To our readers. By Sean O'Torrain.
Readers of our blog will have seen the numerous articles we have printed on the situation in the Ukraine. I have a written a couple myself. These have mainly defended the idea of working class unity for the overthrow of the oligarchs and their corrupt capitalist system and this to be replaced by a democratic socialist Ukraine and the spreading of this revolution internationally. I have also stressed the need to give no support to either western imperialism led by US imperialism or Russian imperialism under Putin. I believe that these articles of mine have not been wrong. However I do believe that this article by Stephen fills out the reality of the situation, not only the nuances but also the balance of forces on the ground, the consciousness and the various possibilities. I would therefore like to offer this to the blog for consideration and also especially ask readers to read this Stephens most recent contribution. I believe it strengthens our position on this issue.
On a related point. I believe that it is important to approach discussion in a different way from what was done by the revolutionary left groups in the past. We have to recognize when other Comrades contributions are more helpful than ours and openly say so. I believe this is the case with Stephen's in relation to mine and I hope therefore that readers will read it. I and the other organizers of this blog are committed to a different way of organizing and discussing and building a revolutionary socialist movement. This includes as a central feature recognizing when we are wrong, when something we have written is wrong, when something we have written could be stronger. I believe that Stephen's piece here is stronger than my piece. Looking forward to strengthening this blog and all our political work through openly and publicly discussing our ideas, where we are right, where we are wrong and where our material could be stronger.
Stephen Morgan, May 19 2014
As I mentioned in my previous article on the Ukraine, there doesn't appears to be any real support for the pro-Russian paramilitaries so far and that the break down in law and order has become a major concern for the working class and their families. This was a major contributing reason why groups of steelworkers and others were taken in by the call on the part of the oligarchs for workers' patrols (under strict police command) The Economist has published a short article today on the situation. I certainly don't take at face value all the things this bourgeois publication says, but it is not a propaganda piece of the bourgeoisie for the consumption of the masses, but one which informs the international bourgeoisie of the situation, although serving as an opinion-shaper.
Anyhow, these are some of the points made in today's Economist,
"In one dramatic development the commander of rebel forces railed that he had less than 1,000 men to fight the entire Ukrainian army “while tens of thousands are watching calmly on TV, drinking beer."
On the outskirts of Sloviansk, a rebel-held city, there have days of sporadic fighting but no significant move by either side. On May 13th however, rebel forces ambushed a Ukrainian military convoy in a hit-and-run operation, killing seven soldiers. All the same it is becoming increasingly clear that both sides are bogged down. The rebels do not have enough men to defeat the Ukrainian forces deployed around town, while the army does not seem to know how to retake it without causing major civilian casualties.
In an extraordinary video released by Colonel Igor Strelkov, the military commander of the rebel forces, “Strelok” says that while he now has enough weapons to fight Ukrainian forces who are preparing a major onslaught, hardly anyone was volunteering to fight.
" Colonel Igor Strelkov, the military commander of the rebel forces complained that.... many want to use the resistance as a cover for banditry."
If men are failing to flock to lay down their lives for the anti-Ukrainian cause, that counts as another indication that the eastern rebellion could be running out of steam. At a rally in Donetsk on May 18th, called to demand the withdrawal of the Ukrainian army from the region, barely 300 people turned up in a city of almost 1m people."
But, while reporting credible facts on the ground, The Economist is also rightly a little cautious. It correctly states that, “it is far too early to tell if the tide has turned against the paramilitaries” As I said in the last article, what's happening is an unfinished process. There are many different scenarios possible in the situation. The bourgeoisie knows it is playing with fire and that is also why Putin has now withdrawn troops from the Ukrainian border to douse the flames of separatism which might lead to unforeseeable consequences, including the possibility of a workers' uprising. But The Economist's quote above adds to the impression that the situation is far more complex than some left articles have suggested.
For example, despite some large demonstrations of support for separation in the last month, they have not reached proportions which could be called revolutionary. It wasn't the masses who took control of the centres of local power in the East, but the paramilitaries who jumped on the back of the protests to take control of government buildings. In fact, quite ironically, they're criticism of the "putschism" of the movement in Kiev could also be levied against them. They were also able to do this because Russian speakers were enraged when the new Kiev government immediately ruled that Russian was no longer an official language in the East. This drove people towards separation fearing persecution, especially given the role of extreme-right and fascist groups in the Western movement and its new government. So with no genuine workers revolutionary movement present in the situation the paramilitaries were able to fill the vacuum.
But the situation on the ground in the Eastern Ukraine is much more complicated than the descriptions given in the popular media. The Eastern Ukraine isn't populated by a majority of Russians like it is in the Crimea. There are very many people of Russian ethnic origin, but perhaps a majority of the population in the East are Russian-speaking ETHNIC Ukrainians. That means that while they may be very sympathetic to Russia and look at it as a protector, it doesn't necessarily mean that, in their hearts, they want to leave the Ukraine completely. They consider themselves to be one important linguistic community of the whole Ukrainian nation. Therefore, despite all the hype around the actions of the paramilitaries, this may be why there appears to be no overtly enthusiastic support for them now they are under attack. Perhaps if a large number of them were massacred by the Ukrainian army, there could be a radicalized backlash, who knows. The situation is still highly volatile. But my impression is that most Eastern Ukrainians are hesitant about moving to separation and that is why I think the position the blog put in all the previous articles of opposing separation and about calling for a Ukrainian Workers' Federation of the East and West remains correct.