Theses on the Ukraine War

The League for the Revolutionary Party
March 21, 2022

1. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a monstrous crime, aimed at re-establishing Russia’s dominance over a nation that the Tsars and Stalin had once colonized. Ukraine’s resistance is an inspiring struggle of a long-oppressed nation against a brutal would-be conqueror and so deserves the solidarity and support of all democratically minded people.

2. Marxists understand Russia’s invasion as an example of imperialism – the domination and exploitation of foreign countries by more powerful capitalist states. Indeed on the eve of his invasion Putin made clear the imperialist nature of his aims by claiming the right to rule all the lands that were once colonized by the Tsars, an empire rightly referred to as a “prison house of nations.”

3. Marxists also understand the Russian invasion in the context of intensifying rivalry between the world’s imperialist and would-be imperialist powers. By invading Ukraine, Putin has attempted to take advantage of the declining global authority of the U.S. to advance his own state’s power over the nations in what he considers Russia’s rightful “sphere of influence.” Likewise, the U.S. and other powers are supporting Ukraine’s resistance not out of any genuine concern for its people, but for their own imperialist reasons – to weaken Russia’s challenge to their authority

4. Of course, the condemnations of Russia’s invasion by the U.S. and its allies reek of hypocrisy, given their long and bloody history of supporting coups, carrying out invasions and occupying the lands of peoples who stand in the way of their imperial aims. We must remember that at the same time as they are condemning Putin, the Biden Administration is backing Israel’s violent seizures of land and homes from Palestinians, arming Saudi Arabia in its horrendous war in Yemen, and driving mass starvation in Afghanistan by seizing the bank assets of that poorest of nations – to name just a few of the ongoing atrocities the U.S. is behind.

5. Revolutionary socialists stand for the defense of Ukraine and the defeat of Russia’s aggression against it. Ukraine’s fierce resistance has already dealt such blows to Russia’s military as to make it unlikely that Putin would risk launching invasions of other countries in the region any time soon. Furthermore, setbacks for Putin would hinder his efforts to encourage the international trend towards authoritarian government and reaffirm the popular revolts of recent years in Ukraine, Belarus and Kazhakstan against authoritarian violence, corruption and austerity.

6. We recognize that NATO is an imperialist alliance with a bloody history of intervening militarily in ex-Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya. It is also seen by the smaller Eastern European states as a defensive bulwark against imperialist Russia, which has invaded the region under both the Tsars and Stalin and his successors. In the realm of imperialist realpolitik, NATO has taken advantage of Russia’s weakness after the collapse of the USSR to absorb former satellite countries. This history is a factor in the build-up of tensions but it does not justify Russia’s aggression – Ukraine was never going to be allowed to join NATO and represented no military threat to Russia. Marxists do not accept the claims of imperialists to “spheres of influence.”

7. We condemn those on the Western left who implicitly take Russia’s side in the war by blaming the conflict solely on the U.S. and NATO and fail to offer solidarity with, or even sympathy for, the besieged Ukrainians. In the U.S. such organizations include the U.S. Peace Council, the United National Antiwar Coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Their attitude is to prettify any regime, however undemocratic or repressive, that is out of favor with the imperialist U.S. Such regimes are falsely viewed as an “anti-imperialist camp,” and their left admirers are therefore called “campists.”

8. In support of the Ukrainian resistance, we say it has the right to get weapons from wherever it can. And we call on all countries to facilitate their supply. To provide those who are fighting a just war with the means to resist a powerful aggressor is an elementary internationalist duty. Opposition to sending arms to Ukraine amounts to backhanded support for Russia in the war. On the U.S. left, such a position has been advanced by leaders of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in the name of “de-escalation”; and by the Left Voice online journal on the grounds that sending arms makes Ukraine a puppet of Western imperialism.

9. A similar conclusion is drawn by the British-based International Socialist Tendency, which treats the war primarily as a proxy war between Russian and Western imperialism and therefore calls symmetrically for the withdrawal of Russian forces and for halting arms shipments to Ukraine. The IST and others on the left who claim that the West’s backing has transformed Ukraine into a proxy for U.S. and European imperialism ignore the fact that Ukraine is not fighting for any other country’s interests but for its own survival and right to-self-determination. Imperialists will always try to take advantage of rebellions of the oppressed against their rival powers to advance their own interests, so refusing to support such a resistance because a rival imperialist is supporting it would mean never supporting any anti-imperialist struggle.

10. We oppose calls for the U.S. and NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine. That would in effect mean a declaration of war between the great powers and heighten the risk of nuclear weapons being used. Ukrainian forces can, however, make their airspace a no-fly zone for Russian jets if they are supplied with effective anti-aircraft defenses.

11. We solidarize also with the courageous protesters in Russia against Putin’s war and condemn all attempts to blame and punish the entire Russian people for the crimes of their rulers. Encouraging the development of internationalist consciousness and solidarity among the masses of exploited and oppressed people of all countries is central to any hopes of ending the horrors of imperialist wars.

12. The Western powers have instituted far-reaching sanctions against Russia. Sanctions that prevent Russia from acquiring weapons and other materials that it needs to prosecute its invasion would contribute to the defense of Ukraine. However, many sanctions unnecessarily hit the most vulnerable people hardest, as shown by imperialist sanctions against Cuba for decades, Iraq in the past and Iran and Afghanistan today (among many others). We oppose these because they are cruelly oppressive and typically help the targeted regimes rally popular support they do not deserve. We also join with Ukrainian socialists who call for cancelling the country’s onerous debts to international financial institutions; these debts are instruments for the continuous and deepening exploitation of Ukrainian working-class people.

13. We call for asylum for the millions of refugees from Ukraine streaming into neighboring countries in Eastern Europe and for all wealthy countries especially to welcome and aid them. We denounce the hypocrisy of Western imperialist leaders who block entry and asylum for the even greater numbers of refugees from other war-torn and impoverished regions of the world, thereby sentencing thousands to their deaths. The hypocrisy is most blatant on the borders of Poland, where white Ukrainians get through but Africans and Middle Easterners are harassed and even blocked, and where refugees from Syria and elsewhere are massed at the Belarusian border, driven there by the cynical ploy of Putin and Belarus’s Lukashenka to expose the West.

14. The murderous cruelty of all the world’s imperialist rulers condemns the capitalist system they dominate. The sympathy that so many people across the world have shown for the plight of the beleaguered Ukrainian people should be extended to all the victims of imperialist capitalism. It is the task of revolutionary socialists to solidarize with and expand such sympathy and show the way to the only realistic solution: socialist revolution.