1 May 2022
Across the globe, working-class people have gathered in celebration of International Workers’ Day, just as they have done for more than a century and a quarter. Alongside calls for higher wages, shorter hours, job security, trade-union rights and workplace protections, many workers are demanding peace in Ukraine, where the population has been subjected to the horrors of a war that is, in essence, a struggle between Russia and its NATO rivals for influence in Europe.
A durable and just peace is impossible under global capitalism and the imperialist order that rests upon it. Capitalism is a dog-eat-dog system that not only exploits the working class and fosters multiple forms of oppression but also possesses an inherent tendency toward international competition—a tendency that finds its most acute expression in the rivalry between the “great power” predators that dominate the world. Moscow’s incursion into Ukraine was triggered by the hostile actions of the NATO imperialists (and their willing pawns in Kiev), who are distinguished from their Russian rival only by a greater capacity for, and bloodier history of, invading and devastating poor countries in a quest for “spheres of influence” and profit.
Working people share no common interest with the capitalists, whose property must be expropriated, reorganized and made to serve the common good. Only a workers’ government, replacing capitalist state institutions, can remake society along socialist lines to achieve a world without material want, oppression or war. Building a new, revolutionary workers’ party that struggles for a socialist future requires resolute opposition to the capitalist class and its war aims—in imperialist countries, those who wish to fight for socialism must work for the defeat of our “own” ruling class.
Last month, in NATO member Greece, rail workers in the port of Alexandroupoli refused to load NATO arms shipments destined for the war in Ukraine. Despite pressure from the rail company management, they held their ground, as workers from nearby Thessaloniki refused to go to Alexandroupoli as scabs and other unions in the Evros region also declared their support. Workers in other NATO countries should follow this courageous example and organize strike actions to block the shipment of arms to Ukraine. These weapons will be used to further the imperialist plans of NATO, prolonging the war and endangering the lives of workers not only in Ukraine but also in Russia, Eastern Europe and beyond.
Attempts to organize anti-imperialist labor actions will surely be demonized as “pro-Putin” by the corporate news media and declared illegal by the capitalist state. They will also be met with the opposition of the official leadership of the workers’ movement, which has almost to a person lined up behind the ruling class and signed on as cheerleaders for sanctions (i.e., economic warfare that most directly impacts workers in “enemy” countries). In Britain, the Trades Union Congress leadership sent a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak urging the government to “take further action to support and strengthen international efforts to impose significant and effective sanctions on Russia.” In the US, the leadership of the AFL-CIO trade-union federation called, in a 2 March statement, for “extensive economic sanctions,” patriotically declaring that they “stand ready to assist the Biden administration in its efforts to implement and strengthen these measures.” Bea Bruske, head of the Canadian Labour Congress, condemned what she called Russia’s “unprovoked” invasion of Ukraine and urged “our government to work with like-minded multilateral organizations to press Russia to end hostilities.” The government to which Bruske refers is not “ours”—it is the government of the Canadian ruling class, whose hands are stained with the blood of Indigenous peoples, Afghans and others victimized by “nice, friendly” Maple Leaf imperialism.
The leaders of the labor-based political parties in the West, donning the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian chauvinist regime in Kiev, merely echo this perspective. Keir Starmer, leader of the British Labour party, has threatened to expel members who even acknowledge the role of Western imperialism in provoking Russia to invade Ukraine, praising the imperialist NATO alliance as “one of the 'great achievements’ of the post-war Labour government.” Jagmeet Singh’s pro-imperialist NDP in Canada, which has just agreed to prop up the Liberal government for another three years, issued a statement in which it called on Trudeau “to use all tools to deter Putin’s aggressive actions, including by immediately imposing additional severe economic sanctions.” This is an endorsement not just of “severe economic sanctions” but potentially of military operations as well. Canada, along with Britain, the US and other NATO imperialists, has already sent “lethal aid” and money to bolster Ukraine’s war effort.
As these “leaders” filter the ruling class’s pro-war message into the labor movement, workers are subjected to NATO-lauding propaganda and a vile Russophobic campaign in the press. It is an urgent necessity to develop the understanding among working people that our “main enemy” is not Vladimir Putin (who should be dealt with by Russian workers) but the ruling class here “at home.” May Day is an occasion not merely to celebrate the achievements of the past but to assert the independence of the working class and discuss the tasks of the future. Winning a better, socialist world for working people everywhere means waging a difficult political fight inside and outside the labor movement—it will not come about on its own but instead requires the conscious intervention of revolutionaries who are not afraid to be unpopular when necessary.
Down with imperialist war—the main enemy is at home!
Strike against the NATO war machine—no troops, no weapons, no sanctions!
Revolutionaries & Imperialist War (audio and text, 1917 No.45)
Ukraine & the Left (1917 No.45)
NATO Provokes Russian Attack on Ukraine (1917 No.45)
NATO Imperialists Escalate Ukraine Crisis (audio and text, 1 February 2022)