Ukraine: The poison of Nationalism

Socialists have no interest in capitalism’s wars. Nor should the working class who do the killing and dying in capitalism’s wars. And this includes the war in Ukraine.

Russia wants workers to believe that the conflict is about the defence of the people of the Donbas and against fascism. On the other hand, Ukraine wants to portray itself as a victim of aggression and it is a patriotic defence of their homeland. So do the countries which make up NATO and who have given Ukraine billions of pounds in armaments and support.

However, like all wars this conflict is not a war in the interests of the Russian workers nor about the defence of the interests of the Ukrainian workers. The war is against the interest of both workers in Russia and in Ukraine.

Socialists do not take sides in the war in Ukraine. We neither support nor oppose Russia and we neither support nor oppose Ukraine. Both are capitalist countries with an exploited working class who both have shared and identical class interests.

In not taking side in capitalism’s wars socialists pay a political price. We are condemned by the capitalist left for not exclusively attacking United States imperialism. And we are criticised by the Western media and politicians for not supporting NATO and Ukraine against Russian aggression. We do not care. We do not concede our principled socialist ground against capitalist wars for anyone.

And for a very good reason. Wherever workers live they are an exploited class. Workers produce more in wealth than they receive in wages and salaries. The surplus goes to the capitalist class in the form of the unearned income of rent, interest, and profit.

Under capitalism the working class own nothing but their ability to work. Workers do not own raw resources, land, trade routes, spheres of influence, means of production and distribution like factories, offices, communication, and transport systems and so on. The means of production and distribution are owned privately by the capitalist class to the exclusion of everyone else.

And Ukraine is no exception. Russia invaded Russia for purely capitalist reasons. Not only were there strategic interests but Russia’s destabilisation of Ukraine was to ensure a high degree of leverage and control over a significant share of global commodities ranging from food to strategic minerals.

THE WASHINGTON POST gave this very good reason for the war:

Ukraine would also lose myriad other reserves, including stores of natural gas, oil and rare earth minerals - essential for certain high-tech components - that could hamper Western Europe’s search for alternatives to imports from Russia and China” (August 10th 2022).

According to the on-line magazine META, in recent years, Ukraine has been busily expanding investment in mining. The article said:

UkraineInvest, the government investment promotion office, received more than 100 investment proposals from across Europe and North America of up to $10 billion to develop 24 major mineral locations”.

Russia wants a piece of this action. Yet it is a land-grab of no interest to the working class whose interest is in abolishing capitalism and replacing the profit system with socialism.

The Glorification of War

YouTube is awash with armchair generals. From the safety of the studio, they pontificate about the Ukraine war.

As the war in Ukraine is set to enter its second year, a day rarely goes by without videos recorded on the frontline being widely shared on social media. The forces of both Russia and Ukraine continue to employ their respective clips that show the destruction of the other side's tanks, mobile rocket launchers, and more particularly workers forced to wear uniforms and to die horrible deaths on the battlefield.

Glorification of war by Western media and its Russian equivalents never convey the truth that the deaths we are seeing on our television screens are deaths of our class, the working class. The Western media celebrates the death and destruction visited upon Russian soldiers entering booby-trapped buildings or tanks hit by missiles while Russian outlets glorify war by showing videos of Ukrainian soldiers entering a building prior to it being hit by a Russian mortar barrage.

And there is a new departure in this violent conflict. Drones now give a three-dimensional view of the carnage. From hundreds of miles away you can sit watching towns and cities blown to dust and shells and rockets continuously pushed into artillery ordnance and fired at someone or something. Missiles launched into the air with death and destruction on the other end.

The Poison of Nationalism

What runs through the Ukraine war is an appeal to nationalist sentiment. Any criticism of NATO or Ukraine capitalism then you are accused of being Putin apologists. Any attack on Russia and Putin and you are condemned as a support of US imperialism. What our detractors will not accept is that we are against both NATO and its proxy state, Ukraine as we are against Russian Imperialism and Putin’s authoritarianism.

Nationalism is an impediment blocking a working class understanding of capitalism and the urgent need for the workers to abolish the profit system. Nationalism is political poison. Socialists are not nationalist. We do not take sides, and neither should the working class.

Nationalism is not the cause of war, but it is used by capitalist politicians and the media to divide the working class. Class divisions serve the interest of capitalism. A divided working class along national lines cannot establish socialism.

Socialists have consistently opposed the ideology of nationalism on the grounds set out by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels that “Workers have no country. You cannot take away from them what they do not have” (COMMUNIST MANIFESTO).

Our argument is that nationalism simply means favouring one set of rulers over another which we reject. Instead, we argue that socialism is the only route to meaningful emancipation from capitalism; the only way to ensure peace and social harmony.

Socialists look to the establishment of world socialism without frontiers, without countries and without governments. We do not want to see a world lined with border guards and barbed wire, mor do want a world in which fields and oceans have been indiscriminately mined, a danger to humans and wildlife. Socialism will be established politically and democratically by a world-wide socialist movement.

We are all members of the world working class and have a common interest in working together to establish a social system without boundaries in which the resources of the planet will have become the common heritage of all the people of the world and used for the benefit of everyone. Workers throughout the world should act democratically and politically - a world-wide class with a common interest in working to establish world socialism. As socialists, we refuse to be poisoned by the well of nationalism but struggle instead for a world of free movement across the globe.

Our political enemy is the global capitalist class, a class who privately own the means of production and distribution to the exclusion of the majority in society. The capitalist class includes the respective ruling class in the Western countries of NATO, Ukraine, and Russia. Before almost anything else socialists are internationalists. We belong to the world working class. We struggle for the world-wide establishment of socialism: the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.

Ending War - the Establishment of Socialism

In our pamphlet ‘The Socialist Party and War’ we said:

War can solve no working-class problem. It cuts across the fundamental identity of interest of the workers of the world, setting sections of this class at enmity with each other in the interests of sections of the capitalist class. It elevates force into the position of arbiter in place of the common human desire for mutual peace and happiness. Its effect is wholly evil. It depraves all the participants by forcing them to concentrate upon the best methods of producing misery and of annihilating each other.” (p. 94 June 1950).

Socialism is the only solution to the economic and social conditions that generate war within capitalism. In a social system with private property ownership, countries, and nation states where there are no artificial boundaries, conflict would be impossible. Global socialism would be an open and democratic society in which men and women, no matter where they lived, would work harmoniously to produce directly to meet human need.

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Object and Declaration of Principles


The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

Declaration of Principles


1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.

2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.

3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.

4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.

5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.

6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.

7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.

8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.