Christian Zeller

February 17, 2023

How DIE LINKE prepares the ground for reactionary forces

Putin’s armies are launching another major offensive, bombing cities and destroying social infrastructure in Ukraine, shelling settlements with thermobaric vacuum missiles. In the east of the country they have razed Soledar and large parts of Bachmut to the ground and are advancing towards the west. The Putin dictatorship is militarising society and industry, driving hundreds or even thousands of young men to their deaths every day and possibly preparing another mobilisation. The regime’s spokespersons repeatedly reiterate the goal: surrender and “demilitarisation” of Ukraine, incorporation and Russification of large parts of the country and “regime change”. The rulers in the Kremlin systematically pursue this course without interruption.

At the same time, Sahra Wagenknecht and Alice Schwarzer in their “Manifesto for Peace” think that the Ukrainian resistance is escalating the war. The executive committee of DIE LINKE and several inner-party currents also accuse NATO of escalating the war. The reason for this repeated accusation is this time the delivery of battle tanks to Ukraine. DIE LINKE is against Ukraine being able to resist the Russian invasion with effective weapons. At the same time, the AfD, national conservatives and fascists express themselves in a similar way and decorate their appearances with a dove of peace. Wagenknecht, Schwarzer & Co. are driving a political formation process of a nationally oriented social conservative rallying movement, for which the party DIE LINKE is preparing the ground through its contradictory actions.

This raises fundamental questions for all those who want to develop transnational solidarity with the resistance of the attacked, exploited, discriminated against and displaced. In this article, I first show how Wagenknecht, Schwarzer & Co. with their “Manifesto for Peace” specifically address simultaneously pacifist, left-wing as well as conservative and German sovereignist milieus. I then argue that the LEFT, including its anti-capitalist currents, contributes to tendencies of desolidarisation and thus prepares the ground for reactionary forces. Finally, I outline approaches of an orientation in solidarity against the war.

1. Manifesto against Solidarity offers a bridge to the right

The “Manifesto for Peace” [1] initiated by Sahra Wagenknecht and Alice Schwarzer is tantamount to an invitation to the Putin dictatorship to continue the war against the Ukrainian population. It is a war manifesto. The initiators of the manifesto write: “The Ukrainian people, brutally invaded by Russia, need our solidarity”. Then they ask: “But what would be solidarity now?” They give the answer: no support for resistance to the occupying forces.

The manifesto ties in with the basic pacifist attitude that is historically well-founded and widespread among the German population. The longing for an end to the war and the fear of an escalation have repeatedly led socialists, feminists and trade unionists in Germany to call for a ceasefire. In particular, exponents of the old peace movement are sharpening this wish with the simple demand for a stop to the delivery of weapons to Ukraine, which is under attack and whose very existence is threatened. Wagenknecht, Schwarzer & Co., however, turn this pacifist basic attitude in a direction that amounts to support for Putin’s dictatorship and gives a boost to reactionary forces in Germany and Europe.

The manifesto does not call for the withdrawal of the Russian occupation forces, it does not even name the responsibility of the Putin dictatorship for the war. Rather, it accuses the Ukrainian government of escalating the war. Ukraine is not defending itself, it wants “fighter jets, long-range missiles and warships - to defeat Russia outright?” The stylistic device of question marks does not make the statement any less perfidious. The authors suggest that the Ukrainian leadership is preparing an attack on Russia. This is an infamous distortion of the facts. Russian troops occupy large parts of Ukraine, have established a brutal occupation regime, terrorise the entire population with missiles and drones. They have already displaced millions of people and brutally killed hundreds of thousands on the battlefield or in apartment blocks. Against this, the Ukrainian population has been resisting with enormous tenacity for a year, to the surprise of Putin and the “Western governments”.

“Ukraine can win individual battles - supported by the West. But it cannot win a war against the world’s largest nuclear power.” Where did the authors of the manifesto get this colonial certainty? Algeria’s anti-colonial movement forced the nuclear power France to retreat. The fighting Vietnamese - with massive Soviet and Chinese arms supplies and many military advisors - defeated the nuclear power USA. In Afghanistan, the Mujahedin inflicted a defeat on the USSR and the Taliban wore down the US troops until they left. Why should the rulers in the Kremlin, of all places, not also eventually come to the assessment that a retreat would serve their maintenance of power rather than risk a disintegration of the imperialist colonial empire with the revolt of discriminated nationalities?

The manifesto postulates that “negotiating means compromising, on both sides.” This is an open invitation to the Putin dictatorship to occupy parts of Ukraine. German pseudo-pacifists want to force Ukraine to cede part of its population - many millions of people - to a military occupation dictatorship. Putin is thus to be rewarded for his war of occupation and everyday terror. This is nothing other than colonial arrogance.

In this sense, the authors of the manifesto conclude that “harm must be averted from the German people”. That is the core of their concern. It is about the supposed well-being of a “German people”, at the expense of the people in Ukraine and in many other countries, especially in Syria and Iran. They, too, are exposed to military attacks by Putin or his partner regimes and their existence is threatened.

Significantly, the manifesto refrains from taking a stand against the rearmament of the Federal Republic and the unspeakable profits of the arms industry. This deliberate omission reflects the opinion of some of the first signatories and is another targeted offer to the conservative and reactionary spectrum.

Wagenknecht, Schwarzer & Co. have deliberately written their colonial and anti-solidarity “Manifesto for Peace” in such a way that it not only appeals to concerned people, pacifists and “leftists”, but also invites national conservatives, fascists and Nazis to sign it. This is not about individual questionable formulations or signatures of individual reactionary exponents, but about the core content of the manifesto, which is accessible to right-wingers. Peter Gauweiler, reactionary CSU politician, and Erich Vad, Brigadier General A.D. of the German Armed Forces, as the first signatories, mark the desired bridge into the national conservative spectrum. In numerous interviews, Erich Vad has denied Ukraine any defence capability and explicitly warns of the consequences of a Russian defeat for stability in Europe. He also publishes in neo-right journals such as Sezession and Junge Freiheit [2] and is a follower of the Nazi jurist Carl Schmidt.

The manœuvre is obvious and unfortunately successful. Tino Chrupalla, federal spokesman of the AFD (which calls itself “The Peace Party”), and Jürgen Elsässer, publisher and editor-in-chief of the reactionary German-nationalist and pro-Russian magazine Compact are rejoicing. They are also calling for the signing of the manifesto. [3] Elsässer is happy that Wagenknecht is finally taking to the streets and hopes that the “peace demonstration” on 25 February, to which Wagenknecht, Schwarzer and Vad are inviting, will be huge. [4] Oskar Lafontaine explicitly invited AfD members to take part in the demonstration against solidarity on 15 February, [5] which also makes Tino Chrupalla happy again. Heinz-Christian Strache, German-nationalist right-wing extremist, former leader of the FPÖ and Vice-Chancellor of Austria, is also calling on his channels to sign Wagenknecht and Schwarzer’s manifesto. [6]

It is worrying that exponents of anti-capitalist currents, for example from marx21, are also calling for participation in this demonstration against the defence of Ukraine on 25 February. [7] After all, their support did not find a majority in the party executive of the LEFT. So on 25 February, peace activists, members of the LEFT will probably demonstrate together with AfD supporters, Nazis and fascists. What a political disaster!

2. LINKE one-sidedness and untrustworthiness

The party DIE LINKE bears a share of responsibility for this suicidal constellation, not because it sought it, but because it is apparently unwilling to develop appropriate responses. On 17 December, 14 January and 12 February, the party executive decided on statements which, in their arrogance towards Ukrainian society, contribute to preparing the ground for Wagenknecht, Schwarzer & Co with their socially conservative collection project.

In the face of the debate on the delivery of battle tanks from NATO countries to Ukraine, the party executive demands on 14 January 2023: “The war must be stopped immediately. We support Ukraine’s right to self-defence against Russia’s attack, which is guaranteed under international law, but we are convinced that more and more arms deliveries from NATO countries will not lead to an end to the war.” [8] This sentence sums up the hypocrisy and inconsistency. The LEFT supports the right to self-defence in the abstract, but denies Ukrainian society the means to exercise this right. The LEFT fails to answer who can stop the war and terror of the Putin dictatorship and in what way.

On 17 December 2022, the party executive calls for “ceasefire negotiations between presidents Selenskyj and Putin at the invitation of the UN, with the involvement of the EU and India/China.” [9] It is necessary to “exert political pressure on Russia with the aim of withdrawal from the territories occupied since 24 February 2022, as well as the immediate cessation of attacks on the country’s civilian infrastructure.” This orientation is reaffirmed by the party executive on 12 February [10]. Now, Brazilian President Lula is still being brought into play as a mediator, having recently assigned equal blame and complicity for the war to Russia and Ukraine. This hardly qualifies him as a mediator. The hope that the party dictatorship in China, the authoritarian regime in India or even the Brazilian President Lula could put pressure on Putin to finally let go of Ukraine seems unrealistic. There are no signs that China and India are interested in a retreat and a weakening of Russia. This illusion is at the same time an expression of an attitude that does not focus on the society under attack and resistance, but on major powers. With this approach, DIE LINKE follows the reactionary neorealist school of geopolitics.

The party executive (17 December 2022) shows solidarity with the victims in Ukraine on the one hand, but on the other hand persists in a position that is careful to do justice to the ruling interests in the Kremlin. First of all, he demands a stop to the delivery of weapons to Ukraine, thereby preventing the Ukrainian population from protecting itself with effective weapons against the occupying forces. At the same time, he demands that Russia receive guarantees for an end to the sanctions. He says, quoting French President Macron, that peace negotiations are tied to “security guarantees” for Russia from NATO. Remarkably, however, the party executive does not call for Ukraine to receive security guarantees. This is inconsistent, one-sided and untrustworthy, but at its core, it is connectable to social and national conservatives and right-wing extremists who openly spread the propaganda of the rulers in the Kremlin.

Correctly, the Party Executive (14 February 2023) points out that the economic sanctions adopted by governments are inconsistent. Targeted sanctions against the Russian power elite and Russia’s military-industrial complex are needed. There is no doubt that the sanctions should be more targeted. Used carefully, they can be a useful political-economic instrument. But that is precisely why the political impact is crucial. Do they help to undermine loyalty to the regime among the Russian population? However, such sanctions would also have no direct consequences on the regime’s warfare, but on the supply of strategic goods. Moreover, the regime has partially detached itself politically from the oligarchs. Its actions can no longer be justified economically anyway. Neither diplomacy nor sanctions will move the Putin dictatorship to a ceasefire. There are not the slightest indications of this.

3. Answers from another world

Various party currents are not satisfied with the party executive’s ambivalent dis-solidarisation with Ukraine. Members from the social conservative spectrum of the party (including Sahra Wagenknecht) initiated the appeal “Left against war and participation in war!” [11] to the party executive and the parliamentary group of DIE LINKE in mid-January. Activists from anti-capitalist contexts intervened in the debate almost simultaneously with the appeal “Stop the war!” [12]. Both currents want to enforce an even clearer position against supporting the Ukrainian resistance.

Despite some differences, these appeals, as well as the recent statements of the party executive, have five perspectives in common. [13]

  1. All the party executive statements and appeals cited here negate Ukrainian society and its various actors. All of them conceal the fact that trade unions, feminist initiatives, environmental associations, socialist and anarchist groups and many other civil society organisations in Ukraine are also involved in the military and non-military resistance against the occupying forces. Ultimately, they conceal and delegitimise the resistance of Ukrainians - primarily the wage-earners, the oppressed and the exploited - against the Russian occupation. Ukrainians appear only as victims of the imperialist powers and as refugees.
  2. Both the party executive and the authors of the two appeals want first and foremost to deny armed support to the Ukrainian resistance in its struggle against the occupying forces. Large parts of the party seem to agree on this. Behind this lies a fundamental problem: the rejection of international solidarity with the attacked and terrorised population in Ukraine.
  3. The two appeals understand the war as a proxy war between NATO and Russia and accuse NATO of an escalation strategy. They believe that an imperialist war of the great powers for spheres of influence is taking place in Ukraine. The Ukrainians are NATO’s helpers and cannon fodder. The party executive is more cautious and differentiated. But the authors of “Stop the War!” write: "The war over Ukraine can only be understood from the brutal logic of imperialist competition. Therefore, one should not support the Ukrainian resistance.
  4. All the statements mentioned call for a ceasefire, without, however, naming the preconditions and balance of power of this ceasefire or even hinting at how the rulers in the Kremlin can be persuaded to a ceasefire. Neither the Party Executive nor the authors of the two appeals clearly demand the withdrawal of Russian troops and the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty. All statements are characterised by a refusal to deal with the character, interests and goals of the Putin dictatorship. They negate the fact that Putin & Co. continue to pursue their strongly politically and ideologically determined Greater Russian goals without compromise.
  5. The appeal “Stop the war!” calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops, but at the same time opposes the Ukrainians’ ability to defend themselves. The authors combine the demand for the withdrawal of Russian troops with an equivalent criticism of NATO and its alleged offensive strategy, i.e. whether NATO troops are equally responsible for the Russian occupation of Ukraine or even occupy parts of Ukraine themselves. Such a coupled demand for withdrawal is hypocritical and untrustworthy as long as it does not include how, by whom and based on which balance of power the Russian troops can be persuaded to withdraw.

    The appeal “Left against war and participation in war” neither condemns the Russian war of aggression and occupation nor calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops. The authors demand “a diplomatic initiative by the Federal Republic of Germany with the aim of an immediate ceasefire and negotiations on an end to the war, without preconditions” and an end to economic sanctions. In concrete terms, “without preconditions” means that Ukraine must make concessions and cede part of its population to the Russian empire. The initiators thus accept - like Wagenknecht, Schwarzer & Co with their manifesto - that the Putin dictatorship would be rewarded for its war of occupation.

  6. Both the party leadership and the two appeals refuse to give concrete support to the Ukrainian wage-earners in the factories, hospitals, mines, households and at the front. Solidarity with the Ukrainian working class, which is waging a defensive military struggle against the Russian occupation forces and at the same time has to defend itself against the neoliberal and anti-social attacks of its own government, is simply not the subject of all these statements.

A look at the AfD’s demands on war - with the exception of its rejection of economic sanctions - reveals frightening similarities. In all five points, sovereigntists, national conservatives and fascists find points of contact for their own strategy of German-national rejection of any form of international solidarity. [14] This fact should actually give socialists pause for thought as to whether their positioning really advances a solidarity-based and emancipatory perspective.

Wagenknecht, Schwarzer & Co argue somewhat consistently. They even name the president of Ukraine as an independent warmongering actor. They - as well as the authors of the related appeal “Left against war and war participation!” - implicitly say that they accept a Russian occupation of Ukraine. In contrast, the statements of the party executive and the appeal “Stop the war!” are deliberately so contradictory that in the end they also give the impression that they accept a Russian occupation.

Apart from the disaster of the war, this is above all a political tragedy. The left is thus destroying itself and making itself superfluous. The vast majority of the Ukrainian population has come to the conclusion that they can better defend achievements such as national self-determination, democratic, social and cultural rights - as incomplete as these are - in an independent and albeit corrupt Ukraine than under a Russian occupying power. For most people in Europe this is understandable and worthy of support, but not for considerable parts of the German left. Why? Especially since the beginning of the war, it can be observed that even influential members of the LEFT are falling back into a pattern of thinking from long ago. They argue in the style of a superficial and one-sided pseudo-anti-imperialism. The character of Putin’s dictatorship is not even worth considering. The critical analyses of Russian socialists and feminists about the Putin dictatorship, the mood in society and the tendency towards fascism remain unnoticed. The party DIE LINKE and its various currents are thus saying goodbye to an internationalism of solidarity. This is also the result of a problematic political culture that has been practised for a long time, leading many leftists to derive their opinion on international conflicts from the conflicts at home.

Everyone knows that large parts of Ukraine are militarily occupied without effective weapons. It is all the more disturbing that LEFTists and leftists in Germany think that under a military dictatorship of occupation, wage earners and civil society would still have the strength to defend social and democratic rights, and indeed the very existence of an independent workers’ movement.

4. Social to national conservative dynamics

Once again, Sahra Wagenknecht and her social conservative current succeed in putting the party under such external pressure with this operation of the “Manifesto against Solidarity” that many members and different currents follow her. Exponents of different wings - from the reform-oriented Gregor Gysi to the “Anti-Capitalist Left” and parts of the “Movement Left” - are making minor criticisms of the manifesto, but agree with its core and are mobilising for the “peace demonstration” against the defence of Ukraine on 25 February in Berlin. Some, disturbingly, even think that participation in the demonstration is in line with an “internationalist” stance. Others play down the convergence with social and national conservatives and even fascists as a selective agreement. They all know themselves that if Ukraine were to stop receiving weapons, as they demand, the Russian occupying power would establish a military dictatorship against the Ukrainian population. Refusing support to “prevent harm to the German people” is not internationalist, but a bridge to chauvinism.

It is amazing how exponents of anti-capitalist currents superficially distinguish between a consistent Wagenknecht who is worth supporting, who is uncompromisingly against the war, and a nationalist Wagenknecht who is to be rejected, who unfortunately argues in favour of German capital. This distinction is absurd. These people do not want to recognise that Wagenknecht’s seemingly pacifist, but actually pro-Putin position, fits without contradiction with her rhetoric in favour of German industry and culture, against the environmental movement and solidarity with refugees. Wagenknecht & Co. are consciously - and unfortunately successfully - shifting the discourse of the LEFT and its environment in a socially conservative direction that is open to alliances with reactionary forces. The fact that even anti-capitalists do not want to recognise this dynamic of geopolitical camp thinking, desolidarisation and ultimately national sovereignty and chauvinism is tragic and points to a one-sided social perception and a narrowing of political thinking.

Sahra Wagenknecht’s arguments are perfectly consistent. She justified her opposition to economic sanctions against Russia, her support for supplying Germany with Russian natural gas and her campaign against supporting Ukraine with the national interests of Germany and even explicitly of German industry. This is where the “social conservatives” meet the “national conservatives” and these in turn are not far from the fascists. The orientation of Wagenknecht and her current is catchy, easy to understand and meets a socially receptive situation. That is why it is successful and effective.

De-solidarisation with Ukraine’s resistance to Russian occupation is only one building block of a broader social-German sovereign collection and formation project. Oskar Lafontaine’s and Diether Dehm’s “Yank go home” pamphlets aim in the same direction. Sevim Dagdelen, in an interview with the Chinese newspaper Global Times, portrays Germany as a vassal and victim of US imperialism, [15] thus willfully serving the rulers in Beijing who do not wish to see Russia weakened. This rhetoric of a US-controlled Germany is reminiscent of national conservative and fascist propaganda. A look at Germany’s energy policy proves the opposite. German capital systematically pursues its own interests, for thirty years in close partnership with Russian capital. [16]

The desolidarisation against Ukraine has consequences:

  • The LEFT will hardly have the opportunity to enter into a fruitful dialogue with socialists in Eastern Europe. Fractures have been created that can no longer be mended.
  • In doing so, it is continuing a disastrous orientation that it already displayed in the Assad regime’s war of destruction against its own population. Will we experience the same when oppressed nationalities rise up in the Russian Federation, when the regime in Iran opens an open war of repression and destruction against the population, when the party dictatorship in China attacks Taiwan for whatever reason? In each case, it could be argued that in order to prevent “harm to the German people” and to avoid an escalation, one should not support the resistance.
  • A socially conservative LINKE in Europe’s strongest country is a terrible idea for the urgently needed common socio-ecological restructuring of European societies (not to be confused with the EU) in a globally solidary perspective. If national economic and security interests shape the orientation, how does the LEFT want to contribute to an emancipatory orientation? In many other countries, there are similar political efforts to form social and national conservatives.

What heritage is hindering the ability to learn in the German LEFT and Left? As long as they keep their thinking trapped in inappropriate historical schemes and use false analogies (for example, to the situation in 1914 at the beginning of the First World War), they will not be able to orient themselves adequately. As long as post- and neo-Stalinist reflexes influence orientation, especially in difficult and complex crises, thinking in geopolitical camps (“campism”) with their allegedly justified spheres of interest prevails and one does not engage in solidarity with the concrete resistance of those under attack, the left will rob itself of its own emancipatory core. The term “left” is becoming increasingly empty of content.

The processes discussed here are to be embedded in a broader context, which, however, would have to be more precisely defined theoretically and empirically. This work remains to be done. However, I would like to briefly add anecdotally that DIE LINKE and other left contexts have also sometimes succumbed to the temptation to give overly simple and seemingly popular answers in the disputes over the fight against the pandemic and high energy prices. In both cases, the LEFT remained superficial, only tackling the symptoms. During the pandemic, it initially limited itself to demands for socio-political and economic support measures to cushion the consequences of the anti-social pandemic policies for wage earners, the poor and women. However, it hesitated to call for measures that would have massively slowed down the spread of the virus, for example, restrictions in working life to protect people. Another current example: Many leftists countered the massive energy price increases in 2022 with superficial rhetoric against speculation and economic sanctions and with demands for price caps. However, they brought neither the ecologically necessary reduction of energy consumption nor the perspective of social appropriation of the energy sector onto the agenda. In both disputes, reactionary currents were therefore able to take advantage of the ambivalent orientation of left initiatives and adopt some of their demands, thus exploiting their hesitancy and superficiality. This is why I advocate getting to the bottom of social crises in order to develop radical perspectives that motivate resistant people to act beyond the constraints of capitalist accumulation.

5. A solidarity approach

Of course, it is important to mobilise against war and to build a broad international movement against rearmament. This should be based on the suffering and struggling people, not on geopolitics. This means that a peace movement worthy of the name should now focus on the concerns of the people in Ukraine who are fighting not to have to live under a military dictatorship of occupation. At the same time, it supports the anti-war movement, labour struggles and oppressed nationalities in Russia. Oriented in this way, there is not the slightest danger of being embraced by national conservatives or even fascists. Here I briefly outline elements of a strategy of solidarity against the war of the Putin dictatorship. I limit myself to five aspects. These considerations are also meant as proposals for debate.

Refer to the people in resistance!

Do the authors of the statements from the LEFT seriously think that the war can only be explained in terms of domination, without the resistance of the Ukrainians against the Russian occupation, which has been going on for a year now? The people of Ukraine are resisting Russian imperialism regardless of what the USA or Germany do or do not do. Both Putin and the Western governments assumed a quick defeat of Ukraine. It was only the popular resistance that gave the NATO countries the chance to weaken Russia’s position. Volunteers go to the front, people with almost no income donate money to buy drones. Even after almost a year of war, this will to resist exists, although the neoliberal Selenskyj government uses the war to massively restrict the rights of working people, although exploitation by the companies intensifies, although people are also forced to the front. If there were no such resistance, the NATO governments would not even be faced with the question of supplying tanks or other heavy weapons to Ukraine and the corporations could resume profitable business with their Russian partners after a certain period of public indignation.

The war will continue regardless of arms deliveries from Germany and other countries, because the Putin regime will continue this war. It does not recognise the sovereignty of Ukraine and denies the existence of a Ukrainian nation. But the war will also continue because many people in Ukraine - especially wage earners - simply do not want to live under Russian occupation. On the other hand, oligarchs - many of whom live abroad - could more easily deal with an occupation. They would have to write off their war losses and could resume their business under and with the occupation regime. So the resistance has a class dimension. Obviously, this resistance of Ukrainian society takes place in the context of rivalry between imperialist powers and all the great powers use the war to improve their position vis-à-vis their rivals. Nevertheless, the Ukrainians:inside are not fighting a proxy war in the service of the USA. This would not explain and understand the unbroken will to resist.

Ceasefire yes, but under conditions that allow for a peace process

Of course, all Ukrainians are longing for a ceasefire, so that the rocket and artillery terror finally stops, so that no more people sacrifice themselves in the defence struggle or are forced to do so. But the conditions of a ceasefire are crucial.

An elementary prerequisite for peace is that the Ukrainian people can live safely and sovereignly on the territory of their country. Those who now call for a ceasefire without the simultaneous restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty are acting unilaterally and ultimately tolerating Russian aggression. If advisors from the West want to force Ukraine into a ceasefire, it boils down to the question of how many people Ukraine is prepared to hand over to a Russian occupying dictatorship with prison camps, torture, expulsions, forced Russification of social life and schools, etc. Or should the European states, the USA, the EU and the EU member states be allowed to demand a ceasefire without a simultaneous restoration of Russian sovereignty? Or should the European states, the USA and perhaps even China simply negotiate over the heads of the Ukrainians?

The whole world knows that a ceasefire is concluded on the basis of concrete military and political balance of power. DIE LINKE demands the withdrawal of Russian troops to the front lines before 24 February 2022. But who will ensure that this demand is enforced and by what means? Who is to force Putin to the negotiating table before Ukraine has to give up large parts of the country? How can the balance of power be improved for Ukraine under bombardment and attack without armed resistance? Appeals to diplomacy and requests for mediation to the rulers in China or Brazilian President Lula remain cheap and abstract as long as the balance of power is negated.

Putin could end the war immediately any day. His regime, however, is preparing for a long war and is gearing the whole society towards it. His victory would also be a victory for Assad, the Iranian regime and would also be convenient for his brother in spirit, Erdogan. Neither the USA nor Germany can stop the war. If they stopped supplying weapons, Putin would continue his war of conquest. If the Ukrainians:inside stopped fighting, they would come under an occupying dictatorship with the terror that goes with it. Nothing will stop Putin from continuing his war except strong resistance! Who will stop him and by what means?

Countering escalation

Many in the LEFT warn against escalation. The escalation of war has many dimensions. The discussion must not be narrowed down to the danger of a nuclear war or a direct confrontation between NATO countries and Russia. For the people in Ukraine, this escalation has been taking place on a daily basis for a year. Russia has escalated the war step by step, up to the bombing of cities, the use of large-scale weapons, the destruction of vital infrastructure, military provocations against the Republic of Moldova, the mobilisation and militarisation of its own society. This escalation is also a reaction to the successful resistance of Ukraine. But the originally planned occupation of the whole country was the first qualitative escalation. Why should the people of Ukraine have accepted an occupying dictatorship? The escalation of the Putin dictatorship was systematic and gradual quantitatively.

The propaganda fuelled by the Putin regime that arms deliveries to Ukraine make NATO a party to the war is false, also under international law. There is not the slightest indication that NATO countries have prepared a war against Russia or intend such an escalation. Putin’s invasion has resulted in the Ukrainian army not only receiving NATO weapons, but also adopting their technical and organisational standards. However, the US government has so far refused to supply Ukraine with combat aircraft and longer-range weapons. The decision to supply battle tanks was also taken by the NATO countries only after long deliberations and internal conflicts. Ukraine received only just enough weapons to stop the Russian advance. Major offensive actions were absent, with the exception of pushing back the invading forces east of Kharkiv and driving them out of the city of Kherson. So far, the Ukrainian army has not been able to retake the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk or even the Crimean peninsula. The escalation on the part of NATO has been limited, but has enabled Ukraine to prevent Russian troops from conquering further parts of the country.

The escalation is indeed taking place: Since the mobilisation in September, Russian troops have been incessantly feeding their offensives with new soldier material and literally letting it burn. Leading exponents of the Putin dictatorship and Putin himself have repeatedly threatened to wipe out the independent state of Ukraine and to transform the Ukrainian nation into a Greater Russian one. Every day, the Russian media paint a concrete picture of how and with what concrete destruction this can and should be done. This is a quality of political escalation that must not leave anyone with even a hint of a humanitarian and emancipatory understanding of society at a neutral distance.

The use of nuclear weapons would be a massive escalation of the war into a new quality. But the rulers in the Kremlin have so far also shown the insight that such an escalation would destroy all their options. History shows that even nuclear powers can be defeated without using nuclear weapons. Behind this lies a fundamental challenge: can we overcome capitalist society if we accept blackmail from nuclear powers from the outset? If it becomes common practice that nuclear blackmail works, we can give up such fundamental tasks as the abolition of the fossil industries and the states that support them. The stronger the resistance that the Putin dictatorship experiences, the sooner it becomes clear that its undertaking of a military defeat of Ukraine is impossible, the stronger the fault lines in the structure of rule of this dictatorship will open up and new spaces for anti-war movements, workers’ struggles and liberation efforts of the discriminated nationalities and population groups in the Russian Federation will open up.

The withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine is necessary in order to open up a democratic perspective of self-determination for the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea. To this end, the people who lived in these regions until 2014 must be given the opportunity to vote on their desired status in referendums organised and supervised by the UN. This presupposes that Russian troops withdraw completely from the territory of Ukraine. UN troops could then provide security for the people in these three regions. [17]

Stop armament internationally and develop new security concepts

With its war against Ukraine, the Putin dictatorship is enabling the arms industry to grow gigantically. For years before, governments could not really implement their rearmament plans. Now, the proponents of rearmament no longer seem to find any obstacles to their programmes. The rearmament spiral is spinning infernally. We need an international movement for radical disarmament and against the intensified imperialist rivalry, not least to slow down global warming. This is a challenge with many hurdles.

First of all, it must be recognised that societies in Western and Eastern Europe have had different experiences with militarisation, armament and expansionist ambitions of neighbouring states. While the imperialist countries of Western Europe continued to open up other areas of the world militarily and/or economically after the Second World War, several societies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, as well as in areas of the former Soviet Union, experienced military interventions and the withdrawal of resources by Russia. The neoliberal opening up of Eastern Europe in the 1990s took place without military intervention and was enforced by Yeltsin as an unreliable and Putin as a reliable gendarme of capital itself. These are some of the facts that have led socialists, anarchists and feminists in Western and Eastern Europe to develop different understandings of military security, rearmament and defence preparedness.

In the abstract, it is right to question NATO. However, such a demand remains striking and superficial, because firstly, NATO is only an organisational expression of the imperialist configuration of states; secondly, living conditions in Europe and in neighbouring regions would not be safer without NATO. It is therefore necessary to explain how all societies in Europe can attain a credible security perspective. There are no easy answers to this. We must succeed in anchoring the perspective of radical disarmament in the consciousness of the people through a common transnational socio-ecological transformation movement and to make it concrete. How can we Europeanise and transnationalise this perspective in global solidarity? This is what we have to work on and this is the framework in which we have to develop concepts of common security.

The challenge of building an international disarmament and arms conversion movement can only be tackled if we succeed in developing transnational perspectives of solidarity that help to overcome thinking in terms of nation-state borders. A dissolution of NATO would therefore be linked to a comprehensive change in the nation-state configurations of power. This would lead to a further challenge. How can we succeed in overcoming the nation-state level and the level of the bourgeois state in general, first to some extent and finally completely? How can safe living conditions be organised on a regional, national, European and global level?

This discussion must start now at the European level, together with trade unions, civil society organisations, feminists, socialists and anarchists in Eastern European countries. Solidarity with the Ukrainian resistance must also lead to a debate on how the societies of Europe can be organised in solidarity and ecologically, and in global responsibility. This debate to be tackled is not in contradiction to direct military support for Ukraine. All NATO countries and even Switzerland have a large arsenal of weapons that they can make available at short notice if they want to politically.

Develop transnational solidarity

It is to be hoped that the LEFT and leftists in the broad sense of the word throughout Europe and worldwide, will overcome their schematic, national- and Euro-centred, ultimately self-destructive approaches and take up solidarity with the attacked and terrorised people in Ukraine and all over the world as a central task.

Being in solidarity with Ukraine’s resistance to occupation by Russian troops does not mean siding with NATO. NATO governments have their own imperialist reasons for supporting Ukraine in the dimensions they narrowly define. Ukraine has no choice but to ask for weapons from those who have them. The task of socialists is not to oppose the supply of arms to Ukraine, but to criticise the strategic interests of the NATO countries.

It is about building a transnational movement for solidarity with all populations resisting imperialist aggression and military destruction. Therefore, arms supplies to the Ukrainian resistance against the Russian occupation forces must be supported, even if these arms come from other imperialist powers, even if these arms are given to a bourgeois army. Regardless of the strength of the Ukrainian workers:internal movement, the struggle of the people of Ukraine against the occupation forces and for self-determination is fully justified and deserves all necessary support. At the same time, it is necessary to campaign for the cancellation of Ukraine’s debts and to support the Ukrainian trade unions in their resistance to the neoliberal Selenskyj government.

I can understand that one can have doubts about the supply of weapons. But among numerous bad alternatives, the arguments that the point is to support the Ukrainian resistance in such a way that it can force the occupying forces to withdraw outweigh the fact that as long as this does not succeed, more people will die. This is also the precondition for a Ukrainian civil society with environmental associations, trade unions, democratic, feminist, socialist and anarchist organisations to survive. The alternative of an independent armed resistance supported by left organisations, which is occasionally argued by dogmatic socialists, completely misses the real situation. Moreover, the perspective of a “people’s war without heavy NATO weapons” would be incomparably more (self-)destructive and sacrificial than defence with effective NATO weapons.

It contradicts every emancipatory perspective that leftists refuse to show solidarity with the armed resistance of the terrorised population, that they do not even perceive them as independent actors. Emancipatory forces have to orientate themselves exclusively towards the interests of the attacked, oppressed, displaced and exploited, completely independent of what one or the other imperialist power wants or does not want.


[1] Manifesto for Peace, 10 February 2023.ür-frieden

[2] Erich Vad (2022, first 2003), Freund oder Feind - zur Aktualität Carl Schmitts. Secession 1 / 1 April 2003

[3] Tino Chrupalla on Twitter on 10 February 2023:

[4] Jürgen Elsässer in conversation: Large demo: Wagenknecht and Schwarzer call for. Compact Magazine, 10 February 2023

[5] Milena Preradovic: PUNKT.PRERADOVIC

[6] Twitter by HCStrache, 13 February 2023

[7] Christine Buchholz, 16 February 2023: The “Manifesto for Peace”, the anti-war movement and the left. marx21 Christine Buchholz, 13 February 2023 on Facebook

[8] DIE LINKE, 14 January 2023: Stop the war - no Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

[9] DIE LINKE, 17 December 2022: Für eine Verhandlungsperspektive - Schritte zur Deeskalation im Ukraine-Krieg.

[10] DIE LINKE, 12 February 2023: Stop the war against Ukraine - stop the escalation.

[11] LINKE against war and participation in war. Call to the party executive and the parliamentary group of DIE LINKE.

[12] Call: Stop the war!

[13] I have also written a short critique of the “Stop the war!” call. Christian Zeller: Solidarity instead of geopolitics. Jungle World, 2 February 2023

[14] There are numerous AfD statements that hardly differ from those of Wagenknecht and even the LEFT. One of their slogans is: “Peace party AfD demands: No arms deliveries! Diplomacy instead of warmongering”. I refer here to just one of many examples documenting the similarity: AfD calls for diplomatic dialogue with Russia. Zeit online, 2 February 2023.

[15] Sevim Dagdelen: ‘We are engaged in a dangerous game of one-upmanship on weapons supplies to Ukraine:’ German MP. Global Times, February 14, 2023

[16] I will publish a detailed analylse on this shortly.

[17] Compare the proposals of Gilbert Achcar: Supporting Ukraine-Without Writing a Blank Check. The Nation, February 16, 2023

Translation using Deepl without proofreading