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PERIKLIS PAVLIDIS: THE DONBASS INSURGENCY IN A CRITICAL MOMENT

Posted by * em 27/09/2014

THE DONBASS INSURGENCY IN A CRITICAL MOMENT
Periklis Pavlidis

Donbass Fighters

The reason for the war in Ukraine is that power has been seized in this country by an alliance of pro-Western-neoliberals and far right to fascist political forces, under the hegemony of the Ukrainian oligarch capitalists, and with the guidance of the USA and the support of certain EU countries.
It should be noted that the rise to power of the aforementioned alliance (following the overthrow of president Yanukovych) was directly instigated by the USA, under whose control the present Ukrainian government lies. The USA, in cooperation with the Ukrainian oligarchs and the country’s neoliberal and nationalist political forces, are strongly promoting a rupture in the ties between Ukraine and Russia, so that the former may be subject to the political and economic leadership of the West. In essence, the ultimate target of the United States (and of the leading powers of the EU), vis-à-vis the crisis in Ukraine, is Russia itself, and its neutralization as a geopolitical adversary. The implementation of this goal is being promoted in conjunction with the broader efforts of the globally dominant western capitalist pole (the Euro-Atlantic imperialist coalition) to prevent the formation of forces and coalitions capable of questioning its continuing supremacy into the 21st century. Therefore, a major role in the Ukrainian conflict is played by the fact that the change of power in the country and the process of its entrance into the sphere of influence of the USA and the EU, constitute a severe economic and military threat for Russia, which is forcing it to react dynamically. The insurgency in Donbass would have been impossible without the support of Russia, which was forced to take a decisive stand against the extremely aggressive policies of the West. 

As regards the region of south-eastern Ukraine, the uprising there was the result of an attempt to deal with two significant dangers felt by the inhabitants mainly of the Donbass region, stemming from the new regime in Kiev and its pro-Western sentiments.

The first danger concerns the fact that a particularly aggressive practice is being followed in Ukraine today which aims to impose a uniform bourgeois national consciousness on all citizens, based on the nationalist and largely fascist ideological traditions of the country’s western regions. Not by chance is the currently constructed mythology about the “Ukrainian nation” inspired by figures such as the Ukrainian fascist Stepan Bandera and the OUN-UPA bandits, stigmatized by heinous crimes during the period of the German occupation, which they committed against Poles and Jews.
The outbreak of Ukrainian nationalism is also being accompanied by a large-scale cultivation of extreme anti-Russian, anti-Soviet and anti-communist sentiments and a direct political suppression of any opposing view, not only by the official state, but also by a large number of far right paramilitary units, a major part of which are being financed and armed by the country’s oligarchs. Today, Ukraine is the only country in the world that contains openly fascist units in its security forces. A typical example is that of the Azov Battalion, which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and has often been used in the cleansing operations against the Donbass rebels; it consists purely of fascists, and includes like-minded volunteers from other countries also. It is worth noting that the battalion’s symbol is the “Wolfsangel” (Wolf’s Hook), one of the most popular symbols of the German Nazis and of neo-Nazis around the world.

As expected therefore, the insurgency in Donbass was a reaction to the political suppression of the national consciousness, language and culture of its Russian-speaking inhabitants, for whom there is no longer any place in today’s Ukraine.

Secondly, the insurgency was also a reaction to the potential opening of the Ukrainian economy to the economy of the EU, given that such a step would vitally undermine the country’s economic ties with Russia and threaten the industrially developed region of Donbass, that is also closely linked to the Russian economy, with de-industrialisation.

According to the above, it is understood that the insurgency initially acquired a national character, i.e. it concerned the efforts of the rebelling regions to maintain their Russian national identity and pursue a connection with Russia (or, in the best case scenario, a union).

Thus, the uprising first targeted the nationalist policies of Kiev, and the Ukrainian nationalist and pro-Western political forces, and also indirectly the geostrategic goals of the USA and their European allies.
For this reason, we first see political forces and figures representing Russian nationalism (Strelkov, Borodai) taking the leading role, who originated from Russia itself, and took it upon themselves to organize and guide the rebels.

It should be mentioned at this point that the political character immediately attributed to this uprising and the general course followed by political life in Ukraine serve to display in a particularly painful way the great withdrawal of the Left in Ukraine and its sheer inability to affect the course of events, a fact largely due to the total demise and collapse of the once powerful Communist Party of Ukraine.
For a long time, the said party had essentially become integrated within the bourgeois political system, acting as a political addendum to the Party of Regions, whose government it supported.
The political path followed by the Communist Party of Ukraine has proven once again that when the political forces of the Left decide to take part in the bourgeois system of governance, then as a rule, instead of leading to a solution of the social crisis, they become part of it, spreading delusions, disappointment and passivity amongst the working people.

The national liberation focus of the insurgency in south-eastern Ukraine is still predominant today.
At the same time, its severe limitations have also become apparent, given that the aim of separating Russian-speaking south-eastern Ukraine and, possibly, in some way uniting it with Russia is a goal that does not appear convincing to the majority of Ukraine’s inhabitants, who share a Ukrainian national consciousness and do not link their future prospects with Russia. In fact, the above-mentioned goal does not even seem to mobilize a large part of the Russian-speaking population living outside the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

Unfortunately, the ideological-political impact of the insurgents’ actions on other regions of Ukraine has been weak to non-existent, given, on the one hand, the absence of a clear strategy and of a thorough political programme, but also of a leading political organization that could rise to the challenge, and become involved in managing the political struggle, not only in the insurgent regions, but all over the country.

However, apart from the national liberation dimension of the insurgency in south-eastern Ukraine, its social dimension has become increasingly apparent. In conjunction with their shared anti-fascist intentions, an anti-oligarch tendency is rising strongly among the insurgents. In several statements made both by their leaders and by rebel soldiers, there is the demand to rid the under construction state of Novorossia from the power of the oligarch capitalists. This demand voices the interests of the diverse social strata that are taking part in or support the uprising, which include industrial workers (miners and metalworkers), employees, self-employed professionals and owners of small and medium-sized businesses.
The social dimension of the insurgency is also framed by feelings of nostalgia for the Soviet past and the request to create a society of justice, where social rights are safeguarded.

It should be noted that the events currently unfolding in south-eastern Ukraine do not constitute a social revolution, for which the preconditions do not currently exist after all. It is an insurgency, which along with its national liberation character is now tending to adopt a social dimension, by turning against the oligarch capitalists, but not against capitalism as a system.

A very important factor affecting the political developments within the insurgents’ camp is certainly the Russian government and the political and economic elite of the country in general. Russia has supported the insurgency in a determined manner, by supplying the armed forces of Novorossia with weapons and war materials, and also by sending a large number of professional military personnel to take part in the war operations from different posts. Furthermore, Russia is the only source of supplies to the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk as regards food and basic goods, which are absolutely essential to the survival of the local population, who are currently facing a humanitarian crisis, following the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure by the Ukrainian artillery fire.

At the same time, the Russian government has been using the aid it is offering the insurgents as a means to exert pressure on the latter to comply with its own geostrategic aspirations, political intrigues and diplomatic manoeuvres. This was made obvious in the way in which the leadership of the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk changed hands, and also in the signing by the new leadership of a truce protocol at Minsk, at a very favorable moment for the insurgents’ further military advance.

It worth mentioning that the differentiated reaction to the Minsk Protocol and to the recently approved by the Ukrainian parliament laws on special status for the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions by different insurgents’ political and military leaders (Lugansk People’s Republic Prime Minister Igor Plotnitsky welcomed the laws, while the commander of the militia “Ghost” Brigade Alexei Mozgovoi called the signing of the Minsk Protocol “an act of treason”) indicates the existence of at least two “parties” among the insurgents: the (obviously Moscow-controlled) “party” of compromise with Kiev regime and the based on some militia forces “party” of war-till-the-victorious-end for the creation of an independent big Novorossia without oligarch capitalists.

Concerning the role of Russia in the conflict in Ukraine, what we can claim is that it will continue to support the insurgency, thus ensuring that the Novorossia in some form will survive, without however wishing to incorporate it within Russia, and also most probably without also wishing its full separation from Ukraine, so that it can be used to counterbalance the western influence over Ukraine, and to exert pressure on the Ukrainian government as regards issues that concern the country’s focus vis-à-vis its economic and military international alliances.

It should be underlined here, that part of the Russian political and economic elite would be willing to reach a compromise with the Kiev regime and bring the conflict in Eastern Ukraine to a definite end. It is afraid however of the public outcry of Russian society and is therefore unable to openly denounce the insurgency in Donbass.

Moreover, the attitude of the Russian government towards the insurgency in south-eastern Ukraine is also linked to its intention not to further aggravate its relations with the West.

At this point, it should be mentioned that in the conflict between Russia and the USA/EU, the two forces involved present major differences in character and power. Russia is obviously a large capitalist country which has displayed a significant rate of development over the last decade and features increasingly in the sphere of international relations. Nevertheless, it does not fulfill the necessary preconditions that would allow it to function as a pure imperialist power. Its financial capital (the strongest capital sector in the period of imperialism) is weak, several of its businesses largely depend on the financial system of the West as regards their investment activities, while the level of Russian capital exports to other counties remains highly limited.
The country’s strength in the modern world lies in its energy resources, its military-industrial complex and its capacity to export natural gas and weapons. However, in what concerns its armed forces, and despite the visible improvement in their abilities, the latter still remain much smaller in size compared to their counterparts from the USA/NATO, and therefore could not wage large-scale military operations at a great distance from Russia’s territory. The fact that Russia occupies a huge area and only has limited armed forces at its disposal means that it is essentially basing its security on its nuclear arsenal, which is however of a defensive nature, i.e. it exists as the ultimate force that would prevent a potential generalized attack by its outnumbering enemy forces.

On the other hand, the USA and the EU, along with their closest allies, form the dominant imperialist pole of the world. They possess the strongest financial institutions and multinational companies, and control, directly or indirectly, the largest part of the world’s wealth-producing resources. In addition, the USA and EU countries also have the most powerful international mass media and control the biggest part of the world’s cultural industry, which means they can influence the shaping of public opinion worldwide.
Furthermore, the USA and NATO countries together form the strongest military machine on the planet, which can act on a global scale, by functioning as the world’s warden that will guarantee the domination of the West.

Let us always keep in mind that under the given circumstances, any radical attempt for social change and emancipation of labour in Europe or elsewhere is certain to come up against a fierce reaction precisely by the Euro-Atlantic imperialist alliance, which also has the role of guardian of the global capitalist system.

The Russian leadership, which tries to avoid a generalized economic conflict with the West taking into account the economic interests of the Russian capitalists, and is also unable to undertake immediate military action in Ukraine given the potential military reaction of the NATO forces, is entrapped in a back-peddling policy as regards the Ukrainian question, at times heightening its conflict with the West and the Kiev regime, and then taking a step back in an attempt to reach a compromise. At the same time, the aggression practiced by the West is so strong that it does not provide the Russian government with any possibility to withdraw without suffering a huge impact on the country’s economy and military security.

Right now, the insurgency in eastern Ukraine has reached a critical point. The territory controlled by the insurgents is very small, with a destroyed infrastructure. If they limit themselves to it, then the “state” of Novorossia will be an extremely weak entity from an economic and political perspective, that will be totally dependent on Russia. This will also mean that the rest of Ukraine will remain under the control of the Kiev regime, and this will strengthen the power of the oligarchs to the utmost, along with the country’s submission to the USA/ΝΑΤΟ/ EU, to nationalist hysteria and to a severe suppression of any form of political opposition.

It is a fact that the agreed truce has a limited chance of survival, given the strong desire of the Kiev regime to fully suppress the uprising and to eliminate the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as federal entities of Novorossia. At this moment, the Ukrainian army is regrouping and mobilizing new recruits very probably in order to attempt a new attack.
It is likely that the most decisive battles have not yet been fought and the conflict will erupt once again during autumn.

What should be pointed out is that the outcome of the conflict in Ukraine will have a major impact on the country itself, on Russia and on the broader post-Soviet space, on Europe and the USA, but also on the rest of the world.
If the insurgents of Donbass suffer a crushing defeat and the oligarchic, neoliberal and nationalist regime of Kiev is fully imposed under the control of the USA/EU, then the consequences for the people of Ukraine will be catastrophic, since they will suffer due to neoliberal policies and state suppression. They will also be disastrous for Russia, since its international standing will be grievously weakened, while those members of its political and economic elite that desire the country’s submission to the West will gain decisive power.
The impact will also be grievous for the peoples of Europe however, and even more so for the peoples of southern and eastern Europe, who are currently experiencing the disastrous effects of their accession to the EU, further aggravated by the global economic crisis. In fact, for those peoples who have fought important social struggles and who view their future within the EU with skepticism, a victory of the USA and its allies in Ukraine will function as a harsh warning of the futility of any efforts to disengage from Euro-Atlantic institutions and the hegemony of the USA and Germany.

On the contrary, a victory of the insurgents in Eastern Ukraine in conjunction with a strengthening of their social/counter-oligarchic attitude will gravely affect the oligarchic-right wing-nationalist forces within the country and the interests and prestige of the USA/NATO/EU. Such a development could only have a positive effect on the social struggles taking place in Europe and the world, by sending a message of optimism stating that it is possible to question the imperialist domination of the USA/NATO/EU, and with it the power of big capital worldwide.

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