In all wars, the classic and unavoidable weapons of states are those of mass propaganda, manipulation and disinformation. Since the First World War, the great democratic powers have been a veritable crucible for mind control, a laboratory for imposing the sacred National Unity, for persuading the population, in particular the proletariat, to support the war and consent to the sacrifices that go with it. Manipulating opinion remains the central objective of the ruling class to hide its crimes and prepare new ones.
The imperialist war in Ukraine is no exception to these ignoble enterprises of manipulation and propaganda. The democratic powers, especially in Western Europe, are the ones who have to provide the most subtle and elaborate propaganda in order to try to legitimise their bloody projects to a proletariat which has the greatest experience of struggle and one of the highest levels of education in the world.
Manipulation and propaganda around the conflict in Ukraine
On the eve of the conflict in Ukraine, as always, heads of state and governments vowed, hand on heart, to do everything to “preserve peace”. As Russian troops massed on Ukraine's border, Putin claimed to have no warlike intentions and spoke of mere “military manoeuvres”. He had also committed to a partial withdrawal of his troops before his meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who said he was “delighted” with the news. Even after the start of the invasion, Putin has never spoken of a “war”, a word that is totally prohibited in Russia, but of a “special operation”.
As for Joe Biden, who announced Putin's plans in advance, specifying that the United States would not intervene in the event of a conflict, thus giving the green light to the master of the Kremlin to throw his troops and his country into a trap, he appeared to the world as a man of peace, wishing, in his words, to “give diplomacy every chance”.
Zelensky was also a champion of peace, a “peaceful victim”, courageous, determined and “full of heroism”. For example, in his speech to the French National Assembly on 23 March, he spoke to a crowd of members of parliament who had been won over and seduced in advance: “[...] How can we stop this war? How can we bring peace to Ukraine? [...] We must act together, put pressure on Russia together to seek peace.”
Behind the speeches about peace, the image of a small country as the victim of the invaders stirred emotions and the will to fight the unspeakable Putin. The trap of a “defensive war” was set from the start. Zelensky could then forcibly mobilise cannon fodder on Ukrainian soil, men aged 18 to 60, to “defend the homeland”, constantly begging “arms for Ukraine” to prove Western “solidarity”, shamelessly exploiting the distress of the refugees for purely political and warlike ends.
In 1914, similar ideological tricks had already been used by the Entente bloc against the Triple Alliance powers.
Germany was then considered as the only one “responsible” for the war because of its invasion of little Belgium, a country taken over by the “Krauts”, by a “barbarian horde”.
French President Poincaré, who had been frantically preparing for war behind the scenes with Russia and his British ally, was at the same time a champion of peace, as shown in his speech of 14 July 1915, in which, in the middle of the war, he said: “For many years our hard-working democracy had enjoyed the work of peace. It would have considered as a criminal, or as a fool, any man who would have dared to nourish bellicose projects”. The height of cynicism and hypocrisy! A few days later, on 19 July, in a speech in the Reichstag, the German Chancellor said practically the same thing: “We did not desire war, [...] it was peace that made us prosperous”. His misfortune had been to attack first!
Like a remake, in September 1939, the invasion of Poland was presented once again as the attack by a “wolf' against an “innocent lamb” and not as the result of a logic specific to capitalism and imperialism. The “wish for peace and “victimhood” are classics!
Even Hitler declared himself in favour of peace! In 1938 in Berlin, he declared to the French ambassador his desire that Franco-German relations should be “peaceful and good”. And the diplomat Von Ribenttrop often repeated that “the Führer does not want war”. It was also in the name of “peace” and ‘anti-fascism’ that the proletariat was drawn into the war.
Since no one “wants war”, even though it is the way of life of decadent capitalism, each side must present it as the fault of the opponent. Thus, for Putin, the fault lies with the Ukrainian regime, made up of “Nazis”, “persecutors of Russian-speaking minorities” who are fighting “against freedom and democracy”. Of course, he castigates another “responsible” party, the NATO forces that have surrounded him for decades and that seek to “weaken Russia”.
The propaganda of Zelensky, and the Western govenments who support him militarily, makes things all the more pernicious and dangerous for the populations and the proletariat of the West, since the “peaceful Ukraine” appears well and truly as the one “strangled by the Russian ogre”. Indeed, among all the imperialist gangsters involved in this conflict, Putin is the one who drew first.
As soon as the war started, he went from being a persona non grata to a “bloodthirsty madman”. Demonisation (facilitated here by Putin's personality and his Stalinist background) is also a great classic of propaganda!
During the First World War, the German army and its soldiers were also presented as monsters, accused of raping, torturing and coldly slitting the throats of children.
The current war and its images, the exploitation of corpses lying on the ground, the pictures of devastated cities, the multiplication of international investigations into “war crimes” committed by the Russian army, the almost total silence on the exactions of the Ukrainian army on the Western side, the accumulation of crude montages on the Russian side, all this accompanied by all the cyber-propaganda that fills the mind with smoke, testify to an intense and daily information war.
As a result, even if this war is considered worrying by the Western populations, a majority is insidiously led to support the sending of “weapons for Ukraine” in order to “teach the invader a lesson”. In other words: fuel the war and the massacres in the name of a “legitimate” and “defensive” response!
All states are imperialist
In this absurd, tragic, and barbaric adventure that has brutally struck Europe, the great Western democratic powers now play the beautiful role of prosecutor. They appear to be the “peace-lovers”, confronted with a sort of fait accompli that does not depend on their own will, but on that of one man, the cold, cynical, suicidal dictator Putin.
In reality, as Rosa Luxemburg already pointed out, all states, big or small, are real brigands who only act to defend their sordid imperialist interests, as our international leaflet also reminds us: “since the beginning of the 20th century, permanent war, with all the terrible suffering it engenders, has become inseparable from the capitalist system, a system based on competition between companies and between states, where commercial warfare leads to armed warfare, where the worsening of its economic contradictions, of its crisis, stirs up ever more warlike conflicts. A system based on profit and the fierce exploitation of the producers, in which the workers are forced to pay in blood as well as in sweat”.
Obviously, if the responsibility of Putin's rivals is more difficult to perceive behind the smokescreen of Western propaganda, it is no less present. The action of these imperialist powers within NATO, supplying arms to Ukraine in large quantities, fuelling a war that is becoming entrenched, amply demonstrates their responsibility in the irrational logic of militarism, and the massive planning of destruction. At the forefront of these gangsters, actors in the acceleration of disorder and chaos, the imperialist state led by Biden has moved in a very clever way. By trapping Russia and the Western European allies with his statements, implicitly giving Putin a green light, he expressed the Machiavellianism of his strategy.
The act of pushing the adversary to initiate hostilities himself is a classic ploy. This was already shown in Alfred Rosmer's comment on the First World War, when he quoted a former senator, Jacques Bardoux, on the provocations that led Germany to attack in 1914: “When is a war offensive or defensive? Epithets are open to a thousand interpretations. They are the expression of shifting and changing opinions. When a diplomat is clever, the war he provokes is never offensive. He seems to be defending himself when he really attacks”.
Through the cordon sanitaire that NATO has built around Russia since the collapse of the USSR, through the desire to bring new countries like Finland and Sweden into the Alliance, the Biden administration, like its ad hoc and forced Western European allies, has the “appearance of defending itself when it really attacks”. That is its strength. But at the same time, this criminal enterprise is an expression of a more fundamental historical weakness, since the dynamics of militarism bring chaos, irrationality and destruction.
In fact, all the leaders of the imperialist powers who cry out in horror at Putin's abuses themselves have blood on their hands and end up further accelerating the deadly dynamics of world disorder. When the Second World War broke out, these same allied powers were by no means the "knights of freedom" they claimed to be, but barbaric actors of imperialism defending their own sordid interests: “the West did not intervene to destroy Nazism or to avert the threat of a totalitarian regime. It was the European balance that was at stake”. In reality, this “European balance” was nothing more than the balance of power between imperialist gangsters.
Today, Europe is threatened with greater chaos in this vast scramble. Whatever they say, it is the great world powers that are at the forefront of all this. The same ones who in the past committed the worst exactions, always in the name of “good”. Think of the “strategic bombings” of 1943, when the Allies dropped carpets of incendiary bombs on the working-class districts of Dresden and Hamburg, killing at least 250,000 people. More recently, let's not forget that American forces razed entire cities like Falluja in Iraq in 2004.
Today, the atomic threat and the terrifying hype about nuclear weapons should not make us forget that those who first used them in Japan were appealing to the same values of “peace”, “freedom” and “democracy”. While they were in no way militarily cornered, these same thugs had seriously considered in the 1950s vitrifying Korea with nuclear weapons.
There is no room for illusions: decaying capitalism can only bring war and chaos, destruction, crisis, epidemics and ecological disaster. The proletariat must not forget the brainwashing it has undergone during all the wars of the past. Today, it must absolutely reject the siren songs of all the belligerents. If we let ourselves be tempted by their war-mongering propaganda, we may think that the arms supplies to Ukraine are a “solution”, even if unsatisfactory, because the proletariat is not able to stop the war immediately. However, far from sparing suffering, this option can only fuel the destructive forces for which both sides are responsible. But by drawing the lessons of the past, revolutionaries arm themselves to denounce the lies of the bourgeoisie in order to assist the proletariat to avoid being caught up in the lies of the ruling class and to develop its own class resistance against this murderous system.
WH, 11 June 2022
 Contrary to the proletariat in Ukraine which has been defeated and conscripted, and to the proletariat in Russia, which is extremely fragile and vulnerable, the proletariat in Western Europe, although unable, at the moment, to put an end to the conflict, is not ready to accept the sacrifice of thousands of victims every day.
Anne Morelli, Principes élémentaires de la propagande de guerre (2001).
 This was the case, to take a few examples, with Saddam Hussein, who was transformed overnight into the “Butcher of Baghdad”, with Milosevic in Serbia during the War in ex-Yugoslavia, and now with Putin.
 International Review 155, “The birth of totalitarian democracy”. https://en.internationalism.org/content/13316/birth-totalitarian-democracy
 A legal concept that legitimises “ordinary” barbaric warfare by making us forget that war itself is a real crime of capitalism.
 Alfred Rosmer, Le mouvement ouvrier pendant la Première Guerre mondiale. It should also be pointed out that the “defencist” argument was used by all the social democratic traitors in 1914 in order to disarm the proletariat and enlist it in the war.
 Philippe Masson, Une guerre totale (1990)