Wed Jun 19, 2024
June 19, 2024

The Russia-Ukraine War After the Wagner Mutiny

As the previous IWL statement says, “June 24 will go down in history as the day when Putin felt, for the first time in 24 years, that his power was wavering and could fall.”

By the IWL

That was so, not because it was the express aim of the mutineers to oust him, but because the mutiny led by the owner of the Private Military Company (PMC) “Wagner,” Yevgeny Prigozhin, that lumpen turned multimillionaire oligarch, exposed the fragility of Putin’s dictatorial regime. It also showed that a minority and marginalized but significant sector of society had sympathy with the march of the mutineers and their denunciations, as they took selfies with the tanks of the Wagner troops and came to greet Prigozhin next to his armored truck. In addition, there were riots in several prisons and barracks.

As Diego Ruso’s article states, “not only is there discontent at the bottom of Russian society but also at the top. It revealed the deep division existing within Putin’s regime.” And this division was especially evident in the leadership of the armed forces and its intelligence service the GRU. Prigozhin did not act alone.

After June 24, versions circulated about the detention or “disappearance” of aerospace forces commander General Surovikin, nicknamed “General Armageddon,” who has cultivated a close association with Prigozhin since his role in Syria in 2017. However, sanctioning Surovikin is likely to create further divisions in Russia’s military elite. For he is one of the most respected senior officers within the Russian military.

On the other hand, Deputy Minister of Defense, Colonel General Yunus-bek Yevkurov, and the head of the GRU, General Alekseev are also “in the crosshairs” of possible purges. They were absent in recent meetings of senior commanders after “Yevkurov and Alekseev were videotaped in a conversation with the owner of Wagner during the takeover of Rostov by the insurgent group.”

In other words, the suspicions that have fallen on high-ranking military officers have laid bare how Prigozhin’s aborted mutiny has sharpened the existing rifts within Russia’s security forces.

It reveals what Prigozhin did and what he said.

But, the “March to Moscow for Justice” of Putin’s favorite ex-chef also unveiled several of the lies of the “narrative” of the different sectors of Stalinism, Castro-Chavism, and other “leftist” groups about the war and about the Ukrainian resistance.

The lie of Putin’s anti-imperialist, defensive war

One of the arguments of Stalinism is that Putin is responding to a NATO attack against Russia. That is to say that he is ostensibly defending the “Russian homeland” from an imperialist attack.

The righteous hatred of imperialism, which exploits, oppresses, and kills workers and peoples of the world causes many activists to fall for this lie.

But Prigozhin’s declarations disprove all that. He denounced that the war against Ukraine was started on the basis of a lie since Ukraine and NATO had never threatened an attack against Russia. Moreover, he stated that the whole war was the dirty business of Defense Minister Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Gerasimov, who had particular interests in the war, which they are using as a way to enrich themselves. In his proclamation, Prigozhin began by insisting that “everyone was deceived, that even the President was deceived.” Prigozhin’s own mutiny and his boss Putin’s response show that Putin was aware that the war did start on the basis of a lie, so much so that Shoigu is still at his post.

In response to this, some militants of “communist” parties have declared that “one cannot believe what a person like Prigozhin says.” But it turns out that until very recently he was part of Putin’s inner circle, he was considered to be the one who achieved victories on the front, and he was the one who was decorated and given the title of the “hero of Bakhmut.” Previously, it was never shown that this role had been questioned by CP militants. Even to this day and following the mutiny, Prigozhin was returned the sum of 100 million dollars in cash and gold bars that had been confiscated by the FSB from the Wagner headquarters, and he returned to St. Petersburg to personally receive the decorated pistol that he had been given by Shoigu in the past.

It is common for bandits to fight over the distribution of loot, and when that happens, loyalties end and many truths come out. This is what happened in Russia, Prigozhin saw his economic interests affected by the policy of his competitors who head the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff. These entities were taking control of the contracts of the mercenary armies as of July 1, and in order to prevent this, Prigozhin fiercely entered the fray and in the process brought to light his boss’s dirty laundry.

The existing fragility and divisions became clear in the different reactions to the Prigozhin mutiny. Putin displayed hysterical and contradictory reactions in his threatening to punish “traitors to the motherland” and on the same day secretly negotiating and pardoning. In the end, he ostensibly accepted the negotiated departure of the major “traitor” to Belarus, which showed his awareness that his power is in danger.

Putin’s militant defenders have no valid arguments to dispute the statements of the person responsible for the “major military triumphs of the invasion,” as Putin himself acknowledged earlier. What is hard to believe for all those who have some objectivity is “that Putin has been deceived.” He is a dictator, an autocrat, and the boss of everything. He is the boss whose power is now in deep crisis, as he played a ridiculous role in this process, but he is the boss nonetheless.

The lie of the struggle against Nazism

The other argument used by Putin’s defenders is that the invasion of Ukraine was a struggle to liberate it from Nazism and that it is a “democratic war.”

However, the events of June 24 caused the international press organizations, both the official and alternative, to investigate Prigozhin’s life. Thus, today it is public knowledge that this character is an ex-convict for robbery, who after his release in the 1990s, sold hotdogs and then later established restaurants in St. Petersburg which were frequently visited by Putin and his notable international guests. From there he went on to become the official caterer for the Kremlin and the armed forces of the Russian Federation, transforming himself into a multi-millionaire controlling a vast financial empire. The Wagner Group is one of the companies within his business empire, which he named, according to his own statements, in homage to Richard Wagner, the German composer most admired by Hitler [1].

It is calculated that his mercenary army has reached 50,000 men, a great part of whom were prisoners recruited in exchange for a high salary contract and the offer of amnesty if they returned alive after 6 months of service, with the option to continue. This is the same private army that perpetrated massacres in Syria in support of the dictator Bashar al-Assad.

And it has been acting in different African countries as well, including Sudan, Mali, and the Central African Republic. In these places, it operates in exchange for the plunder of mining and the pillage of natural resources at the service of the Russian state and with the full logistical support of Putin’s regime.

But the Wagner Group became known worldwide for its role as a genocidal military force in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This occurred when the Ukrainian resistance bogged down Putin’s rapid war plans, which caused him to rely more heavily on his chef friend Prigozhin and his army of mercenaries.

There is no Nazi regime in Ukraine. Zelensky is the president of a semi-parliamentary regime and a semi-colonial bourgeois government. It is a regime that serves the interests of an oligarchy (which includes several Russian capitalists, not yet expropriated) associated with imperialist corporations. Today, under cover of the “war situation” it is implementing anti-worker plans. Of course, no confidence can be placed in that government. And the Ukrainian working class, based on their experience, has come to trust it less and less. But it is not Nazi. That said, there are Nazi groups in Ukraine, although their incidence is insignificant in comparison with Russia if the Wagner Group reflects something of the reality of that country.

Do those who defend the “democratic” character of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine really believe that these are the characteristics of those who claim to fight Nazism?

A war of Ukrainian national liberation in the midst of a dispute between powers

This is another one of the discussions among activists in relation to the Ukrainian war. There are those who believe that it is only a dispute between world powers. These groups have different characteristics, among them are pacifist currents, democrats, and even organizations that define themselves as Trotskyist, such as the PTS-Trotskyist Fraction. They have different proposals, for instance, “Stop the war, peace,” and “No tanks for Ukraine.” They campaign together with the Communist Parties that make up the Anti-imperialist Platform (PAI) financed by China and Russia, not recognizing the just war that the Ukrainian resistance is waging against the aggressor Putin. They propose the “peace” of cemeteries, and, when forced by reality, they go so far as to propose “Russian troops out,” although they do not say who would drive out the invaders, nor with what military means!

Regardless of these groups’ intentions, all their proposals serve the aggressor Putin. Because the point is that we are not facing a threat of war that can be stopped. We are facing the occupation of Ukraine by a qualitatively more powerful army, the systematic bombardment with ballistic missiles of all Ukrainian cities with hundreds of deaths every day, and a people who are resisting this occupation and are giving their lives to this resistance. And all these groups’ proposals are concretized in a call to the Ukrainian people to stop resisting or to accept being massacred for lack of weapons with which to confront the invading army.

Of course, all of the great world powers have economic and geopolitical interests. But that is not the central issue in defining the war’s character. As we have already said, what is central is that there is a Russian invasion with the objectives of plunder and colonization and that there is resistance to that invasion by the Ukrainian people. That element defines the fact that what exists today is a war of national liberation.

This reality is also reflected when the enemy Prigozhin recognizes the superior morale that exists in the Ukrainian army in relation to the Russian one. This is related to the fact that the morale of those who defend their country, their home, and their families in the face of attacks is much higher than the morale of the invading army’s soldiers, including those who are compulsorily mobilized and those who have been hired. And just now,  there have been 165,000 men recruited for the Russian army as announced by the head of the Security Council of the Russian Federation and former President Medvedev.

The working class is playing a fundamental role in the resistance.

Another argument we have heard is that, although there was an invasion, today NATO is in charge of everything. This is usually followed by the idea that everything has already been decided, that everyone is for the partition of Ukraine and that the dispute is over the size of the pieces. And therefore to support the resistance and demand arms for Ukraine is to play into NATO’s hands.

To say that everything is directed by NATO – which would imply that the Ukrainian resistance would be its shock troops – and that they all want the same thing, contradicts what is happening in reality.

A conclusive fact is that before the Prigozhin mutiny, the declarations from the European and US imperialists and NATO chiefs showed dissatisfaction with the war’s progression as evidenced by their concern for what was happening in Russia and their fear of a destabilization of the Putin regime. This, combined with the war, would have repercussions in Europe as a whole, which is already convulsed by workers’ struggles. The only celebrations which took place were among the resistance, both those at the front and in the rear, who, like everyone who wants to win the war, celebrated the fact that the enemy was divided and they were fighting amongst themselves.

The policy of European and American imperialism, and also China, is the partition of Ukraine. That was not Putin’s policy, he planned to arrive quickly in Kyiv, remove the president, and replace him with someone who would respond faithfully to the rapacity of Russian capital. But that policy has already been defeated and he has no choice but to accept and fight for a better partition. Zelensky could possibly accept the policy of imperialism. But the problem for all of them is that the workers’ resistance and the absolute majority of the people are against it. They do not want to surrender a part of their country. And the more sacrifices the people make, the greater their conviction to resist. And the ruling classes know that many hundreds of thousands of workers during this year and a half have learned to use weapons of war against Moscow and that they can turn them against Kyiv if they are betrayed.

It was this resistance that brought about the defeat of Putin’s policy. It is this resistance that has contributed much to the crisis of the Russian regime.

However, although morale remains high at the moment, the policy of the various imperialist institutions and media is aimed at defeating this resistance with further suffering and demoralization. But, on the other hand, a very important factor is the experience of the Ukrainian masses with the hypocrisy of NATO, the EU, and the US.

In view of the recently initiated Ukrainian military counteroffensive, this policy has been evidenced in a CNN analysis which “laments the slow progress and meager achievements,” when the policy of imperialism has been the piecemeal delivery of armaments and its explicit refusal to send F-16 planes. And this cynicism has caused indignation among the Ukrainian masses and has been expressed on TV and social media.

That is why those who say that NATO is in charge should recognize that NATO wants to prevent a categorical defeat of Putin. We do not rule out that NATO will achieve its aims, but it has not yet succeeded! So far the main actor is still that heroic resistance, where the working class has played an essential part.

All support to the Ukrainian resistance until the defeat of the invaders!

The morale of the resistance makes them rise after each blow in spite of their suffering. This is true not only on the front but also in the experience of families who have undergone the bombardment of cities, long days without water, without electricity, without glass in the windows of their homes. In other words, families and working people are dealing with the difficulties of obtaining the most basic necessities of daily life. Morale and a tremendous willingness to fight makes even those who have been injured want to return to the front as soon as they leave the hospital. All this has much to do with the role played by the working class.

Although the favorable correlation of forces between the classes is expressed within the armed forces and especially in the brigades of Territorial Defense, TO (for its acronym in Ukrainian), there does not exist an independent political organization of workers with decisive influence either inside or outside the armed forces, because there is no revolutionary leadership currently capable of developing such an organization in Ukraine.

The war did not begin with the invasion in February 2022. It had its beginning as a localized war in the Donbas in April 2014. At that time, the invasion appeared in the guise of uprisings of separatist groups supported by numerous Russian paramilitary commandos who proclaimed the Donetsk and Lugansk “people’s republics.” At that time, the Ukrainian army had less than 200,000 poorly trained and poorly armed troops. The policy of imperialism, both that of the EU and the US, was complicity. In fact, they let the annexation of Crimea pass and bogged down the conflict in the Donbas with the “Minsk negotiations and agreements,” with the aim of surrendering the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

At the beginning of the large-scale Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, and the rapid advance to the outskirts of Kyiv, in order to confront the invaders, Ukranian workers enlisted massively and voluntarily in the army or were summoned by the high command, swelling into an army of one million troops. Today, Ukrainian soldiers are mostly workers who a year ago were not in the army. For this reason, we affirm that the Ukrainian working class is playing a role of the first order in the struggle for the liberation of its country, and this has given great solidity to the resistance.

Let us promote a broad campaign of Workers’ Aid to Ukraine.

On the basis of the united front of trade union organizations at the international level that represents the International Trade Union Network of Solidarity and Struggles, RSISL https://laboursolidarity.org/, three Convoys of Workers’ Aid to the workers’ and popular resistance of Ukraine have already been organized between May 1, 2022, and June 20, 2023. And the campaign will continue with more convoys, as it has been decided to expand the participants and the recipients in order to involve the independent trade union organizations that are committed to the resistance and the effort on the battlefront.

That resistance has been strengthened politically and morally by the crisis of the Russian regime. But the circumstances of the war itself are still very trying. It is very difficult to advance overland in minefields for months. Even the Russian commanders leave the bodies of their soldiers killed by mines and abandoned in the trenches. They advance very few kilometers and the human losses have been great. And going on the offensive, without aviation support, increases the number of dead and injured. All this makes it necessary to redouble efforts in the campaign of material aid to the Ukrainian resistance. We call for the intensification of political actions of solidarity and to appeal to the solidarity and support of the workers and youth.

We also call to multiply agitation to demand what was already raised in the previous IWL declaration:

Weapons for the Ukrainian resistance!

Support for the actions against the war in Russia! Freedom for the political prisoners detained in the jails of Putin and Lukashenko!

For the expulsion of Russian troops from all Ukrainian territory, including the Donbas and Crimea! Peace without annexations!

For a workers’ reconstruction of Ukraine in the service of the people and not of the oligarchs and corporate plunder!

For the cancellation of the entire foreign debt of Ukraine!

For the socialization of water and all basic goods and services!

For an independent Ukraine! For a workers’ and women workers’ government!

[1] Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was a great musician, who obviously could not have had any connection with Nazism. But he became a Nazi symbol because of the manifest admiration of Hitler, who saw his music as an expression of the superiority of the German people.

manders leave the bodies of their soldiers killed by mines and abandoned in the trenches. They advance very few kilometers and the human losses have been great. And going on the offensive, without aviation support, increases the number of dead and injured. All this makes it necessary to redouble efforts in the campaign of material aid to the Ukrainian resistance. We call for the intensification of political actions of solidarity and to appeal to the solidarity and support of the workers and youth.

We also call to multiply agitation to demand what was already raised in the previous IWL declaration:

Weapons for the Ukrainian resistance!

Support for the actions against the war in Russia! Freedom for the political prisoners detained in the jails of Putin and Lukashenko!

For the expulsion of Russian troops from all Ukrainian territory, including the Donbas and Crimea! Peace without annexations!

For a workers’ reconstruction of Ukraine in the service of the people and not of the oligarchs and corporate plunder!

For the cancellation of the entire foreign debt of Ukraine!

For the socialization of water and all basic goods and services!

For an independent Ukraine! For a workers’ and women workers’ government!

[1] Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was a great musician, who obviously could not have had any connection with Nazism. But he became a Nazi symbol because of the manifest admiration of Hitler, who saw his music as an expression of the superiority of the German people.

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles