1. As the NATO provoked proxy war in Ukraine is entering its eighth month of massive destruction, a new, most threatening escalation of the military conflagration with Russia is under the way.
On September 6, 2022, a Ukrainian counter-offensive started in the Kharkov region having successfully led to a major retreat of the Russian forces and occupying cities of strategic importance such as Izyum on the Donets river. The Russian leadership’s response was to declare on September 21 a “partial mobilization” of 300.000 new military troops, and to call a referendum on September 23-27 in the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as well as in Kherson and Zaporizhzhya for their integration in the Russian Federation. The results of the referendum, as was expected, were overwhelmingly in favor of joining the Russian Federation, and this was solemnly celebrated in Moscow on September 30, and ratified by the lower and upper chambers of the Russian Parliament on October 3rd and 4th.
The war front in Donbass was formally transformed into a frontier between Ukraine and Russia, and any further attack on the lands joining Russia could be considered as casus belli, a cause of open and direct confrontation between NATO and Russia. Kiev immediately presented an application to join NATO by a fast track procedure: NATO and the US replied vaguely that the application “should be taken up at a different time”. The EU responded with a new anti-Russian sanctions package.
The escalation, including threats- not bluffs- from both sides to use supposedly “tactical” nuclear weapons, brings the real threat of a nuclear catastrophe closer than ever before.
In the meantime, while the celebrations in Moscow for the integration of the four regions in the Russian Federation were going on, NATO’s well-prepared, heavily armed, trained and supervised Ukrainian counter-offensive is continuing, recapturing the strategic rail hub of Krasnyi (Red) Lyman, crucially situated between Kharkov, Donetsk and Lugansk. Further advances by Ukrainian forces are claimed on the front of the Kherson region, targeting Kherson itself as main strategic city, at the gates of the Black Sea.
The celebrations in Kiev, Washington and all Western capitals, as well those for the opposite reasons in Moscow, are out of place. Announcements by Western mainstream mass media for an approaching defeat of Russia “are premature and exaggerated”, to use the ironical comment by Mark Twain after press announcements of his death. They are acts of propaganda war, integral to the escalating military conflagration. But no illusion is permitted: there is a most dangerous turning point in
the war in Ukraine accelerating now the slide towards the abyss. This is no time for
celebrations as the threatening specter of nuclear annihilation hovers over humankind and life on Earth.
2. The escalation of the war had to be expected. Earlier, in a previous turning point, following the failure of the initial Russian offensive to capture Kiev by a blitzkrieg and the re-orientation of the Russian forces to Donbass as the main front of military conflict, most mass media and State officials in the West prognosticated the opening of a “protracted period of stalemate” and “a long war of attrition”.
Our point of view, expressed in statements issued by the International Socialist Center “Christian Rakovsky”, including in the Declaration of its Emergency Anti-War Anti-imperialist Conference on June 25-26, 2022, published in RedMed.org was quite the opposite. We had warned in the final Declaration of the Conference: “Prolongation of the war does not mean simply a long war of attrition or a protracted stalemate. It means, above all, an increasingly brutal process of escalation, of further international expansion of the war, leading finally to a thermonuclear catastrophe of life on Earth”.
Our assessment was and continues to be based on the international character, the international driving forces, the international dynamics of the NATO war drive to fragment and colonize the former Soviet space, and first of all Russia, and then, China.
As the Declaration of the June 2022 International Conference of the ‘Christian Rakovsky” Center rightly emphasized, “The war in Ukraine marks a dramatic inflection point of history, driven by the escalating global crisis of decaying imperialist capitalism, and is changing the political and social configuration of the world. It has brought humanity to the brink of the abyss, opening the gates to a Third World War and a nuclear Armageddon. The first and urgent task of the international working class and of the oppressed is to stop the imperialist war drive to global annihilation, turning it into a revolutionary struggle for universal emancipation, world Socialism”.
We still support this assessment and the general line, dramatically confirmed again by the recent developments on the war-front.
The claim by the US and NATO imperialists that it is “Putin’s Russia” to be blamed for the current escalation is an act of hypocrisy. It is equally ludicrous as the previous claim calling the military conflagration started on February 24, 2022 as “Putin’s unprovoked war”, a propaganda trick totally covering up the non-stop provocations of NATO itself: its constant eastward expansion to the Russian borders after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Maidan 2014 coup followed by 8 years of “hybrid war” against the people of Donbass, and last but not least the US-NATO protagonist role in the current war in Ukraine with publicly declared war aim “Russia’s strategic defeat”…
The current phase of escalation started with the Ukrainian counter-offensive in the Kharkov region, which was prepared in detail, heavily armed by the most advanced weapons with well trained personnel by US-NATO advisers, guided in
every step directly with US-NATO high military technology means. It was the US satellites that pointed out military vulnerabilities in the north eastern front in Kharkov region including the strategic city of Izyum, where only a few thousands Russian para-military forces without heavy weaponry were left.
The timing of the counter-offensive and escalation was clearly determined to avoid the late autumn rains making the battlefields muddy and above all the coming heavy winter preventing because of snow and bad weather conditions major operations in the military operation theater.
Nobody from either side could underestimate the role played by “General Winter” not only in the historical past, in the wars with Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany, but above all today with the exacerbation of the global capitalist crisis, particularly the energy crisis hitting Europe and its industrial engine Germany.
The sabotage to the Nord-Stream pipelines 1 and 2 connecting Russia with Germany, took place in the context of the escalation- and Russia had no need or interest to shoot itself in the foot.
The powerful factor of the growing energy crisis reveals all the fracturing lines in the Atlantic Alliance, between US and the EU as well as within the EU itself. It is obvious that the largest part of the economic costs of the war in Ukraine is falling as a crushing burden on a capitalist Europe already trapped in the nightmare of a world depression, recession combined with high inflation. Niall Ferguson, the well-known reactionary historian, author of the infamous book The West and the Rest, and active strategist of imperialism argues that “the prospect of an energy crisis in Europe- which could conceivably reach Weimar-like proportions in terms of economic turmoil and popular discontent- and potential political wild cards on both sides of the Atlantic will test the cohesiveness of the Western bloc and the continuation of support for Ukraine” (See Blumberg.org and Geopolitical Monitor, September 20, 2022).
The centrifugal forces and tendencies to fragmentation are intensifying within the EU. Germany’s planned 200 billion-euro energy support package to shield its own national economy raised strong protests from nearly all the other EU member states. Not solely Hungary’s Orbán but also France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, two EU Commissioners, Paolo Gentiloni, economics commissioner and Thierry Breton, internal market commissioner, sharply criticized the German national project. Even a notorious defender of EU interests, Mario Draghi, former President of the European Central Bank, former Prime Minister of Italy and EU architect, together with the American Janet Yellen, of the sanctions against Russia, warned that “faced with the common threats of our times, we cannot divide ourselves according to the space in our national budgets” (Financial Times, October 3, 2022). The war at the heart of Europe threatens the survival of the already fragile EU. It has put on the agenda both rising nationalist antagonisms as well as social explosions and the upsurge of the masses.
In the last instance, the global capitalist crisis, not the military generals, bourgeois politicians or nationalists of any color, is the real protagonist of the evolving events, driving the oppressed masses of Europe and of the world to the arena of struggle, where their historical destiny is decided.
3. The serious military setbacks of Russian troops were not accidental. They cannot be explained by the usual bureaucratic way of the “blame game”, avoiding any central State responsibility, finding scapegoats in one or another individual, and remaining willfully blind to the deeper political and social causes. The response so far by the Russian State leadership to the on-going Western imperialist war offensive creates widespread confusion and cannot defeat that offensive.
The former People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk had emerged in 2014 as a part of the upsurge of the Russian speaking working class and popular masses of Donbass against the dictatorial measures of the US-installed puppet government in Kiev, and they were demanding autonomy. The popular resistance faced not only the brutality of the Ukrainian fascists but also a bureaucratic straitjacket imposed by Moscow in search of an impossible compromise with Western imperialism-as the ill-fated Minsk I and II agreements demonstrated. The Donbass population suffered and resisted during 8 years of brutal “hybrid” war against the People’s Republics, without even the official recognition of these Republics by Moscow until February 2022. The reason was again the search of an impossible compromise with the US and European imperialists.
The same reason is now behind the late integration of the former People’s Republics as well as of territories of Kherson and Zaporizhzhya. This step is more than a policy to pacify growing worries at home, the failures in “partial mobilization”, to face the criticisms and win the support from the Great Russian chauvinist camp. Kremlin’s real aim is again to have more negotiating cards at hand in search of an impossible compromise with a more and more aggressive US-NATO imperialism demanding full capitulation and regime change.
A clear indication of the self-defeating search for compromise by Moscow is the revolting decision to exchange 55 Russians prisoners of war plus a Ukrainian pro-Kremlin oligarch with 215 Ukrainian fascists and foreign mercenaries, including the Azov Nazis of Mariupol. The exchange was negotiated by the intermediary of Turkey’s Erdogan and the brutal Saudi butcher Muhammad bin Salman. Who could believe that the so-called “de-Nazification of Ukraine” as the principal aim of the Russian “special military operation” could be advanced by freeing notorious war criminal Nazis, especially at the moment of serious military setbacks of the same “special military operation”?
4 Behind the military strategic and political blunders, there are social historical causes. Despite the official rhetoric about the tragic catastrophe of the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the disastrous capitalist restoration process initiated by this collapse remains the strategical line faithfully followed and protected by the post-Soviet Russian State. Capitalist restoration spreads social inequality and corruption, dissolves social cohesion, clashes with insoluble economic contradictions expressed more than a decade now, before the war, by a Long Stagnation, much more destructive than the 2022 packages of anti-Russian Western sanctions. The bureaucratic overgrowth of the State, and Bonapartism rising above society, trying to
secure control by mediating among competing oligarchic interest groups, between the elites and the people, as well as between Russian and world economy and politics, undermine the bases of the self-proclaimed “strong centralized State” itself, destabilizing and making it vulnerable to imperialism pressure and offensive.
Contrary to historical truth, in his solemn speech for the integration to Russia of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin equated Yeltsin and Company with... Lenin and the Bolsheviks, the 1991 disaster of dissolution of Soviet Union with the October 1917 Socialist Revolution that founded the Soviet Union a hundred years ago, in 2022:
“In 1991 in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, representatives of the party elite made the decision to terminate the Soviet Union, without asking ordinary citizens what they wanted, and people suddenly found themselves cut off from their homeland. This tore apart and dismembered our national community and triggered a national catastrophe. Just like the government quietly demarcated the borders of Soviet republics, acting behind the scenes after the 1917 revolution [our emphasis], the last leaders of the Soviet Union, contrary to the direct expression of the will of the majority of people in the referendum of 1991, destroyed our great country, and simply made the people in the former republics face this as an accomplished fact.”
Then, the Russian President strangely absolved the gravediggers of the USSR from any consciousness of what they were doing, to deny immediately after any need for a revival of the Soviet Union:
I can admit that they didn’t even know what they were doing and what consequences their actions would have in the end. But it doesn’t matter now. There is no Soviet Union any more, we cannot return to the past. Actually, Russia no longer needs it today; this is not our ambition...”[our emphasis]
The “unconscious” gravediggers of the USSR are absolved; anyway, the Soviet Union is not needed today!!
But precisely today, to avoid destruction, fragmentation, and colonization by imperialism, Russia needs not Great Russian chauvinist fantasies- a recipe for disaster- but a genuine Soviet Renaissance, Soviet power and internationalism in action, a new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of free peoples, without Bonapartes, oligarchs, capitalists, and bureaucrats, extending from Lisbon to Vladivostok!
Vladimir Lenin’s revolutionary legacy is vital today, not Ivan Ilyin’s fascist delusions for a restoration in Russia of a Francisco Franco type of regime.. A renewed internationalist Bolshevik-Leninism, enriched by all emancipatory experiences of our epoch, organized in a revolutionary International, dedicated to world revolution, is the most powerful weapon to defeat imperialism, for the international victory of genuine Soviets.
5. Already in 1929, Lev D. Trotsky had warned that a destruction of the Soviet Union and capitalist restoration could not be a mechanical return to pre-1917 Russian capitalism but a process of brutal colonization and fragmentation by Western imperialism. The changed world environment, the international and national conditions at the end of the 20th and the first decades of the 21st century are even worse than those faced by the former Soviet Union in 1929.
Capitalism developed in Czarist Russia, after the Crimean War, in the transition to the imperialist stage of world capitalism, when English, French and German capital massively investing in Russia led to industrialization and the emergence of a powerful proletariat, which became the leader of the socialist Revolution that overthrew Czarism, defeated 14 imperialist invading armies and gave a historic blow to world capitalism in imperialist decline, inaugurating the world revolution towards world Socialism and a communist society.
In contrast, the 1991 collapse of the USSR with the destructive role of the bureaucratic Party/State nomeklatura opened the gates to globalized finance capital that looted the public wealth with their comprador collaborators, the emerging oligarchs, exporting most of this stolen wealth abroad, to “offshore tax havens” and speculation in globalized markets. The result was first the insolvency of Russia in 1998 under the impact of the world financial Crash of 1997. Then, after a period of relative stabilization based on the re-nationalization of strategic sectors such as energy and the initial rise of the oil price in early 2000s, the world Crash of 2008 and the Long Depression plunged the Russian economy into stagnation. It is becoming clear that while in the late 19th-20th century foreign industrial and banking capital had advanced industrialization in pre-revolutionary Russia, in post-Soviet Russia, finance capital globalization has brought deindustrialization in most sectors, apart mainly from the energy and high-tech military and space sectors.
The world historical conditions have changed today, in this advanced period of imperialist decline of world capitalism expressed with the still insoluble, spiraling global crisis started with the finance capital globalization implosion of 2008. This is the deeper and most determining cause for a double impasse: first, the historic impasse of world imperialist capitalism giving impulse to its world-war drive, above all to fragment and colonize Russia and China, the two countries where the world socialist revolution won its greatest victories in the 20th century; second, the deadlock of capitalist restoration in post-Soviet Russia.
The double impasse could lead to a worldwide catastrophe without an international revolutionary mobilization of the masses themselves, reviving, advancing and superseding the past revolutionary experiences of our transitional epoch: the Great October 1917 Socialist Revolution, the revolutionary people’s war in China, the Cuban Revolution, the anti-colonial revolutions the “red decade” from May 1968 to the victory in Vietnam, and the Portuguese and Iranian Revolutions.
In the current rapidly escalating confrontation of US-led world imperialism against Russia and China, the threatening catastrophe cannot be faced and decisively defeated only by mere military means or temporary diplomatic agreements,
although both can be necessary. Clausewitz’s famous dictum “war is the continuation of politics by other means” remains fully valid.
Victory against imperialism needs consistent, unyielding revolutionary politics on a vast, international scale to mobilize and unify the masses in Russia, in Ukraine, in Europe and America, in the Global South and Global North against the common imperialist class enemy, not to divide and neutralize them according to ethno-nationalist lines. To mobilize and organize the popular masses led by the working class as the protagonist and creator of History, not as pawns in the game of the Rulers, not as inert objects but as the subject for universal human emancipation.
This historic transformation urgently needed to victoriously wage war against the imperialist war needs revolutionary leadership, not bureaucrats with nationalist myopia, protecting their own petty interests and personal power. “The art of revolutionary leadership is primarily the art of correct political orientation” (Trotsky). This is what precisely is lacking in this period of generalized disorientation.
Today’s colossal but urgent task for an internationalist re-orientation of the combative vanguard and the masses is primarily the duty of revolutionary internationalist communists building the International at the level of the challenges of our historical epoch.
October 5, 2022