I agree with the content of the ICC’s leaflet denouncing the war and with the articles ‘Ukraine: the worsening of military tensions in Eastern Europe’ and ‘The ruling class demands sacrifices on the altar of war’.
The strategy of the US to encircle and contain Russia by integrating into NATO the countries of the ex-Eastern bloc has fomented the war and Biden’s insistence that Russia was about to invade, and that the US could not intervene as Ukraine is not a NATO member, forced Putin’s hand. The consequences for Russia are economic ruin and getting bogged down in a permanent war for control of a zone that is economically and militarily vital to its interests. The move made by the US seems to be a sort of replay of the 1991-95 war in the Balkans to oblige bloc cohesion under its leadership (and we recall that the Balkans war began with huge divisions between the US and the other powers, even to the point of supporting different ‘nations’ and gangs. It took around 4 years for the US and NATO to impose some kind of cohesion).
In the current war, the US will be less effected by the economic fall-out and the move has succeeded in putting the European powers under pressure but, whereas in 1991 it was a last-ditch attempt to stop the Western bloc from falling apart, and it did produce at least the semblance of unity for a short time, now the divisions between the main powers are irrevocable: the US has obliged international condemnation of Russia but Germany and France continue to play their own diplomatic card, as does Turkey.
Therefore, it by no means represents the re-constitution of the old Western bloc against an Eastern bloc which is anyway no longer any more than Russia plus a few ‘Stans’. Russia and China are united in their opposition to the US and could possibly agree to dividing up spheres of influence, but they also have conflicting interests which means that they do not a have a solid alliance that could constitute a bloc. The perspective is for a generalised extension of war as each state wrestles against the others in defence of its own interests, making temporary and changing alliances. I do not think that the risk of an escalation of the situation should be underestimated as the ex-Warsaw Pact countries, who share the nationalist illusions and the hatred of Russian domination and are now NATO members, will push for intervention. Can NATO control them and their level of involvement? Can France and Germany have enough influence over Putin to convince him that they have a diplomatic ‘solution’ to the situation?
The ease with which Ukrainian workers and the population generally have been mobilised to be massacred in defence of the fatherland is horrifying. It confirms what the ICC has said in the discussion around the critique of the weak link. We see the damage done by the weight of Stalinism: the belief that the ‘democratic’ west can offer Ukraine a wealthier lifestyle and a valid alternative political system, the refusal of communism. We can expect these illusions to be shared by the populations of the other ex-Eastern bloc countries.
The situation is different in Russia because it requires the population to believe that the invasion is justified by the need to save ‘our Ukrainian brothers’ from fascism. The fact that Putin is exercising a rigid media censorship and repression against pacifist protesters shows that he has paid far too little attention to developing an ideology able to actively mobilise the population for war. Nor have there been any spontaneous pro-war demonstrations (if there had been, Putin would have publicised them). The pro-Putin rally/concert for the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea is difficult to assess. How many were present out of fear and how many were convinced? In the photos of workers outside enterprises spelling out the sign for victory, they look rather confused and coerced. The overall impression is that there isn’t massive support for the war but that the Russian workers are disoriented and don’t know how to respond. They would not accept being called up to fight and die for their country, but although there have been some strikes against non-payment of wages there have not to our knowledge been any strikes directly against the war or demonstrations on a proletarian terrain, and that is the only thing that could stop the war. As the war continues and news reaches Russian workers from friends and relations in Ukraine, there will surely be reflection on the real causes of the war. Could that be an aspect in the development of consciousness, or will it reinforce the sense of impotence? It probably depends on the international level of struggle.
There has been no reaction against the war on a proletarian basis in Western Europe either. Why?
The bourgeoisie has taken advantage of the disorientation of the proletariat, of its difficulty in feeling its identity as a potent class able to take the situation in hand, to launch a huge anti-war campaign on a rigorously reactionary terrain. It has covered all the bases: pacifism, defence of the poor victim against the powerful and bloody madman, humanitarian aid. The media coverage of the war produces anxiety, horror, indignation and above all, the need to DO something to alleviate the suffering and to combat our own sense of impotence; and the answer rings out; demonstrate, send donations, organise fund raising events for Ukraine, get in your van and drive to the border with food parcels or to bring refugees out, cut down on your use of (Russian) gas, display the Ukrainian flag. There’s no need to discuss the issues because it’s obvious which side is suffering and who is guilty. By pushing Russia to attack in such a blatant and destructive way, the bourgeoisie has also launched an attack against the consciousness of the working class internationally.
However, the fact that there is no question of calling for the population to support the sending of troops shows that the bourgeoisie is aware that the proletariat would not be willing to butcher and to be butchered in defence of the fatherland, and while the working class remains undefeated, it is bound to reflect on the world situation. In the coming period it will face even more brutal attacks on its living conditions – which will be blamed on the deadly duo, Covid and Putin – but it will be obliged to defend itself nevertheless and defending itself also means reflection for the proletariat. As it becomes increasingly obvious that war is a constant aspect of capitalism, it will be forced to reflect on why this is so; 3.5 million (so far) refugees fleeing, mostly women and children, separated from husbands and fathers who are fighting in a war that is not only destroying Ukraine but will also devastate the aggressor’s economy and worsen the economic crisis globally; all this because Putin is a madman? The question arises as to why the ‘civilised’, ‘democratic’, ‘powerful’ west is unable to unite to stop it.
I realise that the position of the ICC is that the crisis is the main ally of the proletariat in the development of its consciousness and that a revolutionary wave will not come out of war is it did in 1917, indeed the outbreak of a third world war would necessitate the defeat of the working class, but I do think that war is an important element pushing towards the development of consciousness in the longer term, because it shows starkly the irrationality and destructive nature of capitalism.
I welcome the ICC’s appeal for a statement by the groups of the Communist Left on the war. The working class is facing a dire situation, in the face of which it feels disoriented and impotent. It is a vital responsibility of the Communist Left to give an orientation on the fundamental points: no support to any imperialism; against pacifism; the working class, and only the working class, has a way out of this barbarity.
I welcome the agreement of the Istituto Onorato Damen with the appeal. I don’t agree with the Internationalist Communist Tendency’s affirmation that there is no basis for a common declaration. The proletarian organisations are united in defending the internationalist position on war: maybe the ICT feels that this is too little and too banal precisely because it is shared by all proletarian groups, but for the working class these basic points are by no means obvious, it needs its revolutionary minorities to affirm unitedly that there is a proletarian position on war.