No to the war! Russian troops out of Ukraine! NATO out of Eastern Europe! No to imperialist rearmament! For the unity of the international working class! For an independent policy in Ukraine to confront the Russian occupation and imperialist domination.
1. The military occupation of Ukraine by Russia, which we repudiate completely, has significant implications for the international situation in the current conjuncture; almost 700,000 Ukrainian refugees are escaping to the bordering European countries, and militarism and rearmament among the world powers is on the rise. While Russia has deployed a force of 190,000 troops across Ukraine and is fortifying its siege of the country’s major cities (notably launching airstrikes against not only Ukrainian military installations but also seats of political power), the NATO powers have instated tough sanctions against Russia (such as cutting off Russian banks from SWIFT transactions and freezing the reserves of the Russian Central Bank), and they are sending arms and logistical support to the Ukrainian government. In turn, after being the sector most reluctant to implement sanctions, Germany and the European Union made a 180-degree turn and are now among the most enthusiastic in taking measures against Russia. Germany — under a coalition government led by the social-liberal SPD — has made a historic shift, approving the shipment of lethal weapons to countries in conflict and authorizing an additional 100 million euros to its military budget, which now makes up more than 2 percent of its GDP. It has also deployed troops to Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia. For its part, the European Parliament has voted to take steps to admit Ukraine into the European Union. As part of a policy of rearmament and greater imperialist military interventionism — Germany being the most relevant case — Sweden also announced the transfer of anti-tank weapons to Ukraine (Swedish regulations ordinarily do not allow the exportation of arms to countries at war), Switzerland announced that it will adopt the sanctions imposed by the EU against Russia (breaking the neutrality it has maintained since 1815), and the EU has decided collectively to take the unprecedented step of financing the purchase and delivery of arms to Ukraine worth $500 million. Although for the moment the NATO powers wish to avoid entering into direct military confrontation with Russia, if the conflict continues, any unexpected event could spark an escalation and expansion of military operations.
2. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is clearly a reactionary maneuver, in which a power that has the third-most powerful army in the world and nuclear arms has launched a military invasion against a border state to impose its own demands and interests. The objective of the occupation seems to be to precipitate “regime change” in Ukraine, imposing a government more or less sympathetic to Putin, with or without annexing part of Ukraine in the process. At the very least, Russia seeks to ensure that its demands are met by a Ukrainian government that has been cowed by the military occupation. All leftists and anti-imperialists must openly and emphatically repudiate this occupation undertaken by the autocratic government of Putin and demand the immediate withdrawal of Russian military forces from all of Ukraine. At the same time, we must encourage the emergence of an independent position within the Ukrainian population facing the occupation, one that does not throw its lot in with the pro-imperialist government of Zelensky and reactionary nationalist forces that are subordinated to NATO. Among the anti-imperialist Left, we must include in our demands the right to self-determination for the Donetsk and Luhansk people, without which it is impossible to overcome the division of the population between leaders who would have them subordinated to Putin or to the Western imperialist powers. In the separatist republics of east Ukraine, it is also necessary to oppose the Russian occupation and reject Putin’s attempts to use the just demands of sectors of the population who are of Russian origin for his own political interests. In Russia itself, thousands are already mobilizing and organizing against the war and are being arrested en masse; meanwhile, the population is beginning to suffer firsthand the effect of the sanctions, namely the devaluation of the ruble and rising inflation. Different analysts maintain that Putin’s military operation could end up being a doomed enterprise to occupy a country three times the size of Great Britain with a population of 44 million people who are hostile to the occupation. Indeed, the move is unpopular in Russia itself, and it faces opposition from the United States and the European imperialist powers. Against all forms of reactionary nationalism and against imperialism, in defense of all oppressed people and their national rights, the development of international working-class unity is essential to offering a solution to this crisis in favor of the millions of people suffering its effects.
3. As Putin himself has been quick to clarify, this war has nothing to do with communism or with the Left, despite the ridiculous claims of those nostalgic for the days of the Cold War. On the contrary, he represents the sectors who promoted and benefited from the restoration of capitalism in the former Soviet Union. His policy toward neighboring countries is based on the national oppression enforced during the czarist era or that was carried out under Stalin. It is an expression of the worst reactionary Russian nationalism. Putin embodies an autocratic regime that persecutes and criminalizes political opposition, and which attacks the rights of minorities, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. Over 6,000 people have been arrested in Russia during anti-war marches. Putin crushed, with blood and fire, the rights of the Chechen people. He intervened in Belarus and Kazakhstan to support reactionary governments against massive popular uprisings. At the international level, his intervention has been key to sustaining the bloodthirsty regime Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, in a process that culminated in a reactionary war without progressive camps. Russia’s policy of denying national rights to the Ukrainian people is in clear opposition to the Bolshevism of Lenin and Trotsky, which defended the right to self-determination of Ukraine and all nations oppressed under the czarist regime. This was a right they considered essential to sustain in order to foster the unity of the working class.
4. For their part, the United States and the imperialist European powers, which control NATO, are collectively responsible for many invasions and occupations around the world (including those of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and the former states of Yugoslavia, among others). They have imposed strong economic sanctions that fall, first and foremost, on the civilian population. They have excluded several large Russian banks and commercial operations from SWIFT, and they have prohibited Russian planes from flying in their airspace. Meanwhile, they are sending military, financial, and logistical support to the Ukrainian government of Zelensky. The United States has expelled Russian diplomats, accusing them of espionage. The European Union has taken measures to censor Russian media outlets such as Russia Today and Sputnik, and it has restricted democratic freedoms as part of its onslaught against Russia. In this way, it seeks to establish a monopoly of the press, allowing only facts and narratives that support NATO’s agenda. In reality, they are doing in their states what Putin is doing in Russia. The imperialist nations have no interest in “independence and democracy” in Ukraine, as they cynically claim. Though they are not involving themselves in a direct military confrontation with Russian forces for now, they are using the occupation for their own ends, namely military rearmament. They are seeking to position themselves to advance in a process of semi-colonization of not only Ukraine (which, under the boot of the IMF and the Western imperialist powers, is one of the poorest countries in Eastern Europe), but also Russia itself if Putin’s political and military maneuvers fail. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, NATO has doubled its members by expanding eastward, deploying troops and missiles aimed at Russia. This flew in the face of the promises that then secretary of state James Baker made to Mikhail Gorbachev: in return for German unification, the North Atlantic Alliance would not expand. These same powers promoted regime change in Ukraine to transfer power from pro-Russian oligarchs to Western pro-imperialists. The history of the “formal” independence of Ukraine, which has oscillated between being the vassal of Russia or that of the imperialist powers of NATO, shows the correctness of Trotsky’s statement in 1939 that Ukraine’s independence was inextricably linked to the struggle of workers for power, a conclusion that is reinforced today by Russia’s occupation. The fight for an independent workers’ and socialist Ukraine implies defending the Ukrainian people’s right to self-determination while emphasizing that real independence will be won neither by “pro-Western” Ukrainian nationalists nor by “pro-Russian” supporters — but only by a workers’ government.
5. As we have said, the imperialist powers of NATO are using the Russian occupation — which is openly opposed by the majority of the population in these countries — to justify renewed militarism. In the case of Germany, the imperialist power has made a “historic shift,” as Germany’s Social Democratic chancellor Olaf Scholz called it, toward military interventionism. The “progressive” government of the Spanish State has mobilized troops in Eastern Europe, and its vehemently pro-NATO rhetoric rivals that of its more conservative allies. In France, the press is enthusiastic about the existence of a united European imperialist policy; some analysts have suggested that the Russian occupation has promoted the unity of NATO, which was in crisis. However, though the greater influence of the European powers may not come into conflict with the U.S.’s policy toward the Russian occupation in the short term, this may change in the future. At the same time, the entire arms industry is reveling in the conflict and the rearmament of the imperialist states. For our part, we reject this reactionary policy and promote the construction of a movement to oppose imperialist militarism in these countries, taking up the best elements of the German workers’ movement before it betrayed the socialist movement and supported its own bourgeoisie in the First World War. “Not a man, not a penny for this system!” said Wilhelm Liebknecht. It is in that spirit that we say clearly: Down with NATO and all imperialist rearmament policies!
6. The rise of militarism and the arrival of war in the heart of Eastern Europe show the utter falsehood of the idea that neoliberal “globalization” and the end of the Cold War ushered in a new era in which state power had been liquidated and wars were a thing of the past. After the mirage of a capitalist world ruled by a single “hyperpower” faded, the decline of U.S. power became visible for all to see. Far from reducing inter-monopoly and inter-state competition, the greater integration of the world economy through “value chains” for industrial production and services, as well as the financial system and telecommunications, has only strengthened these tendencies. The dispute for portions of world power — most notably visible in the competition between the United States, China, and Russia, but also in the attempts of Germany and France to pursue a more independent imperialist policy, as well as in Japan’s attempts to gain a foothold in its sphere of influence — is making the whole international situation more unstable. The war in Ukraine is one expression of these tendencies, one that may eventually escalate into confrontations of greater proportions owing to the multitude of contradictions it encompasses. Just as two years ago the coronavirus pandemic upset the entire international situation, today the occupation of Ukraine could accelerate latent tendencies and the convulsive political situation, including revolutionary actions of the masses or counterrevolutionary wars on a larger scale. Lenin’s analysis that we live in an epoch of “crises, wars, and revolutions” is updated — we are experiencing crises that are economic, pandemic, and climatic; wars that now involve European countries; and class struggle and popular rebellions that build off these crises and wars, preparing the ground for the emergence of pre-revolutionary or revolutionary situations in different countries.
7. The revolutionary Left must encourage mobilizations throughout the world against the war, fighting for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine while also opposing the role of NATO and the rearmament of the Western imperialist powers. We have to fight so that the repudiation of the Russian occupation expressed by those who are mobilizing in the world against the war, especially in Europe, is not instrumentalized to pave the way for increased militarism and the rearmament of the imperialist powers. In Ukraine itself we propose that the resistance to the Russian occupation take a path independent of the subordination to NATO preached by Zelensky; in Russia the opposition to the war must be the starting point to put an end to Putin’s reactionary government with a revolutionary perspective (something that cannot come from the bourgeois opposition sector led by Alexei Navalny). A massive movement throughout the world against the current war with these characteristics would undoubtedly support the development of revolutionary processes that question the whole imperialist order. The international unity of the working class is more necessary than ever. But it can arise only out of interventions in the processes of struggle developing throughout the world today.