Report on imperialist tensions

Printer-friendly version

The ICC has recently held its 25th International Congress, where it adopted a number of reports on the world situation. This is the report on inter-imperialist tensions. 

To have a precise analysis of the historical situation and the perspectives that flow from it is one of the major responsibilities of revolutionary organisations, who need to provide a solid framework for their intervention in the class and to propose to the latter precise orientations for understanding the dynamics of capitalism or the actions and manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie. Unfortunately, the groups of the proletarian political milieu as a whole largely neglect this task, either because they remain stuck in the schemas of the past, applied mechanically without submitting them to criticism even if they no longer fit historical reality (the Bordigist groups), or because their opportunism leads them to prioritise an immediatist and empiricist approach, aiming at an illusory immediate success, rather than making the effort to verify the solidity and the relevance of their analyses (the Internationalist Communist Tendency)[1].

For its part, the ICC, faithful to the tradition of the workers’ movement and the marxist method, has always subjected its analytical frameworks to a critical verification to see if they remain valid - or if, on the contrary, they need to be amended or even revised. In line with this approach, this report takes as its starting point the resolution on the international situation from the 24th ICC Congress (2021)[2]. This highlighted the significant acceleration of decomposition that was then demonstrated in the ravages of the pandemic and its impact on the economic basis of the system, thus concretising the alternative "socialism or barbarism", put forward by the 3rd International. But, "In contrast to a situation in which the bourgeoisie is able to mobilise society for war, as in the 1930s, the exact rhythm and forms of decomposing capitalism’s drive towards the destruction of humanity are harder to predict because they are the product of a convergence of different factors, some of which may be partially hidden from view." (Resolution, Point 10). Various observations underlined this acceleration of decomposition in terms of imperialist confrontations:

- An intensification of the development of militarism, which had already become the way of life of capitalism in its decadent phase. Thus, the "massacres of innumerable small wars" are plunging capitalism "into an increasingly irrational imperialist every-man-for-himself" (pt 11), while at the same time we are witnessing a hardening of the conflicts between the world powers. "In this chaotic picture, there is no doubt that the growing confrontation between the US and China tends to take centre stage (...) (pt 12). While the US-China rivalry tends to escalate, the new Biden administration has announced that it will no longer be "taken in" by Russia (pt11).

- The aggressive policy of the United States, which, faced with its declining hegemony, does not hesitate to use "its capacity to act alone to defend its interests". However, "the pursuit of every man for himself will make it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for the United States to impose its leadership, an illustration of each against all in the acceleration of decomposition" (pt 11).

- China's extraordinary growth is itself a product of decomposition. (...). The totalitarian control over the whole social body, the repressive hardening of the Stalinist faction of Xi Jinping, is not an expression of strength but a manifestation of the weakness of the state " (pt 9).

- Increased tensions "do not mean that we are heading towards the formation of stable blocs and generalised world war" (pt 12). However, we do not live "in an era of greater security than during the Cold War (...). On the contrary, if the phase of decomposition is marked by an increasing loss of control on the part of the bourgeoisie, this also applies to the vast means of destruction - nuclear, conventional, biological and chemical - that have been accumulated by the ruling class, (...)" (pt 13).

The outbreak of war in Ukraine and the resulting sharpening of imperialist tensions are fully in line with the frame of reference adopted by the 24th International Congress. However, they undoubtedly represent a qualitative development in society's slide towards barbarism by highlighting the driving role of militarism in the interrelation of the various crises (health, economic, political, ecological, etc.) that are currently affecting capitalism.

Part 1: Balance sheet of 15 months of war in Ukraine

After two years of pandemic, the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February 2022 was a qualitative step in the sinking of society into barbarism. Since 1989, the US had indeed sought confrontation on several occasions (with Iraq, Iran, North Korea, or Afghanistan), but these confrontations had never involved another major imperialist power or had an impact on the whole planet. This war is a different matter:

"It is the first military confrontation of this magnitude between states to take place on Europe's doorstep since 1940-45 (...), so that the heart of Europe is now becoming the central theatre of imperialist confrontations;

- this war directly involves the two largest countries in Europe, one of which has nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction and the other is supported financially and militarily by NATO. This Russia-NATO confrontation tends to revive the memory of the opposition between the blocs from the 1950s to the 1980s and the nuclear terror that ensued, (...);

 - the scale of the fighting, the tens of thousands of deaths, the systematic destruction of entire cities, the execution of civilians, the irresponsible bombing of atomic power stations, the considerable economic consequences for the whole planet underline both the barbarity and the growing irrationality of conflicts that can lead to a catastrophe for humanity"[3] One year after the outbreak of the war and following on from our internal report of May 2022, it is important to establish the main lessons of the conflict in terms of imperialist relations and the framework of reference put forward by the ICC.

1. The impact on imperialist relations

The material and human toll of one year of war is terrible: the human losses and material destruction are gigantic, the displaced populations number in the millions. Tens of billions of euros have been sunk by both sides (45 billion euros by the United States, 52 billion by the EU, 77 billion by Russia, i.e. 25% of its GDP). Russia is now committing about 50% of its state budget to the war, while the hypothetical reconstruction of Ukraine would require more than 700 billion dollars. This war is also having a considerable impact on the intensification of imperialist tensions.

1.1 The US imperialist offensive

Faced with the decline of its hegemony, the United States has since the 1990s pursued an aggressive policy aimed at defending its interests, and this is especially true towards Russia, the former leader of the rival bloc. Despite the commitment made after the break-up of the USSR not to enlarge NATO, the Americans have integrated into this alliance all the countries of the former Warsaw Pact, including countries, such as the Baltic States, that were part of the former USSR itself, and were considering doing the same for Georgia and Ukraine in 2008. The "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine in 2014 had replaced the pro-Russian regime with a pro-Western government and widespread protests in Belarus threatened the pro-Russian Lukashenko regime. Faced with this strategy of encirclement, Putin's regime tried to react by employing its military force, the remnant of its past as the head of the bloc (Georgia in 2008, Crimea and Donbass in 2014, etc.). Faced with the upheavals of Russian imperialism, the US began arming Ukraine and training its army in the use of more sophisticated weapons. When Russia deployed its army in Belarus and eastern Ukraine, they tightened the trap by claiming that Putin would invade Ukraine while providing assurances that they themselves would not intervene in the situation. 

In short, if the war was indeed initiated by Russia, it is the consequence of the strategy of encirclement and suffocation of the latter by the United States. In this way, the United States has succeeded in intensifying its aggressive policy, which has a much more ambitious objective than simply stopping Russia's ambitions:

- In the immediate aftermath, the fatal trap they set for Russia is leading to the significant weakening of the latter's remaining military power and the radical degradation of its imperialist ambitions. The war also demonstrated the absolute superiority of US military technology, which is the basis for the "miracle" of "little Ukraine" pushing back the "Russian bear";

- Then they tightened the screws within NATO by forcing European countries to come under the Alliance's banner, especially France and Germany, which had tended to develop their own policies towards Russia and ignore NATO, which until a few months ago French President Macron had claimed was 'brain dead';

- Beyond the beating handed out to Russia, the primary objective of the Americans was undoubtedly an unequivocal warning to their main challenger, China ("this is what awaits you if you risk trying to invade Taiwan"). For the past decade, the defence of US leadership has focused on the rise of this serious challenger. Under the Trump administration, this desire to confront China took the form mainly of an open trade war, but the Biden administration also stepped up the pressure militarily (the tensions around Taiwan). The war has weakened China's only important ally, which could in particular provide it with military input, and is putting a strain on the New Silk Road project, one axis of which passed through Ukraine.

1.2. The stinging defeat of Russian imperialism

Russia's initial objective was to quickly reach Kyiv by means of a bold combined operation of its elite troops to eliminate the Zelensky faction and install a pro-Russian government; and secondly to cut off access to the Black Sea by taking Odessa. By underestimating the capacity for resistance from the Ukrainian army, supported financially and militarily by the USA, but also by overestimating its own military capabilities, it suffered a bitter defeat. The second, more modest objective was the occupation of the north-east of the country, but the Russian army once again suffered heavy losses and had to retreat to Kharkiv and abandon Kherson. Programmes to mobilise new recruits saw hundreds of thousands of young Russians flee abroad and the Russian army forced to rely on the mercenaries of the Wagner group, often common prisoners, to hold the front line. It is now trying by all means to hold the territory linking the Donbass to Crimea. To do this, it is massively bombing all the towns, power stations and bridges, to make Ukraine pay dearly for its victory and to force Zelensky to accept Russian conditions. Moreover, given its precarious military situation, it cannot be ruled out that Russia will end up using tactical nuclear weapons.

Whatever the final outcome, it is already clear that Russia has emerged heavily weakened from this military adventure. It has been bled dry from a military point of view, having lost a hundred thousand soldiers, in particular among its most experienced elite units, a large quantity of the most modern and efficient tanks, planes and helicopters; it is strongly weakened from the economic point of view because of the enormous costs of the war (25% of its GDP this year), as well as by the collapse of the economy caused by the war effort and the sanctions of the Western countries; finally, its image as an imperialist power has suffered greatly from the events, which have demonstrated the military and economic limits of its power.

1.3 European and Chinese imperialism under pressure

The European bourgeoisies, especially France and Germany, had urged Putin not to launch this war, or even to launch an attack limited in scope and time. Boris Johnson's indiscretions revealed that Germany was even considering effectively endorsing a Russian "blitzkrieg" of a few days to eliminate the regime. However, faced with the failure of the Russian forces and the unexpected resistance of the Ukrainian army, Macron and Scholz had to sheepishly join the US-led NATO position. However, they remain on the sidelines in the military involvement with Ukraine and have dragged their feet on cutting all economic ties with Russia. On the other hand, they have sharply increased their military budget for the massive rearmament of their armed forces (a doubling even for Germany, i.e. 107 billion euros). Chancellor Scholz's recent visit to Beijing confirmed Germany's determination not to bow to the US and to maintain important economic relations with China.

As for China, faced with the difficulties of its Russian "ally" and the indirect but insistent threats of the United States, it has taken a very cautious stance with regard to the Ukrainian conflict: it has called for the cessation of hostilities and, while it has not formally adhered to the sanctions against Russia, it has not supplied the latter with either weapons or military equipment. Xi even openly expressed his concern to Putin and invited Russia to seek negotiations. For the Chinese bourgeoisie, the lesson is bitter: the war in Ukraine has shown that any global imperialist ambitions are illusory in the absence of a military and economic power capable of competing with the US superpower. Today, China has neither the armed forces nor the economic structure to support such global imperialist ambitions. All its economic and commercial expansion is vulnerable to the chaos of war and the pressures of American power. Of course, China is not giving up its imperialist ambitions, in particular the re-conquest of Taiwan, as Xi Jinping reminded the CCP congress, but it can only make progress in the long term, avoiding giving in to American provocation.

On a more general level, the conflict in Ukraine has not only represented an extremely important qualitative deepening of militarism, but it is also the driving force behind the intensification, on a global level, of economic difficulties (inflation and recession), health problems (the waves of Covid), the influx of refugees and the system's inability to deal with the ecological crisis (the reactivation of nuclear and even coal-fired power stations), which characterise the current plunge into decomposition.

2. Testing our theoretical framework

The initial denial by the ICC that a massive invasion of Ukraine was going to happen, despite explicit warnings from the US, was not an expression of an inadequacy of our analytical framework, but a manifestation of a lack of mastery of our analytical framework and more specifically a 'forgetting' of the orientations put forward in the text “Militarism and Decomposition” (1990)[4]. The ICC therefore adopted a complementary document updating the October 1990 text ("Militarism and Decomposition, May 2022"[5]). It points in particular to the following lessons, fully highlighted by a year of war in Ukraine:

2.1. The need for a dialectical materialist approach to current events

The question of method is crucial in the apprehension of current events: should dialectical materialism be conceived as a simple economic determinism or rather, as Engels reminds us in 1890 in a letter to Bloch, a dialectical method which takes into account the interactions between the different aspects of reality, in particular the relationship between the economic base and the superstructure, even if "the determining factor in history is, in the last instance, the production and reproduction of real life"[6]. This approach contradicts all the vulgar materialistic analyses, which are in the majority in the proletarian political milieu, and which explain each war only on the basis of immediate economic interests, without differentiating the situations in the different phases of capitalism. However, as the Gauche Communiste de France clearly understood, "The decadence of capitalist society finds its striking expression in the fact that from wars with a view to economic development (ascending period), economic activity is essentially restricted to war (decadent period). This does not mean that war has become the goal of capitalist production, the goal always remaining for capitalism the production of surplus value, but it does mean that war, taking on a character of permanence, has become the way of life for decadent capitalism"[7]

2.2. The irrationality of militarism is accentuated in decomposition

In particular, the phase of decomposition accentuates one of the most pernicious aspects of war in decadence: its irrationality. From the opening of this phase, the effects of militarism become ever more unpredictable and disastrous. Our vulgar materialists do not understand this aspect and object that wars always have an economic motivation, and therefore a rationality. They fail to see that today's wars are fundamentally not economically but geostrategically motivated, and even then they no longer achieve their original objectives, but lead to the opposite result:

  • The United States fought the two Gulf Wars, as well as the war in Afghanistan, to maintain its leadership on the planet, but both Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in an explosion of chaos and instability, causing a wave of refugees to knock on the doors of industrialised countries;
  • Whatever the objectives of the many imperialist vultures - Russian, Turkish, Iranian, Israeli, American or European - who intervened in the horrific Syrian or Libyan civil wars, they inherited a country in ruins, fragmented and divided into clans, with millions of refugees flooding into neighbouring countries or fleeing to the industrialised countries.

The war in Ukraine is an exemplary confirmation of this: whatever the geostrategic objectives of Russian or American imperialism, the result will be a country in ruins (Ukraine), a country ruined economically and militarily (Russia), an even more tense and chaotic imperialist situation from Europe to Central Asia and millions of refugees in Europe.

2.3 Increasing chaos and imperialist tensions are largely hindering the course towards bloc formation

The increase in militarism and the irrationality of war implies a terrifying expansion of military barbarity. However, it does not lead to the regrouping of imperialisms into blocs and thus to a generalised war on the whole planet. Various elements support this analysis:

  • The war in Ukraine has not shown a strong and stable alignment of imperialisms behind the leaders of the potential blocs: important imperialist powers like India, Brazil and even Saudi Arabia clearly keep their autonomy from the protagonists; the link between China and Russia has not tightened, on the contrary, and while the US has used the war to impose its views within NATO, member countries like Turkey or Hungary are openly going it alone and Germany and France are trying by all means to develop their own policy.
  • A bloc leader must be able to generate trust among the countries of the bloc and guarantee the security of its allies, while China has been very cautious in its support for its Russian ally. As for the United States, Trump's "America First" policy was a cold shower for the "allies" who thought they could count on the United States, and Biden is basically pursuing the same policy: he decided without consulting his allies to withdraw his troops from Kabul and he is making them pay a high price in energy for boycotting the Russian economy, even though the United States is self-sufficient in this area.
  • The absence of a defeated proletariat, an indispensable condition for engaging a country in a world war. The recent struggles in various Western countries show that the proletariat is not ready to accept the austerity imposed by the economic crisis, let alone the sacrifices linked to a generalised war. Even in Russia, where the proletariat is weak and subject to a strong nationalist battering, the majority of the population does not support the war. Finally, there is also the lack of a strong ideological weapon, capable of enlisting the proletariat, like fascism and anti-fascism in the 1930s.

The formation of blocs should not be confused with ad hoc alliances, formed for particular objectives. Thus, Turkey, a member of NATO, adopts a policy of neutrality towards Russia in Ukraine, hoping to take advantage of this to ally itself with Russia in Syria against the Kurdish militias supported by the USA. At the same time, it confronts Russia in Libya or in Central Asia, where it militarily supports Azerbaijan against Armenia, a member of the Russian-led alliance.

2.4. The polarisation of tensions is a product of the US offensive.

If, since the middle of the second decade of the 21st century, a polarisation of imperialist tensions has become more and more apparent between the United States and China, this should in no way be seen as the beginning of a dynamic towards the constitution of blocs. Contrary to the latter, it is not the product of pressure from the challenger (Germany, the USSR in the past), but rather of a systematic policy pursued by the dominant imperialist power, the United States, to try to halt the irreversible decline of its leadership. Initially, it focused on neutralising the aspirations of the former allies of the US bloc, especially Germany. Then, it aimed at polarising the "axis of evil" (Iraq, Iran, North Korea) in an attempt to rally other imperialisms behind the global policeman. More recently, its aim is precisely to prevent any emergence of challengers.

Thirty years of such a policy by the US has not brought any discipline and order to imperialist relations but has instead exacerbated every man for himself, chaos and barbarism. The United States is today a major vehicle for the terrifying expansion of military confrontations.

2.5. The war does not facilitate the development of the proletarian struggle.

Certainly, on a general level, the war in Ukraine demonstrates the bankruptcy of this system (especially because it is obviously a deliberate action from the ruling class) and can in this sense constitute a source of consciousness of this bankruptcy, even if this is today limited to minorities of the class. Fundamentally, however, it confirms the analysis of the ICC that the war and the feelings of powerlessness and horror that it provokes do not favour the development of working class struggle. On the other hand, it causes a significant aggravation of the economic crisis and the attacks on workers, pushing the latter to oppose them in order to defend their living conditions[8].


Part II: The conflict in Ukraine as a multiplier and intensifier of imperialist contradictions

In the current period, the war in Ukraine cannot be seen as an isolated phenomenon. The entry into the twenties of the 21st century is marked first of all by an accumulation and interaction between different types of crises - health crisis, economic crisis, climate and food crisis, tensions between imperialisms - but above all, they are all impacted by the effects of this conflict, which constitutes a real multiplier and intensifier of barbarism and destructive chaos. This war is the central factor that determines the intensification of the other aspects:

“With this aggregation of destructive phenomena and its ‘vortex effect’, it is important to stress the driving force of war, as an action deliberately pursued and planned for by capitalist states, having become the most powerful and aggravating factor of chaos and destruction. In fact, the war in Ukraine has had a multiplier effect on the escalation of barbarism and destruction, involving the following elements:

- The risk of bombing nuclear power plants is always present, as can be seen particularly around the Zaporizhzhia site.

- The threat from the use of chemical and nuclear weapons.

- The violent ramping up of militarism with its consequences for the environment and the climate.

- The direct impact of the war on the energy crisis and the food crisis”[9]. In short, whatever the scenario in the coming months, the global repercussions of the conflict in Ukraine will manifest themselves through:

(a) the expansion of areas of imperialist tension in the world, as well as the destabilisation of political structures within many states,

(b) the exacerbation of confrontations between the main protagonists of the conflict, as well as within the different bourgeoisies of these countries (including the Ukrainian).

1. The global impact of growing tensions and chaos

The consequences of the conflict in Ukraine do not lead to a 'rationalisation' of tensions through a 'bipolar' alignment of imperialisms behind two dominant 'godfathers', but on the contrary to the explosion of a multiplicity of imperialist ambitions, which are not limited to those of the major imperialisms (to be examined in the next section), or to Eastern Europe and Central Asia, thus accentuating the chaotic and irrational character of the confrontations.

1.1 Increasing points of imperialist confrontation in the world

- In Europe, the emergence in the East of a Ukraine heavily armed by the US will fuel the struggle between US and German imperialism to control it[10]. Its central position will also generate tensions with other Eastern European countries, such as Romania, Hungary (very reluctant in its support for Ukraine) and especially Poland, which have minorities in various parts of Ukraine. In the West, pressure on Germany has caused dissension with France, while conflicts in Bosnia or between Serbs and Kosovans are being rekindled (through Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group). Finally, the EU reacted with anger to the Inflation Reduction Act, which was seen as a real declaration of war against European exports to the US.

- In Central Asia, the retreat of Russian power goes hand in hand with a rapid expansion of the presence of other imperialist powers, such as China, Turkey, Iran and, of course, the USA, in the republics of the former Soviet Union. In the Far East, the risks of conflict are emerging between China and India (with regular border clashes) or Japan (which is massively rearming), not to mention the tensions between India and Pakistan and the recurrent ones between the two Koreas, in which the US is fully involved. The specific imperialist position of India deserves to be mentioned: if its relations with China are conflictual on the political, military and economic levels, they are more ambiguous in relation to the United States (member of QUAD but not of AUKUS) or Russia (important military contracts), a striking illustration of every man for himself and the fragility of rapprochement between imperialist powers.

- In the Middle East, the weakening of Russia, the internal destabilisation of important vultures such as Iran (popular revolts, struggles between factions and imperialist pressures) or Turkey (disastrous economic situation) will have a major impact on imperialist relations, even though these three countries tend to come closer together with the aim of carrying out military actions in Syria and Iraq against various Kurdish factions, supported by the US. Finally, the attitude of Saudi Arabia, bogged down in the civil war in Yemen, which opposes the US policy and is moving closer to Russia and China, as well as the formation of an extreme right-wing government in Israel, are also expressions of the worsening of military chaos and every man for himself.

- In Africa, while the energy and food crisis and war tensions are raging in different regions (civil war between the Ethiopian central government and the insurgent province of Tigray, in which Eritrea or Sudan are also involved, civil war in Libya, high tensions between North and South Sudan and also between Algeria and Morocco), the aggressiveness of the imperialist powers stimulates destabilisation and chaos. Between 2016 and 2020 China invested the equivalent of all Western investments for the same period ($70 billion) and has waived the repayment of 23 interest-free loans for 17 African countries in 2021. India overtook France as the continent's number three trading partner in 2018 (after China and the US). Turkey's trade with the African continent has risen from $5 billion to $25 billion in twenty years. Russia, for its part, is continuing its destabilising activities in Mali and the Central African Republic with the mercenaries of the Wagner group, while remaining a major trading partner in arms and agriculture (cereals and fertilisers) for African countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa. France and Britain, which are losing ground, want to regain a market share and are promising investments. As for US imperialism, to counter the influence of Russian and Chinese imperialism in Africa, it organised an important US-African summit on 13 December 2022 in Washington, where they promised 55 billion dollars for Africa over 3 years.

1.2 Increasing destabilisation of the political apparatus of the bourgeoisie in many states

The increasing weight of decomposition also tends to accentuate the loss of control of the bourgeois political apparatus, to reinforce the struggle between factions and the pressure of populist tendencies[11] This increased political instability will have a growing impact on the unpredictability of imperialist positioning, as the Trump presidency illustrated.

The European countries, which are under strong US pressure and tensions within the EU, are confronted with populist tendencies and struggles between factions of the bourgeoisie, which strongly destabilise the political apparatus of the bourgeoisie and can lead to changes in imperialist orientations. This is already the case not only in Britain, but also in Italy where there have been several governments with populist components. This growing destabilisation is also tending to strengthen in France ("Les Républicains" of Ciotti are willing to govern with the populists) and even in Germany[12]. Imperialist turmoil can also exacerbate tensions within the bourgeoisies, as is the case in Russia and China (see next section), and eventually lead to imperialist reorientations. So, in Iran, the confrontations between factions within the Iranian bourgeoisie, fanned by certain foreign interference and exploiting the revolts and expressions of despair of the population, can modify imperialist orientations[13].

Finally, in many states in Africa (Sudan, Ethiopia), Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan) or Latin America (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile), the multiplication of popular revolts or inter-ethnic massacres marked the destabilisation of the state structure, and these various situations have accentuated the instability of imperialist relations and the unpredictability of conflicts.

2. Destabilisation and turbulence among the main protagonists of the Ukrainian conflict

A year of war has caused significant turbulence in the orientations of the major imperialisms involved, but also in the tensions within the different bourgeoisies of these countries.

2.1. The US offensive is more than ever a central factor in increasing tensions and chaos

2.1.1. The initial success of the current US offensive is based on a characteristic already highlighted in "Militarism and Decomposition" (1990): the economic and especially military superiority of the USA, which exceeds the forces of potentially competing powers. The US exploits this advantage to the full in its policy of polarisation. This policy has never led to more order and discipline in imperialist relations, but on the contrary has proliferated military confrontations, exacerbated the "every man for himself" attitude, sown barbarism and chaos in many regions (Middle East, Afghanistan, ...), intensified terrorism, provoked huge waves of refugees and exacerbated the ambitions of small and large sharks alike.

The question facing the US in Ukraine today is whether to offer a way out to Russia, which can in any case no longer claim a leading world imperialist role after this war, or whether to aim for total humiliation, which could provoke a desperate and uncontrolled reaction from the Russian bourgeoisie and imply the risk of a disintegration of Russia, worse than in 1990, and thus a destabilisation of the whole of this part of the planet. The dominant factions of the US bourgeoisie (especially the Democrats) are undoubtedly aware of these dangers, even if they are keen to complete their objectives, already largely achieved, in terms of the definitive weakening of Russia, and above all the accentuation of the pressure on China in order to contain it and block its expansion. As a result, the US is carefully measuring the military capabilities of the Ukrainian army, pressuring Zelensky to increase his control over his administration and his army and indicating that "one way or another this war will have to end around a negotiating table" (Gen. Milley, Chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff). However, this orientation can be countered by:

  • a possible strategy by the Russian leadership to capitalise on Western fatigue by prolonging the war over time, as well as by pressure from the hard-line faction calling for all-out war (see below);
  • tensions within the Ukrainian state and military apparatus, with some factions calling for continued offensives until total victory against Russia, including the recapture of the Donbass and Crimea;
  • an irrational slip-up, linked to the chaos and barbarity of the environment, such as a missile hitting Poland, Belarus or a nuclear power plant.

Whatever the outcome of the conflict, the current confrontational policy of the Biden administration, far from producing a lull in tensions or imposing discipline among the imperialist vultures, will be a major factor in the future of the region. This policy:

  • will further increase economic and military tensions with Chinese imperialism;
  • will exacerbate the contradictions between imperialisms, for example in Central Europe where the weakening of Russia and the massive arming of the Ukraine will sharpen the oppositions between Central European countries, such as Poland, Hungary, Romania and of course Germany. In Central Asia, in addition to the United States, Chinese, Turkish and Iranian imperialisms are already jostling to take Russia's place;
  • will intensify the oppositions within the various bourgeoisies, in the US, Russia and Ukraine of course, but also in Germany or China, as we will develop in the following points.

Contrary to the rhetoric of its leaders, the offensive and brutal policy of the United States is thus at the forefront of military barbarity and the destruction linked to capitalist decomposition.

2.1.2. The US strategy to counter its decline has also revealed divisions within the US bourgeoisie. While there is a clear consensus on policy toward China, these divisions now concern how to 'neutralise' Russia in the context of focusing on the 'main enemy', China. The Trump faction tended to envisage an alliance with Russia against China, but this orientation met with opposition from large parts of the US bourgeoisie and resistance from most state structures. The strategy of the dominant factions of the US bourgeoisie, represented today by the Biden administration, aims instead at dealing decisive blows to Russia, so that it can no longer pose a potential threat to the US: "We want to weaken Russia in such a way that it can no longer do things like invade the Ukraine" [14], while issuing a clear warning to China ("this is what you get if you decide to invade Taiwan").

The mid-term elections confirmed that the fractures are still as deep and exacerbated between Democrats and Republicans, as well as the divisions within each of the two camps[15], while the weight of populism and the most backward ideologies, marked by the rejection of rational and coherent thinking, far from being stopped by the campaigns aimed at putting Trump aside[16], has only pressed more and more deeply and durably on American society. These tensions within the American bourgeoisie (which cannot simply be reduced to the irrationality of the individual Trump), accentuated by the tilt of the House of Representatives towards the Republicans and the new presidential candidacy of Trump, who is still favoured by more than 30% of Americans (i.e. almost 2/3 of Republican voters), for the 2024 elections, bring a dose of uncertainty to the American policy of massive support for Ukraine and do not encourage other countries to take the promises of the United States at face value.

This unpredictability of US policy is itself (in addition to its polarisation policy) a factor in intensifying chaos in the future.

2.2. Russia's weakening whets the appetite of other imperialisms and exacerbates internal tensions

2.2.1. The failed intervention in Ukraine, already catastrophic, will have even more serious consequences in the months to come. The Russian army has demonstrated its inefficiency and has lost many of its elite soldiers and much of its most modern equipment. Its economy is being hit hard, especially in the hi-tech sectors because of the lack of raw materials due to the boycott and the exodus of large numbers of the technological elite (1 million people are said to have fled abroad). Despite a huge financial effort (50% of the state budget is now devoted to the war effort), the military industry sector, which is crucial for a long-term war effort, cannot keep up and it is typical that Russia has to call on North Korea (ammunition) and Iran (drones) for help to make up for the shortcomings of its own war economy.

But it is above all at the level of imperialist relations that Moscow will suffer more and more clearly from its defeat. Russia is isolated, and even "friendly" countries like China and Kazakhstan are openly distancing themselves. Moreover, in Central Asia, the various countries, ex-members of the USSR, have refused to allow their citizens living in Russia to be mobilised and are becoming increasingly critical of Russia: Kazakhstan took in 200,000 Russians fleeing the mobilisation order, expressly disapproved of the Russian invasion, and provided material aid to Ukraine; Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan openly criticised Russia for being unable to intercede in their internal conflict; Armenia is furious that Russia did not respect the assistance pact that bound them in the war with Azerbaijan; even Lukashenko, the tyrant of Belarus, is desperately trying to avoid getting too involved with Putin. The collapse of Russian influence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia will increase tensions between the different bourgeoisies in these regions and whet the appetites of the big vultures, thus accentuating their destabilisation. And to top it all, Russia will have to accept a Ukraine powerfully armed by the United States 500 km from Moscow.

2.2.2. Internally, tensions are becoming increasingly strong and visible between different factions within the Russian bourgeoisie. Several tendencies appear:

Divisions are appearing more and more within the Russian bourgeoisie and in particular within the Putin faction; we can see 3 main divisions

- The pro-democracy faction, which is currently heavily repressed.

- The faction behind Putin which is in turn divided into 3 factions:

  • The 'hardline' faction behind the Chechen leader Kadyrov and the Wagner Group
  • A smaller faction lobbying for Putin to stop the war in Ukraine
  • A faction behind Putin, who is trying to play these two factions off against each other in order to keep his grip on the Russian state

Apparently, these divisions run through both the army and the security services, as well as through Putin's entourage.

From Putin's political survival to that of the Russian Federation and the latter's imperialist status, the stakes resulting from the defeat in Ukraine are high: as Russia sinks into problems, settlements of accounts are likely to occur, even bloody clashes between rival factions. Warlords such as Kadyrov or Prigozhin (founder of the Wagner Group) are emerging and increasingly opposing the general staff, even criticising Putin. Similarly, a large proportion of the soldiers killed come specifically from some of the poorer autonomous republics, leading to numerous demonstrations and sabotage in these regions and potentially to the fragmentation of the Russian Federation. These contradictions point to a period of great instability in the world's largest and most armed state, with the risk of loss of control and unpredictable consequences for the world.

2.3. The Chinese challenger in turmoil

If some people, on the basis of an empirical approach, could imagine two years ago that China was the big winner of the Covid crisis, recent data confirm on all levels today that it is on the contrary facing all kinds of destabilisation and the prospect of serious turmoil.

In the face of the trap set for the Russian "ally" in Ukraine and the stinging defeat suffered by the latter, China is trying to calm the situation with the United States, whose polarisation policy is fundamentally aimed – via Russia - at China, as shown by the ongoing tensions around Taiwan. However, China's strategy differs fundamentally from Russia's. While Russia's only asset is its military power as the former bloc leader, the Chinese bourgeoisie understands that the development of its strength is linked to an economic build-up that still needs time to develop.

Will it be given this time? Pressured by the development of military chaos and imperialist polarisation, China is at the same time confronted with health, economic and social destabilisation, which places the Chinese bourgeoisie in a particularly uncomfortable situation.

2.3.1. China is highly destabilised in several ways:

- China's inability to control the health crisis, which it has been experiencing since late 2019, has largely crippled its economy and penalised its population. The consequences have been gigantic, including endless lockdowns, such as in November 2022, when as many as 412 million Chinese were locked up under terrible conditions in various parts of China, often for several months.

- The Chinese economy has suffered a severe slowdown due to repeated lock-downs, the property bubble and the blocking of various "Silk Road" routes by armed conflicts (Ukraine) or because of the ambient chaos (Ethiopia).

GDP growth is not expected to exceed 3% in 2022, the lowest growth since 1976 (apart from the "Covid year" of 2020). Young people are particularly affected by the deteriorating situation, with an estimated 20% unemployment rate among university students looking for a job.

- The dramatic decline in its demography, which has led to the first decline in China's total population in 60 years and could reduce the population to around 600 million by 2100, is leading to a gradual inversion of the age pyramid and a loss of competitiveness in Chinese industry due to the increased labour costs of a shrinking workforce, as well as pressure on the pension system, which is now almost non-existent, and on the social and health infrastructure for an ageing population.

- Even more distressing for the Chinese bourgeoisie, the economic problems, in conjunction with the health crisis, have led to major social protest movements, even though the Chinese state's policy since 1989 has been to avoid any large-scale social turmoil at all costs. The movements of buyers duped by the difficulties and bankruptcies of the real estate giants, but above all the riots, the strikes, such as that of the 200,000 workers at the huge factory of the Taiwanese giant Foxconn, which assembles Apple's iPhones, and the widespread demonstrations in many Chinese cities, such as Shanghai, with cries of "Xi Jinping resign! CCP resign!" have left Xi and his supporters in a cold sweat.

2.3.2. The convulsions of an outdated neo-Stalinist model[17]

Faced with economic and then health difficulties, Xi Jinping's policy from the beginning of his second term (2017) has been to return to the classic recipes of Stalinism:

-              on the economic front, since Deng Xiao Ping the Chinese bourgeoisie had created a fragile and complex mechanism to maintain an all-powerful single-party framework cohabiting with a private bourgeoisie stimulated directly by the state. “By the end of 2021, Deng Xiaoping's era of reform and openness was clearly over, replaced by a new statist economic orthodoxy"[18]. Indeed, the dominant faction behind Xi Jinping has reoriented the Chinese economy towards absolute Stalinist state control;

-              on the social level, the "zero Covid" policy has allowed Xi not only to tighten ruthless state control over the population, but also to impose this control on regional and local authorities which had proved unreliable and ineffective at the beginning of the pandemic. As recently as the autumn, he sent central government police units to Shanghai to call to order local authorities that were liberalising state control measures.

But, as the previous point shows, this policy of the Chinese authorities has brought them to a dead end. In fact, faced with an explosive social protest, the regime was forced to back down in great haste at all levels and to abandon in a few days the policy that it had maintained for years against all odds:

-              it abruptly abandoned the "zero Covid" policy without proposing the slightest alternative, without having achieved immunity, without effective vaccines or sufficient stocks of drugs, without a policy of vaccinating the weakest, without a hospital system capable of absorbing the shock, and the inevitable catastrophe has indeed taken place: patients are queuing up to get into overcrowded hospitals and corpses are piling up in front of overcrowded crematoria; projections predict that, by the summer, 1.7 million people will have died and tens of millions will be heavily affected by the current wave of the virus. In addition, tens of thousands of workers hired to organise the lockdowns or working in factories producing tests or other anti-Covid materials are being laid off, causing major social upheaval.

-              it is reconsidering his policy of absolute state control of the economy by reducing controls on access to credit in the real estate sector and by anti-monopolistic measures in the technology sector. It even promises that foreign banks and investment companies could become full owners of companies in China. But scepticism still prevails among foreign companies and the withdrawal of foreign capital from China remains massive, while economic pressure from the US is intensifying, in particular with the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, which directly target exports of Chinese technology firms (e.g. Huawei) to the US.

This zigzag policy reveals the impasse of a Stalinist-type regime where "the great rigidity of the institutions, which leaves practically no room for the possibility of the emergence of oppositional bourgeois political forces capable of playing the role of buffers"[19] While Chinese state capitalism has been able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by its change of bloc, the implosion of the Soviet bloc and the globalisation of the economy advocated by the US and the major Western bloc powers, the congenital weaknesses of its Stalinist-type state structure are now a major handicap in the face of economic, health and social problems. The regime's desperate convulsions reveal the failure of Xi Jinping's policy, re-elected for a third term after backroom dealings between factions within the CCP, and foreshadow factional conflicts within a state apparatus whose inability to overcome political rigidity reveals the heavy legacy of Maoist Stalinism[20].

2.3.3. An imperialist policy under pressure

Confronted with the economic-military offensive of the United States, from Taiwan to the Ukraine, the Chinese bourgeoisie seems to have learned the lessons on the imperialist level and is orienting its policy for the moment towards a strategy of avoiding the spiral of provocations, military or otherwise:

-              the aggressive nationalist “wolf warrior” diplomacy launched by Xi in 2017 has been abandoned and the foreign ministry spokesman who personified it, Zhao Lijian, has been demoted;

-              China is trying to counter the strategy aimed at isolating it by seeking new partnerships in all directions: Xi has met 25 foreign heads of state in three months in order to revive its economy and forge diplomatic links (for example with Germany, Saudi Arabia and more widely with Europe);

-              it is increasing its involvement on the international scene, as illustrated by its conciliatory attitude at the last G20 in Indonesia and its strong involvement in the Montreal conference on ecological diversity

However, the economic and military aggressiveness of the United States is intensifying through the massive arming of Taiwan, but also by increasing the pressure on China's "partners" such as Iran and Pakistan. With the rise of Japanese militarism as well as the increasingly assertive ambitions of India, this accentuated imperialist pressure in the Middle East and the Pacific zone can lead to unforeseen developments. On the other hand, the "whirlwind" of upheavals and destabilisations that are hitting the Chinese bourgeoisie is also putting heavy pressure on its imperialist policy and instilling it with a high degree of unpredictability. And it should be clear that the destabilisation of Chinese capitalism will have unpredictable consequences for world capitalism.

2.4. German imperialism facing increasing destabilisation

Germany is also facing a series of unambiguous signals: its status as a military dwarf has forced it to fall in line as a member of NATO; the blockade imposed on Europeans by the United States with Russian oil and gas is plunging it into great economic difficulties, especially since the "Inflation Reduction Act", and the "CHIPS and Science Act" are also a direct attack on European, and thus particularly German, imports.

2.4.1. At the time of the implosion of the Soviet bloc, the ICC pointed out that if, in the near future, "[...] there exists no country capable in the years to come of opposing the military potential of the USA to a point where it could set itself up as a rival bloc leader "[21], the only imperialist power potentially capable in the longer term of becoming the central nucleus of a bloc competing with the United States was then, according to our analysis, Germany: “As for Germany, the only country which could eventually play such a role, as it already has in the past, it will be several decades before it can rival the USA on the military level (it does not even possess atomic weapons!). And as capitalism plunges ever deeper into its decadence, it becomes ever more necessary for a bloc leader to have a crushing military superiority over its vassals in order to maintain its place." [22]

However, Germany was at that time in a particularly complex situation: it was faced with the enormous economic, political and social challenge of integrating the former GDR into its industrial fabric, while foreign troops (American but also from other NATO countries) were stationed on its territory. This gigantic financial effort to "unify" the divided country made it impossible to make the substantial investment needed to bring its military forces up to the required level, the division of the country and the dismantling of its military force being of course the consequence of the 1945 defeat[23]. In this context, the German bourgeoisie has developed over the last 20 years a policy of economic and imperialist expansion resolutely turned towards the East, transforming many Eastern countries into subcontractors for its industry while guaranteeing its stable and cheap energy supply through gas and oil agreements with Russia, which also allowed it to take full advantage of the globalisation of the economy. At the same time, by integrating the Eastern European states into the EU, it also secured political pre-eminence within the EU.

2.4.2. The illusory hope of being able to develop its imperialist power without a deployment of militarism and the construction of a consequent military force has been shattered by the war in Ukraine. The German bourgeoisie, however, has done everything to maintain the partnership with Russia despite the conflict:

-              it has set up front companies to continue the joint project with Russia for pipelines under the Baltic Sea (North Stream 1 and 2), despite threats of economic sanctions from the US;

-              it has developed (like France) an intensive diplomacy towards Putin to try to avoid or limit the conflict;

-              it considered endorsing the Russian operation against Ukraine with an idea of a quick victory which would then have only a limited impact on economic relations (according to what Boris Johnson said to CNN).

The intensive war, financed and maintained through massive US arms deliveries, is putting Berlin under particularly intolerable pressure, but this is an extension of the Trump administration's already clear hostility to German imperialism's autonomous policy, highlighting its position as a military dwarf and putting its energy supply sources under others’ control.

2.4.3. In the face of this, the German bourgeoisie, caught in the trap, has undertaken all-out actions to (a) strengthen its military position, (b) seek new economic partnerships and (c) maintain its imperialist presence in Eastern Europe:

(a) faced with the bitter realization that it was illusory to assert imperialist ambitions without accompanying them with a consequent military power, it doubled the military budget (8 years will be required to bring the German army up to standard) and took draconian economic and energy measures to guarantee the defence of its industrial fabric;

(b) it has embarked on a search for new strategic alliances, notably with China, as illustrated by Chancellor Scholz's surprise solo visit to Xi on 4 November 2022, which involved, among other things, the purchase of 25% of the shares in the port of Hamburg by Beijing: "This visit to Beijing by the German Chancellor is all the more strange given that last October, at their last summit, the 27 Member States had discussed for three hours what to do with Beijing. The European tone had then become much tougher and the Baltic countries (...), had urged the EU to show the utmost caution in dealing with China" [24]

(c) it announced its readiness to finance a huge Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Ukraine.

2.4.4 These reactions of the German bourgeoisie to the US offensive exacerbate tensions and the "every man for himself" attitude not only towards the US but also within Europe itself. Thus, the German decisions to order fighter jets from the US and to set up an anti-missile shield based on German and ... Israeli technology by freezing sophisticated weapons programmes (planes and tanks) planned with France have caused major rifts between France and Germany, the backbone of the EU.

French imperialism has decided to postpone a Franco-German council and has expressed its refusal to build a gas pipeline linking Spain and Germany to bring gas from Africa. The last joint Franco-German council in January 2023 did not change the situation, despite the rhetorical joint declarations: "Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz staged a symbolic show on Sunday in Paris for the 60th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty, but did not make any strong proposals on support for Ukraine, European defence or the energy crisis"[25]. However, it is not in Germany's interest to detach itself too much from France, which represents the first military power in Europe and constitutes a central pillar to maintain an EU regrouped around Germany.

The German government's every man for himself approach to economic measures, relations with China or the future of Ukraine is increasing tensions with other countries in the EU more generally, especially with some in Eastern Europe, such as the Baltic States or Poland, which are strongly supportive of US policy.

This policy of Scholz also causes divisions within the German bourgeoisie (some of the Greens in the government were against Scholtz's trip to China for example) and, unlike the SPD, the other parties in the government (FDP and the Greens) are rather in favour of the US policy towards Russia. These differences between factions of the German bourgeoisie are likely to deepen as the economic crisis deepens, with the pressure on the German economy and the country's imperialist position, heralding increasing political instability, with the danger of a stronger impact of populist movements[26] in the face of the deteriorating social situation.


The explosion of militarism is the illustration par excellence of the qualitative deepening of the period of decomposition, while at the same time heralding an inevitable accentuation of chaos and every man for himself.

- the explosion of military budgets: in addition to the United States, which continues to increase its military budget, which already represents 8.3% of the state budget, the significant increase in military spending was already evident before the war in Ukraine, especially in Asia, in China (5% of the budget), India (which is the third largest country in terms of military spending after the "big two"), Pakistan and South Korea. Since then, as a direct consequence of the invasion of Ukraine, the acceleration has been phenomenal, first of all for the major powers such as Japan, which has committed 320 billion dollars to its armed forces in 5 years, the biggest arms spending since 1945, and above all in Western Europe with Germany, which has also increased its defence budget by 107 billion euros, but also France and Great Britain. Even smaller imperialisms, such as Turkey (already the second largest army in NATO) or Saudi Arabia; and in Europe a country like Poland, which aims to have the most powerful army in Europe, is arming itself to the teeth.

- The extension of militarism to space and a revival of nuclear power: The arms race is increasingly encompassing the conquest of the earth's orbit and space. Here, too, the United States, but also China, is pulling out all the stops and the last expressions of cooperation are tending to disappear.  Finally, "All nuclear-weapon states are increasing or modernising their arsenals and most are reinforcing the nuclear rhetoric and the role of nuclear weapons in their military strategy. This is a very worrying trend"[27].

- The reinforcement of the implementation of the war economy: the war in Ukraine clearly poses the questions of the reorientation, within the "think tanks" of the bourgeoisie, of financial investments and especially of the means to ensure the adhesion of the populations:

 "That's why the ability to equip Ukraine with enough weapons to win the war is a growing concern, it's about sort of moving to a peacetime war economy, (...) And Western leaders will have to have a frank discussion with their populations about the future costs of defence and security, it's a whole nation effort, all nations, because it's not just the minister of defence ordering more equipment [from] the industry. It's about having a discussion about how we increase production. The weak links in the arms supply chain are not just about low public spending, but also about social attitudes and the reluctance of financial institutions to invest in arms companies"[28].

 We have pointed out that "the aggregation and interaction of destructive phenomena leads to a 'vortex effect' which concentrates, catalyses and multiplies each of its partial effects, causing even more destructive devastation"[29]. In this framework, if the economic crisis is, in the last instance, the basic cause of the tendency to war, this tendency is now transformed into an aggravation of the economic crisis. Indeed, far from being a stimulus for the economy, war and militarism are an aggravation of the crisis. This explosion of expenditure as a consequence of the Ukrainian conflict will aggravate the debts of the states, which also constitute another burden on the economy. It will produce an acceleration of the growth of inflation which is another threat to economic growth; in turn, combatting inflation requires a contraction of credit which can only lead to an open recession, which also means an aggravation of the economic crisis. Finally, the war in Ukraine has caused a huge increase in energy costs, which is weighing on all industrial production, as well as a shortage of agricultural products and a slowdown in world trade.

In short, "The twenties of the twenty-first century will therefore, in this context, have considerable importance for historical development"[30]insofar as the alternative "socialism or barbarism", put forward by the Communist International in 1919, is increasingly concretised as "socialism or the destruction of humanity".


[1] The ICT sometimes uses the notion of decadence, but without explaining its implications, while it also fails to reconsider the notion of revolutionary defeatism by taking into account the characteristics of the present context. See our critique of the No War But The Class War committees:

On the history of the No War But The Class War groups”, World Revolution 393

“No War But The Class War, Paris: a committee that leads its participants into a dead end”, World Revolution 395

[7] Report to the July 1945 Conference of the Gauche Communiste de France.

[8] Read the report on the class struggle from the ICC’s 25th Congress, to be published shortly.

[11] cf. the recent elections in Brazil.

[12] cf. the "Reichsburger" plot involving significant parts of the security services.

[13] cf. the rapprochement with Russia.

[14] US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin during his visit to Kyiv on 25.04.22. The Biden faction thus wants to “make Russia pay” for its interference in America’s internal affairs, for example its attempts to manipulate the last presidential elections.

[15] cf. the election of the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives.

[16] e.g. the threats of various lawsuits.

[17] "The most obvious, and the most widely known, characteristic of the Eastern bloc countries - the one, moreover, which is the basis for the myth of their ‘socialist’ nature - is the extreme statification of their economies. As we have often pointed out in our press, state capitalism is not limited to those countries. …While the tendency towards state capitalism is thus a universal historical fact, it does not affect all countries in the same way…In the advanced countries, where there exists an old industrial and financial bourgeoisie, this tendency generally occurs through a progressive meshing of the ‘private’ and state sectors. This tendency towards state capitalism... takes on its most complete form where capitalism is subjected to the most brutal contradictions, and where the classical bourgeoisie is at its weakest. In this sense, the state's direct control of the main means of production, characteristic of the Eastern bloc (and of much of the Third World), is first and foremost a sign of the economy's backwardness and fragility" (“Theses on the economic and political crisis in the Eastern countries”, International Review 60).

[18] Foreign Affairs, cited in Courrier International no. 1674)

[20]  “a developed national capital, held "privately" by different sectors of the bourgeoisie, finds parliamentary ‘democracy’ its most appropriate political apparatus (whereas) to the almost complete statification of the means of production, corresponds the totalitarian power of the single party" (ibid)

[21] “Militarism and Decomposition”, International Review 64, 1991),

[22] ibid

[23] The significant reduction of unproductive expenditure during the 1950s and 60s was however at the basis of the impressive redevelopment of the German economy.

[24] “Olaf Scholz solo in Beijing" P.-A. Donnet, Asialyst, 05.11.22

[25] “Between France and Germany, a deceptive rapprochement”, Le Monde, 23.01.23

[26] cf. the "Reichsburger" plot

[27] Wilfred Wan, Director of SIPRI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme, SIPRI report, 05.12.22.

[28] Admiral R. Bauer, head of NATO's military committee, in

[30] ibid


International Review 170