Ukraine was an oligarchic post-Soviet capitalist state, like all of the former USSR, until 2014. The process of liberalization was increasingly antagonizing the workers as the alienation and oppression of capitalist relations intensified. This intensification was spurred by imperialism, that is, international finance capital. The U.S. is, as we all know, the leader of the Western imperialist hegemony, so in that way we can say that 2014 onwards was principally the U.S.’ fault. The Maidan movement, which effectively overthrew the post-Soviet establishment in Ukraine, is widely understood to have succeeded principally with the support of the United States and its satellite “allies” in Europe.
The Maidan movement sparked the beginning of a conflict that still has not ended. Between 2014 and the Russian invasion, some 14,000-plus civilians in Donetsk and Luhansk were murdered by the Ukrainian military. This does not include the thousands more who were displaced, arrested, and killed throughout the other parts of the country. These crimes were conducted under the oversight of the new U.S.-backed government, primarily through neo-Nazi organizations such as the Azov Battalion and Right Sector.
Historically, such organizations are preferred over directly utilizing the organs of the governments they serve, because they provide some nominal deniability. This “playbook” has been used everywhere the United States has interests to protect and is the primary method for enforcing imperialist interests without deploying conventional military force; it has been used throughout Central and South America, Africa, Asia and in some cases even Europe. As the Kyiv Post reported in 2014, “pro-Ukraine” forces chanted the Nazi slogans Слава Україні! “Glory to Ukraine!” and Героям слава! “Glory to the heroes!” as flames consumed the Odessa Trade Union house on May 2, 2014. On that day alone, some 48 people were killed; 10 by “autodefenestration,” leaping from the multi-story building as it burned. Ukrainian outlet Telegraf confirmed that one of those killed in the violence was a member of Right Sector.
This “internationalist” adventure fomented the further rebirthing and development of the national bourgeoisie, or “little nationalists.” These are two different camps with overlapping but sometimes conflicting interests. The expropriation of Ukrainian wealth and resources, for example, is antagonistic to the nationalists; it is the stated priority of the imperialists. This is a phenomenon that was identified by Karl Marx, expounded on at length by Vladimir Lenin and further theorized on by Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, alongside others. The imperialists support the nationalists insofar as it is in their own interests, while the nationalists attempt to steer that towards their interests. In Ukraine’s case, the nationalists either did not understand or refused to accept that they had been trapped. Further reports of atrocities carried out in Ukraine leading up to the present crisis included pogroms against local Roma communities, the “disappearing” of Communists and ethnic Russians, arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial killings. The Communist Party itself was banned in Ukraine, and the Kononovich brothers, leaders in the Leninist Communist Youth Union, were recently accused of being spies and arrested. Their fate remains unknown.
In this way, we can see the importance of the current moment. As some cities in Ukraine are falling with little or no opposition, others are beginning to kill civilians who try to flee. There is no “united” opposition to the Russian advance because there is no “united” cause around which to organize. It is now squarely and unquestionably within the interests of the nationalists to come to the negotiation table and end the war—purely for their own self-preservation. The war, for them, is already lost.
It is, however, in the imperialists’ interest to double down and ensure that this conflict is as drawn out and bloody as possible. The CIA has openly said it wishes to foment an “Afghanistan-esque insurgency,” i.e. another forever war.
That brings us to the Nazis. Nazism is an ultra-nationalist ideology, but it is internationalist in character. Not in a good way. Nazism is the armed expression of imperialism and the associated aspirations thereof. Within Ukraine now, the Nazis represent a dual purpose: galvanizing the local nationalists to continue fighting, against their own interests, and serving as the conduit for imperialist interests. We’ve now seen Belarusians, Canadians, Americans, Poles, etc., etc. flock to Ukraine to join the Azov Battalion and Right Sector. Why? On the one hand, they wish to learn skills to return to their respective nations, and on the other, they wish to pursue their international priorities. A Nazified “independent” Ukraine is a Ukraine that can serve as a base area for further expeditions internationally. We know this because we have already seen it happen since 2014 with the fascist movements involving themselves in affairs in Belarus, Hong Kong and elsewhere. So it is within their interests to defend their base area.
The headquarters of international Nazism is, ironically, in Belgium. Its bank accounts and munitions factories are in America and Germany. We’re referring here to NATO and the United States, who sparked the current conflict and are now the lead force exacerbating it.
Tying these two notions together, the core of imperialist finance capital is the United States, with Europe serving a lesser but still important role (Germany and France are in a position to break away the EU, but will they?), primarily as satellites. They’re “secured areas.”
The armed wing enforcing those (imperialist) interests is NATO, which draws on the manpower of all signatories, but primarily uses them for their geostrategic locations: they’re the “forward positions.”
The secured areas of imperialism are primarily the U.S., Canada and Western Europe, while Japan, occupied southern Korea, a collection of satellites in Latin America and Africa and the Eastern European client-states are the forward positions. Those positions are only maintained by aligning the nationalists with the international imperialists.
In Ukraine now, we’re seeing a split in these interests, and so the imperialists are being forced to show their hand and their underlying fascist ideology is coming to the fore. The antagonisms are sharpening. Why should we care?
We should care because, at this point, Ukraine is no longer a national conflict between Russian and Ukrainian bourgeois interests. It arguably never was, but now it definitely is not, and the more it escalates, the higher the likelihood is of it spilling out elsewhere. Imperialist actions have already become more acute against Yemen, Armenia, Syria, the people of Swaziland, and so on. The nationalists in all of the unsecured areas and imperialized nations are also reassessing their positions—India is a prime example. Iran recently struck back at a US position in Iraq, China is becoming firmer in its language regarding reunification and Korea has continued its missile testing program, etc., etc. What we’re seeing take shape in Ukraine are international brigades representing the fascist interests in multiple different countries—some secured, some not. This desperation grants keen insight into the battle lines being drawn for a broader conflict if one spills out. There is nothing about this situation that is in the interests of the working people in any of the secured areas, save the possibility (or even likelihood) of liberation. Because, and we need to be very clear on this, we already know how that would end.
Russian actions should not go without criticism and the Russian side of the conflict is equally deserving of analysis and critique. It is very clear, however, given the imperialist and fascist character of the current conflict that piling all blame for the situation on Russia is unacceptable and tantamount to apologia for overt neo-Nazism and the crimes accompanying it.
The anti-imperialist, anti-war position of those of us living in the imperial core is urgent, as at any moment the conflict threatens to spill over, bringing the horrors of war to our own shores. Our position must be sober, clear and unwavering:
NO TO WAR
NO TO NATO
NO TO IMPERIALIST AGGRESSION