War Games — Ukraine as the Focus of Imperialist Conflict

Across the world events are following one another thick and fast. Within a few days, the power struggle in Ukraine has become an explosive international conflict. The world stands on the edge of one of the greatest and most risky geopolitical disputes since the end of the Cold War. A hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War, the so-called seminal catastrophe of the 20th Century, there are many signs that the "great game“ of the big powers for zones of authority and influence is once more resulting in a fateful dynamic.

Ukraine — Impoverished and the Subject of Brutal Struggles

Because of its geographically strategic position, Ukraine, a country of several ethnicities, has always been vigorously fought over by the great powers. As a setting for the First and Second World Wars, the country looks back upon a history of sorrow. The regional and socio-cultural differences currently coming to light have deep roots. With the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the country shifted right back into the focus of imperialist power politics. The question of the economic and political orientation of Ukraine became more urgent. Ostensibly, the "process of transformation to democracy“ was completed in Ukraine as elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The old and new elites from the state and party apparatus sunk their claws into the best parts of the economy, staked their claims among themselves and created an elaborate system of nepotism and corruption. These years of transition were marked by a rapid industrial decline. GDP collapsed by 60%. Only in 1999 were the production levels of 1989 regained. The years 2000-7 were a brief period of economic recovery. But the growth rates of around 7% reached at that time were essentially based on the boom in the price of raw materials in general at that time, and, in particular, on the elevated world market price for steel (Ukraine’s most important export). When the speculative bubble burst in 2007-8, the cherished dream of both Liberals and Nationalists for Ukrainian economic sovereignty was dead. The full force of the crisis struck the country. Inflation rose from 12.8% (2007) to 25.2% (2008), while industrial production slumped by 34% and state indebtedness reached astronomical levels. It was only through billions of IMF credits linked to radical demands for budget cuts, that the total economic collapse of the country was avoided, at least in the short run. The costs, as always, were paid by the working class. Today, over 30% of the population exists on an income below subsistence level. This especially affects the old. 80% of pensioners have to get by on the minimum monthly pension of €81, which, as the proverb has it, is neither enough for life nor death. Ukraine has exceptionally low-wages, and precisely for this reason, that it is of interest to foreign investors as a long-term sweatshop. With an average wage of just €300 a month and a minimum wage of about €110, the wages level is three times lower than in Poland.

The subsidies for rent and energy costs, currently under negotiation with the EU, are virtually the last barriers against the total impoverishment of millions of people. Moreover, there are clear wage and income differentials between the town and the country, and between the different regions of the country. The chasm between the overwhelmingly agricultural West and the industrialised East of the country (like, for example, the Donetsk region) are particularly acute. All this encourages regionalist tendencies, sharpening already traditional socio-economic differences and deepening the divisions in the working class. The increasing impoverishment and immiseration of the population contrasts with the wealth and unrestricted power of the oligarchs. The most powerful 50 oligarchs control over two thirds of the wealth. The majority of this fortune is parked in tax havens abroad. But without the oligarch clans virtually nothing happens in Ukrainian politics. They have always known how to assert and force through their interests against the great majority of the population. On the question of the direction of foreign policy, however, their opinions vary according to their business interests. While those oligarchs in the energy sector bet on Russia, others promise themselves big profits through connection to the EU. These conflicts between the clans have been decisive in determining the political events in the Ukraine in recent years, leading to the construction of hotch-potch governments and to growing political instability.

Between Brussels and Moscow: Yanukovich Walking on Eggshells

For a while it seemed as if the now-sacked President, Yanukovich, could at least contain the divergent interests of these oligarchs. Yanukovich is often depicted as especially philo-Russian. That is, however, only true is so far as the skilled petty criminal Yanukovich was a political creation of the pro-Russian oligarch Rinat Achmetov. In foreign policy terms, Yanukovich continually tried to balance between the EU and Moscow. This was based on the calculation of how to transform Ukraine’s geo-strategic position as the most important transport route for the delivery of oil and natural gas from East to West into hard cash. A policy which finally failed, or rather had to fail. The manoeuvring between signing the association treaty with the EU and the renegotiation of the gas agreements with Russia only resulted in increasing the pressure from both sides. While Russia threatened to turn off the gas tap and sporadically waged a proper trade war against Ukraine, the EU insisted on a rigid implementation of the requirements for the IMF’s rescue package. Among these requirements were the demand for a wage-freeze, the reduction of electricity subsidies, drastic cuts in public spending as well as the raising of gas and energy prices by 40%. Demands which, in an already impoverished country like Ukraine, would lead to immiseration for millions of people. Yanukovich was, and is, anything but a philanthropist. During his time in power there has been a series of drastic cuts in social security. Nevertheless, he didn’t feel he was in the position, as far as domestic politics was concerned, to carry out the programme of cuts to the degree demanded by the EU, and therefore found himself in a more and more complicated situation. While the external debt doubled to $75 billion, Ukraine’s gold reserves melted from $37 billion to $15 billion. The position of an economically viable buffer state between Russia and the EU became more and more untenable. This was the moment Putin made a skilful move and held out the prospect of urgently needed credits and favourable gas deliveries to Ukraine. In the termination of the association treaty with the EU, Moscow achieved an important win on points. However, the answer from Brussels and Washington was not long in coming.

The Maidan

Because of the brutal behaviour of the police, the initially very unspectacular protests against the termination of the EU Association Agreement developed a particular dynamic. Outrage over the repression, social dissatisfaction and a widespread distrust of the corrupt political elites came together in a broad social protest movement. The paradox was, however, that these elements were not, at first, politically articulated, or rather, could not be politically articulated on the Maidan. Social demands played virtually no role in the movement. Nor did the working class intervene in the events as an independent and organised force. Instead, the representatives of the pro-Western opposition parties dominated the political stage. In doing this they could count on massive financial support from the EU and the USA. According to the US State Secretary Nuland’s statement, the US government has invested around $5bn since 1991 in a “prosperous and democratic Ukraineˮ(1) The corresponding figure for the EU is not yet available. Through the well-publicised solidarity visits of high-ranking EU representatives and politicians, such as for example, the US Senator John McCain, the EU Representative for Foreign Affairs or the German Euro-politicians Elmar Brok (CDU) and Rebecca Harms (Greens), the whole affair took on an international dimension, or, indeed, a geo-political one. In this way, the escalation on the Maidan continually grew. This lead to a further definitive moment on the Maidan: the massive arrival of fascist forces like the “Svobodaˮ Party and organised para-military groups of the “Right Sectorˮ. Their arrival was based on long and systematic preparatory work. The fascists found, and still find in the Ukraine, an especially fertile ground in which they can capitalise on the frustration and a lack of prospects of the population. The displacement to the Right of political discourse, the rehabilitation and idealisation of the Ukrainian Fascist leader Stepan Bandera, who was posthumously awarded the honour “Hero of the Ukraineˮ by the “Orangeˮ government of President Yushschenko on 22 January 2010, gives the Fascists additional points of contact. Rightist and ultra-nationalist positions are wide-spread in Ukraine’s political establishment. It is not by chance that the boxer Vitali Klitschko’s Party, UDAR, built up and financed by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which is close to the CDU, has no problem with entering an official alliance with the Fascist “Svobodaˮ. But the Fascists do not just have the political wind behind them, but, above all, a good organisational and financial infrastructure. Thus, they were able to pay for their supporters’ bus trips and to give them a daily cash allowance, so they could intimidate and drive out smaller groups, and to paint themselves as “defenders of the movement against the police forces, by using their storm troopers experienced in street-fighting. With the fatal shootings on the Maidan, a degree of escalation was reached which finally led to a turning point. Today, it is still not clear who exactly was behind the shootings. In fact, however, at this point it was already becoming clearer and clearer that Yanukovich was no longer capable of getting a grip on the situation. Because of this, he was less and less use to the oligarchs who had supported him. As they distanced themselves from him, the EU, and primarily the German government, began a diplomatic offensive to make capital out of the situation, under the pretext of “political de-escalationˮ.

Oligarchs, Fascists and Rotten Oranges: a Rada by the Grace of Merkel

The outcome of these efforts was the construction of the so-called “transition government“ under Arseniy Yatsenyuk, an acolyte of the millionaire oligarch Yulia Tymoshenko. In terms of domestic politics, the government reshuffle was a minor readjustment in the oligarchs‘ complex power structure. The central string-pullers now count among their number, alongside the “gas princess“ Yulia Tymoshenko, the steel magnate Sergei Taruta, the chocolate king Petro Poroshenko, the media mogul Victor Pinchuk, as well as Igor Kolomoisky, who, together with Gennadi Bogolyubov, controls the biggest bank in the country, and, with an estimated fortune of $6.5bn, is the fourth richest Ukrainian. Rinat Akhmetov too, with $11bn, one of the richest men of the Ukraine and with the control of half the steel and coal production, as well as of power generation, made a quick U-turn: “The use of violence and lawlessness from outside is unacceptable“, Akhmetov declared. His conglomerate “with 300,000 employees, which represents Ukraine from West to East and from North to Southˮ would do everything to maintain the integrity of the country(2). This made it clear that it was worthwhile for the EU to desist from applying sanctions against him.

The fact that, for the first time since 1945, open fascists were sitting in a government recognised and protected by the EU, is, however, a new qualitative step. Through their massive presence on the Maidan, the fascists have become a decisive political force in Ukraine. They have imposed several ministers and control important parts of the state and security apparatus. This encourages their foot soldiers to act violently against other political forces and to create a real atmosphere of a pogrom. In this climate of fear, Jewish aid organisations have had to supply emergency help to Jews living in Ukraine(3). A few rabbis have called upon their congregations to leave Kiev(4). As well as banning Russian as a second official language, the fascists in the Rada have brought forward a proposal to do away with the article in the Ukrainian penal code which punishes the denial of the crimes of fascism. All of these measures have put the Russian-speaking parts of the country in the East of Ukraine into a state of alarm.

These fears are not entirely unfounded. Svoboda, founded in 1991 as a “social national party“, has never made its views a secret. One of their central aims is the project for an “ethnically pure Great Ukraine“. This entails the abolition of Crimean autonomy or the integration of Crimea into the Ukrainian state, the “liquidation of Bolshevik symbolismˮ, the entry of Ukraine into NATO and restoring Ukraine’s status as a nuclear power. “To create a truly Ukrainian Ukraine in the cities of the East and South…we will need to abolish parliamentarism, ban all political parties, nationalise the entire industry, all media, prohibit the importation of any literature to Ukraine from Russia...completely replace the leaders of the civil service, education management, military (especially in the East), physically liquidate all Russian-speaking intellectuals and all Ukrainophobes (quickly, without a trial. Identifyinging Ukrainophobes can be done here by any member of Svoboda), execute all members of the anti-Ukrainian political parties....”, as a statement on the Party’s official forum put it in 2010(5). Alongside the honouring of the fascist leader Stepan Bandera, leading Party members like to parade in SS uniform(6). In April 2013, the Svoboda in Lvov marched in memory of the SS division Galicia. Following this, former SS men were given medals in Lvov City Hall. Nevertheless, for the EU ambassador in Ukraine, the Party is “a partner of equal value for discussions with the EUˮ(7).

The German government too has no fear of contact with Svoboda: Svoboda may be a right-popularist and nationalist party, which partly represents extreme right positions, but, in its parliamentary work, no obvious extreme right tendencies are to be seen, the government replied to a parliamentary question(8). Elmar Brok, the chair of the European Parliament’s Committee for Foreign Affairs expressed similar views(9). Svoboda is not a party he loves, but one that made the overthrow of Yanukovich possible, declared the CDU politician, who himself forcefully intervened on the Maidan stage, talking to the news magazine programme Panorama: “As long as it is guaranteed that this Party intervenes for a lawful state and makes democracy in Ukraine possible“, everything is in order. “This is, I believe, what is decisive, not past utterances(10). Against the background of the change of course towards a “more determined foreign policy“, proclaimed by Bundespresident Gauck, the German media landscape has been full of praise for the “German diplomatic offensive“ carried out in Kiev. The Bundesrepublik in the figure of the Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has “lived up to its leading role in Europe“, the conservative opinion-maker Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) rejoiced. Without the “dogged work of persuasion by the Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and Poland, Ukraine“ would have “come closer and closer to the chasm of open civil war. The Americans, too, could see thisˮ(11). According to information from the German Foreign Office, there were good strategic motives for this “dogged work of persuasionˮ: “Ukraine has a series of locational advantages: with around 45.6m. inhabitants, a relatively large internal market, a few highly-developed niche sectors, such as aeroplane and rocket construction, geographic proximity to market outlets in the EU and Eastern Europe, a high degree of pent-up demand for consumer and modernisation investments, good natural preconditions for agriculture as well as a comparatively low wage levels in conjunction with a basically highly educated workforce.ˮ(12) More bluntly and clearly understandable even to the stupidest, the online portal of Tagesschau summed up German interests in a nutshell: Ukraine is also “of military interestˮ for Russia and the EU, as the “Russian Black Sea Fleet lies at anchor in Crimeaˮ. As the second biggest European state by area (after Russia), it is the “grain storeˮ of Europe, and, in addition, an “important part of the Russian project for an Eurasian Unionˮ. By tying down Ukraine to the framework of the planned Free Trade Treaty, the Europeans could, however, “broaden their market outlets and achieve easier access to Ukraine‘s raw materials and natural resourcesˮ.(13) This evokes memories of traditional German expansionist strategies. Through the example of an orange, which from today’s perspective is very appropriate, the then mastermind of the [German] Foreign Office, Paul Rohrbach (1869-1956), explained the aims of the “Ostpolitikˮ aimed at Russia in the following terms: “Like this fruit consisting of individual elements which are easily separated from one another, the Russian Empire consists of differing pieces: Baltic provinces, Ukraine, Poland and so onˮ. If it happened that these pieces were successfully “detached from one another and given a certain autonomyˮ, it would be “easy to prepare the end of the Great Russian Empireˮ.(14) However, today these kinds of “decomposition theoriesˮ have hit a real snag. The detached orange segment is pretty rotten. Ukraine is economically exhausted and actually faces bankruptcy. Hence, the drive to expand to the East is showing itself to be as risky as it is costly. In addition, it still remains to be proven that the “leading European powerˮ, Germany, has not been sold a pup, when it put its conflict with Russia on a new upwards trajectory.

The Struggle for Eurasia — the Great Game Hots Up

The appearance of the various “self-defence forces” and Cossack formations which Moscow set in action in Crimea may be more or less original, but there was little need for prompting to bring a reaction in South-Eastern regions of Ukraine. The events in Kiev have brought tensions and separatist aspirations to the boil. With a diffuse mixture of propaganda consisting of “anti-fascist” phraseology, Soviet nostalgia and Great Russian nationalism, Moscow is attempting to make this mood even hotter, and to put it onto the offensive. Crimea has a particularly high value as a nationalist symbol. Moreover it is of great strategic interest. The loss of Crimea and Sevastopol as a support point for the fleet would decisively limit Russia’s room for manoeuvre in the Mediterranean and the Caucasus region. Even in 2008, during the Georgia war, Crimea was the object of vigorous conflicts when the then pro-Western Ukrainian President Yushchenko threatened not to renew the treaty governing the stationing of the Russian Black Sea fleet. However, this is about much more than Crimea. The present crisis is no less than the culmination point of a long series of inter-imperialist conflicts.

We are aware that a united Germany’s NATO membership throws up complicated questions. For us, however, one thing is sure: NATO will not extend itself towards the East. [...] for the rest, as concerns the non-extension of NATO, this generally holds completely.

This was according to Genscher, the then German Foreign Minister on giving assurances to Shevardnadze, the Soviet negotiator at the time, on the fringe of the conference of the “Two Plus Four” Treaty. This was recorded in a minute on 10 February 1990 which was long kept secret (15). In fact, the opposite has happened. The expansion of NATO towards the East has been systematically driven onwards. In 1999 Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary assumed NATO membership. Five years later the Baltic Republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia followed, together with Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia. In 2009, Albania and Croatia joined the Western military league. The plans for a US missile defence umbrella in Europe, the wars in Iraq, the conflict over Syria and the multicoloured spectacle of revolutions like Georgia’s “Rose Revolution” in 2003, Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” in 2004 and Kyrgystan’s “Tulip Revolution” in 2005 ensured additional cause for conflict. Russia reacted to this encirclement with the project for a “Eurasian Union”. Following the same pattern as the EU, the Kremlin planned to build a common economic bloc which would include Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. The former US Foreign Minister Hillary Clinton described this project, not without reason, as the “re-creation of the Soviet Union”. With the creation of the "Eurasian Union” a new force, with a security and military policy dominated by Russia, would emerge between China and the “Western World”. Not least because of its geo-strategic control of important raw materials and energy routes a powerful counterweight to the USA and the EU would have grown up. Already, during the Chechen Wars Moscow has proved its determination to defend its external borders with all its force in the strategically important Caucasus region. Following the Georgian war in 2008 Western ambitions received a clear rebuff while important points have been scored against the USA in the diplomatic tug-of-war over Syria. However, with the Ukrainian question, which plays a key role in plans for a future “Eurasian Union”, we are down to the nitty-gritty. According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, the éminence grise of US geopolitics, in his book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geo-strategic Imperatives, without Ukraine Russia is no longer a Eurasian power. According to him, its mere existence as an independent state contributes to the transformation of Russia. Ukraine is seen as a geopolitical pivot and explicitly in the present situation a resolute performance from the West is required. In order to be prepared for all cases, NATO should implement its emergency plans and station more troops in Central Europe(16). “If the EU is serious about playing a role in the world, it has to start here”, Brzezinski, again(17). The strategic aim of this policy can be summed up in a simple formula: who rules Eurasia, rules the World. For this reason, Russia’s influence must be driven back and, in the end, broken. Russia, logically, will not stand by and let this happen. The loss of Ukraine would be an enormous setback for its own Great Power ambitions. Moscow will therefore utilise all the means of power politics to prevent Ukraine’s total integration into the West with NATO membership, and/or to split off further Southern and Eastern Ukrainian regions alongside Crimea.

Fairly Best Friends: the Geopolitical Dynamic of the Crisis

As they consider Russia’s hardnosed attitude, differences are appearing between the EU and the USA. While the USA and the East European NATO states of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia insist on tougher action against Russia, the German government is set on a more moderate line. This is because — but not only because — of the German efforts to obtain and use “diplomatic elbow room”. Germany obtains 40% of its natural gas and 35% of its oil from Russia. The volume of German companies investment in Russia amounts to $22bn. There is therefore something at risk in this game. The calculation about completing the tying of Ukraine to the West as quickly and noiselessly as possible has turned out to be a fatal and erroneous belief. For this reason, they are trying to keep the costs as low as possible and to work in the role of broker in the process of gaining political territory. At the same time, they have to admit that, in the light of the facts they have themselves created in Kiev, you cannot wash the Russian bear’s pelt without making him wet. “Stage three was always in my mind. Today has made this decision more firm”, declared Chancellor Merkel after the EU extraordinary summit of 6 March had decided on a multistage sanctions plan against Moscow for the first time since the end of the Cold War(18). Meanwhile the USA is in a position to remain indifferent to the economic and political concerns of the EU, and those of Germany in particular. It is not particularly entwined with Russia, either in energy politics or economically and, after its setbacks in the Syrian conflict and its problems with the NSA affair, the US now sees the chance to make good lost terrain. The ambiguity and the fragile constellations of interests of the Western community of states only makes the situation more dangerous. The fact that China has recently ramped up its military budget by a gigantic €95bn bears witness to the explosiveness of the current geopolitical dynamic of crisis(19). Until now, China has expressed itself in rather restrained and restraining terms. From a long-term view, however, the binding of Ukraine to the West will also affect Beijing’s important economic and strategic interests. China has invested billions in projects in Ukraine and, in the framework of the "Shanghai Cooperation Organisation”, it is pursuing a policy of close economic and military cooperation with Russia in order to push back the USA’s influence in Central Asia. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that Beijing will take on a neutral role in the case of a further worsening of the conflict.

There is No "Right Side” in Imperialist War

The present wrangling over “sanctions”, “diplomatic solutions” and “military reactions” is leading to a dangerous game. A game which is being played for high stakes and with shifting alliances. A game where everyone is next in line to suffer. The slogans “territorial integrity”, “national self-determination”, and “state sovereignty” represent (as always) only the ideological musical accompaniment to the game. The rhythm is provided by the crisis which, despite all the official statements, is growing and has now brought the struggle of our rulers over zones of power and influence to a head. The present mess is thus not simply the work of a few states or misguided politicians, but “the product of a particular stage of ripeness in the world development of capital, an innately international condition, an indivisible whole, that is recognisable only in all its relations, and from which no nation can hold aloof at will.” (Rosa Luxemburg The Junius Pamphlet). Therefore, it would be fatal to think that a “right side” can be chosen or that we can hope for a “lesser evil”. If would-be “lefts” choose sides in the Ukrainian game of power poker, and opt according to taste for “the processes of democracy from below” on the Maidan, or the "right of national self-determination” or the supposed "anti-fascist” thrust of Putin’s policy, then they only show once again that they are part of the problem. This kind of "tactical positioning” is tightly intertwined with our rulers’ aims and contributes to the ideological reinforcement of present conditions. The defence of the “nation” and “Motherland” always and everywhere means the defence of capitalism, a social system which drives humanity ever further into chaos, war and barbarism. There is no nationalism that is in any way “progressive” or “healthy”. Nationalism may take on the most varied forms, but it always and everywhere leads to identification with one’s own exploiters. The only way out of the dilemma is through liberating oneself from “the tutelage of the bourgeoisie, as expressed in the influence of nationalist ideology” (Rosa Luxemburg op cit), not giving a damn about the nation and location, and taking up the struggle for one’s own interests. Strikes and social movements which escape from the state and unions’ control, have always been the only realistic way to oppose war. This demands an organised political framework, the construction of an international and internationalist communist organisation which is in a position to shine a light on a perspective beyond capitalism’s deadly spiral of crisis and war. This will not be easy. However, in face of the unchained destructive powers of capitalism there is no other alternative. “The madness will cease and the bloody demons of hell will vanish only when workers [...] finally awake from their stupor, extend to each other a brotherly hand, and drown out the bestial chorus of imperialist war-mongers and the shrill cry of capitalist hyenas with labour’s old and mighty battle cry: Proletarians of all lands, unite!”, Rosa Luxemburg wrote in The Junius Pamphlet nearly 100 years ago in the midst of the turmoil of the imperialist World War. Words which, especially today, are still appropriate. (JW)

(1) On this, see state.gov

(2) n-tv.de

(3) timesofisrael.com

(4) jewishpress.com

(5) wsws.org

(6) Report of the Russian TV station Rossiya 1: youtube.com

Siehe auch: worldjewishcongress.org

(7) Interview in Focus, 21 December 2013

(8) dip21.bundestag.de

(9) Elmar Brok can look back on a rapid rise. In 2007 he was even named “Pipe-smoker of the Year”. The Euro-politician has already been involved in Ukraine for a long time and intervened for the liberation of Timoshenko. His dedication to democracy and human rights in Kiev is combined with visits to brothels, and making disparaging comments about Ukrainian women. The FEMEN group object to his behaviour: femen.org . According to Brok FEMEN have just been taken in by a Ukrainian government disinformation campaign. At any rate, Brok is a expert on disinformation campaigns. He used his good contacts with the publisher of FAZ, Günther Nonnenmacher, to silence a journalist who filed critical reports about him. “The Newspaper for Germany”, of course, promptly denied this.

(10) daserste.ndr.de

(11) faz.net

(12) auswaertigesamt.de

(13) tagesschau.de

(14) Walter Mogk: Paul Rohrbach und das “Größere Deutschland”. Ethischer Imperialismus im Wilhelminischen Zeitalter (Paul Rohrbach and "Greater Germany”: Ethnic Imperialism in the Age of Wilhelm), München 1972

(15) spiegel.de

(16) washingtonpost.com

(17) huffingtonpost.com

(18) Berliner Zeitung 7

(19) ​www.​eurasischesmagazin.​de

Friday, March 21, 2014


Following its FIRST OF MAY 2014 statement, the international-communist-party has issued a statement 'The tfhreat of war in Ukraine - The working class in Ukraine doesn't need to decide between Russia and Europe but must instead fight for its own interests, and prepare for the international anti-capitalist revolution of tomorrow.'


March/April 2014

On the fringe of the centenary of WWI




The historical collapse of a model of management of the capitalist social relation, the one that had developed among others in Eastern Europe during several decades of coun-terrevolution, led to the dissolution and the disappearance of the USSR as an imperialist bloc. Since then, the proletariat in this region, as everywhere else in the world, had to undergo numerous new attacks against its survival conditions, but at the same time it also burned a certain number of illusions fuelled by the Western propaganda praising to the skies ad nauseam another model of management of capitalism considered to be more “human”, more “free”. This so much vaunted “world of peace and harmony”, this new Eden promised to the “useful idiots” at the time of the fall of the iron curtain that sealed the end of a “bipolarized world”, all these illusions get more and more smashed.

Rumours of war resound noisily in Europe again, cannons are loaded, fighter-bombers are packed with murderous bullets and bombs, missiles point their nuclear warheads at their future objectives: after wars that caused unrest locally and according to circumstances in Yugoslavia, Georgia, Chechnya, Dagestan, Ossetia etc. during this last quarter of century, preconditions for a new war have been intensively maturing in the Ukraine now, a war much more extensive and with unimaginable international effects.

Since four months the Ukraine has been shaken by an im-portant unrest emerging from the fertile soil of underlying contradictions that determine any class society and their concrete expressions: starvation wages, restructuring, layoffs, privatizations, cuts in social security that was a hangover from “the socialist era” etc. Of course these social movements (like all the struggles that develop nowadays) yet carry the seal of the lack of rupture with the managers of the social relation, as well as with their substitutes to come. Their political expression and consciousness seem to be so weak and false... But revolutionaries cannot just brush off the content of the events in a disdainful and patronizing manner.

Current struggles are framed and contained by various bourgeois factions: partisans of Euro-American “liberal” model, ultranationalists, and even far-right groups, or fascist ones… We were daily confronted with disgusting processions with false flags, flags of Western imperialist super-powers, Ukrainian national flags or even fascist ensigns... But let’s say that it’s not really very different from more “classical” and “traditional” bourgeois containments by Social Democrats who are professionals in the pacification of our struggles: unionists, leftists, Stalinists, worshippers of “direct democracy” and radical Islamists (for our proletarian brothers and sisters who struggle in areas with “pre-dominantly Muslim population” and more particularly since the emergence of the “Arab spring”)…

Obviously the proletariat is yet far from emerging as a revo-lutionary force capable to affirm its historical program and its perspectives of overthrowing the capitalist social relation. Proletarians take to the street, they occupy squares, they besiege governmental buildings, they clash with repressive forces, they build barricades, they refuse pacifying propositions of opposition parties’ charlatans, they put forward (even “clumsily”) the question of self-defence and arming of the movement, they loot police’s weaponries etc. In spite of all that they don’t yet affirm themselves as a class in most cases and therefore as an organized and leading force, as an advanced part(y) of the proletariat…

Despite the bourgeois nature of various expressions and materializations issuing from the social movements, what the class of capitalists fears the most nowadays is an extension of the unrest to very metropolises of World’s super-powers. What would happen if similar events broke out in the Federation of Russia, Britain, USA or China? Capitalists would prefer to avoid, to say the least, this kind of “catastrophe” for the durability of their social dictatorship and they thus try to preventively channel all this whirlpool energy, all this social maelstrom into the ruts of war. And for this to be done, the Ukraine could become an ideal ground for the mobilization of war forces. And according to circumstances, the fate of the “Autonomous Republic of Crimea”, which has just been de facto annexed by the Federation of Russia, or even the conquest of the Eastern regions of Ukraine (Donetsk, Kharkov...) which are in the grip of a new unrest, could constitute an interesting pretext, exactly like assassination attempt in Sarajevo became a pretext for WWI precisely 100 years ago…

And it’s neither the ceaseless “flurries of diplomatic activity” in Moscow, London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, Washington… in order to “de-escalate” the situation nor the “calls for peace” that can prevent the unavoidable to occur. In 1914 these same “flurries” already took place, “nobody wanted the war”, and yet some politico-military processes were put in motion and resulted in the world conflagration on August 2nd…

Once again capitalists get ready to send us to the massacre

This year 2014 the bourgeoisie commemorates the triggering off the First World War, while pretending that we are now living in a world of peace and harmony. Capitalism is at the same time facing its worst crisis of valorisation since the end of WW2 and its only alternative is once again the mass destruction of surplus productive forces: destruction of commodities, dead labour, but also of labour force com-modities, thus of living labour, thus of proletarians… The only viable solution for capitalism (to subsequently boost a new cycle of valorisation) is therefore a generalized war. Its only major problem is how to mobilize the proletariat all over the world in order to recruit it in whatever ideological campaign to justify the massacres to come.

Present war drum roll announcing a military intervention of Russia in the Ukraine partakes in this ideological campaign. Especially since this region is a geostrategic issue of capitalists’ voracious appetites. Indeed, just to have a look at a map of the Eurasian continent is enough to realize that on the one hand there are European Union countries supplied to a considerable part with fossil energies (oil and gas) from Russia and its important fields in Siberia (this in order to not be dependent on the unstable Middle Eastern countries). On the other hand, the only present possibility for the Russian hydrocarbons to make their value and to find a buyer on the world market is to precisely export them towards the EU while essentially using oil and gas pipelines that cross the Ukraine.

Both camps of capitalist opposing vultures (Russia versus the EU, the USA and their military wing the NATO) need each other, and this should be a reason to “objectively” prevent a war that would ruin one or the other competing power, or even both at the same time. But these same conditions could also explain how both camps need to conquer its opponent and to dominate it, to corner either the vast sources of energy of Russia, or the Western creditworthy markets.

A war for gas? Absurd? The control on energy resources won’t probably be the essential element that will trigger off a war between Russia and the Ukraine but as in 1914 politico-military mechanisms are setting in motion, mechanisms that can easily get off the stranglehold of sorcerer’s apprentices who manages the world. And at this moment the question of oil and gas would become a central issue and could release all the murderous energies to slaughter once again millions of human beings on the altar of profit. As an example, only these last three decades we saw various bourgeois powers waging war (or supporting one or the other belligerent powers, or even several of them at the same time) in order to take control of zones of oil production of the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait,…) as well as the supplying roads (Persian Gulf,…). These wars made at least hundreds of thousands, if not two or three millions, of dead, without counting the innumerable “collateral damages” - victims of bombing with “depleted uranium” and other rubbish created by the genius of the capitalist progress.

Beyond the development of the nationalist, chauvinist and patriotic hysteria in both opposing camps, and besides the particular circumstances that nourish the present prepara-tions of war between the Ukraine and Russia, we have to highlight a fundamental point: the speed with which all this crisis has grown. Indeed, a few days or weeks were enough to reveal all the contradictions accumulated since the end of the “bipolar world” (the USSR against the USA, the East against the West, “communism” against “capitalism” according to both sides’ propaganda), i.e. since a quarter of century. All contradictions coming from the non-resolution of the historical crisis inherent to capitalism (considered as what it is basically, that is to say a global social relation) and that it is carrying in its womb; crisis that resulted from the new cycle of valorisation developed on the ruins of the previous World War. As the capitalist order detests vacuum, since the collapse of one of both imperialist blocs was an expression of such a vacuum, “order” begins to be restored with the re-bipolarization of the world, so much needed to the competition between the different factions of capital but also to the implementation of the objective conditions for a new war. We can therefore claim that history is accelerating! Like the social movements that, since some years and stronger than before, challenge the social dictatorship of capital.

We must also recall here the fundamental essence of war. Since the capitalist mode of production exists and therefore rules the whole planet, all wars are bourgeois, capitalist; beyond the ideologies for which capital pretends to wage them, all wars are wars against the proletariat, they are counterrevolutionary wars.

Beyond the inter-imperialist rivalries, it is always the de-valorisation, the fall in the rate of profit which leads to a generalized overproduction of commodities and therefore also an overpopulation, what is the reason for bourgeois war. Even if according to the bourgeoisie’s own consciousness, the issue of the war is especially about destroying the enemy, in reality its main goal has always been the same in the past as well as now: i.e. the massive destruction of human beings nowadays turned by capitalism into surplus commodities.

To wage its wars, the bourgeoisie must eliminate the prole-tariat as a class, that is to say as an active force, to dissolve it into the people, and then recruit these citizens among other citizens under any flag hiding the hideous face of capitalism: the flag of antifascism or fascism, in the name of progress or reaction, in the name of “democracy” or a “new order”, the flag of the conquest of a vital space or the national liberation, of the defence of civilized West or anti-colonialism,... It’s always in the name of peace, freedom, democracy, socialism... that cadavers are piling up, that civilians as well as militaries are mutilated with cluster bombs, or that they are dying in concentration camps.

Communist action against capitalist war and peace

No matter finally how the current crisis between the Ukraine and Russia will be resolved, because whatever it turns into – a local war, a regional war, or even a generalized war, or even if it doesn’t go further than the permanent war daily imposed by capitalism to the whole humanity, our reply is since centuries always and invariably the same. Internationalism is a proletarian answer to the bourgeois attacks and it means to break the social peace, the peace of capital, to develop our struggles there where we stand, against our direct exploiters everywhere in the world. We prepare our solution to the bourgeois crisis: the worldwide social revolution, while answering a blow for a blow to the deteriorations of our living conditions. It’s the only way to struggle against the bourgeois solution that is the generalized war.

And we would like here to criticize the pacifist and resigning positions articulated in some militant expressions formally claiming to belong to the camp of the anti-capitalist struggle which refuse “every annexation [that] accelerates the course to capitalist war”. And they put forward the overused argumentation, used by Social democracy one thousand times, and one thousand times denounced by revolutionaries, according to which “capitalist war is terrain which is particularly hostile to the emergence of the proletariat as a class for itself”. Of course, we don’t take delight in the preparations of a new war orgy, but faced with this ineluctable or even unavoidable capitalist necessity, we refuse to sink into puerile snivelling. Historically, the Social Democrats always adored and praised the “linear progress” of the social movement, without a hitch, without a rupture, “progress” that would lead us peacefully to the “big night” of the proletarian new Eden. But the reality of the capitalist hell shows us other ways and we call proletarians in struggle not to capitulate and not to tie themselves up in paralyzing illusions. On the contrary we call upon them to give a new impetus to their action thanks to the new material conditions produced by the war and so to assume their responsibilities in the face of the history and the humanity…

Because the triggering of the imperialist war, even a gener-alized one, doesn’t necessarily mean the definitive crushing of the proletariat. Indeed, historically, if the war in the first time means a relative crushing, it can then dialectically determine a re-emergence of the struggles all the more strong since it is the war that exposes the contradictions and the brutality immanent to the capitalist system. For the revolutionary proletarians the struggle against war directly means revolutionary defeatism.

The revolutionary defeatism turns its back on all pacifism even when it is disguised and radicalized, that is to say it refuses all positions not giving any concrete and precise instructions with a view to encouraging and acting violently for the defeat of “our” camp, “our” nation, “our” army, “our” bourgeoisie.

And it’s not the 50,000 pacifist demonstrators who recently paraded in Moscow, crying their horror of war and their love for peace, who will disturb the war preparations in any way. As long as the denunciation of the capitalist war remains limited only to claim a return to the previous period, to the peace (that can be nothing but the social peace so needed to the process of extraction of surplus value as a result of the obligation to go to work for us, modern slaves); as long as the dialectical links between the capitalist war and peace are not revealed and emphasized, all these pacifist demonstrations are only condemned to passively attend the imposition of even more terrorist social peace, the peace of graves…

Contrary to pacifist snivelling, the revolutionary defeatism means first of all no sacrifices in the name of interest of the nation, it means social struggles for working class living and working conditions, even when a war already sparked off and “our” bourgeoisie calls for national unity. On more advanced level it means to organize sabotage of the economy, the production, the weapons convoys... all the nationalist consensus, in parallel to organization of the obvious defeatist propaganda that has to shake the whole society up to the very foundations of the certainties enrooted in minds of all the “useful idiots”...

The revolutionary defeatism means to organise all actions aiming to undermine the morale of the troops as well as to prevent dispatching proletarians to the slaughter...

The revolutionary defeatism means to organise the most massive desertion and cease fire between proletarians in uniforms on both sides of the frontline, to leave distant fronts and to bring war, not between proletarians but between classes, i.e. class war, into centres of war super-powers...

The revolutionary defeatism means to encourage fraterni-sation, mutinies, turning the guns against the organizers of war carnage, i.e. “our” bourgeoisie and their lackeys...

The revolutionary defeatism means the most determined and offensive action with a view to turning the imperialist war into revolutionary war for the abolition of this class society based on starvation and war, revolutionary war for communism.

Obviously, the revolutionary defeatism can’t be conceived in only one camp. Anti-war sabotage, as we understand it, depends on the international nature of the proletariat and it is therefore aimed at our class all over the world. The revolutionary defeatism means the all-out struggle against “our” bourgeoisie in all camps, in all countries.

If the proletariat wants to definitively get rid of this slaughter, the one and only solution is to generalise actions of revolutionary defeatism. The development of struggle has its own requirements: it must break social cohesion not only in the units of the army but also in the whole society. For this we will have to put once and for all an end to nationalism while reaffirming loud and clear that proletarians have no interest in this war or in this dying world. We call for only one war, the war against our exploiters, no matter whether they are Ukrainian, Russian, American, German, English, French, Czech or whatever.

  • We call on proletarians to denounce the upcoming mili-tary intervention and to strongly oppose it through direct action, sabotage, generalized and insurrectional strike… Military adventures would be paid from pockets of working class! Thus no tightening of workers’ belts for bourgeois wars!

Wherever warplanes, warships and missiles come from, behind them there are always men and women –wage workers- who have to transport them to their destination, to fuel them… Only proletarians in struggle can and have to prevent the war machine to kill, the production machine to function…

Let’s develop new hotbeds of struggle, let’s consolidate those already existing; let’s apply the strike to armies, factories, mines, offices, schools… anywhere we suffer exploitation in this world of death and misery…

Against our own exploitative bourgeoisie, against our own warmongering State, in Russia, the Ukraine, USA, EU etc., let’s organize and develop revolutionary de-featism...

To be a patriot means to be a murderer! Down with all States!

Class solidarity with the revolutionary defeatists of all camps!

Let’s turn our guns against “our” generals, against “our own” bourgeoisie!

Let’s raise again the flag of the world communist revo-lution!

  • March/April 2014

To write and to distribute this text internationally and in several languages allows us to centralise our activities, to get in touch with other revolutionaries, to consolidate the camp of those who defend the same internationalist perspectives, to express the needs of all proletarians who revolt against war, (social) peace and misery, and to strengthen, by force of the clarity of our perspectives for struggle and our determination, the impact of our refusal.