1. The Ukrainian Crisis
Naming matters. So let us start with correctly naming the current crisis: The question is not about Russia threatening Ukraine. Rather, the question is that Russia decided to put a stop to the threat of imperialism with a military barrier against NATO’s threat. This barrier happened to be established on the border with Ukraine under current circumstances. It could very well have been established in another locality under different conditions. The issue is not Ukraine: It is the NATO-Russia tension.
Beginning 30 years ago, right after the collapse and dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, Western imperialism gradually expanded NATO into Eastern Europe. First of all, when West Germany and East Germany united in 1990, East German territory also came under NATO’s jurisdiction. Then three former members of the Warsaw Pact, namely the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, joined NATO. At the head of Russia at this time was Boris Yeltsin, who was acting like an American lackey. In 2004, a new wave of enlargement came: the three Baltic states from among the former Soviet republics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), three other former Warsaw Pact members (Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria) and a former Yugoslav republic, i.e. Slovenia, joined NATO. In 2009, two more Balkan countries joined the Atlantic Pact: Albania and Croatia. Finally, Montenegro became a member in 2017.
Eventually, it came down to Ukraine becoming a NATO member. The history goes way back. In 2003, in Georgia, and in 2004-2005 in Ukraine, there were uprisings that went down in history as “color revolutions,” behind pro-Western leaderships aiming for EU and NATO membership. When Georgia went too far in its ambitions for NATO membership, it saw some of its territory become independent republics under the auspices of Russia during the Russia-Georgia war in 2008. On the other hand, Ukraine turned its face completely to the West in 2014, under a regime where fascist movements gained strength due to the Maidan events, in a process in which the European Union acted like a Trojan horse on behalf of NATO. Russia’s response to this was to recover Crimea, which had already been its territory until the 1950s and where Russians, Russian-speaking Ukrainians and Tatars lived together, through a referendum. Also, it openly supported the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics in the Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, where the industrial proletariat is powerful. These entities, located on the Don Basin – adjacent to the Russian border –were the product of the local population’s rebellion against the new power structure. The roots of today’s crisis, with Ukraine as its hotspot, lie in the Maidan events.
What distinguishes Ukraine from the other Eastern European countries that have so far adhered to NATO is that none of the others (with the exceptions of Latvia and Estonia) are border neighbors of Russia, but that is just part of the story. Ukraine, together with Belarus, occupies a peculiar position for Russia. These three nations share a kinship in every imaginable way. Their languages, cultures, religions and histories have been common for centuries. Moreover, Ukraine is anything but tiny, unlike the other two countries bordering Russia. Ukraine has a population of 45 million, while Latvia has a population of 2 million and Estonia a little over 1 million. Thus Ukraine’s population is roughly about a third of Russia’s 145 million people.
A NATO-member Ukraine would mean paving the way to deploying nuclear guns in this country, Russia’s immediate neighbor. This would amount to nothing less than holding a loaded gun to Russia’s bosom.
Hypocrisy of Imperialism
Imperialism, which has gradually dragged the former workers’ states into an anti-Russian position, has been saying that Ukraine should be free to choose the system it wants and to be a member of whichever international organization its heart desires, using the independence and national sovereignty of the country as an excuse from the very beginning. Let us take a look at the extent to which the US itself respects such “sublime” principles in international politics.
Let us forget about the rest of the world for a moment. For the Western hemisphere, the USA has adopted a strategic approach called the Monroe Doctrine for close to two centuries. This means that Latin America needs to be recognized as a US sphere of influence by the other great powers, or superpowers as they were later called. Some may argue that the USA no longer sends marines to every country where a regime or government is established that does not suit her, as it used to do, and that it does not stage coups. It is not the method that counts; it is the content. And that content is the US determination not to involve other great powers in its “backyard” and not to have regimes set up in the Western hemisphere against its own interests.
A concrete contemporary exampleeloquently demonstrates how the imperialists are hypocritical on this issue. Concerning the context of the crisis on the Ukrainian border, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has said: “One country does not have the right to dictate the policies of another or to tell that country with whom it may associate; one country does not have the right to exert a sphere of influence. That notion should be relegated to the dustbin of history.” So Russia is to blame. Full stop.
One would think that the USA has long given up on establishing spheres of influence, imposing policies on other countries, trying to determine with whom these countries might cooperate. As late as 2018, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the Monroe Doctrine was “as relevant today as it was the day it was written.” The following year, the chairman of the National Security Council, John Bolton, boasted that “the Monroe Doctrine [was] alive and well.”
We could almost see the cheerleaders of “Biden the democrat” raise their eyebrows, all-too-ready to blame the representatives of the Trump administration. However, the Biden administration has bolstered the Cuban embargo, let alone lift it. The USA says it is doing all this for democracy, but the whole world thinks otherwise. Last year, at the United Nations General Assembly, fully 184 countries, including USA’s own imperialist partners, voted to lift the embargo. Only two countries defended the embargo: the USA and Israel. Here is a helpful detail, though: Three countries abstained. The other two are not of interest to us in this article, but the third was Ukraine! (The General Assembly is the pinnacle of what Marxists generally see fit for bourgeois parliaments: it is a “talking shop” par excellence. It has no means of enforcing its resolutions.)
The Biden administration is also trying to tame Venezuela with hunger. Juan Guaidó, who was declared the president of the country without the slightest legal justification during the Trump era, is also supported by Biden. Venezuela’s financial resources are in the hands of this rogue make-believe president. That is why the people face starvation and health problems. The whole aim of the USA is to overthrow the workers’ state in Cuba and the Bolivarian regime in Venezuela, which takes a stand against imperialism. Did someone say “dustbin of history”?
NATO is an imperialist war machine
As expressed in the statement of the US Secretary of State quoted above, the issue is far from being a discussion on “with whom Ukraine will associate.” The issue is the war machine, initially established against the USSR and its allies but now repurposed to interfere with anything under the sun. As seen in the example of the Afghanistan war (2001-2021), aside from “imposing policy,” this war machine has adopted the principle of establishing US puppet regimes (euphemistically called “regime change” since the 1991 Gulf War) by force of arms, freely killing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. It is a very special kind of threat.
Russia has every right to take a stand against NATO’s holding a loaded gun to its bosom. The main issue is not the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine. It is the desire of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie to use its country as a weapon of imperialism in the desire to make itself a part of the imperialist system. Taking advantage of this, imperialism wants to force Russia into submission and crush it – when the day comes – by deploying a nuclear missile to the east of Ukraine that could fall on Moscow in a few minutes. Those who do not understand these stakes are simply clueless as to the current tension with the Ukrainian border as its hotspot.
For those who do want to understand the situation, let us recall the naked truth: Biden and Putin met online twice. Almost all of the past week has been spent discussing this issue at various diplomatic meetings. Each and every time, Russia had only one demand : It wanted assurance that NATO would not expand further and that no weapons would be deployed in former workers’ states. But at this stage, it has only one demand: to be assured that Ukraine will never be admitted to NATO.
Whoever supports the USA and the EU in the name of democracy, against the despotism of the Putin regime, in the name of Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty, in this dispute and in a possible war tomorrow, is making an effort for imperialism to hold a loaded gun to Russia’s bosom.
There is no room for a “but,” nor for ambivalence. The workers, laborers and oppressed of the whole world, the parties claiming to fight for them should say in unison: NATO, hands off Ukraine!
2. Reflections on the 60th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis
The period known as the Cold War, lasting more than 40 years and coming to a close with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, had two principal features. The first of these stemmed from the class character of the two “superpowers”, the USA and the USSR. These states were the vanguard forces of the two distinct socio-economic powers that represented the hegemony of two antagonistic classes historically in irreconcilable contradiction, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The tensions between them were not the kind seen in the past, such as conflicts between states about spheres of influence, colonies, etc. which can potentially be overcome. Instead, these states were an existential threat to each other. Hence, the Cold War could potentially turn into a world war in the blink of an eye.
Secondly, these were the two countries that had the largest nuclear weapons stocks in the world. A war sparked between them, which would inevitably pull their allies in NATO and the Warsaw Pact, could mean the doom of humanity and even the extinction of all life on earth.
Did the tensions between the two states remain merely as threats, or did they ever go to the brink of such a nuclear war? The common answer by all Cold War historians is that these two states came closest to a war during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
Dynamics of the Cuban missile crisis
What happy coincidence: this year is the 60th anniversary of the so-called Cuban missile crisis. This historic event will undoubtedly be discussed throughout the year in great detail, especially between 22-28 October, when the crisis was at its peak. The reason we are bringing this discussion up already in January is the fact that the Cuban missile crisis is almost identical to the Ukraine crisis, only turned inside out.
For those who do not know how the events unfolded, and especially for the younger generations let us plainly summarize the developments that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
As is well known, the revolutionary 26th of July Movement of Cuba seized power on the new-year’s eve of 1958-1959. Gradually in the following two years, the new revolutionary government of Cuba was getting into a deeper and deeper contradiction with US imperialism that maintained, before the revolution, an almost absolute economic and political dominance over the island. In the end imperialist US capital was expropriated, the US imposed heavy sanctions on Cuba (which continues to this day after 60 years) as a response, and the revolutionary Cuban government, despite having no such intentions initially, declared in the summer of 1961 that it is on the road to building socialism. Upon these events, the US would arm counter-revolutionaries and organize a landing to the island, in an effort to rewind the tape so to speak, but would then suffer a heavy defeat in what is known as the “Bay of Pigs invasion”.
The underlying dynamics of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 lies in this battle of David and Goliath between Cuba and the US.
From “Cuba” to “missile”
The second element of the Cuban missile crisis is the missile factor. In turn, this is a result of the new dimension brought to the Cold War by the declaration of building socialism in Cuba. In the summer of 1962, the then leader of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev, holds a secret meeting with Fidel Castro and his circle by sending envoys to Cuba and the two sides agree to install Soviet missiles with nuclear warheads on the island. For a few months the US fails to discover these despite reconnaissance flights of U-2 spy planes, but eventually learns of this in October. Thus the crisis begins.
On October 22nd, John Kennedy, US president at the time, announces his crisis measures. Three of these hold great significance: (1) A “quarantine” of Cuba, which is a blockade put lightly. (2) Stopping Soviet ships carrying weapons and equipment to Cuba in international waters. (3) Invasion of Cuba if the missiles are not withdrawn.
During the severe crisis lasting from October 22nd to 28th, both sides play their hand to back the other down. Finally, Khrushchev backs down, seeing the grave danger that the events are heading to.
He agrees to withdraw nuclear warhead missiles and so the Cuban missile crisis is resolved after 6 days on October 28th before a war breaks out.
Not to make longer an already long article, we will not go into the hideous role that befalls to our own country, Turkey, in this critical affair.
The Ukraine crisis inside out
The Cuban crisis is an excellent laboratory experiment to decipher the meaning of the Ukraine crisis and expose the hypocrisy of the US. Why did the US start a crisis in 1962 at the expense of risking a nuclear war? The reason, as Kennedy himself clearly stated, is that allowing nuclear weapons in a country 90 miles (roughly 150 kilometers) close to its borders would mean the acceptance to live under a dire threat. Kennedy clearly stated that the US would not allow this.
What is the issue today? The roles have been reversed. Despite the Soviet Union no longer existing (for the time being), Putin, as the president of its largest successor state, the Russian Federation, observes that the unceasing expansion of NATO for the last 30 years has brought it next to the bordering Ukraine, and says “nyet” to a possible NATO membership of Ukraine, which would potentially lead to installing nuclear weapons in the country. How is this any different from the stance the US took during the Cuban crisis, and why make all this fuss about it?
Is it perhaps not the goal of Putin that the Western allies are reacting to, but his means? Putin deployed troops on the Ukraine border. This is seen as a threat of war and denounced day in day out. But what did the Kennedy government do? First, it initiated a blockade of Cuba. Russia does not even do this, which it could easily do from the eastern and, with the help of its Belarusian ally, northern borders. Second, Kennedy stopped many Soviet military ships and turned some back. Such an intervention clearly carries the risk of escalating to a war independent of the will of both sides. And third, he officially stated that he would invade Cuba. Putin never resorted to any such threat. Yet Russia is criticized and condemned harshly despite all these.
It would be difficult to find a similar pair of events in the annals of history that demonstrates the boundless hypocrisy of imperialists.
3. A curse on those who dismantled the USSR!
We have recently published several articles on this website on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. One of these articles recounted the historical development of this event. The most compelling part of that development was that the same party that had founded the country in 1922 was also the party responsible for the dissolution of this titanic federal republic with 15 individual constituents: that is, Lenin’s own party that later adopted the name of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU)! The founder of the country had become its dismantler. Of course, a lot had changed since Lenin’s death. The bureaucracy that captured state power in the 1930s had saved the name “communist” but had made the party its own.
Michael Gorbachev was the General Secretary of this very party and thus the person with the single most power within the political structure of the Soviet Union, and therefore the single most responsible person for the dissolution of the USSR. In a speech made on the 30th anniversary of Perestroika, he accused the USA for “arrogance” and “self-confidence”, and the entire Western world but especially the USA for “triumphalism” since the dissolution.
In fact, Gorbachev had already condemned, in a 2016 speech he made on the 25th anniversary of the collapse, this “triumphalism” of the West. He even observed: “They were rubbing their hands, saying, ‘How nice! We had been trying to do something about the Soviet Union for decades, and it ate itself up!’”
Turns out Gorbachev has finally learned a thing or two!
The restorationists are responsible for the NATO aggression!
Gorbachev is guilty in front of history of the crime of opening the path for capitalist restoration as the number-one leader of the so-called “communist” party. His partners in crime consist of the secretaries of the parties of each of the constituent republics that had made up the USSR, and thereby the to-be president of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin. Gorbachev and his entire team are also guilty of dissolving the single most titanic damper – the USSR - to the world-wide warmongering tendencies stemming from the nature of imperialism, and therefore allowing these tendencies to revive.
He himself confesses this. In his 25th anniversary speech, he openly explains that the tension between Russia and the West goes back to the Cold War times, and that the West has targeted Russia in triumphalist frenzy. He further concretizes this in the 30th anniversary speech he delivered at the end of 2021: the USA has been keeping on expanding the NATO military alliance ever further. “Justice that arrives too late is not justice”, so the proverb goes. Parallel to that, let us say: you haven’t learned all that much if you have learned this late.
Putin too is a restorationist!
Putin and his crew at first sight seem to be more protective of Russia’s interests against imperialism and have been more consistently opposing the expansion of NATO, as opposed to the submissiveness of the Gorbachevs and the Yeltsins. In Turkey, there are forces – the so-called “Eurasianists” - who argue for an alliance with Putin and the CCP of Xi Jinping against imperialism.
What they do not factor in is this: restorationism has seriously weakened Russia. Putin is someone who has ganged up with his friends to capture the heights of the Russian state after serving the Soviet bureaucracy as an agent of the old state’s intelligence agency KGB (now dubbed FSB). There will be those who will argue that the representatives of the old bureaucracy are at least better than Yeltsin, the drunkard servant of the USA. We would like to remind them that capitalist restoration in the USSR has been materialized precisely by this very social layer, and that Putin and his gang have very much proven in their practice that they are on the restorationist wing, as opposed to a pro-USSR bureaucratic minority wing. Putin declared war on some of the oligarchs from Yeltsin’s time who enriched themselves by sacking up the public enterprises that belonged to the Soviet working class – only to create a layer of oligarchs loyal to himself. That is his real social basis. Outside of this basis, he has entrenched his power by masterfully setting up a chain of alliances reaching from the fascistoid nationalist Zhirinovski to the spokesman of some layers of the old bureaucracy, the CPRF (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) lead by Zyuganov.
“Well, nonetheless”, some might say, “he is struggling against imperialism”. Let us remind them again that restorationism has undermined Russia’s strength both socially and therefore ideologically. Today, the restorationists feel obliged to claim the mantra of the victory the USSR won over the Nazi armies of Hitler in the war between 1941 and 1945 as their own. They themselves are powerful only thanks to the technological opportunities the Soviet state had created: Russia possesses a military might ranging from space technologies to nuclear weaponry closer to that of the USA than any other state. It even possesses in its arsenal some armaments against which the USA is not equipped for defense – hypersonic missiles, for example – and a powerful cyber warfare infrastructure, all thanks to the investments the Soviet Union had made in natural sciences from its earliest days onwards.
Those who resisted Hitler can resist the USA, too. Or can they? Believing that wars are won only by military technology is sheer historical ignorance. Otherwise, how to explain the defeat the US army, the single greatest military power in history, suffered in the war against Vietnam from the late 1950s to 1975? Or that of France, despite all its highly developed military technology and nuclear power, in the Algerian Revolution and War (1954-1962)? Those who attribute the victory of the USSR over the Nazis to Russia’s climate simply repeat this historical fallacy: they are unable to understand that the Red Army, created under Lenin and Trotsky, was able to defeat the Nazis despite having lost its greatest generals to executions during the Moscow Trials only because the great part of the Soviet working class and considerable sections of the peasantry were fighting to defend a state that they saw as their own, that is, to secure their and their children’s living conditions.
But that means that capitalist restoration has eliminated the most important determinant of the defensive force of Russia and other former Soviet republics! A workers’ state has been replaced by a government of spies, oligarchs, and the mafia!
The final accounts are yet to be settled in Russia and the other republics!
The workers’ state or the public economy run by central planning is no more in today’s Russia or the other republics. Nonetheless, socialism’s traction has not faded, least of all in Russia. Communists in these countries are face-to-face with a very different human material and a very contradictory historical memory than those societies which existed under capitalism for the last few centuries. Communists will fight in a future war against imperialism with this consciousness. It is not the restorationist bureaucrat-cum-oligarchic gangs or their representatives who can really defend Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, or even Ukraine if its political climate should change tomorrow, but the working class and its social allies.
Should NATO go to war against Russia, we must fight for the defeat of US and NATO imperialism. However, we should never forget that history will call the communists to duty as Russia experiences difficulties in this war. Resistance against imperialism in Russia shall bring revolution back onto history’s agenda.