Time for a New Peace Movement

peace

The threat of war today looms larger today than it did even during the era of the Cold War [1]. However, the very forces that have brought the world to the brink of war have also, paradoxically, created the conditions for a greater movement of peace than ever existed before. This movement nevertheless needs organization, unity and ideological clarity.

War in Ukraine

The focus of the past year has been on the war in Ukraine. It has become clear over the past few years that this is NATO and the US’s war against Russia. Over the course of the war, the US has given close to $70 billion in aid to Ukraine, with the collective west (US + EU) giving $140 billion [2]. Much more aid is committed with the U.S. Congress having already approved $113 billion [3]. By way of comparison, Russia’s annual military spending in 2022 was $86.4 billion [4]. The US is openly sharing intelligence and has several military and intelligence agents in Ukraine [5].

A recent comprehensive assessment by John Marsheimer, one of America’s most influential geopolitical analysts, who has been rejected from the mainstream because of his views on the war, essentially predicts that the war will continue, that Russia will eventually win and that Ukraine will be left as a “rump” state which will not present a serious threat to Russia [6]. As Marsheimer and others have repeatedly pointed out, the blame for the war lies with the West, which led waves of NATO expansion into the east in 1999 and 2004 and subsequently promised entry of Ukraine into NATO in 2008 [7].

The west engineered a coup in Ukraine in 2014 against the then president Victor Yanukovych [8]. This included setting a trade union building in Odessa to fire resulting in the death of 48 people. This led to conflict in the Donbas region in the eastern part of Ukraine which was then attacked by the government in Kyiv leading to thousands of casualties and an influx of refugees into Russia [9, 10]. The Minsk agreements in 2015 attempted to resolve this crisis and grant a degree of autonomy to the Donbas region. However, these agreements were taken as an opportunity by the West to arm the Ukrainian government and prepare it for military conflict.

It should be noted that anti-Russia hysteria in the U.S. started in 2016 when Russia was blamed for the defeat of Hilary Clinton by Donald Trump. This conspiracy theory that Russia “hacked” the U.S. elections was perpetrated with intense fervor across the mainstream U.S. media with not a shred of evidence to support the claim [11]. Trump was identified with Russia, a precursor to how the western ruling elite sees the twin challenge to “democracy” in this time.

Indeed, the western ruling elite has conceptualized the whole fight as that between “democracy” and “authoritarianism”, an ideological framing they use to describe both the internal populist rebellions in the U.S. and Europe as well as the nature of the government in China, Russia and India. It is therefore important to understand the nature of both the changes on the international level as well as the internal changes in the west.

A changing World Order

It is now evident that the larger consequence of the war in Ukraine has been the acceleration of the ongoing decline of the west and of processes that will eventually lead to a new world order. Evidently, even though the west has united around the Ukraine war it has failed to gain the support of India, China, Iran, South Africa, Vietnam, Algeria, Brazil and others. As the New York Times reported in February, “The West tried to Isolate Russia. It didn’t work.”  [12]

Western Sanctions on Russia have totally failed and its trade has recovered. Further, several countries are now implementing trade in national currencies forgoing the dollar [13]. Russia, Bangladesh and Brazil have been trading with China in the Yuan with reports of even some Indian state refiners purchasing Russian crude oil in Yuan [14, 15]. Brazilian president Lula has spoken of a common South American currency [16]. There have been talks of BRICS floating a new currency [17]. This will mean the end of western sanctions and dollar domination of the world.

At the center of the changing world order is the rise of China. The astonishing rise of China is a bitter pill to swallow for the west. China represents not merely an ideological challenge to the west, but a technological challenge as well. It is an example of a political system that is distinctly different from the hegemonic form of liberal democracy but has succeeded remarkably in uniting and developing a society of more than a billion people. Most impressive of all has been the elimination of extreme poverty in Chinese society.

To condemn China as “authoritarian” is typical of the racist mentality that holds that the world must be made in the image of white people and white society. The western ruling elite has produced moral monsters who would rather see the world destroyed than accept that they will not be at the center of it. “They are impaled on their history like a butterfly on a pin” [18].

The rise of Xi Jinping represents not the death of democracy but is an expression of the democratic re-ordering of the world. This is a new democracy where the teeming millions are surging forward shaping their own destiny, able to participate in the shaping of the world for the first time. Those liberals who have nostalgia for the good old days when most of the world was under poverty and a few white men and their allies ruled the world merely betray their profound contempt for the majority of people.

It is this new democratic awakening, the rise of the peoples of the formerly colonized nations, their opportunity to contribute to modern culture, politics and science that is the real promise of democracy.

The Internal Politics of the West

However, the biggest crisis for the West lies not abroad but at home. This is best seen in the leading power of the West, the United States of America. The U.S. Government faces a profound “crisis of legitimacy”. The U.S. population has unprecedented levels of mistrust in every single U.S. institution including the Courts, Congress and News Media [19].  The American population is discontented and pessimistic about democracy in the U.S [20]. Close to half the population thinks there might be a civil war [21].

In this context, a recent speech by the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan is particularly significant. Sullivan identified four challenges that the U.S. faced, the hollowing out of the industrial base, geopolitical competition, climate crisis and the challenge to democracy from inequality. He said, further, “And frankly, our domestic economic policies also failed to fully account for the consequences of our international economic policies.”. This speech, the start of a “new Washington consensus” is an admission at the highest levels of the destructive nature of the policies of neoliberal globalization that the West instituted particularly after the overturning of the Soviet Union.

The economic consequences, which became acute after the financial crisis, have hit ordinary Americans hard. There have been so called “deaths of despair” of more than 100,000 people from drug overdoses [22]. The people primarily affected by these deaths are middle aged white men without college degrees i.e. the white working class.

The political consequence of these facts has been a tri-pronged rebellion in the United States which is preparing for a presidential election next year. Within the Republican party, Donald Trump continues to be the leading candidate. However, he has significantly radicalized his campaign. Trump is campaigning for an end to the Ukraine war, saying “Every day this proxy battle in Ukraine continues, we risk global war…We need PEACE without delay.” and further
“There must also be a complete commitment to dismantling the entire globalist neo-con establishment that is perpetually dragging us into endless wars, pretending to fight for freedom and democracy abroad…” [23]. Robert F Kennedy Jr. is similarly running a campaign in the Democratic primaries against Biden for an end to the war. His campaign website says “As President, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. will start the process of unwinding empire. We will bring the troops home. We will stop racking up unpayable debt to fight one war after another. “[24] . Finally, Cornel West’s campaign as a third-party candidate is important not so much for its electoral prospects, but for the possibility that it may re-energize a people’s movement for peace. One of his campaign issues is to “Support veterans, stop all foreign military aid, close the bases, disband NATO, and ban nuclear weapons globally” [25].

These three candidates, who have many differences on many political issues, are nevertheless unified by the fact that they are against the American ruling establishment and are each campaigning on a platform of peace. They reflect the fact that the American people are tired of wars and earnestly searching for peace. The forward movement of the American people in their struggle to end these wars may be the determining factor in the struggle for peace in our time.

India and a New Peace Movement

As we face an era of the end of neoliberal globalization, the rise of the darker nations of the world and the possibilities of a new democratic world order, what are the tasks in India today? India is at the center of this changing world. It has a huge amount of moral legitimacy abroad that it gained from the Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi governments and their support for anti-colonial struggles around the world. It is no surprise that S. Jaishankar has gained such prominence today because India’s international role is being watched around the world. Currently, the government seems to be hedging its bets, participating in both the Quad and the SCO.

However, the public discourse is quite shallow with editorials in leading newspapers, from a “leading expert” in an appropriate think-tank routinely warning us of the dangers of Chinese authoritarianism and Russian aggression. Further, a section of the Indian liberal intelligentsia has fully swallowed the narrative that the west represents “democracy” as opposed to authoritarianism around the world including at home. Indians are the richest ethnic group in the U.S. by median income and Indian intellectuals have immense prominence in the west. This link to the west no doubt serves to shape the narrative among our intelligentsia.

India has played a historic role in the peace movement and it is important that we live up to our legacy today. Apart from the role that our government played, such names as Rameshwari Nehru, Aruna Asaf Ali, Saifuddin Kitchlew, Romesh Chandra and E.S. Reddy stand out as examples of how Indians contributed to world peace.

A huge responsibility rests with the Indian people and the peace movement in particular. It must re-energise itself and achieve clarity on its objectives. The peace movement faces the following tasks:

First, the peace movement must seek the broadest possible basis. Peace is a precondition for all other positive changes in society. The peace movement must include all of those who have an interest in peace and not be sectarian or narrow in its basis.

Second, It must reject the idea that the west, which has committed genocide, colonialism, racism and imperialism for centuries represents the hope for “democracy”. There are different paths to democracy which ultimately involves the ability of the majority of human people to rise above poverty and find creative fulfillment as human beings. We must struggle for the right of a people to take their own democratic path unmediated by western elites. Clarity on this will also deepen our own internal struggle for a more democratic country.

Third, the peace movement must work for peace between India and China. In the past, there have been reservations about the role of China internationally for several good reasons. However, the China of today is not the China of 1962 and its leadership has a very different vision. We must seek to understand the changes taking place in China, and encourage dialogue and communication with it.

Fourth, the peace movement must renew itself on the fountain of its legacy. This legacy includes the fight against American military bases in Asia and Africa, a new international economic and information order and the struggle for Afro-Asian solidarity.

Finally, the peace movement must look towards the future. The shared global challenges of Artificial Intelligence and Climate Change can only be resolved if Asia and Africa, which will be at the center of the new world, seek a united and common perspective in how it views these challenges. It is the task of the peace movement to fight for this solidarity and common perspective.

The new peace movement in India has the Indian people at its base. Alongside them stand the world’s people who are more inclined towards peace today than ever before. The children of the peasantry and the working masses of people deserve a future, and we must fight against a small ruling elite which seeks to take away their future. Peace is the call of today and it is the need of tomorrow.

Archishman Raju is a scientist based in Bengaluru also associated with the Saturday Free School in Philadelphia and the Gandhi Global Family.

References

[1] A fact routinely acknowledged see e.g. China and the Revenge of Geopolitics, Edward Luce https://www.ft.com/content/a17a14f2-704f-478f-bfa6-18f41eed0a40

[2] https://www.ifw-kiel.de/topics/war-against-ukraine/ukraine-support-tracker/

[3] https://www.crfb.org/blogs/congress-approved-113-billion-aid-ukraine-2022

[4] https://www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2023/world-military-expenditure-reaches-new-record-high-european-spending-surges

[5] https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2023/04/18/just-how-many-us-troops-and-spies-do-we-have-in-ukraine/

[6] https://mearsheimer.substack.com/p/the-darkness-ahead-where-the-ukraine

[7] https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_8443.htm

[8] https://mronline.org/2022/07/06/anatomy-of-a-coup/

[9] https://cprf.ru/what-is-happening-in-and-around-ukraine/

[10] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29029060

[11] As documented by the journalist Aaron Mate. See his book: https://www.amazon.com/Cold-War-Hot-Russiagate-Washington/dp/1682193659

[12] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/02/23/world/russia-ukraine-geopolitics.html

[13] https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202307/1294673.shtml

[14] https://www.scmp.com/economy/economic-indicators/article/3220087/which-8-countries-are-using-chinas-yuan-more-and-what-does-it-mean-us-dollar

[15] https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-refiners-start-yuan-payments-for-russian-oil-imports-say-sources/article67038366.ece

[16] https://www.dw.com/en/brazils-lula-proposes-south-american-currency/a-65775540

[17] https://www.outlookindia.com/business-spotlight/brics-expansion-plan-and-launching-of-brics-currency-to-decrease-influence-of-us-dollar-gaurav-gupta–news-292814

[18] White Man’s Guilt by James Baldwin (https://www.douglasficek.com/teaching/phil-4450-phil-of-race/baldwin.pdf)

[19] https://news.gallup.com/poll/1597/confidence-institutions.aspx

[20] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/americans-are-widely-pessimistic-about-the-state-of-democracy-in-the-u-s-ap-norc-poll-finds

[21] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/aug/29/us-civil-war-fears-poll

[22] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2021/20211117.htm

[23] https://www.donaldjtrump.com/agenda47/agenda47-preventing-world-war-iii

[24] https://www.kennedy24.com/peace

[25] https://www.cornelwest24.org/#section-issues

 

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