THE IMPERIALIST WAR AROUND THE UKRAINIAN “FAULT LINE”

– followed by a comment by Fredo Corvo and Anibal –

Spanish

We publish and share an article by the comrades of Prospettiva Marxista on the war in Ukraine, a war whose imperialist nature becomes more evident every day to conscious workers and all those who identify with proletarian internationalism. Each day more of this war deepens the furrow that divides those who attempt to translate the implicit habituation to the arguments of the deafening bourgeois ideological campaign into the language of their own personal misunderstanding and mystification of historical materialism — ultimately the child of class interests alien to those of the proletariat — from those who strive to make the proletariat’s own demand for applying to reality a method of effective understanding and intervention in reality itself. Marxism, someone has said, is generous to those who do not turn their backs on it; it certainly cannot be generous to those who, in this war, objectively place themselves in the market of low service to one or another of the opposing imperialist camps, notably that of the enemy at home. Even less generous will be the working class. Of this we are certain.

Coalizione Operaia

War of imperialism and in imperialism

The war in Ukraine is an imperialist war. The essence of this definition has nothing sloganistic about it, but lies in the detection of the fundamental trait, the determining character of the conflict. One can capture, in this phenomenon, in this historical passage, many other elements, multiple factors and implications. But their real spaces of action, their influences and the weight of their interactions cannot be understood with an adequate rate of approximation to support a coherent class analysis, if they are not traced back to the underlying dynamics of the becoming of the imperialist order, of the relations and confrontation between imperialist centers. The Ukrainian space has clearly shown itself again as a neuralgic junction, as a fault line of imperialist confrontation, and certainly not only since February 24, the day of the start of the large-scale Russian offensive. The military operations conducted by Russian forces have marked the transition of this confrontation to a more open, direct and broad military plane. The Ukrainian space has for decades now returned to assume with harsh evidence its historical status as “unresolved land” in the process of defining the spheres of influence and spokes of action of the powers engaged in the region. This evidence has also become apparent in the agricultural sector, which is crucial for a country that, in 2018, had 71.2 percent agricultural land and 56.1 percent arable land on its territory as a whole [1], assimilating an area equivalent to 1/3 of the arable land in the European Union [2]. Ukraine, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, supplies 12 percent of the world’s wheat exports, 16 percent of corn exports, and 40 percent of sunflower oil [3]. A 2015 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (part of a project co-funded by the EU and the Swedish government) indicated that, despite instability factors, constraints, and brakes, Ukraine’s agricultural sector possessed significant potential for development and competitiveness and had already been affected by investment and strengthening presence of various agribusiness giants and European and American financial groups, which had been joined by investors from China and the Gulf countries [4]. Important Indian agribusiness entrepreneurs, especially from the state of Punjab, have also turned to Ukraine in recent years: Jaswinder Singh is just one of the Indian investors in the Ukrainian countryside, of which he has purchased about 5 thousand hectares [5]. The process of penetration, of extension of the influence of imperialist powerhouses into the fabric of the economy and institutional centers of Ukraine has experienced even resounding moments over time.

At the time of the government led by Petro Poroshenko (2014-2019), the post of finance minister went to Natalie Jaresko, an American of Ukrainian descent, a “direct emanation of the U.S. State Department,” who obtained Ukrainian citizenship “three hours before her appointment as minister” [6]. These dynamics have met and related to a national bourgeois class that, in a country described by various indicators as among the poorest on the European continent, has unscrupulously built economic empires inscribed along the lines of this imperialist partitioning. Output in 1999 was below the level of 1991, and after a few years marked by signs of recovery, in 2009 Ukraine’s economic performance was one of the worst in the world; between 2010 and 2013 the economy-dominated by the figures of the so-called “oligarchs”-grew slowly while lagging behind other regional realities, and after the Russian annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the eastern part of the country, with the related trade tensions with Moscow, the situation has further deteriorated [7]. The assessment of a recent Italian study on Ukrainian history, reprinted on the eve of the Russian attack, leaves little doubt as to how the troubled vicissitudes of Ukrainian society have not fundamentally challenged the local power of a bourgeoisie at once subordinate and complicit in the international dispute over the partition and control of the country. “In its present state, in fact, the oligarchic ancien régime not only survived the revolutionary storm that prefigured its demise, but still pulls the reins of the national economic system, which in Ukraine, since the Kučma era, has coincided to an almost total extent with the political one.”[8] Loans and financing from international institutions have been a powerful lever to exert influence and control over the Ukrainian quadrant. In March 2014, the International Monetary Fund launched a $17.5 billion loan plan [9], and the wartime condition on the entire Ukrainian territory only revived this form of intervention. About two weeks into the conflict, the IMF granted a new tranche of $1.4 billion. What the accounts, the calculations behind these interventions eloquently show in the concerns and reasoning hosted by the Financial Times commenting on the news of the “rapid financing” granted by the IMF: any territorial changes in Ukraine could constitute a decrease in its economic capacity and, therefore, to be solvent, the possible loss of port areas such as those in Odessa and Kherson could, however, also prompt a broad review of trade routes, with new routes through Poland [10]. On the other hand, the economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Oleg Ustenko, reporting in the first half of March some figures about the costs caused by the attacks of Russian forces-damage to infrastructure amounting to $100 billion-did not only indicate the extent of the destruction and suffering of the population, but, in fact, also evoked the economic spaces and political opportunities for future reconstruction [11]. Moreover, in the second half of April, IMF Director Kristalina Georgieva opened up to the scenario conjured up by the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance of financing Kiev’s growing fiscal deficit (a financing to be kept separate from the investments needed for reconstruction) with a sum close to $5 billion per month over a prefigured three-month period [12]. Not only is the war a continuation of the political struggle around the Ukrainian junction, but the specific instruments of war have only added to the other weapons of this imperialist partition already in action for some time. And it cannot be ruled out that, once again, imperialism-in this case Russian imperialism-which first put its hand on large-scale military operations, is ultimately the imperialism most struggling and fatigued in this confrontation.

The mirror of war

The continuation by military means of the imperialist confrontation around Ukraine could not but fully manifest the characters of a deep-rooted presence, pervasive influence, and decisive action of the imperialist powerhouses and their interests. And even from this point of view, on the specifically military side, these are presences and determinations that have been in action for years. The separatist militias of the Donbass republics – Donetsk and Luhansk – deployed with Russian forces (units consisting of more than 35,000 men, joined by about 4,000 Russian regulars, also with training duties), in addition to being armed and equipped by Russia (including with tanks, self-propelled artillery units, guns and missile systems for air defense) are coordinated by an operational command center established in 2016 in Donetsk with support from Moscow [13]. Presenting his annual report for 2021, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that the Atlantic Alliance has trained “over the years” tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and that, therefore, Kiev’s forces “are now bigger, better equipped, better trained and better commanded, than they have ever been before” [14]. The Alliance’s role in strengthening the Ukrainian army, transforming it compared to 2014, when Russian forces were able to move easily in Crimea and the Donbass, is a fact considered taken for granted by geopolitical analyst Dario Fabbri: “In the meantime, the Ukrainian army has been armed and trained by NATO, has learned to move as a formation of guerrillas instead of regular troops, and has welcomed the support of public opinion, ready to face adversity” [15]. In the first two weeks of the war, Ukrainian forces have shown that they have effectively learned the tactics to which they have been trained from 2014 onward mainly with the intervention of the U.S.-led training mission and significant British input. The mission (launched in 2015 and closed on the eve of the start of the Russian offensive), based at the Yavoriv training center (not coincidentally hit by Russian missiles on March 13) in western Ukraine on the border with Poland, oversaw the training and education of an average of five battalions per year of Ukrainian Army and National Guard [16]. Retired U.S. General Wesley K. Clark (at the top of NATO’s European commands during the Kosovo war) recently had this to say about the course he gave to a class of Ukrainian generals in Kiev in 2016 [17].

Already during the Donbass conflict, the Ukrainian army had received a few hundred armored wheeled vehicles from the United States and Britain and Javelin anti-tank missiles [18].

On February 25, the day after the start of the Russian invasion, the White House approved a $350 million package of weapons and equipment including shoulder-mounted anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems such as Javelin and Stinger [19].

The April issue of RID, reported on U.S. military supplies to Ukraine, the figure (adding together the aid already allocated and that decided after the Russian attack) of more than $3 billion [20]. April arms supplies also include howitzers, Mi-17 helicopters and armored vehicles [21]. To limit ourselves to the most significant suppliers, mention can also be made of the counter-tank systems supplied by the United Kingdom in the order of several thousand [22] while specific consideration should be given to the supplies of Bayraktar drones from Turkey [23]. Early in the conflict, the Ukrainians were able to transfer the most vulnerable aircraft (such as transport aircraft) to allied countries such as Poland and Romania [24].

In particular, Poland took a leading role from the early stages of the war. It is in reference to its function that former general and U.S. ambassador to NATO, Douglas Lute, spoke of the territories of states belonging to the Alliance having to be “the Pakistan” of Ukraine, recalling the crucial function played by Islamabad in support of the Taliban in Afghanistan [25]. Indeed, Poland has assumed the function of a “logistical hub” for military supplies to Ukraine [26]. About the actual operational value of the foreign volunteers enlisted on the Ukrainian side (Moscow, for its part, has deployed divisions composed of Syrian fighters) there are discordant judgments, but it can be pointed out as a political fact nonetheless that Zelensky’s call for the formation of a unit of foreign fighters received an early favorable response from the authorities of the United Kingdom, Denmark, Canada, the Czech Republic, Latvia and the Netherlands [27].

The one in Ukraine is and cannot be today anything but an imperialist war because the dynamics, interests, levers of imperialism have spread a dense, hard, deep network of ties, influences, constraints in the society, in the political sphere of Ukraine. Only two forces, two historical realities could tear this network apart and imprint a new overall, decisive mark on the conflict: a national bourgeoisie capable of shaking off the whole tangle of constraints and connections of the imperialist framework or subordinating it to the pursuit of its own specific national interests; a strong and organized proletariat, guided by a high degree of class consciousness, capable of wresting from the Ukrainian bourgeoisie and its imperialist referents the direction of the war mobilization, thus resetting the political directions of the military effort toward revolutionary goals that are game-changing in international scope and with a drastic turn in the direction of a class and internationalist approach to the Russian occupying forces as well. The first subject is, if not now completely historically impossible, certainly completely unrealistic in the current Ukrainian context. But also the conditions for a class movement capable of structuring itself organizationally and politically in Ukraine today, in the focus of the war, to overcome nationalist conditioning, to really challenge, with tangible and significant effects, the bourgeois leadership and its international connections and supports — moreover at a time when no other country can come from any help, support, even the slightest influential proletarian and internationalist political contribution — are dramatically absent. The war in Ukraine is an imperialist war. From this fact, accepted and faced without illusions or illusory shortcuts, we must start again in order to rebuild, with tenacity, a class and internationalist response.

Source: La guerra imperialista intorno alla “linea di faglia” ucraina

Notes

1 CIA-The World Factbook online data.

2 OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Programme, “Sector Competitiveness Strategy for Ukraine – phase III,” Review of Agricultural Investment Policies of Ukraine – Project Report, December 2015.

3 Chris Giles, Jonathan Wheatle, “Billions given in aid to help prop up devastated economy,” Financial Times, March 11, 2022.

4 OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Programme, “Sector Competitiveness Strategy for Ukraine – phase III,” Review of Agricultural Investment Policies of Ukraine – Project Report, December 2015.

5 KG Sharma, “Punjabi farmers look to Ukraine for a profitable harvest,” Asia Times (online), June 22, 2018.

6 Carlo Cambi, “U.S.-China, the stakes are Kiev,” Panorama, March 16, 2022.

7 CIA-The World Factbook online data.

8 Giorgio Cella, History and Geopolitics of the Ukrainian Crisis. From Kievan Rus’ to Today, Carocci publisher, Rome 2022. The image of Ukrainian capitalists-capable of carving out extremely profitable niches in the imperialist game around their country and amassing huge fortunes while the Ukrainian population had to face the emigration routes en masse in order to sustain itself-readily donning uniforms and camouflage for the use of the international media, proclaiming proud patriotic proclamations, is hardly surprising. Yet the definition used by the tycoon and former president Poroshenko, interviewed by the online edition of La Stampa (March 29) and portrayed among the fighters, fully equipped, of his own battalion and in front of an armored vehicle produced by his own factories, to indicate this contribution of his to the Ukrainian war effort, still has its own surreal charge, its own objective mocking force, capable of not leaving one indifferent: it would in fact be, Poroshenko assures, a phenomenon of “self-organization” of the Ukrainian people.

9 CIA-The World Factbook online data.

10 Chris Giles, Jonathan Wheatle, “Billions given in aid to help prop up devastated economy.”

11 Ibid.

12 International Monetary Fund (official website), “Transcript of April 2022 MD Kristalina Georgieva Press Briefing on GPA,” April 2022.

13 Pietro Batacchi, Andrea Mottola, Eugenio Po, “A first analysis of the war in Ukraine,” RID (Rivista Italiana Difesa), April 2022.

14 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (official website), “Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the release of his Annual Report 2021,” March 31, 2022.

15 Dario Fabbri, “Race against time,” Scenarios, March 18, 2022.

16 Pietro Batacchi, Andrea Mottola, Eugenio Po, “A first analysis of the war in Ukraine.”

17 Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt, “For Russia, command is work done remotely,” The New York Times (international edition), April 2-3, 2022.

18 Pietro Batacchi, Andrea Mottola, Eugenio Po, “A first analysis of the war in Ukraine.”

19 Steven Erlanger, “Europe stands up to threat from east,” The New York Times (international edition), March 4, 2022.

20 Pietro Batacchi, Andrea Mottola, Eugenio Po, “A First Analysis of the War in Ukraine. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby specified on April 13 that the cost of U.S. military support to Ukraine had reached the figure of more than $3.2 billion since the start of the Biden Administration, including about $2.6 since the start of the Russian offensive on February 24 (U.S. Department of Defense-official website, Transcript: “Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing,” April 13, 2022).

21 Massimo Gaggi, “A healthy realism,” Corriere della Sera, April 16, 2022.

22 The Times revealed, citing Ukrainian army sources, the presence in the Kiev area, since the beginning of the Russian offensive, of instructors belonging to the British special forces, specifically tasked with training in the use of counter-drone systems (Catherine Philp, “SAS troops ‘are training local forces in Ukraine,'” The Times, April 16, 2022).

23 Turkish drones have been deployed in several recent theaters of war and have gained a reputation for efficiency. Produced mainly by the Bayraktar family company (related to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan), they are now a not insignificant item in the Turkish economy: drone sales grew by 34 percent in 2019 with revenues of $2.74 billion (Murat Cinar, “Drones of ‘ally’ Turkey to Kiev’s army,” The Manifesto-Online Edition, Feb. 2022).

24 Pietro Batacchi, Andrea Mottola, Eugenio Po, “A first analysis of the war in Ukraine.”

25 Steven Erlanger, “Europe stands up to threat from east.”

26 Pietro Batacchi, Andrea Mottola, Eugenio Po, “A first analysis of the war in Ukraine.”

27 Michael Mason, “Ukraine and foreign fighters,” RID (Rivista Italiana Difesa), April 2022.


An incomplete break with Leninism

By Fredo Corvo and Anibal

In their text above, the comrades explain clearly that Russia and Ukraine both are imperialist. They use rich – mainly economic and financial – factual material to support their position that the bourgeoisie of Ukraine has adapted to the imperialist division of the world. This position is correct.

From the concept of imperialism of the German-Dutch communist left (The inter-imperialist war in Ukraine), we, therefore also call the state of Ukraine imperialist and the war an inter-imperialist war (War, exploitation, and capitalist domination: How and why confront them?).

The article further examines – entirely according to Lenin’s reasoning – the two possibilities for breaking the imperialist dependence of Ukraine, from the side of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie – through a national independence struggle or national war – and from the side of the proletariat. In doing so, it attaches to the classical conception of permanent revolution, in which the proletariat transforms the military efforts of national war into a struggle aimed at its own international class goals. The text rejects this hypothesis. Rejection from the bourgeois side as historically outdated and, in the case of Ukraine, unrealistic. Rejection also from the proletarian side because the workers in Ukraine cannot free themselves from the nationalist ideology. Moreover, help from outside, through a victorious proletarian revolution in another country, is lacking. Thus, Marx’s concept of the permanent revolution in the German bourgeois revolution of 1848 – which was declared the model of world revolution by victorious Bolshevism – is invalidated by the article.

We add: the Bolshevik model did not fit either the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 in Russia because of the development of the imperialist division of the world.

The article focuses on Ukraine to refute the Bolshevik scheme. But in doing so, the global context of the period of imperialism is lost: every war contains the attempts of national bourgeoisies and alliances between states, finally of two opposing imperialist blocs, to change the division of the world to their advantage. China appears in the article only as an investor and not as an emerging economic world power that can surpass the United States, economically AND militarily. This leaves the article unclear about the stakes of the war in Ukraine: will it stop the further development of a Russian-Chinese imperialist bloc, or not?

One Comment on “THE IMPERIALIST WAR AROUND THE UKRAINIAN “FAULT LINE”

  1. Pingback: THE IMPERIALIST WAR AROUND THE UKRAINIAN “FAULT LINE” – circolo internazionalista "coalizione operaia"

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