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Ukraine: NATO, imperialism and the war

Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine seems to have caused some disorientation on the Left. For example, a left-wing website supported by some key leaders of the Stop the War Coalition complains about socialists who concentrate all their fire on Russia. But it is not really difficult to see why anti-war activists might do so at the present time. Russia brazenly breaches the so-called ‘Fourth Convention [1]’ of the Geneva Convention, which forbids the targeting or collective punishment of civilians. And the outrageous and utterly sad consequences of Russia importing into Ukraine the tactics it used in Syria against civilians (little reported in Britain) are becoming clear. Small wonder, then, that most of the Left concentrate on condemning Russia? It’s no use complaining about what the West did in Iraq and Afghanistan, or indeed what it is doing today in Yemen. None of that in the least justifies Russian brutality in Ukraine.

At the other extreme, some left-wingers seem to regard the Ukraine crisis merely as a national liberation war, in which Ukraine is fighting a just war against Russia, and the role of NATO is simply to provide large amounts of weaponry to the Ukrainian people. As we discuss below, this is naïve. NATO is clearly trying to use the war to advance its own objectives, particularly those of American imperialism.

One socialist website opposes any end to the war in which Ukraine makes concessions. [2] This is the wrong way to pose it. The crucial thing now from the viewpoint of the Ukrainian people is to have a ceasefire and to stop the war. It is up to the Ukrainian people themselves to decide on any concessions—temporary or long-term— to Russia, however much they may rankle. There is a long history of schematic sectarians opposing necessary concessions to end wars—starting with the opposition in the Bolshevik party, led by Bukharin and Radek, to the signing of the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in which multiple concessions were made by Russia to Germany in order to end the war between them. The charge of ‘capitulation’ was also made against North Vietnam when it engaged in negotiations that led to the withdrawal of American troops in 1973. The Ukrainian government has indicated that it supports a ceasefire and negotiations, and we should back that.

So what is the real role of NATO? There are two aspects to this. The first is the danger of a clash between NATO and Russian forces which could lead to a central European war, something that would be disastrous. A no-fly zone, even one policed by planes provided by NATO member Poland, could lead to a direct conflict between Russia and NATO. A wider war against Russia in Europe would collapse the world economy and could lead to the use of nuclear weapons. Anti-war activists should be absolutely opposed to any involvement of NATO forces in the fighting.

Washington’s negative response to Poland’s offer of 28 reconditioned MiG29 planes to operate a no-fly zone indicates that, for the moment, the United States doesn’t want to risk a wider war with Russia. But Biden’s government is weak and the pressure from the political right — in Britain and well as the US — is very strong. At a future stage, popular outrage at Russian atrocities could lead to calls for NATO intervention that would be difficult to resist.

But the second aspect to the role of NATO, and a key one, is as a political-military alliance dominated by the United States and its loyal British followers, using the war to reshape the relationship between the most powerful imperialist states in the world today—Russia, China and the United States itself. This is the inter-imperialist conflict which is increasingly interwoven with the war in Ukraine itself.

Such a complex configuration should come as no surprise, especially to Marxists, who have long pointed out how particular wars can become entwined with more over-arching conflicts. Ernest Mandel in his brilliant book, The Meaning of the Second World War, explains how, in countries such as Greece, Italy, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, China, France and many others, Allied governments like those of Britain and the United States intervened directly or through local reactionary forces to defeat Germany and Japan, but at the same time to defeat progressive or revolutionary local movements. Inter-imperialist conflicts became entwined with wars of national liberation and revolutionary advance.

Today, the US economic war against Russia, designed to collapse the Russian economy and hobble Russia’s economic and political clout in the long-term, is becoming interwoven with the war in Ukraine. By his brutal and utterly ruthless unleashing of Russian military power against Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has handed a series of massive victories to the United States in its battle against Russia, a battle waged in preparation for the more decisive battle to come, the United States against China.

Putin’s war will have savage costs for both middle-class and working-class Russians but much less so for the oligarchs, who always find ways to hide their wealth. Car factories are already closing in Russia, as Western companies pull out and Russian firms can’t find essential components. The blockade on computer chips will mean dozens of hi-tech firms won’t find the necessary components to continue unless China can step in and provide them, something unlikely given the already existing world shortage of silicon chips.

Dozens of retail brands are pulling out and that means thousands of lost jobs. Apple, Samsung and Microsoft are pulling out together with scores of other hi-tech companies. H&M, Levis and Zara are leaving, as is Nike, Puma and Adidas. This is not just a matter of fashion-conscious young urbanites being unable to get their favourite brands, it is a matter of many thousands of lost jobs. Even Russian Vodka, fish products and diamonds are to be sanctioned. It is estimated that Russian GDP will decline by 20% in the next year, a level which goes beyond recession and slump to onrushing economic collapse. The result will be mass unemployment and mass poverty in Russia as a consequence, not of the actions of the Russian workers, but as a result of the actions of Putin and his fellow oligarchs and criminals in power. This is another example of punishing the civilian population. No socialist or democrat should support this kind of imperialist economic warfare.

Russia will also suffer from sanctions on exports, not just energy exports but also exports of wheat. Russia and Ukraine together produce 30% of the world’s wheat, and its elimination will skyrocket the price of bread in the region, and worldwide. Preventing the export of Russian energy will also hit the working class worldwide as the price of just about everything which at some stage needs oil and gas increases in price, giving another twist to the worldwide inflationary cycle. The stage is being set for a massive world slump in which the effects of the Covid pandemic combine with the effects of the war and sanctions.

A key US target is the relationship between Russia and Europe. The United States has long campaigned against Europe’s reliance on Russian energy and even before the Ukraine crisis blew up, was urging Germany to stop importing huge amounts of Russian gas and oil. The United States pointed out that the shortfall of such a transition could be made up by imports from…the United States itself! America has long campaigned against any improvement of political and diplomatic relations with Russia. It has tried at every stage to characterise Russia as a terrorist state, an effort greatly aided by the behaviour of Putin’s state apparatus, especially the assassination of exiled Russian opponents living in the UK.

The United States is opposed to the European Union establishing its own international political and military presence just about anywhere. That, thinks Washington, would encroach on NATO’s role. So for example the AUKUS military alliance in the Pacific —composed of the US and its loyal allies Britain and Australia— was announced on the very day that the EU had planned to unveil its Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. [3] The EU document represented an attempt to get Europe to speak with one voice on the region, and chart an independent course, especially in relation to China, away from the hostile US position. AUKUS was a precisely aimed torpedo that badly holed the EU strategy.

NATO from its beginning has been designed to tie European states to American diplomatic, military and political leadership. It has had the effect in Britain itself of building up a strong ‘Atlanticism’ political trend, represented especially by the mainstream of the Conservative Party. But economic links between Europe and Russia inevitably reconfigured political relations.

Disrupting economic and diplomatic relations between Russia and Germany has been an enormous victory for the United States. American commentators have been complaining for years that Germany’s economic and political model is based on getting its energy from Russia, its security from the United States and its cheap consumer goods from China. It might be added that China is the place where a big proportion of Germany’s manufacturers, raw materials and chemical products go. Now the United States wants Germany and other European states to stop their energy imports from Russia and look elsewhere, particularly to the United States itself.

Western sanctions against Russia are enormous and at a level you might expect if NATO was at war with Russia. The seizure of most of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves –—more than $600 billion worth—is designed to hobble the Russian economy. There is no guarantee that this will be a short term measure designed to stop the war in Ukraine.

Now the rightwing Western media and foreign policy establishment is turning the attack against China. This combines a number of levels. First, Western rightwing politicians say that China, by failing to condemn the Russian invasion, is acting in a way that gives economic and political cover to Russia. Second, China itself could organise its own ‘Ukraine’ by invading Taiwan, and this eventuality is being prepared for by the export of ever-larger amounts of military aid to Taiwan, despite Xi Jinping’s repeated statements that China seeks reunification only by peaceful means, and that Beijing’s economic relations with Taipei are extremely profitable for both sides. For Western analysts, China’s seizure of reefs and small islands in the South China Sea is proof of its militarist expansionism.

However, there is no doubt that the militarisation of the South China Sea is primarily the work of the United States and its allies, whose military doctrine is preparing for a possible war aimed at Chinese coastal cities and military bases.

Obviously, the United States is using its massive military power to influence the outcome of the fighting in Ukraine, and the resistance in that country is massively armed with powerful US anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. According to the New York Times, the United States sent 17,000 anti-tank missiles to Ukraine in one week. But those who support the Ukrainian right to resist invasion cannot complain about where the weapons of the Ukrainian military and civilian resistance come from. However, if a no-fly zone were to be implemented, even if it involved Polish planes flown by Ukrainian pilots, it is highly likely that they would be co-ordinated by American or British AWACS planes, (literally early warning and control radar platforms) with the ability to ‘see’ what the Polish planes themselves cannot. This could be done by AWACS planes flying from outside Ukraine, but the temptation for advanced Russian fighter planes to shoot them down would be enormous. A no-fly zone cannot be engineered without the danger of a direct clash between NATO and Russia.

Both in relation to Russia and China, the United States has adopted the position of the 1997 Project for the Next American Century, which projected American military dominance as the road to political and economic dominance. It also argued for rearmament to a level where the United States could simultaneously fight two major wars, obviously against Russia and China. The profligate use of military power has led to catastrophes in Iraq and Afghanistan and could lead to a much worse catastrophe in a nuclear exchange with Russia.

Raising the slogans of ‘No to NATO Expansion’ and ‘No to Nuclear War’ is clearly correct for the anti-war movement, but cannot be the central demands, which remain Russian troops out and stop the war. Nonetheless, NATO’s role in Eastern Europe since the final collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 has been pernicious. American President George Bush Snr, absolutely refused to respond to the demise of its military enemies in Russia and Eastern Europe by disbanding NATO or responding to Mikhail Gorbachev’s project of a ‘Common European Homeland’ of states outside military pacts. Disbanding NATO would have disrupted the key instrument of American military, and hence political, control. Moreover, the United States has insisted on expanding the boundaries of NATO right up to the borders of Russia in every case. This of course is something that the United States— the inclusion of Mexico or Canada in a hostile military alliance on US borders —would bever accept.

The iron grip of NATO is designed to ensure American dominance, and hence loyalty in inter-imperialist conflicts of European states to the United States. It is no wonder then that the question of NATO has become a key line of a divide as far as the Keir Starmer leadership in the Labour Party is concerned. Starmer and his parliamentary whips threatened to exclude 12 Labour MPs from the Parliamentary Labour Party if they spoke at a rally with an anti-NATO message. Starmer has repeatedly stated Labour’s complete loyalty to NATO, a message to the British capitalist class that under him Labour can be trusted. Technically any member of CND could be excluded from the Labour Party because of the campaign’s anti-NATO position, although for the moment this is unlikely to be implemented. In the context of Starmer’s prostration before NATO and British capitalism, it is strange to find a left-wing website attacking Jeremy Corbyn for making ‘an anti-NATO speech. [4]

In the context of the present war, it is utterly cynical for Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to excuse atrocities committed by Russian forces by reference to what the West did in Iraq and Afghanistan. ‘If you can commit anti-civilian atrocities, then so can we’ is unlikely to be a convincing argument as far as world public opinion is concerned. Even worse, Russian commentators on Channel 4 News merely say ‘war is hell, this is war’. The death, pain, suffering and misery imposed on the Ukrainian people cannot be justified by any reference to the crimes of the West, whether the leading Western states were wearing their NATO hats or not. The central slogans of the Left and all progressive forces have to be against the Russian war, for a ceasefire and a withdrawal of all Russian troops.

In Britain, there is an enormous mobilisation of ordinary people and even whole communities to give material aid to refugees from Ukraine. Polish centres up and down the country, as well as Ukrainian community centres, are awash with donations of money, clothes, sleeping bags and other necessities that refugees might need for their onward journeys. Of course, this outburst of social solidarity is promoted by the awful scenes of carnage and destruction in Ukraine. It’s true that the incredible brutality of the Western-backed and organised bombing campaign by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has not produced such an outpouring of solidarity, because it has been barely covered in the mass media, and because Ukrainians are ‘people like us.’

Nonetheless, people who collect support for Ukrainian refugees, and millions more, are rightly horrified by the Russian attacks and their dreadful consequences. The anti-war movement cannot turn its face away from these people but should participate, to the best of our ability, in such actions. We must get people giving material aid and demand refugees be admitted to Britain.

Because of the ongoing inter-imperialist conflict, there are competing narratives about what is happening on a world scale. The overwhelming narrative in the Western media is about the defence of democracy against Russian and Chinese dictatorship and aggression. But in reality, there is a huge and developing inter-imperialist conflict, in which the United States is a major source of militarisation and aggression.

Regrettably, there are a lot of people on the Left internationally who do not clearly condemn the Russian invasion and champion the right of the Ukrainian people to self-defence. [5] It is easier, as they see it, just to take sides with one imperialist camp or another. This we should refuse to do. Our understanding of the role of NATO and the United States cannot lead us to downplay or in any way excuse the Russian attack. On the morning of February 24, within minutes of hearing the news of the invasion, I posted on Facebook condemning the attack as an act of criminal brutality and irresponsibility; I said thousands would die in the initial fighting. It is this attack that must remain the target of left-wing mobilisation and protest, despite our understanding of the developing global inter-imperialist conflict.

P.S.

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NATO and imperial domination

 

BY GEOFF RYAN

Anti*Capitalist Resistance is totally opposed to any invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. But does this mean, as some on the left have suggested, that we, therefore, support NATO? Far from it. We support neither Putin nor Biden, Moscow nor Washington. We are opposed to any attempts to find a solution to the conflict that excludes the people of Ukraine. So we oppose discussions between Russian and Western leaders about the future of Ukraine from which Ukrainians are excluded. Above all, we are for the dismantling of NATO which has never been a force for anything other than imperialist domination of the world.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was formed in April 1949 – seven years before the formation of the Warsaw Pact. Clearly, therefore, it was not formed as a defensive organisation to respond to any actual Soviet military threat. It was, however, a response to a perceived political threat to the capitalist order. Its origins can be found in the theory of ‘containment’ expressed in the ‘Long Telegram’ sent in 1946 by George Kennan, an official in the United States’ Moscow embassy. It also owes much to Winston Churchill’s speech, also in 1946, at Fulton Missouri, in which he spoke of an ‘iron curtain’ descending across Europe.

In fact, the nature of NATO can be seen by the countries involved in its formation. As I shall show below six (i.e. half) of the founder members of NATO were, or had been until very recently, involved in suppressing anti-colonial movements in ‘their’ colonies. The following summaries are by no means complete, they come no way near capturing the full horrors and barbarity of the colonial powers. Some of the states, particularly Britain and France, had many other colonies that I have not touched on but all of which were subject to colonial brutality. What the brief summaries do show is that the founder members of NATO had no claims to be defending democracy and freedom.

Belgium

Belgium had a brutal history in its African colonies, the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Burundi (now Rwanda and Burundi). While the best-known horrors of Belgian rule in the Congo lay in the treatment of the country as the personal property of King Leopold 11 at the end of the 19th century the Congo remained under an iron fist after control of the colony passed to the Belgian state in 1908. The Belgian Congo was essentially an apartheid state in which the whites had all the power, all the wealth and the Congolese had next to nothing. All decisions major decisions concerning the Congo were made in Brussels.

Ruanda-Urundi had been part of German East Africa until it was awarded to Belgium following the first world war. The Belgians significantly changed the system of government and social relations. They systematically promoted the Tutsi population at the expense of the Hutus and in 1933 issued identity cards in which they forced people to identify permanently as Hutu, Tutsi or ‘pygmies’. Previously people had been able to move between Tutsi and Hutu which were closer to caste identities than nationalities. The fixed categories were entirely the product of Belgian rule.

Not only was the Belgian state carrying out the systematic oppression of the peoples of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi when it became a founder of NATO in 1949 it continued to do so even after independence. In the case of the Congo ethnic and personal rivalries were encouraged by Belgium (as well as other European states and the USA) culminating in the murder in 1960 of left-wing Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba by sections of the Congolese army with the full support of the Central Intelligence Agency. The military dictatorship of Joseph Mobutu (Mobutu Sese Seko) was the result of the political and military interference in the Congo by NATO member states.

In Rwanda, the colonial administration had changed its pro-Tutsi policy during the 1950s and in 1959 the then-dominant Hutus carried out a massacre of Tutsis, with further massacres in 1963 (one year after independence) and the much better-known genocide of 1994.

In Summary

Extremely brutal colonial rule encouraged ethnic divisions and conflicts which remain to this day, murdered a popular independence leader to maintain its influence in the Congo

France

The French government agreed to the independence of Syria and Lebanon at the end of the second world war though France continued to intervene in the affairs of these nominally independent states, in particular using the confessionalist structure of the Lebanese government to all French imperialism to maintain its position in the Arab world.

In the case of Algeria and French Indochina however, France was not prepared to countenance independence. In Vietnam, British troops took control of the country from the defeated Japanese army. One of their first acts was to expel the Viet Minh, the major liberation movement that had fought the Japanese occupation. A second act was to rearm the captured Japanese soldiers to keep control of a population upset by the expulsion of the Viet Minh. Eventually, after a series of military engagements with the Viet Minh, the British handed over control to returning French forces who proceeded to rule the country in the previous brutal colonial manner leading eventually to the defeat of the French troops at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. (As we shall see, this will not be the only time British troops played a role in preventing liberation movements from taking control and restoring the old colonial rulers).

In May 1945 a march demanding Algerian independence took place in Setif. This quickly turned into a massacre: the protesters killed more than 100 European settlers, the French army killed between 1,000 and 45,000 protesters. (This is not the only time when the deaths of Muslims at the hands of the French state cannot be calculated accurately. There is a similar discrepancy in estimates for the number of supporters of Algerian independence killed in Paris on the night of October 17 1962),

The French were clearly not listening. In September 1947 a new constitution for Algeria is established. In theory, it makes all inhabitants of Algeria equal citizens of France but this is not what most Algerians want. They want independence. And in practice, the new National Assembly for Algeria is heavily skewed in favour of the white settlers giving them 60 seats (for 1.5 million settlers) and 60 seats for 9 million Algerian Muslims.

The first military response by Algerian Muslims was in 1949 with an attack on the central post office in Oran.

After France joined NATO it continued its war in Vietnam until the capitulation at Dien Bien Phu and massively stepped up its war in Algeria, particularly after defeat in Vietnam.

In Summary

Was engaged in a major war in Indochina when it joined NATO and was about to engage in an even more brutal war in Algeria.

Netherlands

We normally think of the Netherlands as a fairly laid back sort of place with cannabis cafes in Amsterdam. But from 1945 to 1949 Dutch troops fought a bloody war to prevent the independence of Indonesia. Two days after the Japanese emperor’s surrender, on 17 August 1945, the proclamation of Indonesian independence was announced in the Indonesian capital Jakarta. Although it took some time for the proclamation to reach the scattered islands that makeup Indonesia once it did then it was enthusiastically endorsed by large sections of the population. The provisional government, fearing the return of the Dutch, set up or strengthened existing armed resistance groups.

The Dutch accused the republican government of being collaborators with Japanese fascism. An interesting allegation as we shall see when we look at one of the states the Netherlands government collaborated with while establishing NATO. However, they lacked the military strength to intervene until 1946. Once again British troops stepped in to disarm the Japanese occupiers (and sometimes rearm them to deal with revolutionaries) before engaging in military conflicts with the Indonesian republicans. In Surabaya, the second-largest city in Indonesia, British and British Indian troops were involved in the heaviest battle of the war, which left thousands of Indonesians dead.

British troops were also instrumental in allowing the Netherlands Indies Civil Administration to land in Jakarta and other key cities. A further 8,000 deaths resulted in Jakarta alone. The largest cities of Sumatra, Palembang and Medan were bombed, in preparation for the return of Dutch troops before Special Forces unleashed terror on the populations. At least 3,000 members of the republican militia and their supporters were killed in a few weeks.

Raymond Westerling the British commando trained commander of the Dutch forces was particularly brutal in his methods, methods reminiscent of those later to be used by the United States military in Vietnam. Although Westerling was accused of war crimes in South Sulawesi an agreement between Indonesia and the Netherlands in 1949 (the year NATO was formed) prevented him from ever being put on trial for his actions. However, the Dutch government did eventually (2013) apologise for the brutality and Dutch courts subsequently ruled that the Dutch state was responsible for the executions of 11 men during Westerling’s South Sulawesi campaign.

In Summary

Every bit as brutal as other imperialist powers.

Portugal

In 1933 Antonio de Oliveira Salazar established the Estado Novo in Portugal. It evolved from the Ditadura Nacional (National Dictatorship) which was set up following the military coup in 1926. The Estado Novo remained until its overthrow in the Carnation Revolution of 1974. The Estado Novo was to all intents and purposes a fascist state. According to Salazar ‘we are opposed to all forms of Internationalism, Communism, Socialism, Syndicalism and everything that may divide or minimize, or break up the family. We are against class warfare, irreligion and disloyalty to one’s country; against serfdom, a materialist conception of life, and might over right’. The last part of this statement can be rejected as mere window dressing since the Portugal of Salazar and his successor was based very much on might over right. In any case, while Salazar personally may have had some disagreements with fascism, as practised by Hitler, Mussolini or Franco (who he actively supported in the Spanish Civil War), there is little doubt that the Portuguese state in 1949 was fascist. And the Dutch government had no problems engaging with this fascism.

The vast majority of people in Portugal lived in extreme poverty, though there was an exceedingly wealthy capitalist class. Strikes were illegal. The secret police carried out arrests of anyone suspected of opposing the regime. And then there were the colonies.

At the time it joined NATO Portugal had colonies in Angola, Guinea Bissau and Cabo Verde and Mozambique in Africa, Goa in India and East Timor and Macau in Asia. All of them were run on brutal racist and colonial lines characterised by deep-seated racism, mass forced labour and an almost complete failure to modernise. In Angola, which was nominally part of Portugal, there was not a single university in 1960. All demands for independence were ignored and, at least in the African colonies, Salazar unleashed wars that would eventually lead to the overthrow of the regime.

In Summary

A fascist state with a brutal racist rule over its colonies and a total lack of democracy in Portugal itself.

United Kingdom

The main thing to remember about the government that took the UK into NATO is not simply that it was a Labour government but that it was the much-lauded Labour government of 1945. The Labour government of the NHS. The Labour government of nationalisation. The most reforming Labour government in history. Unless you ignore foreign policy. In which case it was like every other Labour government – virtually identical in policies to the Tories when it comes to the defence of the interests of British imperialism on a world scale.

As I have already noted above British troops ensured that after the collapse of the Japanese government ‘order’ would be maintained in Vietnam and Indonesia so that the colonies could be handed back to their French and Dutch ‘rulers’. Many of the troops were not happy about this but nevertheless collaborated with returning these parts of Asia to European powers.

Much is known about the role of Britain and its military in the partition of India, the creation at the expense of the Palestinians of the state of Israel so I want to concentrate on a much less well-known instance of British troops being used to crush liberation movements: Greece.

British troops entered Greece in 1944 after the withdrawal of German armies. There was a fairly strong resistance movement, particularly EAM (National Liberation Front) which was dominated by the KKE (Communist Party of Greece).

On the morning of 3rd December 1944, a mere six weeks since liberation from Nazi occupation, EAM held a demonstration in central Athens. Twenty-eight civilians, mainly young men and women, were shot by British troops or by Greeks who had collaborated with the Nazis and were given weapons by the British army. A few days later RAF planes began strafing left-wing areas of Athens. This was the beginning of the Battle of Athens fought between British troops alongside Nazi supporters against the Greek partisans.

At this time Churchill was Prime Minister. He was opposed to EAM and the KKE, wanting to restore the monarchy – a monarchy that had been very slow to oppose the Nazi invasion. He was dubious that Stalin wouldn’t keep his side of the bargain drawn up with Churchill in which Greece was to be part of the British ‘sphere of influence’. In fact, Stalin kept to the agreement and gave no assistance to EAM. The only support the left received was from Tito in Yugoslavia but that was soon cut off once Stalin turned on Tito and the Yugoslavs had to look to save their revolution.

However, anyone expecting a change in policy once Labour had won the 1945 election was to be sorely disappointed. British troops continued to fight the left-wing partisans as Greece descended into civil war. The Attlee government supported the royalists and former Nazi supporters against the left. Greeks suspected of having helped ELAS (the military arm of EAM), including during the Nazi occupation, were rounded up, sent to detention camps, tortured and even murdered while the Labour government supported the torturers and murderers.

The man sent by the Labour government to take command of the ‘British Police Mission’ Sir Charles Whickham certainly had plenty of experience: from 1922-25 he was the first Inspector General of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. He was known for incorporating Protestant paramilitaries into the RUC. Not surprising, therefore, that he incorporated former Nazi activists into the Greek Police force. And not surprising that under his command prisoners were subjected to the most horrendous beatings and torture.

By 1947 the KKE was illegal, and thousands of leftists were held in prisons or torture camps with significant numbers exiled, either internally or in British detention camps across the Middle East. But by then the Greek economy was on the point of collapse and Attlee decided he could no longer afford to prop up the right-wing forces. He informed President Truman that Britain would be pulling out of Greece so Truman sent American troops to support the anti-Communist side.

In Summary

Under the radical Attlee government, Britain continued imperialist policies throughout the empire. It maintained an undemocratic statelet in the North of Ireland. It helped restore colonial rule in Vietnam and Indonesia, often using Japanese prisoners of war to do so. It began to fight a war in Malaya in the 12 months before joining NATO. Above all, it supported the pro-monarchy, pro-fascist forces in Greece and ensured the defeat of left-wing forces and decades of right-wing oppression.

United States

The United States was, and remains, the overwhelmingly dominant force in NATO. While US governments frequently proclaim the US to be the ‘land of the free’ the reality, especially in foreign policy, is completely at odds with this delusional belief.

Since the end of the 19th century, the United States military had intervened in virtually every country of Latin America, frequently overthrowing governments considered too radical and imposing right-wing, often military, regimes. Outside of the Americas, the US had installed itself as the de facto government of the Philippines. Nowadays it has extended its reach into Africa, much of Asia and most recently Australia.

By the end of the second world war, the US government was becoming increasingly concerned about the growing spread of the left, particularly the Communist parties, especially in Europe. That is what led them to the policy of containment and that, in turn, led to NATO.

There is little doubt that Stalin imposed undemocratic regimes in his own image on the countries of eastern Europe. But all this was in line with the utterly cynical division of Europe carried out by Stalin and Churchill. As noted above, Stalin kept his word in Greece and refused support to the Greek Communists. He respected the agreement in relation to Austria, where the Soviet Union had considerable troops. And he completely broke with Tito and the Yugoslav Communists because, under the agreement with Churchill, Yugoslavia was supposed to be under British influence.

It is extremely difficult to believe that US President Harry Truman was unaware of any of this: I suspect he knew full well that Stalin had no interest in promoting revolutions anywhere. Indeed, once American troops replaced British troops in Greece, then there was plenty of first-hand evidence that Stalin would let the KKE be defeated.

However, revolutions can break out spontaneously or despite the intentions of political leaders. So NATO was not about the threat from the Stalinist regime but the threat of revolutions in countries like Greece, France and Italy and in the colonial world. The military might of NATO, dominated as it was by the United States, went alongside the use of American economic muscle: the Marshall Plan. Countries of western Europe would receive aid, crucial to recovery from the damage and deprivations of six years of war – but only if they did what Washington wanted. This is most clearly illustrated in the case of another founder member of NATO, Italy.

In Summary

The United States had a long history of involvement in invasions of other countries and overthrowing of governments. It had a long history of installing corrupt, brutal, repressive regimes. Almost immediately before the formation of NATO, it was supporting a corrupt regime of Nazi sympathisers in Greece. Soon it would be overthrowing democratically elected governments in Iran and Guatemala as well as wars in Korea and Vietnam. While it is unlikely anyone in Washington seriously believed the Soviet Union under Stalin was going to launch a military campaign against western Europe they couldn’t rule out the possibility that the working class of western Europe would launch a revolutionary insurrection that would overthrow capitalist rule.

Italy

Italy was the only former Axis state to be allowed to join NATO as a founder member. That was not, however, a foregone conclusion. It depended on defeating a strong left-wing alliance between the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and the Italian Communist Party (PCI) in which the most radical party was undoubtedly the PSI. Such a victory was unthinkable to a wide range of groupings.

Most of the officials who had served Mussolini’s fascist state were still in their posts. The purge of fascists was relatively weak- not least, because as PCI leader Palmiro Togliatti explained, there were so many of them that it would take forever to bring them all to trial.

In addition, the mafia and mafia-like organisations, which had been repressed under Mussolini, started to resurface. They were able to get protection from the main capitalist party that emerged, the Christian Democrats – protection that continued well into the 1980s, probably beyond.

There was also the Vatican which had only come to accept an Italian state in its 1929 Concordat with Mussolini.

The PCI was also not helped by agreeing to become Stalin’s attack dog against Tito. The resulting expulsion from Istria in Croatia of some, though by no means all, of the Italian population as a result of constant PCI attacks on Tito and the Yugoslav communists from Italy and Italian sources in Croatia hardly endeared the PCI to non-members.

Elections were held in 1948 which were expected to be won by the PSI/PCI slate. To prevent this the Vatican instructed the priest in every parish of Italy to read a sermon proclaiming that anyone who voted for the PSI/PCI would be excommunicated. In a country with a strong Catholic tradition, such a threat could carry some weight. The mafia carried out attacks on some left-wing politicians.

But the most important intervention came from the United States. Many Americans were descended from Italian immigrants and they were encouraged to contact family members in Italy to get them to vote against the PSI/PCI slate. Italian American singers, such as Frank Sinatra, and movie stars broadcast to Italy urging people to vote for the Christian Democrats.

However, the US was taking no chances. Italians were informed that they would not receive Marshall Aid if the left won the elections. And just in case anyone was unable to grasp the point the US 5th fleet was on constant patrol along the coast of Italy.

Vatican, mafia, fascist, Christian Democrat and US bullying won. Christian Democracy triumphed and went on to form thoroughly corrupt governments for nearly 50 years until it finally dissolved in a web of corruption. But Italy was made safe for capitalism and was rewarded with founding membership og NATO.

In Summary

Italy was essentially a pawn in the plans of US governments and military to ensure western Europe remained safe for capitalism. As well as the PCI being a pawn in Stalin’s break with Tito and the Yugoslavs.

The remaining Founder Member States

Largely there to make up the numbers with no influence.

Canada

Racism towards the First Nation people and Inuit. Xenophobia towards the French-speaking minority. Very little influence, possibly with Britain.

Denmark

Racism towards Greenlanders. No influence.

Iceland

Mainly an airfield for the United States, continuing a role it played in the second world war. No influence.

Luxembourg

No influence whatsoever

Norway

At the time possibly the poorest state in Europe (until the discovery of North Sea Oil). Again no influence whatsoever

Conclusion

Whatever politicians may say NATO is not an organisation committed to upholding international law and human rights. From the outset, it was a weapon for imperialist domination of the world. Its 12 founding members included 6 states that were actively oppressing colonial peoples. It included a fascist state (Portugal) and one in which fascists still carried some influence (Italy). Even before the Warsaw pact had been formed NATO had expanded to include another 2 right-wing governments, Greece and Turkey. The United States even proposed admitting Franco’s Spain in 1953 though that was too much for most of the existing member states. The Spanish Civil War and Franco’s support for Hitler and Mussolini were still too recent a memory. Spain had to wait until 1992 for membership.

In recent years NATO has intervened in a number of conflicts, including Bosnia and Kosova, in the name of ‘humanitarian intervention’. As someone who was closely involved in supporting the struggle of Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosova for independence from the Greater Serbian chauvinism projected by Slobodan Milosevic, I was never once convinced that NATO gave a damn for Bosnians or Kosovars. The partition of Bosnia at Dayton, largely under US pressure is convincing proof of that. NATO no more cares for Ukrainians than it did for Bosnians. We should demand it follows the Warsaw Pact and dissolves completely and forever.

Source Anti*Capitalist Resistance.

FOURTH INTERNATIONAL STATEMENT No to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine! Support to the Ukrainian resistance! Solidarity with the Russian opposition to the war!

Statement of the Executive Bureau of the Fourth International

1. Before dawn on 24 February 2022 the Russian army began its invasion of Ukraine, bombing the interior of the country and crossing the northern, eastern and southern borders of the country, heading for the capital Kiev. This aggression has already resulted in many deaths, both civilian and military. The Ukrainian army and population are defending themselves, several cities are holding out against the aggressor. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have gone into exile, but the resistance continues. The Ukrainan people are resisting, with and without arms.

The Kremlin’s recognition three days earlier of the “independence” of the so-called “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk and the official entry of the Russian army into their territory was only the prelude to the invasion aimed at the total submission of the neighbouring country.

It is a military invasion of the territory of a former oppressed nation by a capitalist oligarchic, autocratic and imperialist regime whose aim is the reconstruction of the Russian empire.

2. Putin has made no secret of his Great Russian nationalism and since 2014 he has taken concrete steps to attack Ukraine’s sovereignty. His chauvinistic pseudo-historical narrative, blaming the October 1917 Revolution for having constituted “three distinct Slavic peoples: Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian, instead of the great Russian nation” is not a recent invention.

The invasion of Ukraine follows a Great Russian chauvinist and imperialist policy that began in different contexts and phases since the break-up of the USSR: from the use of an “energy war” (playing on prices and alternative pipelines), up to the instrumentalization of national minority conflicts such as in Moldova (with the formation of the “Republic of Transnistria” with the support of the Russian army in 1990-91) and in Georgia (with the formation of the “Republic of Abkhazia” in 1992), and later the war with Georgia for control of South Ossetia (2008); but also direct oppressive wars like the war of occupation of Chechnya (1994-1996 and 1999-2009). Each time it is a question of preserving the interests of the Kremlin or seizing territory. But globally, the Putin decades (2000s) corresponded to the (re)building of a strong state (controlling its oligarchs) modernizing its military apparatus, establishing a Euroasiatic economic union - with its military dimensions. A new phase started in 2014 with the Ukrainian crisis and the fall of Yanukovitch (described as a “fascist coup” under NATO’s umbrella) followed by the annexation of Crimea and establishment of separatist “republics” in Ukraine’s Donbas controlled by pro-Russian mercenaries. The military support for Lukashenko in Belarus against the popular uprising in 2020 and the military intervention (through the OTCS - Organization of the Treaty for Collective Security under Russian hegemony) to “normalize” Kazakhstan in January this year made Putin feel stronger in the context of US defeat in Afghanistan and open divisions within NATO’s members on energy (gas pipeline) issues.

Ukraine is an independent country which has preserved a regime of formal democracy. Russia has an authoritarian, repressive parliamentary system with far-right members in the Duma. In Ukraine far-right and fascist forces were very visibly present during the Maidan protests in 2014. The Russian invasion risks strengthening existing far right forces in both Russia and Ukraine. Leading figures of far-right and neo-fascist forces internationally openly support Putin.

The invasion of Ukraine is clearly aimed at imposing a puppet regime, subservient to the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin.

3. Putin’s propaganda tried to justify the aggression by saying that NATO’s expansion to the east would endanger Russia’s existence. NATO (which we opposed from its foundation) is a tool for US imperialism and its allies, initially built against Soviet Union and Communist China. Logically it should have been dissolved with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in July 1991, but successive US governments have not only kept it going, but they have also continued to expand it. We reject the competitive logic of capitalist power-states leading to the accumulation of ever more powerful weapons. This is what motivates the opposition to NATO of large parts of the population in the world – and this is not Putin’s preoccupation! However, in some countries, which had been colonized by tsarism or subjugated by the USSR, joining NATO was supported by their populations in the hope that it would protect their independence. We stand instead for the eradication of inequalities, and the necessary social, environmental and democratic development as the means to defend peace.

The fight against the extension of NATO to the East passes today through the uncompromising defence of the national and democratic rights of the peoples threatened by Russian imperialism.

We demand the dissolution of NATO, however this is not the question posed by the attempted annexation of Ukraine by Russian imperialism, which denies the very existence of this nation - Putin claims that it is a pure invention of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. US imperialism is only taking advantage of the headlong rush of the new Kremlin tsar.

We support the right to self-determination of the Ukrainian people and the protection of the rights of the country’s national minorities. Neither Russia nor NATO will defend these rights. We demand the dismantling of all military bases outside their home countries, the liquidation of the US-led NATO and the Russian-led CSTO. The threat of the use of nuclear weapons must be firmly rejected at every level.

At a time when the absolute urgency at the global level should be the fight against accelerated climate change, the development of military adventures and ever more sophisticated weapons systems by the imperialists shows the need for the peoples to dismiss their irresponsible leaders and change the functioning of society: against the generalized competition that capitalism carries, let us impose the logic of solidarity and peace!

4. Whereas in 1968, when Czechoslovakia was invaded, the courageous Russian opponents of the invasion were counted on the fingers of one hand, on the same day that Ukraine was invaded, thousands of people took to the streets of some 50 Russian cities, braving the authorities to protest against Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine. “No to war!” the demonstrators, mostly young people, chanted in the afternoon and early evening in the streets and central squares of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Krasnodar and Murmansk.

In 2014, there was widespread support for the annexation of Crimea among the Russian population, today there is contestation even within the establishment, this could lead to Putin’s downfall.

One hundred and seventy Russian journalists and foreign policy experts have written an open letter condemning the Russian Federation’s military operation in Ukraine. “War has never been and will never be a method of conflict resolution and there is no justification for it,” they wrote.

Since the first day of the protests, the regime has made thousands of arrests and the police has brutalized the arrested protesters. It has also ordered the limitation of access to social networks, accused of “violating human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens”!

Despite the repression, an anti-war movement is continuing to develop in Russia! It merits the solidarity of the world labour movement.

5. In the face of the war in Ukraine, it is the responsibility of all activists in the labour and social movements, of those who have mobilized against the war, to support the resistance of the oppressed Ukrainian nation. To stop this war, Putin’s regime must be sanctioned and Ukraine supported in resisting the aggression.

• Immediate withdrawal of Russian armed forces from all Ukrainian territory, including areas occupied since 2014.

• Solidarity and support for the armed and unarmed resistance of the Ukrainian people. Delivery of weapons on the request of the Ukrainian people to fight the Russian invasion of their territory. This is basic solidarity with the victims of aggression by a much more powerful opponent.

• Support to all forms of self-organization for mutual aid and resistance of the Ukrainian population.

• Support for sanctions against Russia, as called for by the Ukrainian resistance, that limit Putin’s ability to continue the ongoing invasion and his warmongering policy in general. Rejection of any sanctions that hit the Russian people more than the government and its oligarchs.

• Open the borders and welcome the populations who have to flee the war by providing the practical short and longer-term aid necessary, especially taking into account the fact that the vast majority are women and children.

• Cancellation of the Ukrainian debt, direct humanitarian aid to civil, trade union and popular organizations in Ukraine!
Internationalist solidarity

We affirm our full solidarity with those who are mobilizing against the war in Russia and those who are fighting to defend the independence of Ukraine.

The interests of the peoples, their right to peace and security are not defended by US imperialism or NATO or by Russian and Chinese imperialism. These extremely serious events remind us more than ever of the need to build an internationalist mobilization to give the peoples a voice different from that of the states, and in solidarity with the Ukrainian people against all the policies that attack and oppress them. Governments will not initiate this march towards peace. We must organize it ourselves.

• No to the repression of the anti-war movement in Russia. Build active and visible solidarity with this movement. Call on Russian soldiers to refuse to participate in the invasion and organise solidarity with them, including political asylum if they request it.

• Support the progressive forces fighting for democracy and social justice in Ukraine. Build all the links possible to develop a dialogue with them on the way forward to a just peace.

• For international solidarity with our own social camp! Build links between working peoples’ and popular movements fighting for democracy and social justice in Russia, Ukraine and other countries in the region as well as internationally.

• Only the international working class, fighting together with all oppressed and exploited people, for peace and against imperialism, capitalism and war, can create a better world.

1 March 2022

ইউক্রেনে রাশিয়ার আগ্রাসন সম্পর্কে র‍্যাডিকাল সোশ্যালিস্টের বিবৃতি

 

১। আমরা রাশিয়াকে একটি সাম্রাজ্যবাদী আগ্রাসী শক্তি হিসেবে নিন্দা করছি। অতীতের সাম্রাজ্যের স্বপ্ন দেখিয়ে তারা সম্প্রসারণবাদের উপর ন্যায্যতা অর্পণ করতে চাইছেআমরা গভীরভাবে উদ্বিগ্ন, যে এই ঘটনা ভবিষ্যতে আন্য নানা সোভিয়েত ইউনিয়নের পরবর্তী দেশকেও আঘাত করতে পারে।

২। আমরা কোন কূটনীতির ভাষা ব্যবহার করি না, যেমন করি নি ইরাকে মার্কিণ আগ্রাসনের সময়ে। আমরা কোনো রাষ্ট্রসঙ্ঘের হস্তক্ষেপের ডাক দিই না,  বরং আগ্রাসী রাষ্ট্রের অবিলম্বে নিঃশর্ত প্রত্যাহারের দাবী করি।

৩। এই দাবী কেবল ২০২২ কে কেন্দ্র করে না। আমরা দাবি করি, ইউক্রেনের প্রতিটি ইঞ্চি জমি থেকে রাশিয়াকে ফিরে যেতে হবে। এর মধ্যে পড়ে ক্রিমিয়া, এবং পূর্ব ইউক্রেনের প্রদেশগুলিও। কিন্তু একই সঙ্গে আমরা স্বীকার করি যে অধিকতর সাংস্কৃতিক ও রাজনৈতিক স্বাতন্ত্র্যের দাবী ন্যায়সঙ্গত, যাতে ইউক্রেন অনেক বেশী গণতান্ত্রিক ও যুক্তরাষ্ট্রীয় ব্যবস্থায় রূপান্তরিত হয়। ১৯৯২ সালে ক্রিমিয়ার নিজের সংবিধান ছিল, যা এই এলাকাকে অনেক বেশী স্বায়ত্ত্বশাসন দিয়েছিল, এবং কিয়েভের হাতে কিছু ক্ষমতা দেওয়া হয়েছিল। ইউক্রেনের রাষ্ট্রপতি কুচমা পরে অন্যায়ভাবে এই সংবিধানকে নাকচ করে দেন।  

৪। রাশিয়া সম্পর্কে আমাদের অবস্থান নেওয়ার সময়ে আমরা ন্যাটো কী করছে দেখি না। কিন্তু ন্যাটো সম্পর্কে আমাদের অবস্থান যা ছিল, তাই আছে। ন্যাটো একটি সাম্রাজ্যবাদী সামরিক হুমকি, যার কখনোই কোনো ন্যায্যতা ছিল না, এবং যা ঠান্ডা যুদ্ধের অবসানের পর একেবারেই বাতিল হওয়া উচিৎ ছিল।  সুতরাং আমরা এই নির্দিষ্ট পরিস্থিতে কোনোভাবে ন্যাটোর কাজের সমর্থক নই। কিন্তু আমরা বিশ্ব রাজনীতিকে বৃহৎ শক্তিদের মধ্যে দাবার ছক হিসেবে দেখি না, যেখানে এক মেকী ‘লেসার ইভলের’ স্বার্থে অন্যদের ‘আত্মত্যাগ’ করতে হবে।

৫। এটা বোধগম্য, যে আগ্রাসনের শিকার যে ইউক্রেনীয়রা, তাঁরা অন্য সাম্রাজ্যবাদী শক্তিদের হস্তক্ষেপ চাইবেন, কারণ মার্কিণ এবং রুশ হস্তক্ষেপ, দুই ক্ষেত্রেই সেটা বারে বারে ঘটেছে। কিন্ততু আমরা সেরকম কোনো আবেদনকে সমর্থন করি না। আমরা মনে করি সেরকম কোনো আবেদন আক্রান্তদের পক্ষেও ক্ষতিকর, কারণ এই আবেদনের অর্থ একাধিক পারমাণবিক অস্ত্রে সজ্জিত সাম্রাজ্যবাদীদের মধ্যে মুখোমুখি দ্বন্দ্বের আহ্বান, কোনো আন্তর্জাতিকভাবে গৃহীত কাঠামোর মাধ্যমে পদক্ষেপ নয়। পাঁচ শীর্ষ শক্তির নিরাপত্তা পরিষদে ভেটোর ফলে রাষ্ট্রসঙ্ঘের পক্ষে মধ্যবর্তী শক্তি হিসেবে কাজ করার কোনো ক্ষমতা নেই।

৬।   নিষেধাজ্ঞা সম্পর্কে আমাদের কোনো সার্বিক নীতিগত অবস্থান নেই। দক্ষিণ আফ্রিকার বর্ণবৈষম্যবাদী রাষ্ট্রের বিরুদ্ধে অর্থনৈতিক নিষেধাজ্ঞাকে আমরা সমর্থন করেছিলাম, যেমন আমরা ইস্রায়েলের ঔপনিবেশিক-বসতিকারী দখলদারির বিরুদ্ধে অর্থনৈতিক নিষেধাজ্ঞার পক্ষে। ১৯৯১এর যুদ্ধে বিধ্বস্ত ইরাকী রাষ্ট্রের উপর অর্থনৈতিক নিষেধাজ্ঞাকে আমরা সমর্থন করি নি, কারণ সে ছিল মানুষ মারা নিষেধাজ্ঞা, যা কোনো ন্যায়ের পক্ষে ছিল না, বরং আধা-গণহত্যার পরিস্থিতি তৈরি করে একটা দেশকে মার্কিণ সাম্রাজ্যবাদের পদানত করার উদ্দেশ্যে আনা হয়েছিল। পাশ্চাত্যের শক্তিরা এখন ইউক্রেন আক্রমণের জবাবে রাশিয়ার বিরুদ্ধে একগুচ্ছ নয়া নিষেধাজ্ঞা জারি করেছে। তাদের কোনোটা কোনোটা হয়তো বাস্তবিক পুতিনের স্বৈরাচারী সরকারের যুদ্ধ করার ক্ষমতাকে কমাতে পারবে। অন্যগুলি হয়তো রাশিয়ার সাধারণ মানুষের ক্ষতি করবে, কিন্তু রাষ্ট্র বা তার অলিগার্কিকে বিশেষ আঘাত করবে না। কিন্তু যতক্ষণ এই সব নিষেধাজ্ঞা আন্তঃ-সাম্রাজ্যবাদী দ্বন্দ্বের পরিপ্রেক্ষিতে নেওয়া, গণ সংগ্রাম হেকে উহে আসা নয়, যেমনটা ছিল দক্ষিণ আফ্রিকার উপরে অর্থনৈতিক নিষেধাজ্ঞা, ততক্ষণ আমরা বিবদমান দুই পক্ষের কাউকেই সমর্থন করি না।

৭। বিপ্লবী মার্ক্সবাদী ও আন্তর্জাতিকতাবাদী হিসেবে আমরা সমস্ত নিপীড়িত সংখ্যালঘু জাতির আত্মনিয়ন্ত্রণের অধিকারকে সমর্থন করি। সুতরাং, ইউক্রেনের আত্মনিয়ন্ত্রণের অধিকারকে সমর্থন করার পাশাপাশি, আমরা ক্রিমিয়ার মানুষের এবং পূর্ব ইউক্রেনের প্রদেশগুলির মানুষের অধিকারকেও সমর্থন করি। তাঁরা যেন পুতিনের ‘ভালবাসার ছায়াতে’ বা ইউক্রেনের সামরিক হুমকিতে না,  গণতান্ত্রিকভাবে স্থির করতে পারেন, তাদের ভবিষ্যত কী হবে। 

৮। মোদী সরকার নির্লজ্জের মতো এই আগ্রাসনের নিন্দা করতে অস্বীকার করেছে। এই কাজ ইউক্রেনের সরকার ও জনমতকে ভারতের প্রতি ক্রুদ্ধ করেছে, এবং ভারতীয় নাগরিকদের নিরাপত্তা নিশ্চিত করা বা তাদের দ্রুত ঐ দেশ থেকে বের করে আনা কঠিন করে তুলেছে। এই সরকারের কাছে নিজের দেশের নাগরিকের নিরাপত্তার চেয়ে বড় হয়ে দেখা দিয়েছে কূটনৈতিক লাভক্ষতির খেলা।

৯। বুর্জোয়া বিরোধী দলগুলি হয় চুপ করে আছে, অথবা কংগ্রেস দলের ক্ষেত্রে, কার্যত সরকারের থেকে তাদের অবস্থান আলাদা নয়।  

১০। সিপিআই(এম) রাশিয়া যা করেছে তাকে আগ্রাসন বলে চিহ্নিত করতে রাজি না, তারা একে কেবল ‘দুর্ভাগ্যজনক’ বলেছে। সিপি আইএর সঙ্গে  মিলে তারা জোর দিচ্ছে মার্কিণ যুক্তরাষ্ট্র ও ন্যাটোর উপরে, যেন তারাই প্রধানত দায়ী। রাশিয়া নাকি কেবল তার প্রতিক্রিয়া দেখিয়েছে। এই যে শ্রেণী ভিত্তিক অবস্থানের অভাব, এটা ঐ দলগুলি ও আদের সমর্থক্রা যারা দিশা চাইছেন তাদের কোনো উপকার করে না, এবং সার্বিকভাবে বামপন্থীদের বিশ্বাসযোগ্যতার ক্ষতি করে।

১১। আমরা গণতান্ত্রিক ও সমাজতান্ত্রিক ইউক্রেনের পক্ষে।

১২। যে বীর রুশরা যুদ্ধের দামামার বিরুদ্ধে রুখে দাড়িয়েছেন তাদের অভিনন্দন জানাই।

 

র‍্যাডিকাল সোশ্যালিস্ট, ২৮/০২/২০২২

 

Radical Socialist Statement on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

 

1. We condemn Russia as an imperialist aggressor using the dreams of an old imperial epoch to justify expansionism, and are deeply concerned at this precedent  that may later affect any other former Soviet republic.

2. As when the US invaded Iraq, we do not use the language of diplomacy, we do not seek UN intervention, but call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the aggressors.

3. This demand does not date only to 2022. We demand the Russian withdraw from every inch of Ukrainian territory. That includes Crimea, and the provinces in Eastern Ukraine even as we recognise the justice of demands for greater cultural and political autonomy so that Ukraine becomes a more democratic and federal set-up. Crimea had its own Constitution in 1992 which gave it greater powers of self-governance with some powers delegated to Kiev. Unjustifiably, President Kuchma subsequently annulled this Constitution.

4. We do not take our stance on Russia by looking at NATO. But our stance on NATO remains what it was. NATO was and is an imperialist military threat which never had any legitimacy, and should have been completely disbanded after the end of the Cold War. Therefore we certainly do not support any NATO action now. However, we do not see world politics as the chess board between great powers where others have to be ‘sacrificed’ for the sake of a spurious lesser evil.

5. It is understandable that Ukrainian victims of aggression may seek intervention of other imperialist powers, for that has been the picture both with Russian interventions and US interventions. But we do not support any such call. We consider such appeals to be detrimental to the victims too for making such pleas are effectively asking for face-offs between nuclear armed imperialists, rather than any action through globally accepted frameworks. UN participation as a buffer force is a non-starter given the P-5 veto powers in the UN Security Council.

6. We have no general attitude on sanctions in principle. We were in favour of sanctions targeting the South-African Apartheid state and we are in favour of sanctions targeting the Israeli settler-colonial occupation. We were against the sanctions imposed on the Iraqi state after it had been destroyed by war in 1991, for they were murderous sanctions serving no just cause but only the subjugation of a state to US imperialism at a quasi-genocidal cost for its population. Western powers have decided a whole set of new sanctions against the Russian state for its invasion of Ukraine. Some of these may indeed curtail the ability of Putin’s autocratic regime to fund its war machine, others may be harmful to the Russian population without much affecting the regime or its oligarchic cronies. But as long as these are sanctions within the context of inter-imperialist conflicts, rather than the one like against South Africa brought in through mass struggles, we do not support either side.

7. As revolutionary Marxists, and as internationalists, we support the right to self-determination for all oppressed minorities. Therefore, while supporting the Ukrainian right to self-determination, we also support the rights of Crimeans and the inhabitants of the Eastern Ukrainian provinces to decide democratically, not under Putin’s 'loving protection', but nor under Ukrainian military threats, what future they want.

8. The Modi government has shamefully refused to condemn the invasion. This has angered and alienated the Ukrainian government and public making the task of quickly evacuating Indian citizens more difficult as well as endangering their safety. This supposedly topmost human responsibility to its own citizens has played second fiddle to its diplomatic games.

9. The bourgeois opposition parties have either remained silent  or in the case of the Congress party its official stand is effectively no different from that of the government.

10. The CPM has refused to call the Russian action an invasion only saying it is "unfortunate". Along with the CPI the principal focus is on indicting the US and NATO has having the primary responsibility for what has emerged and to which Russia is supposed to have 'reacted'. This lack of a class based stance does no credit to them and their supporters looking for guidance and damages the credibility of the left more generally.

11. For a Democratic and Socialist Ukraine.

              12. Our salute to the heroic Russians who stood up against the war drums.

 

Radical Socialist, 28/02/2022

No to Russian Imperialist Aggression, No to US/NATO interference, for a Democratic, Socialist Ukraine, for the Right of Self Determination for all Oppressed Nationalities

Kunal Chattopadhyay and Achin Vanaik

Russian Imperialism is the Aggressor:

We unequivocally condemn the Russian aggression on Ukraine. Beyond all discussions about how rightwing the Ukrainian regime is, what relationships it has with neo-Nazis or with the NATO, there are certain basic truths. Ukraine had been an oppressed nation under Tsarist Russia, which denied the distinctiveness of Ukrainian language and culture. Even after the February Revolution the Ukrainian bourgeois democrats had found little support in Petrograd from the Russian Provisional government. It was the Bolshevik Party that inscribed the slogan of the right of all oppressed nations to self-determination. They accepted this for Finland, as well as for the Ukraine. Even at the discussions at Brest-Litovsk, the Bolshevik delegation from Soviet Russia acknowledged the right of Ukraine to self-determination, while insisting that puppet regimes put up by an imperialist power did not consist of genuine self-determination. In this sense, Vladimir Putin, who seeks to extend the power and authority of Russian imperialism, is absolutely correct in stressing that modern Ukraine was created by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. That was however negated by the repressions of the Stalin era, the violence on the Crimean Tatars, the terrible famine, and general Stalinist assimilationist policies. As Putin put it clearly in his speech, "It is logical that the Red Terror and a rapid slide into Stalin’s dictatorship, the domination of the communist ideology and the Communist Party’s monopoly on power, nationalisation and the planned economy – all this transformed the formally declared but ineffective principles of government into a mere declaration. In reality, the union republics did not have any sovereign rights, none at all. The practical result was the creation of a tightly centralised and absolutely unitary state." He rued that nonetheless, “it is a great pity that the fundamental and formally legal foundations of our state were not promptly cleansed [by Stalin] of the odious and utopian fantasies [of Lenin] inspired by the revolution, which are absolutely destructive for any normal state.".

Putin does not see a conflict with the Ukraine as an international conflict. He wants to revive the imperial ambitions of Russia, and in that, Ukraine has a major place. As the second biggest of the Republics of the former USSR, it occupied a major space. Russian imperialism has been created out of the former Stalinist bureaucracy. Vladimir Putin, with his ex-KGB credentials, neatly summarises that transition. Russia has had a painful transition to  capitalism and therefore its emergence as a weaker imperialism than the US -but one nevertheless. The Former Soviet Union broke up, and while Moscow would like to assert its hegemony everywhere, it has been forced to take small steps, since other imperialist powers, as well as national ambitions of formerly dominated nations, pose hindrances. Nevertheless, Putin has been relentless in his march, both in domestic terms, and internationally. Within Russia, opposition voices have been stopped, the media is state controlled, and Putin and his minions have been holding the President’s post for ages. Internationally, in 2008, to prevent Georgia from joining NATO, Putin (then running the show from the prime minister’s desk behind Dmitry Medvedev) justified the invasion of its territory citing his support for the secession of the provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which he encouraged to claim independence. In 2014, apprehensive that if Ukraine joined NATO Russia would find itself hemmed in, he invaded and took over Crimea violating the 1994 Budapest Agreement wherein Ukraine gave up the third largest nuclear arsenal in return for Treaty written security assurances that its territorial integrity and sovereignty would be fully respected by foreign powers, specifically including Russia, i.e., no illegal military interventions.

Putin also intervened militarily in that same year in the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine encouraging separatist groups there to declare independence. Unlike in Crimea where ethnic Russians are in a majority, in the Donbass eastern region the majority are Ukrainians who speak Russian while ethnic Russians constitute around 40% of the region's population. In both the cases of Georgia and Ukraine, Putin believed that the US was too weak to confront him. In 2008, the US was stuck in the Iraqi crisis of its own brutal making, and in 2014, after accepting failure in achieving all its goals, it pulled almost all its troops out of Iraq, finding itself with a partial revival of the post-Vietnam War military paralysis.

Post-Soviet Ukraine: An Oligarchic Rule

The 2014-15, war over the Donbass led to the deaths of thousands. Over 150,000 were ousted from their homes. In late 2014 there began the Maidan protests. To understand them we need to go back to the foundations of independent Ukraine and the rise of the oligarchy. The 1996 constitution, approved under President Kuchma, gave the president more powers than parliament, but not to the same extent as in Russia: it was a presidential–parliamentary republic, rather than a purely presidential one. This was also a very important factor in the evolution of the political system: presidential elections were not winner-takes-all contests to the same extent as in many other former ex-Soviet countries.  With the state’s assistance, figures like Rinat Akhmetov, Ihor Kolomoyskyi and Viktor Pinchuk and Victor Yanukovych acquired old Soviet industries at fire-sale prices, and then made huge fortunes not so much by investing or upgrading as by using them to make quick money, shifting their capital to Cyprus or other offshore havens. For many years, Leonid Kuchma and his prime minister, Victor Yanukovych were also able to balance on the question of whether to integrate into Europe’s economic sphere or Russia’s, moving decisively neither to the West nor the East. This shielded Ukraine’s oligarchs, preventing them from being swallowed by stronger Russian or European competitors. It’s worth pointing out, too, that the oligarchs were able to play a different role in the political system from their Russian counterparts: here the state was unable to dominate them and exclude them from participation as Putin did.

The end result of the 2004 large-scale public protests labelled the "Orange Revolution" saw no structural change, only a mere change of oligarchic elites. The unrest erupted because of illegal manipulation, corruption and electoral fraud (to which the Central Election Commission was a party) in favour of Yanukoych against the other main candidate, Viktor Yushchenko in the presidential run-off's of that year. The Ukraine Supreme Court ruled in favour of a re-vote which was won by Yushchenko, a former prime minister between 1999 and 2001. The then President Kuchma could not legally run again beyond the two terms of office he had already served and whose own reputation and credibilty had been fatally scarred by a major earlier scandal when irrefutable evidence was revealed that he had ordered the kidnapping of a journalist. Since in 2004 end constitutional amendments were passed by parliament to make the system more of a parliamentary-presidency one, Kuchma agreed to stop backing Yanukovych for the Presidency since the post now meant less. 

Yushchenko's pushing of a nationalist anti-communism discourse could not prevent his popularity from tumbling as the economic decline continued. [Even today the per capita income of Ukraine is less than it was in 1991 while its population has fallen from 50 million from then to 41 million at present.] Elected as President in 2010, Yanukovich tried to revert to the 1996 constitution. This also meant half the MPs in the Rada (parliament) would be elected in first-past-the-post constituencies again, and half from party lists. As well as attempting to monopolize political power, Yanukovych tried to concentrate financial and economic power around his own team, especially his family. The result was a tremendous amount of personalized corruption as well as alienation from a host of other oligarchs. Yanukovych’s announcement on 21 November 2013 that he would be suspending negotiations on the EU Association Agreement was the initial trigger for the protests that eventually led to his downfall. Ukraine was quite evenly split about this. 40 per cent were in favour of signing the Association Agreement and 40 per cent supported an agreement with the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union. So when the protests began it was definitely not a nationwide people’s revolt. Why would this matter so much, either for the EU or for Russia? This can be explained when we look at the Ukrainian economy. 

It is the second-largest country by area in Europe by area and has a population of over 40 million - more than Poland.

Ukraine ranks:

1st in Europe in proven recoverable reserves of uranium ores;

2nd place in Europe and 10th place in the world in terms of titanium ore reserves;

2nd place in the world in terms of explored reserves of manganese ores (2.3 billion tons, or 12% of the world's reserves);

2nd largest iron ore reserves in the world (30 billion tons);

2nd place in Europe in terms of mercury ore reserves;

3rd place in Europe (13th place in the world) in shale gas reserves (22 trillion cubic meters)

4th in the world by the total value of natural resources;

7th place in the world in coal reserves (33.9 billion tons)

Ukraine is an important agricultural country:

1st in Europe in terms of arable land area;

3rd place in the world by the area of black soil (25% of world's volume);

1st place in the world in exports of sunflower and sunflower oil;

2nd place in the world in barley production and 4th place in barley exports;

3rd largest producer and 4th largest exporter of corn in the world;

4th largest producer of potatoes in the world;

5th largest rye producer in the world;

5th place in the world in bee production (75,000 tons);

8th place in the world in wheat exports;

9th place in the world in the production of chicken eggs;

16th place in the world in cheese exports.

Ukraine can meet the food needs of 600 million people.

Ukraine is an important industrialized country:

1st in Europe in ammonia production;

Europe's 2nd’s and the world’s 4th largest natural gas pipeline system;

3rd largest in Europe and 8th largest in the world in terms of installed capacity of nuclear power plants;

3rd place in Europe and 11th in the world in terms of rail network length (21,700 km);

3rd place in the world (after the U.S. and France) in production of locators and locating equipment;

3rd largest iron exporter in the world

4th largest exporter of turbines for nuclear power plants in the world;

4th world's largest manufacturer of rocket launchers;

4th place in the world in clay exports

4th place in the world in titanium exports

8th place in the world in exports of ores and concentrates;

9th place in the world in exports of defense industry products;

10th largest steel producer in the world (32.4 million tons).

It should now be clear why both imperialist blocs wanted Ukraine. And the EU with its ‘merely’ economic offer was dangerous for Russia. 

The Euromaidan and After:

In the beginning, the Euromaidan movement of Nov. 2013- Feb. 2014 mostly consisted of middle-class Kyivans and students, who were mainly driven by a European ideology. There was also a strong anti-Russian, nationalist component. In fact, any idea of a Ukraine built on a nationalist rather than democratic foundation would have to incorporate a degree of anti-Russianism. From the beginning, the Maidan protests posed the choice between the EU Association Agreement and the Russian led Customs Union in very stark, almost civilizational terms: is Ukraine with Europe or with Russia? Is it going to line up with Putin, Lukashenko (Belarus) and Nazarbaev(Kazakhstan) or have nothing to do with them?

However, regardless of that, the Maidan protests were from the beginning large movements. The very first protests saw 50,000 or more people in Kyiv. On 30 November there was a crackdown on the movement. The TV channels, owned by the oligarchs, who had been supporting Yanukovych, suddenly showed the crackdown in a bad light. The protest held in Kyiv on 1 December was enormous, with anything up to 200,000 people present. The movement also spread geographically: there were Maidans in almost every city. There was a considerable far right presence, which included neo-fascists but which was not only the neo-fascists. In reality, only a tiny minority of the protesters at the rallies were from the far right. However, they acted in a united way and managed to mainstream their slogans. 

From mid-January onwards, the protests seemed to enter a third phase, with negotiations between the government and opposition continuing even as violence was escalating, right up to Yanukovych’s ouster on 22 February. Perhaps the major turning point was the shooting of protesters in the centre of Kiev by snipers on 18, 19 and 20 February.  There was another important development on 18 February in the west of Ukraine, where protesters started to attack police stations and raid their arsenals, getting hold of guns in large quantities. This happened in Lviv, in Ternopil, in Ivano-Frankivsk, in many areas. It changed the situation drastically: the riot police were ready to disperse protesters when the latter were armed with sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails, but they were not ready to die for Yanukovych. After 18 February, the western parts of Ukraine were under the control of the protesters, who occupied the administrative buildings, police and security service headquarters. In some places the police shot at protesters, but in many areas they left without offering much resistance. 

The Yanukovych government fell in late February. Putin, and a section of the left that sees in Putin its dream of continued resistance to ‘imperialism’ (identified with the USA or the West alone), have repeatedly asserted that what happened was a fascist coup. A ‘coup’ suggests a planned, organised conspiracy to take power. Moreover, the far right were one component of the government that came in. Finally, the assumption that the far right was a tool of US imperialism ignores the internal dynamics, and treats all national conflicts in a left version of geostrategic theories that focus chiefly on great power rivalries. 

The Russian annexation of Crimea gave enormous advantages to the new government, since it gained a lot of legitimacy, and could push social issues into the background, highlighting ‘national unity’ against foreign aggression. 

Fearing a Russian social and political movement like Maidan, Putin described the post-Yanoukovych regime in Kiev as dominated by anti-Russian fascists, distorting reality in order to legitimate his annexation of Crimea and the so-called need to “protect” Russophone populations. While “Ukrainians” were often identified with “fascists”, the “hybrid war” instrumentalized by Moscow in Eastern Ukraine to destabilize the country’s turn toward western institutions, transformed political life in Ukraine : increasing hate and hysterical rhetoric of vengeance has been used by the ruling elites all over the country as excuse for their anti-social politics.

The sectors of the left that see in Maidan simply US/NATO conspiracy are thus effectively tagging all Ukrainians as fascists and the Russian speakers as progressives. As a matter of fact, what happened since 2015 is very different. Volodymyr Zelensky is no radical.  But the electoral triumph of this television comedian represented a moment when Ukrainians were trying to reject the oligarchy. With 73% of the votes, he won a landslide victory. Maidan had removed Yanukovych in the name of removing corruption. In fact there was a reconfiguration of the oligarchs. While Zelensky did not have a positive programme, the votes for him were anti-oligarchy. Poroshenko, the predecessor of Zelensky as president after the fall of Yanukovych, pushed up nationalist rhetoric. Re-establishing the status of Ukrainian culture and language are an inevitable part of the national sovereignty and identity project due to historic and current geopolitical reasons. In a way, Russia’s aggression and frequent Kremlin’s remarks on Ukraine being a non-country and non-culture  has also helped to promote a dangerous  binary of supposedly inescapable opposition between Ukrainian nationalism and Russian nationalism in a country where near everyone can read and understand Russian, where 70% of the population including huge numbers of Ukrainians can also speak it, and where Ukrainian is the language of state while Russian dominates the market for cultural goods and products.  Their complete separation is impossible due to intimate historic intertwining and the future of the Ukrainian language and related culture needs to be built on its own terms, embracing the nation’s multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism.   

Re-establishing a language and a culture that has been historically repressed are important and necessary but it also  calls for a balancing act vis-a-vis Russian and related expressions of culture. But Poroshenko wanted to go beyond that pushing a more aggressive anti-Russian line. The reverse also holds true. Those who therefore want to blame the Ukrainians for Putin’s invasion need to remind themselves again of his own stance, both in his recent speech, and repeatedly before that. As he said in his speech: "I would like to emphasise again that Ukraine is not just a neighbouring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space." 

And also, 

[T]oday the “grateful progeny” [i.e. independent part of Ukraine] has overturned monuments to Lenin in Ukraine. They call it decommunization.

"You want decommunization? Very well, this suits us just fine. But why stop halfway? We are ready to show what real decommunizations would mean for Ukraine [i.e. complete erasure of Ukraine's separate identity that was the doing of the Communist regime]."

 

We also need to consider that the Donetsk National Republic and the Luhanskh National Republic, the Russian backed regimes, have shown a clear hostility to any multiculturalism. One of the first acts of the Russians in Crimea and the Donbass was to replace multilingual signs with Russian only. Ukraine has a system where the minority language has to be officially supported in a municipality if the number of speakers is over a certain level (10%) and there are other languages  like Hungarian, Rumanian, Polish, Tatar. There is a lot of complexity in the former Soviet Union, because of Russification, whereby Russian speakers were often brought in from other areas. Those on the left putting up the language factor to justify the Russian invasion conveniently forget this. 

The US, the EU and NATO: Inter-Imperialist Rivalry:

There is no doubt that the US is the biggest and most powerful imperialist globally with the worst global record in supporting  brutal dictatorships abroad, in carrying out unacceptable military interventions in other countries and holding the record for being directly and indirectly responsible for killing civilians, an overall tally since WWII which easily surpasses several millions. But this does not excuse the behaviour of other countries big, medium or small, seeking to establish and  expand their regional or global hegemony and dominance. These other powers include several West European allies of the US and bodies like NATO but also the likes of Israel, Turkey, India, Pakistan and of course Russia and China; and no doubt there are and can be other entrants into this broad club of imperialist and aspiring imperialist powers. The justifications made for such expansionism is invariably to cite the demands of 'national security' and the need to 'react' against other named culprits. The international Left must be careful not to fall into the politics of defending the presumed ' lesser evil'  or even  denying or diminishing its evilness, when we should be opposing evil full stop. In the case of Russia there should be no reason for confusion.

 Let us explore this issue of its relationship with the US and NATO since the Soviet break-up. The NATO has, in our eyes, never had any justification whatsoever, so we oppose its existence ever. However, even by the logic of the Cold War it had advanced, it should have been wound up once the Warsaw Pact ended. In fact, of course, the US-led NATO not only did not wind up, it broke promises not to expand further but has deliberately  done so to extend its reach to come as close as it can to the borders of Russia. Of course we oppose and condemn this because it means undermining the global search for greater peace and justice, subordinates smaller and weaker countries, and deepens ruling class alliances and enables greater exploitation of the ordinary working masses of their own and other countries.  Nor should we be at all surprised  that the members of this  imperialist club everywhere will resort to bullying their neighbours and seeking to expand their hard power and dominance as much as possible even beyond this. Russia from Yeltsin to Putin has constantly talked of its 'legitimate security needs'. 'Needs' is always a more effective word to use than 'ambitions',  which would not go so well with the term 'legitimate'.  Russia after the Soviet break-up is militarily and nuclearly the second power in the world. Does anybody in their right mind think the US or NATO will or want to risk actually invading it territorially? But like all imperialists and aspiring ones, Russia too wants to establish and consolidate  its own 'sphere of influence', a euphemism to disguise the actual project, namely the determination  to externally dominate as much as possible that designated region whose borders are always open to expansion. 

The US and NATO keep seeking to do this but to think that Russia's actions in its 'near abroad' or further afield, are seriously motivated  by the fear of its 'security being deeply imperilled' and that these actions are a 'reaction', is absurd.  Indeed, the most likely outcome of what Russia has done will be the strengthening of the commitment to NATO and possible (some would now say likely) expansion of NATO membership in Europe as well as a stronger stimulus to countries in the Asia-Pacific region to align and come closer to the US and its alliance structures.

We must categorically oppose all imperialisms. While apportioning global and historical blame for imperialism's iniquities the biggest share obviously falls on the US and its allies. But this truth must not be used to rationalise away the iniquities and behaviour of other imperialists. Putin did not just send troops under Russian dominated Central Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to Kazakhstan recently as  a 'reaction' to the West or as a 'compulsion' flowing out its 'legitimate security needs'  but to stabilise a pro-Russian brutal authoritarian regime repressing its own people.

Two further brief comments need to be made here. We have seen hypocrisy at an unprecedented level, both regarding Ukrainian resistance, and regarding the refugees, by the EU and by the Western media. These are countries and media that have always condemned Palestinian resistance as terrorism, but they are today all for civilian resistance to the Russians. We take their ‘support’ to the Ukrainians as fakery, linked to the interests of the ruling classes of the Western powers, and not in the least motivated by genuine concern for democratic rights. The same goes for the media and state hypocrisy about accepting Ukrainian refugees, from countries that have been brutal towards refugees from North Africa in the recent past. Twitter, which has blocked accounts for crowd funding for Cuba (on non-military issues) is allowing crowd funding for military help to Ukrainians. This shows the clear links between apparently independent agencies and Western imperialist powers. 

Indian Reactions – the Regime and the Big Parliamentary Left:

What has been the response to the invasion of Ukraine in India? Shamefully but expectedly the Hindutva Modi government expresses concern but no condemnation even as it has a de-facto strategic relationship with the US. It wants to keep Russia happy  because of  its supposed diplomatic and military requirements. Greater security for India does not mean for right-wing Indian regimes reducing military spending to help reduce poverty, resolving the border dispute with China through give-and-take, or promoting peace in South Asia but getting more military power not merely to protect borders but to power project in South Asia and beyond as any aspiring regional hegemon should be doing.  New Delhi claims that its priority now is to evacuate Indian citizens from Ukraine. We fully support this. But the government's refusal to condemn the invasion makes getting the vital moral-political support from both the people and the government of Ukraine makes it more difficult to quickly carry this out and further endangers the lives of Indian citizens. The bourgeois opposition parties are either silent or in the case of the Congress party, its official stand is no different from the government's. No surprises here. 

As for the major parties of the Left, the CPM does not go beyond calling the Russian action 'unfortunate' and along with the CPI plays the tune of the real culprit being the US and NATO to which Russia has reacted.  There is not a shred of class analysis in statements by these parties which claim to be Marxist. But then neither of these parties has yet publicly declared that Russia (or China) are capitalist countries let alone that they are imperialist powers even as Putin, the ruling class there and the Russian public have no illusions that theirs is anything else but a capitalist country, one that is pretty messed up economically and politically. How long will the parties of the mainstream Indian left keep burying  their heads in the sand?

 

A Ukrainian Sociologist Explains Why Everything You Know About Ukraine Is Probably Wrong

 

MONDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2022, BY VOLODYMYR ISHCHENKO

If you’ve relied on establishment media to follow the events in Ukraine these past eight years, then chances are what you know is wrong. Despite — or, more likely, because — the tumult in Ukraine has reared its head prominently in both US foreign policy and its domestic politics these past few years, the country’s history and its ongoing internal conflicts have been some of the most propagandized for Western audiences.

Dr Volodymyr Ishchenko, a sociologist and research associate at the Institute for East European Studies, has spent years writing about Ukrainian politics, the country’s 2014 Euromaidan Revolution, and the messy intersection of protests, social movements, revolution, and nationalism. He recently spoke with Jacobin’s Branko Marcetic about what Western audiences need to understand about Ukraine and the ongoing international standoff over it.

BM: Why are Ukrainian officials and European governments taking such different stances on the question of the prospects for a Russian invasion than the United States and the UK?

VI: Russian coercive diplomacy and the military buildups are just one part of this, because there are also parallel diplomatic actions. Another part is this media campaign about the imminent invasion, which has its own autonomous logic, is driven by different interests, and should not be taken as an objective reflection of Russian actions. It also has this reinforcing, escalating character. The primary target of this campaign is probably not even Russia or Ukraine, but Germany, which is supposed to be closer to its NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] allies.

Ukraine at first didn’t even notice this campaign in the Western media. It then tried to exploit the campaign by requesting more weapons and calling for preventive sanctions against Russia. It was only about two or three weeks ago that the Ukrainian government started to make very explicit statements that invasion is not really imminent, that we have been under Russian threat since 2014 and we’re used to this, and that according to their intelligence, this threat isn’t greater than it was in spring last year (during the earlier stage of the Russian buildup, which was done very publicly with very clear intentions).

This Western media campaign has had very material and negative consequences for the Ukrainian economy. The Ukrainian currency has started to be devalued, investors have started to leave — particularly in the Ukrainian real estate market — and the government has been quite scared that even without an actual invasion, the Ukrainian economy may get into quite serious trouble from this. But I wouldn’t take it as simply strategic deception.

BM: Why is Ukraine such an important country, both to Russia, and to the West and the United States?

VI: Economically, Ukraine is actually a big failure. If you look at the economic indicators, Ukraine is probably one of the very, very few countries in the world that has not reached its 1990 level of GDP per capita. There was a huge economic decline in the ’90s, and then Ukraine failed to grow like its Eastern European neighbors. We don’t live better than at the end of the Soviet Union, unlike Poland, for example, or even Russia or Belarus.

For Russia and for the United States, it’s a place through which natural gas is transported. There were some initiatives to have a three-party consortium: Russia as a supplier of gas, the European Union as consumer, and Ukraine as a transitory territory. These were torpedoed in the ’90s and 2000s, particularly by the Ukrainian side, and the result was that Russia just built several pipelines around Ukraine. The Nord Stream 2 is perhaps the most dangerous for Ukraine now, because it may make Ukrainian pipelines obsolete.

From a military point of view, Russia says that Ukraine may be important because if NATO starts to deploy offensive weapons, there are rockets that can reach Moscow in five minutes from Ukrainian territory. The Russian defensive strategy for centuries was expansion, in order to push its border as far west as possible, creating strategic depth, which led Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler’s invasions to fail — though contemporary wars are not waged in the same way as they were a half-century or two centuries ago.

For the United States, Ukraine is a potential hot spot against Russia. If Ukraine is creating tensions with Russia, it might weaken Russia and may deflect its resources, for example, in case of a Chinese escalation. Some people comment now quite cynically, “Why not let the Russians invade Ukraine, and let’s make Ukraine another Afghanistan for Russia?” Russia would spend a lot of resources, it would be hit with sanctions — probably Nord Stream would also be under sanctions — and it’s not that clear for how long Russia would survive a major escalation in Ukraine. That might be a reason why this war [in the Donbass region] has been going on for such a long time: there’s no actual interest in stopping it. There were several opportunities to do so in 2019 and 2015, and the US government didn’t do as much as they could.

BM: What is the relationship between Ukraine and Russia, since the countries’ long and complicated history shapes so many of the political and cultural divisions of modern Ukraine?

VI: There’s nothing close to a consensus on this issue. Some people on the Left, such as some Ukrainian Marxists in the twentieth century, made the case that Ukraine was a Russian colony, and at least in the Russian Empire, it was exploited economically. That was a different story under the Soviet Union, when Ukraine was actually developed very quickly and ended up being one of the most developed parts of the country — one of the reasons why the post-Soviet crisis was so severe. Others would say that Ukraine was more like Scotland to England, and not even close to relations between Western metropoles and their colonies in Africa or Asia, or even between Russia and Central Asia, or Russia and Siberia.

For many Russians, Ukraine is part of their perception of the Russian nation. They simply could not imagine Russia without Ukraine. In the Russian Empire, there was this idea that Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians were three parts of the same people. And this narrative was recently reiterated by Vladimir Putin, in his article where he claimed Ukrainians and Russians are just one people, artificially divided.

This narrative has a long history in Russian imperial thought. From this perspective, you’d see relations between Ukraine and Russia as a competition of at least two nation-building projects. One would say Ukraine is not a part of Russia; Ukrainians are a separate people. This narrative is the most dominant in Ukraine right now. However, this nation-building project has not succeeded fully — despite three revolutions that had very strong nation-building content, which happened in 1990, 2004, and 2014. Another narrative would claim that Ukrainians are actually part of some bigger Eastern Slavic unity and this nation-building project wasn’t realized because of the weakness of modernization in the Russian Empire.

However, this discussion occupies just a small part of Ukrainian society, intellectuals especially. For regular Ukrainians, it’s not the salient question. According to polls conducted for the thirty years since Soviet independence, the questions of jobs, wages, and prices have been at the top, while identity, language, geopolitical relations, the EU, Russia, and NATO were always down the list of Ukrainian priorities.

BM: Some commentators say that because the far right hasn’t been very successful in post-Maidan elections, its role in the country is negligible. How true is this?

VI: The role of radical nationalists in Ukrainian politics is significant, via direct pressure on the government and dissemination of narratives. If you look at the actual policies that were taken by the post-Maidan government, you’ll see the program of radical nationalist parties, particularly decommunization, banning the Communist Party of Ukraine, and Ukrainianization, which means pushing the Russian language out of the Ukrainian public sphere. Many things that the far right campaigned on before Maidan were implemented by nominally non-far-right politicians.

Nationalist radicalization is very good compensation for the lack of any revolutionary changes after the revolution. If you start, for example, to change something in the ideological sphere — renaming streets, taking away any Soviet symbols from the country, removing Vladimir Lenin’s statues that were standing in many Ukrainian cities — you create an illusion of change without actually changing in the direction of the people’s aspirations.

Most of the relevant parties are actually electoral machines for specific patron-clientelistic networks. Ideologies are usually totally irrelevant. It’s not difficult to find politicians who have switched between completely opposite camps in Ukrainian politics several times during their careers.

The radical nationalist parties, by contrast, have ideology, they have motivated activists, and at this moment, they are probably the only parties in the real sense of the word “party.” They are the most organized, the most mobilized parts of the civil society, with the strongest street mobilization. After 2014, they also got the resources for violence: they got the opportunities to create affiliated armed units and a broad network of training centers, summer camps, sympathetic cafés, and magazines. This infrastructure perhaps doesn’t exist in any other European country. It looks more like 1930s far-right politics in Europe than contemporary European far-right politics — which doesn’t rely so much on paramilitary violence but is instead capable of winning quite a broad part of the electorate.

BM: What are some of the misunderstood or unknown aspects of the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution that Western audiences may not be aware of?

VI: In the West, what has become dominant is the narrative of professional NGOs, which were an important part of the uprising in 2014. But they definitely did not represent the whole diversity of this uprising and represented even less the diversity of this big country. In their narratives, this was a democratic, peaceful revolution against an authoritarian government led by Viktor Yanukovych, who is probably one of the very few rulers in the world to have been toppled by two revolutions.

This narrative of the professional NGOs and national-liberal intellectuals was taken up by the Western media and Western officials, partially because it’s what they wanted to hear. And Western officials supported the Maidan Revolution quite openly. For the EU at that moment, it was quite inspiring, because while the people in Greece were burning EU flags, people in Ukraine were waving them.

Fear of radical nationalists inspired the anti-Maidan protests in the southeastern parts of Ukraine. Russia decided to supply and, in a crucial moment, intervene and prevent the defeat of separatist rebels in the region. The result is that a part of Donbass, an eastern Ukrainian, heavily industrialized and urbanized region, is now under the control of so-called people’s republics that should be seen more or less as Russian puppet states.

BM: What are your hopes for how this crisis might be resolved?

VI: My hope is there will be a peaceful resolution to the crisis. We all need to hope that the Russians will not start a stupid invasion and they will not start to escalate, not only in Donbass but even further.

Any progress in the implementation of the Minsk accords — which are about how to integrate the pro-Russian separatist territories back into Ukraine — would certainly be helpful for de-escalation. Even though most Ukrainians are not happy about the Minsk accords — mostly because they have proven ineffective since 2015 and haven’t brought peace to Donbass, not that most Ukrainians find them inherently unacceptable — the actual protests against the Minsk accords were quite small and not really supported by the majority of Ukrainians.

But so far, Ukraine doesn’t want to accept Minsk. It finds different excuses not to do what it agreed to do together with France, Germany, and Russia. One of the reasons is the very explicit violent threats from nationalist civil society in Ukraine, which perceive Minsk as a capitulation for Ukraine. For the nationalists, Minsk means recognizing Ukraine’s political diversity — that dissenting Ukrainians are not simply zombified by Russian propaganda, and they are not national traitors; that they have very rational reasons not to agree with the nationalist narrative and have an alternative perception of Ukraine.

If the Ukrainian government were serious about implementing the accords, and not finding excuses by pointing to threats from the nationalists, they might ask for help from the West — for a very consolidated position from the United States and the EU in the accords’ quick implementation. It would certainly be helpful for the Ukrainian government and demotivate the nationalist part of civil society, especially those parts that are directly dependent on financial aid from the West.

10 February 2022

Source Jacobin.

P.S.

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