The NATO-Russia war and the tasks of the international working class

We are publishing here the opening report delivered by David North to the 2022 International May Day Online Rally held on May 1. North is the chairman of the International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site and the national chairman of the Socialist Equality Party in the US.

This year’s May Day is being held under extraordinary circumstances. The world stands on the precipice of a nuclear world war that threatens the extinction of life on this planet. The challenge of May Day 2022 is to make this celebration of the international unity of the working class the beginning of a global movement of the broad mass of the world’s population to stop the criminal and reckless escalation of the NATO-Russia war toward nuclear conflict and force its end.

The organization, development and victory of this movement requires a clear understanding of the causes of the war and the interests that it serves.

International May Day 2022 Online Rally

The International Committee of the Fourth International, the World Party of Socialist Revolution, unequivocally denounces US and European imperialism for instigating the conflict with Russia. This is not a war in defense of democracy in Ukraine or anywhere else in the world. It is a war whose aim is the redivision of the world, that is, a new allocation of the material resources of the globe.

Russia has become a target of US imperialism not because of the Putin regime’s autocratic character, but because, first, its defense of the interests of the Russian capitalists collides with the drive of the United States for global hegemony, which is centered on its preparations for war with China; and, second, the vast expanse of Russian territory is the source of immensely valuable and strategically critical raw materials, metals and minerals—gold, platinum, palladium, zinc, bauxite, nickel, mercury, manganese, chromium, uranium, iron ore, cobalt and iridium, to name only a few—that the United States is determined to bring under its control.

The other major imperialist powers allied with the United States are, likewise, pursuing their own reactionary economic and geostrategic interests. The conflict in Ukraine has provided German imperialism—which waged a war of extermination against the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1945—with the opportunity to undertake the most massive rearmament campaign since the collapse of the Nazi regime. As always, British imperialism is eager to participate in an American-led war, hoping that its “special relationship” with the United States will entitle it to a favorable distribution of the spoils of war. The French imperialists hope that by sanctioning, however reluctantly, the American war against Russia, the United States will not interfere with French operations in Africa. Even the lesser powers of the NATO alliance expect to be repaid for their endorsement of the US-led war. Poland, for example, has not forgotten that Lviv was once the Polish city of Lwow.

As for the United States’ invocation of the sacred right of Ukraine, as a sovereign nation, to join NATO if it so chooses, Washington does not recognize the extension of that right to any country whose national defense interests are viewed as a threat to American security. Even as the crisis unfolds in Ukraine, the United States is threatening military action to stop the Solomon Islands—6,000 miles away from the American West Coast—from entering into a defensive relationship with China.

The claims that NATO is reacting to an “unprovoked” invasion of a politically blameless Ukraine by an aggressive Russia, intent on restoring the lost “Soviet empire,” are a pack of lies. An objective study of the background of the war clearly demonstrates that Russia’s invasion of February 24, 2022 was a desperate response to NATO’s relentless expansion. As the development of the war over the past two months has clearly shown, the United States and NATO armed and trained Ukrainian forces, working closely with the neo-Nazi elements associated with the Azov Battalion, to wage a proxy war against Russia.

The pretense that NATO’s massive mobilization against Russia has been an unforeseen, unplanned and improvised response to the invasion is a fairy tale for the politically naïve. This is a war that the United States and NATO wanted, gamed out, prepared for and instigated. Since the initial “Orange Revolution” of 2004-2005 and, especially, the Maidan putsch that was organized by the Obama administration to bring down the pro-Russian Yanukovych government in 2014, the United States has been set on a course for war with Russia.

The cynical claim that the US and NATO did not plan for or instigate the war is refuted most powerfully by the repeated warnings made by the International Committee. At the first online May Day rally sponsored by the International Committee and World Socialist Web Site in 2014, we warned, just a few months after the Maidan putsch, that “the Ukrainian crisis was deliberately instigated by the United States and Germany through the orchestration of a coup in Kiev. The purpose of this coup was to bring to power a regime that would place Ukraine under the direct control of US and German imperialism. The plotters in Washington and Berlin understood that this coup would lead to a confrontation with Russia. Indeed, far from seeking to avoid a confrontation, both Germany and the United States believe that a clash with Russia is required for the realization of their far-reaching geopolitical interests.”

Exactly six years ago today, at the 2016 May Day rally, we warned that the drive of the United States for global hegemony set it on a path toward war with Russia and China. We stated:

A substantial section of Pentagon and CIA strategists believe that the strategic isolation of China requires not only American control of the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. The United States must also dominate Eurasia, characterized in the textbooks of international geopolitics as the ‘world island.’ This is the strategic objective that underlies the growing conflict between the United States and Russia.

International relations have reached a level of tension that equals, if it has not already surpassed, what existed in the late 1930s on the eve of World War II. All the major imperialist powers—including Germany and Japan—are increasing their military commitments. That a conflict between the United States, China and Russia could involve the use of nuclear weapons is already being acknowledged. It would be the gravest of errors to assume that neither the political and military leaders of the imperialist powers, nor their frightened adversaries in Beijing and Moscow, would ever risk the devastating consequences of nuclear war.

One year later, at the May Day rally of 2017, we called attention to discussions among US strategists of the feasibility of using nuclear weapons in a future military conflict. We cited various strategies that entailed the use of nuclear weapons, which included 1) nuclear use against a non-nuclear opponent; 2) a first strike aimed at eliminating an opponent country’s capacity to retaliate; 3) threatening to use nuclear weapons to force an opponent to back down; and 4) the launching of limited nuclear war. We asked:

Who are the maniacs who have devised this strategy? The willingness to consider any of these strategies is, itself, a sign of madness. The use of nuclear weapons would have incalculable consequences. Will this fact deter the ruling classes from resorting to war? The entire history of the twentieth century, not to mention the experience of just the first 17 years of the twenty-first, argues against such a hopeful assumption. The political strategy of the working class must be based on reality, not self-deluding hopes.

Just one more quote: At the 2019 May Day rally, against the backdrop of mounting political crisis in the United States, we said:

The violation of constitutional norms in the conduct of domestic policy and the resort to gangster methods in foreign policy are rooted, in the final analysis, in the crisis of the capitalist system. The desperate efforts of the United States to maintain its position of global dominance, in the face of geopolitical and economic challenges from rivals in Europe and Asia, require a state of permanent and escalating war.

This reckless policy will prevail with or without Trump. Indeed, the anti-Russia hysteria that has gripped the Democratic Party makes it reasonable to suspect that, were it to regain the White House, the danger of a world war will be even greater.

Events have confirmed our warnings. Nothing can stop the unfolding of the terrible logic of imperialist war and its consequences except the revolutionary movement of the working class against capitalism. This perspective underlies not only our denunciation of US-NATO imperialism, but also our attitude to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The imperialist character of the war being waged by NATO does not justify, from the standpoint of the international working class, the decision of the Russian government to invade Ukraine. The International Committee condemns the invasion as politically reactionary. The Putin government’s decision to invade has killed and injured thousands of innocent Ukrainians who are in no way responsible for the policies of the corrupt Kyiv government, divided the Russian and Ukrainian working class, and played into the hands of the imperialist strategists in Washington D.C. and Langley, Virginia (the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency). It has provided German imperialism with the opportunity to massively rearm.

The dangers that now confront Russia are, in the final analysis, the consequence of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 by the Stalinist bureaucracy and the restoration of capitalism. The destruction of the Soviet Union—the outcome of the Stalinist repudiation of the principles of socialist internationalism which guided the 1917 October Revolution—was based on three catastrophically false conceptions that had been fervently embraced by the Soviet bureaucracy.

The first was that the restoration of capitalism would result in the rapid enrichment of Russia. The second was that the dissolution of the bureaucratic regime would result in the blossoming of bourgeois democracy. The third was that capitalist Russia’s repudiation of its revolutionary legacy would result in its peaceful integration into a blissful brotherhood of nations. These delusional expectations have been shattered by reality.

The warnings of Leon Trotsky, brilliantly elaborated in his 1936 treatise, The Revolution Betrayed, have been vindicated. Capitalist restoration has resulted in the impoverishment of large sections of the Russian population, the replacement of the bureaucratic regime with dictatorial oligarchic rule and the imminent threat of Russia’s breakup into semi-colonial statelets controlled by imperialist powers.

The fact that the Putin regime could not find an answer to the dangers confronting Russia other than by invading Ukraine, and now threatening a nuclear response to NATO’s provocations, testifies to the political bankruptcy of the regime of capitalist restoration. The Russian capitalist oligarchy, whose wealth is derived from the systematic plundering of the nationalized property of the workers’ state, repudiated all that was progressive in the social and political foundations of the Soviet Union.

It is hardly accidental that Putin, in his speech of February 21, 2022, justified the imminent invasion of Ukraine with an explicit and bitter denunciation of the Bolshevik regime’s defense of the democratic rights of the nationalities that had been brutally repressed by the Tsarist regime prior to its overthrow in 1917. Putin declared that the creation of a Soviet Ukraine was “the result of the Bolsheviks’ policy and can be rightfully called ‘Vladimir Lenin’s Ukraine.’ He was its creator and architect.”

Vladimir Lenin

Yes, Lenin was the creator of the Soviet Ukraine, and the Bolshevik defense of the rights of the oppressed nationalities, and especially in Ukraine, was a major factor in the victory of the Red Army, led by Trotsky, in the Civil War that followed the October Revolution. Putin was careful to avoid mentioning that the process of bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet Union found its initial expression in Stalin’s efforts to undermine Lenin’s defense of the rights of the non-Russian nationalities.