Presentation at online forum on war in Ukraine

On Saturday 10 September at the online panel discussion “Marxists Speak Out: 200 Days of War. Stop US/NATO imperialism against Russia! Stop US preparations of war against China!” organised by the “Worldwide Organising Network against Fascism, Imperialism, Racism and Exploitation” I gave the following presentation as a supporter of the Bolshevik Tendency.

For a slightly edited/tidied up written version of this presentation:

Firstly, I would like to thank the organisers of this meeting. We are gathered here to discuss a critical issue for the international working class in this period characterised by the loss of global hegemony for American imperialism and the role of other powers, including Russia, in shaping an increasingly multipolar geopolitical world order.

The origins of the current military conflict between Russia and the Ukrainian proxy of US-led Western imperialism can be traced to the 1991 capitalist counterrevolution, as we have outlined in our published materials. The US has sought to expand NATO throughout Russia’s “near abroad,” by enlisting the countries of the former Warsaw Pact. The long-term strategic objective of the US, as described by Dick Cheney when he was Defence Secretary under George H.W. Bush and Zbigniew Brezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, is to dismember Russia, and create 3, 4 or 5 smaller more pliable—that is exploitable—states.

For the past several decades, the economic weight of the US and its imperialist “partners” in NATO, as well as Japan and Australia, in the global economy has been declining, while China, where collectivised property relations remain dominant, has been steadily gaining ground on its “advanced capitalist” peers.

The global economy is at the edge of a major economic crisis that will dwarf the 2008 crisis. Even before the impact of the COVID pandemic, global capitalism was clearly showing signs that a major profitability crisis was in the offing. Now as the sanctions against Russia spectacularly backfire, most notably in Europe where exploding energy price rises are driving the most serious cost of living escalation in generations, international capitalism stands on the brink of the most dire economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Russia’s economic engagement with the world, particularly the former Soviet republics, is primarily characterised by selling commodities—particularly oil and gas—at prices lower than those current on the world market. Rather than extracting super-profits in its near abroad, or anywhere else, Russia derives most of its income from energy sales, largely to Europe. Russia is not a predatory imperialist power, despite its formidable military, but rather an essentially dependent capitalist country.

A military victory for Russia over Zelensky’s US backed Ukraine will strike a powerful blow against global imperialism—just as a Russian defeat will embolden the US and its NATO stooges for further aggression in the Indo-Pacific, particularly against the Chinese deformed workers state. This is why revolutionaries side with Russia in the current military conflict while refusing to offer any political support to Putin’s bonapartist, anti-working-class regime. We took exactly the same attitude towards the struggle of the Taliban in driving the US and its NATO allies out of Afghanistan.

Russia is not an imperialist country, because it is not a net extractor of value from less developed countries. Offering military support to Russia in its struggle against the Ukrainian proxies of US/NATO imperialism, is an acid test for all those who claim to stand in the tradition of Lenin and Trotsky.

It is a test which most of those who claim the Bolshevik tradition have failed—with some taking a position of neutrality while others side with NATO’s Ukrainian puppets. Whilst imperialist governments are throwing billions of dollars into propping up the Zelensky regime with the aim of weakening and ultimately destroying Russia, workers in the West are becoming increasingly restive as it becomes clear to them that this reckless military adventure, which is going to destroy much of Ukraine and cost many tens of thousands of lives, is going to be financed by slashing popular living standards in the NATO countries. Intersecting that sentiment and making the link between the imperialist war drive and the cost of living crisis must be a central focus for Marxists in the coming period—it is vital to communicate to the millions of working people turning against NATO’s war in Ukraine that a Russian victory is in their direct, material interest. On May Day the Bolshevik Tendency marched in London and Toronto under the slogan “US/NATO War Drive Against Russia and China Hurts Workers Everywhere!”

The other groups speaking here today, who broadly share our perspective, have put forward a variety of slogans including:

  • Victory to the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and their allies!
  • U.S./NATO: Hands off Russia! Get out of Ukraine and Eastern Europe!
  • For defeating imperialism and defending Russia and Donbass.
  • It is necessary to support Russia in its battle with imperialism.
  • We stand with Russia in this conflict.

We note however that the “Worldwide Organising Network Against Fascism, Imperialism, Racism & Exploitation (WorldOnFire),” which most of the groups represented here today are affiliated with, avoids a clear statement of which side to support in its Call Out For Action.

Instead of seeking to make it clear that genuine anti-imperialists must side with Russia and its allies against NATO’s client in Kiev, the propaganda put out by your bloc has a pacifist “Stop the War” message, as is shown, for example, by one of the slogans proposed as the basis for common action: “Stop the war of US/NATO imperialism against Russia!” This is presumably due to the opportunist calculation that this will make it easier to get a hearing, which it likely will. But at the cost of blurring the key issue and ending up echoing the slogans of the various larger formations of centrists, opportunists & left-reformists whose “opposition” to NATO has an essentially pacifist quality.

We call on those of you who are seriously committed to the Bolshevik-Leninist tradition to heed Trotsky’s injunction: “To face reality squarely; not to seek the line of least resistance; to call things by their right names; to speak the truth to the masses, no matter how bitter it may be”.