The Perspective of Georgian Marxists on the Ukrainian Situation

We present here a piece from the Georgian collective Napertskali (“Spark”). The proclamation in Georgian at the end reads “Proletarians of all countries, unite!”


When in August 2008, Russia invaded parts of Georgia proper, beyond all disputed lands and secessionist projects, the world did not know how to properly respond. The biggest loss was of course suffered by average people, regular citizens with no ties to politics, business and government, as is the general rule of imperialist wars. In the immediate aftermath, a teacher – who was then ridiculed by local comedy shows for her “provincial accent” and “bad English” – from Senaki, Western Georgia, asked a very obvious and frequently posed question: “why do they do that?” [1] Why did Russia have a need to occupy Georgia, a country 245 times smaller, when it already had so much? Most Georgian children pose this question to their history teachers and parents, as this all seems very illogical and irrational to even yet-to-be-developed-fully human minds. Often, adults seem confused too, and much of their aggression towards Russian invasions is denoted by “they don’t need more land, they have to stop and remain within their borders” because the broad masses that yet lack class consciousness do not take imperialism into account, or, understand imperialism to be something solely political and historical: Russia wanting to dominate more countries because it is “big and bad,” the Kremlin being revanchist and simply wanting to recover the land lost by the Russian Empire (we remind the readers that much of that land was conquered by Russia through blood and genocide before losing them again), and so on. Minimal economic or social analysis and thorny history ensure the continuation of myths on why Russia may be sending its troops into foreign lands.

It is unsurprising that in the modern world, where the capitalist system has integrated all aspects of human life, all nations and peoples, making the materialist conception of history the main tool of contemporary analysis is difficult, and even more difficult is convincing people, who have been under the influence of propaganda all their lives, that at the heart of all such conflicts, lies the imperialist and the imperialized, the subjugator and the subject – in short, one that takes land through guns and tanks, and the one that gets shot and beaten and robbed of territory. Everyone understands that there is a “good guy” and a “bad guy,” but differentiating them and analyzing why one has acquired this or that role, seems impossible in the persisting liberal framework, as everything is reduced to politics, or the past, or any other chosen term and sentiment that will not be able to objectively explain the situation.

Naturally, one of the main goals of Marxists operating in nations directly impacted by imperialist conflicts is to resist the ongoing imperialization that puts a sharper boot on the necks of working men. This is self-evident, as it is a Marxist duty to “do away with all forms of oppression, including national, once and for all” [2] and we must strive towards this through the means necessary.

However, it is not easy to resist the various political and ideological conceptions, connotations and interpretations of the conflicts, staying true – however cliché this may sound – to “historical materialism.” When the state machine activates its propaganda claws, it tries to put the veil of fratricidal nationalism on the eyes of the population to garner support for its policies. We remember in 2008, when ill-prepared Georgian troops were being murdered by Russians in the city of Gori, the government was inviting leading singers and national personalities to lead concerts, speeches and various entertainment activities on Rustaveli Avenue. For the state, it is imperative to maintain power and legitimacy, no lie is too big and no sacrifice too unfortunate. The state will always be “deceiving “its” people on a grand scale” [3] at times of war. It uses chauvinism, poisons the well and uses propaganda to provoke worker against worker, neighbor against neighbor and sow hatred and militarism to fill its pockets.

In the early hours of February 24th, the Russian Federation started invading Ukraine. This full-scale attack from multiple sides, coupled with methods of hybrid warfare, has been devastating for both Russians and Ukrainians. The International Criminal Court (neither sides of this conflict are members and hence, unrecoginsed by Moscow, even though Ukraine has in place an agreement that gives ICC jurisdiction to investigate) has already started looking into possible war crimes and genocide, while media apps, such as Telegram and Twitter are full of shocking and explicit video footage of Ukrainian or Russian soldiers committing various heinous acts.

It is logical and historically true, that determining the “truth” or the authenticity of many claims flying around while the war is still being waged fully is extremely difficult and near-impossible. Therefore, many consider such conflicts the time to halt “extreme politics,” put on hold the radical analysis we carry out constantly and concede and ally with various, otherwise hostile powers or groups for the “common good.” Now is not the time for class analysis, Marxist radicalism or communist slogans, they say, as there are real lives at stake.

This, however, is precisely the reason why we need to keep being revolutionary socialists and refuse conceding even an iota of our principles, values and strategic points, especially in the times of war, conflict and carnage politics, because otherwise, Marxism is transformed simply into an academic tool, a method of analysis in the times of peace and abundance and nothing more. Indeed, as Rosa Luxemburg pointed out more than a century ago, while the First World War was bleeding the working men of the world dry, if we follow this logic, then:

“In peace-time the class struggle applies within each country, and international solidarity vis-à-vis other countries; in war-time it is class solidarity within and the struggle between the workers of the various countries without. The global historical appeal of the Communist Manifesto undergoes a fundamental revision and […]  now reads: proletarians of all countries, unite in peace-time and cut each other’s throats in war!” [4]

That is why Marxists need to be active, now, more than ever, to spread the message of revolution, to convey to the masses their slogans and aims directly and transparently. The situation in Ukraine is a direct result of various moves Russia and NATO have been making for years now. NATO is the limb of America in Europe, a military bloc and an imperialist alliance. We all witnessed its intervention in Libya and the bloodshed that followed, the results of which have been devastating the Libyans for almost a decade now. It was mainly spearheaded by Sarkozy, the French president who was involved in “bringing peace” through mediation and negotiation between Georgia and Russia in 2008 when there were talks of a ceasefire. Marxists are well aware of its maneuvers, moves and its important role in keeping European and American capital relevant and supreme.

However, what many “leftists” who are trying to dissect the situation grossly overlook is the role of Russia, which is major, key and was to be expected. Caught up in the web of analyzing economic domination and “finance capital imperialism,” some vai-communists [5] forget who initiated the invasion, who has been devastating Eastern Europe and West Asia for centuries. This is why the perspective of Georgian Marxists matters in this conflict – their experience and historical reality is of Russian domination and subjugation, colonialism followed by imperialism, followed by setting ethnic tensions ablaze, with genocides and forced resettlements. The Caucasus is well aware of Russian tactics, its historical role in the region and how it uses various tools to destabilize nations for its own gain. All of this took place years and centuries before NATO was ever concocted. It just so happens that now, more than during other historical epochs, Russia has a likewise strong, imperialist power threatening its ambitions, expansion and revanchism. Of course, NATO does this by countering expansion with expansion – opening military bases and holding talks with governments that are on bad terms with Russia, utilizing the simple and unfortunately still persisting geopolitical tactic of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

In an ironic way, this type of analysis robs the Russian state of agency and is somewhat euro-centric, painting such conflicts to be initiated, provoked, and planned by the West through NATO, EU, etc., while Russia is “forced a hand.” The West acts, Russia reacts. It is not difficult to see why this way of thinking is not only inaccurate, but also dangerous, as it poses a threat to having a correct way of understanding different imperialist states and their actions. It necessarily rules out that Russian Imperialism can itself be the genesis of a given conflict, as it is mainly concerned with solely maintaining its sphere of influence and apparently only taking up arms where “absolutely necessary,” to stop NATO from coming straight to its door.

To take a Georgian example again in showcasing the fallacy of such thinking, the 1992 war in Abkhazia, where Russia was heavily involved and laid path to furthering its imperialist strings into the Caucasus, was not a reaction to the West. Actually, in various interviews, the contemporary Georgian president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia (who was an anti-communist politician and died soon after in mysterious circumstances) constantly protested the bad press his government received in the West and underlined how unhelpful the American and European governments were in general, accusing them of not understanding the situation properly, being “Euroamerican Imperialists” and using democracy as a cover for horrible acts abroad, trying to turn Georgia and other nations into their own colonies. [6] While it is true, that Georgia, as soon as it declared independence from the USSR, had attempts to reach out to the West, they were marginal and erratic, fruitless and sometimes even counterproductive and had little impact on local geopolitics, with Russia considering Georgia lost land it had to reclaim much before the various Georgian governments tried to move more Westwards. So in reality, the West filled in a vacuum left in the country’s political alignment after Russia devastated it on multiple counts. In this case, it was the West which was reacting.

Can we say, following the same logic as before, that the West was forced a hand? That the Georgian governments and the bourgeoisie had to work tirelessly for 30 years to ensure its close cooperation with NATO, EU and other Euro-Atlantic structures? Of course, we cannot. The aforementioned organizations have always had their aims and made their moves accordingly. They are ruthless defenders of their imperialist interests, of integrating various national economies, exporting ideology and finance capital, putting these nations under their own thumbs. Likewise acts Russia, which represents one of the big weights on the geopolitical scale pans. The infantilization of its choices, the sanitization of its actions and acceptance of Russian state propaganda of “denazification” and so on, not only avoids looking at reality, but also poses a danger to the various working classes of surrounding nations. If the Communist caveat dictates that Russia is likewise a bourgeois, capitalist nation, there is no reason for leftists to trust its goals and methods, especially given its historical record. It should be stated over and over again, to avoid the obvious ignorance that penetrates these discussions even in “socialist” circles, that the sovereignty of Ukraine is not really an important matter for the West. Neither is the “independence” of Donetsk and Luhansk a worry for Russia. The actual worry of both these powers is maintaining the existing and expanding the potential influences in the region through investments, militarism and in Russia’s case as we have witnessed in the last two weeks, outright invasions. The fact that Putin is no friend of “the left” should be evident to the most elementary abecedarian of socialism – reading his chauvinist “historical overview” of Ukraine is proof enough. [7]

All of this could cause confusion for Communists familiar with the Marxist theory of imperialism and the conditions of Russia at the end of the 20th century. It is true that Russian capitalism in the 1990s was not developed enough to be classified as an equal, competing imperialist power, compared to the United States for example. Some may deduce from this that Russia is not imperialist at all, or something in between and intermediate. However, such an appraisal of imperialism is simply a vulgarization of Marxist theory. While it is true that the main characteristics of imperialism is the export of capital, development of monopolies, the fusion of bank capital and finance capital (all of these apply to modern day Russia), imperialist wars, rather than being a result of such developments, can also be a necessary precondition for developing capitalism, which is trying to expand and encompass all spheres of national life. Let us not forget that Russian capitalism during the First World War was not as developed as the economies of England and Germany, but the Russian Empire still qualified as imperialist.

Our support, and now, condolences too, lie with the working classes of all countries, who are the victims of the geopolitical games of various imperial powers, as they are sacrificed senselessly to shoot at each other and die meaningless deaths for the money-bags of tie-wearing politicians and businessmen. We refuse to take a stance between either Moscow or Washington. We eschew this false dichotomy of the Kremlin or NATO.

Currently, the primary goal of the Ukrainian people is fending off blatant imperialist aggression, surviving in the face of advancing Russian armies and defending its right to exist – this is the relevant, ongoing, life-and-death matter that must be solved first and foremost, to stop the murder of civilians, forcefully conscripted soldiers and the advance of Russia’s imperialist units. However, in this, and in the future construction of Ukraine that will follow in case of Russian defeat, the West cannot lend a hand; it can only follow its aims of expanding militarily and financially, making Ukraine and its government its vassal. Neither can Zelenskyy and his cabinet be of similar service. Naturally, Russia, as the main and initiating aggressor and a capitalist-imperialist power, will have to also be completely uninvolved in the process of Ukrainian self-determination and liberation. We, therefore, arrive at the only real, clear solution: the creation of truly free and liberated Ukraine has to be done under the revolutionary banner of Socialism, by the broadest masses of class conscious proletariat, with the guidance of local Communist Parties and Organizations. Only this can promise the actual and possible accomplishment of lasting peace and harmony, as only socialism strives to settle and abolish exploitation and oppression through authentic action and people’s genuine movement.

In realizing this future and standing on the path of true liberation, of which we are the most fervent supporters, we stand with the Ukrainian people, in solidarity and in support.

პროლეტარებო ყველა ქვეყნისა, შეერთდით!

The Napertskali Collective

Tbilisi, Georgia




  1. A short 2008 interview with Tsisana Chkadua
  2. Rosa Luxemburg – Foreword to the Anthology: The Polish Question and the Socialist Movement (1905)
  3. V.I. Lenin – Socialism and War (1915)
  4. Rosa Luxemburg – Rebuilding the International (1915)
  5. “Vai” [ვაი] is a Georgian interjection, its closest English equivalents being “woe,” “alas,” “weep.” It is commonly used as a prefix for nouns to belittle or degrade them, transform them into an insult, e.g. ვაი-პოლიტიკოსი (vai-politician) would be a politician who is pathetic, bad at their job and a charlatan. The prefix carries a pejorative air that tries to underline the failure and negative qualities in something that is generally neutral.
  6. ინტერვიუ საქართველოს რესპუბლიკის პრეზიდენტ, ზვიად გამსახურდიასთან გაზეთ “ნაროდნაია პრავდაში” (1992)
  7. Vladimir Putin – On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians (2021)