War in Ukraine: the Disgusting Opportunism of the «Mouvement Communiste-Kolektivně proti Kapitálu»
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 19; Autumn 2022)
«Mouvement Communiste-Kolektivně proti Kapitálu» is a group active in Belgium, France and the Czech Republic, which was formed by a fusion of elements from the Internationalist Communist Current (ICC) and a group referring to the Italian «operaismo» of the 1970s; it enjoys a certain reputation for a kind of political and theoretical radicalism among those attracted by its discourses.
In its vague and confusing presentation (see its website), we read that it intends to defend «Marxist concepts»; according to this «Movement» the theory «is always plunged into a deep crisis.» because of its «distortion (class collaboration; nationalism; parliamentarism; pacifism; trade unionism) brought about above all, through many decades, by social-democratic, Stalinist, Maoist and Trotskyist currents». It sums up its «ambitions and its hopes» in the formula: «maximum intransigence towards the classes represented by the existing regime and the maximum freedom and self-organisation among those who engage in the fight for a collective and individual future which is worth living».
We have already had the opportunity to show that its demands for theoretical and programmatic rigour and intransigence are only a pretext for its practical opportunism. The war in Ukraine has become a new, particularly repulsive example, with the publication of a text on the subject: «UKRAINE: The Russian colonial expedition accelerates the race to world war» (27/2/22) (1).
In a detailed analysis of inter-imperialist relations describing the positions of the various states, it writes that «European capitals [continue] in disarray»; but despite their differences, they presented a united front and took measures (economic sanctions, military aid to Ukraine) that undoubtedly surprised Russian imperialism by their magnitude. This is a recurring error in analyses of European imperialisms, whose strengths (and thus dangers to the international proletariat) the MC-KP always tends to downplay in comparison with their competitors on the world stage. However, we will not develop this point now.
In the rest of its text, the MC-KP multiplies its commitment to orthodox Marxist beliefs, which contrast with the flatness of most currents of the so‑called «extreme left» in the face of official pro‑imperialist propaganda:
«Our positions are known. Workers have no country; they do not defend frontiers of any sort; they fight first of all their own bourgeoisie and all imperialist and colonialist policies of annexation. Workers aim for fraternisation between proletarians in uniform from the opposing camps with the aim of transforming imperialist wars into class war.»
Shortly thereafter, however, it adds that «Fraternisation between proletarians in uniform from both fronts is impossible in the conditions of the conflict in Ukraine». The Russian soldiers are, according to the MC-KPK, professional groups that are «most loyal to the Russian regime». In writing these sentences, the MC-KP was for sure unaware of the many testimonies of the lack of «morale» and combativeness of many of these often very young soldiers, who sometimes abandoned their equipment, even refused to fight, etc.(2) The 200,000 soldiers arrayed around the border could not, of course, have been mostly professional soldiers or «mercenaries» who would not have allowed any fraternization…
Regarding the calls for sacrifice for the homeland published by the Ukrainian government and neo-Nazi militias, the MC-KP assures: «It is obvious that the proletariat in Ukraine has nothing to gain from this patriotic combat whose advocates are no different from Putin». But immediately afterwards it adds: «On the other hand, it is not completely impossible for sectors of the exploited class and inheritors of the democratic Maidan movement of 2013 to try to organise a resistance, armed or not, to the invasion which breaks with the Ukrainian state and its Nazi militias».
The «democratic movement» of 2013–2014, extolled by «far-left» opportunism, was a broad petty‑bourgeois protest movement against the disputed electoral victory of a pro‑Russian candidate and in favour of Ukraine's adhesion to the European Union. The driving force behind this movement was far‑right nationalist groups funded by Western-linked oligarchs…
But the MC-KP goes on to argue that this prospect would strike a «terrible blow against the Ukrainian state», strengthen opposition to the war in Russia, enable «the rise of independent workers’ struggles» and send a clear signal of «political class autonomy to millions of emigrant Ukrainian workers in Europe and Russia as well as, more generally, the world proletariat». But to achieve this, it concludes, «proletarians must use legal and illegal weapons».
In fact, in complete contradiction to the above orthodox Marxist statements and despite the quotations from Lenin scattered throughout the text, it proposes a repetition of the «partisan» policy of the Second World War: the self‑proclaimed autonomous participation of the proletariat in the imperialist war. Thus, the rupture between the war fronts and revolutionary defeatism, which Lenin and the Bolsheviks stubbornly defended as a condition for the resumption of the revolutionary class struggle, disappears; according to the MC-KP, participation in the war can, on the contrary, lead to «class political autonomy» (whatever this vague term means), and this «autonomy» can be the work of the successors of the democratic, i.e. politically bourgeois, movement! It is hard to deny the communist revolutionary positions any more clearly…
In a reply on a Czech website to a user’s request for an explanation, MC-KP writes: «Can resistance to a colonialist military aggressor be trivialized into ‘it’s fighting (and dying) for the state’? It certainly can't, I think it's a fight to defend life from its Stalinization, a return to ‘Soviet times’ with repression and censorship and suppression of individual and collective freedoms is what people in Ukraine fear and resist. Hence the ‘definition’ of the Ukrainian struggle as an armed democratic one. If it remains ‘just’ that, it risks the consequence that every democratic movement risks: the strengthening of the state. Is any other consequence conceivable? Yes, if the workers establish that struggle on a class basis…»
The circle is complete: for the MC-KP, as for the dirtiest bourgeois propaganda, we are witnessing in Ukraine the resistance of a people fighting for their freedom, not a war between two bourgeois states! To rechristen the war on the Ukrainian side, with the general mobilisation of the male population as cannon fodder, as «armed democratic struggle» is nothing but a pathetic justification of total alignment with the war front, despite all the pseudo-classist phrases.
Invariance of opportunism: even if the consequences for the proletariat are infinitely minor, it is the same betrayal of the fundamental principles of the class independence that was committed in 1914 by the majority of the parties of the Second International, which the Bolsheviks denounced as a sell-out to the bourgeoisie and which made it imperative to break with them in order to constitute the revolutionary parties and the International.
Engels explained that the basis of every political error is a theoretical error. The theoretical emptiness, which the MC-KP implicitly acknowledges when it speaks of a deep theoretical crisis, disarms it in the face of ideological pressure from the ruling class, leading it in fact to side with the bourgeois camp. In reality, Marxist theory is not in crisis: what is «in crisis» are the forces that have broken with this theory, this programme. The rupture with these forces, whether large or small, the return to that theory and programme and the reconstitution of the class party on this basis is, without wishing to offend the MC-KPK, the only way out for the proletarians of Ukraine and Russia, who are called upon to shed their blood or make sacrifices in defence of «their» capitalism, as well as for the proletarians of the whole world, who will sooner or later be confronted with the same prospect.
(2) British intelligence chief says Russian soldiers refused to obey orders, others damaged their equipment (Financial Times, 7/4/22). We don't take this information literally, but the discontent that exists even among groups described as closest to the Russian regime is evidenced by other information: a lawyer in Krasnodar (southern Russia), who took on the defense of dozens of members of the Rosgvardia (National Guard, considered staunch supporters of the regime) who refused to be sent to Ukraine, said that nearly a thousand people had contacted him on the same issue. (Financial Times 2/4/22)
International Communist Party