Friday, July 22, 2022

Ukraine: For a New Zimmerwald!


The inter imperialist conflict over Ukraine: Is it a proxy war?

 The real complexity examined.

Central to debates among workers and ‘socialists’, as they respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are questions of sovereignty and national self determination, the nature of the state, and the fascist threat both in Ukraine and Russia. The left is divided on the question: is Ukraine an independent state fighting imperialist invasion, or is Ukraine a semi-colonial proxy in the inter-imperialist ‘Great Game’ for Eurasia. Is the ‘Great Game’ being fought out by imperialist blocs seeking control of Ukraine for economic and geo-strategic reasons of their own, or does Ukraine have sovereignty to conduct a ‘just war’ of self defense?  

In the age of modern war the ruling classes’ internationally accepted legal definitions of war  serve humanity or provide imperialism with its ‘plausible deniability’. The working class needs its own understanding of wars that reject imperialism’s assertions of ‘clean hands’ as it conducts hybrid, limited, economic, and proxy wars. We will show that the imperialist think tanks and academics’ own examinations of proxy relationships prove NATO and the west have crossed their own lines into direct participation despite their claims to having no boots-on-the-ground or planes in the air; claims which have been called into question during the writing of this article. We will expose those ‘socialists’ who have stretched the limits of credulity by accepting the imperialists definitions of war,  objectively shirking their internationalist duty to lead class war against imperialist war. Instead, objectively they have entered into a military bloc with NATO and Zelensky, that tethers the workers movement to their ends, objectively abandoning the class struggle. 

To do this we will examine the path of the fascist militia’s coup at the EuroMaidan through its integration into the National Guard and Territorial Defense Force (TDF) and the socialists’ abandonment of the fight for workers self defense in deference to the TDF. We will recount that Ukrainian chauvinism against Russophones  and minority populations triggered the war over Donbas. We will show that the war in Ukraine is the extension of the war with the separatist republics. We will argue that the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) ‘s fight for self determination became compromised early in the conflict  when they became dominated by reactionary Russian operatives, whose use of Soviet era sloganeering and symbology confused many into thinking they were conducting a legitimate struggle for self determination and a return to socialism. 

We will argue that despite the struggle of  the DPR and LPR being usurped by Russia, the people’s right to self determination in the form of Independent Workers Republics is still the key to unlocking Eurasian proletarian unity and defeating imperialism.  We will show that the fascist militia hardened in the war  from 2014-2022 have been integrated into the capitalist state under a neo-liberal capitalist regime which now restricts the democratic rights of the working class and population under martial law. While the right to self-determination of the DPR and LPR is not recognised by Ukraine, Ukraine cannot be free. 

In our publications we have argued that after the counter-revolutions and capitalist restoration in the former USSR and China, they were able to escape their subordination to the west and emerged as an imperialist bloc. Our main task here is to show that Ukraine, a semi-colony, cannot be independent until it frees itself of its semi-colonial character by means of permanent revolution-socialist revolution that overthrows the capitalist state and unites workers internationally to declare ‘war against war’–class war against imperialist wars. We will show that Ukraine is today a proxy of the west, that Lenin’s fight for proletarian independence in the struggle for self determination and Trotsky’s method of permanent revolution are applicable and  proven true today; the capitalist regimes of semi-colonies cannot achieve self-determination subordinated to either imperialist bloc and that the socialists that put off the struggle against the capitalist state and western imperialism during imperialist wars and wars of national liberation  objectively stab the workers in the back. 

We support the right of the Ukrainian workers to fight independently for national self-determination to defeat imperialist invasion (Russia) and subordination to imperialist exploitation (US/EU) as they are used as cannon-fodder conscripted by the capitalist Ukraine state. At the same time we support the right to self-determination of Donbass and the Crimea,  including secession. The people of these regions have the right to  carry out their struggle for self-determination against one or the other imperialist power and their proxies. Our Action Program for the defeat of imperialism both east and west (see links letter to workers and soldiers) containing our program against the war and our May Day appeal for a New Zimmerwald explain further.

Failure to understand that this war is a proxy war, particularly among those who do see Russian imperialism, arises from a failure of method – i.e. dialectics – which leads to the separation of the national question and the class question.  The national question was essentially the class question in both Lenin’s position on national self-determination and Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution, demonstrating that the national bourgeoisie was no longer progressive and incapable of winning national independence from imperialism. We will ask why these groups, especially those which see Russia as imperialist, reduce the class question to a tag attached to the national question, which they argue is predominant, even to the exclusion of any class-political independence. 

For this is exactly the class question, demonstrating which class (and its thinking) is leading the  opportunist capitulation to forces opposed to socialist revolution!? For the petty bourgeois opportunist, prostrate adaptation to nationalism is the norm, and has been almost since the death of Trotsky. For these treacherous forces the prospect of socialist revolution is forever receding further into the future, and this has been their leitmotif since capitulating to national chauvinism during World War TwoThe Crisis of Leadership of the proletariat remains the crisis of the degeneration of the Fourth International. The further decay of the quality of leadership of the workers’ movement facing the terminal crisis of capital, sees discussion of programmatic ideas snuffed out by social-patriotic Menshevism-equivalents. We are far along in the death agony of capitalism, and exactly now in this Ukraine crisis these forces remove historical materialism from discussion, reminding us of Kautsky in exile proclaiming the ultimate invincibility of liberal parliamentarism!

The Inter-imperialist character of the Ukraine war dominates

Today the world is at war in an inter-imperialist conflict for control of the semi-colonial world, their markets and securing spheres of dependency. The hegemonic US/EU/NATO imperialist bloc’s orientation to, and subordination of, Ukraine, accelerated since the Euro-Maidan, is militarily challenged by the competing Russia/China imperialist bloc, which if it is to advance internationally, must secure its near periphery-both for economic and geo-strategic reasons.  

We say the inter-imperialist conflict is overarching and predominates, not just in Ukraine but across the globe. The war cannot be understood outside the growing confrontation between the two imperialist blocs. There is no other explanation for the Eastward movement of NATO since the fall of the USSR, for the refusal to negotiate a solution as demanded by Russia, and for the deliberate use of hitherto extreme economic sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion. Those who think it’s not a proxy war have no appreciation of the meaning of imperialist as understood by Lenin and are blinkered by NATO propaganda. Those who think it is not an inter-imperialist conflict because there are apparently no NATO troops’ boots-on-the-ground have a great number of facts contradicting their position, as we will show. 

The working class cannot accept imperialism’s limitation of war to those doctrines of direct and indirect war in the age of hybrid, limited and proxy wars. Western imperialism has for years prepared its forces and procurements for “limited wars.” Semantic squabbles of sects over the character of the war diminish the cultural and international significance of Ukraine’s existence while losing sight, one-sidedly of the long term conflict in its global dimension. 

Invariably, in times of war, observers quote Clausewitz explaining that, “War is simply the continuation of political intercourse with the addition of other means.” Workers should not take Clausewitz on faith either. Lenin showed that war is the extension of politics which is the extension of economics. In the imperialist epoch it is the competition for super-profits which drives politics and leads inexorably to war. Today the inter-imperialist conflict is a terminal unending war, the continuation of “political intercourse” as class war as each imperialist bloc acts to send workers to war to use them as cannon fodder. Patriotic fronts divert workers and squash the proletarian revolution to prevent workers from escaping the trap of patriotism and turning their guns around on their own ruling classes, defeating counter-revolution and making international proletarian revolution.

We will show that to liberate Ukraine the international workers movement needs to change this entire picture, to suppress this war and its spread, to put an end to its cause requiring the rallying of revolutionary Marxism to its historic program, for the national liberation to be won by permanent revolution, which is why we need to begin with a new Zimmerwald that founds a new revolutionary workers International.

As Trotsky said in The Problem of the Ukraine:

“At the beginning of the last imperialist war the Ukrainians, Melenevski (“Basok”) and Skoropis-Yeltukhovski, attempted to place the Ukrainian liberation movement under the wing of the Hohenzollern general, Ludendorff. They covered themselves in so doing with left phrases. With one kick the revolutionary Marxists booted these people out. That is how revolutionists must continue to behave in the future. The impending war will create a favorable atmosphere for all sorts of adventurers, miracle-hunters and seekers of the golden fleece. These gentlemen, who especially love to warm their hands in the vicinity of the national question, must not be allowed within artillery range of the labor movement. Not the slightest compromise with imperialism, either fascist or democratic! Not the slightest concession to the Ukrainian nationalists, either clerical-reactionary or liberal-pacifist! No “People’s Fronts”! The complete independence of the proletarian party as the vanguard of the toilers!”

Securing the imperialist fatherland

To obfuscate the obvious, Putin, like every authoritarian propagandist, writes a national chauvinist narrative based on partial truths and lies. In this case: a very real US/NATO western encirclement strategy, a phony mission of denazification (in Ukraine-Azov and Right Sector; but not at home - Dugin’s Eurasia dream and international white power movements, etc.), and denial of Ukrainian national rights as if national self-determination was only ever a Bolshevik ploy (a ploy aimed at uniting nations in permanent revolution, in fact); Putin’s lies serve as justifications for aggression to the Russophiles and Putin-pals.     

The restoration of capitalism in Russia acted against the peripheral republics’ continued integration into a united Russian state. The Russian national capitalist class needed the former Tsarist empire, the ‘prison house of nations’ to be secured for internal imperialist super-exploitation, lest they be subordinated and made semi-colonies of the west. Throughout the non-Russian former USSR the national question, and its corollary, proletarian permanent revolution is back on the agenda. 

Putin’s life mission is to extinguish hotspots of national resistance in the near periphery and the imposition of super-exploitation by the Russian capitalist class. Putin is the leader of the new restorationist bourgeoisie, he proves with his verbiage that he is not a mad man but the chosen Bonapartist administrator of Russian imperialism. Since restoration, in order to secure the wealth of the former USSR, the Kremlin is constantly engaged in navigating and putting down one national upsurge after another, upsurges driven by the international economic crisis laid atop the privatizations and austerities of capitalist restorations. More and more, those upsurges will have the potential to explode into direct wars to resubordinate what may become the proxies of the west, such as in Ukraine. 

Paul Goble writing at Window on Eurasia blog notes that for Putin and the Russian state ideology:  

“If states recognize self-determination, it exists; if they don’t, it doesn’t.

That position allows Putin to make the claims he has to Ukraine’s Crimea, but what it demonstrates if indeed any demonstration were needed is that for Putin, the rights of peoples are irrelevant and the powers of states are paramount, with the former only in a position to make a claim if a state backs them.

In Putin’s world, few peoples would ever be able to assert a right to self-determination unless they could attract at least one state and probably the state within whose borders they found themselves to support them, reducing a fundamental right to a contingency on the policies of states who may in fact be their oppressors.”

It is a bitter lesson no less true now than at any time since 1914 that national self-determination and peace is only possible as a product of the socialist revolution. 

And on the other side the not so invisible hand of the CIA and Western imperialism

The LA Times on February 25 this year reminded readers that not only had the CIA been training special forces in Ukraine since 2015 but that they were preparing for the insurgency now unfolding behind the Russian lines. Yahoo news reports, “Going back decades, the CIA has provided limited training to Ukrainian intelligence units to try and shore up an independent Kyiv and prevent Russian subversion, but cooperation “ramped up” after the Crimea invasion, said a former CIA executive.

The Euromaidan was the reactionary consolidation of the Orange Revolution. The capitalist restoration led to a face off between western capitals and Russia’s new capitalists over who will control the economies of the former Soviet Republics. Russia was winning out against the west in Ukraine, Belarus, and the CIS countries. As the Balkans were crushed and the Baltic states were absorbed by the EU, Ukraine was an outlier and was still up for grabs. Yanukovich was unable to meet the IMF’s demands for debt service after the 2008-2009 recession and in his rebuff to the EU his fate was sealed. The masses took to the streets to demand non-payment to the IMF, but the western agents, long prepared for leading a rightist, anti-Russian revolt, co-opted what became the Maidan, and the snipers finished off the original thrust. The Euro-Maidan broke the logjam blocking the break from Russia,  and Ukraine re-orientated to the EU. 

The fascists and right wing crushed the independent left. The rise of Ukrainian ethno-chauvinism and laws against use of Russian language drove the eastern provinces into revolt. The instincts of the people for socialist revival were progressive, and their demands for self-determination and resistance against the fascists was supportable, but it was quickly usurped by Russia which crushed the budding proletarian independence. Even before the shooting began in the East, the proxy war had begun by other means in 2014.

Middle Class Muddleheads Today

From Biden and the heads of state of Europe to the broader left and the majority of the workers movement the level of participation by the west keeps the war “just” and imperialist only on one side. The line is drawn at strategic offensive weaponry and boots on the ground! Cross that line and the character of the war changes, we are told. Thus the Fourth Internationalists provide Biden his plausible deniability just as they deny the working class its revolution. We will show that in the age of hybrid war, by western imperialist politicians’ own words and by their militaries’  calculated cultivation of the strategic proxy option in Ukraine, the claim to have clean hands in this latest phase of the face off is pure hypocrisy-pablum to keep the masses in check.

Much of the “Trotskyist” left hangs its hat on the claim that the current conflict is not currently a direct inter-imperialist war and that Ukraine is defending its sovereignty, is independent and not a proxy.

The LIT-FI (and the FLTI-for that matter) identify Russia and Ukraine as dependent nations. For the LIT-FI, because NATO has ‘no boots-on-the-ground’, and until it does, the character of the war is not inter-imperialist or even imperialist but one of aggression by Russia which they explain is a just war for national independence by Ukraine. (Like the FLTI, they explain Russia serves as an agent of western imperialism-against permanent revolution  as in Syria & Kazakhstan-but not so in Ukraine); So they support the right of Ukraine to get its arms where it will (NATO). The LIT-FI like the Spartacists (ICL) say when NATO boots hit the ground the character of the war changes to imperialist, i.e. NATO vs dependent Russia and defense of Russia becomes the proletarian order of the day. 

The Political Bureau of the FI sees Russia as imperialist and Ukraine as dependent thus supporting Ukraine against the invading imperialist, but does not support NATO weaponizing Ukraine. And in the FI periphery, the ITO characterizes three wars contemporaneous (the cold inter-imperialist war, the national war over Donbas, and the imperialist invasion) with the ‘just national war of self defense for self determination of Ukraine” as the primary, overshadowing the inter-imperialist character, specifically because there is no direct intervention by western imperialism.  

To justify calling for NATO arms to Ukraine’s  “resistance” the LIT-FI  edits dialectics out of Rudolf Klement’s “Principles and Tactics in the War”. In “progressive wars” it is valid for the workers of the imperialist countries to demand “direct and effective military support toward the progressive cause…” The first unstated assumption is that the capitalist Zelensky led war is “progressive” rejecting the proxy relationship between US/EU/NATO and the Ukraine regime. With this logic, they, like the ITO, elevate the national character of the war above its international character.  

The LIT quotes Klement on the necessity for workers in imperialist countries to demand arms to the progressive side, but they mangle and ignore the meaning of the qualifying clause “controlled by it” which means the arms should be controlled by the working class not the military industrial wing of the ruling class.

“In the imperialist countries, which are allied with the countries that are waging progressive and revolutionary wars, everything boils down to this: that the proletariat fights with revolutionary means for a direct, effective, military support, controlled by it, towards the progressive cause (‘Planes for Spain!’ cried the French workers). (bold our emphasis ed.)

Klement is thus enlisted by the LIT-FI in their polemic against Gilbert Achcar of the Political Bureau of the Fourth international which draws its line in the sand against western “boots-on-the -ground or a No-Fly Zone or delivery of fighter bombers  while favoring the delivery of “defensive weapons to the victims with no strings attached” (anti-tank and anti-aircraft). Thus, while not calling for sanctions, the workers movement should not call for them to be lifted. [!]  

More honest than most of the Left, at least on this point, Achcar poses the question: can anti-imperialists support a resistance led by a right wing government? Leaning on Lenin (no reference needed) Achcar declares just struggles against national oppression must be supported “regardless of the nature of its leadership”. For Trotsky, Lenin’s actual position is that the leadership of the Fourth International retains the right to criticize this national leadership in order to educate the international working class to take the lead in the national struggle to overthrow capitalism by means of permanent revolution. (Trotsky, Learn to Think). 

Tassos Anastassiadis of the Greek section of the Fourth International (Anametrisi) in a massive mea culpa and political flip flop, makes the case for the just defensive war against the imperialist invader, proclaiming the agency of the Ukrainian masses to prosecute their just war regardless of the momentary intersection of their, the people’s interests, and those of the western imperialists (who hypocritically “suddenly feign interest”) and Ukraine’s regime and capitalist ruling class. For Anastassiadis, the western imperialists’ participation and the national capitalists’ leadership does not turn the war into an “indirect war of the powerful (inter imperialist)….” Declaring the people are not pawns, and they are able to claim their own political agency, cannot justify his conclusion that this is not a ‘war by proxy”

So there you have it. The ‘momentary intersection of interests’ is a euphemism for the patriotic front which includes western imperialists. For Anastassiadis it is true because workers  have a ‘mystical’ agency which makes being used as cannon fodder in their class interest. It is so, because we said so, and because we desire the defeat of the Russian intervention by the people and mass movement, not by their capitalist leadership. Because we raise demands against the IMF debt repayment, (like the Ukraine Social Movement), and refuse aid which has an extortionist character (as if that’s possible) the political independence of the masses from their bourgeoisie is therefore established. Poof, no inter-imperialist war. Some proof that is! The leadership of the Political Bureau of the FI brought the Greek comrades into line after admonishing them for repeating Putin propaganda, and as shown above they dutifully complied with wishful thinking, that the proxy war is in the workers’ interests in this ‘momentary intersection’. 

Most self described socialists echo the Ukraine Social Movement’s (USM) demand to abolish the debt to IMF loans, while at the same time claiming that the ‘resistance’ defends Ukrainian independence (both from Russia and IMF). But none or few (we haven’t found them yet) show that the workers in Ukraine are attacked by both the Ukrainian capitalist state acting as a proxy, pawn of the US/NATO/IMF on one side, and the  Russian imperialist invasion on the other.  Even the Ukrainian Social Movement (USM) refers to  the fight of competing national capitalist parasites (both Russian and Ukrainian) for control of Ukraine and opportunity to exploit its workers. But even with this understanding, most like the USM, chart no independent path for the working class to end war and the cause of war-by fighting for the revolutionary party and socialist revolution. None fight for class war against imperialist war. Where, we ask again,  are the Leninists of the Left Zimmerwald?!

Fake Left warming their hands on the National Question

We won’t find the Leninists in the workers movement from social democracy to the peace groups. Nor among the self-proclaimed revolutionary Marxists who are typically opportunist and provide cover for one imperialist bloc or the other. Those in the camp of Ukraine provide cover for Biden’s campaign to deny direct participation even as he pursues NATO expansion. While those in the camp of Russia join in either the Putinite denial of Ukrainian national existence  or the tale of NATO victimization of Russia, and the anti-imperialist nature of the DPR/LPR and Crimea breakaway whose “self-determination” they promote and defend,  denying the actual leadership/control which now comes directly from Moscow. We call these the two social-imperialist fake lefts warming their hands on the National Question.  

On Marxmail listserv we read the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), Oakland Socialist and Michael Karadjis agree the demand of the eastern provinces for self determination is no longer progressive. We will argue that it is exactly because the demand was usurped by Russian Imperialism that it is the duty of the revolutionary Marxism to defend the right to self-determination as the method of winning the national revolution to permanent revolution under the slogans: For an Independent Soviet Donbass! alongside the demand For an Independent Soviet Ukraine! to do battle with the bourgeois lie that national sovereignty and self determination are truly their program. Biden’s program is to throttle Russia and diminish its power to project force as a prelude to a world war against the China/Russia bloc. This is the clear message of the Madrid NATO meeting which is rallying international support to launch a prolonged war on Russia and China.

The “14,000 dead” during the 2014-2019 war in the East have become a political football at first thrown downfield by those in Ukraine demanding support to press the war. They pointed their fingers at Russia. Then the Putinites put it on Ukraine. Then the investigators showed that the bulk of the deaths were soldiers and a majority from Russia, a minority from Ukraine (mostly the rightist battalions) and a minority civilians (some 3,500). This painted a different picture putting the politics back in play. So the RCIT upped the game showing that some 3 million civilians have fled, implying that the new republics had nothing to offer. Roughly half went to the west and half fled to Russia. Ignoring the fact that civilians always run from war if they can! See RCIT and Michael Karadjis.

Oakland Socialist was not alone as they gushed over the influx of volunteers to defend the Ukrainian state from the Russian invasion after seeing the photos of everyone from children to grandmothers being trained to fight by Azov Battalion members seen here with the Nazi Wolfsangel insignia. Behind the honcho’s Oakland Mayoral campaign, John Reimann rallies Anarchists of note and the 3rd Camp to support for NATO arms and the Ukrainian state!

We hasten to point the readers’ attention to something that Trotsky in 1939 had to say about fascism and nationalism in Ukraine:

“At the beginning of the last imperialist war the Ukrainians, Melenevski (“Basok”) and Skoropis-Yeltukhovski, attempted to place the Ukrainian liberation movement under the wing of the Hohenzollern general, Ludendorff. They covered themselves in so doing with left phrases. With one kick the revolutionary Marxists booted these people out. That is how revolutionists must continue to behave in the future. The impending war will create a favorable atmosphere for all sorts of adventurers, miracle-hunters and seekers of the golden fleece. These gentlemen, who especially love to warm their hands in the vicinity of the national question, must not be allowed within artillery range of the labor movement. Not the slightest compromise with imperialism, either fascist or democratic! Not the slightest concession to the Ukrainian nationalists, either clerical-reactionary or liberal-pacifist! No “People’s Fronts”! The complete independence of the proletarian party as the vanguard of the toilers!”

The Ukrainian Social Movement told us, the ILTT, not to worry about the Nazis because they had been incorporated into the National Guard Units (NGU) and are part of the Ministry of internal affairs. Indeed that process has been ongoing since 2015 and the United Kingdom running Operation ORBITAL, along with Canadians, European and US trainers have been acutely aware that they were training a wide array of fascists incorporated into the Ukraine NGU. Today, i.e. in June, 2022, we learn of the role of the mercenary Mozart group in training Zelensky forces in a parallel formation opposite Russia’s Wagner Group of mercenary contractors.

Earlier The NYT reported that as of March 3rd, alongside 170,000 active troops and 100,000 reservists and territorial defense forces, “Thousands of civilians are also now enlisting.  Since the seizure of Crimea by Russia in 2014:… 

“…(T)he United States has provided more than $3 billion in weapons, equipment and other supplies to Ukraine’s armed forces since 2014. In those eight years, U.S. military advisers, including Army Green Berets and National Guard troops, have trained more than 27,000 Ukrainian soldiers at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center near Lviv in western Ukraine.”

The U.S. State Department statement on security cooperation with Ukraine shows a deep level of integration into NATO as a “keystone in the arch of security”:”

“Since 2014, the United States has provided more than $8.3 billion in security assistance for training and equipment to help Ukraine preserve its territorial integrity, secure its borders, and improve interoperability with NATO.

Ukraine participates in multiple bilateral and multilateral military exercises with the United States, EU, and NATO Allies to include Rapid Trident, Sea Breeze, and Cossack Mace.”

Ukraine’s debt to western lenders ran to $56.7 billion at the end of 2020, according to the IMF. Doubtless this figure is a fraction of Ukraine’s debt 7 months later. There are voices among imperialist influencers and the fake left calling for a Ukrainian debt payments moratorium and/or cancellation. Borrowing more to finance the war AND make debt payments ‘doesn’t make sense’ to Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García. Now the U.S. and NATO are donating weapons but also, behind Biden’s “arsenal of democracy” speech “lending” weapons, explicitly referring to Lend-Lease in WW2 when asking Congress for more. So Ukraine is a puppet dependency as much as South Viet Nam ever was. Only puppet states ever get ‘donations’ of 150,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition.

Fascists of Euro-Maidan transition to lovers of American style freedom!  

From a “just cause” to a “Just War”

So who are these Territorial Defense Forces? They are the Maidan Self Defense incorporated into the state by Order №2 of the leader of the Self-Defense Andriy Parubiy. Wikipedia reports that in 1991 Parubiy founded the fascist Social-National Party of Ukraine (later this changed its name to Svoboda, i.e. ‘freedom’) and further reported on his supposed drift to the center-right and subsequent election to parliament multiple times on the ballot lines of various “center-right” parties. The cabinet portfolio of the Interior, i.e. in fact, this was Arsen Avakov, a founding member of “the People’s Front” along with Parubiy, and Zelensky kept this neo-fascist in this post until July 2021! 

In 2014 Radio Svoboda carried video of the February 6 fascist march on Kyiv  and Parubiy’s call for 40,000 to join the ranks of the Ukraine Self Defense League to “effectively” oppose the regime- i.e., to oust Viktor Yanukovych. Andriy Levus, deputy commandant of the Maidan self defense is quoted at the Euromaidan Public Relations blog:  

“Self-defense has become our offense. Beginning today, self-defense is the resistance. We emphasize that we are preparing a plan for non-violent, but very active, resistance. We will fight local corruption, we will make an effective lustration, we will wage our own information war. We will have our own active revolutionary army. Beginning today, every self-defense fighter is not only a guard, but also a revolutionary political soldier.”

Surely the political character of the Euro-Maidan was up for grabs at the beginning but not for long. John McCain showed up and declared:

“These people love the United States of America, they love freedom – and I don’t think you could view this as anything other than our traditional support for people who want free and democratic society.”

At the same time he made clear the understanding of geo-politics shared by Putin, Kissinger and all hands in the “Great Game”

“There’s no doubt that Ukraine is of vital importance to Putin. I think it was [Henry] Kissinger, I’m not sure, [who] said that Russia, without Ukraine it’s an eastern power, with Ukraine it’s a western power. This is the beginning of Russia, right here in Kiev.”

And on February 20th, 2014 these people who “Love the United States” pulled off a false flag operation from a sniper’s nest killing 89 and injuring a hundred more and  blaming Yanukovych.

Ivan Katchanovski, professor at the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa published his research and conclusions  at the Jordan Russian Center, later picked up by MR Online

“This massacre of protesters and police during the Euromaidan mass protests on February 20, 2014 not only constituted a major crime and human rights violation, but also contributed to a cascading series of events. These included the overthrow of the Ukrainian government, the start of the civil war in Donbas, Russian military interventions in Crimea and Donbas, the Russian annexation of Crimea, and, ultimately, major and protracted conflicts between Ukraine and Russia, on the one hand, and Russia and the West, on the other. The Maidan massacre trial and investigation produced overwhelming evidence that Maidan protesters were massacred by snipers at Maidan-controlled buildings, rather than by government snipers or Berkut policemen — who were nevertheless charged with the crime.”

The right had quickly gained control of the protests and ousted Yanukovych. Ironically the protests started in opposition to Yanukovych’s refusal to join the EU, in particular because of odious loans from the IMF and its demands that he impose austerity to make good on the loans! 

In Vol 1 No 9 of Class Warrior (Fall,  2015) we wrote:

“When defensive demands for local autonomy arose in the east they were an expression of the workers movement in retreat after the Maidan, a cultural retreat, a military retreat and a retreat into the waiting arms of Russian imperialist chauvinism. In the first months of the Peoples’ Republics the Permanent Revolution was fighting its way to the fore as the self expression of the masses in their assemblies, their military self defense operations and incipient demands for nationalizations. These activities all further enraged the Kiev neo-liberal/fascist bloc on the one side, and with Permanent Revolution nipping at his heels, Putin went into overdrive on the other. Kiev sought to crush the Peoples’ Republics and Moscow sought to usurp their leaderships to stop the proletarian trajectory of their revolution; reject and stop the Permanent Revolution moving east or west by installing their lackeys over the workers’ heads.”

Can any Marxist who understands that the class nature of the state is determined by the property relations the armed bodies defend actually believe the Ukraine state established post Maidan is progressive? How then do they explain all the organizations that have been banned! 

Under the heading “Join the Resistance” the Ukraine Solidarity Committee (composed of ‘socialist’ groups in the UK) promotes the idea anti-authoritarians can organize ‘their own’ detachments within the framework of the Territorial Defense Forces. In our conversation with leaders of the Ukraine Social Movement they insisted that the rightist militias are now integrated into the National Territorial Defense and have “no right to independent action.” We also were told that the Azov Battalion numbered no more than 900 and were no longer anti-Semites.  Any self respecting worker needs more and better evidence than the USM provided. 

 “Time” magazine writes of their leader Andriy Biletsky…, 

“Ukrainian police had long treated his organization, Patriot of Ukraine [ed. note: Biletsky was the leader of this, the parent group of the Azovs, which was their “security” organization)], as a neo-Nazi terrorist group. Biletsky’s nickname within the group was Bely Vozhd, or White Ruler, and his manifesto seemed to pluck its narrative straight from Nazi ideology. Ukrainian nationalists, it said, must “lead the white nations of the world in a final crusade for their survival, a crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen,” a German term for “subhumans” with roots in Nazi propaganda.”

The Ukraine Social Movement (USM), in public discussions and on its web sites,  does not spell out a workers revolutionary program that breaks with defense of the bourgeois state in its pose as the nation.  They seek NATO arms for the “Ukrainian Armed Forces” and “the Territorial Defense Forces” and refer to these as the “resistance,” as if they are an independent workers resistance and representatives of the struggle for national self determination; not a word that they were the spawn of the Euro-Maidan fascist self defense identified above. They downplay the fascists battalion as having been put under control of the national army, they do not warn the working class that armed fascists are an existential threat to the working class. To this they respond that across Europe and in the US fascists have a much larger presence.  Not a hint of the necessity of workers’ political independence, the struggle for workers to take power, any understanding that the bourgeois state cannot deliver actual national independence or that socialism is desirable on any score, let alone the first principle of abolishing class peace with a class war on the bosses that suppresses the inter-imperialist war! 

The fake left conveniently neglects to fight for a Proletarian Military Policy  (PMP) to challenge the state for control of the military, as if the war led by the Zelensky regime can win even a semblance of national sovereignty.

Trotsky argued, in the PMP, that to defeat imperialism and fascism the working class needed to run the military, in other words the workers had to control the state and wage revolutionary war.. 

“We fight against sending the worker-soldiers into battle without proper training and equipment. We oppose the military direction of worker-soldiers by bourgeois officers who have no regard for their treatment, their protection and their lives. We demand federal funds for the military training of workers and worker-officers under the control of the trade unions. Military appropriations? Yes—but only for the establishment and equipment of worker training camps! Compulsory military training of workers? Yes—but only under the control of the trade unions!”

Members of the USM interviewed by “Tempest” on June 24, 2022 in Solidaire Sans Frontieres, report on torture and rape “parties” in the Russian occupied areas, the imposition of ideological pressure in the occupied areas (but not in Ukrainian controled areas), and report that Russia can’t find quislings to serve as local authorities in the occupied areas. They also report on the anti-labor legislation and neo-liberal laws signed by Zelensky, on deteriorating economy, half the population lost their jobs, a lack of food, water and medicine as the population is dying from lack of supplies, the food rotting in silos that can’t make it to market,  on the 5.1 million refugees who escaped to Europe and the millions of internally displaced. Zelensky, they expect, will lose his popularity, under the current conditions of martial law, austerity and  the lack of progress in the  war as well as his defense of “oligarchic capitalism” with an “almost religious faith in free market [capitalism].” 

The ethno-nationalism, anti-Russophone chauvinism, and historic oppression of the minorities (the Crimean Tatars, Jewish people, Pontic Greeks, and the Roma) they claim is overcome in the “common resistance has empowered the various national minorities” who have “joined in the war effort, …and are fighting alongside everyone else as equals.” Despite recounting the disingenuous role of the imperialist west in an attempt to push Ukraine to cut a deal ceding territory for peace (Macron, Kissinger), that Zelensky’s attempts at negotiation with Putin were rebuffed and the observation that “Putin will only negotiate with Washington and Beijing’‘, that Putin wants to redraw the world map with the big imperialist powers, the USM practices only limited struggle against the capitalist state. 

Alona Liasheva concludes that with his immense popularity, “[I]n the current situation, it makes no sense to protest Zelensky. Rather the USM concentrates on its campaign against foreign debt (tying their demands to those of the global south also indebted to IMF), for sanctions against Russian oil and gas, collecting money for humanitarian relief and support of refugees and immigrants (including those of the global south) being discriminated against and exploited by European capitalists. The international left, we are told, should listen to the people of Ukraine. These representatives of the USM are a little more circumspect in not even mentioning or directly calling for NATO to arm the “resistance”, as we were told in our conversations with USM representatives in (MARCH or APRIL) noting the closer relations of TEMPEST to Gilbert Achcar (Political Bureau of the Fourth International).  

The state of “democracy” and economy  in Ukraine

Is the Ukraine state post Maidan a bourgeois democracy? Is the nation independent and sovereign (as the USM members told us) capable of navigating its way to steer clear of subordination to either imperialist bloc?  Is the state sufficiently secure to afford a modicum of democratic rights the working class demands? Or has the capitalist class utilized the fascist threat, ethno-chauvinism and extreme nationalism to repress the working class and subordinate the nation to the needs of the local capitalist class and their international benefactors?

We first look at the Freedom House report on Ukraine to address these questions.

“Ukraine in 2021 was marked as partly free gaining a score of 60/100

With the exception of a ban on the Communist Party, there are no formal barriers to the creation and operation of political parties. New political parties organize frequently.

Ukraine’s oligarchs exert significant influence over politics through their financial support for various political parties, and lobby for the appointment of loyalists to key institutional positions.

The elections were deemed generally competitive and credible, despite some problems. Voting was again impossible in Crimea and separatist-held parts of Donbas. Consequently, the elections filled only 424 of the 450 seats. Additionally, approximately one million Ukrainian citizens are unable to vote because they do not have a registered address. An Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) election monitoring mission cited some irregularities, including “widespread vote-buying, misuse of incumbency, and the practice of exploiting all possible legislative loopholes” that contributed to inequalities among competitors. Voting and representation are hindered by factors including discrimination that discourages their political participation, the conflict in the east, lack of identity documents for many Roma, and rules against running as an independent for many local, district, and regional offices. Internally displaced persons (IDPs), of which there are over 1.5 million, face legal and practical barriers to voting. Societal discrimination against LGBT+ people affects their ability to engage in political and electoral processes.

In September 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled that a prominent anti-corruption agency created by the ruling party was unconstitutional and shut down multiple investigations that had been opened by the agency. 

The constitution guarantees freedoms of speech and expression, and libel is not a criminal offense. The media landscape features considerable pluralism, and open criticism of the government and investigation of powerful figures. However, business magnates own and influence many outlets, using them as tools to advance their agendas. President Zelensky has received significant support from media outlets controlled by banking magnate Igor Kolomoisky.

Journalists continue to face threats of violence and intimidation in 2020, and Ukraine’s courts and law enforcement agents often fail to protect their rights.

The constitution and a 1991 law define religious rights in Ukraine, and these are generally respected. However, smaller religious groups continue to report some discrimination. Vandalism of Jewish structures and cemeteries continues. Acknowledging one’s atheism may result in discrimination.

Trade unions function in the country, but strikes and worker protests are infrequent, as the largest trade union, stemming from the Soviet-era labor federation, lacks independence from the government and employers in practice. Factory owners are still able to pressure their workers to vote according to the owners’ preferences.

Ukraine has long suffered from corrupt and politicized courts, and recent reform initiatives aimed at addressing the issue have stalled or fallen short of expectations.

Although due process guarantees exist, in practice individuals with financial resources and political influence can escape prosecution for wrongdoing.

The government has made little progress in meeting domestic and international demands to investigate and prosecute crimes committed during the last months of the Yanukovych administration in late 2013 and early 2014, which included the shooting of protesters.

The trafficking of women domestically and abroad for the purpose of prostitution continues. IDPs are especially vulnerable to exploitation for sex trafficking and forced labor.

Labor laws establish a minimum wage that meets the poverty level, as well as a 40-hour work week and workplace safety standards. However, workers at times go unpaid, and penalties for workplace safety violations are lenient.”

What follows is a capital B bourgeois assessment of Ukrainian freedom from a no-friend-of-the-union-movement source, AKA a  class enemy thinktank:  

The Heritage Foundation ranks nations “economic freedom”. The 2022 ranking is based on the year mid-2020 to mid-2021. Their method amalgamates “12 freedoms from property rights to financial freedom”. Among the 45 European countries, the Heritage Foundation identifies Ukraine as ranked 44th, one below Russia and one ahead of Belarus. 

In the ranking of labor rights, Ukraine 60.7  USA 75.8 Italy 70.4, New Zealand 70.5, Samoa 71.6, South Africa 71.1, 

Corporate tax rate is very friendly at 18% compared to the UK at 19% Denmark at 22% , Japan at 23% 

CountryCorporate Tax Rate Income Tax Rate

Ukraine’s GDP of $13,110Bn USD and -4.2% growth rate with a negative $868 million USD FDI inflow are all indications of Ukraine weakness. (Negative values of FDI net inflows for a particular year show that the value of disinvestment by foreign investors was more than the value of capital newly invested in the reporting economy.)

Ukraine News reports that Zelensky signed the new anti-labor regulations, exposing the anti-working class posture of the capitalist state in the name of national defense.

Open Democracy reports parliament is passing laws that favor the employers’ rights and restrict trade unions, reducing compensations in event of job losses: “The new law also gives employers the right to cancel collective labor agreements, and significantly limits the rights of trade unions, reducing their role to one of “civilian oversight” of the new law.”

The social-patriotic USM identify the various restrictions and outline  their “concerns”  that these new rules restricting workers rights will extend beyond the war. Rather, than calling for mass workers action to stop this legislation, they call on Zelensky to veto these laws, advising the capitalist regime to stay true to the welfare state with an alternate reformist program of limited nationalizations that stops short workers control, that do nothing to organize workers militia and press the class struggle to social revolution and the expropriation or foreign capital. They ask that the May 15th law be vetoed and instead,

“The Social Movement calls on the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to veto the draft Law of Ukraine “On the Organization of Labor Relations in Martial Law” (7160) due to its inconsistency with the Constitution and the principles of the welfare state.

… the restrictions on labor rights can be avoided by achieving legitimate goals in other, more equitable ways. To ensure the defense of Ukraine, it is necessary to confiscate the property of Ukrainian oligarchs on the grounds of public necessity. The capitals of Ukrainian oligarchs must work for the economy! The main goal of the policy at this stage is to unite society in counteracting Russian aggression and to preserve the rights of the affected people as much as possible. Ukraine’s economy will definitely be revived at the expense of state support, proper organization of work and decent wages.”

Things are much worse now and the situation has deteriorated since the February invasion. On the June 23, 2022 WSWS web site reports on bans on multiple left parties.

 “A Ukrainian court has officially banned the activities of the country’s largest opposition party, the Opposition Platform—For Life party…. Ten other pro-Russian and left-wing parties were included in Zelensky’s ban, among them the Socialist Party of Ukraine and the Party of Shariy led by the popular Youtube blogger Anatoly Shariy.

In addition to legally banning the party’s activities, the court also stated that the party’s property and assets will be confiscated by the State Treasury.” 

We already see the rights and prerogatives of the trade unions to represent their members collectively under attack by the state, with war emergency curtailments enacted in March and more threatened in May.

This is the state that the USM, Oakland Socialist and other international tendencies say the U.S. taxpayer should send arms and supplies to without any guarantees that those arms are put in the hands of the workers and controlled by the trade unions and will not be supplied to fascists who will turn them against workers tomorrow. 

So who in their right mind, propagandist shills excluded, can read the above and still want us to believe Ukraine is a “sovereign,” “independent” state and not a proxy of the west pure and simple and even a sacrificial weapons test range? Lost in the commentary of the bourgeois media is the real existence of Ukraine, denied immediately by Putin’s “operation,” denied long-term by NATO’s plan for years of war leading up to “war fighting with nuclear-armed peers”!!!

The “Resistance” is what, exactly…

Many ‘socialists’ join the Ukrainian capitalist state in demanding NATO arm the resistance. A resistance which is clearly subordinated to the Ukrainian capitalist state (Zelensky regime) shrugging off the political independence of the working class and the task of the working class vanguard to press the class struggle to take power to defeat war and the cause of war. Rather the socialist revolution, rarely mentioned since it is now a crime to advocate it (!), is put on the back burner until after the war by much of the western left as they say they support it, exactly as Stalinism proposed in the Spanish civil war. Social chauvinists, on both sides of the war twist and turn to keep the workers as cannon-fodder for the belligerents. Do any of the pro-war left dispute the military experts’ forecasts of years of war? Perhaps sensitive to exhaustion, but maybe fearing German defection from Biden’s forever pledge if the volk freeze without heat in December, Zelensky says he hopes it will be over by winter.

Those who identify with the cross class peoples’ resistance recognize it as being under the control of the capitalist state currently imposing martial law; or should recognize that fact.  Reprimanded as Ultra-Left are the internationalists demanding socialists fight for an independent working class-led resistance. The ‘just war’ social-imperialists deny that only an independent working class resistance, which identifies all the imperialist powers as enemies of national sovereignty, can lead the national resistance to the permanent revolution, which alone can defeat the imperialism at the front (Russian invasion) and at the rear (US/UK/EU/NATO) by defeating the enforcers of the IMF debt and smashing the schemes of the oligarchs propping up the Zelensky regime with class struggle methods. Zelensky like every other proxy in history denies being an agent dependent on western imperialism, as if in a world carved up by imperialists a capitalist Ukraine is sovereign and the war is one of national self determination, a just war, not just flotsam in the “Great Game”–the struggle of the great imperialist powers for Eurasia.  

Biden and the west jump through hoops to claim plausible deniability that the US/NATO bloc are not at war (directly or indirectly) and we see reformism happy to take his word for it. By universal acclaim and agreement (deniers invite nuclear Armageddon), indirect wars involving a principal engaging their proxy/agent through provision of equipment, training and actionable intelligence does not qualify the principal actors as belligerents. Putin says he’s carrying out a “special military operation.” These are two idiomatic expressions  of “alternative facts.”

Apologists for Western Imperialism on Proxy War

As examined above the various leaders of the workers movement declare the agency of the masses is inviolate and manifests as “the resistance,” that the intersection of the aims of the resistance with western imperialism’s aims and the aims of the Zelensky regime are not determinate, that the resistance against the Russian invasion is a just war deserving the support of the international working class as if it were a war of national liberation like Vietnam, China vs Japan or the Kurds vs everyone.

What do the western imperialists say? Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for years two heartbeats away from the presidency traveled to Kyiv with ‘progressive’ darling of the U.S. left Barbara Lee and others to assure Zelensky “security, economic and humanitarian assistance” was on their legislative agenda. Pelosi assured Zelensky, “we are here until victory is won.” 

Hal Brandsprofessor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, writing at Bloomberg is quite candid: 

Russia is the target of one of the most ruthlessly effective proxy wars in modern history. And the less U.S. officials say about it, the better.

Proxy wars are longstanding tools of great-power rivalry because they allow one side to bleed the other without a direct clash of arms.

The key to the strategy is to find a committed local partner — a proxy willing to do the killing and dying — and then load it up with the arms, money and intelligence needed to inflict shattering blows on a vulnerable rival. That’s just what Washington and its allies are doing to Russia today.”

Brands, warns the user of the proxy strategy, “The way to wage a proxy war is to maintain a conspiracy of silence. The target state is more likely to refrain from retaliating if the other side can resist taking a victory lap.” Something the State Department forgot when the Russian Generals started dropping like flies. 

And get this! Robin Wright writing in the New Yorker  May 1, 2022…. just over nine weeks, the conflict has rapidly evolved into a full proxy war with Russia, with global ramifications. U.S. officials now frame America’s role in more ambitious terms that border on aggressive. The goal—backed by tens of billions of dollars in aid—is to “weaken” Russia and insure a sovereign Ukraine outlasts Putin….

….Throughout our history, we’ve learned that when dictators do not pay the price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and engage in more aggression,” the President told reporters on Thursday…. 

….(As Politico noted, the new aid is about half the size of the entire Russian defense budget—and also more than half of the U.S. State Department’s annual budget. Over the next five months, U.S. aid to Ukraine will average more than two hundred million dollars a day.) The investment, Biden said, was a small price “to lessen the risk of future conflicts” with Russia.””

Of course considering the summary statement of the June, 2022 NATO conference in Madrid, the only debatable part is the risk reducing motive!

Writing in May, 2018 Daniel L Byman at the Brooking Institute Center for Middle East Policy explained why proxy wars are used:  

“A proxy war occurs when a major power instigates or plays a major role in supporting and directing a party to a conflict but does only a small portion of the actual fighting itself.

States use proxies for many reasons. For the United States, the issue is often cost: Locals fight, and die, so Americans do not have to.

States often deny that they are supporting proxies—Russia, for example, claims not to be involved in Ukraine despite funding an array of groups opposed to the government of Kyiv, arming and supporting them with its own forces.

Afghanistan was not a proxy war because US troops and coalition troops did the majority of fighting …

Yemen is a proxy war because Iran is providing the weapons and funding but not troops to the Houthi…

In Syria Iran proxies include Lebanese Hezbollah and Shiite militias in Iraq…”

Fred Kaplan writing at Slate on April 29, 2022 noted that The conflict has become a proxy war between NATO and Russia, with more risks for everyone involved. 

“This shift in the West’s approach to the war was first signaled on Monday, when Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the United States’ goals in the war were not only to protect Ukraine as a democratic, sovereign country but also to 'weaken' Russia as a military power. This has been obvious for some time, but even some U.S. officials were surprised to hear Austin express the fact so explicitly.”

Among the academic advisors to imperialism author Tyrone L. Groh, writing in  chapter two  of  Proxy War The Least Bad Option, defines proxy war:

“Although similar in some ways to donated assistance, proxy war is different in two important ways. First, proxy war is a form of military intervention with the specific intent to intentionally influence the affairs of another state through the use (or threat) of violence. Rather than intervening directly to influence the outcome of the intrastate conflict, an intervening state backs a local actor to do most of the fighting on the ground….The relationship between an intervening state and its proxy is hierarchical; the proxy subjugates its interests to that of the intervening state because of its inability to act on its own.”

Principles and agents in a proxy relationship have their own distinct and sometimes correlative interests, yet despite independent interests the agent party in the relationship is defined by dependency. Today Ukraine is dependent on NATO for arms, training, intelligence, humanitarian and financial aid. Yet across the left the agency of the masses in resistance is argued to prove there is no proxy relationship.  

Michael Karadjis argues  Ukrainians not fighting for western imperialism’s aims but their own:

“But if the US aims to weaken Russia via supporting this Ukrainian resistance, that is not a choice made by Ukraine; Ukraine did not invade Russia to give the US an avenue to weaken Russia. Russia invaded Ukraine; if Ukraine’s resistance allows the US to weaken Russia by aiding it, Russia can thank Putin for that.”   

Karadjis applies the, ‘who struck the first blow’ method of defining the character of war… ignoring the ongoing belligerency as not only precursor to, but extension of, the current war…. Karadjis argues that Ukraine is not a proxy because it has “independent” aims…it ignores the decades of ‘capacity building’ prior to the Maidan and which has been stepped up since. 

Karadjis’s argument fails to show the war is not a proxy war. In Proxy Wars Suppressing Violence though Local Agents, Eli Berman and David A. Lake, more advisors to imperialism, examine proxy war, its value and limitations. They examined cases where the interests of the principal and the agent in a proxy relationship do not necessarily align and the principal need to leverage rewards and punishments and/or suffer power asymmetries in attempts to steer the agent to elevate the principals end above or alongside their own (i.e. US and Pakistan, Bin Laden and the porous borders). (Berman & Lake,  p. 294

Berman and Lake examine relationships between the principal and the agent that emerge: the principal can influence the agent more than the agent can influence the principal. If the expectations of the agent are not satisfied their option is to adjust their effort-shirking directives, as the cost of the situation to the principal increases, “the advantage of the proxy in suppressing disturbances becomes ever more important”, and the agent must navigate carefully as their closest constituency is their supporters at home. Sovereignty being the “the highest aspiration of many states, and being cast as a client, puppet, or stooge controlled by Washington is a likely death sentence for at least some foreign leaders. Discretion serves both agent and principal. …actors do not think of themselves as agents” (Berman Lake ps, 298-299)

In defining the principal-agent relationship Berman and Lake offer these definitions:

“the principal might be a counterinsurgent, the government of a neighboring country, or the government of a great power interested in minimizing disturbances arising from another country.” And the agent “an agent (or proxy), a subordinate whose actions the principal might influence, and who can suppress disturbances at lower cost than the principal can (when acting directly). This agent can serve as the principal’s proxy in minimizing disturbances.” (Ibid p. 11) 

Intelligence and the Proxy relationship

Provision of military intelligence is one element defining proxy relations. The report on May 4, 2022 in the NYT article Helping kill Russian Generals demonstrates the intersection of the agent and the principals’ military interests. On top of debt peonage to the IMF, semi-colonial subordination, dependency on the west for military equipment, training, the inclusion and peripheral integration under the security umbrella of NATO and the EU pushes the needle deeper in the proxy zone.

“Ukrainian officials said they have killed approximately 12 generals on the front lines, a number that has astonished military analysts.

The targeting help is part of a classified effort by the Biden administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine. 

The United States has focused on providing the location and other details about the Russian military’s mobile headquarters, which relocate frequently.

U.S. intelligence support to the Ukrainians has had a decisive effect on the battlefield, confirming targets identified by the Ukrainian military and pointing it to new targets. The flow of actionable intelligence on the movement of Russian troops that America has given Ukraine has few precedents.

American officials have acknowledged publicly that the United States began giving Ukraine actionable intelligence in the run-up to Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.”

Just days later in the May 8 Guardian U.S. intelligence told to keep quiet over role in Ukraine military triumphs, after the beans were spilled, Biden’s team tried to walk back the claims after the backslapping was done and the victory laps were run. 

“…unnamed officials [are quoted] as saying that US intelligence was instrumental in the targeting of Russian generals on the battlefield and in the sinking of the Moskva flagship cruiser on the Black Sea.”

And on June 25 the NYT reported that NATO, CIA and US trainers and advisors have had their boots-on-the-ground all along. We have yet to hear the “no boots on the ground” crowd pipe up on this violation of their main assertion that the west is not directly involved and that this is not an inter-imperialist war and that Ukraine is sovereign and not a puppet and proxy. 

“Much of this work happens outside Ukraine, at bases in Germany, France and Britain, for example. But even as the Biden administration has declared it will not deploy American troops to Ukraine, some C.I.A. personnel have continued to operate in the country secretly, mostly in the capital, Kyiv, directing much of the vast amounts of intelligence the United States is sharing with Ukrainian forces, according to current and former officials.

At the same time, a few dozen commandos from other NATO countries, including Britain, France, Canada and Lithuania, also have been working inside Ukraine. The United States withdrew its own 150 military instructors before the war began in February, but commandos from these allies either remained or have gone in and out of the country since then, training and advising Ukrainian troops and providing an on-the-ground conduit for weapons and other aid, three U.S. officials said.”

Why Sanctions are Economic War 

In this period of inter-imperialist conflict, all wars between nations are ultimately reduced to inter-imperialist rivalries. The oppressed countries have increasingly less freedom of movement between the rival imperialist powers. Imperialist rivalry expresses itself in the first level as diplomacy which when it reaches its limits becomes an economic warfare. Only when economic warfare fails to resolve the conflict in favor of one imperialist power does it become necessary for the shooting war. We already have shown that NATO/Russia have gone through the diplomatic path (Minsk) which ultimate failure produced the laying down of the gauntlet by Russian invasion. The immediate response of NATO and the west was to impose economic sanctions which escalated rapidly to the point where the economic assets of the Russian Central Bank were frozen and are now likely to be confiscated for the rebuilding of Ukraine. 

The whole purpose of sanctions was not to deprive western finance capital’s ability long-term to invest in and profit from business in Russia. It was to overcome insoluble barriers to that objective. Sanctions halted most western investment in the short term as part of a proxy war over Ukraine to bring the Russian economy to its knees and open the door to US imperialism into Eurasia. That is, to finally realize the prize it anticipated with the collapse of the USSR but was so cruelly denied by the rise of Russian imperialism. The US was intent on limiting the war to a proxy war in Ukraine to avoid escalating it as a general European war to involve NATO and risk a nuclear war.  This shows that to achieve its objectives the US/NATO deliberately provoked the war on Ukraine to justify major sanctions designed to isolate the Russian economy from the world capitalist economy. Right on cue, the Defense Secretary Austin said the objective is to weaken Russia… implying its hold over the other former Soviet republics.  Of course we add, so as to re-divide and rule as the economic prime directive in the age of imperialism. 

The left can rule these out of court as normal non-military methods, but are they separated from military action in reality? The western commentariat can talk about ‘Proxy war’ but neither they or the left takes into account front and center the role of sanctions. The unprecedented NATO sanctions in reaction to the war are manifestly designed to weaken Russia, arouse opposition to Putin’s regime,  and defeat it in war so as to further its aims of regime change and break-up of the CIS. The threat to impose sanctions on China for failing to condemn Russia for ignoring the rule of law and the rights of nationals, has been judged inappropriate for now, but it has prompted NATO (and its ‘allies’) to expand its operation to the Pacific to prepare for a looming confrontation with China over Taiwan. Here it’s clear the military definition of proxy war is too narrow and outdated. Hybrid war covers not only cyber war, drones, and satellites, but also economic sanctions and intelligence, but which have a direct effect on the conduct of war. 

As we said in Defeat the imperialist war! For an Independent Workers Ukraine! (March 25, 2022):

We argue here that NATO is in this war with both feet because sanctions are political and economic warfare!  The argument that US/NATO are not at war with Russia, besides denying covert activities, denies that sanctions are war. The denial also gives the “what-aboutists” grist for their mill.  An element of our argument is that sanctions are exactly what they are designed as-acts of war. 

Sanctions are a modern version of the ancient strategy of siege warfare. Credit where credit is due, but nothing new here.

National self determination is not possible short of Socialist Revolution 

In the footsteps of Trotsky, the US Socialist Workers’ Party published its position on the 2nd World War in the 1943 “Perspectives and Tasks of the Coming European Revolution”. In it the SWP makes clear that the self-determination of any one European country is only possible as part of the free nations of Europe within a Socialist United States of Europe. 

“The proletarian revolution may begin in one country, but no European country can make its way out of the war and the catastrophic crisis of contemporary civilization by itself alone. A victorious revolution in any single European country would immediately be compelled to defend itself from military attack by the imperialists and would have to appeal for international proletarian aid by revolutionary means. In the ensuing struggles it would not be possible to maintain the outlived and arbitrarily drawn borders of the existing national states and the proletariat has no interest in attempting to do so. The national state which once provided the historical arena for the development of the productive forces has long since become a reactionary fetter upon them. The unpostponable historical task of the European peoples is the revolutionary destruction of the reactionary national state and the creation of the Socialist United States of Europe. Peace, security and prosperity can be assured only by the economic unification and socialist collaboration of the free nations of Europe. The only power capable of solving these tasks is the revolutionary proletariat. The central unifying slogan of its fight is “The Socialist United States of Europe.”  Perspectives and Tasks of the Coming European Revolution –1943

Despite the degeneration of the Fourth International, this remains the position of revolutionary Trotskyists today. On Marxmail (a US based Marxmail listserv), Marv Gandell (no association with the ILTT) writes:

“When Trotsky proclaimed his support for Ukrainian self-determination, it was conditional on that struggle being led by the socialist proletariat. This was consistent with the Bolshevik view that the bourgeoisie had exhausted its historic mission as an agent for change both in relation to its own absolutist monarchies and to the struggle for national independence from foreign imperialist powers. This understanding was encapsulated in his call a “united, free and independent workers’ and peasants’ Soviet Ukraine”.”

Gandell puts forward the historic Leninist/Trotskyist proletarian position on self-determination. This position assumes the revolutionary movement of the working class exists and is a force that can chart its own independent course. In circumstances where the consciousness of the workers of the oppressed nation is influenced by nationalism, the duty of the workers of the oppressor nation is to support the rights and the struggles of the workers of the oppressed nation. Only in this way can a united internationalist, class-political independent movement advance, putting socialist revolution in prospect. Self-determination then becomes a real product of the social transformation. This identifies self-determination as a bourgeois-democratic right that only the proletarian revolution can deliver in the era where the bourgeoisie no longer has any progressive role to play.

How the fake left abjures proxy war and falls for the patriotic front 

We observe the fancy dance of the RKOB of Austria, who see a non-imperialist Ukraine as sovereign and independent(!) Here they tail the USM and the forces of the “Sunflower Caravan.” This is nothing new for RKOB, who continue in the League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI) method of support to western imperialist “democracy” expansion, whether it be Yeltsin or  Bosnian “independence”. The RKOB has gone on to apply this method in favor of  the bourgeois “republic” against the military in Thailand and  Egypt. They find bourgeois democracy and reasons to support it in convenient places, with serious questions then continuously raised about how they oppose the stageist program of Stalinism.

Covering their backs with centrist phrases we find the RCIT responding to Putin’s invasion in much the same way as most of the opportunist left  – selling out to social imperialism. Class war is subordinated to the patriotic popular front. They refuse to recognise the imperialist intervention of US/NATO as sufficient to characterise the war as a proxy war. In January this year they wrote:

“This combined and contradictory character of the war in the Ukraine and the global tensions between the Great Powers can provoke a change in the nature of the war. It can transform its character from a just war of national defense into an inter-imperialist proxy war. If such a transformation would take place, revolutionaries would be obligated to change their tactics and to stand for the defeat of Russian imperialism as well as of the pro-Western imperialist proxy in Kyiv. But this is only a possibility in the future and revolutionaries base their strategy on the facts of today and not on speculations about tomorrow.(ed. note our bold)”

What criteria will be necessary to change the character of the war? The ITO says the change will occur when NATO forces the Ukraine army to fight to the death, rejecting any attempts by Russia to negotiate a ceasefire which includes the right to self-determination for Donbas and Crimea. This position correctly recognises that one nation cannot be free while it oppresses another, but ignores the fact that the war of oppression against Donbas already began in 2014.  The RCIT does the opposite. It abandons its former defense of the right to self-determination for “all peoples” of Ukraine to fall into line with the Maidan aspirations for a united, independent bourgeois Ukraine. It cynically employed a numbers game to deny the right of the Russophones to self determination, which we previously noted was triggered by the post Maidan rise of Ukrainian chauvinism, by the fascist assaults against trade unionists in Odessa and against the use of the Russian language in the east. This exact same social development gave rise to today’s Ukrainian national army. A fact lost on social-imperialists generally. Such is their self-righteousness they brazenly hide behind Ukraine’s national rights while lying about the reality of  NATO’s proxy war!

As we already explained in past statements, the RCIT characterizes both camps – NATO as well as Russia – as imperialist. We consider the conflict between these powers as reactionary. The same is the case with the conflict between the Ukrainian government and the so-called “Donbas Republics” (i.e. the Russian-controlled territories in Eastern Ukraine) as both act as proxies of Great Powers. In all these conflicts, socialists have to oppose both sides as equally reactionary.

The International Trade Union Confederation, which claims to be building workers power, raises  illusory bourgeois peace slogans. First they accept the capitalist status quo leaving the imperialist Russian state and the capitalist proxy Ukraine state intact  calling for a ceasefire and  negotiated settlement. To this they add “for a free, sovereign and democratic Ukraine”, a popular slogan, which on the face of it appears every freedom loving worker should  support, but peel it back and it is little more than a call for integration of Ukraine into the world of imperialism and semi-colonies with Ukraine surviving the war as a dependent nation subordinated to western imperialism. 

Rather than calling on the international working class to turn the national struggle into a proletarian struggle for power-turning the imperialist war into a civil war and spreading national independence through permanent socialist revolution, they “call on governments around the world to work together towards an unconditional withdrawal of Russian military forces from the territory of Ukraine, and to promote the ideals of common security, starting with an immediate ceasefire…” Workers internationally must agree on the demand for the unconditional withdrawal of Russian Military forces; the International Labour Organization (ILO) calls for common security and immediate Russian ceasefire. This effectively and objectively tells workers that they have no independent role other than putting their faith in the capitalist governments  working “together toward an unconditional withdrawal”, meaning workers should seek security under the imperialist NATO umbrella of “security” and leaves the workers disarmed in the face of the armed fascist battalions and spate of anti-worker laws. 

In Conclusion

We have demonstrated that proxy wars are disguised inter-imperialist wars. We argue that the failure of the workers movement to fight the war in Ukraine as a proxy war and substituting a national war amounts to a betrayal of the world proletariat. It allows the ruling class to get away with calling the shots on its own terms and conscripting workers to once more fight workers in the interests of the imperialist ruling classes. This betrayal has its roots in the betrayal of the Second International on August 4, 1914, the Third International that betrayed workers to Hitler and imperialism, and the betrayal of the Fourth International during WW2 after the death of Trotsky at the hands of Stalin. This left workers without a revolutionary international party to advance the development of the postwar class struggle capable of realizing the opportunities that arose from the war as world revolution. Worse it exposed workers to an increasingly reactionary rule of capital over the world’s workers. In all of these wars workers were trapped as cannon fodder fighting against one another under the influence of national chauvinism.

Just as Trotsky compared WW2 to WW1 as a continuation of the same war, but with differences, we compare WW2 with the conditions for world war today. The similarities Trotsky adduced are that each war is the result of the failure to resolve the crisis of capitalist profitability  by the imperialist re-division of the last war. The differences are first, the degree of objective decay of capitalism, including the hold of reactionary national consciousness over workers expressed as a declining bourgeois democracy and the rise of fascism, and second, the degree of subjective capacity of the revolutionary proletariat to end all capitalist wars by means of world socialist revolution. 

Today, facing a 3rd World War we see the continuation of war to re-divide the world again by imperialist war made objectively sharper now as rotting capitalism is finally destroying it’s life support system. . Capital faces a terminal crisis in which the basic contradictions are exploding objectively as the destruction of nature. The countervailing tendencies are no longer open to capitalism to revive the falling rate of profit as the conditions for its own existence are being destroyed.

At the same time, the crisis of revolutionary leadership has allowed the bourgeoisie to impose an ever more reactionary consciousness on workers which finds its expression finally in the rise of fascism. Against this, the subjective capacity of the working class is weaker, despite mass spontaneous resistance movements, due to the absence of a revolutionary international leadership. The task of revolutionaries then is to grasp this reality and inject it into the class struggle, to explain the terminal crisis of capital, the inevitability of imperialist war and proxy war, and the treachery of the fake left that acts to trap workers in the popular patriotic fronts as cannon fodder, strangling its capacity for class independence. 

But this task cannot be completed without building a new revolutionary International that unites class conscious workers to provide subjective leadership against the reactionary objective forces of destruction. That is why we call for a new Zimmerwald to rally all antiwar workers to the cause of world revolution and revive the struggle for a new revolutionary International. 

International Leninist Trotskyist Tendency (ILTT), 07/17/2022

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