Author The Editors

An Invitation to Contribute to a Discussion on the War in Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caught many off-guard across the political spectrum. Many leftists rushed to release statements in support of one side or the other. Individuals and groups with well-established records of being sympathetic to Russia and convinced that US imperialism is the only real enemy (including some Trotskyists) sided with Putin and his “Z” campaign while other leftists, including anarchists, stood in solidarity with a national resistance led by the Ukrainian state. A handful of pieces by communists emerged that were more circumspect, trying to take stock of the situation, but these were few and far between.

In hopes of bringing greater clarity to the matter, and seeking to articulate a revolutionary approach, Insurgent Notes would like to pose a series of questions clustered around four interrelated themes. Responses to these questions will then be published in the next issue of the journal, which will be specially devoted to “War and Capitalist Crisis.” Groups and individual authors can respond to any or all of the following themes:

  1. Imperialism and anti-imperialism — perhaps a semantic question, but an important one. Is the war in Ukraine an example of a one-sidedly imperialist invasion of a formerly colonial or subject nation, or an inter-imperialist conflict (albeit by proxy, on one side)? Beyond the obvious aggression of Russia, what is the role of nato? Do classical Marxist theories of imperialism still describe the world situation today? What, if anything, is different?
  2. National self-determination — this old concept has been invoked both by those backing Ukraine’s independence from Russia, as well as those promoting the autonomy of Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk. How does the national question figure into the current conflict? For communists skeptical of the “right” to national self-determination in the first place, the invocation of this concept by both sides perhaps illustrates the antinomies of Stalinist and Trotskyist thought.
  3. Defeatism vs. defensism — in many ways this is the classic debate. What is the proper internationalist response? Is “no war but the class war” still an adequate slogan? Principled opposition to every side in a given inter-imperialist conflict usually rests on the notion of revolutionary defeatism. But we must still ask ourselves what this looks like when there is no realistic prospect for revolution in the next few years, when the working class is largely disorganized around the world.
  4. Geopolitics and phases of capitalism — How do geopolitical rivalries play into all this? Might an aspiring global hegemon, China, come out from this on top? Does the return of great power conflicts, direct on one side (Russia’s) and indirect on the other (nato’s), signify a new phase of economic development after “neoliberalism”? What sorts of new struggles might arise from energy and food shortages linked to the war? Marxists have long regarded war as being linked to capitalist crisis, but as a cause or an effect? What kind of crisis (social, economic, political)?

Furthermore, we are interested in hearing from a variety of viewpoints from around the world. It would be interesting to analyze these questions from different regional perspectives, since the conflict might look different from Germany and China and Greece. Germany has a different relation to Russia than the US, given its economic dependence on Russian oil. To this end, Insurgent Notes is looking to solicit a number of international contributions.

The deadline for submissions is October 31, 2022. Please contact with any inquiries or submissions. And feel free to consult our list of recommended readings, which we have compiled to help orient an upcoming public discussion being organized in New York. If you would like to critique any of these pieces, that would be welcome as well.