Class Conscious presents at anti-imperialist, anti-war conference

 On June 26th Davey Heller presented on behalf of at the the Emergency International Anti-Imperialist, Anti-War Conference organised by the International Socialist Center Christian Rakovsky and Forty-five speakers from five continents spoke including many speakers from Eastern Europe. More details about the conference can be read here. The program of speakers can be found here. Other contributions and statement from the conference will be published by the organisers soon.

Transcript of presentation

Dear comrades,

My name is Davey Heller. I am a Marxist from Melbourne, Australia who writes for and helps edit the website  Thankyou for inviting me to participate in this important Emergency anti-war Conference.

I find it significant that you have entitled the conference an “anti-war” conference. The “anti-war” position in the current political context has been much abused.

Many Marxists have essentially adopted a pacifist position by opposing the Russian military intervention into Ukraine on “anti-war” grounds. This has manifested as either a simple statement that it is wrong for Russia to attack another “sovereign country or by invoking the “dual defeatism” policy of Lenin and others in the Zimmerwald Left in World War 1.

However, comrades, I believe that those of us in the Marxist movement who are in support of Russia’s military intervention into Ukraine are in fact taking the genuine anti-war position that is very much in the tradition of the Zimmerwald Left.

That is because the Zimmerwald Left, whilst it was a statement against World War 1 and all its horrors, was at its heart a statement against imperialism and imperialist war. Genuine anti-war principles are inseparable from anti-imperialism.

Once again we must try and unite the forces of genuine anti-imperialism in the Marxist movement to try and organise against the emergence of a new world war, a war that if it breaks out will dwarf the horrors of the World Wars of the 20th century. This will be because this war will be waged between nuclear powers.

This drive to this new World War is being led by the US and its NATO allies. It is being driven by the intertwined processes of a deepening capitalist crisis and the decline in US hegemony. The war in Ukraine must be seen in the context of this war drive.

When Russia began its military operation on February 24th of this year, it was acting after decades of provocation from NATO. The installation of a fascist backed regime in Kiev in a coup in 2014 as a steppingstone to bringing Ukraine into NATO was only one provocation. Russia was faced with its entire eastern flank being a staging ground, not just for NATO troops but perhaps even more significantly with advanced weapon systems. This includes so called “missile defence systems” and nuclear weapons. The real purpose of these weapons is to give the United State and its allies nuclear primacy, that is the ability to “win” a nuclear war by destroying or intercepting Russia nuclear weapons before they launch a retaliatory strike against a NATO nuclear attack. Therefore, the Russian military action is fundamentally defensive and involves defence against an existential threat.

The insane US war plans against Russia of preparing a “winnable” nuclear war are only the first step in their reckless drive. The subordination or destruction of Russia so that it can be exploited as a semi-colony is only “stage one” of NATO’s plan to dominate Eurasia. Of course, the ultimate target of the US in a future world war is the rising economic and military power of the Peoples Republic of China.

The PRC has gone seriously “off script” by failing to experience a “colour revolution” to replace the rule of the Stalinist CCP in the last 30 years. It has managed to combine the influx of foreign investment and the growth of an internal capitalist sector with the power of a still largely centralised economy to become an economic powerhouse. Faced with a Communist China that refuses to admit “the end of history” the US is left with few other options to use its military might to try and contain or destroy China. This dynamic is setting in motion a nuclear war.

So, in a very real sense supporting Russia right to self-defence in Ukraine is anti-war. It is taking a stance against Imperialisms plans for the destruction or subordination of Russia and China. It iis taking a stance against World War 3.

It is in this context therefore it can be said that this anti-war conference is in the tradition of the Zimmerwald Left. Like the scattered Marxists who declared their opposition to the imperialist charnel house of World War 1, we gather to oppose not just NATO’s bloody intervention into Ukraine but the unimaginable slaughter that a nuclear World War 3 would entail.

Some Marxists of course have invoked the legacy of the Zimmerwald Left to oppose Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. They have done so by citing the policy of Lenin that called for “Revolutionary Defeatism”. This policy of course was entirely correct in 1914 and demanded that the working class oppose all sides in an imperialist war and instead attempt to turn the imperialist war into a civil war leading to socialist revolution. However, the attempt to transplant this policy to Ukraine today requires the rejection of any real Marxist understanding of the term imperialism. It reduces it to any country that uses military force against another country to advance or protect its interests. It abandons the Marxist definition of imperialism as a stage of capitalism dominated by finance capital. It abandons the definition of imperialist countries as those countries whose powerful financial sectors exploit other nations through the export of capital and seek to divide the world between them through trade and war. Capitalist Russia is largely dependent on the export of primary resources not capital. The 1917 Revolution, like the 1949 Revolution did in China, put Russian resources including its working class, beyond the reach of imperialism’s ability to exploit it directly for profit. Despite the return of capitalism and imperialist inroads, Russia today is still not fully open to imperialist exploitation. It is intolerable to the Western imperialists that Russia’s capitalist ruling class maintains some independence to make profits out of Russia’s working class and resources and to be able to project its interests independently to some degree such as in Syria.   We stand with Russia in this conflict, despite it being capitalist because Marxists should stand with all non-imperialist countries who are in the cross hairs of imperialism. We do so because it is in the interests of both the Russian and international working class to support Russia’s self-defence against imperialism. We reject the modern day “dual defeatists” who do no more than side with imperialism implicitly through their failure to stand unequivocally with those targeted by imperialism.

The other vital element of the war in Ukraine is fascism. It is part of the process of the ruling classes of the world, under the pressures of a deepening crisis, returning to the cudgel of fascism to smash the working class and prosecute imperialist interests. The backing of the installation of Banderite fascists in Ukraine and their use as the main fighting forces in the Donbass region is part of an international trend extending from the heart of the empire itself in the US, to Germany and through to countries oppressed by imperialism such as Brazil. It is necessary in our fight to build an international anti-war movement against the drive to World War 3 to understand that this fight in inextricably linked to the fight against fascism. Whilst Rosa Luxembourg understood in the midst of World War 1 humanity faced the choice between Socialism or Barbarism, we must understand that since then capitalism has created the barbarous monster of fascism and therefore the choice today is socialism or fascism.

I speak to you today from Australia. Australia, although not a NATO country member has been integrated into the US military and security machine ever since World War 2. Australia is a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence network. It hosts key US bases including the Pine Gap Communications base which is involved in both surveillance and controlling US weapons systems. Australian forces have fought in every major US imperialist war since World War 2 including Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Today it is sending weapons to the US puppet regime in Kiev. It has firmly lined up with the war drive against China participating in provocations regularly in the South China Sea.

Whilst the position of the Australian ruling class is clear there are still tensions within the Australian ruling class over how openly to confront Beijing. China’s is the biggest trading partner of Australia and billions flow into the coffers of our oligarchs in the form of revenue from the sale of raw materials. However, there is no doubt that ultimately Australia will remain firmly in the camp of US imperialism. In other countries the balance of class forces and geopolitical situation push countries in other directions. It has been noticeable how much of the Global South has refused to join the sanctioning of Russia.  As the drive to World War 3 develops there will not be any room for neutrality. All ruling classes will be forced to choose a side and this process will in itself drive unpredictable and explosive developments in the class struggle.

The disgraceful accommodation to imperialism by so many Trotskyist groups in the Anglosphere of the US, Britain and Australia reveals the deep social chauvinism within them. Unfortunately, however such accommodation was not restricted to the Anglosphere. This points to the task ahead, which is to unite the currently disparate Marxist forces who are taking an anti-imperialist stand by not just opposing NATO’s war drive but who also understand it is necessary to support Russia in its battle with imperialism. Small steps have been taken in this direction already. is proud to have worked with others, in particular Liga Communista in Brazil, to help initiate and organise  panels on March 26th and May 14th and a joint May Day statement as concrete initiatives to bring such forces together. This conference is another. More conferences are needed in the month ahead. They must become the building blocks for the new Zimmerwald Left of the 21st Century and our discussions must soon become efforts to organise in the streets and workplaces internationally. There is also no doubt that a new anti-imperialist International must begin to be conceptualised even if the timing for it has not yet arrived.

Once again comrades, thankyou for this invitation and opportunity to build international anti-war links.

Onwards to the defeat of imperialism. Onwards to the defeat of fascism. Onwards to the victory of socialism. This struggle is the only true way to fight against war!

Davey Heller

Davey Heller is a Trotskyist from Melbourne and long-time campaigner for Left-wing causes including anti-war, refugee rights, environmental protests and workers' struggles. He is a former secondary teacher who studied history at Monash University and currently works in the environmental field. You can follow him on Twitter at @socialist_davey

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