Ukraine: When the West looks in the mirror…
On the invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine
On the day of the invasion of the territory of Ukraine by the army of the Russian Federation, the German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock declared that she had woken up «in another world». One wonders what world she lived in before. Or has she simply seen a mirror image of the Western intervention policy of the last decades, all the «wars against international law» that the German government, in association with its Western allies, have led or more or less openly supported, in Yugoslavia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan… – which now the Kremlin, with all the argumentation of «genocide», «democracy», «anti-fascism» etc., is copying on its own doorstep.
Yet the Russian military intervention is merely an element in the worldwide competition of the nationally organised and internationally coupled capitalists, a struggle for the redivision of the world into spheres of influence of the corresponding economic blocs. Of course, the statesmanlike and stateswomanlike hypocrites of the West reject this, officially they have wrapped their expansionist policy in wadded-up words, it is all about «freedom», «democracy» and other «values». The latter is still the most understandable, since it is above all about «added value», which is extracted from the plundering of the dominated territories and the proletarians there. This has also been felt in Ukraine, which has become the poorest country in Europe, plundered by its own oligarchs and the Western lenders of the enormous loans with which the country is indebted.
The dubious Western imperialist «community of values», represented by the EU and NATO, has in recent decades been approaching more and more on the territory of the Russian Federation, always intent on straddling into the economic orbit of its capitalist competitor in the East, which is slowly regaining its strength, and on detaching one territory after another from it and subordinating it to its own authority, by means of corruption, loans and new manifold dependencies.
The tussle over Ukraine between Western and Russian capital began quite early, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when an «oligarchic» system of capitalism had developed there and these heavily rich oligarchs determined politics in Ukraine to a great extent. Their internal contradictions were reproduced at all levels of society, and the Ukrainian «democracy» so praised was dominated by the respective economic interests of these big capitalists. Some of them saw greater profit opportunities in a link to the West, for others trade with Russia was more important. These contradictions were also ideologically charged, and the pro-Western oligarchs were supported – above all from US circles, also through the promotion and revival of Ukrainian nationalism and up to the glorification of its fascist idols like Bandera etc..
Until the Maidan in 2014, both the West and Russia took part in this game of oligarchic election of Ukrainian presidents, which the electorate was allowed to approve, but did not always choose the one that suited the respective foreign interests.
When the fickle oligarch Yanukovych, for whom his own immense wealth itself was not enough, suspended an association agreement with the EU at the end of 2013, partly because the Russian Federation had threatened economic sanctions, Western-oriented circles and oligarchs took this as an opportunity to stage a permanent demonstration on the Kiev Maidan that dragged on into 2014, fuelled with money and biscuits from the USA and the EU. The competing oligarchs organised private thugs like the ultra–nationalist Right Sector to challenge and confront state power. Finally, on 20 February, there was a showdown in which firearms were used and about 50 people were killed – including by snipers. An agreement reached shortly afterwards between the government, opposition members and (as witnesses) the German and Polish foreign ministers Steinmeier and Sikorski on the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine became a waste of paper almost on the same day and shortly afterwards Yanukovych was deposed in a coup d’état. The EU rushed to recognise this parliamentary coup, and the new president Yatsenyuk, preferred by the USA, succeeded him. Today, the comedian Selenskyj holds this office, promoted by the Ukrainian oligarch Kolomojskyj.
The Crimean peninsula, under Russian control since 1774, today a kind of unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Black Sea, and since 1783 the seat of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, had been bequeathed to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic by the Ukrainian-born head of the Soviet Union Khrushchev in 1954; previously it had belonged to the Russian Soviet Republic, from 1921 to 1946 as an autonomous republic. When the victory of the oligarchic Western faction became clear after the overthrow in Kiev, the Kremlin decided on a kind of counter-coup on the peninsula. By the end of March, the area was de facto and formally rejoined to the Russian Federation through a clever bloodless military operation, of course not without incurring the usual sanctions from the West. The West had hoped to eliminate Russia’s access to the Black Sea and its naval base when the relevant treaties with Ukraine expired. The annoyance was all the greater when this failed and Russian imperialism gained the upper hand in this matter. The West had not reckoned with this, since Crimea was a strategic fillet piece of Ukraine, and thus an important reason to invest millions of dollars in the subversive Ukrainian forces through the most diverse channels. Of course, this is why the Western states have not recognised the «reunification» of Crimea with Russia to this day and are trying vehemently to exert further counter-pressure in the form of naval manoeuvres, diplomatic notes and talk of «annexation», despite a referendum in which the vast majority of the population voted for Crimea’s incorporation into Russia, probably also because Ukraine had neglected Crimea economically and the per capita income in Crimea was only a third of that in Russia.
The situation was different in eastern Ukraine, namely in the districts of Lugansk and Donetsk. Here, the fears of the local population of Russian origin of the new Ukrainian government and its ultra-nationalist representatives combined with a fear incited by the Russian government and chauvinist Russian circles to form a kind of actually programmeless revolt, in which elements who had come from Russia – and often dubious ones – played a not insignificant role, especially later on. The «people’s militias» that appeared there initially aimed at a special role within the Ukrainian state, and ousted local authorities loyal to the state. The Ukrainian government reacted to this with an «anti-terrorist operation» and thus played a major role in setting in motion an open and brutal civil war, driven by «volunteer battalions» in which neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist figures and mercenaries from all corners of the world, some of them directly financed by oligarchs, acted out. The Ukrainian state was never really prepared to negotiate with the rebels. This would also have been expensive, after all, the huge IMF loans Ukraine had received were tied, among other things, to the domination of the rebellious territories; in the case of their loss, there would have been a reassessment of the loans (fewer exploitable proletarians would have meant more difficult loan conditions).
Russian imperialism could only be pleased with the rebellion in the east, since the open conflict and war prevented Ukraine’s ambitions to join NATO. Even in the case of a negotiated solution à la Minsk, in the case of an agreement between the rebels of the «People’s Republics» and the government of Ukraine, this question would have been on the table and no treaty would have been in sight, if at least a «Finlandisation» of Ukraine had not come out of it. Neither the Ukrainian government nor its Western partners wanted that, despite all their protestations to the contrary. The Ukrainian government repeatedly rejected the negotiations and preferred to bombard its own citizens in the rebellious territories with shells and artillery. No Western tears were shed for these victims of Ukrainian shelling, all the more uninhibited they can now flow in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The West itself has torpedoed the Minsk Agreement again and again, postponed it, cleverly put it on the back burner with new negotiation formats («Normandy format»), and was determined not to give its consent to a non-aligned Ukraine. After all, that would have put a spanner in the works of the West’s strategic planning: destabilisation and possibly the disintegration of the Russian Federation into controllable, plunderable individual parts. Instead of the «Finlandisation» of Ukraine, a containment of the Russian Federation, if not the «Yugoslavisation» of the multi-ethnic state of Russia. We remember too well the role played by the various Western powers in fuelling the civil war in Yugoslavia. And of the bombs dropped on Serbia for three months in 1999 to launch the new state of Kosovo. The Western hypocrites nevertheless emphasise without blushing: there has not been a war of aggression in Europe since 1945 – before the current invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin’s arguments are based precisely on this NATO operation, cynically holding up a mirror to the West.
At first glance, things seem obvious. Russian President Putin has indisputably given the order for the Russian invasion troops to deploy. The exact war aims of this «military operation», as it is trivially called in official terms, are not yet clear: Is it only about the replacement of the Ukrainian government, about the destruction of the military potential, or about a new division of the territory according to ethno-linguistic aspects, like the «Novorossija» project, i.e. the separation of south-eastern Ukraine from Odessa to Lugansk/Charkov as an independent state, about a more permanent occupation of the country at the price of an extended civil war? One can only speculate at the moment.
Putin is certainly not a new Hitler, a fantasist dreaming of the restoration of the Soviet Union or even of the Russian Tsarist Empire, but he is merely the coolly calculating representative of the capital exploiting the Russian state, which is trying to assert itself in the global struggle of the bourgeoisie for distribution and does not want to put itself in a disadvantageous position. After all negotiated solutions have obviously failed, after all attempts to ingratiate themselves with the «Western partners» have failed over the years, after the EU and the USA, in their self-assured certainty of victory, have continued to adhere tirelessly to their policy of encirclement, destabilisation and containment of Russia, the Russian Federation has resorted to a military counter-attack, with the long-term calculation that the risk and cost of this war will pay off in the long run. The almost notorious «price tag» that Western politicians now attach wherever they see their interests challenged – and which not only reveals their deeply bourgeois soul – does not seem to have deterred them.
Presumably, the Kremlin expected that the Western sanctions would sooner or later be used as weapons in the economic war against Russia, for whatever reason the West might welcome. Nordstream 2 was in danger of collapsing anyway, as the USA and its transatlantic allies in Germany and other countries tried to prevent the project wherever possible or to delay it into the unknown. Finally, even the sanctions arsenal will be exhausted at some point, but the exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT system has not yet been completed – and it would not be an uncomplicated matter and would probably result in a suspension of Russian oil and gas deliveries. On the other hand, the West is also demonstrating its very own intentions in the sanctions-fuelled economic war against Russia: either subjugation of Russia to Western imperiousness or destruction of the Russian economy. Whether this can be achieved without further ado, given the global interconnections, the Russian export products oil, gas, wheat, etc., and the cooperation with China, is another matter.
It is therefore difficult to unilaterally determine the «aggressor» of this conflict, which has taken the form of open war. All those involved, the ruling bourgeois of the EU, NATO, Ukraine and the Russian Federation, have contributed their bit to escalating the situation. All of them are on their tireless hunt for surplus value and profit, none of them wants to back down one iota, the miserable bourgeois cannot share, but only divide under bickering, and of course only what they have previously squeezed from the proletarians of the world with their exploitative regimes. Since Clausewitz we know that war is a mere continuation of politics by other means. What form of politics this war will turn into again remains open for the time being, but with one certainty: for the working class, whether in the West, in Russia, in Ukraine, nothing will change unless it organises itself on the basis of its own interests, fights and knocks the reins out of the hands of the respective ruling bourgeois.
The bourgeois of all the aforementioned warring parties, USA, EU, Ukraine and of course Russia, are trying to rally their dominated people behind their interests. The West imposes its sanctions with the usual quirks of defending «freedom» and «democracy», i.e. the freedom to exploit and elect warmongers. Now it wants to arm itself for this. Instead of de-escalation, they want to move to the Russian border with even more men and military equipment to underpin their future negotiating positions with further threats. With more than 1000 billion US dollars, the NATO countries are in the arms business annually, more than 16 times what the Russian Federation spends (61 billion). But that is not enough, the warmongers say. Ukraine is in the running for 6 billion, steadily increasing over the last three years (figures for 2020). The whole thing is accompanied by a disgusting media agitation and war-mongering by the journalistic rabble of the big bourgeois press, completely without legal regulation. The situation is similar in Ukraine and Russia. The ruling ideology in the press landscape is everywhere the ideology of the ruling class.
This contrasts with the reality of proletarian life, which is becoming increasingly difficult in all the countries mentioned – though of course at different levels. The situation is indisputably worst for proletarians in Ukraine, slightly better in Russia, and again better in the West. But their concerns don’t give a damn to ruling capital on the whole. For them, profit-making is in the foreground, and they all go over dead bodies for it. Neither in the West nor in the Ukraine and Russia are there any good reasons for the workers to be harnessed to the cart of their bourgeoisie in the name of «defence of the fatherland», «freedom», «anti-fascism», «national greatness» or whatever else the bourgeois ideologists can think of to set the workers of the world against each other. As long as the bourgeoisie succeeds in this, the workers are lost, condemned to bash each other’s heads in on command in the event of war. The winner remains only capital and its order of exploitation. And every imperialist «peace», whether negotiated or militarily enforced, is only the springboard for the next wars.
In this confrontation between the capitalists, defeatism is the order of the day, i.e. not only not to support one’s own bourgeoisie, but to work for its defeat. Borrowing from the old slogan of the workers’ movement to turn the imperialist war into an anti-capitalist revolutionary civil war against one’s own bourgeoisie, although this is not a concrete option because there is currently no strong workers’ movement in any of the countries involved, it is rather a question of attitude and guiding action wherever possible. For example, one can refuse to participate in war logistics and ask one’s colleagues to do the same. Or try to avoid forced recruitment. No support for the war on either side from the workers. War on war by organising ourselves for class struggle – and working in the long term to build a truly international communist party capable of uniting, leading and coordinating the working class in all countries behind its capitalism-negating programme.
Although the West officially professes to be for «peace» and officially launches corresponding appeals, not least in order to involve the helpless pacifists begging for «peace» in their war front, at the same time they are diligently pouring oil on the fire. In the meantime, the German government is allowing arms exports to the «crisis area», supplying weapons from Bundeswehr stocks, authorising the export of German anti-tank weapons to the Netherlands, and the export of howitzers from NVA («National People’s Army» of the GDR) times to Estonia. The Ukrainians are supposed to stick their necks out for the interests of German capital as well, the main thing being to weaken the enemy. The West, above all the USA, had long before pumped Ukraine full of weapons and supported the war of the Ukrainian state against the breakaway «People’s Republics», a Ukrainian military offensive against these territories had been prepared there for a long time, after all such an operation would also be covered by the «international law» negotiated between capitalists.
Hardly anyone in the West talks about the war refugees from eastern Ukraine who fled from Ukrainian weapons to Russia and Abkhazia, but the Ukrainian war refugees streaming to the West are extensively covered in the Western media and welcomed in the West as a matter of course. The refugees who fled the NATO wars and their consequences and encountered the ruthless resistance of the Polish authorities at the Belarusian-Polish border had to go through a completely different experience. At a cost of 366 million euros, Poland is now fortifying its border with Belarus with a wall more than five metres high to prevent these people from entering the EU. The propagandistically useful refugees do not encounter such obstacles; they do not even need a visa. On the other hand, the Ukrainian authorities prevent the departure of men between 18 and 60 years of age in order to replenish their «people’s storm», because everyone, even the poorest worker, is supposed to defend the wealth and power of the Ukrainian oligarchs with his blood, after which he remains poor as before – if he escapes with his life!
The current war in and around Ukraine is only one episode in the long series of global wars over the division of the world. It is not about an opposition of «democracies» and «authoritarian states», of «good guys» and «bad guys», it is about capitalist competition, domination, supremacy, about markets and raw materials, in this all imperialist states are alike. They are all aggressors, in the case of war it only becomes more obvious. This aggression is quasi anchored in the DNA of capitalism, which with its huge overproduction of goods and capital constantly reaches its limits and always seeks to solve this dilemma at the expense of its competitors. This causes political crises and, ultimately, wars, and in order to be able to wage these, ideologies of the most diverse kinds are presented and cultivated to make the «common people» believe that it is also «in their interest». These ideologies also serve to divide the working class, to set it against each other, in order to weaken the only power that can break this hellish circle of capitalism by putting an end to it: the united proletariat of all countries!
While the ruling capitalist oligarchs are now sending their armies to war in Eastern Europe, the next warlike conflicts are already looming elsewhere in the world. As long as capitalism exists, there is an acute danger of war, and indeed, even after the Second World War, not a day went by when the guns were silent in all parts of the world. And an increase of this horror is stored in the nuclear weapons depots of the world, for a Third World War that will not leave much human life on this planet. But even in «peacetime», without any weapons at all, capitalism is already working to destroy the planet. As Marx said: «Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth – the soil and the labourer». (Karl Marx, «Capital», MECW, Vol. 35, p. 507/508)
Either way, this capitalist system stands in the way of a human future in every respect. The working class must no longer be harnessed to the carts of its ruling bourgeoisies, must not follow their slogans and must break away from their bourgeois ideologies. We workers have no fatherland, no common ground with the bourgeoisie! And we do not take sides in their criminal wars for domination. On the other hand, we have a world to win in a revolution, if only we are united across all borders. That is why our old communist battle cry applies today more than ever: