In a matter of hours a new Europe is being sketched before our eyes. Germany is rearming en masse by endowing its army with an extraordinary fund of 100 billion euros. Sanctions are already hitting millions in Russia and are driving at least 30 million workers to starvation. Putin resumes the offensive in Ukraine and aims his nuclear forces at Europe. The EU surrenders to militarism. And in the face of the ongoing barbarism and in spite of the invisibilization caused by the war propaganda of both sides, the first sparks of resistance against militarism appear: mothers of soldiers, young people, deserters… a spark waiting to ignite among the workers.
Germany goes back to militarism
A “history-making” session of the German parliament. After the definitive warmongering turn of the Greens there are no obstacles left. The German bourgeoisie moves in close formation. Amidst ovations, Scholz announces an extraordinary fund of 100 billion euros to rearm the army. The Chancellor speaks of “shattering” the dream of a “Russian empire” and of the need to intensify the change of the energy matrix towards “liberation energies”. The flashback to the approval of war credits in 1914 is unavoidable.
In a matter of hours, the negotiation which for eight years the German, French, Italian and Spanish governments have beeen unsuccessfully holding to build a fleet of offensive drones capable of competing with the Turkish, Israeli and American ones was resolved. The automotive industry is rubbing its hands together at the new prospects: Germany “needs” large numbers of tanks again.
The new Europe is already living under nuclear threat
Almost at the same time, Macron calls on young Belarusian youth to depose the Belarusian regime while the latter votes on a constitutional reform bolting the old Stalinist bureaucracy to the political apparatus in the style of the Central Asian republics. But the reform comes with a bonus: it opens the door to the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in the country aimed at EU countries.
Hours before, the EU has finally approved the exclusion from the SWIFT system of international payments of the Russian central bank and Russian banks that had already received sanctions.
Putin’s response is brutal: he puts his nuclear arsenal on alert. The “new Europe” is also beginning to resemble that of the most tense moments of the Cold War.
The European response increases sanctions by closing the European airspace to Russian planes and arms Ukraine by opening access to “peace funds”. It is a historic turn, the EU as such had not directly armed an ally for a proxy war before, but once again it is qualitatively behind: in the EU only France has a nuclear arsenal with which to play escalation with Russia and so far it had not received an answer to its offer of nuclearization and militarization of the EU. Everything points to this changing in the short term.
Economic war, reinforced repression and famine on the way in Russia
In Russia, the central bank responded to the blockades and the plummeting of the ruble (42% in the first hours after exclusion from the SWIFT) by raising rates by 20%. The measure forces them to halt the stock markets to prevent a massive flight of capital.
In addition, in order to provide liquidity and save banks from the threat of bankruptcy, as of this very morning, it allowed banks to dissolve indefinitely the macroprudential capital buffer accumulated for unsecured mortgage and consumer loans in rubles and foreign currency, those of working class families. The measure purely and simply means cutting off mortgage and consumer financing of the Russian subaltern classes.
Translated to the situation of the majority of Russian workers: refinancing of daily consumption and housing is cut off. In a country with massive working poverty where 20% of the population is below the subsistence minimum and where it is common practice to financially support companies by non-payment of wages for months at a time, this means mass evictions and pure and simple hunger for 14 million workers. Another significant scene in order to understand what the move from sanctions to economic warfare means for workers in the new Europe.
In the face of any potential response, the Putinist regime is rearming domestic repression. Day after day, the Petersburg courts report that they are trying dozens of people for protesting against the war. In addition to the usual violence, torture and beatings at the police station, the judges are leading them to a long ordeal: twenty-five days of arrest – with their corresponding beatings – for calling to demonstrate on a VK thread, five years of hard labor for a 22-year-old girl found with a Molotov cocktail… the list seems to be endless. The new Europe is like this.
In both Russia and Ukraine there are signs of resistance to the war that are also symptoms of a new Europe
But there is also another new Europe underway. At the forefront of the Russian anti-war movement seem to be the mothers of conscript soldiers, outraged that their sons have been mobilized to the front. Using non-professional soldiers in actions abroad is expressly forbidden by Russian law. The legislation that the regime is now bypassing is a legacy of the anti-militarist movement of the 1980s, when the parents of soldiers missing in Afghanistan led strikes and paralyzed production at quite a few state-owned enterprises to demand the return of their sons despite stalinist repression.
The European and U.S. press is covering this “scattered and disorganized” movement carefully, trying to link it, out of nowhere, to Navalny. If it were to spread from the youth and mothers to the workforces, as it did forty years ago, they would be as worried as the Putinists. In the new Europe, as in the old one, dissidence against the rival is one thing, but it is another when it is against that which unites them with the rival.
That is why for the European press and television it is much more comfortable to present the demonstrations in support of the war and against the Russian invasion by Ukrainian nationalists as “demonstrations against war”. In the new Europe there seems to be no room for those who understand being against the war as something different from supporting the attacked imperialist side. The media record the ethnicist messages and the display of red-black flags (symbol of the military organization of Ukrainian fascism during WWII) without any comment as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
But the reality, inside Ukraine, could be far from the ultra-nationalist festival portrayed to us in the guise of anti-Putinist protest. It is difficult, amidst the propaganda bombardment from both sides, to discern what is the real attitude of the Ukrainian workers and population. The “testimonies” of the European and American media are mostly collected in Lviv – the hard core of Ukrainian ethnicist nationalism – and among the nationalist volunteers in Kyiv. And in that environment, “warrior spirit” is a trademark of the house.
But the reality is that, despite the forced conscription of males over 18 years of age and Zelensky’s order to the border guards not to let them leave the country, tens of thousands of men have done so among the mass of more than 400,000 refugees. And the images that have reached us through American media journalists of the working class neighborhoods of Kyiv and Kharkov during the advance of the Russian army do not show resistance at all costs but rather indifference and detachment. This would be consistent with the Russian army’s allegations – in principle hardly reliable or completely unreliable – about the appearance of nationalist squads inserted in the regular troops to suppress desertions.
Yes, the new Europe, with Russia and Ukraine in the lead, is also that of punishment battalions, mercenaries and the repression of deserters.
States resort to anti-fascism as an ideology to frame for slaughter and repression
While armies test Russian Iskander and American Javelin against people and infrastructure, the media, both Russian and European, renew an old recruiting weapon, anti-fascism, which seems to be the ideological banner of choice for the ruling classes in the new Europe.
Whether Putin and his sinister neo-Stalinist allies justify the war as “denazification” of Ukraine or “el País” it to whitewash ukrainian nationalism and encourage the formation of paramilitary guerrillas, the message always ends in the same thing: “defend democracy” through a new “sacred union” and mobilize its repressive capacity – political and social – against “all those who do not take sides with clarity”.
The new Europe
In a matter of days, a new Europe is taking shape. The hitherto minimally restrained forces of imperialist competition are unabashedly unfolding before our eyes.
Both blocs are, as far as the lives of the workers are concerned, one and the same. They evoke the darkest moments of the 20th century: war, unbridled militarism, forced mobilization, repression of the outbreaks of discontent and the rescue of the most pristine ideologies of counterrevolution. The “glorious” war horizon of both sides is summarized in a grotesque triad of death, misery and subjugation to the nation.
The real front, the one confronting both the war and its instigators, is today almost invisible amidst the explosions and the propaganda muscle of the states. What are a few thousand mothers of soldiers, deserters and demonstrators in front of the great war and propaganda machines of Russia and the West? They are just a spark in search of a destination: the millions of workers who on both sides of the front are going to pay for the imperialist war and serve as cannon fodder for its next developments.
It is our responsibility, yours too, to organize ourselves as workers so that this spark ignites among our class before the anger of the ruling classes, trapped and driven to organize the slaughter by the very system they maintain, drags the whole world once again into an all-out war against our own species.
Read also: The invasion of Ukraine and the workers of the whole world, Emancipation's communiqué