The EU, Nato and Russia: a war long foretold

In his annual Marx graveside oration, Rob Griffiths says Western state-monopoly capitalism and imperialism have worked diligently to encircle Russia, but understanding that does not justify Putin’s attack: we must strive for peace
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During the Crimean War against Russia in the mid-19th century, Marx wrote this about the military build-up by Britain and France near the Black Sea, in Turkey:

“You cannot first frighten your enemy by enormous armaments and then try to make him believe that they are not intended to do any harm. The trick would be too shallow; and if it is expected to mislead the Russians by such paltry pretexts, British diplomacy has made another egregious blunder.”

Comrades, there is a long history of Western military preparations under false pretences, followed by military assaults on the Russian empire and after that the Soviet Union. It is not surprising that any patriotic Russian with a knowledge of history would have concerns about Nato’s eastwards expansion to the borders of Russia over the past three decades.

Nato, set up six years before the Warsaw Pact, still exists 30 years after the dissolution of the Pact and of the the Soviet Union itself. Nato’s membership has almost doubled since the collapse and counter-revolution in the socialist countries — and all the new member states are in central or eastern Europe.

With their hugely superior firepower and resources, the troops, missiles, navies and military bases of the Nato powers now form a vast circle around Russia from Iceland, Greenland and Alaska to Japan, South Korea, the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, Turkey, the Baltic States and Eastern Europe.

Within this circle also lies People’s China.

In his classic work Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin declared:

“In the realities of the capital- ist system and not in the banal philistine fantasies of English parsons, or of the German ‘Marxist’ Kautsky, ‘inter-imperialist’ or ‘ultra-imperialist’ alliances, no matter what form they may assume… are inevitably nothing more than a ‘truce’ in periods between wars. Peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars and in their turn grow out of wars; the one conditions the other, producing alternating forms of peaceful and non-peaceful struggle on one and the same basis of imperialist con- nections and relations within world economics and world politics.”

The “banal fantasies of English parsons” can be seen today in the misrepresentation of Nato as a peaceful and purely defensive alliance, one that has kept the post-war peace in Europe, supposedly protecting freedom and democracy against the “red menace” that was ready to sweep across the continent after 1945.

We are asked to believe that — having rebuilt more than 2,000 towns and cities in the Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia destroyed by Nazi Germany and its fascist collaborators — the Communist governments in Moscow, Warsaw, Prague and Berlin were keen to risk an even bigger round of mass slaughter and destruction.

Our “English parsons” of today — who no doubt read the Guardian instead of the Morning Star — also peddle the fantasy that the EU is some kind of progressive, peace-loving, free-market mutual support association.

Yet the class character of the EU is clear from its founding treaties, its rules, its institutions and its policies. Like Nato, it’s an alliance of otherwise rival state-monopoly capitalist powers. It fights for the common interests of Western Europe’s monopoly capitalist corporations within the context of world economics and world politics.

These interests — shared with US state monopoly capitalism — have been to destroy the socialist systems of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, to privatise and penetrate their economies, gain access to their rich natural resources and to secure Western domination over oil and gas supply chains.

The EU’s close alignment with Nato is reflected not only in the Lisbon Treaty and its protocols, but also in the EU’s expansion in lock-step with Nato.

Since the early 1990s, EU membership has more than doubled. Nine of the new member states were formerly aligned economically, politically and militarily with the Soviet Union and Russia. They are now part of the Pesco programme for the joint militarisation of the EU.

Make no mistake about it, between them in their joint drive eastwards, Nato and the EU played the major part in creating the conditions which made the Ukraine war all but inevitable.

But this cannot justify the brutal military aggression launched by the Putin regime against the people of Ukraine.

Putin is anti-socialist and anti-communist. As he made clear recently, he has never accepted Lenin’s nationalities policy, which guaranteed federal status for Ukraine in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

His savage attack on the people of Ukraine is most likely going to increase support for Nato in Europe and North America and strengthen the position of the fascists in Ukraine itself.

Putin represents the interests of the circle of capitalist oligarchs who — in a vicious power struggle — defeated those represented previously by Boris Yeltsin. Whatever their political affiliation, they all stole the economic assets of the Soviet people, just as another set of oligarchs stole the assets of the Ukrainian people.

None of these oligarchs represent the real interests of the workers and peoples of Russia and Ukraine, any more than Britain’s oligarchs — yes,we have them too — represent the interests of the peoples of England, Scotland and Wales.

We must reject their war and campaign for peace.

We must demand a negotiated settlement which upholds the sovereign rights of the Ukrainian people as a nation, while meeting Russia’s legitimate concerns.

And as socialists and communists, as anti-imperialists and partisans of peace, we must work for the dissolution of Nato. Our slogan is here on Marx’s plinth, as necessary and as powerful as ever: “Workers of all lands — unite!”

Rob Griffiths, is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain

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