The political and military class elites in control of Russia have this week copied the aggressive tactics of their western equivalents and invaded a territory occupied by an elite they do not like. And of course this is horrible and terribly wrong. But from the western alliance of capitalist countries and their mouthpieces in the media you would think what Putin and his oligarchical elite have committed is something the Nato Alliance countries of America, Britain, France, Italy and Germany have never done, or would never do. The whole history of the last 200 years of European colonial invasions and military incursions into country after country, has been and will be totally ignored now and in the coming weeks.
So too is the more recent history of western capitalist invasions in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Libya and twice in Iraq. All of the above, have left death, devastation and untold hardship on civilian communities the world over. Of course when is an invasion not an invasion is a debate for media sophists and there are many about on all sides. Being a paid (or otherwise rewarded) intellectual supporter of exploitative regimes means there are ample numbers of those in the media and elsewhere who are happy to park their memories and morals in the ‘not now’ filing cabinet or on the hard drive to be accessed later.
However, lets not follow this example of how to be a one-sided, biased media hack, and tell the story of the capitalist invasion tactic – as it actually is. There may be real economic, political or military reasons (or all three) why an elite in control of a country might decide to send it’s troops to gain temporary or permanent control of a foreign territory. Crucially important resources or lucrative markets; uncooperative governments or confiscated assets; or even covert military opposition. There may also be many reasons why such real motives would need to be shrouded by a blanket of ‘plausible’ or ‘invented’ justifications either because the real reasons must be kept secret or they would be just too embarrassing to reveal.
Because of real (or deliberate) current confusion about motives, it may be difficult to unpick what is really going on between the currently opposed sides. However, a few things are fairly clear; 1. very few ordinary people on any side would want to start a war or risk their lives in military confrontations just to gain territory or to gain control of more people. War is purely an elite thing! Populations world wide are still in the middle of a pandemic or at a point where coping with its effects are still of deep concern. 2. All the elites are nationalist parts of a crisis riddled international capitalist mode of production, which at the moment cannot suitably employ all their citizens – hence the mass emigrations everywhere. War is also a crisis thing!
The capitalist system everywhere is in severe economic, financial, social, economic, ecological, political and moral crisis. Making sense out of this chaos and confusion and imagining a solution to one or solutions to all these problems is clearly just as difficult for the elites as it is for ordinary citizens. However, gaining territory has always been a fall-back card played by elites in existential trouble. This is particularly so when a section of the population of the target country feels aggrieved and already identifies linguistically or nationalistically with the aggressor country. The latter can then pretend to be invading to support those who feel aggrieved.
Germany under the Nazis in 1938/39 did just that and it led to a second world war. Putin’s recent long – winded rant mentioning the former Bolshevik leader Lenin and outlining how the Soviet Union became so widespread, indicated he considered Ukraine and it’s Russian speakers ‘belonged’ historically to Russia, just as the Chinese leadership consider that Hong-Kong, Taiwan and their Chinese speakers ‘belong’ historically to China. The current economic weakness, social divisions and political ineptitude demonstrated by the former world powers of the UK and USA, have undoubtedly emboldened Putin; and the Chinese oligarchy may well pursue their own version of a mini blitzkrieg – to get back former territories.
Even if the economic gains from this Putin land grab (and any others) turn out to be marginal due to the decades of economic crisis, the political gains may be worth it to all the elite participants. People easily influenced by patriotic propaganda and feelings tend to fall in behind any leader and mute their criticism during a military crisis – whether real or manufactured. With a compound set of crises in most countries the distraction of military action may help Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and Putin to stem any current unpopularity and further any campaigns for re-election. Furthermore, running down existing military hardware inventory will always please the military industrial complex and navy, military and air-force brass are always happy to engage in war game planning and execution whether real or simulated. So they are all beneficiaries.
Any potential social unrest and class warfare in the post-Covid future are also more easily managed during emergency powers legislation passed during heightened tensions. And tensions are definitely being heightened as the crisis deepens and any military and non military action will compound it. And, ratcheting tensions up is precisely what the loyal pro-capitalist media are now doing. They are correctly designating the Putin invasion as a nasty authoritarian invasion, but have hypocritically stayed completely silent about the invasions by the USA and the UK into Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya etc., and the horrors attached to those.
The mainstream western media have conducted no examination of the parallel pattern followed by all capitalist countries (including their own) when they become powerful enough to impose their will on all and sundry. One UK pro-government media commentator this week had the temerity to draw attention to a discussion by Russia authorities to freeze the bank accounts of anyone in Russia who objected to Putin’s policy in the Ukraine, but failed to mention that Canada’s government had already discussed doing exactly the same to the vaccine mandate protesting truckers.
Working people and civil communities in all countries should resist this propaganda and demand that their leaders stop war preparations and military manoeuvres. The demand should be raised to commence peaceful, green reconstruction of all the social, infrastructure, ecological, financial, medical and employment problems faced in all countries. It is crucially important that people resist becoming pawns in the power games the pro-capitalist elites are playing internationally and begin organising a movement campaigning for peace, full employment and also an end to the exploitation of people and the environment by the capitalist mode of production.
Roy Ratcliffe (February 2022)