Capitalism accumulates ruins and corpses

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Almost a year of war in Ukraine... Russia is well and truly bogged down and trapped.[1] Sucked in to the cycle of militarism, faced with a surprisingly well-prepared Ukrainian army, and Western powers that had not anticipated the timing but knew the aims of the cornered Kremlin, beleaguered Russian imperialism embarked on a suicidal "special" adventure. Today it finds itself stunned and very much weakened by this conflict which could only drag it under the wreckage.

A scorched earth policy

The thinly veiled aim of the US and NATO, by skilfully pushing Moscow into the trap, was to break the fragile link between Russia and China, to weaken and further isolate Putin on the international scene. All this at the cost of a scorched earth policy in which the Western powers are clearly complicit, arming and pushing their Ukrainian ally into bloody resistance, set for a chaos with unpredictable and potentially disastrous consequences. From July onwards, Russian troops have marked time, showing signs of weakening, unable to make progress against the Ukrainian army reinforced by artillery whose sophisticated weapons come largely from Western allies. The Russian army's failures were further accentuated in September when Ukrainian troops achieved a spectacular victory in the province of Kharkiv and to the north of Sloviansk. This surprising turnaround was confirmed as soon as the Ukrainian army captured Kherson, a city declared "forever Russian" only a month earlier by Putin and then abandoned without resistance.

Today, the toll of this terrible war is horrifying. By the beginning of December, 200,000 people had been killed or wounded by the warring factions. 40,000 civilians have died in Ukraine and refugees number nearly 8 million.[2] Sadly, soldiers and civilians will still be condemned to further mourning, other sufferings, physical and psychological violence from both sides: deportation, torture, rape, summary execution, indiscriminate bombing (particularly with highly lethal cluster bombs). Added to this is misery, hunger and cold on a daily basis, the terror spawned by the Ukrainian state, its national coalition, with its controls, the police checkpoints carried out by its zealous minions.

Desperately trying to break the morale of the Ukrainian people, the Russian army is stepping up its violence and bombings, already having deprived the population of heating, water and electricity for the winter. Ukraine has become a mass grave and wasteland, a concentration of hatreds. A city like Mariupol, for example, 90% razed to the ground, is a tragic symbol of this. Entire civilian neighbourhoods, thousands of schools, hundreds of hospitals and factories are damaged or destroyed in many cities, such as the capital Kyiv, but also Lviv, Dnipro and Ternopil, in retaliation for the destruction of the Crimean Bridge. The destruction is such that it would cost at least $350 billion to rebuild the whole country.[3] The Ukrainian Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal, has even suggested $750 billion. But this patriotic zeal and the estimation of such figures will not prevent the resulting ruins and corpses!

A powerful accelerator of the decomposition of capitalism

While the Covid 19 pandemic has been devastating the world economy for the past two years, which was already showing signs of being in the red, the war in Ukraine is giving a huge boost to global stagnation, forcefully and qualitatively accentuating all the phenomena of the decomposition of the capitalist system by precipitating them into a really destructive vortex. A direct impact on the world situation that is already manifesting itself at different levels in a totally unprecedented bleak scenario. In the first place, by the sudden surge in world inflation linked not only to colossal indebtedness and a financial crisis, but also and above all to the explosion in military expenditure for this conflict and future "high intensity" fighting. In addition to industrial bankruptcies in Russia, there is the jump in state-specific spending since the beginning of the war, military and civilian budgets in support of Ukraine have become a financial black hole: "Between 24 February and 3 August, at least 84.2 billion euros were spent by forty-one, mainly Western, countries.” The United States alone paid out €44.5 billion (one third of Ukraine’s GDP in 2020).[4] Of course, this does not stop poverty from exploding in this war-torn country, going from 2 to 21% of the population. Such a situation necessitates attacks on all workers, generating a growing pauperisation that is taking hold everywhere, even in the richest countries of the globe. Foodstuffs, like the energy that is essential for everyday life, have sometimes become unaffordable, real weapons of war between thugs with contempt for the populations that have to struggle to feed and heat themselves. For example, wheat harvests in Ukraine, where prices have been exploding, have been deliberately destroyed by the Russian army. The world market is becoming more fragmented, in a crisis that affects trade and the very basis of production.

The crisis and the war are also fuelling the climate and environmental catastrophe. The impact is already visible in Ukraine. Military vehicles, bombing of civilian and industrial buildings, arson, have generated very serious pollution: high emissions of CO2, asbestos, heavy metals and other toxic products. Rivers, like the Ikva, are heavily polluted, contaminated with ammonia. Flora and fauna are very seriously affected: "900 protected natural areas in Ukraine have been affected by Russia's military activities, i.e. about 30% of the country's total protected areas". And "almost a third of Ukraine's crops may be unusable after the war".[5] The scandal of the sabotage of Russian gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea alone reveals that: "the infrastructure released about 70,000 tonnes of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, equivalent to the emissions of Paris for one year"[6]. The threat of a nuclear disaster from the shelling of both sides in Zaporizhzhia further darkens this grim picture, yet it is far from complete.

The unleashing of militarism and chaos

Even if, in general, the military can demonstrate undeniable expertise, the acknowledged capability of capitalist states, even if they are able to score diplomatic points at this or that moment with ingenious global visions to defend their own interests, all their most rational calculations are at the service of narrow interests, marked by a mode of production in its death throes, where the logic of profit and the economy are swallowed up by the senseless needs of war. This totally irrational spiral of military barbarism coldly planned by capitalist states is perfectly illustrated by the intentions surrounding the war in Ukraine. It fully confirms the absence of any possible economic motivation or advantage: "the capitalist world, having historically exhausted all possibility of development, finds in modern imperialist war the expression of its collapse, which can only engulf the productive forces in any abyss, and accumulate ruin upon ruin in an ever accelerating rhythm, without opening up any possibility of the outward development of production". [7]

Thus, it is now abundantly clear that "the war in Ukraine vividly illustrates how war has lost not only any economic function but even its strategic advantages: 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-eastern Ukraine, it will have conquered a wasteland, a population that hates it and suffered a consequent strategic setback in terms of its great power ambitions. As for the United States, in its policy of targeting China, it is led here to pursue (literally even) a "scorched earth" policy, with no economic or strategic gains other than an immeasurable explosion of economic, political and military chaos. The irrationality of war has never been more apparent."[8] In the face of Russia's military debacle, there have been discrete diplomatic signals that have been interpreted as Putin's willingness to possibly 'negotiate'. Similarly, in the West, primarily in the United States, there are concerns about the outcome of a conflict that could possibly lead to the unwanted handling of a catastrophic Russian implosion. But whatever the intentions or policies of the various parties, whatever the duration of this war, the outcome of which we do not yet know, or the ravages to come, one thing is certain: the dynamics of the acceleration of every man for himself and of chaos and militarism will only be exacerbated. Capitalism is indeed leading humanity towards its downfall and even its destruction. Only the world revolution of the proletariat will be able to put an end to the insanity of capital which is now taking on the appearance of the Apocalypse. 


(WH 20 December 2022)



[1] Cf. The significance and impact of the war in Ukraine International Review 168, (Report adopted May 2022)

[2] Mark A. Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, quoted by Courrier international (10 November 2022)

[3] La Tribune (10 September 2022)

[4] “War in Ukraine: six months of conflict summarised in nine key figures”, Les Echos (24 August 2022).

[5] “Why the war in Ukraine is also an ecological disaster”, (30 October 2022).

[6] “Methane leakage from Nord Stream pipelines less than expected”, Le Monde (6 October 2022).

[7] Report to the July 1945 Conference of the Gauche Communiste de France reproduced in the "Report on the Historical Course" adopted at the 3rd Congress of the ICC, International Review 18 (1979).

[8] “The significance and impact of the war in Ukraine”, International Review 168, Report adopted in May 2022



War in Ukraine