Ukraine, Russia, imperialism and national self-determination

Vladimir Putin

The war in Ukraine has presented left-wing theorists and commentators with a difficult analytical challenge. 

Arrayed against Russia in this war is a bloc of the world’s richest and most developed countries, providing armaments, funding and satellite intelligence to Ukraine and directing a propaganda onslaught unmatched since the days of the Cold War. At the same time, global North sanctions aim to strangle Russia’s economy.

It is notable, however, that strikingly few developing states have joined in the US-led sanctions campaign. That the wealthy “core” of global capitalism has received so little support from the exploited “periphery” suggests strongly that what we are seeing in the Ukraine conflict is not a straightforward case of a relatively powerful state, in this case Russia, engaging in bullying and brigandage against a weaker neighbour. 

How are we to resolve this conundrum? As well as needing to answer the question of where Russia stands within the capitalist world-system — of whether it is among the states that benefit from the inequities of wealth and power within world capitalism, or whether it is among the system’s victims — we also need to decide how the right to national self-determination plays out within this context.

If Russia is an imperialist power, then the task of interpreting the Ukraine war is undemanding. There can be no left sympathy for a well-off exploiter country engaged in a looting expedition.

But what if the underlying situation is quite different? What if Russia is in fact a non-imperialist country — in world terms, a relatively poor and backward state? What if we are seeing imperialist countries ganging up on it, trying through military pressures and economic sabotage to defeat its attempts to follow an independent foreign policy course and thwart its efforts to resist being plundered by Western capital?

The world left has a long tradition of defending non-imperialist countries against imperialist incursions and attacks. We have done this in the form of solidarity with developing world workers and poor, as the prime victims of international capitalism. Further — and this is especially important — we have been conscious of the fact that developing world capitalist states, even those under tyrannical anti-worker leaders, are far less powerful and dangerous enemies of the world proletariat than countries of the capitalist “core”, including those that present a liberal face.

It follows that the question of whether Russia is part of the advanced, wealthy capitalist world has enormous importance for deciding how we relate to the war in Ukraine. However, this question barely rates a footnote. In the texts and statements, Russia is defined as imperialist by its action, as a larger and better-armed country, in sending its troops into Ukraine. 

Marxists have a record of being particularly exacting in how they apply the term “imperialist”. In the Marxist tradition, imperialism is not simply a cast of mind of especially ruthless capitalist leaders. Instead, it is a deep-rooted economic and social attribute of a definite category of capitalist countries, the richest and most developed. 

Imperialism and Russia in the 2020s

In his 1916 work, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Vladimir Lenin set out the defining features of modern imperialism that he saw as having matured over the previous quarter-century, and that represented industrial capitalism in its most developed contemporary form. By this time, Lenin observed, advanced capitalism had become highly financialised. Huge masses of accumulated capital chafed against the boundaries of national economies, surging forth to seek higher profits through extracting raw materials and exploiting cheap labour in less developed parts of the world.

If this general picture seems familiar from our own century, that is no accident: Lenin’s analysis retains formidable power. True, imperialism has evolved. It is now more financialised than ever, to the point where the masses of rampant capital are out of all proportion to actual productive assets. A great deal of production within the system has been “offshored”, with the imperialist centres tending to retain only a limited range of specialised, high-profit functions — research and development, design, financing, marketing, and so forth. 

The globalisation of production — though not of the accumulation of profits, which remains concentrated in the heartlands of the system — means that Lenin’s concept of imperialism needs a certain modification. As productive functions leave the core countries, sections, at least, of the global “periphery” are becoming industrialised. We now need to talk of a “semi-periphery” of the capitalist world-system, encompassing such countries as Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa and Iran. But if these countries are now home to relatively modern productive industries, that does not mean they have joined the imperialist “club”. Average labour productivity in these semi-peripheral countries remains a fraction of that in the imperialist core. Wages are low, national markets are small, and “entrepreneurial middle classes” weak. Capital assets per head of population remain tiny. The gap between these countries and the imperialist core thus remains a chasm.

A 2016 study of Russia’s status within today’s world capitalism, based on the criteria that Lenin noted as distinguishing imperialist countries, concluded there was no way Russia could be placed in the category of the super-rich, hegemonic capitalist states. As of 2021, Gross Domestic Product per capita in Russia was about that of Malaysia; Russia’s finance capital was strikingly small;[1] and only a handful of Russian firms appeared in listings of the world’s largest corporations.[2] On the other hand, the 2016 study found a dense clustering of characteristics that positioned Russia as one of the states of the capitalist semi-periphery. 

The semi-peripheral nature of Russian capitalism bears heavily on Russian foreign policy. To understand why, we should reflect that the countries of the semi-periphery feature economic and social structures sharply different from those in the “gated communities” of the imperialist core. Semi-peripheral countries have relatively small finance capitals; they are not home to large masses of capital lacking acceptably profitable avenues for investment, and creating a permanent compulsion to try to dominate outside territories. While disputes with other states can and do result in semi-peripheral countries going to war, these conflicts do not arise from the fundamental nature of the countries’ economic systems. Nor, and unlike imperialist states, do the countries of the semi-periphery display the serial belligerence of, say, the United States, that has been waging wars throughout almost its entire history.

Russia, indeed, is one of the large countries that are least likely to pursue expansion for economic reasons. At the same time as Russia is capital-poor, with only a small finance capital, its natural resources are immense. Russian capitalists who can muster the finance needed to extract and export these resources can score attractive profits, with no need to wage wars abroad. This is among the fundamental reasons for the general caution and restraint that have characterised Russian foreign policy. The foreign military interventions in which modern-day Russia engaged until 2022 were relatively small in scope, as the “special military operation” in Ukraine was at first intended to be. These interventions were close to Russia’s frontiers, and had clear rationales, primarily border security.

The Empire is challenged — and strikes back

Despite its power and wealth, the imperialist system is unstable and crisis-ridden. Its problems are being exacerbated as capitalist profit rates decline from decade to decade, in a process predicted by Karl Marx and now being demonstrated empirically. At the same time, capitalist globalisation means that the weight of the non-imperialist world in terms of productive output is increasing. Together with the accelerating crisis of the world-system, this enhanced productive weight of the larger non-imperialist states means that if they coordinate their actions, they have growing possibilities for defying the hegemons. 

Since the 1960s, Latin America has seen recurrent attempts to create regional trading blocs able to stand up to economic pressures from the US. The outstanding defiance of imperialism, however, is emerging elsewhere, in the shape of what is now coming to be referred to as the “Eurasian system”. This still-informal grouping loosely unites more than 20 countries in the Eurasian region (and to a growing extent, the Middle East) through an increasingly dense network of political, economic and security agreements and institutions.[3] Participating countries, the largest of which are China, India, Pakistan, Russia and Iran, differ widely in their political character, but are all non-imperialist states.[4] Uniting them is an understanding that the existing global system serves them poorly and that increased collaboration with other Eurasian states is indispensable.

Even in its present relatively undeveloped form, the Eurasian system is coming to be viewed by the US and its imperialist allies as a fundamental challenge. As regional ties grow, access by imperialist capital to the vast field of investment and profit-getting represented by the Eurasian countries is likely to be increasingly restricted. Further, the Eurasian system is steadily developing alternatives to the multilateral bodies that discipline the developing world and set it up for extortion. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, for example, now provides its member countries with development financing on advantageous terms, free of the neoliberal strictures imposed by the World Bank. In a crucial innovation, participants in the Eurasian system are now constructing mechanisms to allow them to trade with one another without use of the US dollar, thus undermining the effectiveness of imperialist sanctions. 

To the rise of this opposing system, imperialism has reacted with aggressive intimidation and acts of economic sabotage, the main targets of which have been Iran, China and Russia. Even before the Obama administration in 2009 began its “pivot to Asia”, involving heightened efforts at the military quarantining of China, Washington had cast aside its 1990 pledge not to allow the expansion of NATO to the east. By 2004, ten countries of central and eastern Europe had been added to the NATO alliance, bringing it directly to the Russian border. Then at a summit meeting in Bucharest in April 2008, representatives of NATO countries declared that Ukraine and Georgia would be allowed to join the alliance. For Russia, the security implications of this initiative were alarming. Not only would the move result in a hostile military bloc abutting directly on economically and strategically vital areas of European Russia, but the Black Sea, apart from a small stretch of Russian coastline, would become a NATO lake. 

The Putin administration responded by making clear, bluntly and repeatedly, that NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia was a “red line” that Moscow would not allow to be crossed. At the same time, Moscow began a diplomatic push for a complete reworking of European security arrangements, aimed at outlawing attempts by any nation or international organisation to strengthen its own security at the cost of others.

This Russian initiative was ignored, and the imperialists pressed ahead. Huge sums were spent by US agencies on reorienting Ukrainian civil society toward the West. With the Maidan revolt early in 2014, imperialism secured the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The deposed president had not been particularly “pro-Russian”, but had balked at demands for a wholesale shift away from trading and technological ties to Russia, and at stringent austerity measures attached to a proposed IMF loan. 

The installation in Kyiv in 2014 of an imperialist-backed government armed with neoliberal policies was met with a popular revolt in Ukraine’s heavily industrialised Donbas region, where ties with Russia were strong. As the Donbas struggle continued, the NATO powers began turning Ukraine’s small, demoralised army into a modern fighting force, in large part armed and trained to NATO standards. By 2019, Ukraine’s total armed forces numbered more than 300,000, the largest in Europe outside of Russia. Ukraine still has not been admitted to NATO, but for many purposes this is a technicality. For years, large international military exercises involving US troops have been held on Ukrainian territory.

By late 2021, the Russian leadership had become convinced that NATO and Ukraine had no intention of implementing the Minsk II Agreement, designed ostensibly to settle the conflict in the Donbas.[5] The Ukrainian government was openly declaring its goal of retaking all of its lost territories by armed force. In a last-ditch effort, Moscow submitted two draft treaties in December 2021, one to NATO and one to the US, again setting forward proposals for a new European security framework. 

By this time, Ukraine had stationed some 120,000 of its soldiers along the line of demarcation with the rebel Donbas republics. Around February 20, the Ukrainian forces began a massively increased artillery bombardment of rebel territory. On February 24, Russian forces began crossing the border into Ukraine. 

Toward a “Ukraine syndrome”

For the left, there can be no thought of denying the right of non-imperialist countries to resist threats and intimidation on the part of global capitalism. But in the context of Ukraine, was the mode of resistance chosen by the Putin administration correct?

It is most likely that the moves by the Ukrainian leadership during the months before the February 2022 invasion were plotted in collusion with US strategists, and probably with those of other NATO powers. This adds to suggestions that the US and its allies actively sought the war, angling for a drawn-out conflict that would exhaust and destabilise Russia. Whatever the case, the Kremlin authorities were boxed into a situation where a failure to respond militarily to the challenge before them would have entailed a massive admission of weakness. If the US and Ukrainian leaders were not planning a war, then we have to ask: what else can they conceivably have expected?

Strictly speaking, and if the potential responses by Moscow are considered more abstractly, it is not true that Russia was compelled to invade Ukraine. If there had been a working-class government in Russia, instead of the regime of oligarchs and bureaucrats that holds sway there, that workers’ government would have responded quite differently to the threats made by imperialism and actioned in collaboration with the Ukrainian elites. Using its mass support among the Russian working class, a proletarian government in Moscow would have agitated tirelessly among its class brothers and sisters in Ukraine. In this way, it would have sought to dispel the lies of imperialism, of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie, and of reactionary Ukrainian nationalism. Very likely, this strategy would have rendered Ukraine useless to imperialism as a cat’s paw for threatening Russia.

None of this, of course, was ever going to happen; it would have required a completely different relationship of class forces within Russian society. But members of the left who condemn the machinations of imperialism in Ukraine are under no obligation to take responsibility for the specific policies and actions of the Russian leadership. Putin’s methods are not ours.

All the same, for the left to refuse to try to formulate careful, general positions on the Ukraine conflict would amount to puerile sectarianism. We need readily identifiable stances, and these must be based on class criteria, since the global contest between imperialist and non-imperialist states is implicitly a class question, with enormous implications for working people. As noted, imperialist states are far more dangerous enemies of the world proletariat than even notoriously anti-worker regimes in non-imperialist countries.

In the case of the Ukraine war, what do the interests of proletarians around the world dictate? Should workers, for example, demand that Russia withdraw its forces from all the territories claimed by Ukraine, including Crimea and Donbas, as the Zelenskyi government stipulates as a condition for peace talks?

It may be argued that this withdrawal, if enacted, would dampen the international hue and cry against Russia, and undercut the effort made by imperialism to capitalise on indignation at the sufferings of the Ukrainian population. The sources of imperialism’s hostility to Russia, however, have nothing to do with concern for the Ukrainian masses, and if the Russian leadership were to abandon the war, neither NATO military threats against Russia nor Western propaganda would let up for an instant.

For working people around the world, a Russian abandonment of the struggle would constitute a massive and quite unnecessary setback. If deprived of support from the Russian military, the people of Crimea and Donbas would continue to resist a return to Ukrainian rule. But they would be unlikely to win, and when coupled with the humiliation to Russia, their defeat would be a shocking blow to anti-imperialist struggles elsewhere in the world. Any “peace” that resulted would be fleeting. The imperialists would be measurably emboldened and would move on to fresh aggressions against Iran, China and other wayward states.

For the world proletariat, the only faintly satisfactory outcome in Ukraine is one that involves imperialism and its supporters, in political and strategic terms, suffering an undeniable rebuff. The “Vietnam syndrome” of the late 1970s, that forced a lull in US aggressions as official Washington agonised over its Vietnam defeat, needs to be renewed as a “Ukraine syndrome”.

There are various ways this outcome might come to pass. From the point of view of the global proletariat, the ideal would be if the masses of workers and their allies, in many countries but especially those of the imperialist centre, identified the key problem in Ukraine as being the predatory actions of the world’s super-rich — and if these popular layers then acted decisively to make further pressures and threats against Russia politically impossible.

We need to pursue this goal resolutely, but also to understand that given the current small strength of the left, victory along these lines would be unlikely in anything but the very long haul. If imperialism is to be dealt a clear defeat in Ukraine, in a time-frame that matters, there is no reason to suppose this will not involve further bloody sacrifices by Russian and Ukrainian worker-soldiers. It must be stressed, however, that the methods employed here are Putin’s, not ours; the preferred strategies of the left are political, not military.

What, minimally, would a defeat for imperialism in Ukraine consist of? Here we can be very specific: it would be the winning by Russia of the demands it has put forward now for many months. In their essence, these demands are: recognition of the reincorporation of Crimea into Russia; acceptance of Donbas self-determination; demilitarisation (including an internationally-backed guarantee that Ukraine will not be joined to NATO); and “de-nazification” — in practice, suppression of the ultra-right Ukrainian nationalist currents that promote hatred of Russia.

The question of national self-determination

If we look back to the anti-imperialist struggle in Vietnam, we might recall that deciding how the national question figured in the conflict was straightforward. The war was being fought on the national territory of imperialism’s victims, consequently, “Out now!” (that is, the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces) was an obvious demand. By contrast, Russia’s present fight against the US and its allies is being waged on territory that in the terms of international law belongs to Ukraine. Does this mean that Russia should be compelled by the principles of national self-determination to vacate the battlefields?

To be concrete, this discussion should begin by outlining the national character of the regions presently at issue, that is, Crimea, Donbas, and the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts. Crimea, transferred arbitrarily from the Russian to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954, is not part of historical Ukraine and has never had a majority Ukrainian population. The Donbas, until the 1780s, had a sparse population made up largely of Turkic-speaking nomadic herders; thereafter, the region was settled by farmers mostly from Ukraine and Russia. From the 1860s, development of coal mining and of the iron and steel industries saw immigration from many parts of the Russian Empire. With full-scale industrialisation in the Soviet period, the influx swelled further. Most residents of today’s Donbass are of mixed ancestry, speak Russian, and have never shown much affinity for Ukrainian nationalism.[6] 

Since 2014, national self-identification in Donbas has been defined in sharp terms by the experience of resisting attempts by Kyiv to take the region back under its control. This experience has included heavy, frequent shelling by Ukrainian forces of residential districts of Donbas cities, with many civilian casualties. It is time for outsiders to accept that the people of Donbas, in their overwhelming majority, have no wish to be subject to Ukraine, and that a return to being ruled from Kyiv would fundamentally violate their national rights.

Zaporizhzhia and Kherson provinces, now claimed by Russia and partly occupied by Russian forces, are in a different category. Though both territories are largely Russian-speaking, it is far from clear that there is strong sentiment in either for rule from Moscow rather than Kyiv. The future of these regions is a topic to be resolved in the course of peace negotiations, with a settlement perhaps involving internationally supervised referendums.

Returning to the more general discussion of the national question: for more than a century this issue has been a particular focus of Marxist thought. In 1913 and 1914 Lenin mounted a sharp polemic against left tendencies that held a dogmatic position on the right of nations to self-determination. His target was the view, espoused by various members of minority nationalities within the Russian social democratic movement, that support for the self-determination of minority peoples within tsarist Russia was inadmissible. In the thinking of these comrades (Rosa Luxemburg was among them), support for such demands would be tantamount to giving support to the bourgeois nationalism — as opposed to proletarian internationalism — of the subject peoples.[7] 

Lenin’s approach was quite different. Unlike Luxemburg, he opposed any temptation to absolutise the national question, in either positive or negative terms. The allegiance of Marxists, he explained, was to internationalism, not nationalism, but this should not prevent them from “fully recognising” the historical legitimacy of national movements. For example, Lenin firmly stated his view that the Ukrainians, should they seek it, were entitled to their independence.[8] Nevertheless, the support given to the demands of national movements should be critical and conditional:

To prevent this recognition from becoming an apologia of nationalism, it must be strictly limited to what is progressive in such movements, in order that this recognition may not lead to bourgeois ideology obscuring proletarian consciousness.[9]

Further, Marxists should always prioritise the class-struggle interests of the proletariat:

The bourgeoisie always places its national demands in the forefront, and does so in categorical fashion. With the proletariat, however, these demands are subordinated to the interests of the class struggle . . . the important thing for the proletariat is to ensure the development of its class.[10]

One looks in vain for anything in the Ukrainian nationalist movement of the past few decades that Lenin would have thought progressive. The main achievement of the movement during these years has been to help make Ukraine a tool for imperialism in waging a proxy war in which Ukrainians are taking by far the greater share of the casualties.[11]

Meanwhile, implicit in Lenin’s stance on the national question was the view that it was the consistent pursuit of the class struggle that provided the best — and, ultimately, the only genuine — guarantee that national rights would be secured and defended. For Lenin, national struggles led by forces other than the proletariat were in no way invalid. But if the national movement was led by bourgeois forces, the danger was always present that the struggle would be sold out, if that was what the interests of the national bourgeoisie came to favour. Also, there was the possibility that the bourgeois nationalists would turn to using their movement as a weapon against the exploited classes of the minority nationality itself.

Ukraine since 2014 has had a series of bourgeois-nationalist governments, at the same time as effective control over large areas of state policy has been handed over to the World Bank and the IMF. It is hard to maintain that this is not a sell-out of national rights on a grand scale, with Ukraine reduced in practice to semi-colonial status. We should also remember how the Communist Party of Ukraine was outlawed by the government in 2015, while other left formations were physically smashed up and driven underground by nationalist thugs.

To pursue Lenin’s logic further, the crucial question surrounding national self-determination in today’s Ukraine is at the same time a class one: how does this issue intersect with the pressures now being exerted by imperialism on Russia and other non-imperialist states of the Eurasian system? As has been explained, a clear-cut victory for the US and its allies in the Ukraine conflict would almost certainly be the signal for an expanded rampage by the global rich against the non-imperialist world. This would be a massive setback for the world proletariat, and ultimately for Ukrainian workers too. Nor would this development be good news for oppressed nationalities around the globe. Imperialism, despite its rhetoric in the case of Ukraine, is never more than a fickle, self-interested friend of movements for national rights. To the extent that advances for imperialism weaken the global proletariat, struggles for national self-determination lose as well.

For a resolution of the war

Let us draw the threads together. Behind the Ukraine war lies the determination of an ailing imperialism to bolster its dominance over an increasingly defiant developing world. To this end, the US and Britain in particular have persistently resisted efforts to settle the conflict, sticking instead to a perspective of trying to weaken Russia and degrade its economy, as an example of what can happen to states that refuse to bend the knee to the world hegemons.

A clear defeat in Ukraine for the US and its allies is needed to help build resistance to international capital at many points around the globe. As left militants, we should seek a defeat for imperialism in which the class contours of the fight by the non-imperialist world against the global overlords emerge with maximum distinctness, and in which the spilling of workers’ blood is kept to a minimum. 

This essentially political blow against Washington and NATO needs to rest on a broad international movement demanding that the US and its allies halt arms supplies to Kyiv; that they accept a peace settlement based on the demands put forward over many months by the Russian foreign ministry; and that economic sanctions against Russia be ended. 

It will be objected that campaigning around the above demands would simply aid the Putin administration in seizing the whole of Ukraine and ending the country’s national self-determination for all time. But as explained, Russia is not an imperialist country. Subjugating and annexing Ukraine, and taking on the crippling expense of rebuilding the Ukrainian economy, is something of which Russia simply has no need.

For citizens of the global North, subject to wall-to-wall anti-Russian propaganda, accepting this last point may come hard. But the absence of a Russian desire to “swallow Ukraine” is indicated by the fact that Moscow has consistently stated its readiness for a negotiated settlement.

How likely is an essentially political defeat for imperialism, as outlined above, to transpire? Here, the refusal by numerous countries of the global South to join in the sanctions against Russia is an encouraging sign. But at least in the medium term, we have to expect that the primary face of the struggle will remain the military one.

That is a horrifying prospect — but imperialism is a horrifying thing. Logically, the bloody setbacks being suffered by the Ukrainian side in the war must, at a certain point, force a social reckoning. Supporting this conclusion is the fact that over the past three decades, few working classes in the world have suffered as badly at the hands of their rulers as has the Ukrainian proletariat. Since independence, Ukraine has never come close to regaining its real GDP at the end of the Soviet period, and the country’s capitalists have been notorious for corruption, thuggery and plunder. 

From a certain point, Ukraine’s elites allowed themselves the fantasy that the sponsorship and protection of the rich West meant they could join with impunity in threats and provocations against a much stronger neighbour. Now that the predictable war has come, Ukraine’s rulers have turned to feeding the country’s proletariat into the meat-grinder of the frontlines, in a tragic fiasco that benefits only imperialism. While popular anger in Ukraine is for the present being diverted into hatred of Russia, the point cannot be put off indefinitely when millions of Ukrainian workers will start to reflect that they are not of the same nation as their country’s crime lord oligarchs, shape-shifting politicians, venal bureaucrats and troglodytic ultra-nationalists.

Surveys have long shown that the underlying attitudes of the Ukrainian masses to social questions are solidly progressive,[12] and election results suggest that the views of the ultra-rightists, despite the strong presence of those currents in the state apparatus, are not widely shared.[13] Nevertheless, the ideological confusion of the population is monumental,[14] and has created a hostility to the political process itself that is reflected in a tradition of regarding politicians of all stripes with contempt and mistrust. For the present, there is little to show that the political thinking of workers as a class differs much from this general anomie. Lack of organisation, a vacuum of leadership, and only a slow evolution of class consciousness make it hard to foresee that the proletariat, as conventionally understood, will play a role in the political reckonings of the near-to-medium term. 

Still, the situation cannot continue as it is, and the ironic truth is that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian workers are now highly organised — in uniforms, and with guns. If an ineffectual government oversees accumulating military defeats while refusing to make peace, and if the result is a wave of mutinies, that will not be the first time such events have played out on Ukrainian soil.

Beyond the very broad terms suggested, any attempt to predict how developments in Ukraine will now unfold remains adventurous, at best. Our task as the international left is to monitor events intently, while refining our analyses and moving into heightened organising and propaganda activity. The aim of our solidarity must be to defend working people, whether in Ukraine or Russia, and the prime target of our denunciations must be the imperialist thieves and oppressors.

Renfrey Clarke is an Australian translator, writer and author of The Catastrophe of Ukrainian Capitalism: How Privatisation Dispossessed and Impoverished the Ukrainian People.


[1] A useful pointer to the size of national finance capital is gross financial wealth per adult. At the end of 2021 this statistic in the US stood at US$468,295, in Australia at US$254, 419, and in Russia at US$13, 683 (Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2022, pp. 109, 112).

[2] The Forbes business magazine in 2022 listed just four Russian firms among its global top 200.

[3] Notable institutions are the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Economic Cooperation Organisation, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Belt and Road Initiative.

[4] Marxist analysis, set out here by the political economists Michael Roberts and Guglielmo Carchedi. Roberts, indeed, argues that China is not a capitalist state at all.

[5] The support for a peace settlement in the Donbas that was pledged by the Western signatories of the Minsk agreements was, it now emerges, disingenuous. In December 2022 former German Chancellor Angela Merkel told an interviewer that the Minsk agreements had been negotiated as “an attempt to give time to Ukraine”, allowing it to become stronger — and, we may conclude, to step up the fighting. 

[6] A more detailed account of the national make-up of the Donbas, and of how nationality is perceived in the region, can be found at: Renfrey Clarke, “The Donbass in 2014: Ultra-Right Threats, Working-Class Revolt, and Russian Policy Responses.” International Critical Thought v. 6 no. 4 (2016).

[7] Lenin, “The right of nations to self-determination”. Selected Works, vol. 1. Moscow: Progress, 1970, p. 613

[8] Ibid., p. 612.

[9] Lenin, “Critical remarks on the national question”. 4: Cultural-national autonomy.

[10] Lenin, “The right of nations to self-determination”. Selected Works, vol. 1, p.609

[11] The figure of “5 to 1” for battlefield deaths has often been cited by internet analysts and former US military professionals such as Scott Ritter, Douglas Macgregor and Brian Berletic.

[12] Survey findings from 2020 showed strong majorities opposed to the privatisation of large enterprises, hostile to reliance on the market to regulate the economy, and convinced that Ukraine’s economic system served only the wealthy (Belenok A.A., “Kuda nas privela restavratsiya kapitalizma (30 let sotsiologicheskikh nablyudeniy). Politicheskoe prosveshchenie, no. 4, 2021, 119–154; p 138.

[13] In the first round of the 2019 presidential elections, Volodymyr Zelenskyi gained 30.2 per cent of the vote on a platform that included negotiating an end to the Donbas fighting. In the second round Zelenskyi increased his vote to 73.2 per cent. In the first round, the joint candidate of the main ultra-right nationalist parties Ruslan Koshulynskyi attracted 1.6 per cent (

[14] Ukrainian sociologist Aleksey Belenok notes a 2016 survey in which respondents were asked whether they supported capitalism or socialism. The two most popular choices were: “I support both, and wish they were not in conflict”, and “I oppose both”. (Belenok op. cit. p. 133).