The following is a short initial statement from the Political Committee of Socialist Alternative in England, Wales and Scotland. It should be read alongside this fuller statement by International Socialist Alternative, the contents of which we endorse.
Capitalism means war. The news in the early hours of 24 February that Putin’s regime had launched its barbaric invasion of Ukraine – with dozens killed in the first hours – has rightly filled working-class people internationally with horror. Instinctively, workers feel solidarity with those who will suffer the most from this culmination of months of warmongering by both Russian and Western Imperialism: the working-class and poor people of Ukraine.
This real and rightful solidarity has nothing in common with the hawkish stance of Johnson’s government, backed up by the enthusiastic war-drum beaters who now lead Labour. In a united chorus, which is echoed almost completely unquestioningly in the capitalist media, big business politicians, including so-called ‘opposition’ figures like Starmer and even Sturgeon, are competing to out-do each other in appearing ‘hardline’ on Russia. They present their concerns, which are really all about the threat Putin’s regime poses to Western imperialist interests, as a defence of the Ukrainian people. But nothing could be further from the truth.
This is the very same imperialism that spent the last two decades wreaking the most appalling devastation across the Middle East. The ‘liberators’ and ‘democrats’ of NATO have left behind an Afghanistan in which 20 million now face starvation. Meanwhile the Taliban’s brutal theocratic dictatorship is restored. In what is really the mirror image of Putin’s warmongering, the role of the US and Britain, alongside the major European powers, has been to repeatedly ramp up this conflict, pushing NATO’s expansion across Eastern Europe and playing a significant part in creating the tinderbox that has now lit up so spectacularly.
Sickeningly, in the face of a huge domestic crisis particularly fueled by the Downing Street party-gate scandal, Johnson has even tried to use posturing over Ukraine as a way to save his own political skin. In aid of this, following on from Johnson’s own visit to the region, the foreign secretary was sent on a humiliating trip to Moscow, in which the fundamental weakness of British imperialism and its subservience to that of the US was once again laid bare.
New Cold War
This has also been on display in relation to the Tories’ sudden conversion to “hawkish” positions in support of US imperialism’s agenda in relation to the bigger and more central geopolitical fault line in the world, the New Cold War between US and Chinese imperialism.
Yet despite the bombast and the posturing, if you read the detail of Boris Johnson’s own statement in the wake of the invasion, it’s clear even he is aware that his proposed sanctions are unlikely to provide any serious deterrent to Putin in pressing ahead with his plans. The truth is the City of London has long functioned as a laundry service and financial playground for oligarchs and kleptocrats the world over. Indeed, the Tory party has itself benefited from the donations of Russian billionaires. Meanwhile, as well as the potential impact of sanctions on working-class people in Russia – who are not responsible for the actions of Putin’s brutal regime – the impact on the supply of oil and gas from Russia to western Europe has the potential to intensify the already serious cost of living crisis in Britain. Oil prices surged by more than 40% on 24 February (the day of the invasion).
Anti-war movement needed
Totally absent in all the mainstream capitalist discourse, is the independent, anti-war voice of working-class people internationally. In Socialist Alternative, we are proud to stand in solidarity with socialists in Russia – part of the ISA – who are organising and participating in anti-war protests and bravely demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops in the face of the most brutal state repression. In Britain, we also have a duty to protest this bloody war, and particularly to oppose the role played by British capitalism and our own government in this conflagration. This must include demanding the withdrawal of all NATO troops from Eastern Europe, opposing sanctions which harm working-class people and defending and fighting for the unity of working-class people across Europe and the world.