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The year the long war began

2022-12-24 | Yearly report
The year the long war began

A new global imperialist map for a new era of nuclear terror

Missile Yars

Launch of a Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile during nuclear forces exercises at an unknown location in Russia. Image taken from a video released on February 19, 2022 by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Nothing can make clearer the extent to which the global imperialist map has been torn up and all the truths that have been drilled into us for years have been blown out of the water, than recalling the first major debate of 2022.

On January 1, the European Commission leaked the outline of the taxonomy of sustainable investments in an attempt to accelerate the debate among the states. France - which still boasted of its nuclear technology and energy independence - and the Eastern countries - which wanted at all costs to reduce Russian energy sales in Europe - were backing nuclear as the main transitional energy in the Green Pact. Germany, together with Spain and Italy, went for natural gas.

Less than a year later, France prepares for programmed blackouts to avoid the collapse of its electricity grid in the face of the impotence of its nuclear fleet, Germany is on the way out of the map of great powers and the whole of Europe is showing signs of a deindustrialization without reversal due to a sustained and drastic rise in gas prices that makes it impossible for anything to return to the way it was for European national capitals.

The war changed everything.

In the months prior to its outbreak, the US pressure on Russia was already clearly aimed at forcing a change of the energy matrix in Europe. Even if the European partners did not want or know how to see it, Washington seemed to have a clear objective of relegating Germany, France and other EU countries to economic and military dependence as an intermediate sprint on the road to a new division of the world into confrontational imperialist hemispheres.

After the Russian army entered the Donbass in February 22, the entire EU with Germany in the lead closed ranks and embraced the US strategy giving way to a new historical stage of militarism inevitably oriented towards the globalization of war, as made clear by the NATO summit in Madrid.

But if the decline of the global influence of European imperialisms and the end of their aspirations for autonomy are already consolidated results of the war in Ukraine - and the US press does not hesitate to celebrate it even on the occasion of the World Cup in Qatar - the same is not true of the hemispheric pretensions of US strategy.

It is clear that the US fails to discipline its former Gulf allies and that attempts to regain ground against China and Russia in Africa are not bearing fruit: the promised Euro-American Silk Road did not even manage to get off the ground; France had to abandon Mali and cede ground to Russia in a new ex-colony; The Maghreb, after the realignment of Spain regarding the Sahara, is becoming more dangerous every day and the construction of the Algerian enemy between Madrid and Paris shows clearly that the forces pushing towards a regional war are by no means negligible. Not to mention the new belligerant outbursts of Turkey or Iran. No, the US has by no means yet built the American hemisphere it desires.

Although that doesn't slow its pace in East Asia either. 2022 was, above all, the year in which Washington radicalized the technological war and exacerbated its contradictions in order to slow down the development of Chinese cutting-edge technologies (quantum communication, Artificial Intelligence, etc.), trying to block the possibility of it having advanced chips, at least in sufficient quantity. And above all, 2022 was the year when Taiwan officially became the Eastern front of the US global restructuring strategy.

The Chinese response: recentralize power around the CCP bureaucracy, reinforce the cause and permanent exceptional character of the war economy, diversify alliances, and gain a few years of peace while accelerating the military capabilities of its army with the horizon set on 2027. In other words, Beijing understands the seriousness of Washington's attack, knows that at the end of the road there is a war and is trying to slow down to gain time and capabilities in order to win it.

The war and workers

Graffiti in Buenos Aires

In the course of so much armed slaughter, but also in the calculation of the impact of sanctions, the lives of the exploited are mere instruments of each ruling class to achieve better "strategic" conditions in future wars, markets, infrastructures, raw materials and, ultimately, profitability.

The "sacrifices" which all ruling classes now announce under different excuses are nothing but sacrifices for the profitability of their present investments and for the future expectations of each national capital.

Let us be clear: Russian soldiers go to the front to die and kill their Ukrainian equal counterparts so that the gigantic manor of their exploiters will be better "positioned" to face future conflicts. Ukrainian soldiers in order to prevent the estate of their exploiters from being plundered and divided by neighboring rivals. Workers in the rest of Europe and America are called upon to swallow sacrifices in their most basic living conditions (heating, cooking, lighting their homes) in "solidarity with Ukraine". But the word Ukraine, in that context does not point to the great mass of the inhabitants of its territory, but to the business of its owners and allies.

This war, like all the other ones, expresses that "getting the business going", the main goal of "society's owners", is increasingly incompatible with the most basic and universal human need: to keep living. We have already had a strong preview with the "pandemic policies": practically no state hesitated to open the spigot of contagions and human deaths when the viability of their national business was put in question. Now we see the armed version of the same logic: the loss of lives of soldiers and civilians, Russian or Ukrainian, is not going to dent the nerve of either Putin or his rivals, even if they use these lives rhetorically.

The invasion of Ukraine and the workers of the whole world, Statement of Emancipation of 2/24/2022

Ten months later, nearly a quarter of a million people on both sides of the front lines, mostly workers, have been shot and bombed to death for the sake of the business of their masters and the powers that support them. Ukrainian workers have been militarized and what little legal protections they had have been permanently wiped out. In Russia, entire sectors of production are militarized, medicines and some basic necessities are in short supply, and repression in the workplace has been redoubled amid a suffocating nationalist campaign.

Globally, amid growing shortages of fertilizers and fuels, the food insecurity immediately created by war has given way to famines. Never in human history have so many people suffered from hunger as now. Even in the countries with the most concentrated capitals, from Australia to Great Britain via Spain, the specter of hunger reappears for the first time in decades among the workers.

In the great concentrations of workers of the world, inflation, a direct product of the war, not only means a drop in real wages, it is above all a transfer of income from labor to concentrated capital. While the income gap between workers and petty bourgeoisie becomes an abyss, banks, electricity companies and other champions of national capital obtain the best profit and loss accounts in more than a decade.

The European deindustrialization underway and the redoubling of the bet on the Green Deal - in itself a transfer of income from labor to capital - culminate in the industrialized countries with a situation in which the unions have bet from the beginning on the downward auction of working conditions and demanded real wage cuts, along with organizing with the state the prohibition of strikes as we have seen in the US railroads. These are neither isolated experiences nor something minor when, in the midst of the decline of real wages -which will deepen with the recession- there is also coming, immediately, a new global attack on pensions -beginning with France, Italy and Spain- and forms of socialization of militarism such as the return of compulsory military service which are already being clearly outlined.

In this terrible global context, the evolution of workers' strikes and struggles, has been significant.

The year began with an imposing mass strike in Kazakhstan, which collapsed due to the absence of a sufficient level of self-organization to sustain a struggle on a national scale, and with a gigantic school strike in France which, although controlled by the unions, showed ample reserves of combativity and opened up a horizon of possibilities... which, however, did not last long.

The outbreak of the war at first paralyzed the class practically everywhere. The sporadic actions against war supplies were soon isolated. Russian anti-militarism was unable to break out of the ridiculous sphere of the pacifist petty bourgeoisie and merge with the first actions of the Russian workers confronting the direct consequences of the war. With the propaganda machine in full swing on both sides of the global front, the Ukrainian refugees selectively chosen and employed as a propaganda weapon, and the petty bourgeoisie in all its flavors, from anarchism to the ultras, well aligned and in full warmongering hysteria, it seems as though the workers have left the scene.... Or at least, as we saw in Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka, they seemed incapable of establishing a terrain of struggle and organization of their own.

However, from the northern spring onwards, first in Iran and then in Britain, a breakthrough, almost a wave of wildcat strikes, indicate quite the contrary: strikes and struggles in which workers are aware from the first moment of the need to overcome a trade union framework necessarily antagonistic to their most basic interests, take the reins of their own organization and, increasingly, experiment forms of extension and coordination beyond sectoral divisions.

An ideology for the war economy: the Left and "the vulnerable".

The left and the new "social" pillars of Europe

All in all, we cannot help but wonder why war propaganda is being so effective even today. Evidently the answer is not one nor is it simple although the core is political and goes far back: the accumulated effects of the absence of class organizations, the atomization and isolation driven by global precariousness, the extension of new forms of communication and the universal effects of the degradation of educational systems all come together. A motley knot of elements that can only be unraveled by slow and patient outreach and organizing in neighborhoods, towns and businesses.

At the same time, the war has accelerated a renewal of the discourses of the left in the US and Europe to prepare and justify war economy policies. With the Green Deal attacking basic conditions more and more openly, environmentalism is no longer necessary as a social movement to be built from the state. However, the contemporary forms of Malthusianism, such as "degrowth", which blame the consequences of the crisis of capitalist civilization on the very Humanity that suffers it, glorify impoverishment and justify as a result of a supposed overpopulation the expansion of hunger and the most inhuman misery in the semicolonial countries, live their moment of glory as the left takes consolatory and penitential arguments from them.

But, the main avenue of ideological renewal comes from the old Iberian social democratic parties. Because, as crazy as it may seem, the coalition government of Sanchez in Spain and that of Costa in Portugal, have become a real model for their peers in Germany or the USA.

Not in vain, they are managing to materialize a change of productive model through "amazing actions" such as lowering total labor costs and reducing real wages, converging all workers' wages around a slightly higher minimum wage, all without touching a spiraling precarization that nevertheless is reduced in the statistics thanks to discontinuous permanent worker contracts that eliminate the unemployed from the statistics and relieve the company of committing itself to actually hire the workers.

But what has won for Sanchez the presidency of the Socialist International is the ideological juggling that allows him to present a direct, general and brutal attack against the living conditions of the workers as a crusade for the most vulnerable.

The real depth charge of all these policies is the consolidation of public policies around the most vulnerable. So-called social justice is replacing universal income and assistance policies with assistance to those of the last 2-3 deciles of income, selective assistance by demographic groups, etc.

This is a real torpedo to the waterline of the universal systems that is being consolidated in almost all of Europe, but especially in the Mediterranean countries, as a new principle.

If this principle is then extended, when the time comes for a new austerity, to basic services such as health or education - and that is the terrain that Macron's National Council of Refoundation wants to prepare for example - the inevitable result will be the shift from universal systems to a welfare system like that of the USA.

That time has not yet come. But it will come. And the establishment of the principle of non-universality, ideologically fed by identitarianism, will make the leap tremendously easy.

The left and the new "social" pillars of Europe, 9/10/2022

The discourse of vulnerability not only paves the way for the end of universal systems and a new austerity, it is morally destructive for workers, reinforcing passivity and atomization to the limit: which goes from presenting collective responses and struggles as insolidarity to supporting, as British Labour already does, the use of the army against strikes.

The left has found a new discourse that could not be any more comfortable for it: it allows it to atomize, to feed isolation and the human meat grinder, and even to repress if necessary without getting off its pretentious high horse of moral superiority over workers whom it wants to represent as vulnerable and brutish, and above all, in need of state tutelage.

What is the global outlook for 2023?

Recruitment in Russia

Both the U.S. arms industry and war propaganda in the European press are preparing the way for a war of at least four years and nearly two million dead. Neither 2023 nor 2024 will bring any improvement in energy prices and will bring drops in supply that will further deepen the ongoing industrial crisis and accompany the recession that the central banks themselves are provoking to keep inflation contained... and alleviate the devastating effect of the US anti-inflationary interest rate policy.

The global effects of the Fed's rate hike policy go far beyond the falls in the yen, the pound and the euro. As international trade is mostly done in dollars the rise of the US currency automatically means a rise in food prices and the cost of public debt all over the world and especially in the semi-colonial countries, from Argentina to Nigeria.

"Exporting the crisis" does not worry the Fed, which sees the rise in import prices as a reinforcement against inflation and which hopes to partly offset the recessionary effect of the interest rate hike with the arrival of international capital attracted by those rates. In fact, this is what has been happening since the US began to put an anti-inflationary policy ahead of the growth objective. [...]

The prospect is of a new string of debt and financial crises from the periphery to the center of the world market.

But there is more. If the central banks of the rest of the world follow suit and raise rates to reduce the capital drain and offset the inflation generated by the war-driven rise in food and commodity prices, the necessary short-term result will be a global and violent recession. As Business Insider headlined today,

The Federal Reserve's aggressive rate hikes have the world's central banks scrambling to keep up. A strong dollar puts others in a lose-lose: fight inflation and slow growth, or allow prices to continue surging. Countries are largely choosing the former, and widespread slowing could worsen the US's own slump.

And as if this were not enough, large speculative markets are showing signs of exhaustion and large banks such as Credit Suisse are on the verge of bankruptcy, classic signs that a major financial crisis is in the very heart of the capital market, which is approaching and becoming ever more possible.

A critical moment, 3/10/2022

In other words, things are not going to get better on their own. On the contrary. The system is increasingly antagonistic not just to human development or even to the satisfaction of the most basic universal needs, but purely and simply to life. That means its evolution towards militarism and war.

Nor can we expect a class movement to appear out of nowhere and by itself, without any prior work, change the game once and for all. Nothing will exonerate us from our own responsibility as workers a little more conscious than the rest. Nothing will eliminate the need to start from the very basics to discuss, organize and create networks and minimal structures that allow us to collectively respond to problems, broaden reflection and organize solidarity when needed.

In 2023 we have a lot of hard, necessarily patient and seemingly thankless work ahead of us. But it is essential. We count on you.

  • The holidays are a good excuse to meet with co-workers outside the company, discuss the situation, how it affects you collectively and how to react. Invite trusted colleagues from nearby contractors and companies and expand the circle when a shared vision is sufficiently clear.
  • Look for ways to network with other workers in the neighborhood where you live and bring the discussion and its conclusions to neighbors who work elsewhere or are precarious workers who go from company to company or are unemployed. Identify what solidarity systems could be useful in case of layoffs and closures in small businesses or establishments.
  • Contrast and discuss with us the issues you are concerned about and the practical alternatives and demands that arise. We are in the same situation as you.
  • Do not forget that in all countries the enemy is within the country itself, calling for sacrifices and subordinating universal human needs to the benefit of companies and investments.