The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Russian People Protest

Feb 28, 2022

People in Russia took to the streets almost as soon as the invasion of Ukraine became known, to protest the Russian military attack. Clearly, many people in Russia understand that this war is not in their interests.

Protests took place in at least 54 cities across the country on the day the invasion started. At least 1,745 people were arrested—957 of them in Moscow, the country’s capital. Taking to the streets in a police state shows courage and determination—these demonstrators were taking a risk.

Public figures made statements against the invasion. Opposition activist Tatyana Usmanova said, "I want to ask Ukrainians for forgiveness. We didn’t vote for those who unleashed the war." More than 330,000 signed an online petition against the war in one day. More than 250 journalists signed an open letter, in a country where journalists are often killed for speaking out; 250 scientists signed another, while 194 municipal council members in Moscow signed one of their own. Human rights activist Marina Litvinovitch issued a video statement on Facebook, saying, "We, the Russian people, are against the war Putin has unleashed. We don’t support this war, it is being waged not on our behalf."

The speed and depth of the reaction against the war reflects the connection many in Russia feel with the Ukraine, and other former Soviet republics that were all part of the same country until 1991. Many Ukrainians live in Russia; many Russians have family members in Ukraine. It is a legacy of the working class revolution led by the Bolsheviks in 1917.

The policies of the Bolsheviks showed that it was possible to build a free and conscious association of all the peoples in the large land mass that comprised Russia prior to World War I. They encouraged all languages and cultures. They ensured that the different peoples—Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian, Azeri, Kazakh and many more—all had the opportunity to develop inside a vast planned economy.

This common development lasted until 1991, despite the fierce Stalinist dictatorship that wiped out most of the achievements of the Bolshevik Revolution. It was the bureaucrats of Moscow, Minsk, and Kyiv who wanted to declare their own fiefdoms; to be lords in their own strongholds and to plunder the maximum amount of wealth. The peoples of the Soviet Union did not want to separate.

Borders were imposed that separated families and obstructed travel between Ukraine and other prior federated regions and Russia. The Ukrainian population suffered a terrible economic collapse and the looting of public enterprises and resources by bureaucrats and officials. In Ukraine in 2014, the rivalry between cliques of pro-Western ultranationalists and pro-Russian oligarchs escalated into civil war. Ukraine became the bloody arena of rivalry between imperialist rulers and the Kremlin.

The Russian people demonstrating against Putin’s war are reflecting a solidarity with the Ukrainian people which was a reality of Soviet life for decades. It represents a hope for the future, that the working class of Russia and its population can reject a narrow, nationalist view and replace the repressive apparatus of Putin and company with a representative workers’ government.