By Stephen Gowans
July 9, 2022
Below is a quick summary of a July 8 speech on the war in Ukraine by Dimitris Koutsoumbas, General Secretary of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), delivered to a conclave of communist parties from Greece, Mexico, Spain, and Turkey.
Earlier this year, Koutsoumbas’s party initiated a statement on the war in Ukraine, characterizing the war as the outcome of a struggle between capitalist classes. The statement was supported by a significant number of Communist Parties and Communist Youth Organizations, but rejected by others.
Koutsoumbas’s address elaborated on the KKE view, which has been summarized by one of its deputies in the European Parliament as follows: “The imperialist conflict in Ukraine is between two camps of robbers: The US-NATO-EU and the bourgeoisie of Ukraine against capitalist Russia, for the control of pipelines and markets.”
Here are some of the points Koutsoumbas made:
The war in Ukraine is a conflict between bourgeois states.
Bourgeois states engage in rivalries over raw materials, mineral wealth, commodity transport routes, geopolitical pillars, and market shares. These rivalries lead to war.
The causes of the imperialist war in Ukraine lie in the confrontation between bourgeois classes.
The USA, NATO, and EU are pursuing war in Ukraine to further their interests in Eurasia before embarking on a major conflict with China over which capitalist power will be supreme in the world economy.
People in all the belligerent countries and alliances—Russians, Ukrainians, Europeans, North Americans— are already paying the price for the war, either with their blood or in an unbearable economic burden.
The price they pay has been imposed on them by the bourgeoisie of all the belligerent powers.
Communists are engaged in a debate over the meaning of imperialism. One view limits imperialism to its reactionary–aggressive foreign policy, resulting in its identification with the USA and the most powerful EU member states. This view is too narrow.
[My note: The classical Marxist view of imperialism has always held that imperialism is an ineluctable outgrowth of capitalism and that it is expressed in rivalry among capitalist powers for access to raw materials, and to dominate markets, spheres of investments, and strategic territory. In the classical view, this rivalry eventually escalates to war.]
Capitalist relations of production now prevail entirely in China. Moreover, Russia, among the most powerful capitalist military powers in the world, and supported by powerful monopolies, is unquestionably capitalist. Imperialism is inseparable from capitalism. As capitalist powers, neither China or Russia, therefore, are outside the imperialist system.
Multipolaristas fantasize about a ‘peaceful cooperation’ in the framework of international capitalist competition through a utopian ‘non-aggressive’ rivalry, or a rivalry whose aggression will be held in check through various ‘security architectures’
[My note: Hilferding expresses the classical Marxist view on security architectures. “What an illusion,” it is, he wrote, “to preach international law in a world … of capitalist struggle where [the] superiority of weapons is the final arbiter.”]
Some communists have been deceived by the pretexts used by one or another ruling bourgeois class—North American, Russian, European, or Ukrainian—and have allowed themselves to become instruments of the pursuits of one or another bourgeois class.
We should not align with one or the other capitalist camp in the war, but instead work (1) to disengage our countries from the war and (2) most importantly, to overthrow the cause of the war: capitalism.