The Ukrainian working class and Russia’s own exploited conscripts continue to suffer the most in the brutal rivalry between NATO imperialists and the now-capitalist/imperialist-aspirant Russian Federation. We say no to wars using working people as sacrificial lambs for empire.
As arms manufacturing companies and imperialist ideologues in the US-NATO bloc continue to saturate Ukraine with billions of dollars in weaponry, the Russian Federation continues to wage a war that’s not unlike those waged in recent years by the US-led imperialist bloc. It’s as if both major powers involved have no interest in peace, the main desire of the people who act as cannon fodder or are caught in the crosshairs of war.
For imperialists anywhere and everywhere, war in and of itself is about breaking the will of a people, as is the case with the US-led adventurism in Yemen, Somalia, and [as of the time this was written] in Palestine, where apartheid violence is once again being waged.
While anti-imperialists and socialists of all types should note why the US bloc has no moral authority on the topic of Ukraine, we must also demand more nuance among self-proclaimed Marxists on the topic of Ukraine. The internationalist struggle for socialism is for all working peoples; it should not inadvertently advocate capitalists’ imperialist ambitions, whether those capitalists are in Moscow or D.C.
Seeing George W. Bush cry crocodile tears for Ukraine due to its government’s alignment with ours not long after the war in Afghanistan and Iraq that killed at least 1 million in both [conservative estimates combined] should disgust anyone that’s against wanton violence and wars for empire. However, the revolutionary left can and should learn to walk and chew gum at the same time, understanding that Russia has its own capital-oriented imperial ambitions despite not being aligned with western imperial interests.
Russia’s ambitions in the region and elsewhere do, in fact, directly serve as somewhat of a counterbalance to US-NATO hegemony. This almost goes without saying. At the same time, the geopolitical showdown in Ukraine is not unlike World War One, considering the rivalries between the British and German empires. Socialists should be clear in the US about this point, as contingents of the left succumb to campism and pressure to pick sides in bourgeois nationalist rivalries.
As noted in a past op-ed, the first World War was viewed by the anti-war left in the US as a war between empires for imperial interests, where working-class people on both sides paid the price and gained nothing. This war should be viewed the same – as a situation in which the US left refuses to rally behind both factions’ interests. It’s clear neither Putin nor Bidens’ imperial and capital-oriented governments are interested in peace and diplomacy and would rather sacrifice Ukrainians and others to their ends.
The Russian narrative on Ukraine does, however, raise some legitimate concerns, at least from their perspective. For instance, NATO encirclement around Russia and a refusal to build any sort of ‘partnership’ with the former socialist country. From the West’s perspective prior to Ukraine, Russia still needed to be punished after the Cold War, even without having a Communist Party in power.
For more detailed context on how the US and NATO fanned the flames of hostility with Russia, read this Intercept interview with Noam Chomsky, who provided his detailed analysis of the conflict and diplomatic solutions.
Russia’s security concerns have been ignored by the West, who are unable or just unwilling to imagine whether they would like a similar situation if tables were turned. But right now, neither Russia or the US want to blink first and engage in negotiations to de-escalate the war. This lack of perspective has played a significant role in creating today’s crisis. Still, with that context considered, the US revolutionary left should condemn Russia’s campaign for both its staggering civilian death tolls in just two months of fighting, as well as the deaths of Russian conscripts as young as 18 and 19, often from poor working-class families that make roughly $6,000 USD annually on average.
It’s easy for me to somewhat understand both tendencies in the “should NATO intervene or not” argument taking place among the left on some level personally. As an Iranian-American communist who knows the horrors of both the Shah’s fascist regime and the anti-socialist order of its current non-aligned theocrat-led government, I know that non-aligned governments can be inherently reactionary even when they oppose US hegemony. [crazy, huh?]
This always reminds me of the need to critically support a government against sanctions and imperialist aggression, while not losing sight of revolutionaries’ desire to oust reactionary forces in power, such as theocrats, for international socialism. Most Iranians or Iranian-Americans can tell you they know people silenced and repressed for people’s politics whether it was under the US-trained SAVAK in the Shah era or by the theocrats today. At the end of the day, both are enemies of socialism, with the former camp just being a more powerful one at the time being.
Real revolutionary ideology understands that non-alignment with the US isn’t the end-all-be-all goal of internationalist socialists. If anything, it should teach us to analyze situations without looking through the reactionary imperialist lenses of realpolitik, teaching that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Working people everywhere face multiple enemies each with their unique ideological outlooks – nationalists from different regimes that all prioritize capital over the needs of the working class, and regressive ideologues who aim to stifle social progress at every corner by encouraging ethnoreligious schisms, etc.
We as socialists and communists know that despite what liberals may say about Putin “wanting to restore the USSR,” he heads a capitalist state that was created initially by the US-NATO bloc. In contrast, the Soviets, even at their most revisionist or even social-imperialist, actually did attempt history’s first large-scale socialist experiment. Putin himself even made it clear that he is opposed to the communists in his address announcing the start of the invasion. The current oligarchy in Russia that came from decades of counter-revolution isn’t unlike the one heading the US regime.
Our position is or should be simple, while at the same time not reductionist similar to the nationalists and imperialists’ positions. We oppose bourgeois nationalism and the rivalries it creates. We are for something they cannot and will not understand – an internationalist cause for our class, for socialist revolution everywhere.
Let’s cut through the white noise amid today’s US imperialist discourse frenzy and remain firm – Neither D.C. nor Moscow!
This editorial was written by Brandon P., communications specialist for New Socialist Network