Year 2000 No. 111, July 12, 2000

Community as an International Idea or the Democratisation of International Relations?

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Community as an International Idea or the Democratisation of International Relations?

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Community as an International Idea or the Democratisation of International Relations?

It was not so long ago that the Labour government was said to have an "ethical foreign policy", or, more accurately, that its Foreign Secretary said that its foreign policy had an "ethical dimension". This it was that the government said was the underlying motive of its foreign policy.

But this shifted when Robin Cook spoke at length on British foreign policy some months ago. He repudiated the idea of an "ethical foreign policy" as misleading, presumably in part because it had become a stick with which to beat the Labour government. "Enlightened self-interest" was to become the cornerstone of British foreign policy.

Tony Blair, in his speech to the Global Ethics Foundation at Tübigen University in Germany, now states that "how we collectively respond to globalisation" will only succeed in bridging the gap between on the one hand the aspirations to international peace, security, good neighbourliness, human rights and the "dignity and worth of the human person" and on the other the reality of today's world "if we start to develop a doctrine of international community based on the principle of enlightened self-interest. As within countries, so between countries." It is clear that the British government is determined to follow a policy of self-interest, but who is to declare that it is "enlightened"? In fact, it can be seen to be a declaration by Tony Blair that the values that are promoted by the Labour government and the English bourgeoisie are the ones that should be accepted by all as "enlightened". That this is to be the cornerstone of the relations internationally between states, so then only those states which accept the values and policies which the big powers declare are "enlightened" are to be allowed the privilege to exist, that only then will they be allowed to live in international peace, security and good neighbourliness with the big powers such as Britain. Of course, this is the modern-day equivalent of civilising the backward nations with the rifle in one hand and the prayer-book in the other. It has in fact nothing to do with being "good neighbours", but everything to do with the relations of exploitation between the big powers, Britain in particular, and the developing nations.

And, indeed, "as within countries, so between countries". A state cannot at the same time have an enlightened policy domestically, yet exhibit big power chauvinism as the basis of its foreign policy, and vice versa. Its foreign policy is an extension of its policy at home. Tony Blair and Robin Cook seem completely unashamed to state that the government's policy is one of "enlightened self-interest". This, as a stated policy, is the outlook of the liberal bourgeoisie. Of course, it must follow the path of self-interest because is this not what makes the world go round? Everyone must have the "equal opportunity" to follow their self-interest, while the unfortunate thing is that only those with merit, with the natural ability to become one of the privileged few will make it to the top. And because it is so "enlightened", the elite will be able to demand that these same self-interested values - ultimately based on the "rights" of private property - should be adopted by the whole society, or by the "community as an international idea". In the same spirit, rehearsing to the letter the catechism of the 19th century laissez faire capitalists, Tony Blair asserts that "free trade is the key to prosperity for poorer nations and essential for the competitiveness of the richer ones. Protectionism on the other hand is the result of short-sighted view of the national interest".

The only problem is that we are now living in the 21st and not the 19th century. The age of laissez faire capitalism and the battles that were fought for and against protectionism came to an end for good with the inter-imperialist first world war. Now the huge monopolies and transnational companies strive for domination and control of markets, and demand that the states globally should become subordinate to this need of the capitalist monopolies, not for "free trade", but that the whole human and material assets of nations should be put at their disposal. The bourgeoisie has completely abandoned even the pursuit of the national interest in this context. This is the content of globalisation at the beginning of the 21st century, and it is a content that the "South" countries, the developing world, are uniting against, while peoples everywhere are demanding an end to this globalisation which negates their right to self-determination and to choose their own path of social development. This is not at all what Tony Blair has in mind when he speaks of the collective response to globalisation so as to bridge the gap between the people's aspirations and today's reality. But if today's reality is looked in the eye, the collective response cannot be to retreat to 19th century values. This is only done by the governments of "progressive governance" such as that of Tony Blair to entrench the rule of the financial oligarchy, to pursue such paths of "enlightened self-interest" as the bombing of and genocidal sanctions against Iraq, the bombing of and armed intervention in Yugoslavia, the blockade of Cuba and the DPRK and similar pressures against other countries, the escalation of the arms race on the grounds of some spurious threat by "rogue states" who must not be allowed to pursue a path which is to stand against the hegemony of the big powers. Though these criminal acts are carried out with an ideological offensive that they are done with a high moral purpose and to further "common values and mutual responsibility", yet they are still acts which are carried out for the geo-political, strategic and economic "self-interest" of the big monopolies, the states which do their bidding and the military, political and economic blocs of those states.

The collective response to globalisation which is required and which the people aspire to and are fighting for is something quite different from that put forward by Tony Blair in promoting "community as an international idea". Tony Blair's "international community" is nothing but shorthand for those countries which put their hand to the Paris Charter, and which Anglo-American imperialism and the big powers of Europe are trying to corral together into the community of "progressive governance" or the "Third Way". His "doctrine of international community based on the principle of enlightened self-interest" is the imposition of those values and that social and political system which serves those values of globalisation, of "multi-party democracy", of the kind of "human rights" which have their basis in the private ownership of the means of production. The collective response of democratic humankind is for the democratisation of international relations. The principles they base themselves on are not of "enlightened self-interest" but of support for all peoples everywhere who are fighting for their national and social rights. These principles entail the equality of all sovereign states, that is, the recognition of the equality of all sovereign nations, big or small. They entail the non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries and relations not of exploitation but of equality and mutual benefit, based on peaceful coexistence. It follows that there must be no economic, political and military "blocs", and also, in the case of Britain, that it should end all its colonial and neo-colonial relations with other countries and withdraw from all the big power blocs, and that every people should have its right to follow its own path of social development and its independence respected. As for the United Nations, to which Tony Blair refers in passing in terms of the "gap between promise and performance", this "gap" can only be ended by ending its manipulation as the tool of the big powers, and that it should become a genuine forum for the moderation of international relations by ensuring that all nations, big or small, have an equal say and equal input, and the situation where the big five permanent members of the Security Council have the veto be ended.

This is the only way forward in the 21st century in "renewing the institutions of international co-operation" which Tony Blair refers to in his speech. It is a path not of "building alliances between the main players", as is his solution, but of the self-determination of nations and relations of equality and mutual benefit between modern sovereign states.

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