Was the collapse of the international gold standard – established in 1873 – in 1914, a sure sign that war was coming? Was gold a “peaceful metal”, as Michael Hudson has argued? Does the history of finance and money, tied up with states and war, provide a theory of everything? We go way back to Greek and Roman times and forward all the way to 1914, drawing insights from modern monetary theory (MMT), Indian Political Economy (IPE), advocates of debt-free money creation (notably Stephen Zarlenga), to follow the rise and fall of the gold standard and of bimetallism. It’s a weird world mostly ignored by mainstream economics. But not by Civilizations!
In the August 2023 edition of In Real Time with Stan Cox (yes I know it’s September) we talk about his dispatch, “The Hubris of Plutocrats”, and the escape fantasies (and condos) of the super-rich. Stan argues they can’t escape the heat that’s coming, but at least some of our troubles stem from the fact that they think they can.
How close did Britain come to a civil war over the issue of Irish Home Rule? We talk about the long parliamentary road led by Parnell, the settler trick culminating in the seditious maneuvers in Ulster, and the final passage of the Home Rule Bill, rendered inoperative by World War I. This issue will be back before WWI is over, though – but the Easter Rising and 1916 is for a future episode.
In the First Balkan War, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Montenegro attacked the moribund Turkey to take its remaining territories and get Turkey out of Europe. In the Second Balkan War, they fought one another over those same territories. The Balkan Republics model themselves after Italy and Germany and hope to unify their nations at the expense first of Turkey, then of one another. The Scramble for the Ottoman Empire cannot but bring colonial-style wars into Europe. The shocking atrocities, the Carnegie Commission, the proliferation of “National Questions”. One of our main guides to all this? A Russian journalist writing for a Ukrainian newspaper who believes only a Federation of the Balkans can resolve these problems. His name is Leon Trotsky…
Stan Cox and I talk about Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR)’s 2020 book, The Ministry for the Future, which is a hugely important book because it pictures how we could get from our current situation to a world where CO2 emissions were actually trending downwards, saving human civilization from catastrophe. We talk about the climate events in the book, the geoengineering technologies proposed, the international policies proposed, and then I have a long critique of KSR’s geopolitics, which I argue gives undue praise to India, has an undue dislike of China and Russia, and gives too short a shrift to the imperial mechanisms of plunder that underpin the global economy and its currency regime, which leads to problems with the proposed carbon coin. But for all my critiques, this is the book we’ve got and so we have to use it as a starting point for how to get there from here.
After losing to Ethiopia, Italy tries to restore its reputation as a colonizer by invading Libya, following directly from France’s invasion of Morocco and leading directly to the Balkan War. The dominoes keep falling as the European colonizers keep grabbing. Libya becomes a battlefront for decades – one we will return to in future episodes.
The short Hafiziyya period in Morocco leads to the Treaty of Fez and annexation; Morocco’s lost its sovereignty but it’s Germany that feels aggrieved. More scrambling for Africa and another inter-imperial spat to inch us closer to WW1.
Arama Rata, independent Maori researcher, and Carl Zha of Silk & Steel podcast are both back! Carl reports on his lived experience as a survivor of the Prigozhin coup in Moscow; Arama outlines the anti-AUKUS speaking tour she is on with other journalists and activists; I continue my rant about the sheer plagiarism of Canada’s China panic using David Brophy’s book about Australia’s China panic. We conclude with the possibility of a regular meeting of CAUKUSZians (Canada + AUKUS + new Zealand)
Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910 is scramble-like colonial behavior; it is the beginning of a long and bold resistance by Korean patriots whose names will return; it is the occasion for studying Japanese colonialism in East Asia as well as its disputes with Russia. A short episode on Korea’s struggles from the Russo-Japanese War to the 1910 annexation.
The 1911 Chinese Revolution ends with Yuan Shikai in charge. He is ready to take the throne and become emperor except that he can’t sweep the foreigners away and ends up deepening the crisis. China enters the WW1 period in a state of fragmentation as the time of the warlords begins.