Economic, Political and Military Configurations
- Mapping the emerging global economic, political
and military configurations requires that we examine
regions and countries along several dynamic policy
Capitalist versus anti-capitalist
2. Neoliberal versus anti-neoliberal
3. Austerity versus anti-austerity
4. War command centers and war zones
5. Political change and socio-economic continuity
6. New Order and political decay
of these dimensions overlap, they also highlight the
complexity and influence of local and national
versus global power relations.
first identify and classify the regimes and emerging
movements, which fall into each of these categories,
and then proceed to generalize about current
‘global’ trends and future perspectives based on
approximations of the real correlation of forces.
Capitalism versus Anti-Capitalism
is the only economic system throughout the world.
However, it has and continues to experience periods
of severe crisis, stagnation and breakdown. Several
regimes continue to declare themselves ‘socialist’
(like Cuba, Venezuela and China) even as they pursue
large scale foreign investments, establish free
trade zones and provide incentives to stimulate
expansion of the private sector.
Anti-capitalist parties, movements and trade unions
have emerged and some still engage in large-scale
class-struggles. But others have capitulated, like
Syriza in Greece, and Refundacion Comunista in
Italy, which renounced any anti-capitalist pretense
and embraced neo-liberal variants of capitalism.
Anti-capitalist tendencies are at best implicit in
the mass working class strikes occurring in China,
India and South Africa and explicitly by minor
parties in Europe, Asia, South America and
elsewhere. Much more significant are the conflicts
and struggles between variants of capitalism:
neo-liberal and anti-neoliberal regimes and
movements; and between austerity and anti-austerity
regimes and movements.
terms, conflicts can best be understood by
differentiating between ‘war (command) centers’ in
the imperial countries and ‘war zones’.
Neoliberal and Anti-Neoliberal Correlations of Power
of power has shifted toward pro-neoliberal regimes
over the past two years. Even where political regime
changes have occurred, they have not been
accompanied by any significant shifts toward
America has witnessed the biggest shift toward
hard-right neoliberal regimes and policies.
Right-wing extremists won presidential elections in
Argentina and legislative elections in Venezuela. In
Brazil the so-called ‘Workers Party’ regime has
embraced a neoliberal austerity program. In Bolivia,
the social democratic Movement to Socialism lost the
recent referendum allowing a third term re-election
for President Evo Morales. The organized forces that
defeated the referendum were predominantly hardline
in Latin America political changes, from hardline
neoliberal presidents to ostensible social democrats
(Chile and El Salvador) and nationalists (Peru),
simply led to the continuation of free market
economic policies. Even socialist regimes, like
Cuba, have introduced market incentives and free
trade zones for foreign multi-nationals.
Middle East and North Africa, popular revolts
against incumbent neoliberal despots were violently
suppressed. Recycled neoliberal military autocrats
and politicians returned to power in Egypt, Tunisia,
Israel, Iraq and Yemen.
the recently elected ‘reformist’ Rohani regime, has
opened the oil and gas fields to foreign capital and
captured about 40% of the legislative deputies in
the February 2016 election.
neoliberals, who took power in recent elections in
India and Indonesia, are moving to de-regulate and
promote foreign multi-national capital penetration.
China and Russia have moved to facilitate financial
capital flows – resulting in multi-billion-dollar
capital flight and the relocation of new billionaire
families to Canada, England, the US and other
Scandinavian and Low Countries, Social Democrats
have embraced and deepened neoliberal policies even
as they lose support to right-wing anti-immigrant
Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
hardline neoliberals have imposed harsh austerity
programs provoking protests of no great political
consequences, as the opposition has promoted the
under Putin, has succeeded in the reconstruction of
the state and economy after the destructive policies
of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. But apart from ending the
flagrant pillage of the economy by a gangster-ridden
oligarchy, Russia is still an oil-dependent state in
which billionaires invest and disinvest with
which became a bankrupt vassal state under the rule
of corrupt right-wing parties, experienced an
electoral revolt in January of 2015, electing a
supposedly leftist “anti-neoliberal” party. Syriza
under the leadership of Alexander Tsipras embraced a
brutal European Union – IMF austerity program
plunging Greece deeper into debt, stagnation,
poverty and vassalage.
Portugal, an anti-austerity alliance between the
Socialist (social democrats) and the Communist and
Left Bloc parties formed a new government. However,
under pressure from the EU, it capitulated,
surrendering its tepid anti-austerity proposals.
the opposition Liberal Party defeated the
Conservatives, offering cosmetic changes and
promptly reneged on its promises to end austerity.
In sum, the
neoliberal- austerity onslaught provoked mass
electoral opposition that led to political changes,
bringing to power parties and leaders who embraced
almost identical policies! In some cases, the
changes deepened neoliberal policies by extending
austerity measures; in other cases, they modified
some of the restrictions on salaries and social
February (2016) elections in Ireland are a case in
point: The neoliberal austerity enthusiasts in the
governing coalition (Fine Gael and the Labor Party)
were defeated and the Fianna Fáil re-emerged as a
leading party, even though it had brought about the
economic crisis and breakdown! The only exception to
this revolving door politics was an increase in the
vote for the national-populist Sinn Fein Party and a
scattering of anti-neoliberal and left parties. In
the end, the two neoliberal parties are likely to
form a coalition regime.
the main anti-neoliberal, anti-austerity parties are
right-wing conservatives who have won election in
Poland and Hungary and opposition parties like the
National Front in France.
exception is in Spain where a leftist party,
Podemos, has embraced an anti-austerity program,
even as it offered to form a coalition government
with the neoliberal Socialist Party. The coalition
regime never came about.
continuation and triumph of neoliberal and austerity
parties and policies occur despite a deepening
economic crisis and growing popular hostility.
Middle East, North Africa, the Baltic and Eastern
European states, Egypt, Tunisia, Lithuania and
Poland, repression has undercut leftist opposition.
nationalist parties and conservative regimes have
pre-empted attacks on austerity as is the case in
France and Hungary and have marginalized the Left.
international tensions, wars, coups and military
build-ups in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Turkey and
Southeast Asia have temporarily undercut popular
opposition to neoliberal and austerity programs.
Ukraine, the US-backed neoliberal regime has
virtually collapsed and is widely discredited. The
problem is that the most aggressive opposition comes
from the neo-Nazi Right!
short-run, international conflicts have temporarily
distracted popular opposition to neoliberalism.
However, over time, the wars, coups and military
destruction are exacerbating the domestic crisis, as
refuges flood and threaten to disintegrate the
sanctions toward Russia over the Ukraine exacerbated
the economic crisis.
Saudi-Turkey-US-EU-sponsored terror war against
Syria and its allies heightens tensions and dampens
investment in the region.
words, neoliberal/austerity regimes are threatened
less by internal opposition than they are by the
expansion of ‘war zones’, emanating from ‘imperial
Centers and War Zones
economic and political configurations and divisions,
which we have described, emphasize the varieties of
capitalist regimes, the advance of neoliberalism and
the emergence of variations among capitalists
(austerity versus anti-austerity). US and EU
militarism has deepened cleavages between emergent
(China) and re-emergent (Russia) capitalist powers.
political-economic map and the correlation of forces
are deeply affected by military conflicts.
and insurgencies profoundly impact the scope, depth
and character of socio-economic systems, above and
beyond the dichotomies stated above.
the global military divisions can be understood
through identifying war (imperial command) centers
and war zones.
are countries and regimes, which plan, organize,
fund and execute military action against other
countries. The war centers usually are run by
imperialist regimes, which span the globe with
military bases in order to defend and promote
financial and multi-national corporation domination
in other countries.
centers, form alliances, but also compete among
themselves; they have follower regimes providing
bases, mercenary soldiers and political support,
even to the point of sacrificing their own economic
goals in order to serve the dominant war centers.
Follower regimes participate only at the periphery
have global interests (US, EU), regional interests
(Saudi Arabia and Israel – the Middle East) and
local interests (Ukraine – Crimea).
centers with global interests have clearly defined
adversaries: They target emerging military and
economic competitors, like Russia and China;
nationalist regimes, like Venezuela, Syria and Iran;
popular anti-imperialist movements (Hezbollah in
Lebanon) and Islamist anti-Western movements
(Taliban in Afghanistan). The war centers, at the
same time, correlate with neoliberal regimes and
destroy or undermine lucrative markets and
prosperous sites for investments by expanding the
defined by the US and the EU, have included Iraq,
Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Ukraine and
earlier Yugoslavia. The ensuing wars succeeded in
ousting incumbent regimes and splintering target
countries, but failed to consolidate political
control and, above all, destroyed hundreds of
billions of dollars in investment, trade, financial
and resource extraction opportunities.
centers have engaged in three levels of military
engagement: (1) High intensity, signifying long-term
large-scale warfare involving massive expenditures
and commitments of troops such as Iraq and
Afghanistan; (2) Middle level intensity, involving
US-EU air wars and the use of proxy mercenaries as
in Syria, Ukraine and Libya; and (3) Low intensity
wars providing military support to regional allies,
e.g. Israel’s onslaughts against the Palestinians,
Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen and Turkey’s war
against the Kurds in Iraq, Syria and Kurdish regions
centers in the EU and US have differences over
China. The EU favors market expansion, while the US
seeks to intensify the military encirclement of
Europe and the US have differences over sanctions
against Russia: the economic elite in the European
Union, with billions of Euros invested in Russia is
divided. Meanwhile the US mobilizes its clients in
Poland and the Baltic countries to escalate military
operations on Russia’s borders.
of military tensions reflects both economic
competition (US-EU versus China) and military
expansion (US-EU coups in Ukraine).
and advance of neoliberal and austerity regimes are
largely the outcome of domestic or internal class
conflicts. These, in turn, are the result of
political-electoral contests where the imperial
powers play an indirect role (mostly
words, the advance of neoliberal capitalism is not a
result of imperial wars. It conquers because of its
electoral advances and because of the defeats,
retreats and capitulations of the trade unions and
leftist political parties.
of neoliberalism have been clearly set by
destructive wars from the imperial military centers;
the sanctions imposed on independent capitalist
countries; and the alliances with destructive,
aspiring regional hegemons (Israel, Turkey and Saudi
prolonged war economy and the neoliberal policies of
the imperial centers have concentrated wealth,
undermined economic growth, provoked downward social
mobility and led to massive population displacement
in war zones.
malaise among voters subject to the destabilization
and disintegration of the European Union and the
brutal concentration of wealth, power and privilege
within the US has led to the emergence of social
democratic and right-wing nationalist mass electoral
intensity warfare and prolonged austerity and social
polarization have created a chaotic political
universe and a multitude of diverse conflicts within
the capitalist system.
anti-capitalist left is nowhere near overthrowing
the system, the system may self-destruct, in a war
of all against all: the great sow devouring her own
Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology
at Binghamton University, New York.