War is economics by other means

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By RAQUEL VARELA*

This is what neoliberalism is, the maximum economic state, guaranteed by “public” debts, the minimum social state to pay them. And now military state

NATO's formal entry into this war would imply the beginning of a third world war, in which not only would the Ukrainians not be saved, but millions of people would die: a catastrophe. Whoever looks with disdain or as naive at the internationalists who, like me, are opposed to Vladimir Putin, the European Union and NATO, defending solidarity between peoples, whoever thinks that NATO is a solution, is, in fact, willy-nilly no, advocating worldwide slaughter. That is why we must demand that our States do not send troops or weapons or enact sanctions – these are acts of war that can only be supported lightly and with total ignorance of the history of Europe.

 

The meaning of sanctions: general impoverishment of workers in the world

Economic sanctions are a weapon of war that impoverishes peoples. They attack the entire Russian, Ukrainian and European people, they penalize the opposition in Russia, they punish the Ukrainian people who live there – two million; punish those in Europe who fight for peace. They will help, perhaps, to reinforce Great Russian nationalism and the leadership of Vladimir Putin. The role of sanctions, as well as the announced sale of arms by the European Union to Ukraine, have a central political significance that has little to do with humanitarian aid or the concern on the part of the European Union with authoritarian regimes, the heralded “European values” ( which in Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Poland and Hungary are put in the drawer and often disappear from the media). Sanctions are a clear sign that the European Union, led by Germany and under the aegis of NATO, indirectly entered this war, and we were not consulted.

Russia is not Iran. It is estimated that the sanctions imply a contraction of 11% of the GDP in Russia and of almost 1% in the world, and the mass of capital burned turns out to be greater worldwide – a contraction of 11% in Russia is a drop in 150 billion dollars; of 1% in the world is 750 billion. Capital burns in the fire of geoeconomics… Small companies are destroyed, arms sales increase; there is no bread, there are cannons left. Some cry, others sell tissues.

This contraction meant that the price of wheat rose 50% and a barrel of oil exceeded 110 dollars. In an absence of struggles in the world of work, this means hunger, which is devastating in peripheral countries. And a general decline in wages in Western Europe.

Sanctions are not boycotts organized by production or culture workers, and with specific targets. As would a strike at the armaments factories, or if dockers or truck drivers refused to carry weapons for war, or a group refused to sing in Russia. They were still linked to censorship, from journalists, films and even books.

 

War and economics or war economics

Capitalism implies a struggle between bosses and workers. Even when it is not expressed in strikes or revolutions, it is expressed in everyday life in the fight for contracts, or against labor exhaustion. But it also implies a struggle between companies, corporations. And between States that defend their companies. Contrary to what theorists of globalization asserted, the States did not lose strength in the face of a pamphlet “faceless capital”. In this unhealthy competition that drags the whole society, preventing cooperation, the States are the fundamental instrument when war becomes the economy by other means.

The sanctions left out 70% of Russian exports – oil, gas and fuels – on which German industry depends; they are a form of expropriation of Russian billionaires (yesterday they were “businessmen” good at investing, now they are “oligarchs” who are expropriating). The code suspension Swift has an effect on Russia – pushing it out of Europe (Russia is part of Europe!) towards an alliance with China –, which fits with the expansionist vision of NATO, which develops in the China Sea, with Australia , a military siege of China, similar to the one that develops in Eastern Europe with the expansion of NATO. The US has just approved the biggest military budget in its history ($778 billion), and the doubling of the announced German military budget alone (50 billion more) puts Germany with more military investment than the total Russian military budget (60 billion). thousand millions).

Predictable irony of history: under the “greenest” government of Germany, nuclear energy is announced in the European Union as green (it is now clear that as long as there are wars, nuclear energy is a threat to humanity) and the remilitarization of the leading country of the Union European. Productive restructuring ("green transition") "to face the 2008 crisis, to be carried out to the end, would imply the implosion of the rights achieved by workers, of the welfare State, on the pretext of public subsidies for "clean energy", which – even with outsourcing the dirty part to other countries – would be unsustainable. It is in this context that, according to several German thinkers, the remilitarization of Germany emerges – green restructuring if possible, military restructuring if necessary.

 

A Ukraine between the US, the European Union and Russia

History is the key to understanding the world. But the secret of this key, since the industrial revolution, is the labor theory of value. Ukraine has a neoliberal government, with one of the poorest populations in Europe, where IMF revenues were applied (where the US and Russia are at the same table). Ukraine has lost 8 million people in ten years to economic exile (emigrants). It has an anemic GDP, because it is a country with 14% of the population in agriculture, small peasants, and with the industrial region of the Donbass basin in civil war, from which investors fled. Ukraine has one of the most productive lands in the world (1/4 of the world's black lands), and, until 2020, the sale of this property was prohibited, which then changed with Volodymyr Zelensky. A megaprocess of sale and concentration of ownership of these super-productive lands is underway.

Ukraine, which passed legislation imposing Ukrainian as a language, in a bilingual country, also has its “oligarchs” and the Government is complicit with the far right – Ukraine is the European military training base for the far right. Next door is Poland, whose government, supported by the extreme right, now receives military support from the European Union and NATO, and which announced two months ago the construction of a wall against refugees. Shortly before, the European conference of the extreme right had taken place there.

None of this warrants the conclusion that Russia is in mere self-defence or “denazifying” Ukraine. The protection of the Russians from Donetsk and Lugantsk was just a perfect excuse and longed for by the Russian state. The latter finds itself grappling with the threat of its own disintegration and reduction of its area of ​​influence. It has just crushed, to the public congratulations of the US, the popular uprising in Kazakhstan – in the West they called it “pacification”. The Russian state coexists well with its own extreme right, which in Moscow is not persecuted, unlike anti-war activists.

 

There is no peace in war

Empires are old, but imperialism is new. It was born in the contemporary era in which capitalism went from competitive to monopolistic, at the end of the 1885th century, when all spaces on Earth had been conquered and divided – starting with the colonial division at the Berlin congress of XNUMX –, and everything culminated in the First World War, which “was going to end at Christmas” and lasted four years. Until the Russian Revolution put an end to it. Imperialism means that one capitalism cannot survive without encroaching on the other.

Those who support Putin, on the one hand, or NATO, on the other, live according to the Cold War model, believing that revolutions are a mirage or counterproductive, and that therefore the permanent threat of war would be a condition for peace. They ignore that as long as empires exist, two, three, or one, war and terror will be the reality because imperialism always implies, within the framework of competition, expansionism.

In addition to the 2008 crisis, the measures to manage the pandemic and the rise of China, there is a chronic crisis of overproduction (in the Middle Ages, crises were of scarcity, in capitalism they were of overproduction) that has lasted since the 1970s and which was being tinged with the brutal growth of public debts (the end of Bretton Woods), state investment in companies and the opening of the Chinese market, which doubled the workforce worldwide. This is what neoliberalism is, the maximum economic state, guaranteed by “public” debts, the minimum social state to pay them. And now military state. Liberals and the right, who never took to the streets for a labor or social right, were the first to beat the drums of war, calling for NATO intervention.

When between 2008 and 2012, with several colleagues from all over the world, I attended crisis analysis conferences (some in Germany), and we said that the only way to transform the money printed in 2008 into capital was with military production on the scale of a world war, we were looked at as extraterrestrials. War and revolutions accelerate history – today we are on the verge of a world war, and everyone thinks it is normal to pronounce the most sordid of all expressions: world war.

Eradicating hunger with a planned economy geared towards needs would cost the world 45 billion dollars a year, half of what Germany will now invest in armaments. It was not Franklin D. Roosevelt who ended the 1929 crisis. The unemployment rates of 1929 were not fully reversed until the US entered World War II in 1941. It was the war economy, that is, turning unemployed into soldiers , productive forces in destruction machine factories, which reversed the accumulation crisis. In 1937 the New Deal started to Wardeal, 800 million dollars were cut in social security and public works, and increased military spending, which increased by 400 million dollars in 1939.

In the midst of this immense complexity, the essential is this. No freedom will come hitchhiking in a tank, Russian, German or American. It was like this in 1956 in Hungary, in 1968 in Prague, it was like this in Afghanistan and Libya, it is like this in Palestine. This is how it is today in Ukraine. As long as we accept that the States are the only actors in history and popular and workers' resistance does not enter the scene, what we will have is more wars. States are responsible, not populations.

*Raquel Varela, historian, is a researcher at New University of Lisbon. Aauthor, among other books, of A Brief History of Europe (Bertrand).

Originally published on Newspaper No..

 

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