The Fourth World War
World War I and World War II are easy to pin down, starting on one date and ending on another. Subsequent wars are not defined as "world" but have occurred incessantly for decades around the world, involving countries that were not officially at war but which pushed other countries into confrontation in so-called "proxy wars". We have therefore been in a long period defined as the "Cold War" because the two main antagonists, the United States and the Soviet Union did not shoot directly at each other; but the definition is improper, given that the dozens of wars have been "very hot", deadly in terms of deaths and injuries especially among civilians, with enormous production and consumption of weapons.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the periodization of the definable "world" wars had become clearer: the "Cold War" had been a defined path, with specific characteristics to allow a change of definition. There are those who propose a cut to 1973, when the maximum index of consumption of war materials was reached with the Yom Kippur War. There are those who identify the turning point not so much in the quantity of materials as in the quality (electronics, networks, information/disinformation, etc.). There are those who see in the total capitalization of the world a combined transition between the Third Industrial Revolution and the Third World War, of which the production of new types of weapons is only a consequence. The current pope has called it "World War III in Pieces".
One can abandon the definition of "Cold War" and adopt "World War III" without falling into arbitrariness. Globalization is a fact (it already was at the time of the ancient empires), but globalization as a transition from the "subsumption of capital to the state" to the "subsumption of the state to capital" is a revolution. The United States was and is the ultimate expression of autonomous capital that controls the state. The Soviet Union had not overcome the statism that controls capital.
The stage of development of capital is of utmost importance when it comes to modern warfare. The latter is the mirror of the society that expresses it. Geopolitics, the interweaving of interests, production/distribution never seen in such intensity and vastness mean that war and peace are no longer in sequence ("war as a continuation of politics by other means") but represent a single whole. One site specializing in military affairs writes, for example, that the war in Ukraine "rapidly turned into the largest conventional conflict in the world since the end of World War II."
That is true, especially with regard to the rapid autonomization of capital and the number of major countries involved. But what does "conventional" mean? Normally, speaking of war, when that term is used it is to underline the difference with "nuclear". However, the context here is different. To understand the connection between particulars and the whole, it is necessary to start from the fact that "conventional" is everything that is still pertinent to the Second World War, or rather, to its terminal phase, while new armaments are advancing, i.e. never tested in a conflict in which have been able to prove their effectiveness or uselessness. New wars begin where the previous ones ended. Even if the transition point is not perfectly visible, "historical transition" is not only visible but imposes itself as a result of capitalist relations. The overproduction of capital, which is always the overproduction of commodities, finds new outlets only by oversizing the market. It is inevitable to witness the automatic, immediate response of the entire production cycle, which includes war.
Towards the end of the Second World War, systems of machines had appeared in history, the design and production of which required in-depth knowledge in many fields. What had happened was that the scientific organization of work had passed from a technical method to a theoretical principle. It was not adopted because it allowed greater efficiency but because efficiency had killed the old method.
The war in Ukraine is therefore being fought with the methods of the Second World War. The Third could not influence the future with the new means because they would have forced unsustainable upheavals in times of so-called peace. But it's only a matter of time.
It is his last act and we can already see the changes that will be introduced for the beginning of the Fourth. Russia and America are being studied and evaluated, but the outcome is already clear: the war of machines, systems and information will take over and men will become their prostheses, as indeed has already happened in the factory.
If it passes, this kind of war will go all the way, it will no longer be possible to back down. A social movement that acts in advance would be desirable, but it doesn't seem to be on the horizon.
1st May 2022 - Supplement to n. 50 of n+1