We thank the comrades of leftdis.wordpress.com for having spontaneously and quickly translated our statement.
Historical accelerations constitute, for political formations and subjects that refer to Marxism and revolutionary class struggle, a test of their real nature, of their effective assimilation of the pivotal concepts, and of the main planks of the strategy founded on the only revolutionary theory in the era of imperialism. It is all too easy to profess internationalist creeds, to declare oneself an internationalist revolutionary, when wars are far away-physically, politically, mediatically, ideologically-when the mobilization of the bourgeoisie with which one is most directly dealing, “one’s” national bourgeoisie, is tenuous, modest, without a strong hold on public opinion. The moment of truth strikes when “one’s own” bourgeoisie begins to sound its trumpets and roll its war drums when it supports, justifies, and celebrates, the imperialist war effort; when imperialism’s war is presented, is imposed as a “just” war on large sections of the population; when calling oneself out of the chorus that supports this war effort – for the legitimization of which the major fractions of the bourgeoisie devote great energy and deploy their ability to influence the opinions and judgments of a large part of the social body – begins to entail a cost, when holding firm to a class position begins to attract on oneself less and less veiled accusations of desertion, of sabotaging the noble common cause, or even of intelligence with the enemy. The war in Ukraine constituted and constitutes one such moment of truth.
It has constituted and constitutes it, undoubtedly harshly and difficultly, for the internationalist minorities operating in the social spaces of Russian imperialism, who have undoubtedly had to pay a very bitter price for their consistency in the face of the nationalist wave and repressions that have accompanied the military offensive decided by Moscow.
But this war, in for now certainly less stark terms, is also a test for those who claim to be internationalists and act and militate in the other imperialist countries, in the countries of the democratic West, to varying degrees and in varying terms involved in and participating in the conflict in Ukraine.
It is possible – it must be understood and to a certain extent accepted as an objective product of a historical course – that revolutionary minorities immersed for decades now (a condition common to many imperialist metropolises, no doubt of that of Italy) in a stagnant reality that has produced few, sporadic and marginal phenomena of class struggle, of development of the class consciousness of the proletariat, who have no longer been benefited by the enlivening contact of a phase of intense conflict between the two fundamental classes of capitalist society, have struggled initially to orient themselves. It is plausible that these minorities, who have experienced an increasingly pronounced retreat of the collective perception of Marxism, of the debate on Marxism into niche spaces, who have had to, sometimes with almost desperate effort, tend to maintain a connection with the theory, formed themselves into it, apparently with rare feedback in social dynamics, despite continuous and vast ideological campaigns to the contrary, despite the triumph of common sense (even in the broadest sections of the working class) profoundly opposed to it, have gone through an initial phase of hesitation, of political daze, of misunderstanding in the face of the acceleration of the Ukrainian conflict with all its political and ideological repercussions on the social whole. Perhaps cultivating naïve expectations (such as that of a conflict capable of arming the Ukrainian proletariat in conditions of political autonomy and strength with respect to its own bourgeoisie, thus ignoring not only the real conditions of today’s power relations between classes in Ukraine but above all how much the Ukrainian bourgeoisie, with its powers, in this imperialist war is only a small and subordinate component of a much larger and more structured array) and unrelated to the real course of events, to the very assumptions of the war. The facts, however, have been responsible for providing bloody and abundant material for an increasingly clear class reading of the conflict. Today it is no longer possible unless one has completely turned one’s back on the actual course of the historical situation to continue to deceive oneself about the main question inherent in the judgment of the Ukrainian conflict. Today, in the face of the accumulation of data, developments, and confirmations, a coherent, authentic Marxist approach can only give an unambiguous answer to the question about the most essential, decisive, pervasive character of the war in Ukraine. It is not only the very large flows of arms and financing from imperialist centrals (instruments designed to exert imperialist influence even beyond the phase of open and direct warfare); it is not only the Russian military interventions, the strengthening and entrenchment of Russian political-military presence and influence in parts of Ukrainian territory well before the broader offensive at the end of February; it is not only the (obviously interested) support of emerging and regional powers for the economy of Russian imperialism threatened in its global status and struggling in the face of the protracted war effort; it is not only the now generally acknowledged as decisive contributions of various imperialist powers to the rearmament, training, logistical and intelligence support of the Ukrainian state’s armed forces; what gives substance to this response is above all the multiple intertwining, linkages, international interactions, open, undercurrent and latent disputes. It is the process of defining and registering imperialist power relations that qualifies the conflict in Ukraine as an imperialist war on both sides and in its most intimate nature. From Russian imperialism’s need to react to a weakening on the level of international relations, to mark, in the face of moves and advances in the influence of rival powers, crucial red lines in an area of strategic importance to it, to U.S. intervention, aimed at tightening the ranks of an alternative and competitive European bloc vis-à-vis a German-led, Rhineland imperialist continental construction. From the multiple sides and various players in the NATO enlargement game to the moves of the Turkish regional power. From German and Japanese rearmament intentions to the positioning of giants that will increasingly weigh in the imperialist confrontation, such as China and India. From the assertiveness of British imperialism to the Atlanticist ambiguities and the servile but fierce shrewdness of Italian imperialism that to its bourgeoisie’s traditional vocation for scheming and the meanest bargaining now combines the shortcomings and liabilities of an obvious decline.
To dismiss all this, all these blatant manifestations of the nature of the conflict, as “geopolitics” as opposed to some “pure” class-based yardstick – as if to suggest that a consistently class-based point of view can do without the Marxist analysis of imperialism – is merely to make a show of verbal radicalism and smug superficiality, in which the opportunist character of an interpretation of war inevitably lurks and takes more shape ever.
To casually ignore this imperialist dynamic, within which the war in Ukraine is fully embedded and from which it draws its nourishment, to proclaim that the essential and most significant nature of the conflict would be that of a national liberation struggle, of a battle for the Ukrainian people’s right to self-determination, is to have become, or to have finally fully revealed oneself to be, social-imperialists.
To claim to reset years and years of close inter-imperialist confrontation around spheres of influence over the Ukrainian space, years and years that unquestionably showed how this space is crossed by a historical fault line of imperialist contention, to decree that as of February 24, a new history would begin, unencumbered by the conditioning from the presences, from the determinant interference of the powers of global imperialism, a new history in which the international working class would have to choose one side over another, would have to queue up with one state or a bloc of states of the competing bourgeoisies, means, again, to be plunged into social-imperialism.
To resort to the formulas – of clear and punctiliously hypocritical bourgeois legal matrix – of the aggressed and the aggressor, of the invaded and the invader, to resort to the sleazy rhetoric of the “big” and the “small” belligerent (the Davids and Goliaths that systematically change roles depending on the score of the specific bourgeois campaign of reference) to try to conceal the whole dynamic the whole imperialist process that has underpinned the historical evolution that has resulted in open warfare over much of Ukrainian territory, is to shamefully confine a consequent internationalist position to that world of pure fantasy in which only bourgeois states of equal tonnage and size will face each other, operating their military devices strictly simultaneously. Very convenient, on closer inspection.
Ignoring, or wanting to ignore, that the Russian state is an integral part of a global imperialist dynamic and is in its own right an actor – however, weakened – in this confrontation, perhaps resorting to grids of interpretation and monstrously scholastic schemes to remove it from the definition of “imperialism” to attribute to it a somehow more progressive or structurally alternative valence than the other imperialist competitors, is to make one’s own small – but no less nefarious – contribution in deceiving the international proletariat, in harnessing it to the bandwagon of specific imperialist interests. It is, once again, social imperialism.
Ignoring, or wanting to ignore, the imperialist nature of the Ukrainian conflict, artfully relativizing or belittling it to the point the Ukrainian proletariat to the delivery of fighting first the foreign enemy, the enemy of the nation (a practice that for the proletariat entails, on pain of the inadequacy of this effort in the specific, real and concrete situation given being regimented by the state of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie, which in turn is supported by the arms and financing of a vast imperialist array) and then, at a later time to be determined, facing its own direct class enemy, the “enemy at home,” amounts to nothing more than rehashing one of the oldest and filthiest scripts of opportunism.
This is not new. More than a century of the history of imperialism has taught us that the “best reasons” for shying away from taking a genuine internationalist stance are found precisely at those crucial moments when it is most diriment to reiterate it forcefully and without hesitation. In those moments, the bombastic internationalist professions of faith, spouted at times when they cost little or nothing and when they help build an image of radicality, turn into conceptual contortions, subtle distinctions, amendments, and suspensions, but always without the intellectual honesty necessary to confess that they have changed banners. Radicalism without roots in the revolutionary theory of the proletariat does not hold up to the first breath of bourgeois wind but does not stop calling itself radical.
It cannot be ruled out that the Ukrainian war is taking a back seat in the market of news and media mobilization and that it may become, at least for a time, background noise in the perception of Western public opinion. The ideological machine of the bourgeoisies less directly involved in the conflict may lose momentum and reduce its grip. In this climate, those who smuggled in as internationalism the indication to the proletariat to choose one of the imperialist camps in the field might let what had been their sadly indicative, revealing stance slip into delicate, demure oblivion. Waiting for old and new allegedly “progressive” causes subordinate class deployment. No matter. The moment of truth was there, and indelible traces of it will remain. In fact, it does not even matter so much whether the failure, the yielding, in the face of this moment of truth occurred out of a deep misunderstanding of historical reality, out of a sincere inability to interpret it with the conceptual tools of Marxism, or whether instead, it weighed more heavily on that inexhaustible matrix of opportunism that is the fear of being in the minority as consistent enemies of all bourgeois interests in the era of imperialism, the phobia of being irrelevant concerning the now absolutely dominant and prevailing categories of the political and ideological campaigns of the bourgeoisie, concerning the dynamics and logics of the internal power relations of the bourgeois political world. That fear, that political and human insubstantiality that prevents one from maintaining oneself, from holding up in the few and scarcely relevant in today’s overall social and political order, to be, thanks to the continuity of a revolutionary coherence, decisive in the future.
However, it matters a great deal to assess the outcomes of the confrontation with the Ukrainian war test case from the perspective of future developments in imperialist contention. The conflict that experienced a quantum leap with the attack led by Russian imperialism in late February said something extremely significant about the rhythms and forms of that process, of which the war in Ukraine itself constitutes a manifestation, of the emergence of points of friction, of tension in the global imperialist order. We do not know whether other fault lines will impose themselves in a close time frame with equal, dramatic evidence. We do not yet know if the recent tensions around Taiwan anticipate a broader showdown. But the multiple nerve centers of the imperialist fabric are pregnant with potential conflictual developments because they have become crucial junctures in the shifting imperialist power relations. This is the deep, real substance of their function as a point and moment of international confrontation. Should the tension around Taiwan, other disputed areas in the South China Sea, and other breaking points in the Middle East or Latin America precipitate the choice to ignore, downplay, or overlook the fundamentally imperialist dimension of these crises to place issues such as the self-determination of peoples or the self-styled rights of a motherland that is playfully bourgeois and inserted in the imperialist game at the center of a falsely internationalist indication, would once again have the value of a contribution to the subordination of our class, of a hindrance in the struggle for its political autonomy. It would certainly not be a page of Marxism, if anything, the recording of an asset on the pages of the social-imperialist ledger.
The test of the war in Ukraine tells us that this enemy will appear again and in force. We will be, for an initial period of time that we cannot even vaguely quantify, still few in defense of our class’s revolutionary, internationalist consciousness. This does not discourage us. On the contrary, it gives even more conviction and awareness to our militancy.
Prospettiva Marxista – Circolo internazionalista «coalizione operaia»