War in Europe - what to do?

image: Miles Rothoerl


The right to resistance, to insubordination against despots and the struggle for emancipation against capitalism are inalienable rights and patrimony of the entire human race.

“If you are against Putin's invasion and against NATO, what is your solution?”, I have been asked these days. What to do after all in the face of an unjustifiable invasion, with part of a country under fire and three million refugees (which is expected to reach five million)?

The European Union and its countries tried to convince the population that there were three things to do: remilitarize Europe, apply economic sanctions to Russia and arm the “Ukrainian resistance”. None of this will serve – this is my argument – ​​to defeat Vladimir Putin and protect the Ukrainian people. Quite the opposite.

The only thing that could immediately defeat the Russian Army, which has nuclear weapons, would be a NATO intervention. Which would mean a Third World War. MIGs, no-fly zone, which Volodymyr Zelensly has asked NATO, complaining of “abandonment”, would in practice mean a worldwide slaughter, of the Ukrainians and of all of us, at potentially apocalyptic levels. Millions would die.

It is perhaps here that the explanation for the State's appeals to “resistance” can be found. Despite the calls, even from some European leaders, for “volunteers” (comparing with the Spanish civil war), the mobilization was not responded en masse by Ukrainians or Europeans, but militias, ex-soldiers expelled from the army, ex-criminals ( officially armed by Volodymyr Zelensky) and extreme right-wing and neo-Nazi groups from all over the world – from 52 countries, according to investigative journalist Ricardo Cabral Fernandes and several NGOs specializing in the subject.

Army generals in Portugal, and pro-NATO diplomats (the former Minister Azeredo Lopes himself) have publicly called attention to the Pandora's box that opens up with the arming of these extremist militias. Because they are not under international law and can commit all kinds of atrocities, they are outside the law. In other wars, in the more or less recent past, this gave rise to a large part of the terrorist groups that attacked civilians indiscriminately in Europe, the US and the rest of the world.

It is, therefore, with astonishment that I see the naturalness with which unconditional defenders of “European values”, of peace and democracy, who are agitating the fascist bogeyman to appeal for the useful vote, to watch this in silence, affirming that it is nothing more than a Russian propaganda. Russia does not intend to “denazify” Ukraine, not least because it took its Nazis to fight in Ukraine. But that does not allow for the arming of militias of the same caliber.

Fascism is not a current of opinion, nor a body of ideas – it is the cult, organized, of death, through militias. Since the Italian revolution of 1919-20, democratic states have more or less coexisted with these fascist groups depending on how useful they are to combat strikes and revolutions: the Machiavellian principle that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Life is more complex. In diplomacy, the language of states, all friends are false and all enemies are real. Comparing these mercenaries with the militant left that fought in the Spanish civil war is pathetic.

Otherwise, let's see. All ideologies can degenerate and, for Hannah Arendt, Nazism, Stalinism and imperialism had totalitarianism as common characteristics. But democrats, communists, anarchists and Trotskyists, many of them killed by Stalin, fought in Spain for the distribution of land to agricultural workers in Andalusia, for the rights of miners in Asturias, for democracy in the factories of Barcelona. The Spanish fascists had another cry: “Viva la muerte!”

They fought for the private ownership of lands, factories and mines. Being few (the rich, in fact, are few) and having the Army divided (one part with the revolution), they had enough to finance militias, recruited in the catacombs of society and the invaluable help of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. In Spain there was a civil war with a revolution. In Ukraine there is a national defense war against an invader.

The Russian state warned from the outset that these “volunteers” would not be treated as prisoners of war. Russia responded by mobilizing its pro-Nazi and extremist militias, notably from Chechnya and Syria. It's kind of like "lawless bastards", only this isn't a Tarantino movie. Ukraine threatens to become a global training ground for the far right. A quagmire like Syria.

As far as we know today, mass workers do not go to Ukraine. On the contrary, there is a law that prevents them, the men who are there, from fleeing the country and the war. All men between the ages of 18 and 65 are barred from going out.

I ask myself, if escape were possible, how many would stay in these conditions fighting and how many would flee? And what will we do with the Ukrainians who are against Vladimir Putin, but do not support the Zelensky Government, nor the war, who want peace and who fear the armed groups that have settled in their country? Do we call them “cowards” and appeal to the “fatherland”? That's because this has been the media's patriotic and virile discourse. The same question has to be asked of the Russian army and people: who actually supports this war in Russia? That is why to see European citizens calling for the cancellation of Russian culture, animated by Russophobic extremism, should embarrass us.

Beyond the propaganda on both sides, there is another big question: what is the real mobilization capacity of States today for a national war, expansion or defense?

There could be revolutionary and democratic resistance in Ukraine. That unites Ukrainians and Russians (hopefully!), with the methods used in factory strikes in the First and Second World Wars, or mass desertions as in the First War, or, rarer, but possible, clashes within the Army itself, a la Portuguese MFA. None of this, with the information we have, exists today.

Then, if there is a leftist, progressive resistance, that seeks unity with sectors of some oppositions in Russia, will not the fascists and mercenaries of Ukraine and Russia be the first to shoot at any leftist opposition to the war? Isn't that what happened in Syria where secular and progressive resistance was decimated? The yellow and blue flag, like all flags of the “homeland”, hide the terrible social conflicts and antagonistic interests that exist within each nation.

What does the Russian state have to offer Ukrainians? The same “shock therapy” it offered its Russian citizens, with brutal neoliberal reforms (when Vladimir Putin and the West shook hands to implement them) and censorship and Bonapartism. Neoliberalism under occupation: this is the meaning of “liberation from Nazism” that Putin offers. And in Ukraine? There is no “people in arms”.

First, before the war, with the IMF reforms that Volodymyr Zelensky supported, there was mass economic migration to Western Europe and Russia itself, eight million were left without land where they could work and live. Now they are bombed by Russia, with a neo-Nazi “resistance” defending them and a government calling for a world war. This is the sad scenario that lies ahead.

What to do immediately? In the immediate future, those who oppose the war are the most disarmed. There is an enormous deficit of emancipatory ideologies, of class consciousness (everyone considers himself a national somewhere, but no one considers himself part of the working class), of organized internationalism, unions and parties with a left-wing program and mass social force. Capitalism, dubbed neoliberalism, has systematically dedicated itself to dividing, atomizing, individualizing the working classes. “There is no such thing as society. Only individuals”, [“Society does not exist. Individuals only.”] said Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher's program, obstinately applied by the ruling classes over the last few decades, now shows us its rotten fruits in the heart of Europe itself: war and barbarism.

The left, harassed or co-opted by the States, has been retreating, lowering its flags, perhaps hoping that, as a now deceased friend said with bitter irony, “if we continue to retreat, as the Earth is round, one day we will catch the enemy in the back”. Those who do not make history are swallowed up by those who make it.

Who organizes the war are the nation-states and the businesses around them. Those who die in wars on behalf of nation-states are the working classes. Sanctions are a stick that doesn't hit the rich, but devastates those who make a living from work. States will continue to wage wars and the announced remilitarization of Europe will not bring us peace or defense against the “Russians”. European, Ukrainian and Russian leaders assert themselves as organizers of historic defeats, brought us this far, and want to blame each other for this human disaster that is life in the XNUMXst century.

We need those who work and live from work whether Russians, Ukrainians, all peoples of Europe and the world to have peace and put an end to the struggle between states, which is and will always be an expression of the economic struggle for raw materials and energy. work. Geopolitics, as they cynically say.

To resist is not to commit suicide, nor to lead a people to do so. To resist is to organize politically to win. What to do? Today, sign peace, even in the midst of a defeat. Tomorrow organize the resistance, to win. Either we demolish the national walls, the flags of the Nation-State and find ourselves again as a human race, or life will be an ordeal of suffering.

The right to resistance, insubordination against despots and the struggle for emancipation against capitalism are inalienable rights and patrimony of the entire human race. The right to own one's work and the right to democracy are the foundations of life in society. The past of the working classes is full of defeats, but also of victorious struggles, of organizing and fighting traditions that go beyond borders. How resistance is organized, alongside whom and against whom, is what we need to answer urgently, so that we can move from terror to hope.

*Raquel Varela, historian, is a researcher at Universidade Nova de Lisboa. She is the author, among other books, of A Brief History of Europe (Bertrand).


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