In the current war between Russia and Ukraine, the International Communist League stands for revolutionary defeatism and calls to “turn this war between two capitalist classes into a civil war where workers overthrow both capitalist classes” (see article). The Internationalist Group (IG) is one of the only other left organizations that appears to have the same line. Its 28 February statement proclaims that they “call for revolutionary defeatism on both sides in this reactionary nationalist war” and later explains:

“We are for bringing down both the Ukrainian and Russian capitalist regimes through internationalist workers revolution. We combat Putin’s overt Great Russian chauvinism (as well as that of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, lionized in the West as an ‘anti-corruption activist’)—and we combat the reactionary nationalism of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie looking to be the front line of NATO and the European Union (EU).”

—“Behind the War: U.S./NATO War Drive Against Russia, China” (28 February 2022)

Most readers might reasonably think that the ICL and the IG have the same position and that both stand in the tradition of Bolshevism by upholding revolutionary defeatism. But in reality, while the IG might say that they are for “revolutionary defeatism,” they completely empty Leninism of all its revolutionary content and are in practice rejecting the struggle for a revolutionary outcome to this war. In order to clearly see this, one first needs to understand the Leninist program against imperialism and what revolutionary defeatism really consists of in today’s situation.

Revolutionary defeatism was the program Lenin and the Bolsheviks fought for during World War I in opposition to the leaders of the Second International who betrayed the proletariat and supported their “own” bourgeoisies in the war. The Bolsheviks proclaimed 1) that authentic revolutionaries must stand for the defeat of their “own” government in the war and work to transform this reactionary war among nations into a revolutionary civil war against the capitalists; 2) that the Second International was dead, destroyed by chauvinism, and that a new, revolutionary international had to be built on the basis of revolutionary Marxism; and 3) to do this, revolutionaries needed to fight for a split from the open supporters of the bourgeoisie in the workers movement—the social-chauvinists—and also against the opportunists and centrists who used “Marxist” phraseology to preserve unity with the social-chauvinists and to deceive the proletariat with reformist, pacifist and other non-revolutionary solutions.

This program remained central to all of Lenin’s activities right up to the October Revolution, which represented the accomplishment in reality of this perspective. In one of his very first articles at the beginning of the war, Lenin summarized the Bolsheviks’ perspective:

“It is the duty of every socialist to conduct propaganda of the class struggle, in the army as well; work directed towards turning a war of the nations into civil war is the only socialist activity in the era of an imperialist armed conflict of the bourgeoisie of all nations. Down with mawkishly sanctimonious and fatuous appeals for ‘peace at any price’! Let us raise high the banner of civil war! Imperialism sets at hazard the fate of European culture: this war will soon be followed by others, unless there are a series of successful revolutions….

“The Second International is dead, overcome by opportunism. Down with opportunism, and long live the Third International, purged not only of ‘turncoats’…but of opportunism as well….

“To the Third International falls the task of organising the proletarian forces for a revolutionary onslaught against the capitalist governments, for civil war against the bourgeoisie of all countries for the capture of political power, for the triumph of socialism!”

—“The Position and Tasks of the Socialist International” (November 1914)

The ICL’s program in the current war directly flows from this perspective. The war in Ukraine is not an imperialist war but a regional conflict between two non-imperialist capitalist classes to decide which gang of thugs will pillage Ukraine. On one side, the Ukrainian government is fighting to enslave the country to the imperialists of the EU and NATO. On the other, the Russian bourgeoisie is fighting to bring Ukraine back under its boot. In such a war, it is criminal for the proletariat to advocate the victory of one gang of thugs over the other, and revolutionary communists must fight—just like Lenin did—to turn this war between capitalists into a revolutionary civil war against all oppressors. This is why the ICL raises the call for Ukrainian and Russian workers and soldiers to fraternize and turn their guns against their rulers.

While the imperialist powers of NATO and the EU—the U.S., Britain, Germany and France—are not militarily engaging Russia on the ground, this war poses the urgent need to overthrow these robbers, whose pillage of East Europe and war drive against Russia provoked this conflict and threaten the world with nuclear annihilation. But the leadership of the workers movement in the imperialist centers has fully embraced the imperialists’ predatory ambitions and is disarming the working class, mobilizing it behind NATO and the EU. For that reason, it is impossible to fight imperialism without a relentless struggle against those in the labor movement who are trying to reconcile the interests of the proletariat with the interests of their “own” imperialist exploiters.

Therefore, the same task Lenin advocated in 1914 remains urgent today: revolutionaries must struggle to split the proletariat from its treacherous misleaders in order to forge a revolutionary internationalist party. This is what being a revolutionary means in the current war. And this is what distinguishes authentic revolutionaries from centrists who are ready to accept everything in Marxism except its revolutionary content and methods and the education of the working class in this direction.

The IG is in this centrist current, saying that they are for revolutionary defeatism but rejecting in practice all its revolutionary implications. Lenin often said that, in politics, those who believe words and intentions over deeds and actions are hopeless idiots. The IG claims to fight for revolution, so one has to look at what they do to fully grasp the non-revolutionary character of their program.

Rad-Lib Journalism vs. Revolutionary Marxism

A quick look at the IG’s propaganda on the war clearly shows that the whole perspective and content of their intervention is to confuse aspiring revolutionaries with a Marxoid spin-off of liberal journalism. Since the 28 February statement quoted above, the IG has published a few articles on Ukraine. Among them are a “report from Germany,” which documents the racist, differential treatment of dark-skinned and white refugees from Ukraine (“Imperialist Racism and the Russia-Ukraine War,” 19 March) and two long, turgid pieces documenting how much the Ukrainian army and government are crawling with fascists (“The Truth About Ukraine’s Fascist Infestation,” 4 April, and “Question Answered: Who Was Behind the 2014 Maidan Massacre?”, 10 April). This is how the IG thinks they do “revolutionary” work in the current war: producing radical-liberal investigative journalism about issues that have been better documented a thousand times in the pages of the liberal bourgeois press.

The duty of revolutionaries is to reveal to workers and youth the real character of this war in order to further advance the struggle for socialist revolution by exposing reformist, pacifist and pro-imperialist deceptions. Workers should not support Ukraine in the war, not because there are fascist elements among its troops or that (shock! shock!) the imperialist allies of Zelensky are racist against dark-skinned refugees, but because the Ukrainian government is fighting to enslave Ukraine to the imperialists. Writing extensive pieces on the Azov battalion, fascism and racist migration policies is simply a way to avoid confronting this crucial issue, which would inevitably repel the petty-bourgeois, pro-EU liberals in the U.S. and Germany the IG panders to.

All variants of left liberals have no problem talking at length about discrimination against refugees or fascism in Ukraine while at the same time embracing the war aims of the imperialists in the region. Liberals agitate over these issues because they constitute a stain on the otherwise “noble” war drive of the “democratic” imperialist robbers. These liberals are thus motivated not by a hatred of their “own” imperialist butchers but by wanting to make their war claims more convincing and less hypocritical. The IG simply helps give a “Marxist” cover to this reactionary liberalism.

It is quite telling that in all of its articles on Ukraine, the IG does not make a single polemic against pacifism, which is the central illusion currently promoted by the reformist left and the labor leaders, particularly in the imperialist countries where both the ICL and the IG have the majority of their membership. Calls for “peace,” for “disarmament,” for a “diplomatic solution” and, in general, the illusion that the imperialists can bring about a peaceful and just solution to the war is the central tool used to keep advanced workers and youth disarmed and chained to their exploiters. Refusing to say a word against this is a rejection of Marxism.

In contrast, the whole content of the ICL’s propaganda and interventions over the war in Ukraine is explicitly directed at exposing those “socialists” who use pacifist and “anti-imperialist” slogans to mask their total subservience to the bourgeoisie. This is what conducting revolutionary work consists of, and this is what the IG rejects.

The IG Does Not Fight for Revolutionary Defeatism

The IG’s call for “revolutionary defeatism” is contradicted by the other slogans they raise. For example, the IG calls to “Defend Self-Rule in Southeastern Ukraine!” and “Smash the Fascists.” In the context of the current war, to raise these demands simply fuels illusions about the possibility of a just solution for the Ukrainian and Russian masses without socialist revolution.

The demand for self-rule in East Ukraine was correct before the war. But since then, this struggle has been totally subordinated to Russia’s war aims, which are to annex whole regions of Ukraine, and potentially the whole country. The only way self-rule could be achieved at the moment would be through a victory of Russia. To call now on workers to “defend self-rule in Southeastern Ukraine” is only a form of tacit support to this outcome, which is irreconcilable with a position of revolutionary defeatism.

A victory of the Russian army would mean the national oppression of the Ukrainians at the hands of Russia, a fact the IG disappears. But a defeat of Russia would condemn the Russian-speaking minority of Ukraine to unprecedented national oppression. The crux of the matter is that neither side in this war is waging a just national struggle of liberation.

The duty of revolutionaries is to explain that, in the current situation, the progressive resolution of the national question in Ukraine is impossible without the overthrow of the Russian and Ukrainian capitalists. Only workers power can provide a truly democratic settlement for the Ukrainians and the Russian-speaking masses. By raising “defend self-rule in Southeastern Ukraine,” the IG is deceiving the working class.

The IG’s demand to “Smash the fascists,” which is one of their central slogans in the current war, plays a similar role. The central task for Russian and Ukrainian workers is not the fight against fascism. There cannot be any independent struggle to fight fascism in Ukraine without a revolutionary struggle to turn this war into a civil war against all exploiters. The burning and immediate task facing Russian and Ukrainian communists is to fight for soldiers’ and workers’ fraternization and common revolutionary struggle against the war waged by their “own” capitalist rulers. Instead of fighting to break the Russian and Ukrainian workers from their treacherous nationalist leaders, who deliver them as cannon fodder for their exploiters, the IG deceives Ukrainian and Russian workers by telling them that their central task is to purge Zelensky’s army of fascists.

Furthermore, to pose the struggle against Ukrainian fascism as the central task in this war lends credibility to Russia’s “denazification” war claims. Indeed, what is “Smash the fascists” supposed to mean in this war other than tacit support to Russia? The IG’s articles constantly reflect this pro-Russian tilt. For example, in “The Truth About Ukraine’s Fascist Infestation,” the IG writes: “While Putin proclaimed his war aim to be ‘demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,’ to have a lasting effect this must be accomplished by the working people themselves, on an internationalist basis” [emphasis in original]. How ridiculous! The Russian oligarchs are not waging some anti-fascist war in Ukraine. It is contrary to the interests of the proletariat to support Russia’s war, not because it won’t have a “lasting effect” on eradicating fascism, but because its aim is to enslave Ukraine to the Russian capitalist class! The IG’s claim to be for revolutionary defeatism is an utter sham because they present the Russian capitalists’ war as having a semi-progressive character.

Fundamentally, we do not believe that the IG is driven to implicitly endorse the Russian bourgeoisie’s “denazification” claims or raise calls like “self-rule in Southeastern Ukraine” out of any sort of enthusiasm for Putin’s Russia. It is just the logical outcome of refusing to rely on the proletariat as an independent revolutionary factor, which leads only to relying on one or another bourgeois force. Some in the imperialist countries, and many in the neocolonial world, are led to support Russia out of hatred for the imperialists. Fundamentally, this is driven by demoralization, by an incapacity to envisage a revolutionary outcome and by the illusion that capitalist Russia is some sort of alternative to the imperialists. This is what the IG is reflecting.

But could the IG point to its other “revolutionary” slogans to refute our arguments? Together with the demands we quoted above, the IG also raises “Oppose imperialist-provoked Russia-Ukraine war” and “For revolutionary struggle against the capitalist rulers in Moscow and Kiev!” and often calls for revolutionary class struggle against the imperialists. What beautiful words! But contrary to our slogan—calling on Ukrainian and Russian soldiers and workers to fraternize and turn their guns around—the IG’s “revolutionary” call is totally abstract and designed to be compatible with reformism and social-pacifism.

Countless opportunists have no trouble “opposing the imperialist-provoked war” and making meaningless proclamations about the need for “revolutionary class struggle” in Kiev, Moscow and elsewhere while at the same time fighting for the victory of Ukraine and the defeat of Russia, which makes them lackeys of their “own” imperialist rulers. What none of the reformists and opportunists will raise—and what the IG refuses to raise—is the historic slogan of Bolshevism, that is, for civil war against the bourgeoisie. This is the only slogan concretely charting a clear path for revolution and frontally taking a revolutionary stance against the pro-imperialist national unity in support of Ukraine.

The task of revolutionaries is not to raise vague and empty calls for “revolutionary struggle” but to provide a clear revolutionary program for such struggle. The Unione Sindacale di Base (Rank and File Union—USB) in Italy and PAME unions linked to the Greek Communist Party have led actions against arms shipments to Ukraine and against NATO and the imperialists. Certainly, revolutionaries must support and advocate such actions and actively participate in them. However, it is also crucial to point out that these actions were conducted under social-pacifist slogans and by reformist leaders. These leaders are no less an obstacle to the revolutionary mobilization of the proletariat than the openly pro-imperialist bootlickers. For example, in Italy the USB leaders have been constantly working to subordinate antiwar actions by the workers to the Catholic church and “antiwar” bourgeois politicians.

But not a word of this from the IG, whose article “NATO Socialists in Italy” (Internationalist, April 2022) uncritically hails these actions. This shows the true content of the IG’s call for “revolutionary struggle.” It does not mean class struggle on the basis of revolutionary defeatism but trade-union action under pacifist leadership. Why else would they not have a single polemic against pacifism? What the IG rejects is the struggle for revolutionary leadership, which requires breaking the working class from all social-chauvinist leaders, including anti-NATO pacifists.

Centrism Leads to Social-Chauvinism

As we have laid out, the struggle against imperialism is impossible without a struggle against the pro-imperialist agents in the workers movement. This is absolutely crucial in the imperialist centers, whose rulers are the international bulwark of reaction. Again, this understanding directly flows from Lenin’s struggle during World War I. The central lesson of Leninism is that the precondition to forging a revolutionary party—the essential tool to accomplish workers revolution—is for the proletarian vanguard to split from social-chauvinism and centrism and unite under a truly revolutionary banner. In Socialism and War (1915), one of the Bolsheviks’ crucial programmatic documents, Lenin and Gregory Zinoviev explained:

“Only he is a genuine internationalist who combats Kautskyism, and understands that, even after its leaders’ pretended change of intention, the centre remains, on all fundamental issues, an ally of the chauvinists and the opportunists.”

They later continued:

“We are firmly convinced that, in the present state of affairs, a split with the opportunists and chauvinists is the prime duty of revolutionaries, just as a split with the yellow trade unions, the anti-Semites, the liberal workers’ unions, etc., was essential in helping speed up the enlightenment of backward workers and draw them into the ranks of the Social-Democratic Party. In our opinion, the Third International should be built up on that kind of revolutionary basis.”

For decades now, the traitors who lead the working class in all advanced capitalist countries—in the trade unions and workers parties—have brought only defeat after defeat for the labor movement, managing the decline of unions and the impoverishment of the working class. During the pandemic, the labor lieutenants of capital plunged into an orgy of national unity with the bourgeoisie, supported the devastating lockdowns, advocated harsher ones and were key in disarming the proletariat while the bosses pounded workers. (The IG betrayed the working class by supporting these reactionary measures.)

And now that massive inflation is destroying workers’ standard of living at a rapid pace, not only are the labor tops barely lifting a finger against this, they are busy helping the imperialist butchers promote their war drive against Russia in the workers movement. Splitting the working class from these sellouts and reforging the Fourth International—that is, a new, revolutionary leadership of the international working class—is still the most burning and vital task facing revolutionaries and the central purpose of the ICL. In fact, working toward accomplishing such a break is the only way to truly fight against imperialism now. The IG’s abandonment of Leninism in practice is most clearly seen in their rejection of the struggle for revolutionary leadership of the proletariat.

In its 28 February declaration, the IG directs multiple polemics against the reformist left and pseudo-Trotskyists. The content of their polemics can be summarized in the following sentence: “The bulk of the Western left has lined up with the NATO imperialists in one-sidedly denouncing the Russians.” What bothers the IG is that the German Die Linke, the French Communist Party, the U.S. Socialist Alternative (SAlt) & Co. are too “one-sided.”

This buries the reformists’ central betrayal: their opposition to revolutionary defeatism and their support to Ukraine against Russia, which constitute support to their “own” imperialist masters! A position of revolutionary defeatism is worth nothing if this is not the basis on which you denounce the reformists! But that requires fighting for “revolutionary defeatism” concretely and in action as opposed to some meaningless paper statement that you do not really believe in and use only to avoid openly siding with Russia. By criticizing the left for everything except their opposition to revolutionary defeatism, the IG capitulates to social-chauvinism.

We will give our readers one example of such a “polemic.” The IG attacks SAlt by saying that they “called for ‘full solidarity with the people of Ukraine’ and demanded that ‘Russian troops should be immediately withdrawn from Ukraine’.” The IG responds: “No call to cut off NATO arms to Kiev, however.” What a grotesque capitulation to social-chauvinism! “Russian troops out” is the slogan raised by the whole social-chauvinist left in concert with the NATO/EU imperialists. The IG disagrees with this slogan, not because it is a pro-imperialist demand but because it goes against the IG’s call for “self-rule,” i.e., they are for “Russian troops in.”

Contrary to the IG, revolutionaries oppose calling for “Russian troops out!” because it means advocating the victory of Ukraine, which is irreconcilable with a position of revolutionary defeatism. A withdrawal of the Russian army is possible only through a military defeat of Russia. Such an outcome would mean the maintenance of Ukraine under the domination of the imperialists. With this slogan, SAlt is not defending the Ukrainian masses but is instead defending the “right” of “their” imperialists to exclusively pillage Ukraine as a lesser evil to pillage by the Russian capitalists. So the IG’s criticism of SAlt is a total alibi and capitulation to social-chauvinism. Even if SAlt would add a call to oppose NATO arms shipments to Kiev—a cheap position among pacifists—this would not at all change the fact that their position is thoroughly social-chauvinist.

The Bolsheviks in World War I did not demand “German troops out of Russia,” which was the slogan of the Tsar (and later the bourgeois Provisional Government of Kerensky). They fought to mobilize German soldiers in revolutionary fraternity with the Russian workers and peasants, against both the Russian and German capitalists. But crucially, the Bolsheviks denounced the Social Democrats precisely for rejecting this revolutionary program. This is what the IG refuses to do!

Opportunism in Action on the German Terrain

How the IG’s centrism leads straight into social-chauvinism is even more clearly seen on the German terrain. Since the beginning of the war, the German left has been in an intense crisis, and in reaction to this our comrades of the Spartakist-Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands (SpAD) have launched a campaign among the left under the slogan “Throw the EU/NATO supporters out of the left” combined with our slogan, “Ukrainian, Russian workers: turn the guns around!” (see article). At the SpAD’s public forum in Berlin on May 12, the IG intervened in the discussion to denounce this perspective as reformist because it supposedly fuels illusions in a “reformed” social democracy. In order to understand the revolutionary character of our German comrades’ slogans and how the IG’s criticism is a defense of social-chauvinism, we must first explain in some detail the current situation in Germany.

The war in Ukraine has forced German imperialism to carry out a sharp and sudden change in its strategic orientation. Since the counterrevolution that destroyed the USSR, Germany has carefully balanced its commitment to the U.S.-dominated EU/NATO transatlantic alliance and developing sizable economic ties with Russia. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made this situation untenable, and the German bourgeoisie is now forced to break with Russia, fully commit to the U.S./NATO war drive and send heavy weapons to Ukraine.

One aspect of this major shift is Social Democratic Party (SPD) Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s announcement of a massive rearmament of the German military. Germany massively strengthened its economic dominance over Europe through the “peaceful” pillage of East and Southern Europe, using the EU and the euro. With the Americans and NATO guaranteeing stability on the continent, Germany had no need of major military expenditures. For decades, the pacifism of the German reformist left, with its commitment to “disarmament” and opposition to foreign interventions by the German army, was completely in line with the policy of the German imperialists. But this happy honeymoon has now come to a sudden end, with the bourgeoisie filing for divorce through its SPD lawyers who are carrying out this shift, rearming German imperialism and aligning the workers movement behind this.

Faced with this sharp turn, the German left has been in a crisis unseen in other imperialist countries, with almost all organizations embroiled in internal fighting. There is a lot of discontent at the base of the SPD. Scholz was booed and insulted by the crowd of trade unionists gathered for his speech on May Day in Düsseldorf. In the reformist Die Linke, a substantial part of the leadership wants to scrap its historic call to “dissolve NATO” and fully embrace the imperialist war drive. But a sizable opposition is resisting this course and wants to cling to the pacifism of the past period while seeking to avoid a split at all costs. Far-left organizations (German Communist Party, Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany, Communist Opposition, etc.) have no clue about what to do and are deeply divided, with pro-NATO/EU/Ukraine factions on one side, pro-Russian factions on the other, and a center desperately trying to maintain unity. In a sense, the crisis of the German left is a reflection of the crisis in the German ruling class.

It is against the crawling of all the pacifist-reformist left in front of the imperialists’ social-democratic running dogs that our German comrades raised the slogan, “Throw the EU/NATO supporters out of the left!” We say that those who openly support the imperialist tools of exploitation should be driven out of the workers movement. But our call is centrally directed against those reformists and pacifists who will inevitably betray and capitulate to the open apologists for imperialism in the name of “unity” and whose pacifist program is both the source of the crisis in the left and the central obstacle to the development of a revolutionary Marxist pole against German imperialism.

So are we trying to “reform” Die Linke instead of building a revolutionary party, as the IG claims? As Lenin teaches, the only way to forge a revolutionary party is by breaking the working-class base of social democracy from its treacherous, reformist leadership. Our goal is to deepen the polarization in Die Linke—and in all other left organizations—to push the polarization further and to give it clarity by showing that the only way to fight imperialism consistently is on the basis of a revolutionary program, aiming to split Die Linke along this line.

To do so, we are indeed demanding that the left wing of Die Linke drive out those who openly embrace NATO, the EU and German imperialism. The most likely outcome is that they will refuse to do so and work to maintain unity with the pro-imperialist Gregor Gysi & Co., thus exposing themselves as agents of imperialism. However, if they do drive out the right wing, this would also be a good thing. Driving Gysi, Bodo Ramelow and all the other imperialist bootlickers out of the workers movement is an act of basic political hygiene that only spineless opportunists oppose.

Such a split would not make Die Linke a revolutionary party. It would not be our split. But we would favor it because it would put Sahra Wagenknecht and her pacifist acolytes in charge of the party. Unable to hide behind the right wing anymore, the bankruptcy of their program for “disarmament,” “peace” and defense of “international law” would be much more easily exposed as a completely pro-imperialist dead end. The successful application of our tactic would open up the opportunity of a split in Die Linke along the lines of reform versus revolution, destroying it as a reformist obstacle and laying the basis for forging a revolutionary workers party in Germany.

Under the cover of left-sounding accusations that we are trying to reform social democracy, what the IG denounces is simply the application of Leninism to living reality. The duty of revolutionaries is not to stand on the sidelines by abstractly preaching for “revolutionary class struggle,” as the IG would have it, but to intervene into the rifts shaking up the working class and the left in a way that will objectively advance the struggle for revolution.

At the Berlin forum, one IG speaker, hammering the same false point about “reforming” social democracy, said that this was particularly criminal since World War III is around the corner. But in fact, what the IG is denouncing is the struggle to expose before the working class both wings of social democracy: the pro-imperialist bootlickers and the pacifist conciliators. By denouncing our call to throw out the former, the IG is helping the latter. The true logic of such sectarian “purity” is to cease struggling against social democracy, particularly against its left wing. This is the real crime, whether World War III is coming or not.

When world war was imminent, Leon Trotsky fought tirelessly to cohere a revolutionary international through the struggle against Stalinism, the main deception of its time. Trotsky explained:

“We have not and cannot have any other means or levers to counteract the war but the revolutionary organization of the proletarian vanguard. The main hindrance to the unification and education of this vanguard is at the present time the so-called Comintern. The struggle for a new revolutionary organization capable of resisting the war cannot, therefore, consist in anything but the struggle against the poison that Stalinism is introducing into the workers’ movement. Whoever, under the pretext of the danger of war, recommends stopping the war against Stalinism is in fact deserting the revolutionary tasks, covering himself with loud phrases about world catastrophe. We have nothing in common with this fundamentally false view.”

—“A False View” (October 1938)

In Germany at the present time, the main hindrance to the unification of the revolutionary vanguard is the poison of liberal reformism and pacifism, introduced into the workers movement by the social democrats. Those “socialists” like the IG who, on paper, claim to be for revolutionary leadership but who denounce the struggle to purge the workers movement of the agents of imperialism are objectively helping to maintain peace and unity with the pro-imperialist traitors currently leading the working class. While covering themselves with loud phrases about “class struggle,” they are in fact reinforcing the subordination of the proletariat to its exploiters by leaving intact the grip of the social-chauvinist leaders on the workers movement.

“Revolutionary defeatism” on paper, social-chauvinism in action—that is what characterizes the IG’s position on the war in Ukraine.

The Struggle for Workers Revolution Is Posed

The central argument many fake Marxists have made against the ICL’s position on the Ukraine war is that our call to turn this reactionary war into a revolutionary civil war is incorrect because there is no revolutionary situation in Ukraine or Russia at the moment. Others have condemned it as impossible and utopian, which is really a more honest way to say the same thing.

To say that such a perspective is utopian is pure demoralization, and one simply has to look at the facts to realize it. Russian and Ukrainian workers are getting more hammered and squeezed every day by their own rulers in order to sustain the war effort. In Russia, the sons of working-class mothers come back in body bags in the service of the oligarchs’ ambitions. In Ukraine, Zelensky and his imperialist masters do not want any end to the conflict because the war weakens Russia, and if Ukraine must be flooded by rivers of blood, so be it—all in order to join the rapacious clubs of the EU and NATO and work as cheap labor for German, American and British companies. On both sides, workers in uniform are told to kill each other, even if they share a common history in the Soviet Union and, often, even common relatives. Meanwhile, the working population is drafted into the army and getting trained in the use of weapons. In the imperialist countries, workers are bled by mounting inflation and the explosion of energy bills and are told to stomach the massive attack on living standards in the name of the fight for “freedom” against “authoritarianism.” One has to be willfully blind to reject the possibility of a revolutionary situation coming out of this.

History shows that the reactionary forces of nationalism and chauvinism, which temporarily cloud the minds of workers at the outbreak of war, do not last under mounting pressure. We cannot know if a revolution will come out of this. But we know that what is preventing the raw anger of the exploited from being channeled against their exploiters are the social-chauvinist and reformist leaders of the working class, who are deceiving them. We know that objectively all the elements necessary for a revolution exist except a revolutionary party capable of leading it. And what is certain is that revolutionary parties are built by those who fight for revolution, not by those who think that revolution is impossible.

Constantly throughout World War I, Lenin was attacked by social-chauvinists with the exact same arguments. “Hopes for a revolution have proved illusory, and it is not the business of a Marxist to fight for illusions,” says the fake socialist who is only justifying going over to the side of the bourgeoisie. Lenin responded:

“Will this situation last long; how much more acute will it become? Will it lead to revolution? This is something we do not know, and nobody can know. The answer can be provided only by the experience gained during the development of revolutionary sentiment and the transition to revolutionary action by the advanced class, the proletariat. There can be no talk in this connection about ‘illusions’ or their repudiation, since no socialist has ever guaranteed that this war (and not the next one), that today’s revolutionary situation (and not tomorrow’s) will produce a revolution. What we are discussing is the indisputable and fundamental duty of all socialists—that of revealing to the masses the existence of a revolutionary situation, explaining its scope and depth, arousing the proletariat’s revolutionary consciousness and revolutionary determination, helping it to go over to revolutionary action, and forming, for that purpose, organisations suited to the revolutionary situation….

“The present parties’ failure to perform that duty meant their treachery, political death, renunciation of their own role and desertion to the side of the bourgeoisie.”

—“The Collapse of the Second International” (1915)

It is precisely the renunciation of this same duty that the IG, as well as all the other centrists and social-chauvinists, are guilty of.