The real end of history is the end of war
The End of History
“What we are witnessing, is not just the end of the cold war, or a passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”
Francis Fukuyama, 1989
They lied to us. It’s not a surprise. They’ve done it before, they are doing it at the moment, and in the future they will do it again. It’s nothing new. They lied to us though. An obscure American academic proclaimed the ‘End of History’, and became the spokesperson for the New World order. ‘Conflict was over’ it was proclaimed. We were told that it was an ‘end to war, and the horrors of the old world’. McDonald’s told us that two countries where they were selling burgers had never gone to war with each other. The ideologues shouted about a ‘new era of western prosperity’. It was supposed to be ‘an end to poverty’. It was all another lie.
By the time that the ink had barely dried on Francis Fukuyama’s propaganda essay, the world had been plunged back into war. In 1991, America launched the first of its ongoing ‘wars of terror’ against Iraq, and the ‘Muslim world’. Meanwhile the breakdown of Yugoslav brought war back to Europe for the first time since 1945. It continued for nearly eleven years. There was to be no ‘universal peace’. It was a lie.
‘Universal prosperity’ was another lie. Capitalist reconstruction in Eastern Europe impoverished millions. Across Eastern Europe workers paid the cost for this restructuring whilst the rich in the west made millions. In Russia it was absolutely catastrophic. Life expectancy dropped by six years. Millions became unemployed, as ‘prosperity’ was achieved.
And today, more than three decades after the so-called ‘End of History’, more than thirty years into ‘Peace and Prosperity’ war has returned to Europe. A few hundred kilometres across the sea, workers massacre each other for the profits of the rich. Share prices of armaments companies soar as hospitals are bombed, and children are murdered. The billionaires that we call oligarchs in Russia, and the oligarchs that we call billionaires in the west feast on the blood of ordinary working people from Russia and Ukraine like vampires.
And at home, we have ‘prosperity’. Inflation is reaching levels not seen since the chaos of restructuring. Prices are soaring, and – as the war deepens the inflationary spiral – they will only get higher and higher. Already more workers from Bulgaria work abroad than in this country. The economy is so bad that people can’t even make a living at home. Unemployment is exported, but of course it isn’t a real solution to the problem, just another method of exploitation. We live in a system which constantly forces people to leave their homes whether to escape poverty, political repression or war. Now millions of refugees are fleeing war in Ukraine, most of them ending up in Poland, but still tens of thousands coming to Bulgaria. Of course they are only free from the immediate horrors of war. Now they are free to enjoy our ‘prosperity’. Many of them will do so by being used in the most exploitative jobs in the coast’s tourist industry. Even amongst refugees, and migrant workers there seems to be a hierarchy of exploitation. The Ukrainian refugees are tolerated now, but it’s still extremely difficult for Syrian refugees to enter Europe.
They lied to us. It was all a lie.
Socialists and War
“Friedrich Engels once said: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” What does “regression into barbarism” mean to our lofty European civilization? Until now, we have all probably read and repeated these words thoughtlessly, without suspecting their fearsome seriousness. A look around us at this moment shows what the regression of bourgeois society into barbarism means. This world war is a regression into barbarism. The triumph of imperialism leads to the annihilation of civilisation”.
Rosa Luxemborg, 1914
Over 100 years later, some of Luxembourg’s words resonate loudly today. Others seem strange as if they came from another time. Anyone who pays attention to international news knows that we have barbarism today. What’s shocking for people at the moment isn’t that this is some shocking unknown horror that has never been seen. It happens all the time in far away lands. The Syrian war is entering its eleventh year now. More than half of the Syrian population has been forced to flee their homes, and half of those are refugees outside Syria. What is shocking now is not that this barbarism exists in the world, but that it’s returned to Europe, or as the American media would have us believe ‘nearly Europe’. “You know, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European city”, said CBS news. It’s not on their doorstep, and the contempt is clear.
For Europeans though, massacres, war crimes, and atrocities are no longer just the domain of far off countries. For us here they are now happening just a few hundred kilometres away. The part where Rosa Luxemborg wrote of barbarism speaks clearly today.
The horror has returned to Europe. After the First World War (the ‘war to end all wars’ people were told at the time), after the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust, after the Yugoslav wars finished the end of the ‘end of history’, barbarism shows its ugly face once again in Europe.
It’s the part of what she wrote about there being an alternative that seems strange to us these days. Today nobody imagines that there is any alternative to this system. Despite the fact that many people recognise that the world order is fundamentally unjust, and leads to war, exploitation, and poverty, people don’t believe that there is a way out of it. Capitalism seems eternal. There seems to be no escape from the horror.
In the build up to the First World War people did conceive of an alternative system. Everyone knew that war was coming, and the mass workers’ parties of Europe pledged to stop the war by unleashing a massive general strike in all belligerent nations and refusing to fight. It seemed very simple. However, when war broke out, those very same workers’ parties forgot completely about international solidarity against the war and rushed to support their own states’ war effort, and then the slaughter began.
However, small groups of socialists refused to support the war, and began to organise against it. Despite attempts to prevent it, in September 1915 groups against the war managed to organise a conference in neutral Switzerland. Delegates from Italy, France, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, and Russia attended while delegates from other countries were prevented from attending by their governments. The conference denounced the imperialist causes of the war and pledged to fight against it.
The war though dragged on and on. Even today nobody knows how many people died, historians still debate it intensely. It’s generally agreed though that somewhere between 15,000,000 and 22,000,000 people were murdered. After the jingoistic claims that it would ‘all be over by Christmas’ in the first weeks of the war, it seemed to continue endlessly. Eventually though it was stopped.
What stopped the war was the working class with some of the very same people who had been at the Zimmerwald meeting playing a leading role. First workers and soldiers overthrew the Tsar’s government in Russia and a provisional government was put in place which continued the war until October. Workers, peasants, and soldiers were tired of the war though. In October 1917 the provisional government’s turn to be overthrown came. The new Bolshevik government was committed to ending the war.
Meanwhile in the west, the Entente armies were falling apart and Germany was on the edge of revolt. While huge sections of the French and British army were mutinying, the Entente was able to fill the gaps with fresh American troops, who had just joined the war. The Germans had no new allies. For them the end was nigh. A revolt of sailors on 3rd November was what brought about the end of the war. The German navy planned to send them all out to die in one final battle, but the sailors had had enough. They refused their orders, revolted, and started to spread the movement across Germany. On the 9th of November the Kaiser abdicated, and on the 11th of November the armistice was signed. After four years, workers had stopped the war.
The Pro-War Movement
“WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”
George Orwell, 1984, 8th June 1949
In his famous novel ‘1984’, Orwell explains the slogans of the ruling party. The first of them ‘WAR IS PEACE’ seems very appropriate for the situation today. The cities of Europe and North America are full of ‘Peace Demonstrations’. When you look slightly more closely at these demonstrations though, you see that ‘Peace’ is the last thing that they are asking for. What they are calling for, along with the yellow and blue national flags, and the ‘Peace Now’ slogans are three main demands; Economic sanctions against Russia, more military support for Ukraine, and a no fly zone.
Obviously more military support and pouring more weapons into Ukraine isn’t in the interests of peace. It’s about supporting one side in the war. What do sanctions mean though? Sanctions are supposed to put non-violent pressure on a state to comply with the wishes of the ‘international community’. It sounds reasonable. Unfortunately, they lied to us again. Sanctions are actually a terror weapon. A British Medical Association report in 1995 said that half a million Iraqi children had been killed by sanctions, and that many more children suffered from malnutrition. With eight more years of sanctions, throughout the whole period of sanctions some people estimate that up to one and a half million people were killed. The sanctions that the ‘Peace Demonstrations’ are calling for are actually terror weapons. As well as their effects on Russia itself, the war and the disruption of grain production will cause increasing prices and huge hardship for the world’s poorest. Incidentally, sanctions completely failed to remove Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, and the Americans had to invade Iraqi again to get rid of him, at the cost of more lives.
Like sanctions, a no fly zone sounds, at first, like a good idea too. The Russia airforce has complete superiority over Ukraine, and is committing atrocities against civilians. The horrific hospital bombing was just the most reported of these. What could be wrong with a ‘no fly zone’ to stop this terror continuing? The reality though is that you can not just tell the Russian Air Force to stop bombing people. ‘No fly zones’ have to be enforced. A ‘no fly zone’ means America and its allies flying combat missions against Russian planes. Russia will obviously respond. It means a widening of the war to a European war. It’s not a call for peace at all. It’s a call for more countries to join the war.
Those marching for peace in the west are calling for child murdering sanctions, military support to keep the war going, and an extension of the war, all of this in the name of ‘peace’. The ‘anti-war’ movement is actually a pro-war movement. If you are in any doubt of this just look at the sea of yellow and blue flags at all of these demonstrations. They are certainly not neutral.
Of course those calling for this Orwellian ‘peace’ are not all crazy, hawkish, warmongers. Many of them seriously believe that what they are doing is in the best interests of peace. They’ve been lied to again.
The lie this time is that what this war is about is about ‘freedom’ for a small nation. Of course, nobody wants small countries to be invaded and taken over by larger ones. In this narrative, the western powers are benign disinterested actors, supporting the freedom of a small country being attacked by imperialists. It’s another lie.
No to National Defence
“For us it was clear that, as far as the conflict between Serbia and Austria-Hungary was concerned, our country was obviously in a defensive position. Serbia is defending its life and its independence, which Austria was constantly threatening even before the Sarajevo assassination. And if Social Democracy had a legitimate right to vote for war anywhere, then certainly that was the case in Serbia above all. However, for us, the decisive fact was that the war between Serbia and Austria was only a small part of a totality, merely the prologue to universal, European war, and this latter — we were profoundly convinced of this- — could not fail to have a clearly pronounced imperialist character. As a result, we — being a part of the great socialist, proletarian International — considered that it was our bounden duty to oppose the war resolutely.”
Dušan Popović, 1915
To return briefly to 1914, the war started when Serbia was attacked by a the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was a clear case of a small country being attacked by a much larger one, just as we have today, yet Serbian socialists didn’t call for defence of the nation. They came out against the war. To understand why we should oppose calls to defend Ukraine today, we must understand why they did this.
The most clear minded socialists in the early years of the last century had understood that the world was dominated by a new reality. This was imperialism. They theorised that this was a new stage that capitalism had entered. There were no new colonies left for the European powers left to gobble up, so the major powers were forced, by the demands to increase profits, into direct conflict. This causes the formation of power blocs. Within this system in becomes difficult if not impossible for small nations to be genuinely independent. Bulgaria is a prime example. Over the last hundred years or so of the imperialist epoch, Bulgaria has been part of three blocs. First it was a member of the German bloc during the two world wars. Then it was a member of the Russian bloc during the Cold War, whereas today it is a member of the American bloc. This transfer between blocs is not decided upon by the ‘democratic will of the people’. It is determined by victory in war. First after Russia’s victory in the Second World War, Bulgaria was transferred to the Soviet bloc. Then following the west’s victory in the Cold War, it was incorporated into the American bloc.
For all of modern capitalism’s facade of being a civilised system, it really is one based upon terror and war. History shows us it’s full horror. For all that world leaders talk of peace they manage a system in which war is endemic. It is capitalism and its need for profit that produces war, and has throughout its history. It is the need to maintain profits that drives countries to war.
The war in Ukraine must be seen in this context. This War is not the act of some ‘irrational actor’. Putin did not start this war because he is ‘crazy’. This war is part of a long struggle that has been played out between America and Russia since 1945. It seemed that after 1989 Russia had been historically defeated in this struggle. Certainly it suffered a huge defeat. The Warsaw Pact and even the Soviet Union itself was broken up. NATO and the EU expanded rapidly to incorporate many of the newly ‘independent’ states. Now with American role as the single world power diminishing, Russia has seen its chance to reassert its power over Ukraine. It’s not some act of a single ‘madman’. It’s an expression of the interests of Russian capitalism. This is how imperialism works.
So in the midst of this struggle between two imperialist giants, Ukrainian workers are being asked to defend ‘their’ country. The great powers, as ever, are not clashing directly. This struggle as ever is being carried out by a series of small wars, either between proxies or involving one of the major powers directly intervening in a country. We’ve seen all this before, in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and a host of proxy wars across the ‘third world’.
Workers in Ukraine are being rallied to this slaughter with all sorts of propaganda. Many of the slogans sound ‘left’. Both sides rally behind slogans of ‘anti-imperialism. However, this is just a cynical ploy to rally workers to die on behalf of one imperialism against the other. ‘Anti-fascism’ has become the rallying call of the warmongers on both sides. The Americans accuse Putin of being ‘worse than Hitler’, and the Russians accuse the Ukrainians of being Nazis.
Then we have patriotism. In times of war, nation states always rely on patriotism. Russia is using it today, just as it did during the ‘Great Patriotic War’. Ukraine is using it too calling on workers to defend the nation and freedom. In reality this is a slogan of the rich. It is the rich who own the country. It is the rich who reap the products of workers’ labour, and it is the rich who stand to lose these things when their country is taken over by another. If Ukraine manages to survive this war intact, the rich will continue to make money, and hundreds of thousands of workers will have lost their lives. If Russia wins some victory, and takes over part of Ukraine hundreds of thousands will still be dead, and workers will still go to work to make other bosses rich, perhaps a little more exploitative, but a victorious Ukraine would call for workers to make sacrifices for the nation too. Is it really worth dying for?
And as for freedom, well, war always shows how illusory these freedoms are. In Ukraine today, adult males are forbidden from leaving the country. Eleven political parties have been banned, including one major parliamentary party. People deemed insufficiently patriotic have been tortured and murdered. This is the ‘freedom’ that is being defended. We ask again whether it is really worth dying for. We say clearly that workers have no interest in defending the nation. As the Serbian socialists said in 1914, this is a clash between rival imperialists. Workers have no interest in dying for either.
A Real Anti-War Movement
“The main enemy of every people is in their own country!”
Karl Liebknecht, May 1915
Today, in the midst of patriotic fervour on the early days of war, hardly anybody takes a stand opposing the war. Most Europeans while genuinely desiring peace are parroting the propaganda of their ‘own’ states. States that would show no hesitation in sacrificing their lives should it become ‘necessary’, and will show no hesitation in urging workers to make financial sacrifices for the nation and the economy.
Opposed to these patriots there are those who seemingly reject their ‘own’ states’ calls for sacrifice, and urge workers to support Russia. Though relatively few internationally, in this country these people find some resonance for their ideas. We have seen them waving Russian flags on demonstrations and on public holidays. These people see through the propaganda of the western alliance. They see the hypocrisy of an America which condemns Russian terror in Ukraine, but ignores the terror of its own allies in Palestine and Yemen daily. In this country, they also appeal to long ties with Russia and cultural affinity. These people refuse to accept the lies of their own imperialist bloc. Yet this is the anti-imperialism of fools. While correctly identifying the dangers of western imperialism, it ignores Russian imperialism. At best these people are fools. In practice they are apologists for slaughter.
Political groups that hold clear positions against the war are few and far between today. Those that there are tiny. This isn’t surprising. In 1914, those who rejected the war were small groups too. They weren’t deterred by this. They slowly and patiently went about their work. Today’s groups are even smaller, but the work is no less important. The task of building a real anti-war movement must begin now. In Bulgaria this working is beginning. Anti-war meetings are being held in the capital by LevFem and Diversia. In Varna, members of the Konflict group are arguing against the war, and distributing information in Ukrainian and Russia aimed at advising refugees who the tourist industry bosses want to exploit, and the Anarchist Communist Federation is organising a meeting in Mayday to coordinate opposition to the war. Looked at compared to all the pro-war fervour these are tiny initiatives, but they are a start. In other countries people are working on similar initiatives. While here we must work to build anti-war activity, to help refugees from the war, and to refuse to pay the economic price of the slaughter, the main activity against the war is taking place in Ukraine and Russia.
We’ve all seen images on our TV screens of brave Russian citizens demonstrating and opposing the war. From the mass demonstrations on the streets of Moscow, Petersburg, and nearly all Russian cities, it’s clear that there is already a large number of people in Russia who reject this horror. Of course today they are a minority. Most Russians still support the state. However, in the early days of the First World War there were virtually no expressions of mass discontent. Nor is this opposition limited to civilians alone. There are many reported instances of Russian soldiers refusing to fight, or surrendering en mass, and these are only the ones we hear reported. All of these things are positive developments that we except to see more of as the war drags on.
In Ukraine, we haven’t seen this mass opposition to the war. What we have seen though is a mass outflow of refugees that is increasing daily. According to UNHCR, there are now more than five million Ukrainians who have fled the country, and many more displaced internally. Whatever these people might think about the war, the fact remains that objectively they are refusing to sacrifice themselves to the war machine. They too, by their practice, are saying no to the war. Again as the war goes on we expect to see more and more refuse to make sacrifices.
What Sort of New World Order?
“What is at stake is more than one small country, it is a big idea — a new world order where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind: peace and security, freedom and the rule of law. Such is a world worthy of our struggle, and worthy of our children’s future.”
George Bush, January 28th, 1991
Back in 1991, when they were talking of the ‘End of History’, George Bush talked of a ‘New World Order’. It was something that was seen as a better world for our children. We know how their ‘New World Order’ played out.
It was the ‘New World Order’ of ‘The End of History’. It brought terror and war to the world’s children. Bush was speaking before his war of terror brought devastation to Iraq. Later after their peaceful sanctions had murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, his son would take American terror back to Iraq in a second war. In Europe we saw war genocide, and massacres in Yugoslavia, right on our doorstep. We were told that war in Europe could never happen again, but it did. They lied to us.
We saw America lash out in anger after the massacre at the Twin Towers in New York. The ‘Muslim world’ felt it’s anger in its ‘War of Terror’. In Afghanistan where they suffered years of American occupation, there is today a theocratic religious regime, where girls can’t go to school. In Libya where NATO intervened to get rid of some ‘Hitler like’ dictator, we saw a decade of civil war, and the return of slave markets to the twenty first century. In Syria, the war grinds on into its second decade. They’ve seen the results of both American, and Russian state terror there. It’s now a country in ruins. The Russians, of course have committed atrocities in other countries. These war crimes aren’t limited to America. Grozny was destroyed. Russia murdered up to one hundred thousand civilians in its atrocities in Chechnya. More recently, Russian troops went into Kazakhstan to put down protests their with complete brutality.
In the economic sphere we have seen crash after crisis after crash after crisis. Every time workers have been told to tighten their belts. It’s always the working class whom sacrifices are demanded of. From the reconstruction of Eastern Europe to today’s crisis of run away inflation. It’s has been workers and the poor who have suffered. There was no ‘prosperity’. They lied to us again.
And now war has returned to Europe once more in Ukraine. Is this the ‘world worthy of our children’s future’ that we were promised. We think not. They lied to us again.
So after all of these lies, after all of this deceit , after all of these massacres, after all of this horror, we have to ask what future is on offer to our children. The current state of the world gives no indication of a positive one. This is what Rosa Luxemborg described. This is barbarism.
Peace talks are currently taking place in Turkey. We expect no results. The war will almost certainly continue. There is no end in sight, no peaceful solution. The war will drag on. Massacres will continue. Refugees will still continue to flood out of Ukraine. This is their ‘New World Order’.
When we look at the situation, we can’t see any basis on which a peace can be constructed. America is a world power in decline. It can’t afford to give up on this war. If it can’t protect this ‘friend’ how can other ‘friends’ trust it to protect them? Already we have seen cracks in the American alliance. Outside of America, and Canada Europe, Japan, and Australasia, there is virtually nobody who supports their sanctions, and their war. Countries within their bloc are wavering. The world isn’t persuaded to go along with America’s terror sanctions. Even NATO members, such as Turkey, are refusing to back the bloc leader. America can not compromise. It must protect its ‘friend’. Biden talks of how Putin must go. There is no compromise here.
And when we look at Russia, we can’t see any possibility of compromise either. Russia views this as an existential struggle. For them to back down now would be, in the eyes of the Russian state, an invitation for the Americans to pick their country apart. In a situation where neither side sees a mutually agreed peace as possible, war will continue.
Analysts seem to express surprise at how long the war has gone on already. We don’t see this as a surprise. Rather on the contrary, we expect the war to go on and on. It’s in no way an exaggeration to say that the horror could continue for years. Of course both sides will try to impose a solution, but we can imagine that some sort of conflict in Ukraine will drag on for a very long time. This is the new reality. This is their ‘New World Order’.
For those of us who imagine a different world, one truly worthy of our children, there is a long struggle ahead. To present a vision of a different society seems very strange today. Nevertheless, that is what we do. As the war drags on, discontent with the state of things will grow. More and more will be drawn into protests in Russia, in Ukraine, as our friends in Yugoslavia reminded us, talk in bomb shelters is rarely supportive of governments that put you there, and in the rest of the world, the actions of the minuscule groups who are today working against war will grow, and increase in importance. This is our task today. To undertake the small, seemingly insignificant actions that are the first step in building a world ‘worthy of our children’s future’.