The referendum vote in Crimea has predictably swung the way of becoming part of the Russian Federation and Russia has signed an agreement to accept this new status. The speed of this development has caught the European and US pro-capitalist elites dozing at their side of this new neo-liberal game of political and military chess. In this new high-stakes game between eastern and western variants of modern capitalism, Russia has so far emerged with more pieces on its side of the board and less of its own captured by the west. Checkmate to Russia!
The western elites were initially happy that some extreme neo-fascist ‘knights’ were on their side and leading the armed charge against pro-Russian equivalents in their parliamentary castle at the Maidan. But this opportunism by the western elites has backfired. Memories of 1940’s Nazi atrocities in the east has driven many citizens of the Ukraine and Crimea away from the regime in Kiev and into the more than welcoming arms of Russia.
This particular outcome was part of the unintended consequences following the ferocious anti-regime struggles at the Maidan. Now as these events unfold, it has become clear that for many workers, potential exploitation by Russia is preferred to guaranteed oppression and exploitation by a government buttressed by neo-fascists and ultra-nationalists. Crimea is the first section of Ukraine to vote for what they consider a safer haven than being left in the clutches of Kiev. However, the internal turmoil and contest is far from over. The citizens of Crimea are not the only ones in Ukraine who are seriously alarmed by the events in Kiev.
Citizens in many other areas of the Ukraine are similarly concerned about a future under the new unstable political regime in the capital city. Already, in the wake of the Crimean vote for separation, the Kiev elite are making serious threats to severely punish any person who advocates a similar path or genuinely opposes the wishes of new governing elite in Kiev. Another chess piece has been moved onto another square.
But this threat can only enhance the already serious existential fears of those who are opposed to the current drift of events in mainland Ukraine. As a consequence of this apprehension and fear, more citizens of Ukraine will probably call for referendums on independence, or for a re-connection and/or protection from Russia. And can Russia be expected to simply stand aside and watch if right-wing pogroms commence against Russian speaking and Russian leaning citizens? I doubt it.
The new Kiev elite know that if the Crimean precedent starts to catch on elsewhere in Ukraine, this would mean the end of their dreams of elite political status. Such a scenario might even lead to their eventual ousting! In view of this the new regime in Kiev will undoubtedly fight desperately to maintain their grip on the rest of Ukraine. Which will only be in the form of another set of inept moves in this game which more and more resembles chess. They are making moves calculated (or miscalculated) to force a draw or in the unlikely hope of an eventual win.
In this internal game of political conquest sacrificing the working class pawns of either side, will be the order of the day. However, they can expect little intellectual, economic or financial help from an already intellectually moribund and financially bankrupt Europe and USA. Excess weapons stocks may be released openly or covertly, but little else will now come their way. The game is certainly not over yet in what is now left of this fragmenting country.
The now re-awakened western elites, bristling with simulated indignation, have also indicated that for them the game hasn’t ended either. They are about to discuss what broader economic sanctions can be added to the travel and financial sanctions already imposed upon certain individuals in Russia and Ukraine. The elites of the west have staked their much massaged reputations upon being skilful and determined international political chess players. For this reason they feel they cannot lose face by recognising they have already too few important pieces on the board. So they will continue to play on by sacrificing more pieces, particularly the working class pawns for which they have little or no concern. It should be clear that any economic or financial sanctions the European and North American elite decide to impose on Russia and Crimea will only seriously hit the working class and the poor in those two countries.
In addition, any economic, financial and travel sanctions will also rebound mainly upon Europe as Russia will undoubtedly seek ways to respond or retaliate. In other words if this tit-for-tat continues, there will be a distinct possibility of some level of trade war. And here again, the consequent rebound will hit the European and US working classes, blue-collar and white along with the poor – far more than it will hit the European and US elite. Trade wars always add another downward twist to any existing economic crisis and the financial, economic and sovereign crisis of the western capitalist governments is already widespread and extreme. Any sanctions and reciprocal actions which quicken the downward spiral of economic stagnation will therefore lead to even more unemployment, poverty and hardship for ordinary people.
And of course any such accelerated economic downturn in Europe will bring forth more demonstrations and civil unrest among the citizens of these countries. It will also lead to an increased questioning of the logic of the capitalist mode of production which periodically collapses economically, financially and morally.
If such trade sanctions emerge and/or escalate and socio-economic conditions continue to deteriorate, then it is likely that in Europe serious splits in the ruling class will start to appear. This is because in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, many within the lower ranks of the ruling elite already regard their bourgeois colleagues as blinded by excessive greed and hampered by insufficient talent. Splits and weaknesses in the ruling elites, if sufficiently deep, are always a harbinger of potential successful uprisings and more pre-revolutionary situations.
It is predictable that actions spurred on by a mixture of greed and incompetence will always have unintended consequences and this likelihood is even greater in periods of compound crises such as the one we are now experiencing. In the 21st century, crises in capitalist inspired economics, finance, military, social and ecological practices are creating intended negative as well as unintended negative consequences in practically every area of human life. Crimea and the Ukraine are just the latest examples of where these consequences have burst to the surface.
They are yet another reminder of an important 21st century question. Can humanity and the planet really afford another 100 years of global control by capital and capitalist elites? Surely, the planet and its inhabitants ought to be spared yet more decades of capitalist inspired wars, poverty, injustice, economic competition and ecological devastation: but will it?
Lets not just hope for but work for another unintended consequence of this multi-level global crisis. It could be that more and more people will come to realise that these multiple destructive symptoms cannot be ended without ending the system which continually creates them. The realisation needs to spread that it is the mode of production based upon capital and profit which is the foundation upon which all these negative symptoms arise – and we need to help spread it. This includes the symptoms of this capitalist mode which created the previous Arab Spring protests and now guess what? Spring is here again and uprisings are now starting in the East.
The 21st century is proving both a problem and a challenge for working people, anti-capitalists and revolutionary-humanists. So shouldn’t we try working together in order to prove we are up to the historic challenge which faces humanity? Which I think should involve the following: The creation of a mode of production based upon; the collective and communal ownership of the means of production (to replace private or state ownership), international economic co-operation based upon need, (to replace international competition based on greed), a guaranteed minimum level of satisfactory economic well-being for everyone, (to replace the super rich and end poverty), non-hierarchical forms of self-governance, (to replace the state and any future elite forms of manipulation).
Roy Ratcliffe (March 2014.)