Critique is not enough

As usual the Critique conference, held on Saturday March 1 at the London School of Economics, was interesting and stimulating for the 40 or so comrades who turned up. The debates centred, naturally enough, on the crisis in the Middle East and Africa. The main bone of contention turned out to be the divergence between Hillel Ticktin and Mike Cox as to the Bush administration's motives for its 'war against terror'. Both speakers agreed that Bush could achieve his political aims vis-à -vis Iraq without war and was attacking Iraq because it is weak, not out of fear of Saddam's strength. If the war is not for oil, then what is it for? Ticktin's position is that with the end of the cold war there is nothing to cohere capital's natural competitive and anarchistic tendencies and stop it fracturing into ruthlessly competing entities. Hence the US is going down the road of a permanent war economy to whip capital into line and to try and control its systemic crisis. The problem is that there is no evidence that George Bush would know what a systemic crisis of capitalism is. Cox argued that all the evidence suggested that the Bush administration is going to war for the reasons it says it is, but with an overarching vision of the 21st century being America's century. A century in which they have the power to go it alone, untrammelled by the need to consider the interests of any allies. They will cohere capital behind them by a mixture of strong leadership and buckets of fear. The administration actually believes in the primacy of politics over economics. World hegemony is their game and Iraq is a good place to start. In my opinion Saddam Hussein symbolises national resistance to many people and Iraq's oil reserves make it a significant economy. Crushing Iraq shows that the US is not bluffing about its ability to use force even when there is a certain risk involved, and in the event of victory the oil reserves mean that there will be an economic base to allow the country to be put back together again after a fashion. It is not a basket case like Afghanistan or North Korea. Of course it is also a good way of providing lucrative contracts for several American companies close to the Bush administration and that money will come in handy for the next presidential election. The pure serendipity of a well chosen war! Hubris is one of the commonest causes for the fall of empires and it was on this hopeful note that the comrades closed the meeting. Everyone was well aware of the anti-war march on the previous Saturday and several of them had been there as individuals. But when it came to the question 'what is to be done?' there were no organisational or political answers. Phil Kent