Sunday, 2 March 2014

Ukraine Is Going To The Dogs - Part 1

The future for Ukraine, like the future of Syria, looks bleak. In fact, its amazing how much the world today looks remarkably similar to the world in the period before World War I, as I wrote  – some years ago. Ukraine, like Syria, is being torn apart by ravenous dogs.

The global working-class, today, is several times larger than it was ahead of the First World War. It is also economically and socially stronger than it was in 1914. The working-class is now the largest class on the planet, the vast majority of proletarians are literate, and have at least a minimum level of health and education. Many, in the developed economies, own property, including fictitious capital, though the huge expansion of private debt is designed to strip it from them.

Yet, the working-class is weaker politically today than it was in 1914, and it is that weakness which makes the international labour movement impotent in situations like Syria and Ukraine, as it was previously in the Balkans, in the 1990's, in Iraq, Libya, and indeed in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and so on.

The result has been the same, essentially, in each case. It is, contrary to the hopes of the liberal interventionists, including those who claim to be Marxists, that once the Bonapartist regimes, which arose because of significant cross-cutting cleavages, within these respective societies, are overthrown, those very same cleavages and contradictions explode. The result can never be some kind of peaceful liberal democracy, let alone social democracy, because no single social class is strong enough to exert political power in its own name. Instead, what arises is a continual war of contending factions of armed groups, at best until one is able to assert dominance, a la the Taliban in Afghanistan, or else until society collapses into being a failed gangster state as with Somalia.

In other words, the best outcome, in any of these situations, is the replacement of one Bonapartist regime with another, often worse Bonapartist regime, with all the cost in blood and treasure which goes along with it. The true nature of all these “revolutions” is the failure of the tasks of the bourgeois revolution to be carried out, but in a world where the law of combined and uneven development creates the ideological drive for its completion, but often in situations where the material conditions for its achievement are lacking.

The basis of many of these crises is the fact that capital long since outgrew the constraints of the nation state. When Lenin wrote, “Imperialism” in 1916, he was in fact, writing an analysis of a period of capitalism whose time had already past. The processes he describes, of a capitalism that needed to carve up the world into colonial empires, so as to secure protected markets and sources of supply, was a description of the world of Mercantilism as it existed in a symbiotic relation with its feudal overlords, and before the dominance achieved by big industrial capital at the end of the 19th Century.

The real basis of WWI was not a need to carve up the globe, but a drive to establish a single European state, in which this big industrial capital could operate, just as Prussia had brought that about in Germany. As Trotsky pointed,

“Let us for a moment grant that German militarism succeeds in actually carrying out the compulsory half-union of Europe, just as Prussian militarism once achieved the half-union of Germany, what would then be the central slogan of the European proletariat?

Would it be the dissolution of the forced European coalition and the return of all peoples under the roof of isolated national states? Or the restoration of “autonomous” tariffs, “national” currencies, “national” social legislation, and so forth? Certainly not.

The programme of the European revolutionary movement would then be: the destruction of the compulsory antidemocratic form of the coalition, with the preservation and furtherance of its foundations, in the form of complete annihilation of tariff barriers, the unification of legislation, above all of labour laws, etc. In other words, the slogan of the United States of Europe – without monarchies and standing armies – would under the indicated circumstances become the unifying and guiding slogan of the European revolution...

Precisely in case of a stalemate in the [First World] War, [it could be argued from a bourgeois point of view], the indispensability of an economic and military agreement among the European great powers would come to the fore against weak and backward peoples, but above all, of course, against their own working masses. [This] would mean the establishment of an imperialist trust of European States, a predatory share-holding association. And this perspective is on occasion adduced unjustifiably as proof of the “danger” of the slogan of the United States of Europe, whereas in reality this is the most graphic proof of its realistic and revolutionary significance. If the capitalist states of Europe succeeded in merging into an imperialist trust, this would be a step forward as compared with the existing situation, for it would first of all create a unified, all-European material base for the working class movement.

The proletariat would in this case have to fight not for the return to “autonomous” national states, but for the conversion of the imperialist state trust into a European Republican Federation…”

In fact, it would have achieved, by similar means, only what the US Civil War had achieved 50 years earlier, and the material forces underlying it were exactly the same.

Forward To Part 2

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