TORY Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s speech yesterday called for the UK to be ‘realistic about our global position’, insisting that this means recognising that Britain is ‘not a superpower and we do not have an empire’.
Hunt’s speech in Singapore did however hold a message of comfort to those Tories who still cling to the belief that British imperialism is still a force to be reckoned with on the world stage, instead of being a shambling wreck that has sunk into an economic abyss reduced to grovelling around the world seeking favours and trade deals from nations it once dominated in the days of imperial might.
Hunt’s message of hope consisted in his listing all the alleged strengths of British capitalism. He stated that Britain has: ‘the fifth biggest economy in the world, the third biggest overseas aid budget, the second biggest military budget in NATO, one of the two biggest financial centres, the world’s language, highly effective intelligence services and a world class diplomatic network, including permanent membership of the Security Council.’
For years, the Tories have been boasting about Britain being the fifth largest economy in the world, despite the fact that in 2017 the then Tory chancellor Philip Hammond was forced to admit that it had slipped to sixth place, overtaken by France. Indeed, according to the World Bank, Britain now languishes in ninth place having been overtaken by India, Russia, Brazil and Indonesia with the top five largest economies remaining as the US, China, Japan, Germany and France.
The world ranking of economic size is calculated on the GDP of countries, the total value of goods and services produced. In Britain, over 80% of the value is produced by the service and banking sector – manufacturing industry which produces real wealth and jobs has all but been destroyed in favour of a banking system that produces untold wealth on paper for the bankers and nothing for the working class except permanent austerity to pay off the bankers’ debts.
While Hunt boasts of the great British capitalist economy, millions of workers and their families rely on the charity of food banks and continual debt just to survive.
With the collapse of the world’s stock markets and the imminent crash of the international financial system British capitalism has never been more weak and decrepit despite all Hunt’s pathetic boasts.
Hunt’s speech echoed that given last weekend by the Tory Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who also made grandiose claims about British capitalism being a major force today. Williamson, who last year demanded that military spending by Britain be increased from £40 billion a year to £60 billion, outlined plans for the UK to open two new military bases in the Caribbean and South East Asia.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Williamson claimed that: ‘this is our moment to be that true global player once more – and I think the Armed Forces play a really important role as part of that.’
Britain already has military bases in 10 countries and now Williamson is proposing even more with Singapore or Brunei in the Pacific as potential sites. He explained placing British armed forces provocatively on the doorstep of China saying: ‘If we have economic interests there, we should have a military interest there.’
Williamson and Hunt despite all the caveats about Britain’s lost empire are clearly attempting to recreate the glory days of British imperialism, when it ruled the world through military might. There can be no return to those days, despite all the Tory talk about Britain ‘walking tall’ in the world again.
In their weakness, the Tories are simply grovelling before US imperialism offering themselves up as very junior partners in the American war drive against China and its determination to either smash its capitalist rivals or turn them into mere vassals. In its death agony, capitalism can offer the world nothing but war abroad and pauperisation for the working class at home.
The only way to end this war on two fronts is through the victory of the world socialist revolution. This requires the building of revolutionary parties of the Fourth International in every country to lead this struggle.