Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine is an extension of the human disaster that began many years ago – a product of years of political dictatorship, capitalist terror and geopolitical rivalries. It will predictably result in the deaths of many civilians, and the displacement of even more.
Putin has taken this expansionist course in order to prevent Ukraine from becoming further integrated into the economic bloc of the European Union. His Eurasian Economic Union, comprising Russia and its close allies like Belarus and Kazakhstan, is set up as an expression of the interests of the bourgeoisie of his own country, which prefers to be a big fish in a small pond than to negotiate with the EU as a regular partner.
In some sense, this is a clash between two kinds of capitalist economy: the paternalistic, oligarchic, often state-driven economies of Russia and its neighbours, and the modern, market-driven, hyper-competitive economies of the “advanced” EU states. The integration of the states around Russia threatens the current Russian bourgeoisie, because it threatens their own existence.
We do not believe this is as simple as a clash between western liberalism and eastern dictatorship, as some would suggest. Our opposition to the Russian bourgeoisie does not entail support for the western European one; as cases like Poland and Hungary show, countries can develop “democratically” towards authoritarianism under the aegis of the EU and NATO. The growth of “fortress Europe”, greatly inspired by Australia, that brutalises migrants with increasing severity, also demonstrates that liberal democracy and authoritarianism are not opposites, but joint partners.
The war in Ukraine will have global repercussions. Not only will it affect the EU and Eurasian states, but also the USA, which serves as Europe’s main military power through NATO. Ukraine is also a major agricultural exporter, with many countries reliant on the wheat produced by its fertile soil. Lebanon, for instance, already in the throes of an economic crisis, imports 50% of its wheat from Ukraine. Libya imports 43%. By value, 86% of Egypt’s wheat imports come from Ukraine and Russia. Destabilisations in this market will undoubtedly trigger the kind of “bread riots” we have seen before in many of these countries.
Despite their differences, both the Western European and Russian bourgeoisies share one essential thing in common: defence of their own existence against their own working classes. Accordingly, the main response to this warmongering should not be either apologia for Russia imperialism or support for NATO, or even “national defence” within Ukraine. Rather, we support a renewed effort to bring together workers across national boundaries, supporting all forms of revolt that challenge their respective systems: mutinies, desertions, strikes, sabotage, demonstrations.
For those of us in Australia, we have some basic tasks:
- To fight against the warmongering of our own side, and against the hypocritical condemnations of Russia by the same politicians who drove the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan – in particular, we should do all that is possible to prevent even more nations from intervening, which would risk the possibility of the war spiralling into a larger, even more disastrous global conflict;
- To undertake meaningful acts of solidarity with the working classes of Ukraine and Russia, who are the primary victims of the war, and with protestors against it in both countries;
- To spread information among workers here regarding the working conditions of those in Russia and Ukraine, and the ways they fight back against the war economy and the restrictions on liberties that inevitably come from it;
- To support the free, safe flow of migrants from the conflict, demanding that Australia end its brutal border policies and grant refugees permanent protection, regardless of how they arrived;
- To work, as always, for the union of workers across national boundaries, fighting for the only thing that can put an end to all wars: the social revolution.
The war is truly horrendous, but like all other capitalist crises, it contains the potential to trigger the kinds of social uprisings that overthrow entire regimes. A century ago Russia participated in a disastrous, bloody war. It ended with a working-class revolution that sent shockwaves across the entire world. It is up to the international working class to make sure that this current war will end in the same way.
Signed by the following anarchist groups of Australia and New Zealand:
Anarchist Communists Meanjin
Black Flag Sydney
Geelong Anarchist Communists
Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group
NO WAR BUT THE CLASS WAR!