The following speech was delivered by Miguel Ángel Villalón on behalf of Unión Proletaria at a joint rally with the Iniciativa Comunista in Spain. All emphasis is ours.
Good afternoon, comrades. I bring you greetings from Unión Proletaria.
I will try to clarify from our point of view what the proletarian-communist position should be in relation to the conflict in Ukraine (as well as in relation to international conflicts in general), particularly in an imperialist country like Spain. I suppose you know well enough the background and causes of this conflict. If necessary, we will recall them during the debate that is to follow.
The other classes and parties have already taken a position:
1. The majority of the population, as usually happens in any non-revolutionary situation, accepts the narrative put forward by the authorities, especially when there is consensus among them as is the case at present. Russia has unjustifiably invaded Ukraine and Nato is protecting us from Russia.
2. Pacifists in theory and the majority of workers, out of a degree of class-consciousness, distrust the Nato imperialists, but also consider capitalist Russia to be imperialist and to have invaded Ukraine for imperialist purposes.
This second position is taken by many communist parties in the world. In response to it, please allow me to read to you one of those quotes from Lenin which cannot be lifted out of context because it discusses the question from the point of view of general principle:
“It is necessary to explain the meaning of annexations, and why and how socialists must fight against them. Not every appropriation of ‘foreign’ territory can be described as an annexation, for, generally speaking, socialists favour the abolition of frontiers between nations and the formation of larger states; nor can every disturbance of the status quo be described as an annexation, for this would be extremely reactionary and a mockery of the fundamental concepts of the science of history; nor can every military seizure of territory be called annexation, for socialists cannot repudiate violence and wars in the interests of the majority of the population.
“Annexation must apply only to the appropriation of territory against the will of the population of that territory; in other words, the concept of annexation is inseparably bound up with the concept of self-determination of nations. ” (Proposals submitted by the central committee of the RSDLP to the second socialist conference by VI Lenin, April 1916, CW Vol 22)
If you like, during the debate we can elaborate on how to apply this criterion of Lenin’s to the present war in Ukraine.
Most communist parties, especially those in the imperialist west, do not consider Russia to be imperialist, but nevertheless they dare not support it for fear of damaging their relationship with the masses. This shows that the masses have not been told the whole truth of how the society in which we live works: they have not had explained to them the link between the opportunists who betray them on a daily basis and the exploitation of most countries in the world by a few; they have not had explained to them that we must support everyone who fights this imperialist yoke, and not just out of sympathy, but because it is that same yoke that keeps us enslaved.
These parties have not behaved as revolutionaries but as centrists.
What does this mean? It means that although they have done well to attempt to bring about unity of action with reformist mass organisations, they have done wrong to do so at the expense of the need to explain the essential question of the imperialist oppression by our countries over others.
There is also a minority of communists whose sin is not centrism, but the opposite: the sin of ‘leftism’. They confuse the part with the whole.
They exaggerate certain particular truths to the detriment of concrete truth (in the debate, we will be able to clarify the difference between the particular and the concrete). It is the same process followed by all those who create obstacles to building the necessary workers’ and people’s unity through insisting on the acceptance of some false idea, some dogma.
Currently, their chief international exponent is the KKE with its theory of the ‘imperialist pyramid’. This theory takes from Lenin some of his most important ideas about imperialism and applies them to current capitalist development, but it discards others that are equally important. Thus, starting from the fact that imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism and that it is characterised by five features, they conclude that all capitalist states have become imperialists, some stronger and some weaker, but we must fight them equally.
In this new conception of imperialism, the distinction between oppressor and oppressed countries disappears, as does bribery of the labour aristocracy in the oppressor countries as a consequence of this relationship of domination. They advocate a somersault from imperialism to proletarian socialism, despising the democratic struggles of other social sectors and oppressed nations. They miss out the last chapter of the Communist Manifesto, precisely the one that tells us how to put its lessons into practice.
In short, this is ‘leftism’ in quotation marks, because it is as useful to imperialism as right-wing revisionism or reformism.
Finally, we communists are exposed to one last danger, which also confuses a part with the whole, but this time equating resistance to imperialism with the suppression of imperialism.
This danger consists of waiting passively for someone else to bring us to an idyllic multipolar world that is almost socialist, or which at least respects the political choices of each people.
However, the hypothetical victory of Russia, China and the Global South over the current international imperialist system will not of itself replace capitalism with socialism. And capitalism, at this stage of development of the productive forces, tends to be monopolistic, with all it entails of domination and reactionary violence.
Hitherto, we have only known the imperialism of the old colonial powers: of their conflagrations first and of their international system in the most recent period. But this does not mean that another cannot form on its ashes. If we want to put an end to imperialism altogether, we must develop the class struggle of the proletariat for socialist revolution in all countries. And we will have the bourgeois world against us, however multipolar it may be.
I will end this speech with a practical conclusion: in order to achieve the social emancipation of the workers, we must support any struggle that weakens the current imperialist system, the only one that at present exists and operates as such – ie, the one that is organised around the USA. Its overthrow by Russia, China and other oppressed countries must therefore be supported.
At present, because of the persistent crisis provoked by revisionism in the workers’ and communist movement, the greatest anti-imperialist force is that national-liberation movement. Although its successes cannot eradicate imperialism definitively (unless they entail a revolutionary revitalisation of the workers’ movement), they do weaken it by opening a window of opportunity for communists to achieve this.
Solidarity with this national-liberation movement will have to be one of the aspects – together with others – of the programme and tactics of the proletarian force that we must gather together so as to concentrate all popular struggles towards the conquest of socialism. Let us soon agree on this plan of unification and implement it step by step, systematically.
This is the priority: to reconstitute the Communist party.