More than a half thousand days have passed since the Russian attack against Ukraine. This war has not remained within the boundaries of two countries but its impacts have spread over a large part of the globe. And many, besides those two warring countries, have been directly or indirectly involved in it. Mainly ordinary people and soldiers, who are their children, are dying in this war. But none in the big powers are willing to find a peaceful end to this crisis.
Yanis Varoufakis, a former finance minister of Greece, wrote in an article (The Peace Process Ukraine's Supporters Should Support, Project Syndicate, May 23, 2023), "calls for a final Ukrainian victory gravitate towards a wholesale defeat for everyone-except perhaps arms dealers and the fossil-fuel industry, whose fortunes the war has mightily revived." It's a new war system which is evolving, but we can find its point of origin.
The brightest sun of history once rose on the horizon of the Russian part of Europe shaking the world and that state rapidly expanded into a new soviet union of Russia. But the sun did not take long to set down there, not shaking but quivering the world this time. In 1917, it was the capitalists of the world who shook in fear. In 1991, it was the middle and lower class followers of the communist parties around the globe, who quivered in their rush into depression and uncertainty. The first successful workers' state broke into pieces before the workers' eyes without a shade of sadness on their faces.
Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man was the tale of the demise of that giant of the soviet socialism. Fukuyama thought it was the burial of history in the birthplace of the first successful socialist government. It was, in fact, not the end of history, but the sorry regression and even debauchery of it. In 1917 Russia failed to embrace socialism and in 1991 it failed more spectacularly to embrace capitalism of a nature presumably superior to Soviet socialism. Both of its historical promises-once of hypothetical socialism and again another of hypothetical capitalism-were broken with grave consequences for the world.
G. A. Cohen, a famous political philosopher, lived his whole life as a staunch supporter of socialism, but lost all illusion surrounding the Soviet Union before the regime breathed its last. The November/December 1991 issue of the New Left Review published just before the fall of the Soviet Union "contained an essay by the Marxist philosopher G. A. Cohen called 'The Future of a Disillusion.'" "It looks," Cohen wrote then, "as if the Soviet Union, or the pieces that it may soon become, will embrace capitalism, or fall into a severe authoritarianism, or undergo both of those fates." (The Tragic Failure of the Soviet Experiment Doesn't Mean We Should Reject Socialism, by Ben Burgis, Jacobin, 15 July 2023).
Now Russia has not only turned into a severe authoritarianism, but also into a warmongering country of the vilest nature. In the Soviet period Russia occupied Afghanistan on the excuse of establishing socialism for the Afghan people. Now it has attacked Ukraine for 'denazification' of the country and freeing its people following the bad precedence of the US attack and later occupation of Iraq. Interestingly enough, history is being debauched not only in Russia, but also in the USA, the UK and elsewhere in the world.
It could not have been otherwise after removal of the ideological barrier from the path of capitalism. The USA had to see Trump, the UK Johnson, mini-Trumps in some countries and mini-Putins in others. The western liberal democracy that Fukuyama celebrated fell hostage to post-liberalism. Post-soviet capitalism so loved by the world became synonymous with obscene level of inequalities, war decisions shifting into the hands of business-cum-entertainment industries, politicians turning into paid servants of the oligarchs and pure criminals and so many other developments Fukuyama failed to see a little ahead of him.
The debauchery of the post-modern capitalism afterwards gave birth to today's war in Ukraine. And no one yet knows the full extent of this capitalist misbehaving. Fukuyama's end of history and the last man or the debauchery of history and humanity lost in bewilderment?
First World War and Second World War both were between world capitalist powers. As soon as Soviet Union collapsed and Russia emerged from the debris, the conflict between Russia and the West came to a head. Surrounding the issue of NATO expansion this conflict came to a boiling point of war. Now the nationalism-soaked enmity between Russian capitalism and the western type is no less severe than the one between the two contradictory ideological powers.
According to an article (How Wars Don't End: Ukraine, Russia, and the Lessons of World War I, by Margaret MacMillam, June 12, 2023) in the Foreign Affairs magazine, "Russia has already lost more soldiers in this war than in its ten years of fighting in Afghanistan." The author pointed out, if "the West does not make a sustained effort to help Ukraine rebuild-and if Western leaders are determined to treat Russia as a permanent pariah-then the future for both countries will be one of misery, political instability, and revanchism."
It, however, would be too naïve to think that there is any fundamental contradiction between Russian and western systems of capitalism. In an interview with 'Novaya Gazeta Europe,' French economist Thomas Piketty said, "Putin's kleptocratic regime is a product of Russia and the West." To another question, he said, "Democracies and autocracies today have a lot more in common than they admit. There are very important differences, of course, but one crucial common point is that we live in an era of extreme inequality and very high protection of wealth owners and very little protection of people who do not have that wealth."
Thus the Russia-Ukraine war reveals that Biden's democracy and Putin's autocracy have met at a single point being complementary to each other. It is the end of the end of history and the beginning of an era of debauchery must also be ended by containing the super wealthy of the world if not in Marx's way, but Piketty's at least. It has to be the end of Fukuyama, and Huntington too.
Alamgir Khan is Editor, Biggan O Sangskriti
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