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Tensions on the Ukrainian border: only the proletariat can put an end to imperialist confrontations
On December 1st, the United States, through Secretary of State Blinken, indicated that it had "evidence" of "significant aggressive actions towards Ukraine" by Russia, an important rival of the United States in the concert of imperialist nations. And Anthony Blinken flexed his muscles and promised to make it pay "a high price" (1). What motivates this umpteenth exchange of provocations and other more or less open threats? (2) It is the massive deployment of Russian troops on the Russian-Ukrainian border, with Kiev seeing in it the beginnings of a possible Russian invasion of the east of the country. For its part, Russia accuses Ukraine of massing a large number of its troops in this same eastern Ukraine.
These Russian-Ukrainian tensions are not new either. Since the independence of Ukraine from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in December 1991, at the time of the Minsk agreement, which also acts the dissolution of the country, tensions between Ukraine and its powerful neighbor have continued to grow. The climax of this conflictual climate occurred in 2014 with a so-called "revolution" opposing the pro-European "Euromaidan" movement and Ukrainian nationalists to the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, who was finally deposed by the street. Conflicts quickly crystallized around the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, 40% of which is Russian-speaking and where heavy industry has historically been based, particularly around the cities of Donetsk, Makelevka, Kramatorsk and Gorlovka.
This region is therefore strategic, both for Russia, which for a long time benefited from the outlets of this industrial production, and for Ukraine, where a significant part of the country's wealth - 25% of the total wealth of the country comes from the Donetsk factories - comes from the region and its industrial fabric. Thus, as early as February 2014, anti-Maidan demonstrations will break out in the cities of eastern Ukraine, mainly in the Donbass and Crimea. The latter will be annexed by Russia, annexation ratified by a referendum held in March 2014 which results in a 96.77% yes vote in favor of the attachment of the peninsula to Russia. This referendum is not recognized by Ukraine and the international community, which considers it tainted by fraud and not in accordance with international law, the Crimean parliament at the origin of the referendum being considered as not legitimate.
At the same time, the Donbass region is the scene of a full-fledged civil war between the Ukrainian government and the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, two puppet states not recognized by the international community, not even by Russia, which nevertheless provides military support for the conflict. The conflict, which has resulted in more than 10,000 deaths, is now considered a "low-intensity conflict," but has displaced more than 1.5 million people since the fighting began.
It is in this context of "hybrid war", that is to say of confrontation mixing conventional military operations, asymmetric warfare and cyber-attacks, that this new military deployment by the two protagonists takes place. The real purpose of this arm wrestling match goes beyond the sole framework of Russian-Ukrainian relations, however, and is linked to Russia's fear of seeing Ukraine join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance of 30 states, most of them European, under the domination of the American sponsor. Now, after the integration of the Baltic States in 2004, Russia fears that another of its neighbors in the so-called "near abroad" (3) will join this organization, which it considers a direct threat to its vital interests. NATO immediately came to Ukraine's defense in this matter, stating through its Secretary General, Norwegian Labour Jens Stoltenberg, "We remain committed to providing political and practical support to Georgia and Ukraine" (4).
Yet, despite what the bourgeois press may claim (5), the NATO countries do not form a united front. As Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels have shown, competition is consubstantial with the capitalist mode of production and the bourgeois order. In « The Situation of the Working Class in England », Friedrich Engels wrote, "Competition is the completest expression of the battle of all against all which rules in modern civil society. This battle, a battle for life, for existence, for everything, in case of need a battle of life and death, is fought not between the different classes of society only, but also between the individual members of these classes. Each is in the way of the other, and each seeks to crowd out all who are in his way, and to put himself in their place. The workers are in constant competition among themselves as are the members of the bourgeoisie among themselves." (6).
But what is true for capitalist enterprises is also true for imperialist states. Thus, even if NATO, since its creation, has been under the hegemonic domination of the North American sponsor, some protesting poles have sought to defend strategic orientations that may differ from those of the United States. This is notably the case of Germany, which is opposed to the United States on the issue of Ukraine's entry into NATO. Germany's position towards its NATO allies is incomprehensible if one ignores the common economic interests of Germany and Russia. True to the materialist conception of history developed by Marx, we continue to emphasize the weight of economic determinants in the conduct of inter-imperialist relations.
It is the "Nord Stream 2" project that is the most important symbol of the economic ties between Russia and Germany. This gas pipeline linking the two countries via the Baltic Sea, whose work ended in September 2021 after several years of a long and difficult gestation, due in particular to the opposition of the United States to this project, aims to supply the European continent with gas from Russia. It is these economic relations that explain Germany's historical refusal to sell arms to Ukraine, because it does not want to offend this important commercial partner, Russia. Thus, in May 2021, "German authorities used their veto power within Nato to prohibit the supply of arms to Kiev and blocked the delivery of 90 American Barrett M82 rifles and 20 EDM4S-UA anti-drone rifles from Lithuania. Ukraine had requested these in early 2021 under the NATO Support and Procurement Agency" (7).
These tensions on the Ukrainian border bring to light the contradictions at work in a complex inter-imperialist game where the West-Russia confrontations should not make us forget the internal power relations and stakes within the imperialist groupings themselves. More than the defense of so-called Western values against Russian "illiberalism" or the integrity of sovereign states, it is the economic interests of the imperialist states that determine geostrategic and geopolitical orientations, hence the inevitable and supposedly unpredictable shifts and other "betrayals", as in the case of the submarines sold to Australia.
For the moment, it would appear that this confrontation is still only a diplomatic and verbal one, and that neither state is really willing to go to an armed or even simply economic conflict. Thus, behind Secretary of State Blinken's chin wag, who states "We have made it clear to the Kremlin that we will retaliate, including with a series of high-impact economic measures that we have refrained from using in the past," he immediately hastens to clarify that "diplomacy is the only responsible way to resolve this potential crisis." Similarly, Vladimir Putin sought to temper Russia's bellicose ardor, also asserting his support for a diplomatic solution. "We propose to start substantive negotiations on this issue. [...] We need legal guarantees, since our Western colleagues have not respected their appropriate oral obligations," he said (8).
But if the current episode does not lead directly to a military confrontation, we can affirm with certainty that in the not so distant future, the economic and geopolitical contradictions will be such that they will imply armed interventions and direct confrontations. Contrary to the hopes of bourgeois democratic pacifists of all stripes, capitalism cannot be a factor of peace, reconciliation between peoples or appeasement. As the French reformist socialist Jean Jaurès said, "capitalism carries war like the cloud carries the storm". Ukraine is one of the places that can become a hotbed of imperialist war when international tensions, sharpened by economic crises, push the big imperialisms back into a third world conflict. The threatening "clouds" keep accumulating, but we are not yet on the eve of such a conflict; moreover, the future war alliances are not yet fixed: will Russia and the USA succeed in reaching an agreement against China, or will the Russian-Chinese axis against the USA materialize, etc.? There is no doubt that the imperialist circles are considering all the hypotheses and are preparing for wars in Europe, as the French military chiefs demonstrate (9).
Whatever the imperialist contradictions and their consequences are, only one social class is able to put an end definitively to the war and to make the brotherhood between men something else than a hollow dream. Certainly, the proletariat, especially in Ukraine and Russia, has at the moment the greatest difficulties to struggle on class basis, drowned as it is in the interclass or petty bourgeois struggles, deluded by the democratic mirages and paralyzed by the nationalist propaganda.
But as sure as day follows night, the contradictions intrinsic to the capitalist mode of production can only awaken this sleeping giant, pushing it to make a complete break with the bourgeoisie and its henchmen and to reconstitute its class organizations: then, under the leadership of its class party, it will be able to launch into the final struggle against capitalism.
Not a single drop of proletarian blood to defend bourgeois borders and national sovereignty!
For the union of proletarians of Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere against capitalism and imperialism!
For the resumption of the class struggle in the perspective of the international communist revolution so that humanity ends wars forever!
(1) See « Tensions entre la Russie et l’Ukraine : troupes massées à la frontière, Moscou mis en garde par Washington… Le point sur la situation », Le Monde, 1/12/21
(2) Let's recall that a few months earlier, Joe Biden had called Vladimir Putin a "killer", provoking responses of the same kind from Russia and testifying to a real diplomatic cold war between the two powers.
(3) In Russian geopolitical doctrine, the « near abroad » refers to the member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a structure created in 1991 to replace the USSR.
(4) See « Tensions entre la Russie et l'Ukraine », Le Monde, art.
(5) For example this article with the edifying title of the newspaper Le Monde, "Les pays de l'OTAN unis face aux " intimidations " de la Russie en Ukraine ", dated 01/12/21.
(6) Friedrich Engels, « The Situation of the Working Class in England », 1845, chapter "Competition".
(7) See this article from the Ukrainian state news agency, Urkinform, «L’Ukraine mène des pourparlers avec l’Allemagne pour débloquer l’achat des armes par l’intermédiaire de l’Agence de soutien et d’approvisionnement de l’OTAN par l’intermédiaire de l’Agence de soutien et d’approvisionnement de l’OTAN », , 14 décembre 2021.
(8) See « Tensions entre la Russie et l'Ukraine », Le Monde, art.
(9) See «Vents de guerre en Europe », Le Prolétaire n°542
International Communist Party
December, 25th 2021
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