12 April 2017 – For the last several years, the U.S., Australian, French, British and other allied Western imperialists have sought to impose regime change on the people of Syria. The former U.S. Obama regime intervened by providing arms, ammunition, training, special forces back-up and diplomatic support for the Syrian “Rebel” forces who had been subordinated to the imperialist agenda. In 2014, this former U.S. Democratic Party administration upped the ante of its intervention by using the pretext of fighting ISIS to directly conduct military operations in both Syria and Iraq. This enabled the U.S. and its allies, like Australia, to move forces into the region, grab control of territory and build-up proxies in order to – among other goals – further its regime change agenda. Five days ago, the extreme racist Trump regime qualitatively cranked up this U.S. intervention. It openly unleashed a missile barrage on Syrian government positions.
The struggle of the Syrian people against this intervention and against imperialism’s “Rebel” proxies is a struggle of the people of a former colony, which to this day remains economically subjugated by richer capitalist countries, to prevent itself being once again completely trodden over by colonial powers. Thus, as Leninists, we in Trotskyist Platform stand for the defence of “Third World” Syria against the predatory U.S., Australian and other Western imperialists and their “Rebel” proxies. We do so without giving any political support to Syria’s Assad government. Although we defend the just war that Assad is currently waging against a neo-colonial takeover of the country, he nevertheless leads an oppressor government that oversees the exploitation of the Syrian masses by Syria’s rich capitalists.
We have maintained a position of military defence of Syria despite intervention on the side of the Syrian government by a capitalist great power – Russia. Russian intervention began fairly early in the conflict. It began initially with arms and ammunition support to the Syrian military, then included intelligence and special forces support and finally from September 2015 it included airstrikes. While it was primarily the heroism of the anti-colonial and secular-minded sections of the Syrian masses that have enabled the Syrian people to achieve victory over the imperialist-backed “Rebels” in Aleppo late last year, Russia’s military might no doubt also played a major part in this victory. This years-long Russian intervention does not change the stance that Leninists should take on the Syria question because although Russia has intervened in order to promote its great power capitalist ambitions it has not, up to the present, threatened to become the – or one of the –direct neo-colonial overlords of Syria. Furthermore, unlike the U.S.A and its allies, Russia is not using its Syrian intervention as a means to secure overall domination of the oil-rich Middle East. Russia’s capitalist rulers primarily seek in Syria to maintain and deepen the benefits Russia had in the pre-war status quo. In this pre-war set up, Russia had political and military influence – including access to strategic military bases on the Mediterranean coast – but was not the biggest player in the Syrian economy. It was Western powers that were the main predators in the Syrian economy – indeed, in Syria’s oil sector, the biggest foreign players are not Russian corporations but the British/Dutch Shell, France’s Total and Britain’s Gulfsands. The Russian ruling class’ overall intentions are to assert itself on the global stage as a big-time world power that must be taken seriously, to protect and broaden its military bases in Syria, to form a forward obstruction to further grubby NATO meddling in ex-Soviet countries where Russia believes it has a Tsarist times-derived historical “right” to call the shots in, to incite nationalism at home and to advertise itself to more economically endowed capitalist powers that collaborating with Russia’s awesome military might in future ventures is a strategy that can guarantee their investments (out of which Russia would then be handed a share of the predatory spoils).
At the same time we should not be naive. If the Russian-backed Syrian forces triumph, the Russian establishment will naturally use their presence and increased influence in Syria to pressure Syria into accommodating Russian capitalist interests. For one, Russia would push to be granted a greater continued military presence than Syria would wish – even after the threat to Syria has been quashed. Already, this January, with Syria dependent on Russian backing, the Syrian government agreed to let Russia take 49-year leases over the strategically located Khmeimim Air Base and Tartus naval facility and even give Russia sovereignty over the latter’s territory. This loss of sovereignty of Syria over strategically located bases is for a far greater period than she would hope would be needed to secure and stabilise victory in the current war. One can bet that Syrian officials were quietly unenthusiastic about signing away sovereignty over their territory for so long in advance. Additionally, one can expect the Russian capitalists to, for example, consider preventing natural gas pipelines from rival gas suppliers to Russia passing through Syria into Europe even if that supplier were to offer to pay a level of royalties that the Syrians would be happy to accept.
In terms of the current conflict itself, the fact that capitalist Russia is, currently, inadvertently playing a positive role does not change the fact that its racist state forces who so brutally oppress non-European minorities and immigrants within Russia cannot in any way be trusted to take proper care to avoid hitting civilians in their air-strikes on enemy forces in Syria. Thus, we can expect the numbers of civilians killed by Russian air-strikes to be of the same order of magnitude as the thousands killed by the murderous U.S., Australian and other imperialists in their air strikes on Syria and Iraq. Furthermore, the fact that the Syrian anti-imperialist struggle is getting direct help from a major capitalist power makes it less inspiring to the anti-colonial sentiments of “Third World” peoples around the world when compared with, say, the Algerian independence struggle against France in the late 1950s and early 1960s and certainly in comparison with the Vietnamese revolutionary struggle against U.S. and Australian imperialism which was, after all, conducted by a workers state and a communist-led, toiling peoples’ armed movement. That is part of the reason why the level of solidarity with the Syrian anti-colonial resistance from the masses of other “Third World” countries has up to this point been so limited. Up to now, other than for protests in other Middle Eastern countries, most of the major rallies opposing the imperialist intervention in Syria have come from people living in Western countries or in capitalist countries whose governments are themselves backing the Russian intervention. Moreover, the success of the Russian intervention will further inflame reactionary nationalism within Russia which will dampen the class struggle there and incite even more racist terror against Russia’s racial and religious minority populations. This is at a time when Putin’s massive privatisation plans announced in February last year (see for example: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35473198) which five months ago saw a huge $A15.5 billion stake in oil giant Rosneft sold off to Qatari interests and Swiss multinational Glencore have the potential to spark mass working class resistance. Already the Russian masses’ hatred of the anti-working class privatisation agenda was reflected in the intense campaign to stop the privatisation of a dairy plant in the town of Vologda. Yet the upsurge in patriotism that will accompany any Russian war victories will undermine the Russian working class organising to fight as a class against their main enemy – the Russian capitalist exploiters. Furthermore, when the working class of Russia does rise up against its capitalist rulers it will now have to face a state whose armed forces capability has been boosted by the testing and experience of its military activities in Syria.
Nevertheless, the Russian intervention in Syria, as long as it continues to obstruct the drive for Western imperialist-imposed regime change and as long as it does not morph into a Russian experiment at re-entry into the club of neo-colonial overlords, is on balance having a positive effect. That means even while leftists within Russia must oppose the racist, capitalist rulers of Russia with the same vigour that we oppose the capitalist rulers of this country, they – and we – must not do anything which directly obstructs Russia’s Syrian intervention. Opponents of imperialism must not call for Russia to get out of Syria at this time. More importantly, the years long Russian intervention must not in any way change the obligation that leftists have to stand for the defence of Syria against the Western imperialists and their “Rebels”.
What the Leaders of the October Socialist Revolution Said about Similar Scenarios
To understand the question of the Russian intervention in Syria more deeply we refer here to 1917 Russian Revolution co-leader, Leon Trotsky’s 1938 article, Learn To Think. This article addresses two particular scenarios: in one scenario one capitalist power for its own geo-political purposes – in particular to weaken a rival – renders material assistance to an anti-colonial struggle of a subjugated country against another capitalist power. This is in a case where the power rendering assistance is not in a position to immediately replace the existing capitalist power as a new overlord of the subjugated country. In the second scenario, a capitalist power similarly, for its own machinations against rivals, finds it useful to pass arms to a workers state in conflict with another capitalist power. The first of these above scenarios is, up to the time of writing, similar to the scenario with the Russian assistance to Syria in its conflict with Western imperialism’s “Rebel” proxies. Thus we should study what Trotsky outlined should be communist policy in such a scenario. Trotsky explained that in such a scenario, we should not in any way obstruct the capitalist power that is giving military assistance to the anti-colonial struggle against a rival capitalist power – provided, of course, that the power rendering assistance is not currently seeking to itself become or is currently capable of becoming the colonial/neo-colonial overlord of the country waging the anti-imperialist struggle. At the same time, Trotsky insisted that this does not in any way, at all, make the capitalist power giving the assistance any more progressive. Indeed, Trotsky postulated an example where the capitalist power rendering anti-colonial assistance is a fascist one and the power fighting against the anti-colonial forces is a “democratic”-ruled capitalist power. Trotsky insisted that communists in the capitalist country rendering assistance to an anti-colonial struggle – in our case this is Russia – should “not in the slightest” moderate “their own irreconcilable struggle” against this regime which is the “the main enemy in their own country.” And they should call upon the people standing against the imperialist forces “not to trust their treacherous ally” even while ensuring that the assistance from this “ally” gets through.
In summary, the lesson from Trotsky’s Learn To Think article (which itself is a re-statement of the line of Lenin’s Bolsheviks) in regards to the Syria conflict is that we should not in any way oppose the Russian intervention at this time while at the same time we should avoid any prettifying of the purposes of the Russian intervention and should explain that Russia’s capitalist rulers remain the main enemy of Russia’s working class people. On the latter, we should additionally note that a workers’ revolution in Russia that topples the racist, capitalist ruling class there would not only be immensely beneficial for working class people and ethnic minorities in Russia but would also boost the Syrian people’s struggle against neo-colonialism. A future Russian workers state, led by an internationalist party like Lenin’s Bolsheviks, would more consistently support the Syrian people’s struggle against imperialism and its proxies, would not – unlike the present Russian government – use its influence to seek unfair concessions from the Syrians and could not be tempted to betray the Syrian anti-colonial struggle by any U.S. promises to boost her great power status. Moreover, a Syrian struggle against imperialism backed by a state where the multi-racial working class rules is far more inspirational to the toiling masses of the “Third World” than the current situation where the Syrian government is backed by a Russian regime that, at home, oversees the exploitation of its working class while brutally oppressing non-white ethnic minorities and immigrants. Thus, a Syrian anti-imperialist struggle backed by a workers state would win far more solidarity from the masses living in the ex-colonial countries than in the present case.
We need to stress here that Trotsky’s Learn To Think article which outlines when it may be necessary to not oppose the intervention of one capitalist power in a conflict abroad was specific to two particular scenarios. We emphasise this because this article has been one of the Marxist works that has been most twisted and most used out of context by opportunist leftists (even by some grandstanding as anti-Trotskyist “Stalinists”!) looking to justify collaboration with capitalist powers. We need to stress that only in the two very narrow and specific cases outlined in the Learn To Think article –cases related to a capitalist power driven by its necessity for geo-political positioning supporting either an anti-colonial struggle or a workers state against rival powers –is it permissible to not oppose the intervention abroad by a capitalist power. In absolutely all other cases, without exception, we must oppose intervention of any kind by such capitalist powers – whether diplomatic, material support to allies/proxies or direct military intervention –regardless of the particular circumstances leading up to the intervention and regardless of their stated â€œjustificationâ€ for the intervention.
All Capitalist Powers Have Zero “Commitment” to Opposing Imperialism
Our attitude to the Russian intervention in Syria is summarised in an article written five years ago, at a time after Russia had already, very publicly, started intervening in the Syrian conflict:
Russia, unlike the PRC, is administered by a capitalist state. The Russian rulers are military powerful but not currently economically strong enough to as yet be a full-blown, independent imperialist power like any of the main NATO states. But they would like to be one – Russia certainly ain’t the socialistic Soviet Union! Russia objects to Western intervention in Syria because Syria is its ally and Russia takes offence at its power being challenged. Furthermore, the Russian bourgeoise would like to draw a line in nearby Syria to try and reduce NATO encroachment into the affairs of its ex-Soviet neighbours which Russia would like to be within its own sphere of influence. Nevertheless, despite Russia’s intentions, opponents of imperialism can only welcome any Russian arms going to the Syrian government at a time when it is battling a takeover by imperialist proxies.’
At the same time it is our duty to warn the Syrian masses of the possibility that Russia could stab them in the back in the future. After all, Russia’s capitalist rulers have zero commitment to opposing imperialism. Like all other capitalist powers their main concern is to further their ambitious economic and political interests. It is worth noting that while the Russian intervention in Syria is happening to, at this time, have a positive effect, the Russian intervention in Libya is playing a reactionary role. Today in Libya we see rival gangs of the pro-imperialists “Rebels” brought to power by NATO in 2011 engaged in blood feuds with each other. Russia is backing one of these cut-throats, Khalifa Haftar, and has sent financial, diplomatic and weapons support to back the forces that he leads as well as private military contractors. Haftar’s “Libyan National Army” (LNA) backs one of Libya’s rival governments, the Tobruk-based “House of Representatives”. Russia, like the NATO powers, is also meddling diplomatically and has sought to be the broker of talks between the LNA-backed government and the U.N.-recognised and strongly Italian-backed Presidential Council government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj. The main goal of the LNA, like all the murderous rival, former “Rebel” militias, is to seize control of Libya’s oil ports and other oil facilities for themselves. This is hardly a case of Russia defending a country against imperialist takeover – not even inadvertently as is the case with its Syria intervention. Thus, also backing Haftar’s LNA are not only Egypt but the French imperialists who have conducted air strikes in support of Haftar’s Russian-backed forces. Indeed, the most open backers of Haftar’s army is the UAE which not only arms the LNA but has a joint airbase with France in Libya’s al-Sulaiyah region from where it conducts operations in support of Haftar’s forces. The strongly pro-Washington UAE regime is one of the regional players strongly backing the imperialist drive for regime change in Syria and is a key part of the reactionary U.S.-backed, Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. Meanwhile, the LNA, even while claiming to be secularist, receives some backing from that bulwark of religious extremism, the Saudi regime! Haftar himself was for over two decades a CIA asset who worked on plans for U.S.-imposed regime change in Libya. Indeed, he even lived close to the CIA’s Langley, Virginia base after going into exile in the U.S. in 1990! In 2011, Haftar was a key figure in the imperialist-backed “Rebels” that were brought to power on the backs of a NATO air and special forces operation against the former Gaddafi government. This NATO-“Rebel” imposed regime change has plainly destroyed Libya.
Russia’s backing of Haftar and its other diplomatic meddling in Libya is aimed – like all the other capitalist powers intervening in the squalid conflicts there – at securing prized access to Libya’s oil terminals, ports and airports. Additionally, Russia seeks to secure the renewal of the billions of dollars-worth of weapons and oil infrastructure contracts that it had signed with the pre-2011 Libyan government. All the capitalist powers involved in the mad scramble for privileged access to Libya’s oil resources and future infrastructure contracts are deepening the regional and tribal conflicts there. Opponents of imperialism must demand that all the foreign capitalist states intervening in Libya – including the U.S., French, Italian, Russian, UAE, Egyptian and Saudi regimes – should get their grubby hands off this already devastated country.
Relations Between the Two Military Superpowers
A significant factor that will influence Russian – and U.S. – policy on Syria will be the state of future U.S.-Russia relations. After a deterioration in relations during the last term of the Obama regime, the billionaire Trump outlined a perspective of strengthened U.S. relations with the world’s only other military superpower. His outlook represented the views of a section of the U.S. capitalist class. The U.S. ruling class is highly divided about what attitude they should take to Russia to best further their own interests. A majority of the media and political representatives of the U.S. ruling class currently favour a harder line against Russia. However, among the actual capitalist business owners, opinion is more evenly divided. Those in the U.S. ruling class who favour an antagonistic line don’t believe the U.S. needs to share dominance of the globe with anyone – certainly not an upstart trying to enter the imperialist club. On the other hand, those U.S. capitalists who want to forge a partnership with Russia see its awesome military power as a useful tool to help suppress and isolate U.S. adversaries. Specifically, Trump and his co-thinkers had been hoping to build a U.S.-Russia capitalist super alliance that would, on the one hand, be used to isolate and pressure socialistic China and, on the other, weaken the U.S.A’s European NATO allies cum imperialist economic rivals.
The U.S. missile barrage against Syria and the angry diplomatic exchanges between the U.S. and Russia that followed have, for the short and medium term, scuttled any plans Trump had to forge a partnership with Russia. But what of the future? Relations between the military giants could continue to spiral downwards. Alternatively, there could be a strong rapprochement. Or something somewhere in between. Interestingly, the U.S. actually informed Russia of its missile strike on Syria before it took place indicating some effort to at least open the possibility for stronger ties with Russia in the future.
As we pointed out in our article written soon after Trump’s election, there were always going to major hurdles to stride over if Trump’s original strong proclivity for a U.S.-Russia capitalist superpower alliance was to be implemented. Trump’s administration is, in effect, an alliance of hard line right wingers who favour closer ties with Russia – like himself, chief strategist Steve Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions – and more mainstream figures from the right wing of the Republican Party who support a more antagonistic line. So, the pro-Russia hard right wingers will not always get their way. In the end, the direction that the U.S. ruling class chooses will depend in good part on what the decisive sections of their class think of Russia’s capability to become a significant imperialist rival to the U.S. If they assess that Russia can at best play second fiddle to the imperialist powers they will be far more open to an alliance with Russia in order to use its military might for their own purposes. In other words, they would be quite prepared to accept and nurture a Russia that would play a role similar to what the Turkish ruling class has played up to now – as an ambitious regional power largely enforcing Western imperialist interests while angling to get its own pieces of the stolen pie for itself. According to this analysis, the U.S. would still expect to have some occasional sharp disagreements with Russia but overall relations would be kept strong – as has been the case with Turkey up until now. On the other hand, if they decide that Russia could in the future emerge as an independent, rival predatory power, they will be far more inclined to push for aggressive containment of Russia.
However, there is additionally an ideological aspect to the debate within the U.S. ruling class. Putin, because of his government’s hard line anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies, its brutal attacks on the LGBTI community and the fact that it, like the Trump regime, has outright fascists in it, is a hero to far right groups throughout the West. Prominent far right politicians from Pauline Hanson to France’s Marine Le Pen have sung Putin’s praises as have most of the outright fascist, white supremacist groups in the U.S., Australia and Europe. All these groups also see in the possibility of a U.S. and European alliance with Russia the possibility of a grand, “white peoples of the world,” racial supremacist alliance. All this is why it is the extreme right wing of the Trump administration that is most in favour of strong ties with Russia whom they see as a force for spreading right-wing, white European-centric “values.”
Other than for dissension within his own regime, there are other hurdles that Trump would have to overcome to implement his original perspective for a partnership with Russia. One key hurdle is the probe that has been launched into alleged links between his presidential campaign and Russia and allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election. It is no secret that Russia wanted Trump to win the election. Russian state television was pretty open about backing Trump just as they and Putin are pretty open about backing France’s Le Pen. However, all capitalist powers interfere with each others elections and the U.S. is by far the biggest culprit. Not only will the U.S. mainstream media bombard a country with propaganda supporting their favoured outcome but the U.S. has used funding of favoured political parties and NGOs, training of activists and plenty of really dirty tricks to swing elections. We cannot know if Russia used even the lowest level, dirty tricks to help Trump. However, if they did, in the context of things, while it means something … it does not mean much at all! For all elections in capitalist countries are profoundly unfair! They are shaped by the fact that it is the wealthy capitalists who own the media and disproportionately have the resources to fund political advertising, lobbyists, meeting venue hire and full-time activists. Forget Russian hacking, neither Trump nor Clinton would have even been in the running for president if they did not each have hundreds of millions in political funding from wealthy capitalists (in Trump’s case also including from his own fortune gained from cruelly exploiting workers) and the backing of Murdoch’s Fox media in Trump’s case and CNN, NBC, New York Times etc in Clinton’s case. That is why for us Marxist-Leninists: all elected presidents in capitalist America are not “legitimate”! The idea that some may be “legitimate” and others “illegitimate” is a whitewash of the fundamentally anti-working class nature of even the “cleanest” elections in any capitalist country.
What’s important to understand here in terms of U.S.-Russia ties is that the probe into the Trump campaign’s alleged links with Russia is not only about Democrats and mainstream conservatives trying to undermine their hard-right rivals but also, partly, about that faction of the U.S. exploiting class that wants an antagonistic line towards Russia trying to pressure the new Administration into bending to that line. And this tactic does work. For the moment, the Trump regime feels pressure to be seen to be not too close to Russia. Probably, a minor subsidiary reason for his air strike on Russia’s Syria ally is to be seen to be tough on Russia. Indeed, any ongoing plans that the Trump’s far-right co-thinkers have to forge an alliance with Russia will depend on the probe not showing any too serious links between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia and even then they will have to wait for the political impact of any probe revelations to fade away. If the probe does “conclude” that there was significant collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government – whether that “conclusion” is actually true or not (!) – then this would likely kill off for a lengthy period any attempt by pro-Russia elements in the Trump regime to forge an alliance with Russia … if not kill off the Trump presidency itself!
In the event that the pro-Russia types can both win the day within the Trump regime and ride their way through the “Russian collusion” probe, they will have to find a way to mesh the interests of U.S. imperialism and those of the wanna-be-imperialist Russian ruling class. In Syria, the interests of the two powers clearly clash so a broader partnership between the two could only be made by one or the other side making concessions in other areas. However, even on the bigger picture Washington will have a problem in enlisting Moscow for the role it would want it to play: a force that joins in – or at least accepts – counterrevolutionary pressure against socialistic China and acts as a counterweight against America’s West European NATO allies cum economic rivals (especially Germany, the “ally” whom the U.S. was revealed to be spying on). The reason Russia’s capitalist ruling class will be reluctant to do both these things simultaneously boils down to one factor: oil/gas profits! The Russian capitalist class makes an absolute fortune from sending gas exports to both Europe and China. So it would be reluctant to enter an alliance that risks it losing these two sources of fabulous wealth simultaneously. Therefore, Moscow would find it hard to accept the whole of Washington’s program for what it wants Russia to do and would demand major concessions on one of several issues – such as Crimea, the Donbass or, indeed, Syria – for even partially accepting Washington’s broader international agenda.
Even if the U.S. and Russian ruling classes did manage to negotiate the mutual concessions needed for them to forge a partnership, would such an alliance actually last for any length of time or would it fly apart at the first test? This question simply cannot be answered in advance. Certainly, the long-term trend of capitalist powers is to thrash themselves into a frenzied rivalry. The fact that there are only a finite amount of markets, raw materials and sources of labour in the “Third World” that the different imperialist powers (and indeed would-be imperialist powers) are each trying to grab increasing shares for themselves of means that these capitalist powers are inevitably drawn into conflict with each other. This truth stands notwithstanding the efforts of modern day pseudo-socialists to resuscitate the dead, counterfeit “socialist” Karl Kautsky’s theory that capitalist powers could unite as one to amicably exploit the world together – a “theory” which Lenin so fiercely denounced. These latter-day continuators of Kautsky’s line posit that there is just one seamless, homogenous imperialist bloc in the world led by the USA. The truth, however, is that there are actually several discrete, often competing, capitalist powers who, after assessing their own separate predatory interests, have in many cases chosen to be, for the moment, in uneasy alliances with the strongest power, the U.S.A as well as with each other. As Lenin understood, even competing capitalists powers do seek alliances in order to better challenge other capitalist powers … and most significantly right now to more strongly threaten workers states (like, today, the Peoples Republic of China, Cuba and North Korea). So, although a U.S.-Russia alliance is rather unlikely right now it is not completely impossible.
In the, presently unlikely, event that such a U.S.-Russia alliance were to be forged it would have to be negotiated with a deal cut on Syria. Such a deal is then going to end up favouring the interests of one or the other capitalist military superpower or to involve some sort of mid-way compromise. It would be harder for Russia to back down since its intervention has been more direct in Syria and this is its one major area of prominent intervention whereas the U.S. has about half a dozen very high profile theatres where it is directly meddling. For Russia’s capitalist rulers to back down over Syria would, thus, be a big blow to its prestige as a major world power, the pursuit for which is a major motive for its intervention in the first place. However, it is possible that the U.S. and Russia could strike a deal whereby U.S. wishes are satisfied for a new regime that would allow greater economic exploitation of the country by U.S. corporations and a foreign policy more “synchronised” with U.S. “goals” for the region while, at the same time, guaranteeing Russia’s bases in the country, Russian influence in the choice of the new political set up and – most importantly for Moscow – recognising Russia’s role as a major world player that has been dominant in shaping the whole arrangement. A sign that such a deal is not completely impossible was indeed seen in February last year when Russia publicly rebuked Assad for saying that he wanted to re-capture the whole country from the pro-imperialist “Rebels”. Russia’s then UN envoy, the late Vitaly Churkin stated:
“Russia has invested very seriously in this crisis, politically, diplomatically and now also militarily.
“Therefore we would like Assad also to respond to this.”
Russia’s envoy even openly insisted that Assad now had to “follow Russia’s leadership” in resolving the crisis.
Following Trump’s unilateral missile strike, a U.S.-Russia rapprochement over Syria is now considerably less likely than it even was previously. Nevertheless, however improbable the scenario of Russia cutting a deal with the U.S. against Syria’s interests, it is our duty to warn other opponents of the imperialist takeover of Syria of this possibility. For armed with a scientific understanding of the nature of capitalist ruling classes and imbued with Lenin’s understanding that capitalists of more powerful countries are compelled to seek out new spheres of exploitation in the “Third World” in order to stave off economic crises at home, Marxist-Leninists – in contrast to Syrian nationalists or nominally anti-imperialist, Western liberals – are uniquely able to foresee both the full range of possibilities and to know what is, indeed, impossible (like a capitalist power acting out of benevolence when it makes a major intervention abroad). And if no one does anti-imperialist activists a favour and patiently explains to them – however uncomfortable they might be to hear it – the possibility that Russia in the future could cut a deal with the U.S. that stabs Syrian independence in the back, then these activists will be taken by surprise, demoralised and hence paralysed if such a scenario did indeed play out.
The Potential Anti-Imperialist Force is the Working Class
Guided by our Marxist-Leninist class analysis, Trotskyist Platform, even while stating that we should not be, at this time, opposing the Russian intervention in Syria and should indeed be, at the moment, happy it is taking place, opposes any illusions that capitalist Russia – or indeed any other capitalist power – can be the champion of anti-imperialism. The one world power that opponents of imperialism should be appealing to is the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). This is because, unlike the U.S.A, Australia and Russia, the PRC has a socialistic system. Although the PRC workers state is bureaucratically deformed and although China’s leadership has allowed too large a capitalist private sector into her economy, it is state-owned enterprises – based on collective ownership by all the PRC population – that still dominate the key sectors of the PRC economy. That means that although there will be the odd private sector capitalist intruding with greedy, selfish motives, any PRC intervention in Syria – or any other country – has, on the whole, no decisive material basis for a predatory, thieving agenda. This is why at actions against imperialist intervention in Syria, Trotskyist Platform has raised, among other slogans, appeals like the following: “Peoples Republic of China: Do Your Socialistic Duty and Stand Still More Strongly Against Western Imperialist Diplomatic and Military Intervention in Syria!”
China has provided some economic and minor military supplies to Syria in the face of the imperialist assault on her. It has also joined Russia in vetoing some Western-sponsored UN resolutions aimed at greasing the skids for imperialist-imposed regime change. Yet, China failed to condemn Trump’s recent missile strikes on Syria. Instead, China only made a neutral-sounding call to solve problems through negotiation. This reflects the Chinese government’s national-centred, ultimately suicidal strategy of trying to appease imperialism – a policy which it, in vain, hopes will entice the capitalist powers to pull back from attacking China’s building of socialism in her own country. Those within the Chinese leadership who most want to appease imperialism are, in general, those that want to allow greater openings for capitalism within China. On the other hand, there are many within China, including activists within the ruling Communist Party of China, who want a firm anti-imperialist policy as part of their commitment to fighting for socialism. The struggle for socialistic China to adopt an internationalist – and thus anti-imperialist – policy on Syria and other questions is, therefore, part of the fight to build a PRC government that will campaign for the revolutionary victory of the working class over capitalism abroad and will oversee a decisive weakening of the insurgent capitalist private sector at home.
While appealing to Red China, the main work here of opponents of imperialist attacks on Syria must be to mobilise the working class in opposition to the U.S./Australian intervention in the Middle East. It is possible to win politicised sections of the working class to this perspective because the imperialist intervention in Syria and Iraq is bad for working class people and bad for other oppressed groups in Australia including Aboriginal people and embattled Muslim and other targeted coloured communities. This predatory intervention abroad is pumping up the capitalist rulers to, at home, even more viciously attack workers’ rights, Aboriginal people and embattled minorities. Thus, the Middle East intervention is only good for Australia’s capitalist exploiting class. So let’s fight for workers action to demand: U.S., Australian, French, British, German and all imperialists: Get out of Syria and Iraq! No to military intervention! No to funding of “Rebel” Proxies! No to diplomatic meddling! Defend Syria against imperialist-imposed regime change!
On 7 April 2017, the world’s biggest killing machine went into overdrive. The U.S. unleashed a barrage of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against a Syrian airbase. The strike killed nine civilians – including four children. The right-wing Turnbull government could not wait to proclaim that it “strongly supports the swift and just response of the United States.” Meanwhile, the ALP Opposition was no better, calling the U.S. attack “appropriate and proportionate.”
The U.S. claims that its missile strike was retaliation for an alleged chemical attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s Idlib Province which they have pinned on Syria’s Assad government. U.S. president Trump claims that he was motivated to attack Syria by concern for children killed in the alleged attack. What a load of rubbish! For the U.S., Australian and other imperialist rulers, the masses in the ex-colonies are completely expendable in their drive to secure control of natural resources, markets and spheres of exploitation. Due to their barbaric willingness to disregard dangers to civilian lives in their war on ISIS, a March 17 airstrike by the U.S./French/British/Australian Coalition killed over 200 civilians in the residential Jadidah neighborhood of the western part of the Iraqi city of Mosul. Meanwhile, the racist Trump regime has shown how much concern they have for the people of the Arab and Muslim world by attempting to ban people from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S. and by stopping all refugees from the war in Syria. Trump’s offensive diatribes against Muslims, Mexicans and other non-white people has incited a terrifying increase in white supremacist attacks throughout North America – including the 29 January massacre of six people at a Quebec City mosque by a fascist Trump supporter. Here in Australia, the Turnbull regime, with the support of the ALP, shows its “concern” for the well-being of children from the Middle East by imprisoning dozens of them in hell-hole detention centres in Australia and Nauru and hundreds more in community detention centres. Meanwhile, Australian regimes of various stripes oversee a racist “child protection” system that has cruelly ripped hundreds of Aboriginal children from their families in an ongoing stolen generations outrage. Continue reading Defend Syria against U.S./Australian Imperialism & Their “Rebel” Proxies!→
PROTECT THE GREAT BENEFITS FOR WORKERS & THE RURAL MASSES WON THROUGH THE REVOLUTION:
STOP IMPERIALIST FUNDING FOR THOSE NGOs THAT SEEK TO OVERTHROW SOCIALISTIC RULE IN CHINA
6th September 2016: Determined supporters of socialistic rule in China rallied this evening on the steps at the entrance to Sydney Town Hall. In this demonstration called at short notice, participants hailed the gains of China’s 1949 anticapitalist revolution and opposed the U.S. and Australian-backed anti-communist Chinese exile groups seeking to promote capitalist restoration in China.
The 1949 Chinese Revolution was one of the most momentous events in humanity’s entire history. The long-suffering Chinese masses overthrew their exploiters and took power. Tens of millions of downtrodden people participated in this heroic struggle. They achieved victory after a bitter three year civil war. On one side of the war stood the oppressed tenant farmers, workers, working-class women and idealistic students. They were organized by the Communist Party of China (CPC) which was led by Mao Ze Dong. On the other side were the brutal landlords and capitalists. These oppressor classes were served by the Kuomintang (KMT) government of Chiang Kai-Shek. The KMT was heavily armed, trained and advised by the U.S. regime. But still they lost to the Communist-led revolutionaries.
The 1949 anti-capitalist revolution freed the peasants from the tyranny of the landlords, made headway in liberating workers from capitalist exploitation and freed the Chinese people from humiliating subjugation by imperial powers. The revolution greatly uplifted women’s status from the horrific reality they faced under the previous Kuomintang regime – when many women were subjected to forced marriage and the barbaric practice of Continue reading Long Live China’s 1949 Anticapitalist Revolution!→
Above: Trotskyist Platform banner (Above) at the ‘No Australian War on Syria’ rally in Sydney on 13 September 2015 (Below). The conflict in Syria has involved both internal rivals and several different capitalist powers intervening in a murky way – sometimes involving shifting alliances. Yet one thing is absolutely clear: all intervention by the U.S. and allied British, French and Australian imperialist rulers will only mean yet more suffering for the Syrian people. This is the case whether that intervention is through direct military participation, arming and financing of “Rebel” proxies or diplomatic manoeuvring. As we go to press in the days after the 13 November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, all the barbaric capitalist powers have seized on those gruesome attacks to justify not only heightened state repression and racist scapegoating at home but increased intervention in Syria and Iraq. The intensified air strikes by these powers will cause further civilian casualties that will dwarf in number the 129 people killed in the Paris attacks.
Above: Democracy in capitalist South Korea? Leftist South Korean parliamentarian Lee Seok-ki shouts as he is escorted into prison by security agents in September 2013. The Unified Progressive Party (UPP) MP was jailed for nine years on bogus charges of inciting a socialist insurrection. Later, the South Korean regime banned the UPP and kicked all its MPs out of parliament. Until it was banned, the UPP was South Korea’s third largest parliamentary party with a vote share equivalent to The Greens in Australia.
“Human Rights” Attacks on Socialistic North Korea & the Trade Union Royal Commission Here:
Both are Campaigns of Lies to “Justify” Attacks on Anyone Standing in the Way of Capitalist Exploitation
22 August 2015: This month, people around the world marked the 70th anniversary of the two most horrific terror attacks on civilians ever perpetrated in the whole of human history. Seventy years ago the U.S. regime, fully backed by the Australian ruling class, was responsible for the nuclear incineration of the people first of Hiroshima and then of Nagasaki. Yet these very same ruling classes have the hide to wage a campaign against the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) over “human rights.”
Indeed, the DPRK is probably the last country that the Western powers should be raising the issue of “human rights” about. During the 1950-53 Korean War, the U.S. and allied militaries – including those of Australia and South Korea – killed between two to three million North Korean citizens. In the beginning of January 1951, American General Mathew Ridgway ordered the air force to hit the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, “with the goal of burning the city to the ground with incendiary bombs,” which they did in two strikes on January 3 and January 5 (“Consequences of the ‘Forgotten War,’” Bruce Cummings, printed in Le Monde Diplomatique, December 2004). Pyongyang and just about every other city in North and Central Korea was again levelled by U.S. bombing in December 1952. Those North Koreans that survived were by then literally living in caves.
Yet the capitalist powers and the big business-owned media that serve them have never shied away from gross hypocrisy and never been bound by the truth. Recall, for one, their now infamous lie that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons. Such lies are spread for a purpose. In the case of the lie about Iraq it was used to justify the 2003 U.S.–led invasion and conquest of that oil-rich country. Here, the Liberal/National Party regime’s lies demonising our trade unions are used to grease the skids for further union-busting attacks and anti-strike laws.
So why are they lying about North Korea then? Because the workers and farmers of North Korea have dared to adopt a socio-political system that is not based on capitalist exploitation. The masses of North Korea have dared to insist that they will not subordinate themselves to Western imperialism. For this “crime,” the imperial powers have slated the DPRK for destruction. Their outrageous claims about “appalling human rights abuses” in North Korea are used to justify the ongoing stiff economic sanctions on that country as well as the extreme military pressure that the U.S. and its allies exert on the DPRK. Not only are tens of thousands of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea to threaten the DPRK but U.S. aircraft and warships regularly move in and out of North Korean airspace and waters to amplify this threat. Ultimately, the imperialist powers see the “human rights” crusade against North Korea as a means of preparing the population in their own countries for a future, full-scale military assault on that country – something that has to date only been stymied by Red China’s alliance with its socialistic sister, the DPRK.
As part of the big lie campaign against the DPRK, the South Korean Consul General in Sydney – in other words the South Korean government – hosted a week of events in Australia from August 17 to August 21 titled “North Korea Human Rights Week.” These events were timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the liberation of North Korea from Japanese colonial occupation on 15 August. The Sydney Branch of the Australia-DPRK Friendship Society protested outside the Opening Ceremony of this “Human Rights Week” at Sydney City’s main cinema strip near Town Hall station. Participating in the snap protest were several Trotskyist Platform comrades as well as supporters of the Australia-DPRK Friendship Society including one member from the CPA and a representative from the Supporters of the Iranian Peoples Fadaee Gureillas. Among the placards we carried were signs that read, “Human Rights” Attacks on Socialistic North Korea Are Like the Trade Union Royal Commission Here: A Campaign of Lies Used to Justify Attacks on Organisation/s Standing In the Way of Capitalist Exploitation and “Human Rights” of imperialism = bombing Afghanistan, torture at Guantanamo, killings of Aboriginal people in custody, support for murderous regimes in Egypt, Israel, Philippines and Colombia. How dare they attack socialistic DPRK, China and Cuba over “human rights.” Some passers-by stopped to express sympathy with the protest. Among these were a woman who knew much about the South Korean regime’s jailing of trade unionists and a woman of South Korean origin whose husband was a political activist murdered by the capitalist South Korean regime.
For the brutal, anti-working class South Korean regime to be talking about “human rights” is truly the height of hypocrisy. Yet its attacks on the socialistic North are totally expected. Whilst the DPRK was founded by Korean leftists who heroically fought the Japanese imperialist occupiers and with the vital assistance of the Soviet Red Army freed the Northern part of the peninsula from colonial rule, South Korea was established by the U.S. using many local collaborators with Japanese colonial rule as their henchmen. Among these U.S. henchmen were rich industrialists and big landlords during Japanese rule who defected from the North after the new socialistic power there nationalised industry and divided big landholdings amongst the impoverished poor peasants. Thus for a long time many amongst the Korean masses viewed North Korea as the real Korea and South Korea for what it really was – a U.S.-occupied puppet state. The South Korean regime and its U.S. patrons could only maintain their rule through the most bloody terror and the support of the occupying U.S. military forces.
Against the lies being spread by the South Korean regime and the U.S., British, Japanese and Australian ruling classes, we present here some important facts:
In the DPRK there is full employment. All workers have a right to work. This does not exist in capitalist South Korea and certainly not in capitalist Australia where greedy bosses feel that they can even get away with sacking workers in strongly unionised workplaces by text message!
The liberation in the latter part of World War II of the Northern part of Korea from Japanese colonial rule by the Soviet Red Army and communist-led Korean partisans led to the establishment of a workers state in North Korea. This workers state is, however, weakened by bureaucratic deformations. Thus, although the DPRK defends a pro-working class system based on collective ownership of industry, agriculture and services, the bulk of the working class is kept away from political administration which is in the hands of a relatively narrow bureaucratic layer. There is also a personality cult around leader Kim Jong Un and his late father, previous leader Kim Jong-Il and his deceased grandfather, founding head of the DPRK and former anti-colonial resistance leader, Kim Il Sung. Furthermore, those who form the administrative layer of the DPRK have special material privileges (although these pale in comparison to the extreme wealth of big business owners in capitalist countries). Yet despite these bureaucratic deformations, the existence of a workers state in the Northern part of Korea represents a significant conquest for the international working class. Furthermore, fixing the bureaucratic deformations that weaken the DPRK workers state demands relieving her of the tremendous pressure that is bearing down upon her from the imperialist powers and their South Korean ally.
Working in a society where workers have guaranteed jobs and are proclaimed as the ruling class means that North Korean workers enjoy a relaxed, friendly work environment. Indeed, if Aussie bosses saw how laid back North Korean workers were and how much they like to talk to each other whilst working on a production line then they would truly have a fit!
In contrast to the North, most South Korean workers toil in insecure casual or temporary jobs. Though the trade union movement there has waged many brave struggles for their rights in the face of fierce repression, still workers are forced to work very long hours. In fact, South Korean workers endure amongst the longest working hours in the world and the large number of workers forced to work part-time there means that the statistics, actually, hide the full extent of the reality.
Despite an industrialised economy, in capitalist South Korea, large numbers of homeless people sleep every day in railway subway tunnels. Many frail elderly people are forced to collect recyclables for petty cash since an aged pension barely exists in this country. In contrast, in North Korea, homelessness is non-existent and all citizens are guaranteed heavily subsidised public housing.
Despite being devastated in the 1950-53 Korean War, over the following two decades the DPRK built the second most advanced economy in Asia. Up until the late 1960s, the DPRK not only had much better health care, social welfare and education than South Korea but a higher average level of income. At that time, the U.S. decided to massively subsidise South Korean economic development as the U.S. rulers feared that hatred of the South Korean regime and sympathy for the North amongst the South Korean masses would lead to revolution. Thus, South Korea’s industrialisation was based on huge U.S. backing as well as cruel exploitation of its own workers.
Up until the collapse of the USSR in 1991-92, North Korean citizens continued to enjoy a high standard of living. However, the destruction of the USSR had a devastating effect on the DPRK. Faced with sanctions from the capitalist world, trade and technical exchanges with the former Soviet Union had been the DPRK’s economic lifeline. Furthermore, the USSR acted as a guarantor of the DPRK’s defence. Now, the DPRK had to provide for its own defence (China’s military was, especially at that time, not comparable to the USSR’s and incapable of providing the same deterrent to imperialist threats to the DPRK) at a time when the imperial powers felt more emboldened than ever. This forced the DPRK to divert a much larger proportion of its economy to defence which in turn squeezed her economy. A period of serious hardship in the country followed. However, by the start of the 21st century this started to turn around and especially over the last few years the DPRK economy has picked up. The military encirclement and the sanctions still hurt the DPRK – for example there is a shortage of fuel and spare parts for machinery and automobiles. Yet the North Korean masses are standing strong much like defiant workers who lose wages whilst on strike. Embarking on the struggle against their enemy brings hardships but they stand firm understanding that victory will open the road to a brighter future.
In the above sense, North Korean defectors can be compared to weak workers who sneak back to work during a strike because they are looking for short-term economic security at the expense of the long-term well-being of their fellow workers. Some of these defectors, either out of the quest for fame or because of cajoling from the South Korean and Western governments and anti-communist NGOs, have given harrowing tales of life in North Korea. Yet such tales have often been exposed as lies. These included the tales told by the most famous North Korean defector, Yeonmi Park. Her lies were so blatant that even anti-communist news agencies had to report on it. Meanwhile, hundreds of defectors disillusioned with the cut-throat life in the capitalist South with its unemployment and underemployment have, actually, defected back to the North.
Even despite the hardships that being squeezed by powerful capitalist powers brings, the North Korean masses manage to have their basic needs met. Contrary to the utter lies of the Western mainstream media there is no starvation in North Korea. Indeed, even statistics compiled by Western agencies hostile to the DPRK reveal this. Thus, the list of the percentage of a country’s population under the age of five who are underweight due to malnourishment estimated by the CIA – an institution thoroughly hostile to and biased against the DPRK – shows that North Korea is not only not among the top ten countries with the highest proportion of malnourished children but not even in the top 40! Indeed, not only do India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have much higher rates of malnourished children but so do other strong Western allies like Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.
Similarly, the UN’s World Health Organization estimates life expectancy in the DPRK at 70 years. This is not only decisively higher than in India, Pakistan and PNG but also, actually, slightly higher than in Russia (suffering as Russia is, of course, from the capitalist counter-revolution that dismantled the world’s first workers state, the Soviet Union, in 1991) as well as the Philippines.
Despite the external pressure it faces, the DPRK has completely free health care and education. As a result, the DPRK has one of the highest literacy rates in the world for both women and men and a highly educated population.
North Koreans enjoy a rich social and cultural life. Peoples’ favourite hobbies include sports, dancing and playing music. As in much of Asia, people love karaoke. A recent craze there are amusement parks which have started springing up all over the country.
North Korea is a sports mad country and you can often see people jogging in the streets, playing in parks or training in the country’s many sports pavilions. At the last Olympic Games in London, the DPRK finished 20th in the medal tally – punching above its weight for a country of its size.
Many North Koreans play musical instruments and sing. Classical Korean and classical Western music, light semi-classical Korean tunes and pop music are all popular. The most popular band in North Korea at the moment, the extremely talented, all-female Moranbong Band plays all these styles alongside Western pop pieces.
In South Korea (the Republic of Korea), the very tough work environment for workers and the cut-throat nature of the capitalist society in general has led to it having the second highest suicide rate in the world. To put this in perspective, the suicide rate in South Korea is more than two and a half times that of Australia’s and nearly four times that of the Peoples Republic of China.
Despite having the hide to attack the DPRK over “human rights,” it is South Korea that has an appalling record of crushing the human rights of workers. The Seoul regime regularly arrests and imprisons trade union activists, including several trade union leaders who were arrested only two months ago .
Many people are persecuted under South Korea’s draconian National Security Law. In 2010 a woman was given a two year jail term for possessing MP3 files of instrumental music that was alleged to have pro-North Korea titles!
Last December, the South Korean regime banned the country’s third largest party in parliament, the left-leaning Unified Progressive Party (UPP), and stripped its MPs of its parliamentary seats. The UPP was accused of organising a pro-North Korea rebellion as the party’s actually quite critical attitude to the DPRK is, however, not hard line enough for the South Korean authorities. The UPP had won over two million votes (just over 10% of the total) in the proportional representation side of the last South Korean elections in 2012.
Capitalist rule in South Korea was consolidated by fanatical right-wing terror. From April 1948 to May 1949, the U.S. military government and their South Korean henchmen killed over 30,000 people on South Korea’s Jeju Island after the population rose up following repeated police shootings of pro-communist activists. Even the South Korean regime’s own commission – some 60 years after the fact – accepted that at least 20,000 people jailed for participation in the Jeju uprising were later massacred shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War.
More broadly, at the start of the Korean War, the South Korean rulers with the connivance of the U.S and Australia killed communists and those suspected of being communist sympathisers in what was known as the Bodo League massacres. Estimates of the number of people murdered ranged from 100,000 to 1.2 million. For decades in South Korea those who even spoke of these massacres were jailed. Although today South Korea flaunts an image of “democracy” and finally acknowledges, in part, the Bodo League massacres, it remains ruled by a brutal anti-working class regime.
In May 1980, the South Korean military and police massacred over 2,000 people in the city of Kwangju after leftist students and workers there staged a rebellion demanding an end to martial law and an increase in minimum wages.
The South Korean regime for decades either pressured or coerced local women to work as “comfort women” prostitutes for stationed American troops. They then stigmatised the women and left them to live in poverty. Over 120 surviving comfort women are now suing the South Korean regime.
The South Korean regime is far from the only hypocrite amongst those falsely attacking the DPRK over “human rights.” So are the rulers of the U.S., Britain, Australia and other Washington allies. In Vietnam, these forces killed over two million Vietnamese people in their cruel but, ultimately, futile and losing war against the heroic Vietnamese revolutionaries. Over the course of the 1991 First Gulf War attack on Iraq, the subsequent starvation-causing UN sanctions on Iraq and the 2003 invasion and occupation, the U.S., British and Australian regimes caused the death of over one and a half million Iraqi people. In 2001, they invaded Afghanistan to replace the fundamentalist cutthroats that they, themselves, had helped bring to power with a new lot of misogynist tyrants that are, however, even more slavish to them. In the process they bombed Afghanistan back to the stone-age and massacred thousands of civilians in countless “accidental” air strikes on wedding parties and civilian travel convoys. In neighbouring Pakistan, U.S. drone strikes unleashed against the wishes of Pakistan’s government kill hundreds upon hundreds of civilians. Meanwhile, four years ago, the NATO imperialists, egged on by the Australian government, violently deposed the then Libyan government. In doing so they not only killed tens of thousands of Libyan people in savage air strikes but turned that once peaceful and affluent country into a nightmarish “failed state” ruled by rival gangs of religious extremists and warlords and caused tens of thousands of Libyans to flee in dangerous boat trips to Europe.
As part of all these neo-colonial wars of conquest, the U.S. and their allies have used torture to advance their goals. There was the notorious torture of Iraqi political prisoners by the U.S. at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, NATO’s torture in Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base and the ongoing U.S. hellhole prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
The Australian capitalist ruling class has perpetrated such atrocities not only as junior partners of the U.S. but sometimes from neo-colonial interventions it has itself led. In the late 1980s, when the people of the PNG-controlled island of Bougainville rose up to resist the terrible destruction of their livelihoods by Australian mining company CRA (this company which operated the huge Panguna mine in Bougainville with callous disregard to the local people later merged with British RTZ to form Rio Tinto), the Australian regime and its PNG government henchmen orchestrated a brutal war and naval blockade against the Bougainville people. As a result 15,000 to 20,000 Bougainville people perished – all for the sake of the profits of Australian capitalist bigwigs.
Here at home, the Australian rulers who attack the DPRK over “human rights” continue to preside over genocidal attacks on Aboriginal people, including forcibly closing down Aboriginal communities, stripping Aboriginal children from their families and police killings of Aboriginal people in custody. Meanwhile, refugees arriving in this country are thrown into hell-hole offshore detention camps where they face beatings, torture and in some cases murder at the hands of camp guards.
In the U.S., racist police and white supremacists murder blacks, Asians and Hispanics at an alarming and seemingly ever increasing rate. Meanwhile, the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world – more than the entire population of Brisbane! The rate of imprisonment in the U.S. is close to four times that of Venezuela and nearly six times that of China.
The truth is that the only “rights” that those waging the anti-DPRK “human rights” campaign are truly concerned about is the right of greedy corporate bigwigs to exploit the toil of working class people and the right of their mouthpieces to propagate the “virtues” of such a system. These rights do not, thankfully, exist in North Korea. And let’s keep it that way!
Defend the DPRK workers state! Down with the right-wing campaign of lies about North Korea! U.S. troops get out of South Korea and Japan! End all sanctions against North Korea! Remove the U.S. troops from Darwin and the U.S. spy facilities at Pine Gap and elsewhere in Australia which are used primarily for furthering U.S.-Australian ruling class threats against the DPRK and the Peoples Republic of China!
Apart from facilitating attacks on the socialistic DPRK, the lies about the “human rights” situation in the DPRK are used to distract the masses in South Korea, the U.S.A and Australia from the distinct lack of rights that working class people have in their own countries. So we demand: Repeal South Korea’s fascistic National Security Law! Revoke the ban on South Korea’s Unified Progressive Party! Free all imprisoned trade union activists in South Korea! Free all the refugees in Australia! Down with the police murder of Aboriginal people in state custody in Australia! End the Australian regime’s forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities! For the guaranteed right to a full-time job in Australia – just like people enjoy in North Korea!
Down with Capitalist Australia’s Military Build Up!
U.S., Australian Militaries: Stay Out of the South China Sea!
26 February 2016 – In October 2015, the U.S. warship, the USS Lassen destroyer (pictured above) sailed through waters, not far from mainland China, that are claimed by the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) as its territorial waters. This provocative action in the South China Sea was fully backed by the right-wing Australian government and the ALP Opposition. Moreover, yesterday’s Defence White Paper released by the Turnbull government announced a massive military buildup for the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) which the White Paper could not hide was squarely targeted at China. The government “defence” plan announced that the ADF would have its troop numbers boosted to 62,400 in five years. That means that the Australian military as a percentage of the population will be over 60% larger than the PRC’s military which, in contrast, is in the process of reducing troop numbers by 15%.
The White Paper also announced the ADF’s massive expansion of military hardware including the acquisition of 12 new submarines, 9 warships, 12 patrol vessels, 75 joint strike fighters, two fleets of drones and additional helicopters for special forces troops. Excited by this announcement, racist former defence minister in the Abbott government, Kevin Andrews called for Australia to join the U.S. in sending warships into China’s claimed territorial waters in the South China Sea. Yet it is not only hardline right-wingers like Kevin Andrews who are demanding such aggressive actions. Months earlier, Labor shadow defence minister Stephen Conroy started demanding the same thing(5). Meanwhile, Liberal defence minister, Marise Payne yesterday refused to rule out the possibility that the Australian Navy may take such incendiary action in the future. Continue reading Defend Socialistic China Against Military Intimidation By Capitalist Powers→
ABBOTT & SHORTEN USE UKRAINE PLANETRAGEDYTOPROMOTESUPPORTFORAUSSIEIMPERIALISM
DEFEND THE JUST STRUGGLE OF THE PEOPLE OF THE DONBASS
FOR THE REVOLUTIONARY UNITY OF THEUKRAINIANANDRUSSIANWORKINGCLASS!
September22, 2014– On July 16 2014, an Israeli military attack killed four boys between the ages of 9 and 11 as they played soccer on a Gaza beach. This was a horrific crime all too typical of the Israeli military. In its July and August assault on Gaza, they killed 2,133 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians and nearly 500 of whom were children. Yet Israel’s genocidal assault has been supported by the Australian government. Prime Minister Abbott and Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, have refused to even condemn the killing of Palestinian children. Indeed, the day after the murder of the Palestinian children playing on the beach, Bishop issued a press release blaming Hamas for the war and outrageously praising Israel for its supposed determination to accept a ceasefire. So when the powerful and sophisticated Israeli military carries out incessant attacks on Gaza that they know are mostly killing Palestinian civilians, the Australian regime and much of the mainstream media excuse this as self-defence.
Yetwhenon the very same day as that Bishop press release, Malaysian Airline flight MH17 was tragically shot down over eastern Ukraine, the Australian government, without any credible evidence whatsoever, unleashed aggressive language that blamed Russian-speaking rebels in eastern Ukraine and their Russian backers for deliberately downing the civilian aircraft. Abbott rushed to declare, “These were innocent people going about their lives and they have been wantonly killed by Russian-backed rebels using probably, quite possibly equipment supplied by [Russia].” Later he followed this up with further shrill denunciations. Abbott screamed that Russia was a “bully” and ranted that Ukraine has been “subject to active destabilisation and indeed outright invasion from Russia.” Now, the Liberal-National Party regime has implemented further sanctions on Russia and has announced that it is considering supplying the hard right Ukrainian regime with “non-lethal” military assistance.
The shooting down of MH17 was, indeed, a horrible human-made tragedy that took the lives of 298 innocent passengers and crew. Among the dead were 193 Dutch people, 43 Malaysians (including popular actress Shuba Jay) and 37 Australian residents (some of whom were citizens of overseas countries.) Six of those tragically killed in the crash were delegates on their way to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne. Yet not only is it not clear who shot down the aircraft, current indications of who was responsible actually point away from the Donbass-based rebels. Now, it is of course possible that the rebel forces representing Russian-speaking people seeking self-rule for the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine could have shot down the aircraft by mistake, thinking it was a Ukrainian military plane. Let us assume for a moment that the wild and completely unsubstantiated accusations of the Western rulers turn out to be correct and a rebel missile did, indeed, bring down the Malaysian airliner. Then there is certainly negligence involved in not properly checking to ensure that the targeted aircraft was not a civilian airliner. However, far, far greater criminal negligence would then fall on the part of the aviation authorities and the greedy capitalist airline bosses who, to save fuel costs, continued to authorise flights over a dangerous war zone where military aircraft have already been shot down by surface to air missiles. If the Donbass resistance were, in fact, the ones who brought down the plane, it is absolutely certain that the shooting of the plane would have been a case of mistaken identity as they could have gained no military advantage from downing a Malaysian civilian airliner and would have, indeed, suffered a massive propaganda blow from it. Although they would still be guilty of negligence, there is a massive, absolutely enormous difference between this and the deliberate terrorist shooting down of a civilian airliner which Obama, Abbott and other Western rulers have deceitfully implied was the case. Later, we shall address the question of who, ultimately, has the most responsibility for the airline tragedy even if it was after all the Donbass rebels that fired the shots.
Yet, it is far, far from certain or even probable that the Donbass rebels did bring down the airliner. For one, there has been no tangible evidence that Russia or anyone else supplied the Donetsk rebels with the BUK-M1 surface to air missile that Western and Ukrainian rulers say brought down the Malaysian plane. Previously, the rebels had never even used such a missile. The Ukrainian military planes that they had earlier destroyed were all shot down at much lower altitude with another less advanced missile system. That system is incapable of shooting down an aircraft flying at 33,000 feet which is the altitude that the Malaysian airliner was flying at. Indeed, a group of retired U.S. intelligence officers from the CIA, FBI, U.S. Army and other agencies are so concerned that the unsubstantiated claims by the U.S. government are harming U.S. interests that they released an open memorandum to Obama stating that:
Twelve days after the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, your administration still has issued no coordinated intelligence assessment summarizing what evidence exists to determine who was responsible – much less to convincingly support repeated claims that the plane was downed by a Russian-supplied missile in the hands of Ukrainian separatists.
This open memorandum is all the more telling given that these retired U.S. intelligenceofficers are hardly opponents of U.S. imperialism – indeed, the memorandum takes as a positive example right wing former president Ronald Reagan’s release of intelligence information to “justify” the U.S. bombing of Libya in 1986!
So, if the Donestsk rebels did not bring down the Malaysian airliner who else could have shot it down? The Russian Defence Ministry maintained that its air traffic control had picked up at least one Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi SU-25 fighter just 3 to 5 km from the Malaysian airliner before the incident. This information release was, no doubt, aimed at suggesting that it was a Ukrainian fighter jet that brought down the passenger plane. Certainly given the current tensions between Russia and Ukraine, the Russian government has an interest in pointing the finger at Kiev. Yet, what has given this hypothesis a serious life is when none other than the flagship, mainstream newspaper of Malaysia, NewStraitsTimes, published several articles suggesting that MH17 was brought down by a missile fired from a Ukrainian aircraft and then finished off with aircraft gunfire. Thus, a New Straits Times article carried on its website on August 7, headlined “US analysts conclude MH17 downed by aircraft,” commenced as follows:
INTELLIGENCE analysts in the United States had already concluded that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by an air-to-air missile, and that the Ukrainian government had had something to do with it.
This corroborates an emerging theory postulated by local investigators that the Boeing 777-200 was crippled by an air-to-air missile and finished off with cannon fire from a fighter that had been shadowing it as it plummeted to earth.
In a damning report dated Aug 3, headlined `Flight 17 Shoot-Down Scenario Shifts’, Associated Press reporter Robert Parry said `some US intelligence sources had concluded that the rebels and Russia were likely not at fault and that it appears Ukrainian government forces were to blame’. – http://www.nst.com.my/node/20925
The New Straits Times article continued:
Yesterday, the New Straits Times quoted experts who had said that photographs of the blast fragmentation patterns on the fuselage of the airliner showed two distinct shapes – the shredding pattern associated with a warhead packed with “flechettes”, and the more uniform, round-type penetration holes consistent with that of cannon rounds.
The above evidence is significant because cannon rounds could not have reached the aircraft from the ground – they had to be fired from another aircraft. New Straits Times also quoted Michael Bociurkiw, a Ukrainian- Canadian monitor with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) who, along with another colleague, was the first international monitor to reach the wreckage after flight MH17 was brought down. In a July 29 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation interview, Bociurkiw, had stated that:
There have been two or three pieces of fuselage that have been really pockmarked with what almost looks like machinegun fire; very, very strong machinegun fire.
To put the New Straits Times reports into perspective one has to understand what this newspaper represents. New Straits Times is not only the main establishment newspaper of Malaysia, it is also closely linked to the Malaysian government – a government which while not quite as fully subservient to Washington as its neighbours is nevertheless far closer to the U.S. rulers than it is to Russia. This newspaper has no political interest in contradicting the Western narrative about the plane tragedy. Soon after the New Straits Times reports, Malasyia’s defence minister, Hishammuddin Hussein came out and denied that MH17 was shot down by fighter jets. Yet, since then New Straits Times has run at least one article supporting the alternative narrative (see, for example: http://www.nst. com.my/node/22405). However, all these New Straits Times accounts and the evidence they are based on have been completely ignored by the Western mainstream media. Furthermore, the U.S., British and Australian rulers who had been so aggressively denouncing Russia and the Donetsk rebels over MH17 have now become fairly quiet about the whole incident adding to suspicions that they are aware that another party were the real perpetrators.
If it was the Ukrainian military that did, indeed, shoot down MH17 what possible motive could they have? One suggestion is based on the fact that the livery of Malaysian Airlines sported by MH17 is rather close to the Russian tri-colour. They could have mistakenly thought it was a Russian transport aircraft. Another hypothesis is based on reports that at the time of the shooting, Vladimir Putin’s aircraft, whose Russian tri-colour based livery is similar to that of the Malaysian airliner – was in the air not all that far from MH17. Could the shooting down of MH17 have been a botched attempt by the Ukrainian Air Force to assassinate Putin? Then there is a still more sinister possible motive: that the right wing Ukrainian regime shot down the plane in order to blame the rebels. Could this be possible? Certainly the Ukrainian regime has a motive for doing this. The blame that the rebel forces received for the shooting down of the civilian aircraft was a great propaganda coup for the Ukrainian government. If the Ukrainian military did shoot down MH17 in such a false flag attack then in that case the downing of the civilian airliner would have not been a terrible accident caused by negligence from various parties but deliberate mass murder. It would seem unthinkable for any humansto undertake such a heinous crime. Yet, other U.S.-backed forces involved in conflicts have committed precisely these kinds of attacks – especially the imperialist-backed Syrian “rebels.” For example, in May 2012, 108 civilians including 49 children were horrifically massacred in the town of Taldou in Syria’s Houla Plains. The Syrian “rebels” displayed the bodies to UN inspectors and to their supporters in the Western media as evidence of the Syrian pro- government forces supposed responsibility for the massacre. Yet a German mainstream newspaper soon uncovered that it was the Western-backed “rebels” who had in fact committed the massacre and had displayed the bodies in order to blame the Syrian government.
Even less morally averse to downing a civilian aircraft than the Ukrainian Army are the fascist militias that have, as volunteers, joined the Ukrainian military’s fight against the rebels. These murderous fascists hark back to the tradition of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army of Stepan Bandera, which allied with the Nazis invaders against the Soviet Union during World War II. The Bandera forces murdered over 100,000 Poles, Jews and Communists in a series of gruesome massacres. Today’s Ukrainian fascist irregulars not only have a fanatical hatred of Russian speakers but are extreme white supremacists who would have little qualm in targeting a civilian aircraft from an Asian airline.
Then there is, of course, the possibility that the U.S. directly shot down the aircraft. Certainly, the U.S. and allied imperialists have been the greatest beneficiaries from the political fallout from the shooting down of MH17. It has put Washington’s Russian capitalist rival on the diplomatic back foot. The U.S. imperialists have long treated the peoples of the “Third World” as expendable pawns. Thus, while claims that the U.S. government was behind the September 11, 2001 bombings must, surely, be far-fetched given that the target was a key symbol of U.S. capitalist, financial and commercial power, the targeting of an Asian airliner is well within the range of past CIA actions. These cold-hearted enforcers of U.S. capitalist interests would rationalise this as “unfortunate collateral damage” incurred for the sake of the greater good – that is, the good of U.S. imperialism!
The U.S. rulers certainly know all about shooting down civilian airliners. On 3rd July 1988, the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes downed Iran Air flight 655 which was on a regular flight from Tehran to Dubai. All 274 passengers and 16 crew aboard Iranian Airbus A300 were killed by the U.S. missile strike. The Iranian passenger airliner was on its normal flight path within Iranian airspace and above Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf when it was shot down. The U.S. never apologised or accepted any responsibility for the killing of the people aboard Iran Air flight 655 and claimed that the crew of the warship had misidentified the plane as an F14-A Tomcat fighter aircraft. Except that the passenger airliner was in regular English language radio contact with air traffic controllers. Moreover, not only was the airliner well within a recognised civilian air corridor, it was a full 20km away from the U.S. warship when the latter fired the two missiles that killed all 290 people aboard the aircraft.
The mainstream Western media don’t want to talk too much about this horrific incident today when attacking the Donetsk rebels and Russia over the MH17 tragedy. Yet there are also some important differences between the U.S. shooting down the Iranian airliner and the accusation that Donbass rebels brought down MH17. If the, increasing doubtful, claim that the Eastern Ukraine based rebels downed MH17 were true then the accidental strike would have been conducted by a desperate force fighting a war and shooting down an aircraft above its own territory. In contrast, the U.S. was not at war when the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air flight 655 and, further, that attack was unleashed thousands of miles away from the U.S.A in the Persian Gulf. This makes U.S. claims that their warship misidentified the airliner highly dubious. Also, while NATO and the Australian government are accusing a ragtag rebel army lacking advanced surveillance systems of shooting down MH17, Iranian Air flight 655 was downed by the most powerful military force in the world – a force with more than adequate sophistication to clearly distinguish between an attacking military aircraft and a civilian airliner. The U.S. warship’s own Aegis Combat System picked up the Iranian airliner’s radio transmitter’s emission of the normal Mode III code clearly identifying it as a civilian airliner on its normal course. Furthermore, it turned out that the warship’s advanced surveillance system had also recorded that the aircraft was in a steady climb, not the descending profile of an attack run. Most Iranians, not to mention most rational observers in general, believe that the U.S. warship deliberately shot down the civilian airliner. This was either because the U.S. wanted to teach disobedient Iran a lesson or because a trigger happy crew wanted to try out their new advanced combat system.
Russians are, themselves, familiar with this kind of horrific tragedy. On 4 October 2001 Siberian Airlines Flight 1812 heading to the Russian city of Novosibirsk from Tel Aviv, Israel was shot down and crashed into the Black Sea, killing all 78 passengers onboard. At first denying any involvement, Ukraine ended up paying $15 million in compensation to victims’ families as evidence clearly pointed to the Ukrainian military accidentally shooting down the plane during a training exercise. The fact that Ukraine, thus, carries such recent form in this area has, predictably, garnered scant attention in the Western press in the wake of the MH17 disaster.
CANBERRA’S MEDDLING IN UKRAINE:GOOD FOR AUSTRALIA’S CAPITALIST EXPLOITERS,
BAD FOR THE WORKING CLASS & OPPRESSED
So what can we say in summary about who shot down MH17? Unlike the tycoon or capitalist government-owned Western media, we Marxists base ourselves on reality and have noreason to distort the truth. Nor do we have aneed to present scenarios that are only possibilities or even probabilities as dead certainties. Taking this approach, in summary, as we go to press, we can say that it is not certain who brought down Malaysian airline flight MH17. However, we can say that the analysis of actual hard evidence thus far points more towards the Ukrainian military as the perpetrators rather than the Eastern Ukraine rebels. And what we can say with absolute certainty is that in the (increasingly less likely) case that the Donbass rebels did bring down the airliner, this was an accidental shooting. Yet not only have the Liberal government, the ALP opposition and the mainstream media all rushed to pronounce both the Donbass rebels and their Russian backers as guilty, they have deviously equated the possible accidental shooting by these forces with a deliberate terrorist attack on a passenger-filled civilian airliner. In stark contrast, at the very same time that it was making these lurid allegations against the Donbass rebels, the Australian ruling class apologised for Israel’s deliberate devastation of Gaza which the Australian regime knew amounted to the deliberate mass slaughter of Palestinian civilians. So why these diametrically opposite responses from the Australian ruling class?
In the case of the war on Gaza, the U.S. and Australian rulers support Israel’s brutal assault because Israel has long been a key henchman for Western imperialism in the Middle East region. In contrast, the Donbass rebels and Russia are not the lapdogs of NATO and are, thus, targets for the Western imperialists’ propaganda attacks and economic sanctions. The capitalist powers in the West want a loyal partner in power in Kiev because they want prized access to markets and investment opportunities in the Ukraine. However, that is not their only purpose. They meddle in Ukraine in order to ensure that there is a regime there that will act as a counterweight to – and a container of – Russia. With this aim, the U.S. and its allies have drawn not only Ukraine but Georgia into an “Intensified Dialogue” with NATO in what they hope will be a step towards integrating these countries into NATO membership itself. Three other former Soviet republics were brought into NATO membership in 2004: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. These moves are not only aimed in big part against Russia but also against the Western imperialists’ ultimate target – socialistic China.
The U.S.-led Western powers largely rule the world – brutally exploiting the masses of the so-called “Third World” and toppling disobedient governments seemingly at will. They tolerate no opposition to their tyranny. The U.S. rulers and their counterparts in the likes of Britain and Australia killed hundreds of thousands of people when they invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan. They have fuelled a bloody proxy war in Syria against the uncompliant Assad government. Today, these Western colonial predators are using the crimes of the ISIS monster that they had until recently fed and nurtured as a force against the Syrian government, as an excuse to again directly intervene to impose their will on Iraq and to more openly fight for regime change in Syria. Earlier in 2011, they devastated Libya with air strikes in order to remove the all too independent Gaddafi government in Libya. In short, the U.S., British and Australian imperialist ruling classes are used to getting their way and will do anything to ensure that they do. So the last thing that these imperial overlords will accept is a new, emerging capitalist rival with the potential to tread on their turf (which the Western imperialists now consider to be almost the entire world!) However, capitalist Russia is just such an emerging power. Although it has been greatly weakened by capitalist restoration in 1991-92, Russia still retains some portion of the former USSR’s industrial and technological might and is today easily the second strongest military power in the world. The Western imperialists, who have largely divided the world between themselves, approach Russia in the same way that criminal gangs unite to curb and bully an upstart new kid on the block rival who could impinge on their operations.
So what is the reason for the Australian rulers getting involved in all of this? After all, Russia and Ukraine are far away from Canberra’s sphere of influence and Russia has no designs on Australia’s neocolonies in the South Pacific. The reason is that Australian imperialism’s tyranny in this region depends on having the backing of the U.S. superpower. It is under the protection of U.S. might that Australian corporate giants like BHP and Woodside steal the oil of East Timor, that Australian mining tycoons plunder the natural resources of PNG, that the Australian military and cops often jackboot around the South Pacific
and that Australian judges and high-level bureaucrats get muscled into the upper echelons of the state institutions of PNG and the Solomon Islands. Thus, the Australian ruling class want to do everything possible to uphold U.S./NATO domination of the world – and right now that includes turning the screws on the U.S’s emerging Russian competitor.
Australia’s capitalist rulers are not just puppets of the U.S. but are, rather, willing junior partners in the same way that medium-sized criminal bosses always want the particular mafia godfather that they are allied with to be the number one mobster. Yet, while it is rational for the likes of Andrew Forrest, Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart, the Lowy family, James Packer and the greedy major owners of BHP, Rio Tinto and Woodside to back Canberra’s support for Washington’s great power machinations, it is completely against the interests of the Australian working class to do so. The more that the Western imperialist gang that the Australian ruling class is allied with is successful in its quest to strengthen its world domination, the more arrogant will the Australian capitalist rulers become at home. That means more aggressive attacks on our unions, more severe cutbacks to entitlements for the very poor, more anti-working class privatisations of infrastructure and public housing and further measures to exclude working class people from access to decent healthcare and education. It means more extreme all- sided racist oppression of Aboriginal people and still more brutal government attacks on refugees. That is why it is in the interests of the working class and all of the downtrodden to see the predatory international schemes of their ruling class oppressors suffer setbacks – setbacks in Ukraine/Russia and setbacks everywhere else. The Australian workers movement and left must demand: Down with NATO/Australian meddling in Ukraine! No to the plan to station Australian Federal Police officers in Kiev – Down with the Abbott government’s threat to send military aid to the right wing Ukrainian regime! Lift all U.S., EU and Australian sanctions on Russia! U.S./ Australian imperialism: Hands off Iraq and Syria! Defend Syria against NATO and their “Free Syrian Army” and religious fundamentalist “rebel” proxies!
UKRAINE’SRIGHT WING COUP: PLOTTED BY WASHINGTON, SPEARHEADED BY FASCIST THUGS
Until earlier this year, Ukraine actually had a government that maintained fairly friendly relations with its Russian neighbour. That government was headed by then president Viktor Yanukovych who, following his election victory in the 2010 presidential polls, sought to balance relations with Russia and the West. However, when Yanukovych announced in November 2013 that he was putting off close integration with the EU in favour of stronger ties with Russia (highlighted by his acceptance of a huge loan offer from Russia), pro-Western anti-government protests erupted. The protests were able to ride on anger at the high unemployment and high poverty rates – especially in Western Ukraine – overseen by the corrupt, capitalist government. Yet from the start, the “solutions” offered by the groups leading the protests were right wing and dominated by aggressive Ukrainian nationalism.
Behind the then opposition movement stood Washington which, seeing a chance to undermine Russian influence in Ukraine, backed the movement with both massive funding for opposition “NGOs” as well as with tactical direction. The U.S. government’s intervention was so blatant that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, and Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, openly joined the then opposition protests – even handing out cakes to the right wing protesters. The extent of this U.S. intervention is also readily apparent in a recording of an intercept of a phone conversation between Nuland and Pyatt (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbOwfeoDX2o). The conversation begins with the ambassador saying, “I think we’re in play” (i.e. their efforts to affect regime change and determine the next government of Ukraine are in play!) Nuland and Pyatt express satisfaction that American diplomat and UN Under-Secretary- General for Political Affairs, Jeff Feltman, had succeeded in getting the UN to agree to send Dutch UN diplomat Robert Serry to Ukraine to promote the regime change or, as Nuland puts it, “help glue this thing together.” Later, Pyatt speaks of the need to get an international personality to come to Ukraine “to help midwife this thing.” Yet U.S. imperialism’s officials were not only speaking of how to affect the regime change but, in fact, who should be in the new government! Thus, they decided that “Yats” (i.e. conservative politician Arseniy Yatsenyuk) is “the guy” and Nuland insisted that “Klitsch” (i.e. rival conservative politician Vitali Klitschko) should not be in the government. And guess what happened in the end: “Yats” became the new prime minister and “Klitsch” decided not to be part of the new government!
This was not the first time that the Western powers had orchestrated events in post- Soviet Ukraine. In 2004, after Yanukovych won presidential elections, opposition groups massively financed and trained in “non-violent resistance” by U.S. government agencies – like the notorious National Endowment for Democracy – instigated mass protests against the election results. The movement, dubbed the Orange Revolution, resulted in Yanukovych’s victory being annulled by the courts and a re-run being conducted which resulted in strongly pro- Western candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, winning office.
If the U.S. rulers were the generals of the opposition forces, the shock troops were the local fascist squads. They came mainly from two groups: the Svoboda party and the Pravy Sector (Right Sector). The Svoboda party was formed as the Social National Party of Ukraine in order to identify with the “National Socialist” ideology of Hitler’s Nazis. The party spews hatred against immigrants, Jewish people and Russians, espouses extreme hostility to women’s right to abortion, calls for legal discrimination in economic and social matters against non-ethnic Ukrainians and glorifies the Nazi 4th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician) that was made up of Ukrainians who volunteered to fight on Hitler’s side against the Soviet Red Army. Pravy Sektor, for its part, is composed of various street thug groups notorious for attacks on international students and immigrants. The prominence of Svoboda and Pravy Sektor in the opposition protests grew with time and became decisive as the movement turned violent in January. The fascists then unleashed a series of brutal attacks on opponents of the movement – including government supporters, journalists, state security forces and the offices of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. The U.S. “democratic” imperialists were fully aware of and accepting of this fascist factor. Ambassador Wyatt said of the Svoboda neo-Nazis: “They have demonstrated their democratic bona fides.” Meanwhile, when prominent U.S. Senator John McCain came to Kiev’s Maidan square to salute the then opposition movement, he made a point about greeting and standing shoulder to shoulder with the leader of the fascist Svoboda party Oleh Tyahnybok. And in that intercepted call between Nuland and Wyatt, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State declared that, “I thinks Yats is the guy whose got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the guy… You know, what he needs is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the outside, he needs to be talking to them for four times a week.” pro-Western, conservative government that regularly consults with and takes advice from fascists was on Washington’s order of the day!
Up until a late stage of the anti-government protests, the U.S. was actually quite happy to see an arrangement where Yanukovych would retain the presidency while other key government positions would be filled by their men so that the West’s agenda could gradually take over. The EU had also negotiated a compromise deal between Yanukovych and the then opposition. However, the fascists and other hardline sections of the movement refused to accept any compromise and stepped up their violence and their occupation of government buildings. Under the impact of this offensive led by fascist paramilitaries and under pressure from Washington, large chunks of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions abandoned support for him and many defected to the opposition. On February 21, the Ukrainian parliament ousted Yanukovych. Although large numbers of people had participated in the opposition movement, in effect what had happened was that the elected president was overthrown by a right wing movement overseen by Washington and spearheaded by fascists. Oleg Turchynov from the conservative Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party became Acting President and, yes, “the man” Yats was appointed Prime Minister.
The days leading up to and immediately following February 21 saw a series of frightening fascist attacks on civilians including violence against Jewish people, the desecration of Soviet war memorials, the tearing down of some 25 Lenin statues, the ransacking of the Communist Party of Ukraine’s (KPU) office in Kiev by masked fascists carrying batons and violent attacks on members of the KPU. As a result of the leading role played byfascists in the right wing coup, fascists were appointed to key posts in the new government. Of the 20 ministries in the cabinet, four were initially taken up by Svoboda members. Only the mainstream conservative Fatherland party had more ministries. The fascist Svoboda figures in the new government included the number three figure in the new regime, Vice Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych as well as Defence Minister, Ihor Tenyukh. Additionally, Svoboda fascist Oleh Makhnitsky was appointed Attorney General. Pravy Sektor leader Dmitry Yarosh was offered the deputy national security position but declined the offer.
This fascist representation in the Ukrainian government has declined somewhat over time. Svoboda’s Tenyukh resigned as Defence Minister after less than a month in office a day after the coordinator for Western Ukraine for the neo-Nazi Pravy Sektor was killed in a shootout with Ukrainian police. In June, the Svoboda member acting as Attorney General resigned and this post is now filled by a member of the conservative Fatherland party. Yet the fascist paramilitaries still make up a large portion of the newly formed Ukrainian National Guard and Svoboda has continued to exert a strong influence on the agenda of the government. On July 24, the Communist Party of Ukraine’s parliamentary faction was dissolved by the parliament and 308 criminal proceedings against the party were launched as part of attempts to ban any activity by the party. Furthermore, the authorities have carried out arrests and some in case beatings of KPU members. The international workers movement and left must demand an end to all persecution of the KPU and the restoration of its parliamentary faction!
RACISTOPPRESSIONAND RESISTANCE IN UKRAINE
The fascist influence was also seen in the move to enshrine legal discrimination against non-ethnic Ukrainians. Thus just two days after Yanukovych was ousted, the post- coup parliament voted to repeal the law on regional languages which had stipulated that although Ukraine was the sole national language, a minority language with the status, “regional language,” could be used in courts, schools and other government institutions in areas of Ukraine where the percentage of representatives of national minorities exceeds 10% of the total population of a defined administrative district. In practice the law on regional languages meant that the large areas of the South and East of Ukraine, including the Crimea, with heavy populations of Russian speakers could also use Russian for education and public affairs as well as three small administrative areas where Hungarian, Moldovan and Romanian could be used. Although acting president Turchynov vetoed the repeal bill, the racist parliamentary vote, the violent fascist attacks on people of non-Ukrainian ethnicity and the
terrifying presence of neo- Nazis in the government all combined to convince many of the Russian-speaking people concentrated in the South and East of Ukraine to revolt against the new regime. Their struggle is a just struggle for liberation from a racist regime and quickly won support from the local populations.
In the Crimea peninsula in southern Ukraine whose port city of Sevastopol hosts Russia’s strategic Black Sea Fleet (Russia had been allowed to have control of this base under a 1997 agreement with Ukraine), tens of thousands demonstrated against the new government on the night of the day that the parliament voted to repeal the law on regional languages. Within days pro-Russian supporters took over key government buildings as a majority of Ukrainian soldiers in Crimeadefected to the pro-Russian side. On March 16, an overwhelming majority of the population of the Crimean peninsula voted for independence from Ukraine in an act of self-determination. The next day, Crimea’s parliament, which is dominated by hardline Russian nationalists, declared independence and asked to join Russia. This was accepted by Putin and secured by the Russian military. Although the Ukrainian regime and Western powers continue to demand the return of Crimea to Ukraine, this is empty rhetoric. No one seriously thinks they can wrest Crimea from Russia for the foreseeable future.
In the south-eastern part of Ukraine – centred on the districts of Donetsk and Luhansk that are together known as the Donbass region – a Russian speaking resistance movement also started taking over government buildings after the February right wing coup. They proclaimed a Peoples Republic of Donetsk and a Peoples Republic of Luhansk. However, they were opposed by a military onslaught by the Ukrainian military and Ukrainian volunteer battalions. The latter battalions are largely dominated by fascists, such as the Azov Battalion led by Andriy Biletsky, the leader of the Neo- Nazi, Social National Assembly. The Social National Assembly calls for “struggle for the liberation of the entire White Race” and seeks to “punish severely sexual perversions and any interracial contacts.” The Azov Battalion uses the Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook), a favoured symbol of modern Neo-Nazi groups (as the symbol was used by several military units of Hitler’s Nazis) and has attracted to its ranks white supremacists from Sweden, Spain and Italy.
The war has raged on for several months with one side gaining the upper hand and then the other. So far the death toll has exceeded 3,000 people. As we go to press a shaky ceasefire is largely holding with the resistance holding on to chunks of territory in Donestk and Luhansk. The Ukrainian parliament has also just voted to offer the rebel regions regional autonomy. It is too early to evaluate the extent of this offer and the response from the Donbass people. The Russian government has welcomed the offer but as yet a comprehensive political settlement has not been implemented.
As the opposing sides were negotiating the ceasefire, the U.S. stepped up its rhetoric against Russia and then it and the EU announced new sanctions on Russia only days after the ceasefire. It seems that the Ukrainian government’s imperialist patrons were trying to scuttle Ukrainian president Poroshenko’s efforts to negotiate a ceasefire with the Donbass rebels. Washington is prepared to fight to the last drop of Ukrainian blood to curb the influence of its Moscow rival.
The Ukrainian pro-government forces’ assault on the Donbass rebellion was brutal and has caused the deaths of over 1,000 civilians. In order to capture towns, the Kiev regime’s forces have shelled civilian areas and bombarded them with rocket attacks from both ground and air. Especially murderous have been Ukraine’s fascist irregulars. The extent of their barbarity was seen on May 2 in Odessa, a Black Sea port city with a mixed Russian and Ukrainian population. It was there that over a 1,000 fascists, many under the guise of being soccer fans for a local match, held a provocative march through the city denouncing the Southern and Eastern Ukraine-based rebel movements. Among the marchers were large contingents from the Pravy Sektor and over a hundred thugs wearing masks and armed with sticks and shields. After a clash with anti-government activists elsewhere, the fascists marched upon a tent city of anti-government protesters at Kulikovo Field in the centre of Odessa city. They then completely torched the tent camp and forced the terrified protesters to flee into the adjacent Trade Unions House building. What followed was a horrifying massacre. The fascists threw petrol bombs into the second and third stories of the building setting the whole place on fire. As the anti-Kiev activists were being burnt to death, the fascists outside sung the Ukrainian national anthem! Other chanted “burn Colorado, burn” (The New York Times, 4 May 2014) – “Colorado” being a derogatory term for Russian-speaking rebels as it refers to the Colorado potato beetle, striped red and black like the pro-Russian ribbons. Some of those in the building tried to leap down to escape the inferno. Of these some died from the fall but others survived only to be chased down and brutally beaten. The police were complicit in the slaughter. They simply stood aside and watched the pro-Russian activists get murdered and the fascists block the firefighters from using their equipment. Later, 38 of the activists who survived the inferno were outrageously arrested by police as they left the building. In all at least 42 pro- Russian activists were killed at the Trade Unions House building and at least another three were shot dead in the earlier clash. The response of the Kiev regime was initially to blame the activists and later to try and cover up the massacre while cynically shedding crocodile tears “mourning” the dead.
Every atrocity committed by the Ukrainian military and the fascist volunteers against the Russian-speaking minority has only served to strengthen that minority’s separatist feelings. The struggle of the Russian speaking people in the South and East of Ukraine is a just struggle for self determination and thus can be compared in some ways to the Palestinian struggle, the Kurdish separatist struggle in Turkey and the Tamil struggle for a Tamil “Eelam” homeland in Sri Lanka. However, there are also some significant differences with the latter struggles. Firstly, unlike the Tamil and Palestinian struggles, the revolt of the Russian-speaking people in the South and East of Ukraine is not simply that of one ethnic community. Although ethnic Russians are by far the dominant force in the movement, the section of the Ukrainian population whose main language is Russian extends beyond ethnic Russians. According to the 2000 Ukraine census, over five and a half million ethnic Ukrainians speak Russian as their first language. Thus, in the Donetsk Oblast (District), although 57% of the population identify as ethnic Ukrainian, only 24% of the population use Ukrainian as their native language. Russian is also the main language of the majority of the small Belarussian, Jewish, Greek and Tartar communities of Ukraine as well as large minorities of the Bulgarian and Armenian communities. Thus, in photographs of rallies by supporters of the Luhansk Peoples Republic one can see flags of Belarus alongside Russian flags and other Russian nationalist flags.
Secondly, unlike in the West Bank and the Gaza strip which is overwhelmingly Palestinian or the north of Sri Lanka which is overwhelmingly Tamil, the Southern and Eastern parts of Ukraine (other than Crimea which is now part of Russia) are not overwhelmingly ethnic Russian or even Russian speaking. Thus, in the Luhansk Oblast, 58% of the population are ethnic Ukrainians and 30% of the population use Ukrainian as their native language. In Odessa, 46% of the population use Ukrainian as their native language and in Kharkiv 53%. Therefore, the appropriate demand for the movement of the Russian-speaking people is for self-rule with the most deep going autonomy possible. This is what most of the rebels are demanding themselves and apparently what the majority of the population want, although the most hardcore Russian nationalists within the movement sometimes call for accession to Russia.
Thirdly, although the struggle against ethnic and language repression that became sharply posed after the February 21 right wing coup forms the central part of the emergence of the Donbass movement, there are additional factors involved. Some of these factors are directly tied up with the ethnic/ linguistic issue. Thus, the ethnic Russian and other Russian speakers based in the South and East for cultural and patriotic reasons prefer a government that maintains close ties with Russia than the anti-Russia regime that took power on February 21. The Donbass region was a stronghold for Yanukovych’s more Russia-friendly Party of Regions and its removal from power in a coup was therefore most strongly opposed in this part of the country. More interestingly for socialists is the fact that the industrial and thus more proletarian South and East of Ukraine had a greater percentage of people who were favourable to the former Soviet Union and to communism than in other parts of the Ukraine. Despite the reformist nature of the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU), these sentiments among significant parts of the region’s masses were in part expressed in electoral support for the KPU. In the 2012 parliamentary elections, the KPU won nearly 30% of the vote in the Crimean Peninsula’s main city, Sevastopol, and over 25% of the vote in the Luhansk Oblast. This compares with under 2% of the vote in the western Oblast of Lviv. For those pro-Soviet, subjectively pro-communist individuals in the Southern and Eastern parts of Ukraine who are deeply passionate about the heroic Soviet Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany, hearing of Soviet war memorials being desecrated, communists being attacked and Lenin statues being torn down by neo-Nazis in Kiev and Western Ukraine encourages not only strong feelings of hostility to the new regime but also, in the absence of an internationalist approach to unite the Ukrainian and Russian speaking toilers in joint revolutionary struggle, the urge to separate from these parts of Ukraine. The exact weight of this factor is hard to gauge from a distance. Unfortunately, as the war has progressed and the atrocities by the Ukrainian military and fascist irregulars mounted, the ethnic/linguistic tensions have hardened. As a result, the dominance of aggressive Russian nationalist elements in the rebel movement has alarmingly increased and less and less Soviet flags and emblems are seen in the rebel political rallies. This is certainly the case in current demonstrations in the Donetsk region, whereas a few Soviet flags were seen in the earlier protests in Odessa in particular.
Fourthly, in the Ukraine war, rival billionaire oligarchs are playing a major, direct role independently of the state power representing their interests in a manner much more overt than in other similar conflicts. Some of these oligarchs are directly funding the pro-government militias and fascist irregulars while others are backing the pro-Russian rebels, while at the same time trying to control their agenda.
Fifthly, unlike the Palestinian and Tamil struggles, the Donbass struggle is being conducted in a region which borders a capitalist power whose main language/ ethnicity is the same as that of the rebel movement and which is providing some support to that movement. This fact does colour things somewhat, even though the rebel movement has not been simply subordinated to Russian interests and thus does remain a progressive movement overall. So, while national rights movements often use the rhetoric of anti-oppression and defensive nationalism, large parts of the Donbass movement leadership use aggressive Russian nationalist and national-supremacist rhetoric reflecting their proximity to a power based on the same ethnic/language group. Until recently, the commander of the Donetsk Peoples Republic was one Igor Girkin (known as “Strelkov”) a reactionary nationalist and monarchist whose hero is a Russian White general (the Whites were the right wing countetrevolutionaries who fought in the 1918-1921 Civil War against the Red communist forces in a failed attempt to overturn the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution). As a result of the character of the Donbass rebel leadership, the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity and clerical-fascist Slavic Union have sent volunteers to support the Donbass rebels as have the Serbian Chetniks (the Chetniks are right wing monarchists who were defeated by Tito’s communist partisans). The Donbass rebellion has also won the enthusiastic support of the Hungarian neo- Nazi Jobbik Party and the fascist British National Party. Most disturbingly, elements of the Donbass pro-Russian forces have been accused of committing horrific racist violence against the region’s Romani (Gypsy) minority as well as attacks on church goers who don’t attend Russian Orthodox-affiliated churches. All this is not only terrifying for the non-Russian communities in the Donbass but is harmful to what is overall a just struggle against racist/linguistic discrimination and repression of the Russian-speaking people of the region. For one, it repels the many pro-Soviet, anti-fascist working class people in the Donetsk and Luhansk districts from supporting the rebel movement. Secondly, it drives the Ukrainian-speaking masses in the West of Ukraine into the arms of the reactionary Kiev regime, as the excesses of the rebels recalls to them the subjugation of Ukrainian people in pre-Soviet, Tsarist Russia. Therefore, it is urgent for there to be a political struggle to replace the reactionary nationalist leadership of the Donbass masses with an internationalist, pro-working class leadership. Such a leadership would pose the struggle solely as a struggle against racist and capitalist oppression, would completely reject great power Russian nationalism, would stand resolutely in defence of the well-being and rights of the region’s Romani, Jewish, Ukrainian-speaking and other minorities, would drive out fascists from the movement, would appeal to the class interests of the Ukrainian-speaking workers in the rest of the country in opposing the regime’s onslaught against the region and would fight for the revolutionary unity of Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking workers in the struggle against the capitalist exploiters of all ethnicities.
The objectively progressive nature of the anti-regime struggle in the South and East of Ukraine has meant that, although it’s still only a relatively small component of the movement as a whole, there has been leftist participation in it. Active in Odesssa and Kharkiv is the Borotba group which is pro-Soviet and openly describes itself as Marxist-Leninist and revolutionary. Borotba correctly denounces the November 2013 to February 2014 then opposition movement for bringing to power a very right wing, “neo-liberal and nationalistic government”, while correctly also opposing the previous capitalist Yanukovych government and the capitalist Putin government in Russia. Borotba members have courageously withstood fascist attacks and state repression and have today been driven underground. Borotba comrade Andrey Brazhevsky was murdered in the fascist attack on the Trade Unions House building in Odessa when, after jumping off the burning building, fascists beat him to death with sticks. From this distance we cannot give a broader appraisal of the politics of this group. Unfortunately, although the group has expressed strong opposition to both Ukrainian and Russian fascists, a Borotba leader founded a joint committee for the “Liberation of Odessa” with the Russian bourgeois Rodina party and the Russian fascist party Slavic Union.
Despite the dominance of right wing Russian nationalists in the Donbass rebel leadership, the struggle of the Russian-speaking people in the Donetsk and Luhansk districts is still, objectively, a just struggle against racist/ linguistic discrimination and repression and, what is more, includes to some degree a progressive, pro-Soviet hostility to the desecration of Soviet war memorials, the presence of neo-Nazis in the Kiev regime and the tearing down of Lenin statues in western Ukraine. That is why the international working class movement must defend the just anti-regime struggle of the people of the Donbass and demand the right to the broadest self-rule for the people of this region.
The Ukrainian working class outside the Donbass, including the Ukrainian-speaking masses, must especially take up this cause. Only by positively opposing the anti-Russian chauvinism promoted by the regime can they unite on a class basis and focus on the struggle against the capitalist exploiters – those true enemies of the workers of all ethnicities who are consigning the masses to high unemployment and poverty and whose regime is preparing to unleash EU and IMF-dictated austerity that would hit working class people with social service cutbacks, price rises and still deeper job losses. Such a perspective is possible even given the right wing, nationalistic climate in Ukraine and the polarising effect of the bitter and bloody war. It is striking that wives, mothers and other relatives of those drafted into Kiev’s war on the Donbass have staged a series of militant protests against conscription and in many cases against the war itself. The protests began in July in response to a government decision to announce a new wave of conscription orders. The protests took hold initially in the Chernivtsi region, a heavily ethnic Romanian region, near the Romanian border. There protesters blocked roads in protests at conscription orders given to 280 young men in the Ostryzja village. “We want peace, we really do not need war. Ukraine must have peace,” was the typical sentiment of the protesters. Soon the protests spread including importantly to ethnic Ukrainian regions as well. From the Obukhivs’kyi district near Kiev to the village of Hamaliivka near Lviv to the villages of Rakoshyno and Znyatsevo, near the border of Slovakia and Hungary, anti-war and anti-conscription protesters have blocked roads. Among the slogans and retorts of the demonstrators have been, “‘Send call-up notices to the children of the higher-ups!’, ‘Return our children to us,’ ‘Stop the bloodshed’ and ‘Go fight your own wars.’” On July 22, farmers protesting the conscription of their children in the town of Bohorodchany in Ivano- Frankivsk Oblast, in south-west Ukraine, attacked the military registration office and the government premises and burned conscription documents. On July 25, in the shipbuilding port of Mykolaiv, east of Odessa, mothers and wives of soldiers braved state repression to block the Varvarovsky Bridge over the Bug River for three days until police violently broke up the action and arrested several protesters.
Such courageous protests present an opportunity for leftists to intervene to both show solidarity and to explain the need to not only oppose Kiev’s war but to defend the just struggle of the Russian-speaking people of the Donbass. Furthermore, in ethnically mixed and heavily industrial cities like Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk there is also an opportunity for leftists to intervene to bridge the ethnic divide and to mobilise actions in defence of the embattled Donbass people as an integral part of the fight against the capitalist oligarchs. Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk are Ukraine’s second and third largest cities, both of which have not been directly subsumed in the polarising war and both of which have Ukrainian and Russian workers toiling together in large workplaces. In Dnipropetrovsk, the connection between the necessity to defend the Donbass struggle and the struggle against capitalist exploitation is especially apparent, given that the governor of the district, the stridently anti-rebel Ihor Kolomoyskyi is also a capitalist billionaire who happens to be Ukraine’s second richest man.
DON’T LET ABBOTT DIVERT US FROM TARGETING OUR MAIN ENEMY:THE AUSTRALIAN REGIME AND THE CAPITALISTS THAT THEY SERVE
Whatwehaveatthispointintimeisnot an inter-imperialist war between the NATO powers and Russia or even a war between Kiev and Moscow. The Russian-speaking rebels in the Donbass region are not, at the moment, simply acting as Moscow’s proxies. The Moscow government has a different agenda to the rebels. The Russian-speaking people of the Donbass want to protect themselves from discrimination and a very right-wing government whereas Moscow wants to promote its great power capitalist ambitions. Indeed, many of the rebels are angry that Russia has not supported them adequately. Notably, when Donetsk and Luhansk organised referendums demanding self-rule, Putin tried to pressure the local leaderships to delay the referenda.
What we have today is a just, defensive struggle of the Russian-speaking people of the Donbass in the context of great power capitalist tensions between the U.S. and Australia on the one hand and Russia on the other. The tasks for the international workers’ movement and left that flow from this is to, on the one hand, defend the just struggle of the Donbass rebels and, on the other, to oppose as the mainenemy one’s “own” capitalist rulers in the capitalist political standoff. That means that socialists in Australia must oppose first and foremost the sanctions on Russia and the anti-Russia propaganda of Canberra and Washington and Co. We must point out the irrationality of the Western claim that Russia invaded Crimea when a massive 96% of voters in Crimea opted to join Russia in the March 16 referendum that had a high voter turnout of 83.1%. We should also challenge the claim that large numbers of Russian troops have entered Eastern Ukraine to fight alongside Donbass rebels when, in fact, there is no actual hard evidence of it whatsoever. Indeed, if there was such a huge direct Russian military role in the Donbass as Washington, Canberra and Co. claim then the Ukrainian forces, as formidable as they are, would not have been able to achieve the major victories that they did in their late July offensive into an area where much of the local population is hostile to them. The Kiev regime’s war later ran into difficulties not because of Russia but because many of its own troops either do not want to fight this war or, if they do, are not enthusiastic enough about the war to fight with the necessary conviction. With many regular Ukrainian troops half-hearted about fighting, the Kiev regime had to rely on the fascist irregulars – drunk as they are with rabid nationalism and hatred of Russians – to be in the frontlines of many difficult battles. Thousands of regular Ukrainian soldiers have, in fact, deserted. Some of these have taken asylum in Russia. Some have even defected to the rebels. The fact is that despite the intense nationalism of the post-Soviet period, many Ukrainian soldiers, a large percentage of whom are conscripts, are shaped by the stories that their grandparents have told them about the Soviet Red Army’s heroic struggle against Nazi Germany. Although they are still indoctrinated in the pro-capitalist and nationalist traditions of a capitalist army, it is difficult for such soldiers to fight with much enthusiasm a war in which they are taking orders from a government that includes neo-Nazis and in which they have to fight alongside neo-Nazi irregulars. Indeed, Ukrainian president Poroshenko ended up agreeing to a ceasefire with the resistance and offering autonomy for the Donbass not because of fear of Russia but because of fear of the breakdown of morale in his own army and fear at the militancy of anti-conscription protests on the home front.
We must also expose the sickening hypocrisy of the U.S., British and Australian rulers when they attack Russia’s supposed “incursion” into Ukraine. It is these same Western imperialist rulers that caused the deaths of over a million people in their brutal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the NATO powers that killed tens of thousands of Libyans in their 2011 air and special forces campaign to spearhead the overthrow of the Gaddafi government. Today, the U.S., backed by its allies like Australia, grossly violate Syria’s sovereignty by bombing (supposed) ISIS targets inside Syria without the Syrian government’s permission – all as part of a broader plan for regime change in Syria. And they have the hide to attack Russia over its alleged, but completely unproved, actions in eastern Ukraine!
Now, of course, understanding that the main enemy of the Australian working class are the Australian capitalist rulers and their senior partners does not mean that they are the only enemy. As Marxists-Leninists we understand that the ruling class of every capitalist power is our enemy. Therefore, capitalist rulers of the West’s rival, Russia, are also an enemy. Putin heads a right wing capitalist government that oversees exploitation of workers, repression of leftists, brutal police attacks against migrants and Russians of non-European ethnicities and persecution of gay and transexual people. Indeed, Putin has much in common with Tony Abbott! However, it is primarily the job of the Russian working class to oppose the predatory ambitions of their “own” rulers just as it is primarily the duty of the Ukrainian toiling masses to fight against the murderous, fascist-infested, capitalist regime that oversees their exploitation. The class struggle in these countries does, indeed, matter and should not be ignored for the sake of the “big picture” – as it is, in fact, a significant part of the “big picture.” Ukraine and Russia together have a population of over 190 million and as both countries are industrialised, they have some big centres of industrial working class concentration. The strategic importance of these countries to the struggle for world socialism is highlighted by the fact that Russia is the second strongest military power in the world, the world’s largest country by area, arguably the pre-eminent world space power and closely rivals the U.S. in nuclear warfare capability. Just as importantly, given that the counterrevolutionary destruction of socialistic rule in the ex-USSR was such a massive propaganda windfall for the capitalist rulers of the world – used by them to claim that “communism is dead” and capitalism is inevitable – the revolutionary socialist restoration of workers state power in any of these countries would be a terrific propaganda and moral victory for the fight for international working class liberation.
However, for Australian leftists to today focus their attack on the crimes of the Russian ruling class in the context of the current great power capitalist tensions only serves to support the agenda of the Australian capitalists and to enhance their legitimacy. It would push our audience into thinking that Abbott and Shorten are right on major world issues like Ukraine and so maybe we should start listening to them on domestic issues as well. Yet, focusing on the crimes of the Russian ruling class and retailing Western imperialism’s propaganda against Russia is what the various reformist socialist groups in Australia do. Their orientation can be summarised as: the main enemy is the rival of my “own” bourgeoisie! In carrying out such a perspective, these socialist groups are serving to bolster the credentials of the Australian capitalist ruling class and thus act to undermine the class struggle against them.
Some Western leftists, as an excuse for taking the more socially acceptable position of favouring the ally of their own bourgeoisie, argue that Ukraine should be defended as a weaker country than powerful Russia. However, such a stance is very wrong. Firstly, Ukrainian capitalist rulers are at least to some extent acting as a proxy of Western imperialism. Secondly Ukraine is itself not a weak semi-colony. Although Ukraine later gave up its nuclear weapons, as the second largest republic of the former USSR, Ukraine inherited from the ex-Soviet Union a large, well-trained and well-equipped military. Although capitalist restoration devastated its military and industrial strength, Ukraine retains an advanced independent arms industry. It manufactures, among other goods, ballistic missiles, submarines and tanks and is a major arms exporter. Ukraine has also retained some of the highly skilled technical personnel as well as the highly educated workforce of Soviet times and has the fourth highest number of IT professionals in the world. It has also retained a portion of the powerful and high-tech industrial plants built in Soviet times. This is indicated by its level of steel production, which is commonly used worldwide as a gauge of industrial capacity, since steel is the base material for much heavy and medium manufacturing as well as most infrastructure construction. Ukraine, although only being the 31st most populous country in the world is the globe’s 10th largest steel producer. Ukraine also has a sizeable automotive industry as well as a space vehicle industry and is one of the few countries in the world able to design and produce a complete aircraft. All this means that Ukraine does not have to accept capital from overseas capitalist powers simply in order to get access to the technology that it needs. And it has sufficient military deterrent to make it costly and risky (although, of course, not anywhere near impossible) for a foreign power to use military threat to force it into repaying debts, for example. In summary, 75 years of industrial, educational and military development as part of the Soviet workers state transformed the Ukraine from a weak nation subjugated by Russian imperialism in Tsarist times into a country that even after being decimated by capitalist counterrevolution would be difficult for Russia, or anyone else for that matter, to turn into a semi-colony. Over 22 years of capitalist chaos since the destruction of the USSR has meant that Ukraine today is debt ridden and is being dictated to and bullied by the IMF and Western banks but then so are even imperialist countries like Spain and Italy. Yet, today Ukraine’s prized enterprises like the Antonov aerospace company and the giant PA Yuzhmash, a producer of rockets, satellites, buses and trams, remain in domestic Ukrainian hands. Furthermore, although there is considerable Russian investment – often via Cypriot banks – in Ukraine’s financial and service sector, other than for Russian-owned resource giant TNK-BP and the part-Russian ownership in Ukraine’s major mobile phone operator Kyivstar, most of the biggest firms operating in Ukraine are domestically owned (most often by fabulously wealthy oligarchs).
The Western imperialist huffing and puffing against Russia is not only about Russia itself. The Western rulers are using the myth of the Russian bogeyman that they have created as an excuse to bolster their militaries and to exercise their imperialist political and diplomatic muscles for future use against other targets as well. This month’s NATO summit used the supposed “Russian aggression” in Ukraine as justification for creating a “Spearhead” rapid reaction force of several thousand troops ready to deploy anywhere in the world in less than 48 hours. The summit also enshrined a commitment by member states to significantly increase defence budgets. For its part, the Australian rulers used the horror of the MH17 plane disaster as an excuse to send Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers tramping around the crash site in war torn Eastern Ukraine. If they were really interested in recovery of the dead bodies and determining the cause of the disaster they would have sent pathologists and air crash investigators after diplomatically and politely negotiating with the Donetsk rebels who were holding the territory. Instead, they sent in cops after they and their Western counterparts made aggressive demands upon the Donetsk rebels. For the Australian government, demanding the “right” to send in cops to an area controlled by a force – the Donetsk separatists – that they oppose was a chance for some good old fashioned imperialist bullying (how would the Australian regime like it if the Chinese government was this aggressive and demanded that Chinese police take over sites in Australian cities whenever a redneck racist bashes or murders a Chinese student in Australia). This was a chance for the Australian state forces to show that they have the right to maraud anywhere they choose. For the Australian ruling class this exercising of imperialist muscles was mainly in order to prepare for future expeditions in the Asia-Pacific region. In recent years the AFP has been deployed to lord it over the peoples of the Solomon Islands, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Bougainville. However, they are quite prepared to also unleash their state forces in operations around the globe to support their U.S. godfather. The Liberal/ National Coalition government, with Labor’s full support, sure couldn’t wait to send troops to the Middle East to support the U.S.A’s latest military adventure there.
The most important reason for all this Western imperialist diplomatic and military exercising – including NATO’s planned military build-up – is to target not so much Russia but China, socialistic China that is. When Clive Palmer recently ranted against China and the Communist Chinese government he was, in fact, expressing the real opinion of the entire Australian capitalist class. The trouble is that this capitalist class is simultaneously relying on China’s booming state-owned enterprises to keep on buying enough of Australia’s exports to hold up the Australian economy. So other Australian politicians publicly told Palmer to shut it while no doubt wanting to whisper in his ear, “we’re with you brother.” After all, with the enthusiastic support of both the ALP and the Liberals, the U.S. has 1,300 troops stationed in Darwin which are squarely aimed against China and her socialistic North Korean ally. The continued presence of a socialistic state in China, however corrupted and weakened by a degree of capitalist penetration, is an obstacle to the imperialist designs to turn China into a huge sweatshop for imperialist exploitation. Meanwhile, the presence of a socialistic world power is an obstacle to imperialism running amok in the world. These are the reasons why the capitalist powers are building their forces to put pressure on China. Equally, it is the reason why theinternationalworkingclass must urgently rally to the defence of the Chinese workers state, however deformed from the ideal that it may be.
The Abbott government has also been using the MH17 disaster and the events in Ukraine for domestic purposes. Abbott and Labor Opposition leader Shorten claimed to feel intense grief for the pain borne by families and friends of the Australians killed aboard MH17. In truth these pro-capitalist politicians only ever feel true solidarity for some Australians – those in the big end of town! They both certainly don’t feel any sympathy for the close to 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have been killed in state custody over the last 35 years. Both their parties running state and federal governments have overseen brutal police and prison guard terror against Aboriginal people. They definitely do not feel any sympathy for low-income, single mothers either. At the start of last year, Shorten’s ALP, when in government under Gillard, drove 80,000 low-income single parents and their children into dire poverty and in some cases even homelessness when they cruelly slashed their payments – a move maintained by the current Abbott government. And Abbott could not care less for unemployed youth – as he plans to drive unemployed people younger than thirty into starvation by cutting off their dole payments for six months per year. Yet Abbott cynically manipulated people’s genuine sympathy for the victims of MH17 to gain a boost in opinion polls by portraying himself as a person who cares for and stands up for the interests of Australians.
The Coalition government’s tough talk over MH17 and denunciations of Russia and the Donbass-based rebels are, however, not purely about gaining electoral advantage. As with Abbott’s ranting backing Australia’s war moves in the Middle East, the focussing on an external adversary is meant to unite the population on a nationalist basis – into a “Team Australia” as Abbott calls it. Except that in this so-called team, a small number of team members – that is, the capitalist tycoons likes Andrew Forrest, Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer, James Packer and Frank Lowy – are exploiting the majority of the team: the working class. The idea that we are all together as Australians against the external adversary – whether that be Russia or ISIS – is meant to make the exploited masses accept their oppression for the sake of the “team.” Abbott and Co. want us to hold the hands of the corporate bigwigs while the latter kick us in the guts. He wants public housing tenants to consider the housing authorities that are booting them out of their homes and the greedy developers that are buying them up as part of their “team.” This government is also foisting upon working class people loyalty to “Team Australia” in order to make them accept, for the sake of the “team,” a federal budget that will slash payments for the unemployed, make the masses pay for doctors’ visits and further reduce funding for Aboriginal services all the while cutting taxes for mining billionaires.
Yet, even though Shorten’s ALP and Adam Bandt’s Greens claim opposition to some aspects of the budget and would seemingly have an interest in stopping Abbott’s attempts to divert mass hostility to the budget, they too have joined in creating the myth of the Russian bogeyman. Why is this? Although the ALP rests on the working class it is opposed to militant class struggle and instead sees improvements coming through collaboration with the capitalists. Thus, it too wants to tame class struggle by tying the masses to their exploiters through the notion of a common “national interest” uniting all Australians. The Greens, who are based on the liberal/ progressive middle class and students, also reject class struggle. Both the ALP and Greens, whose strategy for progressive social change is based on getting elected to parliament, are desperate to win the blessing of the wealthy capitalists whose funding, economic clout and media dominance greatly shapes who can win elections. Thus, both the ALP and Greens are always keen to prove to the capitalist elite that they are “responsible” parties committed to doing what is best for Australian capitalism – like standing alongside Australian imperialism’s U.S. senior partner in the Ukraine conflict. However, those who understand that the only way to advance the interests of working class people is through class struggle against the ruling class must oppose every scheme to tie the masses to their exploiters on the basis of a fictitious “national interest.” Down with the ruling class’ attempt to create the spectre of a Russian bogeyman! Don’t let them use the threat of the, indeed thoroughly reactionary, ISIS movement to divert the working class from the central task of opposing the attacks of the Australian capitalists – from their imperialist expedition to the Middle East to their drive to further degrade workers’ standard of living and access to social services.
SUFFERING,RACISMAND CHAOS IN UKRAINE: A DIRECT RESULT OF CAPITALIST COUNTER-REVOLUTION
TomanyolderUkrainiansandRussianswhorememberlifeinthedaysoftheformerSovietUnion,thecurrentwar,economicchaos and fascist rampages are especially hard to stomach. Although things were not perfect, in the heyday of the USSR from the 1950s to the early 1980s not only was there no nationalist bloodletting but fascists barely existed let alone dared to show their colours in public – certainly they were not able to rampage on the streets and gain ministries in government as they do now in Ukraine! Despite a moderate degree of Russian-centredness of leading elements of the ruling Soviet bureaucracy and at various times this bureaucracy making concessions to Russian nationalism, the socialistic USSR in its prime really was a land of the friendship of peoples. Many international students from Asia, Africa and the Middle East studied in the USSR on scholarships or for nominal fees. They were treated with generous hospitality and genuine warmth. However, after the capitalist counterrevolution that destroyed the USSR, the life of international students in both Russia and Ukraine has been one of fear and terror. Dark-skinned international students and migrants are regularly harassed and abused and countless numbers have been murdered or brutally bashed by fascist gangs. In Russia, fascist gangs are notorious for going out on nightly “street cleansing” operations where they premeditatedly bash or murder dark-skinned immigrants, stall holders from the Caucasus, Romani people (Gypsies), people from Central Asia, gays, people with long hair and anarchists. These fascists have committed over 1,000 premeditated murders in Russia in the last 10 years -including those of 200 international students!
The creation of the Soviet workers state itself involved a conscious struggle against racism and national oppression. Tsarist Russia was an empire centred on the ethnic Russians (then known as “Great Russians”) that brutally oppressed the non-Russian nations including Ukraine. As an essential part of uniting the working class of all ethnicities Lenin’s Bolsheviks insisted on the need for the ethnic Russian working class to strongly defend the rights of the downtrodden non-Russian peoples and to oppose the Russian fascist Black Hundreds group:
Amidst the alarms and turmoil of the struggle for existence, for a bare livelihood, the Russian workers cannot and must not forget the yoke of national oppression under which the tens and tens of millions of “subject peoples” inhabiting Russia are groaning. The ruling nation–the Great Russians–constitute about 45 per cent of the total population of the Empire. Out of every 100 inhabitants, over 50 belong to “subject peoples”.
And the conditions of life of this vast population are even harsher than those of the Russians. The policy of oppressing nationalities is one of dividing nations. At the same time it is a policy of systematic corruption of the people’s minds. The Black Hundreds’ plans are designed to foment antagonism among the different nations, to poison the minds of the ignorant and downtrodden masses. Pick up any Black-Hundred newspaper and you will find that the persecution of non-Russians, the sowing of mutual distrust between the Russian peasant, the Russian petty bourgeois and the Russian artisan on the one hand, and the Jewish, Finnish, Polish, Georgian and Ukrainian peasants, petty bourgeois and artisans on the other, is meat and drink to the whole of this Black-Hundred gang.
But the working class needs unity, not division. It has no more bitter enemy than the savage prejudices and superstitions which its enemies sow among the ignorant masses. The oppression of “subject peoples” is a double-edged weapon. It cuts both ways– against the “subject peoples” and against the Russian people.
As part of this struggle, Lenin trained the ethnic Russian working class to physically smash the fascist Black Hundreds and to defend the right to self-determination of the oppressed peoples in imperialist Russia, like the Ukrainians:
Accursed tsarism made the Great Russians executioners of the Ukrainian people, and fomented in them [the Ukrainian people] a hatred for those who even forbade Ukrainian children to speak and study in their native tongue.
Russia’s revolutionary democrats, if they want to be truly revolutionary and truly democratic, must break with that past, must regain for themselves, for the workers and peasants of Russia, the brotherly trust of the Ukrainian workers and peasants. This cannot be done without full recognition of the Ukraine’s rights, including the right to free secession.
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.
– The Ukraine, V.I. Lenin (1914), https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/jun/28.htm
Through such a policy the Bolsheviks were able to unite the toilers of different nationalities in a socialist revolution that shook the world. Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks taught the Soviet masses to understand that their interests were completely synonymous with those of the toilers of the whole world and to see the October 1917 Russian revolution as the first step in the world revolution. However, the communist parties in other parts of the world were too weak and too recently formed to take advantage of the revolutionary wave that swept Europe after the October Revolution. As a result the young Soviet workers state was isolated and then devastated following the bitter, but ultimately victorious 1918-1921 Civil War against the defeated capitalists who waged a violent bid to recapture power with the assistance of invading armies from fourteen capitalist countries. Under these conditions of isolation and scarcity a more rightist, less revolutionary faction of the Soviet Communist party grabbed political power in the mid-1920s promising they would give the masses a respite from the tumult of revolutionary struggles by establishing “peaceful coexistence” with world imperialism. The new leaders rested on the more conservative workers and the rural peasants and especially on the governmental/administrative bureaucracy. Gradually they began securing some material privileges for the emerging bureaucratic elite which they became an organic part of. They murderously persecuted the Trotskyist Left Opposition and countless other communists who spoke out (or even were as seen as potentially speaking out in the future) against the course away from Leninist egalitarianism and internationalism. However, the bureaucracy had to base itself on the progressive, socialist economic relations centred on public ownership that sprung from the 1917 revolution.
Furthermore, although the bureaucracy often (with some important exceptions) pushed Lenin’s perspective of supporting the international socialist revolution down to the second row in the vain hope of achieving peaceful coexistence with imperialism, the Soviet masses remained imbued with Soviet patriotism – that is, a strong pride in the socialistic character of the USSR and in its principle of friendship among the different peoples of the multi-ethnic republic. It was through this Soviet patriotism that the Soviet masses, with incredible heroism and at great cost, defeated Nazi Germany in World War II. Meanwhile, the USSR’s friendship of peoples was secured by its economic system based on common ownership and co-operation between people to achieve central plans. This brought people together, in contrast to the system of individual ownership of capitalism which tears people apart.
Nevertheless, over time the imperialists subjected the Soviet workers state to immense military, economic and political pressure. This pressure was at least 50 times what capitalist Russia is being subjected to today by its Western rivals. The ruling bureaucrats in the USSR would respond to these threats when they directly manifested themselves within the USSR. However, these Soviet leaders who retained great authority over the international workers movement through being the heads of the world’s first and most powerful workers state, held back the most powerful counterpunch to the capitalist states threatening the USSR – the revolutionary workers within these capitalist countries themselves. Instead, they extended this arm of the international workers movement to shake the hands of the imperialists in friendship and offer them “peaceful coexistence.” The capitalists powers responded by first grabbing this arm, then twisting it and finally snapping it in half. Panicked, the Soviet bureaucracy also offered the other arm to the imperialists. The imperialists did the same to that arm as well. With the USSR and the international workers movement thus weakened, the Soviet leadership from the time of Gorbachev’s ascendancy in the mid-1980s began backpedalling in the face of the imperialist threat. Gorbachev allowed greater freedom for capitalist counterrevolutionary political forces to operate and introduced right wing perestroika market reforms. All this created a new layer of petty capitalists – and associated with them a sizeable layer of pro-capitalist intellectuals – demanding more “rights” for capitalism. They pushed the bureaucracy to the right and with each new concession this counterrevolutionary layer became more powerful and more demanding. Eventually, when these counterrevolutionaries with tremendous backing from Washington, London, Canberra and co. made their bids for power in the ex-USSR and Eastern Europe, the ruling bureaucracies committed their ultimate betrayal of socialism when they (although not all that happy about what was happening) simply stood aside and allowed the pro-capitalist forces to storm in and take power. Even those bureaucrats that did try to mount some form of resistance – like the top Soviet leaders who staged the so-called coup against Gorbachev in August 1991 in opposition to his counterrevolutionary course – capitulated at the first sign of any significant opposition.
Some in the bureaucracy went further and broke away from the mainstream of the Soviet apparatus to become direct agents of the capitalist counterrevolution – like Russian counterrevolution leader Boris Yeltsin and like Putin, who was an adviser to counterrevolutionary Leningrad mayor, Anatoly Sobchak, during the counterrevolution. Others like the first president of post-Soviet capitalist Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, remained with the mainstream of the bureaucracy and then promptly jumped over from being an administrator of a workers state to an administrator of a capitalist state. There were, to be sure, a great many in the bureaucratic establishment, including officers in the Red Army, who were incensed and bewildered at the counterrevolution. These elements were either purged from their positions or retired. However, even though the period from November 1991 to March 1992 saw mass pro- Soviet rallies, proudly, pro-Soviet individuals within the bureaucracy were unable to mount a decisive challenge to the counterrevolution because they lacked any perspective of relying for their strength on the working class masses. It was the Soviet working class that could have stopped the capitalist counterrevolution. However, lacking a genuine communist leadership and having its independent initiative degraded by having been excluded from a vanguard role in active politics for decades by the bureaucracy, the working class did not take the initiative to mobilise decisive action to stop the counterrevolution. This was despite the fact that major portions of the Soviet working class were very worried about the ascendancy of the pro-capitalist forces.
Although the decisive events in the counterrevolution that destroyed the USSR were centred on Russia there were significant counterrevolutionary movements in other republics as well. In Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states, Moldova, Azerbaijan and elsewhere, “Popular Fronts” were formed to push for independence from the USSR. These were nothing like the national liberation movements that fought against the Great Russian chauvinism and subjugation of Tsarist times. In Soviet times, although there was a degree of Russian centredness on the part of the bureaucracy, the non-Russian masses did not face significant national oppression. The nationalist “Popular Fronts” in Ukraine and elsewhere were really simply capitalist restorationist movements that used the cover of national independence to promote a call to break from the socialistic USSR and establish capitalist rule. These movements were fed by Gorbachev’s perestroika market reforms which by turning away from the even, planned distribution of resources between different republics and regions led to greater competition and income differentials between different republics and thereby exacerbated national divisions. The “Popular Fronts” harked back to anti-Soviet or non-Soviet national figures of their respective republics and insisted on the exclusive use of their national languages as opposed to the bilingualism encouraged in the USSR. The aggressive nationalism, anti-communism and hostility to the use of the Russian language of the current Ukrainian ruling parties is really an extension of the politics of the Ukrainian Popular Front (known as Rukh) that fought to undermine socialistic rule in the last years of the USSR.
If reactionary nationalism was used as a tool to promote counterrevolution in the various Soviet republics, the effect of the counterrevolution itself was to increase this nationalism many fold. Counterrevolution saw these republics go from being areas of zero unemployment in the mid-1980s to being regions of massive unemployment. In Ukraine capitalist restoration caused its GDP and its industrial production to collapse by a stunning 60%! Under conditions of such scarcity, nationalism flourished. Furthermore, the corrupt new rulers had to whip up reactionary nationalism as a matter of their own survival. Capitalist restoration had been such an all- round disaster – causing immiseration of the masses, an alarming drop in health levels and a massive increase in crime and street violence. Only by offering the masses the “solace” that they were part of building a strong, new nation and, what is more, standing up to national adversaries could the new ruling class ward off the
prospect of being toppled from power. In countries like Ukraine, these new capitalist rulers have stirred up such reactionary nationalism in part by pointing to the ambitions of capitalist Russia and by thus appealing to real fears among “their people” that they would be again subjugated under the thumb of Russia as in the old Tsarist times. However, the lasting effect of some aspects of Soviet development in these countries and the equalisation of development among the different republics of the USSR through central planning mean that it is now not easy (although not impossible in the least developed of the former Soviet republics) for capitalist Russia to replicate the Great Russian tyranny last seen in Tsarist times.
WHO IS TO BLAME FOR THE MH17 DISASTER AND THE CRISIS IN UKRAINE?
If we now step back and consider who is, ultimately, to blame for the horrific crashof MH17 – regardless of who actually fired the projectiles that downed the aircraft –first and foremost responsibility must fall upon the imperialist ruling classes fromtheUnitedStatestoAustraliatoJapan,GermanyandBritain.Theymobilisedmassivefinancial,military and diplomatic power in order to squeeze the socialistic USSR hardenoughtotriggerher internal collapse and, consequently, create the misery, racismandchaosoutofwhichthecurrentwarintheDonbass– and, thus, the downing ofMH17 – grew. The Western imperialists also orchestrated this February’s right wingcoupthatbroughtinthenewhardlinenationalisticregimethatprovokedtheDonbassconflict. Also, major responsibility for the current tragedies lies with the likes of BorisYeltsinand the Ukrainian Popular Front who, on the ground, spearheaded the capitalistcounterrevolutionsinRussia,UkraineandtheotherformerSovietrepublics.Thenthereis the direct responsibility of the political heirs of the Ukrainian Popular Front – fromconservativeslikeYatsenyukandthe Fatherland Party to outright fascists like TyahnybokandYarosh– who conducted the February right wing coup and then unleashed brutal repression against the peoples of the Donbass.
Putin has some responsibility too but less than the Western imperialists and their right wing Ukrainian allies. Furthermore, Putin’s main fault lies in having acted as a partner of Washington, Canberra and Co. in being part of the imperialist-orchestrated, Yeltsin-Sobchak counterrevolution that destroyed socialistic rule in the former USSR and thus paved the path for the emergence of the reactionary Ukrainian nationalism of the February coup regime and outright fascists like Svoboda and Pravy Sektor. Then, later, as the chief administrator of capitalist Russia, Putin oversaw the continued immiseration of the Russian masses while spewing reactionary nationalism to help maintain capitalist rule: both of which have helped to raise large fascist movements within Russia. In turn, the abundance of vile Russian fascists and the great power nationalism of the mainstream Russian ruling class has indirectly bolstered the strength of Ukrainian nationalists and fascists by allowing them to exploit – and hysterically incite – fears of Russian domination.
The criminal role of the Western-based social democrats in the tragedy that has unfolded in Ukraine cannot be underestimated either. These social democrats not only supported the right wing February coup in Ukraine but throughout the Cold War fully supported their own ruling class’ efforts to destroy the Soviet and East European workers states. Here in Australia, pro-ALP union leaders treacherously lined up our workers’ unions behind the anti-communist – and, thus, anti-working class – Solidarnosc “union” which with the ardent backing of the Vatican and right wing Western leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher unleashed the counterrevolutionary wave that toppled the workers states in Eastern Europe and the former USSR. Meanwhile, the Hawke-Keating ALP government that came to office in 1983 aggressively supported the U.S.-led Cold War against the USSR both through hosting joint U.S-Australia military bases in Pine Gape and elsewhere and through politically backing the various anti-Soviet movements from the women-hating Afghan mujahedin (out of which the Taliban emerged) to the Ukrainian and Baltic “Popular Fronts” to the Yeltsin- Sobchak counterrevolutionaries in Russia. Right behind the ALP’s Cold War drive were the reformist, far-left groups. Most enthusiastic in their opposition to the Soviet workers state was the Cliffite, International Socialist Organisation (ISO) – the parent organisation of both the Socialist Alternative and Solidarity groups. The ISO wielded the bogus theory that the Soviet and East European states were in fact “state capitalist” in order to justify giving enthusiastic support to all the counterrevolutionary movements. When the openly counterrevolutionary Yeltsin forces grabbed governmental power in Russia after opposing a timid, pro-Soviet coup against the sellout Gorbachev and anti-communist mobs then went around Moscow tearing down statues of Russian Revolutionary leaders, and while Western mainstream newspapers cheered that “Communism is Dead,” this parent group of Socialist Alternative and Solidarity chimed in with: “‘Communism is dead’ …. It’s a fact that should have every socialist rejoicing” (Socialist, September 1991). The Democratic Socialist Party (the DSP has now become the Socialist Alliance) was little better, even though, unlike the Cliffites, the DSP recognised in theory that the USSR was a workers state. Although the DSP took a progressive position of opposing the CIA-backed mujahedin fundamentalists in Afghanistan (a good position which the Socialist Alliance appears to be embarrassed about today), the DSP supported almost every other counterrevolutionary movement that sought to overthrow the Soviet and East European workers states. Among the movements that the DSP were most enthusiastic about were the nationalist and anti-Soviet Ukrainian Popular Front and the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian Popular Fronts. This was despite the fact that the DSP were simultaneously cheering for capitulatory Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev who for a time as the leader of the workers state was opposed to these “Popular Fronts.” When the Yeltsin-led open counterrevolutionaries made their bid for power in August 1991, the DSP then committed the ultimate betrayal of socialism by not only “critically” supporting the ascendancy of the Yelstin forces but actually having a leading DSPer physically join Yeltsin’s barricades during the decisive events. This DSP representative, Renfrey Clarke, actually boasted about how he tried to help deliver a letter of solidarity to Yeltsin from then British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock (see the article, “Eye witness report; Moscow during the coup,” Green Left Weekly, 4 September 1991, https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/690). Even the Communist League (who sell the paper The Militant), who are often less inclined to capitulate to imperialism than Socialist Alternative, Solidarity or Socialist Alliance, joined the counterrevolutionary united front. Thus, their newspaper’s description of the victory of Yeltsin’s alliance of hardline anti-communist students, small-time capitalists, Orthodox priests and outright fascists was headlined: “Soviet workers defeat coup”!
ADVANCETHE STRUGGLE FOR SOCIALIST REVOLUTION IN UKRAINE & RUSSIA!
Giventhatit is so
obvious that it was the destruction of socialistic rule in the former USSRthathas led to the suffering and bloodletting in
Ukraine and other former Soviet republics it is clear that what is needed is to fight for new socialist revolutions to restore working class state power to Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Georgia and all the former Soviet republics. Whether the resulting new workers states choose to join into a union – or several unions – and in what combination is a separate and in many ways secondary question. It will depend on the manner in which the poisonous nationalism unleashed by counterrevolution is overcome in the course of the revolutionary struggles. Some may ask: how can we guarantee that new workers states will not again degenerate and be defeated. That would be like a worker asking for an iron-clad guarantee that a strike against bosses will succeed before engaging in it. There are no guarantees in the class struggle. A strike’s outcome depends on how decisively the workers act, how far- sighted and resolute their leadership are and how much support the action wins from other workers. Similarly, the integrity and survival of a workers state depends on how secure the workers hold on power is and how much the revolutionary struggle in other countries can come to their assistance. The Soviet workers state first degenerated and many decades later collapsed because the revolutionary working class movement was not powerful enough to overcome the political, economic and military onslaught of world capitalism on the workers state. Ensuring that future workers states are protected against degeneration and collapse requires fighting to ensure that the international revolutionary workers movement is as strong as possible. For ultimately the defence of workers states and the fight to win them are achieved by one and the same method – the method of the revolutionary class struggle.
Key to the struggle for socialism in the former Soviet republics is the fight against the nationalist influence that divides workers of different ethnicities and lines them up behind their “own” exploiters. In the Ukraine, it is urgent for workers to oppose reactionary Ukrainian nationalism with its strong anti-Russian and anti-Semitic bent. However, as each of the competing nationalisms feed off each other it is not possible to defeat simply one of the opposing nationalist ideologies by themselves. Ukrainian and Russian nationalists hate each other but both rely on the existence of the other to justify their own existence. Not only has extreme Ukrainian nationalism come to the fore but Russian nationalism has also surged since the February coup in Ukraine and then further increased with Crimea’s return to Russia and the eruption of the Donbass conflict. Putin has been whipping up this nationalism, which has served to divert the Russian masses’ frustrations at their hardships caused by capitalist inequality and a stagnant economy away from the capitalist exploiters whom Putin serves. Aggressive Russian nationalism is also being promoted by more hardline forces than Putin including the fascist Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s misnamed Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. The last few months has seen mass, extreme nationalist rallies in Russia full of reactionary symbols from the Tsarist era such as the black, gold and white monarchist flag used by the Russian empire from 1858 to 1883. Such Russian nationalist mobilisations can only play into the hands of the Ukrainian extreme nationalists who raise the spectre of a return to the subjugation under Russia of the Tsarist times. On the other hand if there were mass workers mobilisations in Russia opposing this reactionary nationalism it would give a great boost to those Ukrainian leftists standing against Ukrainian nationalism and fascism just as a struggle against the anti-Russian ravings of Ukrainian nationalists and their bloody war on the Russian-speaking people of the Donbass would cut the ground from under the Russian nationalists. For the revolutionary unity of Russian and Ukrainian workers!
Key to dispersing the poisonous fumes of nationalism and to organising the working class for the struggle for power is to mobilise working class actions to defend ethnic minorities, dark-skinned immigrants, leftists and gays from the fascists. To be successful such actions must be mass mobilisations. Small scale anti-fascist actions cannot defeat the fascists because in both Ukraine and Russia the fascists are well and truly out of the egg. In Russia not only is there a terrifying level of murders by fascists but Zhirinovsky’s fascist party received nearly 12% of the vote in Russian parliamentary elections. In Ukraine, the fascists are a component of the actual government. However, they are now threatening to overthrow the government and establish a fascist dictatorship. The slogan of the fascist Ukrainian irregulars fighting in the Donbass conflict is that: once we finish with the Russians we’re coming for the government in Kiev. Although they are part of the government, the fascists think that the conservative majority in the government are not extreme enough in opposing ethnic Russians and Jews. They point to the fact that both the prime minister Yatsenyuk and one of the two vice prime ministers, Volodymyr Groysman, happen to be of Jewish origin to create a fanciful notion of Zionist domination – ironically the very same claim made by Russian fascists within the Donbass rebel forces! The recent offer of regional autonomy for Donbass made by president Poroshenko and the parliamentary majority has further incensed the fascists.
Although the Ukrainian fascist paramilitary forces are a serious threat it is important to note that they do not currently have anywhere near majority support from the Ukrainian people. In the May presidential elections, the two fascist candidates, Tyahnybok of Svoboda and Yarosh of Pravy Sektor, received just a meagre 1.2% and 0.7% of the votes respectively. In the case of Svoboda, this was a notable setback as in the last parliamentary elections in 2012, they received over 10% of the vote. To put the recent electoral showing by the fascists in perspective, in the German elections prior to Hitler taking power in November 1932, Hitler’s Nazis received over 33% of the vote. And in the subsequent elections four months later, before the Nazi forces actually established their fascist dictatorship, the Nazis secured nearly 44% of the vote.
However, the danger of fascists seizing outright power in Ukraine should not be underestimated. In the absence of a class struggle fight on the behalf of the masses’ interests and the building of unity between Ukrainian, Russian, Jewish and other workers, it is certain that fascist demagogues will be able to exploit the economic crisis in Ukraine. Furthermore, even with the limited popular support that they have, the fascist paramilitary forces in Ukraine are right now terrorising leftists, Jews, Russian speakers and dark-skinned migrants and students. What is urgently called for is working class–centred mass actions to defend groups targeted by the fascists. Such a mass working class, anti-fascist movement could first emerge in ethnically integrated, industrial cities like Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk and then spread on to Kiev and other cities. What would give such a movement real authority too is if workers in the Donbass simultaneously mobilised to defend Romani and Ukrainian speaking people from attacks by Russian fascist factions within the rebel forces.
Especially given the penetration of fascists into the Ukrainian state forces, it is crucial for anti-fascist actions to be independent of the state and all wings of the capitalist class. In this way, working class-centred defensive actions against the fascists can become a springboard for a working class offensive against the capitalists and their impending austerity drive. However, to realise such a perspective requires the building of an authentic communist party in Ukraine. The Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) won much support in the past because it was identified with the former USSR. Sympathy for the KPU reflected the people’s longing for the days of the Soviet Union. However, the KPU squandered this sympathy by seeking alliances with – and thus being tarnished in the eyes of the masses – one or other wing of the capitalist class. In 2010, the KPU became one of the parties in a parliamentary coalition supporting the government led by Mykola Azarov of Yanukovych’s, capitalist Party of Regions. Following the 2012 elections, although trying to distance itself somewhat from this government, the KPU again voted in parliament for the second Azarov government. In earlier years, the KPU had not only supported other corrupt Party of Regions governments but had even once joined a bloc with the conservative, pro-Western parties. Constantly allying with one or other wing of the capitalists, many KPU leaders are careerists who seek the privileges associated with being part of the political elite. At the same time many grassroots and mid-level KPU cadre have shown considerable courage in the face of the right wing repression and fascist attacks of recent months. Yet the KPU itself bows to reactionary nationalism and some KPU cadre have publicly opposed emulating European countries on the grounds that this means accepting African migrants and permitting homosexuality! Against such vile backwardness, a truly communist, internationalist party like Lenin’s must be built. Ukraine needs a party that will train cadre to follow in the revolutionary footsteps of devoted Ukrainian communists of the past like Leon Trotsky and Christian Rakovsky: a party that can unite the toilers of all ethnicities to smash the filthy fascist forces for good by overthrowing capitalist rule.
ONLYSOCIALIST REVOLUTION CAN SAVE HUMANITYFROM THE THREAT OF WORLD WAR THREE!
SincethecollapseoftheUSSR,theU.S.-ledWesternimperialistshavegottenusedtobullyingtheworldwithlittlehindranceandlittlecompetition.Theydon’twantanemergingRussiancapitalist rival spoiling the party and, thus, want to isolate and containRussia.TheyknowfullwellthatRussia’smilitarystrengthpresentsa problem. Late lastmonth,sick of the Western powers’ aggressive posture against Russia over Ukraine,Putin boldly declared: “I want to remind you [the West] that Russia is one of the mostpowerful nuclear nations. This is a reality, not just words.” Everyone, indeed, took notebecausethatisindeedthe“reality,notjustwords”!
In the early period after the destruction of the USSR, the new Russian capitalist rulers, while trying to assert their independence – for example in respect to the conflicts in Yugoslavia – were very much junior partners to the U.S. A. It was the U.S. that had orchestrated the capitalist counterrevolution that brought the new rulers to power and they still needed Western help to consolidate their rule. For example, take the 1996 Russian presidential elections for which the Communist Party of the Russian Federation’s candidate Gennady Zyuganov was set for victory. Although the Communist Party’s program was not revolutionary and Zyuganov’s victory would not have spelled the end of the new capitalist state it, nevertheless, would certainly have impeded Russia’s free market economic reforms and would have been a stunning propaganda blow against world capitalism. To stop this, the capitalists’ chosen candidate, then president Yeltsin relied on massive cash injections from the West to fund his campaign as well as the U.S. pressuring the IMF to grant a $10.2 billion loan to Russia so that Yeltsin could pay Russia’s long overdue wages and pensions on the eve of the elections. Additionally, Yelstin had to rely on a CIA- assisted dirty tricks campaign against Zyuganov as well as Western and Russian agencies organising massive electoral fraud to “win” the election. More generally, with the destruction of socialistic rule sending the Russian economy into free fall, the new Russian capitalist rulers relied on their Western senior partners for the capital and investments needed to try and stabilise the capitalist economy.
Although at a level far below the relative position of the former USSR, eventually the capitalist Russian economy did stabilise. Putin brought more discipline to the mafia capitalists that ruled Russia – forcing them to give up some of their individual interests and bloody competition between each other for the sake of the overall interests of their class. Meanwhile, with Russia a huge oil/gas supplier, the strength of Russian capitalists grew as the price of oil and gas surged. Today, world oil prices are well over four times what they were when Putin first became president in 2000! This has been a decisive factor in shaping the Russian capitalist class’ outlook. Thus, while Putin does have a slightly different outlook to what Yeltsin did, the main difference in their governments is not due to differing personal political proclivities but due to the different positions of Russian capitalism during their rule. Putin, after all, had been Yelstin’s deputy and heir apparent.
The growing strength of Russian capitalism was highlighted when ten years after a 2003 joint venture between Russian oil tycoons and British petroleum giant BP that produced a company called TNK-BP, this same TNK-BP was taken over by a Russian firm. Today, Russian tycoons with interests in oil/gas, steel and banking are splashing their cash around in investments in the Mediterranean, Middle East, Britain and even Asia. Despite having just 2% of the world’s population, nearly 10% of the world’s richest 250 people are Russian citizens. Due to the concentrated nature of Russian industry, these oligarchs are so wealthy that they have personally ammassed capital of the size held by banks and can often acquire decisive stakes in corporations by themselves or through partnerships among themselves. Russian capitalists are known for buying up big in companies listed on the London Stock Exchange and for buying huge holdings in London property and banks. All this has been of little benefit to working class Russians. However, what its growing economic strength has meant is that Russia has been able to re-modernise its military which had been ageing and deteriorating since the collapse of the USSR.
Some people, noting how the Soviet superpower stayed the hand of the Western powers and prevented these imperialists from riding roughshod over the world to the extent that they wanted to, hope that Russia with its immense military strength and its growing economic clout and self-confidence can now do the same. Indeed, Russian military aid is today, to some extent, assisting Syria to ward off a takeover by the NATO proxy “rebel” forces. Throughout history there have been such examples of capitalist powers providing assistance to a people fighting a just anti-colonial war against one of their rivals in a situation where they were not in a position to become the new masters of those people. They did this purely to weaken their rivals. The British imperialists often did this to their rivals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century while during the Second World War, Hitler’s Nazis offered some modest assistance to the Indian independence activist Subhas Chandra Bose in his struggle against British colonialism. However, Russia’s backing of Syria is largely an exception. Since the emergence of the Putin era, the U.S-led Western imperialists have continued to trample all over the world’s peoples. In 2001 the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and then two years later they invaded Iraq and occupied it for a decade. Russia has also not directly impeded the imperialist drive to destroy the Chinese workers state. Moscow’s position with respect to China is, to be sure, nuanced. It is the only world power that does not threaten China either militarily or politically and has built lucrative trade arrangements with China. At the same time it notably refused to stand by socialistic China in its disputes with imperialist Japan over the South China Sea, has supported Washington’s push against China’s socialistic DPRK ally and did not stand against the anti-communist campaign against China in the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics (in turn it has been striking how up to now China has refused to take any stand in defence of its Russian economic partner against the Western attacks on it over the Ukraine crisis). Meanwhile, when NATO moved to bomb Libya and impose regime change on it in 2011, Russia stepped aside and allowed this to happen. And, in general, Russia has not opposed the numerous imperialist military adventures in Africa over the last few years, such as those conducted by the French imperialists in the Ivory Coast and Mali.
In part, this is because Russia’s military strength with respect to the NATO powers is slightly below what the USSR’s was and so is its relative economic position. However, this is not the only reason. The main reason that Russian power has not been able to play the same curbing role on imperialism that the former USSR did is because Russia is a capitalist power whereas the former Soviet Union was a socialistic power. And when examining this question, this difference means almost everything! This is not to say that we should not welcome Russian support for Syria. Even while maintaining their struggle to overthrow their “own” capitalist rulers, communists in Russia should make sure they do not obstruct whatever arms Russia sends to Syria (while not calling for this themselves) or for that matter the Donetsk and Luhansk separatists. However, in general, in global terms we can have no expectation of Russia being a strategic deterrent to Western imperialism. Russia being a capitalist power means that it will seek out – and has achieved – deals with the Western imperialists to allow the latter’s subjugation of “Third World” peoples in exchange for modest stakes for Russia in the resulting loot there or in other theatres of exploitation.
Most importantly, consider the difference in the domestic response when the USSR obstructed imperialism to those cases when Russia defies Western powers. When the USSR crossed imperialism, the response amongst class-conscious workers in imperialist centres like Australia was inspiration and increased sympathy for communism while amongst reactionary elements it brought increased hatred for communism. In short, when the USSR did impede imperialism the battle was reflected domestically as part of the class struggle. A struggle between the working class whose interests lie in fighting for socialism and capitalism whose interests are in crushing communist influence. However, when today Russia (or some other capitalist power) gets in the way of a rival, the effect is to encourage reactionary great power nationalism on all sides. Such reactionary nationalism is poison to class struggle – and as Marxist-Leninists we understand that ultimately only the class struggle leading to the revolutionary overthrow of imperialist states from within can decisively stop imperialism.
We, of course, do support the struggle of the masses of the neo-colonial and semi-colonial countries against imperialism. Thus, we defend the Syrian Army’s struggle against the Washington-proxy “rebels.” However, we do so largely from the point of view that the defeat of the pro-imperialist “rebels” would firstly weaken the imperialist rulers at home and thus encourage the class struggle within the imperialist centres. Secondly, because the defeat of the “rebels” would energise the anti-imperialist, liberation sentiments of the Syrian masses, this could open the door to the Syrian working class taking power from their “own” economically-tied-to-imperialism capitalist rulers.
However, there is an emerging left-liberal trend that looks instead to capitalist opponents of the West to be part of a force that can stop the tyranny of Washington-led imperialism. This trend, which is often composed of some very articulate and well-read intellectuals and academics, is not organised or even coordinated and the individuals concerned do not necessarily even consider each other as part of a common trend. However, it consists of people who are co-thinkers on several issues and share certain common features. Firstly, while they also side with socialistic states like China and the DPRK when they are in standoffs with imperialism, they make no distinction between such states and capitalist countries – like Russia and Iran – that clash with Western imperialism, ascribing to each an equal progressive status. Thus, they often have rather unrealistic hopes that the BRICS countries which group together socialistic China with capitalist power Russia, semi- colonial India and capitalist countries in between can actually become a bulwark against imperialism. Secondly, their hopes that certain capitalist countries could become serious impediments to the Western imperialist juggernaut are based on their lack of belief in the revolutionary capacity of the working class in the Western imperialist centres. This springs from the lofty middle class, academic circles that they inhabit from which (looking at the working class from the outside) it is easy to be dismissive of the possibility of revolutionary class struggle. For some within this left-liberal, anti-Western- imperialist trend, their dismissal of the class struggle in the West is all too convenient.
Their relatively privileged position makes them quietly half-satisfied with the domestic reality in the West while finding the Western rulers’ entire foreign policy – as well as certain particular excesses at home – cruel and illogical. Thus, some elements within this trend are prone to labelling far-left groups that capitulate to imperialism – like the Cliffites – as “ultra-lefts” rather than as the right-opportunists that they are. This false retort of “ultra-left” allows these middle class, anti-imperialists to, on the one hand, correctly attack left groups for lining up behind Western imperialist regime-change schemes by simply backing every anti-government movement abroad while, on the other hand, maintaining a rotten, liberal critique of these far left groups for being too irreconcilable to the capitalist rulers at home. Yet, in fact, groups like Socialist Alliance and the Cliffite groups (Socialist Alternative and Solidarity) are far from irreconcilable enough against the rulers at home – tailing after the ALP and the Greens and promoting strategies for change that rely on organs of the capitalist state. It is, in fact, these groups’ rightist adaptation to the imperial rulers at home from which their conciliation to imperialism’s agenda abroad arises.
Of course, the individuals who can be considered part of this left-liberal, anti-imperialist trend do make some very well-informed and effective critiques of Western imperialism. Thus, when necessary we should join in united front actions with them, for example against the imperialist drive for regime change in Syria. At the same time we must maintain our clear political independence from them and should criticise their political shortcomings. We need to be clear in the current conflict in Ukraine that while we defend the just struggle of the Donbass separatists and oppose the Western sanctions, bullying and propaganda against Russia, we do so not because we invest in capitalist Russia any progressive mission or because we hope that Russia can, even for its own reasons, become a bulwark against imperialism. We take our positions because this is what is necessary to weaken our “own” imperialism and the nationalism it uses to poison class struggle and because this is what is necessary to advance the struggle for socialism in Ukraine and Russia as well.
We repeat that as Marxist-Leninists we understand that only the working class united and drawing behind it all the oppressed in class struggle – alongside socialistic states where the working class masses already hold state power – can ultimately stop imperialism.
As Leninists, we also understand that capitalist powers clashing with rival powers will eventually lead to world war. Capitalist rivalries brought us two world wars last century. If the capitalist system is not overthrown it will lead to a new world war– this time one fought where all sides have nuclear weapons at the start of the war. During the Occupy protests in 2011, some liberals and conspiracy types promoted theories, still prevalent today, that capitalism is simply a system of financial schemes where people in three piece suits dream up devious monetary plots to rip off the population. However, there is much, much more to it. Capitalism is a system of exploitation of labour ultimately enforced not only by propaganda but by the use of, or threatened use of, force against those who dare to resist. It also involves the capitalists of the more powerful countries exploiting the masses of the poorer countries again through the actual, or threatened, use of military force. Furthermore, this imperialist tyranny abroad is protected from rivals and would be rivals also by the use, or threatened use, of military force. In summary, violence is at the heart of capitalism especially in its final and highest stage – the stage of imperialism.
To put things in perspective, the tensions between the U.S-led Western imperial powers and their Russian would-be capitalist rival are, currently, nothing like the level they were between the rival capitalist powers at the start of World Wars I and II. Indeed, the current tensions between the Western powers and capitalist Russia are not yet, at the time of writing, a quarter of what they were at the height of the Cold War between the imperialist powers and the socialistic USSR. It was then that huge, heavily armed, military forces faced off against each other on the borders between the U.S.-led imperialist countries and the Moscow-led, Warsaw Pact socialistic countries. However, the heightened capitalist tensions do point very much to the future slide towards world war. The expected line-up and combinations in such a possible conflict can quickly change. The capitalist powers have no real loyalty to each other. Although, currently, the NATO countries are all arrayed against Russia, we can see how France and especially Germany eye up Russia’s military strength and wonder how nice it would be to combine their economic clout with Russia’s military power to stop the Americans from dominating everything. Indeed, it was notable that Germany, which has close economic ties with Russia, was not happy with the recent NATO meeting that approved a tougher line against Russia. France, for its part, had to be pressured by the U.S. to postpone – for the time being – the delivery of two, highly advanced Mistral navy assault ships to Russia. Meanwhile, the extent of friction between the U.S. and its German “ally” is evident in the recent revelations of extensive U.S. spying on German government leaders and in the angry response it provoked from the German government. In July, the stakes were raised further when Germany expelled the CIA representative at the U.S. embassy in Berlin. As for what the U.S. really thinks of its EU “partners” this was colourfully expressed in U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland’s now famous, “F_ck the EU!” statement to the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine that was recorded in the phone intercept, referred to earlier. There are indeed some elements within the Washington establishment that wonder why it is not Russia that the U.S. is allying with. They think having Russia aboard could put their West European potential competitors on the back foot and, what is more, secure Russia’s co-operation for the anti-communist drive against China.
It is the question of China that moderates and conditions inter- imperialist tensions. What unites the various imperialist powers is their common need to ultimately destroy the socialistic state in China. Thus, the drive against China somewhat retards the inter-capitalist rivalries. The extent to which rivalries flare up is, therefore, also conditioned by the extent to which the imperialists are confident that the current degree of capitalist economic penetration within China can open the way for capitalist counterrevolution there. The renewed pro- market reforms being flagged in China by rightist premier Li Keqiang – most significantly ones that involve sales of minority stakes in some state-owned enterprises to private investors – and the replacement of the former Hu Jintao government by a more right-leaning one headed by Xi Jinping has, no doubt, given the imperialists renewed hope. Yet they would also recall that every time in the past that they feel that they are making progress towards the goal of precipitating the collapse of socialistic rule in China, the goal posts seem to move further away as the intervention of the Chinese working class and determined leftists force a retreat in pro-capitalist measures. Xi Jinping’s recent unequivocal statements that China must stick to socialism would have again recalled these disappointments amongst the imperialists. In December last year, a U.S. warship almost rammed into a Chinese naval vessel in the South China Sea, highlighting that Washington understands that the collapse of socialistic rule in China can only be possible if the imperialists maintain military and political pressure on the PRC.
Even given the moderating of inter-capitalist tensions due to the existence of a socialistic power, the capitalist system, if not overthrown first, will ultimately, soon or latter, lead to world war. For the only way that the capitalist powers can make up for the decay of their system at home – which has seen major parts of the capitalist world lurching from one economic crisis to another over the last 6 years – is through increasing their plunder and exploitation of the peoples of the “Third World.” However, there is only a finite amount of bounty to loot and each of the capitalist powers want as great a share of it as possible. It is this intense competition for spheres of exploitation that will inevitably lead to a new world war unless the system that causes it is not first swept away through socialist revolution.
Right now, one set of tasks for Western leftists that are necessary to advance the struggle for socialist revolution is to demand the lifting of Western sanctions against their Russian rival, to oppose their military aid to their Ukrainian junior partners and to oppose the Western imperialist propaganda and diplomatic campaign against Russia. Let’s not allow Tony Abbott – and the pro-capitalist ALP – to get away with diverting working class anger at the ruling class’ vicious attacks on low rent public housing and its planned assault on medicare and unemployment payments by whipping up national-chauvinism against Russia. As communists, who passionately support what the former Soviet workers state represented, we of course have a special hatred for the Ukrainian and Russian capitalists whose rule was founded on the destruction of our USSR. But we understand that behind this counterrevolution stood the Western imperialists – who remain the most powerful, brutal and dangerous forces on the planet today. One of the partners in this Western imperialist alliance happens to be the Australian capitalist class – the main enemy of this country’s working class, Aboriginal people, non-white working class youth, the unemployed and all the poor. Let’s make sure workers are not lined up behind the predatory schemes abroad of Australian imperialism. Let’s instead do everything to weaken this main enemy at home so that the working class and the downtrodden can eventually sweep away from power this nasty, racist and ambitious exploiting class for good.
Build Support for Refugee Rights in the Union Movement
Oppose the “Aussie Workers First” Economic Nationalist “Consensus” that Targets Migrant & Overseas Workers & Ends Up Breeding Hostility to Refugees
Free the Prisoners of Immigration Detention
15 March 2016 – Opposition to the racist Australian regime’s brutal treatment of refugees is growing. On 30thOctoberlast year, 250 hospital workers at Westmead Children’s Hospital united together on hospital grounds with placards demanding the release of all children and their families from immigration detention. This resistance from health workers strengthened when last month, nurses, doctors and other hospital workers at Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital laudably refused to release 13 month-old baby “Asha” from their care until the immigration minister guaranteed that she and her family would not be immediately deported to Nauru. Last year, after being born while in detention in Australia, four month old Asha, the daughter of Nepalese asylum seekers, was heinously sent to imprisonment in Nauru, where she sustained an injury requiring treatment here. The action of the health workers at Lady Cilento was supported by a picket of refugee rights supporters and the backing of several unions, including health workers’ unions.
Such union involvement is crucial. Earlier, at last October’s Sydney refugee rights rally, the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association had a very visible contingent. Now unions from the MUA to the NTEU university workers union have endorsed the upcoming March 20 refugee rights rally in Sydney.
However, the refugee rights struggle needs to get a lot more trade union power behind it. It is notable that as soon as baby Asha was released from Lady Cilento Hospital into community detention, immigration minister Peter Dutton insisted that she and the other 267 asylum seekers receiving medical and mental health treatment in Australia would be sent back to the detention camps in Nauru and PNG’s Manus Island. These camps are truly hell-holes. Meanwhile, refugees on Nauru are facing attacks from police and racists amongst the Nauruan population. Ten days ago, an Iranian refugee received a deep head wound after being struck across the head by a machete wielded by a group of local thugs yelling, “F_ck the refugees.” Racism and violence in Nauru and PNG’s Manus Island are itself a product of the Australian imperialist ruling class’ savage colonial oppression that has devastated these countries and torn apart their social fabric.
During the decades of direct Australian colonial rule of PNG, the Australian imperialists treated the PNG locals with the same racist contempt with which they subjugated Australia’s own first peoples. After PNG gained independence in 1975, Australian-owned mining corporations like BHP and CRA (now part of Rio Tinto) continued to loot the natural mineral wealth of PNG without paying any decent royalty to the local people and without any regard to their wishes. Meanwhile, in a classic neo-colonial arrangement, Australian judges, bureaucrats and “advisers” continued to impregnate PNG’s state organs while successive Australian governments pressured local authorities to privatise both PNG public services and its land held by kinship groups – leading to greater inequality and dysfunction.
Nauru’s history of colonial subjugation is perhaps even more severe – if that is possible. After World War I and up until independence in 1968 (except for a brief period of Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945) Nauru was decreed to be a colonial “mandate” to be jointly run by Britain, Australia and New Zealand. However, eager to grab Nauru’s rich phosphate resources for itself, the Australian rulers pushed for the lead role. Thus, it ended up that every single one of Nauru’s Administrators was appointed by the Australian government. The Australian imperialists proceeded to loot Nauru’s phosphate resources. The Australian exploitation was so severe that initially they provided what amounted to just 0.3% of the value of phosphate mined as royalties to Nauru. Instead, the Australian colonial Administrator ensured that Nauru’s phosphate was sold to Australia at ultra- low prices so that it could be made into fertiliser for Australian agriculture. The amount that the capitalist rulers of Australia, and to a lesser extent Britain and NZ, ripped off Nauru is estimated to be close to $A800 million at today’s prices. To put that in perspective that is $80,000 for every one of Nauru’s 10,000 citizens! However, what was just as harmful was the arrogant refusal of the Australian ruling class to rehabilitate the lands damaged by the phosphate mines. As the Nauruan government’s application in a 1989 legal case against the Australian government at the International Court of Justice noted, Australian mining operation without rehabilitation left “… on the mined out lands nothing but a forest of limestone pinnacles, varying between 5 and 15 metres in height. The land was thus rendered completely useless for habitation, agriculture, or any other purpose ….”
In response to repeated demands by the Nauruan people that the Australian government rehabilitate the lands, Australia “offered” to resettle the entire Nauru population in Australia’s Curtis Island (just off the coast of Rockhampton)! To add further humiliation, the Australian authorities refused to guarantee that the resettled community would have the right to preserve their social identity. Unsurprisingly, the Nauruan people rejected this insulting proposal to clear them out of their homeland and assimilate them. However, by the time Nauru gained formal independence, the damage had been done. The land now could not be used for agriculture or for any other purpose other than phosphate mining. The mining provided wealth for a while but three decades later once the phosphate was all mined out, Nauru was left bankrupt with collapsing social services and an unemployment rate of 90%. Today, Nauru – like resource rich Australian neocolony PNG – has an average life expectancy below that of impoverished India or Pakistan. Having been robbed and damaged by Australia’s capitalist rulers, Nauru became vulnerable to Canberra’s proposal to gain income by turning itself into a prison for asylum seekers. With the moral fibre of the society thus ripped to pieces by the fact that a significant part of the population have been turned into virtual concentration camp guards and with the official unemployment rate still well above 20%, despair, racism and violence have now become rife within Nauruan society – and refugees are copping the worst of it.
Yet it is not only refugees that the Australian government imprisons in overseas detention centres who are suffering under this regime’s racist immigration policies. In Christmas Island, New Zealanders facing deportation have been subjected to Guantanamo Bay-like torture. A typical case is that of 21-year-old Czarion Strang who had served a year’s sentence on assault charges after a pub brawl, most of which he was allowed to serve at home with his mum because the judge deemed him not to be a threat to society. After finishing his sentence in Brisbane he was secretly dragged off to Christmas Island where, as a NZ opposition politician described:
He was made to live in his undies and given dry cereal to eat with no utensils. He was hosed down with a fire hose and left in his wet undies. They cranked the air conditioning up so that he froze …. BuzzFeedNews, 8 November 2015
If this is what the Australian capitalist state authorities are doing to citizens of NZ – a close ally of Australia and a “First World” country – imagine what they are doing to others imprisoned in immigration detention centres! No wonder those incarcerated are self-harming. Australian paediatrician, Professor David Isaacs, who was invited by the Australian government to work at the Nauru detention centre, has described how he saw a six-year-old child imprisoned on Nauru try to hang herself with a fence tie. It is not only those migrants and refugees detained but also those who are crushed by the frightening uncertainty of bridging visas who are being driven to suicide. Last October, Khodayar Amini, an asylum seeker on a bridging visa burnt himself to death as he feared he would be re-detained or deported after hearing that police and immigration authorities wanted to interview him. Khodayar self-immolated while on a call to refugee advocates, telling them:
“Red Cross killing me, Immigration killing me…I want to kill my life…I don’t have any option…they don’t give me chance…I can’t stay in detention centre… RefugeeRightsActionNetworkMediaRelease, 18 October 2015
This is part of why we in Trotskyist Platform insist that the refugee rights movement must not only demand the freedom of all those in immigration detention – whether they be refugees, migrant workers or others facing deportation – but must demand an end to all deportations of refugees and migrants. Everyone who makes it here must be able to stay – and not on the precarious bridging visas but with the full rights of citizenship.
It is Working Class Action and Not Pro-Capitalist Parties or Enlightened Upper Class Elements That Can Spearhead the Struggle against Racist Policies and Attacks
The Turnbull government has maintained all the vicious racist policies of the former Abbott government. Malcolm Turnbull might sound less aggressive and more liberal than the right-wing hardliner Abbott but he is every bit as committed as Abbott to upholding the Australian capitalist order – an order that is racist to its very core. Meanwhile, the ALP opposition fully supports all significant aspects of the Liberal/National party government’s war on refugees. Furthermore, it was the ALP that in 1992 first introduced mandatory detention and in the period of the second Rudd regime introduced the extreme measure that every single refugee arriving by boat would be sent offshore and have no chance of re-settlement here. The horrific treatment of refugees that we see today is in good part an ALP “innovation.” Unlike any of the other parties sitting in parliament, the Greens have at least voiced opposition to the worst aspects of the war on refugees. The problem, however, is that the Greens, based as they are on the upper middle class and liberal wing of the capitalist class, uphold the capitalist system which is the root cause of the racist attacks on refugees and, indeed, of the brutal oppression of Aboriginal people and the racism suffered by coloured “ethnic” communities. Based on individual, private ownership of the means of production and dog-eat-dog competition, the workings of the capitalist economy naturally divide people along all sorts of lines – be it race, gender, nationality or sexual orientation. Moreover, the ruling capitalist class seeks to keep the masses whom it exploits distracted from the true cause of our privations and economic insecurity by consciously spreading nationalism and racism to divide and divert us. We see that not only here but in Europe. There capitalist politicians from the hard-right Hungarian government to the social democratic Socialist Party government in France have unleashed brutal attacks and fear-mongering propaganda against refugees as a way of diverting the masses’ frustration at the high unemployment and economic insecurity resulting from the crisis-ridden system that they administer. In the U.S.A, meanwhile, Donald Trump – a proto-fascist capitalist billionaire who promises to ban all Muslims entering the U.S. and to build a massive wall to keep out Mexicans – is in the running to be the next president. That is why the Greens’ program of speaking up for refugees while upholding the capitalist system is like a doctor treating the symptoms of patients suffering from a highly infectious disease while simultaneously upholding poor sterilisation practices: the good doctor sincerely wants to help the patients but in the process spreads the very same disease that is causing their suffering.
But, just as it is in the interests of the capitalist exploiting class to scapegoat refugees and ethnic minorities, it is in the interests of the union movement to combat such racist attacks. For racism is poison to workers’ unity and without such unity the working class is unable to effectively fight for its rights. Furthermore, when one section of the working class – like refugees on bridging visas, guest workers and international students doing part-time work – do not have secure residency, it deters them from engaging in militant union struggles. That is why it is in the interests of our trade unions to launch industrial action to demand freedom for all those in immigrant detention and full citizenship rights for everyone residing here. Such action, by hurting the profits of the greedy capitalists could force these corporate bigwigs to tell the governments that serve them to back off from their racist attacks. To build up to such union action, support for the refugee and anti-racist cause must be greatly enhanced amongst union ranks. To help this cause the refugee rights movement must change tack and openly – in the slogans it calls actions on – appeal to the class interests that the working class have in standing up for refugee rights. This may well turn off some upper-class liberals and upper-middle class elements who support refugees but are anti-union. So be it! It is the working class and not liberal elements of the ruling class that has both the power and the absoluteneed to stand against racist discrimination and scapegoating.
Sowing the seeds of mass struggle in defence of refugees and other detained migrants requires challenging the very ideological root of anti-immigrant sentiment – whether in hard-core form or in “softer” notions like “genuine refugees should be freed but not economic migrants.” The ideological root of such sentiments is the nationalist notion that the interests of “Australians should be put first,” which – within the currently pro-ALP led union movement – translates into “jobs for Aussie workers first” over guest workers and overseas workers and calls to “stop exporting jobs overseas.” Even union leaderships that have taken the biggest stand against the war on refugees, like the MUA, push such divisive rhetoric. When the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (CHAFTA) was being finalised last year, several unions ran a nationalist campaign to say that local workers will lose out to Chinese workers under CHAFTA because Chinese companies investing in large projects may be able to bring in Chinese workers. Yet, favouring one group of workers over another – in this case locally based workers over overseas workers and guest workers – is a total violation of the very essence of unionism, which is the idea that only if workers stand united as one can they effectively fight for their rights. Instead of the divisive and ultimately losing strategy of setting local workers up against their overseas counterparts, our unions must fight to unite all workers in the struggle for improved conditions and jobs for all workers. When there is a legitimate possibility of bosses retrenching higher paid local workers for lower paid guest or overseas workers the slogans should not be the divisive and deliberate pandering to nationalism of “save Aussie jobs from being exported” but, instead, demands of “no job losses,” “jobs for all workers” and “the best and equal conditions for all workers.”
However, economic nationalism is far from the preserve of just the current pro-ALP union leaders. The Greens are rabid in pushing protectionism and joined the nationalist-based opposition to CHAFTA. So did many left- wing groups active in the refugee rights campaign like Socialist Alliance and the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) – even though the latter expressed worries about the openly anti-communist and xenophobic character of some of the opposition to CHAFTA. How harmful such economic nationalism is was seen at last year’s July 31 anti-CHAFTA rally in Sydney. The nationalist logic of the rally was so strong that present at that rally were not only trade unions and social democratic-influenced left groups but, according to the Socialist Alliance’s Green Left Weekly (Issue 1064), none other than the fascist Party for Freedom (PFF) – an extreme anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim outfit that calls to “sink refugee boats”. Pro-refugee left groups like Socialist Alliance and the CPA marched in this same nationalist rally that the extreme racist PFF marched in just twelve days after these very same left groups were part of an anti-racist counter-rally against a disgusting racist demonstration by the PFF and its fellow “Reclaim Australia” anti-Muslim allies.
The struggle for refugee rights is not some struggle separate from the fight against racism and nationalism more broadly. Hostility to refugees, economic nationalist notions of “Aussie workers first,” racist fear-mongering against Muslims and the brutal racist subjugation of Aboriginal people are all closely related. If one is promoting “Aussie workers first” nationalism then one is breeding the nationalist sentiments that will inevitably rebound against refugees. That is why the struggle to mobilise the working class in defence of refugees and other incarcerated migrants requires a fight to replace the nationalist, Laborite politics that currently dominates our trade unions with a class-struggle internationalism that truly sees workers of all countries and ethnicities as one. It also requires junking ALP acceptance of capitalism with a union leadership and program that is genuinely committed to the fight to overturn capitalism – the system that spawns racial oppression and anti-refugee and anti-immigrant policies.
Contrary to what some Greens politicians claim – that Australia’s treatment of refugees is a stain on an otherwise democratic country with a “proud human rights record” – the bitter truth is that the horrific treatment of refugees by the Australian authorities is symptomatic of an extremely racist regime and society. The incarceration of refugees is mirrored by the extreme high levels of imprisonment of Aboriginal people – including Aboriginal children. The brutality meted out to imprisoned refugees is even exceeded by the violence and abuse that police and prison guards unleash against Aboriginal people – which has seen many Aboriginal people like Eddie Murray, TJ Hickey and Mulrunji Doomadgee simply murdered by police while others like 22 year-old Julieka Dhu – who died in a WA watch-house in 2014 (after being detained for outstanding traffic fines!) – have died due to murderously criminal abuse like being denied medical care. Meanwhile, the hostility that pro-capitalist politicians and the media whip up against refugees is trumped by the racist fears they have created against Muslims and periodically against many different sections of coloured “ethnic” communities. Dangerously, as in Europe and the U.SA, official racism is paving the way here for the growth of violent far-right racist forces.
We urgently need the workers’ movement to mobilise to fight for freedom for refugees and all imprisoned migrants, for the rights of citizenship for everyone who makes it here, for the scrapping of racist, “anti-terror laws,” for true fighting unity as one with overseas and guest workers and for full support to the Aboriginal peoples’ resistance against racist subjugation. To help win union ranks to this struggle, it is high time for the refugee movement to openly appeal to workers’ class interests and to openly proclaim that the refugee rights struggle is a struggle in the interests of the working class. It is high time too that we build internationalist, militant anti-capitalist caucuses inside our trade unions – linked to a revolutionary workers’ party – that can fight to put our workers’ organisations on to the “Workers of the World Unite” path proclaimed by the famous Communist Manifesto, a manifesto which still alone illuminates the road to both workers’ liberation and the liberation of all of the world’s oppressed people. For international socialist revolution to free workers and the poor from unemployment, poverty and insecurity! Free the refugees, ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples from racist attacks! And free the peoples of the so-called “Third World” from U.S./NATO/Australian imperialist interventions (as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia and Syria) that cause the suffering and chaos that force them to flee their homelands in the first place!