For decades, the gloomy tones of anti-aircraft sirens had not sounded in the streets of a European city; that frightened crowds did not seek refuge from bombs in the basements, garages and tunnels of the subway; that tanks and military trucks did not travel in endless columns the roads in full war gear. This is what is happening in Kiev, a few hundred kilometers from the borders of the European Union. To tell the truth, we had already been able to observe similar scenarios in the bloody wars of the former Yugoslavia and the Caucasus, and in dozens of other conflicts scattered throughout this vast world: from Iraq to Afghanistan, from Somalia to Yemen, from the Gaza Strip to Syria… the common feature of all these wars, in some cases forgotten or neglected by the bourgeois media, is in their imperialist nature, the burning mark of capitalism that has reached its maturation, or rather, its toxic putrescence.
In each of these wars – all in all circumscribed – we see the great imperialist powers clash – for now indirectly – to subtract each other’s respective spheres of influence, to impose governments more favorable to their interests, to condition the choices of the adversaries with the occupation of a territory, or even to abandon entire countries in chaos for the sole purpose of leaving the poisoned fruits of irreconcilable contrasts and factional struggles to the handling of others Competitors.
Each of these wars is justified by the defense of those principles “sacred” to bourgeois international law: the self-determination of nations, national sovereignty, the right of “peoples” to self-determination. Yet, the concept of “sacred” of the various fractions of world capitalism and their states has the elasticity of a profane condom – pass the metaphor. The same imperialist powers that defend the sovereignty of one nation against secessionist impulses in one case, are ready to fight their chests for freedom and for the self-determination of peoples against national oppression in another; the same imperialist powers that occupy a foreign country for their own capitalist and strategic interests brand the imperialist invasions of others as criminal. It’s bizarre. But even more bizarre is that even among those who proclaim to take sides in the field of internationalism, credit is still given to the intrinsic validity and consistency of these principles of latex, good only to cover the rape perpetrated against the proletariat of the whole world by the capital of the whole world and its officials.
Communists – who are entitled to bear this title only if they are genuinely internationalist – have always supported national demands not for their abstract value but for the concrete content they had. Many self-styled “Marxist theorists” of the absolute validity of a metahistorical principle of national self-determination, eternal in every spatio-temporal dimension, should remember that Marxism also alternately challenged both the claim to independence and that of sovereignty. The examples of Marx and Engels’ considerations on the wars of 1848-49 in Central Europe are too well known to recall here. So? Would Marxism, scientific socialism, the class theory of the proletariat also takes the same freedoms as the imperialists with the “sacred” national principles? Exactly. No more and no less. Because in both cases it is a question of affirming a concrete content of those demands, a content determined by the different and opposing class interest. The difference is, or at least should be, that for Marxism this instrumentality is not disguised as blatant or hypocritical sermons.
For the Communists, the only content of national demands that has value for the working class is the creation of the conditions for the development of capitalist industry and the modern classes that this development brings with it; it is clearing the field of all those material and ideological obstacles that obscure the awareness of the fundamental conflict that characterizes capitalist society: the revolutionary class struggle of the international proletariat against international capital, its officials and its States, for the overcoming of capitalist society, for communism.
Lenin, of whom many today repeat the words of the song without knowing the music on which he himself sang it, never had, as a coherent Marxist, any other point of view.
National self-determination was to be a demand which the proletariat of the dominant nation could not evade if the proletariat of the oppressed nation made it its own. Nevertheless, Lenin, who always put before the bourgeois principle of self-determination the superior principle of the international unity of the working class, did not consider it obligatory for the revolutionary workers’ parties of the nationalities oppressed by tsarism to include the demand for national independence in their programme. If one had to speak of an obligation, it was only that of the proletariat of the dominant nation, in this case the Russian one, not to make common cause with its own bourgeoisie in oppressing the nationalities of the Tsarist prison of peoples, neither before nor after the seizure of power. That is why among the first acts of the Russian proletarian revolutionary government – represented by the Bolsheviks from 1917 until its fall in about 1923 – was the unilateral, unconditional and total recognition of the independence of Poland, Finland, the Baltic republics and Ukraine.
It is with immense pleasure that we heard the words of the political representative of Russian imperialism, Vladimir Putin, condemn Lenin and the Bolsheviks for the creation of the Ukrainian state entity. It is a condemnation that warms the heart, contrary to any hairy and mystifying claim to continuity. It is perfectly natural, in fact, that Putin instead claims continuity with the national claims of the tsarist empire and those of the Stalinist counter-revolution. It is the recognition of the different class nature of proletarian October and midnight of the century represented by Russian state capitalism.
Obviously, and this is also natural, the condemnation of the Bolshevik leader, although issued by what today the chancelleries of the major imperialist powers call the “enemy of humanity”, can in no way represent for bourgeois intellectuality any justification of the “communist dictator Lenin”. Here then flourish “accurate” historical analyses that deny the “sincerity” of Lenin’s intentions in granting independence to Ukraine, the contradiction and ultimately the continuity with Russian national interests in taking it away again during the bloody civil war that followed the seizure of power. Obviously, while the bourgeoisie is so shrewd as to put its principles under its feet when they do not favour its interests, the proletariat in power should instead be so naïve as to put abstract principles – not even its own – before the changing concrete content of national demands. Thus, in accordance with the principle of Ukrainian independence, the Russian proletariat should have allowed the European imperialist powers to annex Ukraine, to support the Ukrainian bourgeoisie against the Ukrainian proletariat and to use the country as a bridgehead to crush the proletarian revolution in Russia and prevent its international extension. And they are surprised that the Russian proletariat, together with the Ukrainian proletariat, did not allow it. As we have said, even for Marxism national demands are instrumental, instrumental to the fundamental interest of the international class from which the internationalist principle of the proletariat derives.
Today the fundamental class interest of the proletariat is the same in every corner of the planet. Capitalism is the dominant mode of production. The existing pockets of national oppression are located in the fault lines of imperialism, where the conflicting interests of the powers meet a greater and older friction, where the continuous rubbing of the tectonic clods of influence creates suppurating and imbecable swamps. In these disputed areas, the imperialist game effectively prevents any autonomous development and fuels irreconcilable and decades-long conflicts of factions whose only lifeblood comes from the imperialist power plants that alternately challenge them for their own power interests. In these disputed areas there is no bourgeoisie possessing the minimum requirements of social strength capable of determining any form of autonomy with respect to imperialism or of opposing it, and the weak economic structure unfortunately also prevents the proletariat, instrumentalized and tormented, from liquidating its soaked, corrupt and compromising comprador bourgeoisie and from opposing imperialism from a class point of view.
Today, for the proletariat, national demands have lost any social content, even an instrumental value. Today internationalism, that is, the social self-determination of the working class and its international sovereignty, is on the agenda.
Gone is the time that made it possible for opportunists to play on ambiguous interpretations, on an internationalism à la carte and on pretentious distinctions. Like those proposed today by many “leftists”, who with so much saliva stick to the label of “internationalists”, who declaim poetic laments about the self-determination of the Donbass republics and the freedom of the Ukrainian “people” against the Russian invasion; for the independence of Donetsk but “not with Russian tanks” or for the freedom of Ukraine but “not under the protection of NATO”.
Let us not waste our breath with the filthy remnants of Stalinism that openly side with Muscovite imperialism in continuity with their atavistic sympathies for “mother Russia”, to these sons of… Stalingrad and grandchildren of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, it did not seem true to munch on the carrot of the “denazification” of Ukraine thrown at them by Putin.
More subtle is those who camouflage their “campism” under a very thin and false layer of “internationalism”; those who call the coalition represented by NATO imperialist but at the same time describe the Russian Federation as “only capitalist”, implicitly suggesting that a different degree of economic development implies a different degree of reactionaryness. For them, Lenin’s lesson on the pervasiveness and inextricability of imperialist interests in the world market will never be too much reiterated, dragging into their plots even those countries that have not reached the full score of the famous “five marks”. It is strange that many of those who claim to relate to the example of the October Revolution do not take into account the fact that Lenin characterized the First World War as imperialist on all fronts, even that of backward Tsarist Russia, certainly more backward than that of today.
Is there a Ukrainian national oppression of Russian population in Donbass? We do not deny it. Just as we do not deny the existence of nationalist paramilitary squads on both sides. Does the Claim to Independence of Donbass possess any autonomy with respect to the interests of Russian imperialism? It is ridiculous to support that. How ridiculous it is to pretend that the independence of the Donbass, which is only the antechamber of its annexation to Russia, can now pass through another way than that of the Russian tanks.
Is Ukrainian national independence endangered by the invasion of a Russia that denies even its historicity? Exactly how much it is compromised by its absorption into the sphere of influence of the European or American imperialist powers. But the difference is that Russia imposes its policy with weapons! – beautiful souls will rise up – well, war is nothing but the continuation of politics when the means of diplomatic or economic pressure do not achieve their goal. We are not surprised by the Russian aggression, which took place at a time of relative internal division of the American imperialist power; at a time of rising prices of energy resources, to be used as a leash to be lengthened or shortened according to the reactions of the imperialist powers of a Europe that does not exist as a unit and is partially under blackmail; at a time when the first European imperialist power is in the midst of the ford of an unprecedented coalition government.
Those who delude themselves that the capitalist world has ceased to use the weapon of war when the other instruments have proved useless in achieving the objectives of the imperialist powers, may pray for peace or launch a generic “no to war”, but the peace of imperialism is only the preparatory interval of a new inevitable war.
No political goal in capitalist chaos can expect to be achieved on a track free of curves, detours or rail disruptions; the best plans go to be blessed and almost all the results are not wanted.
In the coming days and weeks we will see whether Russia’s undeniable test of strength will allow it to achieve its objectives before turning into a manifestation of weakness, given its equally undeniable economic fragility; we will see if the weakness of the European bourgeoisies will turn into something other than the launch of sanctions, for now partial and contradictory, which, in addition to a duty for the working class, if applied more consistently can prove to be a boomerang for their economies; we will see if the United States considers its objectives dictated by the imperialist contention achieved without the use of military weapons; we will see if China, still in the phase of a prudent build-up of forces, will maintain its profile as a mediator.
What we will unfortunately find very difficult to see, given the current level of backwardness of the self-consciousness of the world working class, is a stance of the Russian proletariat against the imperialist war in Ukraine, against its own ruling class and its state; an autonomous movement of the Ukrainian proletariat against a capitalist order of the world that produces, among others, those unspeakable sufferings of war whose weight will be – as always – the working class to bear; a movement of the Ukrainian proletariat directed primarily against its own bourgeoisie and its oscillations between one imperialist camp and another, not to regain an illusory national independence, but to impose by revolutionary upheaval the international unity of a proletariat that has the same class interests behind all war fronts and beyond all national borders.
For internationalists there are no “peoples” attacked and aggressors, there are “classes” attacked and classes that attack. The imperialist wars are an aggression of the international bourgeoisie against the proletariat, the revolutions are the aggression of the international proletariat against the bourgeoisies that exploit it and send it to the slaughter for interests that are not its own. Therefore, the task of the communists is not an equivocal and sentimental “no to war”, but the struggle to transform the bourgeois wars of aggression into wars of aggression of the proletariat.
Is this an “abstract petition of principle”? The greater “concreteness” of the false internationalists is revealed for what it is: the inability to see beyond the current datum, the distrust in the resilience of the workers’ movement on classist bases and the need to “take sides” at all costs: in a word, the “concrete”, even if camouflaged, support for one or the other of the imperialist camps. It is not something of today, and today as yesterday, the fetish of national demands with which to castrate and render ineffective the watchword of internationalism has its foundation in the social roots of opportunism and maximalism and in the consequent conception of the State, which is basically the only “concrete” incarnation of “nations” and “peoples”.
Although the conditions do not yet seem to be in place for this slogan to be transformed into something more than a demand for intent, the authentic internationalists, the communist proletarians, remain in place, reaffirming it with courage and firmness, against all the headwinds and rising tides, so that tomorrow not too far away the clean flag will be collected, may it become the patrimony of the masses, a weapon of liberation for the world proletariat, an instrument of emancipation of a humanity that abolishes all division.
NO TO THE SENDING OF WEAPONS AND SOLDIERS BY IMPERIALISM AT HOME!
NO TO BOURGEOIS WAR AND PEACE!
YES TO THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR OF THE INTERNATIONAL PROLETARIAT!