchase the necessary war materials to defend itself. As soon as the rate of oil profits began to slow again the imperialist interference in Syria began attempting to take its oil of the market.
We’re seeing something similar with Russia. US imperialism sees that Russia is a growing power that also has great energy interests. It also has a huge percentage of the market. This is a threat to the profit rates of Wall Street oil firms and its various investors. Russia HAS to be removed as a world player in order for US hegemonic power to continue. The crisis that broke out in Russia was the perfect opportunity to take influence from Russia and justify sanctions that would increase their own profits. Unfortunately for the West Putin is no fool and knows how to struggle back against this kind of aggression. For every move they make against him, he has once in return. When the US cuts trade with them, Russia can turn to China, Brazil, India, maybe even the DPRK. The normally unilateral trade the US has with many countries is not an existing case with Russia; they can deflect such trade losses.
But there’s something very significant about this turn of events. US imperialism has always picked off small nations to expand their market share in energy. However that is not enough anymore. Due to increased competition and the already existing expanse of Wall Street oil companies, they’re becoming desperate to get new markets. This is causing them to engage in hostilities with more powerful nations. All the smaller weaker nations that can’t really defend themselves have been picked clean or are in the process of doing so. The only places left to undermine are the larger powers. China has far too much trade with the US to attack because it would cause them too much damage. Russia is the next logical choice, and it’s easy to make them out to be an enemy due to historical anti-Soviet attitudes.
Reaching the limits of capital (at least in energy resources) is causing intensification in the competition between imperialist powers. The antagonistic contradiction between different sets of capitalist classes is increasing the risk of war, possibly world war.
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