Workers’ struggles open path to combat U.S. war drive in Ukraine

Protest in the Bronx, New York City, links fight for workers demands with opposition to U.S./NATO war, Oct. 15.
Credit: Brenda Ryan

To the joy of the military-industrial complex, both parties in the U.S. Congress plan to lock in up to $50 billion for additional arms purchases, after the midterm elections, to feed Ukraine’s army next year. 

Moscow and Kiev have traded charges that the other plans to use nuclear weapons. What can the antiwar movement do to stop a European conflagration, as a worldwide nuclear war threatens?

As Workers World has shown over the last nine years, the governments and military of the U.S. and its NATO military allies have provoked this war at each step of its escalation. These provocations have won the support of the billionaires and bankers — the imperialist ruling class — and especially the arms manufacturers. These are the forces the NATO governments serve.

The New York Times, which is a sophisticated propaganda tool at the service of the imperialist ruling class, published an article Oct. 22 that, while warning Washington, holds an answer for anti-imperialists. Its title: “Europe Tires of High Costs Linked to War.” In that article, a 69-year-old woman shopping in Rome, who presented her position as one shared by many friends, said, “All they [Kiev] want are arms, arms, arms. I’m sick and tired of them.” She wanted negotiations and peace.

The Times article is intended as a warning for those carrying out U.S. policy, which has been to send tens of billions of dollars of arms to Ukraine, to train Kiev’s troops and to provide military intelligence. The Times presents some examples of popular resistance to the pro-NATO policies in Italy, Britain, France and Germany, without clarifying the class nature of the growing opposition, nor what that might mean inside the United States. 

It is not the abstraction, Europe, that is growing weary of sacrifice. Like all societies, the European countries are divided by classes, who have opposing interests. The ruling class in the European NATO countries, despite economic competition with the U.S. rulers, have attached their fate to Washington and the Pentagon. These rulers have adopted policies that dump the sacrifices on the working class in Europe.

The Times article hints that the working class in Europe, after its first submission to war propaganda, is growing weary of sacrifices made for the benefit of the arms dealers, NATO and the reactionary Kiev regime. A closer look shows that submission to the war machine is being replaced by class struggle.

British workers strike

In Britain a rightist, super-neoliberal Prime Minister Liz Truss, whose initial plan used the Tory regime to enrich the rich and bleed the workers, was forced to resign after only six weeks in office. She was undone by the collapse of the pound and the fear of an ever more militant workers’ struggle.

In an Oct. 13 Workers World article, Betsey Piette wrote: “British railway workers demanding wage increases to keep pace with decades-high inflation have spearheaded a wave of industrial job actions across that country since this summer. Their strikes brought a nearly complete shutdown of the rail network, coupled with a national strike by 115,000 postal workers and industrial actions at the country’s largest ports in Liverpool and Felixstowe on Oct. 5.”

The British ruling class, in its perpetual post-1945 role as junior partner to U.S. imperialism and wedge into Europe, had been leading the way right behind Washington in arming and training the Kiev army against Russia. But the British workers are unwilling to accept new sacrifices, beyond those the British bosses had already imposed.

French workers’ general strike

Some 300,000 workers held a one-day strike action in France on Oct. 18 “addressing inflation, climate change and pension ‘reform,’” meaning pension cuts. (Workers World, Oct. 27) The action was also in solidarity with the refinery workers, who have been on strike and who are threatened with being “conscripted” and forced to work. “Workers in France are facing a cost-of-living crisis and soaring inflation; at the same time, energy firms are raking in record profits. This has caused widespread anger and has led to calls for a windfall tax on energy companies.” 

What is significant, regarding the war in Ukraine, is that the Pole for Communist Revival in France (PRCF) is urging Marxist organizations to build these workers actions — more are planned over the next month — and to link the working-class struggle to the struggle against the war. 

“The PRCF, toward which a promising current of adhesion in the youth is taking shape, will do everything possible, so that the general offensive of the working people, associating the defense of social progress, of national independence and of peace, responds in our country to halt the march to continental war wanted by the EU-NATO forces.” (PRCF’s ezine, initiativecommuniste.org, Oct. 20)

German people ‘left in the cold’

German workers have been protesting the high inflation exacerbated by a cutoff of Russian-supplied gas, since the U.S. demanded that EU countries impose sanctions on Russia. Explosions on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines transporting natural gas from Russia to Germany — explosions that point to U.S. military sabotage — have made a deal impossible in the short term and virtually forced Germany’s rulers to stay lined up behind Washington.

With weekly demonstrations protesting the sacrifice of popular interests to a war that impoverishes many and enriches a few, the German coalition regime has offered a package to buy fuel and cap prices paid by people to heat their homes. 

An article in the Oct. 24 issue of junge Welt, however, argues that despite this package, “the majority of the population is likely to be left behind — or rather, out in the cold. This is especially true since measures such as a gas price cap are not expected to take effect at all until the spring. Prices will double . . .” Even before this crisis, some 2.4 million people in Germany had insufficient heat in winter.

Working-class struggles have grown in other NATO countries. The main union confederation brought out thousands of workers to demonstrate in Portugal Oct. 16 to protest the degradation of living conditions. And antiwar protests are scheduled for the coming week. 

In the United States there have been more strikes over the last two years than there have been for decades. Even more promising has been the organizing of mostly young workers paid less than living wages at giant monopolies like Amazon and Starbucks.

Challenge for revolutionaries

The task for revolutionaries is far from easy with the decline of the worldwide pro-socialist movement, since the 1991 counterrevolution eliminated the Soviet Union as a major socialist state and a counterweight to U.S., European and Japanese imperialism. Even in European countries where communist parties once had strong influence in the working class — Italy, France and Spain — this is no longer the case. This has allowed the bankers and billionaires to impose their ideas on the population.

One challenge for revolutionary pro-socialists is to assure that some of the neofascist groupings — so-called “populists” —  are denied any leadership of protest movements against the central regimes, which are themselves responsible for the imperialist war. 

All pro-socialist forces need to take a clear, decisive position against NATO and the U.S.-led war. This must be done in all the NATO countries, where the main enemies of the working class of each country are the bosses and billionaires at home, along with their agents in Washington, the European Union and NATO.

In the U.S. it was a good start that in the United National Antiwar Coalition actions over the week of Oct. 15-22, many raised slogans tying resistance to the war to solidarity with working-class struggles, from strikes to community actions.

While Washington’s strategic planners might consider Russia and China to be the strategic enemies of the U.S. — meaning the U.S. ruling class — the enemies of the workers and oppressed peoples of the United States are exactly that same U.S. ruling class and its agents.

John Catalinotto

John.Catalinotto@workers.org

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John Catalinotto

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