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Here we make Europe, or nothing

Below we publish 10 theses on Europe written by Lanfranco Caminiti, Chicco Galmozzi, Brunello Mantelli. We are publishing it on to stimulate debate and because we believe that the various points expressed can provide useful material for a bottom-up European political action. In our opinion, the 10 theses go in the direction of what we have called European matriotism. The document has already received over two hundred subscriptions and it is possible to subscribe by contacting Lanfranco Caminiti directly on his Facebook profile.

1 – The invasion of Ukraine is the Russian attempt to close militarily under its iron heel the political process that began with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the progressive rapprochement between the East and the West, after the long “caesura” of the second half 20th century. Thus the reconstitution of Europe began, historically divided into multiple areas, never brutally separated into East and West until after 1945-48.

The “solution” to this war will therefore be the political form of Europe: Russian victory would effectively freeze – even if due to an impending threat, perhaps only supposed, which would give rise to (and in part has already produced) “the” national question of several countries along the old Iron Curtain – any hypothesis of a wider and more integrated Europe.

2 – At the moment, any discussion on peace (even expressed as “just”) and diplomatic negotiations is nothing more than the linguistic framework for the concession of territories and the Russian takeover bid on Ukrainian sovereign choices. It would be the implicit recognition of Putin’s reasons, that is, the reasons for the aggression and a threatening “posture” in the future. There is no “counterpart” either military – a strengthening of NATO in Europe and of the national military apparatus -, or economic – an enormous financial flow for the reconstruction of what remains of the destroyed Ukraine – to what would truly become the “political counter-history” of 1989 and its hopes; and the reduction of Europe to a mere geographical expression, with a painful internal fracture and nationalistic recoil. In this way, the idea of Russia capable of crushing any desire for emancipation in Europe is materialized again, a century and a half after the Marxian predictions expressed in the texts of “Marx against Russia”.

3 – The destinies of Europe are at stake in Ukraine. Thus, it is neither accidental nor bizarre that those who have never believed in a process of European construction and re-foundation in the form of an enormous area without wars, where the rights and guarantees of workers and citizens can progressively strengthen; that is, those who have made a nationalist creed of closing borders and “differences” between citizens as their line of propaganda and politics, have taken sides increasingly and openly against Ukraine. Just like those who, on the contrary, claim to be spokesmen for an ecumenical world of the last ones, where there is “much more” that Ukraine. Ukraine is a “pretext”, as it is for Putin. The big target is Europe. A possible Europe. The war waged by Russia against Ukraine has therefore acted as a catalyst for all positions and impulses against a real and possible Europe, working as cement for the “red and brown” front.

4 – The permeability of these “arguments” depends entirely on the frailty of the European Union. An already strong Europe, already a social “feeling”, would not have taken into the slightest consideration all those who since 24 February 2022 have been preaching a peace which is but synonymous with surrender. This was not the case. And the weakness of an argument – entirely ideological and rhetorical but often used by pro-Ukrainians – about the clash between authoritarianism and democracy lies here. On the contrary, what is happening is that Ukraine, previously guilty of having resisted the aggression, has now become doubly guilty for its “counteroffensive that does not break through”. The buzzword now is: “the situation is at a standstill” – and we need to move quickly towards a “just peace”, namely the transfer of territories. This leitmotif is sung by the right and the left, in defiance of any reasonable military consideration, which instead suggests that the Ukrainian counter-offensive should not be measured in kilometers it could reconquer. On the contrary, it should be considered its ability to force Russia to move to a rigid defensive posture (excluding air terrorism); and then in the possible cutting of ties between Crimea and other Russian territories.

Today indifference, annoyance and intolerance are widely prevalent feelings regarding Ukraine: the “Ukrainian question” must be liquidated as soon as possible. They join with an “urgency” of sectors of capital to intervene in the financial flows of reconstruction; and the necessity to resume trade with Russia, since – as another popular phrase has been repeating – “sanctions don’t work”. Removing them will be part of the “just peace”, with the associated revival of methane flows, in spite of the “green” turn.

5 – European governments, starting with Germany, were surprised and taken aback by the invasion: Russian gas was flowing in, everything seemed to flow normally according to the “canons” of that Ostpolitik which had shaped commercial and diplomatic relations for decades with mutual benefit. German Ostpolitik had its more than reasonable reason to exist as long as it faced the USSR, whose ruling group was interested in maintaining the status quo. However, it became a cause of blindness in the face of a Russian Federation whose ruling group, here and now, is animated by both neo-tsarist and neo-Stalinist impulses in a national-orthodox style. The warnings from American agencies about the massing of Russian troops at the borders were ignored because no one wanted and could believe in an invasion – no one was “prepared” for such an event, not even in their brains. Furthermore, Europe had been hit hard by Covid and had laboriously adopted for the first time the decision to pool debts and loosen austerity, now unsustainable. From a political point of view, it was the moment of greatest uncertainty, of navigating unknown waters. If Putin’s initial blitz had been successful, with the breakthrough from the north towards Kiev and the capture of Hostomel airport (Kiev airport), the escape of Zelenskij and the government, the establishment of a regime obedient to Moscow – it is likely that there would have been nothing more than loud protests and a controversial refugee reception plan. Ukraine would have become another Belarus. The European governments were surprised and taken aback by the Ukrainian resistance: the “imponderable factor” of this war. And everything testifies the same as to the American government, whose geopolitical concerns were aimed above all towards China, while the “internal” ones came from the shock and aftermath of the subversion of 6 January 2021 on Capitol Hill; and from the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, left in the hands of the Taliban – a withdrawal which not surprisingly took place about six months before the Russian attack on Ukraine. Six months are the time necessary for the logistical organization of a military offensive plan.

And Volodymyr Zelenskiy turned into the real symbol of resistance to aggression.

6 – It is only after the sudden and improvised resistance of Ukraine that the United States, Great Britain and Europe decided on financial and military support. But immediately declared two things: there would never be one of their boots on the battlefield and no Russian territory would be hit, triggering a spiral of total and nuclear war in an escalation to be avoided at all costs. The most obvious decision was immediate – not to establish a “no fly zone”, like in the Kurdish areas of Iraq at the time, as the Ukrainians requested. But without injoing Moscow not to strike the Ukrainian hinterland. A support which risked immediately “freezing” the conflict in a war of position and attrition. An “unwillingly” support: despite Biden’s first fiery declarations after the horrors of Bucha – Putin the butcher, the need for regime change – the United States has settled for a long-term commitment. Instilling military aid which also requires training time, it relied relatively on the “counteroffensive” that the Ukrainians assured would liberate the invaded territories, and aimed for a global “politicization” and “economization ” of the war, involving the world, starting with the UN, and multiplying sanctions to exhaust and isolate Russia. But it never went beyond empty recommendations. The Americans had not taken into account the global political moment – that is, what we may call “rampant nationalism”.

7- Rampant nationalism, which in Europe is represented by the most aggressive right, has the form of “multilateralism” in the world: Modi’s India is ultra-nationalist, Xi ‘s China is ultra-nationalist, Putin’s Russia is ultra- nationalist – all absolutist and very stable regimes which hardly forecast a change of pace in the short term. Rampant nationalism – Chinese, Russian, Indian pride – sometimes is also expressed in religious form: Hindu, Orthodox or Muslim for others. It is indeed the “glue” of their internal stability. For all of these, Ukraine is a pretext, actually the big target is America. The United States had not taken into account the rampant nationalism in the world – whose political form is anti-Westernism, whose most specific form is anti-Americanism.

8 – But this is not the “showdown” of the oppressed and colonized peoples against the long domination of the American empire. Anti-Westernism is today a back-looking and reactionary sentiment, veering as it is, on the one hand, into religious fundamentalism which takes the form of absolute dominion over bodies and minds; and, on the other, in a mystery of darkness, where intrigue and plots reign. Anti-Westernism today is a banal thought: now it is enough to say two hackneyed slogans against the so-called “single thought” – no one really knows what it means – or against “neoliberalism”, which has the function Satan once had in sermons of country parish priests. So, it already seems to have everything clear: “the West”, in the narrative of fundamentalism and the reactionary right, is too tolerant, too free, too feminized, too equalizing, too secular, too mulatto, too debauched. And voilà. Poor feelings just in their totalizing absolutism. What is transitory (State, government, forms of economy) becomes the “anthropological trait” of a people, and history becomes ethnicity: America is capitalism, the kingdom of Evil. There are no conflicts, no struggles, no social movements, no political differences: it is “all one thing”. To give a current example, the UAW went on strike simultaneously hitting Ford, General Motors, and even Stellantis (i.e. FIAT); the intellectual workers of the “gig economy” organized themselves into “guilds”, i.e. in one of the ancient forms of workers’ organization and are fighting against the big entertainment companies: no matter, the “campists” really don’t care. America is the “great Satan”, as the wicked soul of Ruollah Khomeini liked to say. Conversely, everything that is not America or is against America has the traits of “good”: maybe they are cutthroats, but they are “our” cutthroats. That’s choosing of battlefield, of camp, campism, and there’s no way to escape it.

9 – The situation on the field is complex: falling back on a strictly defensive strategy, the Russians have mined everything, perhaps aiming not so much to slow down the Ukrainian counteroffensive as to mutilate its army: it is the “human factor” in a war that could take back to Verdun. Some people calculate the exhaustion of the Ukrainians’ “human reserves” in months; while the Russians, from the point of view of quantities, can count on almost unlimited numbers, even if conscripts are not the decisive card in a war in which technology plays a crucial role. The Chinese had to learn it at their expense when they attacked Viet Nam in 1979 and were defeated. And someone else even put the “deadline” on the Ukrainian counter-offensive: by December – then, the winter and the mud would still slow down any possible advance. Even if, as already specified, Ukraine’s success should not be measured in kilometers but in the ability to wear down Russian elite forces and reach the Sea of Azov. We are not military experts and we are not on the ground: here we are raising the political question of the war in Ukraine, starting from its enormity – because the war in Ukraine is an enormous fact of history. All the political and intellectual paraphernalia of the twentieth century has suddenly become obsolete, visibly obsolete in the face of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. The only one who seems to be aware of it and devotes himself to “historical reasoning” is Putin. But, curiously, his speeches on the Great Mother Russia, on the errors of Bolshevism, on the rot of Western democracies and on the continuity of the tsarist empire are here regarded as redundancies. Really, that “package” of considerations which, biting the bullet of Ukraine, thinks of meeting Putin’s will as realism – Realpolitik – is nothing more than “magical thinking”: it means relying on the “magic of peace”, (in the secular version; in the religious version: on the “religion of peace”), hoping that it could work. Needless to say, this “peace”, including that desired by the Vatican, is very reminiscent of the “peace of cemeteries” of Tacitian memory.

10 – And the political issue the Ukrainian war raises is Europe. A Europe today weak, fragile, indecisive, often backward and therefore far from even its own founding assumptions. Only the growth of new social justice movements can take charge of the construction of a European space. This is the “political challenge” the war in Ukraine poses – and for this reason from the beginning we have been standing by those representatives, movements, youth, women, trade unions, socialists, libertarians, radicals who, often even against their own principles, went to the front line or to the rear – it doesn’t matter – to defend themselves from Russian aggression. This is the political and militant option, the “third way” between war and peace. Transforming war into the founding act of the European Federation.

Lanfranco Caminiti, Chicco Galmozzi, Brunello Mantelli.

October 1, 2023.