Ukraine – the Russians are the aggressors

Putin! Hands off Ukraine - at Moscow anti-war protest (pic Ben Neal via RS21)

Putin! Hands off Ukraine – at Moscow anti-war protest (pic Ben Neal via RS21)

The Russian seizure of Crimea has sharply divided opinion on the British left writes Liam Mac Uaid. On one side No2EU is saying:

“The European Commission will officially hand over €1.1 billion this week to far right coup leaders in Kiev that removed the elected government with street violence.

US secretary of state John Kerry also said on a visit to Kiev this week that Washington will add $1 billion into the pot to shore up fascist rule.”

A less shrill echo of this view is offered by the Stop The War Coalition which prominently features an article by Eamonn McCann in which he sets out their stall.  “In the game of Great Power politics, if we have to pick a side over Crimea, let it be Russia.” Counterfire have republished the same article along with one by Chris Nineham which argues that the strategic issue is that “Nato and EU expansion in the last two decades has dismantled Russia’s traditional buffer zone.” From this he also concludes that we have to back Russia.

We can speculate that some around No2EU see Putin’s Russia as being, in some distorted way, the heir to socialist bulwark that the Soviet Union once was in their eyes. For people from the SWP tradition this isn’t the case and their rationale is that as socialists in the European Union and (EU) their main responsibility is to oppose NATO and the EU.

Self evidently if the EU or NATO were to start making claims on Russian territory we would oppose that. It is also obvious that the land seizures so far have all been initiated by Russia, which stage managed a flagrantly ridiculous referendum and used the result to seize Crimea. Russia was the aggressor.  It violated Ukraine’s national sovereignty.

The movement that brought down the Yanukovich regime was contradictory. It could hardly have been otherwise in a society run by gangster capitalists who atomised mass consciousness and ran political parties as means of sharing the spoils between competing groups of oligarchs. An issue of serious concern has been the presence of the far right both in the mass movement and the newly formed government. We’ll set aside for a moment the widespread presence of the far right in Putin’s Russia. Ukraine has a specific history which has left a legacy of a deep antipathy to everything tainted by the Soviet Union. The famine Stalin inflicted on Ukraine in 1932-3 (which was covered up by many socialists at the time) is estimated to have killed 7.5 million people. Many Ukrainians interpret it as a deliberate act of genocide by the Moscow regime. It is inevitable that a national trauma on that scale will affect the way people view history. It goes some way to explaining why anti-Soviet rhetoric has such an appeal and the far right has successfully exploited the memory of that Stalinist crime.

Revolutionary content

However, socialist participants in the events, such as Ilya Boudraïtksis  of  “Vpered” (“Forward”), Russian section of the Fourth International saw the mass movement as containing the germs of a revolutionary process:

“…each element of which breathes an authentic revolutionary consciousness, painted in some strange, unusual colour – a kaleidoscope of propaganda from every possible ultra-right-wing party and sect, with countless “Celtic” symbols and runes on the walls. The incredibly sickening dissonance between the revolutionary content of the process and its reactionary form represents circumstances demanding not squeamish ethical evaluations, but action aimed at changing such an ugly equation.”

This ideological confusion is the fruit of a society in which independent working class consciousness was suppressed for decades by a bureaucracy which claimed to rule in the name of that class. The thieving oligarchy, which apologists like George Galloway refer to as the overthrown government, viewed the state as a treasury to be plundered. As a result mass consciousness has been evolving rapidly from a primordial swamp of old prejudices, half remembered ideas and glimpses of the outside world.

For many Ukrainians all that is good about the outside world is represented by the European Union. From their point of view, and that’s what matters here, joining the EU means that they might have a chance to get a job in England, Germany or Belgium. In a country in which virtually every transaction between a citizen and the state means paying a bribe, the EU can seem like a corruption free paradise. Singing a song which mocks the government doesn’t get you thrown in jail. The Sex Pistols weren’t sent to a labour camp outside Birmingham for singing God Save the Queen. Contrast that with Putin’s treatment of Pussy Riot. Who wouldn’t choose to live in a society like Denmark when the option on offer is living in a client of Putin’s Russia?


Putin’s strategy is to gouge out chunks of Ukrainian territory. He started with Crimea. That is roughly analogous to the north of Ireland. The British state has used the presence of a Protestant population which is opposed to a united Ireland to claim sovereignty over Irish territory. Another analogy is the Israeli state. There, a settler population displaced the original inhabitants and denied them the right to a Palestinian state. Stalin’s tactics in Crimea were not too different from those of the Israeli state’s founders. He deported almost 200 000 Crimean Tatars and filled the gap with ethnic Russians. Putin is planning to use the presence of Russian speakers in other parts of Ukrainian territory to annex them. This has even worried Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko. According to The Moscow Times  he criticised Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea as setting a “bad precedent.” Even Putin’s friends in the region are twitchy now.

Current polls say that the chief Russian kleptocrat is enjoying a burst of popularity as a consequence of his aggression against Ukraine. The same thing happened when he invaded Chechnya and flattened Grozny, turning the country into what the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya called “a small corner of hell”. Putin and his cronies must have been terrified when they saw the people take to the streets against Yanukovich. If it could happen in Kiev it could happen in Moscow or Saint Petersburg. His aggression on Ukraine served the double purpose of intimidating the mass movement there and showing any Russians inclined to imitate it what they might expect. It was a real source of optimism that 50 000 people took to the streets of Moscow to protest against their own state’s aggression, an event that went unremarked by the British Stop the War Coalition.

Saying that we are against the Russian seizure of Ukrainian territory does not for one moment imply that we defend the new government in Kiev. Like the old one, it is largely comprised of robber oligarchs and now includes a significant far right presence. That does not make it a fascist government. We are on the side of the Russian anti-war protestors and the multi-ethnic thousands who took to the streets of Ukraine’s cities demanding an end to corruption, the plundering of state assets and cops who were indistinguishable from criminals. A defeat for Russian imperialism in Ukraine is both a victory for that mass movement and the Russian working class. Socialists in imperialist countries should see their primary responsibility as establishing links and building support for those groups in Ukrainian and Russian society which are opposing the oligarchs and organising a real movement against them. That is rather different from helping Putin hold on to power by annexing his own imperialist “buffer zone”


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48 Comments on Ukraine – the Russians are the aggressors

  1. Really good stuff…

  2. A truly appallingly grovelling article before the masters of life, global finance capital in its warmongering offensive against the oppressed masses, Russia has every right to defend itself against this offensive

    • sigesige00 // 10th May 2014 at 7:01 pm // Reply

      Absolutely true! Capitalism has no future other than imperialist wars and destruction. The reactionary sect, who are pretending to be “Trotskyists”, are working for EU imperialism and its stooges!

  3. Bob Whitehead // 25th March 2014 at 9:05 am // Reply

    Didn’t old Vladimir strongly oppose great Russian Chauvinism? And didn’t ‘Uncle Joe’ have a rather different position? Self determination for the Ukraine!

  4. No mention of defeating our own Imperialists!

  5. I think it would be useful to analyse what the EU is up to, in order to determine whether the claims that it, or some of the main players in the EU, were instrumental in events leading to the overthrow of Yanukovitch. It actually sounds like what happened is that Yanukovitch was quite favourable to a tie-in with the EU and that Putin then blackmailed him and the Ukrainian parliament.

    There’s also the question of whether the EU could handle Ukrainian full membership. Personally, I doubt it: with a very weak economy and a requirement that all members – except UK and Denmark – join the Euro, I think they’ll have some kind of associate membership. Some people argue that NATO is dead keen on getting Ukraine, as Liam shows above. This idea should be examined as well, but it smacks a bit of transplanting cold war politics to current times if you see NATO as central in this dispute. As the cold war can only really be explained by reference to the fact that the West and the USSR had different social systems, which the West and Russia don’t have now, I think the NATO explanation requires deeper justification than I’ve seen so far.

    Finally, it’s worth remarking that, although it was very heterogeneous, the Maidan movement was also very critical of ALL oligarchs and their parties. Putin’s actions will have pushed a lot of those demonstrators into the arms of the Ukrainian government.

  6. “A defeat for Russian imperialism in Ukraine is both a victory for that mass movement and the Russian working class.”

    Coming from East London, this is just cod-revolutionary defeatism.
    Particularly as all you have to say about Ukraine joining the EU and NATO is how popular it would be with Ukrainians! -totally ignoring the Austerity, mass unemployment and threat of future wars that would inevitably follow.

    But it’s a logical consquence of an analysis based on flawed historical analogies and blatant apologetics for pro-imperialist, right wing nationalists.

    Like the formation of the Interim government, Ukraine’s Accession to the EU is being pushed through behind the backs of the masses.
    Yatseniuk signed the core agreements of the EU Accession treaty in Brussels just a few days ago. If it’s ratified in May, this will be a defeat for the working class in Ukraine, Russia and Europe.

    As Yatseniuk said when he seized power, “Welcome to Hell”.
    IMF austerity measures will mean a 50% cut in pensions and the destruction of the industries in the East of the country which rely on Russian markets.
    i.e. mass poverty for the Ukrainian working class.

    If Ukraine joins the EU, it will embolden the liberal democrats in Russia who want to act as the agents for the penetration of the Russian economy by Western corporations.
    Many such people also demonstrated against the War in Moscow.

    If Ukraine becomes a member of NATO, it will internationalise the conflict over Crimea and exacerbate the dangers of a war in the Black Sea and Europe.
    The chance of a nuclear war will be significantly enhanced.

    The government in Kiev is weak, dependent on EU and NATO backing and has an interest in provoking a war to ensure its survival.
    It’s not just the open fascists in it who are the problem.
    It’s the dangerous nationalist megalomaniacs like Yatsienko and Yulia Timoshenko.

    As became evident over the past few weeks, the Ukrainian army wasn’t prepared to fight over Crimea. There is also evidence from other areas of the country that significant sections of the population will resist any attempt by Kiev to provoke a war.
    Putin risks alienating these sections of Ukrainian society if he sends Russian troops across the border and humiliates Ukraine militarily.

    A joint Ukraine and Russia, directed against war, against the oligarchs and capitalism and for an Independent Ukraine, in a Socialist Federation with Russia, can win.
    The issue of Crimea can be settled by a democratic referendum, held under conditions of peace, with freedom to campaign by all sides.

    Our role is to oppose Western sanctions against Russia, resist any attempt to enlarge NATO into Eastern Europe and support socialists in Ukraine and Russia.

  7. Those who profess to follow the line of Trotsky should read what he had to say when faced with real invasions and annexations.
    When the Soviet Union invaded the Baltic States in 1940, despite being in favour of defence of the USSR against imperialism, Trotsky vigorously opposed the invasion. Trotsky argued that a SOCIALIST USSR could be a beacon of attraction, but imposing its will on a population would be seen “not as an act of liberation but as an act of violence” and therefore “facilitates the mobilization of world public opinion against the USSR by the imperialist powers” leading to lasting harm rather than advantage.

    The Russia of today bears no comparison, even with the abomination of Stalinism. It is run by gangsters and corruption, with more than a few ultra rightists in strong positions of influence and support. It supports reactionary dictatorships around the world.
    Russia is also a nuclear power with a huge stockpile of weapons of mass destruction and with the third largest military expenditure in the world.

    By contrast, the Ukraine state voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons in return for ‘territorial integrity’, and spends less on its military than EU countries like Greece and Sweden, who spend more yet have only about one fifth of the Ukrainian population. In fact Ukraine spent even less on its military than NATO member Norway which is not part of the EU, but has about one tenth of the population of Ukraine, and also has the ability to call on the US, UK and France in its ‘defence’.
    Of course the European Union and NATO are no better than Russia, but they haven’t sent their troops in to fight. As the article states, if they did we should certainly oppose it. But at the present moment in time it is Russia that is using military force to impose its will against a much weaker country. Our role is also to oppose that. As Trotsky pointed out, how can we expect people to rally to the flag of socialism if socialists are equivocal in the face of such military intervention and annexation?

    • You are right socialists should oppose unequivocally the intervention and subsequent annexation of the Crimea by the Russian state.

      The act, the uprising in Kiev was progressive, but the actors were not progressive. Describing them as backward is being charitable. Trotsky also wrote of the need for constructive criticism especially from comrades.

  8. Oilgasworker: what a gloriously naive piece of rightism. The people who “oppose unequivocally the intervention and subsequent annexation of the Crimea by the Russian state” are not socialists at all but simply people who regurgitate the propaganda of the Imperialist west and call them socialists for some strange reason. Crimea’s democratic decision to join Russia was by 97% was a self defense against a fascist led coup which brought to power a far right government containing murderous pro imperialist fascists and far rightists, 7 of them,
    Why anyone with even the remotest clue of what the socialist aspirations for a communist egalitarian future could endorse this coup by saying “The act, the uprising in Kiev was progressive, but the actors were not progressive.”

    This can only be interpreted as a hope that Imperialism (ie finance capital) would rob the semi colonial world with the assistance of nicer people that called themselves socialists but were actually agents of their own ruling class, the traditional role of social democracy.

    That is the content of your next comment “Describing them as backward is being charitable. Trotsky also wrote of the need for constructive criticism especially from comrades.”

    This monstrously reactionary government needs “constructive criticism” does it”. It is an illegal coup installed, pro imperialist and fascist infested regime. It needs smashing and swift revolutionary justice for its members.

    • On Monday the far right LDPR party of Russian neo fascist Zhirinovsky declared that it was opening offices in Sevastopol and creating branches across Crimea, following “numerous requests from non-governmental organisations and patriotic (sic) communities”. For some strange reason this seems to be being ignored by those who are shouting most loudly about fascists in Kiev.
      Worth noting also that there is no difference in their positions on the Ukraine between right wing UKIP leader Nigel Farage and those promoted by No2EU.

    • Socialists should not side with imperialism coming from either the East nor the West. It was western imperialism that encouraged Yeltsin to storm the Russian parliament and then to hand over the assets of the Russian state to an Oligarchical elite.

      Putin came to power partly on the back of propaganda that he was a break from the Yeltsin period. What happened, Putin became an oligarch himself. Although ideologically there is a difference between Putin and the other oligarchs, he knows that it takes a strong capitalist state to protect the interests of big capital which the oligarchs have a vested interest in protecting.

      Like other posters have already stated Putin fears the Russian people throwing his regime out. Western imperialism would take advantage of such an outcome, but no surprise there as capitalists are by nature opportunists.

      Socialists should always take the side of the working class of every country, of the Ukraine, of Russian, of the rest of the world, and should never allow themselves to get sucked into siding with one imperialist state against another.

      National liberation struggles are typically carried out by the backward nationalistic petite-bourgeois/bourgeois classes of society, because they are the layers of society who gain the most and most immediately from a struggle of national self determination.

      Imperialist control must first be overcome inside a particular country by a struggle for national liberation before the working class can overthrow the domination of their own ruling bourgeois. For the working class of any particular country to fight simultaneously and win against the bourgeois of their own country and the bourgeois of the imperialist state dominating their country would be a near impossible task.

      So calling for revolutionary justice to be carried out in the Ukraine against the right wing government is futile.Revolutionary justice could only be carried out by a conscious working class engaged in a revolution war with the ruling bourgeois class. But unfortunately the working class of the Ukraine are not ready.

      What Trotsky wrote in 1938, is still true now and to quote him

      ‘The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.’

      Socialist revolution in the Ukraine is not even remotely on the cards just yet. But I do question, what excuse have we got in the West, have many of us been made passive with the abundance of cheap shit to be found in discount retailers? What are we waiting for, in the west? Its been a long, long, long time Trotsky wrote those words.

      Does the revolutionary left in the west, really what revolution in their own countries, its easy and safe to call for revolutions in countries thousands of miles away?

      • “unfortunately the working class of the Ukraine are not ready”

        Quoting Trotsky to defend a stages theory of socialist revolution is a bit weird. Particularly as Ukraine has already experienced several examples of rule by the nationalist petit-bourgeoisie, including the current one.

        Just how do you imagine the Bolsheviks manage to win in Ukraine by 1921?

  9. What a refreshing change from the confusion and equivocation that prevails among the left on this question. As you point out, Liam, the two key things to see here are the mass movement in the streets (rather than the government thrown up by that movement), and the weight of history in this situation. You mention the famine of 1932, but of course there was a lot more than that as well. Trotsky points out that the Stalinist purges of the 1930s were especially savage in Ukraine. For more on the history of Great Russian chauvinism and a summary of Trotsky’s 1939 articles, you might be interested in my blog post

  10. Jim Monaghan // 31st March 2014 at 8:56 am // Reply

    I am surprised at the failure to mention the Crimean Tatars. They were probably a majority prior to deportation during WW2. They were discouraged (to say the least) from returning. They are now 12%. How the Zionists must envy a successful ethnic cleansing. Those of my vintage will remember They now face further deportations where they are being asked to vacate land they are squatting on.

  11. Jim, the stuff about the Crimea Tartars is simply far right and imperialist propaganda. They are not being forced from their homes. The single statement produced as proof of this is simply a question of settling land disputes. Like the Sarin gas and the Maidan snipers those who give their own Imperialists unquestioning allegiance and transmit their war propaganda with a leftist hue are pathetic stooges for finance capital. And lack any capacity to analyse the forces on the ground. Why on earth would Assad or the Russians do these very silly things to give the west the excuse to attack. The Gulf of Tonkin is just an incident in a long pattern or black ops. Google it.

    • Jim Monaghan // 31st March 2014 at 11:33 am // Reply

      The excuses Downing makes are so similar to the Zionists. Seriously Gerry, why not go the whole distance and revise what I assume is your position on say Hungary. Was it a CIA/Catholic/Fascist plot too. I look at the Stalinist canaille here in Ireland who have the same view.

  12. re. Jim Monaghan

    (1) The Crimean Tatars weren’t a majority of the population in 1944 and more than 250,000 have returned since 1991.
    Even if all of them currently living in Uzbekistan and Turkey came back, they’d still be in a minority.
    So, while the Stalinist deportation was obviously unjust collective punishment, the “Tatar return” issue can’t decisively alter the situation.
    Which is why they are now arguing for “cultural and territorial autonomy” (I presume, within the Russian Federation).
    This formula could easily be misused,(no mention of socialism in it) but it’s at least more realistic than people in the UK arguing for a reversal of events that happened in the 19th C, under the Tsarist Empire!

    (2) As far as I’m aware, there were no fascist organisations active in the Hungarian Uprising.
    The majority of its leadership were elements of the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party (CP) (as in Czechoslovakia in 1968)
    The small peasant party were the biggest component of the right. Josef Dudas, who carried out the most serious attacks on the AVH secret police was a former young communist and anti-fascist, during the War.

    Wheras, Svoboda in the Ukraine ARE derived from neo-fascist Social National Party, the founder of which Parubiy, is a leader of the National Security forces.
    Svoboda and the Right Sector are the descendants of the Banderaite OUN-UPA, which collaborated with the SS and joined the Ukrainian Auxillary police after 1941.
    They were actively involved in genocide of Poles and Jews and can rightly be accused of harbouring fascists today.

    While the Maidan attracted populist cross-class support, these elements policed it and ensured the organised left were kept out of it.
    Ignore this at your peril!

    • Jim Monaghan // 1st April 2014 at 11:49 am // Reply

      The Tatar position is a fallback one. They figure they cannot reverse the situation.The only reliable census dates from the 1890s where they outnumbered the Russians. I doubt that without the deportation this would change. Birth rates being normal. The deportation was the big event which changed thing. I would add that it was a brutal escalation of Tsarist policy. They are effectively denied the right of return. On Hungary, I totally agree. My point is that the tankies made and make the same points. Don’t like the governemnt in Kiev but I would add about Bandera and co, that the Grand Mufti was just as bad. I support the Palestinians totally. And their right of return. In Ireland Home Rule and autonomy was what the Irish People would accept, the Republic is waht they wanted. The Ukrainians are an oppressed nation, they fear becoming a new Belarus. Condemning them for poor choices in leaders is no excuse for avoiding this. Stalinism has destroyed the workingclass traditions. Successive anti Ukrainisation campaigns and a few famines have given Communism a bad name. Rakovsky saw the need to see Ukraine as an opressed nation and the need to adapt Bolshevism to local traditions etc.

  13. Thank you prianikoff for pointing out the false analogies and total non sequiturs in Jim’s arguments.

  14. Actually, Liam has got it all backwards. It was the political bosses of the Crimea which took advantage of the situation and forced Russia into the annexation.

    Remember, the referendum was organised before the Maidan crapola. It was originally scheduled for May but was put forward, twice, to force the issue.

    Boris Kargolitsky has the right analysis, I believe.

    See “The Crimea Annexed Russia” at by comrade Boris.

    A note to the wise. In analysis of geopolitical events, always follow the money. Who benefits and who doesn’t.

  15. Peter Francis // 8th April 2014 at 3:07 pm // Reply

    Liam is right.

    Well done, for seeing through all the propaganda we get from the BBC that the $5bn poured into Ukraine was to disrupt and overthrow the elected government to press ahead with NATO expansion. When the newspapers are fully of defeatist notions that the Crimeans and Ukrainians actually want to be part of Russia, that the far-right government in Kiev is a tool of the IMF/US, that Putin was offering a good deal for the subsidised energy whereas the EU was offering nothing, and so on- resisting all that takes real courage.

    “A defeat for Russian imperialism in Ukraine is both a victory for that mass movement and the Russian working class. Socialists in imperialist countries should see their primary responsibility as establishing links and building support for those groups in Ukrainian and Russian society which are opposing the oligarchs and organising a real movement against them.”

    It is well-known that Trotsky always said you should always ascribe imperialist motives to any power which comes into conflict with your own country.

    Lenin put it even more succinctly, “The main enemy is always abroad!”

  16. Ok then, all you “Russians are the aggressors” types. Now that NATO is beating the drums of war and are starting to roll eastward, are you going to join them and stop that Russki aggression, or are you going to act like revolutionary Marxists and begin a “NATO Out of Europe” campaign?

    You see where taking sides in an inter-imperialist conflict gets you?

    • Well, Bob, I for one support the efforts of the Ukrainian people to defend their nation against Russian aggression without giving the slightest support to the NATO/UN manoeuvers. Workers in Eastern Ukraine are already organising to do exactly that, independent of the diplomatic and military bungling by Kiev. The call by Kiev for UN peace-keepers is dangerous and politically counter-productive – but it is a bourgeois government, and so such things are to be expected. I place no confidence at all in Kiev’s (let alone NATO’s) ability to defend the Ukrainian nation from Russian aggression. But none of that changes the fact that Ukraine is the oppressed nation, and its right to self-determination should be supported, just as Lenin and the Bolsheviks supported it irrespective of the often-reactionary Ukrainian leadership.
      What’s so difficult to understand, Bob?
      Here’s a report from eastern Ukraine where the reporters actually spoke to the workers of the region, who are organising to resist Kiev-IMF-imposed austerity as well as Russian military aggression.

  17. Well James, you and your outfit can line up with NATO and American imperialism if you like. Your stance has nothing to do with either Lenin or Trotsky or the living Marxism of today.

    I suggest you should read Marxists like Boris Kagarlitsky who have no truck nor trade with either the oligarchs of Russia, the Ukraine or the western iperialists, who are leaders of political forces in the area, and who know the situation well.

    Ukraine is not a colony of anyone. It has a weak capitalist class which originated in the bureaucracy of the Ukrainian SSR, which has stolen the assets belonging to the peoples -notice I said peoples, as their are a few different nationalities within the former Ukrainian SSR.

    As for the workers, and what they want, their vote in the Crimea for a re-federation with Russia is a pretty telling evidence. They know that Ukraine is a basket case economically and politically. They made the decision to opt for Russia because it guaranteed them their pensions, better health care, better educational opportunity for their children; you know, the social benefits of a solvent state.

    You are seeing the same thing today in the Donbass. The workers are disarming the military of the illegitimate government of Kiev, they are rising up throughout the region to defend their social rights, as a class.

    However, given your political position, it follows that you and the SWP (Militant) would support the crushing of these workers to defend Ukrainian self-determination. That is, you align yourself with the oligarchs and imperialism against a section of the minority,(Russian speaking) industrial proletariat, the only force capable of leading the whole of the Ukrainian nation to its liberation through a Socialist Federation.

    Or do Jack Barnes and Mary-Alice Waters now think the Ukrainian oligarchy and its political henchmen in Svoboda and the Right Sector are the progressive class forces, historically speaking.

    (As an aside, and given your respect for democracy, did you and your cohorts get a chance to vote on Barnes and Waters pay increase to, let me think, $97,000 USD each as reported to the IRS)

    And what you are seeing in the Donbass today, you will see in sections of Moldova (Trans-Dneipster) tomorrow, and in Kiev the day after.

    You see James, Marxists don’t pick sides in inter-imperialist conflicts. It really is kind of like a golden role. I am sorry the SWP of Barnes and Waters don’t teach their people that. The SWP of Cannon, Hansen and my buddy Farrell Dobbs, as well as Nahual Moreno, Ernest Mandel, Big Bill Hayward, Leon Trotsky, VI Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and my coal mining grandfather from Wales, all did.

    • So….you seem to be saying that workers should decide their stance on Ukraine by, among other things, Jack Barnes’ salary? Right, now I see the character of your Marxist thinking. Best of luck with your solvent Russian state and its benefits.

  18. So you can’t answer the points made, James.

    Who are the aggressors in the Ukraine? How about imperialism and the oligarchs who are aggressively exploiting the workers. That is a point you can understand.

    Who is best to defend the right of self-determination amongst the Ukrainian peoples? Is it the Ukrainian bourgeoisie and its political representatives, including the fascists of Svoboda and the Right Sector? Is it American and European imperialism? Or is it the proletariat of the multi-national peoples of the Ukrainian state, whose interests ARE NOT those of a bourgeois republic, but of a revolutionary workers’ republic.

    Yesterday the Peoples Republic of Donetsk was proclaimed by the workers who have seized the administrative buildings.
    Today the workers and the populace of the Donetsk region disarmed the soldiers sent to repress them in the name of “Ukrainian self-determination”, not by armed conflict but by surrounding them in the streets and making them choose whether or not to kill their class brothers and sisters.

    Tonight we get news that the uprising has spread to Odessa where the administrative buildings have been seized in the name of the Peoples’ Republic of Odessa, and where crowds of workers have come out to show their support for the actions.

    It might interest you to know James, that the historic heart of the Donbass working class, the coal miners, has overwhelmingly come out in support of the demands of those workers making their self-determination known. They have warned the richest capitalist in the Ukraine, the mine owner, not to interfere or they will shut down the mines.

    So while the Militant and its supporters choose to defend the Ukrainian nationalists and oligarchy and its bourgeois state against active working class self-organisation, revolutionary Marxists choose to defend the social demands of the workers.

    So James, tell us again who are the real aggressors?

  19. Excerpt from an interview in “Rabkor”, with Sergei Kirichuk of “Borotba” 11th April 2014– freely translated from Russian.

    (Borotba is a Ukrainian Marxist tendency which has involved in the protests in Odessa and Kharkiv. It has been growing and recently recruited an MP from the Ukraine CP. It doesn’t support Putin’s government.

    “I would like to emphasize that this movement has two factions, two powerful currents:
    Firstly, those people people focused on Russia, who give priority to cooperation with Russia.

    The second fraction – the part we represent, is anti-oligarchic and anti-capitalist
    The latter want to overthrow the power of the oligarchic clans that run the country.
    This position has very strong support here in Kharkov and in the Kharkov region.
    Some protestors demonstrate under red flags, others under the Russian flag.
    But we don’t believe that those who wave Russian flags are “separatists”
    They want protection. They watch TV and the Ukrainian news – Russian (cable) TV is now being blocked – and they see the far-right groups, the activists who surrounded the Ukrainian parliament with guns…..
    Of course, they want someone to protect them against all this.
    Under the circumstances, we sympathise with this sentiment.
    But we are consistent with the position that Ukraine should remain united.
    In order to preserve this unity we have to respect the rights of the people of South-East and change anti-people policies of the government of Kiev. In the end this means changing the power in Kiev.

    …our demands are in the ” here and now” are–
    Autonomy for the Southeast, a referendum on autonomy, decentralization of power, an elected governor, county executives, judges and prosecutors, with the right to recall them at any time if they fail in their duties.
    The second requirement is linguistic equality, with the right for all citizens to receive education and communications in their native language.
    The third requirement is non-aligned status for Ukraine, no membership of any military-political alliances.
    With the passage of time and in the course of this struggle, the fourth requirement is removal from power of the oligarchy -the richest people running the country.
    These are the requirements set forth by the people of South-East in different forms and are repeated by all the political parties and movements involved in the protests. These are very heterogeneous, but this platform unites people in the Kharkov area.”

    • This coincides with Boris Kagarlitsky’s analysis of the development of the workers’ movement amongst the Donbass region, especially in the Donekst area. See “From Maidan to Revolution?” posted at

      Kagarlitsky puts great emphasis on the developing forms of self-organisation and the great leaps forward in class and political consciousness, a phenomenon I witnessed in Prague, 1968.

      As an aside, I attribute this to the cultural environment, where concepts like class struggle, dictatorship of the proletariat, a workers’ or peoples’ state is part of the regular discourse, much like the use of terms like “democracy” or “free markets” make up the accepted, given background of bourgeois society.

  20. The typical politically unschooled in NATO countries, with affinities for neither Marxism, socialism nor proletarian internationalism, nor apparently either for the western backed putsch-installed interim government of Svoboda and Right Sector ministers in Kiev or for military intervention on its behalf, view the unfolding situation in Ukraine with a clarity lacking to many of the so-called vanguard, as argued thus by the politically unsophisticated in numerous recent media discussions such as the following:

    “When the EU and USA overthrew the legal, elected government in Kiev and replaced it with a gang of neo-fascists, they thought themselves quite clever, but it looks like they aren’t as smart as they thought. The Ukraine would be undivided if they had left it alone but they had to try their usual tricks in an effort to surround and isolate Russia with puppet governments.
    Never mind the fact that it was wrong, illegal and evil, just consider how bloody STUPID it was! ”

    Contrast this to the wisdom of the so-called proletarian vanguard such as the supporters of the US-based Socialist Workers Party waging a struggle against Russian “imperialism” in defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, yet nonetheless professing “no confidence at all in Kiev’s (let alone NATO’s) ability to defend the Ukrainian nation from Russian aggression”.

    Apparently quite true. In the latest edition of The Militant, the SWP complains of the latest Russian aggression and provocation in the Ukraine directing the following complaint to their own government :

    “Vice President Joseph Biden flew to Kiev April 21 in a show of tepid support for the Ukrainian interim government, bringing a paltry offer of $50 million in aid earmarked ‘economic and political reform’.”

    “Tepid support” … “a paltry $ 50 million in aid” … apparently the proletarian vanguard of the SWP have little or no confidence in NATO’s ability to wage a resolute struggle against Russian “imperialism”. These miserable confusionists, having purged their organization of Trotskyists and any semblance of Trotskyism in the 1980s, still claim Trotsky’s authority in sowing confusion with respect to the Ukraine conflict, labelling a neo-fascist putsch as some sort of proletarian upsurge, soliciting support for such regime and urging their own imperialism to wage a resolute struggle against Russian aggression.

    Apparently the need to wage a resolute struggle in defense of the Ukrainian “revolution”, its sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian intervention, is a central theme of their current election campaign in Minnesota:

    “Ukraine is an example of what is open to the working class,”…“The Ukrainian struggle is the biggest working-class upsurge since the 1989-90 collapse of the Stalinist governments,” claims the Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor of Minnesota.

    Nor are contributions of groups claiming the legacy of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International much better. We have the above contribution by the British group denouncing Russian imperialism. The NPA in France, following its liquidationnist trajectory yet still maintaining some form of affiliation to this “International”, wages a campaign denouncing Russian intervention and Russian territorial ambition, denouncing Russian “separatists” and ethnic nationalists in the East, not limiting such denunciation to Russian annexation, whether supported or not by the local populace, but even to constitutional proposals for greater autonomy within a Ukrainian federation from minority cultural groups. All the while they struggle to portray some revolutionary or progressive content within a fascist led mass movement in the Maidan and display their anti-imperialism by publishing the anti-war, anti-Putin declarations of their Russian supporters.

    Western imperialism has its own propaganda outlets to carry the anti-Russian campaign. Same is being met with a great deal of skepticism by the politically untutored in Western countries. Apparently the fragments of the international Trotskyist movement have nothing better to do than to sow confusion over what interests are involved, or lend their voices to the propaganda campaign of western imperialism…

  21. Reuters news agency advises us in an article April 30, “Ukraine crisis affects start of EU talks with Cuba” that :

    “The European Union told Cuba on Wednesday it disagreed with its support of Russia in the Ukraine crisis as the dispute cast a shadow over talks aimed at improving relations between the communist-run island and European countries.”

    The article continues:

    “Speaking hours before the first meeting, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez publicly criticized the European Union and the United States for imposing sanctions on a number of Russian officials.”

    ” ‘Cuba energetically rejects the imposition of sanctions against Russia, knowing that those who impose them are the same governments that have launched wars of conquests that intervene in the internal affairs of sovereign countries and provoke the destabilization of governments that don’t go along with their interests of domination,’ Rodriguez said in an appearance with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was in Havana.”

    It is indeed curious that the chief publicist and propagandist for the policies of the Cuban government worldwide, the confusionist US based Socialist Workers party, takes a completely opposite stance from that of the Cuban government with respect to the Ukraine crisis, waging a concerted unilateral campaign against Russian “imperialism” and aggression, making it a key platform in its own electoral campaign and directing complaints to its own imperialist rulers with respect to their “tepid” support and “paltry” financial contributions to the interim, powerless and unable to govern, government of Ukraine, installed by a neo-fascist coup backed by western imperialism and recognized as such by even the current Cuban regime the SWP claims to support.

    • You give the SWP (US) a false description that they have never claimed for themselves (“chief publicist and propagandist for the policies of the Cuban government”), then you call them to account for not behaving as if your description were true! Poor Rene! Your ‘confusionism’ is in your own head.

      • It is completely unprincipled for a “socialist” organization to be waging a unilateral propaganda campaign against “Russian imperialism” all the while providing underhanded support to the foreign policy of its own imperialism and complaining that such policy is not aggressive enough in its stance against “Russian imperialism”.

        It’s as if the SWP, in the midst of World War II, had headlines blaring in The Militant denouncing Japanese atrocities, Japanese aggression and Japanese imperialism while complaining that Roosevelt was not aggressive enough in defending China, all the while remaining silent on the war aims of US, British or French imperialism against the background of mass internment of American or Canadian citizens of Japanese origin or for instance the repression and mass arrest of anti-war protesters in Quebec during this period.

        Now how would you characterize such organization?

        • I would characterise it as a figment of your own fevered imagination. I have been following The Militant’s Ukraine coverage very closely, because their reporters actually speak to workers in all parts of Ukraine – unlike virtually all others, both the ordinary bourgeois press and the ‘left’. The Militant very clearly opposes US sanctions on Russia, it opposes the IMF ‘aid’ packages which aim to entangle Ukraine even deeper in debt and which are tied to agreement by Kiev to impose further anti-working class austerity measures, and it demands US Hands off Ukraine. From memory, I don’t think you will find a single instance in which The Militant uses the term “Russian imperialism,” which you place in quotes as though it is a direct quote.
          One editorial among many, for example:

          An example of reporting on workers opinions:

  22. Bob Lyons // 1st May 2014 at 5:24 pm // Reply

    Boris Kagarlitsky, the Russian Marxist and Director of the Institute for Globalisation Studies, whose works often appear in the website of International Viewpoint, has written a very long analysis of events in the Donbass, centering on the importance of the class struggle as the motive force for what is happening there.

    It is a brilliant analysis, and should be read and understood by the comrades of not only Socialist Resistance, but the other organisations with which it is trying to merge.

    Comrade Kagarlitsky is scathing in his opinion of those in the European and America left who have fallen over themselves in trying to portray the revolt of the petty bourgeois in the Maidan, completely under the political control of the nationalists and fascists, as some sort of incipient revolution, while at the same time trying to portray the mass movement in the Donbass, the heartland of the Ukrainian working class, as some sort of manipulated string of events behind which lies the hand of the KGB.

    Here is what Kagarlitsky has to say about it:

    ” The uncritical support shown by intellectuals for the Maidan is appalling not only because it forces them into a morally catstrophic position. Much worse is the fact that once they have got themselves onto these rails, they find it very difficult to get off. Taking this position isolates the intellectuals not just from the masses who have risen up in genuine revolutionary protest in south-eastern Ukraine, but also from the large numbers of supporters and activists of the Maidan who yesterday were feeling doubts, today are disillusioned, and tomorrow will join in the protests, perhaps in the first ranks. Ordinary people can change their views, even to the direct opposite, relatively easily and without shame. But not intellectuals. Ordinary people are always able to say simply, “They deceived me.” Intellectuals have to confess: “I deceived people.”

    I know it will be hard for comrades McUaid, Thornett and all to say ‘We were wrong’, but it is clear from events that their position is untenable. It is clear from the developments at both a local, national and international geo-political level that they are wrong.

    The question is, do they have the requisite courage to say: “We made a mistake. We were wrong. The Russians are not the aggressors”?

  23. prianikoff // 2nd May 2014 at 8:38 am // Reply

    Boris Kagarlitsky’s latest article is indeed excellent.
    This Morning, May 2nd, the tankies in Kiev launched their predicted assault on Slaviansk, which is now being actively resisted.
    The Kiev government has also reintroduced conscription.
    Yet there are numerous reports of unrest and desertion amongst the troops, who were supposed to be demobilised by April 25th, many haven’t been paid and are underfed.
    It’s likely that this move was precipitated by pressure from the Right Sector and with the involvement of their supporters.
    Hopefully, this assault will fall apart due to mass resistance and the “Donetsk Peoples Republic” will be able to develop its demands and extend its support to Kharkov.
    The entry of Russian troops would not only be a mistake, but could stifle the development of independent working class demands.

  24. prianikoff // 2nd May 2014 at 10:27 am // Reply

    This statement was issued on Borotba’s web site,, this morning

    freely translated from Russian)

    “On the night of May 2nd the Kiev ‘junta’ ordered neo-Nazi forces and units of the security service of Ukraine to attack rebels in the town of Slavyansk.

    Beforehand, in many cities, there have been arrests of anti-Government activists.
    The military leadership is openly declaring that they are seeking to arrest the activists of civil organizations and the people’s movement in the South-East.
    … this provocation was organized by neo-Nazi groups, extreme right-wing football hooligans and provocateurs loyal to the ‘junta’.

    Using troops from the South-Eastern units of the regular army, has not produced the expected results, so the government has formed nationalist divisions, platoons and battalions, from previously marginalized neo-Nazi groups and organisations.

    In parallel, the junta is carrying out an campaign of hysteria and chauvinism in the national media, completely distorting everything that is happening in the South-East.

    The Kiev junta sees no way out of the crisis other than brutal repression and outright terror.

    We affirm that any attempt to organise reprisals against our comrades will cause widespread resentment amongst the people of the South-East, who are willing to fight for their democratic rights.

    Furthermore, a policy of destructive neoliberal reforms and confrontation in our society, by an anti-human regime, would result in a conflict involving “peacekeeping” forces that will turn our once peaceful country in a second Yugoslavia, torn apart by ethnic slaughter, spread by pro-Western military and political Governors.


  25. sigesige00 // 3rd May 2014 at 12:48 pm // Reply

    This article clearly exposes the degeneration of the USFI into an overtly counter-revolutionary pro-imperialist neo-conservative outfit under the leadership of Mister Professor Gilbert Achcar. Now the USFI is clearly working for Western imperialism, like Achcar supported the Western imperialist attack on Libya. I strongly urge those “Trotskyists” to be honest–“We are no longer communists at all, but the ‘left’ apologists for EU imperialism.”

    • Do you have any idea what a record played backwards sounds like?

    • Bob Lyons // 3rd May 2014 at 2:58 pm // Reply

      Yours is the kind of abstracted analysis one would expect from a rote-sectarian like you find in the ICFI or some sections of the Morenist movements.

      I suspect the position that Thornett and Co. have taken has more to do with pandering to the state-caps of the ISN or 21RS or ACI in the merger discussions. They will, by force of reality, change their position, which is an untenable one.

  26. SR’s position is disgraceful. After the Odessa massacre the pro-Kiev left has blood on its hands.

    FWIW, I’ve resigned from the SurrIV project in protest:

    Jay Blackwood

4 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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