Foreign policy is essential to how all policy is framed in this country. Why is it so invisible in this election campaign?

Have you noticed that foreign policy is hardly discussed in this election campaign?

I have always argued that domestic policy is at least limited by foreign policy, and can be determined by that policy. I will explain first, in terms of military, then trade policy and finally of financial foreign policy.

The military eat up a larger proportion of the UK budget than any other European country. Trade policy will determine whether the international multinational companies will develop greater grip over our economy… that too needs explanation below. And financial policy deals with our banks and banking more generally. A coherent socialist foreign policy would provide the conditions for an equally coherent domestic policy. The two are tied closely into a single bundle, as I will demonstrate.


Britain’s military policy has been based on the presupposition since 1945, that Britain is a ‘great power’. It is unquestioned that Britain was once an international power, with military bases all over the world, but not any more.

If you have any pretence to be a world power you need an economy to match your pretensions. Long ago, America overtook Britain, and more recently China and Germany’s economy became significantly larger than Britain’s. Relatively speaking, Britain’s economy is shrinking in comparison to many newer states. We still strut around as if we were a great power, and the US pretends that we are an equal, but those days are well over and the country as whole has never comes to terms with our lesser place in the world.

It is high time we gave up our position on the Security Council at the United Nations.

Our Trident nuclear weapons are more for show than protection. The technology is American and we could not fire these weapons without first the Americans giving us the OK. If they were ever a defence against an aggressive power, they are today useless and a waste of billions of pounds. They need to be scrapped and the workers affected be asked to come up with a 21st century Lucas plan, as happened in the 1980s.

Recently our own armed forces and the Americans have been putting forward pleas for extra military spending by Britain due to the rise and rise of the Al Qaeda type movements across much of the Islamic world. My argument is that the sooner we pull all troops out of areas where these risings have taken place the better. We are the problem. Our interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria have been the overt cause of the rise of the jihadi movement. This is a complex argument, but a socialist government ought to get out and talk: negotiation, peace and development.

Our need is for a small, modern force to protect our shores, not a complex set of military equipment to support the American’s imperial adventures. Ever since 1945, every British government, Labour or Conservative, has tied themselves into a close military association with the Americans. The central theme of British foreign policy for 70 years, has been that we have tied ourselves to the Americans, with the consequent spend on a high cost military.

If we wish to spend our taxpayer’s money on our own needs, here is an opportunity for huge savings.

As a small island with huge human experiences around the world we could be a force for good to be reckoned with. For any political party with imagination, is not beyond the possible.


Now let us briefly examine a socialist international trade policy.

An this moment in time, there are a wide range of trade policies being negotiated behind closed doors. A few acronyms will illustrate; there are the TTIP, CETA, TISA, TTP, ESA. All these acronyms stand for grand bilateral trade deals between the USA, the EU and other countries. The TTP is the Trans Pacific Partnership, which excludes China…. Of course.

The TTIP is the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership. All are huge deals, which are being negotiated behind closed doors, in case public pressure becomes too great and the agreements have to be undertaken in public view. These agreements have one thing in common: they are designed to benefit only the huge multinational companies. No serious socialist party can possibly agree to these arrangements.

We need a different set of trade policies, designed to support and benefit the poorest countries, to support small scale food producers, instead of the great multinational food companies. In short we need a whole new set of trade policies that will allow the small countries and the small producers to become self-sufficient in food.

There is an absolute necessity to reduce the inequalities that beguile our land. Over the last 30 years inequalities have grown hugely in all major Western nations. There is a good reason: policy has been designed to benefit the huge companies, against everybody else. Tax, trade and investment policies have specifically benefited the largest. Supporting these latest mega trade policies like the TTIP can only increase inequality.

Britain, the USA and France are continually using sanctions as an act of war.

We threaten this state and then another, which in some cases are indeed a preliminary to war. At the moment we have sanctions against Russia and Iran. Our sanctions are there to support the USA, and both will fail to achieve the apparent, desired outcome. Sanctions are the tool of the world’s bully, who can’t get their way without the threat of military force.. A socialist government needs an altogether different approach. I suggest, we leave other countries to get on with their own policies, and we need to develop appropriate trade and investment links, to encourage development.


The third part of a socialist overseas policy is around money and finance. Britain’s greatness as a world power was based in the 19th century on the sweat of factory workers across the land. We manufactured things, everything, from the tiniest needle to the great machines that drove the production of goods, which we exported worldwide. To achieve what we did, we created an infrastructure of banks and finance, so that the pound sterling became the world trading currency. From 1944 onwards, Britain lost this world advantage, as the US dollar took over. But the infrastructure of banks and money in the City of London remained. And 50 years later, when the City of London lost much of the old limitations in 1986, the City became a financial powerhouse of the world. 1986 was termed, ‘The Big Bang”, it was a system of deregulation, when many of the old smaller financial houses were bought up, a new electronic era was ushered in, and the City was open to banks across the world.

After 1986, the City of London changed from being the service element of Britain’s dominant powerhouse, her manufacturing economy, into something very different The growth of electronics happened fortuitously at the same moment in history. What occurred were new financial vehicles, which were little more than sophisticated forms of betting, on the increase or decrease of exchange rates. New forms of buying and selling packages of mortgages came into being. Funds were created to buy other countries debt at heavily discounted prices, often termed ‘vulture funds’; a new term had to be created to bundle all these new institutions, it was called shadow banking.

25 years after the Big Bang, the City of London has become the overwhelmingly major sector driving Britain’s, economy. It has been widely admitted that large parts of the City are useless in terms of the rest of the economy, bringing no benefit to any one. The major banks have swallowed other smaller banks from all over the world and are now considered so large that they cannot be allowed to fail. Shadow banking needs more than mere regulation, it needs to be either made useful, or nationalised. A socialist economy requires a banking system which is a service sector, not the dominant sector. It needs a system which taxes transactions, and which collects taxes from all sectors of the City.

There are no simple policy predictions. In the past the City has been deeply antagonistic to a victory of the Left. Not withstanding the non-democratic nature of the City, the entire edifice needs to be brought under control with the intention that it again becomes a service sector for the rest of the economy. At the very least there is a need for a Development Bank, not unlike the KfW, the German Development Bank, owned by the State, which no government of any hue has even considered to privatise.

The City of London is part domestic and part foreign policy. A smaller City of London, which directly brought benefits to the whole of the UK, would be a magnificent achievement.

A socialist party that stood for peace and development would have a long term opportunity of great popularity.

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Roger van Zwanenberg

Dr Roger van Zwanenberg is the former managing director of Pluto Books.

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