Zibechi: When war no longer saves the system

A Firefighter in Kiev, Ukraine, March 2022.

By: Raúl Zibechi

Many data indicate that the large companies of the military-industrial complex have been obtaining juicy profits since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But other data assure the opposite; they say that the capitalist crisis is deepening: the threat of recession in United States, price increases throughout the world, or China’s difficulty to maintain the global supply chains, to give some examples.

We can agree with William I. Robinson in that wars have helped capitalism to overcome its crises and that they divert attention from the deterioration of the system’s legitimacy.

His concept of “militarized accumulation,” a fusion of private accumulation with state militarization, is useful for comprehending the processes underway (https://bit.ly/3Fb5RMa). He considers repression as necessary for sustaining capital accumulation in this period of increasing social protests.

However, it’s likely that we are facing the radicalization of the global elites, who seem willing to provoke a mass genocide against a part of the planet’s population, if they believe that their interests are in danger. In fact, the destruction of the planet continues advancing, despite the declarations and conventions that claim to defend the environment.

Every time that a way of resolving situations enters into crisis, the elites escalate towards another even more destructive model. As war is no longer enough to ensure the indefinite accumulation of capital, it’s used for another purpose: to keep the ruling classes in their place of privilege when capitalism is exhausted.

I believe that Robinson’s theses, interesting in themselves, as well as those of other analysts, do not take into account that we are not facing situations similar to the two world wars of the 20th century, or the “cold war,” but rather new systemic drifts. Strictly speaking, we should no longer speak of repression or crisis, because the mutations underway go beyond these concepts.

In the first place, because the West had never been challenged by non-European nations, like China, which was a victim of the colonialism and racism that still persist in that way in international relations. This doesn’t mean that Chinese elites are less oppressive than Western elites. Or that they are some type of alternative, since they all reason in the same way.

We’re not only facing conflicts for preeminence within Western capitalism, as were the previous wars. Now the racial factor has a determining weight and, therefore, Western elites don’t hesitate –like they did in Iraq and in Afghanistan– to destroy entire nations, including their peoples.

Invasions are measured by different yardsticks according to geo-political interests and the skin color of the victims. At the same time that the Russian Army invades Ukraine, the Turkish Army is invading Kurdish territories in northern Syria, but the big media don’t give it the same importance (https://bit.ly/3P7PxAu).

In the second place, we must not ignore the world revolution of 1968, since it places us before completely different realities: the peoples have organized and are in movement. This is the central fact, not so much the economic and political crisis. The native, black and mestizo peoples in Latin America, the oppressed peoples of the world, are placing limits on capital that it considers unsustainable. That’s why it attacks with paramilitaries and narcos.

The third thing is a consequence of the first two. We are facing something that goes beyond the crises and is much deeper: the decomposition of the world we know, a crisis of modern civilization, Western and capitalist, which is much more than the crisis of capitalism understood as mere economy.

In broad strokes, the situation created in 1968 can be resolved with the installation of a new system, less unequal than the current one, or with the annihilation of the peoples. I believe that we are facing an unprecedented threat because the elites (from the entire world) feel that oppressed peoples threaten their interests, as they have never felt since 1917.

We are in a transition towards something unknown to us, which can be dramatic, but that is more in the form of decomposition than orderly transition. As Immanuel Wallerstein said: new oppressions were born from controlled transitions. That’s why we must lose fear of the collapse of the current system that “can be anarchic, but not necessarily disastrous.” [1]

The problem is that we don’t have strategies to deal with this period. With the notable exception of Zapatismo, we have not constructed knowledge and ways of doing things to resist in militarized societies, in which those above bet on genocidal violence to continue dominating. It’s not easy, but we should work on that or resign ourselves to being an object of the powerful.

[1] In “Marx and underdevelopment”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, May 6, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/05/06/opinion/013a1pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

One Comment on “Zibechi: When war no longer saves the system

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: