Editorials

Russian Troops Out Now! For Ukraine’s Independence! U.S./NATO Out of E. Europe!



Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is anathema to humanity. Russian troops, tanks, air force, and other military hardware should get out now. The Ukrainian people defending the country’s independence deserve international solidarity—already shown by protests condemning the invasion inside Russia; in Tbilisi, Georgia; and elsewhere.

Ukrainian forces battle Russian invaders on February 26, 2022, in Ivankiv, Ukraine, near Kiev. (Photo: Screenshot from video posted on Facebook by Lyubov Shelkovich)

It is also necessary to clearly see Washington’s hypocritical claims that it tried to avert war through diplomacy. We should demand that U.S. and NATO military forces pull out of eastern Europe and the broader region. The Pentagon has doubled the number of U.S. warships in the Mediterranean, redeployed an aircraft carrier there from the Pacific, and increased the number of U.S. troops in the area. It is opening up new NATO bases in eastern Europe. The newest, a “highly sensitive U.S. military installation” according to the New York Times, located near the village of Redzikowo, in Poland, is only about 100 miles from Russian territory.

These moves are aimed at expanding U.S. military domination in Europe and countering Russian economic interests, including growing exports of natural gas to Europe (Russia is a top producer of natural gas and oil, accounting for 17% of the world’s natural gas and 12% of its oil). The U.S./NATO actions pose a genuine threat to world peace while offering Putin a pretext for his brutal invasion.


EDITORIAL


The Russian attack on a sovereign neighboring republic smacks of the Great Russian chauvinism prevalent under the czars, the barbaric monarchy that ruled the Russian empire for centuries before it was overthrown by workers and peasants in 1917. That same chauvinism animated the reactionary policies re-established by the late 1920s in the former USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) during the counterrevolution led by Joseph Stalin—a regime Russian president Vladimir Putin faithfully served as a former officer of the KGB, the secret police.

On February 21, Putin declared that the Moscow-backed “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk set up in eastern Ukraine in 2014 were independent countries and ordered Russian troops to go in as “peacekeepers.” The Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine followed, in the largest military mobilization in Europe since World War II.

In a speech the same day crafted to justify the onslaught, Putin denied that Ukraine is a nation and blamed the Bolshevik revolution for the country’s independence. “Modern Ukraine was entirely and fully created by Russia, more specifically the Bolshevik, communist Russia,” Putin said. “This process began practically immediately after the 1917 revolution, and moreover Lenin and his associates did it in the sloppiest way in relation to Russia—by dividing, tearing from her pieces of her own historical territory.”

Putin is lying. The contrast between the position of Putin and Russia’s capitalists today, with that of the workers and peasants’ government V.I. Lenin led after the Russian Revolution, is crystal clear.

In December 1919, Lenin wrote to the Ukrainian workers and peasants:

“The independence of the Ukraine has been recognized both by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee of the R.S.F.S.R. (Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic) and by the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks). It is therefore self-evident and generally recognized that only the Ukrainian workers and peasants themselves can and will decide [emphasis added] at their All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets whether the Ukraine shall amalgamate with Russia, or whether she shall remain a separate and independent republic, and, in the latter case, what federal ties shall be established between that republic and Russia.

“How should this question be decided insofar as concerns the interests of the working people and the promotion of their fight for the complete emancipation of labor from the yoke of capital?…

“[T]he interests of labor demand the fullest confidence and the closest alliance among the working people of different countries and nations. The supporters of the landowners and capitalists, of the bourgeoisie, strive to disunite the workers, to intensify national discord and enmity, in order to weaken the workers and strengthen the power of capital.”[1]

From V.I. Lenin’s Dec. 1919 Letter to the Workers and Peasants of the Ukraine

The “national discord and enmity” Lenin warned about so clearly is precisely what both Putin and U.S. president Joe Biden and his allies are spreading today.

Moscow aims to reassert the Russian industrialists’, bankers’, and landowners’ control of Ukraine, as well as over other eastern European territories that achieved independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, followed by the re-establishment of capitalism in the former USSR. Moscow is also pushing back against the U.S.-led NATO expansion in eastern Europe.

NATO was established in 1949 to codify and maintain Washington’s military superiority in western Europe when the U.S. emerged as the main victor in World War II and the world’s top imperialist power. As the Cold War ended, NATO’s importance appeared to wane. But Washington breathed new life into the reactionary military alliance in the 1990s over the blood and bones of the people of Yugoslavia, fueling a decade-long war in that country that led to its break-up. It then used Yugoslavia’s destruction as a launching pad to expand NATO eastward by admitting 14 new member states, more than doubling its roster by 2020.[2]

Maps showing U.S.-led NATO expansion into eastern Europe (left) and NATO’s military buildup in the region.

During the Cold War, Russia and the United States both worked on developing antimissile defenses. In 1972 both agreed to halt their rocket shield programs. But in 2001 U.S. president George W. Bush infuriated Putin by pulling out of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty and directing the Pentagon to build and deploy such a system in eastern Europe, under the flimsy pretext it was targeting Iran. New U.S. military bases such as the one in Poland, as well as another in Romania, are now becoming operational housing anti-missile launchers. This offers an edge to U.S. forces in shooting down Russian ballistic missiles, increasing the possibility of further military conflagrations.

None of this justifies Putin’s invasion. But it points to Washington’s hypocrisy in claiming to seek a “diplomatic solution” to the current crisis. U.S. president John F. Kennedy brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in October 1962 when Moscow stationed nuclear missiles for defensive purposes in Cuba. Would Washington accept military bases, like those it is now establishing in Poland, to be set up today by Russia in Mexico, 100 miles from the U.S. border?

That’s why working people should demand not only the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukraine but also the simultaneous pullout of all U.S. and NATO forces from eastern Europe.

The sanctions Washington and its allies are imposing against Russia will do little to deter Putin’s invasion, which is backed by China, while they will mostly hurt working people inside Russia and elsewhere in Europe.

Working people in the Ukraine can best defend their aspirations by their own mobilizations and actions, as they did in the Maidan revolt of 2014.


ENDNOTES

[1] Lenin’s 1919 entire “Letter to the Workers and Peasants of the Ukraine” can be found here.

[2] For an explanation of how Washington fueled the war in Yugoslavia and used it to expand NATO eastward seeHow U.S. Imperialism Fueled Yugoslav Warpublished in the April 19, 1999, issue of the Militant newspaper.


3 replies »

  1. This editorial, as well as a recent one posted on Facebook in response to a link to this editorial (https://www.blakdwarf.org/post/the-war-over-ukraine-a-class-perspective?fbclid=IwAR2d_oICnlVeMBO4cqrBuch8bVr2BiIm3–HjQEM8yIGpa_DxDSjTYaJc0o) are very helpful.
    The Black Dwarf poses a lot of questions in my mind that the worldoutlook.com editorial does not address (and I’m not criticizing you for saying what you can at this point, for not writing a book! Nonetheless, they are important questions for a revolutionary internationalist orientation):
    1. Is it accurate to call Russia “imperialist” as the Blackdwart.org does? I notice that WO restricts itself to describing it as capitalist.
    2. One of Russia’s big self-justifications is the “denazification” one. Neither articles really takes this up at a level that could defeat the rationalizations of the pro-Putin apologists. What was the actual role of pro-fascists in the Maldan events? And today, what part do they play?
    3. The Bolsheviks arguments for self-determination for the Ukraine as the road towards ultimate working-class/peasants unity inside a Soviet federation were made in the context of an upward revolutionary arc. What weight does this argument have now in the current world situation, where Ukraine is divided between pro-austerity capitalists linked to the “west” and pro-Russian capitalists? And the Russian population of the Ukraine today is much larger than it was in Lenin’s time. How does that effect how revolutionaries need to pose the issue of self-determination for the Ukraine?

  2. Dear Pete,
    World-Outlook appreciates your feedback. Here’s a response to your questions:
    1) On the class character of Russia today: Imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism. It became predominant at the dawn of the 20th century. Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin gave this economic system the most apt definition in his famous work, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, written in 1916. Imperialism is marked by five basic features, Lenin said: “(1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this ‘finance capital,’ of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed.”

    I am not sure whether Russian capitalism, since its re-establishment following the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, has developed to such a degree to meet the criteria described above so you could describe Russia as an imperialist country. I believe there is enough evidence to show that the first and second criteria cited above apply; but I do not know about the rest. I simply do not have the facts to prove such an assertion. For this reason, it seems wiser to me to stick to what we know: Russia is a capitalist country today.

    2) On the Maidan revolt: The pro-Moscow regime of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in February 2014 following three months of mass mobilizations and clashes with government forces. The tyrant fled the country on February 22 of that year as hundreds of thousands took to the streets, made more determined by a bloody crackdown days earlier. The mass protests included many students and other youth, working people, as well as members of the middle class and other social classes. At the heart of the struggle against the Yanukovych regime were the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to break free from Russian domination that has lasted for centuries, with the exception of the early years of the 1917 Russian Revolution under Lenin’s leadership. Yanukovych, hated for his corruption and repression of political rights, bowed at every turn to pressure from Russian president Vladimir Putin to maintain Moscow’s economic and political stranglehold on Ukraine. Rightists did participate in the Maidan rebellion, but they did not have decisive weight in the revolt.

    As the Netflix documentary “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” shows, mass protests by students erupted in November 2013 over Yanukovych’s reneging on a previous promise to sign a pact with the European Union for Ukraine’s eventual integration with the EU. Initial demands focused on “Ukraine is part of Europe.” While not progressive, these demands also captured a popular sentiment to break free from Moscow’s control. As government repression mounted, demands shifted on freeing political prisoners and respecting democratic rights. Some of the mobilizations exceeded 1 million people.

    On advice from Putin, Yanukovych mobilized the Berkut riot police and paramilitary units on February 18, 2014 to push thousands of protesters out of Independence Square, known as the Maidan, as demonstrators took over some government buildings. The riot squad detachments were able to make it deep into the square. Giant barricades set on fire by the retreating demonstrators halted Berkut’s advance. Nearly 30 people died in the ensuing clashes, including 10 cops. Riot cops then opened fire on demonstrators on Febraury 20, killing more than 60 people. The bloodshed emboldened opposition protesters and sapped the will of the regime’s forces. Berkut troops began to break ranks and leave the square. As events unfolded, many Ukrainian capitalists broke with Yanukovych and urged him to compromise. When opposition politicians tried to get protesters to accept a compromise they subsequently worked out with Yanukovych that would have kept him in power for another year, the Maidan rebels booed and rejected the accord. Yanukovych fled the country in the middle of the night two days later.

    The government that succeeded Yanukovych was unquestionably capitalist and over time developed closer ties with Washington, NATO, and the European Union, angering Putin. That’s why, as the World-Outlook editorial emphasized, it is as important to call for the withdrawal of all U.S./NATO forces from eastern Europe as demanding the immediate pullout of Russian troops from Ukraine.

    The charges of “nazification” advanced by Putin and his allies, however, are nothing but a pretext to justify the current Russian invasion. In a way, they remind me of unsubstantiated and erroneous charges by liberals in the U.S. that everyone who voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections are somehow “fascists.”

    3) On Ukraine’s independence: Lenin’s 1919 letter to the workers and peasants of Ukraine describes how the revolutionary government led by the Bolsheviks at the time went about first to recognize Ukraine’s independence and second to ensure that it was up to Ukraine’s working people to decide what kind—if any—federal ties they wanted to establish with the USSR. The Bolsheviks took this position in the context of an upsurge of the revolutionary working-class movement at the time, as you point out, internationally. But this does not mean that socialists’ support for the right of nations to self-determination—up to, and including independence—was restricted then, or is applicable today, only to periods of “an upward revolutionary arc.” Backing the substantial minority of the population of Puerto Rico that continues to advocate independence from the United States today, for example, is not conditional on whether there is an upsurge of the pro-independence or the broader working-class movement in that U.S. colony or not.

    I do not have statistics on the percentage of the ethnic Russian population in the Ukraine in the early 1920s. Today, a century later, Ukraine’s Russian population may have increased since the early years of the Russian revolution of 1917 but Russians remains a minority. Ukrainians comprise over 75% of the republic’s population of more than 44 million people (as of 2020). Ethnic Russians are about 17% of Ukraine’s population; other nationalities include Bulgarians, Hungarians, Moldovans, and Romanians. Ethnic Russians are a small minority in most of the country’s provinces. They are a larger minority, 20% to 30%, in three of the eastern provinces; and up to 40% in the Donetsk and Luhansk easternmost regions that Putin recently declared independent “peoples’ republics,” using it as a pretext to start his invasion. Only Crimea, which the Kremlin forcibly annexed in 2014, has a majority Russian population, which the Stalinist regime in the former Soviet Union engineered by moving ethnic Russians there in the not too distant past.

    For these reasons, looking at your question from all angles, it seems to me that supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence today remains as much in the interests of the working class and its allies around the world as the Bolsheviks’ position a century ago.

    Pete, I hope this response further clarifies the positions outlined briefly in the World-Outlook editorial.

    Argiris Malapanis

  3. I hope you will consider signing this. “European Network Solidarity with Ukraine and against war Basic consensus
    All the versions of this article: [English] [français]
    We, collectives of social movements, trade unions, organisations and parties, from Eastern and Western Europe, oppose war and all neo-colonialism in the world, want to build a network from below, independent of any government.”
    http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article61759

    FOR

    1. The defence of an independent and democratic Ukraine!

    2. The immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from all Ukrainian territory. The end of the nuclear threat posed by the alerting of Russian nuclear weapons and the bombing of Ukrainian power plants!

    3. Support for the resistance (armed and unarmed) of the Ukrainian people in its diversity, in defence of its right to self-determination

    4. Cancellation of Ukraine’s foreign debt!

    5. The non-discriminatory reception of all refugees – from Ukraine and elsewhere!

    6. Support for the anti-war and democratic movement in Russia and the guarantee of political refugee status for opponents of Putin and for Russian soldiers who desert!

    7. Seizure of the assets of Russian government members, senior officials and oligarchs in Europe and around the world; and financial and economic sanctions – protecting the disadvantaged from their effects.

    Beyond that, we are also fighting, together with like-minded currents in Ukraine and Russia:

    8. For global nuclear disarmament. Against military escalation and the militarisation of minds.

    9. For the dismantling of military blocs

    10. To ensure that any aid to Ukraine is not subject to IMF or EU austerity conditions

    11. Against productivism, militarism and imperialist competition for power and profit that destroy our environment and our social and democratic rights.

    At the end of the First World War, the ILO was founded on a universal statement: “A universal and lasting peace can only be based on social justice.” Today, we must add environmental justice and the rule of law: we fight for peace and equality, democratic freedoms, social and climate justice, through cooperation and solidarity between peoples.

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