Once more, Ukraine lies at the center of an international conflict that has the potential for large-scale military conflict. This has acute significance for the proletariat of Eastern Europe, and indeed the entire continent. Ukrainian sovereignty is being manipulated on behalf of the interests of two counter-revolutionary gangs: Putin’s Russia and US imperialism, NATO, and their European partners.
By IWL-FI / Translated by Miki Sayoko
Not long ago, when Putin’s troops entered Kazakhstan to put a violent end to the Kazakh people’s rebellion, they were applauded by the US and EU. When what is at stake are the interests of capitalists (be they Russian or not), the global powers were in agreement: the will of the people could be sacrificed.
We defend a united Ukraine free from Russian oppression. This means the return of Crimea, the removal of Russian troops from the Eastern borders, and the withdrawal of Russian and Ukrainian paramilitary organizations from the Donbas. Imperialist powers have no interest in defending Ukrainian sovereignty. Instead, it is an operation to convert the country into a military base of NATO on the Russian border, making it a military colony.
The struggle for Ukrainian sovereignty is firmly tied to the global class struggle and the crisis of the imperialist world order. The war that is brewing is not in the interest of Russian or Ukrainian workers, nor of European, US, or any other workers on the planet.
Out with Putin’s and NATO’s troops!
Putin concentrates troops on the Ukrainian border to stop the Kyiv government from joining NATO. The frailty of capitalist Russia in controlling the former Soviet republics leads Putin to bring back the centuries-old great-Russian chauvinism of the Tsars and Stalinism, now against Ukraine.
But Ukraine, as Trotsky explains, was during Lenin’s time an example of Bolshevik politics: to freely unite the different nationalities in a federation with common goals, through convincing and not coercion, generating a force that attracted nationalities and “a stimulus to the struggle of workers, peasants and the revolutionary intellectuals of Western Ukraine, enslaved by Poland.”
In 2014, the Ukrainian masses rose against Yanukovich, who was applying structural adjustments demanded by the IMF and European Union, but at the same time was politically submissive to Putin and against joining NATO.
The Ukrainian people suffered from the absence of a proletarian leadership capable of guiding the struggle in a socialist direction and fighting the “Europeanist” illusions spread by the bourgeois parties that wanted the country to be recolonized.
Thus, the bourgeois, pro-Kremlin clique of Yanukovich brutally attacked workers in 2014. At the same time, he increased the price of gas by 50% and squeezed the salaries of all Ukrainian workers. Yanukovich used the hatred against great-Russian nationalism as a weapon to divide the working class, and forbade the usage of the Russian language in the region of the Donbas.
These measures were answered by the most concentrated working class of the country with a powerful strike movement, which occupied mines and factories in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. But unfortunately, this great battle was capitalized on and dismounted by the pro-Russian separatist organizations, stopping the unification of the Ukrainian workers and people against the politics of imperialism and its puppet government.
The reactionary Minsk Protocol (2015), which stopped military escalation, kept the status quo (the taking over of Crimea by Putin and regional autonomy on the Donbas), was dead on arrival. The antagonism intensified the crisis in the world imperialist order and placed the Ukrainian question, now with it as an armed semi-colony of NATO against Putin, at the center of this struggle.
Russian capitalism, which is dependent on European financial capital and supplies gas and petrol to the German industries, is incapable of offering profitable business to the fragile bourgeoisie of the former Soviet republics. Putin can only keep his regional influence with dictatorships that are submissive to the Kremlin and under military threat.
His aggressions, be them on Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Syria, Belarus, and others, are not, as the post-Stalinist and Castroist parties try to paint them, part of a so-called “anti-imperialist” bloc. They are counterrevolutionary actions of a country that is at the same time dependent on imperialism and an heir to the military power of the former USSR, which needs to crush the mass movements to support submissive oligarchies.
In 2021, demonstrations exploded in more than a hundred Russian cities against the government after the poisoning of opposition leader Navalny; they were harshly repressed, with more than 10 thousand imprisoned. In a country in which the Covid casualties and social discontent grow, Putin’s pro-war agitation appeals to great-Russian nationalism, silencing all internal opposition.
Putin presented the Ukrainian takeover by NATO as part of a civil war between Ukrainians. He then amassed troops on the border in a position of fighting the entire imperialist order, threatening a prolonged war, with thousands of casualties on both sides of the conflict.
US imperialism and its military arm in Europe, NATO, which intend solely to turn Ukraine into a military base in service of its interests: increasing military pressure over Russia, while also buying time to solve its own deep inner political crisis and using European division to discipline Germany.
The contradictions within the imperialist camp
The declarations of Germany, France, and Italy take a much more pacific tone than the warmongering of Biden and NATO, even though they will likely side with the US military. The main actors in European imperialism, relegated to the position of observers in negotiations between the US and Russia, have their own interests at stake. In particular, the US seems to be using the conflict to discipline them, especially German imperialism.
Russia exports 35% of the gas consumed by Europe. The Nord Stream 1 pipeline directly supplies Germany while passing through Ukraine. A new Nord Stream 2 pipeline network is now being built, which would bring Russian gas to Europe without crossing Ukraine. The US has always been against it. But to overcome the deteriorated relations with Germany during the Trump era, the Biden-Merkel deal of early 2021 renounced US sanctions against the companies that are building Nord Stream 2.
But in November 2021, the US restarted the sanctions, again paralyzing the pipeline, with explicit support from the Ukrainian foreign minister.
By concentrating its efforts on containing China, as already widely proclaimed by Biden, the US demands total discipline from German imperialism, even at the cost of its relations with Russia. German and Russian relations with China also hurt the US’s priorities.
A war that is not in workers’ interests
Putin does not want a large-scale war against Ukraine. He prefers to maintain the current situation of a frozen war in his game of pressuring Ukraine to stop it from joining NATO. He is aware a war would lead to unpredictable outcomes for his regime.
Zelenski, the Ukrainian president, is experiencing an economic crisis and plummeting popularity. He uses Russian frailty and the reorganization of the Ukrainian armed forces by the USA for his own benefit.
The USA also does not want a large-scale war on the European continent, betting on tension and on forcing Putin to retreat, presenting this as a victory against Putin and Trump (which follows at Putin’s heel) and, as a bonus, to discipline Germany.
What distinguishes this situation from 2014 is that we are not facing a mass upheaval or insurrection of the Ukrainian people against Russian oppression. Nor does the Russian offensive on the Eastern border (the Donbas) has as its strategy recovering territory lost to Kyiv.
This possible war is not in the interests of Russian or Ukrainian workers, nor of European, American, or any worker in the world.
We repeat that Russia has no right over Ukraine. To defend itself against the NATO troops on its borders, it should stimulate demonstrations by the Ukrainian, European, and US peoples… and of the Russian people, against the advance of the NATO troops. But the Russian oligarchs, supported by an authoritarian state, dread the movement of their own masses more than they fear imperialism.
– For the end of NATO. Out with its troops and US bases from the countries of Eastern and Western Europe.
– For the end of the CSTO military alliance of the Russian state with the former Soviet republics, which are used to send troops to halt uprisings like in Kazakhstan.
– For a united Ukraine free from Russian, European, American, and NATO oppression.