Conflict and War in the Ukraine: A Socialist Response

Propaganda - What they Say War is about

In order to persuade the working class that war is absolutely necessary, unavoidable and justifiable, governments use a number of fairly standard pretexts.

They tell us it is a question of 'national interest'. But since the majority of the 'nation' consists of people who own no oil-wells or goldmines, whose meagre assets are not the issue in any war and, if they are lucky enough to survive, will be no better off at the end of it - this so-called 'national interest' is nothing to do with us. It is the commercial assets and interests of the capitalist class, our employers, which are at stake.

The same point can be made in answer to the argument that this is a war in defence of 'our' country (the Motherland or Fatherland). We, the working class, do not own the country. If we did, we would hardly need to go to work for wages or salaries. Those who do own the country, including its mineral resources, industries, supermarkets, etc, are the capitalist class. They have something to defend; the working class do not.

Another argument used to justify war is the claim that it is about the defence of democracy. Yet, curiously, the same government which is suddenly concerned about defending democracy was only yesterday doing deals with dictators. Putin was feted in the Wast. Germany co-operated in building a gas pipe line. Business was conducted. Russia was part of the global finance system. The assassination of imprisoning of opposition politician and journalists was conveniently forgotten when it came to trade and profit. And, of course there are the Russian oligarchs funding the Tory Party. The City is awash with 'dirty money', and it has been so for years, enriching bankers, financiers, hedge fund managers, property developers, lawyers and accountants. All political Parties, except for socialists, support the capitalist system.

Also, it should be noted that the very first casualty of war is democracy. In World War I restrictions on press freedoms were imposed. The Defence of the Realm Regulations (November 1914) was a catch-all law prohibiting any political activity except in support of the blood bath. After conscription came in, conscientious objectors were jailed, including some members of The Socialist Party of Great Britain. Again, in World War II, the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) was imposed. Conscription was brought in before the war even started. So-called 'enemy aliens', including refugees and children, were held in internment camps, and many were deported.

How governments and politicians support democracy and people having access to opposing political ideas can be seen in Kier Starmer's call for the state-controlled TV network RT (RUSSIA TODAY) to be banned from broadcasting in the UK. Many have compared Starmer to Clement Atlee. In Labour's contempt for democracy we can recall the situation, where the Second World War was supposed to be about defending democracy and opposing dictatorship, Britain suspended universal suffrage and became a totalitarian one-party state as Labour MPs joined the Coalition Government which announced sweeping "special powers". Attlee, Lord Privy Seal, announced: "we are taking power over all persons and property" (HANSARD, 22 May 1940). So much for democracy.

There is an obvious contradiction: if the aim was to defend democracy, why destroy free speech? Why suspend national and local elections? Why impose a one-party state? And why such a totalitarian regime? How can you defend democracy by stopping it? Starmer is in a long tradition of politicians who only want their views and their views alone from being heard. Workers should have nothing but contempt towards politicians like Starmer who wants to be seen as more patriotic than the Tories, more war-like than Boris Johnson and more ruthless towards Putin than the Tory government in order to secure the vote of the non-socialist working class.

In short, politicians who claim that a war is justified if it is about freedom and democracy are simply not to be believed. Democracy is not something they would go to war about. If that were the case, how come there are so many dictators in the world? Instead of going to war against a dictatorship, capitalist governments are much more likely to sell them weapons.

A government's real concern is the so-called 'national interest' - the interests of their capitalists. Only when these capitalist interests are involved do governments find it necessary to go to war.

Sometimes the case is made that a war is one of 'self determination'or 'national liberation'. In most cases, such wars result in a dictatorship or a one-party state, often corrupt as well as ruthless. The workers remain, as before, the have-nots. The struggle was over who should profit from the country's raw materials, markets and labour force. Liberation was never the issue, only a pretext.

We do not, like he capitalist Left, support the enemies of the United States because they are the incarnation of "Imperialism" and to weaken the US and its allies will somehow all Leninist politics with all the misery that entails to flower. The misnamed Stop the War group is run by Trotskyists and Stalinists who support the enemies of the United States. Their weight is always against US imperialism and not the imperialism of Russia or China. The leaders of Stop the War do not refer to class, class interest, and class struggle. War and conflict in Ukraine is described by this organisation as an international struggle between nation states where the most evil Nation state is the United States and its 'street walkers'. The interest of the working class is ignored.

The media see the world in black and white. The Western media see it as a struggle between "evil" Putin and plucky and democratic Ukraine with institutions like NATO beyond criticism. The Russian media paint NATO as "evil", the West wanting to economically contain and cripple Russia while Putin is a saint looking after the interests of all right thinking Russians. Socialists do not take sides in capitalism's wars. We do not weigh up the arguments of each side and come to a conclusion of who to support. We oppose all of capitalism's wars and have done so through the First and Second world Wars right up until today in Ukraine.

Capitalism cannot function as a peaceful social system. If workers want a world without war and conflict then they are going to have to drop their nationalist illusions, reject "exceptionalism", stop supporting and voting for capitalist politicians and join with their fellow world workers as socialists to politically and democratically abolish capitalism and establish socialism

Until then, the socialist response to the conflict and war in Ukraine is a plague on both your houses.

Object and Declaration of Principles

The Problem

The basis of the case for The Socialist Party of Great Britain is the OBJECT AND DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES: applicants for membership are required to indicate their acceptance of them. It is more than a formal declaration and applicants must show that they understand the implications of what they sign, and must be prepared to defend them. This is to ensure that none but Socialists become members and thereby secure a well-grounded and united membership. A united membership is less prone to internal dissention, and provides the most effective organisation for Socialist propaganda.

THE OBJECT AND DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES is well within the grasp of every worker who reads it intelligently and without prejudice.

There are no short cuts to Socialism. Concentrating on the Socialist objective is a slow process but there is no other way. One thing to remember is that our DECLARATION is a brief statement of general principles, not a detailed guide to cover all eventualities. When its wording was being discussed at the establishment of The Socialist Party of Great Britain in 1904, consideration was given to the possible inclusion of additional clauses but the form finally accepted was held to be sufficient. For example, it does not include a reference to war, but under its guidance the Party had no hesitation in declaring total opposition when world war came in 1914 and again in 1939.

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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.