by Roger Annis
Originally published on Truth-out.org, May 13, 2014
(Reprinted with permission by the author. This article does NOT reflect the official position of The Socialist Party USA or the Editorial Board of The Socialist.)
A political crisis over the future of Ukraine has exploded in the past two months. It’s being driven by the longstanding efforts of the big imperialist countries to assert economic and military domination over the republics of the former Soviet Union and to weaken and marginalize rival Russia.
Ukraine is the latest target in the imperialists’ sights. But they are running into profound resistance from the Ukrainian people, particularly in the east of the country. For reasons of Ukraine’s history, economic makeup, languages and culture, the people in the east have moved far beyond the comparatively tame program of the earlier “Maidan” protests in Kiev and western Ukraine. They are flatly rejecting the austerity policies on offer from Europe’s leading capitalist countries. They reject the drastic disruptions to their lives that would result if Ukraine becomes a vassal state of Europe’s capitalist economy, as the country’s ruling class wishes. A working class and popular revolution is deepening in eastern Ukraine, sparking the biggest political and military showdown in Europe since Yugoslavia during the 1990s.
A similar intervention is aimed at China, but it proceeds cautiously in view of the huge investments of western capital there and the role of China’s capitalist economy as a “workshop of the world.”
For all intents and purposes, the Kiev regime is surrendering the sovereignty of Ukraine. It has signed agreements for financial assistance from the IMF and other international financial institutions that demand cuts to public services and the salaries of public employees and that raise the prices of essential goods. Politically, the regime is increasingly captive to the far-right and fascist forces that rose to ascendance during the Maidan protest movement that ultimately overthrew an unpopular but elected government.
The stakes in this fight were described by Professor Aleksandr Buzgalin of Moscow University in an interview on The Real News Network on May 4 when he said that following the massacre of more than 40 protesters by fascists in the city of Odessa on May 2, “This is the beginning of civil war in Ukraine.”
Pro-autonomy referendum votes in several regions on May 11 have strengthened the popular revolution’s political hand. But the obstacles it faces are enormous. With time, class struggle in the east can inspire Ukrainians in other parts of the country to join a fight for an anti-austerity and pro-people political path, and a spillover effect will also grow in Russia. This article examines the situation facing the people of the Ukraine and the stakes for the rest of the world.