National Sections of the L5I:

Ukraine: On the Way to an Endless War of Position?

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The war in Ukraine is taking on more and more of the terrible characteristics of the First World War. The mass of artillery, tanks, drones, ammunition and other military equipment deployed is eating up entire sectors of industrial production; not to mention the tens of thousands of soldiers killed and injured in a war of position, such as those sacrificed by the thousands in the Battle of Bakhmut, which has been raging since August of last year, like that at Verdun, over the smallest territorial gains. Not to mention the numbers of civilians who have lost their lives.

War industry

The "munitions crisis" is also reminiscent of a similar development in 1915, when production could no longer keep pace with the needs of "industrial warfare". The 6,000 artillery shells that Ukraine alone expends each day led to calculations, in February, that the country could run out of ammunition in May - even though its Western allies are already supplying what they have, with the production capacity of even the US reaching capacity.
This has led not only to the multiplication of production for certain types of ammunition, but to entire new plants being built. While for the US or Germany this is well known, it is less obvious how Russia is solving its shortages in ammunition and weapons production. In any case, due to the Western sanctions regime, the country has long since switched to a war economy or is likely to receive supplies, by secretive means, from Central Asia, China, North Korea or Iran.
This type of "conventional" warfare, which is based on ever-increasing industrial supply production and, at the same time, more and more state-of-the-art weapons technology (e.g. in terms of information and electronic control technology), makes this war different from most military conflicts we have known since 1945. The nature of industrial warfare is actually more like the global confrontation of imperialist armies and is very different from other wars between an imperialist power and a semi-colony (e.g. USA - Iraq).
This points to the multi-layered character of the Ukrainian war, which has already been discussed many times. There is no doubt that it started with the imperialist invasion of Russia, against which Ukraine is rightly defending itself and against which the masses of workers and peasants are also rightly defending themselves.


On the other hand, the war had a long pre-history, which took place in the context of an ever worsening confrontation of newly forming blocs of imperialist great powers - similar to the Balkans on the eve of the First World War. The weakening hegemony of the USA over the imperialist world order has been challenged by the rise of China since the global economic crisis of 2008/2009 at the latest. Russia and the major EU powers initially tried to position themselves in between but were increasingly pushed in the direction of the USA and China respectively - not least by the question of Ukraine's ties to either bloc.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine wavered between maintaining economic, cultural and political ties with Russia and orienting itself towards the EU and NATO. With the "Euro-Maidan movement" and the fall of the pro-Russian President Yanukovych, however, this was decided against Russia. On the other hand, Ukraine within its existing borders is a relatively young country - a multi-ethnic state with many minorities and disputed borders; but with a nationalist elite in power that dreams of a clear Ukrainian national identity precisely within these borders.
Thus, conflict with the minorities was pre-programmed, and could easily be exploited by Russia, especially with regard to the ethnic or linguistic Russian minorities in Crimea and in the south and east of Ukraine. The annexation of Crimea and the assimilation of the Donetsk and Luhansk "people's republics" formed in 2015 do not need to be discussed further here. On the other hand, the USA and Britain in particular began a massive rearmament and training programme in Ukraine, which transformed the weakened Ukrainian army into a truly strong and modern armed force; one which initially could only hold its own against the hastily cobbled-together units of the "people's republics" with the help of extremely nationalistic volunteer units.
Attempts by the EU, especially by France and Germany, to achieve a balance with the Minsk agreements, in which autonomy and minority rights could have led to a solution to the border conflicts, were torpedoed from the outset by the USA, Ukraine and the nationalist hardliners in both Russia and the People's Republics. Since 2015, a more or less “lukewarm war” had smouldered along the demarcation lines. With the strengthening of the Ukrainian army and Ukraine's increasing dependence on the West due to its economic problems, it was clear to Russian imperialism that there was only a small window of opportunity to avoid losing Ukraine entirely from its sphere of influence.

USA and China

At the same time, the growing economic "containment policy" of the USA towards China (tariffs, investment restrictions, technology export bans, measures against certain large Chinese corporations, etc.) led to the latter also getting into a growing confrontation with "the West", which increasingly put it and Russia into a common camp of what are referred to as the "anti-democratic revisionists". This has led not only to a further rapprochement between these two states, but also to a kind of new bloc formation, which has also become increasingly clear since the Ukraine war.
Both the backing from Beijing (Putin’s state visit during the Winter Olympics in early February 2022 ) and the demonstration of the supposed weakness of the USA in connection with the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, probably led the Russian leadership to the erroneous conclusion that it could bring off a successful blitzkrieg against Ukraine, which, like the annexation of Crimea, would be accepted as an accomplished fact by the West. As is well known, this went disastrously wrong. The Ukrainian army turned out to be much stronger, the Russian fighting force much weaker, than many had previously suspected. This led not only to a speedy failure of the "blitzkrieg" strategy but also, far from dividing the West between the US and Britain on the one hand and Germany and France on the other, it created a stronger unity in the "Western camp", especially with regard to the extent of economic sanctions, but also in terms of energy supplies, than Russia and China had probably expected. In the meantime, Ukraine received a steady stream of military supplies and credits from the West, which in the first year of the war amounted to about the size of the country's pre-war gross national product. Although Ukraine, with its inherently weak financial reserves and weapons production capacities, would be many times inferior to the Russian military complex, it is thus able to hold out and even launch effective counter-offensives from time to time.

Different characters
With the growing dependence on Western arms and ammunition supplies as well as economic "aid", the character of a justified national defence war on the part of Ukraine is increasingly overlaid by that of a proxy war between the blocs of the great powers. We are dealing with an amalgamation of two wars.
The aspect of intra-imperialist competition is expressed not only in the ever more terrible extent of the destruction of people and material, but also in the fact that Ukraine's perspective is becoming increasingly precarious in any case. Even in the case of a military success, not only would the scale of destruction be a burden hardly to be overcome by an actually independent Ukraine developing on its own. But the Western "aid" comes at a price. Around the last mega-loan (17 billion US dollars) from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in March, there was quite open talk that this will be the central institution for the economic reorganisation of Ukraine - with all the known consequences above all for the workers and the impoverished rural population, as can already be seen in the extremely neoliberal changes to labour law carried out by the Zelensky government. Under these conditions, a "victorious" Ukraine will have to sell off its raw materials and its valuable agricultural sector to foreign investors and, above all, have to make its working class even more available as cheap labour for Western corporations to exploit.
Ukrainian workers and peasants must therefore be warned against any illusions in their "Western benefactors" and their proxy regime in Kiev. Of course, the threat of the Russian murder machine and possible national subjugation is the immediate danger for them at the moment. But they should already organise themselves as independently as possible and prepare for a confrontation with the Western exploiters and the pro-Western oligarchs and government.
True to Lenin's position on the struggle in semi-colonies against imperialist aggression, we therefore recognise the legitimacy of the workers' and peasants' struggle against the invasion - despite the nature of its leadership. Whether this is done in units of the Ukrainian army, territorial self-defence or its own militias is a question of concrete circumstances (with the exception, of course, of fascist or extreme nationalist units). Of course, we are also in favour of accepting and using any weapons that can be obtained.
At the same time, the actual reactionary aims of their own leadership and their backers in the Western governments must always be exposed and criticised. In particular, we demand, with the Ukrainian workers and peasants, the cancellation of all debts arising from Western "aid", the disclosure of all plans for the post-war order of the IMF & Co and the control of the former over weapons and scarce economic resources. This cannot happen without conflict with the rulers. Therefore, we advocate the formation of democratically elected committees of workers, soldiers and peasants. This can also mark the beginning of turning national self-defence against Russian imperialism into a struggle for a country also liberated from Western exploitation under the real democracy of the working people.


This is all the more important as a sell-out of the struggle of Ukrainians, by the Western imperialists becomes more and more likely. Apart from the human cost of the continued war of attrition, it is the economic consequences for the latter that are pushing them towards an end to the war. The burdens of an ever-increasing war economy, which also reinforces tendencies to perpetuate inflation worldwide, but also the consequences for the world economy through the burdens of bloc formation, e.g. for supply chains and the energy market, call for a solution.
The fact that the US Chief of Staff pleads for "realistic war aims" is probably related to the fact that the Pentagon also needs resources for other conflict hotspots, not least with China - and the necessary budget agreement with the Republican majority in the House of Representatives does not promise unlimited funds for the Ukraine war. Since the US intelligence leaks, it has been clear that the United States is not only providing sporadic assistance in electronic and information warfare, but is also deploying considerable operational forces from its "day-to-day business".
At the same time, they have no interest in getting to a direct confrontation with Russia if NATO’s Article 5 is triggered, or even risking the use of nuclear weapons. In view of the logistical problems, e.g. in the field of ammunition, it is quite likely that Ukraine will be pushed to some form of ending the war in the coming months. This explains the importance being attached to the long expected "spring offensive", both from the Ukrainian side and from the Western allies. The aim is to gain as much ground as possible (probably in the southeast) before a possible ceasefire and upcoming negotiations and to leave Russia able to claim as little "success" as possible. It is clear that this will ultimately result in a "peace" that will be far from a democratic solution to the question of self-determination in the southeast and in Crimea - and will mean a further expansion of NATO. In any case, this will not look anything like a free and independent Ukraine.
Therefore, we here in the West must criticise and fight the war aims of our own rulers behind the façade of the "struggle for democracy" and for a "free Ukraine". The aim is to strengthen their own great power interests in Washington, London, Berlin or Paris. And that includes the selling off of Ukrainian wealth and the unlimited exploitation of Ukrainian workers, who are already providing cheap labour in the care sector or are allowed to toil for starvation wages in Eastern European branches of German capital. In this respect, we must also criticise the governments' aid to Ukraine, which ultimately serves to make this country dependent and subordinate in the long term. Therefore, we also call on, for example, DIE LINKE and SPD in the Bundestag to vote against the sanctions and weapons programmes (whether for their own rearmament or for "aid deliveries"). Anything else would involuntarily amount to an endorsement of the war aims of German imperialism.
Nevertheless, at the same time, we recognise Ukraine's right to defend itself - and to obtain the necessary means to do so. However, legitimate resistance to Russian imperialism does not include the conquest of Crimea and the Donbas republics.
Revolutionary Marxists should advocate ending the Ukrainian war on a just and democratic basis. This should include the following key points: Russia out of Ukraine, no to the intra-imperialist cold war and self-determination for Crimea and the Donbas republics. This must be linked to the longer-term perspective of an independent socialist Ukraine, because nothing else would bring a just and lasting peace.

- For the defeat of Russian aggression! Russian troops out of Ukraine!
- For a truly independent Ukraine - free also from Western exploitation and political-military paternalism!
- No to the intervention of NATO and the West! No to an imperialist peace!
- For the transformation of the war into the struggle for social liberation in Ukraine and Russia under the leadership of an independent workers' movement!