A war of oligarchies against the peoples and the working class

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Vladimir Putin is the heir to the methods of political banditry that Stalinism implanted

The war in Ukraine has worldwide effects and has devastating consequences for people and the working class in all countries. Biden's European Union and NATO stand side by side with Putin's Russia in their common willingness to use war to take away economic and social rights from their countries' working classes. In the same way, what unites today all the nuances and forces that are in some way favorable to war is the common position of justifying the right of the military powers to crush the sovereignty of peoples and in particular Ukraine.


NATO is a war machine at the service of the USA

NATO was founded over 70 years ago with the declared aim of standing up to the USSR. If we believe in this justification, the breakup of the USSR in December 1991 and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact made this alliance obsolete. In 1990, the US administration presided over at the time by Bush Sr. agreed with Mikhail Gorbachev, then leader of the USSR, that if he did not oppose the unification of Germany then neither NATO's jurisdiction nor troops would extend to territories located to the east of the Alliance at that time. time.

An agreement that was never fulfilled by all the US administrations, which quickly understood the usefulness of NATO, on the one hand to control European countries militarily, but also to continue to put pressure on Russia. After the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO grew from 16 to 30 member countries, especially in Eastern Europe. For the United States, it was mainly about weakening Russia so that it could plunder it on better terms. On the other hand, to cover all US military adventures, such as the bombings in Yugoslavia and Libya.

It was NATO that devastated Serbia in 1999 after intervening in Serbia in 1995. Then it attacked Afghanistan in 2001 and devastated the country killing more than 200 civilians. In principle, NATO's scope was limited to Western Europe and North America, as its name implies, “North Atlantic”. But European submission went further. According to the Maastricht Treaty in its article 17, which created the European Union (EU), this institution is in solidarity with NATO's military actions.

NATO functions as a war machine at the service of the US, acting to expand the continent's militarization and thus open new markets for its arms industry, which today accounts for more than 40% of the world's weapons production. And the current requirement of US governments to the European Union, including Obama, Trump and currently Biden, was to increase their military spending to 2% of their GDPs. This makes it possible to expand the action of the arms industry, today one of the strategic sectors of the US economy.

Joe Biden's bellicose language is directly related to the crisis in the United States, which includes the economic disaster caused by rising inflation, the growing trade deficit, a crisis that crosses all US institutions and is expressed in the continuity of anti-union measures and in the brutal oppression of minorities, especially blacks.

It should be remembered that Joe Biden was elected president after one of the biggest electoral mobilizations in the history of the United States, to close the way for Donald Trump, relying, for that, on the black minority and on promises to expand health insurance that were reorganized or reduced at the service of the oligarchs of the large arms industry groups. In this situation, Biden seeks a way out in the name of “homeland unity” against the new foreign enemy. It also influences the US need to sell its natural gas production to Europe where its biggest competitor is Russian gas.

The US government tightens its grip on Europe through the war in Ukraine with its eyes on China. In fact, it needs to have European governments aligned in this trade war with the Asian giant. Necessary war to try to reduce its trade deficit, but hampered by the interests of almost all US multinationals, which relocated their production to foreign countries. The offensive was extended in the strategic agreement with Australia and the United Kingdom against China with the support of the state of Israel. Behind the conflict in Europe, ultimately, are the contradictions of the capitalist world market that become explicit.


Vladimr Putin and his oligarchs attack the Russian working class

We cannot close our eyes to the facts. It was the Russian army that invaded Ukraine, bombed cities and caused millions of people to flee their homes, especially the elderly, women and children. Vladimir Putin's statements that he intends to defend the Russian-speaking population and “denazify” Ukraine are also pretexts used to justify the same economic policy of attacks on economic and social rights against the Russian population.

Russian people do not support Putin's policy. Thousands of peace activists, trade unionists and workers are being arrested. This is not a pacifist movement. Declarations by collectives, workers, journalists, students and teachers, scientists, against the war are multiplying, despite the repression that has already taken more than 15.000 Russians to prison. This link unites the working classes of Russia and Ukraine against the war and its aftermath.

In Ukraine, with the exception of the city of Kiev, it is mainly Russian-speaking populations such as Kharkov, Mariupol or Odessa that are being relentlessly bombed. And the Russian-speaking population does not welcome Vladimir Putin's soldiers as their liberators. Like the rest of Ukraine's population, they face them with guns in hand. Putin's and the Russian state's propaganda should not be given the slightest consideration, any more than NATO, European Union and US news agencies' propaganda.


Vladimir Putin and Stalinism

Vladimir Putin has stated on numerous occasions that he intends to do away with Ukraine, supposedly an integral part of Russia for centuries. But Ukraine was not created artificially, but was liberated as a nation by the October 1917 workers' revolution, which had the courage to expropriate the capitalists and free the peoples oppressed by the Russian Empire. What Putin intends to do is resurrect the old conservative Russian nationalism, hence his hostility to the revolution that liberated Ukraine. It is no wonder that his government supports right-wing parties and governments and an ultra-conservative customs agenda within Russia. The Bolshevik party of Lenin and Trotsky defended the right of peoples to self-determination.

Ukraine suffered brutally under Stalin's heel, who in the 1930s pursued a ruthless policy of land confiscation and collectivization through political violence and bureaucratic banditry, but fraudulently in the name of socialism. The socialist democracy of the soviets has completely disappeared. The region plunged into a gigantic famine that caused millions of deaths. The result of this attack against the Ukrainian people – and completely contrary to the impulses of freedom and equality of the October 1917 revolution – tarnished the banners of socialism in the region for decades. Putin does not want to restore the Soviet Union, he rejects the legacy of the October 1917 revolution that defended the self-determination of peoples. Vladimir Putin is the heir to the methods of political banditry that Stalinism implanted – he was a KGB agent and political heir to Boris Yeltsin – the one who led to the final destruction of the Soviet Union.

Vladimir Putin and his circle of mafia oligarchs live off corruption and stealing money from the Russian people, selling gas and oil. The war appeared to him as an opportunity in the face of the crisis of domination by US imperialism, which had accelerated since its withdrawal from Afghanistan. The interests of the oligarchies that control the Russian economy can explain their attempt to occupy a new space and reposition their interests. The nationalist discourse, not only by Putin, but by all the leaders of the former Soviet republics, cannot cover up the policy of systematic destruction of the economic and social achievements achieved by social ownership and economic planning that existed in these regions. Privatizations and the looting of public assets created – in close collaboration with the big banks and capitalist corporations in Europe and the USA – uncontrollable economies and mafias.


Peace with the UN, NATO and the European Union?

NATO, the European Union and the United States lie when they say they intend to defend Ukraine. It is about defending its own economic and military interests. The government that runs Ukraine, which used to crush its working population with attacks on their social rights, is now asking for more weapons, only reinforcing the war. Even the economic sanctions supposedly aimed at the core of Russia's government, hit mainly its impoverished populations as happened in Iran, Cuba and other affected countries. The victims of sanctions and wars are always the popular and working masses.

The UN also does not represent the defense of peace as naively or not many want to believe. It was the UN that, with the support of Mikhail Gorbachev, unleashed the terrible and bloody war in Iraq in 1991. The same UN enacted a 10-year embargo that caused the death of more than 500 Iraqi children. Then, through MINUSTAH – a military mission commanded by Brazilian generals, many of whom are now in the Bolsonaro government – ​​it occupied Haiti since 2004 after a military coup articulated by the US, leaving today a chaotic country.

The war was not an accident, it was prepared by heightened competition and military escalation. Recently the 30 heads of government of NATO recognized that since 2014 they had been arming and training the army of Ukraine. The United States, the European Union, NATO have permanently supported the Ukrainian oligarchy responsible for the plundering and decomposition of the country. It is they who together condemned the Ukrainian people to poverty and emigration. While Putin was agitating his reactionary Great Russian nationalism against the Ukrainian people, they were supporting Ukraine's pro-capitalist governments, governments that legitimized the period of Nazi occupation during World War II (1939-1945).


Defend social rights, against the war of the oligarchs

Concretely opposing war is a path that clashes with the set of policies that the US, Russia and other European vassal governments are seeking as a way to overcome, always provisionally, a deeper crisis that is capitalism itself. There is an offensive attacking all the conquests wrested by the working class, economic conquests, but also democratic conquests that advance under the pretext of war. In the first line are the pension and social security systems that guarantee the survival of male and female workers after retirement; but public health, education, etc. services are also under threat.

All European governments are rushing to increase their military spending. Spain will more than double its spending, from 9,4 to more than 20 billion euros for defense. Germany intends to spend more than 100 billion euros to rearm its defense forces. All this will require new sacrifices from the population. As Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of the Social Democratic party cynically declared during the Versailles European Summit: “I would very much like to invest taxpayers' money in schools and pensions, but we have to spend it on defence”.

Governments, which took advantage of the pandemic to redouble their attacks on rights and conquests, are now calling for unity against war to submit the organizations built by the working class to the plans of big capital, which include new attacks and cuts to rights. Neither the Russian nor the Ukrainian people wanted war. They know that this would be used to justify new attacks on wages, pensions, democratic freedoms. Attacks that would add to those already suffering with the excuse of the supposed fight against the pandemic. The cuts in public health services continued alongside the huge profits of the pharmaceutical industries.

It will not be Putin's or NATO's troops or the supposed pacifism of the UN that will guarantee Ukraine's sovereignty. The end of the bombings and the war, the withdrawal of Putin's troops and the end of the NATO-US-European Union military escalation mobilize thousands of people, mainly in the countries most directly involved, but their impacts spread across the entire planet. Only the Ukrainian people can win their freedom and for that they need the solidarity of the working classes all over the world.

*Everaldo de Oliveira Andrade is a professor at the Department of History at FFLCH-USP. Author, among other books, of Bolivia: democracy and revolution. The Commune of La Paz, 1971 (Avenue).

Originally published in the magazine Theory and debate, No 219.


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