Gunboat diplomacy back in vogue

19th September 2021

Nuclear powered submarines for Australia up the stakes

The priorities of the British ruling class and its Tory government have been reinforced in several ways this week, from the international stage to the very local impact of their attacks upon the working class.   

With characteristic bombast and bluster Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, along with his US and Australian partners in crime, Joe Biden and Scott Morrison, announced the formation of the AUKUS, (Australia, UK, US) alliance aimed at containing the perceived Chinese threat in the Indo-Pacific.

Not that China was mentioned as any part of the reasoning for the so called ‘defence pact’ but given the desire of the US in particular to thwart the drive of the Chinese towards becoming the world’s biggest economy, China was very much the elephant in the virtual room.

It is easy to imagine the furore which would break out in the British press if the Chinese were to enter into a defence pact with the French and Germans in order to police the North Sea to counter the threat posed by Trident nuclear submarines.  Yet the North Sea is as close to China as the Indo-Pacific is to Britain.

The difference is of course that the Chinese do not play an imperialist role or see themselves as being the enforcers of order in parts of the globe way outside of their land or territorial waters. While the frontiers of the former British Empire have shrunk significantly in geographical terms over the past century the influence of British corporations, banks and military industrial complex remain significant.  The Tories’ articulation of Global Britain, in their recent defence review, gave expression to the ongoing desire of the British ruling class to retain the capability to intervene whenever and wherever it saw these ‘interests’ threatened.

The Australians will get a fleet of nuclear powered submarines from the deal fuelled by enriched uranium, largely awarding more contracts to US military suppliers, and opening the door to Australia being able to develop nuclear weapons capability.  The fact that the submarines will be nuclear powered is a breach of existing international non-proliferation treaties.  The intervention also subverts a £35 billion deal which was as good as signed by France with the Australians to supply upgraded, although not nuclear powered, submarine capability.

This latest setback in the inter-imperialist rivalry dance has resulted in the French recalling their US and Australian ambassadors for ’talks’.

There can be little doubt that the US element of AUKUS will be calling the shots, with the AUK as junior partners in what is clearly a US power grab to extend its regional influence and undermine continued Chinese economic expansion.

In Britain the Tories, as ever, are content to tag along deluding themselves that if any shooting starts, they will have some influence.  However, like the illusory deterrent capability of the Trident nuclear fleet, it will be American, not British, fingers on the buttons.   

On the domestic front the Tories remain shameless in their anti-working class actions by insisting that the £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit, brought in to see the poorest families cope with the impact of the pandemic, will be terminated on the 6th October.  With energy prices escalating, infections rising and deaths from Covid still being a reality of life in many working class communities, the £20 cut is classic Tory penny pinching in the extreme.  The cost of continuation would certainly be less than maintaining aircraft carriers in the Indo-Pacific and be of more benefit to working class communities.

The Tories press on though with their latest attempt to cover up their failings in the handling of the pandemic by promising vaccines to 12 – 15 year olds as well as offering booster jabs to the over 50’s and those with underlying vulnerable conditions.   On both counts, other than for the most vulnerable, the added protection afforded by these jabs will be negligible, according to most scientific evidence, compared to the impact of getting vaccines to parts of the world where vast swathes of the population have not been vaccinated at all.

A policy which prioritised vaccines to the Indo-Pacific, rather than warships and nuclear powered submarines, would give the concept of Global Britain an altogether different spin.  Unfortunately, it is not one consistent with Tory thinking.

As if all of that were not enough Boris Johnson’s Cabinet re-shuffle consolidated the Tories’ rightward shift, with the appointment of Liz Truss as Foreign Secretary being the most obvious example, closely followed by the elevation of Nadine Dorries to Culture Secretary.

It would be good to think that any Tory re-shuffle would merely be a case of re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, as the obvious failings of the government are ruthlessly exposed by the Opposition.  Sadly, the extent of the magic worked by Kier Starmer upon the Labour Party is to shroud it in a cloak of invisibility.  There is no indication that Starmer will come up with any new tricks as Labour Party Conference approaches.  We will see what is revealed….

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