As revolutionary class-conscious partisans within the epicenter of global capitalist-imperialism, our daily struggles consist of a multitude of factors, such as a societal inundation of bourgeois ideology that is close to total. This means that every time your television is turned on or your radio is playing the chances of some reactionary foolishness reaching your senses is greater than the likelihood of a white male becoming the next amerikan president.
Before most people turn-in for the night they tune in for another dose of the corporate state’s media misinformation (most begin their day like this as well!). The talking points are simple and easy to follow and the repetition of the message increases the likelihood of remembrance. Under these conditions what becomes of the formation of independent thought development?
Marx taught us to subject everything in existence to relentless criticism, our sources of information gathering down to the way we choose to utilize technology controlled by multi-national (corporations) we must assess and re-assess our own patterns and those of others among us to conform to the material conditions of our struggle as to devise methods which will allow us to intensify our efforts hence moving closer and closer to ultimately overthrowing this reactionary order.
As Maoists, we cannot differentiate between the working-class masses of Russia and Ukraine. Not only do they share a common culture and historical background, but the fact that we as laboring masses have no country proves true in the current context. The so-called “socialist” international chose nationalism over socialism, reform over revolution, and we walk that same path by choosing sides in a conflict where the people are regarded as bystanders. In the world of Clausewitz this may make sense, but as Marxist-Leninist-Maoists (or Maoists) we understand that the people make their own history.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We saw anti-Russian propaganda ramp up quickly in the last couple months. As the mainstream media continues to villianize Russian imperialism for the same atrocities the Amerikans have committed much more regularly, we aim to serve the majority of the world who has no allegiance to imperialism. Unfortunately, most in this country recognize that they benefit from the imperialist exploitation and ally with the militarist rhetoric.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, MIM(Prisons) has not published any analysis of the war, nor have we participated in any organizing around the war. Our position is that our movement should be looking to counter and prevent Amerikan war-mongering against Russia, or any other country.
Unfortunately, most opposition to the Russian invasion in the United $tates is being led by the State Department and is fanning Amerikan support for war with Russia and promoting the overthrow of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As we go to press, things have continued to heat up and the threat of inter-imperialist war seems greater than it’s been in decades.
Imperialists are stealing from other imperialists. The U.$. Treasury Department has already seized $1 billion worth of boats and planes and hundreds of millions of dollars in bank accounts. The House of Representatives passed a bill to liquidate these assets and use them to rebuild Ukraine. In addition, the U.$. imperialist bloc has frozen $600 billion of Russia’s central bank foreign reserve fund, which they are also considering using to rebuild Ukraine.(1) They are taking the stolen wealth of other imperialists and using it to rebuild Ukraine to serve U.$. imperialism instead of Russia. This greatly adds to the original military threat Russia had felt from NATO encircling them, making the escalation to all-out inter-imperialist war more likely.
The U.$/IMF/World Bank will of course sink their teeth deeper into Ukraine through loans, which have already begun during the war period. As they do to oppressed nations around the world, these loans become means by which they control their policies and structure their economies as neo-colonies. Perhaps they will even use assets stolen from Russia to loan to Ukraine.
As this issue of Under Lock & Key reaches ours subscribers, we will be approaching the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany (May 8-9). In the Russian-allied Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics they are restoring statues of V.I. Lenin and hanging red flags as they prepare to celebrate, while the Azov neo-Nazis threatened to attack victory parades.(2) The memories of World War II run deep. While there is no socialist camp engaged in the current war, we can see how the crisis is pushing people to look for answers. In addition to being morally abhorrent, the fascists cannot address the contradictions of capitalism that are playing out today. It is only a new economy that is driven by universal humyn need and not profit that can solve the problems of war, environmental destruction and economic booms and busts that capitalism brings.
What sort of sanctions is Russia under? What will the effect be?
Russia was banned from SWIFT, a component of the global payments processing system. Many other sanctions have been placed on the Russian economy, including obstacles to outside investment and bans on the sale of anything that could conceivably have a military use (which is a lot of stuff). Oil and gas, as of this writing, are still being bought from Russia by most European countries, but this might change soon even though Europe has no other reliable supply of natural gas to rely on currently. Germany, for example, ships weapons to Ukraine that are used against Russian troops and pays Russia for its natural gas at the same time.
The effects of the sanctions aren’t clear yet. If Russia loses access to the European market for its oil and gas its export earnings will collapse. China cannot replace the lost demand, and sanctions will play havoc on Russian industry’s supply chains.
What will the effects of the war be on the Ukrainian economy?
One of the major battles, around the town of Mariupol in the southeast, is unfolding in Azovstal, an enormous Soviet-era steel mill. The complex has mostly been destroyed. This serves as a symbol of what the rest of Ukraine will look like once all this is over. Following the war there are likely to be fewer and worse jobs, a large refugee population abroad, environmental devastation and a radical polarization of Ukrainian society. There is talk of forgiving some of Ukraine’s foreign debt, and maybe there will be aid for reconstruction, but the rest of the world’s charity is not likely to make up for what’s being lost now, and its also likely to come with strings attached.
Are there Nazis in Ukraine?
Yes. The Azov battalion, which is based in southeast Ukraine and has been fighting Russian separatists in the Donbass region since 2014, is a far-right military formation with white supremacist leadership and ideals. They’re responsible for numerous attacks on Roma encampments, LGBT people and leftists in Ukraine since their founding, as well as attacks on civilians and war crimes during the battles against separatists in the east. Many of their leaders, including founder Andriy Biletsky, used to openly promote race war against “untermenschen”[define?] and Jewish people, but have dialed back such talk in public in recent years.
Their logo features the Wolfsangel and the Sonnenrad, both indisputable Nazi SS symbols, and the constant appearance of these logos in sympathetic coverage of the Ukrainian military has been a PR headache for the government. The Azov battalion is just one part of a larger fascist Azov movement coming from the Western part of Ukraine. U.$. news media has helpfully downplayed the significance of an openly fascist, highly armed and well-organized formation at the heart of Ukrainian politics by claiming that the symbols and years of fascist rhetoric and actions either don’t mean anything or are in the organization’s past. The limited presence of explicit far-right figures in the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, belies their ability to organize outside parliament and the impunity with which they do so.
The popularity of Stepan Bandera is another aspect of fascism in Ukraine. Bandera was the head of the Organization of Ukranian Nationalists, and worked with the Nazis during their occupation of Ukraine, including participating in the Holocaust and in ethnic cleansing in southeastern Poland. He is admired by the far right and those influenced by them, but not by the rest of the country – the Rada refused to award him the title of Hero of Ukraine when this was proposed in 2019. So it’s wrong to say that Ukraine is a Neo-Nazi dictatorship, just as it’s wrong to say that fascists have no influence and are not a serious issue in Ukranian society. Of course, Putin has his own fascists and couldn’t care less about Nazi rhetoric among his own forces, so he can’t use that as a pretext for an invasion.
Are war crimes being committed in Ukraine?
The biggest war crime is starting one, so Russia is undoubtedly guilty on that score. In addition, indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in Ukraine by Russia has led to probably thousands of casualties so far, though confirmed counts are much lower. During early April, when Russian forces retreated from the area surrounding Kiev, Ukranian forces reoccupying the town of Bucha found hundreds of bodies of civilians on the streets. The brutality of the invading forces is clear.
The Ukranian side has also engaged in war crimes, like the kneecapping of prisoners of war. That happened on video, so who knows what’s going on when phones aren’t pulled out. War is hell.
Are there diplomatic efforts to stop the war underway?
Ukraine and Russia started talking almost immediately, and the demands have shifted with the battle. When it looked like Russia was about to capture Kiev immediately in the early days of the war, Russia’s demands were significant. But now that Russia has withdrawn from the area around Kiev and suffered significant casualties, things are different. The discoveries in Bucha as well as the radicalizing effect of war in general, might make negotiations break down completely in the future.
The key issues in the talks are Ukraine’s diplomatic relationship with the EU and NATO, and territory in Ukraine. Russia wants Ukraine to stay out of NATO, and wants its territorial acquisitions, including Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and the Crimean peninsula in the south, to be confirmed.
Does Putin support the Soviet Union and its recreation?
The Soviet Union was formed on a voluntary basis by independent nations. Most of those who joined the Soviet Union had been part of the Russian Empire in the past. As an imperialist, Putin may be aspiring to something closer to the Russian Empire. However, stated motivations for the invasion of Ukraine are immediate concerns about defending Russia from NATO.
Both sides of the current war in Ukraine are openly and virulently opposed to Bolshevism and the ideas of Lenin and Stalin.
Should we support sanctions as a way to peacefully pressure Russia to stop the war?
The sanctions being implemented by the U.$.-led imperialist bloc are not peaceful as they come along with large military support being sent into Ukraine to prolong the war and the fighting.
Sanctions are economic warfare. They can be a softer way to pressure other powers than military conflict, but given time they can also have more damaging effects.
In a few days the U.$. imperialists achieved more than the movement to boycott, sanction and divest from I$rael has achieved in years. The illegal occupation of Palestine and daily oppression of the Palestinian people does not get the support of many of the multinational corporations and organizations that jumped to ban Russia or pull their operations from Russia.
As the sanctioning of Russia happened more quickly and successfully, it is that much more dangerous. The increase in economic boundaries between imperialist camps marks the shift from a stage of relative peace between imperialist powers to one of more violent competition. Tariffs, sanctions, market control, dividing up of the world’s colonies, resources and markets, were what led up to the first and second inter-imperialist wars.
Supporting sanctions on Russia right now is further isolating an imperialist power and increasing the chances of military escalation between the imperialists, which increases the chance of nuclear war. None of this is in the interests of humynity as a whole.
Is siding with the Amerikans and against the Russians the profitable option for the capitalists?
For the last century the United $tates has led the most prosperous path for international finance capital. As a result many of the big names are loyal to the Amerikans. But there are also many exceptions, companies who are not volunteering to stop business in Russia. And others who are looking to capitalize on others leaving. One financial company made a bold statement saying that if they were to ban a country from their services for invading a sovereign people, they’d start with banning the Amerikans.(3)
Different capitalists are going to have different interests, and their interests are going to conflict with those of their competitors. While the big finance capitalists benefit from and support stability, other capitalist interests will fund and fuel escalating conflict between the imperialist camps. Meanwhile, weapons manufacturers always benefit from militarism and are very powerful and influential in imperialist circles of power. The mutual interests that created the military-industrial complex has posed a great threat to the world since WWII.
What is a multipolar world, and is it a good thing?
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United $tates of Amerika has been the sole dominant superpower in the world. Before then, countries who opposed U.$. interests could find support from the other imperialist pole of the Soviet Union.
Since WWII, Europe has been subsumed by Amerikan imperialism. If you look at a map of those imposing sanctions on Russia today it is occupied Turtle Island (the United $tates and Klanada), Western Europe, Australia and Japan. This has been the alliance of imperialist powers that has dominated the world, operating under U.$. military and economic leadership, for 70 years.
China left the socialist path in 1976, and has continued to rise as an economic superpower since then. When the Soviet Union took the capitalist path it led to collapse 35 years later as the bourgeoisie was divided, carving out their own fiefdoms from which to extract wealth. China’s new bourgeoisie however has remained united in a plan to exploit its own proletariat, and is now seen as the biggest threat to U.$. dominance almost 50 years after taking the capitalist road. Of course, the people of China and the former Soviet Union were the losers in both cases.
China and Russia remain politically separate from the U.$.-dominated imperialist pole, despite China’s deep integration with the U.$. economy. Their socialist past is one reason for this separation. Together Russia and China control most of the Eurasian land mass, and as neighbors have shared interests in promoting trade in the region. The media has been buzzing about the new Russia/China pole as the geopolitics of the invasion of Ukraine play out. Some dissident media outlets cheer this prospect as a counterbalance to U.$./European imperialism, or what is often referred to as “Western” imperialism.
We look at the invasion of Ukraine with the outlook of “it’s terrible, but it’s fine.” An invasion by an imperialist country is always terrible, with Ukrainians and Russian soldiers dying and 100,000s of Ukrainians being displaced. Communists should never aid an imperialist invasion.
Ultimately, it is imperialist conflict that creates space for the proletariat to organize, and to play the imperialists against each other in order to win victories for the people. In that sense, the increase in disorder in the world “is fine.” It is the inevitable result of the contradictions within the capitalist system. These conflicts will come sooner or later, we cannot prevent them in the short term, but we can seize the opportunities they create to put an end to this system to prevent chaos in the long-term.
Prior to WWI, Britain was the leading imperialist power, and maintained its dominance in part by keeping continental Europe divided. Today the Amerikans play the leading role, but are working with the British to prevent closer relations between Germany and Russia. This has been their strategy since the 1930s when the imperialists feared Germany would join the socialist camp.
In recent years, the United $tates has been threatening sanctions to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would pipe natural gas directly from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea. Germany is already Russia’s biggest gas customer, and Nord Stream 2 would strengthen that relationship. The Amerikans oppose this as they see this tying German and Russian interests closer. In recent negotiations around sanctions against Russia, Germany proved reluctant but ultimately joined the NATO consensus to impose them. Germany even gave in on shipping arms to Ukraine after refusing at first.
Among the imperialists there are disagreements about this. Henry Kissinger famously opposed NATO inclusion of Ukraine, promoting a policy of integrating Russia into the U.$.-led sphere. Kissinger warned of the consequences of trying to break the back of Russia.
Nord Stream 2 provides an alternate route to transport gas to Germany than the other primary route through Ukraine.
Petro Dollars and Reserve Currencies
Following WWII, the U.$. was the least damaged imperialist power and was booming from the wartime economy. Profits were high, exploitation of the Third World was transferring wealth to the rising U.$. empire that financed the rebuilding of Europe. This allowed Europe to be built in the way the Amerikans saw fit. One thing this allowed for was they positioned the dollar to become the global reserve currency, or the currency that other countries held and conducted international trade in. Oil was set to trade exclusively in exchange for the “petro dollar.”
This arrangement has allowed the U.$. to have a growing trade deficit for decades without the value of their currency dropping. When Third World countries have trouble paying their debts, their currencies can become worthless overnight. A replacement of the U.$. dollar as the global reserve currency makes the United $tates more economically vulnerable.
“According to the IMF, the share of reserves held in U.S. dollars by central banks has dropped by 12 percentage points since the turn of the century, from 71 percent in 1999 to 59 percent in 2021. But this fall has been matched by a rise in the share of what the IMF calls ‘non-traditional reserve currencies’, defined as currencies other than the ‘big four’ of the US dollar, euro, Japanese yen and British pound sterling, namely such as the Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, Chinese renminbi, Korean won, Singapore dollar, and Swedish krona.”(4)
Currently Russia is saying ‘unfriendly countries’ must begin to pay them for gas in Russian rubles. Hungary, which is part of the European Union, but also friendly with Russia has already agreed to pay with rubles. But the European Union(E.U.) has said the deal was to pay in euros and dollars and they would not change. This is an effort by Russia to stabilize their currency using their vast gas trade with Europe to force others to buy rubles. While the value of the ruble initially dropped about 50% after invading Ukraine, it has since recovered close to pre-war levels.
Poland, Germany and Bulgaria have refused to pay Russia for natural gas in rubles instead of euros as they are demanding. On 27 April 2022, Russia halted natural gas flows to Poland and Bulgaria after their deadline for paying in rubles was not met. About 40% of Europe’s gas consumption is supplied by Russia. The region is talking about tightening up its consumption. While good for the planet, this will lead to a further constriction of the economy, applying more pressure to the imperialists who must always expand their markets to circulate more capital. However, it is reported that some undisclosed purchasers are going ahead and buying with rubles, despite it being a violation of EU sanctions.(5)
Would joining the European Union benefit Ukranians economically?
As we discussed in ULK 36, GDP in Ukraine after the dissolution of the Soviet Union was 1/3 what it was just before. Though the Soviet Union had already been operating a capitalist economy for 35 years at that time, the complete opening up of the region to the West, the complete Liberalization of policies, and the resultant chaos and uncertainty led to a precipitous drop in material wealth in the country.
Leading up to and following the 2014 coup in Ukraine, the GDP fell and had not recovered pre-coup highs before the current war.(6) The coup installed a U.$.-backed, EU/NATO friendly government that introduced International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans to the country, which are used around the world to extract wealth from the exploited countries to the finance capitalists. As we predicted in ULK 37 these IMF loans contributed to decreasing wealth in Ukraine.
Before 2014, the Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine in the East and South were much more productive and prosperous. People in those regions have lost significant income. Meanwhile, the rest of the country that was somewhat ignored by Russian imperialism, has not seen material improvements by cozying up to the West.(7)
To join the E.U. is a logical option for many in Ukraine who see the wealth in those countries and the incomes they can earn migrating to even the eastern E.U.. Yet the spoils of imperialism are limited, and experience in the last 8 years in Ukraine show the limitations of this option.
Ukraine and Russia remain largely proletarian countries, with material interests opposed to imperialism. While there does not appear to be a strong anti-imperialist current in Ukraine at this time, this can change quickly as this crisis has brought much disruption and displacement in the country.
I am the same “Xinachtli” mentioned by my beloved comrade Triumphant of Texas T.E.A.M. O.N.E. at page 8 of your MIM newsletter, Under Lock & Key No. 76, Winter 2022.
The prison assigns me to psychiatric-ward-like cellblocks, filled with prisoners under ‘psychotropic medications’ so removed from these realities that one cannot engage them in a rational conversation much less get them involved in the Texas Prisoners’ Human Rights Movement. Other times, they place me in the middle of viper nests of racist, white supremacist inmates. In any event, I continue the struggle as a “one man army” continuing to expose the realities of these racist, horrendous conditions that violate all norms of human decency and civilized society. This prison is a genocidal one, not only sitting on stolen land, but the majority of its cages are occupied by Black, Chicano, and Native American tribes, the mass incarceration that makes up the entire U.S. prison industrial complex.
We, the ‘prisoner class’, have won many legal victories in our struggle, such as in the Ruiz v. Estelle Litigation, 503 F.Supp. 1265, but conditions continue to be the same in violation of civil and human rights standards and laws. Recently, a Scottish Court in the extradition case of Daniel Magee, refused the government’s petition to extradite Magee to Texas for criminal prosecution for allegedly shooting a security guard in Austin, TX, giving as reasons for its decision to continue the ongoing inhumane conditions existing in Texas prisons that violate international human rights laws and standards. (see article by Keri Blackinger, 17 March 2022, The Marshall Project)
Like Russian imperialist President Putin, the same blood drips from the genocidal claws of U.S. imperialism, in the hidden genocidal, extermination of the Mexicano, Chicano, indigenous tribes during their repeated colonial settler wars of annexation and plunder in the war crimes, crimes against humanity, committed by U.S. colonial, imperialists in 1830 through 1848 and ongoing today along the illegal U.S./Mexico military border. The Ukraine and Chicano masses are victims of a same, genocidal, war criminal governments that seek global domination of the world. We, the oppressed, must turn such imperialist wars into wars against world imperialism, and free all oppressed nations and peoples, to make their own destiny.
Please extend my revolutionary greetings to others in TEAM ONE, especially Comrade Triumphant.
Build the National Prisoners’ United Front!
All Power to the Oppressed!
Free the Occupied Territories of U.S. Southwest Aztlan!
Convert the Ongoing Russian/U.S. Imperialist War in Ukraine Into a War Against Imperialism!
Warmongering propaganda is at high levels in the United $tates, as it seems no positive lessons were taken from September 11, 2001. It took about a decade for Amerikans to lose interest in the U.$. occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. This contributed to almost two-thirds of Amerikans opposing Obama's push to invade Syria less than a year ago. Yet already, about two-thirds of the population now agrees with Obama that they would rather control the government in Syria than keep Amerikan journalists' heads attached to their bodies.
Militarism is driven by an economic system that is built around arms production and requires war to keep up demand. Arms shipments have increased recently to I$rael, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq where the U.$. has resumed bombing campaigns that are destroying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of American military equipment now in the hands of the Islamic State. Every strike made by either side in that war is a boon to Amerikan business.
Meanwhile, Russia has been clear that they will not let Ukraine join NATO. The United $tates and Russia are the two biggest nuclear powers in the world. Yet Obama is pushing to have Ukraine join NATO, and Amerikan anti-Russian sentiment is on the rise in support of him. Open conflict with Russia would greatly increase the already unacceptable risk of nuclear catostrophe due to militarism.
The last 15 years have proven that U.$. militarism cannot be stopped by the Amerikan anti-war movement. Rather, revolutionaries in the United $tates must focus on pushing the national liberation struggles of the internal semi-colonies in solidarity with the Third World. Campaigns like the one in support of Palestine by California prisoners are good for building anti-militarism in the United $tates.
Currently the media and Western politicians are promoting the line that the Islamic State is the biggest threat to peace globally. They are way off the mark. That role has long remained in the hands of the United $tates and its military industrial complex.
Amerikans must condemn their government's meddling in Russia's backyard. Backing fascist political parties with nuclear ambitions on the border of Russia is a recipe for death and disaster.(1) Bloodshed has already increased as a result of imperialism's maneuvers as dozens have died in clashes between protestors/opposition forces and Ukrainian security forces controlled by the parties that came to power in the February coup d'etat (the second U.$.-backed coup in Ukraine in 10 years). Interestingly, we have not heard John Kerry call for sanctions against the new Ukraine government as we did last fall when the previous government roughed up protestors, once again exposing his hypocrisy (not to apologize for the now deposed Yanukovic regime, which later killed dozens of protestors in the streets of Kiev). Europeans should be even more worried about the violence being fomented in Ukraine. While the EU hopes to benefit from U.$. militarism in the form of trade relations with Ukraine, that same militarism could bring war to their region.
While statements from president Vladimir Putin on 7 May 2014 indicated a cooling off of Russian rhetoric in the conflict, talk of Ukraine joining NATO is a major threat to Russian security. Amerikan foreign policy experts, including Henry Kissinger, have condemned the idea of pulling Ukraine into NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed at the end of WWII as a military pact between countries opposed to the then communist Soviet Union. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, NATO has been creeping into Eastern Europe, towards Russia.
The calming words from Putin indicate that the very limited Western sanctions succeeded in not fanning the flames of inter-imperialist rivalry too high. By targetting individuals, the United $tates and Germany avoided the types of trade barriers that led to open wars between the imperialist countries in the early 20th century. And while Russian financial markets have declined in the face of this threat, the hit remains moderate.
Another reason to worry is that the U.$.-backed regime has significant participation from far right fascist parties. It is ironic that fascism finds some of its broadest support today in the very peoples who destroyed fascism in the Soviet Union's great patriotic war against Germany in the 1940s. But our understanding of fascism explains why this is so. Fascism is led by an imperialist class that feels its existence is threatened and/or aspires to surge ahead of other imperialist powers, and its mass support is among the labor aristocracy who wants their nation to rise and reap more superprofits at the expense of other countries (see our fascism study pack). Russia remains an imperialist power at odds with the West that cannot provide the same benefits to its people as countries like the United $tates and those in Western Europe. While Ukraine is not an imperialist country, there is a small class of finance capitalists backing the fascist upsurge within the current regime. The fascists are mobilizing within the national guard and are behind the recent murders of local police and civilians in the east where opposition to the new regime is strong.
With all the aid and loans being offered to Ukraine from the West, we know that large chunks of money given in the past has gone to various political parties, "election reform," and media outlets(2); something worth keeping in mind when trying to parse out what is going on during political turmoil in client states. USAID, often marketed by the government as a humanitarian agency, is behind much of this political funding and campaigning. The United $tates and Germany are adament that the planned presidential election must go ahead on May 25 as they work behind the scenes to ensure its results.
U.$. militarism, which is defined by the Amerikan economy being dependent on war and military production, must be put to an end to stop the unneccessary killings such as those in Ukraine recently and in so many other parts of the world. USAID must be exposed and opposed as a tool opposing the self-determination of other peoples around the world. The anti-Russian sentiments rising among Amerikans and the support that Putin is getting in Russia do not bode well for preventing further conflict if the imperialists decide to step it up a notch. This is a warning for us to strengthen the movement against U.$. militarism.
In November 2013, the elected government of Ukraine caused a stir for rejecting a deal with the European Union citing the overly burdensome terms of the aid package offered by the U.$.-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF). Since we last reported on Ukraine (see ULK 36), opposition forces with Western support have implemented a regime change, ousting president Viktor Yanukovich from the country. This put a deal with the IMF back on the table. Ukrainians once again face the prospect of more wealth being sucked from their country via imperialist loans and imposed economic policies.
While opposition to the oligarchy that has ruled Ukraine has united the Western imperialists with Ukrainian fascist parties, austerity measures imposed by the IMF will threaten this alliance shortly. The new offer from the IMF will require hiking energy prices that have been subsidized by the state, one of the deal breakers cited by Yanukovich in November.
The regime change was a loss for Russian economic interests. In response, on 27 February 2014, Russian forces seized control of the Crimean peninsula, a majority Russian region of the current Ukraine state. On 6 March 2014 Crimea's regional assembly voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. The next day leaders of the Russian Parliament said they would support this move. The decision calls for a referendum for the people of Crimea to vote on this, scheduled for 16 March.(1)
The New York Times has made much of the battle over the right to self-determination in recent strife between the United $tates and the Russian Federation. Struggles in the Black Sea region in recent decades have been primarily inter-imperialist battles, and there is no principle behind the imperialists' actions except for their economic interests to have access to more markets, natural resources and people to exploit. Meanwhile, the proletariat's interest is defined by putting an end to this exploitation. Therefore we support the side that most threatens the control and penetration of the imperialists over the oppressed nations.
The Amerikans are saying the Russian invasion of Crimea is totally different from their meddling in Libya, Venezuela, Syria, Iran... just to name a few. But this is all posturing and a question of tactics, and the United $tates often is able to use more subtle tactics because of its greater power. In all cases it is the continuation of imperialist war to maintain profits.
While the situation in Crimea is still unresolved and potentially volatile as we write this, Russian officials have been quoted recognizing Kiev has gone pro-West. At the same time, Russia is talking with the IMF to get in on the Ukraine bail out.(2)
The IMF was part of the Bretton Woods project, which was organized by the imperialist countries after World War II in an attempt to prevent the protectionism and trade barriers that led to the economic crisis in the capitalist core, and drove them to war in both WWI and WWII. Many sanctions and trade barriers are being threatened in the current conflict. But, if Russia is allowed to export some finance capital to Ukraine as part of the imperialist plan for the country, and Russia gets to keep Crimea under its sphere of influence, then a hot war between Russia and the West will likely be averted.
The IMF is basically run by the United $tates, which has 16.75% of the votes. Meanwhile the U.$.-led imperialist camp (U.$., Japan, Germany, France, U.K., Italy and Canada) has 43.74% of votes. Russia has only 2.39%.(3) In addition to the IMF loans, the United $tates has talked of unilateral aid, as long as Ukraine "takes the reforms it needs."(4) So Russia will see a significant loss in its economic interests in the Ukraine overall, but will likely see a small piece of the pie as serving its interests better than an all out war with the United $tates.
The framework developed at Bretton Woods has been a relatively effective solution to one of the inherent contradictions of the imperialist economic system. However, it does not eliminate inter-imperialist rivalry, it just manages it. While a war on North Amerikan or Western European soils is being avoided at all costs, it is not out of the question. It will certainly come before socialism can reach those lands. War is inherent to imperialism. And it is our position that World War III has been an ongoing low-intensity war against the Third World by the imperialists since the end of WWII.(5) In recent decades this war has been primarily waged by the United $tates. While inter-imperialist war has been secondary in this period, the struggle between different imperialist interests is an antagonistic contradiction that cannot be resolved without ending imperialism. As such conflicts heat up, those in the imperialist countries will be reminded that imperialism does not serve their interests when it comes to the threat of annhilation in war. These conflicts also create breathing room for the oppressed nations to develop their own political interests independent of imperialism. The key to the survival of the humyn species is to develop such movements before the imperialists kill us all.
Images of a statue of communist leader V.I. Lenin being torn down in Kiev have been celebrated in the Western press, as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets to protest the current regime headed by president Viktor Yanukovych.
Much of the coverage of the recent protests in Ukraine condemn government corruption as the common complaint of the protestors, linking it to Ukraine's Soviet past. The association is that this is the legacy of communist rule. In contrast, we would argue that this corruption was the result of economic Liberalism taking hold in the former Soviet Union where bourgeois democracy was lacking. Today's protests are largely inspired by a desire for bourgeois democracy, and the perceived economic benefits it would provide over the current rule by a parasitic bourgeoisie with little interest in the national economy.
The rise of Kruschev to lead the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) after Stalin's death marked the victory of the capitalist roaders within the Communist Party, and the beginning of the era of social-imperialism for the Soviet Union. This lasted from 1956 until the dissolution of the Union in 1991, when Ukraine became an independent republic. The period was marked by moving away from a socialist economy structured around humyn need and towards a market economy guided by profit. This transformation was reflected in the ideology of the people who more and more looked towards the imperialist countries and their crass consumerism as something to aspire to. It also led those in power to have more interest in their local regions than in the prosperity of the Union as a whole.
Even under capitalism, the Soviet Union was more prosperous and more stable than after its dissolution. In 1991, an estimated three quarters of the Soviet people supported maintaining the Union, but the leadership had no motivation to do so.(1) A move towards strengthening the Union would awaken the proletarian interests, which were opposed to the interests of the leadership that was now a new bourgeoisie. Ukraine played a key role in initiating the dissolution of the USSR. And it was no coincidence that in Ukraine, in particular, the dissolution was an economic disaster as the former Soviet nations were tossed to the wolves of economic Liberalism. A small emerging capitalist class took advantage of fixed prices that were a legacy of the Soviet economy and sold cheaply obtained raw materials at market rates to other countries. They turned around and invested that capital outside in international markets while tightening monopolies on trade at home. This was one of the most drastic transfers of wealth from the hands of the producers to the hands of capitalists in recent decades.(2)
Ten years after the October Revolution of 1917, Stalin wrote, "the resultant dropping out of a vast country from the world system of capitalism could not but accelerate [the process of the decay and the dying of capitalism]".(3) The inverse of this is also true, to a degree: the reentry of many countries into the world system breathed life back into it. While this brought great change at the hands of the newly empowered national bourgeoisie in those countries, it did not change the fact that imperialism had already made capitalism an economically regressive system. Hence they did not develop the wealth of their nations as the rising bourgeoisie of centuries past had done by improving production and developing trade. Today's rising bourgeoisie restricts markets via monopolies, and heads straight for high-margin business like drugs, weapons and financial markets. What happened in the ex-Soviet countries is a good demonstration of why Libertarian ideals are not relevant in today's economy.
The underground economy had been growing for decades before 1991, and this new freedom to compete was a boon to the criminal organizations that existed. These mafias were on the ground with direct access to the resources of the people before the imperialists had time to fight over these newly opened economies. With rising nationalism in the republics, Russian imperialism had to keep its distance, while other imperialist countries had no base in the region to get established. The inter-imperialist rivalry over the region is playing out today.
In the early years of independence, the Ukrainian state merged with that criminal class that was taking advantage of the political and economic turmoil in the country.(4) As a result the GDP dropped to a mere third of what it was just before the Union dissolved.(5) This came after decades of declining economic growth after the initial shift away from socialist economics. The mafias in the former Soviet countries saw an opportunity to seize local power and wealth in their respective republics as the super power crumbled. Some were further enticed by Amerikan bribes, such as Russian President Boris Yeltsin's family who received billions of dollars.(6) For a time there was hope that these changes would improve economic conditions as the bourgeois Liberal mythology led the former Soviet peoples to believe that they could follow the advice (and political donations) of the United $tates.
This mess, which the region is still struggling with, was the ultimate result of what Mao Zedong said about the rise of a new bourgeoisie within the communist party after the seizure of state power due to their inherent privilege as directors of the state. A successful socialist project must combat these bourgeois tendencies at every turn in order to prevent the proletariat from suffering at the hands of a new bourgeois exploiting class. At the core of the Cultural Revolution was combating the theory of productive forces, which Mao had previously criticized the Soviet Union for implementing. The turn to the western imperialist countries as economic models was the logical conclusion of the theory of productive forces in the Soviet Union.
One of the messages underpinning today's protests in Ukraine is the desire to move closer to the European Union (EU), as opposed to the Russian sphere of influence. It seems that looking to the west for hope has only increased in Ukraine over the last couple decades. But there is no obvious advantage to becoming a client of imperialist Western Europe over imperialist Russia except for the higher concentration of super-profits in the EU. And as other newcomers to the EU can attest, the imperialist nations in Europe will oppose any perceived distribution of their super-profits to the east. Similar nationalism is fueling the Ukrainian protestors who oppose the perceived transfer of wealth from their country to Russia. In general, increased trade will help a country economically. But in this battle Russia and the EU are fighting to cut each other off from trading with Ukraine. As always, capitalism tends towards monopolies and imperialism depends on monopsonies.
It is little wonder that the masses would be unsatisfied living under the rule of corrupt autocrats. Yet, it was just 2004 when the U.$.-funded so-called "Orange Revolution" threw out a previous mafia boss named Leonid Kuchma.(7) This regime change gained support from those making similar demands to today's protestors, but it did not change the nature of the system as these protests demonstrate. And that orchestrated movement was no revolution. It was a mass protest, followed by a coup d'etat; something that the imperialists have been funding quite regularly in central Eurasia these days. A revolution involves the overthrow of a system and transformation to a new system, specifically a change in the economic system or what Marxists call the mode of production. We don't see any movement in this direction in Ukraine from where we are, as nationalism is being used as a carrier for bourgeois ideologies among the exploited people of Ukraine, just as Stalin warned against.
Rather than a revolutionary anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist movement, the criminal corruption in Ukraine has led to right-wing populism in recent years. This was marked by the surge of the Svoboda party into the parliament. The men who toppled the statue of Lenin and smashed it with sledge hammers waved Svodoba flags as they did so, indicating that they represented not just a vague anti-Russia sentiment, but a clear anti-socialist one.
Svodoba's populism challenges the current ruling bourgeois mafia, while their nationalism serves to divide the proletariat by inflaming various grudges in the region. This is in strong contrast to the revolutionary nationalism supported by Lenin and Stalin and by Maoists today. In a criticism of the provisional government prior to the October Revolution in 1917, Lenin wrote on Ukraine:
"We do not favour the existence of small states. We stand for the closest union of the workers of the world against 'their own' capitalists and those of all other countries. But for this union to be voluntary, the Russian worker, who does not for a moment trust the Russian or the Ukrainian bourgeoisie in anything, now stands for the right of the Ukrainians to secede, without imposing his friendship upon them, but striving to win their friendship by treating them as an equal, as an ally and brother in the struggle for socialism."(8)
This is a concise summary of the Bolshevik line on nationalism.
A Note on Class and Criminality
Without doing an in-depth class analysis of Ukraine, we can still generalize that it is a proletarian nation. Only 5.1% of households had incomes of more than US$15,000 in the year 2011.(9) That mark is close to the dividing line we'd use for exploiters vs. exploited internationally. Therefore we'd say that 95% of people in Ukraine have objective interests in ending imperialism. This serves as a reminder to our readers that we say the white nation in North Amerika is an oppressor nation, not the white race, which does not exist.
While official unemployment rates in Ukraine have been a modest 7 to 8% in recent years, the CIA Factbook reports that there are a large number of unregistered and underemployed workers not included in that calculation. That unquantified group is likely some combination of underground economy workers and lumpen proletariat. In 2011, the Ukrainian Prime Minister said that 40% of the domestic market was illegal,(10) that's about double the rate for the world overall.(11) On top of that, another 31% of the Ukrainian market was operating under limited taxes and regulations implemented in March 2005, which were put in place to reduce the massive black market. In other words, the underground economy was probably much bigger than 40% before these tax exemptions were put in place.
One way we have distinguished the lumpen is as a class that would benefit, whether they think so or not, from regular employment. This is true both for the lumpen-proletariat typical of today's Third World mega-slums, and the First World lumpen, even though "regular employment" means very different things in different countries. While there is a portion of the lumpen that could accurately be called the "criminal" lumpen because they make their living taking from others, we do not define the lumpen as those who engage in crime. Of course not, as the biggest criminals in the world are the imperialists, robbing and murdering millions globally.
For the lumpen, the path of crime is only one option; for the imperialists it defines their relationship to the rest of humynity. Crime happens to be the option most promoted for the lumpen by the corporate culture in the United $tates through music and television. And in chaotic situations like the former Soviet republics faced it may be the most immediately appealing option for many. But it is not the option that solves the problems faced by the lumpen as a class. Ukraine is a stark example of where that model might take us. As the lumpen proletariat grows in the Third World, and the First World lumpen threatens to follow suit in conditions of imperialist crisis, we push to unite the interests of those classes with the national liberation struggles of the oppressed nations that they come from. Only by liberating themselves from imperialism can those nations build economies that do not exclude people.
Among the bourgeoisie, there are few who are innocent of breaking the laws of their own class. But there are those who operate legitimate businesses and there are those who operate in the underground market. This legality has little bearing on their class interests. All national bourgeoisies support the capitalist system that they benefit from, though they will fight against the imperialist if their interests collide.
So there is no such thing as "the criminal class" because we define class by the group's relationship to production and distribution, and not to the legality of their livelihoods. And we should combat the influence of the bourgeois criminals on the lumpen who, on the whole, would be better served by an end to imperialism than by trying to follow in their footsteps.
While the Ukrainian people push for something more stable and beneficial to them, the Russian imperialists face off with the EU. The EU is backed by the United $tates who has publicly discussed sanctions against Ukraine justified by hypocritical condemnation of the Ukrainian government using police to attack peaceful protests. Hey John Kerry, the world still remembers the images of police brutality on Occupy Wall Street encampments.
The real story here may be in the inter-imperialist rivalry being fought out in the Ukrainian streets and parliament. While the Ukraine nation has an interest in ending imperialism, the dominant politics in that country do not reflect that interest. And one reason for that is the lasting effects of mistakes from the past, which still lead to subjective rejection of communism for many Ukrainians in the 21st century. This only further reiterates the importance of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the need to always put politics in command in building a socialist economy to prevent the future exploitation and suffering of the peoples of the world. This is likely a precursor to much more violent conflict over the rights to markets in the former Soviet republics. Violence can be prevented in the future by keeping the exploited masses organized on the road to socialism.