Statement on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Approved by the CDDSA Executive Committee on 20 March 2022.
And here let me emphasize the fact… that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace.Eugene V. Debs, June 16, 1918
As our hero and inspiration did 104 years ago, we stand in solidarity and comradeship with the working people who at this minute are making supreme sacrifices that they didn’t choose. We stand with refugees sleeping in a train station just across the Polish border, terrified families sheltering for days in their basements against artillery barrages, and scared and bewildered conscripts who thought they were deploying for training exercises.
Too many of these people have already been robbed of life by this cruel, brutal and pointless war. Too many of the survivors will be robbed of their political freedom, loved ones, homes, communities and livelihoods, while the people in power who set this horror in motion watch in perfect safety and comfort as they plan their next move on the geopolitical chessboard.
So how did the well-fed people in nice suits get us to this point? At the end of the Cold War, the US and its NATO allies faced a choice. They could have dissolved the alliance, which after the fall of the Soviet Union no longer had a purpose for existing, and forged a new European security system that demilitarized the continent, reduced conflict, and built trust among former enemies. Instead, they maintained NATO, excluded Russia from membership, and absorbed all the former Warsaw Pact nations and several former Soviet republics into the alliance.
Russia now faced an apparently hostile alliance headed by its militaristic nuclear-armed former enemy right on its western border—the starting point of the catastrophic 1941 Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. How could a nation with a recent history like that not feel threatened by such aggressive actions?
Also, as NATO expanded, Russia also endured the horrors of US-instigated economic “shock therapy,” that destroyed the jobs and savings of millions of working people and brought its economy to near-collapse, killing millions in the process. After this, why would Russians not turn gratefully to a leader who promised to stand up to Western bullying and restore Russian pride, power and prosperity?
We now rightly blame the leadership of the WWI Allies for creating the conditions that nurtured the Nazi Party and Hitler, and likewise the Cold War Western allies own much of the responsibility for the rise of Vladimir Putin. But in assigning responsibility, let’s be absolutely clear. However relevant the events above may be to understanding how Europe and the world got here, none of them excuse or justify in any way the Putin regime’s invasion of Ukraine and its apparent attempt to overthrow the democratic government of a sovereign state—and in accordance with Putin’s deranged ultra-nationalist fantasy—annex it to “Greater Russia”.
By international legal standards, it’s an unprovoked act of criminal aggression of the same type as the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, and Putin’s forces daily commit fresh war crimes as they bombard civilian neighborhoods in cities across Ukraine. Also, as the violence and bloodshed intensifies in Ukraine, the right-wing despot who set this killing machine in motion also crushes dissent at home and tightens the screws of repression and intimidation on the long-suffering Russian people.
We stand for political and economic freedom, worker empowerment and equal rights and a dignified and fulfilling life for all—and therefore in unwavering opposition to the odious Russian police state. The working people of Russia deserve these priceless benefits no less than we do, and in our opposition to Putin’s war we won’t forget our solidarity with them.
In our sorrow, anger, and disgust at this war we demand that the criminals responsible be held to account, that the war stops, and that our fellow workers in Russia and Ukraine get their lives back.
The heart of the international Socialist never beats a retreat.Eugene V. Debs, June 16, 1918