Ranabir Samaddar

1.What do we mean by constituent peace in the context of the Ukraine War? What will peace constitute so that it becomes a constituent power? This is important if any suggestion to launch a peace initiative has to go forward.

It is also clear that banal calls for peace will likely fail and peace will return only with one of the two adversaries finally laying down life on the battlefield. If Russia wins, which is highly improbable, victory (whatever is defined as “victory”) will come at an incredibly high cost to human lives and resources. If Ukraine is victorious, NATO’s eastward march will proceed triumphantly and the East will be now dominated by Western capitalism; world will be militarised even more; and NATO will be the only global military sovereign with more Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan in our time. If Russia has to die, and if that is going to be the case, it will be simply because in this war a multi-national coalition of armed forces and greater amount of resources confronts a single country. Else, Russia will have to inflict significant damage to the collective strength of the coalition to make the latter agree to peace. This again means more violence, loss of lives, greater destruction, and impoverishment and destitution of two countries of an erstwhile united land.

2. The battlefield position may also assume a stalemate – sort of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). Exhaustion and economic devastation impoverished the two countries in that war. In total, around 500,000 people were killed during the Iran–Iraq War, and combined financial losses amounted probably US 1 trillion. Yet, the war resulted in neither border change nor any reparation. It too was a sort of proxy war with the US and several European Powers supporting Iraq with financial and political assistance.

3. There is one more thing to be taken in account when charting out a peace campaign of our time, namely the fact that, democracies are among the most strident war mongers of our time. They are at least as much war mongers as the authoritarian states. The two most war like states in modern history – the United States and the United Kingdom – are the most enthusiastic ones in continuing the present conflict. Peace campaigners cannot have any illusion about war like democracies. They cannot begin on the basis of having only “democrats” in their ranks. Indeed, it will be defined the other way – peace will decide the nature of democracy to come.  

4. The call for constituent peace assumes significance in this context. This is because, it suggests something else than the three prospects mentioned in paragraph 1. So, the question is: What will be constituted by peace in terms of a post-war scenario other than these three prospects outlined above?

4. Also, the idea of constituent peace resonates with Leninist history. Lenin’s idea and call for peace during the first World War linked peace with land and bread. Recall the Zimmerwald Conference of 1915, where the anti-war Socialists debated on the path to peace, and the Zimmerwald manifesto signed by Lenin among others laid out the path to peace and the goal that peace will attain. Peace for Russia was achieved through revolution, which linked land, bread, and peace in one call. Peace did not symbolise land and bread; peace articulated the desires for land, bread, and a just society. Yet as we know, civil war continued, interventionist wars by foreign powers were launched, and peace had to wait for a few more years after 1917. So, the question is: What will the constituent peace of our time articulate?

5. Here, to continue with the Leninist view, we need to determine the dynamics of articulation by a call for peace of our time. This war is being fought by Russia not for export of capital, or domination over a landmass known as Europe or more correctly the Eurasian space, and indeed if we are to speak of any motivation of the other side, we may speak of a goal of conquest of Russia by the Anglo-American West. Bluntly speaking, this war is over security, co-existence of nations, settlement of borders and boundaries, and the principle of dialogue among nations in place of a unilateral imposition of order – with all these having deep tentacles in the global economic order. But we have to remember that all these factors we may reasonably think of are congealed in the two most important factors: security and co-existence of nations. In this sense, the present conflict is possibly the final backlash against the Washington consensus ushered in by 1989 that enabled NATO offensives in several parts of the word, with the Pacific being the latest theatre of western militarism. Strange as it may seem, Europe, which proudly proclaimed to the world that it had solved the question of nationalism and nation states, is once more the battleground in this new turn in the destiny of a global order and global governance.  Europe’s innocence, genuine or contrived, and gullibility has and will further cost the world hugely. If it has been dreamed by philosophers as a possible land of “permanent peace” or “zone of translation”, it is also the most continuing zone of violence and unilateralism. Hence the question of the nation in the post-1989 age, which demands amicable resolution in terms of mutual security, co-existence, non-interference, protection of minorities, and mechanism of dialogue over mutual concerns. A multi-national military alliance cannot be the instrument of ensuring security.

6.  Also, the question is, who has the will to negotiate an end to this war? Russia and Ukraine, both have reasons to negotiate, but will the EU, the G7, and the United States want a negotiation?  Ukraine war may drag on. Russia has the demographic and industrial resources to hold out longer; it has three times Ukraine’s population, an economy much better that Ukraine’s, and superior military technology. At the same time, Ukraine receives from the United States and European allies weapons whose destructiveness is due to the fact that these weapons are linked to an advanced and superior information network and a range of services that keeps the battle going, working independently of the warrior and will not be fully shared with the warrior. Ukraine war is thus a part of the geostrategic game whose essentials have not changed much in the last two centuries. Hence, the economic and the military elements of our time, however novel we may think them to be, are deeply embedded in the geostrategic questions of access to outside world, secure frontiers and safe borders, arms control and agreed demilitarisation, cooperation and security, mechanisms of protection of mutual interests, end to unilateralism, sharing of resources, and a dialogic order.

7. In short, the call for peace is linked to an acknowledgement of the nation question in the post-globalisation order of our time. The nation question of today is not what it was say one hundred years ago. There are continuities and discontinuities in the national problematic. Yet in essentials it is a question of the nation in post-1989 word, whose implications have been briefly mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. What is at stake is not simply a broadening of the geography of the national issue but also to reconstruct the network of events of aggression, plunder, military alliances, border changes, suppression of minorities, that marked the processes of decolonization, and formation of postcolonial states. Ukraine war is a glimpse into a multi-centred global history of militarisation, and unilateralism in post-1989 era. These developments have pushed the “Ukraine question” to the fore. The principle of self-determination is now linked to all these issues.  Autonomy and dialogue – both in a dialectical relation will shape the peace agenda of our time.

8. “No support for war and peace negotiation now” is a call that unambiguously demands as primary steps immediate cessation of hostilities and resumption of dialogues (including dialogue over contested areas). Only these two primary steps will be able to arrest the growth of militarisation and politics of military alliances as the mode of intervention. Such a call does not require any central body to be articulated. Indeed, it will be better if there are many calls on this basis, many forums, and many bilateral or multilateral agreed announcements by the states. It is important to propose such a resolution in the United Nations and it will not harm if such a resolution for peace fails to master a majority there. Like the Zimmerwald Conference such a call for peace will determine who are in support of peace and mutual security and who support unilateralism, militarism, expansion of military alliances, proxy wars which have depended on mixing a classic war with modern elements (often called a “hybrid” war), sanctions, and interference in other nations. The demand to end the “sanction regime” is important, because economic and trade sanctions are part of modern-day warfare and peace and dialogue cannot co-exist with a sanction regime. The hypocrisy and erasure of inconvenient truths about sanctions cannot hide the inhuman consequences. The tragic deaths of thousands upon thousands of children of Iraq as a result of sanctions including that on baby food is not an instance from a far-off century. 

9. Lack of clarity regarding the goal of a possible peace campaign prevents the emergence in Europe of a strong movement in favour of a just and lasting peace. The fear of peace campaigners of the risk of being viewed as friends of Putin or communists is holding common Europeans back. In the global South there is an overwhelming mood of neutrality. With the spirit of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) inscribed in its history, the global South is better poised to articulate the peace question of our time. The history of Bandung (1955) reminds of the crucial role of the principles of anti-racism, non-interference, self-determination, peaceful co-existence, and dialogue in creating a platform for peace in our time.

10. Such a politics of peace envisions a new international order in which smaller nations, weaker peoples, broken states, developing nations, and social demands for prosperity, equality, dignity, and justice will find voices that can be articulated. That peace will be what we may call “constituent peace”. 

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