A barbaric war intensifies

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While Russia is continuously pouring carpets of bombs on Ukrainian cities, at the end of the G7 meeting, organised in the bucolic setting of the Bavarian Alps, on 28 June, the representatives of the great "democratic" powers chanted the words of Macron in chorus: “Russia cannot and must not win!”, eager to express their fake indignation about the horror of the fighting, the tens of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees, the systematic destruction of entire cities, the execution of civilians, the irresponsible bombing of nuclear power stations, and the considerable economic consequences for the entire planet. By feigning fear, this band of cynics also sought to conceal the very real responsibility of the West in this massacre, in particular the destabilising action of the United States which, in its attempts to counter the decline of its world leadership, did not hesitate to stir up chaos and barbarism at the gates of the historic centre of capitalism.

The Ukraine trap set by US imperialism for Russian imperialism

Today the US and the other powers in the West present themselves as champions of peace, of democracy, and of poor innocent Ukraine faced with a shameful attack by the Russian ogre. If the horrors committed by Russian imperialism are more difficult to hide, neither the US nor Ukraine can be seen as “white knights”. On the contrary, they have played an active role in the unleashing and perpetuation of the massacre.

The Ukrainian bourgeoisie, corrupt to the bone, had already sabotaged the Minsk agreement of 1914, which implied, among other things a certain autonomy for the Donbass and the protection of the Russian language in Ukraine. Today it is acting in a particularly intransigent ‘fight to the end’ manner in the face of Russia; certain factions even envisage the reconquest of Crimea.

But US policy is far more hypocritical and calculating. In the early 1990s, the United States had “informally” promised Moscow that it would not take advantage of the implosion of the Eastern bloc to extend its influence to Russia's borders. However, it did not hesitate to integrate the former Eastern Bloc countries into its sphere of influence one by one, just as it did not hesitate to massively arm Taiwan and to support its attempts to distance itself from Beijing after promising to respect the 'one China' principle. The US policy towards Ukraine has nothing to do with the defence of the widow and the orphan or of democracy, nor with beautiful humanitarian principles that no country hesitates to smear in blood and mud for the defence of its sordid imperialist interests.

By challenging Putin to invade Ukraine (and pushing him to do so by making it clear that it would not intervene), by dragging him into a full-scale war, the US has, in a Machiavellian manoeuvre, momentarily scored important points in the imperialist arena, as the US strategy is above all aimed at countering the irretrievable decline of its world leadership.

The US bourgeoisie was thus able to restore NATO's control over the European imperialisms. While this organisation seemed to be in perdition, "brain dead" according to Macron, the war in Ukraine allowed a return to the forefront of this instrument of subordination of European imperialisms to US interests. Washington exploited the Russian invasion to call the protesting European "allies" to order: Germany, France and Italy were forced to break off their trade links with Russia and to hastily launch the military investments that the United States had been demanding for 20 years.

Similarly, the US is dealing decisive blows to Russia's military power. But behind Russia, the US is basically targeting China and putting it under pressure. The basic objective of the USA’s Machiavellian manoeuvre is to continue the containment of China, which began in the Pacific, by weakening the Russian-Chinese relationship. Russia's failures faced with US military aid to the Ukrainian army is a clear warning to Beijing. China has reacted in an embarrassed manner to the Russian invasion: while disapproving of the sanctions, Beijing avoids crossing the red line that would lead to American sanctions against China. Moreover, the Ukrainian conflict makes it possible to block a large area, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, which is indispensable for the deployment of the "New Silk Road", and this is undoubtedly a significant objective of the American manoeuvre.

US policy leads to intensified chaos and militarism

Regardless of which faction of the bourgeoisie is in government, since the beginning of the period of decomposition, the US, in its desire to defend its declining supremacy, has been the main force for the spread of chaos and warlike barbarism through its interventions and manoeuvres: it has created chaos in Afghanistan and Iraq and fostered the rise of both Al Qaeda and Daesh (Islamic State).

In the autumn of 2021, they consciously stirred up tensions with China over Taiwan in order to rally the other Asian powers behind them. Their policy in Ukraine is no different today, although their Machiavellian strategy allows them to present themselves as a peaceful nation opposing Russian aggression. With its overwhelming military supremacy, the US is fomenting warlike chaos as the most effective barrier against the challenge of China. But far from stabilising the world situation, this policy intensifies the barbarity of war and exacerbates imperialist confrontations on all sides, in a chaotic, unpredictable and particularly dangerous context.

By putting Russia on the ropes, Washington is intensifying the threat of chaos and war in Europe. The war in Ukraine is leading to increasingly calamitous losses for Russia. However, Putin cannot stop the hostilities at this stage because he needs trophies at all costs to justify the operation domestically and save what can be left of Russia's military prestige, without giving up on removing this highly strategic territory from American influence. On the other hand, the longer the war goes on, the more Russia's military power and economy will be eroded. The United States has no interest in encouraging a cessation of hostilities, even if it means cynically sacrificing the population in Ukraine. Under the present conditions, the carnage can only continue and the barbarity expand, probably for months or even years, and this in particularly bloody and dangerous forms, such as the threat posed by "tactical" nuclear weapons.

By restoring the yoke of NATO, the US is also exacerbating the imperialist ambitions and militarism of the European bourgeoisies. If the European countries were able to nourish the illusion after 1989 that they could conduct their imperialist policy based essentially on their economic assets, with the Trump presidency, and even more clearly with the aggressive policy of the Biden administration, based on the military superiority of the United States, which is now taking shape in Ukraine, they are becoming increasingly aware of their military dependence and therefore of the urgency of reinforcing their armament policy, even if, at first, they cannot distance themselves too clearly from NATO. Germany's decision to massively rearm, doubling its military budget, is a major imperialist development in the medium term because, since the Second World War, Germany had maintained only modest armed forces.

The dissensions within NATO are already appearing between an “intransigent” pole that wants to “bring Putin to his knees” (USA, Great Britain and Poland, Baltic countries) and a more “conciliatory” pole (“all this must end in negotiations”, “we must avoid humiliating Russia”). By increasing the pressure on China, the US bourgeoisie is also increasing the risk of new military confrontations. The Ukrainian crisis has dangerously destabilising consequences for the imperialist position of the main challenger to the US.

Beijing continues to pursue a policy of formal support for Putin without any compromising commitments, but the war is having a heavy impact on its “New Silk Road” and on contacts with the Central European countries that China had managed to seduce. This is happening at a time when the slowdown of its economy is becoming more and more apparent, with growth currently estimated at 4.5% of GDP. While the United States does not hesitate to accentuate these difficulties and to exploit them in its confrontation with Beijing, the situation exacerbates tensions within the Chinese bourgeoisie and accentuates the risk of an acceleration of confrontations on the economic and even military level.

The incalculable consequences of the war in Ukraine

The absence of any economic motivation for wars was obvious from the beginning of the decadence of capitalism: War was the indispensable means by which capital opened up the possibilities for its further development, at a time when such possibilities existed and could only be opened up through violence. In the same way, the capitalist world, having historically exhausted all possibility of development, finds in modern imperialist war the expression of its collapse. War today can only engulf the productive forces in an abyss, and accumulate ruin upon ruin, in an ever-accelerating rhythm, without opening up any possibility for the external development of production.” [1]

The conflict in Ukraine is a vivid example of how war has not only lost its economic function, but how the rush to military chaos is increasingly reducing the strategic benefits of war. For example, Russia has embarked on a war in the name of defending Russian speakers, but it is massacring tens of thousands of civilians in predominantly Russian-speaking regions, while turning these cities and regions into ruins and suffering considerable material and infrastructural losses itself. If, at the end of this war, it captures the Donbass and South-East Ukraine, it will have conquered a field of ruins (the price of reconstruction is currently estimated at 750 billion euros) and a population that hates it. It will have suffered a significant strategic setback in terms of its great power ambitions.
As for the United States, in its policy of containment of China, it is being led to encourage a cynical “scorched earth” policy, leading to an immeasurable explosion of economic, political and military chaos. The irrationality of war has never been more apparent.

This tendency towards the increasing irrationality of military conflicts goes hand in hand with the increasing irresponsibility of the ruling factions coming to power, as illustrated by the adventure of Bush Junior and the “Neo-Cons” in Iraq in 2003, the policies of Trump from 2018 to 2021 or the faction around Putin in Russia. They express the exacerbation of militarism and the loss of control of the bourgeoisie over its political apparatus, which can lead to an adventurism that is fatal, in the long run, for these factions but, above all, perilous for humanity.

At the same time, the consequences of the war for the economic situation of many countries are dramatic. Russia is a major supplier of fertiliser and energy, Brazil depends on fertiliser for its crops. Ukraine is a major exporter of agricultural products, and prices of commodities such as wheat are likely to rise. States such as Egypt, Turkey, Tanzania or Mauritania are 100% dependent on Russian or Ukrainian wheat and are on the verge of a food crisis. Sri Lanka and Madagascar, already over-indebted, are bankrupt. According to the UN Secretary General, the Ukrainian crisis risks “pushing up to 1.7 billion people (more than one fifth of humanity) into poverty, destitution and hunger”. The economic and social consequences will be global and incalculable: impoverishment, misery, hunger...

The same is true of the ecological threats to the planet. The fighting in Ukraine, a country with Europe's third-largest nuclear fleet, in a region with an ageing industry, a legacy of the “Soviet” era, presents enormous risks of ecological and nuclear disasters. But more generally in Europe and in the world, while officially ‘clean, green energy transition’ remains the priority, the need to get rid of dependence on Russian fuels and to respond to soaring energy prices are already pushing the major economies to seek to revive the production of coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy. Germany, the Netherlands and France have already announced measures in this direction.

The unpredictability of the present confrontations, the possibilities of their sliding out of control, which are stronger than during the Cold War, mark the current phase of decomposition and constitute one of the particularly worrying dimensions of this acceleration of militarism. More than ever, the current war highlights the only alternative: “socialism or the destruction of humanity”. Instead of death and capitalist barbarism: socialism!
 

R. Havannais, 4 July 2022

 

[1] Report to the conference of July 1945 of the Gauche Communiste de France, cited in 50 years ago: The real causes of the Second World War, International Review 59

 

 

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Five months of the “special operation”