The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

How Many More “Incidents” before an Economic War Becomes a Shooting War?

Feb 20, 2023

The U.S. military shot down a supposed Chinese “spy balloon.” And then they shot down two “unidentified flying objects"—pieces of “space junk"—just to drive the point home.

Of course, if China did send over a “spy balloon,” it would have been more than justified. The U.S. has a vast fleet of satellites, as many as all the other countries in the world put together. They spy on every part of China (and every other country) 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

The gunning down of the “spy balloon” was a made-for-TV demonstration of U.S. military bravado, an announcement that the U.S. is ready for war with China.

Going as far back as the Obama administration—and even further—the U.S. has been pursuing an economic war against China. Tariffs were put on Chinese products. Chinese companies were banned from buying the items they need from U.S. companies—particularly, advanced semi-conductors and other high-tech goods. And embargos were put on the products from the most advanced high-tech Chinese companies.

But behind this economic war lay another reality: Chinese factories have been an integral part of the U.S. high-tech industry. They have provided parts like simple chips, mass produced on Chinese assembly lines, by labor pushed to work at slave-labor wages. Part of the enormous profit made by big U.S. companies derives from parts produced in Chinese factories, or in factories on Taiwan, or in India, or South Korea, or in Mexico, and so on.

This is not new. This “global assembly line,” pulled together since the end of World War II, has been directed, organized and presided over by big multinational companies, most of them centered in the U.S. The whole globe may be their factory floor. But the profits feed into the U.S. banking system.

What’s different today is the economic crisis in which capitalism has been mired for 40 years. The longer capitalism’s crisis goes on, the more that big companies attempt to snatch greater profit from labor—no matter where that labor works.

We know what has happened in this country. U.S. companies push American workers to put out more production in less time, for wages whose value has been cut by inflation.

U.S. companies put the squeeze on labor in other countries by squeezing the companies they work for. This is true around the globe, whether the subsidiaries of U.S. companies be in South Korea or Mexico or Canada or even Europe.

But China is a special case. Its productive economy is the second biggest in the world. It has the most people. And its history, coming out of the 1949 Revolution, aimed at developing China as an independent country.

That didn’t mean that China could call the tune in its relationship with the U.S. But for decades, the Chinese ruling class took a slightly larger share of the value produced in its industry than what happened, for example, with Mexico.

But today, U.S. capitalism wants more out of China. So, today, there is an economic war, carried out with tariffs, and patent restrictions and even trade embargoes.

But economic wars have a logic to them—they can lead to shooting wars. During the 1930s economic crisis, trade wars led right into the Second World War.

It’s a mistake to fall for the propaganda being fed to us today: “spy balloons,” “unidentified flying objects,” “chip wars.” All of it aims to get us lined up behind “our own” capitalist class: enlisted in their economic war today; enlisted in their shooting war tomorrow.

Well, that capitalist class is not our friend, never has been. And our enemy is not in China or other countries. When World War One was starting, a German revolutionary said, "Every people’s main enemy is in their own country."

That’s even more true, a century later!