The fight to defend Ukraine’s independence and to get Moscow’s boot off the Ukrainian people’s back is at the heart of advancing working-class interests today.
Under the czarist empire, the Ukrainian people were conquered and oppressed. Putin aims to reimpose Russia’s capitalist rulers’ domination and obliterate Ukraine as a nation, with an untold cost to human life. Unconditional defense of the rights of oppressed nations like Ukraine to self-determination is key to forging the unity workers and farmers need to advance our common interests against the capitalists and their governments.
None of the governments imposing sanctions on Russia today have any interest in defending Ukrainian national rights, nor in defending the class interests of workers and farmers. Led by Washington, they seek at all times to advance the economic and political interests of their own capitalist class for markets and profits. Sanctions imposed by Washington, as war department head Lloyd Austin said, are aimed at leaving Moscow “weakened” and putting the U.S. rulers in a stronger position for the conflicts and wars to come.
As long as capitalism exists there will be no peace.
Working people in Russia, who have to fight and die on behalf of the Russian rulers, can be a powerful source of resistance to their wars. Like the U.S., Russia is class-divided. The interests of workers and farmers, including workers in uniform, do not lie with Putin’s KGB thug regime. The capitalist class there exploits Russian workers and farmers, including the country’s oppressed nationalities, who are dying in the war in disproportionate numbers.
Regardless of who the U.S. government says its sanctions “target,” the impact will always be dumped on the backs of working people. They deprive Russian workers of jobs and fuel massive price hikes alongside shortages that make it harder to afford vital necessities. Backers of sanctions argue that this will lead to moves to get rid of Putin. But the opposite is the case. Sanctions feed Putin’s propaganda that the problem Russians face is U.S. aggression, not the effects of the brutal war Moscow is inflicting on Ukraine.
Sanctions do not make it easier for working people to mount struggles like the strike by garbage workers at Novosibirsk. They cut across what is essential — recognizing workers’ separate class interests and fostering common bonds between working people in Ukraine who are steadfastly resisting Putin’s invasion and fellow working people in Russia. Both are under assault by the Putin regime. Both have common interests in ending the carnage and in forging greater working-class unity for struggles to come.
Both have a long record fighting against those who exploit and oppress them. The Bolshevik-led Russian Revolution overthrew the czarist regime and capitalist rule, and opened the door to independence for Ukraine and other oppressed peoples. This was overturned by the rise of Stalin and the counterrevolution he led.
Sanctions undercut this powerful potential. The struggle of working people in Russia to defend their class interests and political rights will deepen in coming years. The fight to take on Moscow’s expansionist course and the horrific cost of its wars of conquest will be a key part of this fight.
As working people in the U.S. defend ourselves from bosses’ attacks here, we need to break from their twin parties and build our own labor party. A working-class foreign policy starts from solidarity with working people worldwide and doing everything possible to raise the unity, fighting spirit and class consciousness of the one class that is capable of bringing an end to Moscow’s slaughter — the working class.