War as crisis accelerator
by Tomasz Konicz
Friday Mar 18th, 2022
Opportunistic parts of the German left are already sorting themselves into NATO supporters and cheerleaders of hollow Western values, who are peddling the stale bourgeois-liberal ideology one last time before the Western states also sink into barbarism.
War as a crisis accelerator
West can see its own future in Putin regime
Today’s global political conflicts take place in the context of intensifying crises. In Russia’s militarily highly armed and authoritarian state, the West may see its own future.
By Tomasz Konicz
[This article published on 3/10/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://jungle.world/artikel/2022/10/krieg-als-krisenbeschleuniger.]
Like one egg to another? Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump exchange glances during a meeting in Japan, 2019.
Even trying to approximate the consequences of the catastrophe unfolding in Ukraine can be dizzying. The war is perceived by Western public opinion as an epochal shift, the beginning of a new era of renewed bloc confrontation between bourgeois democracies and authoritarian regimes. But it is actually the culmination of long-term crisis processes that are now being violently unleashed. The war thus represents the transformation of quantity into quality: Contradictions that previously manifested themselves in developments steadily increasing in intensity are now escalating.
Most conspicuous is the hysterical projection performance with which the Western, liberal public projects its own authoritarian-anomic erosion onto a new empire of evil, onto Russia and China. The Russian state oligarchy with President Vladimir Putin at its head is imagined as a demonic counter-principle that has nothing to do with the capitalist-liberal democracies in the Western centers of the world system, while at the same time, in view of the intensifying geopolitical conflict, similar methods are applied for which Russia was denounced in the past: Russian state propaganda broadcasters have been banned in the EU, public support for Russia’s war of aggression can be punished with prison sentences in the Czech Republic and Slovakia under pre-existing laws, and the gigantic arms program in Germany emulates Russian armament efforts. The anachronistic idea that “our” armies would protect Western “freedom” fails to recognize not only the de-democratization that has also long been taking place in the West, as expressed in Germany in recent years in the tightening of state police laws, but also the fascist machinations and anomic tendencies in the state apparatus and in the armed forces of the West itself – from coup plots in the German army to the constantly recurring single Nazi case in the police.
Russia, which is falling further and further behind the West in economic terms, is striving to maintain its status as a great power through the sheer use of military force.
In its confrontation with the Russian Federation and its satellite states, which is imagined as a struggle over values and systems, the West will become more like them. The interaction of authoritarian state formation and anomic state erosion, as manifested in the highly corrupt Russian state oligarchy, represents a course of the capitalist crisis process that is only more advanced in the semiperiphery than in the Western centers. The current conflict can possibly be summed up in the concept of crisis imperialism: While imperialism had entered a phase of global expansion of capital valorization in the second half of the 20th century, the current confrontation between rotten state apparatuses is taking place in a phase of contraction of the valorization process, which lacks the perspective of a new accumulation regime (as was last the case under Fordism) because of the global level of productivity. It is like a battle on the “Titanic” in which the economically inferior state monsters permanently descend socio-economically or even threaten to turn into failed states in the long run. The notion of a new Cold War with its clear bloc confrontation is deceptive, since crisis-induced competition continues to operate within the West as well: between the U.S. and Germany, for example, or within the EU between France and Germany, whose arms program the government in Paris could perceive as a threat to its military superiority within the framework of the European Union. Already once – in the middle of the Cold War – France had turned its back on NATO.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is also a result of this situation. Russia, which is falling further and further behind the West in economic terms, is striving to maintain its status as a great power through the sheer use of military force after Russia was unable to reverse the 2014 Western-backed overthrow in Ukraine through similar methods of indirect intervention. Russia, with its economy built primarily on commodity exports, is steadily losing influence in the post-Soviet space, while Putin’s imperial conception of building a fossil commodity empire threatens to become obsolete as the West seeks to transform its energy system. The Hydrogen Office, opened by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) during a visit to Kiev in January to help Ukraine become a supplier of “green” hydrogen to the EU, virtually symbolized Russian fears of crisis-induced decline. The Russian leadership apparently estimated the costs of further erosion of its own sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space as higher than the costs (which it apparently criminally underestimated) of the war now being waged.
The worst-case scenario of the confrontation in Ukraine is nuclear war, which can no longer be ruled out because of the high stakes in this bloody struggle in which Russia seeks to assert its position as an imperial power in its historic sphere of influence. For Russia, the arms race is already in many ways a debacle that could escalate into a catastrophe: Although the Russian army should ultimately win the war militarily, the forecasts of even Western military experts, who saw Kiev falling within a few days, have been missed by a wide margin, not least because of the apparently inadequate modernization of the Russian armed forces.
The current course of the war makes the economically weakening Russia appear weaker in military terms than it appeared on paper. Russia has thus finally been relegated to the role of a junior partner in the alliance of convenience with China, which is now unavoidable due to the severe Western economic sanctions – because that is all that is involved here. In addition, there are the social and economic consequences of the historically unprecedented Western sanctions, which take on the character of a “total economic war,” as French Finance and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire put it, and which could endanger the stability of the so-called power vertical of the Russian regime in the medium term.
The economic war answering the invasion is also likely to reinforce the global stagflation dynamics, a consequence of the ever-growing debt of the past decades and, in particular, of the crisis surge of 2020, when the collapse of the global economy was painstakingly prevented by means of unprecedented money printing by central banks. Inflation, already high, is likely to rise further because of the price explosion of many fossil fuels and raw materials – it is itself a mode of the inevitable devaluation of value. Virtually all regions of the world must expect an economic slowdown or recession, which could once again result in financial crashes, especially in the highly indebted currency areas, such as the euro zone.
Added to this is the strain on global supply chains caused by war and sanctions, which is likely to push prices up further. As Russia and Ukraine are major grain exporters and together account for around 29 percent of global wheat exports, for example, this war is likely to lead to an increase in hunger and life-threatening malnutrition in many regions of the Global South, which have already been enormously impoverished in the course of the Covid 19 pandemic – this in interaction with the fully unfolding climate crisis, which is causing droughts, water shortages and miserable crop yields in many regions, for example in the USA, Spain, North Africa or Brazil.
And finally, the war is also likely to accelerate the disintegration of the crisis-blind and opportunistic parts of the German left, which are already sorting themselves along the ideological front: into Putin apologists around Sahra Wagenknecht and media with cross-front tendencies such as the online magazine Telepolis, which are already shamelessly practicing apologetics of Putin’s Russia again despite their disgraceful peace prognosis before the war, and into NATO supporters and cheerleaders of hollow Western values, who are peddling the stale bourgeois-liberal ideology one last time before the Western states also sink into barbarism.