Imperialism Today: Understanding the invasion of Ukraine

by Paul Murphy

The Russian invasion of Ukraine signals the opening of a new period of global disorder. It is marked by the continuing decline of US imperialism and the rise of China. Mounting tensions between imperialist powers are likely to be a dominant feature of the coming years. They bring with them the probability of further regional and proxy conflicts, as well as the danger of all-out war between nuclear powers.

How the revolutionary left responds in developing a consistently anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist position will be crucial. Avoiding falling into any of the imperialist camps and consistently advocating for a socialist position independent of them is essential. Our goal must be that of James Connolly – to escape the horrors of war by throwing the barbaric ruling class from power.[1]

The war on Ukraine has provoked markedly different responses by different sections of the revolutionary left. In a sense, this is not surprising. Wars are acid tests for revolutionaries and this conflict marks a qualitatively new situation. 

The analyses from the socialist left to the invasion of Ukraine can be very broadly grouped into three categories: 

1) Those who have taken the side of Russia in the conflict, either because they see this as a conflict between US imperialism and a non-imperialist Russia, or because they consider Ukraine to be a fascist-dominated state;[2] 

2) Those who see the Ukrainian conflict simply as an example of an imperialist country invading a former colony and have taken the position of support for Ukraine;[3] 

3) Those who see two intertwined and sometimes contradictory aspects to this conflict; the Russian imperialist invasion of Ukraine – in which they take the side of the Ukrainian people, and an inter-imperialist conflict between the US-led NATO and Russian imperialism, in which they oppose both sides.[4]

For clarity, I am firmly in the third camp and this article sets out to argue for this analysis against both supporters of Russia and those who fail to recognise the inter-imperialist conflict which is present. 

How we respond to this crisis is important not in relation to how socialists can contribute to ensuring a just peace in Ukraine, but because we are likely to see more conflicts with a similar character in the coming years. Getting it ‘right’ is important because it will enable us to take principled positions in the inter-imperialist conflicts to come. For all who define ourselves as revolutionary Marxists, a common point of understanding is an appreciation of the disastrous consequences of the betrayal of the vast majority of socialists supporting their ‘own’ side with various justifications in World War I.[5]

Back to Basics

It is worth restating some basic elements which inform the revolutionary Marxist approach to war. Unlike some of our allies in anti-war movements internationally, we are not pacifists – we are not opposed to violence in all circumstances. We recognise that there are just and unjust wars; wars of liberation and wars of oppression. It is useful to list some of the categories that Marxists have used historically to analyse wars:

  1. Wars of national liberation or revolts against colonialism. For example, Lenin in ‘Socialism and War’[6] outlined, “if tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, or India on Britain, or Persia or China on Russia, and so on, these would be ”just”, and “defensive” wars, irrespective of who would be the first to attack; any socialist would wish the oppressed, dependent and unequal states victory over the oppressor, slave-holding and predatory “Great” Powers.” In other words, it is not a question of who fires the first bullet, in conflicts between imperialist capitalist countries and oppressed states or nations, socialists take the side of the latter.
  2. Inter-imperialist wars, i.e. wars between imperialist countries, the classic example being World War I. In opposition to the ‘social-patriotism’ of the mainstream of the Second International, which supported ‘their own side’ in that war, Lenin sharply formulated the idea of revolutionary defeatism to clarify that socialists do not have a side. In bending the stick, as Hal Draper explained[7], he did initially confuse things by using formulations which wrongly suggested that Russian revolutionaries should wish for the victory of Germany.[8] Trotsky’s position was actually clearer in consistently arguing against support for either side in such a clash, and arguing that the end of the war which socialists should fight for was based on “the intervention of the revolutionary proletariat, which interrupts the “normal” development of military events.”[9]
  3. Wars between post-capitalist or workers’ states and capitalist states. In the conflict between Vietnam and US imperialism, revolutionary socialists took the side of the Vietnamese, not only because this was a war of national liberation (although that would be sufficient), but also because it was a clash of social systems. We do that despite the Stalinism of the Ho Chi Minh leadership, which was responsible for the execution of multiple Trotskyists in 1945.[10] The idea of “defence”[11] of the degenerated or deformed workers’ states[12] in a clash with capitalism was a consistent theme in Trotsky’s writings from the mid-1930s.

Of course, even where such categories would suggest that socialists have a ‘side’ in a conflict, that is clearly not the end of the matter. We are not just activists who seek to be on the ‘right side’ of conflicts – we are socialists who are seeking to end all wars through global socialist revolution. For that, the independence of the working class, with an emphasis on working class power and a socialist position is essential.

For example, in wars of national liberation, socialists would not simply accept the leadership of nationalist forces, but would fight for leadership through demonstrating the superiority of Marxist ideas and strategy in the struggle for liberation. In wars between post-capitalist states and imperialist states, socialists would not renounce the struggle to overthrow Stalinist bureaucracy and the fight for a political revolution to introduce workers’ democracy. Instead, they would seek to demonstrate how the bureaucracy is an obstacle to the struggle for world revolution. 

How exactly these approaches are implemented will depend on concrete circumstances, including the political character of the nationalist forces and the size and social weight of Marxists. So while socialists were for the defeat and expulsion of US imperialism from Afghanistan, it is hard to see any circumstances where there would be co-operation between socialist forces and the reactionary Taliban in trying to achieve that aim. In contrast, socialists in France correctly worked to deliver funds to the freedom fighters of the FLN in Algeria.[13] 

Applying the categories to life

Of course knowledge of these categories does not provide us with the answers of how to treat any given war. Many conflicts do not neatly fall into simply one of these categories but have features of more than one. 

World War II for example had elements from all three of the categories listed above. Firstly, this was a continuation of World War I and a clash between imperialist powers. Secondly, it included wars of national liberation in dependent countries, for example in China against imperialist Japan, but also the struggles of partisan forces in France, Italy, Greece and other countries in Europe. Thirdly, the war between the Soviet Union and German fascism was a clash of social systems – on one side, a degenerated workers’ state, on the other, a capitalist state ruled by a fascist dictatorship.

Even in World War I, a most naked inter-imperialist war, different categories of war were combined. At the start of the war when Serbia was invaded by the Austro-Hungarian empire, there was undoubtedly an element of a war of national liberation amongst Serbs. In assessing this conflict[14], Lenin argued that 99% of the war was effectively an inter-imperialist war. He argued that if the invasion was not part of the “general European war”, then socialists should “desire the success of the Serbian bourgeoisie” in that conflict. However, 

“…Marxist dialectics, as the last word in the scientific-evolutionary method, excludes any isolated examination of an object, i.e., one that is one-sided and monstrously distorted. The national element in the Serbo-Austrian war is not, and cannot be, of any serious significance in the general European war. If Germany wins, she will throttle Belgium, one more part of Poland, perhaps part of France, etc. If Russia wins, she will throttle Galicia, one more part of Poland, Armenia, etc. If the war ends in a “draw”, the old national oppression will remain. To Serbia, i.e., to perhaps one per cent or so of the participants in the present war, the war is a “continuation of the politics” of the bourgeois-liberation movement. To the other ninety-nine per cent, the war is a continuation of the politics of imperialism, i.e., of the decrepit bourgeoisie, which is capable only of raping nations, not freeing them.”

In World War II, Trotsky and the Fourth International worked to separate out the different aspects of the war – arguing for support for the Soviet Union in its struggle against Nazi Germany while opposing the war-effort of the imperialist forces on either side. Unlike the Stalinist forces, which switched overnight from opposition to the war to full support for the Allies when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union,[15] Trotsky emphasised the need to continue to oppose the imperialist aims of the allied countries, which were after all the direct oppressors at the time of vast colonial empires.[16]

Trotsky also pointed towards an approach of engaging with the mass anti-fascist consciousness in the Allied countries through the development of the Proletarian Military Policy[17] – which was effectively the argument that the best way to defeat fascism was through workers’ control of the military and the economy. In reality, this was a partial (and correct) break with the weak sides of Lenin’s ‘revolutionary defeatism’, in the context of a war against fascist Germany. 

So, who is an imperialist?

In terms of analysing the character of the war in Ukraine, an important, if mostly unstated question to address – is which countries in the world today are imperialist. That in turn begs another question – how do we define imperialism today?

Too often, some socialists point to the “definition of imperialism” provided in Lenin’s ‘Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism’.[18] This outlines five factors:

“(1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; 

(2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; 

(3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; 

(4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, 

and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed.” 

Relying on this definition, some point to the weaknesses of Russia in many of these categories, for example the absence of significant export of capital, to argue that Russia is not imperialist.[19] This tick box approach to imperialism misses the point of Lenin’s pamphlet. It was a popular outline of a Marxist concept of imperialism, building on the work of his fellow Bolshevik Nikolai Bukharin in particular[20], but also earlier non-revolutionary Marxist writers like J.A. Hobson and Rudolf Hilferding.[21] 

Above all, it was a political intervention into the debates raging in the socialist movement to argue that the ‘Great War’ was not a consequence of wrong policy pursued by the political establishments, but a consequence of the development of the capitalist system. In this “definition”, Lenin was really describing the key trends in the world system of capitalism at that stage, defined as imperialism – not seeking to provide a checklist of requirements for a country to qualify as ‘imperialist’. The most important feature of this global system is that of competition between the major powers who have already divided the world out between them. 

That list is not particularly helpful to understand the dynamics of relations in the world today. When we use the term imperialist to describe a country what we actually mean are capitalist countries which use their economic and/or military power to dominate less developed countries with a view to securing raw materials, markets or other benefits for their capitalist class,in the context of a world divided between major powers, and the systematic exploitation of the labour and nature of peripheral countries.

By this definition, while the US and China are clearly the world’s largest imperialist powers, Russia is clearly also an imperialist power. It leads a military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), and maintains a significant sphere of influence in eastern Europe and central Asia which it intervenes in. It is the fourth biggest spender on its military in the world, after the US (which is a long way ahead), China and India.[22] Only a month before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia had troops on the ground in Kazakhstan as part of a CSTO force to ensure stability against a workers’ uprising.[23]

Ukraine, meanwhile, is not an imperialist nation. It is a former Tsarist colony of Russia, without any sphere of influence or ability to dominate other countries. It is economically weak, with a GDP per capita of less than $5,000.[24] Instead, it is the site of struggle between different imperialist powers. 

It is the case that a reactionary anti-communist and anti-Russian ideology has been dominant since Maidan, with discrimination against Russian speakers and criminalising the promotion of Soviet symbols.[25] There is also a far-right presence, including even a partial integration into the state, in the case of the Azov Batallion. However, the suggestion that Ukraine should be treated as equivalent to a fascist state does not stack up. 

Ukraine remains a capitalist democracy. The far-right parties performed poorly in the 2019 elections, receiving just over 2% between them. Zelensky is a populist neo-liberal, elected on an anti-corruption platform. There is arguably a greater integration of far-right forces into the Russian capitalist state[26] than there is in the Ukrainian state. 

The suggestion by some that there is no imperialist invasion of Ukraine, or no legitimate struggle of national liberation by Ukrainian people is not dealing with reality. To reach that conclusion, those who argue for this line are compelled to essentially ignore the fact of Russian troops invading and occupying Ukraine against the opposition of the Ukrainian people. To justify this conclusion, one statement promoting this line argues that:

“Post-Soviet Ukraine has been reduced by its oligarchs and foreign capital into a poor, financially bankrupt, fractured, semi-colonial dependency of the Western capital and the IMF and an advanced springboard for war in the service of the NATO aggression against Russia. It is run by Quislings, corrupt oligarchs and Neo-Nazis, linking their own comprador interests to the interests of the US, Britain and the EU, cruelly robbing the working population of Ukraine of all its social and national rights.”[27]

By declaring that western capitalism has already robbed Ukrainian people of social and national rights, they effectively attempt to cover up their own denial of the rights of the Ukrainian people to self-determination. The very real imperialist aggression of Russia is simply ignored. In a statement by the US-based Socialist Action, out of ten demands listed at the end, not one calls for an end to the Russian invasion. The statement itself incredibly does not even condemn the invasion.[28] 

The dual character of the conflict

That the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a brutal imperialist invasion of a former colony is clear. However, that is not the end of the story. Is there a significant other element of the conflict here, which belongs in the category of inter-imperialist conflict?

The evidence strongly suggests that there is. The Russian invasion of Ukraine cannot be divorced from the ongoing conflict between the US-led NATO alliance and Russia and its alliance. This did not start with the Russian invasion of Ukraine but has to be seen as part of an ongoing conflict, one side of which is the eastward expansion of the sphere of influence of US imperialism in the aftermath of the collapse of Stalinism.

The most visible expression of this expansion has been the enlargement of NATO. In successive rounds of enlargement in 1999, 2004, 2009, 2017 and 2020, eastern European and Balkan countries acceded to NATO.[29] The consequence is that the border of NATO has moved 800km eastwards since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Along with that came the positioning of NATO battle groups permanently stationed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and annual so-called ‘Defender Europe’ operations which last year involved almost 30,000 troops on the Russian border.[30]

During the conflict itself, NATO military aid has poured into Ukraine. The US Department of Defence boasts that “the United States has committed approximately $8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration.”[31] Over half of that has come in the six months since the Russian invasion. The US Congress has agreed a Biden proposal to give a total of $20 billion in military aid.[32] On top of that must be added the €1.5 billion from the EU as part of the ‘European Peace Facility’[33] and £2.3 billion from the UK government.[34]

The sections of the left which downplay the inter-imperialist element of this conflict often raise the call for ‘arms for Ukraine’.[35] This may sound like sending rifles to partisan forces fighting the Russian invasion. The reality is very different. Irrespective of what the socialist left argues for or against, the most powerful imperialist country in the world is engaging in its single largest weapons transfer in history. These weapons are going to a Ukrainian military which is increasingly integrated into NATO. They are not being transferred by western imperialism out of concern for the Ukrainian people’s rights, but in pursuance of its own interests – which are not those of working class people. 

While this is presented by the US administration as supporting Ukraine’s “fight to defend their democracy”,[36] clearly anyone with a passing knowledge of either history or current affairs would be somewhat sceptical of that claim. Why would tens of billions of dollars of weapons be funnelled into a country to defend democracy, when the same states are funnelling tens of billions into countries like Saudi Arabia which are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Yemen, and are no fans of democratic rights? If they are so greatly concerned for the rights of occupied peoples, why aren’t they arming the Palestinians or the Western Saharans? These same states themselves currently occupy Iraq.

These weapons, and the unprecedented sanctions, described by the French Finance Minister as “all-out economic and financial war”[37] are instead part of an inter-imperialist conflict between western powers under US leadership and Russia. The US Defence Secretary has openly stated that the aim of the “West” is to ensure that Russia is “weakened”.[38]

None of this is to alibi Putin for his invasion or justify it. Regardless of the actions of NATO, the Russian invasion remains an inexcusable, brutal and imperialist invasion. As well as condemning their unjust war of oppression, we must look reality squarely in the face. A Russian imperialist invasion of a former colony is intertwined with an inter-imperialist conflict which is taking place on Ukrainian soil. 

What is the balance of these elements of the conflict – national liberation struggle and inter-imperialist conflict? Unlike with Serbia at the start of World War I, this is certainly not a case of 99% inter-imperialist conflict and 1% national liberation struggle. It has not, at least yet, resulted in all out global conflict, with multiple countries being directly drawn in. The different aspects are more evenly balanced. However, the trend of development has beenfor the inter-imperialist element to predominate more over time, as more US weapons are sent, and the number of NATO troops in eastern Europe having increased tenfold since the start of the year.[39] 

With the drive to consolidate US hegemony over European states and to expand NATO to include practically all EU countries, it is clear that the scene is set for a prolonged conflict. 

Karl Liebknecht’s good advice 

Karl Liebknecht’s famous anti-war leaflet putting an internationalist anti-war position finished with the strident call “The main enemy is at home!”[40] This is not a timeless formula. Clearly there are circumstances when the main enemy is not at home – for example for the Vietnamese in 1970, the main enemy was in Washington DC! 

However, it is an appropriate guiding light for when we are dealing with inter-imperialist conflicts. For those of us both in the ‘Western camp’ (which undoubtedly includes Ireland), we are subjected to enormous propaganda and pressure to support ‘our’ side. Exposing the hypocrisy of US imperialism, the true motives of the Western imperial bloc, without wavering in our opposition to Russian imperialism and supporting the right of Ukrainian people to self-defence is vital.

Those sections of the revolutionary left which downplay the inter-imperialist element of the conflict do acknowledge to a greater or lesser degree the existence of this rivalry as a factor behind the war. However, some argue that it is a backdrop rather than an active factor in this war. Conor Kostick, for example, argues that the “interplay of rival imperialism” is effectively nothing new, and seems to consider that there being an inter-imperialist conflict is incompatible with also considering there is a legitimate war of national liberation.[41]

Interestingly, Gilbert Achcar does seem to accept that both aspects of this conflict co-exist. However, he argues that there is a “key distinction between a direct war between imperialist countries … and an invasion by an imperialist power of a non-imperialist country, where the latter is backed by another imperialist power using it as a proxy in inter-imperialist rivalry.” He suggests that:

“In the first case, working-class internationalism requires that workers, including workers in uniform (i.e. soldiers), oppose the war on both sides, each opposing their own government’s war, even if that would contribute to its defeat (this is the meaning of “revolutionary defeatism”). In the second case, revolutionary defeatism is required only from workers and soldiers who belong to the aggressor imperialist country, and in a much more active way than indirectly. They are required to sabotage their country’s war machine. Workers of the oppressed nation, on the other hand, have every right and duty to defend their country and families and must be supported by internationalists worldwide.”[42]

This leaves no role whatsoever for workers in an imperialist power which is engaged in a proxy war, apart from supporting the oppressed invaded nation. Despite Achcar agreeing that this imperialist state (the western powers in this case) is engaged in an inter-imperialist conflict, albeit indirectly, his advice leaves workers in those states on the same side as their ruling class, with the main enemy in the other imperialist camp!

Achcar’s sharp distinction between an imperialist conflict involving hot clashes between armies of two imperialist states and one that involves proxy battles doesn’t make sense to me. It amounts to wilfully choosing to take a superficial approach, in effectively ignoring the presence of inter-imperialist conflicts. 

It also results in a peculiar paradox. Achcar would presumably agree that we live in a world of obviously increasing inter-imperialist tensions. He would also presumably recognise that the imperialist powers are seeking to avoid an open conflict because of the threat of it spiralling out of control, including the possibility of nuclear annihilation for humanity. But the result is that we will have increasing inter-imperialist conflicts, which will mostly have a proxy character, but where Achcar doesn’t advise workers in the relevant countries to oppose their own imperialist state.

This analysis is wrong because it downplays a major feature of what is happening in the conflict – the mobilisation of Western imperialist power. The conclusions reached by those who support this analysis should cause others to rethink their position. 

NATO and ‘campism’

This analysis leads both Kostick and Achcar to a position of supporting NATO delivery of weapons to Ukraine. It leads to neutrality[43] or support for western sanctions targeting Russia.[44] In perhaps the most extreme example, it leads to an effective dropping of opposition to NATO in the here and now. Murray Smith argues:

“ …talking about the dissolution of NATO as an immediate objective, as part of the Western left still does, does not make sense. It is even irresponsible, because it would leave the countries of the East, but also the Scandinavian countries, defenceless. We must answer the question posed by the populations of these countries : if we are not part of NATO, who will defend us against Russia?”[45]

Some of those who downplay the inter-imperialist element to the conflict in Ukraine have taken to using the term “campism” to describe those who they disagree with. Clearly “campism” as a phenomenon (essentially a sort of enemy of my enemy is my friend position, which lines up with the camp opposing the imperialism where you are based) does exist – for example with those sections of the (overwhelmingly Stalinist) left who supported the brutal dictator Assad in Syria because he supposedly ‘opposed’ US imperialism. However, to describe those who recognise the dual character of the current conflict as “campist” is inaccurate.

It begs the question – are comments like Murray Smith’s not precisely “campist”? Except, they favour the camp of “their own” imperialist power – a much more comfortable position to be in than to be accused of being in the camp of the enemy.

Failure to expose the real motives of the Western powers now, or even worse, wrongly suggesting like Murray Smith, that NATO is a force to defend people in the West, undermines the left’s anti-militarist argument in the future. If we give succour to the idea that NATO can be a force for defending democracy and human rights, where will that leave us when its members engage in another blatantly imperialist anti-democratic intervention somewhere in the world? The question will be asked – if we accept that NATO is actually concerned with protecting democracy in Ukraine, then why not support joining NATO and expanding it further? 

What we say

What is the conclusion for this analysis? It means socialists must attempt to disentangle, to the degree possible, the legitimate resistance to Russian imperialist invasion, and the inter-imperialist conflict which we oppose.

It means supporting the right of Ukrainian people to resist. We don’t blame people in Ukraine for getting weaponry from wherever they can source it, but we do encourage them to operate on the basis of complete independence from NATO. If such genuinely independent forces existed, socialists could even fundraise to send them weapons. However, those of us living in the western camp, the dominant imperialist bloc in the world, cannot support NATO forces pouring weapons into Ukraine in the pursuit of an inter-imperialist conflict, risking an escalatory spiral that could lead to armageddon. We should support the Russian anti-war movement and demand the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine. 

A just peace would only be possible on the basis of the withdrawal of these occupation forces. Included in that should be recognition of the right of minorities within Ukraine to self-determine their own future. An essential condition for the fair exercise of that right in Crimea or the Donbas region for example would have to be the withdrawal of the invading army and the right of all refugees to return. 

In contrast to the calls for further militarisation, we should focus on demands which can assist the Ukrainian people. The demand for cancellation of Ukrainian debt,[46] coming from social movements within Ukraine, may yet gather momentum, as it becomes clear that reconstruction will be impossible with the mountain of illegitimate debt that arose because of the oligarchisation of Ukrainian society. This debt has grown even further as a result of war loans from the Western powers,[47] which have no intention of releasing Ukraine from debt bondage. In Ireland, we are demanding the shutting down of the shadow banking system in the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC), which is used by Russian oligarchs and indeed by oligarchs of all nationalities. 

However, it also means standing against the stream of pro-NATO and anti-Russian propaganda in the west. It means opposing the sending of NATO weapons into Ukraine, which are being sent to pursue the interests of US and western powers. Similarly, it means opposing the regime of sanctions on Russia, which are simply war by economic means, for which ordinary people pay the price.

A key strategic struggle in Ireland will be fighting against the growing drive for militarisation. There is little doubt that the final goal from the point of view of the Irish political and economic establishment is to fully join in European militarisation and then NATO. From their point of view, it is a goal which must be pursued step by step, by taking every cynical advantage from Putin’s vicious invasion to drive it. For the socialist left, an all-rounded understanding of what is happening in Ukraine arms us to effectively resist this militarisation drive. 


1. James Connolly, ‘Can Warfare be Civilised?’ (1915), (

2. For example, the statement issued by “The Emergency Anti-War International Conference against the NATO proxy war in Ukraine” initiated by the Christian Rakovsky socialist centre (

3. For example, the statement of the Fourth International of 1 March 2022, ‘No to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine! Support to the Ukrainian resistance! Solidarity with the Russian opposition to the war!’(

4. For example, the position agreed by the People Before Profit AGM in May 2022, (

5. This is not to imply that those who put forward the other analyses I argue with here are the equivalent of the German SPD voting for war credits in 1914! The only significant supposedly left force which meets that characterisation is the Communist Party of the Russian Federation which has clearly supported Russian imperialism in this conflict.

6. Lenin and Zinoviev, ‘Socialism and War’ (1915) (

7. Hal Draper, ‘War and Revolution: Lenin and the Myth of Revolutionary Defeatism’ (New International, 1953/1954) (

8. For example, when Lenin argued “We say that the Great Russians cannot “defend the fatherland” otherwise than by desiring the defeat of tsarism in any war, this as the lesser evil to nine-tenths of the inhabitants of Great Russia.” Lenin, ‘On the National Pride of Great Russians’ (1914) ( 

9. Trotsky, ‘The Program for Peace’ (1917) ( 

10. The account by a participant in the Trotskyist movement in Vietnam in this period is worth reading, Ngo Van, ‘Revolutionaries They Could Not Break: Fight for the Fourth International in Indo-China 1930-1945’ (Revolutionary History, 1995). A series of shorter articles by Simon Pirani from Workers Press in 1986 and 1987 is available here: 

11. Trotsky, ‘War and the Fourth International’ (1934) (; 

12. The traditional Trotskyist terms describing the Soviet Union (a workers’ state which had degenerated) and the other Stalinist states (workers’ states which were deformed from their inception).

13. Numerous accounts of this assistance are provided in ed. Ian Birchall, ‘European Revolutionaries and Algerian Independence 1954-1962’ (Revolutionary History, Merlin Press, 2012). A short explanation is available online in Ian Birchall, ‘During the Algerian War’ (Revolutionary History, 2004) ( 

14. Quotes are from Lenin, ‘The Collapse of the Second International’ (1915) (

15. Sam Bornstein and Al Richardson, Two Steps Back: Communists and the wider labour movement 1935-1945 (Merlin Press, 2007).

16. Trotsky, ‘War and the Fourth International’ (1934)

17. Trotsky, ‘Some Questions on American Problems’ (1940)( and the American SWP’s ‘Resolution on Proletarian Military Policy’ (1940) (

18. Lenin, ‘Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism’ (1917) (

19. For example, Stansfield Smith, ‘Is Russia Imperialist?’ (Monthly Review, 2019) (

20.Bukharin, ‘Imperialism and World Economy’ (1917) (

21. I recommend reading Anthony Brewer, Marxist Theories of Imperialism: A Critical Survey (Routledge, 1990)


23. ‘Russia-led alliance troops have arrived in Kazakhstan after mass protests’ (6 January, 2022) ( 

24. World Bank data (

25. For example, the legislation making Ukrainian the primary language, making it mandatory for public sector workers, the banning of the use of communist and Soviet symbols and the recognition of Stepan Bandera, a Nazi collaborator, as a national hero. See further for example ‘Ukraine bans Soviet symbols and criminalises sympathy for communism’ (The Guardian, 21 May 2015) (

26. The Wagner group of far-right mercenaries appears to be fully integrated into the Russian state. The Kremlin has also worked closely with neo-Nazi groups within Russia to attack Putin’s opponents, as well as funding far-right groups internationally.

27. “International Anti-Imperialist and Anti-War Declaration”“ initiated by the Christian Rakovsky socialist centre (

28. ‘Where We Stand on Ukraine: No to the U.S.-orchestrated fascist coup’ (Socialist Action, 11 April 2022) ( 


30. US Army Factsheet on Defender Europe 21 (


32. ‘$20 Billion More for the Pentagon to Arm Ukraine Gets First Approval in Congress’ (, 11 May 2022) (



35. Stephen R. Shalom, ‘Why the Left Must Support Arms for Ukraine!’ (New Politics, 20 April 2022) 



37. ‘French minister declares economic ‘war’ on Russia, and then beats a retreat’ (Reuters, 1 March 2022) (

38. ‘Ukraine war: US wants to see a weakened Russia’ (BBC, 25 April) ( 

39. ‘Nato’s eastern front: will the military build-up make Europe safer?’ (Financial Times, 4 May 2022) (

40. Liebknecht, ‘The Main Enemy Is At Home’ (May 1915) (

41. Conor Kostick, ‘Evasions on the Left over Ukraine’ (Independent Left, 26 April 2022) (

42.Gilbert Achcar, ‘Coherence and Incoherence about the War in Ukraine’ (New Politics, 4 April 2022)


43. In an article by Gilbert Achcar published on International Viewpoint, he argues “Our opposition to the Russian aggression combined with our mistrust of Western imperialist governments means that we should neither support the latter’s sanctions, nor demand that they be lifted.” ‘A memorandum on the radical anti-imperialist position regarding the war in Ukraine’ (

44. Conor Kostick supports sanctions “focused on stopping the Russian war machine”.

45. Murray Smith, ‘Four points on the war in Ukraine’ (Links, 29 April 2022) ( 

46. ‘Why should Ukraine’s debt be cancelled?’ (CADTM, 21 April 2022) ( 
47. ‘IMF Approves $1.4 Billion Loan for Ukraine’s War-Hit Economy’ (Bloomberg, 9 March 2022) (

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