By Denis, Socialist Tendency, Russian Federation
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2794

Russian socialists on Ukraine anti-war protests and turning resistance into class war

Socialists have to oppose their own ruling class and imperialism as a whole
Issue 2794
Russians protest: Night time demonstration shows scores of people in cold weather clothing.

Russians protest against the war in Ukraine on Thursday in Moscow

On the very first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, thousands of protesters who opposed the war took to the streets.

They opposed the policies of president Vladimir Putin and condemned the full-scale attack on Ukraine. They held protests in about 50 cities across the country—and police detained about 1,800 activists. In Moscow alone, 500 people were detained. Detentions were carried out with cruelty and sadism.

The police severely beat the well-known Russian political scientist and sociologist Grigory Yudin. Yudin was taken unconscious to central Moscow’s Sklifosovsky Institute hospital where he needed treatment.

There were also individual acts of desperation. For example, a young girl threw a home-made Molotov cocktail into the police ranks. And although not a single member of the law enforcement agencies was injured, a criminal case was opened against a 22-year-old woman. In almost all the cities where the protests took place, socialist activists who came out to oppose their “own” government in the imperialist war were detained.

Despite the fact that the bulk of the protesters put forward abstract demands to “stop the war”, the task of Marxists and revolutionary socialists is to direct the protest into the mainstream of the class struggle.

They have to try to turn the imperialist war itself into a civil war with the help of agitation and propaganda. The great proletarian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin said the following about the tasks of the revolutionaries in the First World War:

“The slogan of ‘peace’ is wrong: the slogan should be transformation of the national war into a civil war. (This transformation may be a long job, it may require and will require a number of preliminary conditions, but all the work should be carried on in the direction of precisely such a transformation, in that spirit and on that line.) Not sabotage of the war, not separate, individual actions in that spirit, but mass propaganda (not only among “civilians”) leading to the transformation of the war into a civil war.”

There is an important difference from the situation in 2014. The difference here is that eight years ago, the vast majority of Russian society directly and openly supported the occupation of Crimea and the creation of puppet “Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics” by Russia.

Now the situation is different—it is clear that a significant part of society opposes the war, society itself is split. The split is not two equal groups, but there are two camps—those who support aggression to one degree or another, and those who one way or another oppose it. 

This is a big step forward for the conservative Russian society. This means that the protests will be massive and will continue either until the war is over, or until Putin’s secret police repress all the most active participants in the protests and intimidate the rest.

This, in turn, means that the socialists and Marxists have room for agitation and propaganda for the transformation of the national war into a class war. Socialists are obliged to use that space, and we will definitely use it.

With socialist solidarity from Russia! No war but class war! No war between peoples—no peace between classes! Freedom for peoples, death to empires!

Understanding the war

On 24 February, the Russian ruling class carried out a full-scale armed invasion of Ukraine with the help of its army. Since then the bombing of Ukrainian cities throughout the country has continued. The civilian population has been forced to hide in makeshift bomb shelters and there are casualties among civilians, including children.

The goal of the invasion is twofold: firstly, the recognition of a “neutral” status for Ukraine, that is, an official refusal to join Nato. Secondly, the need for Russian capitalists to increase the export of capital to Ukraine and to dominate it again economically.

It is also important to understand that the armed aggression of Russian imperialism did not begin in 2022—it has just entered a new, full-scale stage.

The Russian invasion began in 2014 with the occupation of Crimea and organising, arming, and sponsoring an uprising in eastern Ukraine. This saw the creation of the puppet so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics”. What is happening now is a direct continuation of the events of 2014.

But it is a mistake to assume that the Russian Federation is solely responsible for instigating this war in Ukraine. Since 2014, Western imperialism’s collective capital has dominated in Ukraine. Cannibalistic neoliberal reforms are being carried out under its orders, the economy is degrading, the people’s social measures and rights are being reduced and land sell-offs have been opened up.

Nato has been actively sending its troops to eastern Europe and conducting military exercises there, which also increases the escalation.

Therefore it becomes clear that the Ukrainian crisis is a consequence of the inter-imperialist confrontation between the two imperialist camps—the Russian Federation and Nato.

If collective Western imperialism, as the stronger one, acts with the help of “soft power”— economic expansion and political control—then Russian imperialism, as the weaker one, acts directly through armed aggression. But the aim of this aggression is the same—the export of capital and political control over Ukraine.

The leftist forces and movements in the imperialist countries must put on their agenda the task of resisting “their” imperialist government. As German revolutionary Karl Liebknecht said, “The main enemy is at home.”

But this should not mean that the imperialists from the opposite camp can play any progressive role in this. In addition to “one’s own” government, it is necessary to criticise and oppose imperialism and imperialists in general, regardless of who is competing with whom at the moment.

  • Emergency SWP TV livestreamWar in Ukraine: how should the left respond? Monday 28 Feb, 7.30pm with Alex Callinicos, author of Imperialism & Global Political Economy • Clare Lemlich, US socialist and regular writer on Eastern Europe recently returned from Ukraine • Russian socialist • Tomáš Tengely-Evans, Socialist Worker online editor. Tune in live via YouTube here or via Facebook here Event details here

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance