Destabilizing Russia is the U.S. empire’s only hope for regaining what it’s just lost
The wheels of history are turning faster than ever in the favor of multipolarity. With Putin’s recognition this week of the independence of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic, and his subsequent willingness to intervene on the behalf of these countries despite Washington’s ultimately empty threats, the imperialists have undergone the biggest setback for their domination schemes since the end of the Cold War. Putin wouldn’t intervene if he believed the imperialists would seriously retaliate, and the liberated peoples require Russia’s help in staying safe from the Ukrainian aggressor. Now he’s able to carry out what he calls a “demilitarisation and denazification” of Ukraine, finally enacting some kind of comeuppance against the extreme neo-Nazi movement that Washington has been fostering within Ukraine since the 2014 coup.
The conflict’s bearing upon the global class struggle
The question for Marxists is: how should we treat this situation, since Russia is no longer socialist and Putin himself is an opportunist who’s taken advantage of this crisis to unfairly decry Stalin’s foreign policy? (In his speech on the issue he painted the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact as a mistake that enabled Hitler, when in fact it was indispensable for defeating Hitler.) In the face of such reprehensible revisionism, how do we avoid becoming revisionists ourselves? As Lenin wrote in a rebuttal to one of the revisionists of his time:
Why must “we” “actively resist” suppression of a national uprising? P. Kievsky advances only one reason: “...we shall thereby be combating imperialism, our mortal enemy.” All the strength of this argument lies in the strong word “mortal”. And this is in keeping with his penchant for strong words instead of strong arguments—high-sounding phrases like “driving a stake into the quivering body of the bourgeoisie” and similar Alexinsky flourishes. But this Kievsky argument is wrong. Imperialism is as much our “mortal” enemy as is capitalism. That is so. No Marxist will forget, however, that capitalism is progressive compared with feudalism, and that imperialism is progressive compared with pre-monopoly capitalism. Hence, it is not every struggle against imperialism that we should support. We will not support a struggle of the reactionary classes against imperialism; we will not support an uprising of the reactionary classes against imperialism and capitalism.
This seems like a sign for us not to support Russia’s military operation. But as always with revolutionary theory, things are more complicated than they appear upon minimal investigation. You always need to look into the conditions and context of a given piece of theory, instead of uncritically viewing it as true or untrue. Then you need to compare it with your own conditions, instead of acting like all conditions and eras are the same. It’s this dialectical rigor which shows us that Russia is not an imperialist power, since it lacks the socioeconomic relationship with the exploited countries required for it to meet the criteria for imperialism.
The same applies to China, the country that this effort to subdue Russia ultimately revolves around; the imperialists seek to paint them both as imperialist powers so that they can sabotage the peaceful, cooperative new multipolar order that China is building with the increasing cooperation of Russia. This is an order that ultimately extends even to India, which has a military alliance with Russia that Washington hasn’t been able to shake it from. It’s in the interests of Marxists to nurture this multipolar transition, because multipolarity weakens the capital of the imperialist countries and weakened capital makes class struggle easier. These are the useful insights that come from properly understanding geopolitics, instead of simplifying them to “both sides are bad.”
This need for proper material investigation of the current situation is apparent from the part in The Foundations of Leninism where Stalin wrote:
...the struggle that the Egyptians merchants and bourgeois intellectuals are waging for the independence of Egypt is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the bourgeois origin and bourgeois title of the leaders of Egyptian national movement, despite the fact that they are opposed to socialism; whereas the struggle that the British "Labour" Government is waging to preserve Egypt's dependent position is for the same reason a reactionary struggle, despite the proletarian origin and the proletarian title of the members of the government, despite the fact that they are "for" socialism. There is no need to mention the national movement in other, larger, colonial and dependent countries, such as India and China, every step of which along the road to liberation, even if it runs counter to the demands of formal democracy, is a steam-hammer blow at imperialism, i.e., is undoubtedly a revolutionary step. Lenin was right in saying that the national movement of the oppressed countries should be appraised not from the point of view of formal democracy, but from the point of view of the actual results, as shown by the general balance sheet of the struggle against imperialism, that is to say, "not in isolation, but on a world scale"
The fight to keep history from repeating itself
When you put that Lenin quote in its proper context, instead of uncritically pasting it onto the conditions of Russia, you find that it wasn’t even necessarily applicable to modern anti-imperialist capitalist states like Russia or Iran. Lenin was referring not to the modern colloquial definition of “reactionary,” which consists of anything that isn’t socialist, but to those who seek to turn back the wheel to feudalism or pre-monopoly capitalism. And Russia and Iran are monopoly capitalist.
This doesn’t mean we should see their bourgeois nature as a good thing, but it does mean Stalin’s analysis (which Lenin’s “not in isolation” comment supported within the context that Stalin was writing about) is the one that’s applicable to the current Russia question. Which means we should consistently defend Russia from the false narratives that the imperialists are targeting it with, rather than refraining from defending it regardless of the context. Further, combating NATO’s lies about Russia isn’t synonymous with supporting the counterrevolution that Putin’s camp has been carrying out since the USSR’s fall.
This point is so crucial because if Marxists ignore the importance of geopolitics, feeling content to simplistically call both sides of the new cold war bad while not combating Washington’s propaganda, the U.S. empire’s schemes for a destabilized Eurasia will go less narratively challenged. And in the social media age, narratives are more important than ever for influencing the direction of geopolitics—and therefore of the global class war. This is the nature of our conditions, and it must inform how we operate.
If the imperialists win this narrative battle, they’ll bring about a repeat of history. They’ll create a new Nazi Germany in Ukraine, even moreso than they already have, and they’ll use this to wreak destruction upon the region and the world. Their fascist proxies in Ukraine have found a foothold in exploiting the trauma that Ukraine is experiencing from this conflict, and they’ll continue to rise in the coming years as the CIA steps up its meddling within the new cold war. As NATO continues to militarize Poland, Lithuania, and the other ultra-nationalist Eastern European countries that Russia isn’t able to demilitarize, the prospect of a third world war will grow more likely. But just as alarming is the scenario where Washington successfully destabilizes Russia, and the other Eurasian counterbalances against imperialism. A nuclear war will mean instant apocalypse; victory for the imperialists in the new cold war will mean a slow apocalypse through climatic disaster and unencumbered late-stage capitalist civilizational collapse.
Should Washington’s simultaneous hybrid war against Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan succeed on any fronts, it will leave struggling anti-imperialist countries like Afghanistan and Syria more vulnerable to the final blow that the imperialists seek to deal against them. Should Russia fall to the fascist color revolution that the U.S. seeks to foment within it, this will leave even the great anti-imperialist bulwark of China in jeopardy.
Even if this increasingly implausible scenario doesn’t materialize—declining empires like the U.S. rarely realize their fantasies of sudden recovery—the empire has the potential to inflict much more damage upon the people of Ukraine, Russia, and elsewhere. To minimize the tragedy Washington is manufacturing, we must combat the lies that make the tragedy possible. Foremost among these lies are that Russia has taken this action unprovoked, and that it’s an imperialist power.
If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here.
A very good account of what we communists should all be sharing. Fascism must be destroyed completely before many more millions have to die. Congratulations comrade.
I came here for a Tankie take... and boy, did I get one! Russia and China are not imperialist! A country which has fewer Nazis than France and Germany and which elected a Jewish guy to run things is Nazi! Up is down! Black is white! Zebra crossings are suddenly a real problem for you!
Please, god, PLEASE don't let everyone on the left be this dumb.