Ukraine: imperialism bites off more than it can chew

For Washington, everything is going according to plan in Ukraine – except that nothing is going according to plan.

Geeing up another “colour revolution” on the borders of Russia in the hope of pulling Ukraine into the EU/NATO bloc seemed to fit perfectly with the long term goals of isolating and weakening Russia and China, neutralising their combined clout in world affairs and removing a major obstacle to Washington’s hegemonic stranglehold on shrinking world markets. There was nothing random about the decision to help stage a fascist provocation on Russia’s borders, any more than there is anything random about the nuclear missiles encircling Russia or the US navy infesting the Pacific. This is all according to plan.

Yet by acting in a blind panic on the rebound from its failed proxy war in Syria, and by so blatantly endorsing the overthrow of a sovereign nation’s elected government and its replacement by a junta populated by jew-baiters, pogromists and latter day acolytes of the wartime Nazi collaborator Stefan Bandera, imperialism has opened up a Pandora’s box over which neither the US nor the EU can exercise any sure control. And by so doing, it has succeeded in awakening in the popular memory the spirit of anti-fascist resistance which animated the masses in the Thirties and Forties, reaching its finest expression in the rout of the Nazi hordes and their pathetic quisling hangers-on at the hands of the Red Army and partisans. This was not part of the plan.

West-backed atrocities

The mass murder by arson and torture perpetrated at the Trade Union house in Odessa which so stunned the world was in reality just one of an endless parade of atrocities, as the civilian populations of the south and east suffer military bombardment from a government that is indeed making war upon what it claims to be “their own people” – the very offence with which the West has falsely charged President Assad for the last three years.

Any illusions that the phony election at the end of May of confectioner and media tycoon Poroshenko as quisling president would do anything to curb the “excesses” of the Banderists were shortlived. On 26 May, the day after the election, armed masked men calling themselves the Maidan 44 Centuria seized the city offices of the Communist Party in Dnipropetrovsk and assaulted the regional offices. At dawn on 30 May Slovyansk again came under shelling, this time with the targets being the city’s children’s hospital and nearby clinic, forcing patients and staff to seek refuge in a basement area. Among those affected were five children, including one in need of constant ventilation and connected to a respirator.

By the first week in June the assault on Slovyansk had intensified. In a piece on 9 June with the headline “Slovyansk burns as new Ukrainian President yearns for peace”, CNN journalist Tim Lister reported that artillery fire was being aimed at the city administration building, the Security Service compound and the Police Department, all under the protection of the self-defence militias, with civilians cut down by the flying shrapnel. As the onslaught intensified CNN quoted a health official as saying that already in Slovyansk 140 bodies had been collected by the only three ambulances still operating. Hospitals appear to be a favoured target of the regime. Krasny Liman , a large city in Donetsk Oblast, has seen one of its two hospitals reduced to rubble by mortars or shells. And as the war staggers on from atrocity to atrocity, more and more refugees are fleeing to Crimea and the Rostov-on-Don region, with over 7,000 arriving in the past few days

Resistance in the east, disaffection in the west

Whilst the intention behind these atrocities has doubtless been to cow the resistance into submission and to bounce Russia into an ill-considered response, neither outcome has been achieved. In the same CNN report, it is noted that partisans (not the term CNN employs) “have consolidated their hold of several towns in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. A CNN team on Sunday visited Shnizhne, Krasny Luch and Antratsyt, all on or close to the main road east to the Russian border. Separatist roadblocks guarded the fringes of each town in a heavily industrial part of the Donbass region, and dozens of well-armed fighters were seen in the center of Shnizhne. The main administration building in Antratsyt was surrounded by sandbags.” Clearly the defence militias have rapidly gained in experience and are building on their early successes, where they were able to bring down a number of the helicopters engaged in attacking their communities.

Meanwhile, disaffection is spreading like wildfire in the ranks of the regular Ukrainian army, with soldiers refusing to fire on their own people or defecting, often with their weapons and vehicles. The hastily renovated National Guard has been staffed with Right Sector nazis for whom cowardly assaults on unarmed civilians constitute the limit of their “military” achievements. A video on the Ukrainian Truth website shows a new detachment of the 1 st Azov Battalion of the Ministry of the Interior lined up to swear an oath of allegiance to the “Patriots of Ukraine”, in preparation for being bussed across to the east. The oath calls upon “Ukraine, mother of Heroes” to “come down into my heart” and “give me bravery” in the “battle for vengeance”, then goes on to laud a veritable pantheon of nazi collaborators: “C olonel Yevhen Konovalets. Basarabova, Shukhevich, Bandera, Danylyshin and Bilas” – all of them leaders of fascist and nazi movements during and prior to World War II.

How much use this fascist rabble will be when it comes to making the Kiev junta’s writ run in the south-east – or anywhere else for that matter, once all Ukrainians come to absorb the hard consequences of the austerity package being imposed at the behest of the IMF – must be doubtful. And whilst the Right Sector dream of Stefan Bandera rising from his grave and rewriting history, the poor bloody infantry of the regular army are fed up to the back teeth already.

Around fifty relatives picketed an army recruitment centre in Lviv district, demanding that the soldiers of the 24th Mechanised Brigade should not be posted to the eastern front. The soldiers complain that they have been conscripted into a war they don’t support and forced to fight with no medical assessment, shoddy equipment and just three days training. In an effort to prevent the soldiers being sent off, relatives have cut down trees and blocked the highway to the east.

These courageous acts of non-cooperation with the war effort are reflected in the mutinous instincts of the soldiers themselves. After six of their sons and husbands had died pointlessly fighting in Donetsk, over 200 wives and mothers organised themselves to block the roads. Four days later the soldiers of the 3rd Battalion of the 51st Brigade in Volhynia mutinied, refusing to be sent east to fight against the resistance and unloading war materiel intended for the front. Similar levels of disaffection have been recorded in Rivne and Poltava.

Miners’ strike: the proletariat moves

The spirited resistance being put up by the self-defence militias is not happening in a vacuum, but reflects a deep-seated proletarian revulsion in the industrialised south and east of the country against the West-backed Kiev junta. Reports which talk only of “pro-Russian separatists” or “Russian nationalists” are designed to conceal the class dimension of the struggle that is unfolding.

The miners of the Donbass have emerged as the proletarian backbone of the resistance, downing tools and going onto the streets to lead the mass protests. According to an eyewitness account published on Liva, a left-wing website, the first pit to go out on strike was the Oktyabrskiy mine, one of a string of state-owned pits run by the Donetsk Coal Energy Company. The final straw came on 26 May as helicopters and jets were sent in by the junta to bomb the nearby airport, exposing mineworkers to immediate threat. The miners then launched an indefinite strike against the junta which quickly spread to other state-owned mines in the region, both around Donetsk itself and also collieries located near other cities, like Ugledar.

If the Kiev regime succeeds in imposing the IMF’s diktat, subsidies to the state-owned mines will face cuts in subsidy amounting to $230m, condemning many pits to closure whilst the private sector cherry pick the most profitable, thereby threatening the livelihood of mining communities right across the industrialised east. Indeed, many of the mines are already in private ownership.

The east can do without the west a lot easier than the west can do without the east. Monopoly capitalists like Rinat Akhmetov (owner of mining and metals conglomerate Metinvest) have a great deal to lose from secession. 40% of Ukraine’s budget revenues come from the mines and arms factories of the south and east. Further, arms manufacture is still tied by a thousand threads to the Russian arms industry, locked into synergies which date back to Soviet times.

The monopoly capitalists and their rogue state might soon have to wave goodbye to some of those revenues. Lugansk People’s Republic leader, Valery Bolotov, told a Russian news agency that henceforth “all that should belong to the people will belong to the people and the country”, promising to take back into public ownership enterprises that were privatised illegally. The local consumer co-operative had already been nationalised. He explained that the plan was to leave small and medium businesses alone, but to nationalise those large industrial enterprises which are key to the region’s economy.

In Donetsk too, the struggle is on to nationalise the property of the oligarchs, who, when they pay taxes at all, pay them to the bandits in Kiev. When Rinat Akhmetov tried (and failed) to whip up his workers into an attack on the Republic, the Republic replied by announcing that oligarch property would be nationalised, though subsequent reports suggested a more softly-softly approach might be adopted at present.

Russia stands firm for international law (and keeps her powder dry)

For its part, Moscow for the moment continues to bend over backwards to make it clear to all unbiased observers that it stands by international law and will do everything possible to keep the door open to a peaceful solution despite mounting provocations on its border. Longer memories will recall an earlier time when attempts were made to bounce Russia into a disastrously premature conflict with the then most aggressive imperialist power, Germany. It will also be remembered what was the final outcome of that conflict, as the Red Army swept all the way to Berlin.

Obama has pledged $1bn to put US boots on the ground “to defend the territorial integrity of Eastern Europe”, yet in the same breath accuses Russia of sending its own state forces into Ukraine. Pestered by the French media on this question, President Putin demanded “What about proof? Why don’t they show it? The entire world remembers the US Secretary of State demonstrating the evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, waving around some test tube with washing powder in the UN Security Council. Eventually, the US troops invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein was hanged and later it turned out there had never been any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. You know – it’s one thing to say things and another to actually have evidence.”

Imperialist splits

The inglorious spat between the US and the EU over which band of compliant stooges should be parachuted into power in Kiev revealed fault lines within the “international community” which can only deepen as Washington presses on regardless of the consequences for its imperialist rivals.

France’s social democrat President Hollande on occasion may seem eager to out-Herod Herod, taking Obama to task for his supposed excess of caution in arming the opposition in Syria. But when it comes to jeopardising French economic interests in order to fight an economic sanctions war against Russia, he might not be so eager. After all, BNP Paribas has already incurred a £10bn fine for sanctions busting in relation to Iran and Sudan. Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, has offered to stop selling helicopters to Russia, but only if the UK shoots itself in the foot by taking action against Russian assets in the City of

London, thereby undermining London’s international standing on the world financial market. It will also be recalled that 30% of the EU’s natural gas comes from Russia, mostly via Ukraine. Merkel will not be happy to stake Germany’s energy needs on a chaotic US adventure that has gone wrong, as Obama will discover next time he taps her phone.

International solidarity

The grisly spectacle of the West’s fascist stooges blundering about in erstwhile socialist Ukraine will awaken a yearning for better days, not in Ukraine alone but right across the former Soviet Union and the socialist camp. Some workers from the east of Germany are reviving the proud anti-fascist record of the GDR. Though little reported in the imperialist media, large demonstrations against the Kiev junta and in solidarity with the anti-fascist resistance have been mounted in Berlin by former citizens of the German Democratic Republic, including veteran paratroopers in uniform. It is even suggested in some quarters that there are plans to resurrect the Ernst Thaelmann Battalion which acquitted itself so courageously in the Spanish civil war. (The Battalion was named in honour of the leader of the of the German Communist Party, later to be martyred in Buchenwald in 1944.)

One of the organisers, Alexander Kifel, has a close family connection with the anti-fascist struggle which is not untypical. His own grandfather, after fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany in 1933 and making his home in the Soviet Union, was sent to Spain where he served in the vital work of Soviet counter-espionage, returning to the GDR after the liberation. Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, the young Alexander served in the Red Army in the 1980s, struggling to defend the gains of the Afghan revolution from the same kind of rent-a-jihad subversion as that now visited upon the Syrian people care of the West (and being resolutely pushed back by the Syrian Arab Army). (Zebuzzeo website 1 June, “Des Volontaires allemands de l’Union internationale des parachutistes a l’aide des russophones en Ukraine”)

And to move from the sublime to the gorblimey, even in the UK some voices in the anti-war movement are starting to murmur about the need to show solidarity with the anti-fascist resistance in Ukraine. Back in March, when Crimeans voted en masse to return to Russia and the imperialist media were screaming about a Russian invasion, it seemed clear that Stop the War would sit on the fence as per normal. And so indeed it proved: Stop the War said that they too opposed all such “foreign military interventions”, pointing out however that Russia’s “is not the only intervention”. Making a great show of slapping the imperialist wrist whilst quietly going along with the big lie (Russia invades!) is by now a well-worn trick performed by Stop the War every time it wishes to dodge the responsibility of standing in solidarity with those resisting imperialism.

However on the face of it there is now a move to break with this ignoble tradition, with Lindsey German and Andrew Murray getting behind a campaign for “solidarity with the anti-fascist resistance in the Ukraine”. What exactly lies behind this apparent change of heart remains to be seen, but the slogan is a step in the right direction, so long as it is recognised that, as the West’s primary target in this provocation is really Russia herself, it is with Russia as well as the self-defence militias of the south and east of Ukraine that we must stand in solidarity in this fight.

Victory to the anti-fascist resistance in Ukraine!

Down with imperialism and its fascist stooges in Kiev!