Presentations and floor contributions
Presentations in order of speaking
1. Ian Donovan (Consistent Democrats – Great Britain, and LCFI)
By way of introduction, recently I was confronted by a typical NATO ‘left’ apologist who actually expressed the view that, in seeking the dismemberment of Russia, NATO were seeking to destroy something terrible: the “Russian Empire”.
What Russian empire? The Russian Empire was smashed in 1917 and its monarch put up against the wall. The US, Britain and every imperialist around the world invaded Russia and fought to restore capitalism and the empire.
Fast forward to 1991 and after. They were happy about Yeltsin and even initially Putin when they were convinced that they were doing the job for them.
But their sheer world-predatory behaviour, extending NATO to the East, gradually caused a rift.
Much of the ex-Soviet oligarchy began to back away from neoliberalism, through a process of polarisation, which is continuing, to this day, and used the technological and military power that survived from the USSR, to keep imperialism at bay.
That’s what this new Cold War is about – they still have not eliminated every trace of what grew out of 1917 and other social revolutions derived from it. Its more obvious with China because the regime even still clings on to elements of its old ideology.
But the issues are the related. This imperialist cold war is still directed against residues of 1917.
As with feudalism after the defeat of Napoleon and the restoration of Louis XVIII, restoring capitalism after it has been torn out by the roots and crushed for decades is easier said than done.
That does not mean that capitalist restoration has been reversed. But it does mean that the form of capitalism that exists here is so marked by its origin in a workers’ state that the imperialist bourgeoisie considers it to be fundamentally untrustworthy.
Perhaps in a way analogous to the way the bourgeoisie once suspected its Jewish component of being surrogates for ‘communists’
That is why Hitlerism has been recreated in Ukraine under US sponsorship. The US is still trying to do what Hitler tried and failed to do. Like the Third Reich, the US and NATO need to be smashed.
Our position on this war is that we are for the defence of Russia, and we give military support to Putin’s forces based on the stated objectives of Putin, which we consider defensive.
(1) to defend the rights to self-determination of the Russian and Russophone population in the east of present-day Ukraine where they are the majority, of the two Donbass republics (and Crimea of course) but not just there.
(2) to De-nazify Ukraine, which must mean simply to defeat and root out the current neo-Nazi currents from dominance in Ukraine. This may well involve the defeat of Zelenskyy’s regime and its replacement by something more conciliatory. And (3) a neutral Ukraine, barred from joining NATO.
Those demands are supportable in defensive terms, but they are not our aims. We are for a Ukraine free of imperialist control financially and militarily. For the legalization of leftist and workers’ parties and the banning of Nazi and 2014 coup parties.
For expropriation of imperialism’s multinationals, controlled by the workers,
For democratic referendums be held emulating those of the people’s republics, for whatever status its inhabitants decide.
We do not support the prolonged occupation or annexation of territory where Russians are not the main population: that would be both wrong in principle, and dangerous. But those do not appear to be Putin’s war aims.
We could defend Russia on the grounds that it is a backward capitalist economy, not imperialist, and a semi-colony therefore. But that would not be quite correct. Firstly, because Russia is very advanced in some things, from military technology to medicine, more so in some cases than the US. It is not uniformly backward, but rather uneven.
It is certainly not imperialist. We totally reject the rationalisation of the third campists, and others who have made errors on this (e.g. the IBT). It is clear that Russia does not derive its economic strength from the continuing exploitation of backward countries, as do the US, Britain and all the imperialist countries, in the last analysis.
But it is also true that Russia is more independent of imperialism than any semi-colony. This is partly because as part of the retreat from neoliberalism, the degree of statification in the Russian economy has massively increased since the days of Yelstin’s mass privatisation.
This is a classic means by which dependent and semi-colonial countries defend themselves against imperialism – there are many examples of this from Iraq to Ireland. But in the case of Russia, this is massively enhanced by the military and technological might that it inherited from the USSR.
That is what has happened, and as NATO began to go on the offensive at the end of the 1990s, the central element of the oligarchy retreated from neoliberalism. We have an anomalous form of capitalism here, that is out of step with imperialism; its power to defy imperialism is still indirectly a product of the revolution. The degree of Russia’s dependency is sharply limited by this.
Trotsky’s permanent revolution posited that democratic gains, including genuine national independence, can only be established by overthrowing the bourgeoisie. But capitalist restoration does not automatically reverse that as both Russia and China show.
Which raises the question of China. Trotsky himself said that if a counterrevolution happened in the USSR, the new regime for a prolonged period would have to retain much of the nationalised economy. This is more applicable to China than Russia, as things turned out.
Those who maintain that China is a workers’ state have to realise that it has more billionaires than the US. In that sense, the position that it is a workers’ state denies reality in a symmetrically opposite sense to Gerry Healy’s denial that a deformed workers’ state had come into being in Cuba after 1960.
But China’s billionaires are much less wealthy than those in the US. And they are not a fully consolidated bourgeois class. They are a hybrid oligarchy, much more cohesive and disciplined than the oligarchy in Russia. And the degree of statification in China is considerably greater.
But China is not imperialist any more than Russia, it requires the same revolutionary defence. Again, somewhat similar to semi-colonies. But China looks even less like a semi-colony than Russia does.
This war is partly about revenge for Syria. Because Russia was key in defeating imperialism in Syria, and they know it. But it is not predetermined that they will not be defeated here also.
Those who say that Russia (and China) are not imperialist … YET … are also somewhat deterministic. There is no teleological reason why they should become imperialist in future. This is not determined in advance.
This whole phenomenon is an unforeseen consequence of the delay of the world revolution, and then the counterrevolution of 1989-91. It may be that imperialism is not capable of ultimately consummating these counterrevolutions. It may be that these contradictions may themselves create opportunities for resuming the world revolution.
2. Robert Montgomery (ClassConscious – Australia & US)
Good afternoon comrades and friends. I am glad to join with you at this auspicious historical moment. I’m old enough to remember The Cuban Missile Crisis almost 60 years ago when all the adults in my life thought the world was about to end in the mushroom cloud of nuclear war. And today we may be heading towards that brink again. I’m Robert Montgomery speaking from Rhode Island for ClassConscious. We are a small Marxist website based in Australia and the US. Our 3-person editorial board has between us a combined 70 years of involvement in the Trotskyist movement. We have published work on the character of China, Marx’s theory of crisis, the threat of war and fascism, a history of policing, ZeroCovid, and cultural reviews. All our material can be accessed at classconscious.org.
For today’s purposes I would refer you to our two recent documents published by Davey Heller and myself:
Setting the Record Straight on Imperialism: Russia, Ukraine and the US
Imperialism Harnesses the anti-war movement to prepare for World War 3.
I’ll be paraphrasing these documents to keep my remarks short.
Firstly, we see today’s events within the context of the deep crisis of world capitalism. The law of value is asserting itself in long-term falling rates of profit on a world scale, and most acutely, in the US. The thirst for increased profitability has turned into a ravenous hunger driving the US and its allies to redivide the world in search of expanded markets for the export of its capital and to capture for itself an increased the share of available surplus value. In response to its crisis of valorisation US capitalism is intensifying its attack on the working class at home and abroad. Today it is positioning itself geopolitically against Russia. The aim of the war is to reduce Russia to neo-colonial status to open its vast mineral, agricultural and energy resources to unhindered exploitation by imperialist capital. The ongoing mobilization of military and economic power against Russia is reminiscent of the Nazi Operation Barbarossa 80 years ago.
The regional war in Ukraine cannot be separated from the US drive to crush both its strategic rivals, Russia and China in order to maintain its declining global economic hegemony. US hegemony is under threat, both from its own internal contradictions and from the rising economic strength of China.
Recently, the US has been stymied by a combination of semi-colonial and lesser capitalist states acting in concert as we saw in Syria. Having failed in its regime change war in Syria due largely to Russian and Iranian military assistance, the US wants to remove the Russian thorn from its side.
The inner logic of events is unfolding towards a massive military confrontation between NATO and Russia that could draw in all major powers and result in a nuclear holocaust. The conflict in Ukraine is not between “poor little Ukraine” and Russia. To be clear: this is a proxy war between imperialism led by the US, and Russia.
We see once again, as we did a century ago, the case of a peace movement that supports imperialist war.
The demand for “action to save Ukraine” gives political cover to the war, as do all the anti-war groups campaigning under the banner of “no to Moscow and NATO”.
To demand peace in Ukraine is simply to join the chorus demanding that Russia and China submit to the Pax Americana and open themselves up to the untrammelled looting of their material, natural and Human Resources.
The mistaken assumption of the peace movement is that war can be avoided by allowing US and Western imperialism to exploit the world’s resources without limit. This is a delusion. The only real anti-war position is to fight US imperialism’s effort to dominate the globe, including by encircling and dismembering Russia, and to support the right of all countries in the cross hairs of imperialism to defend themselves.
We extend critical support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is because we classify Russia, not as imperialist, but rather as a nationalist and dependent bourgeois regime in conflict with imperialism. We support Russia’s right to defend its national sovereignty against imperialist aggression on its borders, up to and including the use of military force.
We extend military but no political support to the reactionary, nationalist Putin regime. We call for the Russian working class to oust Putin and the oligarchs he represents. Should Russia be defeated by, or capitulate to imperialism, it will mean a “double chain” for the working class as it toils under the dual domination of its own ruling class, and that of imperialist capital.
The same imperialist knife at the throat of Russia is at the same time also menacing Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba. The ultimate target of this military and economic eruption is China. And as always the butcher’s knife is at the throats of all the working masses of the Global South.
We believe a military victory by Russia against imperialism would be a blow against imperialism everywhere.
I suspect that these sentiments are shared by those here who agree on the high stakes involved in imperialism’s proxy war in Ukraine.
So, once again the question is before us: “What is to be done?” Or conversely, “What must be Undone?” As all the rotten opportunist groups bend the knee before bourgeois public opinion. And as they give their objective support to the imperialist onslaught against Russia we need to ask, “Is it time for a Zimmerwald Manifesto for the 21st century?”
In the teeth of the ongoing onslaught against Russia it is our hope that we can move forward in a united front of all revolutionary forces to call for the defeat of imperialism without qualification or equivocation. For an end to all war, violence and fascism and for an abundant life for all, forward to the world socialist revolution!
3. Alan Gibson (Bolshevik Tendency)
I would like to start my remarks by briefly outlining how the Bolshevik Tendency understands the current situation.
For us the recognition that Russia is not an imperialist state is central to our understanding of the current conflict. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia emerged as a capitalist, regional power, with an economy that is primarily centred on energy exports, not the extraction of super profits from other countries.
American imperialism has reneged on its assurances made to Gorbachev that there would be no NATO expansion into Eastern Europe and has instead continued to up the ante to the point of trying to include Georgia and Ukraine in the bloc. The ultimate objective of US imperialism, expressed by Dick Cheney among others, is to chop up Russia into several smaller more manageable states and gain control of its immense natural resources.
Since the 2014 US sponsored right-wing Maidan coup, the various Ukrainian governments have effectively been US puppet regimes run from Washington. We therefore regard the current war as being fundamentally between US/NATO imperialism and non-imperialist Russia. Unfortunately, these events take place in the absence of an organised revolutionary workers movement able to pose the question of power: in this context Marxists favour the victory of non-imperialist Russia over the Ukrainian proxy of the US/NATO imperialists.
The section of the left that considers Russia to be imperialist (with all the varied political content they give the term) either sides with Ukraine (and therefore US/NATO) or they are neutral and call for revolutionary defeatism on both sides.
There are also those who regard Russia as non-imperialist but who do not favour victory of the Russians (like the Spartacist League and the Internationalist Group) this is ostensibly because they do ot consider this a conflict essentially between the US/NATO imperialists and Russia but rather one of capitalist Russia invading capitalist Ukraine.
Then there are anarchists, who argue that even if there is a distinction between imperialist and non-imperialist, it makes no difference as they are both capitalist—although in many cases they side with poor innocent Ukraine.
What they all share in common is a failure to grasp the central importance of defeating the rapacious imperialists.
The role of the fascists in Ukraine needs to be addressed. It is clear that the fascists were key shock troops in the 2014 coup and as a result were able to lodge themselves inside the state apparatus. They have played a criminal role in the 8 years of violence against the Donbass Peoples’ Republic and the Lugansk Peoples’ Republic which has resulted in some 14,000 casualties.
However, for us the presence of the fascists in the Ukrainian military and wider state apparatus is secondary to the role of the US/NATO imperialist military alliance. For us the key issue for revolutionaries in this conflict is opposing US/NATO imperialism.
A related question to this is recognising what fascism is and the danger it poses for the left and workers’ movement. Ukraine provides us with valuable lessons in this regard.
If for instance we were to compare the activity of the dangerous, organized fascist formations in Ukraine to the incoherent rightist populism of Donald Trump, who riled up his base (which included a minority of fascists and other ultra-rightists) in a riot aimed at overturning the results of the US 2020 election on 6 Jan 2021, I think the difference is clear.
The fascistic elements in the Jan 6 Capitol building riot would have wanted to have come out of that process as something equivalent to the Right Sector and Azov Battalion following the 2014 EuroMaidan protests and subsequent coup. But they did not. They were not the decisive factor in that event and there was never any question of them having significant influence over the state machinery or even the movement itself, unlike The Azov Battalion and other formations in Ukraine, who are heavily armed and organised fascists.
We view this meeting as a small step in affirming the Bolshevik understanding of the role of imperialism in the world against the barrage of war propaganda coming from the bourgeois mass media. There is always huge pressure to adapt to prevailing forces as we unfortunately see in the response of most of the left.
It is also important to see the current conflict in the wider geo-political context of the imperialist, particularly the US, desire to destroy the Chinese deformed workers’ state and open it up to direct and punitive exploitation. The cancer of capitalist social relations has been allowed to take root in China. The bureaucrats heading the deformed workers state are playing a dangerous game trying to contain the interests of capital while at the same time maintaining living standards of the working people. This tension will have to be resolved and the danger of a capitalist counter-revolution is great – however that has not yet happened, and China remains a deformed workers state which must be defended.
Going back to the current conflict. The Russians so far seem to have pretty much done what they intended to.
It was all about ensuring that Ukraine will never join NATO, degrading the fascistic elements within the Ukrainian military who threaten Russia, solidifying/expanding the DPR and LPR to encombass most of the Donbass, and creating a land bridge to Crimea and as part of that, opening up security of water supply to Crimea. Some 75,000 or so Ukrainian soldiers are surrounded in what the Russian’s are calling cauldrons and over the next week or so those soldiers, many of them Nazi sympathizers, will either surrender or be liquidated.
The Russians have complete control of the air (hence the calls for NATO to enforce a no-fly zone) and could have levelled any city had they wanted to. Yet apart from Mariupol, which was a stronghold of the fascistic Azov Battalion, they have attempted to minimize damage to urban areas. For instance, all the civilian infrastructure (water, electricity, heating gas, communications etc) remain operational in Kyiv and Kharkiv. I don’t know if people saw the Newsweek report, from and American intelligence expert, who was arguing this very case, that Russia was not attacking civilians. Continuing the war will only bring more chaos and suffering for ordinary Ukrainians.
The refusal of the Ukrainian government to settle the conflict by acceding to the Russian proposals can only mean more needless suffering—although this seems likely to be what the US and its NATO allies are aiming at. By continuing to enflame the situation and prolonging the conflict they are playing with the possibility of this war turning nuclear a prospect that could mean the end of human civilisation.
We welcome the chance to participate in this event alongside other leftists who understand that the central question is opposition to US/NATO imperialism.
It is necessary to seek to regroup and reorganize those forces that are seriously committed to the difficult struggle to reforge a viable mass revolutionary workers’ organization on an international basis. But this desire cannot be achieved by papering over significant programmatic issues in the interests of projecting a degree of unity which is not real.
Comrades might have seen that at the beginning of the week Left Voice called for a new Zimmerwald. What we really need in this circumstance is a Zimmerwald Left based on intransigent opposition to imperialist aggression—whether directly or through its proxies. Such a formation would necessarily see that US/NATO aggression against Russia through their Ukrainian proxy is occurring in the wider framework of increasing imperialist hostility towards the Chinese deformed workers’ state.
For those unfamiliar with our organisation, the BT stands in the tradition of the revolutionary Spartacist League of the 1960s and 70s before its programmatic degeneration into a braindead obedience cult. This political heritage would frame any discussions on a more substantive unity.
For people wanting to know more about our wider programmatic perspectives you can visit our web site bolsheviktendency.org
4. Communist Revolutionary Action (KED – Greece)
Hello comrades, I hope that you can hear me clearly and on behalf of the Communist Revolutionary Action – Avant-Garde I would like to say thank you for inviting us to the present discussion. It is an honour to be among other comrades in the world having the same internationalist stance on the context of the latest developments.
I would like to start my talk with a small excerpt from our history. It was when the convention of Zimmerwald took place the remaining international socialists that participated there. Trotsky made a small comment while they were going towards the village. The internationalists that participated in Zimmerwald said Trotsky could fit in inside a small horse-drawn carriage. He was making fun with the other comrades saying that how crazy it was that the whole second internationalists, the only internationalists that survived from the second international could just fit in inside a horse-drawn carriage.
Well, if I could make this parallel between this moment and us, I would say that I’m very happy to be part of this present digital carriage between us. So okay let me now continue with the more serious part of my intervention today
The problem regarding Ukraine from a left-wing perspective is actually a problem of a historical, thus political essence. What I would like to say is that what is happening right now in the majority of the communist and socialist organisations in the world is that they are trying to mechanically project previous situations, of the past, into the context of today’s problems.
What I mean right now is that most communist organizations, what they are doing is copy-pasting the line regarding the first world war and they say that the situation is the same, is just a fight between two imperialists, so defeatism is the proper line. We take no part between either imperialist.
The issue that is that the reason why they are leading to towards this very simplistic copy paste is because of a much deeper issue. Which is the fact that they are mechanically trying to use Lenin’s five famous criteria for designating a country as imperialist. So the rationale is very simplistic in a way. What they are saying is Russia has financial capital oh Russia has exports of capital so in a very simplistic way they are defining Russia as an imperialist nation.
The problem regarding that is that if we take the same rationale and project it to other nations, we could also say that Iran, Syria, China is imperialist, or even Mexico is imperialist, and from a logical perspective if we define that, we say right now that the whole the whole world is full of imperialists. Then the interpretational value of the word “imperialism” loses its value. Because if everything is imperialist then nothing is imperialist.
This logical problem: in our opinion there is a somehow like a falsification of Leninism and the issue is that they are not truly Leninists, the people who are using this kind of rationale. The five criteria are not actually used.
What is inherent in their methodology is actually a very classic liberal understanding of designating nations. what they are actually using is explicit violence as a criterion so what they are saying in in our opinion is that whoever invades anyone is actually an imperialist and it’s not by chance that the same people, the same organizations who are defining right now Russia as imperialist, in the past they have said that Iran is an imperialist, that Syria wages an imperialist war against other nations,
etc. So what we believe is that in essence there is a liberal thought of how they are designating countries an externalist, a phenomenological aspect, not an essential and with this criterion they’re actually breaking from historical materialism.
So, the issue is that this liberalism works as somehow a hijacking of their thought. So, to the extent that their thought is hijacked by this liberal thinking, the political issues that they are that they raise, are a leftist expression of bourgeois politics. They are implementing bourgeois politics in the left-wing expression. And due to that that thing even though these comrades might say that they are internationalists, communists and I don’t know what else, in essence they are sovereigntists. they are social sovereigntists because sovereigntism is expressed in in the dire moments of the existence of an imperialist system. In the most problematic, the most critical stance of a system is sovereigntism truly expressed.
But let me continue with the next part of my intervention because it’s not enough to criticize other organizations, it’s very important to positively define what is imperialism today, and I will try to do so in in a few sentences
In our opinion there is a very dire need for redefining how the map looks like. It’s very important to define how modern imperialism is expressed, is structured,
etc. The viewpoint that best describes ours is the notion of Empire. This is the historical analysis that we make. After World War II Western imperialism joined with each other and created one singular bloc, one singular imperialist front, which was used against communism, and to fight for the survival of colonial structures. Right now, NATO, the IMF, the World Bank, the EU, the OECD are aspects of the structure of this empire.
The petrodollar is actually a very strong tool of the Empire. All these are mechanisms and part of the structures of the Empire, and of course this empire is called the American empire. it’s because the American government is the primal organiser of this modern imperialism and represents its core. So, what is defined today is imperial. We don’t need to use all these five criteria of learning. But whoever participates in this system is part of the imperialist structure. So, in our opinion the EU, America, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand are the only nations which can only be defined today as imperialist. All others are not imperialists. And we can also see that by also following a very close-minded economistic analysis by saying per capita income, who exploits the world today? Of course, these are the nations.
So, in the context of this analysis, what we are seeing right now in Ukraine is actually part of the general plan of the American Empire and its proxies to generalize its authority and power to unconquered lands. After the dissolution of the USSR, NATO and the US have been engaged in trying to establish orange revolutions, groups and invasions all over the Earth, and we in Greece have also experienced that in our close neighbourhood by seeing the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and of course the orange revolution in Syria.
We see Ukraine right now as the latest plan of imperialism of balkanizing one of the last adversaries on Earth, which is the Russian Federation. Other comrades also discussed about this part, but Russia, by inheriting from the USSR this powerful military, this is why it is still capable of surviving, of having some kind of independent political life. So, what we are seeing right now in Ukraine is only the result of imperialist aggressivity. So the staging of the Maidan coup, the strengthening of the Nazi militias, the rewriting of history: all these are part of NATO’s plan of doing to Russia what they did to the Middle East and Yugoslavia. And they tried to do that in the past with a not very well-known conflict in Chechnya, and in the Caucasus region in general.
Many organizations have a problem using this kind of rationale. We could also use some other criteria. Do these organizations recognize that right now we’ve had almost 15 000 dead Russophones in Donbass and Ukraine in general? Isn’t that defined as a genocide? Because the west defined as a genocide other mass-murders which were less gruesome than this one. Like in Bosnia for example, yes?
So, what I’m trying to say is that we should not we don’t have to get too fine. We could also use Lenin’s criterion of the right of the nations to self-determination and we should respect the decision of these populations for self-determination, and the Marxists who are proclaiming themselves as Marxists and they do not acknowledge these criteria for these populations are actually sovereign, they are representing the rights of their own bourgeoisie.
So, in our opinion internationalists, communists and of course all the progressive people of the world should want the crushing of the enemy. We should want the crashing of the Ukra-Nazi militaries, who have stolen the right to represent the Ukrainian people. Another important fact is who are fighting in Donbass or who are supporting Donbass. it is not without chance the fact that we have seen Iranians, people from Africa wanting to fight in Ukraine because they understand the historical and world significance of this fight for their own countries. They are more conscious of the global implications of the destruction of the NATO hunt in Ukraine than internationalists in the first world. These people who might also not be communists are more conscious of the implications of this issue in their own country and this is why they want to fight them.
So, I would also like to close by saying that this fight is also very significant for us, people who are in the first world, people who are part of the privileged part of the world. Because as history has shown when imperialism’s plans are defeated, then the defeat is internalised. It comes home and it’s not without chance the fact that May 68 in our analysis was a product of Vietnam, and of the defeats in Algeria, in Morocco. So, in our opinion the best possible scenario would be the destruction of the Ukraine Nazis and the NATO militias because this will not only facilitate the survival of the people of Donbass, but it will also facilitate the maximization of class struggle in Europe, in the US, in Australia, etc. This is what I wanted to say. Again, thank you very much for inviting us. Comradely regards to everyone. Hope we have a good struggle. Thank you, a lot.
5. Greg Butterfield (Socialist Unity Party – United States)
Good afternoon comrades from here in New York, and whatever time it is where you are in the world right now, we want to thank the organizers for inviting us to participate in this important event.
As Davey said at the beginning of the meeting, there are turning points in history, where the principles of organizations and individuals get tested and clarified, and this is one of those moments. It’s been coming for a while and some of us who have been deeply engaged in the struggle around Ukraine and Donbass over the last eight years have been trying to put up an alarm around it. And certainly, here in the US it’s been very difficult to get any traction, and now we’re seeing the consequences of that. In the past month we’ve seen so many anti-war and left formations bow to the intense pressure of imperialist propaganda and putting catering to the cowardice of funders and fellow travellers ahead of anti-imperialism, and the interests of the workers and oppressed.
The other side of that coin is that the war crisis is separating the wheat from the chaff. Leaders and organizations that have coasted through recent years and decades on past accomplishments are now forced to show where they really stand. And at the same time, I think as this as this forum is an example, groups that maybe were separated by historical differences and secondary issues may now find a new basis to work together and learn from each other.
The Socialist Unity Party and Struggle/La Lucha newspaper called for the victory of the Donbass republics and Russia in their defensive joint military operation to de-nazify and demilitarise Ukraine. What this really means is to end the eight-year genocidal war against the people of Donbass. To remove the Neo-Nazi boot-heel from the neck of the Ukrainian people. To reverse Ukraine’s transformation into a NATO war base that poses a constant threat to Russia, and return it to the formerly neutral status before the coup of 2014. We call for the defeat of US imperialism which instigated this war and is a combatant in it as surely as it is in Yemen or anywhere else.
Washington’s proxy wars are carried out. After this week’s NATO summit the imperialists are moving closer to direct intervention which of course could as we all know precipitate an unprecedented global war. We think it’s very important to elevate the struggle of the people of the Donbass region, the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Too often their struggle is ignored by the left, or following the lead of the corporate media is written off merely as Russian separatists or Putin’s proxies.
But such a view can only be argued by people who are completely ignorant of the Donbass and the anti-fascist struggle of the people there over the last eight years, how they’ve persevered through constant terror by the Ukrainian armed forces and the Neo-Nazi battalions. How they’ve survived through very brutal blockade. How it draws upon the deep traditions of internationalism and anti-fascism inherited from the Soviet people and how that resistance found an echo in Russia. Or it’s argued only by those who know better but are adapting their views to the needs of imperialism which is much of what we see in the movement right now.
Revolutionary Marxists look below the surface to understand the class forces and contradictions at work. Those who focus on Putin and the Russian capitalists’ reactionary ideology ignore the dialectical relationship between Russia’s struggle to maintain its sovereignty against the US and NATO, and the anti-fascist struggle in Donbass and Ukraine. that same dynamic exists on a global scale. Looking at it purely on the surface level of political pronouncements, you could come to the conclusion that there’s little difference between Russia and Bolsonaro’s Brazil or Modi’s India, but unlike those countries whose ruling classes are fundamentally tied to imperialism, the life and death struggle of Russia not to be dissected and swallowed up by imperialism has pushed it into the camp of countries and movements resisting the US. Including Venezuela, Cuba, China, the DPRK, Syria, Yemen and Iran.
With our modest forces here in the US we’re doing what we can to clarify the issues and bring a genuine anti-war position to the working class. We’ve launched a campaign called ‘Stop the War Lies’ which is aimed at exposing the US/NATO role in Ukraine. Exposing imperialism’s cozy relationship with the Ukrainian fascists. Educating about the cause of Donbass and exposing how Wall Street, Big Oil and the military industry profit from the war at the expense of people here.
We and allied groups have been getting out into communities with fact sheets, holding picket lines and speak outs. Just last night our comrades in the City of Baltimore held a rush-hour banner drop, and leafleting action. Today folks in New Orleans and San Diego are doing community outreach, and for next weekend on April 2nd, which is the anniversary weekend of Martin Luther King’s assassination, we’re building protests in New York and Los Angeles. Also tomorrow, March 27th we’re organizing a webinar featuring speakers from Donbass to help inform the anti-war movement and the left in the US about the reality of the US-Ukraine war, and we’re planning and working on a speaking tour for this spring.
Those are some of the actual, concrete things we’re working on right now. We invite organizations here on this call to join in this effort. We’re open to collaborating with groups here in the us and internationally. This is a moment to overcome secondary differences and build a united front against imperialism and war that can lay the foundation for future revolutionary struggles.
6. Gerry Downing (Socialist Fight – Great Britain)
Okay, can I say first that this is a very inspiring meeting, and being that I’m speaking last after the main speakers most of the stuff I was going to say has already been said, so I can’t actually repeat it all, so I’ll make some observations that I think are relevant.
First of all, on the question of the united front. The Socialist Fight has actually participated in three versions of the united front up to now. We’ve got our own Socialist Fight leaflet that that you can see which calls for “No to NATO Aggression, The Main Enemy is at Home”. We have the Socialist Labour who are people who were in the Labour Party but have now been expelled actually, and it has the same headline, and the “Victory to the anti-fascist forces of Donbass and their Allies” jointly with the Consistent Democrats, the New Communist Party and the Posadists, so those are three united fronts.
But I do endorse Robert Montgomery’s position and the ClassConscious position, the call for a new Zimmerwald. Certainly, I think that that should be the top of the agenda to draw together everybody that recognizes US imperialism as a global hegemonic imperialist power that organizes all the other imperialists
Biden has just boasted that never was NATO so united as they are at the moment. Then those people that recognize that it is the main enemy of all oppressed humanity and the working class, then I know Zimmerwald is necessary so that would be the fourth united front but we’ve just heard the call for the left Zimmerwald. Well we do remember the left Zimmerwald fitted into a horse carriage apparently. Well we would mention that that in the left Zimmerwald there was there was Lenin, Trotsky Zinoviev and then Karl Liebknecht, to mention a few. Now I don’t know who here is the Lenin and who is the Trotsky and the Zinoviev or the Liebknecht, but but I’m sure somebody will want to fill those roles in and as the struggle develops.
A few other points. The sanctions on Russia are very severe but there are people that are questioning how these sanctions are going to work and if in fact the impositions of these sanctions on the banks and everything will in fact bring into question the global hegemonic position of the dollar itself. If Russia and China are supposed to, are forced to collaborate together closely using their own currencies. Russia is now saying that that it will only accept payment in roubles at the moment we have peculiar phenomenon developing. And in that we have India took a neutral position on this and although Boris Johnson and Biden put all the pressure they could on Saudi Arabia, it did not promise to increase its oil supplies and a whole swathe of third world countries are not accepting the imposition of US domination to the extent that’s necessary. So, it would be a very interesting development if the whole question of what that hegemonic power is built on which is basically the dollar as the world trading currency and the world’s reserve currency and its ability to sanction whoever it wants…
Oh, by the way I have differences with Alan about whether China is a deformed workers state or not, but at the same time I’m quite certain that it’s not an imperialist power. It cannot do any of that stuff that that the United States does in terms of sanctioning other people. It cannot, it doesn’t dominate the International Monetary Fund and it doesn’t dominate the World Bank it is not at all in that position although it is a part of the World Trading Organisation.
Just a few more points quickly. I would have thought that the question of who are the outright supporters of imperialism on the left, well that that accolade undoubtedly goes to the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign. This is Chris Ford’s baby, and I would mention that the Weekly Worker have a very interesting article today by Paul Houston: “A toxic operation” but he mentions of course like we mentioned back in 2014 when that that whole Maidan coup thing broke out that actually Chris Ford’s origin was in a an organisation that was funded by the CIA in London. As it happened while people say he was a willing idiot and he didn’t know, well if you’re in an organization that the CIA is prepared to fund then you’re definitely moving in absolutely the wrong direction.
Of course, we have the other participants. The AWL. Well who would expect anything else from the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s Sean Matgamna, a man from the County Clare in Ireland who supports basically the loyalist community in the North of Ireland against the nationalist community, well we wouldn’t expect any, but by the way he says proudly “I am a Zionist”. And poor old Martin Thomas who’s the second in command, the secondary leader he said well “I’m a bit of a Zionist” not the full shilling, but just a bit of a Zionist, so that’s that organisation. Unfortunately, also in there is the USec group, the Anti-Capitalist Alliances as they are now: Fred Leplatn who spoke at Labour Representation Committee, they participated in in this as did a number of other former leftists so it is a very nasty situation
Lastly then on the question of the influence of fascism within Ukraine. Well, they say the Svoboda only got something like 1.25 percent in the last election as compared to the vote that Marine Le Pen got in France. But I’m sure Marine Le Pen would give her right arm for an organization within the armed forces such as the Azov Battalion to back up her politics. Knowing that at a certain point a coup was possible against the Jewish president and the Jewish president of course is very careful that he doesn’t upset the far right. He promised that at the beginning to bring the country together but he didn’t bring it together too much. As soon as the Azov Battalion let him know where he stood in the situation.
And lastly a word of warning Putin also has far-right scoundrels within his camp. He’s got the National Bolsheviks, and he’s got the Wagner group. Now they tell us that the Wagner group has got 40 assassins ready to assassinate Zelenskyy, his family and the leaders. I would suggest that these 40 assassins their main task would be to watch out for any revolutionary movement within the working class in Ukraine and assassinate them. We must never forget uh as anti-imperialism is our main slogan what happened to the Shanghai Soviet back in April 1927 when they abandoned the defence against the bourgeois nationalist Chiang Kai-shek, and how he dealt with them. So going too far and in that direction is something we must be very careful about. Thank you.
Additional Contributions (from the floor, in effect)
1. Devrimci İşçi Partisi (DIP) – Revolutionary Workers Party – Turkey
I’m participating for the Revolutionary Workers Party (DIP). Hello everyone. Well while as the DIP (Revolutionary Workers Party) we are here as observers, I want to thank Davey and all the organisers for letting me take the floor to briefly introduce the position and activities of the Revolutionary Workers Party on the strategic issue that is the war between imperialism and Russia, and I would also like to thank Class Conscious and Davey for making this very important event happen.
Let me start by underlining that as a revolutionary Marxist party in the region, DIP has been long paying attention to the evolution of the situation in Ukraine, well before the recent acceleration of events turned it into a global hotspot, and this attention includes included numerous articles in Turkish from our monthly paper Gerçek, which is the Turkish namesake of Pravda (Truth). As well as an international campaign we organized along with numerous organizations and individuals on the occasion of the fascist massacre in Odessa in 2014. The text published for this last campaign and many others could be found in English on RedMed, a website publishing in in a dozen languages, that we run with our comrades from the EEK (Workers Revolutionary Party) in Greece. And therefore, in mid-February before the outbreak of war, we published a joint statement bringing together the Christian Rakovsky international socialist centre, and RedMed web network uniting revolutionary organizations from Turkey, Greece, Russia, France and Finland.
The call of the statement was built around the slogans of: workers of the NATO countries work to destroy NATO, and in case of war, work for the defeat of imperialism. Throughout the last period leading to the open war between Russia and Imperialism, DIP underlined that Russia was not an imperialist country, has been fighting a defensive war, and the Revolutionary Workers Party ran its
political campaign around the slogan of: Out of NATO, Destroy NATO. The initial statement of DIP on the issue of war when the open war started stated clearly that the way to peace is through the military defeat of NATO and its proxies. It affirmed that the war is not between Russia and Ukraine, but rather the Zelenskyy government is but a proxy of NATO, and Ukraine is only fighting a proxy war in the name of imperialism. Accordingly, both in Turkey and on an international scale DIP organised several events and demonstrations as a part of its bid to bring about the defeat and destruction of NATO.
To begin with on February 18th, which was the 70th anniversary of turkey joining NATO, DIP had been one of the initiators of a demonstration that brought together several revolutionary and left groups under the slogan of: Out of NATO and Close imperialist bases. The rally took place in a historically charged place where the revolutionary youth of Turkey had once thrown the Navy men of the US Sixth Fleet into the sea. accordingly the slogans of the demonstration included: imperialists and lackeys do not forget what happened to the sixth fleet.
Also, on March 11th the English edition of our theoretical journal Revolutionary Marxism organized a webinar on the issue of war which brought together revolutionary Marxists from Turkey, Greece and Russia. Finally DIP along with several other groups in Turkey commands the political campaign under the title: ‘The Nemesis of World Peace is NATO and Imperialism’, and in this recently started campaign we have so far organised a nationwide petition with the participation of organisations, militants, trade union leaders and artists. But more is to come, and we the DIP, the Revolutionary Workers Party, are undeterred to fight for the defeat and destruction of NATO, the biggest terrorist organization known to humankind.
Thank you, comrades.
2. Bolshevik Group – South Korea
After the outbreak of war in Ukraine, outrageous anti-Russian racist sentiment is raging over the regions under US influence.
Only handful of left-wing organizations point out the march of NATO eastward, led by US, as the cause of the war and call for “the defeat of NATO and the victory of Russia.”
Perhaps most of the organizations gathered here today belong to this category.
I don’t know if all the organizations gathered here will go along together, but the political line shared today by the comrades gathered here will be one of the core programmes of the new international.
In this regard, this meeting is meaningful.
And we welcome comrades from BT for joining this ranks.
Although it was not announced, BT comrades, along with us, took a position of supporting Russian victory in the 2008 Georgian War. And today in 2022, these comrades also submitted a position almost similar to our position that the Ukrainian war is a “war of self-defense conducted by neo-colony Russia, Belarus and Donbass.”
But there’s something I have to point out. It is a question of position regarding the Euromaidan movement, which changed Yanukovych regime into a pro-NATO regime in 2014.
We believe that we should have formed a united front with Yanukovych regime against the pro-NATO coupsters at the time. Ukrainian coup in 2014 was a pro-imperialist regime change operation which shares the same characteristics with Libya in 2011, Syria in 2011, Egypt in 2013, Turkey in 2016, and impeachment of Brazilian president in 2016. If the working class under the leadership of the revolutionary Party at the time had taken the line, it would have avoided the destruction of the left-wing labor movement by the pro-imperialist Nazi regime and the suffering of the people due to the 2014-2022 civil war.
At that time, BT knew that Ukrainian Euromaidan movement was a pro-imperialist regime change operation and a fascist movement that will wipe out the labour movement. Nevertheless, neutrality was proposed as a conclusion.
The correct response should be coordinated with the correct analysis of the cause. However, they analysed the cause correctly in the first place, but immediately suggested an erroneous conclusion. Then, they labelled those self-contradictory, anti-working-class conclusions as “Marxist”.
The same logic can be found in the 2011 Libyan and Syrian war. We believe that this opportunistic neutralist line is a reflection of Anglo chauvinism based on the super profits of US-British imperialism, which has enjoyed hegemony for more than 100 years.
How do you think about it?
Can BT’s correct position on the 2022 Ukrainian war today be considered as the beginning of self-reflection and correction on the past opportunistic neutralist lines, including position on Ukraine in 2014?
Bolshevik group in South Korea
Our thoughts on Ukraine, Russia, NATO and left opportunism Russian military action is a just retribution against provocations of NATO puppet regime
3. Liga Comunista/LCFI – Brazil
Revolutionary greetings from the Communist League of Brazil. It is with great pleasure that we organize and participate in this forum. 8 years ago we denounced the Nazi Euromaidan revolution, and defended the people’s republics of Donbass. Putin recognized them and started defending them very late, after nearly 15,000 dead.
We are very happy to be able to share a broadcast and video with comrades like Greg from La Lucha newspaper, we follow the good work they do in defence of the people of Donbass and fighters like those of Borotba. I agree with you that the war is separating the wheat from the chaff, as the first and second wars also did. We will join the SUP’s “stop the lies of war” campaign.
We were happy to see comrade Gerry Downing again, even though we are in different organizations today.
It is once again a pleasure to be with my comrades GM from Argentina and Ian from the UK.
We were happy to see the comrades of the Greek KED again, and I thought the criticism that the comrade from the Greek has just made of the liberal leftist mechanism of transposing, too lazy to think, the situation of the first war to the present time, was brilliant.
Welcome to the comrades of the South Korean Bolshevik group, and we are pleased to meet the comrades of the Turkish DIP.
Unfortunately I don’t speak English and comrade Vinícius from Brazil is here to help me, as is my new friend Davey. Before I forget, we will support Robert Montgomery’s position for a new Zimmerwald, I think my LCFI comrades are in full agreement with that.
And it’s a great pleasure to meet comrade Alan from BT.
We consider that the characterization that Russia is waging a just and defensive war (as the Turkish DIP comrade has just stated) against imperialism can only be born of organizations that learned best from the method of Trotskyism, that were born in the revolutionary defencism of Trotsky in his political battles against the petty bourgeoisie within the Trotskyist movement at the beginning of the 2nd world war.
Now we are on the eve of the 3rd World War and we find it necessary to strongly rescue the revolutionary defence legacy, now that we need to unmask the imperialist war propaganda, propaganda also propagated by the petty bourgeois and pro-imperialist, pro-NATO and pro-AUKUS fraction of Trotskyism.
30 years ago, we were inspired by the IBT’s audacious and defensive stance in August 1991. From 2008 onwards, the IBT capitulated to the pressure of Anglo-Saxon imperialism and began to characterize Russia as an imperialist nation. But Russia is a backward and dependent country. Russia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the size of Brazil’s GDP, after Brazil suffered a coup d’état, a pandemic and a Bolsonaro government that sank the Brazilian economy. Russia does not exercise imperialist domination over any people. For us, Russia is not even a capitalist power, because after all, it does not exercise power over other peoples for its capital, but for the dependence that the world has on the energy matrix of oil and gas. But Russia is not the same as Brazil or India because when it returned to capitalism, it had solved tasks that semi-colonial countries like Brazil and India did not solve, and this makes it a different capitalist country, albeit a capitalist one where a new revolution is needed. Social.
The IBT is probably one of the forerunners of the characterization that Russia is imperialist in Trotskyism, a low trick not to oppose imperialism, it puts an equal sign between the oppressed and the oppressor, a trick as low as that of renouncing defence of Iraq, Libya or Syria against imperialism on the grounds of the supposed undemocratic character of these governments. This has nothing to do with Marxism, Trotsky said he would even stand with the semi-fascist Getúlio Vargas against democratic England. So, what interests us here is not the Putin regime, against which the workers will have to rise up one day to resume the course of the 1917 revolution, but cannot be manipulated by the CIA, which can even resort to trade unionism, in order to create yet another colour revolution.
From the LCFI we recognize the important role of BT as the progressive heir of the IBT, in its stance on the August 1991 coup. We also recognize the advanced position of BT comrades in opposing imperialism today. Doubly advanced positions coming from within the imperialist countries themselves and bearing the pressure. But we need to record that the IBT disbands after 25 years without having progressed organically during this period and I think that the fact that it did not create sections beyond the imperialist centres is due to the pernicious legacy of the pro-imperialist policy of Spartacism that failed to win over the communists in the semi-colonies and for that reason he was organizationally trapped in a kind of conservative sectarianism.
So, as we understand in the LCFI, we need to understand the issue of the current war from the point of view of revolutionary anti-imperialist defencism and the conceptions of revolutionary permenantism in the 21st century, as my comrade GM from Argentina will better explain.
For the end of NATO, death to imperialism and long life to revolutionary Marxism!
4. Bolshevik Militant Tendency/LCFI – Argentina
Greetings, I am GM of the Bolshevik Militant Tendency of Argentina, a member of the LCFI
We consider that in order to understand the war and the conflict between imperialism, on one side, and that of China and Russia, on the other side, it is necessary to use Trotsky’s method in the thesis of permanent revolution. In that sense, let us consider that it is necessary to use the method of permanent revolution to understand the current situation. What we consider central to the permanent revolution to understand today’s dynamics is the conception that the pending bourgeois tasks can only be carried out with methods of proletarian dictatorship. The bureaucratized proletarian dictatorship of the USSR overcame the pending tasks of backward Russia.
I want to emphasize that for us from the LCFI the cases of Russia and China for having been workers’ states advanced in the pending bourgeois tasks. That is why when they returned to capitalism they did not return to the previous stage, from 1917 or 1949. Rather, they returned with industrial development, energy sovereignty, nuclear independence, etc. That makes them something qualitatively different from the set of semi-colonies on the planet. Nor are they imperialist countries.
Therefore, the cases in which we are dealing with Russia and China have to be understood according to the interpretation of the permanent revolution in the 21st century. That is, as a by-product of the cycle of proletarian revolutions of the 20th century. that gave rise to the mega-worker states of the Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China. It should be clarified that this is more evident in the case of China. In Russia, with the capitalist restoration there was a strong setback in the 90s with Yelstein and under the shock doctrine similar to the one that was imposed in Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship and neoliberalism was founded, they dragged the USSR to a semi-colonial condition or colonial for a decade. State planning had been abandoned and leading to the economic collapse of the country.
But the setback was as brutal as the dialectical reaction of the Russian economy to defend itself from the deep robbery, and the former bureaucrats now turned into new bourgeois, aware of the Russian wealth and that a little nationalization would allow them the logic of the capital accumulation at a higher level than Yeltsin’s neo-liberal neo-colonization propelled the Putin era. In a later period, the lived experience of the Soviet Union of having completed the pending bourgeois tasks led to the remnants of the workers’ state, especially at the arms level, which allowed the Russian Federation to consolidate itself as a dependent country after 2000. In other words, qualitatively different from a semi-colony taking advantage of the advances of its heritage as a workers’ state at the nuclear, spatial, etc. level.
For this reason, to defend itself from this robbery and the siege of Russia, the Russian capitalist economy defended itself by returning to certain elements of sovereignty conquered by the USSR, re-nationalizing the military-industrial and energy complex, about a third of the economy, to keep a greater part of the Russian wealth and military power, which imperialism does not admit and that is why it advances in the offensive and in the NATO encirclement of Russia.