In NYC there will soon be a public discussion, the event description of which you can read below, on the conflict in Ukraine. This will take place alongside a broader effort to gather contributions for an upcoming issue of Insurgent Notes, which is devoted to the topic and will explore the same questions. Check out the call for submissions and list of recommended readings there for more information.
SATURDAY | September 10, 2022
WOODBINE | 545 Woodward Ave
5:00 PM | Ridgewood, NY 11385
Russia's invasion of Ukraine caught many off-guard across the political spectrum. Many leftists rushed to release statements in support of one side or the other. Groups and individuals with well-established records of being sympathetic to Russia and convinced that US imperialism is the only real enemy (mostly Stalinists, but more than a handful of Trotskyists) sided with Putin and his "Z" campaign, while others stood in solidarity with a national resistance led by the Ukrainian state (other Trotskyists, and even some anarchists). A few pieces by communists emerged that were more circumspect, trying to take stock of the situation, but these were few and far between.
In hopes of bringing greater clarity to the matter, and seeking to articulate a revolutionary approach, we have posed a series of questions clustered around four interrelated themes:
- Imperialism and anti-imperialism — perhaps a semantic question, but an important one. Is the war in Ukraine an example of a one-sidedly imperialist invasion of a formerly colonial or subject nation, or an interimperialist conflict (albeit by proxy, on one side)? Beyond the obvious aggression of Russia, what is the role of NATO? Do classical Marxist theories of imperialism still describe the world situation today? What, if anything, is different?
- National self-determination — this old concept has been invoked both by those backing Ukraine's independence from Russia, as well as those promoting the autonomy of Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk. How does the national question figure into the current conflict? For communists skeptical of the "right" to national self-determination in the first place, the invocation of this concept by both sides perhaps illustrates the antinomies of Stalinist and Trotskyist thought.
- Defeatism vs. defensism — in many ways this is the classic debate. What is the proper internationalist response? Is "no war but the class war" still an adequate slogan? Principled opposition to every side in a given interimperialist conflict usually rests on the notion of revolutionary defeatism. But we must still ask ourselves what this looks like when there is no realistic prospect for revolution in the next few years, when the working class is largely disorganized around the world.
- Geopolitics and phases of capitalism — How do geopolitical rivalries play into all this? Might an aspiring global hegemon, China,come out from this on top? Does the return of great power conflicts, direct on one side (Russia's) and indirect on the other (NATO's), signify a new phase of economic development after "neoliberalism"? What sorts of new struggles might arise from energy and food shortages linked to the war? Marxists have long regarded war as being linked to capitalist crisis, but as a cause or an effect? What kind of crisis (social, economic, political)?
John Garvey has been involved in radical politics for more than fifty years. He coedited Race Traitor with Noel Ignatiev from 1993 to 2005 and has been the coeditor of Insurgent Notes with Loren Goldner since its inception in 2010. He also currently is a member of the Editorial Group of Hard Crackers: chronicles of everyday life.
Sanderr is a longtime member of the pro-revolutionary group Internationalist Perspective. Many of his articles can be found at the group's website.
Lilya is an abolitionist organizer and legal worker originally from Ukraine who has been living in the US since the mid-1990s.
Andrew is a communist from Kharkhiv and author of the "Letters from Ukraine" published in Endnotes.