On February 24th, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a “special military operation” and invaded Ukraine. Socialists and the wider working-class movement must condemn Russia’s military invasion, which has already caused the deaths of many innocent civilians. The Independent Socialist Group (ISG) stands resolutely opposed to all capitalist wars and reactionary nationalism that pits workers against workers. ISG also opposes NATO, which serves the interests of the main imperialist military force in the world – the United States. Russia, NATO, and the U.S. are all responsible for ratcheting up military tensions in Eastern Europe that have led to war in Ukraine. Working people in Ukraine, Russia, and beyond, both civilians and soldiers, will pay dearly for the war, not the oligarchs and ruling elites in Moscow, Kyiv, and Washington.
In the fog of war, what is actually taking place on the ground is unclear. Endless propaganda and counter-propaganda are being produced by both sides of the conflict. Photos and videos of widespread destruction and the growing refugee crisis are all over the media. Sympathy for the Ukrainian people is widespread. Working people around the world have protested the invasion, including 100,000 in Berlin on February 27 and tens of thousands of people in the Czech Republic. Over 5,500 Russians have been arrested protesting the war. These protests should serve to inspire the international working class solidarity which is essential to build a mass anti-war movement around the world. An international anti-war movement like this played a major role in ending conflicts like the Vietnam War.
Just as some working class people in Russia are protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, so should workers in NATO and Western countries oppose the actions of their own aggressive governments. All possible action should be taken to aid the building of genuine independent workers’ organizations in Ukraine, Russia, and throughout the region, including those for democratically organized self-defense, independent trade unions, and mass parties of the working class with bold socialist policies. A socialist program can unite workers across all national and ethnic lines, to oppose the local oligarchs and the outside imperialist powers. But so far, the working class has not stepped into such an independent role in the Ukraine conflict.
Ethnic Russians in Ukraine face discrimination, and the breakaway pro-Russian enclave of Donetsk reportedly came under Ukrainian military shell fire in the days leading up to the invasion. The people of Donetsk and Luhansk have the right to determine their future but this cannot be exercised under the shadow of the Russian military. Putin is not acting in the interests of working people in Donetsk and Luhansk or in Russia; his authoritarian regime is fully aligned with the interests of the Russian capitalists. Putin has imperialist ambitions within the region and beyond. He recently sent troops to prop up the regime in Kazakhstan in the face of mass working class protests, and earlier intervened to keep Bashar al-Assad’s regime in power in Syria. The peoples of Donetsk and Luhansk, and all of Ukraine’s ethnic Russians, are merely treated as pawns by Russia in this conflict.
The role of the Biden administration, NATO, and U.S. imperialism in building up tensions in the region is clear. A NATO-backed revolution in 2014 installed the first in a series of pro-NATO and pro-EU nationalist Ukrainian governments which sought closer ties with western capitalism. In response, Russian imperialism invaded and annexed Crimea, an important Ukrainian territory. In Luhansk and Donetsk, two heavily Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine, independence movements escalated into a civil war that is now almost a decade old, with Russia supporting the separatist forces.
The working people of Ukraine have the right to live free of Russian military threats, coercion and attacks, but there is no hope of a lasting solution to the conflict in the plans of NATO, the EU, U.S. imperialism, or Ukrainian capitalist governments. The nationalist Zelensky government and the previous administration outlawed certain political parties and worked to rehabilitate the image of WWII Nazi collaborators. They are using this war to whip up Ukrainian nationalism and to further integrate Ukraine into the EU and western capitalism. Corporate media is working overtime to white-wash the reputation of the Zelensky administration while sweeping the white-nationalist and fascistic elements of the government, such as the Azov Battalion, under the rug.
As long as capitalism remains intact, profit motive will guide foreign policy resulting in imperialist competition and suffering for working class people. Capitalist governments in Russia, the U.S., and the EU all have serious interests in exploiting and controlling Ukraine’s natural resources and labor. Ukraine has the second biggest known gas reserves in Europe (largely untapped), 20% of the world’s titanium, huge amounts of iron and lithium, and is one of the largest distributors of wheat and corn. And war itself is incredibly profitable for military-industrial corporations. All these interests drive the actions of Russia, the U.S., and the EU, despite their rhetoric.
Apart from funneling arms to Ukraine and increasing their forces in neighboring NATO member countries, NATO powers have stated that they have no intention of militarily intervening in Ukraine and directly confronting Russia. Yet many workers and youth are understandably fearful of the Ukraine crisis spilling over into neighboring regions and leading to a wider war — possibly even nuclear war — particularly after being subject to months of hysterical propaganda from Western politicians and media.
As U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia multiply, it’s already evident that sanctions against Russia can cut both ways and disproportionately harm the working class. The regional economy is especially dependent on Russian oil, coal, and gas, with potentially disastrous consequences on the standard of living of working people on both sides of the border who are already struggling with historic levels of inflation.
ISG supports the cultural, language and other democratic rights of minorities, and also the right to self-determination, up to and including separation, should they so wish. This is a far cry from the false calls for ‘self-determination’ and independence made by NATO powers and Russia. For Biden and company, independence for Ukraine means bringing it further into the orbit of western imperialism. For Putin, self-determination means Russian capitalist domination of impoverished Donetsk and Luhansk and elsewhere in Ukraine. In both scenarios, the Ukrainian working class continues to be oppressed under imperialism.
The war in Ukraine is yet another dangerous escalation of the development of hostile military blocs on a world scale. Capitalist powers ultimately are using war or the threat of war for control of labor, natural resources, and markets. The main task of socialists and the workers’ movement is to oppose all imperialist powers and their corporate ruling classes, to struggle for workers’ unity, and against oppression of all nationalities and ethnic minorities, as part of organizing for socialism on a world scale.
- Stop the war in Ukraine
- Withdraw Russian troops and end the bombing
- Withdrawal of NATO troops from Eastern Europe
- Build the international movement of workers and youth against the war
- We will not pay for capitalist wars – immediate price controls on energy and heating costs and nationalize the energy sectors under democratic workers’ control and management
- For the building of independent trade unions and mass workers’ parties in Ukraine, Russia and the region
- No to ethnic division and cleansing; for the right to self-determination and full democratic rights for all minorities
- For an independent workers’ movement and workers’ unity in a common struggle against oligarchs and the system of capitalism that creates poverty, joblessness, inequality, ethnic divisions and wars. For a socialist society!
Read the article Imperialist Powers Clash over Ukraine from the March edition of our paper.