By Jeff Mackler April 11, 2022
Editor: The statement below was approved by the April 9, 2022 meeting of Socialist Action’s National Committee.
Serious political analysis on the left always begins with the facts. Substituting abstract theory not based on facts is always a dead end for the socialist movement, which today is terribly divided over how to evaluate and act on the unfolding and complex events attendant to the Ukraine War and the Russian invasion.
Let us begin with some hard facts that have often been tragically absent from the assessments of large sectors of the left and antiwar movements in the U.S. and worldwide.
2014: Maidan Square and fascist snipers
The Ukraine tragedy began in February 2014 when rooftop fascist snipers opened fire on Maidan Square Kiev protestors assembled to resist the Victor Yanukovych government’s austerity measures. The fascists murdered almost 100 in cold blood, including some of their own for good measure. Yanukovych, the elected president, was instantly blamed and pilloried by the world’s corporate media, paving the political road for what followed. He fled for his life.
These facts were attested to by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland in taped remarks. No one has denied them. Nuland revealed that the rooftop assassins were of the fascist Svoboda (“Freedom”) Party and Right Sector ilk and not Yanukovych’s police or military. The armed thugs had come from across Ukraine and beyond to dominate the Maidan events. U.S. Senator John McCain shared the stage with fascist orator and Svoboda Party leader, Oleg Tyahnybok, while Nuland handed out U.S. friendship cookies. McCain roused the crowd with promises of “democracy, freedom and independence,” contingent, of course, on Ukraine’s reversing the Yanukovych government’s already-approved bailout agreements with Russia. The U.S.-backed coup accomplished just that.
The facts were further affirmed by on-the-scene revolutionary socialists of the Fourth International, who were driven from the fascist-dominated Maiden Square by force and violence – beaten, their literature destroyed.
The fascist Svoboda Party leader, Andriy Parubiy led the storming of the Ukrainian parliament, the Rada, barring the two largest parties—both had been in the governing majority—from entrance. The fascists declared themselves the new government. A March 5, 2014 account from the British outlet Channel 4 News told the story well: “The man facing down Putin’s aggression as secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council is Andriy Parubiy. He oversees national security for the nation, having previously served as [self-appointed] ‘security commandant’ during the anti-government protests in Kiev.”
Channel 4 identified Parubiy as a member of the Svoboda Party and a founder of its pro-Nazi predecessor, the Social National Party, which traces its roots to the Ukrainian Nazi movements of WWII. The Channel 4 account continued: “Overseeing the armed forces alongside Parubiy as the Deputy Secretary of National Security is Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the Right Sector—a group of hardline nationalist streetfighters, who previously boasted they were ready for armed struggle to free Ukraine.”
Other Svoboda neo-Nazi leaders instantly “elected” to the top echelons of the coup government were Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych, Ecology Minister Andriy Mokhnyk, Agriculture Minister Ihor Shvaika, and acting Prosecutor General Oleh Makhnitsky. In 2016, the fascist Parubiy became Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament.
The fascists in power instantly banned the Russian language from schools and public institutions. They ordered the Ukrainian Army, replete with its now formally integrated fascist Azov, Aidar, Dnipro and Tornado battalions, to march on the Donbass in the east to take control of this largely Russian-speaking population. Now with “government” approval, they attacked anti-coup demonstrators across the country. In Odessa, they murderer 48 coup protestors outright, setting a trade union building where they had sought refuge on fire and slaughtering survivors who were compelled to leap off the flaming edifice.
All leftwing parties were banned. The bailout agreements negotiated by the Yanukovych government with Russia, on terms far less onerous than those offered by the European Union, were revoked, and instead, an economically punishing “Association Agreement” with the European Union, that largely subordinated Ukraine to the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund, was approved. This coup accomplished new bailout agreement was akin to the European Union bailout ripoffs previously imposed on Ireland and Greece.
U.S. appoints Ukraine president
The question then was immediately posed: Who would take Yanukovych’s place? Nuland and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, made that decision. Again, in her own taped remarks, Nuland named Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a hard right member of Fatherland, the ultra-nationalist, anti-Russian formation. “Yats is the guy,” Nuland said, and Pyatt agreed. The Europeans, especially the Germans, wanted a more moderate figure to head Ukraine. They favored Vitaly Klitschko, a boxer turned politician with more moderate views than Yatsenyuk. During the hacked call, Nuland blurted out, “F**k the EU,” and, of course, the U.S. pick, Yatsenyuk, became the Prime Minister of Ukraine, forming a governing coalition with the fascist Svoboda Party. Yatsenyuk had run for president of Ukraine in the 2010 election won by Yanukovych, receiving only 6.7% of the vote and finishing 5th. The coup’s finance minister was a U.S. investment banker and high-ranking diplomat, Natalie Jeresko, who was granted Ukrainian citizenship the day after the coup. Joe Biden’s son took a position on the board of Ukraine’s largest natural gas company earning a monthly salary of $50,000.
The U.S.-backed rump government declared itself the leader of the nation. Nuland remarked in her intercepted phone call, that Vice President Joseph Biden, in charge of the Ukraine events at that time, would give the ultimate “atta boy” to the coup leaders. The U.S. had previously laid the ground for the coup, pouring $5 billion into Ukraine over the years to support hundreds of NGOs aimed at moving Ukraine into its orbit, one way or another. To our knowledge, none of the facts above has been refuted. (See Socialist Action’s 2014 50-page booklet “Ukraine in Turmoil” by Jeff Mackler and Michael Schreiber.)
U.S. military base established in Ukraine
In 2015, one year after the coup, the coup makers established the so-called International Peacekeeping and Security Center, a U.S.-run western Ukraine military base, near the Polish border, that had been, according to the March 14, 2022 New York Times, “a hub for Western military troops to train Ukrainian forces since 2015.” The Timesadded, “Troops from the United States, Britain, Canada, Poland, Sweden and Denmark, among others, have trained 35,000 Ukrainians there under a project called ‘Operation Unifier.’” This is the “operation” that aimed to forcibly “unite” western Ukraine, with the Russian-speaking eastern and southern populations that rejected the fascist coup. U.S.-paid troops included mercenaries from Academi, formerly known as Blackwater, the privatized forces of Erik Prince that slaughtered civilians in Iraq during that “weapons of mass destruction” regime change war that killed 1.5 million Iraqis. Need we note that, with the exception of Sweden, all the above nations are NATO affiliates, training, arming and financing non-NATO Ukraine to wage war on behalf of NATO’s U.S. puppet master?
Ukrainian Army desertions
The official Ukrainian armies in the east and south also rejected the 2014 coup, as they did orders from the coup government to turn their guns on the Russian-speaking populations. Indeed, with near-zero exceptions, the Ukrainian soldiers deserted the Ukrainian Army and joined the Russian Army without a shot being fired. The same with the overwhelmingly Russian-speaking population in Crimea. They voted 97 percent to integrate into Russia in a referendum result contested by virtually no one. The turnout was 87 percent.
The March 14, 2022 New York Times article concludes, “But Western nations withdrew their forces ahead of Russia’s [February 2022] invasion of Ukraine. Since then, the base has been used by Ukraine to train and organize the thousands of foreigners [from 28 nations] who have arrived in the country and volunteered to help defend it.” This single paragraph comes close to defying rational explanation, unless, of course, it is The Times’ explanation of the instant transformation of a secret U.S./NATO military base operating on Ukrainian territory into a solely Ukrainian-run base aimed at training the Ukrainian version of jihadist terrorists. No doubt these instantly discovered “foreign fighters” suddenly flocking to defend “Ukraine’s freedom” are akin to those jihadists murderers armed, trained, financed and deployed by the U.S./NATO/Gulf State monarchies to take down the Syrian government in that ten-year failed U.S. regime change war. 500,000 Syrians died in that U.S.-orchestrated horror. By all accounts, today’s Ukrainian “freedom fighters” were drawn from the ranks of Europe’s growing fascist and far-right fanatics. Ukraine has become their central focus.
From 2015 to just before the Russian invasion, that is, for seven years, the U.S. and NATO forces have been arming, training, and financing—inside Ukraine—the coup government’s war against the Russian-speaking population. That war has killed some 14,000 people in the Donbass and wounded 50,000, mostly civilians. That the victims are pilloried for defending their lives and for seeking Russian aid, constitutes yet another travesty of fundamental human and democratic rights, not to mention the right of an oppressed people to self-determination, that is, to be free from annihilation at the hands of the U.S.-installed fascist coup government.
In addition to the refugee tragedy of some three-plus million Ukrainians fleeing the war to the west, mostly to Poland, almost 800,000 Russian-speaking Ukrainians have fled to the east, that is, to Russia. Socialist Action stands in full solidarity with the terrified war refugees fleeing to the east and west. Yet we aim our main fire against the U.S. government and its U.S.-dominated NATO imperialist alliance, centrally responsible for the still-unfolding Ukraine catastrophe. We also categorically reject the coup government’s segregating out refugees of African and Middle East origin, who have been shunted to the end of the line in the face of NATO allies’ racist, white-supremacist policies refusing to accept immigrants “who don’t look like us.” The far-right governments of NATO members Poland and Hungary, whose virulent anti-immigrant venom helped power them to office, have become today’s instant converts to the U.S.-orchestrated “humanitarian” agenda!
Russian public opinion polls
An April 2, 2022 front-page article by Anton Troianovski, Moscow Bureau Chief for The New York Times, apparently missed the eye of U.S. government censors. Entitled, “Shaken at First, Many Russians Now Rally Behind Putin’s Invasion,” Troianovski, previously a Moscow Bureau Chief of The Washington Post, whospent nine years with theWall Street Journal in Berlin and New York, wrote, “The public’s endorsement of the war lacks the patriotic groundswell that greeted the annexation of Crimea in 2014. But polls released this week by Russia’s most respected independent pollster, Levada, showed Mr. Putin’s approval rating hitting 83 percent, up from 69 percent in January. Eighty-one percent said they supported the war, describing the need to protect Russian speakers as its primary justification.” That some three-quarters of a million Russian-speaking Ukrainians, mostly from the beleaguered Donbass region, have fled the fascist-led attacks, undoubtedly weighed heavily on the poll results. That Levadais described as “Russia’s most respected independent pollster,” is even more revealing. For the past eight years, prior to the Russian invasion, a state of perpetual war has prevailed in the Donbass region, with the U.S. government backing the reconstituted and U.S./NATO-reinforced Ukrainian Army’s unrelenting attacks—spearheaded by fascist troops that have been formally incorporated into the Ukrainian army and national guard.
The Minsk Protocols
The early post-coup years were punctuated by a series of negotiations referred to as the Minsk Protocols. Signed on Sept. 5, 2014 and Feb. 12, 2015, after negotiations between the Ukrainian coup government, Russia, Germany and France, they were purportedly aimed at stopping the bloodshed via a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front lines, release of prisoners of war, and a Ukrainian constitutional reform granting self-government to specified areas of Donbass. In practice, none of these Minsk Protocols were implemented, as the Ukrainian Army’s ceaseless incursions into the Donbass region aimed at subjugation and conquest as opposed to pursuit of a negotiated settlement. Some 100 “ceasefire” agreements were repeatedly violated, while the fascist-led Ukrainian military wreaked untold horror and devastation on the population. The U.S. puppet Ukrainian government refused to implement the Minsk-mandated elections in Luhansk and Donetsk. Endorsed by a UN Security Council resolution including both the U.S. and Russia, the gist of the Minsk accords was to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine via a federalization process that would return the breakaway republics in exchange for their local autonomy. The latter implied that the resources of a federated Donbass, especially its vast fossil fuel reserves, and access to pipelines, would be under the control of local and regional governments, a proposition that the U.S. outright rejected. U.S. imperialism has since shifted the Ukrainian goalposts, in essence, moving to obliterate controlling Ukrainian capitalist fossil fuel interests in the east in favor of the U.S. corporate energy monopolies – yet another U.S. imperialist oil war if there ever was one.
Welcome to the embrace of the imperialist war machine
Today, admission to the good graces of the U.S. imperialist establishment requires hailing the “democratic” U.S.-led NATO imperial war pact. We decline the invitation. We decline to condemn the Donbass people for asking for Russian aid and receiving it. We decline to condemn the Ukrainian and and Russian-speaking populations’ opposition to the U.S.-engineered fascist coup and its U.S./NATO perpetuation. We decline to condone NATO’s expansion into Ukraine and its establishing nuclear weapons along Russia’s 1500-mile border. That 27 million Russians died in fighting Hitler’s fascist WWII invasion has not been obliterated from Russian popular consciousness.
And we decline to join the near-deafening bipartisan war cries, echoed daily by virtually every U.S. corporation, every military contractor, every fossil fuel behemoth, every major media outlet and every politician to pursue war in Ukraine without hesitation. If there is any U.S. debate over the war among the corporate parties it is over whether to risk nuclear war via the U.S. implementing a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine, a doomsday scenario if there ever was one.
For an independent, socialist Ukraine
Socialist Action harbors no illusions in the class nature and politics of Putin’s Russia. We have long ago characterized Russia as a capitalist-imperialist state headed by a predatory capitalist class of Stalinist origin. Putin‘s statements citing Czarist Russia’s Great White Russian Empire’s imperialist claim to Ukraine and Putin’s repudiation of the historic championing by the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky of an independent socialist Ukraine must be condemned by all serious antiwar and socialist fighters. We have no truck with Russia’s capitalist elite and their 83 billionaires, as we have none with the 800+ U.S. billionaires and China’s 1000! We note with revulsion that today’s neo-fascist and far-right U.S. allies in Poland and Hungary were yesterday’s Putin admirers. We note with contempt Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s recently-proclaimed affinity for Zionist Israel’s model of a militarized state aimed at the subjugation of oppressed people.
Vladimir Putin’s government is no friend of working people. The recent Russian Army intervention in Kazakhstan to crush a nationwide working class rebellion informs us once again that placing political confidence in any capitalist government or leader is inimical to fundamental socialist principles.
The fight for an independent, socialist Ukraine resides only with the workers of Ukraine and Russia and never with their capitalist oppressors, whether in Ukraine, Russia or NATO. The construction today of revolutionary socialist parties in Russia, Ukraine and worldwide, however difficult, aimed at breaking the capitalist-imperialist stranglehold on every aspect of public life is the starting point for a socialist future free from every form of exploitation, oppression and denial of human dignity.
The right to self-determination of Ukraine’s oppressed Russian-speaking minorities
The U.S. imperialist government, with 1,100 military bases around the world in 110 countries is by far the world’s greatest purveyor of force and violence In contrast China maintains a single military base outside its borders—in Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, while Russia maintains some seven military bases, mostly in the former Soviet Republics and one in Syria, at the invitation of the Syrian government. U.S. imperialism spends more on its military—at least $1 trillion annually, including the CIA budget—than most of the world combined. That Russia and China are capitalist/imperialist states does not negate our responsibility to assess their actions in the context of unfolding events. Were we to blind ourselves to the reality of the events that transpired in Ukraine since the 2014 U.S.-instigated fascist coup and place an equals sign between U.S. and Russian imperialism, we would be gravely mistaken. We would be substituting the proposition that whoever fired the first shot is to be categorically condemned, rather than assessing what caused that shot to be fired. That U.S. imperialism planned and orchestrated a fascist-led coup aimed in part at obliterating the minority Russian-speaking people, 30 percent of the population, and that the same U.S. government seeks to orchestrate Ukraine’s affiliation to NATO, replete with nuclear weapons on Russia’s doorstep, cannot be removed from any serious assessment of today’s unfolding Ukrainian war. Nor can we be indifferent or neutral with regard to Ukraine’s oppressed Russian-speaking population’s right to exist, that is, their right to self-determination. They have legitimately sought Russian aid against the onslaught of a U.S.-imposed fascist government. We do not object to Russia’s providing it even if Putin’s motives for extending Russian it are dubious to say the least.
Without the slightest equivocation, we support this right of all poor and oppressed nations and peoples to be free from imperialist war and conquest. This principle fully applies to all beleaguered nations, including Syria, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Afghanistan, even if we disagree with the nature and policies of their governments.
In Syria, the Bashar al Assad government fell victim to a U.S./NATO/Gulf State monarchy 10-year war that slaughtered 500,000 Syrians. With the U.S.-backed jihadist armies occupying three-quarters of Syria, poised to take Damascus and with the U.S. government’s Secretary of State at that moment, John Kerry, preparing to install yet another coup government beholden to the U.S., the Syrians, exercising their right to self-determination, asked for Russian aid. The result was the defeat of that U.S. regime change horror.
History of U.S. oil wars
The same behemoth U.S. oil monopolies on whose behalf the U.S. government wages war today against Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Libya Bolivia, and beyond, were critical players in the monstrous wars that killed millions and raped the planet in years and decades past. Four-plus million were slaughtered in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; 400,000 in Guatemala by U.S.-trained death squads; 50,000 slaughtered by Batista’s U.S.-backed dictatorship in Cuba; 60,000 murdered by Somoza’s Nicaragua dictatorship; 60,000 by Pinochet’s Chilean death squads and tens of thousands more in Argentina, Panama, Haiti, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Grenada and Brazil – all by U.S.-backed or installed dictatorships! The modern era list of U.S. atrocities never ends; 1.5 million were murdered in Iraq; two million more in the U.S.-orchestrated 1980-88 Iraq/Iran War aimed at obliterating both nation’s competitive oil resources; tens of thousands in the U.S.-backed El Sisi Egyptian coup; one million in Afghanistan and today millions perishing in the U.S.-backed Saudi Arabian genocide in Yemen.
Unprecedented fossil fuel plunder in Ukraine
Today the U.S. warmakers have scaled unprecedented heights in a scheme to monopolize the world’s largest fossil fuel markets – Western Europe and beyond – by eliminating cheap Russian gas scheduled to be sent directly through the undersea Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The U.S. scheme, forced upon reluctant German and French officials, contemplates closing existing Russian oil and gas pipelines and Nord Stream 2 and substituting high-cost U.S.-fracked liquid natural gas. The coup government’s U.S.-backed military conquest of eastern and southern Ukraine was seen as a prerequisite to completing this barely disguised and latest U.S. fossil fuel war—a first magnitude confrontation at a time when the continued, if not expanded, use of this deadly resource spells doom for all humankind.
• We reject the imperial propagandists’ disgusting characterization of a U.S.-backed fascist coup as a popular rebellion.
• We reject the corporate media-created fantasy of a U.S. imperialism driven by benevolent intentions.