The following article was published 8 years ago, on March 20, 2014 on the “Xekinima” website. It was written in the aftermath of the Euro-Maidan movement events and the annexation of Crimea by Russia. We repost it today, because we think that the predictions made and the positions taken in that article are relevant to the discussions on the issue of the war today.
Ukraine: In the eye of the storm!
By Andros Payiatsos
In short, the crisis in Ukraine has broken out due to three main factors.
First, at the root of everything is the deep economic crisis brought on by Ukrainian capitalism, which is plagued by corruption and dominated by a mafia ruling class, while at the same time the working masses earn an average wage of €250 per month – meaning mass poverty, misery and despair!
Second, it has to do with the rivalry between imperialist powers in the region. The attempt by the USA and the EU (mainly Germany) to place Ukraine under their sphere of influence is impeding on the power of Russian imperialism. The latter, although it cannot compete with that of the US and the EU at the international level, it is able to control its wider region.
The third factor is the “absence” of the Left; not in the sense of physical absence, but in the sense of the absence of a left-wing proposition for the working class and the popular masses of Ukraine, whether they are Ukrainian, Russian-speaking, or of any other ethnicity or minority. The Communist Party of Ukraine, with a significant electoral force and presence in parliament, 13% and 32 seats respectively, never provided an independent working-class political perspective to the popular masses but, instead, sided with the pro-Russian wing of the ruling class of Ukraine (represented by the ousted Yanukovych) against the pro-Western section of the ruling class.
“Yes” to the self-determination of Crimea
Given this objective situation, it was only natural that the Russophone populations living in Ukraine would turn to Russia for support and celebrate Crimea’s decision to secede from Ukraine.
The Left, internationally, has a responsibility to support the self-determination of the people of Crimea. That is, their right to decide to secede from Ukraine and become an independent state or to integrate with Russia.
This is the “right to self-determination” towards which, the Left must keep a consistent position – something which historically has not been the case with the Left internationally. Of note, while large sections of the Greek left are positively positioned on the issue of self-determination for Crimea today, when a similar issue arose in the 1990s in relation to Kosovo it was almost universally against it!
No to Putin and Yanukovych!
Support for the right to self-determination of Crimea does not in any way imply support for Russian imperialism, nor support for Putin’s government, nor support for Yanukovych’s overthrown pro-Russian government. Quite the opposite!
The Left, internationally, must fervently defend the right to self-determination which was overwhelmingly decided by the Crimean people – 95% voted for self-determination in a referendum with big participation, around 80% of the population (note: although the referendum took place after Russia’s intervention, there can be no doubt that there would be a huge majority for it anyway). And at the same time, it must explain that the Russian regime is super exploitative, cruel and inhumane towards the working class. And that therefore, Crimea’s independence must be followed by the onset of the struggle for an alternative society to that of the gangster capitalism that dominates all of the former Soviet Union territories.
This means fighting for a truly socialist society based on workers’ democracy – against the kind of monstrous single-party corrupt bureaucracies that characterised Stalinism.
The conflict will not end here
The national conflict in Ukraine will not end with the secession of Crimea.
The unrest will inevitably continue in the parts of southern and eastern Ukraine where there are large concentrations of Russian speaking populations. The building of a “wall”, not a physical one but in the sense of extreme suspicion between ethnicities, so that geographically there will be “two Ukraines” within one, is ultimately inevitable under capitalism. The possibility of a future military intervention by Russia is very real.
The Left has a duty to put forward proposals which aim to avoid the realization of this perspective.
An absolutely crucial proposal in the programme of the Left, to prevent the de facto partition of Ukraine and furthermore a military intervention, is to support today an expanded autonomy in the geographical areas where there is a large concentration of Russian populations.
This means that these regions should be allowed to decide for themselves on issues regarding their language, their education, their culture and traditions, and even their local police forces, on the basis of population ratios.
This is the only way to create a sense of security so that the minorities do not feel a constant threat, so that trust can slowly be built, and both peoples can live in harmony.
Is this possible under capitalist conditions? Particularly under Ukrainian capitalism, which currently entails a semi-dictatorial regime that emerged through a movement that was led to a large extend by the far-right and the Nazis? No way!
However distant the prospect of a very extensive autonomy for the Russian speaking minority may seem, there is no other viable solution. The Left cannot and should not take a position between the conflicting ruling classes, which would essentially mean defending one side of nationalists against another, because this would impede on any hope for finding a solution to the national problem itself.
The Left must clearly state its principles and its vision. On the basis of this vision, it should position itself at the forefront of struggles and movements, help the development of class consciousness, aim to overturn the prevailing balance of class forces and fight to lay the foundations for an alternative socialist society.
Western imperialists burnt their fingers
Speaking of the West, and mainly the EU, it is worth reminding, especially the part of the Left that had illusions as regards the EU, that the far-right and the fascists in Ukraine were able to get the upper hand mainly due to the generous economic and political support by the EU “democrats”.
We also need to emphasise another aspect of the endless hypocrisy of “democrats” such as Merkel, Hollande, Obama etc. During the last two decades, they have carried out countless military interventions, invasions and occupations, dividing or partitioning countries, in the name of “democracy” and the “right to self-determination” of peoples (the former Yugoslavian conflict being a typical example of this).
In Crimea, however, they are denying the right to self-determination, despite the expressed will of the overwhelming majority of the population and the unanimity in the local Crimean parliament (85 out of 85 in favor). Their hypocrisy is bottomless!
The developments in Ukraine are not indicative of a well-planned, aggressive move that reflects the strength of Western imperialism. In fact, the way events have unfolded is a reflection of the era of the retreat of American imperialism.
The West handled the developments in Ukraine with staggering amateurism! It relied on extreme, far-right elements to enforce the overthrowing of Yanukovych, thus pushing the Russian populations, en masse, into the arms of Russia. The result is thus, the “partition” of Ukraine as described above.
The weakness of the West is further revealed by the fact that it was surprised by the decisive Russian reaction. And after threatening in high tones that there will be consequences and sanctions, it proceeded to impose sanctions on … specific individuals of Russian and Ukrainian origin. There can be no doubt that Putin had a lot of laughs with the sanctions imposed on him by the West…
Of course, regardless of all this, the West will continue to support the mad dogs it has raised in the Ukrainian government.
On these issues, the forces of the Left have the responsibility to intervene: with mass campaigns and mobilisations that will reveal the true character of the European and US “democrats” aiming at the isolation of the pro-Nazi government in Ukraine with the ultimate aim of overthrowing it.