Against this united front of the ruling class, we should follow the sage of advice of German revolutionary Karl Liebknecht. While he declared during WWI that “the main enemy is at home,” he made clear that it was not the only enemy. As an anti-imperialist internationalist he saw the fight of German workers as part of a global struggle of the whole working class and oppressed peoples against the capitalist rulers of every single country in the world.

In this spirit he declared, “The main enemy of the German people is in Germany: German imperialism, the German war party, German secret diplomacy. This enemy at home must be fought by the German people in a political struggle, cooperating with the proletariat of other countries whose struggle is against their own imperialists.”

Our internationalist responsibilities in the face of war are to oppose the military designs of our own ruling class, while also assisting the efforts of progressive forces abroad to confront the maneuvers of their rulers. Only such a global struggle can rip up the capitalist roots of imperial rivalry and secure permanent peace. We must proclaim, in Liebknecht’s words, “Down with the war instigators here and abroad!”

Against Washington’s Rivals and for Self-Determination

We cannot afford the illusion that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Too many on the left, including the Democratic Socialists of America’s International Committee, ignore Russia’s great power aspirations and how its aggression against Ukraine has precipitated the crisis. Even worse, some on the left continue to support Russia as a so-called anti-imperialist power with legitimate reasons for standing up to the US.

Such a stance betrays the Ukrainian people’s right to self-determination against Russian threats as well as solidarity with Russian workers and oppressed peoples struggling against Putin’s tyrannical rule. It will also isolate anti-war activists from the majority of the US population who, while skeptical about warmongering by the U.S., also oppose Russian belligerence.

In this context, it bears repeating that Russia is a capitalist state with its own imperial interests, even if it is less powerful than the U.S. Let us not forget that Putin actively supports the far right throughout the world, including inside the Republican Party. It is not an accident that Tucker Carlson on Fox News is calling for the U.S. to back Russia against Ukraine.

Unconditional opposition to a war between the U.S. and Russia does not mean indifference toward the rights and freedom of the people of Ukraine. The country has been historically oppressed by Russia under both Tsarism and the Stalinist Soviet Union. Washington hopes to use it for its own imperial purposes.

The socialist left must therefore champion Ukraine’s right to self-determination. Only its people should decide their fate. Socialists should also defend the rights of national minorities within Ukraine, including Russian speakers in Donbas in the country’s eastern part. They must have official recognition of their language and have the right to political autonomy within Ukraine.

Neither the U.S. nor Russia will defend those rights. Indeed, their intervention has emboldened right wing forces on all sides, exacerbating and deepening national division and oppression. Any solution that respects Ukrainian independence and the rights of its national minorities must come from the Ukrainian people, not great powers like the U.S. or Russia.

Internationalism from Below

Socialists need to support progressive forces fighting for democracy and equality in Ukraine, building international solidarity from below against imperial intervention and war. Our allies are the unions, feminist groups, environmental, student and anti-war organizations operating inside both Russia and Ukraine and indeed throughout the world. To them we owe our solidarity.

Such a project is not utopian. There is widespread anti-war sentiment across the world. In the U.S., Washington’s long occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan has instilled deep opposition to war among workers and oppressed people. In Russia, there has been mass protest and opposition to Putin since his last imperial adventure in Ukraine when he seized Crimea. In the EU, people are tired of warmongering after Iraq.

And throughout Eastern Europe there is opposition to their regimes as well as Russia. Three decades of Washington’s neoliberal policies in Eastern Europe have also undermined illusions that it provides any alternative to Moscow. Socialists everywhere should support all attempts to organize this discontent into active opposition to war and empire.