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For the other articles see > SPECIAL ARCHIVE UKRAINE

Begin­ning a col­umn on what is going on in the East, speak­ing about Ukraine after see­ing and hear­ing on a flat screen a Russ­ian auto­crat whose men­tal health one can’t gauge exact­ly announc­ing he was putting on alert his nuclear dis­sua­sion forces, appears like an end­less task.

And yet, life goes on, the images stream by, activists car­ry on with an elec­toral cam­paign, sanc­tions rain down and in some areas of Ukraine, it’s snowing.

For over a week now many oth­ers like myself have had their eyes glued to the threat in the East either through social net­works, through var­i­ous media, or by tak­ing to the streets. The recent switch over from the pan­dem­ic to racist dis­cours­es in the cam­paign had already been swift and jar­ring. The awak­en­ing of mem­o­ries of bor­der wars on the Euro­pean con­ti­nent, in Ukraine, is just as brutal.

Bor­ders again act­ing as reveal­ers of the ques­tions finan­cial cap­i­tal­ism pushed aside in the ear­ly 90s, when the Wall fell, in order to prof­it from the exten­sion of glob­al­iza­tion and finan­cia­riza­tion on the Euro­pean con­ti­nent. Quick, quick, exploita­tion of labor cost dif­fer­en­tials, quick the con­quest of mar­kets that were pre­vi­ous­ly frozen. The Euro­pean Union’s agen­da, then dom­i­nat­ed by “social demo­c­ra­t­ic” polit­i­cal forces turned toward cur­ren­cy and com­merce. That of those coun­tries held bound by the iron rule of Stal­in and his descen­dants, where mis­treat­ed peo­ples could only salve the wounds of their recent his­to­ry seared by nazism and the holo­caust while nation­alisms were reborn and appetites grew.

I am among those who, in the 90s, con­sid­ered the explo­sion of ex-Yugoslavia as alert­ing to the will of peo­ples to dis­pose of them­selves in the face of nation-States, not in order to cre­ate new ones, but as areas in which to rede­fine com­mon liv­ing spaces in Europe, respect­ing the long and com­plex his­to­ry of each of these peo­ple. But what the Euro­pean Union was then offer­ing, dis­guised under a pseu­do fed­er­al project in need of fur­ther exam­i­na­tion,  was an exten­sion of a huge mar­ket and the imple­men­ta­tion of its cur­ren­cy as an inde­pen­dent bank. The peo­ples of ex-Yugoslavia paid the cost for this.

An armed con­flict between Croa­t­ian and Ser­bian nation­alisms who then became allies against a Bosnia in which mix­i­ty had begun forg­ing the notion of a pos­si­ble future coex­is­tence,  could only be under­stood as favor­ing divi­sion against the exten­sion of the Mar­ket. The very his­to­ry of Bosnia, once part of the ex-Ottoman empire, also intro­duced a dimen­sion that was soon pre­sent­ed as being of a reli­gious nature. I do not intend to replay here the his­to­ry and analy­sis of that war.

I would sim­ply like to under­line the fact that the shad­ow of   Rus­sia, then in the chaos of de-stal­in­iza­tion, already loomed over the region. The con­clu­sion is known, as in all wars, the pow­er­ful had the final word. And Bosnia was carved out on qua­si-eth­nic lines, under the inter­na­tion­al tutor­ship of a rolling pres­i­den­cy, sup­posed to give an insti­tu­tion­al form to the fed­er­a­tion of Bosnia-Herz­gov­ina. If you are curi­ous, find out about what is going on over there at this very moment, and the way in which Ser­bian nation­al­ists are propos­ing to secede once again, against what can only be called a rein­force­ment of a “Mus­lim nation­al­ism” pro­pelled by the agree­ments in lieu of a Bosn­ian solu­tion. In short, that war was resolved as were the ones in for­mer empires, accord­ing to the rules and func­tions ascribed to con­quered zones. Kosovo’s fate was sub­se­quent­ly sub­ject­ed to spe­cial NATO attention.

At the time, Euro­pean social democ­ra­cy at first first went so far as to frown on the will of a Ger­man reuni­fi­ca­tion, through the voice of a cer­tain François Mit­terand who, no one seems to remem­ber now, was still speak­ing dur­ing the siege of Sara­ja­vo of  “our friends the Serbs” while one Milo­se­vic was busy mas­sacring left, right and center.

Which only goes to show how, the pri­or­i­ty in Europe at the time was in redefin­ing com­mon rules for the post-Cold War peri­od. Dur­ing the past thir­ty years, each peo­ple thus fid­dled with its his­to­ry, at the rhythm of its inte­gra­tion — or not — in the great mar­ket open to all winds.

In the for­mer East­er zone coun­tries, where the pre­vi­ous polit­i­cal lead­ers were removed from posi­tions of respon­si­bil­i­ty, those who had accu­mu­lat­ed wealth and eco­nom­ic con­trols  rose to pow­er, allied with the forces of repres­sion of the for­mer regime, often, this is true, with diverse cir­con­vo­lu­tions tacked on. In short, these are the “oli­garchs” we keep hear­ing about. And if at times, else­where than in Rus­sia, they are point­ed out as “offi­cial mafiosi” or “cor­rupt”, their orig­i­nal cer­tifi­cates are the same, hid­den behind a grotesque mask of democracy.

Bien sûr, com­par­er le pou­voir en Roumanie, par exem­ple, et en Russie, serait hasardeux. Mais com­parez les pro­jets poli­tiques des élites de ces pays serait aisé, et ils se situent tout autant dans le giron cap­i­tal­iste, même si les sys­tèmes de pou­voir vari­ent. Et la fameuse “charte européenne” est de plus en plus sou­vent un chif­fon de papi­er pour cer­tains régimes dits aujour­d’hui “mem­bres de l’U­nion”.

Of course, com­par­ing pow­er in Ruma­nia with that in Rus­sia, for exam­ple, would be a tricky exer­cise. But com­par­ing  the polit­i­cal projects of the elites in these two coun­tries would be easy since, in both cas­es,  it sits square­ly in the cap­i­tal­ist lap, even if the pow­er sys­tems vary. As for the famous “Euro­pean char­ter” more often than not, it is treat­ed as a mere rag by some regimes cur­rent­ly claim­ing to be “mem­bers of the Union”.

In 1973, when the blocks were con­fronting each oth­er in the Cold War, a cer­tain attempt was made to define the rules for peace and secu­ri­ty in Europe. A doc­u­ment then called the “Final Act” of the Con­fer­ence was signed in Helsin­ki. A num­ber of famous oppo­nents in the East used these texts in their strug­gle against the Stal­in­ist stranglehold.

On Novem­ber 21 1990, in the pro­lon­ga­tion of the Helsin­ki agree­ment, and fol­low­ing the tum­bling of the walls, 34 coun­tries signed a char­ter in Paris that began with the fol­low­ing words:

We, the Heads of State or Gov­ern­ment of the States par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Con­fer­ence on Secu­ri­ty and Co-oper­a­tion in Europe, have assem­bled in Paris at a time of pro­found change and his­toric expec­ta­tions. The era of con­fronta­tion and divi­sion of Europe has end­ed. We declare that hence­forth our rela­tions will be found­ed on respect and co-operation.”

There then fol­lows a list cov­er­ing items such as the free cir­cu­la­tion of humans, goods and mer­chan­dise, the devel­op­ment of coop­er­a­tion, human rights and peace, con­flict pre­ven­tion… All of which is to be under the purview of what is hence­forth to be known as the OSCE (Orga­ni­za­tion for Secu­ri­ty and Co-Oper­a­tion in Europe).

All of this forms a coher­ent whole with the Euro­pean Coun­cil, cre­at­ed in 1949, where none of the North Amer­i­can coun­tries are  present how­ev­er, although they are par­ties to the agree­ments in Helsin­ki and in NATO .

How­ev­er, for all the impor­tance of the judi­cial sub­strate this arse­nal of treaties pro­vides (linked to the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights) it does not rede­fine for all that the divers­es spe­cial arrange­ments estab­lished between nation States through­out the chaot­ic his­to­ry of the 20th cen­tu­ry and of its genocides.

The Euro­pean cap­i­tal­ist project that aims at uni­fy­ing a part of the con­ti­nent around its finan­cia­riza­tion and the ben­e­fits deriv­ing from prof­it, one that is total­ly open on glob­al­iza­tion, the divi­sion of labor, the raz­ing resources, is busy form­ing undif­fer­en­ti­at­ed con­sumers and alien­at­ed pro­le­tar­i­ans. One should not be sur­prised when in this mar­ket impe­ri­al­ist long­ings  are nos­tal­gi­cal­ly pro­fessed as they are in Turkey and in Rus­sia. Through the exploita­tion of dif­fer­en­tials in labor costs, and hav­ing pro­duced some mar­kets and con­sumers with an increased pur­chas­ing pow­er, con­flicts re-emerge con­cern­ing ter­ri­to­ries, resources and zones of influ­ence, espe­cial­ly in a con­text where the bat­tle around fos­sile ener­gies, one that has rav­aged the Mid­dle-East, finds itself in a world-wide impasse.

Oh, right, I’m not real­ly talk­ing about NATO, am I?  Is this because I’m keep­ing that dev­il for the end?

That scare­crow is a use­ful one these days, in order to choose one’s impe­ri­al­ist camp or throw one’s adver­sary into it dur­ing a debate. “To be or not to be in it. That is the ques­tion?” I’ll get to left­ist “camp­ism” later.

I remind you that my reflec­tions “while wait­ing for the bomb” con­cern Ukraine, and I’m still far removed from it, espe­cial­ly since my reflec­tion will prob­a­bly also take a turn in the direc­tion of Rojava.

And to save me from a num­ber of side trips around “urban leg­ends”, I rec­om­mend this indis­pens­able arti­cle; it does the job of clear­ing eyes, noses and sinus­es, espe­cial­ly for the Left and left­ist fringe in the beyond, about Putin’s beloved “Ukrain­ian nazis”.

Next arti­cle…

For the other articles see > SPECIAL ARCHIVE UKRAINE

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Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Daniel Fleury
Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…