QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT OUR POSITION ON DEVELOPMENTS IN UKRAINE – from the Fourth International and Socialist Organizer

24 May

Expanded and corrected for spelling on 24 May.

(excerpts from FI Newsletter and La Vérité/The Truth, as well as articles by Dominique Ferré and the editors of Rabochie Izvestiya, published in Russia — with bracketed comments from Socialist Organizer)

Q: WHAT IS OUR STANCE ON THE BREAK-UP OF UKRAINE AND WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?

A: The breaking up/dismantling of Ukraine would have incalculable consequences on the international scale. With 45 million inhabitants, and as the second-largest country in Europe in terms of its surface area, the explosion of Ukraine would have consequences that would be infinitely more tragic than the breaking up of Yugoslavia 22 years ago — a break-up that was organized by the imperialist powers and their accomplices in the bureaucracy.

At the eastern gates of the European Union, it would make up a factor of decomposition entirely turned against the working class, against the resistance of the workers in all the EU countries who, despite the obstacles, have been standing up against the plans of destruction dictated by the EU and the IMF and implemented by all the governments of the right and of the “left” alike, from Athens to Lisbon.

But a broken-up, “Yugoslavitized” Ukraine would also be, for imperialism, a powerful lever turned against the Federation of Russia. Remember what former President Carter’s advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote — on behalf of US imperialism’s leading circles — in 1997, concerning Ukraine. For US imperialism, he wrote, Ukraine is a “strategic pivot” – i.e., a country that has no interest in itself but that needs to be once and for all separated from Russia because, “Without Ukraine, Russia can have no pretensions of becoming a Eurasian empire”.

Behind Ukraine, Brzezinski wrote in 1997, a second step needed to be prepared. “Given the country’s size and diversity, a decentralized political system and free-market economics would be most likely to unleash the creative potential of the Russian people and Russia’s vast natural resources. A loosely confederated Russia — composed of a European Russia, a Siberian Republic, and a Far Eastern Republic — would also find it easier to cultivate closer economic relations with its neighbors. Each of the confederated entities would be able to tap its local creative potential, stifled for centuries by Moscow’s heavy bureaucratic hand. In turn, a decentralized Russia would be less susceptible to imperial mobilization” (Geostrategic for Eurasia, Foreign Affairs, 1997).

What is at stake, behind this, are the immense natural resources — Russia’s mines, natural gas and oil. It is the “useful Russia” — just like what the Brookings Institute said, in 1993, of Africa, when speaking of a “useful” Africa (its wealth) and a “useless” Africa (the Africans).

What is at stake is the second phase of the looting of Russia, because the wave of privatisation-plunder of the 1990s (under Yeltsin) did not go all the way, given the resistance of the Russian working class who, as in Ukraine, in Kazakhstan and in Belarus, defended their factories, their schools, their housing, etc., tooth and nail; they defended everything that we call the “gains of October 1917”. . . .

Several statements by US and EU claiming to want to “maintain the territorial integrity” of Ukraine are pure hypocrisy: at the time of this writing, the process of breaking up Ukraine has already begun. And even if they are not in control of all the processes of disintegration which they themselves started, those leaders are fully responsible for them.

The day after [former elected Ukrainian President] Yanukovych fled, the Verkhovna Rada (parliament, literally the “Supreme Council”) – the same assembly that the day before was pledging allegiance to Yanukovych – passed a battery of extremely reactionary bills, thus preparing the conditions for a civil war of disintegration. Among these measures, let us draw attention to the repeal of the Kolesnichenko law on the country’s official languages. This law established that in each region or large administrative district where at least 10 percent of the local population spoke a language other than Ukrainian (in most cases Russian, but also Hungarian, Romanian, etc.), that second language was recognised as an official language on the same level as Ukrainian.

Today’s Ukraine, the result of the break-up of the Soviet Union but drawing on a long previous history has a population that is mostly Ukrainian but also contains national minorities (Russians – forming the majority population in Crimea – Hungarians, Crimean Tatars, and so on). Without even referring to those national minorities, who speak their own languages, around half the population of Ukraine do not speak Ukrainian as their mother-tongue; they speak Russian. Whatever the limitations of the Kolesnichenko law, the fact of recognising languages other than Ukrainian as official languages was a recognition of a basic democratic right, and therefore a factor of national unity for Ukraine – a nation recognising all the languages of its citizens, including those of the non-Ukrainian national minorities.

Concretely, the repeal of such a law makes life impossible for any “non-Ukrainophone” Ukrainian citizen, whether a Russian-speaking Ukrainian national or a member of a national minority (Russian, Tatar, Hungarian, etc.). This applies to around half the population, who will now have to deal with the least administrative document being written or having to be written in a language they do not know well enough or not at all. By deciding to repeal such a law, the new Ukrainian government and its “sponsors” in Brussels and Washington are knowingly deciding to manufacture in the short term what the media will present hypocritically in the days to come as an “ethnic conflict”. . . .

As far as world imperialism — and especially US imperialism — are concerned, the events in Ukraine fall squarely within the policy of the breaking-up of nations, the consequence of the failed system of private ownership of the means of production. This is a policy that is affecting the whole world, whether referred to as the “New Middle East”, or so-called “ethnic” conflicts elsewhere, or calling national sovereignty into question.

According to those mouthpieces of imperialism, the process of disintegration currently underway in Ukraine must therefore serve as a bridgehead for a new offensive aimed at breaking up and pillaging Russia. It must also be used as an element of pressure and terror against the class struggle, in which the workers in every country of the European Union are seeking to reclaim their organisations to face up to the destructive policies of the governments that are implementing the plans of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF (the Troika). . . .

The situation that is developing today in Ukraine is reminiscent of previous scenarios that saw other governments turn from friends of imperialism into pariahs overnight: just recently the preferred interlocutor of the European Union and the IMF, today Yanukovych has been driven from power through a genuine coup, just like Qaddafi, Saddam Hussein and very many others before him, in conditions resulting from an open imperialist attack. . . .

[Note: We should add that the coup that ousted Yanukovych was made in the USA. After the statement above was written by the editors of the Fourth International Newsletter, German TV ran footage that proves that the mass killings that caused such outrage in Maidan Square — and that were a key detonator for the coup d’etat — were caused by shots from behind, that is, from their own camp, not from the Yanukovych forces, as was claimed at the time. It is now widely accepted that the massacre was perpetrated by far-right forces linked to the present government in Kiev, with the logistical support (via ex-Blackwater mercenaries, now renamed Academi) and funding from the United States. — S.O.]

Q: IS RUSSIA A NEW IMPERIALIST POWER?

A: The developments in Ukraine fall within a particular context: the break-up of the former USSR and the process of “restoring capitalism”. This particular situation is being expressed on two levels: on the one hand, it is indisputable that the collapse of the USSR in 1991 – the result of an offensive by finance capital to open up for itself a gigantic market which mostly evaded it still – translated not into the constitution of a national bourgeoisie developing capitalism through the traditional means of a growth of industry and the extraction of surplus-value, but through the propagation of a mafia-style capitalism of pillage, poisoning the whole of the world economy, a capitalism of speculation based first and foremost on the mass destruction of the productive forces.

This restoration of a particular kind of capitalism satisfied the demands of finance capital for an initial period. But it very quickly displayed its limits. Firstly because it was unable to follow through to the end with the task assigned to it: that of smashing all the segments of social property. On the other hand, because the constitution of those gigantic mafias did not exactly match the form of pillage desired by the leading circles of finance capital in the current stage of imperialist decay. In fact, although it did not escape the imperialist system globally, the enormous natural wealth of the former USSR was not placed under the direct control of the multinationals that dominate the capitalist economy. From this point of view, today there is a need for it to go much further. This has led imperialism to clash with what it itself has largely contributed to creating: the layer of speculators that emerged from the old Stalinist bureaucracy that today controls the state (which still owns whole sectors of the economy). Acting in its own interests, this layer does not look kindly on US finance capital’s attempt to take direct control of affairs, thus threatening that layer’s outrageous privileges. . . .

One cannot help but be struck by the fact that in Ukraine as in Russia, in Kazakhstan, Moldova, Belarus, etc., the ruling social layer and the various regimes that have represented it for the last 23 years have their roots in the bureaucracy of the USSR itself.

This is not the place to remind ourselves of the reasons for the degeneration of the USSR and the nature of that bureaucracy, its role as the “transmission belt of imperialism” and so on. The Fourth International has its roots in the struggle of Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition within the Bolshevik Party against the degeneration of the October Revolution. At a cost of the physical extermination of tens of thousands of their members, the Bolshevik-Leninists fought side by side with the Soviet workers and peasants for political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy – an integral part of the world unity of the class struggle. They fought in the USSR and Eastern Europe against “restoring capitalism”. When the bureaucracy in the USSR took the final step in its capitulation to world imperialism and decided to scuttle the Soviet Union in 1991, the Fourth International wrote:

“To the accelerated impoverishment of the working population is counterposed the lavish lifestyle of a small layer of swindlers and mafiosi that emerged from the apparatus, who under the guise of the “Democratic Russia Election Bloc” are trying to sell off the country’s resources in order to fill their pockets with various commission payments collected along the way”. (14).

And we added:

“The bourgeois character of the bureaucracy is revealed today in an almost caricatured manner in the way in which it is seeking to return to the bosom of the world bourgeoisie. This final stage of its development does not mean that it is losing anything whatsoever of its roots and parasitic nature – on the contrary. It cannot even become a rump bourgeoisie.

“It does not have the means (nor the ambition) to constitute national capital. Even if the mafiosi of the parallel economy injected their 150 billion roubles, which in any case would only be invested in speculative sectors, the enormous liquidity crisis that is hitting the world economy with increasing brutality and forms the basis for the IMF’s wrecking plans prevents any hope of investing even a modest fraction of the gigantic needs of the Soviet economy; it therefore only remains for the mafiosi who sprang from the very guts of the apparatus to count the dividends of their political subordination to US imperialism and the gratuities they have gleaned from the privatisation process.

“The decaying bureaucracy is no more than a subsidiary and supplementary layer of world imperialism, without any national character whatsoever, a caste of swindlers, traffickers, of mafiosi ready to sell themselves and state property to the highest bidder, and even to those who offer almost nothing.” . . .

The mafia-type character of this social layer — the expression of the decay of the capitalist “world economy” — is explained by the fact that the “restoring of capitalism” by the bureaucracy in 1991 was carried out in conditions where the decay of the system based on private ownership of the means of production could not result in the constitution of genuine bourgeoisies, neither in Russia, nor in Ukraine or elsewhere; rather, the ex-bureaucracy was transformed into a mafia-style comprador bourgeois layer which, while submitting to world imperialism, could also be led — out of an instinct for self-preservation — to carry out a policy that did not coincide completely with the needs of world imperialism, and of US imperialism in particular.

This is what explains how [deposed Ukrainian President] Yanukovych and the “clans” he represents, who the day before yesterday were fervent supporters of the “association agreement” with the European Union, could make a U-turn yesterday and choose the “Russian offer”. It is also for this same reason that Putin and his regime, together with the layer he represents, considered that it was not in their interest for Ukraine to turn towards the European Union, and so made the offer.

[Note: No! There is no new national bourgeoisie in Russia — and Russia is not a new “imperialist power! — S.O.]

Nor should we harbor the slightest illusion that Putin and his regime oppose imperialism, that they are fighting against it.

In 2004, when the “Orange Revolution” had for the first time driven one corrupt government from power in order to replace it with another which was just as corrupt but which gave more proof of allegiance to Capital’s international institutions, we wrote that, “due to needs of Putin’s own political survival, he must protect a certain number of prerogatives, including from the point of view of his bureaucratic-military power based on the pillaging and destruction of the country, which could put him in contradiction with the immediate needs and policy of US imperialism.”

We added:

“Nobody can deny that there is an explosion today in Ukraine which could lead to the dismantling not only of the Ukrainian nation, but also of the whole of Europe. . . . We have been explaining for 10 years in Ukraine that the very nature of the Stalinist bureaucracy could only lead not only to the restoration of capitalism, but also to that policy of dismantling nations, pillaging the country, destroying labour-power and destroying it physically”.

These assertions remain profoundly true. Of course, Putin, Medvedev and others have been issuing an increasing number of statements against US interference and the operation to break up Ukraine, welcoming Yanukovych in Russia (just as they welcomed former Kyrgyzstan President Akayev, following the so-called “Tulip Revolution” in March 2005, following the model of the “Orange Revolution”), and have ordered military exercises. They have done this to protect their margin for manoeuvre, understanding – as they did in September 2013 in Syria, when a Russian diplomatic proposal “saved” Obama, who was mired up to his neck in the crisis of imperialist rule regarding a possible military intervention – that they are a component of the imperialist “world order”, but that at the same time imperialism could be moved to make them suffer the same fate as Yanukovych, Qadhafi or Saddam Hussein.

On the one hand, Putin is “flexing his muscles”, but on the other he has ordered his government “to continue talks with Ukraine on economic and trade relations and to consult foreign partners including the IMF and the G8 on financial aid”. News agency Reuters had the following commentary on the Kremlin’s statement on 28 February 2014: “The call for cooperation with foreign partners, including the Group of Eight largest economies and the International Monetary Fund, signals that Putin does not want to be left out of efforts to help deeply-indebted Ukraine”.

An additional statement on whether we harbor any illusions in Putin comes from our Russian comrades themselves. In a statement issued on April 26, 2014, in Moscow and titled “Events in Ukraine and the Tasks of the Workers’ Movement,” the editors of “Rabochie Izvestiya” [Labor News] write the following:

“Today in Ukraine, those who are attacking the workers and people are the United States and the European Union. They bear full responsibility for the ongoing catastrophe. . . . We are in principle against all forms of interference/intervention, against all pressures and sanctions against Russia. But to characterize the aggressors as we have done, to oppose imperialist intervention, does not mean that we foster even the slightest illusion in the fact that the government of the Russian Federation might come to the rescue of workers, either in Ukraine or Russia. The compradore bourgeois layer upon which the government in Russia rests differs little from that which supported Yanukovitch in Ukraine. That layer seeks to defend its positions against the powerful pressures of imperialism. But its fear of the mobilizations of the working class underscores the hollow character of its ‘patriotic” rhetoric. The organized working class of all the Republics of the former USSR, section of the international working class, is the only social force capable of seriously opposing imperialism, whose policies are leading to destruction and barbarism.”

[Note: We should also add the fact that on May 23, Putin gave his blessing to the fraudulent elections of May 25 in Ukraine organized by the interim authorities in Kiev — that is, the perpetrators of the coup that ousted a democratically elected government — and its EU/NATO sponsors, announcing that he will “respect” the vote. — S.O.]

Q: WHAT ABOUT UKRAINE’S RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION?

A: This first aspect, which has international value, is combined in the case of Ukraine with the national question. A nation that was oppressed for centuries by neighbouring countries, then very substantially by the Tsarist empire, then once again faced with the reality of national oppression under Stalinism, Ukraine is in a special situation.

In an article written on the eve of the Second World War (“The Ukrainian question”, 22 April 1939), Trotsky pointed out that “The Bolshevik party, not without difficulty and only gradually under the constant pressure of Lenin, was able to acquire a correct approach to the Ukrainian question” i.e. to declare itself in favour of the right to self-determination. But although the revolution of October 1917 and the constitution of the USSR allowed the Ukrainian nation and culture to develop considerably, the Stalinist counter-revolutionary bureaucratic crystallisation that followed changed the content of the problem. “The more profound the hopes aroused, the keener was the disillusionment”, wrote Trotsky, for whom, in 1939, “a clear and definite slogan is necessary that corresponds to the new situation. In my opinion there can be at the present time only one such slogan: A united, free and independent workers’ and peasants’ Soviet Ukraine.”

At the time when Trotsky was writing, Ukraine was divided up, torn between Soviet Ukraine and the parts of Ukraine ruled by Poland, Hungary, etc. The perspective of “the independence of a United Ukraine” did not scare Trotsky. “What is so terrible about that? – we reply. The fervid worship of state boundaries is alien to us”, he wrote. On the other hand, he insisted on the fact that “the programme of independence for the Ukraine in the epoch of imperialism is directly and indissolubly bound up with the program of the proletarian revolution. It would be criminal to entertain any illusions on this score.” And if he envisaged the possibility that “an independent workers’ and peasants’ Ukraine might subsequently join the Soviet Federation”, this could only be done “voluntarily, on conditions which it itself considers acceptable, which in turn presupposes a revolutionary regeneration of the USSR.” Such a “genuine emancipation of the Ukrainian people” would be inconceivable “without a revolution or a series of revolutions in the West which must lead in the end to the creation of the Soviet United States of Europe.” Having considered all these hypotheses, Trotsky came back to what he called “the question of first order”, namely: “the revolutionary guarantee of the unity and independence of a workers’ and peasants’ Ukraine in the struggle against imperialist on the one hand, and against Moscow Bonapartism on the other.”

In another article published a few months later (“Independence of the Ukraine and Sectarian Muddleheads”, 30 July 1939) in response to the polemic resulting from the previous one, Trotsky spelled out the relationship between the independence of Ukraine and the world proletarian revolution: “The right of national self-determination is, of course, a democratic and not a socialist principle. But genuinely democratic principles are supported and realized in our era only by the revolutionary proletariat; it is for this very reason that they interlace with socialist tasks.” Trotsky recalled that “the resolute struggle of the Bolshevik party for the right of self-determination of oppressed nationalities in Russia facilitated in the extreme the conquest of power by the proletariat.” Relating more precisely to Ukraine, he insisted on the need to “proceed from facts and not ideal norms.”

And those facts were the following: “The Thermidorian reaction in the USSR, the defeat of a number of revolutions, the victories of fascism . . . must be paid for in genuine currency in all spheres, including that of the Ukrainian question. Were we to ignore the new situation created as a result of defeats, were we to pretend that nothing extraordinary has occurred, and were we to counterpose to unpleasant facts familiar abstractions, then we could very well surrender to reaction the remaining chances for vengeance in the more or less immediate future.” Trotsky pointed out that “the national struggle [is] one of the most labyrinthine and complex but at the same time extremely important forms of the class struggle”. Consequently, it “cannot be suspended by bare references to the future world revolution.” Trotsky stressed that, of course, “an ideal variant” would be that “the revolution occurs simultaneously in all parts of the Soviet Union”, but even in this case, “in order freely to determine her relations with other Soviet republics, in order to possess the right of saying yes or no, the Ukraine must return to herself complete freedom of action, at least for the duration of this Constituent period. There is no other name for this than state independence.”

Have the events unfolded in line with Trotsky’s forecast? From a strictly factual point of view, it would appear not. But on taking a closer lookŠ What happened in 1991? The disintegration of the USSR appeared – especially in the eyes of the oppressed nationalities – to open up the possibility of satisfying their legitimate national aspirations. The referendum that was held in Ukraine in 1991 produced a 90 percent vote in favour of the independence of Ukraine. This approval was the majority view in every one of the regions, Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking, and even in the Crimea, where, as we know, a very large Russian component of the population lived and continues to live today. Everybody identified the end to oppression with the need to impose the sovereignty of the Ukrainian nation.

Now, what appeared 20 years ago to be an indisputable sentiment shared by almost 50 million Ukrainians, today has gone up in smoke. The final provocations by imperialism are pushing Ukraine onto the path of disintegration, preparing what will be presented tomorrow as the “inevitable” resurgence of ethnic conflicts, national confrontations and implacable hatreds.

The reality is completely different. And in this respect, it completely confirms Trotsky’s analysis. Ukraine’s aspiration to independence, i.e. sovereignty, is inextricably linked to achieving the means to that sovereignty. Means that cannot be determined under imperialism’s iron rule. Because imperialism has a single obsession: pillaging Ukraine’s national resources, replacing Stalinist bureaucratic oppression with the mechanisms for capitalist exploitation, introducing mass unemployment and deskilling, and destroying the social welfare systems. This is how within 20 years or so, hopes and illusions have once again given way to the biggest disillusion, the greatest sense of rejection, and also in part to the deepest despair. Ii is impossible to satisfy the aspiration to national independence while submitting to the diktats of imperialism and its plans for disintegration which it is fomenting.

But this in no way implies that the solution can be found by turning to the Putin regime. Quite the opposite. This poses the whole problem of the independence of the labour organisations. But this fully confirms that in the epoch of decayed and decadent imperialism, the solution to national questions – whether relating to Ukraine or other nations in the world – is a crucial question. As Trotsky reminds us, in the epoch of imperialist decay (which calls into the question the existence of sovereignty of nations throughout the world) the aspiration to independence and sovereignty takes on a profoundly revolutionary character. But at the same time, it can only be completely guaranteed to its fullest extent by not giving in to the demands for decomposition made by imperialism itself, in other words by moving towards the “socialist” solution, the solution of the expropriation of capital. It is in this sense that national emancipation and social emancipation remain totally linked together, as is confirmed tragically by what is happening in Ukraine.

A heavy responsibility is borne by those within the labour movement who, because they refuse to break with the decaying capitalist system, seek to prevent the working class from struggling for the slightest national and democratic demand, wishing to submit to the diktats of the European Union and the IMF, those instruments of imperialism. The Fourth International fights unconditionally for the Ukrainian people’s right to self-determination, which entails fighting against the reactionary measures taken by the Yatsenyuk government that aim to break up Ukraine.

* * * * * * * * * *

 UKRAINE: A BRIEF HISTORY

Without claiming to trace the entire history of Ukraine here, let us simply point out that this state of 46 million inhabitants that resulted from the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 has its roots in the first Slav state founded in the 10th century, the Kievan Rus’. Russia itself also originated from the Kievan Rus’, whose aristocracy and population converted to Christianity under the influence of the neighbouring Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire). This state went into decline and disappeared in the 12th century as the result of invasions by nomadic peoples of Mongol-Tatar origin. Following these invasions, the territory of present-day Ukraine was ruled and divided up in turn by various neighbouring powers, e.g. Lithuania and Poland in the 14th century, the Austro-Hungarian Empire (to the west) and the Tsarist Empire (to the east) in the 18th century. The Russian Tsarist Empire, the “prison of the peoples” comprising more than 100 nations, oppressed the Ukrainian nation, recognising neither its language, nor its culture or even its very existence. Fighting for “the right of nations to self-determination” especially within the Russian Empire, Lenin and the Bolshevik Party fought ruthlessly in the Empire’s labour movement against any adaptation to Russian major-power chauvinism and in favour of the democratic rights of the oppressed nations (including the right to secede from Russia), as a condition for a united proletariat irrespective of nationality. When the Revolution of February 1917 swept away tsarism, a republic was proclaimed in Ukraine. But by allying themselves with an imperialist power (Germany) in 1918, the Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists began a long reactionary tradition that put them at the mercy of the major powers, leading to collaboration with the Nazis in 1941 and submission to NATO today.

Following the October 1917 Revolution, civil war and intervention by the imperialist armies ravaged Ukraine, and in 1922 a Soviet Republic federated within the USSR was set up. A huge development in the Ukrainian nation’s language, culture and economy took place within this framework. The degeneration of the workers’ state created in 1917 took the form in Ukraine of a sudden resurgence of Russian chauvinism: the Ukrainian Communist leadership was eliminated in the name of the struggle against their supposed “nationalism”. Forced collectivisation, the resulting famine and the bureaucracy’s brutal methods jeopardised Soviet power. With the attack on the USSR by Hitlerian imperialism (22 June 1941), a “nationalist” named Stepan Bandera drafted the “Declaration of Ukrainian Independence”, committing to collaborate “with the National-Socialist Greater Germany, under the leadership of its leader Adolf Hitler which is forming a new order in Europe and the world”. Bandera’s Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists-Ukrainian Insurgent Army (whose black-and-red flags bedecked the Maidan in 2013-14) was to play a supporting role to the Nazis, eliminating partisan fighters, Jews, Hungarians, Poles, gypsies, etc. It is this ultra-reactionary tradition that the Svoboda party claims to stand for today; until only recently it called itself the Social-National Party of Ukraine.

As our comrade Pierre Lambert liked to recount, the Ukrainian militant activist Babenko explained during the Second World Congress of the Fourth International (1948) that when the Nazis invaded, the Ukrainian peasants – who had suffered under the forced collectivisation – did not receive the German troops with hostility. However, just a few weeks later, Babenko pointed out, the first groups of partisan fighters appeared, and very quickly these attracted hundreds of thousands of members in Ukraine and Byelorussia (today’s Belarus), in reaction to the invader’s attempt to re-establish private property in the form of reducing the enslavement of the Soviet peoples. This was one illustration of the fact that “the gains of October 1917 live on in the consciousness of the masses” (Leon Trotsky). The Ukrainian people and the other Soviet peoples paid the heavy price of 23 million deaths for their victory against Hitlerian fascism.

Apart from their historic links, Russia and Ukraine (like the other countries of the former USSR) share links encompassing the whole of the industrial, agricultural and cultural development made possible by the expropriation of capital, despite bureaucratic rule and international isolation. The bureaucracy, “the transmission-belt of imperialism” within the degenerated workers’ state (according to Leon Trotsky’s Marxist characterisation), fulfilled its “restorationist” nature (opening the door to the restoration of capitalism in order to transform its caste privileges into private property) by destroying the Soviet Union in 1991. The resulting “independent” states, including Ukraine, now headed by the former bureaucrats who had reconverted to the “market economy” (Yeltsin in Russia, Kravchuk and then Kuchma in Ukraine, etc.) came under the control of the IMF. In the winter of 2004-5, the “Orange Revolution” based on NGOs funded by the United States installed a government (Viktor Yushchenko, Yulia Tymoshenko) that was supported by the United States. The unpopularity of Yulia Tymoshenko’s government prepared the ground for the election of Yanukovych, Kuchma’s former minister, relying on some mafia-style clans of oligarchs in the east of the country (the Donetsk region). After being the most fervent supporter of signing an “association agreement” with the European Union, Yanukovych did a U-turn just before the Vilnius European Summit (27-28 November 2013), opting for an agreement with Putin’s Russian government, which was offering Ukraine a US$15 billion loan.

Populated mostly by Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, the country also has Russian minorities (who are in the majority in Crimea) as well as Hungarian, Romanian-speaking, Crimean Tatar, Belarussian and other minorities. Historically referred to as the “breadbasket of the east” of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union due to its big agricultural sector, Ukraine is an industrialised country (mining, metal industry, steel industry) with a large working class.

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