Ukraine: “local” war and world crisis

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By OSVALDO COGGIOLA*

It is a war to reconfigure international politics in a capitalist world in crisis and decay.

The war in Ukraine is the expression of the passage of the world crisis from the economic and political terrain to the war field, and will have repercussions, including military ones, all over the world, from which no country will be able to escape, and no political force will wash its hands, declaring itself neutral or defending an “equidistant” position.

Although Russia appears as an “aggressor”, the political climate of the war was carefully prepared by the great Western media, putting pressure on their governments, to the point that an Australian researcher concluded, on the eve of February 24th, that “the script for the invasion already seems to have been written, and not necessarily by the Russian leader's pen. The pieces are all in place: the assumption of the invasion, the promised implementation of sanctions and limits on obtaining funding, in addition to a strong condemnation”. Little or nothing has been said in the Western mainstream media about how the NATO alliance has expanded since the dissolution and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, ever more threateningly to the Russian Federation, the main successor state to the former federation of nations that made up the USSR.

The same USA that pushes the extension of NATO to Russia's borders, aiming, through pressure and military blackmail, the penetration of its capital throughout the former Soviet territory, announced shortly before that a strong resumption of its economic growth simultaneously with the largest military budget in its history, two facts closely linked. In early 2014, Viktor Yanukovych, a close ruler of Russia, was defenestrated in Ukraine in an episode known as “euromaidan".

Russian retaliation was the retaking of Crimea, territory ceded by the USSR to Ukraine in 1954. After the annexation of the peninsula, separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, in regions with a Russian majority, strengthened their independence claim. Faced with the possibility of reducing the territory or even autonomy of these regions, the new Ukrainian government, headed by Volodymir Zelensky, recovered his country's project to form NATO.

Long before that, thirteen countries, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary (1999), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia (2004), Albania, Croatia (2009) and Montenegro (2017) joined NATO since that event. The encirclement from the West is almost complete, now it's time for the encirclement from the South, with Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and possibly Azerbaijan already having submitted their candidacy. The operation is marking pace in the East, with the countries of Central Asia supporting, at least for now, their powerful neighbor Russia, also serving the interests of their other giant neighbor, China.

Washington has accused Moscow for months, but it has not stopped moving aircraft carriers and troops to the Russian border. Ukraine's accession to NATO immediately puts the deployment of nuclear warheads on its territory on the geopolitical agenda: a nuclear missile could fall on Moscow within minutes. In other words, a situation where a loaded nuclear weapon is being pointed at Russia's heartland. This war machine is what threatens the future of humanity in Europe and Asia in the first place. In the face of the Russian attack, The Economist,, historic British spokesman for big business, suggests that NATO take advantage of the circumstance to occupy all of Eastern Europe, regardless of the limits set by previous agreements.

Responsibility for the military invasion of Ukraine therefore lies entirely with NATO, which spread from the North Atlantic to Central Asia and militarized all states around Russia. The two months of discussions since the beginning of the mobilization of troops inside Russia, then to Belarus and the Baltic, North and Black Seas, ended, before the invasion, in a complete stalemate. The US and the European Union refused to sign a commitment not to incorporate Ukraine into NATO, to demilitarize the states that border Russia and to reactivate the treaty that contemplated the reunification of Ukraine, in the form of a federal republic. A war broke out as a result, first of all, of a policy of extending NATO to the whole world.

The same procedure takes place in the Far East, where the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan have established a political-military agreement on China's doorstep. NATO occupied Afghanistan, the corridor between the Middle East and the Far East, fourteen years ago. It also participated in the bombing and dismemberment of Libya and armed so-called Islamic formations to overthrow the government of Syria. Now, NATO governments have implemented economic sanctions, including the German government's suspension of certification of the NordStream2 gas pipeline, which was supposed to complete Russian gas supplies to Germany itself.

The Ukrainian boomerang is the deepest expression of the crisis of world imperialist (not only US) politics, which was anticipated by the inglorious withdrawal from Afghanistan, the disaster in Libya (“shit”, in the textual words of Barack Obama) and, especially in Iraq. Reducing it to an episode of an international geopolitical reformulation, in favor of a potential China-Russia bloc, against the traditional Western dominants, would be a unilateral approach, ignorant of the context of the world capitalist crisis, of the set of international political factors at stake. , and even the historical dimensions involved in the conflict.

Behind the aggressive movement driven by the US, the precarious conditions of the US economic recovery are filtered, which barely hide the crisis conditions of the largest capitalism on the planet. In the third quarter of 2021, the American public debt exceeded 28 trillion dollars, or 125% of the country's GDP: the American government increased the public debt enormously and, in conditions of health crisis, did not charge crisis taxes on the big companies. The Democratic promise of a minimum wage of 15 dollars an hour was abandoned, this figure remains at 7,25 dollars. The US military budget was increased to US$720 billion, the highest since World War II (despite US disengagement in Afghanistan). In the area of ​​public works, the Biden administration, with Republican backing, passed a budget that favors big construction companies.

It should be remembered that it was in the USA that the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the highest absolute number of deaths in the world: more than 820.000 by the end of 2021. Despite the extreme gravity of the situation, Biden did not take any action that would conflict with the interests from the Big Pharma. At the same time, the concentration of capital increased like never before in history: Apple became the first company in history to reach a value of US$ 3 trillion; in sixteen months, Apple's value rose 50%. In 2021 the five largest big tech (Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook-Meta) together reached a stock value of US$9,3 trillion (already surpassed ten trillion). During the pandemic, these companies were the most prepared to profit from “remote work”.

In its resumption of attitudes supposedly similar to those of the “cold war”, the US takes advantage of the contradictions in the policies of the governments of countries formerly subtracted from imperialist domination by socialist revolutions. China and Russia moved forward on the path of capitalist restoration after the events of 1989-1991. Caught in the contradictions of the restoration process, these countries are now facing an escalation of imperialist military, economic and political pressure to impose on them, by all means, total subjugation, fragmentation and to impose on them a new type of imperialist colonization, masquerading as a “democratic regime change”. These regimes are neither capable nor willing to defeat the imperialist offensive, seeking an unlikely compromise and an impossible accommodation with the aggressor enemy of their peoples, in the name of “international cooperation”, “multipolarity”, a “win-win agreement”. ”, all avatars of the old failed formulas of “peaceful coexistence” and “socialism in a single country”.

In Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, clans recruited from the old bureaucracy unleashed repression in the recent “Bloody January”, with more than 160 dead, thousands injured and 10.000 arrested. Kazakhstan is the richest country in Central Asia. World leader in the production of uranium, it also has large deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, ores, large amounts of precious metals such as manganese, chromium, potassium, titanium or zinc. During the time of the USSR, the income from this wealth, extracted in large part by the deportees from the gulag, was captured by the top executives of the bureaucracy.

After 1990, the Nazarbayev clan continued to get fat by selling the exploitation of these resources to multinationals, which are numerous in the country. While the majority of the population survives on meager wages in the cities, and the countryside is left to underdevelopment, a wealthy oligarchy – some of the country's fortunes are on the world charts – spreads its luxurious lifestyle. A fierce dictatorship preserves these privileges, closely monitors the population, bans unions and independent organizations, stifles all democratic freedom, and intervenes with extreme violence whenever a protest occurs.

We are not facing a new “cold war”, opposing capitalism and “real socialism” (or even imaginary). And comparing the “ethnic expansion” of Russia driven by Putin with the also “ethnic” Hitlerian expansion towards the Czech Sudetenlands and Austria in 1938, as the mainstream media did, simply means forgetting that the latter was explicitly endorsed by the powers Westerners at the Munich Conference of the same year. The resemblance is therefore only formal.

Russian resistance to NATO sheds light on the potential disintegration of Russia, covered by its “expansion”. The dissolution of the USSR, promoted by the bureaucracy headed by Boris Yeltsin, succeeded by Putin, represented a step towards national disintegration. Russia's integration into the world market resulted in a setback in its productive forces and its economy. Putin now faces the war as a defender of the interests of the Russian capitalist oligarchy, purged of some mafia elements and beneficiary of this process, against world capital.

The political regime in Russia is an expression of the dissolving tendency existing in “capitalist” Russia: it established a sort of Bonapartism seeking to subdue the insurmountable social and national contradictions of the Russian Federation in the corset of political repression and militarization. Russia's Armed Forces can occupy Ukraine, but the Russian system, economically very weakened, is not able to resist the pressure of world capitalist imperialism.

The inevitable fracture of Putin's Bonapartism reconsiders the alternative of national dissolution. Russia is an agglomeration of nations that historically assumed the form of a state, tsarist, under pressure from other powers, including neighboring ones. The Bolshevik revolution tried to overcome these contradictions by creating the USSR, as a free association of nations, and pushing the international revolution (it is worth remembering that, in the debates at the time, Rosa Luxemburg was vehemently opposed to the granting of national independence to Ukraine, former territory of the Empire – having even hosted its capital, Kiev – a position that was far from isolated). The possible present-day annexation of Ukraine, direct or covert, to integrate the space of the Commonwealth of Independent Nations commanded by Russia, is an imperialist operation of the immediately neighboring territory, which multiplies the contradictions of the annexationists.

To ignore this dimension of the crisis, considering it “anachronistic”, in the name of “international geopolitics” or any similar discipline, is to ignore that Putin referred to it quite explicitly on the eve of the attack on Ukraine, including in interviews with Western journalists. , who had taken an aggressive tone in defense of Ukraine’s “national sovereignty”: “Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia or, to be more precise, by the Bolsheviks, Communist Russia. This process started practically right after the 1917 revolution, and Lenin and his associates did it in an extremely hard way for Russia – separating, cutting up what historically was Russian land. No one asked the millions of people who live there what they thought” – these were his words.

Putin's entire discussion of history, from the establishment of the USSR in 1922 to its collapse in 1991, was an argument for a thinly veiled goal: the refoundation of the Russian Federation based on the borders of Tsarist Russia. Having overcome the trauma of national collapse, the Russian ruling classes are now turning their gaze to the former borders of the USSR, whose borders more or less corresponded to those of the territory of the tsar's empire.

With the exception of Finland, Poland and the three Baltic countries, all the peoples of the tsarist empire decided to keep the new state founded on the basis of the October 1917 revolution. The general territory of tsarist Russia and that of the Soviet Union was approximately co-extensive. Putin has longed to re-establish the borders not of the Soviet Union but of Russia since time immemorial. Talk about Putin's desire to re-establish the Soviet Union is a lie, as the same speech amply proves that Putin is hostile to the USSR and sees it, according to almost all of Russia's ruling class leaders, as a transitory deviation from the course of Russian history.

Putin aspires to a reissue of Tsarist Russia without the Tsar. To this end, he invents a historical narrative that, for the time being, is limited to relations between Russia and Ukraine, but there is no doubt that if it succeeds in the case of Ukraine, the Russian establishment will extend to other former territories. tsarists. In the international contradictions raised by this policy, and its ideological formulations, the dislocated Donald Trump and the crazy Jair Bolsonaro try to find their place naturally.

The epicenter of the crisis, however, is located in the imperialist system itself. NATO's growing inadequacy to the strained international relations became evident as its military operations culminated in repeated failures, revealing a more acute historical contradiction. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the opening of China to the world market seemed to announce an exceptional expansion of capitalism, but the successive world crises showed its insurmountable limitations: the contradiction between the financial and military monopoly of the USA, on the one hand, and its systematic retreat in the world market, on the other.

In NATO, US imperialism had more frequent clashes with its allies, its international operations, as in Iraq, could no longer rely on “international coalitions”. In the Ukrainian crisis, Russia negotiated with four or five governments separately: the US, Germany, France and even Turkey and Ukraine itself. The Ukrainian war will accentuate, first behind the scenes and then on top of it, the disintegration of the Western politico-military apparatus.

The background of the current war crisis is the contradictions of capitalist accumulation and the rivalry between big capital and between the States that represent them. NATO's economic sanctions against Russia are the reverse side of the vaunted “globalization”. “Exceptional” economic measures are adopted by countries that fear getting involved in a major trade war. The war creates the threat of a displacement of international trade and finance, already affected by the blow that international production chains received in the context of the pandemic.

The Putin government launched military operations under the pressure of a strategic stalemate, just as NATO sought this outcome and insisted on provoking it as a way out of its own. Russia is under the rule of an oligarchy and a bureaucracy with no other title than its recent rise and expropriation of state property, a rastaque capitalism that international capital wants to displace absolutely or relatively for its own benefit.

The reason for discord and war is not Ukraine's independence, the current one is a war for the international political reconfiguration of a capitalist world in crisis and decay. Politically, proletarian internationalism, however, is absent.

The presence, in this deepened world crisis, of an internationalist strategy of the workers, in defense of a peace based on the defeat of imperialist military provocations, from the perspective of a free association and complementation of peoples and nations, depends on an international debate that the left, if it is consistent, it must urgently promote one that results in an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist strategy, independent of neo-capitalist bureaucracies and oligarchies, and unified throughout the world.

*Osvaldo Coggiola He is a professor at the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Marxist economic theory: an introduction (Boitempo).

 

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