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In its confrontation with American and European imperialisms, Russian imperialism launches its troops to the territorial conquest of strategic areas of Ukraine
For the past eight years, armed clashes have been taking place in Ukraine's Donbass region, particularly in the provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk, between Russian-speaking separatists and the Ukrainian army, despite the much-publicized Minsk agreements of 2014 and Minsk II of 2015; these agreements involved Ukraine, Russia, the OSCE, representatives of the two self-proclaimed "people's republics" of Lugansk and Donetsk and, in the Minsk II agreements, also France and Germany.
According to media reports, as many as 22,000 people died during the eight years of "low intensity" warfare.
It was clear from the start that these agreements had no chance of being respected by any of the parties directly involved -Ukraine, Russia, Russian-speaking separatists -–so much so that a Minsk II was necesary, that did not bring peace either. On the part of Kiev, the commitment to recognize the two "republics" of Lugansk and Donetsk as having a large degree of autonomy, while maintaining a strong presence of its own army, was not respected; on the part of these two "republics", with Russia as the real protagonist, the attacks against the Ukrainian army, considered as "occupying" the western part of the provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk, have never ceased.
In reality, as our statement of 25 December (1) underlines, the real cause of the confrontation in Donbass is to be found in the fact that this region is absolutely strategic for both Russia and Ukraine from an economic and political point of view and, from the point of view of inter-imperialist contrasts, also for European and American imperialism. It has been so for NATO and the European Union since 1991 – after the collapse of the USSR – when all the countries that were part of the Russian empire broke away from it, becoming independent from Moscow. But in the imperialist era, the independence of a country from other countries, and especially from the imperialism that dominated it before, remains an abstract desire. There are so many economic, financial, political and military aspects that determine the internal and external policy of a state – especially if it is located in a geopolitical zone of great importance in inter-imperialist rivalries, such as Eastern Europe – that it is obliged to sell its "independence", and thus its territory, economy and government, to one of the imperialist poles that can best promote its national interests or, at least, protect it from the lusts of enemy countries. Of course, the degree of submission of a state to a more powerful imperialism depends on a series of political and economic factors that vary according to the balance of power between the different imperialisms that dominate the international market and, consequently, the world, and the degree of weakness of the country submitted.
In the case of the former "people's" and "democratic" republics of Eastern Europe that were part of the Russian empire –that the Stalinist counter-revolution, totally distorting Marxism, presented as "socialist" – the transformation from satellites of Moscow to satellites of the European Union and the United States took about fifteen years. It began with the integration of East Germany into West Germany (after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989) and continued with Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia (peacefully divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia), Bulgaria, the Baltic States, etc., while other countries, such as Belarus and Ukraine, continued to be subject much more directly to strong influence from Moscow, despite their independence .
This long transmigration has led, in addition to the integration of many of these countries into the European Union, to the affiliation of many of them to NATO (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia).
NATO, the Atlantic Military Alliance, was founded in 1949 by the United States and eleven other Western European countries. In 1955, West Germany joined the Alliance; Moscow, seeing NATO military forces stationed at the gates of East Germany – notoriously the most strategic side of the European borders of the famous "Iron Curtain"– hastened to unite, in what became the Warsaw Pact, the armed forces of the USSR and the other Eastern European countries that were part of its Western dominions (East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria), thus constituting an important defensive curtain against land and air attacks along a line from the borders of the Baltic States to the Black Sea.
With the collapse of the USSR, the Warsaw Pact dissolved and the defensive curtain formed by the countries of this Pact disappeared; the serious economic and political crisis experienced by Russia in the 1990s forced it to withdraw within the borders of the Russian Federation, only trying to maintain and consolidate ties with Russian ethnic groups living in some countries (Baltic countries, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine).
One only has to look at a map to understand that by being present in Belarus and Ukraine, Russia still has, from a military point of view, an effective buffer zone, and from an economic point of view, especially as far as Ukraine is concerned, an excellent ally for agricultural production as well as for industrial and energy production. Obviously, Moscow did not look favorably on Ukraine's inclination to join the European Union, let alone NATO. Just as the White House did not like the installation of Russian missiles in Cuba in 1962, it would not like the installation of American missiles in Ukraine if it joined NATO. In 1962, America threatened to go to war with Russia, thus triggering a world war; sixty years later, in 2022, Russia, by occupying Ukraine, seeks to prevent the installation of American missiles in Ukraine... "to avoid a world war"...
At a time when European countries have shown that they do not have the capacity, or the interest, to unite politically given the fierce inter-imperialist competition between them, including between Germany and France, and at a time when even the United States is experiencing serious difficulties in maintaining its political supremacy in the so-called "Western world," Russia is daring operations that it would not have even imagined only fifteen years ago. Its interventions in Syria and Libya, its subtle "alliance" with Turkey, taking advantage of Ankara's ambition to carve out a place for itself among the regional powers of the Middle East, as well as the disastrous conduct of the American-European war in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan, signal a series of steps that Russian imperialism, historically adept at waiting patiently to move (with "General Winter" as an additional ally), is taking to regain at least some of its former imperialist power.
But imperialism is only as strong as its economic and financial basis. And Russian imperialism cannot compete in economic and financial strength with American imperialism. On the other hand, it has a powerful military force, especially nuclear, and it is this aspect that worries Washington, Berlin, Paris, London and Rome and on which it is obviously banking.
The Russian territory stretches from Europe to Asia; this vastness on two continents has proven to be both a strength (in case of an attack, for example from the west, it is possible to retreat to a vast territory to reorganize its forces and counterattack), but also a weakness (in case of an attack from both sides, from the east and the west, it is much more difficult to organize the counterattack). But occupying Russia, taking Moscow (which in the French case would be the same as taking Paris), has never been an easy task; Napoleon tried it, the German Empire tried it in the First World War, Nazi Germany tried it in the Second World War, but no one succeeded.
Only one force succeeded in overthrowing the power in Russia, then centered in Petrograd: the proletarian and communist revolution of 1917; this force represented the spearhead of the world revolution which aimed at overthrowing the bourgeois powers not only in Russia but also in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, Vienna and then in Paris, London, with a view to the revolution in the East, in China, and in the deep West, in America. This great revolutionary design was not realized, not only because the European and American imperialist powers resisted and counterattacked with tenfold strength (as Trotsky argued), but above all because of the work of reformist and later Stalinist opportunism, which, like a cancer, debilitated the proletariat, its struggle and the parties that were supposed to guide and lead it in all countries, until they were wiped out from the horizon for decades.
In the last fifty years since the great world crisis of 1975 and the end of the great anti-colonial movements, we have witnessed an endless series of local, regional and even tribal wars in which the various imperialist powers have been constantly involved, directly or indirectly. These wars have almost always taken place on the "periphery" of imperialism, in Africa, Asia, Latin America, in the territories where the most brutal colonial domination has been exercised for centuries, while Western Europe and America have appeared as places where peace reigned, continuing to make the proletarians of the metropolises believe that this peace in which they lived was due to democracy, to modern civilization and to capitalist development. But this development, just as it led to the world crisis of 1975, led to the collapse of the USSR and the clashes in Yugoslavia, which also collapsed under the blows of the economic crisis and the war between nationalisms regaining new strength: then, it was said, war knocked at the gates of Europe – and it did so for a whole decade.
Today, it knocks again, still at the gates of the East, this time in Ukraine ; but, contrary to the Yugoslav decade (1991-2001), no Western imperialism, not even the United States, intends to get involved militarily in the defense of the very holy national sovereignty of Kiev!
Russia has calculated its timing well: it has left the door open for diplomatic discussions and, at the same time, it has massed 170 to 190 thousand soldiers on the borders of Ukraine, ready to intervene - as the United States, France and Great Britain have repeatedly done – as "interposition forces"; not as occupying forces, but as military forces defending the "sovereignty" of the two self-proclaimed republics, which had been formally recognized a few days earlier by the Russian Duma. The pretext of a large-scale military attack was on the table; Putin had no trouble using it to justify the military intervention, whose two objectives he announced: to protect the population of the two separatist republics of Donbass from Ukrainian repression, and to demilitarize Ukraine from the "Nazi" power of the Kiev government.
The American reaction was reduced to the threat of sanctions, harsher than those already put in place in 2014 when Russia took Crimea, both economic and financial. After the rebuff received by Macron and Scholz, who had rushed to Moscow to dissuade Putin from invading Ukraine, the European Union joined Washington: sanctions, sanctions, sanctions.
The commercial and financial interests of Germany, Italy, France, Poland and many other European countries with Russia are important, and not only with regard to natural gas which, through the many existing pipelines, reaches Western Europe to cover about 40% of its energy needs: a percentage that can only be guaranteed by Russia, and that could even increase when Nord Stream 2, the pipeline already ready and which, at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, arrives from Russia directly to Germany without passing through a third country, begins to operate.
Germany and Italy, the two largest industrial countries in Europe, are the ones that depend significantly on Russian gas. If Russia, in reaction to the heavy sanctions imposed on it, were to close the gas taps to Europe, Germany and Italy would be the countries that would immediately pay the highest price. Of course, Russia would also lose out, as it would not easily find an alternative, not even with China, which lately seems interested in Russian gas. Therefore, too heavy sanctions will not be triggered on either side, despite considerable American pressure on the Europeans. The interests at stake are too important to jeopardize them just to please Washington. As long as it is a matter of speeches, as harsh as one wants... and sanctions that do not entail too high a price to pay, fine; but if it is a matter of dealing a mortal blow to the economic recovery that has just been reborn after the years of pandemic..., it is out of the question, first of all for Germany, the only one able to resist the pressure of Washington and, at the same time, of Moscow.
Therefore, Moscow's military expedition in Ukraine will continue, amidst cries and cries from all Western chancelleries for the violation of national sovereignty and democracy; but business is business; in 2014 in the face of Russia's military intervention in Crimea, Western sanctions against Moscow stopped neither the occupation nor the annexation; how could they stop Russia's military occupation of the Donbass (which is Ukraine's most important mining region), or even the war in Ukraine?
It is more likely, given the current general situation of inter-imperialist power relations, that what happened in part in Georgia will happen in Ukraine; that Russia will 1) prevent the country from being affiliated with NATO, 2) that the part of the country inhabited by Russian ethnic groups will break away into an autonomous republic and serve as a springboard for future larger-scale operations, 3) that the wedges represented by these separatist zones will also bear fruit from an economic point of view and in terms of lines of communication with other countries directly controlled by the Russian power 4) that they will be a constant warning to neighboring countries of the Russian military presence, ready to intervene quickly to defend the sacred borders even far from Moscow, or to annex the territories when the general situation seems favorable to a possible annexation. It should not be forgotten that imperialism means not only the economy of monopolies and financial capital, but also the occupation and annexation of territories.
As we wrote in our statement of December 25: «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.? »
In the meantime, China is watching what is happening and recording the various reactions of the imperialists involved, in the position of a future protagonist, eager to understand the type of attitude and strength of those who could become tomorrow's allies or enemies. There is no doubt that at present it wishes to justify Moscow's actions in an anti-American function and that tomorrow, after getting its hands on Hong Kong, it aims to seize the tastiest piece, constituted by Taiwan (the island of Formosa), which Beijing has always considered as an integral part of China, removed in 1949 from the national territorial unity by Anglo-American imperialism, with Russia at its side.
The imperialist epoch is the epoch of permanent wars, at different levels, according to the accumulation of social contradictions and the succession of economic and financial crises that characterize it. It is not, as it has never been, the diplomatic and "peace" agreements that follow conflicts, even the most devastating ones, that will prevent the natural course of capitalism towards war; the two imperialist world wars of the last century cast their shadow on the next third world war towards which the inter-imperialist contrasts are inexorably rushing.
The only force capable of preventing or stopping it will never be bourgeois and imperialist, not even in its most democratic and "civilized" form; it will be the social force represented by the working class, by the proletariat, which all over the world is forced into the same wage conditions and which the same economic and social contradictions push to make the class antagonism which characterizes bourgeois society, the spring of a non-peaceful, non-democratic, non-parliamentary struggle, but a class struggle ; then the imperialist war will turn into a civil war, as Marx and Engels affirmed after the experience of the Paris Commune and as Lenin and the Communist International proclaimed after the victorious revolution of October 1917.
In order for the proletariat to be prepared for this historical appointment with its class revolution, it must rid itself of the thick layer of legalism, pacifism and democratism with which collaborationist opportunism has clothed it, not to emancipate it but to suffocate it, imprisoning it in even tighter chains to the exclusive needs of capitalism.
The bourgeois powers in all countries has appealed, appeals and will always appeal to the fatherland, to the national values, to the national culture and unity, for which they forces and will always force the proletariat to give its sweat and shed its blood in times of peace as in times of war. Today, in spite of the cries of freedom and popular sovereignty, it is the rotten Great Russian nationalism which clashes with the rotten nationalism of Ukraine. It is against all forms of nationalism that the proletarians must fight, because nationalism is one of the most dangerous and effective vectors of the division between them. The union of the proletarians cannot be made on the ground of the nation, but only on the class, anti-capitalist, anti-bourgeois and therefore internationalist ground.
Against the enlistment of proletarians in the national bourgeois armies!
Against the shedding of proletarian blood to make a band of exploiters and torturers triumph against the opposing band of exploiters and torturers!
Against any form of competition between proletarians!
For the class solidarity between Ukrainian and Russian proletarians, for the union of proletarians of all nationalities and ethnicities over the bourgeois borders!
For the resumption of the class struggle carried out with class means and methods, for the exclusive defense of the immediate and general proletarian interests!
For the reconstitution of the class party, of the internationalist and international revolutionary communist party!
(1) see « Tensions on the Ukrainian border: only the proletariat can put an end to imperialist confrontations », 25/12/2021
International Communist Party
February, 24th 2022
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