war to war

Image: Inga Seliverstova


The war in Ukraine is a warning of the monstrosities that capitalism is preparing for us.

I have three assumptions to make. The first, obvious; the second, a little less; the third, unusual. The first. What is being fought in Ukraine is not a war between Russia and Ukraine. It is a war between NATO/West and Russia (with China in the background), and it is the continuation of the harrowing 2014 of the euromaidan, the result of the global scramble that began in 1991 to wrest Ukraine's immeasurable natural and labor wealth. A dispute in which “our” squalid Italy was and is in the front row, appropriating the lives of 200.000 women of all ages and fertile land, planting more than 300 companies, sowing corruption and the seeds of war.

Second premise. The ongoing war in Ukraine is not alone. It is part of a chain of traumatic events of all kinds that together make up the gigantic chaos into which global capitalism has been plunging us since the beginning of the XNUMXst century. In the midst of so much chaos, what is at stake in this war is not just Ukraine or Donbass. It is a new world order in which the United States, the West, the dollar no longer have the command post – Vladimir Putin and Xi Jin Ping are declaring this more and more explicitly. Even American and European power circles know perfectly well that this is what this is about, and not Ukraine's freedom and self-determination, which they cannot care less about. Therefore, the position to be taken on the current war is inseparable from the position on the clash around the new world order.

The third premise. When talking about the war in Ukraine, in 99,9% of the cases the subjects of the speech are: Ukraine, Russia, United States, European Union, Italy, Poland, Turkey, China, etc. In short: States, national capitalisms and related interests. Or, simply put: Valodymyr Zelensky, Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden, etc., as managers of these interests. Except that something absolutely essential is missing from these speeches: workers from Ukraine, Russia, the United States, the European Union, Italy, etc. are missing. – proletarians, salaried workers, those who live off their own work and not from the exploitation of other people's work.

They are missing, because it is assumed, or wanted, that they are linked to their respective governments, their respective nation-states, imperialist or not. Extras, pieces the powerful can move at will, meat for slaughter. I, on the contrary, like all Marxists and internationalists, consider them “subjects of history”. And I ask the remaining question: what interest do workers have in the continuation and extension of this war, whatever an eventual, provisional armistice may be? what interest do they have in taking sides with their respective governments and states and capitalists in the fight to the death for the defense of the old or for the construction of a new world order?

I begin with Ukrainian workers and workers. And I answer without hesitation: none. This war plunged them into the deepest circles of hell. The USSR and Comecon were certainly not the socialist paradise that some very nostalgic comrades still fantasize about. However, as Ukraine was among the most industrialized areas of the USSR, in 1991 its workers still enjoyed modest but real guarantees of job stability and well-being. With the advent of independence, Ukraine suddenly found itself competing in the global market with economies with much higher labor productivity rates, without protective barriers.

Its economic structure and social life were crushed. Because the world market is a dictatorial mechanism in which the strongest aggregations of capital dictate the law. So the multinationals and Western banks, the IMF, stock exchanges, investment funds (not just Western ones – in recent years, the first foreign investor in Ukraine was China), who feasted on the impoverishment of Ukrainian workers . The infamous policies adopted by the Ukrainian rulers, both the more or less pro-Russian (Kucma, Yanukovic) and the pro-Western (Juscenko, Timoshenko, Poroshenko) contributed to the disaster.

Their only ambition was to seize parts of the residual privatized national wealth, or to guarantee the oligarch friends who, in 80, came to control 100% of the national capital. Result: between 1991 and 2017, the Ukrainian economy was the fifth worst in the world among 200 countries! And the ongoing war has enabled Valodymyr Zelensky, his worthy heir, and his party to ban all forms of political opposition and to submit to parliament, which is about to pass it, a labor law that abolishes collective labor agreements to 70% of workers.

In twenty-five years, more than 7 million people (more than 15% of the population) have emigrated from Ukraine to Russia, Western Europe, the United States, Kazakhstan, etc. I studied the Ukrainian emigration in Italy, which is 80% women. Rarely have I experienced so much pain as the experience of Ukrainian “caregivers” on duty in Italy, forced into cohabitation 24 hours a day, a total institution experience. Women, such as Romanians, Moldovans, Bulgarians, are often affected by the so-called Italy syndrome: a severe form of depression, which becomes devastating when – whether they return home for a while or forever – they find themselves rejected by their own sons or daughters as if they were Weird.

On the one hand, white orphans in the homeland, children grown up without a mother by their side, also exposed to forms of depression that generate hundreds of suicides; on the other hand, their mothers wore themselves out here because they had to replace the lack of care and love for the elderly and the lack of self-sufficiency that we spread: this is a brilliant aspect of Italy's civilizing mission in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. There is much hype today about Ukraine joining the EU (in 10-20 years) – but the EU, Italy, already penetrated Ukraine thirty years ago, without having to ask for permission, destroying the existence of hundreds of thousands of families of the working classes. And it is revolting that “our” rulers and “our” mass media present themselves as friends and defenders of the Ukrainian people.

The Russian invasion, the bombings and all the rest completed the devastation, causing millions more to flee, the death and injury of tens of thousands, at least, of ordinary Ukrainians, of proletarians. And it certainly isn't about the children of oligarchs or the parents of NATO puppets like Zelensky, sheltered in Israel in extra luxurious mansions. Some say: but the Russian army is denazifying Donbass, isn't it good? I understand the relief of many, especially in Donbass, upon witnessing the surrender of the Nazis or Nazistoids of the Azov battalion and similar criminals. However, I invite you not to idealize the reality of the so-called People's Republics of Donbass.

Listen to what the militants of the Workers' Front of Donbass and the Communist Workers' Organization of the People's Republic of Lugansk just said on February 19: “The DNR and the LNR have long since lost the original spirit of people's democracy. The naive and sincere impulses to establish true people power are largely buried. Through the efforts of the local and Russian bourgeoisie, the usual reactionary capitalist regimes were established, with a reduced democracy, a lot of exploitation of the workers, a social stratification. The authorities cynically cover up their abominations, from the non-payment of wages to the prohibition of protests and strikes to the exclusion from political life and elections, with martial law, workers, miners, tractor drivers. Thus, the working class of Donbass, like the working class of Russia and Ukraine, is waging a common struggle against the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”.

Harsh, clear words that come from the field (and I must say that these are not organizations with the same ideological-political orientation as mine). In recent days, there has been a protest appeal addressed to the President of the People's Republic of Donetsk in which it is denounced that many inhabitants of Donbass have been sent to the front line in Mariupol without the necessary training. 40% of the battalion composed of them died…

Liberated or cannon fodder? I feel on their side, as I do with the Ukrainian women who, at the end of April, in Khust, invaded the military enlistment office to prevent the forced recruitment of young people. After all, from the first moment we positioned ourselves, as the blog's newsroom Il Pungolo rosso, against the sanctions on Russia, against the shipment of weapons to the Zelensky government, against the activation of the Italian drone system in favor of the Ukrainian army and NATO, against the insane Russophobic campaign that targets Russian writers, Russian musicians, artists Russians, Russians as such. Against, radically against the war and, above all, against “our” government and NATO, which foment it in every way.

Russia's working class also has nothing to gain from the ongoing war and the wars that follow. I don't want to hide behind Lenin's superior authority, recently attacked by Vladimir Putin, on issues of Great Russian chauvinism, which he considered a dangerous poison to be fought. I limit myself to asking: which young Russians, because these are young people, are dying in Ukraine today? The children of the managers of Gazprom, Gazprombank or Sherbank, or Tupolev? Or are they, instead, children of proletarians, of peasants, of the popular strata, almost always coming from the poorest areas of Russia, where the soldier's profession is the only trade that gives guarantees?

How is it that the small and poor Buryatia (less than a million inhabitants), land of the excavator operator Vitaly Chingisovich, belonging to the 30th brigade, killed at the age of 24 on June 1st, had 91 “recognized” deaths, while the city of Moscow, where the presence of the middle and upper classes is large, and where 9% of the inhabitants of all of Russia (12 million inhabitants) live, counts only 3 recognized deaths? And who will pay the costs of the inevitable economic crisis triggered by Western sanctions and war? Who for the necessary long-term increase in military spending? Who will be affected by the repressive grip against those who resisted and will resist the war and enlist in the army and National Guard? What will happen – other than dismissal – to those who, like the 115 members of Nalchik's North Caucasus National Guardsmen, will refuse to go to war outside Russia's borders? What about the groups of women, perhaps from Petersburg as well?, who dared to speak out against the war and today demand news of their missing loved ones?

As for Italian and European workers, just consider what happened in Italy. The Draghi government immediately threw Italy into the war, thrusting it into the forefront of provocations against the Kremlin. To support this choice, Draghi & Co. they immediately proclaimed a war economy, doubling military spending and further cuts in social spending. The unrest in international trade that, little by little, the sanctions enacted by Western countries are causing brings with it more inflation, higher rates and economic recession in a short time, with brutal effects on wages, the increase in private and state debt, unemployment . Bonomi immediately took the opportunity to inform that the bosses cannot grant salary increases, while demanding greater support from the State and greater flexibility from workers. And we are only in the first act of the feared sequence of NATO conflicts against Russia/China and their allies (attentive to the maneuvers already advanced for new wars in the Balkans…). It is no coincidence that the German government allocated 100 billion euros overnight. European rearmament got off to a great start, it's a problem to underestimate it!

Finally, with regard to the consequences that the war in Ukraine has and will have for workers in the rest of the world, of course, it is commonly instrumental to attribute the world food crisis to the blockade of the port of Odessa, which has multiple, different, causes of long term, all resulting from the functioning of global capitalism and its aggression to nature. But it is a fact that the warlike events in Ukraine aggravate this crisis that is already affecting the countries of black and Arab Africa, as they aggravate the environmental catastrophe. Being intercapitalist war in general the first factor of pollution of land and air, as well as of minds and hearts. And this war being the good excuse to return to coal and launch use of the ultra-polluting resource of liquefied gas imported from America...

I stop here. Workers all over the world, starting with the Ukrainians and the Russians, have no interest in being drafted into this war, nor into other capitalist wars to come. As they have no interest in enlisting in the economic competition for world market domination. Is it the old and detestable order dominated by the United States and the West, or the new, very hypothetical, more “pluralist” and “balanced” order, in any case and always hyper capitalist, envisioned by Putin and Xi Jin Ping.

We are on the threshold of an era of turmoil that brings back the magnificent prediction, perhaps too anticipated, by Rosa Luxemburg: “socialism (that is, anti-capitalist social revolution) or barbarism”. And he invites us to return to an old motto, always fresh and vital: war against war! The main enemy is here, in “our” house, it is “our” government! Proletarians and proletarians of all countries, let us not allow ourselves to be divided by pestiferous nationalisms, let us unite against the wars of capital!

I say this knowing full well that the signals going in that direction today are very weak. What prevails, until now, is the nationalist grouping or lining up of workers around governments. But the terrible experience of war, wars and crises to come, the toll they will impose on the exploited and oppressed, will open the eyes of many. They will show even the blind the only path to liberation from the monstrosities that capitalism is preparing for us.

*Pietro Basso is a retired professor of sociology at the Ca'Foscari University of Venice (Italy).

Translation: Juliana Hass.


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