Luis Bonilla-Molina

1. Introduction

I hardly watch WhatsApp or Telegram anymore because half of the messages that reach me are pamphlet declarations from different sources about what is happening in Ukraine, while the rest are male and female colleagues who ask for a more credible explanation regarding what is happening.

It is surprising to see how many progressive analysts did not wait for the cannons of war to sound to start sending their articles, without taking the trouble to previously consult, before giving their opinion, to partners, social movements of resistance and revolutionary parties of the countries involved. It seems that being “progressive” enables you to weigh in with some common keywords and writing styles that mention the global south.

The complexity of what is happening in the world has a chapter in Ukraine and is not disconnected from the transformations that are taking place in the world. The impact of the acceleration of scientific-technological innovation, changes in the economy and mass culture, influence the current correlation of forces between social classes, capitalist powers and inter-imperialist contradictions.

Ukraine, with all the tragedy that implies the loss of life of hundreds of people and the ecological impact of the use of weapons of mass destruction, should be the starting point to understand that we are not understanding what is really happening.

And what happened to globalization?

99% of the analyzes I have read do not start from one of the fundamental questions for Marxist analyzes at any historical time: What is happening in the world economy that makes this conflagration possible? It seems that what is happening in Ukraine expresses only nationalist or imperialist sentiments of a merely political nature, or, worse yet, simple pathologies of leaders of nations. In most cases I have the feeling that I am reading political reporters, not Marxist analysts.

In the eighties of the 20th century, all the sensible left agreed that neoliberal globalization had arrrived, which implied a tendency to the formation of transnational capital, which, although it could have a seat in an advanced capitalist country, its tendency was to have no borders. . The expression  “swallow capitals” ( short- term capital investment) became popular, jumping from place to place, adding other capitals to the herd and leaving behind the capital that resisted the new forms of accumulation, investment, speculation and exploitation.

Despite the fact that many foresaw that this would impact the balance of forces and the nature of the contradictions between the imperialist powers, few efforts have been made to study this issue. A quick internet search shows that there are few existing studies on the impact of transnational capital on inter-imperialist contradictions, on how strategic associations of capitals of different national origin, reconfigured into transnational capitals, become sources of mediation or deepening in inter-imperialist contradictions.

It is clear that these commercial contradictions by markets and hegemony exist, but these, in the framework of globalization, are fundamentally of two types: a) frictions that build integration mechanisms, that is, each clash is resolved with agreements by markets and emphasis on the production of goods or services and, b) frictions that intensify to impose one economic block on the other. Where are these two processes analyzed in their relationship with the inter-imperialist contradictions and the Ukraine conflict?

The inter-imperialist contradictions are not the same ones that Lenin analyzed in “Imperialism, the Higher Phase of Capitalism”, because a hundred years later we are in a globalized economy, in a stage of fierce process of unthinkable alliances and/or market carnage. For this reason, giving an opinion from the superficiality of the “obvious political” does not allow the construction of political tactics.

We live in a stage in which economic sanctions have become «popularized» as mechanisms of imperialist states to influence the tensions and frictions of the globalized economy and the «black holes» of geopolitics, which multiply due to the exhaustion of the model of post-war global governance. Consequently, it is necessary to build scenarios of the impact of wars and sanctioning measures on globalized capital, if we want to understand the process of reorganization of current capitalism.

China, the youngest capitalist economic power, expressed at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos (2022), its unwavering will to hold the track of globalization and promote an open economy. Alibaba today is an example of how a national economic giant is associated and linked with transnational capital.

Consequently, for analyzing Ukraine crisis, the first question the left should ask itself is: how does this confrontation fit into neoliberal globalization and the formation of transnational capital? The lack of this formulation leaves political analyzes without real economic support. The few analyzes that come close to this intention do so from a national capital perspective, as in the case of the gas trade, without accompanying the analysis with a study on the tensions that are generated in that industry between national and transnational capitals and their impact on the political and economic struggle taking place around Ukraine; never the other way around.

The main contradiction and camping

The left has dogmas and rituals. Sociologists and anthropologists would say that this is logical and even natural. However, when the political culture, prisoner of tradition and the fear of being considered “revisionist”, prevents some sectors of the left from seeing the new, this becomes an objective problem for transformative action.

An important part of the political left is anchored in schemes of inter-imperialist contradiction, which, as we pointed out, ignores the impact of globalization on them. But worse still, definitions such as that, regardless of what happens, one must always oppose the main enemy (USA) and bet on its weakening by supporting counterweights or lesser enemies (Russia or China), are insufficient to understand the new and formulate revolutionary policies. Along that path we met a left that justified each step in the Soviet, Chinese or Vietnamese decline towards capitalism, as if in the end it were about building a capitalist referent that would compete for markets with North American imperialism. Certainly in every military and geopolitical confrontation we have to criticize gringo imperialism, which is always present in one way or another, but this must be accompanied by an economic, commercial, technological and political reading of why imperialism shows its oppressive claws; a permanent adolescent critique of American capitalism is not enough.

The study of conflicts and wars within the framework of economic globalization still under construction, is essential to avoid the political campism so fashionable in sectors of the left and frantically embraced by progressive governments. Many of the elites of the progressive governments, converted into the new dominant bourgeoisie, see Russian or Chinese capitalism as alternative sources of business and political survival, but use the rhetoric of the lesser enemy to hide their real politik of alignment with one of the fractions of transnational capital. Even as they are not scholars of neoliberal globalization, they foolishly end up believing that Chinese or Russian capital does not have cross interests with gringo capital, in whose tensions progressive governments become only negotiable pawns when necessary.

Ukraine must also be analyzed, from the perspective of the revolutionary subject, the working class and the oppressed nationalities. From this point of view, the analysis is radically enriched and makes visible the tensions between capital and globalized work, which are expressed in the territories of Ukraine, Russia,EEUU,Turkey and the European Union.

 Our commitment as revolutionaries is not to be on the side of any capitalist country , not the US, not Russia, not China, not Turkey, but the interests of the people and the working class. Even where there may be no organized political expression or visible expressions of resistance, our discourse must be to connect with what is still underground, struggling to emerge at some point.

If something is clear to us at this point, it is that the discourse of the lesser enemy ends up emptying the revolutionary struggle of its anti-capitalist meaning.

Analyzing Ukraine from the tradition of leftist debates

The important opinions of Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewsk (2022) and Catherine Samary (2022) in the forums on Ukraine on March 4, 2022, organized jointly by Other Voices in Education, Insisto y Resisto, Punto de Vista Internacional and CLACSO TV , showed the significance of approaching the situation in Ukraine with the following axes:

1. The imperialist tradition of Russia since Tsarism

2. Lenin’s policy on nationalities and the USSR that was committed to sovereignty and autonomy

3. Stalin’s turn on the national question in the USSR, which returns to the Russian imperial vision

4. The national feeling of sovereignty that has always existed in Ukraine, even in the period of the USSR, something not to be underestimated:

5. The separation of Ukraine from Russia in the process of dismantling the USSR and its anti-nuclear vocation by destroying its arsenal after the separation with Russia

6. Russia capitalist power, which is taking shape from Yeltsin and consolidates with Putin

7. Putin’s policy of returning to the perspective of tsarism and Stalinism, making Russia a power with an imperialist vocation. In this context, in the electoral campaign, Putin announced his will to recover Ukraine:

8. The role of Putin and Russia since 2014 in exacerbating contradictions and separatism in Ukraine, to create the conditions for an invasion

To this I would add, that Putin and Russia are trying to use the conflict in Ukraine to produce a geopolitical change in the world, something that the capitalist leadership of that country has been working on in recent years, with points of interest that are found with China  and USA.

The ongoing tragedy is for the European Union, because if Putin manages to win the «match» in Ukraine, it will lose an important part of its geopolitical importance inherited from the post-war agreements and Russia would become the emerging gendarme in the once unique region of influence of European nations.

Daring us to think about the geopolitics of power

The geopolitics of the second half of the 20th century came from the post world war agreements. NATO and the European alliance that ended up forming the European Union were the security ring of the United States around the USSR.

With the disappearance of the USSR and Russia becoming a savage capitalist power, one of the real justifications for the existence of the European Union, as a firewall to communism, disappears. The EU countries have tried to sustain the alliance by assuming a role of factor X in the balance of markets. However, what happens is:

1. Crossed economic interests are beginning to emerge between Russian, North American and Chinese capitalists, where the European Union is not at all an articulating axis, much less a checkpoint that conditions markets. China, Russia and the United States prefer to bet on the World Trade Organization in which the logic of money and the global market prevails;

2. The Trump period, even accused of being an agent of Russia, expressed the interests of a sector of transnational capital that seeks extra-territorial coincidences, defending the interests of its own capitals;

3. Russia is beginning to emerge as a fundamental actor in the Arab world, Africa and Eastern Europe as a whole and this war is actually a geopolitical rearrangement of the imperialist nations;

4. The European Union scares no one and its inability to push for a NATO military response in Ukraine has left it naked and derailed from the new frontline imperialist geopolitics.

Of course, this attempt to activate NATO must serve to demand the dismantling of this military and trans-imperialist mechanism that is becoming more and more dangerous due to the volatility of the global geopolitical direction. But, the fact that NATO has not been activated should make us ask, what economic variables influenced that decision? What is the position of transnational capitals on a possible activation of NATO?

Daring us to think against the tide of the majority of the left

Consequently, I consider it important to open a debate in the anti-capitalist revolutionary left, on the impact of neoliberal globalization on inter-imperialist tensions, that’s if, on each of the two trends that are expressed in this process of integration and confrontation of transnational capitals.

This will allow for more consistent analyzes that can be translated into political lines capable of connecting with the concrete reality of the third decade of the 21st century.

As a social fighter and teacher, a large part of my concern is with the innocent victims, those whom the media on both sides take away their faces and turn them into simple numbers of casualties, inside the so called “collateral damages”. Geopolitics with a class perspective must give a voice to those who today suffer the ravages of any war with an economic background.

Traducción: Celina Castro