After Russian debacle in Ukraine, US escalates conflict with Russia and China
Andre Damon, WSWS, Sep 17 2022

Following the collapse of Moscow’s northern front of Russia’s six-month-old invasion of Ukraine, the US has responded by further intensifying its involvement in the war against Russia in Ukraine and preparations for war with China over Taiwan. In the course of one week, Ukrainian forces advanced dozens of miles, capturing massive quantities of Russian weapons and ammunition (? – RB), along with, according to Ukrainian officials, thousands of Russian soldiers (?!??? – RB). On Thursday, the Biden administration announced an additional $600m in weapons to Ukraine, adding to the more than $50b in armaments and other assistance that has been allocated to date.

The new arms shipment, the 21st such “drawdown” since the start of the war, includes ammunition for the HIMARS missile system, 36k rounds of 105mm artillery, counter-battery radar and a thousand precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds. This adds to the tens of thousands of antitank missiles, hundreds of drones, 15 HIMARS missile launchers, and hundreds of vehicles, as well as the US’s most advanced anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, that have been delivered to date. US Senators called for even more weapons to be provided to Ukraine, with US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell demanding that the White House provide Ukraine with the long-range ATACMS missile capable of striking deep inside Russian territory. McConnell said:

The Ukrainians need more weapons than what we’re giving them, they need to start getting them faster, and they need new capabilities like long-range ATACMS missiles, large drones and tanks.

Senator Marco Rubio added:

I think the concern some would say is that the longer-range missiles could target deep inside of Russia and trigger a broader conflict. I’m not sure I’m as troubled by that.

These demands for expanding the range of weapons delivered to Ukraine were accompanied by the most explicit declaration to date of US goals in the conflict. Former US Army Europe Commander Ben Hodges declared:

The momentum has really shifted in favour of Ukraine and they’re the ones that are literally calling the shots. We may be looking at the beginning of the collapse of the Russian Federation. It’s a population that by and large is not truly let’s say ethnic Russian, I mean there’s 120 different ethnic groups out there. I think people out in Tuva and Siberia and Chechnya and others may see opportunity to break away so I think that we collectively the west need to be thinking about what are the implications for this?

The statement by Hodges developed his declaration in April, in the aftermath of Russia’s retreat from Kiev and the allegations of Russian atrocities in Bucha, that the aim of the US is “breaking the back of Russia’s ability to project power outside of Russia.” As in April, the renewed escalation of US involvement in the war is accompanied by allegations that Russia systematically murdered civilians, this time in the outskirts of Izyum. These military moves have been accompanied by an escalation of the US-NATO economic war. On Friday, the German government took control of three refineries owned by Russian oil company Rosneft. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said:

This is a far-reaching energy policy decision to protect our country.

Alongside the escalation of the war with Russia, the US escalated its conflict with China in the wake of the Russian collapse. On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign relations Committee voted to move forward the Taiwan Policy Act, a bill that would send $6.5b in weapons to Taiwan and effectively end the US’s One China Policy. The Bill states that “Taiwan shall be treated as though it were designated a major non-NATO ally,” effectively implementing a military treaty with Taiwan, obliterating the US’s formal position that it has no diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Critically, it replaces provisions that arms provided to Taiwan be used in a “defensive manner” with the declaration that the US will provide “arms conducive to deterring acts of aggression by the People’s Liberation Army,” raising the prospect that this weapons could be used in a “preemptive” conflict. As the US escalated its involvement in the war against Russia and its conflict with China, Putin and Xi held their first in-person meeting since the start of the war at the SCO summit. The crisis triggered by Russia’s military debacle was on display. Putin said at the start of the meeting:

We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis. We understand your questions and concerns in this regard.

Similar tensions were on display in Putin’s discussion with Modi, who told Putin:

I know that today’s era is not an era of war, and I have spoken to you on the phone about this.

Putin said:

I know your position on the conflict in Ukraine, the concerns that you constantly express. We will do everything to stop this as soon as possible.

Despite the crisis triggered by the Russian military debacle, Russia and China are being objectively driven closer together by the escalating US war drive. In a statement to the Financial Times, Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Endowment commented:

If Putin is that obsessed with Ukraine, what can Xi realistically do? The departure of the Putin regime and the unlikely prospect of a pro-western government in Russia is a terrible nightmare for China.

Emboldened by the Russian debacle in Northern Ukraine, the US is only escalating its preparations for a global military conflict that threatens all of humanity.

Military debacle in northeastern Ukraine fuels infighting in Russian oligarchy
Clara Weiss, WSWS, Sep 17 2022

Gennady Zyuganov. Photo: Duma, Aug 2019

The collapse of Russian forces in the face of a counter-offensive by Ukraine the northeast of the country has brought to the fore bitter conflicts within the Russian oligarchy. Over the past week, the Russian military has lost about a tenth of the territory it had previously occupied in Ukraine. The fleeing troops vacated almost all of the Russian-occupied parts of the Kharkiv province, including several strategically and logistically important towns like Izyum and Balakliya, leaving behind military equipment. The military debacle has not only exposed the significant logistical and intelligence problems of Russia’s military, and the extremely low morale among its troops (? – RB). Above all, it has dealt a severe blow to the strategy of the Putin regime.

Having emerged out of the Stalinist destruction of the Soviet Union and the restoration of capitalism, the Putin regime has responded to decades of NATO encirclement and provocations with the invasion of Ukraine, hoping that it could force the imperialist powers to the negotiating table. A principal component of this strategy has been the effort to contain what is essentially a war with NATO. But this strategy has been blown to pieces by the aggressive moves to escalate the war by the imperialist powers and the transformation of the Ukrainian army, the second largest in Europe after Russia’s, into a well-equipped fighting force. According to the NYT it was the Biden administration, which has pledged over $50b in weapons for Ukraine since February, that proposed the offensive to the Zelensky government. Moreover, the American media and military figures are openly bragging about the central role of US-delivered weapons and intelligence in the offensive, making it all but impossible to deny that the Russian military is fighting a NATO proxy army in Ukraine.

Coming on the heels of a series of major provocations, including strikes on Crimea and the assassination of Daria Dugina, a prominent proponent of the war near Moscow, the offensive is clearly part of the efforts by the imperialist powers to goad the Kremlin into an expansion of the war and embolden the most hawkish elements within the Russian state and oligarchy. Already, the military debacle has provoked an outcry even among the most loyal Putin supporters. Within the media and political establishment, there are ever more open calls for a general mobilization and a public acknowledgement that what is taking place is, in fact, a full-scale war. At a Duma session on Tuesday Sep 13, a deputy from the ruling United Russia Party, Mikhail Sheremetv, said:

Without a complete mobilization, the transition into war mode, including of the economy, we will not achieve the necessary results. I am saying that society must now be consolidated as much as possible and be determined to achieve victory.

Gennady Zyuganov, the head of the Stalinist Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), flat-out refused to speak of a “special military operation.” For the past six months, the Kremlin has insisted that what is taking place is only a “special military operation.” The term “war” is banned from the Russian media. Zyuganov said:

How is a special military operation different from a war? A military operation can be stopped at any point. But you cannot stop a war, it either ends with victory or defeat. I am telling you that what is happening is a war, and we have no right to lose it. We must not panic now. What is needed is an all-out mobilization of the country, entirely different laws are required.

Zyuganov also called for an increase in military expenditures and more modern equipment for the army. Zyuganov’s statements are all the more significant as his party, which openly glorifies Joseph Stalin and the Great Terror, has functioned as the largest loyal opposition party to the Putin regime for over two decades, and has played a critical role in stifling and disorienting social opposition. The leaders of the other nominal opposition parties, including “Just Russia,” supported Zyuganov’s calls for a general mobilization and also insisted that the war should be named for what it is. Following the heated session at the Duma, the Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that “at the moment there is no discussion” in the Russian government about a full or partial mobilization.

Nevertheless, the Russian media continues to be filled with discussions about it, with many media outlets publishing extensive analyses of what a partial or general mobilization would look like. Based on Russian law, a mobilization can only be introduced in case of “aggression against Russia, the immediate threat of aggression or the emergence of armed conflicts that are directed against Russia.” In the case of a full mobilization, all male citizens aged 18 to 50 can be drafted and the entire economy would be refocused on war production. Much of everyday social and economic life would be regulated and surveiled, in one form or another, by the Ministry of Defense. Some media outlets speculate that a mobilization could also occur, initially at least, in a partial and even secret manner. Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the North Caucasian republic, who has publicly fumed about “mistakes” by the Russian army, has spearheaded an effort to mobilize volunteers to strengthen the Russian troops. Several regional governors have supported his calls for a “self-mobilization” in the regions. At this point, the Russian military has deployed but a small fraction of its over 1 million men to Ukraine. Putin himself has insisted that only volunteers and no draftees are being deployed to Ukraine.

The bitter conflicts within the Russian oligarchy can only be understood in light of the systematic intervention of imperialism in the Ukraine war and in Russian politics, as well as the class nature of the Russian oligarchy itself. Having emerged out of the Stalinist bureaucracy’s destruction of the Soviet Union and restoration of capitalism, it never had and never could have any independence from imperialism. All the different factions ultimately seek an accommodation with one or another imperialist power, if by starkly different means, and fear nothing more than a movement in the working class. Despite constant efforts by the oligarchs find an “agreement” with imperialism, the imperialist powers have systematically encircled Russia since 1991, seeking to bring all the resources of the former Soviet Union under their direct control. The current war in Ukraine is the temporary culmination of this development.

The ultimate aim lies not so much in Ukraine itself, but in the complete subjugation and carve-up of Russia. The destabilization of the Putin regime is therefore a central component of the war strategy. In a report from 2019, the RAND corporation, a leading US think tank, outlined a strategy of “overextending Russia” to destabilize the regime. According to RAND, the principal means to bring about such an economic “over-extension,” apart from sanctions especially in the energy sector, was to force the Russian regime to invest more in its military. The report stressed that the Kremlin was reluctant to do so and that the US would therefore “find it hard to persuade Russia to substantially increase defense spending unless it convinces the Kremlin that new threats to Russian security demand a change to this policy.”

There is little question that the systematic provocations by NATO in the lead-up to the Russian invasion were aimed at bringing about precisely this “change” in Russian foreign policy. Since the invasion, NATO has conducted ever more overtly a de facto war against Russia on Ukrainian territory through an army and paramilitary forces that are principally armed and trained by the imperialist powers. The calculation is that, by goading Russia into an expansion of the war, including a general mobilization, the Putin regime can be fatally destabilized and overthrown by another faction of the oligarchy in a US-backed operation. The latest offensive and crisis in the Russian ruling class has raised hopes that this prospect may be realized sooner rather than later. One of the most vocal spokesmen of US imperialist policy vis-a-vis Russia, retired US general Ben Hodges, wrote in The Telegraph earlier this week:

It is a genuine possibility that Vladimir Putin’s exposed weaknesses are so severe that we might be witnessing the beginning of the end, not only of his regime, but of the Russian Federation itself.

In this operation, the imperialist powers rely on a faction within the Russian oligarchy that is gathered around the pro-NATO misnamed “liberal opposition.” While their main figurehead, Alexei Navalny, continues to be imprisoned, almost as soon as news of the collapse of Russian offensive broke, municipal deputies from Petersburg that are associated with the liberal opposition launched a petition aimed at impeaching Putin based on allegations of “high treason.” These layers stand in the tradition of a faction of the Russian oligarchy that has advocated an integration of Russia into NATO. They are effectively calling for a whole-sale capitulation to imperialism, hoping that they would staff the puppet regimes that would emerged out of an imperialist carve-up of Russia. Facing growing pressure from different factions of the oligarchy, the Putin regime’s main concern is the prospect that, much like WW1 which was ended by the Bolshevik-led October revolution, the war will lead to a social revolution in Russia and internationally. In a recent piece for a Kremlin-aligned think tank, Sergei Karaganov, a leading foreign policy pundit, explicitly warned of a repetition of what he called “the disaster of 1917.”

Even more than the oligarchy’s delusionary belief in the possibility of an agreement with the imperialist powers, this is the main reason for Putin’s desperate efforts to contain the conflict and limit its impact on the home front. For the working class, the critical question is to develop its own, socialist response to the emerging world war, independent from and in opposition to all factions of the oligarchy and imperialism. The principal political basis for this fight is the assimilation of the entire political heritage of the struggle of the Trotskyist movement against the Stalinist betrayal of the October revolution, and for the political independence of the working class. This requires a determined struggle to build sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International in both Russia and Ukraine.

The adulation for Elizabeth II: The capitalist class celebrates the principle of monarchy
Joseph Scalice, WSWS, Sep 17 2022

The cortege with the hearse carrying Queen Elizabeth’s coffin departs from St Giles
Cathedral en route to Edinburgh Airport. Sep 13 2022. (Photo: Petr Josek/AP)

It has been more than a week since Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96, yet the ceremonies of her death still dominate media coverage as though they were some sort of world event. The evening news programs give over a majority of their time to her body, lying in state, and all the theatrical rigamarole of royal death. The morning talk shows are filled with encomia and hagiography, presenting Elizabeth II as an icon for women, the steady hand on the rudder of the British state and a symbol of decency and civility in a heartless world. Why the adulation? Elizabeth’s sole contribution was to have lived so long. She was not a world-historic figure; it is difficult to imagine anyone of less historical significance. Endowed with incalculable wealth by the accident of birth, she lived for nearly a century and yet was sheltered from everything that that century actually entailed.

There is something troubling about the five-mile-long queue to view the queen’s coffin that has formed along the south bank of the Thames. An estimated three-quarters of a million people will endure a 22-hour wait to walk past her remains. It speaks to the general emptiness and shallowness of public life over the course of several decades, that the death of this woman who never contributed anything to anyone’s life is seen as a meaningful figure. Those who wait to view her corpse may believe that the queue will bring them into the presence of history, but at its end all they will find is the past. Like her life, the entire spectacle surrounding her death—from the ponderous, creaking departure from Balmoral to the boys’ choir benediction in Westminster—is unreal. Reality is hard-bitten and pregnant with crisis. The British working class confronts a staggering rise in prices; energy costs have risen as much as ten-fold. Half the population may not be able to adequately heat their homes this winter. The unreal spectacle has nothing to do with the passing of a slight, hunched over elderly woman and everything to do with the royal institution that encrusted her and the monarchic principle she embodied. The capitalist class buried the ghosts of its republican ancestors long ago. Confronting social and political crises of unprecedented magnitude, they turn to autocracy and authoritarianism as bulwarks in defense of their privileges and recognize in monarchy an institutional form of their class aspirations.

Monarchy is an institution of colossal stupidity, a barbarous vestige of the feudal past; its persistence is an embarrassment to humanity. Founded on heredity, shored up with inbreeding, intermarriage and claims of divine right, the monarchic principle enshrines inequality as the fundamental and unalterable lot of humanity and maintains this lot with the force of autocratic power. The kings and queens enthroned by this principle are stunted by more than just hemophilia and the Habsburg jaw. Their social function distills in their lineage the most concentrated reaction. Elizabeth II was cousin to the Tsarist Romanovs; her Nazi-sympathizing uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 and headed off to Germany with his Nazi-sympathizing wife to salute Adolf Hitler. The royal family is marked by the sorts of scandals that develop among those with a great deal of unearned money and unspent time. Her son, Prince Andrew, sold arms to autocratic regimes and paid £12m to cover up his role in sex trafficking underaged girls with Jeffrey Epstein. Her grandson, Prince Harry, used to dress up in full Nazi regalia. It was in defiance of the monarchic principle that the American Declaration of Independence stated:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This conception fueled the American Revolution. Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense, which historian Gordon Wood termed “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era,” directly attacked not just George III but the very existence of monarchy, writing:

In England a king hath little more to do than to make war and give away places; which in plain terms, is to impoverish the nation and set it together by the ears. A pretty business indeed for a man to be allowed eight hundred thousand sterling a year for, and worshiped into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.

Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the US Constitution codified this principle for the new nation:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States.

Immense concentrated private wealth, founded on exploitation and inequality, and the unending expansion of empire have stamped out any trace of such democratic sentiments in the American ruling elite. They no longer, in the phrase of Milton, prefer “hard liberty before the easy yoke of servile pomp.” They seek to defend their interests through autocratic rule and look with welcome upon the principle of monarchy. On the order of President Biden, US flags were deferentially lowered for the dead queen, placed at half-staff for 12 days. Elizabeth II is separated from George III by generations; Biden is separated from Jefferson by an unbridgeable historical chasm.

The essence of empire is autocracy; it is not susceptible to democratic governance. Washington launches wars, stages coups, bombs small countries into the Stone Age without any regard for human life or the opinion of the American people. Capitalism has produced unprecedented levels of inequality and social misery around the globe, including at its very core in the US. Imperialism is, in the words of Lenin, “reaction all down the line.” Even the pretenses of democracy can no longer hold. Over the past six years we have witnessed a turn among the ruling elite around the globe to openly autocratic and dictatorial forms of rule as social and political crisis have sharpened and turned deadly. It is this that fuels the unrestrained adulation in the American media for the dead queen and the crown she wore. An unprecedented political crisis grips the US. The idea of a monarchical system, of an autocratic head of state who stands above the conflict, has a powerful appeal to the embattled bourgeoisie. The media give voice to these longings and package them for popular consumption. The phrase of JA Hobson, writing of imperialism at the opening of the 20th century, is apt:

Snobbish subservience, the admiration of wealth and rank, the corrupt survivals of the inequalities of feudalism.

The deferential and servile talking heads of television news cultivate these traits. Often dressed up as progressive by identity politics, the monarchic principle is everywhere glorified, from Wakanda to Beyoncé to Downton Abbey. The relentless adulation for the dead queen is mind-numbing. It is tempting to hunker down and weather the storm of stupidity. It must, however, be taken seriously, for it is a warning. Capitalism can play no progressive role whatsoever in human development, but its fecund rot is capable of breeding all forms of reaction. Looking desperately to secure their social position, the bourgeoisie are turning to autocratic forms of rule. In service to this end, they are rehabilitating one of the most backward conceptions in history, the principle of monarchy.

One Comment

  1. RZ
    Posted September 17, 2022 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Well Andre has an interesting perspective ; )

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