• Russian Troops Out of Ukraine!
• Dismantle NATO!
• Neither Putin, nor Biden and His Allies: No National Unity/”Sacred Union” with War-Mongering Governments!
Declaration of the Organising Committee for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International (OCRFI) – 28 February 2022
1 – The war unleashed in Ukraine by the invasion of Russian troops raises the legitimate indignation of workers all over the world. From the very first minutes of this conflict, the Organising Committee for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International (OCRFI) condemned the aggression and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Russian troops. Faithful to the principles of the independence of the working class, the OCRFI has, at the same time, called on the workers and organisations to refuse to join the national unity/sacred union which, in every country, seeks to unite the workers’ organisations with the capitalists and the governments on the grounds of condemning the Russian government alone. The facts show that, while the criminal responsibility of Putin’s regime is obvious, it is in a context marked by the military escalation for months and months, and the provocations for which US imperialism and its armed wing, NATO, and all the capitalist governments under this banner, bear responsibility. The partisans of the Reconstitution of the Fourth International, faithful to the flag of proletarian internationalism, refuse to follow the leaders of the workers’ organisations who have accepted and accept to place themselves in the framework of the national unity/sacred union behind the war-mongering governments. The partisans of the Reconstitution of the Fourth International consider that the main enemy of the working class in each country is its own government. The implementation of this orientation can be seen, for example, in the appeal launched in France by the Independent Democratic Workers’ Party (of which OCRFI activists are members). This appeal is titled: “Down with war” and states: “We, workers and young people in France, do not want war, we are on the side of the workers of Ukraine who are victims of Putin’s invasion, on the side of the Russian workers who are demonstrating against the war, on the side of the workers of the whole world who love peace and freedom. We have no confidence in Macron, who is waging a war against the peoples of the world, especially in Africa, and a social war against workers and young people at home. The way out is not behind Putin, nor behind Biden, nor behind Macron, all of them warmongers. The way out is in the unity of the peoples and workers of the whole world against war and exploitation. Russian troops: out of Ukraine! French troops: out of Africa! US and NATO troops: out of Europe!”
The OCRFI is pleased to learn that, in the space of three days, thousands of workers and young people have signed this appeal by the POID, demonstrating that in France as in all the major imperialist countries, the workers refuse to follow the instructions of the leaders of the workers’ organisations who call on them to unite behind their own bourgeoisie.
2 – Prefacing his pamphlet Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin in 1917 set the objective of enabling workers to grasp “a capital economic problem without the study of which it is impossible to understand anything about today’s war and today’s politics, I mean the economic nature of imperialism“. And in the same work Lenin says: “Imperialist wars are absolutely inevitable as long as private ownership of the means of production exists.” The war unleashed by the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine cannot be understood without placing it in the context of the epoch of decaying and decomposed imperialism. In an obviously different context, what is true for the first imperialist world war of 1914-1918 is true for the current war. Of course, it is not a world war, but it has the features of a world war because in reality, on the Ukrainian ground where Russia and Ukraine are directly confronting each other, behind Ukraine, there are the main imperialist powers gathered in NATO and, even if it is not so direct, the imperialist offensive against Russia is also aimed at China.
3 – What are the economic roots of the war? These have made up the major crisis of the capitalist regime, based on the private ownership of the means of production. This regime survives at the cost of processes which move further and further away from the sphere of the production of surplus value, only to return to it under conditions of increased pressure on the working class and its organisations. Let’s recall: in 1971, when US imperialism decided to abandon the gold standard for converting dollars, Nixon asked the question: “what to do next?” Since then, the ruling class has provoked all the speculative, monetary and financial manipulations that have led to the successive speculative bubbles and crises, notably in 2000, 2007-2008, and more recently on the occasion of the pandemic. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, they generalised endless wars, undermining nations by making people pay for the need to develop a constantly expanding arms industry. Finally, we come back to Marx, for whom capital is “money always blooming“. And for money to blooming by any and all means, it must bloom even when the means of valorisation of capital in the direct production of commodities is made more and more difficult. Hence the fact that today, shareholders are increasingly institutional investors of considerable financial power: investment funds, sovereign wealth funds, etc., which drain mountains of capital and move it around, given deregulation, with remarkable agility, and where, overnight, entire branches of industry are decreed ‘obsolete’ because they are insufficiently profitable, and therefore liquidated.
4- The crisis of the regime based on private ownership of the means of production is manifested in the tendency to generalise the “transformation of the productive forces into destructive forces” described by Marx and which takes on a growing role in the imperialist stage. And among these destructive forces, the ever-increasing place occupied by one of them: the arms industry – “militarism” to use Rosa Luxemburg’s expression at the beginning of the 20th century. It is a market that is constantly growing, swallowing up trillions of dollars of the State budget, and which has the particularity that the consumption of the goods it produces – weapons – requires the provocation of ever more conflicts and wars. The market is dominated by the large US multinationals: of the 100 largest armament companies, 51 are North American, including the top five. As for the Biden administration, in December 2021 it passed the largest military budget in the history of the United States, 778 billion dollars.
5 – The origin of the current crisis in Ukraine is the offensive led by US imperialism to strengthen NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe. “The Allies have implemented the decisions taken at the Warsaw Summit in 2016 to establish a forward NATO presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and to develop an appropriate forward presence in the Black Sea region” – as NATO itself (on its website, January 2022) lays claim to this policy of encirclement and military pressure on Russia. It is a policy that is inseparable from its overall policy of military encirclement and offensive against China.
6 – Over the past year, the particular offensive of US imperialism against China has increased considerably. Why is this so? First of all, because it is a huge market which, in part, is not available to US finance capital. And even in the part of this market that is available to capital, it has to conform to the conditions set by the power of the ruling bureaucracy in China, hindering the conditions for direct exploitation of Chinese labour power in accordance with the demands of US capitalism. The pandemic has exposed the fact that the Chinese Communist Party’s continued monopoly of political power and control over the economy, its continued monopoly of foreign trade and money creation, means that the Chinese Communist Party has been able, during the pandemic, to take a different path from that of US and other imperialisms. Writing this does not mean giving the Chinese leadership “a good mark”, it is to state an objective fact. The bureaucracy was able to do this because it had in its hands this concentrated political and economic power, in contradiction with the “law of the market” and “free enterprise.”
7 – This does not in any way detract from the wholly counter-revolutionary and anti-worker character of the Chinese bureaucracy. It has shown this in recent months, with the banning and liquidation of workers’ unions in Hong Kong, with the repression against workers and strikes in mainland China, etc. But the offensive of US imperialism against China is an expression of the fact that even confiscated by the bureaucracy, State ownership remains intolerable for imperialism. This is why over the past year there has been a qualitative change in the nature of imperialism’s statements towards China. This was expressed by Biden on 31 August, after the departure of the last US soldier from Afghanistan, when he announced the “new US strategy”, with the US now “engaged in serious competition with China”. What for years had been criticism and declarations, has now turned into threats of war. Not just in words, but in deeds. We can no longer count the changes in the military apparatus of US imperialism preparing for the confrontation with China: from the manoeuvres in the China Sea and off the coast of Taiwan to the new military alliances (AUKUS with Australia and the United Kingdom, the “Quad” with Australia, India and Japan), to the creation of a CIA centre specially dedicated to China, etc. Behind all this, we come back to the fundamental question of the extortion of surplus value by capitalist exploitation.
8 – The Russian oligarchy (resulting from the decomposition of the bureaucracy) was born of the privatisation-plundering of State ownership in the USSR initiated more than thirty years ago, when the bureaucracy went to the end of its “restorationist” nature by liquidating the social relations resulting from October 1917, and realising Leon Trotsky’s prognosis in The Revolution Betrayed: “the fall of the present bureaucratic dictatorship, without its replacement by a new socialist power would thus herald a return to the capitalist system with a catastrophic decline in the economy and culture. ” The plundering of the country’s productive capacities, inherited from the USSR, gives this oligarchic layer a parasitic power over the Russian economy as well as a certain place on a global scale (of which the mafia economy is becoming an ever more important sector). In particular, it has under its control large companies that produce and export gas and oil. The Russian oligarchy is capitalist in nature, in the sense that it is embedded in the global capitalist economy. But it is not the equal of the old imperialist powers, which it learned the hard way by losing trillions in 2008. It is ready to ally itself with anyone who wants to ally itself with it, as long as this allows it to preserve, or try to preserve, its position on a national and regional scale without ever challenging the world order dominated by US imperialism. In recent years, in many circumstances, the Russian oligarchy has stood side by side with US imperialism against the peoples. For example, in Syria in the name of the so-called “fight against Daesh” [ISIS, or Islamic State]. More recently, it was on behalf of the preservation of the interests of the big North American and European multinationals that are plundering the country’s huge natural resources that Putin’s regime sent Russian troops to crush the workers’ uprising in Kazakhstan in early January 2022.
9 – In the conflict between China and the United States, which for the moment is not open on the military level, the Russian oligarchy has, for its own reasons and until now, played the China card. But this can of course change tomorrow. The objective of Putin and his entourage was obviously that by playing the China card, he would be able to loosen the stranglehold of US imperialism. For its own reasons, China has played the Russian card to a certain extent. Note that since the invasion of Ukraine, China’s support for Russia has been very moderate. In its general offensive of militarising the planet and trying to re-establish its control to prepare the conditions for an offensive against China, US imperialism seized the Russian position as a pretext to provoke escalation, setting, in a way, a trap for Putin – into which he fell.
10 – US imperialism is seizing the opportunity to gather all other imperialisms behind it and to place them closely under its military leadership, despite the contradictions that are very real: there is no such thing as “super-imperialism”. Thus, German imperialism has its own reasons for not following US imperialism all the way, not least because it is German capitalists who have the most economic and commercial interests in Russia, and the most to lose, starting with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that supplies German industry with cheap Russian gas, and whose operating licence the German government has just been “suspended”. The economic sanctions against Russia will affect the sanctioning countries, but not all of them to the same extent: Germany will be the first to be affected by the consequences of sanctions against Russia, and to a lesser extent France and others. It is also a contradiction for Macron and the institutions of the European Union, because the more the crisis develops, the more “Europe” appears as a “Europe-NATO” and not as a “Europe-European Union”. Now Macron, in the political game that is his and the place he would like to occupy, has an interest in playing the European Union card more than the NATO card, the diplomacy card more than the war card. But the policy of US imperialism is imposed on everyone, and forces the German and French capitalists, etc. to fall in line with it.
11 – This is the expression of the disintegration of the so-called “European construction” and its institutions. All the European imperialist powers, including Germany and France, are increasingly “in the throes” of the US. As a result, it is the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who has been the most vocal in the current circumstances, as he is not tied to the preservation of the straitjacket of the European Union and appears to be the quasi-official and direct representative of US interests on the European continent.
12 – At the time of writing, fighting is raging on the outskirts of Kiev. It might seem that after months of negotiations, escalation and provocations on both sides, it is Putin’s regime that is in the strongest position. But isn’t that just the way things look? As we wrote, quoting a US anti-war activist several weeks ago: what if, after all, it was Biden who had an interest in Russia invading Ukraine, for example to justify a steady increase in the US military budget, the expansion of its military posture, the undermining of the trade agreements of its imperialist competitors in Europe, etc.? Isn’t this what is happening? Reproducing a pattern that has been its own on many occasions, US imperialism (and behind it all the other imperialisms) has pushed for the outbreak of war and it intends that this war will allow it to exhaust the belligerents and in particular Russia, which is subject to economic sanctions. US imperialism has, as it has done on many occasions in the past, the project of taking the chestnuts out of the fire by getting involved as little as possible in the conflict itself, and so much the worse for the peoples of Ukraine and Russia who will pay the consequences at a heavy price, it is the logic of imperialism. As a French academic notes: “The conflict between Ukraine and Russia strengthens the position of the Americans and NATO against China.” (25 February).
13 – A major aspect of the current situation that imperialism intends to take advantage of is the national unity/sacred union that each government is calling for around itself. It is the support for Biden’s policy by the main leaders of the trade union movement in the US. It is the statement by Starmer, leader of the British Labour Party, standing to attention behind Johnson because “Putin wants to see division between our allies, between our NATO members and between the political parties here in the UK. And we are not going to be divided.” This is the policy of Scholtz and the SPD leaders in the coalition government with the bourgeoisie in Germany. This is, in France, the deputies of the Socialist Party, the Communist Party and France Insoumise [France Unbowed] participating on 25 February in the standing ovation in parliament, to welcome Macron’s “va-t-en-guerre“) (“hawkish” speech. Jean-Luc Mélenchon commented: “The president said nothing in particular. We can understand him. He asks for the unity of the country. If he is sincere, he must give himself the means.” (24 February) (1). On the same day Mélenchon, who spoke out in favour of “supporting sanctions” against Russia (Francetvinfo.fr, 25 February), said “For the European Union, the time for mutual protection has come.” (press release, 24 February). In other forms, it is the support for the military intervention in Ukraine given by Zyuganov, of the “Communist” Party of the Russian Federation, a month and a half after having supported the military intervention against the workers’ revolt in Kazakhstan.
14 – In each country, this national unity/sacred union aims at allowing a brutal and immediate offensive against the working class, against the workers’ movement, in the name of “all against Russia”. Already, it has been announced that to the vertiginous rise in prices of these last months will be added inevitably a soaring of the prices of gas and oil, and of wheat, therefore of bread, pasta, etc. The offensive against the purchasing power of the masses all over the world, which has already been extremely brutal for months, will now find an apparently “unavoidable” argument to aggravate.
15 – The OCRFI condemns those responsible for the suffering imposed on the Ukrainian people: the Russian military aggression and the war. It condemns those responsible for the suffering that will be imposed on the Russian people by the effect of economic sanctions, not to mention the aggravation of the repression against the workers and people of Russia that the regime will not fail to unleash. As it has just done by arresting thousands of participants in anti-war demonstrations. For the OCRFI, if Putin’s warlike response is the result of imperialist provocation, it is nonetheless wholly reactionary. Whatever the circumstances and the overall context, the Russian military aggression against Ukraine is a continuation of the secular chauvinist “Great Russian” oppression against the Ukrainian people. That of the tsarist empire “prison of the peoples”, that of Stalinism resurrecting national oppression, especially against the Ukrainian people. It is the counter-revolutionary nature of the Russian oligarchy that is expressing itself again, as it did a month and a half ago in the bloody crushing of the workers’ revolt in Kazakhstan.
16 – We must note that in his speech of 22 February justifying the intervention, Putin denounced the existence of Ukraine as a consequence of the October 1917 revolution. It should be renamed “Ukraine Vladimir Ilyich Lenin“, he ironically called for the “decommunistation” of Ukraine under the boot of his army. An involuntary tribute to the workers’ revolution in Russia paid by this former agent of the political police of Stalinism reconverted to mafia privatisations. For it was the October Revolution of 1917 that liberated the oppressed nationalities of the former tsarist empire and opened the way to an independent Ukraine. With this reminder, Putin is saying to the Western capitalist powers: “We are on the same side, that of the oppression of the peoples and of the anti-communists, do not mistake your adversary.”
17 – Fighting for the reconstitution of the Fourth International, the OCRFI claims Lenin’s policy on the national question: “We hold firmly to what is indisputable: the right of Ukraine to constitute such a State. We respect this right. We do not support the privileges of the Great Russian over the Ukrainians; we educate the masses in the spirit of recognising this right, in the spirit of repudiating the State privileges of any nation.” (On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination, 1914). OCRFI stands with the workers and the people of Ukraine under attack, with the thousands of workers and young people in Russia who on 24 February took to the streets to shout, “No to war!” This is why the Fourth International puts forward the slogans “Withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine” and “Respect for the sovereignty of Ukraine“, because this will not be achieved under the boot of the Russian army, nor under the present ultra-reactionary government sold out to imperialism.
18 – Condemning the Russian intervention, the Fourth International cannot participate in any form of “national unity/sacred union” whatsoever. All those who denounce the Russian intervention but remain silent on the criminal responsibility of imperialism, NATO and their own capitalist government are in the sacred union/national unity. The OCRFI organisations say, ” Neither Putin, nor Biden, nor Macron, Scholz, Johnson, etc.”, and link the demand for “withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine” to the demand for “Not one soldier from our country for NATO in Eastern Europe”, “Dismantle NATO!”, “No to sanctions against Russia!” linked, for example in France, to the slogan “French troops, out of Africa!” The fight against any form of sacred union demands helping, in each country, the workers to carry out their own class struggle and to fight for the preservation of the independence of workers’ organisations. It means fighting for the unity of the workers and their organisations against their own imperialist government. This is the only internationalist workers’ position that is in the interests of workers all over the world. It is on these slogans that the OCRFI organisations will be part of the workers’ mobilisations against the war. It is on this orientation that they are preparing the World Conference against War and Exploitation, for the Workers’ International (Paris, 29-30 October 2022.
(1) Note that on 26 February the revisionist centre which caused the split of the Fourth International in 2015 and whose supporters in France have joined in Mélenchon’s Popular Union, whose policy they apply, dared to publish a declaration fraudulently signed by an “international secretariat of the Fourth International” in which they take a position against national union in general, without mentioning (let alone denouncing) the positioning of the Popular Union MPs in the national unity scheme!