Some Stalinist parties refuse to support Russian or EU imperialism in the current NATO-Russia conflict
By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 17 February 2022, www.thecommunists.net
We have emphasized repeatedly in the last weeks that the current NATO-Russia conflict is a key test for all political currents. Our tendency – the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) – did therefore outline in a number of documents the Marxist assessment of this conflict and the consequential revolutionary program. We characterize both camps – NATO as well as Russia – as imperialist and consider therefore the conflict between these powers, respectively between their proxies in the Ukraine, as thoroughly reactionary. Consequently, socialists oppose both sides in this conflict.  The RCIT therefore advocates a program of revolutionary defeatism, i.e. working towards the defeat of the respective governments and the transformation of this conflict into a revolutionary crisis at home. 
In contrast to such a Marxist approach, numerous Stalinist and Bolivarian parties take a social-imperialist position by either siding with Russia  or by advocating the position of strengthening EU imperialism.  Unfortunately, there exist a number of pseudo-Trotskyist groups which also side – openly or concealed – with Russian imperialism in the current conflict. 
Zyuganov’s KPRF (Russia): Western powers wage aggression against “our peoples and the Slavic brotherhood” since 200 years!
At this place we will not repeat our critique of such pro-Russian social-imperialism concealed as “internationalism” and “anti-imperialism”. We will limit ourselves to draw attention to a new – and particularly shameful – statement of Gennady Zyuganov, the long-time leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), the largest opposition in Russia. 
As we did show somewhere else, the KPRF is a social-chauvinist party which calls for the defense of the “fatherland” against its rivals. It also supported enthusiastically the deployment of Russian troops in Kazakhstan in order to smash the popular uprisings a early January.  In recent weeks the KPRF has initiated a parliamentary proposal to formally recognise the independence of the Donbass “Republics” which would effectively split the Ukraine and expand the Russian Empire. This proposal was supported by the lawmakers of the ruling, pro-Putin United Russia party and, consequently, adopted a few days ago. 
In his latest statement, Zyuganov repeated the social-imperialist position of his party and defended it with arguments which reveal once more the utter reactionary nature of this Stalinist party. Let us provide a few quotes. Following the logic of their proposal to recognise the independence of the Donbass “Republics”, the KPRF urges Putin to prepare for war against Ukraine. “All the signs are that an offensive operation against the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics is being prepared. (…) More than 600,000 people in the DNR and LNR have already taken Russian citizenship. Our country is directly responsible for their security. We cannot allow victimization of these people if Bandera thugs move in.”
Zyuganov praises Putin’s policy of standing up against “the West” and openly appeals to the tradition of Pan-Slavism. This arch-reactionary ideology has been rightly denounced by Marx and Engels as a “reactionary tendency” in the service of the Russian Empire. (“The direct aim of Pan-Slavism is the creation of a Slav state under Russian domination.”)  But Zyuganov, the “communist” leader, does not care about the teachings of the Marxist classics.
“Russia at long last is abandoning the harmful policy of kowtowing to the West. Those who want to understand what is really happening would do well to read Pushkin’s poem “To the Slanderers of Russia.” Already then, almost two hundred years ago, the goals of the Western powers with regard to our peoples and the Slavic brotherhood were clear. This means that today it is extremely important to exhibit strong will as was done in 2008 when we supported the peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and again when we supported the legitimate governments of Syria, Belarus and Kazakhstan. It is high time to show mettle in Donbass. We are surrounded by unfriendly states. It is impossible to retreat, there is nowhere to retreat. The West must become aware of Russia’s determination to defend its national interests and its friends.”
As we see, Zyuganov manages to summarize the reactionary essence of the KPRF’s policy in a single paragraph. He advocates the tradition of the Russian Empire which stands up against “the West” and against the “unfriendly states” which surround the “motherland”. He even appeals to the 200-year-old tradition of Pan-Slavism and the defense of the “Slavic brotherhood”! All this is mixed with support for counterrevolutionary military interventions against popular uprisings in “Syria, Belarus and Kazakhstan”.
The chairman of the KPRF leaves no doubt that his party shares Putin’s warmongering and that it is ready to support a war in defense of the “farherland”. “But some issues must be addressed immediately. We are prepared to support decisive measures of our authorities in defending the security of Russia and our fellow-citizens in the People’s Republics of Donbass. Beginning from 2014 we have constantly called for an official recognition of the DPR and LNR. (…) It is impossible to tolerate dangerous provocations any longer. Russia cannot allow the seizure of the cities and villages of the two people’s republics, we have no right to ignore the danger of a massacre of civilian population by frenzied followers of Bandera with NATO’s blessing. War-mongers should remember the centuries-old wisdom: ”he who raises his sword shall die by the sword.” The time has come to say a firm ”no” to any international adventures!“
However, it is worth noting that there exist also Stalinist parties which take a different – and much more progressive – position on the NATO-Russia conflict. The most important among these is the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), a sizeable party which constantly receives between 5-8% of the votes at elections. The KKE is a key force in the international Stalinist milieu since it has been the initiator of the so-called International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties (IMCWP). This is a loose alliance which holds annual conferences since 1998. The parties attending this conference adopt joint declarations. A number of these organizations publish a journal – the International Communist Review - and constitute a Working Group. While these structures exist on a very federalist and loose basis, they nevertheless manage sometimes to initiate joint statements on important world political events.
We did already point out somewhere else that the recent acceleration of the inter-imperialist rivalry between the Great Powers is deepening the division between the Stalinist parties. Many of these support China (“a socialist power”) and Russia (which some explicitly consider to be a “force of social progress” ). Others, particularly the ex-Stalinist parties associated in the so-called “Party of the European Left“ (LINKE (Germany), PCF (France), IU & PCE (Spain), SYRIZA (Greece), etc.), call for “peace” and advocate the strengthening of EU imperialism. 
However, the recent popular uprising in Kazakhstan revealed deep divisions within the Stalinist camp. While a number of parties – spearheaded by the KPRF – supported the military intervention of Russia, other parties defended the uprising and some explicitly opposed the intervention. 
The KKE has published a long article in which it explains its position in the current NATO-Russia conflict. The article has been written by Elisseos Vagenas, a member of the party’s Central Committee and the head of the International Relations Section of the leadership. In other words, it is a quasi-official declaration of the KKE. In contrast to the pro-Russian Stalinists, it defends an internationalist position which opposes both camps.  Let us give an overview about this interesting article.
For example, the author rejects the claims of many Stalinists that the so-called “Donbass Republics” would wage some kind of “anti-fascist struggle”. “In our country, some proponents of the pro-Russian narrative call upon us to wage an anti-fascist struggle against “fascist Kyiv”, overlooking the fact that not much time has passed since the President of Russia praised the Russian ideologist of fascism, philosopher Ivan Ilyin, whose works include “National Socialism. New Spirit”, “About Russian fascism”, “On fascism”, etc.”
As we did show in our recently published pamphlet (“Putin’s Poodles”), many Stalinist parties invoke “international law” and the “UN Charta” in order to justify their policy. In contrast to these, the KKE correctly argues that such law is a “bourgeois law” which reflects the relation of forces between the great Powers.
“Those waiting to find the truth within the current framework of International Law will be disappointed, as this situation is increasingly reminiscent of ancient oracles that each seer would interpret differently. Today, International Law is invoked by all sides since it is interpreted as they see fit. (…) At this point, we should clarify that International Law is part of bourgeois law. (…) After the overthrow of socialism (here the KKE means the collapse of the Stalinist USSR in 1991, Ed.), International Law has been exclusively formed as the result of the correlation of forces among capitalist states; it is becoming more reactionary and is utilized in competitions by imperialist powers as they see fit, at the expense of the people. In the case that a conflict breaks out in our era, the era of monopoly capitalism or otherwise imperialism, it is misleading to hold a debate on who started it or who observes International Law, which has become more reactionary and “flexible” so that it can be invoked by the imperialist powers.”
The KKE also points correctly to the basic truth that Marxists judge the character of a conflict by looking at the class interests involved. “The communists must clarify to the people the essence of this matter, i.e. the ground on which this war is being held, which is none other than the interests of the monopolies. The essence is to be found in the powers that are coming into conflict, their specific class content, and their interests, which are foreign to the peoples’ interests.”
KKE (Greece): “No side to choose in an imperialist conflict“
In the analysis of the cause of the NATO conflict they come much closer to the truth than all other Stalinist parties and even than some “Trotskyist” organizations. “The Russian bourgeoisie seeks to regain lost ground in the competition with Western monopolies and their imperialist alliances, NATO and the EU. The current global juncture is favourable since the next fight for supremacy in the international imperialist system is being prepared between the USA, which continues to be the greatest power in imperialism, and China, which is the 2nd greatest power in the modern capitalist world. (…) The Russian bourgeoisie is interested in consolidating its monopolies in the former USSR territory, in the power struggle over energy wealth, commodity transport routes, and market shares. The expansion of its market shares is related to the capitalist unification it promotes such as the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Belarus and Kazakhstan play a key role in these plans as well as Ukraine, where at least half of the population is Russian-speaking. However, those plans came into conflict with the plans of Western monopolies and imperialist unions that attempt to limit Russia, which they consider to be a competitive power in the framework of the global capitalist market. A characteristic example of this power struggle was Ukraine, which has relatively developed productive industrial capacities, raw material, significant agricultural land, and an extensive network of natural gas transmission pipelines.”
In the final chapter of this article, the KKE leader discusses the consequences of such an analysis for the party’s tactics. First, he points to the necessity to oppose any participation of Greece in the NATO aggression. “Under these circumstances, where there is a serious risk of the generalization of an imperialist war, the orientation of the workers’–people’s struggle in our country is of particular importance. The people must not place their trust in the government and the other bourgeois parties. They must strengthen their faith in the power of class struggle, of the conflict with the policy of involvement in military actions and the plans of the bourgeoisie to lure the workers into the trap of supporting Greece’s participation in the imperialist war, in the name of “obligations to our allies” in the framework of the EU and NATO or the need to defend the “sovereignty” of Ukraine, the UN Charter, or “democracy” against “authoritarian Putin”.”
At the same time, the KKE article emphasis, it would be utterly wrong to side with Russia under the pretext of “orthodox religion”, “anti-fascism” or that it would represent the “weaker” side. “In addition, the labour–popular movement must reject the dilemma of having to choose between one or the other side of an imperialist conflict, even if it is camouflaged with the religious doctrine of Orthodoxy or with “anti-fascism”, which in this case is nothing but a smokescreen. It is also irrational to support the “weakest” against the “strongest”. (Then follows a longer quote from Lenin supporting this statement, Ed.) In conditions of imperialism, which is the highest stage of capitalism, the communist and labour movement must chart an independent line, away from bourgeois–imperialist plans and based on the interests of the working class and the other popular strata, which have nothing to do with the interests of the bourgeois classes.”
As we already said, this is a highly interesting article. While the KKE does not go so far to characterize Russia explicitly as imperialist, it comes near to such a position. More importantly, it rejects taking side for either of the two reactionary camps.
Of course, we are fully aware of the political limitations of the KKE. Leaving aside that they do not recognize explicitly the imperialist character of Russia,  they are – as the quote above demonstrated – unreconstructed loyalist to the “socialist”, i.e. Stalinist, USSR. It would be also wrong to forget that they did not apply the same internationalist principles to their own country in the recent past. It is only a few years ago that the KKE made arch-reactionary statements against Turkey and Mazedonia full of Greek chauvinism. Its General Secretary, Dimitris Koutsoumbas, literally said at a public rally in Thessaloniki: “We communists will, as we have always done in our century-long history, stand in the front row defending our territorial integrity and our sovereign rights. We are doing this so that any foreign intruder who dares to attack Greece will be annihilated.” 
Nevertheless, it would be wrong to dismiss the recent interesting and progressive statements of the KKE which enables it to take an internationalist and anti-imperialist position in one of the key issues of the current world situation. This is even more the case as nearly all other Stalinist or ex-Stalinist parties have taken a social-imperialist position.
Will other Stalinist parties join the shift towards anti-imperialism?
It is not possible for us to judge at this juncture if the KKE’s step towards internationalism and anti-imperialism is an isolated phenomenon or if there exist other Stalinist parties which will enter a similar course. But there are a few indications showing that the second option is a realistic possibility.
As we did already point out in a past article on Kazakhstan, the Austrian sister party of the KKE – the Party of Labour (PdA) – did characterize China and Russia explicitly as “imperialist” in a recent statement. 
Since then, the Communist Party of Belgium (PCB) has issued a statement which also refused to take side in the NATO-Russia conflict. The PCB also emphasizes its opposition to all “imperialist centers - US, the EU and also Russia“. “The existing imperialist power centres organise competitiveness for their "own" monopolies. In these imperialist centres, the US, the EU and also Russia, the degree of exploitation of their "own" workers is increased.” 
Another remarkable development is the fact that the Russian Communist Workers' Party (RKRP) – a sizeable Stalinist party – also published a summary of the above-mentioned KKE article and linked to the full version on the website of the Greek sister party.
In summary, we see deep divisions within the Stalinist camp and a remarkable development of some parties moving towards internationalism and anti-imperialism. We repeat that one must not overlook the remaining fundamental problems of these parties resulting from their reformist method. However, at the same time, it would be absolutely sectarian to ignore such progressive steps of these parties which, in some countries, possess important roots among the working-class vanguard.
This development is also highly interesting because it reflects the objective process of acceleration of global contradictions between the classes as well as between the imperialist powers. Such developments push self-proclaimed organizations to take a clear position. Many reformist and centrist formations shift to the right and opportunistically adapt themselves to the policy of the ruling class. However, others become more open for Marxist ideas and shift to the left.
Naturally, we strongly welcome the fact that some Stalinist parties take a principled position in the current NATO-Russia conflict and oppose both imperialist camps. The question now is if these comrades are prepared to make the next step. In our opinion, it is essential that these comrades fully assimilate the Marxists analysis of the inter-imperialist rivalry between the Great Powers (U.S., China, EU, Russia and Japan).  It is even more important that they adopt the program of revolutionary defeatism against all Great Powers. 
It is the task of authentic revolutionaries to support such a process of political clarification as much as possible. The RCIT welcomes any serious discussion with such comrades as well as joint internationalist work against all imperialist Great Powers!
 See on this e.g. a joint platform on the NATO-Russia conflict which has been jointly elaborated by activists in Russia and the Ukraine and which the RCIT fully endorses. It can be read in Russian, Ukrainian and English language here: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/platform-of-socialists-in-russia-ukraine-on-nato-russia-conflict/
 We refer readers to a special page on our website where all RCIT documents on the current NATO-Russia conflict are compiled: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/compilation-of-documents-on-nato-russia-conflict/; our two key statements are: Neither NATO nor Russia! Down with all Imperialist Warmongers! No support for either imperialist camp or its proxies in the Ukraine and Donbass! Unite the workers and oppressed for an independent struggle for liberation! 25 January 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/neither-nato-nor-russia-down-with-all-imperialist-warmongers/; The Current NATO-Russia Conflict and the Anti-Imperialist Tasks of Revolutionaries. Down with all Great Powers and their proxies! For an independent and socialist Ukraine! 29 January 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/the-current-nato-russia-conflict-and-the-anti-imperialist-tasks-of-revolutionaries/. Most of our documents have been translated in several languages.
 See on this e.g. the pamphlet by Michael Pröbsting: Putin’s Poodles (Apologies to All Dogs). The pro-Russian Stalinist parties and their arguments in the current NATO-Russia Conflict, 9 February 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/nato-russia-conflict-stalinism-as-putin-s-poodles/
 See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: NATO-Russia Conflict: The “Party of the European Left” as Government Adviser for EU Imperialism. Ex-Stalinist LINKE (Germany), PCF (France), IU & PCE (Spain), SYRIZA (Greece) etc. urge governments that “Europe must develop an independent geopolitical attitude”, 30 January 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/nato-russia-conflict-the-party-of-the-european-left-as-government-adviser-for-eu-imperialism/
 See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: NATO-Russia Conflict: “Trotskyists” in the Camp of Russian Imperialism. The Argentinean “Partido Obrero” calls for “national emancipation and integrity” of the Eastern Great Powers, 26 January 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/nato-russia-conflict-trotskyists-in-the-camp-of-russian-imperialism/; by the same author: NATO-Russia Conflict: The Anglo-Saxon ‘Marxist’ Tendency. On the IMT’s confusion about the role of Russian imperialism, 31 January 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/nato-russia-conflict-the-anglo-saxon-marxist-tendency/
 Г.А. Зюганов: Признание ДНР и ЛНР должно стать твёрдым ответом России на провокации США! Специальное заявление. Пресс-служба ЦК КПРФ, 14.2.2022, https://kprf.ru/party-live/cknews/208562.html; in English: Gennady Zyuganov: "Recognition of the DPR and LPR must be Russia’s firm answer to US provocations, 14.2.2022 http://www.solidnet.org/article/CPRF-Statement-about-the-recognition-of-the-DPR-and-LPR/
 See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: The Popular Uprising in Kazakhstan and Putin’s Patriotic “Communists”. The Stalinist KPRF of Gennady Zyuganov supports the bloody crackdown of the protests and the imperialist intervention of Russian troops, 8 January 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/kazakhstan-and-putin-s-patriotic-communists/. The RCIT documents on the popular uprising in Kazakhstan are all compiled at a special page on our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/compilation-of-articles-on-the-popular-uprising-in-kazakhstan/.
 See on this e.g. Felix Light: Russian Parliament Backs Plan to Recognize Breakaway Ukrainian Regions, Moscow Times, February 15, 2022, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/02/15/russian-parliament-backs-plan-to-recognize-breakaway-ukrainian-regions-a76381; Layla Guest: Russian parliament urges Putin to recognize Donbass, Russia Today, February 15, 2022, https://www.rt.com/russia/549425-state-duma-backed-donbass-independency/
 Friedrich Engels: The Magyar Struggle (1849), in: MECW Vol. 8, p. 233
 See on this chapter 8 in the above-mentioned pamphlet “Putin’s Poodles”.
 We have dealt with the position of Stalinism on the inter-imperialist Great Power rivalry on several occasions. Our latest pamphlet is by Michael Pröbsting: Servants of Two Masters. Stalinism and the New Cold War between Imperialist Great Powers in East and West, 10 July 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/servants-of-two-masters-stalinism-and-new-cold-war/
 Michael Pröbsting: Kazakh Uprising and Stalinism: Marital Row or Serious Divisions? The revolutionary events in Kazakhstan and Russia’s military intervention provoke deep divisions between various Communist Parties, 12 January 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/kazakh-uprising-and-stalinism-marital-row-or-serious-divisions/
 Elisseos Vagenas: On the escalation between Euro-Atlantic powers and Russia, Published in Rizospastis, the KKE’s daily paper, on 02.12.2021, http://www.solidnet.org/article/CP-of-Greece-On-the-escalation-between-Euro-Atlantic-powers-and-Russia/
 The RCIT has published numerous documents about capitalism in Russia and its rise to an imperialist power. See on this e.g. several pamphlets by Michael Pröbsting: The Peculiar Features of Russian Imperialism. A Study of Russia’s Monopolies, Capital Export and Super-Exploitation in the Light of Marxist Theory, 10 August 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-peculiar-features-of-russian-imperialism/; by the same author: Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism. Another Reply to Our Critics Who Deny Russia’s Imperialist Character, August 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialism-theory-and-russia/; Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 21, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-russia/; Russian Imperialism and Its Monopolies, in: New Politics Vol. XVIII No. 4, Whole Number 72, Winter 2022, https://newpol.org/issue_post/russian-imperialism-and-its-monopolies/. See various other RCIT documents on this issue at a special sub-page on the RCIT’s website: https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-russia-as-imperialist-powers/.
 See on this for the respective quotes and sources: Michael Pröbsting: Stalinist Chauvinism: The Example of the Greek KKE. Is “Defending the Sovereign Rights of Greece” against Turkey and Macedonia Legitimate? Marxist Internationalism versus Bourgeois Social-Chauvinism, 12 November 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-greek-kke-and-stalinist-chauvinism/
 See the above-mentioned article Kazakh Uprising and Stalinism: Marital Row or Serious Divisions?
 PCB: No to the war in Ukraine, no to imperialist wars! Fight for peace and our contemporary needs! Let's fight for socialism! 7.2.2022, http://www.solidnet.org/article/CP-of-Belgium-No-to-the-war-in-Ukraine-no-to-imperialist-wars-Fight-for-peace-and-our-contemporary-needs-Lets-fight-for-socialism/
 The RCIT has dealt on numerous occasions with the inter-imperialist rivalry of the Great Powers. See e.g. the RCIT document: World Perspectives 2021-22: Entering a Pre-Revolutionary Global Situation, 22 August 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2021-22/; see also: RCIT: The Coming Inter-Imperialist War on Taiwan, 10 October 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/the-coming-inter-imperialist-war-on-taiwan/; The Meaning of the AUKUS Pact. The U.S. escalates the inter-imperialist Cold War against China and provokes the EU, 18 September 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/the-meaning-of-the-aukus-pact/; Russia Fires Warning Shots against UK Warship in the Black Sea. Down with Cold Warmongering! No support for any imperialist Great Power – neither UK, US nor Russia! 24 June 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/russia-fires-warning-shots-against-uk-warship-in-black-sea/; see also the following book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/anti-imperialism-in-the-age-of-great-power-rivalry/; see also these two pamphlets by the same author: “A Really Good Quarrel”. US-China Alaska Meeting: The Inter-Imperialist Cold War Continues, 23 March 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/us-china-alaska-meeting-shows-continuation-of-inter-imperialist-cold-war/; Servants of Two Masters. Stalinism and the New Cold War between Imperialist Great Powers in East and West, 10 July 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/servants-of-two-masters-stalinism-and-new-cold-war/; for more works on this issue see these sub-pages: https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-russia-as-imperialist-powers/ and https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/collection-of-articles-on-the-global-trade-war/.
 See e.g. RCIT: Theses on Revolutionary Defeatism in Imperialist States, 8 September 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/theses-on-revolutionary-defeatism-in-imperialist-states/