We Refuse to be their Pawns

Polish socialist rejects militarism East and West


This article is based on a speech given by Polish socialist Andrzej Zebrowski at the anti-war demonstration in Berlin on Saturday, 2nd September.

Firstly, thank you for inviting me to speak. As the imperial meat grinder continues to churn, international solidarity is the most important tool of resistance that we have. According to US estimates, about half a million soldiers have been killed or wounded since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine – and many more civilians.

What are they dying for? The conflict has become a clash of imperial interests – between Putin’s Russian territorial expansionism and the much more powerful Western imperialism led by the United States. Putin’s part in the war is obvious. After all, it was Russian troops which invaded Ukraine a year and a half ago. This means that many people don’t see the West as having any responsibility for the war. But for decades, NATO has sensed weakness on the Russian side and has been increasing tensions.

This is a wonderful situation for the Western imperialists. They don’t have to send their own soldiers. They are fighting with Ukrainian blood. And they are prepared to fight to the last Ukrainian. As a response to the war, German military spending has doubled. Arms spending in Germany is now 2 percent of the GDP. In Poland, the situation is twice as bad. The Polish government is boasting that they are spending 4 percent of their GDP on weapons.

NATO has used Putin’s invasion to try to clean up its reputation, but NATO is not a protector. It is an escalator of war. NATO is the biggest war machine on the planet. Similarly, joining NATO is not a democratic right. In fact, it kills democracy because there is no democracy in a graveyard. NATO escalation is just ensuring a bloody future for Ukrainians.

In Poland we see the consequences of joining NATO. Poland joined in 1999. Just 12 days later, NATO began bombing Yugoslavia. Poland showed its loyalty once more when NATO invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2003, it was one of the first four states to invade Iraq.

NATO has more support in Poland than in any other country. In the Polish media, the word “imperialist” is only ever applied to Russia. But the imperialists on both sides do not care about the consequences of war. They aren’t bothered that the war is causing famine. They are more concerned in gearing up with a greater conflict with China, and normalising the idea that using nuclear weapons is an acceptable option to be used by imperial powers when they see fit.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the father of the current US ambassador to Poland, wrote that geopolitics is a grand chess board. But we refuse to be their pawns. In Poland, we have been trying to gather support for the anti-war movement. This has been difficult after even left-wing parties voted for increased arms spending.

The war in Ukraine fosters reactionary politics. In Poland it is used to justify brutal, racist views towards refugees on the Poland-Belarus border. We must say that Ukrainian refugees are welcome and so are all other refugees.

Finally, I’d like to say that two things are important.

Firstly, we must build an international movement against war and not line up with any pole of imperialism. Our allies are the people fighting to stop the war on both sides. People like Boris Kagarlitzky, the Russian socialist who has been jailed by Putin, but also the Ukrainians who don’t want to fight and anti-war activists in all countries.

Secondly, we should understand that capitalist competition inevitably leads to imperialism, and the division and re-division of the world. There will be no end to this as long as capitalism remains.

I will conclude with two quotes from the great Polish-German socialist Rosa Luxemburg on capitalism, militarism and war:

  • “Militarism is indeed indispensable – but for whom? For the present-day ruling classes and the governments.”
  • “Militarism can only be abolished from the world with the destruction of the capitalist class state.”

We must replace this capitalist state and let ordinary people decide what to produce and how to distribute. That is why we must support any fightback against oppression and exploitation.

We say:

  • “Stop the War now.”
  • “Neither Washington nor Moscow.”
  • “Not the solidarity of international war criminals but international solidarity from below.”