Ukraine: Critical comments on the Minsk anti-war declaration

On June 7 and 8, left and Marxist forces from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine participated in an anti-war conference near Minsk. The conference produced a statement signed by its participants under the title of "Stop the War in Ukraine". We publish here the text of the speech by Artem Kirpìchenok, from the Russian section of the IMT, and his report of the conference. Since its publication, the statement has come under criticism from a number of different points of view. We also published here the criticism made by comrades from the Union Borotba (Struggle) in Ukraine, for information, and Artem's own critical comments.

The signing of the Minsk declaration was an important step in formulating the position of communist and Marxist forces regarding the Ukrainian conflict. This is illustrated by the lively international discussion which followed the adoption of the document, and by the numerous statements of similar content which were published by communist, anarchist and social-democratic forces in the past week. 

However, when talking about the Minsk declaration, we have to bear in mind that it is a document which was adopted in haste and is a result of a political compromise. The conference at which it was produced ran out of time and could not discuss concrete actions regarding the Ukrainian question, even though that point was on the agenda. The position of various groups, including liberals and pacifists, who wanted to use the Minsk declaration to create a broad anti-war coalition, was considered when the text was being prepared. Additionally, the event was host to organisations whose representatives saw the Kiev Maidan as initially being a “democratic and anti-authoritarian movement” and stressed the role of Russian imperialism, basing themselves on the principle that “the proletarian’s main enemy is at home”. The influence of their ideas is also reflected in the document.

For this reason, we consider it necessary to clarify some points regarding the text of the Minsk declaration. 

The brunt of the responsibility for the war and the humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine lies primarily on the shoulders of the current Kiev government, which came to power in spring this year on the wave of a mass far-right movement (“Euromaidan”). The Poroshenko regime represents the interests of Ukraine’s big bourgeoisie, as well as multi-national corporations. It finds its mass base in the petit bourgeoisie of central and west Ukraine, lumpenised layers of society, and reactionary students. Gangs of neo-Nazi militants and oligarchs’ hired mercenary groups are instruments in the hands of the current Ukrainian authorities. All these points regarding the class and social structures of the new Ukrainian regime should have been made in the Minsk document. 

Further on, we note that the Maidan-Poroshenko regime declared war on the communist and workers’ movement of Ukraine. This expressed itself in the policies aimed at banning the Communist Party of Ukraine, assaults of “Borotba” activists, and strict control of “anarchist” groups whose activity is allowed strictly within the bounds of the dominant nationalist discourse. The Maidan regime accepted the laws dictated by the IMF which are aimed at de-industrialising Ukraine and transferring the financial burden of a de-facto bankrupt country onto ordinary Ukrainians. 

It is beyond doubt that for left-wingers and communists of Ukraine the present regime is the primary, mortal enemy, and activities of all honest communists should be aimed at its overthrow. 

This can be achieved, not by addressing bourgeois governments, but by appealing to the Ukrainian working class. Donetsk and Lugansk miners who are dying under bombing raids, and workers of Central and Western regions, whose children, without any military training, are being sent as cannon fodder to the East, must unite and overthrow the Maidan regime, which sees them as, to use Prime Minister Yatsenyuk’s expression, “subhuman”. 

We cannot help but agree with comrades from “Borotba” that the right of self-determination of the people of East Ukraine should be central to any peace treaty. The people of Donetsk and Lugansk regions earned this hard-won right in intense struggles with the punitive gangs of the Kiev government. The Poroshenko regime is repeating Yeltsin’s crimes in Chechnya, destroying entire towns and villages of his country with bombs and missiles. It is impossible to demand that the people of the East submit to the Kiev authorities after all this bloodshed. 

Russia’s actions, too, demand a more detailed analysis. We do not recognise the annexation of the Crimea, which only weakened anti-Maidan resistance in East Ukraine. However, at the present moment we note that the Putin regime has distanced itself from the events in the East. Victory of the resistance in Donetsk and Lugansk would create territories which will cause constant tension in relations of the Kremlin with the West, and will potentially become a stronghold for nationalist opposition within Russia itself. The Putin regime effectively gave Kiev the go-ahead to suppress the uprising. 

At the same time, European and American imperialism actively support the military adventures of the Kiev government, including financial aid, supplying food rations and equipment to the Ukrainian army, and training paramilitary militants of the Ukrainian oligarchs. Corporate mass media is maintaining informational support of the punitive operation against the people of East Ukraine, obstructing information about the suppression of democratic rights, mass killings and destruction. 

In conclusion we note that Ukraine has become the most important front in the battle with the advancing tide of neo-liberalism and fascism in Europe. The outcome of this battle will be of the highest importance for the entire continent. Bourgeois rulers of Europe and the US are playing dangerous games with East European fascism, ignorant of the danger that the pet beast can turn out to be uncontrollable and return from the East back to the West. Today they reap what their adventures had sown in Iraq – tomorrow, perhaps, they will have to pay for their actions in Europe. 

At the same time, international help to the Ukrainian working class must unite and harden communist and progressive forces.