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War and Peace in the XXI century

manifestacion guerra y paz
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On beginning an analysis that could be useful for peace, we need to clarify what war is today and how it is different from those of the immediate past. The international struggle for peace that prevailed in the post-war period gave special attention to the dangers of nuclear war and conventional warfare between the major powers. In practice, during an extended period, there was a "cold war" between "democracy" and "communism" as well as the numerous and varied movements of national liberation, some directly or indirectly linked to "communist" powers and others to a "Third World" whose maximum expression took place in Bandung.


With the competition between the USSR and the United States to increase nuclear strength of one against the other, in the midst of dramatic ups-and-downs in the discoveries by one or other party, an ideological war was engaged focusing on the persuasions and persecution of communism and anticommunism, with purges on the one hand and witch hunts on the other, that went from exalting the benefits of socialism or democracy to punishing dissidents publicly and criminally. Perhaps what mainly distinguished the Cold War from the present was the struggle between two systems, one capitalist and the other socialist, and their impact both on the struggles of national liberation and on the later restoration of capitalism and its triumph and that of the so-called "free world".


During this period, in the wars to maintain their domination, the former colonial and imperialist powers followed various kinds of policies, on the one hand counterinsurgency, coups d'état, open and covered military intervention and on the other formal and relative decolonization that gave growing importance to the category of "dependency". In all cases they combined policies of co-optation and repression, and the old theory of "the carrot and the stick” considerably broadened their experiences.


Meanwhile, various metropoles of the capitalist world imposed the Social State or "Welfare State" that to a large extent was a formidable weapon, offering a large portion of workers the possibility of obtaining through peace what others tried to get through war. Keynesianism became a great paradigm, supported by famous economists and social democrats and many progressive leaders from the Third World.


The structuring of the "social estate" or "welfare state" was based on policies of increased taxes on capital, allowing them to increase the buying power of the people, while also gaining the support of a large number of workers, who saw in their daily lives how their wages increased in services and rights with Public Health, Public Education and Social Security provided by governments, and with the growing strength of their trade union and electoral organizations.


In the "welfare state", politics constituted a great support for social democracy as a form of peaceful struggle that, between pressure and negotiations, appeared to ensure over time important victories for citizens and workers of the "Free world". This not only in words, but "in practice", was a powerful argument during the Cold War against the "communist" dictatorships.


At the same time, in the global periphery, the major powers combined their policies of "socio-economic democracy" with many other "interventionist" ones or coups, that were applied alternatively or simultaneously, while at the same time they accumulated experience and technical knowledge of strategies, tactics and models of counterinsurgency war that would dominate more and more in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.


The more sophisticated policies of counterinsurgency not only accumulated knowledge directly linked to the combination of social policies and war policies. They also allowed the major urban centres in the West to become aware of growing the importance of a widely-known fact. In the majority of rebel movements, a large part of their leaders, politicians or clientele, once they came to power, came to form a "new bourgeoisie" with diverse tendencies to "collusion" and "corruption". Thus the imperialist powers brought into place a new policy of recolonization and restoration in which they reduced the concessions they had made to social and development policies.


In the former colonial, semi-colonial or formally independent countries, a new structure of local bourgeoisies and oligarchies was set up, with whose influence increased as new contingents were integrated, with members who came from the same rebel groups. This tendency was also seen in the countries of State socialism, although in a less open manner and in the midst of denunciations by revolutionaries themselves and highly serious authors, whose critiques were difficult to prove, given the furious "Cold War" engaged in by the intellectual milieu of the West, and the fact that the critics were identified, in a very successful offensive by the partisans of socialism and communism, as agents and apologists of imperialism. Later on, many people were taken by surprise at the open restoration of capitalism in Russia, China and the immense socialist camp, a phenomenon that took place in the second half of the XX century and became manifest and public with Gorbachev in Russia and with the so-called Cultural Revolution in China. In both cases – with the necessary variants – the major powers applied renewed policies of co-option, collusion and corruption, as well as division and destabilization, clientelism or populism. But unquestionably the responsibility fell on those who, in many cases, forged a new tyranny out of the dictatorship of the proletariat.


The revolutionary process of the nationalist, communist and socialist movements came, at a given moment, to become easy prey to putschist policies – both violent and peaceful – that led to the neocolonialism of "dependency" and to promoting and achieving the restoration of capitalism in the "socialist camp" – with the exception of Cuba and its heroic ability to resist a blockade and siege for over half a century. After a period of progressive logic that, over various decades, pursued policies of "development" against those of revolutionary nationalism and socialism, the new policies of the winning forces, in the metropolis and the peripheries, was the implantation of neoliberal globalisation, headed by the United States and the NATO countries under the leadership of Germany and France, with England as the pivot between North America and Western Europe.


The end of the "social state" also coincided with the end of "developmentalist" policy, to be replaced by neoliberal policy, intensified in the dependent countries by the de-structuring and destruction of the precarious social state that had been achieved, of the extractive companies, industries, trade and services, and of educational institutions, that had achieved great progress not only in promoting literacy but in education at all levels of knowledge, which in the terrain of scientific and humanistic research had allowed them to occupy front-line positions in many areas. Where such developments – in many cases of a superior level – had taken place in countries dominated by state socialism, once these countries restored state capitalism, the main ones continued to promote many of their former achievements, in particular those that were useful to the corporations of national development in Russia, China and the old countries from Eastern Europe that had ceased to be part of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, in the areas of the peripheral and dependent world that were coveted or already controlled by the major metropolitan corporations, the latter became the beneficiaries and new proprietors of the resources and enterprises of interest to them. Meanwhile, the frequent coups d'état, the corruption and increased macro-political repression and co-optation also benefitted the growth of multinational and transnational corporations, both of which engaged in subrogation to small companies in which the workers are exploited without limit, all of which put paid to the various social, economic, cultural and political advancements achieved in various countries during the previous period.


Thus began the period of war and peace in which we are living, which has certain characteristics and tendencies of a general character. The first of these is the result of the behaviour of the new bourgeoisies that arose from the emancipating movements themselves. Being more or less in contradiction with respect to neoliberal globalisation, in most cases it attracted the majority of the old and new oligarchies, and the old "revolutionary" leaders and their descendants.


Thus there was an immense change between the ideal sought for and the phenomenon resulting from original accumulation or seizure, from opportunism and submission – in which many former apparently revolutionary leaders incurred, alongside their hangers-on or successors.  Many of them already increasingly showed contradictory behaviour – repressive, accumulative – and this grew impressively. While many of the governments in recent times showed increasingly contradictory behaviour in the policies of the social and national state, with greater or lesser success in the achievement of levels of sustainable, industrial, cultural, economic and political development (although still very unequal) at the same time their growing dependency on unpayable loans and other irregularities became increasingly evident, leading to growing popular reaction and protests, also from the middle classes and sectors, that in many countries would be put down by military force.


The variations that took place in the long post-war period, before neoliberalism, also outline the fact that in many of these countries ample middle sectors were formed, "middle classes" with educational and cultural levels that their ancestors had lacked. These changes, being structural, became increasingly costly and inaccessible for the national and foreign business sector, since at the same time there was a growing moral and political crisis among many of the populist leaders, of trade unions, peasant unions and political parties, – in Mexico they were called "charros" who were part of a decadent and increasingly contradictory style of government.


A similar process to that of developing countries of "the South of the world" or of "The Third World" was seen in the countries of "State Socialism", led by communist parties. The revolutionary and counterrevolutionary processes, some heroic and others self-destructive, unfurled in Russia, China and the socialist camp, in their metropolitan countries or regions and the peripheries. The obstacles and setbacks that appeared were sometimes due to high levels of development that resented the brakes on their capacities on the part of state socialism headed by the Russians or Chinese, and other times to to their being top-down and to the defenders of the so-called socialist state, in a counterrevolutionary process that led to the open restoration of capitalism and which finally put an end to the USSR and the Peoples’ Republic of China.


In practice, the restoration of capitalism corresponded to the greatest "original accumulation" or dispossession and pillage, in the history of Humanity, opening a new stage in the struggle for peace and in the characteristics of a war that at the world level today is no longer between capitalist and socialist states, or states that with liberation adopted a project for the implantation of true socialism.


The tragedy not only encompassed the major powers of the East that had undertaken the route to socialism, but also the countries and peoples of the South and of the immense and growing periphery. The victory of corporate capitalism in the whole world, from Russia to China and from Vietnam to Yugoslavia, with the rare and significant exception of Cuba, radically changes both the meaning of the war and that of the struggle for peace.


In fact, since before the open fall, the US intelligence services had achieved, among other agreements, one with China that is related to the new characteristics of the "Long War" to which Pentagon policy refers today. The meetings between Kissinger and Mao Tse Tung, towards the end of the sixties, are without doubt the origin of the struggles between pro-Soviet communists and the Maoists. In these struggles, provocateurs were implanted with actions that often led to bloodshed. Among other victories of their destabilizing offensives, they achieved the fall of Salvador Allende and the rise of Pinochet, which signified, on the one hand, the last defeat that the world has seen of the peaceful route to socialism and on the other hand, the beginning at a global level of the new war against the Social State (the Welfare State), against revolutionary nationalism and its legacy, and even against developmentalism, formerly promoted by the great Western powers. 


The coup government of Pinochet was in fact the first bloody event of globalizing neoliberalism, of the denationalization and privatization of public goods and services, of financial, economic, cultural and educational property and resources under national, social and communal control, in the peripheral countries. A few years later, Margaret Thatcher, later Baroness of Kestevok, in her role as Prime Minister of the English government – thus proving her so-called "iron hand" – established the beginning of neoliberalism in the metropolitan countries. Globalizing neoliberalism was another war or a set of political and economic measures that began with war and unleashed war.


All the facts confirm that in these times, the new war-peace in which we are living has begun, one distinct from that which took place during the "Cold War" and in which the capitalist countries clearly triumphed. If, in this new war, financial attacks take primacy over military ones, then this is an integral war that has passed to the offensive. Moreover, it has at its disposition the considerable development of complex self-regulating systems, that are oriented to goals, adaptable and creative, intelligent, of the first and second generation, the latter corresponding to awareness of errors committed by the system and that the system must correct to achieve its objectives. It not only has these, but also an – empirically demonstrable – political economy of war that it applies in its decision making, with all the rigor and force of the "military-industrial-political-media complex", which Eisenhower himself, in his last speech as President, considered a threat to democracy, and this with the limitations of his understanding of democracy.



(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)


This is the introduction of a longer article published in Spanish at: http://www.alainet.org/es/articulo/182982


- Pablo González Casanova is former rector of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).