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close this bookMaldevelopment - Anatomy of a Global Failure (United Nations University)
close this folder4. complexities of international relations: Africa's vulnerability and external intervention
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAfrican economies' vulnerability vis-à-vis the challenge of capitalism's new worldwide expansion
View the documentSome specific aspects of Africa's economic integration in the world system, ACP-EEC association and Euro-American mercantile conflict1
View the documentSpecial links with France: the Franc zone2
View the documentEvolution in Euro-Arab relations: interwoven economics and politics
View the documentConflict and national and regional security in Africa
View the documentThe Middle East conflict in a world perspective
View the documentAfrica and the Arab world in the world system
View the documentNotes

Evolution in Euro-Arab relations: interwoven economics and politics

The intensification of Euro-Arab relations that occurred after the Second World War must be reassessed in the context of the overall worldwide expansion.3 It is not even necessary to draw a detailed picture of these economic relations as they are today, or as they have developed in recent history. It is enough to reiterate, as is well-known, that these relations are highly intensive in all fields. In the field of commercial exchanges, the flow from South to the North, namely Europe, assures the North the major part of its energy supplies. The flow from North to South is also significant for the Arab region: Europe is second in meeting the Arab agriculture and food shortfall and first in meeting the import requirements in producer goods for the Arab countries. This means that the relations are not only important quantitatively (revealing growth rates after the Second World War faster than the overall rate of growth in world trade), but also qualitatively crucial for both sides. The commercial exchanges are reinforced and completed by financial flows, especially since 1973 when, through the recycling of part of the surplus of some Arab countries (but less and less) some of the surplus has been invested through Euro-Arab financial institutions. These flows have considerably speeded up the transfer of technology or to be more precise the sale of turnkey factories. The earlier contribution of the Arab world to the creation of the labour force in Europe was significant; it has now become of vital importance. This migratory flow from South to North, although slowing down in the current crisis, seems destined to play an increasing role in the long term.

Post-war expansion was, however, also characterized by the deployment of a plan for national bourgeois development throughout the Third World, and especially in the Arab region. Thus from 1945 to 1970, along with the rise of the national movement, there has been apparent in the Arab world an attempt at crystallization of an Arab national bourgeoisie, or Arab national bourgeoisies, believing itself capable of forming a hegemonic political and social force at national level and becoming an equal partner in the world system.

If the Arab national plan has proved impossible to achieve, as is demonstrated by its current degeneration occasioned by the crisis, the failure is due also to internal causes (the bourgeois character of the plan) and to the fact that the West, far from supporting the development, has fought against it and continues to do so.

An analysis has already been made of the plan's internal contradictions, its historical limits and extreme vulnerability, which have in the end led to its failure (cf. Chapters 2 and 3). We insist on the point too often hidden that the internal causes' have not operated in isolation, or in an atmosphere conducive. Or even neutral, to the plan. On the contrary, the world system - central domination, with or without hegemony (US in this case) - is far from being favourable to homogenization of the system by the gradual crystallization of new partner centres (as all versions of the 'stages' of development theory suppose), but has had rather the reverse effect of further reproduction of the centres/peripheries asymmetry

In the Arab region, the Nahda plan began an attempt at unitary national construction, of which Nasserism was the highest point. The distant past is of great significance here despite the eight or nine centuries of degeneration that followed - a past including the character of social formations in the Arab world in its first glory (the first three or four centuries of Islam) marked by unification of the dominant class on the basis of statist/mercantile centralization of the surplus (in contrast with European feudal fragmentation), and hence the unification of culture and language. The renaissance that appeared on the horizon from the beginning of the 1 9th century was built progressively on Arab unitary nationalism, breaking with Ottoman influence and Pan-lslamism. But the arrival of the necessary elements for the plan's implementation, namely liquidation of the Ottoman Empire and British and French colonizations, set up obstacles. The Arab states, one by one, regained their independence but in disunion. Gradual reinforcement of these new realities, far from narrowing the differences that had been opened in the preceding centuries and worsened by colonization, served rather to entrench the differences. The Arab bourgeoisie began to be aware of its possible collective emergence only when it had given way to a series of local bourgeoisies, each integrated separately into the world system.

For all kinds of reasons, some general and fundamental (the West's hostility to the emergence of new centres in Asia and Africa), others more specific to the region (the markedly popular dimension of the national liberation struggles, conflict between states, the Palestinian question to which we shall return), the hostility of the capitalist West was unyielding and particularly violent. To recall the facts: the 1956 aggression against Egypt, the decision taken by the Americans in 1965 to go to war to bring Nasser down, and put into effect in 1967 by Israel and its sleeping partners, the prolonged Algerian war (l954-62), the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the annexation of the Golan Heights and the West bank of the Jordan by Israel, and so on.

What is important to note here is that while this constant conflict between Arab nationalism (bourgeois though it be) and imperialism has been one of the ways in which the USSR escaped the isolation to which the Atlantic alliance sought to confine it. Europe has never dissociated itself from the United States in the conflict. The supply of Soviet weapons to Egypt in 1955 clearly marks the Soviet Union's entry on the Arab scene.

On another tack. Europe, one need hardly recall, after dragging out its efforts to hold on to colonial possessions (the Algerian war and the Anglo-French attempt against Egypt in 1956 are evidence of this) simply walked off-stage to leave the US policeman and its Israeli subordinate to act for the entire West. At least until 1973 when the 'oil crisis' sharply woke up the Europeans and reminded them of their own vulnerability and of the selfishness of the United States. But what has Europe done since? Its 'comeback' in the Orient coincided with the decline of the Arab nationalist plan; Europe was happy to show a good face - for the sake of business - to the new ruling Arab forces, especially the most reactionary and the most susceptible to accepting the compradorization underway. This cannot be said to be 'supporting an Arab attempt at autonomous development', but merely enrolling as a partner - albeit a trading competitor - in the US plan for the region.

The post-war upsurge, followed by the crisis, far from narrowing the North-South gap has widened it, setting the two shores of the Mediterranean further apart than ever, through the closer integration of Southern Europe on the one hand and the rejection and sinking of the Arab plan on the other.

How do these conflicts relate to the East-West conflict? This conflict must be situated in the context of the broad offensive of imperialism against the South in general and the Arab world in particular. Europe, through the Atlantic alliance, has opted so far to act against the Arab revival. In the West, the media often portray the Middle East conflict as an East-West conflict, in which the Soviet Union is currently embroiled through Syria, and in the past through Egypt. This in no way corresponds to the truth. But the argument is used to justify the shift of NATO's military strategies towards the South and the placing of missile bases in Sicily, not aimed at the Soviet Union but at the Arab world. So under cover of a hotting up of conflict with the East, conditions are created for aggression against the South. The Mediterranean is no longer NATO's southern flank against the Soviet Union, but NATO's central flank against the South. The strategy seeks, therefore, to recompradorize the enormous space that covers, among others, all the Arab and all the African peoples.

Seen in this perspective, Euro-Arab relations are unlikely to develop in a way favourable to the liberation and progress of the Arab peoples. Euro-Arab relations are currently at a conjuncture highly unfavourable to Arab popular interests. On one side we have a Europe that after erratic changes of heart towards the Arabs between 1973 and 1980 has totally gone over to the US and Zionist plan for the region. On the other, there is the Arab world of infiath, a disintegrating Arab world where a half or more of the powers are already openly compradorized.

Does this mean there is no room for any other economic and political relations between Europe and the Arab world? There is, but on condition that the relations are within the prospect of reinforcing the autonomy of the states and peoples in regard to dominant US imperialism. In such a perspective of widening European and Arab states' and peoples' autonomy, one might imagine that some kind of mutual support is not impossible, despite the past and despite the difference in levels of development. This is the prospect of a non-alignment reinforced by a European non-alignment and a restored Arab non-alignment.