Why Operation Z is a victory for class struggle: it’s shrunk the imperial sphere’s extractive reach

Whether you view Russia’s decision a year ago to intervene in Ukraine as correct from an anti-imperialist perspective depends on which metric you’re using in your strategic calculus. When one is only looking at the events from inside the imperialist benefactor countries, and the eastern European countries where Nazi nostalgia has created support for Ukrainian fascism, Operation Z’s impacts appear to be overall positive for the forces of reaction. When you look at the wider context, and account for the events from the wider globe, it’s obvious that Z’s impacts have been overall positive for the revolutionary forces. And that Z therefore is historically progressive in character.

To be able to correctly navigate our conditions, we have to analyze Z and other developments from that wider perspective. From a perspective that’s informed by a global, comprehensive way of viewing history. To only look at what’s happened inside the parts of the world the imperialists still solidly control, and make judgments about the correct courses of action based on this limited amount of information, is to embrace a myopic analytical framework. An adequate education on our conditions requires a willingness to consider what’s happening across the entire globe, in every place where developments like Z are relevant. Only then can we learn the right lessons from these developments.

In the case of the Ukraine conflict, a global analysis firstly shows that Russia’s decision, made via pressure from the country’s communists to combat the fascist menace in Kiev, was strategically sound. Not as strategically sound as it should have been, as Putin made the war harder by refusing to intervene for the first eight years after the Euromaidan coup. Yet still sound enough that it’s since managed to accelerate the transition to a multipolar world order, and therefore to the post-American order which communists ultimately seek to replace multipolarity with. Multipolarity is only one necessary step in the process of fully defeating the U.S. empire, and of completing the victory of the globe’s workers. 

Z has hastened this process by weakening U.S. hegemony, prompting the vast majority of the world to side against Washington on the Russia question and thereby rendering the empire more isolated. This has better enabled Russia to both avoid being destabilized by the sanctions, and assist China in building a global developmental project which is making neo-colonialism untenable. Because of what Russia’s communists helped get Putin to do, the peripheral countries are now closer to gaining the economic self-reliance to be able to reject Washington’s predatory loans.

It’s these victories for the revolutionary forces on the global scale which have rendered all the “benefits” this proxy war has brought the imperialists ultimately not worth the costs of provoking Russia. The expansion of NATO, the further militarization of Europe, the opportunities for corporations to profit from the conflict, the suppression of antiwar voices, the solidification of pro-NATO narratives in our discourse, all of these “victories” for the empire are hollow. They’re hollow because they’ve been gained in the context of Washington failing to achieve the proxy war’s foremost goal, which was to sanction Russia effectively enough that it could be destabilized along with China. Without that geopolitical victory, all the empire’s “gains” from the war are only momentary, coming at the cost of the acceleration of class conflict. Because without the restoration of U.S. hegemony which Russia’s destruction would have brought, the conditions of the core can only continue to become untenable. Amid the decline of neo-colonial profits, our ruling class has to keep imposing more austerity to maintain American capitalism. Which produces further discontent among the American people, and greater probability of revolt.

As revolutionaries in the core, the lesson we can learn from this is that we now pose more of a threat to the ruling class than was the case prior to multipolarity’s rise. Our bourgeoisie’s system of control has been weakened, because it’s a system that depends on perpetually expanding its exploitation of the peripheral world. The world insulated within the walls of colonialism and imperialism can’t function on its own, it needs to be able to rob the places which it shuts out. 

Prior to the war, many of these places had already rendered themselves unable to be exploited by adopting socialism. Cuba and the DPRK are the ones most advanced along this communist developmental path, and have naturally been some of the biggest targets for U.S. sanctions. With Washington’s decoupling from China in the 2010s, to the effect that Vietnam is now America’s big Asian manufacturing source, U.S. capital became cut off from the profits afforded by the productive forces that U.S. corporations had given up to China. Then with the full decoupling from Russia, these corporations further lost market access. They’re now losing even more of their extractive reach as the Belt and Road Initiative expands. All that’s left is the completion of the BRI and the coming of a new wave of revolution, which will make the empire too weak to be able to persuade countries like Vietnam to stay loyal towards its “rules-based” international order.

Through the Obama-style “anti-corruption” coup model, the imperialists are still able to delay the liberation of neo-colonies like Peru. But even these kinds of “victories” for the imperialists are proving to also be hollow, because the global anti-imperialist movement is growing stronger. It’s growing stronger because those in the peripheries have no choice but to resist the empire. The empire has driven them to an unprecedented state of desperation by imposing additional IMF measures during a pandemic, a climate crisis, and a global supply chain breakdown caused by Washington’s proxy war. As a consequence, Peru’s coup regime continues to be undermined by an irrepressible resistance movement. The unrest is overwhelming, it’s made tourist sites have to be shut down and made the State Department’s Peace Corps members have to flee the country. The regime is only holding onto control through blunt force, which is never a good sign for the survival of a governance project.

Such is the situation that imperial rule finds itself in more broadly: it increasingly can no longer function so much through economic leverage, placating privileged elements of the people, or narrative control. The sanctions have had to rely on sacrificing Europe’s economy, and have still been insufficient; the social base of well-paid workers that imperialism depends on is shrinking as inflation drives down American and European living standards; the Ukraine psyop has failed across the peripheral countries, and is at growing risk of failing in the core countries as workers become discontent over the war’s impacts on them. Washington’s neo-colonial states have to routinely massacre their own people to keep revolution from happening. And Washington itself can only keep neo-colonies like Haiti from breaking free by employing military force, a tactic that’s long been effective for it but only when that’s not the only tactic available to it. 

Imperialism works best when it can employ not just hard power, but numerous other means for maintaining the extractive arrangement, from utilizing psyops to letting certain populations share in the imperial wealth. The range within which these tools are effective or possible is shrinking, forcing the walled-in imperial sphere to become even more of an insulated fortress.

The fragility of the system we live under has been revealed. As soon as U.S. hegemony became threatened, our ruling class began to worry about the future of its rule. The imperial project is having to remake itself in miniature form, turning eastern Europe into a new source of extraction by imposing further privatization policies onto it. The exploitation of the core’s proletariat continues to be intensified, even after half a century of progressively crueler neoliberal austerity. Depending on how effectively our liberation movements are able to throw off the influence of imperialism’s psyops, and bring the people into the anti-imperialist struggle, the state will have to maintain control through massive repression. 

This is what the erosion of civil liberties throughout the War on Terror has been about. The War on Terror was the catalyst for the recent foreign policy failures which precipitated the empire’s decline, so the empire has had to contract. Using these same self-destructive militarist projects as a pretext, our ruling class has created the legal precedents for an undisguised dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. A dictatorship that can only be overthrown by building a mass movement, a movement that’s internationalist in nature and connected to the global fight against imperial rule.


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