Leaflet distributed by the CWO in the UK and the IWG in the USA.
Why has the more than 30 year old struggle for control of Ukraine burst into outright war across the whole territory now? For the same reason the cost of living is going through the roof around the world. The stagnation of the capitalist system means its economic crisis is deepening (and this is not just due to the pandemic).
For over 30 years Ukraine has seen a power struggle between the two main linguistic groupings via the 40 or so oligarchs who control most of the country’s declining wealth. And behind the struggling factions stand both Western and Russian imperialism. After the collapse of the USSR, NATO has expanded from 17 to 30 states and has already parked its tanks on Russia’s front door in the Baltic states. Since 2004 both NATO and the EU have been attempting to bring Ukraine into their sphere of influence. After the Maidan protests, supported by the West, overthrew the pro-Russian President in 2014, Putin acted. He helped Russian separatists in the Donbass and “re-took” the Crimea. His intention was to keep Ukraine weak but NATO arms supplies have given new force to its army. Hence the troop build-up which led to the current crisis.
Western demands that Russia remove the troops were matched by Putin’s counter-demand that Ukraine stay out of NATO. The failure of either side to concede resulted in Putin’s decision to invade. The citizens of Ukraine are the “collateral damage” of a capitalist system in crisis. No side has any more room for concessions. We are on the cusp of a new phase in the crisis and in history. This is not a new “Cold War” but the precursor of something far more dangerous. Putin has already reminded the West that Russia is a nuclear power and snarled on the first day of the invasion that any Western attempt to intervene would have consequences “the like of which the world has never seen”.
The crisis in Ukraine also underlines the consolidation of the imperialist line-ups which have been going on rapidly since 2020. In this crisis the US has been able to force Europe to (reluctantly) toe its line. The German announcement that Nord Stream 2 would not be licensed being one triumph for the US. On the other side China and Russia have signed trade agreements and Russia is China’s main fuel supplier. Significantly, Russia-China trade is now 89% in euros and not dollars, a blow to US leverage over them. This economic decoupling paves the way for more rivalry. In 2020 Russia and China engaged in joint military manoeuvres for the first time which took in much of the Eastern Pacific close to Japan. The stage is being set for a wider imperialist war which threatens the future of humanity even more sharply than climate change.
How can workers stop the plunge into the abyss? Seemingly not by demonstrations alone, despite the bravery of many “No War” demonstrators in Russia. The 2003 demonstration against the war in Iraq was the biggest in UK history but it went ahead all the same. At least they show that millions did not accept the official lies. We have to have a movement which can move millions to take strike action to undermine state power. This will not come any time soon but the continuing capitalist crisis means more misery for workers everywhere. Fighting against this deterioration has to give birth to a movement which recognises that we do not live in the best of all possible worlds but in one which offers penury today and imperialist war tomorrow. Already workers around the world from Iran to the US are beginning to find their own way to struggle and independent forms of coordination. This is a start. What is needed though is an anti-capitalist political compass which unites and organises those workers who can see that capitalism is finished internationally. This will not come about quickly, and faces many obstacles, but the capitalist crisis that has now lasted decades has no solution. Only the working class world wide can pose an alternative society without states, nationalism, exploitation and war.
No war but the class war! We have a world to win!