Not our war!

Resolution of the KO Extraordinary Congress in January 2023.

The war in Ukraine is an imperialist war between Ukraine – backed by NATO – and the Russian Federation. This war is not our war, and the international working class cannot and must not take sides. Our main task as communists in Germany is to fight against the war policy of NATO and German imperialism and to expose their war propaganda.

German imperialism is waging war. The slogan “Never again war!” found wide appeal among the masses after the imperialist destruction of two world wars, expressing their longing for peace, a peace which has always been opposed by the ruling class of the FRG. With the rearmament of the FRG, its incorporation into the anti-communist offensive alliance NATO, and finally with the military operations in Bosnia and the leading role in the invasion of Yugoslavia in 1999, German imperialism has gradually created a new reality, one which, after German defeat in the Second World War, represented the militaristic aspect of a gradual reemergence as a great power. The invasions of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Mali, numerous other military missions and the increasingly aggressive transformation of public discourses towards the open justification of war and rearmament have also led to a normalization of war among the working class and popular strata. With the imperialist war in Ukraine, this development has intensified.

Our main enemy: German imperialism and NATO!

In Ukraine, the armed forces of the Russian Federation and Ukraine, i.e. two former Soviet brother nations, are now facing each other in open war. But behind Ukraine stands NATO, which, while it has thus far not intervened directly in the fighting, is supporting the Kiev government through unprecedented deliveries of arms and money, while at the same time imposing massive sanctions against Russia, with the declared aim of bringing its Russian enemy to its knees. NATO countries, led by the U.S., have been blazing a blood trail of international and civil war, coups and attacks across the planet for decades, from Korea to Vietnam and Indonesia to Iraq and Afghanistan. They are responsible for millions of deaths and wide-reaching destruction.

Toward Russia, NATO has pursued a strategy of encirclement and pushback since the counterrevolution in the Soviet Union. The multiple promises made to the counter-revolutionary Soviet leaders by the Western countries regarding the non-expansion of NATO were already shamelessly broken in the following years, especially with the NATO entry of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary in 1999. With the second NATO expansion to the East in 2004, the Baltic republics, among others, were incorporated, extending the war alliance to the borders of Russia. Ukraine has always been of central importance to the strategies of Western imperialists, especially in the United States: integrating Ukraine firmly into the Western bloc and thus isolating Russia from its European neighbors was seen as an important building block in the containment and encirclement of Russia. With the so-called “Orange Revolution” of 2004, the governments and intelligence services of Western countries managed to push through the takeover of the government by pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko against Viktor Yanukovych. After Yanukovych became Ukrainian president in 2010, pursued closer relations with Russia, and applied for observer status in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union in August 2013, Western imperialists’ efforts to overthrow him continued. When the Ukrainian government suspended the signing of an association agreement with the EU in November 2013, Western-supported protests against the government (“Euromaidan”) began, leading to Yanukovych being ousted in a coup in February 2014. The coup government, composed of nationalist, pro-Western, and fascist forces, immediately signed an agreement with the EU, cut ties with Russia, and proceeded to discriminate against the Russian-speaking population. The counter-protests in southern and eastern Ukraine (“Antimaidan”), initially motivated mainly by anti-Russian language and nationality policies and the rehabilitation of fascism by the Kiev government, led to the secession of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” as well as the “Lugansk People’s Republic” in the Donbass. The Ukrainian state proceeded to recapture these territories militarily and repeatedly broke agreed-upon ceasefires, even after the Minsk agreements in 2014/15. The Kiev government had already been supported by NATO and EU countries with money and weapons since the 2014 war in eastern Ukraine, and a lasting solution to the conflict was prevented. That a Ukraine tied to NATO would not be acceptable to the Russian government – and that any step in this direction would increase the risk of war – was known to the ruling circles in the West, who deliberately chose to stick to their aggressive course.

All these facts underline: NATO is a deadly enemy for us as communists, but also for every worker and for all peace-loving people, against which a decisive struggle must be waged!

The Kiev government since 2014: deep, reactionary rule

The government in Kiev since 2014, which is now stylized by Western propaganda as the “defender of democracy,” is a government of the deepest reaction: in the post-coup period, ministers of the fascist party Svoboda were slowed to be part of the government, and subsequent governments continued to cooperate with the various fascist groups, especially with the Azov regiment in the civil war against the Donbass. The fascist terror against political opponents was supported by the state: the massacre in the Odessa House of Trade Unions on May 2, 2014, in which, according to official data, 48 people were killed by neo-Nazis, was not investigated and never condemned. Fascist mass murderers and collaborators of the Wehrmacht Stepan Bandera, Andrij Melnyk and Roman Shukhevych are revered as national heroes and Ukrainian children are educated in schools with the poisons of nationalism and anti-communism. Communist organizations and those claiming to be communist were banned under the coup government. The war on the Donbass has continued at a low intensity despite cease-fire agreements and has resulted in a total of 14,000 deaths on both sides as of May 2021, according to the UN. Since the Russian invasion of February 24, 2022, the authoritarian nature of the Ukrainian government has intensified, including the banning of not only communist parties but all other parties that question the government’s war course, including the largest opposition party, For Life. The Ukrainian government must be strongly condemned and any support for this government must be opposed, something which is especially relevant for us as communists in Germany because of Ukraine’s great dependence on the EU and NATO. It shows the hypocrisy and dishonesty of Western propaganda that authoritarianism is denounced in Russia, yet denied and relativized in Ukraine.

The struggle for the redivision of the world

The war in Ukraine cannot be understood in isolation from other world events, but is a result of the struggles within the imperialist world system. The imperialist world system is a global world order within which capitalist monopolies and their associated states compete with each other for the division of surplus value derived from the exploitation of the international working class, as well as for control of strategically important territories, raw materials, and so on. The economic basis of imperialism, monopolistic capitalism, has prevailed in this process almost everywhere in the world. However, there are huge differences between the relative strengths of the countries at the top or bottom of the power ladder. These differences also manifest themselves in qualitatively different ways of influence exertion, for example in the availability of weapons of mass destruction and strategically important weapons systems such as aircraft carriers, the existence of globally dominant monopolies, an internationally used currency such as the dollar or the euro, national high-tech sectors and armaments industries, foreign military bases, and so on and so forth. These differences are by no means to be underestimated for the analysis of global politics, but they do not mean that the social character of weaker and stronger states is to be qualitatively distinguished, because the regularities of monopoly capitalism also prevail in the weaker developed capitalist countries.

Imperialism, as monopolistic capitalism, necessarily produces explosive contradictions between the monopolies and between the capitalist states, which are discharged in conflicts and wars over the redivision of markets, raw materials, territories, transportation routes, militarily significant areas, etc. Today’s world situation is characterized primarily by the relative rise of China, but also of a number of other capitalist countries, and the increasing challenge to and erosion of the dominance of the United States and Western Europe. Russia also remains a major adversary of the U.S. and EU, primarily because of its size, abundance of raw materials, military strength, and increasingly good relations with China and Iran. In order to halt their relative decline, the imperialist alliances of the West, especially the EU and NATO, are taking aggressive action against their main rivals, Russia and China. The military encirclement of both states, as well as the sanctions against Russia and the trade war against China, are intended to limit their room to maneuver as well as the development opportunities of the two rivals.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a measure to counteract this and to underpin Russia’s position of power. The war was made possible by the capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union, by the destruction of socialism, which had secured the possibility for the peaceful coexistence of different peoples for decades, who today are again being set against each other in various bloody wars (Ukraine, Azerbaijan-Armenia, Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan, Chechnya, Transnistria).

The war in Ukraine – not our war!

The war in Ukraine, like any war, means massive destruction and the violent death of tens of thousands of people. But it also carries the danger of escalating into a Third World War; that is, an open inter-imperialist war between NATO and Russia, the world’s leading nuclear powers. Such a war threatens to destroy large parts of humanity and, at the very least, to turn Europe into a wasteland of death and destruction. The working class and peoples of all countries must fight side by side against the danger of such a devastating scenario.

The war in Ukraine is being fought on the backs of the masses of people and especially on the backs of the working class, and it is they who are paying the bill: They pay it with tens of thousands of dead, traumatized, and maimed civilians and soldiers of all ages. They are paying for it with the destruction of cities, villages, factories and infrastructure, most of which are achievements of Soviet socialism and were created by the hands of the working class of Ukraine. They are paying with a massively declining standard of living and rising cost of living – in Russia as a result of Western sanctions, in Ukraine as a result of the war and the deliberate destruction of infrastructure, and in Western Europe as a result of the cessation of gas trade with Russia. And politically they are also paying, as democratic rights are dismantled in all states involved, chauvinist, militarist and nationalist incitement of the masses is intensified, and fascist groups continue to gain influence through their respective roles in the war.

The working class and the masses have to pay the bill, and none of the warring parties are acting in their interest: Neither the NATO warmongers and the reactionary government in Kiev nor the Russian state. Russia is a capitalist state that represents the interests of a small minority of rich capitalists. The Russian state legitimizes the war with chauvinist propaganda, questioning the existence of a Ukrainian nation, denigrating the internationalist nationalities policy of the Bolsheviks, and invoking nationalist images of a great, powerful Russia. Though the war can be understood to be a reaction from the Russian state to NATO’s aggressive expansion, it would be wrong to claim that it was forced to take this step: We do not see serious evidence of an immediate and existential threat to Russia having been present, especially as the deterrent of Russian nuclear weapons remains in place. Moreover, Russia is also concerned with maintaining and regaining Russian influence in this strategically important region with the help of the Russian-speaking minority, gaining access to the Black Sea trade and military ports, the Ukrainian market, and the country’s mineral resources and great agricultural importance. The prevention of military encirclement by missile defense systems and the stationing of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea as a means of power projection in the Black Sea and Mediterranean were intended to maintain the Russian Federation’s maneuverability and viability as a major political and military power.

The imperialist war poses very serious challenges to the working class of all countries involved. It is anything but easy to resist the reactionary war propaganda of the bourgeois state and to consistently take the stand of proletarian internationalism in every situation. In Germany, too, significant sections of the opportunist or social-democratic “left” are backing the policies of German imperialism or even demanding harsher, more aggressive measures from the government. In this situation it proves once again that the absence of a communist party on the basis of Marxism-Leninism means disarming the working class. Without this party, we will likewise not succeed in effectively combating the chauvinist propaganda of German imperialism, nor will it be possible to prevent those who doubt the deceitful agitation of the ruling class from slipping into reactionary dead-end solutions such as those offered by the AfD.

The working class of all countries must lead the struggle against the capitalist class in their own country, but also against the representatives of the foreign capitalists. Although in certain situations it may be possible and correct to tactically exploit contradictions between capitalist states, for the working class there is no hope in a “multipolar world order.” The rise of new powers within the imperialist system does not mean a weakening of imperialism; it is accompanied by increasing conflicts in which the workers of different countries are turned into enemies.

In Germany, for the communists, the struggle against their own bourgeoisie means above all the struggle against the war policy of the German government, the EU and NATO, against the sanctions (which are just warfare by other means), against the arms deliveries, against the support of the Ukrainian government, against anti-Russian propaganda, against the relativization of fascists, for the closure of all military bases abroad, and for the return of all soldiers from abroad. These individual struggles must merge into a single struggle under the slogan of the struggle for the abolition of the causes of war, a struggle for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie in Germany and everywhere, for socialism!

What is yet to be clarified

For the KO it has never been a contradiction to hold and defend positions on the one hand, while on the other hand being open about our shortcomings and our need for clarification. If this were a contradiction, we would not be able to take a position on almost any political issue or current event – because there are always questions that need to be explored further or that must remain open for the time being. Therefore, our position on the war in Ukraine does not mean an end to the examination of the background of this war and our understanding of imperialism, which of course can also result in a change of our position or a revision of the Programmatic Theses. Among others, we want to deal with the following questions in more detail:

What different qualities can be distinguished in the description of relations between countries?

Has monopoly capitalism prevailed as the determining economic form in all capitalist countries? Does each country have its own monopoly bourgeoisie? If not, how can capitalism be conceptualized in countries without an own monopoly bourgeoisie?

What are the implications of the relative dependence of the weaker and weakest countries within the imperialist world order for the possibilities and forms of their development of capitalism? By what mechanisms is the relative dependence reproduced?

With what orientation must the struggle be conducted in colonized or occupied countries such as Palestine, the Western Sahara, or until recently, for example, in occupied Afghanistan and Iraq? What is the role here of the struggle for socialism as an immediate goal, what is the role of the class struggle within the oppressed nations?

Does the internationalization of capital (of ownership structure, activities, etc.) change the bourgeoisie’s attachment to the nation-state? If so, how?

A close analysis of capitalism in Russia and China, noting the emphasized role of the state as the ideal collective capitalist.

What factors were decisive for the Russian government’s decision to invade? How can we give relative weight to these factors in relation to each other?

Did the struggle in the Donbass against the government in Kiev have, at least at times, characteristics of a national liberation struggle worthy of support? If so, have these since disappeared completely? When and in what way?

What conditions must be met for a state to be labeled fascist? What are the implications for working-class strategy and tactics when fascism is in power in a country?

How should the relationship between FRG and U.S. imperialism be assessed? What contradictions between them, overlaps of interests or dependencies determine their actions in the Ukrainian war?