Approved as a Statement of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization
In a blatant act of aggression, imperialism and chauvinism, Russia’s autocratic president – and former KGB officer – Vladimir Putin, has launched a massive invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s armed forces, heavily outnumbered, are resisting. Thousands of civilians are enlisting to join the fight or support the defenders.
In Russia, despite Putin’s almost total control of the media and general suppression of dissent, many citizens have bravely taken to the streets in protests. Already on 24 February, there were protests in more than fifty cities, with 1,740 arrests reported.
Marx said that a nation that oppresses another forges its own chains. Magnificently, the Russian protesters are struggling to break the chains.
Putin’s actions are a violation of the right of the Ukrainian people to self-determination – as well as a direct threat to their lives and homes.
The invasion also signals a return to Cold War between Russia and the West. While NATO’s leaders have made it clear that they will not go to war over Ukraine, but impose economic sanctions instead, the heightened tensions greatly increase the danger that a miscalculation by either side could lead to actual war, even nuclear.
In the weeks of military build-up that preceded the attack, Putin’s stated demands were a guarantee that Ukraine would never join NATO, and a pull-back of NATO forces from countries bordering Russia. Ukraine joining NATO was not a real prospect, as it was a known red line for Russia. And the present crisis has led to an increase, not a reduction, of NATO forces in proximity to Russia. It seems that Putin’s demands were a smokescreen for his real aim: domination of Ukraine. Far from keeping Russia secure, Putin has conjured up new risks for Russia and the world.
Putin has also claimed that his actions were necessary to prevent genocide (of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine). If there were any truth in this, it might justify a limited intervention to protect lives and prevent atrocities – not a massive attack on the whole country. But the claim was a complete lie, even though the Ukrainian government had just brought in a discriminatory law restricting use of the Russian language (any publication had to be accompanied by a full translation in Ukrainian).
Our condemnation of Russian imperialism does not imply support for NATO. The United States and Britain invaded Iraq in 2003, on an equally false and fabricated pretext. Turkey, a NATO member, is no less dictatorial than Russia. The U.S., the UK, the European Union, and their allies deny self-determination to the Palestinians, the Kurds and others, and exercise direct or indirect imperialist domination over much of the globe.
Nor does our support for Ukraine’s national self-determination, including independence from Russia or any outside power, imply political support for the existing, bourgeois Ukrainian regime. But we also note that the working class is a core part of the resistance to Russian occupation, and of the support for the democratic republic.
While Putin prepared to invade Ukraine, a smaller drama was enacted in the Indian Ocean. The small, postcolonial island nation of Mauritius sent a chartered vessel to the remote Chagos Islands, and raised the Mauritian flag there. Despite a ruling of the International Court of Justice and a UN resolution, Britain still rules the islands as the British Indian Ocean Territory – all to allow the US its military base on Diego Garcia. The whole population of the islands, a small community of about 1,560 people, was forcibly removed by Britain fifty years ago. They are still campaigning for the right to return.
Russia and the West are both parts of the capitalist world system, in which cooperation, competition and conflict, order and chaos are combined in complex ways. States compete with each other for wealth and power – and for the minds of human beings – by economic competition, diplomacy, ideology and propaganda, espionage, cyber-attacks, arms race and ultimately war. It is a system that cannot meet the real needs of humanity, like peace, food security, housing, sanitation, health care and education for all. It denies the majority of humankind control of their own lives.
The International Marxist-Humanist Organization recently affiliated to the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign (based in the UK).
The Ukraine Solidarity Campaign seeks to organise solidarity and provide information in support of Ukrainian socialists and trade unionists, campaigning for working class, and democratic rights, against imperialist intervention and national chauvinism. It seeks to co-ordinate socialist and labour movement organisations who agree on this task, regardless of differences and opinions on other questions.
Basic aims are:
• to support and build direct links with the independent socialists and the labour movement in Ukraine.
• to support the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future free from external intervention from Russian or Western imperialism
IMHO has also signed the statement No to War – Russia’s Hands Off Ukraine.