The war in Ukraine is undoubtedly a war of aggression, and is clearly an imperialist war of aggression, only the most inept fanatic would deny it. Any supposed intermediate, neutral or pacifist poses are useless: the war against Ukraine is the war of a tyrant with atomic weapons and with the air of an emperor. You cannot have been against the Vietnam War and the invasions of Panama and Iraq -among others- and stand idle before a textbook imperialist war. If you sail under the flag of anti-imperialism, you are with Ukraine and its struggle for its sovereignty and self-determination.
Putin’s war against Ukraine is a war that comprises the essence of imperialist wars in their most political dimension: the conquest of territories outside an aggressor’s borders to strengthen its geopolitical power against other powers that it considers a threat to its survival. From this point of view, some may justify the Russian aggression as a preventive war, but that would not make it less imperialist, since it is put into practice to reestablish what the Prussians called lebensraum, the doctrine of living space that the Nazis adopted to justify the invasion of neighboring states that they considered their areas of influence.
The same arguments used by Hitler to annex Austria (common language, culture, and history) are the ones that Putin has used to try to crush Ukraine. If for one the construction of Greater Germany was the justifying narrative, for the other the reconstruction of Greater Russia is his historical mission before which the other peoples of Central Europe must bow.
To the geopolitical voracity we must also add Putin’s vocation for extermination against the Ukrainian population that has refused to obey the invader’s orders. In the manner of the tyrants of old he has unleashed a campaign of calculated destruction of the country and society. The brazen bombardments against the civilian population have neither justification on the part of the invader nor do they deserve the complicit silences of the supposedly equidistant; neither can the calculated destruction of the productive capacity of one of the world’s granaries be justified. The scorched earth policy in cities and fields practiced by the satrap of Moscow is the same applied by other imperial powers to punish peoples’ resistance and to send a message to those who dared to oppose their expansionist plans.
Regardless of whether you are for or against Ukraine joining the EU and NATO, it is the result of the will of the citizens of that country that has been endorsed in successive elections of national authorities and – even more clearly – in the rejection shown against the invaders. In respect of international law, no foreign head of state, no matter how many atomic weapons they have, can set themself up as the ruler of Ukraine to impose a national security policy that would violate its independence.
Anti-imperialism from its origins has been essentially anti-colonialist and left-wing, in frank rejection of the expansionist policies of the old European empires in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Later it was extended to the rejection of US imperialism as the hegemonic power in the world, and became its counterpart in international politics. Anti-imperialism was, par excellence, a position of the left against US imperialism in its triple expression: military, geopolitical and financial. If you were on the left, you were anti-imperialist and vice versa. Until the Soviet Union invaded Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The latter divided the world’s left. One of its currents used the name of social-imperialism to differentiate it from the capitalist version.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the gradual conversion of China into state capitalism left the dogmatic left without references. However, far from resetting itself and recognizing the entry of the Russian and Chinese regimes into the family of imperialisms, they were left to suffer without doctrine or practice. This radish-left (red on the outside, white on the brain) was caught out of place -again- by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Why is there blindness in a certain supposedly anti-imperialist left to recognize the atrocities committed by a regime like Putin’s, which cannot claim the ideological bases of yesteryear nor does it claim to be an alternative to world capitalism? Why do they refuse to accept that Russia today is one more cathedral of the most predatory capitalism, supported by oligarchs of the highest phase of the wildest capitalism, financially and in strategic resources such as oil, gas and grain? Why doesn’t that fossilized left want to find out about the abundant evidence that shows that the Moscow regime is not only not from the left but that it is the main promoter of far-right parties and governments like the Hungarian one, and protector of bloodthirsty theocracies like Iran’s?
The hypocrisy with which they contemplate the genocide against the Ukrainian people is unacceptable, ignoring the daily massacres against the population and hiding in the face of the destruction of a country that has only wanted to exercise its right to self-determination. However, they have plenty of nerve to ask for the sanctions against Russia, the aggressor, be lifted and to condemn the arms aid to those under attack.
As in the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Putin’s war against Ukraine will be a watershed for anti-imperialism. With their middle-of-the-road positions, complicit neutralities or the “brainy” geopolitical arguments, the champions of anti-imperialism lose an opportunity to side with Ukraine with each passing day. It is there and now. The positions after the fact will be the best proof of the double standards they have been dragging on for many years. Unequivocally: if you are anti-imperialist, you are with Ukraine.
Indeed, Uncle Ho’s phrase still holds true against old and new tyrannies, and against old and new imperialisms: “Nothing is more valuable than freedom and independence.”
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times.