On the Ukrainian Crisis
—Draft for discussion, Barbara, Bill, Josh, 5 March 2014
The following draft was circulated and discussed prior to the 2014 Conference, but neither voted on nor published. The Nimps considered that the following passage in the last paragraph exemplified the profoundly reactionary programmatic implications of the Imps’ mistaken notions about Russian imperialism: “We demand the immediate expulsion of Russian forces from the territory of Ukraine (including its naval base at Sebastopol)….”
DATE – Revolutionaries were neutral in the conflict between the administration of Viktor Yanukovych and the Euromaiden protest leaders now governing from Kiev, characterizing it as an inter-communal bourgeois fight bereft of progressive content. In the very early days of the demonstrations it was necessary to intervene to stake out an independent working-class position and gain influence for revolutionary socialist and anti-imperialist ideas, as well as seeking to organize self-defense against the fascists and the state. Quickly, however, the opportunity to build a proletarian pole of attraction vanished, as the protests became hegemonized by the right and far right (spearheaded by the outright fascists in Svoboda and Right Sector).
Triggering the conflict, and determining its development almost immediately from its inception, was geostrategic rivalry between Western interests and Russia. Moscow attempted to pull the Yanukovych government back into its orbit by offering a $15 billion aid package intended to dissuade Ukraine from going forward with planned free trade and association agreements with the EU. In late February, right-wing forces, fully supported and assisted by the U.S. and Germany, toppled Yanukovych in a putsch. Marxists condemn both the Western powers for interfering in domestic Ukrainian affairs and Moscow for backing the unlamented and corrupt outgoing regime of Yanukovych.
In the face of the Western-backed coup, Russian military forces moved to secure Moscow’s interests in Crimea (with the possibility of intervening in the east of Ukraine as well). In their struggle over which of them is going to “get” Ukraine (or keep as much of it as possible), the great powers have laid the basis for a major military conflagration in Europe, though it appears at the moment that the West is unwilling to risk nuclear war over Ukraine and that Russia may content itself with Crimea for the time being. The barrage of lies and pious lectures on “international law,” “territorial sovereignty” and “human rights” spewing out of the mouths of imperialist politicians and the corporate media is revolting, and the hypocrisy would be comical but for the deadly serious potential of the situation.
As a general principle, revolutionaries recognize the legitimacy of Ukrainians (and the interpenetrated peoples that comprise Ukraine) resisting domination and exercising their right to self-determination and political independence by any means necessary. Russia is the historic oppressor of Ukraine, and Western imperialists seek only to subordinate the country for their own purposes. However, the issue of Ukrainian sovereignty, and that of the complex national questions within Ukraine, is not operational in a situation where each side in the intra-Ukrainian squabble looks to rival oppressors for salvation, and where the conflict as a whole is essentially reduced to a great power tug-of-war. We note that the exercise of the right of self-determination for all national components of Ukrainian society could only be implemented equitably in the framework of a socialist federation.
The international working class has no interest in the victory of either side in the struggle between the West (and their local puppets) and Russia over control of Ukraine. We demand the immediate expulsion of Russian forces from the territory of Ukraine (including its naval base at Sebastopol), and of any Western forces or “observers” that may intervene militarily. Only global socialist revolution offers a way out of the nightmarish world dominated by imperialism.