Russia, Ukraine and the West: Will there be war?

As Ukraine slides deeper into chaos, the sound of war drums gets ever louder. On Saturday President Vladimir Putin secured his parliament's authority to send the Russian army, not just into Crimea but also into Ukraine itself.

This threat was issued only days after “unidentified” armed men seized control of the Crimea peninsula. These were later unsurprisingly identified as troops from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, based in Crimea. The new pro-Russian president of Crimea equally unsurprisingly immediately called on Moscow to intervene. At the same time, pro-Moscow demonstrators hoisted flags above government buildings in two eastern cities.

Western leaders shook their heads and said that Russia must not intervene. Moscow held up its hands, indignantly protesting that it would not do so. But the facts seem to indicate otherwise. For the whole of last week Russian troops were staging what were described as “routine manoeuvres” on the borders of Ukraine.

Putin secured without difficulty the unanimous approval of the Russian senate for the use of armed force on the territory of his neighbour, citing the need to protect Russian citizens. He asked that Russian forces be used "until the normalisation of the political situation in the country": a very reasonable sounding request, a velvet glove that barely conceals the iron fist within, for he gave exactly the same reason for invading Georgia in 2008.

This threat to what was supposed to be an independent country of 46 million people on the edges of central Europe creates the biggest direct confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War. There has been a flurry of diplomatic activity in different capitals aimed at “calming the situation”. The government in Kiev protested. The EU protested. Obama protested.

Britain summoned the Russian ambassador to voice its “concern”. Soon after the UK’s Foreign Minister William Hague flew to Kiev, presumably to express his sympathy to the provisional government there. EU ministers were due to hold emergency talks. Czech President Milos Zeman recalled the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Washington has warned that Russia’s actions would have “consequences”. But nobody is saying what these would be. In reply Putin calmly asserted his right to deploy troops in Ukraine “to defend the interests of Russian people”. Western politicians have hundreds of arguments, but Putin has hundreds of thousands of troops, tanks and guns. And whereas the forces of NATO are rather far away, his own forces are conveniently massing right on the Ukrainian border, and some are already on the ground in Crimea as Russia has a permanent naval base there.

The tension between the two sides increases by the hour. In a televised address, Ukraine's acting President Olexander Turchynov urged people to remain calm. (Everyone is urging exactly the same thing). He asked Ukrainians to bridge divisions in the country and said they must not fall for provocations. But in the same breath said he had put the army on full alert, which is hardly a very calming message.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was standing next to Mr Turchynov, said he was "convinced" Russia would not intervene militarily "as this would be the beginning of war and the end of all relations."

Fear and misery in Ukraine

The situation in Ukraine is dramatic. The euphoria of the first few days after the fall of Yanukovych has dissipated and is being replaced with an anxious and tense mood. It is no accident that the first act of the Parliament during the first session after reopening was a vote to abolish Russian as second official language. According to various reports, the fascist gangs were "guarding" the Rada when it passed this vote. These fascist militias are now being integrated in the police and armed forces and their leaders are gaining important positions in Defence, Internal Security, Public Prosecution and other key ministries. Is it any wonder that workers and Russian-speakers should feel anxious? If they are fearful, it is because they have something to fear.

When Putin speaks of a threat to the Russian-speaking people of Ukraine, he is not lying. The role of the fascists in the Euromaidan movement has been systematically underplayed and ignored by the western media. As always, they present any movement that is opposed to a government that does not suit them as democratic “freedom fighters”, on the age-old principle: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Let us remember that Washington described both the Taliban and Osama bin Laden as “freedom fighters” – as long as they were killing Russians, not Americans.

The overthrow of Yanukovych gave a green light to the fascists to launch a pogrom against the Communist Party (assaults on its headquarters, arson attacks against their leaders' residencies, closing down of publications, etc.). These audacious tactics of the fascists powerfully suggest that they feel a strong support from outside. This probably refers to the US (or part of the US administration and the Republican Party) rather than Germany. It is now official that the US invested some 5 billion dollars in the last 20 years in supporting the opposition in Ukraine, and links between the Banderaite fascists and the US go right back to the years of the Reagan administration.

Inevitably, anti-Semitism has lifted its ugly head in Ukraine. A synagogue was attacked in Zaporizhia, to the south east of Kiev. As a result a chief rabbi has advised Jews not to leave their homes, and an Israeli official is inviting Ukrainian Jews to immigrate to Israel. This is not to say that a fully-fledged fascist regime supported by the US is now in control, but this relatively independent role and strength of the fascists are an important element in the situation and one that renders a compromise more difficult to reach and maintain.

Right-wing, ultra-nationalist and fascist gangs have been on the rampage. Left-wingers have been assaulted. Rostislav Vasil'ko the first secretary of the city committee of the Communist Party of Lviv was savagely beaten. His lungs are injured and his skull is broken. He is in a critical state in hospital. There have been many such cases.

Such things have understandably created a mood of fear and anger in the industrial centres of eastern Ukraine. The main activity of the Communist Party (KPU) has been to mobilise to defend the Lenin monuments that have been destroyed in many places in western Ukraine. In the East mass meetings are held every day with thousands of people participating.

There is a vacuum on the left that has to be filled. The logical candidate would be the Communist Party (KPU). Unfortunately, after 2004 instead of maintaining an independent class position, the KPU subordinated itself to that section of the oligarchy represented by Yanukovych and the Party of the Regions. They argued that Yanukovych was the “lesser evil” as against his rival Yushenko. This was a serious mistake. Probably it was a reaction to its previous experience of the struggle against Kuchma together with Yushenko.

Nevertheless, there have been reports that the KPU is growing (for example in Lugansk). I do not have the exact figures, but it seems that all branches of the KPU in the South and East have experienced growth. This is not surprising. Feeling the growing threat from the fascist and ultra-nationalists, the masses naturally gravitate to those mass organizations that are familiar to them and seem to stand for their interests as a class, as well as their identity as Russians. In spite of all the wrong policies of the KPU leaders, it is necessary to express our firm solidarity and support for Ukrainians communists against this fascist aggression.

The situation in Crimea

Ukraine-west-v-eastCrimea is a centre of pro-Russian sentiment. The region – a peninsula on Ukraine's Black Sea coast – has 2.3 million inhabitants, the majority of whom identify themselves as ethnic Russians and speak Russian. The region voted heavily for Viktor Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election, and many people there believe he is the victim of a coup – leading to attempts by separatists in Crimea's parliament to push for a vote on whether it should leave Ukraine.

In fact, Russia has been the dominant power in Crimea for most of the past 200 years, since it annexed the region in 1783. However, it was transferred by Moscow to Ukraine – then part of the Soviet Union – in 1954. Ethnic Russians see that as a historical wrong that must now be put right. However, the Muslim Crimean Tatars represent a significant minority. Once the majority of the population, they were deported en masse by Stalin in 1944 for alleged collaboration with Nazi invaders in World War Two.

The ethnic composition is complex: Ukrainians made up 24% of the population in Crimea according to the 2001 census, compared with 58% Russians and 12% Tatars. Tatars have been returning since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 – causing persistent tensions with Russians over land rights. The most worrying element in the equation is the fighting that has broken out between Russian and Tatar activists in the streets.

The situation in Crimea has deteriorated rapidly since the overthrow of Yanukovych. Following the occupation of the Crimean parliament in Simferopol by Russian paramilitaries, deputies voted to change the local government and announced a referendum on Independence on 25 May. The result of this is a foregone conclusion. The majority of Crimea is composed of ethnic Russians who are now clamouring for Ukraine to return to Russia.

Crimea is now completely outside the control of the Kiev government. All airports have been blocked by Russian marines and access to Crimea is now impossible, as the UN envoy discovered when he tried to go there. Formally Crimea remains legally part of Ukraine – a status that Russia backed when pledging to uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine in a memorandum signed in 1994, also signed by the US, UK and France. The Kiev government has appealed to the last-named guarantors for help. But what is formally legal is one thing, and what happens in practice quite another. In the words of Solon of Athens: “the law is like a spider’s web: the small are caught and the great tear it up.”

The cynicism of the USA and EU

obama-putinThe actions and words of the leaders of the USA reek of hypocrisy. While demanding that Russia refrain from intervening in the internal matters of Ukraine, they have been intervening for a long time, striving by all means to drag that country out of the orbit of Moscow and into the fold of NATO and the EU. Their cynical actions have played a key role in destabilizing Ukraine and bringing about the present catastrophe.

The Americans accuse Russia of violating the national sovereignty of Ukraine. Did they themselves not violate the national sovereignty of Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia? They accuse Russia of plotting the break-up of Ukraine. Did they themselves not plan and carry out the break-up of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia? Did they not actively encourage the break-up of the Soviet Union, which has been the cause of so many wars, deaths and suffering ever since?

While pretending to stand for freedom and democracy, the American imperialists did not hesitate to lean on fascist and Nazi elements to overthrow the pro-Moscow government of Viktor Yanukovych. While pretending to stand for Ukrainian independence and national sovereignty, they have created a situation that threatens to destroy Ukraine altogether as a unified state.

The EU deceived the people by making them believe that if Ukraine came under the control of Berlin instead of Moscow, their economic woes would disappear, Ukrainian citizens would be welcomed with open arms to work and live in Europe, and the European Central Bank would shower a grateful people with billions of Euros.

Many Ukrainians, tired of decades of corruption, swindling and economic chaos, believed this. But it was a lie from start to finish. Ukraine is probably the only place in Europe where people go onto the streets carrying EU flags. In Greece the same flag is burned. In almost every other country the name of the EU is met with curses. The difference is that here people have had actual experience of what a capitalist EU means, while for the Ukrainians it is only a dream.

Now the Ukrainians will begin to understand the reality. The country’s economy is poised on the brink of an abyss. The Kiev government is literally bankrupt. Ukraine's central bank has put a 15,000 hryvnia (1,000 euro; £820) limit on daily cash withdrawals to prevent a run on the banks and the complete collapse of the currency. The Kiev government says it needs $35billion over the next two years to avoid default on its loans. But who will pay? Russia has suspended the next instalment of a $15bn loan. The EU will send little or no money to Kiev, only a lot of nice words. But words will not fill any empty bellies.

Is this the start of WW3?

Perhaps because it is the 100th anniversary of 1914, some people see shades of Sarajevo. Is this the beginning of the Third World War? Such historical analogies are superficial and devoid of any real content. The world balance of forces is not remotely similar to that of 1914. Nor are the interests of the states involved.

In 1914 Germany was forced to go to war to defend its ally Austria, and in any case was looking for a pretext for war. Here the vital interests of Germany, Austria, Russia, France and Britain were all involved. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo was merely the spark that set off a European conflagration that had been prepared for decades. One simple point will serve to underline the difference. The events in Sarajevo led immediately to the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia, which was composed in terms to which the Serbs could never agree. That is because Austria too wanted an excuse to invade and crush Serbia.

What is the position here? America is blowing hot and cold over Russia’s “aggression”, although so far its army has not invaded Ukraine (but was already present in Crimea). That is because America has no vital interests in Ukraine. Of course, it would like to see the liquidation of Russia’s naval base in Crimea. But its actions in meddling in the political life of Ukraine – actions that contributed powerfully to destabilize the country and thus cause the present situation – were not dictated by economic interests. Ukraine has no oil like Iraq but only huge debts to pay, and America has enough debts of its own.

America is not interested in the fate of the Ukrainian people or the Ukraine as a nation. It does not want to take any responsibility for its economic problems. What it does want, and has wanted all along, is to detach Ukraine from Russia. This is part of its long-term geopolitical strategy of undermining Russia and destroying its influence over the states that used to belong to the Soviet Union.

Having seen itself humiliated by the West in Yugoslavia, Iraq and more recently Libya, Russia is now drawing a line in the sand. This was already clear in Georgia, and it was also clear in Syria. But from the point of view of Moscow, Ukraine is far more important than all of these. The “strategists” in Washington are a most ignorant and short-sighted bunch. They seriously miscalculated Russia’s response. Now they profess surprise. If that is true, they must have a Big Mac where their brains ought to be.

The West is pursuing cynical power in Ukraine. Neither Merkel nor Obama has the interests of the Ukrainian people at heart. The question of Ukraine’s entry into NATO has been raised. The first step, "military cooperation", has been already hinted at. But Russia could not accept the presence of NATO and the installation of US anti-missile weaponry on Ukrainian soil under any conditions. All this amounts to a hostile action and a provocation directed against Russia. From that point of view Moscow’s reaction was both logical and inevitable.

But no, this is not 1914 or 1939. It is not even the Cold War. It is the post-Cold War, and there is no reason why the present war of words will end in a military conflict between the major powers. Nor is this like 1968 when the Soviet army invaded Czechoslovakia. This time Moscow has considerable support inside Ukraine. It can afford to wait and let events take their course. Then it can intervene whenever it suits them, confident of being welcomed as liberators by at least a significant portion of the population.

The other day Obama spoke to Putin for an hour and a half. The contents of this conversation are not known. What is known is that it resolved precisely nothing. US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on all sides to "step back and avoid any kind of provocations". Kerry breathes fire and brimstone, warning Russia that its actions will have “consequences”. What are these? He tentatively proposes the expulsion of Russia from the G8, something over which the man in the Kremlin will hardly lose any sleep.

Recently Russia has repeatedly outmanoeuvred the USA on the world stage. Obama was humiliated by Putin on Syria and among the US ruling circles there was seething frustration at that. Obama is being portrayed as a weak and indecisive President who is unable to stand up to the Russians. Republicans like the rabid reactionary John McCain are predictably attacking him for this.

But what does McCain suggest? Not military action. He wants the administration to more broadly apply a law that enables the US government to sanction Russian officials guilty of human rights violations. It would perhaps not be a bad idea also to punish American officials guilty of human rights violations. This would keep the International Court of Justice busy for quite a long time. But this happy thought has never occurred to Mr. McCain. Nor has he considered how exactly these unnamed “Russian officials” are to be extradited from Russia. But logical thinking has never been the strong point of Republicans in general and John McCain in particular.

The UK has joined the US, France and Canada in suspending preparations for a summit of the G8 in Russia in June. The British foreign minister William Hague had an even stronger dose of medicine for the Russians: he intends to boycott the Paralympics in Sochi. That will really have the Russians shivering in their shoes!

But what of Frau Merkel, the undisputed head of the EU, which caused all the fuss in the first place. Like Obama she has also spent a little time speaking to the Russian President over the phone. Once again the precise contents of the conversation have not been released (except to the CIA which, as usual, will have been listening in). But from what we know the German leader was extremely understanding to the Russian point of view.

The whole thing was very cordial, and it ended with the Germans pledging themselves to maintaining close links with Russia and continuing a friendly dialogue. Why was all this so amicable? Might it not have something to do with the fact that Russia is the major provider of gas to Germany? Maybe Angela is concerned that if she steps too hard on Vladimir’s toes, he might be tempted to pull the plug? We may never know.

The West speaks with different tongues: the message from Washington is not exactly the same as the one from London. And the one from Berlin is entirely different from both of them. One thing is very clear. In all these exchanges, amicable and not so amicable, nobody has ever mentioned the one thing that might have made an impression on Putin’s mind: the possibility of military action.

The flint-faced Dane Anders Fogh Rasmussen (a “nice Scandinavian”), who habitually speaks for NATO, that is, for the USA has asked Russia to withdraw its forces to its bases. He did so in the usual Scandinavian style, that is, softly, gently and very politely:

"We call on Russia to de-escalate tensions... to withdraw its forces to its bases and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine." Speaking in Brussels he said in a most reassuring tone that Ukraine was a "valued partner" for NATO and should be allowed to determine its own future. After, condemning the Russians for “aggression” he pleaded with them for a dialogue.

Once again there was no mention of an ultimatum of any kind. There is very good reason for Rasmussen’s silence: he knows full well that military action by the West is completely ruled out.

The Ukrainian army

Ukraine has accused Russia of carrying out an armed invasion by sending naval forces to the Crimea region. But what can be done about it? Theoretically, Ukraine has the biggest army in Europe, armed with modern weapons and technology. But all reports indicate that the Ukrainian army, like the rest of the state, has suffered from years of neglect, under-funding and corruption. Moreover, the Ukrainian army will inevitably reflect all the contradictions of Ukrainian society and it will contain the same fault lines. Subjected to extreme pressure it can break in pieces.

This hypothesis received striking proof even in the past few days when the newly appointed head of Ukraine's navy publicly broke ranks and swore allegiance to the Crimea region, in the presence of its new pro-Russian leader. Since Rear Admiral Denys Berezovsky was only made head of the navy on Saturday, as the government in Kiev reacted to the threat of Russian invasion, this was a devastating blow. The admiral pledged to "strictly obey the orders of the supreme commander of the autonomous republic of Crimea" and "defend the lives and freedom" of Crimea's people. The repercussions of Berezovsky’s defection will be felt throughout the Ukrainian armed forces.

BBC television carried images yesterday of the Ukrainian marines who have been blockaded in their Crimean base by Russian troops. The faces of these young men showed anxiety, not defiance. That anxiety was not so much fear for their lives as fear of being ordered to fire against men who, until a few days ago, had been their friends and comrades. They clearly had no stomach for a fight. If we accept Napoleon’s maxim that in war "morale is to the physical as three is to one”, then the fighting capacity of these forces is close to zero.

It is therefore unlikely that the Ukrainian army is combat ready, at least at the present time, although that can change. It is even less likely that it could successfully repel a Russian invasion, much less retake Crimea, which has already been occupied in all but name.

What can they do? Ukraine's parliament calls on the UN Security Council to discuss the unfolding crisis in Crimea. The Security Council will of course discuss and discuss, and then do – nothing. Even the most innocuous resolution on Ukraine will be vetoed by Russia, which, conveniently, is a member of the said Council. Whatever happens now, Crimea is lost.

What now?

When Yanukovych disappeared after leaving office it was widely assumed that Putin had ditched him. But then he resurfaced in Russia. He has held a news conference in the city of Rostov-on-Don, near the Ukrainian border, asserting that he is still Ukraine's lawful president. Ukraine's general prosecutor has said he will ask Russia to extradite Yanukovych, if it is confirmed that he is still there. But Putin is playing the old game of the Roman Emperors, who were always prepared to grant hospitality to refugee kings and princes who could later serve as a useful cover for invading their lands to restore them to their throne – under Roman domination, of course.

Is it possible that Russia and the US will reach a deal? This is not ruled out in principle. But the course of the events suggests other possible outcomes, and events are moving fast. The partition of Ukraine would appear to be an increasingly likely outcome, but given the size and the position of Ukraine, the consequences would be far reaching indeed. It could not be accomplished without violence and even civil war. Russia would then be bound to intervene. Since the EU has no army, it counts for nothing in a situation like this.

It is noteworthy that the German puppet Klitschko was not even in the list for the new cabinet. The American stooge, Yatsenyuk has risen to the top. Clearly, Washington is calling the shots in Kiev right now. The Americans can be expected to adopt a belligerent stance (in words at least). After all, any conflagration in Ukraine will spill over to Russia and the EU in the first place, while the US administration is sitting at a rather comfortable distance from events (or so they think).

Yatsenyuk is under pressure from several sides. On the one hand, the rabid ultra-nationalists are breathing down his neck, backed by the mob in Independence Square. On the other hand, Washington is telling him to stand firm, assuring him that he has their full support and so on. This is an explosive combination.

The eastern Ukraine is seething with anger. Some people sympathetic to the Kiev government were unceremoniously thrown out of the local government buildings in Kharkiv by an angry crowd. The East is rapidly slipping out of the control of the central government. What can the latter do to halt this slide? If they do nothing it will continue. If they try to intervene militarily, there will be a bloody clash and the Russian tanks will roll across the frontier immediately. Putin warned Obama: any threat to the Russian population of the Ukraine and Russia will go in. There is not the slightest reason to think that he was bluffing.

In Moscow the mood is hardening. A small anti-war demonstration was swiftly dispersed, followed by a huge demonstration supporting a possible military intervention. If, as is quite likely, the Kiev government tries to reassert its control over these regions by force leading to bloodshed, the Russian tanks would roll in the next day and nothing could stop them. Moreover, they would be welcomed as liberators by most of the population.

It is impossible to know in advance what the fighting potential of Ukraine’s armed force would be in such a situation. As Napoleon pointed out, war is the most complex of all equations. But nothing we know suggests that the Ukrainian army could withstand a Russian invasion. Both the Kiev government and the West would be presented with a fait accompli which they would protest against in the strongest terms, but about which they could do nothing. It would be the first stage of the breakup of Ukraine, which would be a catastrophe for all Ukrainians and for the international working class.

For a united socialist Ukraine!

If the destiny of Ukraine is to be decided by Putin, Merkel and Obama, what is left of Ukrainian national sovereignty? Russia, along with the US, UK and France, pledged to uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine in a memorandum signed in 1994. But like all treaties that is only a scrap of paper. The real issues are always decided ultimately by force. Pacifist wailing “against war”, “for peace” and so on is worse than useless in situations like this. It is necessary to proceed from the facts of the situation as it is.

A wise diplomat once said: “Nations do not have friends, only interests.” That is quite true. Putin is not acting in the interests of the Russian speaking people of the Ukraine. Nor are Obama and Merkel acting in the interests of Ukrainians. All are motivated by narrow national self interest, that is, the interests of the rich and powerful, the bankers, capitalists and oligarchs who are the real rulers of capitalist society.

It would be a fatal mistake for the workers of Ukraine to have illusions in the motives of foreign powers. The Russian speaking people of Ukraine, which includes the heavy battalions of the working class, look to Moscow for deliverance, while many Ukrainians in the western part look for salvation from the EU. Both are mistaken and sooner or later both will have cause to regret their mistake.

The whole mess has its origins in the frightful economic collapse of Ukraine after the collapse of the USSR. The fact is that capitalism has failed both in Ukraine and in Russia. Only a handful of super-rich oligarchs have enriched themselves by plundering the property of the state, while millions of ordinary people have been plunged into poverty. On a capitalist basis, no solution is possible. Many people in western Ukraine were seduced by the Siren calls of America and the EU. But they will soon discover that this was a trap. In the iron embrace of the IMF they will find themselves in a far worse position than before.

What about the people of eastern Ukraine? If Russia takes over would that solve their problems? The economic situation was bad before, but the breakup of Ukraine would make things far worse. Moscow’s “generosity” will not last long, especially when, as is inevitable, oil and gas prices start to fall. The Russian economy is due for a fall, and a war with Ukraine, even if it ends in victory, may well serve as the detonator for a crisis. This morning it was announced that the Moscow Stock Exchange has experienced sharp falls. That is a warning of what is to come.

However, the worst effects would not be economic but political. A Russian invasion and the division of Ukraine would undoubtedly set in chain a series of events that would have the most negative consequences for the consciousness of the working class internationally, and especially in Europe. It would enormously exacerbate the national conflicts, creating monsters, as we saw in Yugoslavia. The bloodshed would breed feelings of hatred and bitterness that could last for generations.

The case of Crimea is particularly worrying in this respect. The Muslim Crimean Tatars, whose animosity towards Russia stretches back to Stalin's deportations during World War Two, bitterly oppose any move back towards Moscow. If, as is now inevitable, Crimea is annexed by Russia, there will be further tensions and clashes between Russians and Tartars. We could see the formation of terrorist groups and even guerrillas as in Chechnya, conducting a bloody armed struggle against Russia with all the usual horrors that entails.

In Ukraine itself there would be the same thing: terrorist attacks, bombings, the indiscriminate killing of civilians: all the horrible things that we have seen so often in one country after another, in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya etc. Once it starts, this kind of thing is difficult to stop. The terrorist madness would spread, infecting Russia and Europe, where the presence of a large number of Ukrainian and Russian immigrants would be a breeding ground for terrorist tit-for-tat killings and bombings.

The people of eastern Ukraine may greet the arrival of Russian forces with relief, but this is based more on hope than on reality. Likewise, the people in Kiev and the western regions who look hopefully to Berlin and Washington will find their hopes dashed. “Things cannot get any worse,” they imagine. Unfortunately, they can get very, very much worse.

We stand for the unity of the working class and for the unity of the Ukraine. But the only real guarantee for that is a revolutionary struggle against the oligarchy. We cannot entrust this task to anybody but the Ukrainian working class. The workers in Moscow who demonstrate their support for their government’s actions are not demonstrating support for war but support for their brothers and sisters in Ukraine. They see this as a struggle against fascism. But the only force that can defeat fascism is the working class, once it is united and mobilized to change society.

Is it necessary to defeat fascism in Ukraine? Of course! The Ukrainian fascists and chauvinists are our enemy. They must be crushed without mercy. The working class, the Communist Party and the trade unions must develop and extend the anti-fascist militias that are already emerging. The anti-fascist committees should link up into an all-Ukrainian movement, involving both Ukrainian and Russian speakers, Crimean Tartars and Jews. The fascists can be defeated by the organized might of the Ukrainian working class, but only on condition that we do not allow ourselves to be divided.

It would be a criminal act to split the Ukrainian working class. There is no real reason for the division of the Ukraine. For hundreds of years Ukrainians and Russians have lived and worked together. The two peoples are united by strong historical and cultural ties. Those ties remain strong even now. After the reactionary gang in the Rada passed a criminal law against the Russian language, people in the Ukrainian speaking west decided to speak nothing but Russian for 24 hours in protest, and people in the Russian speaking East spontaneously reacted to this gesture by speaking Ukrainian for the same period. This is a small but significant gesture that shows that the ordinary people of Ukraine are opposed to the nationalist madness and fervently desire unity.

Comrades! Brothers and sisters! Workers of Ukraine and Russia! Do not place your trust in your governments, which are only a cover for the rule of a degenerate capitalist oligarchy! Trust only in yourselves, in your class unity and class consciousness. Do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the lying demagogy of the nationalists and the hateful poison of racism. Fight with all your might for the sacred unity of the working class, above all national, ethnic, linguistic and religious differences!

Communists of Russia and Ukraine! If you wish to be true to Communism, to the ideals of Lenin and the October Revolution, it is necessary to break radically with the bourgeoisie and the oligarchy and fight for socialism. Putin does not represent us, neither do Yanukovych or Yatsenyuk, or any other party or faction of the bourgeoisie. The only force that can change society is the working class, armed with the programme of socialism under the leadership of a Communist Party that is worthy of the name.

Down with national chauvinism! Let our slogan be: back to Lenin! Long live socialism! Long live proletarian internationalism and the sacred unity of the working class!

London, March 3, 2014