T.O. Weekly 56: War in Ukraine – Response to a Reader – Biden’s Hypocrisy – NATO/Afghanistan – War Economy


• A Letter from a Reader on the War in Ukraine and Our Response

• Straight from the Horse’s Mouth, by Mya Shone

• AFGHANISTAN: No to Putin and No to Biden, Let Ukraine and the World Live in Peace! – by Left Radical of Afghanistan (LRA)

• FRANCE: “A War Economy” and Its Consequences – by Daniel Gluckstein

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Socialist Organizer calls for, “NO to Sanctions Against Russia!”

A Letter from a Reader on the War in Ukraine and Our Response

We received a letter from Bruce Wolf, a long-time reader of The Organizer and supporter of many of our campaigns, opposing the stance we have taken on the current war in Ukraine. Wolf objects to two of our demands. 

Objection one reads as follows:

I appreciate very much what I consider to be an improved message (the editorial titled ‘The War in Ukraine: The Biden Co-optation Machine Proceeds at Full Speed). But I object to the demand ‘Russian Troops out of Ukraine!’

“Of course, it would be much better if this projection of military action was not the choice made by the Russian Federation. However, the provocations to Russian security were relentless — as you mention in your article — and have been going on for a long time. The Russian Federation made it clear, many times, that if there was no agreement to improve the situation, there would be consequences. Calling on Russian withdrawal first, is actually collaborating with U.S. imperialism.

Objection two reads as follows:

 “Your demand, ‘Neither Putin nor Biden…’ is flawed because it raises the false equivalency between U.S Imperialism and Russian capitalism. There is a greater danger to the world today, and that is U.S. Imperialism. It’s absurd to postulate that blame for this latest war falls equally on all shoulders.”

Brother Wolf concludes his letter writing that, “Your remaining two demands [‘No Sanctions; Money for Jobs, Healthcare and Education, Not War!”] are right on target.”

On February 28, four days after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Socialist Organizer issued a statement that raised four demands that we consider can be the basis for united-front actions against the war in Ukraine:

• Russian troops out of Ukraine!

• U.S.-NATO Troops Out of Europe!

• No Sanctions on Russia!

• $Billions for Jobs, Healthcare and Education, Not War!  

Our statement noted that these demands, particularly the first two, are inseparable. If dissociated, we explained, there are two major pitfalls.

Pitfall one: Without the demand to withdraw all U.S.- NATO troops from Europe, one inevitably adapts to the ruling class and its “national unity” drive [1] whereby the leaders of the parties and organizations claiming to represent the workers are summoned to line up behind the warmongers in support of NATO and Washington. This is very much the case with the leadership of the AFL-CIO, which has lined up squarely behind Biden and NATO.

Pitfall two: Without the unequivocal demand of “Russian Troops Out of Ukraine!” one inevitably adapts to the wholly reactionary policy of the Kremlin’s mafia-style oligarchic regime which, through this war, is expressing the age-old policy of chauvinist Great Russian national subjugation of the oppressed Ukrainian nation, a policy applied by tsarism and Stalinism alike.

Socialist Organizer, within the united front, will also raise – and seek to win others to – the slogan of: “Neither Putin, nor Biden and his allies; No so-called National Unity with the war-mongering governments!”

This slogan is important because in the main imperialist countries – as well as in Russia — this war has seen the main leaders of the parties and organizations that claim to represent the workers rallying to the side of war and “national unity” with their own governments. For Socialist Organizer, the fight against the imperialist co-optation machine — that is, the fight for the independence of the labor movement and for the trade-union movement and working-class organizations to break with the Democratic Party — is key.

That is why, for example, every statement issued by Socialist Organizer over the past two months has focused our demands and accusations against our own imperialist government. We have exposed in detail the provocation — the trap — that was set up by U.S. imperialism when, turning its back on past pledges, it insisted that Ukraine must join NATO, a demand that the Russian government legitimately could not accept.

It is worth recalling that the U.S. has invoked the Monroe Doctrine (“Latin America Is Our Backyard”) repeatedly to thwart any and all threats to its putative “national security.” Just look at the U.S. insistence that no Soviet missiles be placed in Cuba, 90 miles off the U.S. coast, in the early 1960s. How can anyone accept Biden’s double-standard?

Having said that, Putin did not have to walk right into the trap and then carry out the atrocities that Russian troops are committing daily against the Ukrainian people and infrastructure, driving more than 10 million people, one-fourth of the country’s population, from their homes and massacring innocent women and children. However shameless the provocation, nothing can justify the war crimes committed by Putin with the invasion of Ukraine.

To respond more fully to the charge by Brother Wolf that to demand Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine is to “collaborate with imperialism,” we need to add the following points:

The war being waged by Putin in Ukraine poses once again the national question; in this case, the “Ukrainian question,” to which Leon Trotsky devoted an article in April 1939 that is published in the current issue of The Internationale, the theoretical quarterly magazine of our international current: the OCRFI.

In his article, Trotsky recalls that “the Bolshevik Party, not without difficulty and only gradually under the constant pressure of Lenin, was able to acquire a correct approach to the Ukrainian question,” that is, to declare itself in favor of the right to self-determination — including the right to separation from the Soviet Union. But even though the October Revolution of 1917 and the constitution of the USSR allowed for significant development of the Ukrainian nation and culture, the Stalinist counter-revolutionary bureaucratic degeneration that followed, the repression it carried out, its crimes in Ukraine, the famine it imposed, and more, reversed the criteria on this question.”

This, in turn, poses the nature of Putin’s regime and why we oppose the call by Brother Wolf to support “Russian capitalism” in the current war in Ukraine.

It is important to characterize the nature of this mafia-style layer that emerged from the decomposition of the USSR bureaucracy in 1991 (a layer that has reigned for the past 30 years in Russia as well as in Ukraine and Kazakhstan) and its relationship with imperialism.

The year 2014 in Ukraine saw corrupt oligarchs linked to Moscow being ousted from power by other, equally corrupt oligarchs supported by fascist militias linked to NATO and the European Union. Where did these corrupt oligarchs come from?

It is indisputable that the collapse of the USSR in 1991 – the result of the offensive by finance capital to open up this gigantic market which, for the most part, still escaped its grasp – did not result in the constitution of a national bourgeoisie developing capitalism by the traditional means of industrial growth and the extraction of surplus-value, but through the spread of a mafia-style capitalism of pillage that infected the whole of the world economy, a capitalism of speculation based, first and foremost, on the mass destruction of the productive forces of society.

The restoration of capitalism in this particular version initially satisfied the demands of finance capital. But it very quickly showed its limits. First, because it could not complete the task of breaking up all segments of social property. On the other hand, because the constitution of these huge mafias did not exactly correspond to the form of plundering desired by the ruling circles of finance capital in the current phase of imperialist decay.

Indeed, although the enormous natural resources of the former USSR did not escape the clutches of the imperialist system overall, they were not under the direct control of the multinationals that dominated and still dominate the capitalist economy. From this point of view, there is a need today for the imperialists to go further.

This has led imperialism to come up against what it largely helped to create: the layer of speculators that emerged from the old Stalinist bureaucracy which today controls the State (which still owns large sectors of the economy). For its own purposes, this layer does not welcome the attempt by U.S. finance capital to take direct control of business, thereby challenging the oligarchs’ outrageous privileges.

This does not, however, confer any “progressive” character to this layer. Quite the contrary. Putin and his cronies are reactionary to the core. They are right-wing nationalists and anti-communists. One of their stated goals in what Putin called the “Vladimir Illyich Lenin Ukraine” is to eradicate all vestiges of communism, beginning with eradicating the Ukranian people’s right to self-determination and a truly independent and sovereign State. (In this regard we believe that Ukraine will never achieve its independence either under the boot of Putin’s Russia or under the vice-grip of Wall Street and NATO.)

As one Russian activist put it less than three weeks before the attack on Ukraine:

“As Russian communists, our first duty is to oppose the imperialist tendencies of our own government. We do not support the dictatorship of big capital in our country. Vladimir Putin’s oligarchic regime is doing what every reactionary regime has always done: invoking an external threat in order to systematically attack the social and political rights of workers. But this does not in any way mean the slightest goodwill towards the NATO imperialists. … The governments of the USA and Europe bear a heavy responsibility for the escalation. …

“The only way out of the confrontation in the interests of the workers and the broad masses of the people in Russia and the world is not to rally under one of those imaginary banners (waved by equally disgusting gangs), but to defend our own interests: against the war, for a new Zimmerwald [2]; against global capital, for a Workers’ International; against the ‘market economy’, for the Universal Republic of Councils!”


[1] So-called “national unity.” The union sacrée, or Sacred Union, was a political truce in France during the First World War, in which a significant part of the socialist movement agreed not to oppose the government or call any strike, in the name of patriotism. Germany had its own equivalent, the Burgfrieden, which the Social-Democratic parliamentary group declared in the Reichstag on August 4, 1914.

[2] From September 5 to 8, 1915, 38 socialist militant activists who opposed the imperialist war met in a conference in the Swiss village of Zimmerwald. Lenin and the Bolsheviks regrouped the “Zimmerwald Left” there, with the participation of Leon Trotsky.

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People hold signs outside the Texas state capitol in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 to protest the possibility of a new war in the Middle East. Hundreds came to protest after a U.S. airstrike in Iraq killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3, 2020, causing more tension among the United States and Iran. (Ana Ramirez/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

By Mya Shone

The idiomatic expression to hear something “straight from the horse’s mouth” means that you heard something from someone who has direct knowledge of it. This idiom sprung to mind as I read (1) President Joe Biden’s March 17 remark to reporters: “I think he [Russian President Vladimir Putin] is a war criminal,” and (2) Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s explanation the next day: “Personally, I agree. … Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime.”

The horrific assault launched by Putin against the Ukrainian people is not in doubt. All the world is witnessing it. But let there be no doubt that Joe Biden who supported the U.S. wars against the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere fits his own definition of a war criminal.

As for U.S. imperialism – let us cite three blatant examples of “targeting civilians.”

U.S. Invasion of Iraq 1990 (the First Gulf War), and 2003 (the Second Gulf War):

As Ralph Schoenman wrote in “Blood on Their Hands: The Continuing U.S. War in the Middle East” (The Organizer, May 1991):

“Undersecretary-General of the United Nations Martii Ahatisaari prepared a report on March 20, 1991, on the effect upon Iraq of the most massive air bombardment in history. In a period of four weeks, the United States and its junior partners had used more explosive tonnages on Iraq, a relatively small nation of 17 million people, than in the entire seven years of World War II in Europe, North Africa, and Asia.

 “In language which conveys a dread and horror rare in bureaucratic reports, Ahtisaari cries out:

“‘Nothing that we had seen or read had quite prepared us for the particular form of devastation which has now befallen the country. The recent conflict has wrought near apocalyptic results upon the economic infrastructure of what had been until January 1991 a rather highly urbanized and mechanized society.

“‘Now, most means of modern life support have been destroyed or rendered tenuous. Iraq has, for some time to come been relegated to a pre-industrial age, but with all the disabilities of post-industrial dependency on an intensive use of energy and technology.’” (U.N. Report S/22366)

Ralph Schoenman provides ample detail of what this meant for the Iraqi people. It was not just a question of infrastructure.

“The Christian Aid Society of Great Britain,” Schoenman notes, “calculated that at least 70,000 Iraqi children were killed in the air bombardment. Half of Iraq’s population is under 15. The disease and starvation so prevalent in Iraq will claim, according to all accounts, hundreds of thousands of additional lives in the ensuing months.” And … as we know … so it did. [See Iraq and Kuwait: A History Suppressed by Ralph Schoenman, available from The Organizer Newspaper.]

John T. Cornell writes in Air Force Magazine, Nov. 1, 2003 about the Second Gulf War which began with massive aerial bombardment on March 19, 2003:

“Military strategists from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz have understood the value of destroying the enemy’s will to resist, but Shock and Awe – introduced by a 1996 study aimed at Pentagon insiders—took it to higher levels. Shock and Awe meant an attack so massive and sudden that the enemy would be stunned, confused, overwhelmed, and paralyzed.”

As an opening note to war, over four days of bombing, the U.S. Air Force and its coalition partners dropped 2,000 so-called “precision guided missiles,” including bunker busting bombs, averaging 500 every 24 hours on Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, and Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city located in the north of the country.

Vietnam (1955-1975)

Vietnam antiwar protest

Let us look at just one form of weaponry, chemicals, including agent orange, that were part of the U.S. military’s herbicidal warfare attack — Operation Ranch Hand — against the Vietnamese people and their food supply over 10 years from 1961 through 1971. Up to 4 million Vietnamese people were exposed (hundreds of thousands dying or suffering permanent injury). The impact was on U.S. troops, as well, since many of the 3 million U.S. soldiers in the Vietnam War between 1962 and 1971 – cannon fodder for the U.S. ruling class – were exposed to the herbicides.

In total, it is estimated that the U.S. military sprayed nearly 20 million gallons of various chemicals — the “rainbow herbicides” and defoliants in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia as part of Operation Ranch Hand.

Let us not forget, too, that as many as 2 million Vietnamese civilians died during the Vietnam War.

World War II: U.S. drops atomic bombs on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki – August 6 and August 9, 1945

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reports that all are agreed that the count of number of dead is “fundamentally unknowable,” especially given the effects of radioactive fallout. The low estimate is 110,000 killed immediately (70,000 at Hiroshima and 40,000 in Nagasaki). The high estimate is 210,000 with hundreds of thousands more injured. Both cities were destroyed.

Aerial surveys on August 8 revealed that at least 60% of Hiroshima’s “built up areas” were destroyed when the bomb was dropped. (United Press International)

Imperialism’s deadly conflicts are not in the interests of the working class; they are all crimes against humanity. That is why militant activists and delegates from organizations in 57 countries around the world are meeting this fall in France “For a Workers’ International: Against War, Exploitation and Precarious Labor.”

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AFGHANISTAN: No to Putin and No to Biden, Let Ukraine and the World Live in Peace!

By Left Radical of Afghanistan (LRA)

Left Radical of Afghanistan (LRA) denounces the Russian-Putin invasion of Ukraine at the same time that we condemn the U.S./NATO military presence and expansionist policy in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

The working class and revolutionary Marxist organizations and parties around the world should not support any side of the war in Ukraine under any excuse. This is because the victim of the war is the working class — not the governments that waged the war to meet their plundering goals.

Although the imperialist media are publishing fake news on the war in Ukraine, the people around the world know the bloody nature of the capitalists who, to make profit, wage wars and shed the blood of innocent people in every corner of the world.

We have witnessed the U.S./NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen and how, in the name of so-called democracy and human rights, they have attacked and killed millions of people, while destroying all the infrastructures of those countries.

In 2001, the U.S. and NATO attacked Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime because the Taliban were not obeying their commands. The U.S. and NATO during 20 years of war used all their modern mass-destruction weapons in Afghanistan and even unleashed the “mother of all the bombs” in Nangarhar province in April 2017.

After 20 years of war, the U.S. and NATO neither ensured security nor restored “democracy” and “human rights” in Afghanistan. Instead, around 20 terrorist groups emerged between 2009 and 2019, and the security situation continued to deteriorate. Following the defeat of the U.S. and NATO, they agreed in Doha in February 2020 to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan and hand over the power once again to the same group that they called terrorist and anti-women.

Today, the people, the workers, the women and the secular forces in Afghanistan face a human tragedy under the Taliban regime. They suffer from hunger, poverty, severe restrictions and tyranny.  The poor people, in order that their families can survive, sell their children and their home accessories. In some cities a lot of people sell both their kidneys, ending their lives.

Since the very first day the Taliban took power, on August 15, 2021, they kicked out all women from government offices and stopped the girls from going to school. They imposed restrictions on women’s appearance when out of their homes. The Taliban savagely repressed the women’s protests and demonstrations in Kabul and other cities, and they detained, tortured and killed tens of women activists. The secular and socialist forces have had no option but to go into hiding and bear the hunger and no access to basic living facilities.

Under the shadow of the Ukraine war, there is no attention to the disaster in Afghanistan, where the Taliban openly violate women’ rights and civil rights — and millions of children remain abandoned to suffer from hunger and die.

The U.S. and NATO submitted their power to the Taliban to make sure that their strategic interests in the region were preserved. According to the Doha Agreement between the Taliban and the U.S., the Taliban promised to guarantee the U.S. strategic interests and to promote the U.S. agenda and goals in the region — including Central Asia, Iran and China.

Meanwhile, thousands of people are leaving the country every day because of the brutal actions of the Taliban, the poverty, and the lack of work opportunities. The U.S. and NATO only helped and granted asylum to those people who served them and implemented their projects and agendas in Afghanistan. In addition, the U.S., Germany, France and the UK accepted Afghan commando pilots and other highly skilled workforce that they needed. On March 1, 2022, Ambassador Philip Kosnett proposed to form “a comparable American initiative – an Afghan Legion within the U.S. Army” to be used in any war — including in Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine once again showed the double standard of the U.S. and its allies regarding the issue of the refugees and immigrants. The U.S.- and NATO-backed media showed and reported on how the Western governments behaved toward the refugees or immigrants from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and African countries, on the one hand, and now how they are treating the refugees from Ukraine. The refugees that flee from the countries where the U.S. and its allies waged the war were confronted with closed borders and brutal behavior by the police, but now the refugees who migrate as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine are welcomed with open borders.

The racist nature of the capitalist regimes that seek to profit in any crisis is clear. By this double standard and hypocritical conduct, they are seeking to separate and divide the working class or people from different national and ethnic origins. We cannot allow this. We, as victims of the U.S. and NATO war in Afghanistan can fully feel the pain and suffering inflicted on the people of Ukraine in the war waged by the Putin administration.

Therefore, we demand an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukraine and at the same time, we demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Eastern Europe. We support the call for building a united front of all anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and anti-war activists around the world to save the world from the claws of the imperialist warmongers.

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FRANCE: “A War Economy” and Its Consequences

(La Tribune des Travailleurs / Workers’ Tribune, Issue No. 331 –  March 16, 2022  –  Editorial)

By Daniel Gluckstein

France – and its neighboring countries – is in the process of tipping over into “a war economy”. So says Patrick Artus, a renowned economist at Natixis Bank. What is a war economy? Artus defines it as a combination of increased public spending (especially military spending), the scarcity of certain products and the worsening of inflation (borne by workers) that the Central Bank is allowing to run freely. It is in this context, Artus points out, that Macron is preparing to “extend the retirement age in order to reduce public spending on pensions, and then recover budgetary margins and use them…”.

It’s a fact: Macron’s desire to push back the retirement age has a direct link with war. This is not surprising: in foreign policy as in domestic policy, Macron represents the interests of his class. Every opportunity is good for him to increase exploitation and put workers’ rights into question.

In times of war, Macron takes care to guarantee the outlets of the arms economy. According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute published on March 14, U.S. arms exports have increased by 14 percent in ten years, those of France by 59 percent. These two countries alone – the world’s biggest and third biggest arms exporters – account for half of the world’s arms exports. It is easy to understand their determination to fan the flames. …

Macron’s policy forms a totality. Feeding war by doubling the deliveries of arms to Ukraine, by the sanctions against Russia, by the reform of the public pension schemes to fund the military budget in France, means striking at the working class. Macron, Biden’s deputy warlord in NATO, and Macron, the social warlord in France, are one and the same opponent of the workers.

The “left” candidates in the presidential election are stating their opposition to Macron’s pension reform. But at the same time, they are making more and more acts of support for his war policy, going so far as to have their MEPs [Members of the European Parliament] vote in favor of sanctions against Russia, the excessive arming of Ukraine, and austerity measures against workers in their own countries.

They thus place themselves in a total contradiction. Either they advocate a break with Macron and the capitalist class, and then no support is possible for the war policy; or they continue on the path that led them to vote on 19 March 2020 in favor of 343 billion euros gifted to the capitalists allegedly in the name of the pandemic, and that led them to their vote on March 1 in the European Parliament and to their Sacred Union [1] speeches on war. But then, why pretend to run against Macron?

The main enemy of the working class in France is not in Moscow, nor in Kiev, nor in Washington, but in Paris. It is our own government. It is the one we have to fight and defeat. It is the one we have to get rid of.


(1) The union sacrée, or Sacred Union, was a political truce in France during the First World War, in which a significant part of the socialist movement agreed not to oppose the government or call any strike, in the name of patriotism. Germany had its own equivalent, the Burgfrieden, which the Social-Democratic parliamentary group declared in the Reichstag on August 4, 1914.

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