NATO and the war in the global South

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By PAWEL WARGAN*

Just like the fascist project, NATO was forged in anti-communism

“People tell me: Eat and drink! \ Rejoice because it has! \ But how can I eat and drink, if \ I take what I eat from the hungry \ And my glass of water is missing from the thirsty? \ And yet I eat and drink” (Bertolt Brecht[1])

The two axes of the counterrevolution

For the first time in the long history of capitalism, and decisively, the center of gravity of the global economy is shifting east. The trade balance now favors China, and Third World nations are preparing for the end of the era of U.S. hegemony, a period of forced imbalances that accelerated the underdevelopment of postcolonial societies in the world capitalist system. The tectonic movements triggered by this process shake the entire globe.

The so-called “Western world”, formed over centuries by the commanding power of capital, is powerless in the face of the catastrophes of hunger, poverty and climate change. Prevented from mobilizing their economic power for the benefit of society – a process that would challenge the primacy of private property – former colonial powers are diverting resources to the protection of private wealth. Fascism rears its head, and nations seeking to follow the path of sovereign development are becoming its new targets. In this way, the counter-revolutionary impulse of the old Cold War reaches a new century, once again filled with promise and terror in equal measure.

In the 1917th century, the colonial counter-revolution would unfold along two geographic axes. One of them was the war of Western nations against the spread of emancipatory processes unleashed in the East. In XNUMX, men and women with calloused hands and sweaty foreheads seized power in Russia. They would achieve what until then no people had been able to achieve. They built an industrialized state not only capable of defending their hard-won sovereignty, but also of projecting it towards those who lived under the yoke of colonialism.

The clarion call [of the October Revolution] would be heard throughout the world. For Ho Chi Minh, it shone like a “bright sun (…) over the five continents.” It brought, in the words of Mao Zedong, “enormous possibilities of emancipation to the people of the world, opening realistic paths in that direction.” Years later, Fidel Castro would say that “without the existence of the Soviet Union, the socialist revolution in Cuba would have been impossible.” The barefoot, the illiterate, the hungry and those whose backs were straightened by the plow learned that they too could rise up against the humiliations of colonialism and win.

In 1919, Leon Trotsky wrote the Manifesto of the Communist International to Proletarians of the Whole World, which would be approved by 51 delegates on the last day of the First Congress of the Communist International. O The Manifest saw the First World War as a dispute to maintain the colonial world's reins over humanity: “Colonial populations were drawn into the European war on an unprecedented scale. Indians, blacks, Arabs and Malagasy fought in European territories – for what? For the right to remain slaves of Great Britain and France. Never before has the infamy of capitalist rule in the colonies been so clearly delineated; Never before has the problem of colonial slavery been posed as drastically as it is today.”

If this war was an expression of imperialist competition to divide the spoils of colonialism, then the main duty of internationalism was to attack imperialism. This was the message that Indian revolutionary MN Roy took to the Second Congress of the Communist International. “European capitalism draws most of its strength not so much from the industrial countries of Europe as from its colonial possessions,” as he wrote in his Supplementary Theses on the National and Colonial Question. Since the super profits of the imperialist ruling classes were fueled by the systematic plunder of the colonies, the liberation of colonized peoples would also lead to the end of imperialism – a challenge that the workers of capitalist states, fed and clothed by imperial plunder, would not accept.

“The European working class will only be able to overthrow the capitalist order when the source of its profits has finally been cut off,” wrote Roy. Informed by these interventions, the Communist International set itself the task of organizing the peasant and proletarian masses in the colonies. From anti-imperialist nationalists to pan-Islamists, these groups represented the vanguard of the revolutionary anti-colonial struggle. The Soviet Union would extend “a helping hand to these masses”, said VI Lenin – the October Revolution was in full swing.

The establishment of a State hostile to capitalism and colonial domination was unacceptable to the imperialist powers. In the first three decades of its existence, the Soviet Union was in the hands of invaders. In the final years of the First World War, imperial Germany gave way to the Entente powers, including the United Kingdom and the United States, which supported the Tsarist White Army in its war to preserve the dominance of the bourgeoisie in Russia. Then came Adolf Hitler's Germany. If the Nazi movement caught Europe off guard, its rotten roots were easy to perceive for the colonized peoples of the world.

In 1900, WEB Du Bois warned that the exploitation of the colonized world would be fatal to Europe's “high ideals of justice, freedom and culture.” Fifty years later, this warning would be echoed, furiously and solemnly, by Aimé Césaire. “Before being its victims”, he wrote, Europeans were accomplices of the Nazis: “they tolerated this Nazism until it was inflicted on them (…) they absolved it, closed their eyes to it, legitimized it because, until then, it was put into practice only against non-European peoples.”

It is impossible to extricate Hitler's mission from the long European colonialist project, or from the particular expression it found in American settler colonialism. Hitler openly admired the way the United States had “shot millions of redskins[2] until reducing them to a few hundred thousand, now keeping the few remaining surrounded and under observation.” The war of extermination waged by the Nazi regime sought nothing less than the colonization of Eastern Europe and the enslavement of its people, in order to conquer the “Wild East” in the same way that American colonists conquered the “Wild West”.

In this way, Nazism continued the colonial tradition against the emancipatory hope awakened in October 1917 – which is why the Italian philosopher Domenico Losurdo referred to Nazism as being the first colonial counter-revolution. In 1935, Hitler said that Germany would establish itself as “the bulwark of the West against Bolshevism.”

Precisely because fascism promised to preserve the property structure of capital, the West remained condescending and unscrupulous towards it, before, during and after the war. In the United Kingdom, which from the beginning financed the rise of Benito Mussolini, Winston Churchill openly expressed his sympathy for fascism as a tool against the communist threat.

In the United States, Harry S. Truman barely tried to hide the cynical opportunism that still characterizes the establishment American. “If we see that Germany is winning, we must help Russia. If Russia is winning, we must help Germany, and thus let them kill as many as possible,” said the future president on the eve of Operation Barbarossa,[3] which would claim 27 million Soviet lives. Later, the New York Times would praise this “attitude” as a preparation for Truman’s “firm policy” as president. This steadfastness would entail the first and only use of nuclear weapons in history – “a hammer” against the Soviets, as Truman once referred to the bomb. The ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would color the Cold War for decades to come, intoxicating its architects with the promise of omnipotence.

In 1952, Truman considered giving the Soviet Union and China an ultimatum: either they comply or all industrial production units, from Stalingrad to Shanghai, would be incinerated. Across the Atlantic, Churchill also enjoyed atomic brilliance. Alan Brooke, chief of the British Imperial General Staff, recorded in his diaries that Churchill “saw himself capable of eliminating all Russian industrial centers”. With the advent of the atomic bomb, white supremacy acquired supreme power.

The threat of annihilation caused the Soviet Union to accelerate its own nuclear program, compromising much of its political project. The USSR managed to achieve military parity with the United States, but the restrictions imposed by the arms race limited its social development. Heavy economic and political burdens were accumulating on the young State. These burdens would be assimilated and amplified by George Kennan's “Containment Doctrine” – a comprehensive set of policies designed to isolate the Soviet Union and limit the “spread of communism” throughout the world. Faced with a new series of contradictions that could not be resolved militarily, for fear of mutual destruction, American policy sought to “immensely increase the pressure” on Soviet governance in order to “promote trends that, sooner or later, must find its way out in the disintegration or gradual weakening of Soviet power.”

At the end of the 1980s, accelerated by the contradictions of its socialist process, the material, political and ideological pressures on Soviet governance became unbearable. Perhaps driven by a naive faith in to relax with the West, the Mikhail Gorbachev administration introduced reforms through a process that sidelined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and paved the way for the opposition to consolidate around the figure of Boris Yelstin, who dismantled the USSR. The Soviet people would pay a very high price – a price that was particularly high in Russia.

In the 1990s, Russia experienced a profound drop in living standards as public goods were captured by a bourgeoisie that quickly sought favor with Western finance capital. The country's GDP fell by 40%. Its industrial inputs decreased by 50% and real wages plummeted to half of what they were in 1987. The number of poor people increased from 2,2 million between 1987 and 1988 to 74,2 million between 1993 and 1995 – from 2% to 50%. % of the population in just over five years. Life expectancy fell by five years for men and three years for women, and millions of people died under the regime of privatization and shock therapy between 1989 and 2002.

In that time of collapse and depravity, half a million Russian women were victims of human trafficking into sexual slavery. As Western instruments of colonization began to penetrate every crack, breach, and pore, similar stories emerged across the disintegrating Union. It is telling that this was the only time Russia was considered a friend by the West.

The offensive against the Soviet Union was one of the axes in the war against human emancipation. The other would become more evident after World War II, as the United States emerged as a hegemonic power. Unconsummated on the European battlefield, the Cold War between the nations of the East and West became a historic and violent onslaught of the North against the South. From Korea to Indonesia, from Afghanistan to Congo, from Guatemala to Brazil, dozens Millions of lives were sacrificed in a battle between popular forces and the metamorphoses of an imperialism that cannot tolerate being contradicted in its extractive compulsion.

If the United States and its allies could not defeat the Soviet Union in a direct military confrontation, they would put extreme violence at the service of a grand strategy, which since 1952 had already sought to establish “nothing less than the preponderance of power”. As British historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote, the violence unleashed in this period – both actual violence and its potential threat – could “reasonably be considered a Third World War, albeit of a very peculiar kind”; With the advent of the atomic bomb, the cold zones of this world war have threatened, from time to time, to incinerate all humanity from existence. Thus, in the midst of these two axes of the Cold War, we find a historic battle between rival forces of emancipation and submission.

The fight never ended. What happened was the postponement of the project of human emancipation, its promise of dignity was put on hold. From Angola to Cuba, nations that depended on solidarity ties with the USSR were devastated by its collapse. If Soviet power acted as a form of check on United States belligerence, unipolarity ushered in an era of impunity. The United States found almost complete freedom to influence or overthrow governments that opposed it; About 80% of US military interventions after 1946 occurred after the fall of the USSR. From Afghanistan to Libya, these terrible wars served both to strengthen the United States' militarist project and to signal that dissent would not be tolerated outside its borders. In doing so, they helped maintain a cruel imbalance in the global capitalist system, condemning Third World states to a position of permanent underdevelopment to protect the insatiable and predatory greed of Western monopolies.

This was the relevance of Lenin's vision of imperialism and its application to the project of the Third International. At an advanced stage, Lenin wrote, capitalism will export not just goods but also capital itself – not just cars and textiles but also factories and foundries, reaching beyond national borders in search of workers to exploit and resources. to plunder. This process disciplines workers in advanced capitalist countries, who are gagged by the threat of unemployment hanging over them and appeased by the [social] well-being that imperialist plunder makes possible.

Advanced capitalist countries develop by exploiting their own people e the people and resources of distant territories. This essentially parasitic relationship ensures, under the condition of national interest, the profitability and continuous expansion of Western monopolies, ultimately using brute force. In the global chain of exploration, Third World states cannot hope to reach a significant level of development. In turn, economic underdevelopment impedes social transformation. A people who cannot eat or go to school, who cannot treat their sick or live in peace, cannot promote freedom or creativity.

This underdevelopment is reflected in the character of their States, as well as in their ability to establish relationships with others and defend themselves against threats. In this way, the totalizing power of imperialism distorts social and economic processes, both in the imperialist bloc and in states that seek to follow paths of sovereign development. This is why the battle between imperialism and decolonization must be understood as the main contradiction – a battle capable of determining the future of humanity.

Where do we find this imperialism today? We find it among the two billion people who struggle to eat. We find it in the fragility, conflict or violence that two-thirds of humanity will face in the next decade. We find it in the many livelihoods that are often ruined by rising tides or in drought-stricken fields and slowly encroaching desert sands, as well as among the billion people who do not own a single pair of shoes.

We find it in the arduous march of tens of millions of subsistence peasants, who every year are forced to leave their lands due to poverty and violence – a permanent escape from capitalism, incomparable even to the most fanciful numbers of “dissidents” and “fugitives” from communism. We find it in gold and cobalt, in diamonds and tin, in phosphates and petroleum, in zinc and manganese, in uranium and land, with whose expropriations we see the growth of the headquarters of Western corporations and financial institutions, in increasingly impressive proportions. The development of the Western world, assured by its global counter-revolution, is the mirror image of the misery of the Third World.

NATO and the counterrevolution

Like the fascist project, NATO was forged in anti-communism. The ashes of World War II had not yet settled in Europe, and the United States was already busy rehabilitating fascist dictators, from Francisco Franco in Spain to Antônio de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal. (The latter became a founding member of the North Atlantic Alliance.) The United States and Western Europe absorbed thousands of fascists into institutions of power through amnesties that violated Allied pacts on the return of war criminals. This included figures such as Adolf Heusinger, senior Nazi officer and Hitler's deputy.

Adolf Heusinger was wanted by the Soviet Union for war crimes, but the West had other plans. In 1957, Adolf Heusinger became head of the West German Armed Forces, later serving as chairman of NATO's Military Committee. “Secret operations”stay behind"[4] cultivated a new generation of militants across Europe, with the purpose of obstructing left-wing political projects – since at least 1948, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has directed millions of dollars in annual funding to right-wing groups only in Italy, and made it clear that it was “willing to intervene militarily” if the Communist Party took power in the country.

Hundreds of people were massacred in attacks carried out by these groups, many of which were associated with the left – part of a “strategy of tension” that terrorized people into abandoning their allegiance to the rising socialist and communist movements. NATO's mandate was explicitly derived from the “threat posed by the Soviet Union,” and the growing popularity of communism outside the USSR also came within its scope. In this way, NATO restricted democratic choices and weakened security within member states, deciding political contradictions in favor of the capitalist order and its right-wing representatives.

NATO's obscure responsibilities did not stop there. If Trotsky saw the First World War as a cynical move to get the colonized world to commit to the project of its own submission, Walter Rodney saw the same forces at work in NATO's violent enterprise on the African continent: “Virtually, northern Africa was transformed into an area of ​​NATO operations, with bases pointing to the Soviet Union (…) The evidence indicates, again and again, the cynical use of Africa as an economic and military buttress of capitalism, forcing the continent to effectively contribute to its own exploitation ”.

Alongside projects such as the European Union, NATO transformed the imperialist order. If the first half of the 1950th century seemed destined for endless inter-imperial conflicts over the spoils of colonialism, from the XNUMXs onwards a new, collective imperialism was in the making. Global trade agreements and credit infrastructures designed by former colonial powers would see the spoils of imperial extraction increasingly shared among them. They also gathered their instruments of violence.

In 1965, Guinean revolutionary Amílcar Cabral described how the West's joint brutality penetrated Africa through NATO, supporting the Salazar regime in the war against Portugal's colonies in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea and Cape Verde: “NATO is the United States. United. We have captured many American weapons in our country. NATO is the Federal Republic of Germany. We have collected many Mauser rifles from the Portuguese soldiers. NATO, at least for now, is France. There are Alouette helicopters in our country. NATO, to a certain extent, is also the government of that heroic people who offered so many examples of the love of freedom: the Italian people. Yes, we seized Italian-made machine guns and grenades from the Portuguese.”

Weapons of war, which today reflect the complete diversity of the “free world,” infest all the front lines of imperialism, from Ukraine and Morocco to Israel and Taiwan. This violence would find its main strength in the central node of imperialism, the United States, which had long sought total hegemony – an aspiration that the ruin of the Soviet Union made irresistible. On March 7, 1992, the New York Times published a leaked document containing plans for American hegemony in the post-Soviet era. “Our first objective,” said the Defense Planning Directive, “is to prevent the reappearance of our rival, whether on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere.”

The document, which became known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine because it was co-authored by the US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, asserted the supremacy of the United States in the world system. He requested the “leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order” that would prevent “potential competitors” from seeking greater global protagonism. As a result of the leak, the Wolfowitz Doctrine was revised by Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, becoming George W. Bush's doctrine and leaving a trail of death and suffering throughout the Middle East.

At that time, the contours of US imperialist strategy were articulated most forcefully by Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the main architects of US foreign policy in the 1997th century. In XNUMX he published The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives [“The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives”]. The fall of the Soviet Union, wrote Zbigniew Brzezinski, witnessed the emergence of the United States “not only as the central arbiter of power relations in Eurasia, but also as the most powerful power in the world (…) the only, and indeed the first , truly global power.”

From 1991 onwards, US strategy would seek to consolidate this position by preventing the historic process of integration in Eurasia. For Zbigniew Brzezinski, Ukraine was an “important house on the Eurasian chessboard” – fundamental to containing Russia in its “inveterate yearning for a special position in Eurasia”. The United States, wrote Zbigniew Brzezinski, would not only pursue its geostrategic objectives in the former Soviet Union, but also represent “its own growing economic interest (…) by obtaining unlimited access to this hitherto closed area.”

In part, the plan would be carried out through NATO. The expansion of the alliance coincided with the insidious spread of neoliberalism, helping to ensure the dominance of US finance capital and sustain the predatory military-industrial complex on which much of its economy and society rest.¹ The umbilical link between membership of the NATO and neoliberalism were clearly expressed by Atlanticist leaders[5] on the alliance's eastward march. On March 25, 1997, at a conference of the Euro-Atlantic Association held at the University of Warsaw, then Senator Joe Biden specified the conditions for Poland's membership in NATO. “All NATO member states are free market economies with a leading role in the private sector,” he said.

He added: “The mass privatization plan represents the most important step so that the Polish people can directly participate in the economic future of their country. This is not the time to stop. I believe that large state-owned companies should also be transferred into the hands of private owners, in order to be operated according to economic, and not political, interests (…) State-owned banking companies, the energy sector, the airline and copper production, as well such as the telecommunications monopoly will have to be privatized”.

To join the imperialist alliance, States are called upon to surrender precisely the material basis of their sovereignty – a process that we see replicated, exactly, throughout its violent course. For example, in a recent proposal for the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine, the RAND Corporation sets out what could be appropriately described as a neocolonial agenda. From “creating an efficient private land market” to “accelerating privatization (…) in 3.300 state-owned companies”, his proposals add to the vast set of liberalization policies implemented with foreign interference under the cover of war, including legislation that subtracts the majority of Ukrainian workers collective bargaining rights. In this way, NATO's expansionist mission is inseparable from the cancerous advance of the neoliberal model of globalization, which is growing in NATO member states as a condition of permanent exploitation. States that are part of the alliance are required to redirect a substantial part of their social surpluses, destined for housing, employment and public infrastructure, to the insatiable military monopolies – the largest of which is based in the United States. In the process, they strengthen their domestic ruling class which, as in Sweden and Finland, is the first supporter of NATO membership, hoping to be its main beneficiary. These factors gradually prohibit anti-capitalist and anti-militarist political alternatives: there can be no socialism within NATO.”

In addition to the economic damage, joining NATO carries with it the moral stamp of the collective West's violence.[6] When my native Poland acquired its junior seat at the imperialist table, it became a vassal and collaborationist, following the model of Vichy France.[7] We were a nation that, under socialism, had contributed by bringing our experience in post-war reconstruction to the Third World. Our architects, planners and builders have helped design and realize large-scale housing projects and hospitals in Iraq. Decades later, we sent troops to besiege the cities we had helped build. At the Stare Kiejkuty intelligence base in northeastern Poland, we housed a clandestine American prison where inmates were brutally tortured – a clear violation of our national constitution.

Budimex, the company that once drew up a development plan for Baghdad, has now completed construction of a wall on Poland's border with Belarus – a protection against refugees from the Middle East, who, in the words of the Polish ruling class, infect the our nation with “parasites and protozoa”. If fascism is an instrument for shielding capitalism against democracy, NATO is its incubator.

Russia and the Third World

In 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev put forward the idea of ​​a “Common European Home”: a doctrine of containment to replace a doctrine of deterrence,[8] as he later expressed, which would make armed conflict in Europe impossible. Just three years later, the promise of a new security order, based on Mikhail Gorbachev's proposals, began to take shape. And for a while it may have seemed possible. The Paris Charter for a New Europe, adopted in November 1990 by the countries of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), contained the seeds of a shared security framework, based on the principles of “respect and cooperation” established in the Charter. of the United Nations. This new model of mutual security would include the countries of the former Soviet Union, including Russia.

Publicly, NATO members supported this process and reaffirmed the commitment that James Baker had made to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, guaranteeing that NATO would “not expand an inch” to the east. Recently, the Der Spiegel unearthed British records from 1991 in which officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany were unequivocal: “We could not … offer NATO membership to Poland and the others.” Privately, however, the United States government was busy plotting its era of hegemony. “We prevailed, they did not,” George HW Bush told Helmut Kohl in February 1990, the same month that the United States gave the green light to the CSCE process. “We cannot let the Soviets snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.”

No organization would “replace NATO as the guarantor of the security and stability of the West,” Bush told French President François Mitterrand in April of that year, clearly referring to proposals taking shape in Europe. The successive waves of NATO expansion gradually eroded the idea that a common security architecture – outside the sphere of domination of the United States – could emerge on the European continent.

Even so, in 2006, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke about participating in a “transformed NATO”, based on proposals for demilitarization and equal cooperation, in accordance with the terms of the Paris Charter of 1990. But the NATO has expanded toward Russia’s borders – not with it, but against it. This expansionist policy aimed to undermine the regional integration processes that were then strengthening. After the 2007-2008 financial crisis, Russia and China dramatically accelerated the construction of new regional cooperation infrastructure.

In parallel, China carried out high-impact reforms to increase its independence from US markets, creating development programs and financial institutions that could operate outside the US sphere of influence. In 2009, Russia and China, together with Brazil, India and South Africa, set the BRICS project in motion. Four years later, the Belt and Road Initiative [9] was launched. These processes coincided with an increase in Russian energy sales to China and Europe, and with the participation of many European states in the Belt and Road Initiative.

The relentless persistence of austerity policies in the European Union has seen its member states turn to China as ports and bridges crumble after years of underinvestment. These events marked the first time in centuries that trade in Eurasia occurred outside a context of hostilities, based on principles of collaboration rather than domination.

This threatened the foundations of the would-be rules-based international order, the informal set of norms that underpin America's political and economic dominance. Since the Soviet era, American strategists have recognized the particular threat that energy trade between Russia and Europe would pose to their country's interests – a warning that has been repeated by each US administration, from Bush to Biden. Thus, the manifest imperative was to interrupt this process. The contours of this strategy became more evident as the West's march on the eastern European periphery continued.

Reports like the Extending Russia: Competing from Advantageous Ground [Extending Russia: Competing from a Position of Advantage], published in 2019 by the RAND Corporation, defined the strategic imperatives identified by Brzezinski more than two decades earlier. From halting Russian gas exports to Europe and sending weapons to Ukraine, to promoting regime change in Belarus and worsening tensions in the South Caucasus, the report laid out a series of measures designed to tear Russia apart at the seams. If Russia did not willingly bend to Western interests, it would be coerced into doing so, even if all of Eurasia had to pay the price.

The neo-colonization of Ukraine – a goal that authorized spending of 5 billion US dollars before 2014 – represented, as Brzezinski had predicted, a crucial move on the Eurasian chessboard.

The undeniable threat that these policies posed to Russian security was clear to US leadership as early as 2008. “Experts tell us that Russia is particularly concerned that the strong disagreements in Ukraine over the country's entry into NATO, with much of the Russian ethnic community being opposed to membership, could lead to a deeper separation, involving violence or, in the worst case, civil war,” wrote William Burns, director of the CIA, to the US ambassador in Moscow. “In this case, Russia would have to decide whether or not to intervene; a decision that Russia does not want to have to face.”

Russia would come to realize that there were only two paths left: accept the peripheral position that had been imposed on it in the 1990s, or deepen integration with other Eurasian states. These bifurcated possibilities reflected two internal tendencies of the Russian ruling class. One of them expected greater rapprochement with Western financial capital, following the model of the 1990s, with which the wealth of a few had increased to extraordinary proportions. This trend found support from figures such as Alexei Navalny, whose collaborator, Leonid Volkov, outlined a political strategy that would leave out the left in a regime change project that sought to reestablish the pro-Western Comprador class with the support of the emerging professional middle class. in Russian metropolises.

The other possibility represented a trend towards state capitalism, which sought greater centralization of economic power and could eventually result in more socialized economic governance. For a long time, Vladimir Putin's government navigated between these two trends, a precarious back and forth between the aggressiveness of neoliberalism and the search for economic sovereignty. However, as the contradictions unleashed by Western belligerence intensified, the trajectory of Russian development began to gradually shift towards the latter trend – which today is evident in the spectacular way in which Western sanctions have turned against itself. .[10] Now Russia regularly extols socialist China as a model to emulate.

Evidence of this direction could be seen in 2007. That year, Putin spoke at the Munich Security Conference. The erosion of international law, the projection of US power and the “unrestrained hyperuse of force” were, according to him, creating a situation of deep insecurity throughout the world. Putin related these aspects to the dynamics of global inequality and the issue of poverty, highlighting one of the main mechanisms of imperialism: “developed countries maintain their agricultural subsidies and, simultaneously, limit the access of some countries to high-technology products”, a policy that ensures serious underdevelopment in the Third World. For Putin, the policy of unilateral projection of military power, materialized not only in NATO but also in other US military power structures around the world, served to expand a policy of subordination.

If Western aggression led Russia to prioritize its sovereign development, this historical process also led it to align with the broader Third World project. What would be the threat of a “return to the 1990s” in Russia if not the risk that the conditions of its economic sovereignty would be destroyed, producing the forms of indignity experienced by most nations in the world? Something that, in turn, would strengthen unipolarity led by the US, weakening the conditions for effective multilaterality in the world system.

Russia's response has been to accelerate Eurasian integration – seeking a more vigorous relationship with China, India and its regional neighbors – while expanding alliances with Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and other states suffocated by the knee of US imperialism. . From South America to Asia, many nations have responded in kind. If, historically, Russian identity and statehood have oscillated between Western and Eastern trends – with its national eagle looking ambiguously in both directions[11] – Russia would place its past and its future firmly in the Third World. “The West is willing to cross all limits to preserve the neocolonial system that allows it to live at the expense of the world,” said Putin, in 2022. He is prepared “to plunder it, thanks to the dominance of the dollar and technology; to exact a true tribute from humanity; to extract its main source of undeserved prosperity, the payment due to hegemon[12]".

The common material imperatives between Russia and the Third World explain the isolation of the Western powers in their damning war and economic siege of Russia. Although Western leaders proclaimed the emergence of global unity to condemn the invasion – “the European Union and the world support the Ukrainian people,” said Olof Skoog, the European Union's representative to the United Nations – the numbers at the UN General Assembly paint a picture, increasingly, a different scenario. In March 2022, in the emergency session to vote on a resolution on Russia and “Aggression against Ukraine”, 141 nations were in favor of the resolution, 35 abstained and 5 voted against. The 40 countries that did not vote or voted against the resolution – including China and India – collectively constitute the majority of the world's population. Half of these States are from the African continent.

If the nations of the world were divided over the gesture of condemnation, they remain united in their refusal to participate in the economic war against Russia. At this point, the countries of the old Western world find themselves completely isolated. Of the 141 powers that condemned Russia's actions in Ukraine, only the 37 nations of the old imperialist bloc and its supporters implemented sanctions against it: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, South Korea, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan , Singapore and the 27 States of the European Union. Sanctions are not a “mechanism that generates peace and harmony,” said Santiago Cafiero, Argentine foreign minister. “We will not carry out any type of economic reprisal because we want to have good relations with all governments,” said Andrés Manuel López Obrador, president of Mexico. In November, 87 states abstained or voted against a resolution demanding reparations from Russia for Ukraine. The Third World does not want to get involved in the intrigues of the North Atlantic axis.

Isolated and ignored, the West once again resorts to coercion, manipulating and pressuring the world's poorest nations into joining the chorus of moral condemnation and economic warfare against Russia. In the most outrageous cases, pressure involves the penalty of retaliation. The United States has threatened to impose sanctions on India, China and other states if they continue to do business with Russia, even though the US was seeking to momentarily rehabilitate Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro in a move to mitigate the effects of rising costs. of oil. What is this if not an attempt to blackmail the nations of the world into supporting their oppressors once again?

In this new cold war, as in the colonial wars of the last century, the aspirations of so many to build a dignified existence cross ideological divides. Today, ties between Third World countries are strengthening against the imperialist threat. Xi Jinping's China and Narendra Modi's India, worlds apart in their political projects and convictions, are rejecting the “Cold War mentality”. This is also what the countries of South America do. When the United States called for the Summit of the Americas – excluding Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua – the presidents of Mexico and Bolivia boycotted the event. Others expressed their outrage at the exclusion. The “integration of all of America,” López Obrador said, is the only way to confront the “geopolitical danger that the economic decline of the United States poses to the world.”

The obstinate resistance to the siren song of the New Cold War highlights the urgency of multipolarity – an antidote against the imposition of imbalances in global capitalism, something that characterizes much of the last 500 years, and that unipolarity has ensured. If humanity is to have a chance of resolving the civilizational crisis of our time – from pandemic to poverty, from war to climate catastrophe – it is imperative to build a foreign policy based on sovereign development and cooperation against the impulse of imperialist subordination.

As this cooperation takes shape, it transforms into an intense rejection of the disruptive technologies of conquest adopted for centuries by colonialist and imperialist powers. It goes against the logic of the neoliberal world order, restricting its field of action and weakening its ability to influence the economies of the poorest nations. In other words, it is a step towards articulating an alternative political project, outside the sphere of accumulation of monopoly capitalism. For this reason, multipolarity is the most profound threat the collective West has ever faced. “The most dangerous scenario,” wrote Brzezinski in The Grand Chessboard, is an “anti-hegemonic coalition united not by an ideology, but by complementary complaints.”[13]

Brzezinski, of course, thought from a geopolitical perspective, not an economic-political one. But the additional complaints that are emerging are, essentially, material. They concern basic questions of dignity – of survival. This is why, from Pan-Africanism to Eurasian integration, cooperation projects become the first targets of imperialist retaliation.

Three theses for the left

In 1960, Ghanaian revolutionary Kwame Nkrumah addressed the United Nations. “The great current of history flows,” he said, “and as it flows it carries to the margins of reality the most reluctant facts of life and of the relations between human beings.” What does it mean for internationalists to deal with the most reluctant facts of life? What kind of relationships, involving peoples and nations, can find answers to the great crises of our time?

These questions make me return repeatedly to the debates of the Third International. There is no doubt that today's conditions are different. The old colonial powers, which are no longer trapped in eternal wars against their peers, now operate through collective imperialism. They have new strategies to drain the resources of peoples and nations, [while] nuclear weapons and the ecological crisis threaten our societies with the increasingly dense specter of total destruction.

However, and stubbornly, one understanding remains: capitalism cannot be overcome until the arteries of imperialist accumulation are severed at a global level. As Roy argued more than a century ago, and history has abundantly demonstrated, capitalism will continue its destructive march as long as Western powers can feed on the labor and wealth of the Third World. A trajectory today ensured by powerful armies prepared to crush peoples and destroy nations.

And what does this mean for those of us who live and organize at the center of imperialism? I would like to briefly present three theses that arise from the preceding analysis:

(i) The revolution is already in motion. Since the first anti-colonial struggles, the revolution against imperialism (that is, capitalism in its international dimension) has advanced along a winding path alongside the Third World project. Due to their ability to stop the flows of imperial extraction that produced our world, the peoples of the Third World are the drivers of a progressive transformation for humanity.

(ii) The main protagonists of the revolution are not in the West. The European revolution was brutally crushed by a powerful ruling class supported by imperial plunder. Deprived of state power in imperialist states, the left is unable to dictate the terms of the tectonic processes that are underway, and should not attempt to direct them along paths that provide ideological support for our ruling classes. Much ground has been ceded to imperialists in the search for small electoral gains or parliamentary strategies. No power can be built by directing our limited political capacity against the official enemies of our ruling classes.

(iii) In the West, the anti-imperialist left operates within the monster. The weakness of the left in the West reflects the strength of its ruling classes. At a time when the Western bourgeoisie faces a historic challenge to its hegemony, the task is not to reaffirm its power through mediocre reforms that help capitalism against its calamitous contradictions, but rather to fight for its final defeat. It is an enemy that we share with the majority of the world's population and with the planet we inhabit.

Our most important task, then, is to recover socialist anti-imperialism as a category of thought and action – working with the conditions and tendencies of revolutionary change, not against them. This requires nothing less than the resumption of the political boldness we lost with the so-called “end of history”, when the positions of global socialism retreated and imperialist ideology proclaimed itself as inevitable as oxygen. The story didn't go anywhere. It asks us today to be clear in our critique of imperialism, relentless in attacking it, and audacious in conceiving an alternative to capitalism that is capable of responding to the cries of the working classes in our societies – cries that are, once again, being , matched by the siren song on the far right.

The stakes couldn't be higher. Will the rise of the Third World and the dismantling of the centuries-old rule of colonizing powers at least open up the possibility of a different political project on a global scale? Or will the forces of collective imperialism continue to push us downhill towards war and environmental collapse? The answer depends on our firm and determined commitment to one of these paths, which are in dialectical opposition to each other. It is up to us that the bloody history of the West's legacy is studied, and that we learn from the forces that have resisted it. This knowledge, embodied in our struggles, holds the key to recreating our world.

This allows us to build and march together, in tune with the vigorous and courageous struggles of the Third World against the gradual loss of control of the ruling classes of the collective West. We will not be able to answer the cries of humanity if we take from the hungry what we eat.

*Pawel Wargan is coordinator ofthe secretariat of the Progressive International.

Translation: R. d' Arêde.

Originally published on the magazine's portal Monthly Review.

Translators' notes


[1] We used Paulo César de Souza's already widespread translation of Bertolt Brecht's poem, in Poems 1913-1956. São Paulo: Editora 34, 2000.

[2] Redskins: “red skins”, considered a racial slur against Native Americans.

[3] Operation Barbarossa: originally called Operation Fritz, it was the code name used by Nazi Germany, during World War II, for the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. The failure of German troops to defeat Soviet forces in campaign marked a crucial turning point in the war. The German operation involved almost 150 divisions containing around 3 million men, 19 divisions of Panzer armored vehicles, totaling 3 tanks, 7 artillery pieces and 2.500 planes. This was the largest and most powerful invasion force in human history. The strength of the Germans was further increased by more than 30 divisions of Finnish and Romanian troops. (cf. Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Operation Barbarossa | history, Summary, Combatants, Casualties, & Facts | Britannica ). The objective of the operation was “the conquest of the Soviet Union. This conquest aimed to promote the destruction of Bolshevism and initiate the enslavement of the Slavs so that their work would sustain the German economy” (cf. Mundo Educação). The Battle of Stalingrad, the largest battle during World War II, costing two million soldiers, was one of the battles fought in Operation Barbarossa.

[4] Stay-behind operations: Emerged during the Second World War, stay-behind operations were a clandestine network linked to NATO and established in 16 Western European countries during the Cold War years. The function of the operations was to combat any sign of a “communist threat”, relying on secret guerrilla armies that generally made use of the violence of right-wing extremists to achieve their objectives. “Coordinated by NATO, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), these networks were funded, armed and trained in covert resistance activities, including assassination, political provocation and disinformation; ready to be activated in the event of an invasion by Warsaw Pact forces. In this way, the Italian Operação Gladio network became one of the most famous” (sources The Guardian, docdroid, Associated Press, The New York Times, cf. https://www.megacurioso.com.br/artes-cultura/120887-operacao-gladio-as-redes-espias-que-queriam-inibir -o-communism.)

[5] Atlanticists: Derived from NATO, Atlanticism appears as “a proposal based on cooperation between the United States, Canada and Western Europe. Born in the context of the defense of Western Europe against a possible communist expansion, it later acquired a broader meaning, as a true political doctrine with a liberal bias” (cf. Laura Polon, Master in Geography and Graduate in Geography from the State University of Western Paraná )

[6] Collective West: conception that emerges in official Russian political discourse and gains strength in the Russian media after President Putin used it to refer to the USA and the European Union. Such a conception “brings together all the main current ideas about Western or Western countries widely disseminated in Russian political discourse after the Crimean period”. The notion of the West in this conception is not exactly geographical. The collective West includes countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand. For a detailed analysis of the political use of the conception of the collective West in the Russian media sphere, https://socialscienceresearch.org/index.php/GJHSS/article/view/3947/1-The-Collective-West_html

[7] Vichy France: The Vichy regime, led by Marshal Philippe Pétain, concerns the French government established after the fall of France to the Germans in 1940. With the north of the country controlled directly by the Germans, the Vichy regime Vichy established itself in the unoccupied part of France, implementing authoritarian policies, censorship, political persecution and collaborating in the handover of French Jews to the Nazis

[8] Deterrence doctrine is a political strategy through which the display of military force and the destructive power of its arsenals aims to discourage opposing countries from carrying out any attack for fear of retaliation

[9] Belt and Road (B&R), or One Belt, One Road (OBOR), or Belt and Road, also known as The New Silk Road, was officially launched in 2013. The initiative consists of a series of investments predominantly in transport and infrastructure areas, both terrestrial (Belt), connecting Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, and maritime (Route), passing through the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean to reach the Mediterranean Sea

[10] Boomerang effect, in the original, cognitive bias in which an action is carried out contrary to that expected by a message that appears in a persuasive way

[11] The national shield of the Russian Federation, represented by a “bird whose heads are pointing simultaneously to the East and West, has been the official coat of arms of Russia for centuries, with only one break during Soviet times. The emblem, however, is much older than the country, with roots dating back to ancient civilizations”, cf. Russia Beyond, in

br.rbth.com/historia/79990-simbolo-nacional-russia-aguia-duas-cabecas

[12] Hegemon, the word originates from Ancient Greece and referred to the leader of a city-state or an alliance of city-states. “The hegemon was responsible for making political and military decisions on behalf of his group and exercised dominant power over the other members of the alliance. The idea of ​​hegemony was later developed by Gramsci, who applied it to the context of modern society”, cf. abstracts.soescola.com/glossario/hegemonico-o-que-e-significado/

[13] Brzezinski, in the entire quoted excerpt, says that “potentially, the most dangerous scenario would be that of a grand coalition between China, Russia and perhaps Iran, an 'anti-hegemonic' coalition united not by ideology, but per dissatisfactions [grievances] complementary".


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