The internal polarization in Ukraine between pro-European nationalism and Russian nationalism, which has lasted and grown for years, does not explain the political point of the contemporary conflict. It does not explain why this conflict will go down in history for having sanctioned the end of bipolarism and the formalization of multipolarity.
The solidarity of neighbouring countries such as Poland, the Baltic countries, Romania, Moldova expresses this. The dominant narrative and also operational belief in the political subjectification of these peoples is the defence of civil rights and the desire for democracy against Putin’s autocratic and homophobic despotism. And this creates an internationalist axis between the movements of solidarity and mutual aid towards the Ukrainian resistance and activists who are filling the streets and suffering unprecedented repression in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Oppressed peoples in Ukraine are dying in the name of an idea of democracy that is unable to defend them, which is no longer able to prevent the threat of the atomic bomb on its own with its own economic and diplomatic power.
I think this is the most significant fact: there is a bloc that has sharpened the weapon of repression and authoritarianism and white supremacist populism that is no longer afraid to assert itself and which questions democratic principles and a culture based on civil rights.
And I say this because I am not listening to the old communists of the European left, but to the young antifa, anarchist and communard activists who are in Ukraine, Poland, Romania, the Baltic countries, Turkey and Russia
This advance, including military, by the Putin regime in Ukraine, is a sign of the crisis in the West. The West is in geopolitical decomposition. NATO is in geostrategic retreat. I would start from this consideration to understand what is happening.
In fact, Europe is proving defensive and powerless in the face of Putin’s criminal actions. It is watching the massacre in Ukraine helplessly, expressing its opposition with sanctions, but without sitting at the negotiating tables because de facto is not legitimated by Putin.
Europe is immobilized, rightly non-interventionist and pacifist for the terror of opening an atomic conflict. Terror that Putin does not have. Those who think that this crisis is being won by a more politically united and energetically autonomous Europe, strengthened by sanctions and its untainted morality, are wrong. Europe is uniting in this crisis, internal ties are strengthening, but it is not expressing strength, but hypocrisy as usual.
Europe feels more united as people who are terrified and embraced in a bunker under the bombs feel more united … It is a cohesion dictated by fear not by a vision. NATO is defenseless from a diplomatic point of view, because it knows that it has lost the authority to mediate and or oversees global geopolitics without fighting. This is another fact: Europe and the United States have lost the role of arbiter of the world balance.
It is no longer enough to send a few Marines undercover as they have successfully done in half of South America. If they want to sit at the table, they must show that they have the courage to fight with the atomic bomb. For this they do cannot sit at the diplomatic table and they have also lost the right to speak. Only China perhaps could play this role.
For this reason, I believe that the opposition, by the nostalgia for the cold war, between NATO and Russia, neither with NATO nor with Putin… is, after all, right, but out of focus.
The truth is that after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union, Russia turned into a fake liberticidal, authoritarian and homophobic democracy and that the enlargement to the east of Europe came first of all for a sincere desire of the people to have civil rights and democratic governments. Soft power and Western interference to make this happen have occurred but they have been in the background and within a geopolitical framework in which NATO has lost ground everywhere.
With this I don’t want to defend NATO, of course. Indeed, we have almost always harshly criticized it, just think of Bush’s wars to export democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. But let us also realize that these wars have been a failure. And I believe they have failed militarily because they were already the latest rushed gestures within a West that have been losing and declining in the global political scenario for several decades. Putin is advancing, because he knows that China is advancing, the Arab world is advancing and because he knows that the West is in a terminal crisis, with respect to its position.
We should be happy that NATO is weak and that this West is decomposing because we have never liked NATO and this kind of West. But we should be equally angry that Putin is a dictator who kills intellectuals and homosexuals and massacres people in Syria, Chechnya and Ukraine.
However, if this is the case, we should also be very aware that there is a void and a very substantial disaster to be filled. There is no need to attack NATO or to rehabilitate NATO … Salvini, Trump, Bannon and Brexit are already thinking about it … there is a need and the urgency to have very quick ideas on what comes next and instead of NATO and of this West.
Because if these ideas do not come to us quickly and we waste time barking against NATO, there is an increasing risk that in the meantime Putin or some nationalist in his place will also take away those few civil rights and democratic principles that we still have the privilege to have.
On closer inspection, the only alternative projects that grew up in the folds of globalization and the crisis of the West as an empire, were the EZLN and Kurdish confederalism. They are the only experiments with which an attempt has been made to create counter-hegemony, including military ones, from an indigenous (non-Western) perspective and at the same time further develop the culture of civil rights, feminism, interdependence between humans and the environment and direct democracy.
There is a need as soon as possible for a European political project that asserts itself on the same level: as a democratic space, of civil rights but which is also capable of being very radical on ecology, universal income and post-colonialism.
If Europe is not radically green and radically open in its migration policies, it will not be able to defend democratic and civil rights, and it will be politically wiped out by nationalism. I use the word radical deliberately because I suffer from the opposition that has arisen in recent years between civil rights and social rights. I think this opposition is false and a product of liberal washing.
If we take anti-patriarchy, ecology and decolonization seriously, in a radical way, we soon come to talk about universal basic income, school, health, minimum wage, right to housing and the cost of the gas bill.
European party representation is clearly lagging in grasping this agenda, with the exception of the political class that has grown up in the ranks of Podemos in Spain, in municipalist experiences such as Barcelona en Comun and now Možemo in Zagreb, or part of the ongoing discussion in the European Greens. As I said at the beginning of this speech, the only ones to keep the anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, decolonial and ecological agenda are the social movements.
Those same social movements that are bringing humanitarian aid to refugees first Syrian, Afghan, sub Saharan, and the anarchist and anti-fascist Ukrainians who are shooting at Putin and Russian activists who are getting arrested in the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg. It is this alliance that the media and European parties should listen to and learn from in order to set a vision of Europe in a multipolar world.
Finally, there is a global geopolitical question. I started this article by sanctioning the end of bipolarism and the formalization of multipolarity. I then said that Europe has a future if it manages to re-establish itself on a radically post-colonial and ecological basis.
And I have said that if we do not want to succumb to Russian nationalist threats we must give an alternative vision of what will take the place from the void left by NATO. To do this, we need to look at Africa and South America in a completely new way. Starting with what is happening in Chile and the alliance between indigenous perspective, social justice, and ecology of the new President Boric, the post-Bolsonaro future of Brazil, and the enormous energy that the new generation of Africans is creating.
Emanuele Braga, March 2022
This post is open to comments for those who wish to contribute or articulate on the topic
2 thoughts on “MILITANT MUTUALISM AND THE EXIT OF EMPIRE by Emanuele Braga”
yes Brian. u are right.
but in order to do that, i feel that in this moment is very important to work for solidarity and mutual listening in between activist on the international level… starting form the Ukrainians and Russians and est european countries… I feel a risk to fase a post-war scenario in which prevails fragmentations, identities , or nationalisms.
on the other side what about the US movement? i didn’t see any no-war and pro-Ukraine big square… and i think would be very useful in this moment in order to rise up a discussion that goes beyond conterposition logic.
This is a great text Emanuele, I totally agree. The outstanding question is how the molecular movements connect with, overcome and transform the structural institutions. Chile points the way. How to extend that kind of constitutional process to the centers of Western power? The least you can say about the Chileans is that they took their government seriously… Seriously enough to change it.