Monday, November 19, 2007

The Dollar: Iran, Venezuela, and the G20

Kourosh Shemirani of the Queer Iranian Alliance, writing in Iranian Truth, observes that "moderate" politicians (whether they are reformist, pragmatist, or neo-conservative) criticize the Ahmadinejad administration only on its policy on the nuclear program, essentially blaming it rather than the empire for economic sanctions on Iran, and have nothing to say about the violations of civil liberties of feminist, student, and labor activists ("Is This the Nail in the Coffin of Iran’s Reform Movement?" 19 November 2007). What the "moderates" are saying boils down to this: "Iran should bow down to Western pressure that most everyone in Iran sees as unfair" (Shemirani, 19 November 2007). This message, I suspect, is meant to be heard more in the West than at home.

As capitalism has evolved, so has imperialism. World War II effectively put an end to the period of destructive rivalry among imperial powers. The United States, which emerged as the hegemon at the war's end, has since experienced a paradox: the more it succeeded in helping its former rivals like Japan and Germany, ruined during the war, recover and re-develop industrially, to make them serve as bulwarks against communism, the more its own industrial development suffered.
In 1950, the US supplied 50% of the world's gross product; by 2003 this had dropped to 20%. In 1950, 60% of all manufactured goods were produced in the US, today only 20% of manufactured goods derive from the US. Non-US companies now dominate most of the industries in the world. For example, 9 of the 10 largest electronics companies, 8 of the 10 largest car manufacturing companies, 7 of the 10 largest oil companies, and 19 out of the 25 largest banks in the world are non-American. (Shawn Hattingh, "The G20: The New Ruling Aristocracy of the World?" MRZine, 15 November 2007)
Washington has responded to this paradox by building multilateral institutions such as the G7, and later the G20, the latter of which incorporates not only China and Russia but also such regional powers as Brazil, India, Turkey, and South Africa into the multinational empire, albeit as subordinate members. Iran's "moderates" would love to integrate Iran, under their leadership, into this still US-led project -- hence the aforementioned message to the West -- rather than calling, like Ahmadinejad and Chavez, for the end of the dollar hegemony and US imperialism.1

1 Iran and Venezuela have pushed the OPEC to dump the dollar and price oil in a basket of currencies, though their initiative has so far been resisted by Saudi Arabia above all: Javier Blas and Ed Crooks, "Opec Frets over Response to Dollar," Financial Times, 18 November 2007; Ed Crooks and Javier Blas, "Opec to Study Effects of Falling Dollar," Financial Times, 18 November 2007; and Associated Press, "Chavez and Ahmadinejad: Falling Dollar a Prelude to the End of US Imperialism," 19 November 2007. In contrast, the G20, of which Saudi Arabia is also a member, is silent on the dollar question: William MacNamara and Alec Russell, "G20 Silent on Dollar Impact on World Markets," Financial Times, 19 November 2007.

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