US imperialism's proxy war: fighting Russia to the last drop of Ukrainian blood

“We’re not just at war to support the Ukrainians. We’re fundamentally at war, although somewhat through a proxy, with Russia, and it’s important that we win,” said US representative Seth Moulton during a Fox News appearance. He was perhaps being more frank than others, but the message has been coming loud and clear from official representatives of Biden’s administration. Asked what the US would consider success in the war, Biden’s Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said “we want to see Russia weakened”.

From the very beginning US imperialism considered this as a proxy war against Russia. First they thought Russia would achieve its aims quickly, hence the withdrawal of the US embassy and the plans to extract Zelensky from the country. Then, when the situation stabilised and the Ukrainian forces put up a fierce resistance (helped by Western intelligence and supplies), they started to see an opportunity to escalate the war in order to deal a blow to Russia.

In the last few weeks they have been more open about it and this has been accompanied by an escalation of military aid to Ukraine to match that objective. The signing of the Lease and Lend bill allows Washington to supply the Ukrainian Army by-passing red tape and scrutiny. Now they have passed a bill allowing for $40bn in aid to Ukraine, even higher than the $33bn that Biden had originally asked for. This is in addition to the $13bn already given in the last two months and represents a massive stepping up of the war effort on the part of the US.

To put these figures into perspective, Ukraine’s total defence budget in 2021 was just under $7bn, and the country’s total budget for the same year was just $40bn. The bulk of this latest package of “aid” voted by the US (with the unanimous backing by the Democrats, including the DSA-backed “squad”) goes directly towards military aid and supplies, with only $8.8bn in economic support and $900 million in aid to Ukrainian refugees in the US.

It is not just a question of increasing the amount of money, there is also a qualitative increase in the type of weapons supplied, including more powerful, longer-range artillery pieces and top-of-the range tank-busting attack drones, some of which are already on the ground in Ukraine. The idea is that these artillery pieces, including the M777 howitzers supplied by the US, radars, etc. would allow the Ukrainian Army to stand up to superior Russian artillery, and the Switchblade drones would make up for the almost total destruction of the Ukrainian air force.

The 26 April meeting at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany, involving 40 countries, including 14 that are not part of NATO, was aimed precisely at establishing a centralised and coordinated mechanism for the supply of weapons to Ukraine.

The aim of these massive deliveries is to undermine the advantage that Russia possesses on the basis of its air force, tanks and artillery on the battlefield. However, it is not immediately clear what level of impact this newly delivered weaponry can have on the actual course of the war. These types of weapons require training Ukrainian soldiers to be able to use them and they also need maintenance. Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers are currently being trained by the US and the UK in the use of these weapons. Furthermore, Russia is increasingly targeting Ukrainian supply lines making it more difficult for the new equipment to reach the front. Presidential adviser Arestovych has declared that it will not be until June that Ukraine will be able to make full use of these new weaponry “to launch an offensive”.

Already in mid-April, the Pentagon hosted a meeting with the country’s eight largest manufacturers of weapons to make sure that they had the capacity to meet the increased demand coming from Ukraine. Production of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin anti-tank weapons is being ramped up, doubled in some cases. As always, arms manufacturers are rubbing their hands at the prospect of a more protracted conflict. “War is terrible, terribly profitable”, as Lenin wryly commented during World War One.

It is not just the United States that is escalating intervention in the Ukraine war. Washington’s new found brazenness is being echoed by Britain, for its own reasons. Other than the traditional servile attitude of the poodle on this side of the Atlantic, we have a Prime Minister who desperately wants to divert attention away from problems at home and is happy to hop around Europe looking for photo opportunities. One day he is in Kyiv, shoring up Zelensky’s resolve, the next day he is in Sweden and Finland offering security guarantees to both countries ahead of their bids to join NATO. To that we need to add a Foreign Secretary who desperately wants to be Prime Minister, and is attempting to outdo Boris’ warmongering, promising that the war will not be over until Crimea is back in Ukrainian hands, something Zelensky had already given up on.

As part of this shift in strategy, the US has also become more open about the degree in which they have been involved in this war right from the beginning, boasting about sharing intelligence with the Ukrainian army and how this allowed them to target Russian generals. Intelligence sharing, the US claims, also played a role in the sinking of the Russian Moskva cruiser a few weeks ago.

What we have is a war in which US imperialism (with help from its European allies) provides military advice (probably even to the level of coordinating parts of the war effort at its highest levels) intelligence, money, resources, weapons, training… but leaves it to someone else, in this case the Ukrainians, to provide the cannon fodder and suffer the destruction. Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw put it bluntly and cynically when justifying his vote for Biden’s $40bn aid package: “investing in the destruction of our adversary’s military, without losing a single American troop, strikes me as a good idea.” US imperialism is prepared to fight Putin to the last drop of… Ukrainian blood!

From the very beginning, US imperialism has been deeply involved in the war, but it is clear that now they are calculating that they can use it to decisively weaken Russia, a rival power which had dared to defy them. In the process, the US is exerting enormous pressure on Europe to rearm, so that it can act as the advance guard of US military power in Europe. Some US strategists also calculate that rearming Europe and weakening Russia would then put Washington in a better position to face up to its main rival in the world arena: China.

As part of this new stage of the war, there has been strong pressure exerted on the Ukrainians to reject any negotiations. In this respect, the Ukrainian newspaper Ukrainska Pravda has revealed the role played by Boris Johnson’s visit to Kyiv at the beginning of April.

According to the paper: “The Russian side… was actually ready for the Zelenskyy-Putin meeting,” something Zelensky had been demanding. But then according to UP, which quotes “sources close to Zelensky… the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson… appeared in the capital almost without warning, brought two simple messages. The first is that Putin is a war criminal, he should be pressured, not negotiated with. And the second is that even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin, they [the West] are not.” (our emphasis)

Here the real position is revealed clearly for all to see. It is Western imperialism, in this case Boris Johnson acting as the envoy for Washington, which decides whether there can be negotiations or not, and if the Ukrainians dare to sign a deal with Putin, based on other countries offering security guarantees, the West will sabotage it! And we were told this war was being fought to defend Ukrainian sovereignty!

The point was underlined at the beginning of May when Zelensky hinted that in order to reach a peace agreement he would not press the issue of Crimea, but the following day NATO general secretary Stoltenberg stressed that while negotiations were a matter for Ukraine, “NATO members will never agree to the illegal annexation of Crimea”.

Clearly, the US has used the Russian invasion of Ukraine to attempt to bring its European allies under much closer domination. The war has been used to justify a qualitative increase in military spending in Germany - and many other European countries - as well as the sending of weapons to Ukraine, something the Germans had been reluctant to do previously. It has also served as a convenient excuse for the application by Sweden and Finland to join NATO.

Incidentally, it now seems that Erdogan has thrown a spanner in the works by objecting to Sweden and Finland’s membership of NATO, under the excuse that these states “harbour terror organisations” (a reference to the PKK and the DHKP-C). Since NATO, like the EU, takes decisions like this by consensus, Turkey could veto these two new candidates. Probably Erdogan is just trying to use his leverage to force them to expel and ban these organisations. Also he is probably showing Putin that he can be a useful ally and in that way try to extract some concessions from Russia to enhance his role in the Ukrainian conflict.

Whatever his motivations it seems that fast track NATO membership for Sweden and Finland will not be as smooth sailing as Washington anticipated. Hungary’s Orban is also quite capable of raising objections for his own reasons, also as a way of getting something in return.

Splits in the EU

However, the picture is far from clear. The war has brought to the surface the tensions between the central powers in Europe (Germany and France), as well as US imperialism and its direct agents (particularly Britain and Poland). This is especially the case when it comes to the question of a boycott of Russian gas and oil. The attempt to introduce an EU-wide ban on the import of Russian oil has brought these contradictions to the fore. To introduce such a measure, the EU would require a unanimous vote on the part of its 27 members, and already several of them have expressed their reservations or outright opposition, including Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Croatia, all of them countries which are heavily reliant on Russian oil, by 90 percent in the case of Croatia for instance. Countries which depend on Russian oil by more than 50 percent of their total imports include Bulgaria, Poland, Lithuania, Finland and Latvia. A complete ban on Russian oil would also severely hit the Greek shipping industry, which accounts for half of the total EU-flagged transportation of Russian oil.

So far it is Hungary that is holding up the vote. EU bureaucrats are frantically trying to find a way around the veto, by offering money, concessions, delays, exemptions to the most affected countries. This reveals a deeper problem within the European Union itself. The foreign policy and economic interests of the different countries do not necessarily coincide, and therefore, economic union without political union cannot be sustained in the long term.

russian gas pipeline Image Samuel BaileyThe war has brought to the surface the tensions between the central powers in Europe – especially on the topic of boycotting Russian gas and oil / Image: Samuel Bailey

Now both French President Emmanuel Macron and President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen have suggested reforming the EU treaties to abolish the right of veto (which is what the compulsory consensus in crucial decision-making represents in practice). But such a move would require… unanimity, which they are very unlikely to get, for obvious reasons. If Germany and France continue to push along this road, in the long run they risk the actual break-up of the EU.

In fact, the wrangling over further sanctions on Russia by the EU shows disunity rather than unity on the part of Washington’s allies on the continent. The reason why they are discussing a ban on oil in the first place is because European countries are even more dependent on Russia for gas, particularly Germany, whose ruling class really calls the shots in Europe.

The much-vaunted prospect of Ukraine joining the EU is as far off as it ever was. After saying the process could take decades, Macron proposed that in the meantime Ukraine could join some sort of “parallel European community”. This farcical proposal was rejected outright by Zelensky.

Going into this war, Putin calculated that Europe was too dependent on Russian gas and oil to completely cut off his sources of funding, and that this would help him ride out the onslaught of sanctions. The war in Ukraine has already had an important knock on effect, worldwide, on the price of energy and also grains and other agricultural products. It is likely that Putin now calculates that he is in a better position to sustain a protracted war and that the economic pain will at some point force the Europeans to bid for peace. Let’s not forget that the original Minsk agreements were brokered in the so-called Normandy format, with the sponsorship of Germany and France.

In his speech on Victory Day, Macron said “Europe is not at war with Russia”. In a joint press conference with German Chancellor Sholtz he added: “What we want to achieve is an early cease-fire that will allow bringing to an end the negotiations that have begun between the delegations of Russia and Ukraine in order to achieve peace and a sustainable withdrawal of Russian troops. That is our goal.” This is clearly at odds with the stated aims of the US, which are to use the war in Ukraine to decisively weaken Russia.

The situation on the battlefield

In the terrain of war itself, it is clear that no peace talks will be resumed as long as both parties think they can gain more on the ground. In this new phase of the war, Russia is concentrating all its forces on taking over the full administrative borders of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

At this point, the Ukrainian resistance at Mariupol has been reduced to a handful of hardened neo-Nazis from the Azov regiment (and perhaps a smattering of others, including coast guards and marines). They are waging a noisy campaign to put pressure on Zelensky and the West to somehow save them, through a prisoner exchange or perhaps the divine intervention of the Pope! The logical thing to do would be to surrender, since they are completely surrounded and with no way to resupply themselves. But they cannot, as this would be a severe blow to the morale of the far-right Ukrainian nationalists in general, but also because of the treatment they are likely to get at the hands of the Donetsk and Luhansk militias, who would be keen to exact revenge for the last eight years of terror inflicted on the local population by these gangs.

Ukraine 2022 05 11 Image MoD UK Wikimedia CommonsIn this new phase of the war, Russia is concentrating all its forces on taking over the full administrative borders of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts / Image: MoD UK, Wikimedia Commons

Zelensky has already said there is no military way to help them. This is factually true, but it might also involve some degree of political calculation. At some point, he knows he will have to sign a deal with Russia and the elimination of a large chunk of the neo-nazi Azov forces would weaken a possible element of opposition to such a deal. Even now, he has to navigate this situation carefully, as Azov supporters are trying to agitate Ukrainian public opinion against the government, including personal threats against presidential advisor Arestovych.

In order to appease far-right opinion, Zelensky has hinted that negotiations are under way to allow for the extraction of those holed up at the Azovstal plant. Turkey has proposed that they could be taken to their country under the guarantee that they would not go back to Ukraine to fight for a period of three months. But the Russians have already refused to entertain the proposal.

The situation in Mariupol and the withdrawal from Kyiv and the North has allowed Russia to move some of its forces to what it now regards as the main theatre of operations, the Donbas. Unlike in the failed offensive to surround Kyiv, here the Russian lines of supply are much shorter and easier to defend. It is true that the Ukrainian forces are heavily fortified and they have built up their positions over the last 8 years of war, but they clearly risk being cut off and surrounded. The Russian advance is proceeding at a snail’s pace, but nevertheless they are advancing.

Right now, the main natural line of Ukrainian defence in the Donbas is the fast-flowing river Siverskyi Donets, which the Russians have attempted to cross at several points. So far they have been repelled, but by prodding the line at different points they will sooner or later succeed. Severodonetsk is already surrounded on three sides and only one road remains out of it towards Ukrainian-controlled territory. It is likely that this road is already under Russian fire control, or will be very soon, meaning Ukrainian forces in the town cannot retreat easily. The Russians seem to be concentrating all their might in this sector of the front, as well as the area west of Donetsk (around Avdeevka), while holding the line in Kherson and Zaporizhya.

Ukrainian advances north of Kharkov towards the Russian border are the result of Russian forces retreating and giving up under pressure on positions they no longer consider crucial. The key strategic aim for the Russian forces in that region are the supply lines from Belgorod down to Izyum, which they will have to defend and fortify behind the natural line of the Siverskyi Donets river, flowing north to south.

Meanwhile, Russian artillery continues to attack Ukrainian infrastructure, supply lines, fuel deposits and the delivery routes for Western military aid across the territory. They are also fortifying their position in the Snake Island, repelling a Ukrainian attack, as this allows them to control and cut off shipping lines in and out of Odessa.

Morale of the troops and public opinion

Another important factor is the state of morale, both that of the soldiers doing the fighting and that of the public opinion more generally.

In Ukraine there are already some signs of war weariness, which expresses itself in splits between the government and the high command. On 17 March, Israeli newspaper Haaretz (not a source that can be accused of being pro-Russian) published a very interesting report, which offered a window into the attitude of the Ukrainian population towards the war. The journalist, Nir Gontarz, travelled by car from Kyiv to the Polish border, stopping at several points, and during the journey he tried to enter into conversation with as many people as possible. What he reports is therefore purely anecdotal and cannot be taken as a scientific sample. It is nevertheless very interesting. Many of those he talked to, while initially saying they supported Zelensky, later in the conversation added that they could understand Putin’s motives and blamed the war on Ukrainian provocations.

To give just one of many conversations reported in the article, this is what the owner of a car wash and her sons had to say:

“‘Zelenskyy is behaving with a lot of chutzpah. Of course I understand President Putin. I don’t understand why we can’t be satisfied with our democracy as it is. Why do we have to poke him in the eye and constantly talk about joining the EU and a military alliance with America?’ She only says these things after a long conversation in which her brother and son take part. At first, all three express unqualified support for Zelenskyy. But once a little trust has been established, the son says: ‘If Ukraine hadn’t tried to woo European countries like a cat in heat, Putin wouldn’t have started this war and wouldn’t have harmed Ukrainians.’”

Clearly, the Russian invasion would have created a patriotic mood amongst wide layers of Ukrainian society and many volunteered to join the Territorial Defence. But as the war goes on, many will also start to ask questions. If the war ends badly, with Ukraine being forced to make territorial concessions to Russia (the whole of the Donbas, Kherson and large parts of Zaporizhia for instance) and a commitment not to join NATO, many will wonder whether all the suffering and destruction was worth it when an agreement before the war would not have been better.

In the last few days, there have been protests by soldiers’ relatives and soldiers themselves, about the sending of conscripts to the front without proper training nor the necessary equipment. Thus in Khust, Transcarpathia, on 29 April, women stormed the military enlistment office (see VIDEO) protesting about the sending of their husbands, members of the Territorial Defence, to the front.

“At the beginning of the war, men signed up en masse for the defense. They were assured that their duties would only include the defense of their region. And now they are going to be sent to the front line. Now, almost five hundred men who have not received the necessary military training want to be taken to the east of Ukraine. You can also ‘evade’ - for 3-3.5 thousand dollars,” said Irina Sayan from Khust to Strana reporters.

On 9 May, soldiers of the 101st Brigade of the Territorial Defence (from Transcarpathia) took the step of publishing a video to denounce their situation. “This brigade was sent to the front, sent absolutely unprepared. 90% of them are like that. People really don’t know how to handle a machine gun, and they were driven straight into the trenches. Two days after receiving the summons, and you are already in the Donbass,” explained social scientist Yury Romanenko to Strana, while pointing out that protests by soldiers had also taken place in Uzhhorod.

In a separate report, Strana quotes from the wife of a soldier in the same 101st Brigade:

“Inna Salautina, the wife of one of the soldiers of the 101st brigade, says that people, in fact, were deceived from the very beginning, saying that they would serve and perform tasks in their region, that is, in Transcarpathia.

“‘On what basis were untrained people who did not pass a medical examination enrolled and sent to the front. Specifically: my husband after a heart attack, with a non-working heart requiring transplantation,’ Salautina complains to us.”

The situation is similar in the 57th Brigade according to the same report:

“‘From the first day of the war, they have been defending our Motherland without a break. Without weapons, without reinforcements. There is hell, and our guys are standing with one machine gun. Nobody hears us. They took the guys without a medical examination, without experience, without study. They are exhausted. Every day shelling is coming from the sky and from all sides,’ the wife of one of the soldiers, Tatyana Primachenko, tells us.

“The sister of soldier Vadim Sidorenko from the same brigade complains that he was also sent to the front without proper training and without regard for his poor health.

“‘He's been in the thick of it for days now, fighting under constant shelling. Commanders are ordered to go to the front line in the same trenches shot down by the enemy. The soldiers are demoralised, miraculously survived under shelling and are not professional soldiers, but only follow orders. The guys need urgent reinforcements and support of the troops,’ the woman complains.”

This reveals significant symptoms of demoralisation and weariness amongst the Ukrainian troops. Resentment is also building up over corruption and how that is linked to lack of equipment for frontline troops. Locals in Khust report that officials at the recruitment and enlistment offices have been seen driving extremely expensive cars, which they say are the result of bribes paid by men to avoid mobilisation. Also “many are perplexed why soldiers still, with all the multibillion-dollar assistance from the West, must look for their own equipment.”

The situation is clearly worrying the Ukrainian authorities, to the point that Presidential Advisor Aleksey Arestovich, “said that there are many questions about the fact that soldiers are sent to the front not with eight years of experience, but with epilepsy and sarcoma.” Arestovich called it “excesses that infuriate me.” He spoke in favour of “reviewing all people (at the front) for medical reasons and either demobilise or transfer them to non-combat positions… There are more and more questions, I won't leave it like that. I'm starting my little Jihad. I'm furious,” Arestovich said.

The situation in Transcarpathia has its own peculiarities. The region is home to a substantial Hungarian minority and while it voted for Zelensky in the presidential election, there was a very high abstention level. People there were up in arms against the new language laws, which they saw as an attack on minority languages, including Hungarian. The region borders Slovakia and Hungary and is home to smuggling networks that are now busy organising the crossing over of men who want to avoid the mobilisation. The region was already home to anti-war protests and resistance against mobilisation during the first phase of the war in the Donbas in 2014, the so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation. But even taking into account these specific circumstances, these reports are very significant, and certainly have drawn the attention of the authorities.

All of this has led to open clashes and divisions at the top of the chain of command. For instance, there are rumours that the Army High Command asked for an order to evacuate troops from Severodonetsk and withdraw them to a fall back defensive position, in order to prevent their encirclement. The story is that Zelensky rejected the proposal. Now the troops are being encircled.

There are also tensions over the fate of the Azov Regiment fighters at Azovstal, with public recriminations that the military and civilian leadership did not do enough to ensure a line of resupply. At the same time, Zelensky is wary of giving the order of surrender to these troops, as this might lead to open defiance.

On 8 May, presidential advisor Arestovych gave an interview in which he asked questions about why the south fell into Russian hands so easily at the beginning of the war. The implication was that there had been mistakes by the military leadership: “Because - where is incompetence, where is betrayal - this is the biggest question. They figure it out, and they will definitely give assessments to everyone - both personnel, and personal, and criminal, and everything in the world.” This was his way of deflecting criticism of the president and his conduct of the war.

The response came the following day from Taras Chmut, director of the Come Back Alive Foundation, who is said to be close to the head of the Armed Forces general Valeriy Zaluzhnyy. In a scathing comment on his FB page, he said: “The further away from the war you are in Kyiv - the more political games appear. Some start ‘looking for the guilty’ and prepare for the new political season, while others - ‘shooters’ - try, expected, to translate responsibility for all mistakes on the army.” He then reminded Arestovich that the Army is following the commands of the president and so if anyone is responsible it is him. “In case anyone forgot, I remind you that delicious coffee in sunny Kyiv is provided to you by hundreds of dead and wounded men and women every day. Every day. And today, looking for the guilty among them is absolutely not the best idea. The guilty are not in the army, although there is someone and for what to ask, guilty in high cabinets that formed budgets, policies and identified surnames for key positions.”

As long as Zelensky can present a picture of the war going well, he’ll remain popular. But if the war becomes more protracted and the Russians advance in the battle for the Donbas the facade of national unity can quickly collapse into mutual recriminations.

Meanwhile, in Russia, Putin’s war is still widely popular. There have been isolated incidents of fire bomb attacks against military recruitment offices and also sabotage against scientific institutions linked to the military industrial complex. This reflects the angry mood amongst a layer of the youth, the section amongst which support for the war is lowest, though still probably a majority back it. Of course, in conditions of heavy censorship and repression of any dissenting views, it is difficult to gauge the real situation.

The escalation of open participation of US imperialism in the war is a gift to Putin’s propaganda, who has always maintained that this was a defensive move against NATO aggression. However, if the war becomes protracted, Russian troops get bogged down and the body bags start to pile up, this can also give way to a mood of anger and discontent. This war is an existential matter for Putin. His whole regime depends on it and for this reason he will use all resources at his disposal to make sure that he can get a result that he can present as a success.

From war to class struggle

As the war goes on and the economic fallout threatens to tip the world economy into a new recession, this can have an impact on the class struggle. Clearly this must be a crucial element behind Macron’s statements about the need for negotiations, which represent a public break with Biden’s strategy. He is a weak president facing an angry French people and he could do with any sort of respite on the front of energy prices. He is not the only one who can find himself in the same situation in the next few months.

The economic fallout of the war and the deepening of the crisis of capitalism will eventually have an impact even on public opinion in the United States as well. Just as Congress was passing $40bn for the war in Ukraine, the country was hit with a nationwide shortage of baby formula. As the economic impact of the war makes itself felt in a severe cost of living crisis, ordinary US workers (and elsewhere) will rightly be asking, why is it we can spend tens of billions on a war in a far away country, to the profit of arms manufacturers, when we can’t even feed nor house our people? This is a finished recipe for class struggle and opposition to the imperialist war aims in the West.

Starmer NATO Image own workScandalously, left ‘leaders’ across the Western world have joined the chorus of jingoistic propaganda / Image: In Defence of Marxism

In this the position of the so-called Left in most countries has been disgusting. ‘Social-democratic’ governments in power have all fallen behind US imperialism in this war. In both Sweden and Finland, “social-democratic” prime ministers are leading the charge towards NATO membership. In Britain, Labour leader Keir Starmer has attempted to outdo the Tories’ warmongering and threatened to expel anyone who questions the role of NATO. This was to be expected, after all, let’s not forget that the war in Iraq was jointly led by Bush and Blair. Right-wing reformists always defend the interests of their own imperialist ruling class when it comes to it.

What is more scandalous is the position of Left reformists everywhere. In the past they would have had a pacifist position (“bring the UN nations in”, “respect international law”). This was a hopeless position, as fundamental questions like war and imperialism cannot be solved by appeals to international institutions, only by decisive anti-imperialist class struggle. But still, it offered a semblance of opposition. Now even mealy-mouthed pacifism has been thrown overboard.

In the US, the DSA-backed Representatives all voted for the latest multi-billion package of military aid for Ukraine. Senator Bernie Sanders voted and spoke in favour of US imperialism too: “I think every day counts, and I think we have to respond as strongly and vigorously as we can.” In Spain, the Communist Party minister Yolanda Díaz backed the government’s decision to send weapons to Ukraine, many of which ended up in the hands of the neo-Nazi Azov regiment. In Britain, when threatened with expulsion from the parliamentary group, Socialist Campaign MPs withdrew their signatures from a statement critical of NATO. In Finland, the Left Alliance, which is part of the ruling coalition, is split on the question of NATO membership. Typically its ministers are in favour, though some of its MPs are against. Whatever happens, the Left Alliance has already said it will not break the coalition.

This situation is of course mirrored on the side of the war, with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, which had come under attack from the regime for its semi-opposition before the war, came out firmly in favour of Putin’s imperialist adventure in Ukraine.

The position of some far-left groups is no better. In Britain, a few hundred sectarians marched under the slogan “Arm Ukraine!”, as if Boris Johnson was not already doing precisely that! That is also the position of the so-called “Fourth International”, which calls for “sanctions on Russia, arms for Ukraine” adding in relation to the question of opposing NATO that “this is not the question posed”. Taking this pro-imperialist position to its obvious conclusion, Murray Smith declared: “talking about the dissolution of NATO as an immediate objective, as part of the Western left still does, does not make sense. It is even irresponsible, because it would leave the countries of the East, but also the Scandinavian countries, defenceless… In the absence of a credible alternative, we must accept the status quo.” There you have it, according to comrade Smith, Socialists must support NATO! What a travesty!

The support, by action or omission, of the Left reformists for their own imperialist ruling class, is a complete scandal at a time when what is required is firm opposition. At present, we have a situation where in some countries, it is the right-wing demagogues who are the only ones opposing the war, for their own reactionary reasons.

The task of revolutionaries is to expose the real reasons behind the ruling class’ imperialist aims, cutting through the fog of lies and propaganda by which war is being justified. The question of war needs to be linked to the question of living standards. At a time when the cost of living is going up, the governments are throwing billions into a bonfire of weapons spending, showing clearly where their priorities lie. Such a position might not be very popular at the beginning, but sooner or later the fog of war will start to dissipate. Those who maintained a principled position from the beginning will be better placed once mass opposition to the war, and the capitalist governments waging it develops.

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