The War in Ukraine is just a Chapter of the Permanent Imperialist War

Introduction Article of I Quaderni dell’Istituto Onorato Damen Nº 1 (April 2022)

“A new dramatic front of the permanent imperialist war has opened in the heart of Europe. At the dawn of February 24, 2022, the Russian armed forces have unleashed their firepower against Ukraine, bombing the main cities of the country and invading the Ukrainian territory from several fronts with hundreds of thousands of soldiers. A war that in the plans of the Russians probably had to last only a few days, given the disparity of the forces in the field, whose prolongation [however] dangerously risks to widen, dragging the whole of Europe into the vortex of the conflict. This is the future that the capitalist system envisages for us, a future made of wars, generalized misery and increasingly precarious living and working conditions.”

The war in Ukraine represents a real qualitative leap compared to those of the recent past, and the difference is not only to be sought in the fact that it is fought in the heart of the old continent, or in the fact that it sees a dangerously close contact between the two nuclear superpowers, but because of the economic and social context in which it is fought. In recent years capitalism has been going through an epochal crisis, which the pandemic has only aggravated (albeit not generated). A structural crisis whose reasons are to be found in the increasingly strident contradictions of the capitalist system. An immense mass of fictitious capital can no longer be adequately remunerated, thus feeding the tendency to war by the holders of such capital in a paroxysmal way. This is the reason why war has become a permanent factor in the mode of functioning of capitalism, so much so that the current Ukrainian conflict represents only a tragic episode in a much wider and more complex history.

As in every conflict, the propaganda spread by the respective fronts plays a fundamental role also in this one. The exchange of accusations launched by the warring contenders has the same objective, that is, to hide the real reasons for the war, which are all to be found solely and exclusively in the contradictions of capital and its difficulties in feeding its own process of accumulation.

The Russians accuse the Ukrainians of being a tool in the hands of Westerners who in turn want the annihilation of Russia, while the Ukrainians, and the Western front, accuse Russia of having prodigiously attacked a sovereign country. We are at the usual accusations of attacked and aggressor countries. In reality, they are all “attacked” and “aggressors” at the same time, since each of the parties involved aims at increasing the largest possible share of surplus value extorted from the world proletariat as its sole objective.

The narrative that distinguishes between “attacked” and “aggressor” is a miserable expedient to hide all this and to involve its real victims on the war front, that is: the millions of proletarians forced to fight, to die under the bombs or to flee from their homes in order not to end up under a pile of rubble.

In only two months of conflict there are tens of thousands of dead and more than five million Ukrainian refugees. A real catastrophe that has only one responsible: capitalism and its greed for profits.

An asymmetrical proxy war is being fought on the skin of Ukrainian proletarians, in which, on one side, Russia directly deploys its own armed forces on the battlefield, while the United States and the tail of the so-called Western Front supply the Ukrainian army and its thick appendage of mercenaries fighting on their side with weapons. At a first reading, the United States are benefiting the most in geopolitical terms, the power that holds control of the production of fictitious world money (the dollar) more than anyone else. In fact, for American imperialism the war in Ukraine is a real manna from heaven, as they can kill two birds with one stone, and mostly without deploying a single soldier on the field. By transporting an avalanche of weapons into Ukraine, they put a spoke in the wheels of the Russians who thought to settle the game in a short time, while they now have to fight against a well equipped enemy who is ready to die to defend the borders of his country. At the same time, the United States not only fuel the conflict in Europe, but thanks to the system of sanctions, put the economy of the countries of the European Union dependent on Russian raw materials in great difficulty. With the Ukrainian conflict U.S. imperialism, perhaps in an unexpected way, sets itself some strategic goals:

  1. to get Russia bogged down in a long-term conflict, which would wear down the Russian bear and also create internal problems for Putin himself;

  2. to break the axis that had been created between Moscow and Western Europe over the last 15 years, which risked reducing Washington’s presence on the old continent;

  3. to put the main economies of the old continent, first and foremost Germany and Italy, in difficulty because of their dependence on Russian gas.

In a single stroke, three strategic objectives that give an enormous advantage to the United States, but that will not leave things as they were before in the European context. The war in Ukraine marks a real watershed that will transform the world, with the particular consequence of redrawing the political and economic geographies of the old continent. Beyond the unanimous front of the so-called Atlantic bloc, in fact, it remains to be seen what will become of the European Union, as it is forced to decide between its dissolution and its balkanization, or to give itself – by getting rid of its more pro-American “allies” – the political and military instruments to put itself in arms on the geostrategic world stage with the other imperialist powers.

The conflict in Ukraine also demonstrates that the United States is willing to fully play their military power in order to defend the dominance of the dollar on the international markets. A bribe imposed on the rest of the world that becomes more and more vital for the United States, which are in turn struggling with an internal economic and social crisis that has no equal in their history. The more the internal situation threatens to explode on a social level, the more aggressive the United States becomes on an international level, as only the privilege of the dollar will be able to guarantee the resources necessary to contain the social unrest and at the same time reaffirm their imperialistic domination.

But the ongoing war is also demonstrating that the dominance of the dollar on international markets is becoming ever more unpopular with countries historically aligned with Washington ad well, such as Saudi Arabia. They are no longer willing to pay such a bribe, so much so that the Saudi government has threatened the United States with selling its oil to China and having it paid for in Yuan. The declarations of the Saudi government can be added to those of other countries in the area that do not look favorably on the American opening towards the government in Tehran on the nuclear issue. As we can see, the picture that is emerging risks transforming the current position of strength enjoyed by the United States in the Ukrainian conflict into a Pyrrhic victory. If the Saudi threats were to materialize, with the consequence of undermining the dominance of the dollar on world markets, this would open up scenarios that would make the current war in Ukraine look like a drop in an ocean of blood.

If the United States and Western countries are behind Ukraine, behind Russia there is the Chinese dragon, an interested spectator of the massacre that is being perpetrated on the skin of Ukrainian proletarians. China does not support Moscow militarily, but at the same time it supports it politically and this political support will result in supplies of raw materials from Russia at certainly advantageous prices. The Russian bourgeoisie that, until some time, ago looked to the hated West to realize its business, now turns its gaze to the East to sell gas and oil. A new axis between Moscow and Beijing is consolidating, and the war in Ukraine acts like a real catalyst able to accelerate this process. Even the other Asian giant, India, has not aligned itself with Washington, to the extent that, on a global scale, the American front is clearly in the minority in terms of the fraction of the world population it represents, making the international situation even more complex than it might appear at a first superficial reading.

The extreme conciseness of these brief notes must not make us forget the complexity of the inter-imperialist dynamics in action, and that they can suddenly change due to a variable that has not shown its presence so far: the class struggle of the proletariat and its action of revolutionary rupture.

The conflict in Ukraine shows once again how war is generated by the contradictory mechanisms of the capitalist system and that the real victims of the disasters of the war are mainly the proletarians. At the same time it shows us that the only way to oppose the permanent imperialist war is to prepare the ground for the construction of the political organization of the class around which to relaunch the perspective of the communist revolution of the proletariat.

Lorenzo Procopio (I.O.D.), April 24, 2022.

Source: Quella in Ucraina è solo un capitolo della guerra imperialista permanente

Translation: H.C., April 25, 2022.


“In order to contribute to the understanding of capitalism in the 21st Century we have decided to start a new editorial project by publishing The Notebooks of the Onorato Damen Institute. The first issue is entirely dedicated to the analysis of the current war. At the Roots of the War in Ukraine. A new chapter of the permanent imperialist war” (1) collects a series of essays that, flush with historical materialism, identify in the contradictions of capital the reasons for a conflict that threatens to expand and throw the whole of humanity into the abyss of a generalized war. The only viable way to oppose the barbarity of capitalism is to prepare the ground for the construction of the political organization of the class around which to relaunch the prospect of communist revolution of the proletariat.”

Istituto Onorato Damen, April 24, 2022.

1 Available in PDF, 138 pages, A5, in Italian language.