By Socialist Tendency in the Russian Federation
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Russian socialists say, ‘The front is now everywhere’

New waves of revolt could come from the combination of war and poverty
Issue 2798
Protester in Russia raises anti-war banner as police move in

A protester in Russia raises an anti-war banner as police move in (Pic: David Frenkel, Mediazone)

More than a month has passed since Vladimir Putin’s imperialist invasion of Ukraine began and we want to take stock of the situation in Russia on the military front and the home front.

The Russian army, suffering heavy losses, is advancing deep into Ukraine. Judging by the frontline reports in Ukraine there is a steady stream of combatants wishing to join the territorial defence forces. Weapons are taken up by yesterday’s schoolchildren and current pensioners.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces and National Guard battalions are also suffering heavy losses, but are trying to hold the front and even launch counterattacks. In the now-legendary city of Mariupol, not a single building remains intact. Missile strikes are being launched all over the country. At the same time, sanctions, which are a form of imperialist war by the European Union and the US against Russia, are hitting the Russian working class harder and harder.

Information is leaking out from various sources about hundreds of thousands of jobs going in factories, services and IT. Prices of food, housing and key services have risen by 20 to 40 percent. People buy groats and sugar in mass quantities in shops, while “especially successful” businessmen create an artificial rush on a number of food products.

At the same time, people who have recently been laid off or are considerably impoverished are in no hurry to join the ranks of the anti-war opposition. The reason is that the Russian propaganda machine works with tripled force, telling every corner that the West is to blame for the sanctions and “now we must be patient and unite around a national leader who will surely lead us to victory over Nato aggressors and Ukrainian fascists“. Most impoverished people are greatly influenced by such propaganda.

But it is worth admitting that the anti-war movement was destroyed by Putin’s repressive machine in about a month. Harsh detentions, fines, beatings and torture in police stations have become the norm in Russia. The state has introduced new punishments for “discrediting the Russian army” and publicly condemning the war, which Russia calls a “special military operation”.

The public use of the word “war” in relation to this conflict is subject to a heavy fine or administrative arrest. Facebook and Instagram are recognised as extremist organisations and their activities are banned in Russia. The media and internet are tightly controlled. 

The liberal opposition in Russia, whose grassroots activists constituted the lion’s share of the anti-war movement, wasted their energies on aimless weekly walks rather than organised protest. By throwing all their energies onto police shields, they have squandered the moral and physical resources of their activists.

But do not despair. The first wave of anti-war activists consisted mainly of students and intellectuals, with bigger waves to follow. They could be of workers who have been hit hardest by the social crisis and perhaps later disillusioned military and security forces. As the social crisis develops in Russia, there is room for more left wing protests. Strikes could become a reality. Everything will depend on the timing of the war and the depth of the crisis.

There is a kind of mixing of the home front and the front. The front is now everywhere, in every country. The main task of all revolutionary Marxists is to fight first and foremost against their own imperialist government taking part in the newly- emerging and escalating imperialist conflict. The socialist anti-war front must be broadened and strengthened.

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