The following is a slightly edited version of remarks made by an IBT spokesperson at a 21 May public meeting in Toronto sponsored by the International Marxist Tendency on the situation in Ukraine.
The current upheaval in Ukraine takes place in a country which is virtually bankrupt and which faces the imminent prospect of further sharp reductions in living standards. It is hardly surprising in these circumstances that longstanding historic divisions among the population – between the Russophile East and the European-oriented West of the country – have been exacerbated.
The possibility of prying Kiev away from Moscow has long been seen by U.S. imperialism (and its junior partners in Britain, Canada, etc.) as critical to weakening Russia, which – along with the Chinese deformed workers’ state – is seen as a major obstacle to global American hegemony. When the corrupt and unpopular government of Viktor Yanukovych opted to accept a bail-out from Russia on less onerous terms than the IMF’s “structural adjustment” austerity, the NATO countries, led by the U.S., responded by seeking “regime change” roughly along the lines of the 2004 “Orange Revolution.”
The Maidan mobilizations succeeded in deposing Yanukovych in late February and installing Washington’s preferred candidate, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, because of the participation of thousands of fascist paramilitaries from Svoboda and Right Sector who, as the “National Guard,” have recently been carrying out brutal pogroms in Russian-speaking regions in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.
Marxists supported the right of Crimea to leave Ukraine and join Russia. This has ensured that NATO will not gain control of Russia’s strategic naval base at Sebastopol. Our attitude on Crimea is the same as our support for Chechnya’s right to secede from Russia, or for the Kosovo Albanians to leave Serbia. We recognize the right of the people of Eastern Ukraine to oppose the domination of the oligarchic rulers in Kiev and defend themselves against the Nazi gun thugs of the “National Guard.” Most of the so-called “secessionists” apparently prefer to remain in some sort of federated Ukraine. That too is their right.
The Western media have engaged in a grotesque propaganda campaign, projecting Russia as intent on seizing Ukraine. But thus far, at least, Russia has only acted defensively to blunt a continuing campaign led by the U.S. to hem it in. Unlike the IMT, and many other ostensibly Trotskyist groups, the International Bolshevik Tendency does not consider Russia to be an imperialist power but rather a country roughly comparable to Brazil, which has major influence in its region but which is not a center of global finance capital.
The homophobic, Russian chauvinist Putin regime is, of course, no better than its pro-imperialist rivals in Kiev. The only way forward for the peoples of Ukraine and the rest of the former Soviet bloc is through the recreation of a Marxist movement committed to the overthrow of capitalism and a return to the road of Lenin, Trotsky and the revolutionary internationalism of the early Communist International.