Below is a statement by the International Socialist Tendency, which the Socialist Workers Party is part of, in response to the crisis in Ukraine.
1. The crisis over Ukraine has brought Europe closer to a terrifying war. In its essence it is a conflict between the most powerful imperialist bloc in the world, the United States and its European allies, and Russia, a weaker but still vicious imperialist power. For both sides, Ukraine is merely a pawn. Working-class people have no interest in the victory of either side in this conflict. Revolutionary socialists in the states involved in this dispute must give priority to opposing their ‘own’ governments.
2. This particular crisis was sparked by the decision of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to concentrate troops on the border with Ukraine. He justified this threatening move partly by appealing to Great Russian nationalist mythology about the historic links between Russia and Ukraine and partly by repeating his long-standing grievances about the US policy of expanding NATO and the European Union eastwards. He has been demanding, in particular, a commitment that Ukraine will not be admitted to NATO and the withdrawal of NATO forces from Central and Eastern Europe.
2. It is true that the expansion of NATO and the EU to incorporate most of the ex-Stalinist states in Central and Eastern Europe was driven by the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W Bush to extend the power of Western imperialism deeper into the Eurasian continent. The policy broke promises made to the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, by US secretary of state James Baker in 1990, when Moscow agreed that a reunified Germany could join NATO.
4. Putin is no friend to the international working class. He presides over a repressive neoliberal regime, appeals to Great Russian nationalism for ideological support, and has sought to rebuild Russian military power and to use it to maintain Moscow’s dominance of its ‘near abroad’, notably in the crushing of the independence movement in Chechenya, the 2008 war with Georgia, the 2014 seizure of Crimea, and the recent intervention against popular protests in Kazakhstan. Further afield, Russian military power has been used to rescue the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
5. Nevertheless, it has been Washington, egged on by Boris Johnson’s shambolic government in Britain, that has escalated the present crisis. Joe Biden’s administration has refused seriously to entertain Putin’s main demands, has talked up the danger of war (against the protests of Ukraine’s pro-Western government), and, along with NATO allies, has been moving more military assets close to Russia’s borders.
6. If war came, the main victims would be the people of Ukraine. They suffered terribly in the 20th century, from the First World War, the counter-revolutionary military interventions against the Bolshevik Revolution, the Stalinist collectivization of agriculture in the 1930s, and the Nazi invasion of the USSR in 1941. In 1991 they asserted their right to national self-determination, initiating the break-up of the Soviet Union. But since then they have been ruled by rival gangs of corrupt oligarchs, tilting now westwards and now eastwards. Since 2014 parts of southeastern Ukraine have been a war zone between the Kyiv government and its Russian-backed opponents. The Ukrainian people need no more armies, whether from NATO or Russia!
7. The Western escalation of the Ukraine crisis is related to the global rivalry between the US and China. Biden wants to send a signal to Chinese president Xi Jinping that Washington won’t accept any attempt by Beijing forcibly to reintegrate Taiwan into China. Xi has responded by backing Putin over Ukraine. This competition is threatens the fragmentation of the international system into rival imperialist blocs, increasing the danger of a world war that would destroy humankind.
8. We say:
9. We trace our political tradition to the revolutionary socialists who refused to take sides in the First World War. Headed by V I Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, they saw international socialist revolution as the only way out of an imperialist system where the competitive accumulation of capital inevitably leads to wars. Luxemburg’s comrade Karl Liebknecht coined the slogan: ‘The main enemy is at home.’ That should be our watchword today.
The Coordination of the International Socialist Tendency
16 February 2022
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