Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Comment on Whither Ukraine

Note: The following piece was submitted as a comment on Marilyn Vogt-Downey's essay, Whither Ukraine http://forum.permanent-revolution.org/2014/03/whither-ukraine.html .  Since the Vogt-Downey essay and this comment were written the situation has become ever more dangerous, with Russia having annexed Crimea and massing troops on the border of Eastern Ukraine while NATO threatens military action. Yet Vogt-Downey's historical perspective remains relevant for an understanding of the present crisis.  A.S.
An important question that arises and that could be developed is how the content of Vogt-Downey’s article substantially differs from the coverage of the Ukrainian crisis on the wsws.org website, which seems to be only taking up a pro-Russian and anti-fascist position. The crisis has taken a new turn, of course, with the approval of the Crimean referendum to secede.
The Vogt-Downey article is significant because the media seems to be breaking into only two camps: those, the majority, supporting the imperialist line and those supporting Putin.  Those few supporting the latter seem to do so on the basis of the historical, cultural and linguistic ties between Russia and the Ukraine and the presence of fascist, Nazi elements in the new Ukrainian regime. The contention of the pro-western propaganda, however, that the Ukrainians are fighting for freedom, democracy, national independence, unity and economic prosperity is patently absurd. The question is how masses of Ukrainians can be incited to overthrow a democratically elected president in the name of democracy and a return to the rule of law, or to put their country under the tutelage of the U.S., the E.U., NATO and IMF Greek-style austerity in the name of national independence and economic prosperity, or to plunge their country into dissent, internal strife and possible civil war in the name of national unity.
The article makes apparent what the other media, mainstream and alternative alike, conceal or pass over: that the root of the problem goes back to the fate of the former Soviet-bloc countries after the fall of the USSR and before that to the demise under Stalin of the policy of national self-determination which was an integral part of the Bolshevik program after the October Revolution, both of which issues the Ukrainian crisis puts on the table once more.
What Trotsky’s position of 1939 makes clear today is that the Ukraine has no hope of achieving national independence either by joining the Western Imperialist’s EU or Putin’s Eurasian trade bloc. Trotsky’s prediction that if the USSR did not reform, it would fall, in which case Russia would be made the preserve of the Western imperialists, is now coming true. The imperialist plan for regime change in Russia and the dismemberment of the Russian nation has been openly stated by the West as its post Cold War objective and forms part of a larger plan to control the area as evidenced by the regime change operations which have been launched against Afghanistan, Iraq, Georgia, Yugoslavia, Serbia, Iran, Libya, Egypt and Syria, not to be mention those in Latin America and Africa.
This is the issue that lies behind the crisis and which none of the media will talk about. If we are to believe the media, there are only two choices for the Ukraine: closer relations with the Western Imperialists or with Russian nationalism, and that, as with an Olympic sporting event, we must all side with one team or the other even if it results in another world war. What is conveniently forgotten, as the Vogt-Downey article reminds us, is that the Ukraine was once before a bone of contention between the powers of Nazism and Stalinism and that the Ukraine never realized its dreams of independence due to  Stalin’s distortions of socialism, thus encouraging the rise of Nazi sympathies in the Ukraine.
In this day and age when the concepts of “democracy” and “freedom” and the guarantee of individual human rights have been indissolubly linked with neo-liberalism and free market capitalism and it is generally considered legitimate for the Western Imperialists to overthrow any authoritarian regime anywhere in the world which is not capitalist and therefore not under their control, Trotsky’s observations of 1939, as Marilyn Vogt-Downey makes clear, are more timely than ever: “The program of independence for the Ukraine in the epoch of imperialism is directly and indissolubly bound up with the program of the proletarian revolution.” (Leon Trotsky, Problem of the Ukraine, April 1939 Leon Trotsky Internet Archive 2009)

Perhaps the present crisis in the Ukraine will set in motion a dynamic, the evolution of which will allow the working class of the Ukraine and other countries, including Russia, to intervene directly in events there and to change the present reactionary course of world history.  Otherwise, it will lead either to a return of the Cold War, which only strengthens the grip of the imperialist powers over the world, or to another world war for capitalist domination and global annihilation. 
Ramón Rodríguez


Anonymous said...

"the coverage of the Ukrainian crisis on the wsws.org website, which seems to be only taking up a pro-Russian and anti-fascist position."

Anyone capable of searching the WSWS coverage of the Ukraine crisis can see that this is a baseless slander. For instance:

"Putin represents oligarchs who enriched themselves by plundering state industry following the dissolution of the USSR. His regime is incapable of making any appeal to the Ukrainian working class or to progressive sentiment within the country. Instead, he seeks to whip up chauvinism both in Russia and eastern Ukraine, adding to the dangers of civil and sectarian warfare stoked up by the Ukrainian fascists and their American and German backers."


"This does not alter the fact that Russia’s intervention into Crimea is politically bankrupt. The Putin regime is an organ of capitalist restoration and the product of the degeneration and overthrow at the hands of Stalinism of the economic and social foundations of the workers’ state established by the 1917 October Revolution. It is a comprador regime with no real independence from imperialism.

"It cannot make an appeal to the working class in Ukraine under conditions where it is imposing brutal austerity measures on Russian workers, repressing political dissent, and whipping up Russian chauvinism in an attempt to divert social opposition at home."


"The Russian government represents criminal oligarchs who enriched themselves from the dissolution of the Soviet Union by stealing former state property. It is deeply hostile to the working class. In advancing its interests, it relies on the promotion of Russian chauvinism both in Ukraine and Russia. It is incapable of making an appeal to the broad and deep antiwar sentiment in the working class of Russia, Ukraine, Europe, the US and the rest of the world."

Numerous other examples can be found.

It's worth asking, what value is an analysis that begins by falsifying the positions of a political tendency that are on the public record, and free for anyone to peruse...

Unknown said...

Thanks, Alex, for posting my article. I am most heartened by Ramon Rodriguez' comments. It is so encouraging and heartening to learn that there are others out there in the world who remember who Trotsky was and understand why the ideas he fought for are so vital today. Unfortunately, I may be wrong, but I know of no so-called Trotskyist organization that--during this current crisis--is advancing Trotsky's analysis and solutions to the Ukrainian problem today.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous seeks to refute my statement that wsws.org’s coverage of the Ukrainian crisis is like the coverage of some of the mainstream and alternative press which seeks only to defend Russia against the imperialist aggression of the U.S., EU, IMF and NATO. For this purpose anonymous cites several statements in which wsws.org is highly critical of Putin’s regime of corrupt oligarchs. These excerpts in and of themselves, however, prove nothing.

The point is that nowhere does wsws.org come out as clearly and unequivocally for the struggle of Ukrainian workers for democracy, freedom and national independence on the basis of workers’ control as does Marilyn Vogt-Downey’s article. The general sense and implicit assumption of wsws.org’s coverage of the Ukrainian crisis is that the Ukraine has no real option but to align itself with Western imperialism on the one hand or with Putin and the corrupt Russian oligarchs on the other. This is the same analysis that the media, mainstream and alternative alike, is offering up- that the Ukraine has only these two options.

A struggle for national independence on the basis of workers control, on the other hand, as Vogt-Downey proposes, would allow Ukrainian workers to unify across cultural, ethnic and linguistic lines and to call on the solidarity of workers outside the Ukraine. It is only from this class perspective that the Russian annexation of the Crimea, the partition of the Ukraine and the threat of both Imperialist and Russian military intervention can be condemned and effectively opposed. The WSWS coverage of the Ukraine on the other hand has been very selective, omitting any condemnation either of the annexation of Crimea or the partition of Ukraine.

A struggle for an independent socialist Ukraine, “means”, as Vogt-Downey says, “workers organizing their own revolutionary organizations to mobilize the masses of people around their own needs–Ukrainian, Russian, or any other nationality that resides there–[t]o take over and run their own economy. This is the only way to stand up victoriously against the oligarchs of Ukraine and of the planet.”

Ramón Rodriguez
México, D.F.

Anonymous said...

Ramón Rodriguez’ allegation that wsws.org does not come out “as clearly and unequivocally for the struggle of Ukrainian workers for democracy, freedom and national independence on the basis of workers’ control as does Marilyn Vogt-Downey’s article”, implies that aim to be the ultimate perspective for the Ukrainian working class. Both, Rodriguez and Vogt-Downey, believe that the propagation of these aims will finally lead to the working class taking the power in the Ukraine. Both submit to the spontaneous uprising of the working class and ignore the most urgent task: The building of a revolutionary party as section of the Fourth International, as Trotsky stated already in the Transitional Program. The wsws.org as the news and information center of the International Committee of the Fourth International is very clear about this:

“The answer to the imperialist plans to carve up Russia and gain direct control over vast territories and resources cannot be found in the promotion of Russian nationalism, no more than the grievances of the long-suffering Ukrainian masses can be resolved by the promotion of Ukrainian nationalism. The crisis that has erupted in Ukraine poses with the greatest urgency the need for the working class to assert its own interests on the basis of its own independent program. It is the absence of a revolutionary leadership fighting to mobilize the working class on the basis of such a program that has enabled fascistic forces, financed and backed by US and German imperialism, to gain the upper hand.

“The answer to this crisis is the unification of the Ukrainian and Russian working class on the basis of a socialist and internationalist program. Ukraine has a powerful revolutionary history. In the 19th century, Ukrainian-born Marxists rejected the program of nationalism and instead championed the program of working class internationalism. The greatest of these was Leon Trotsky.

“It is to these great traditions that workers and youth must return today, in Ukraine, Russia and internationally, through the building of the world party of socialist revolution, the International Committee of the Fourth International.”

The rejection and hostility against building the International Committee of the Fourth International as the revolutionary leadership of the international working class is the essence of your whole web page.