irreconcilable options

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By MICHAEL LÖWY*

The Russian Invasion of Ukraine Resurrected NATO

NATO is an imperialist organization, hegemonized by the United States, responsible for countless wars of aggression. The dissolution of this politico-military monster, engendered by the Cold War, is an elementary democratic demand. Its weakening in recent years led Emmanuel Macron, the neoliberal president of France, to find in 2019 that the Alliance was “in a state of brain death”. Unfortunately, the criminal Russian invasion of Ukraine has resurrected NATO!

Several neutral countries (Sweden, Finland, etc.) are considering joining NATO; American troops are being stationed in Europe in large numbers; Germany, which two years ago had refused to increase its military budget, despite brutal pressure from Donald Trump, decided to invest 100 billion euros in rearmament. etc. Vladimir Putin saved NATO from its slow decline, if not demise.

Why this invasion of Ukraine? While Vladimir Putin was intent on protecting the Russo-speaking minorities of the Donesk region, there was a certain rationality to his policy. Ditto for his opposition to NATO expansion in Eastern Europe. But the brutal invasion of Ukraine, with its train of bombing cities, with thousands of civilian casualties, including the elderly, women and children, has no justification.

With what arguments does Putin seek to legitimize this criminal war against the Ukrainian people? Ukraine's "denazification" argument is groundless. The Ukrainian people elected as president a Jew, Volodymyr Zelensky, who is proud of his grandfather, who fought in the ranks of the Red Army against Nazism. Sure, there are neo-Nazi parties and groups in Ukraine, but in the last elections they had only 3% of the vote. There are similar groups in Russia. How can Vladimir Putin declare himself an anti-fascist, he who politically and financially supports various neo-fascist parties in Europe, such as the National Front of the Le Pen family in France, or the legga by Matteo Salvini in Italy? The newspaper of the French Communist Party, Humanity, published a dossier on this on March 22, 2022 with the title The Far Right and Putin...

The other «legitimation» of the invasion is found in Vladimir Putin's speech on February 22, 2022. According to the Russian head of state, Ukraine «was entirely created by Bolshevik and communist Russia», given that «Lenin and his companions wrested the Ukraine from Russia»! Ukraine deserves to be called «Lenin's Ukraine», since he was «the author and architect» of this country. It was Lenin who invented «the right of nations to self-determination until secession, which constitutes the foundation of the Soviet State», an absurd concession to the nationalists of the various republics that were formed after the Revolution of 1917.

Recognizing these republics the right to secede from the Russian state was, according to Vladimir Putin, “a madness, something completely incomprehensible”, a veritable destruction of “historical Russia” (that is, Tsarist Russia). Addressing Ukraine's rulers, Putin argues: you talk about "decommunizing" Ukraine (that is, breaking with its communist past), but you are halfway there. “We are going to show you true decommunization”, concludes Putin, referring to his project to re-integrate – by force of course – Ukraine back into the Russian state.

This then is the Putinist “justification” of the invasion of Ukraine: anti-Communist, anti-Leninist arguments, and the ambition to restore the “historical Russia” before Bolshevism – that is, Tsarist Russia – by annexing Ukraine. Not by chance, the vast majority of Communist Parties in the world – including those most nostalgic for Soviet socialism, such as the Greek and Chilean ones – condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Many criticisms can be made of present-day Ukraine: lack of democracy, oppression of the Russian-speaking minority, “Westernism”, etc., etc. But one cannot deny the right of the Ukrainian people to defend themselves against the Russian invasion of their territory, in a brutal and criminal disregard of the right of nations to self-determination.

Or communism or Putinism, or Vladimir Illitsch or Vladimir Putin, or the right of self-determination of nations or the right of empires to invade and seek to annex other countries: it is up to each one to choose what he prefers, but they are irreconcilable options.

Let us hope that someday the peoples of Europe and Russia will free themselves from their parasitic capitalist oligarchies. This was the proposal of the revolutionaries of October 1917.

*Michael Lowy is director of research in sociology at Center nationale de la recherche scientifique (CNRS). Author, among other books, of The theory of revolution in young Marx (Boitempo).

 

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