Uniting progressive and reactionary governments, expanded BRICS alliance doesn’t necessarily challenge U.S. imperialism
From left, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, China's President Xi Jinping, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pose for a BRICS group photo during the 2023 BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, Aug. 23, 2023.

The following guest editorial is from Morning Star, Britain’s daily socialist newspaper.

Just as significant as the fact that the BRICS economic alliance is expanding is the list of countries which are now set to join: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, and Argentina.

The six applicants will mean the BRICS (which already account for a larger share of world GDP than the G7 group of developed capitalist countries) rise to represent 37% of the global economy and 46% of the human race.

They are also heavily concentrated in the Middle East, a region traditionally dominated by U.S. imperialism. There is a definite move from Middle Eastern powers away from Washington’s orbit and the implications for continued U.S. hegemony could be great.

Could be. Socialists should be alert both to the positive aspects of BRICS expansion and to the many contradictions within the group, some already being exploited by Western imperialist powers.

The expansion of BRICS—which originally encompasses Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—indicates the rise of the global South. BRICS countries share an—entirely accurate—perception that most global institutions, especially financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank, are instruments used by the United States and the old imperialist powers to maintain economic dominance through control of other countries’ resources.

Changing economic interests provide opportunities to resolve longstanding feuds. China’s brokering of a rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia may—we do not know—have been facilitated by promised BRICS membership for both.

Its immediate consequence was progress toward peace in Yemen between the Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi movement. An end to Saudi-Iranian rivalry weakens the U.S. in the Middle East, and it is no surprise that Western powers have not welcomed a prospective end to the Yemen war.

Britain—so dedicated to Saudi victory it maintained arms sales even when the U.S. paused them over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and which has provided extensive logistical support for an air force bombing hospitals, schools, and residential areas—is reportedly deploying extra troops to oil-rich eastern Yemen, while Mohammad al-Atifi, defense minister in the Houthis’ Government of National Salvation, said this month that the U.S. and Britain were “leaving no stone unturned to obstruct” any peace deal.

Iran and Saudi Arabia joining the BRICS make the success of these spoiler schemes less likely. But not impossible. Existing BRICS members are regularly at loggerheads. India—a core member in the seemingly anti-U.S.-hegemony BRICS—is simultaneously a member of the Quad, a U.S.-led anti-China military bloc.

Despite these contradictions, BRICS expansion shows the decline of U.S. power. Its efforts to isolate Russia following the invasion of Ukraine have only worked on its closest allies: Most of the world isn’t listening.

However, it does not indicate any coherent foreign policy on the part of the BRICS themselves, unlike the ideologically-aligned G7. And the U.S.’ military and economic dominance over its European and East Asian allies has, if anything, increased since the Ukraine war started, with NATO expanding and Japan both rearming and in US-brokered engagement with South Korea.

The BRICS’ ideological diversity is a strength and a weakness.

It allows any country looking to challenge a “rules-based international order” in which the U.S. makes and breaks the rules to see advantages in membership. This shared interest can unite old enemies and bring together progressive governments with some of the world’s most reactionary ones.

But it does not systematically oppose imperialism, as India’s military alliance with the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific (or that of Brazil in Latin America under former President Jair Bolsonaro) shows, and as we see in Yemen, imperialism will “leave no stone unturned” to divide and rule.

The rise of the BRICS is not enough to displace the U.S. or avert a third world war. Anti-imperialists in remaining U.S. allies like Britain must do what we can to halt the drive towards militarization and end our governments’ subordination to Washington.

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Morning Star
Morning Star

Morning Star is the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain. Morning Star es el diario socialista publicado en Gran Bretaña.