The Ukraine War is a War Against Workers Everywhere

The war in Ukraine has already lasted about six months. Like earlier wars (Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Congo …) it already has the “never-ending” stamp on it. But there the similarity ends. Although the others involved the major imperialist powers (enough to increase the death toll) they were not direct super-power conflicts. But with massive NATO weaponry enabling Ukraine to hold the Russian advance, the war in Ukraine is just that. It is opening the way to an even wider imperialist war involving the two real contenders for global domination, USA and China.

Ukraine has been a zone of rivalry between Russia and the West since the fall of the USSR. Ukraine’s 30 or so rival monopoly capitalists (aka oligarchs) have fought over control of the state. In this fight they sought to get support either from Russia or the West (EU and NATO). This made it a pawn in the imperialist game. It brought its leading capitalists bigger yachts and London mansions, but made its population poorer, or forced workers to leave the country en masse. Today Ukraine is the scene of a more direct conflict between major imperialist powers. It is not a world war, but like many such conflicts in the past (the Balkan Wars 1912-13, the Spanish Civil War 1936-9), it is laying the grounds for one. These earlier wars were accompanied by propaganda preparations, based on patriotism or defence of democracy against fascism.

The War Beyond This War

A similar process is now underway to mobilise populations for the next slaughter, and it takes some courage and resolution to oppose it on both sides. Russian propaganda can point to NATO aggression since the fall of the USSR. With that collapse came the end of the Eastern Bloc, the Warsaw Pact. Even though NATO’s foe was gone it carried on extending eastwards. Having “won” the Cold War, Western hubris demanded some material gains – even if only in arms sales to the ex-USSR satellites. From the Russian point of view, if Ukraine joins NATO its encirclement is complete. And fear of what the West is up to gives it support at home for an aggressive response in Ukraine.

The fact the Russia attacked Ukraine is NATO’s greatest propaganda asset. You could not invent a better enemy than an authoritarian regime run by ex-KGB “hard men” (siloviki) which murders its opponents, at home and abroad, or locks them up on trumped up charges. And of course, natural sympathy for the victims of war like the 10 million or so Ukrainian refugees can easily be manipulated by the West into support for the Ukrainian military and paramilitary. The ubiquitous blue and yellow Ukrainian flag is now the banner of a new-found Western unity.

Imperialist war clearly afflicts workers everywhere. We don’t just mean the obvious threat of famine or higher prices (which are products of the same economic crisis that is pushing the great powers to war) but in the way it imposes a war agenda on workers. Most absurd of all, is that both sides claim to be against “fascism” whilst making fascist thugs heroes in their cause. The fact is that ‘patriotism’, nationalism of all kinds, is the stock response of the capitalist class when workers try to resist wage cuts, job losses and increasing repression.

The Meaning of Total War

In the present conflict both sides are using the power of the state to mobilise, or prepare, all men of military age to fight. Ukraine has banned all males between 18-60 from becoming refugees. Russia has told reservists that they are liable for service in the conflict. And, as in the early stages of all such conflicts, both sides have been largely successful in getting the bulk of the population behind them – even when those populations know both states are riddled with corruption. In March, Ukraine used the war to push through anti-worker legislation first proposed in 2021. Workers can now be suspended without pay from work for no reason and for 70% of the workforce collective contracts are to be replaced by individual contracts. Class war takes many forms.

Workers are thus press-ganged and cajoled to fight for their ruling classes – the ones who can claim that the country is “ours”. They do, after all, own it. Workers, on the other hand, own only the labour power which they sell, and it does not belong to any country. But it is their labour that creates the wealth to pay for the war machines that are turned against humanity and, in the long run, it is only the world working class that can halt the course that the capitalist system is taking us on.

And it is important to know that the Ukraine war is just the opening battle for control of the planet’s resources. Behind Ukraine stands the USA, and behind Russia increasingly stands (albeit discreetly for now) China. Throughout the Ukraine war both Biden and Blinken have repeatedly stated that defending Ukraine is part of the resistance to both “authoritarian states”, Russia and China.

No War but the Class War

Our fight is different. It is a declaration of war on a capitalist system which spawns pandemics, climate change, famines and starvation and even the potential extinction of humanity. This “war” is neither nuclear nor conventional, and our weapons are not bombs, artillery, drones and rockets.

Our weapons are our class consciousness which recognises that “workers have no country” and our capacity for collective organisation. We need to create an international political organisation to fight the war and the system which causes it. This means not only highlighting the brave acts on both sides of the current conflict to “desert the war” but also publicising as widely as possible the growing fight against a system in economic free fall which threatens all our futures.

Supporting Russia or Ukraine in this conflict means supporting war. For the working class there will be no winners on either side. The only way they could end this nightmare is by fraternising across borders and paralysing the war machine. Nationalist propaganda everywhere is a form of class war against workers. Our rulers will adopt patriotic messages to call on us (as they are already doing) to make sacrifices in terms of real wage cuts and if that fails repression will follow. The mounting cost of permanent war is being paid by workers everywhere and we have to fight back on all fronts, starting now. There is no quick fix – the struggle will be a long one, but we have to start somewhere. We have joined with others to form “No War but the Class War” groups both locally and internationally. We do not expect instant success but so far support for the initiative across the planet is encouraging.

NWBCW basic positions were outlined by the first group formed in Liverpool.

  • Against capitalism, imperialism and all nationalisms. No support for any national capitals, “lesser evils”, or states in formation.
  • For a society where states, wage-labour, private property, money and production for profit are replaced by a world of freely associated producers.
  • Against the economic and political attacks that the current war, and the ones to come, will unleash on the working class.
  • For the self-organised struggle of the working class, for the formation of independent strike committees, mass assemblies and workers’ councils.
  • Against oppression and exploitation, for the unity of the working class and the coming together of genuine internationalists.

The way ahead will not be easy but, given the seriousness of the situation, revolutionary minorities have to act now to prepare the way for the wider international class movement of tomorrow. If this matches your view get in touch.

The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 60) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.