Not a War in Workers’ Interest Anywhere, No War with Russia! No Sanctions! No to NATO!
Statement by Socialist Organizer
On the evening of February 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin officially recognized the separatist “republics” in eastern Ukraine. A few hours later, Russian tanks rolled in. At this writing, Russian missiles are shelling schools and apartment buildings across Ukraine, including the capital city of Kyiv, killing hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has provoked the legitimate indignation of working people the world over.
Who is responsible for this war? For what reasons? And is this war in the interest of working people in Ukraine, Russia, Europe … or the United States?
Who is responsible?
To answer the first question, the evidence is overwhelming: The U.S. and NATO are the main instigators of this deadly war.
In 1997, Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former adviser to U.S. President Jimmy Carter, described Ukraine as a “geopolitical pivot” that was necessary to open the way to Russia. In Ukraine, in 2005 and again in 2014, pro-U.S. regimes demanded that Ukraine join NATO. On June 4, 2019, Zelensky, Ukraine’s new president, declared that membership “remains an unwavering goal.” In early November 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took it a step further by signing a strategic partnership charter with Ukraine, which recognizes the objective of “full integration into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions.”
Everyone, especially Putin, remembers that the last wave of “eastward enlargement” of the European Union (the Baltic States, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary in 2004, then Romania and Bulgaria in 2007) was followed immediately by all of those countries joining NATO, surrounding Russia’s western borders with a belt of U.S. military bases. A dismembered, “Yugoslavised” Ukraine would be a powerful lever for imperialism to use against the Russian Federation.
The U.S. administration was well aware that NATO membership for Ukraine was, for Russia, a line not to be crossed. Hence the U.S. / NATO provocation. Having said that, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is entirely reactionary; it is but the continuity of the age-old “Great Russian” chauvinism against Ukraine.
It is worth noting that in his February 2022 speech justifying Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, Putin lambasted Ukraine as an illegitimate consequence of the October 1917 Revolution in Russia. Ukraine should be renamed the “Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Ukraine” – Putin insisted, a rebuke of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who granted Ukraine’s right to self-determination and to be an independent nation. One of the objectives of the Russian invasion on February 24, he said, was to “de-communist” Ukraine.
What are the economic and financial stakes of the war?
The answer to this second question is also clear: The main beneficiary of this war, first and foremost, is the U.S./NATO military-industrial complex. In December 2021, Biden pushed through the largest military budget in U.S. history: $778 billion. The U.S. had previously demanded, and obtained, that all NATO member countries increase their military spending beyond 2% of their gross domestic product. Who benefits from all this? In 2020, according to the U.S. magazine Defense News, 51 of the top 100 companies in the global arms market are U.S. companies, including the top five.
The second issue is gas. U.S. administrations have been contesting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is slated to deliver Russian gas to Germany, a project in which the capitalists have invested heavily. But Biden has stated unambiguously: A Russian invasion of Ukraine would sound Nord Stream 2’s death knell. Radio France Internationale (February 22) commented: “One country also intends to profit from this. It is the United States, the world’s largest gas producer. … The share of U.S. liquefied natural gas in European imports has been rising steadily for several months, and the trend is unlikely to be reversed if the weapon of gas is wielded in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.”
Behind the war, as always, one finds capitalist interests … especially those of U.S. capitalists. French revolutionary Jean Jaurès, writing at the beginning of the 20th century, put it this way, with words that are more relevant than ever: “Capitalism carries war like a cloud carries a storm.”
Is this war in the interest of working people anywhere?
Interviewed on February 21 by the French newsweekly Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune), Alexei (a pseudonym), who is a Russian trade unionist and member of the Solidarity Platform, explained that “this is a confrontation between two economic and military blocs. On one side, NATO, on the other, China and Russia. Ukraine is only one of the fields in this confrontation. … It is our task as communists to conduct agitation and propaganda to explain to the workers that their interests are different from those who use the threat of military conflict.”
“In Russia,” Alexei continued, “the threat of war is a convenient pretext for attacking political rights: It is almost impossible to organize legal demonstrations, the opposition and the media have been crushed. Even the simplest forms of self-organization (trade unions or environmental initiatives) are under heavy pressure from the security services. Every disgruntled worker is suspected of being a ‘Western agent.'”
Three days after this interview was published, Putin invaded Ukraine, and thousands of antiwar demonstrators took to the streets in more than 50 cities across Russia to protest the invasion, where they were met with the full repressive might of the State. At this writing, media reports speak of 3,000 jailed antiwar protesters.
Socialist Organizer rejects the characterization of these activists as agents of U.S. imperialism. We stand in solidarity with their struggle to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine. We agree with Alexei when he writes, “The only possible position is for the labor movement to take a stand against the war. In Russia, workers do not want war and are much more critical of the government than they were in 2014 when Crimea was annexed. The labor movement has the duty to say, ‘Yes to the workers’ demands, No to the imperialist wars!'”
We agree. Workers and oppressed peoples have no interest in this confrontation. The Russian worker is not the enemy of the Ukrainian worker, who is not the enemy of the Russian worker. The U.S. worker is not the enemy of the Russian worker, nor of the Ukrainian worker. This is a war against the working class.
The enemies of the working class are the imperialists, the war profiteers, the warmongers, the exploiters. The enemy is Joe Biden, who has just announced an additional $3.5 billion in U.S. military aid to Ukraine and NATO forces, thereby fueling a war that the U.S. instigated on behalf of the merchants of death.
Against war and exploitation, for the independence of workers’ organizations
The struggle against war is inseparable from the struggle against capitalist exploitation, and as such, it calls for preserving and strengthening the independence of workers’ organizations, beginning with the trade unions. It means fighting for the unity of the workers and their organizations against their own imperialist governments. This is the only internationalist workers’ position that is in the interest of workers all over the world.
All those who denounce the Russian intervention but remain silent on the criminal responsibility of imperialism, NATO and their own capitalist government are objectively in the camp of the warmakers – in what European political activists call a “sacred union” with the bosses and their governments.
Such is the stance of the AFL-CIO leadership. On February 25, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler issued a statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine that echoed the statements by Biden and the U.S. State Department. There was not a word about the U.S. role in the war.
Shuler stated: “The AFL-CIO joins with unions from around the world in standing in solidarity with our union partners in Ukraine. We demand an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and a commitment to political and diplomatic solutions to the crisis that will cause needless suffering and hardship for people throughout the country.”
For our part, we support the founders, leaders and supporters of what until 2020 was U.S. Labor Against the War (USALW), when they write the following in a labor statement circulated widely in mid-February:
“The American people don’t want another war. The Ukrainian people don’t want a war. The Russian people don’t want war. …
“We oppose the bellicose behavior of the U.S. government regarding the crisis in Ukraine. We condemn U.S. provocative rhetoric and preparations for yet another war. We condemn the destabilizing policies the U.S. has pursued that have contributed to the crisis, in this case especially the steady expansion of NATO eastward toward Russia. …
“The U.S. military-industrial complex has an insatiable appetite for war and the threat and preparation for war. Despite having just ended its ‘forever war’ in Afghanistan, the U.S. is increasing its military budget for the coming year to an astounding $778 billion. We must not allow Congress to once again squander hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending, money that is urgently needed to meet the needs of the American People.”
It is with this independent, working-class orientation that Socialist Organizer is preparing the World Conference against War and Exploitation, for a Workers’ International (Paris, 29-30 October 2022). The conference appeal was launched by 601 worker activists from 57 countries. It reads, in part:
“After devastating Afghanistan, and after the debacle of the evacuation, U.S. imperialism is re-ordering its forces to prepare new wars. Deadly conflicts are multiplying in Africa. Iran is under threat. The military encirclement of China and the formation of the new US-Australia-British military alliance (AUKUS) are threatening peace. … All the military interventions of imperialism, carried out in the name of ‘democracy’, have resulted in bloody chaos, the dislocation of whole nations. The peoples of the world want peace. The international struggle for peace and the fight to prevent war will be on the agenda of our world conference.”
U.S./NATO Out of Europe Now!
The main task of antiwar activists in the United States is to focus our fire on our own imperialist government. It is our government that is at the origin of the current shooting war in Ukraine. It is our government that expanded NATO membership to the borders of Russia and armed 30 NATO countries with military equipment, while organizing war maneuvers on the borders and coastlines of Russia. It is our government that imposed scores of sanctions on Russia — and is now increasing those sanctions, which, we must be clear, will only do harm to the Russian people, not the oligarchs. The sanctions, in fact, have already become the means for the capitalists to enlarge their plunder and profiteering the world over.
On February 23, 950 antiwar activists from across the United States – representing a broad array of labor, community and political organizations — gathered online to discuss how best to respond to the unfolding war in Ukraine. They came up with the main slogans [see below] and a proposed week of action — March 1 through 7 – in opposition to the U.S./NATO-instigated war.
Socialist Organizer calls on our readers and supporters to mobilize in this week of action around these slogans. If you wish to distribute our S.O. statement, with its own independent considerations and point of view, please contact us at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
• NO TO U.S./NATO WAR IN UKRAINE!
• No wars with Russia • No sanctions • No to NATO!
• $Billions for human needs, education & healthcare, not war!
• All Out for the March 1-7 National/International Days of Action