War as a conflict of interest. The attitude of selected radical left movements towards the war in Ukraine

The subject of the article is an analysis of the attitude of selected radical left movements in the world towards the war in Ukraine. The aim of the article is to identify and systematize the attitudes of the radical left organizations to the war in Ukraine. The author assumed that these attitudes were different, and their differentiation was a consequence of ideological differences, as well as the political context and narrative environment in which these organizations operated. The methods used to verify the hypothesis were a critical analysis of source texts and an aspect analysis.


The war in Ukraine since 2022, preceded by Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, has caused changes in the perception of the international order as it was before. Although the Western part of the international community condemned the Russian aggression, among the international political movements that responded to the war, there were also those whose position was not clear-cut and differed from the dominant assessments of the war by their ideological motivations and their interpretation of key contemporary political values and economic interests. One of these was the communist movement formed by adherents of Marxism-Leninism, Trotskyism and Maoism. The Trotskyist current consisted of a multiplicity of minor movements representing diverse and sometimes opposing interpretations of Lev Trotsky’s thought and the political and economic processes taking place in the modern world. The Maoist current, on the other hand, did not create permanent international organisational structures.

The aim of this article is to identify and systematise the positions of the organisations forming movements of the radical communist left to the war in Ukraine. The author selected for analysis those currents of the international communist left to which organisations active in Poland were affiliated (with the exception of the Maoist current). He assumed that these positions were not uniform. Apart from the fact that the sources of the different assessments of the war made by the radical left lay [among other things](http://m.in/). in the historical divisions within communist movements and the associated multiplicity of analyses of the political and economic reality of the contemporary world, their differentiation was a consequence of the ideological differences forming the basis of their political thought, as well as the political context and narrative environment in which these organisations operated. The method used to verify the hypothesis was a critical analysis of qualitative source texts. The author also used an aspectual analysis, drawing on interpretivist theory. This is because communist thought, including the position of movements referring to it in relation to the war in Ukraine, was an attempt to create an alternative to the dominant narrative about the world. It was based on different interpretative premises of the processes taking place in the contemporary world, including political values different from the dominant ones and other ways of perceiving the economic interests of contemporary states, interpreted in terms of a class vision of social relations.

Marxism-Leninism as represented by the Initiative of the Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe

Initiative of Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe (full name: Initiative of Communist and Workers’ Parties in order to study and elaborate European issues and to coordinate their activity, CWPE) was initiated in 2013 in Brussels by European communist parties of Marxist-Leninist provenance. The structure was initiated by 29 parties. In 2022, it was formed by 30 European organisations [1].

In a statement published on 26 February 2022, i.e. 2 days after the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the representatives of the Initiative called the aggression ’unacceptable’, but accused the United States, NATO and the European Union of provoking it at the same time. They described the conflict as ’imperialist’ and allegedly caused by competition between the capitalist bloc of Western states and capitalist Russia for economic market shares, energy transport routes and spheres of influence. The Initiative therefore called for the refusal to support both the Western governments favouring Ukraine, the ’reactionary government’ in Kiev and the Russian bourgeoisie [2].

In a statement issued on the eve of Labour Day 2022, the Communists analysed that the cause of the war was the imperialist nature of capitalism and the Russian bourgeoisie fighting for its interests against the bourgeoisie of the Western countries, ’thrusting its tentacles far into Europe and Asia’. They saw the genesis of the war in the counter-revolution of the early 1900s, which resulted in the collapse of the socialist systems that had hitherto ensured the peaceful coexistence of different peoples and laid the foundations for the ’eradication of exploitation and nationalism’. In the newspeak characteristic of the Marxist-Leninist movement, they judged that fascism and nationalism were born out of capitalism, and that the workers were its victims [3].

On the anniversary of the end of the Second World War, significantly celebrated on 9 May, the Initiative issued another statement reiterating its earlier subjective diagnoses. For it, the Second World War, like the First World War and the war in Ukraine, was the result of imperialist contradictions and competition to re-divide markets and spheres of influence. She saw socialism as a system that guaranteed peace in Ukraine along the lines of the Soviet period [4].

The Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe initiative was co-founded by two Russian organisations. The first was the Russian Communist Workers’ Party (Российская коммунистическая рабочая партия). It was formed in 2001 [5]. Initially it functioned as a political party and later as a non-party organisation, also under changing names.

The content conveyed by the propaganda organs of this organisation was in line with the Kremlin’s narrative. Examples include claims about the liberation of the Donbass or Ukrainian preparations for war. In one publication, meanwhile, the communists analysed that fascism existed in Ukraine. They also vividly depicted the crimes that were to take place in the period leading up to the ’liberation’ of Donbass. Their description depicted the brutality of the enemy and its drastic nature could only evoke negative emotions. The Ukrainian army was accused of destroying and shelling towns and villages, and statements about the Donbass population welcoming the liberators were not isolated [6]. Another publication quoted a statement by Aleksandr Khodakovsky, one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, who argued that the optimal task of the separatists should be the ’denazification and demilitarisation of Ukraine’, followed by control over the process of its reconstruction. In his speech, he opined of a ’peaceful Ukraine’, where ’all languages and nationalities will be given equal rights’, where ’every ethnic group will be able to cultivate its national characteristics’, where ’there will be no torchlight demonstrations’ (associated with fascism), where street name plates will feature Konev or Zhukov instead of Bandera [7]. This is one example of constructing an image of Ukraine from the perspective of a narrative that fits in with Russian propaganda. Nevertheless, the Russian Communist Workers’ Party supported the ’special military operation’ insofar as it fitted in with its strategic ideological goals, which included both a change of government in Ukraine to a pro-Russian one and anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism. An example supporting this thesis is its publication of a statement by Marxists from the Communist Revolutionary Party of France (Parti Communiste Révolutionnaire de France). They accused NATO of warmongering and the European Union of militarisation, but at the same time called for a fight against all imperialisms [8]. Russian imperialism was legitimate to them insofar as it pursued anti-capitalist and anti-Nazi goals, and this is how Ukraine was portrayed in the Russian media. The propaganda of the Russian Communist Workers’ Party therefore differs from the narrative of the Communist and Workers’ Party Initiative of Europe in blaming both imperialisms (Western and Russian) for the war by the latter organisation and explaining Russian imperialism by Russian communists. Regardless, the supremacy of the nationalist or Eurasian element over the internationalism inherent in communism was discernible in their thought. This, as well as the attitude of the party elite towards the war, became the cause of internal disputes within the organisation and splits.

The second Russian organisation forming the Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe Initiative was the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Коммунистическая Партия Советского Союза). It was formed in 2001 against the backdrop of conflicts between the communist Oleg Shenin and the communists of Gennady Zyuganov [9]. It was one of many organisations operating under this name. It was later active in Belarus.

The organisation stipulated in its programme that it was a party of the Marxist-Leninist type, a party of communist Bolsheviks. It set itself the task of being the revolutionary, militant vanguard of the working class, the working peasantry and the people’s intelligentsia, fighting for the restoration of Soviet power as an organised form of the dictatorship of the proletariat [10].

A document that illustrates this organisation’s position towards the war in Ukraine is the Joint Statement of the Communist and Workers’ Parties drafted with the Communists of Donbass and Ukraine. It is dominated by accusations against the Ukrainian army of carrying out inhumane attacks. According to the communists, Ukrainian soldiers were deployed in residential houses, while Russians were accused of shelling residential neighbourhoods. There were also cases of the Ukrainian Armed Forces shelling their own territories in order to accuse the enemy of these crimes. Representatives of the Ukrainian Armed Forces would be alleged to have planned acts of sabotage at high-risk industrial facilities, from gas and chemical processing plants to nuclear power plants, in order to cause large-scale disasters with a high number of casualties, with the aim of blaming the enemy. Ukrainian nationalists, who were alleged to have used Nazi symbols, were also accused of specific war atrocities. The Ukrainian government, described as a ’Nazi regime’, was accused of using foreign mercenaries, mainly from Poland, Romania, Britain, Canada, Georgia and the United States. According to the Communists, Ukraine was also planning to supply itself with nuclear weapons, which justified statements by representatives of Russian decision-making centres about the need for a future nuclear retaliatory strike against decision-making centres in Ukraine. The Communists also analysed that both Russia and NATO were considering partitioning Ukraine. In Poland, some quarters would be thinking of partitioning western Ukraine, in Russia some would want the return of its historic lands, and in the European Union some politicians would be raising the need to separate the Kaliningrad Oblast from the Russian Federation. Significantly, however, communists noted that on both warring sides (Russia with its allies and Ukraine with NATO) there was a perceptible increase in anti-communist tendencies. Since anti-communism is a feature of fascism, the communists warned against the development of fascism in both political camps. They concluded, therefore, that the war was of an inter-imperialist nature, caused by the competition of the major imperialist forces led by the United States for world domination and the desire to suppress the growing forces of Russian imperialism, supported by Belarus, partly China and other allies. However, the war serving the people of the Donbass republics for the communists had a just and liberating character. For Russia, although the war had an imperialist character, it was largely defensive in nature, protecting it from a possible threat from NATO - which is what the communists used to explain Russia’s de facto attack on Ukraine. However, the Russian state was defending the interests of its ruling class and bourgeoisie. The Communists also assessed that there were openly fascist forces operating in Ukraine, which were initiated and supported by the West, which was in fact already waging a war with Ukrainian hands against Russia. NATO countries, led by the United States, were supposed to be pursuing a fascist foreign policy. The statement said that the communists of Russia, Ukraine, Donbass, Belarus and their allies should support efforts to suppress fascism and liberate Donbass and Ukraine from it, but at the same time they should explain the guilt of both Russian and Ukrainian capitalism, as well as the role of the counter-revolution that took place in the Soviet Union, in the development of the events under review. According to their programme, only socialism guarantees the destruction of fascism and the creation of a world without wars [11].

From an analysis of the journalistic and propaganda texts, as well as the programmes of the two communist organisations mentioned above, which co-founded the Initiative of Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe, it can be concluded that they regarded contemporary Russian imperialism as an instrument for the restoration of the Russian state within borders similar to the Soviet Union, and the subsequent restoration of the USSR as a socialist state, and indeed a state of Communist Party dictatorship. Although they shared the Initiative’s programmatic anti-imperialism, they did not deny the instrumental role of Russian imperialism serving the restoration of socialism.

The name of the Ukrainian Communist organisation, the Labour Front of Ukraine (Рабочий Фронт Украины), also appeared under the analysed statement published by the Russian Communists. However, the Initiative of Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe was co-founded by another organisation, the Union of Communists of Ukraine (Союз комуністів України), active mainly, but not exclusively, in the eastern part of the state, aiming at the restoration of the Soviet Union. As in other cases, the national character of the party’s membership was of secondary importance.

The Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe initiative was also co-founded by the Communist Party of Poland. However, after the Prosecutor General applied to the Constitutional Court in 2020 to declare the aims and activities of the KPP [12] unconstitutional, the party curtailed its publication activity. However, from the previously published texts and documents still issued until 2021, it can be concluded that it denied the existence of NATO, describing the North Atlantic Pact as imperialist [13], negatively assessed the European Union [14] and the policies of the United States, and critically analysed the political transformations in the world after 1989 [15]. This fits in with the Initiative’s programmatic anti-imperialism and the message of its statements.

Shortly after the fall of Viktor Yanukovych’s government in February 2014 and during the illegal annexation of Crimea, the Polish Communists published their party’s position condemning the ’interference of the Polish authorities in Ukraine’s internal affairs’ and the ’support given to the perpetrators of the coup’. In the Marxists’ view, a capitalist game for political and economic influence was being played in Ukraine. Oppositionists were accused of preparing the coup and of being funded by European and American foundations and NGOs. They were accused of inciting riots and directing protests towards chauvinist and nationalist causes. According to the party, however, the people of Crimea had the right to decide their future. The party also spoke out against Russophobia, and described the Polish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister as puppets of big capital. The Communists supported the protests taking place in eastern and southern Ukraine against the oligarchs and the right-wing authorities emerging from the events, which they described as a coup [16].

Trotskyism as represented by the International Socialist Alternative

The International Socialist Alternative (ISA) was formed in 2020 from the transformation of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) and following splits in the Trotskyist movement. It was formed by Trotskyist parties and other Trotskyist organisations from more than 30 countries [17].

The international defined its position on the war in Ukraine in a statement in April 2022. According to the representatives of its international committee, the war in Ukraine has become evidence that the world has entered a new era in international relations. Its key feature was said to be growing imperialist militarism, accompanied by the development of nationalism and the division of the world into two opposing imperialist camps. Imperialist states are increasing the resources of their arsenals, while humanity is facing an existential climate crisis, war is another environmental catastrophe, and this crisis is taking place during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused the deaths of millions of people worldwide [18].

The Trotskyists of the International Socialist Alternative stressed their opposition to the invasion of Ukraine by Russian imperialism, preceded by a speech by Vladimir Putin in which he blamed the Bolsheviks for the existence of Ukraine and denied the historical reality of the Ukrainian people. According to them, Putin’s reactionary invasion caused a humanitarian catastrophe. They supported the struggle of the Ukrainian people against the Russian military occupation, but opposed the regime of Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which, as they put it, is ’clearly not fascist’ but is ’reactionary’. Indeed, both Putin and Zelenski were said to be collaborating with the extreme right in their own countries and internationally. According to the Trotskyists, Putin supported and even financed far-right and fascist parties in Europe, including Golden Dawn in Greece and the National Front in France, while Zelenski was said to have leaned on the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion [19].

The Trotskyists also opposed the programme of American and more broadly Western imperialism, which, in their view, sought to encircle Russia through NATO and helped to create the conditions for war. Analysing possible war scenarios, they concluded that the possibility of conflict between NATO and Russia had become greater than at any point during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. They identified dangerous periods during the Soviet Union’s existence, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, but in their view, despite the horrors of the regime, the Soviet Union was not an imperialist state. The Trotskyists also analysed possible developments in the context of China’s policy and its involvement in Taiwan, as well as the desperation of the Russian president to cause further military escalation. However, they expected that, in the long term, the war in Ukraine, which was defined as part of an inter-imperialist conflict, would exacerbate class contradictions, expose the ’gangsterism of the capitalists’ and mobilise the masses bearing the costs of the war to fight against the Russian army, but also the regime of the Ukrainian president and Ukrainian far-right groups and militias. According to them, only working class solidarity can prevent the proliferation of war that threatens humanity. The Trotskyists stressed that only through the seizure of power by the workers internationally would war, conflict and environmental destruction be avoided [20].

Polish Trotskyists from the Socialist Alternative, part of the International Socialist Alternative, published a translation of the analysed position [21]. While identifying with it, they also called for solidarity with Russian anti-war activists. Their propaganda, however, exaggerated the strength and importance of opponents of the war and the regime in Russia [22].

The Socialist Alternative International was also co-founded by a Russian organisation, Socialist Alternative (Социалистическая альтернатива). It shared the aims of the International, and in its programme proclaimed that “the development of the contradictions inherent in the capitalist mode of production, the gigantic social inequality, the precariousness of existence, unemployment or the threat thereof to the working masses, make people realise that it is possible to break the vicious circle of wars, crises, exploitation and violence only through social revolution” [23].

In a publication dated the day of Russian aggression against Ukraine, Russian Trotskyists analysed that Vladimir Putin’s intention was to restore Russia’s status as a great world power, lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In their view, wars are part of international relations, with imperialist powers fighting over resources and economic markets. Putin started the war because he managed to accumulate huge currency reserves, got closer with China, made Europe dependent on Russian gas, suppressed domestic opposition and intimidated impoverished Russians with repression. By attacking Ukraine, Russian imperialism began to transform the geopolitics of Eastern Europe, which had become a zone of interest for Western imperialism. It planned not only to destroy the Ukrainian people, but also to intimidate the Eastern European countries that are members of NATO. According to Socialist Alternative, such a military policy threatened to draw more countries into the conflict and turn the local war into a full-scale war between the various imperialist powers, something Europe had not experienced since the end of the Second World War [24].

Grassroots socialism - thought represented by the International Socialist Tendency

The International Socialist Tendency (IST) is a current based on the thought of the precursors and protagonists of Marxism, and contemporary with Tony Cliff’s (Yigael Gluckstein) interpretations of Trotskyism. This current, although not an international organisational structure but a network of 30 groups from different parts of the world, had been taking shape since the late 1970s [25].

Even before the Russian aggression, the socialists assessed that the crisis in Ukraine had brought Europe closer to war. For both political and economic blocs - the US and Russia - Ukraine was to be just a ’pawn in the game’. According to them, the concentration of troops on the border with Ukraine was justified by the Russian president by appealing to a bigoted nationalist mythology about Russia’s historical ties with Ukraine, and partly by repeating his long-standing resentment of the US policy of expanding NATO and the European Union to the East. For the socialists, however, it was true that the expansion of NATO and the European Union had been driven by the administrations of successive American presidents to extend the power of Western imperialism into the Eurasian area. However, in their view, Putin too was no friend of the international working class. He presided over a repressive neo-liberal regime, appealed to Greater Russian nationalism and participated in successive wars. It was, however, the US that caused the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine [26].

The Socialists formulated their position on the war in Ukraine in a document dated March 2022. According to them, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was an act of imperialist aggression and a violation of the Ukrainian people’s right to self-determination. For the imperialist powers led by the United States and organised through NATO, it was to be a proxy war against Russia, part of an inter-imperialist conflict between the United States and Russia with its allies. The Socialists spoke out against both imperial powers. They warned that such a war could escalate into a nuclear war, and that the responsibility for such a prospect lay with the two imperialist antagonists - the United States and its allies, extending their influence eastwards towards Russia’s borders in order to consolidate their dominance in western Eurasia, and Russia and its allies, seeking to stop this process through war [27].

They called for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, the withdrawal of Nato forces from Central and Eastern Europe, the cessation of arms deliveries to Ukraine, and an end to sanctions against Russia. [28] The set of these de-siderations is in line with the demands of other international organisations of the communist left. Their formulation and publicisation stemmed from ideological premises assuming peaceful coexistence of nations in a socialist world. At the same time, however, Trotskyists formulate them with the conviction that they are unattainable in the capitalist world. From the perspective of the narrative dominant in the Western world, these demands, particularly for the abolition of sanctions, could be judged naive, shticky or infantile, although they could also find understanding among Western communities with pacifist predilections, or those among whom economic values dominated human rights and intangibles. According to grassroots socialists, relying on economic pressure ’ostensibly to bring Russia to its knees peacefully’ is likely to lead to disaster, with sanctions and embargoes merely a preliminary stage in the escalation of war. This one will result in a huge economic price, not only for the people of Ukraine and Russia: energy and food prices will rise, inflation will increase, migration will intensify and the number of refugees will increase. An environmental catastrophe has also become a consequence of the war [29].

The International Socialist Tendency strand was also represented by the Russian Socialist Tendency (Социалистическая тенденция). However, in June 2022, it asked the International Socialist Tendency not to be considered part of the network. This request was dictated by a difference in the assessment of the war in Ukraine and the concept of aid to Ukraine. The Russian Socialists believed that the Ukrainian people should receive international support and that arms supplies from Western countries could not be condemned. In a statement, Socialist Tendency said: “If we want a well-equipped and numerous Russian army to prevail, allowing Russian imperialism and Putin’s dictatorship to enslave Ukraine, deprive it of any independence at all and subjugate the Ukrainian people to Russian culture, then we must oppose the arms supplies. If we want the oppressed Ukrainian side to be able to afford to negotiate with Russia not as a ’surrender’, but at least on equal terms, so that the Ukrainian people have the opportunity to defend themselves and their country against the aspirations of the imperialist predator, so that the Russian beast does not destroy Ukrainian towns and villages, civilian populations and infrastructure, then we will be forced to turn a blind eye one way or another to arms supplies from NATO countries. At the same time, we oppose any direct and active intervention by the United States and its allies in the conflict, just as we oppose the reactionary Zelenski government. (...) We believe that the national liberation side of the armed conflict continues to dominate it, and therefore we consider Ukraine to be a country with its own political interests and subjectivity. We are against pacifism and indifference in this matter. If the complete liberation of Ukraine and its occupied territories requires a further aggravation of the conflict between it and Russia, we will support this war of liberation of an oppressed people, if the Ukrainians themselves so desire” [30].

In turn, Polish Workers’ Democracy, which is part of the network, shared the position of its international bodies. In its view, Russia’s attack on Ukraine was not a ’clash of civilisation and barbarism’, the ’free world’ of the West and eastern despotism, which would be identical to the narrative dominating the Western world. Indeed, the war in Ukraine arose from the nature of imperialism as a system of competition between capitalist powers. According to the Workers’ Democracy columnist, the imperialism of Western states cannot be a justification for Russia’s invasion, but this does not mean that the powers of the Western world, which sought to consolidate their own influence and military presence in the region, were not part of the escalation leading to war. NATO’s expansion to the East may have become Putin’s obsession, but it was not his invention. Both Russia and the Western states were an active part of it, fighting for years in Ukraine for gains and power. Unlike the Russian activists of Socialist Tendency, Polish Workers’ Democracy recognised that the answer to Russia’s invasion could not be to support the bloc of Western powers, but a movement of resistance based on international workers’ solidarity and fighting militarism in each of the rival powers [31].

The divergences that emerged in diagnoses, assessments and concepts for resolving the crisis in Ukraine had the effect of weakening the atomised movement of the radical left. The Trotskyist movement, or more broadly the radical left movement, was characterised by permanent splits caused either by different assessments of current political events, or by the ambitions of their leaders and divergent interpretations of the thought of the precursors of communism. It is worth pointing out, however, that the condemnation of Western countries’ policies towards Ukraine, even while condemning Russian imperialism by international organisations and networks of the communist left, can be exploited by the regime and Russian propaganda and can have a far-reaching effect on undermining the narrative of war dominant in the Western world. On the other hand, however, splits in the international structures of the Communist Left movement may introduce chaos into the perception of its message and weaken its effect.

The Spartacus current - the thought represented by the International Communist League - Fourth International

“Spartacists” is the current of the revolutionary left represented by the International Communist League - Fourth Internationalist (ICL-FI). It is a tendency within Trotskyism which took shape under this name in 1989. In 2022, it was formed by 11 organisations with a political centre in the United States [32]. This tendency distinguished itself by defending contemporary ’deformed workers’ states’, such as China, Cuba and North Korea, against ’internal counter-revolutions and imperialist aggressions’ [33], which may raise doubts about its positioning in Trotskyist thought.

In a February 2022 statement by the International Communist League, published by the International Executive Committee of the League located in the United States, the Spartacists considered that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was provoked by the decades-long eastward expansion of NATO and the US-led European Union. In their view, Russia thus challenged the exclusive rights to Western hegemony in Eastern Europe. They recognised that the war was a conflict over spheres of influence between imperialist blocs, and that the Ukrainian government was fighting not for the liberation of Ukraine, but was a puppet of the NATO and EU imperialist powers to which it had been linked since, as they put it, the 2014 coup. That is why the Spartakists supported the ’liberation’ of Donetsk and Luhansk, and advocated the mobilisation of Ukrainian workers to oppose sanctions and military aid to Ukraine. They advocated ’turning’ this war - a war between two capitalist classes - into a civil war in which the workers would overthrow both capitalist classes [34].

Back in 2014, the Spartakists recognised that Crimea was Russian. According to them, almost all those who voted in the referendum on Crimea’s secession from Ukraine favoured such a solution and Crimea’s annexation to Russia. However, the will of the Crimean population was not to be reckoned with by the ’Western imperialists’. The Russian intervention in Crimea was, in their explanation, a response to the overthrow of the government in Kiev, where the corrupt pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown by a right-wing putsch headed by fascists and backed by the United States and the European Union. Therefore, the Russian military, with the help of local ’self-defence’ forces, overran the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. According to the Spartacists, the people of Crimea had the right to self-determination, including deciding whether the country should become independent or be incorporated into Russia. They therefore supported Russian intervention in Crimea, and regarded the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine as an ’administrative error’ of Nikita Khrushchev’s government, made in defiance of history, as well as of the national composition and languages spoken there [35].

Spartacus activists already opposed the sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014-2015 and called for the right to self-determination of the people in Donetsk and Luhansk. They stated: “This position is an expression of our support for the democratic right to national self-determination, i.e. the right of peoples to unite or separate. As the Bolshevik leader Lenin emphasised, the recognition of the right to self-determination is essential to combat national antagonisms and to create conditions where working people from different nations can see with their own eyes that their real enemy is the capitalists currently exploiting them, that working people are not enemies of each other.” [36]

The specific narrative of the Spartacists stemmed from an interpretation of Marxist-Leninist thought, in its radical dimension. It eschewed questions of manipulation and forms of violence used in decision-making, as well as questions of international law. These were supposed to be the result of the imposition of narrative patterns by the possessing class on Western societies, as well as laws made in their interests. The radical interpretation of Leninism also provided the basis for the International Communist League, to defend the Soviet Union against ’capitalist counter-revolution’. Although it was criticised for the rule of the ’Stalinist bureaucracy’, it was defended by them for the social gains of the October Revolution of 1917, led by the Bolsheviks of Vladimir Lenin [37].

The above assessments were shared by the Spartacus Group of Poland, which existed between 1990 and 2001 and whose attempted reactivation took place in 2007. Spartacus organisations, however, were not established in Russia and Ukraine, but their publications were also published in Russian.

The current of Pozachinsky Maoism

Pozachinsky Maoism was not represented by an international organisation during the period under analysis. Although the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) existed between 1984 and 2007, attempts to reactivate it failed. [38] However, the Maoist position towards the war in Ukraine can be reconstructed on the basis of an analysis of the documents of national groupings. It leads to the conclusion that it is relatively homogeneous, although the issue of war was not an important component of thought in Maoism.

The Maoist Communist Union (MCU), formed in the United States in 2020, called for condemnation not only of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but also of US imperialism. In its view, aggressive US expansion in the region had precipitated the crisis and provoked Russia to invade. However, the Maoists pointed out that this does not justify Russia’s invasion, which is a blatant act of aggressive expansion and brings new forms of misery and suffering to the Ukrainians. They acknowledged that the Russian government’s claim that it had supported the separatist governments of Donetsk and Lugansk in defence of Russian speakers was partly true. However, the invasion, which included the bombing of many Russian-speaking towns, contradicted this. In their view, Putin’s words about the ’fictitiousness’ of Ukraine’s existence as a state and the one Russian nation were proof that it was not only fears of NATO expansion to the East or economic interests that determined Russian aggression, but “a deeply rooted Russian chauvinist and imperialist ideology”. The Maoists argued that Ukraine’s future as a member of the capitalist European Union need not be at all prosperous. They gave the example of Poles and Romanians who were employed as labourers in the EU states, working in undignified conditions. The US state was accused by the Maoists of arming and training neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine, and the US ruling class of promoting Russophobia and a Cold War mentality [39].

In contrast, the Maoists of the Communist Party of Greece (Marxist-Leninist) (Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας <μαρξιστικό-λενινιστικό>), founded in 1976, warned against the spread of war to the whole world in a statement issued on the day of Russian aggression against Ukraine. They pointed out that the government of Volodymyr Zelenskiy had been treated instrumentally by the United States. In turn, Vladimir Putin, in order to legitimise the invasion of Ukraine and defend the interests of the Russian bourgeoisie formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, was contributing to the development of Russian imperial nationalism. The Maoists also assessed that the Russian and Ukrainian peoples were being used as ’cannon meat’ of an unjust and reactionary war [40].

In another document, they analysed that the goal of the United States was world domination, and that the military and financial encirclement of Russia served to achieve this goal. According to the Greek Maoists, this was why the Americans were to exert pressure for the inclusion of Ukraine in NATO and to consolidate their presence in Europe on a military, financial and political level. It was also to put pressure on their allies to isolate Russia. However, Russia too was judged by the Maoists to be an imperialist power that wanted to prevent Ukraine’s accession to the European Union. However, the recognition of the independence of Donbass and Lugansk was to lead the nations towards further suffering as a result of their dependence on Russia. Russian policy also aimed to cause a breach in US-European relations and prevent Ukraine’s admission to NATO. According to the Maoists, in these actions China became a tactical ally of Russian imperialism [41].


The positions of the radical left movements towards the war in Ukraine were not uniform. Their differentiation was a consequence of the ideological differences forming the basis of their political thought, and they were influenced by the political context and narrative environment in which these organisations operated. Radical left-wing organisations criticised the war in Ukraine, treating it as a conflict of interests between the capitalist classes in Russia and those in Western countries, most notably the United States. In line with the tenets of Marxism, Trotskyism and Maoism, these classes were to seek to expand or consolidate their spheres of influence. However, the communications of some organisations were dominated by blaming the United States and its allies for provoking the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia was thus supposed to protect its sphere of influence from the United States, NATO and the European Union. This position could be read as explaining the policy of aggression as Russia’s defensive policy. However, it did not influence prospective analyses, in which Russia was assessed as a capitalist state whose ruling class should be removed from power through a proletarian revolution. The occupation of part of Ukraine or its ’liberation’ from the power of the Ukrainian government, most often described as reactionary or Nazi, was sometimes treated instrumentally. It was to serve the future restoration of the Soviet Union as a socialist state. Only a few organisations of the communist left advocated supporting Ukraine with arms supplies, as usually the radical left called for the Ukrainian and Russian workers to turn against their authorities, and for a halt to the hostilities, which resulted in the greatest suffering for the proletariat.

The messages of the radical left organisations were an attempt to work towards the existence of an alternative narrative to the dominant one about the war. The radical communist left, however, was an uninfluential political force, although its messages - long-lasting, sustained, falling on the fertile ground of a consumer society unwilling to make sacrifices - may have caused a breach in the dominant narrative about the war. On the other hand, however, these messages were incoherent, tainted by internal ideological disputes and based on an ideological newspeak that was not widely understood. It did not, therefore, affect the changes in the narrative about the world inherent in European and American societies.


[1] Initiative of communist and workers’ parties, About ushttps://www.initiative-cwpe.org/en/info/about/ (1.09.2022); Communist Party of Greece, The Initiative of Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe was foundedhttps://inter.kke.gr/en/articles/The-INITIATIVEof-Communist-and-Workers-Parties-of-Europe-was-founded/ (1.09.2022).

[2] Initiative of Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe, Statement on the recent developments and the russian military invasion of Ukraine, 26.02.2022, https://www.initiative-cwpe.org/en/news/Statement-on-the-recent-developments-and-the-russian-military-invasionof-Ukraine/ (19.06.2022).

[3] Initiative of Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe, Statement of the Secretariat of the European Communist Initiative on the 1st of May, the International Workers’ Day, 30.04.2022, https://www.initiative-cwpe.org/en/news/STATEMENT-of-the-Secretariatof-the-European-Communist-Initiative-on-the-1st-of-May-the-International-WorkersDay/ (19.06.2022).

[4] Initiative of Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe, Statement of Secretariat of the ECI on 9 May, 6.05.2022, https://www.initiative-cwpe.org/en/news/Statement-ofSecretariat-of-the-ECI-on-9-May/ (19.06.2022).

[5] Российская Коммунистическая рабочая партия – Революционная (Российская) партия коммунистов, За что борется РКРП-РПК, https://web.archive.org/web/20080328114801/http://www.rkrp-rpk.ru/index.php?action=faq# (2.09.2022).

[6] Н. Старый, Размышления о войне. Мысли с Донбасса, 15.06.2022, https://rkrp-rpk.ru/2022/06/15/размышления-о-войне-мысли-с-донбасса/ (19.06.2022).

[7] А. Ходаковский: Спокойная, тихая, мирная Украина — вот такой результат нам нужен, 2.03.2022, https://rkrp-rpk.ru/2022/03/02/александр-ходаковский-спокойная-ти/ (19.06.2022).

[8] Parti Communiste Révolutionnaire de France, Война на Украине: В ЕС милитаризация процветает, 26.04.2022, https://rkrp-rpk.ru/2022/04/26/война-на-украине-в-есмилитаризация-пр/ (1.09.2022).

[9] E.B., Οι εξελίξεις στην Ενωση Κομμουνιστικών Κομμάτων – ΚΚΣΕ, https://www.rizospastis.gr/story.do?id=652582 (1.09.2022).

[10] Коммунистическая Партия Советского Союза, Программа КПСС, http://www.cpsu.by/docs/view/programma_kpss/ (19.06.2022).

[11] Российская коммунистическая рабочая партия в составе КПСС, Коммунистическая рабочая организация ЛНР, Рабочий Фронт Донбасса, Рабочий Фронт Украины, Белорусская республиканская организация КПСС, Совместное заявление коммунистических и рабочих партий (подготовлено РКРП-КПСС совместно с коммунистами Донбасса и Украины), 6.07.2022, http://www.cpsu.by/news/o_situatsii_na_ukraine/ (2.09.2022).

[12] National Prosecutor’s Office, Press Department, Motion of the General Prosecutor to delegitimise the Communist Party of Poland, 6.12.2020, https://pk.gov.pl/aktualnosci/aktualnosci-prokuratury-krajowej/wniosek-prokuratora-generalnego-o-delegalizacje-komunistycznej-partiipolski/ (29.05.2021).

[13The peoples must step up the fight against NATO and the plans of the imperialists - a common position of the communist and workers’ parties, 12.07.2021, https://kom-pol.org/2021/07/12/ludy-musza-nasilicwalke-z-nato-i-planami-imperialistow-wspolne-stanowisko-partii-komunistycznych-irobotniczych/ (2.09.2022).

[14] Zob. P. Malendowicz, International organisations of the radical left towards the European Union. Analysis of selected examples in the context of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, “Yearbook of European Integration”. 2021, nr 15, s. 169–180.

[15] Zob. P. Malendowicz, Reminiscence of Marxism-Leninism in the 21st century? The example of the Communist Party of Poland and the Polish Socialist Workers’ Party, “Politics and Society”. 2021, nr 1 (19), s. 70–86.

[16] Communist Party of Poland, National Executive Committee, KPP condemns interference by Polish authorities in Ukraine’s internal affairs, 8.03.2014, https://kom-pol.org/2014/04/08/kpp-potepia-ingerencje-polskich-wladz-w-wewnetrzne-sprawy-ukrainy/ (2.09.2022).

[17] Zob. P. Taaffe, A Socialist World Is Possible. The History of the CWI, London 2004; P. Malendowicz, Ultraleft and the Present. Ideas, programmes, practice, Piła 2006, s. 22–23; International Socialist Alternative, Who We Arehttps://internationalsocialist.net/en/ about (2.09.2022).

[18] International Socialist Alternative, ISA International Committee Statement: War in Ukraine, The New Era and the Crisis of Capitalism, 11.04.2022, https://internationalsocialist.net/en/2022/04/isa-international-committee-statement (3.09.2022).



[21] The Socialist Alternative, the War in Ukraine, the New Era and the Crisis of Capitalism, 20.04.2022, http://socjalizmxxi.nazwa.pl/mainsite/2022/04/20/wojna-na-ukrainie-nowa-era-i-kryzyskapitalizmu/ (19.06.2022).

[22] Zob. Socialist Alternative, 20 May: Day of International Solidarity with Russian Anti-War Activists!, 17.05.2022, http://socjalizmxxi.nazwa.pl/mainsite/2022/05/17/20-maja-dzien-miedzynarodowej-solidarnosci-z-rosyjskimi-aktywistamiantywojennymi/ (19.06.2022).

[23] Программа Социалистической Альтернативы, 3.11.2021, https://socialist.news/about-us/program/ (3.09.2021).

[24] Социалистическая альтернатива, Нет войне в Украине! Вернуть войска домой, 24.02.2022, https://socialist.news/world/ukraine/stop-war/ (3.09.2022).

[25] U. Ługowska, A. Grabski, Trotskyism. Doctrine and political movement, Warsaw 2003, s. 167– 168; P. Malendowicz, Ultraleft and the present…, s. 24–25; International Socialist Tendency, About the IST, https://internationalsocialists.org/about (3.09.2022).

[26IST statement on Ukraine crisis, 16.02.2022, https://internationalsocialists.org/announcements/ist-statement-on-ukraine-crisis (19.06.2022).

[27International Socialist Tendency statement on the war in Ukraine, 15.03.2022, https://internationalsocialists.org/announcements/ist-statement-on-the-war-in-ukraine, 1.07.2022.



[30] Социалистическая тенденция, Обращение к интернационалу, 9.06.2022, https://www.socialisttendency.com/post/обращение-к-интернационалу (3.09.2022).

[31] F. Ilkowski, Stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine - and all imperialism, 1.03.2022, https://pracowniczademokracja.org/?p=8424 (19.06.2022).

[32] International Communist League – Fourth Internationalist, https://www.icl-fi.org/directory/index.html (4.09.2022).

[33] P. Malendowicz, Ultraleft and the present…, s. 26.

[34] International Communist League – Fourth Internationalist, Ukrainian, Russian Workers: Turn the Guns Against Your Rulers!, «Spartacist. An Organ of Revolutionary Marxism» 2022, no 67, s. 3–4.

[35Crimea is Russian, “Spartacus platform” 2014, nr 18, https://www.icl-fi.org/polski/platforma/ps18/krym.html (4.09.2022).

[36Imperialists escalate slaughter in eastern Ukraine, ’Spartacus platform’ 2015, nr 19, https://www.icl-fi.org/polski/platforma/ps19/ukrainie.html (4.09.2022).


[38] J. Steinberg, RIM: London’s narco-terrorist international, «Executive Intelligence Review» 1995, vol. 22, no. 46, s. 1–14; Declaration the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, 1984, http://bannedthought.net/International/RIM/index.htm (4.09.2022).

[39] Maoist Communist Union, Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, the Maneuvers of the U.S. Ruling Class, and Some Key Tasks for U.S. Communists, 28.03.2022, https://www.bannedthought.net/USA/MCU/statements/mcu-russian-invasion-ukraine-statement.pdf (4.09.2022).

[40] Communist Party of Greece (marxist-leninist), Raisce our voices..., 24.02.2022, https://kkeml.gr/raise-our-voices-in-mass-condemnation-of-the-new-us-russia-war-carnage-noto-the-new-bloody-imperialist-plans-no-involvement-of-our-country-in-the-war-out-withnato-and-its-military-bases-from-greece/ (4.09.2022).

[41] Communist Party of Greece (marxist-leninist), Peoples do not need “ protectors”. Out with the imperialists from Ukraine!, 23.02.2022, https://www.bannedthought.net/Greece/CPGML/2022/Ukraine-PeoplesDoNotNeedProtectors-220223.pdf (4.09.2022).