The Liaison Committee of the Fourth International welcomes the recognition of the Independence of the Lugansk and Donetsk republics, within their original frontiers, by the Russian government of Vladimir Putin, following the vote in the Duma last week calling for such recognition. It appears that the Russian government is determined to defend these republics against attacks by the fascist-infested American neo-colonial regime in Kiev. Our tendency has been calling for such recognition since 2015: they should have been so recognised concurrently with Crimea, as the previous temporizing by Putin has emboldened the far-right coalition in Kiev to attack and partially roll back these republics, reducing their territories and subjecting much of the Russian-speaking population in the broader region of East Ukraine to terrorization by the fascist-dominated Ukrainian neocolony.
This is part of our defence of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan against imperialism, and against the programme of ‘regime change’ that US imperialism is desperate to propagate against both Russia and China. The New Cold War, though it has major differences from the earlier conflict of imperialism against the USSR and the former Chinese workers state, also has important commonalities. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991 and the restoration of capitalism in China shortly afterwards, the United States expected a limitless future as the sole imperialist hegemon of a ‘unipolar’ capitalist world. But it has proved not so simple, as the capitalism restored in the great nations of both Russia and China has proven at odds with the imperialist system whose pressure destroyed the workers states. In a world dominated by imperialism, subject peoples are supposed to do as they are told, as indeed are subjected, defeated states that rule such peoples.
But Russia and China, in different ways, do not conform to the world that the imperialists want to dominate. Their still highly statified economies, marked and shaped by decades of economic planning, still give these states an unprecedented ability to act independently of the imperialists whose economic domination and pressure caused the collapse of the workers states. The contradictions of Chinese and Russian capitalism with imperialism are still residual achievements of each of the revolutions, despite their current bourgeois governments. A basic tenet of Trotsky’s program of Permanent Revolution was that genuine national independence could only be achieved by oppressed peoples overthrowing the bourgeoisie.
Despite the deformed character of those revolutions (degenerating post-1917, and 1949 from the start), both Russia and China benefited from this material fact of expropriating the bourgeoisie as a class. The proletarian dictatorships in these countries, with their various terrible deformations, solved pending bourgeois tasks, overcoming part of their semi-colonial characteristics, which did not happen in any large or populous semi-colony like India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Ethiopia or Egypt. None of these countries was able to carry out its pending bourgeois tasks or stop being semi-colonies. In turn, in Russia and China, countries concentrating an enormous mass of land, energy, technology and military power (Russia) and labour force (China), the restoration of capitalism did not and could not make a complete return to those backward and semi-colonial conditions of 1917 and 1949.
After a momentary low during the first period of the social counter-revolution in their status within the relationship between states, during the 1990s, the very contradictions of these countries’ economy with imperialism forced them to establish policies of resistance to imperialist parasitism that wanted to appropriate the larger share of the production of surplus value than the Chinese State and in Russia, the containment of the country’s military and energy capacity. Then Russia and China rebelled against assuming semi-colonial status. Paradoxically, the restored bourgeoisies of Russia and China are still benefiting from that and can thumb their noses at the United States, the world hegemon which is now in major decline. Despite the bourgeois nature of the regimes in both Russia and China, this contradiction in today’s capitalism has the potential to create revolutionary opportunities that can help the world proletariat to rearm itself for world socialism.
The defeat of US imperialism by Russia or China, or a combination of the two, would provide an opportunity for the working class to strike out independently for its own class interests. Just as in a slightly different way, the defeat of imperialism by a recalcitrant semi-colony would be a blow for the working class, the defeat of US imperialism by these rather stronger hybrid forms of capitalist regime would be an opportunity, not just to defeat imperialism, but potentially to roll back the counterrevolution that has robbed the proletariat of these countries of their own state power. The bourgeois regimes of these countries are in an insuperable contradiction, as part of the source of their ability to defend themselves against imperialism has its basis in the overthrown, but not transcended, social revolution. Therefore, Putin agonizes in a very visible way about the role of the Bolsheviks in creating the anomalous conditions in which his regime is forced to operate, whereas in China the hybrid state-capitalist regime dominated by a more numerous class of billionaires than in the USA (though nowhere near as wealthy) is forced to maintain the name of ‘Communist’ and pay lip service to ‘socialism’ as its objective.
The recognition of Lugansk and Donetsk has caused apoplexy among the imperialists whose antics over the last few weeks have been truly bizarre, repeatedly screaming that Putin was about to attack and occupy Ukraine, evacuating their nationals as if expecting carnage, ostantaneously moving their own diplomatic missions from Kiev, the capital, to Lvov on the far Western end of Ukraine, etc. They have been completely wrong-footed by Putin’s response and are getting more hysterical. In this hysterical yomp the German government, under pressure, has suspended the Nord Stream 2 pipeline agreement with Russia to supply Germany with natural gas. In this way, the economic sanctions, supposedly against Russia, will also fall on Germany, which will pay more for the energy that will be sold by the US. This is a capitulation to the US of a country that has been militarily occupied since 1945, a capitulation that give the appearance, at least, of a humiliating, vassal character of the German government, accentuated by the SPD’s very ‘Atlanticist’ social democracy. But this may not be sustainable, and when the dust settles seems unlikely to last.
Putin has not invaded and subjugated Ukraine and clearly has no interest in doing so, as he has not done in Georgia (2009), Kazakhstan (2022), or at the outside of Western fantasy, Syria (2016) despite this bizarre ‘invasion’ narrative that is even more threadbare than the lies used to justify the US/UK invasion of Iraq. If Russia does not allow the Donbass to be recolonized by the Kiev Nazis, it will be carrying out a progressive role as it did in Syria, preventing the country from being barbarized and recolonized as happened with Iraq and Libya. Biden, Johnson and co will be judged by history as not only liars, but stupid liars at that. The only objective of the current nationalist regime is to protect Russia, and to protect those that it regards as its own nationals, not to attempt to subjugate the (probably) rather brainwashed and nationalistic Ukrainian population, which would not be wise from the standpoint of the defence of Russia. And at this point the rational and effective defence of Russia coincides with the interest of the working class.